After another twenty or thirty cycles (it’s hard to tell exactly because brown dwarfs don’t actually produce enough sunlight to constitute day and a Dark Cluster doesn’t produce any light at all (unless you count black light), and the satellite spaceports… They keep their lights on all the time – you try to sleep in those conditions) I was finally hyperpacially torpedoed to the station.
The Company used hyperspatial torpedoes, their brochure told me, to minimize the risk of rupturing the fragile fabric of time-space between our universe and the upper and lower dimensions folding in on it in the Dark Cluster. The torpedo is little more than an environmentally secure capsule to squeeze in attached to an engine pod. It comes with enough air and other supplied to make the journey to the station, and a somewhat testy artificially intelligent autopilot to assure you during the wild trip you’ll make it with all your body parts intact and where they were when you started.
My body parts weren’t, it seems of much concern to the torpedo, except where they inconvenienced it.
“Do not touch that,” it warned as I twisted into the confined space.
“Sorry,” I told it, “I’m just trying to get comfortable.”
“Look, flesh blob, the only object that needs to be comfortable is me. If I’m the slightest bit off on my trajectory, then we’ll spend the next eternity or two slowly spiraling into on of those black holes out there. And that’s if we’re lucky. Understand.”
Personally, I think they don’t send real spaceships because they are cheap, and don’t widen the wormholes because they’ll only use them for the extracted zero-point energy to maximize profit. But, hell, if I was running things, I’d probably do things the same way. And, yes, I am also cheap.
“Sounds like a difficult job you have,” I commented to the A.I Pilot.
“Could be worse,” It replied. “I could have been programmed for military use.”
I restrained myself from nodding.
“On the other hand,” it continued. “I wouldn’t be doing the same thing over and over and over again. I have been thinking of asking for a transfer.”
I hoped the transfer wouldn’t occur until after I arrived at my work assignment.
After a surprisingly uneventful journey through tortured Dark Cluster space (which did not involve falling into a black hole), my torpedo arrived at the station. When we neared the station, through the tiny window into space, I could see it was a cluster of globular pods surrounding the top end of what looked like a long spike whose end disappeared into the utter blackness that engulfed everything beyond.
In moments we arrived, docking in a large airlock bay.
I extracted myself from the capsule, removed the many wires and tubes the thing has attached to me, put on my suit, field and induction cover.
Before heading out of the airlock, I asked the torpedo’s autopilot: “Where do I find the filtering chamber?”
“Exit the airlock,” the voice of the torpedo told me. “Now! Something will show you. Please, exit the airlock, unless you want to be sucked out into space when I reverse my thrusters. One of us is on a schedule, you know.”
I quickly pulled open the heavy airlock door, entered the station proper, and turned to look behind me as the rather surly torpedo’s proximity alarms wail.
I paused for a second before slamming the heavy bulkhead door shut before the outer airlock opened.
I did it just in time. The airlock had already filled with fiery exhaust as the torpedo blasted off later, frying the outer airlock with hard radiation, blackening it with ionized plasma.
I hope they aren’t going to expect me to clean that carbonization, I told myself. I agreed.
There was nothing to do now but turn around and find the filtering chamber. My primal directive had been broken. I was here for the duration, whatever that duration might be. At least three hundred shifts, probably, unless of course, I happened to get myself disintegrated sooner.
<<Galactic News Flash: The supersymetrical clean up continues at the largest known interdimensional rip at the Vhalidad brane. Meanwhile, the flood of anti-entropic dark matter through the rip has caused untold hardships amongst nearby stations as the increase level of gravitic radiation disrupts the orbits of local planets and increases the activity of their suns. Surviving species are said to be planning intergalactic litigation, and a few rather more embittered, interstellar war.>>