I got up that morning without the prompting of Lady Godiva. I walked out to the bridge. Hawkins was there, his senses interfacing with the AI. Cetawayo was there, as was Lady Godiva, and there was an image of the werewolves in the engine room.
"Ready for changeover, my loup-garous?"
"Anytime you are, Redbeard," said Sue. Paris just nodded.
"Lady? Cetawayo? Everything clear?"
"Light-minutes away from any other ship, except a Ganeshan asteroidship crawling along at sublight. All clear," Cetawayo answered.
Hawkins saw me,and winked. "Say a little prayer for us, Father....engage!"
You hold your breath, waiting for something to happen....and
nothing ever does. Everything seemed the same. Well, with one exception.
The monitor that showed the outside view now was a featureless blur. .
No light could match our pace. Some think that was a sample of light
without time....from the brillance of the early universe to the final heatdeath,
merged together. You didn't feel at all different, even though the shade
of Einstein was saying you were doing the impossible.
And you were.
"Thrill-a-minute, right, Father?" Hawkins grinned.
"Um. I've been on translight ships several times, but this is the first time I've ever been on the bridge."
"I wish it were more dramatic, but that's about it. I usually stay in here for the first hour or so, but Cetawayo or Godiva will let us know if there is any deviation. We can go roughly eight light years a day, now. It's about fifty light years from the stars Amaterasu to Surtur, from the planets Shina-To-Be to Loki. One day to clear much of the Kami system, one day to enter the Surtur system. Eight days altogether. We'll occasionally drop out of the Edenite drive to make sure of our progress. You'll never notice it."
"Unless we screw up royally," said Lady Godiva. "Then you'll never feel it, it'll happen so fast."
As always, I was disappointed it was not more dramatic. Later, Paris Lastnamedbedamned showed up in the gym, with a small chessboard that unfolded in his paws. "Sue's watching the engine....not that there's much to watch...so I thought we might manage a small game."
He was good. He creamed me.
As he was setting up the board for another game, I said, "Does it ever bother you....the Edenite drive, that is?"
"That although we have based our entire society
on the faster-than-light travel it affords, that no one in human space
knows what makes it run? Of course. You'd have to be a cretin not for it
to give you the willies. We know how to build one. We just follow the specifications.
But we got it from the Edenites, and they say they can't explain how it
works....they know, but they said our language contained no words for the
concepts. It's humiliating being talked down to...like an animal." Paris
grinned his wolfgrin, and continued.
"Basically we know it works, but no theory has yet been devised to explain to us how it works. For a long time, people didn't know how a bumblebee flew---according to their theories, it was aerodynacally unsound, but yet it still flew. The Edenite drive is like that...except the Edenites know how it works, but supposedly can't explain it to us. It sometimes makes me want to lie awake at nights. Suppose the Edenites somehow made these so they will all be swallowed up in otherspace and never return, at a preset time? Then the Community Cluster would be helpless and ripe for the picking for any enemy."
"Yeah. I have a friend among the Ganeshans---and of course, their entire society refuses to use the Edenite drive. Sometimes I think he's right...."
"And yet...talk to Cetawayo about the old days, the Fellowship days, when it took years to reach the nearest star, and you had to rely on relativistic time-dilation to make some trips at a reasonable fraction of at least the astronauts' lifetime." Paris looked proud of the advances made, if I can judge his werewolf-like face. "A journey like this, which takes us six days in Edenite otherspace, would take us over a decade, even counting time-dilation. There's no comparison.
"I guess....we just have to have a little faith, Father."
"Oooooh. Low blow. I'll make you a deal...I won't tell you how to use a wrench, and you don't tell me what to have faith in." I made my standard Ruby Lopez opening. I lasted a little longer this game. He still checkmated me, though in an hour or so.
"You're not bad, Father."
"I only play occasionally. It's not a passion. Have you made this run to Loki before?"
"Sure. I don't go onplanet through. Too many sulfides in the air. It stinks just to you humans. To me....it drives me up the wall. Also, much of my pack died in Isis during the Loki-Cluster war. I'm not, ummmm, well-disposed towards Lokiites."
"Good point. Another game? Or you want to lick
your wounds for a while?"
"Not right now. What was it like...on Loki?"
"Bear in mind, that I am essentially---a wolf. I'm colorblind. I can smell things you wouldn't get a whiff of. I have a good mind, an increased cranium and opposable thumbs thanks to some geneticists' tinkering, and I stand upright, but you wouldn't want to meet me in a fight."
"I don't want to walk the streets of Loki...that place is dangerous!"
"Depress me, why don't you?"
"Compared to them, you and I think frighteningly alike. Actually, by any standards we think alike, since my mind was modeled on human brains. But they are...different. You don't know how many assumptions we make, simply by having an altruistic sense."
"Oh, well....it would be more certain suicide to refuse his Silver Eminence," I answered.
"The Cardinal? Probably. This is not the first time he's used us. He may have some sort of hold on Hawkins. Certainly Hawkins gets more than his share of confidential jobs for the Community, things that you would expect would be done by official Community transports. I've seen him a few times. I wouldn't want to get in a chess game with him. He thinks on several levels."
"I think I'm in a chess game with him....as one of the pieces. A pawn."
Return to Redwine at Dinner.