Red Shift

28 08 2009

She felt her knees buckle as the ship shuddered again. Her balance lost, Atlanta sprawled to the floor. Jason was at her side instantly helping her back to her feet. “What . . . ” Her question dissipated into the air when she glanced past Jason at the holo-projector. The Delphinus was represented in the center of the display. An unfamiliar craft was positioned thirty degrees to the starboard. Her first thought was that the projector was malfunctioning, as if the sector of the hologram inhabited by the strange craft was experiencing a glitch. The image of the ship was distorted and the furthest edge of the ship glowed a ghostly red.

“Is that ship the source of the signal?” she asked.

“Yes, my dear, but there is a problem,” Jason said. His voice was entirely too calm.

Just then it hit her. “Red shift . . . ” Her voice caught in her throat and she felt her knees weaken again. It felt as if the floor were rushing up to meet her.

Jason caught her again. “You’re absolutely correct. It’s falling into a black hole. There’s nothing we can do for her,” he said. It was a classic black hole effect. As an object crosses the event horizon into a black hole, the wavelength of the light reflected from it shifts red. The full implication was not lost on Atlanta.

“The gravitational well; can we pull out of it? We seem awfully close.” She was unsuccessful at controlling the alarm in her voice.

Jason pulled her close to him. His protection instinct had kicked in. “Of course, dear. Manuel is plotting the trajectory now.” To Manuel he said, “Kill that alarm, will ya?” The room fell into relative silence.

She squeezed him tightly and managed a half-smile. “I’m glad one of us believes that. You’re heart is racing like a scared rabbit, Jason.” She turned her head until she could see Manuel. “Anytime you can punch us out of here, that would be great.”

“I’ve got the traj . . . ” He was cut off by the alarm again. And it was accompanied this time by an audible rumbling of the deck beneath their feet. “Bad news, the propulsor just went off line.”

“The what!” Jason whipped his head around.

“Less than a minute before we cross the threshold.” Manuel had to raise his voice to be heard above the thrumming of the hull.

Atlanta’s head started reeling. She felt herself spinning into what seemed to be an abyss of confusion and then she felt nothing.

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