Far And Further Away

With the cargo earmarked for Platform Six unloaded and now safely sat on the deck of hangar bay eleven, Carmen fires her freighters engines. They roar to life, glowing bright oranges and yellows before the boxy rectangular shaped ship lifts free of the deck and up a good couple metres into the recycled air.

There is plenty of room above the gently humped back of the starship, as Platform Six is able to accommodate much larger and bulkier ships than the Transit class freighter piloted by Carmen Hollingrey. If it wasn’t then the orbital silo would be in real danger of never being able to be properly resupplied. After all, there is no habitable planet below Platform Six, at least not yet anyway. Instead, this orbital silo is one of eight that orbit a currently in-progress terraforming project. Carmen doesn’t understand why go to all this trouble to make a planet habitable when there are so many systems that must hold countless appropriate planets, but then it’s not her money so matters little to her.

Carmen’s hands glide over the consoles for a few seconds as she sits in her pilots’ seat, back pressed against the ribbed cushions behind her while the thick light grey straps of her harness keep her in firmly held in place.

With her initial first lift-off checks done, the redheaded woman presses a couple buttons in a very specific configuration. It’s an order she has come to know by heart, and then eases the freighter forward.

The boxy craft glides toward the transition field and then quickly begins to slip through it, without an ounce of resistance offered in response. It’s why less than a minute later the cargo carrying starship is out of the docking bay and back out in the void of space.

Carmen breathes a sigh of relief. She does the same thing every time she departs a station. It’s a habit. A learned one from when she had just started out as a pilot. Back then she’d been flying much larger ships. They’d had a full crew contingent, it’s where she’d learned how much she disliked being surrounded by other people, but for some reason she still can’t shake the feeling that her ship is the size of those and so as a result might be too big for the opening it’s trying to pass through. She knows that her freighter isn’t the size of the ships she’d piloted before and that if her freighter was then they would never have been allowed to dock in them in the first place. But it’s the feeling she gets and to make matters worse she never experiences the fear during her approaches. Instead, it only ever occurs on departure.

Carmen had believed that the feeling would disappear with time, but thus far it has not. However, she has reconciled with it and grown accustomed to the resulting anxiety is causes as she and her freighter glide away, silently increasing the gap between her and Platform Six. She’s headed for the invisible boundary marked only by her proximity sensors. They’ll ping once she crosses the threshold and that will be the all clear sign she needs to inform her that she can drop the starship back into FTL, to continue on her way to her next drop point.

The ping comes quicker than Carmen would have expected. She double checks just to be sure. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t imagine it. Still, she knows it’s better to be safe than sorry. After all, she can’t risk losing her ship or her licence. Without either she’d end up grounded, at best for a few years and forever at worst. She wouldn’t be able to cope with that. The redhead enjoys the freedoms of space too much for her to be forced to sit planetside without a penny to her name and no prospects for a future.

The galaxy is hard, filled with people and all of them seem to be qualified to do only one thing. How that came to happen she hasn’t a clue. It might even be that she is entirely wrong about that. Maybe everyone isn’t qualified to do just one thing, though that is indeed how it seems to her.

“NIGEL, can you plot a course to Sunfire Three in the Helix Prefecture please?” Carmen asks politely.

 Her voice is softer than normal and a lot less commanding. The unusual change in her tone results in a deep frown. It seems the fear of crashing her ship has affected her more than she may have wanted to believe. It’s why she quickly clears her throat but doesn’t dare to issue the order for a second time. There’s a chance it might come out the same and that wouldn’t do at all.

“Set and calculated. Awaiting initiation.” NIGEL replies seemingly oblivious to her overly soft tone. The one the redheaded woman herself was so worried about.

“Thank you Nigel.” Carmen replies in a tone more familiar to her.

And she knows it shouldn’t bother her, but it does. She’s the captain of this vessel and so, in her mind, has to keep up the appearance of one. Well, the act of one would be more appropriate, which in many ways is stupid as she is the only organic life-form on the freighter.

Still, her hands glide over the consoles again for a few seconds before she jabs at the FTL initiation. She then listens as the FTL drives in each of her two side mounted stalk engines spool. A considerable whine builds and builds, growing higher in pitch until the energy levels reach their climax and then are unleashed and the jump initiated.

The view through the canopy changes back to the same familiar dashes of light sprinkled across her entire view from right to left and top to bottom of what is otherwise a black expanse. She smirks slightly, but for what reason she cannot say. Though, something about FTL always brings forth a sense of serenity that she has never been able to explain or repeat in other situations and locations. It shouldn’t, as after all, she is in a metal and composite box hurtling through the vacuum of space at unimaginable speeds heading for a far away system. Yet it does, and she leans back in her pilots’ seat, hands off the controls entirely so that she can gaze out at the blurs.

The sight is almost hypnotising to her. Many other pilots hate the smears of light and will do anything to avoid bearing witness to its presence, but she doesn’t. Though, she understands why they detest it so. It’s because the view never really changes. All stars look the same during a jump. They are just a blur of light. To her they appear like dashes, but the uniformity of the view elicits no reaction in her like it does many other pilots. It neither bores nor exhausts her. It’s just a sight, the only one she has available to her for the moment.

Unlike other starships this freighter doesn’t have personal quarters, and her bed is the very seat she’s pressed hard into currently. However, she is not pressed into the seat because of any forces that may or may not be exerted by FTL travel. Instead, it is the harness that is holding her perfectly in place. She could loosen the straps, but she won’t. She hasn’t been in place long enough for that to have become a thought in her mind. Especially, after her having spent a good nearly two hours wandering around bay eleven of Platform Six waiting for the cargo to be offloaded.

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