“Aster, the readings from the Navigation System do not make any sense,” Mittens announces.
“Access Advanced Functions and run diagnostics,” I answer. This is strange…
“Executing Quick Diagnostic on Navigation System… It appears to be working according to specifications. Extending Quick Diagnostic to other systems… It appears the Hyperdrive components were replaced recently. The propulsion unit is misaligned and the Subspace Compression Oscillator is not properly tuned. I advise emergency shutdown.”
This is bad… I perform an emergency shutdown on the Hyperdrive. The shuttle returns to the darkness of space. This was close! It appears luck is still on my side… If anything went more wrong, this shuttle would have been instantly pulverized while entering Hyperspace!
“Mittens, reference the navigation database and recalculate current position!”
“Understood. Scanning nearby constellations…”
This is going to take a while, even with current technology. Who knows where we have ended up? I hope this place is already charted. While waiting for Mittens to finish, I should have a look at the status of the aforementioned Hyperdrive components. I open the diagnostic console… this is worse than I thought! The Subspace Compression Buffer is slightly deteriorated. But propulsion units are about to break down. The buffer will most likely last longer, but the propulsion units will last at most ten parsecs at the usual speed. It’s safe to assume they’ll break down before that. In the worst case, I can still use the Sublight propulsion system as an inferior replacement. But that’s just the last resort if I need to reach the nearest inhabitable planet…
Next, I check the status of the communication systems. The Interstellar Subspace Communication system is not responding. This can’t be… I check again. Only Orbital Subspace Communication is online. I can’t call for help with just this!
But didn’t Isaac check the systems for me‽ Why are they faulty? Wait, all systems needed for orbital travel are working. I guess, he possibly just didn’t know I was planning an interstellar trip. I should have checked the systems myself!
Well, it’s no use thinking about that. I need to make sure I get somewhere safe first.
“Aster, I have most likely determined our location. We appear to be on the outer edge of the Nuka Galaxy.”
So we’ve jumped as far as to another galaxy‽ As far as I remember, this galaxy has barely been explored…
“Are you sure?”
“I am sure we are in the Nuka Galaxy. I am just slightly uncertain about our current exact location. Data on the Nuka Galaxy is scarce. But taking into account where we were planning on travelling, these coordinates are most likely.”
A map appears on screen. There’s an overview of the Taki Galaxy and the Nuka Galaxy. The location of Pris-Ⅱ and Nael-Ⅳ are shown alongside with a ray from Pris-Ⅱ through Nael-Ⅳ. Several locations in the Nuka Galaxy are shown to match the scans. However, only one is remotely near the ray drawn. And it’s on the other side of the Nuka Galaxy! It’s kilo parsecs away from well charted space!
Shuttles are usually only equipped with interstellar Hyperdrive. It would take months just to cross the void between the Nuka Galaxy and the Taki Galaxy. Then there’s the matter of energy… Which means I’m stuck here, even if I had a fully functional Hyperdrive.
I check the fuel. The energy core is barely used at all. That’s unexpected! I assumed the core to be almost depleted after such a trip. Life support seems to work as well. Great, at least I have something to work with.
“Where’s the nearest inhabitable planet, Mittens?“
“According to the navigation database, the nearest inhabitable planet is Amauga-Ⅲ, 8.3 parsecs from here.”
“Take control of the shuttle and tune the oscillator to Hyperdrive factor 20 000. We need to extend the life of the components as much as possible. Meanwhile, I’ll try to realign the propulsion units.”
Aligning the units isn’t that hard. You just need a knack for delicate work. Well, usually, that is. With how deteriorated they are, their output and directions are all over the place. This is going to take a while…
In the end, I still need to make use of the Sublight propulsion units to correct for an axis that the Hyperdrive units are now unable to provide.
A few hours later, both Mittens and I finish our work on the Hyperdrive. I align the shuttle to the direction we need to go and engage the drive. The usual light of Subspace Travel surrounds the shuttle.
“How is the status of the drives, Mittens?”
“The output is consistent. There is no excessive wear on the components.”
“That’s good news.”
“We should arrive at Amauga-Ⅲ in 5 days.”
I get something to eat from the small replicator.
“Aster, materializing food takes at a lot of energy. After we arrive at the planet, I suggest you acquire others sources of food.”
“I see. Is there sentient life on Amauga-Ⅲ?”
“That is presently unknown. In the worst case, you need to cultivate the land.”
“Just like in the life simulation games?”
“Yes, just this time, it is not a game.”
“Is there anything else I should keep in mind?”
“Should you encouter sentient life, the emergency manual suggests creating as little attention as possible when stranded on an underdeveloped planet.”
Five days later, we’re still in Hyperspace. The propulsion unit hasn’t blown yet.
“We are about to reach our destination,” Mittens says, “Aster, how will you handle it when we arrive there? I cannot help you outside the shuttle.”
I haven’t thought of that yet! Let’s see…
“I could try to install you to my personal terminal,” I answer, “but I’d rather have you here on the shuttle where you have access to our databases. Instead, we can keep in contact using Subspace Communication and my personal terminal. You can access my implants via that. I’ll make it, so you can access to the advanced functions of my terminal.”
I grab my terminal and create an app for Mittens to connect to. My implants are wirelessly powered by the that device. They don’t take much energy. Permanently powering the implants won’t drain the power much. At most, I have to recharge the terminal once a quarter.
“I’m done. Try connecting to it.”
“Initial connection established. Integrating new endpoints… New basic advanced operation endpoints added.”
“We’ll test the endpoints as soon we’ve landed.”
“Hyperdrive propulsion units are down.”
“I anticipated that. Emergency dropout. Switch to Sublight systems.”
We drop out of Hyperspace. A planet not unlike Earth comes into view.
The planet is already visible, just the Sublight system will suffice. We get closer.
“Any signs of civilization?”
“No signals on Radio and Subspace Communication detected. Scanning for buildings and humanoid life signs is not available.”
“It can’t be helped then. We just have to land somewhere and hope for the best.”
I bring the shuttle to an entry course. Atmospheric entry is shaky as expected, but it goes without a hitch. I quickly find a temple-like structure in the mountains of the Southern Hemisphere. So there must be some sentient life here. The whole area is completely white with snow. I land at a nearby cave.
The short range detection sensors only show some small animals in the area. No humanoids. I have the replicator create some winter clothes and change into them. I open the shuttle door and leave the shuttle. Even in the winter clothes, it’s cold.
“Test… test… Mittens, can you hear me?” I ask.
“Yes, Aster,” Mittens voice sounds in my head, “I can hear you. Terminal endpoints are working as expected. To improve quality, I suggest you incorporate an audio system on the collar of your coat.”
I go back into the shuttle and synthesize a microphone and speakers that I can clip on my coat. I connect those with my terminal and go outside to test them again.
“Good, and just to be sure, lock the shuttle while I’m away.“
I walk towards the temple. There are no people around. I enter the temple. It’s slightly warmer in here. There’s an altar. And there’s something like an inscription on the back wall.
“Mittens, can you see this?”
“Yes, I can. The connection to your eye implant allows me to take pictures of what you see. I am currently trying to decipher the inscription. It appears to be an Abugida scriptː each unique symbol is a consonant, and the direction of the symbol expresses the vowel. The language itself seems to follow syntactic rules of both Altaic and Germanic. As we speak, I am filling an entry in the language database for this language.”
I touch the altar.
“Naːn taː fo fei soːnen suruen?” a friendly voice whispers.
“Did you hear that, Mittens?”, I whisper.
“Yes, it matches with what I inferred about the language. I believe it says something like ‘What can we do for you, young man?’”
“Do you have enough information to answer yet? ‘I got lost.’”
“No, not yet. But simple words should be possible.”
“Boːk. Lak.”, my voice sounds from the speaker on my collar.
“Taː tasuen fei,” the voice answers.
I feel a gentle breeze blowing through the room.
“What was that?” I ask.
“Taː dono fei suku,” the voice continues.
“We help you. We give you our blessing,” Mittens translates, “I am done compiling an automatic translation program. Your speech will end up lacking at points, but I will continue tweaking it with every interaction you have with the language.”
“Where are the other people?” I say. Only I and Mittens can hear myself now, the at the collar of my coal cancels the sound of my voice and output words of the foreign language in my voice.
“Other people only come here once a year in at the beginning of spring to celebrate the end of winter. Spring is still a few weeks away,” the voice answers.
“Who are you? Can I stay here until they arrive?”
“We are Aevita. We allow you to stay here with your flying home until other people arrive. Do not to kill animals or bring dead animals inside this building.”
“Thank you very much.”
I return to the shuttle and park it in front of the temple. I use the stilt legs to raise the shuttle to create a roofed area. Good thing the shuttle has a retractable ramp for this kind of use.
“They said not to kill animals in the temple,” I repeat to Mittens.
“I think they assumed you need to eat. Without replicator technology, you will have to hunt animals for food, especially if you do not have stock. While we still have enough energy now, we should save on energy, so you should go hunting.”
“I have to go hunting then… I need a weapon for that.”
“How about a Gauss rifle? A railgun has a higher output, but rails wear out much more quickly.”
“Doesn’t the replicator have a safety mechanism to prevent the materialization of weapons?”
“Since it is an emergency, I have taken the liberty of overriding said mechanism.”
“I see, I did tell you to take control of the ship. Prepare the schematics for a Gauss rifle. I won’t be using it to hunt — it’s just there for emergencies. And just in case, make it so only I can use it.”
“Understood. What will you use for hunting then?”
“I’ll use a bow — I’ve used one in a simulation game before. And some knives. And since we can’t keep making them, make that last.”
“I have prepared schematics for items you need now.”
“Thanks, did you set up the distress signal?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Please create the items. While you do that, I’ll clear the snow below the shuttle.”
After the items have been created, I take them and go search the area. I try to sneak around to find some animal I can hunt. Something is moving over there. It’s a blueish white fluffy something that can move very fast. Is it something like a rabbit? Yes, I can see it has long ears. I’m going to call it a rabbit. It’s kinda cute, I can’t possibly… No! This is something I need to do if I even want to have a chance at going home! I knock an arrow and aim at the rabbit. I shoot and see I’ve missed. At least, think I did. As if something pulls the arrow towards the rabbit, the arrow’s trajectory changes, and it even accelerates to hit the rabbit!
“Was that an optical illusion? Or gust a wind? Or did the arrow fly in a strange path?”
“No, the arrow did change its path. It even sped up before hitting the target.”