By Pascal Inard
Captain Hadoki checked the graviton generator, the most important piece of equipment on the Collingsworth, the first manned interstellar ship powered by dark energy. Contrary to what was previously believed dark energy was not evenly distributed throughout the universe. Currents of concentrated dark energy flowed between stars and between galaxies, and the ship’s sails were designed to catch these currents to power the ship, but if the graviton generator failed, dark energy would rip the ship apart in less than a microsecond.
When the ship reached the ZRG3086 stellar system where signals coming from Planet Félicie had been detected, suggesting the presence of intelligent life, Hadoki opened a bottle of champagne and started serving the
“Fred, aren’t you having any?”
The exobiologist replied, “I don’t want to drink any alcohol until Doctor Felding has run a full battery of tests to check that my body hasn’t been affected by dark energy.”
“Are you feeling OK?”
“I’m not sure. My heart is beating faster and I’ve got a funny taste in my mouth.”
“What about you, Pavel?”
“No, I don’t want to risk it,” replied the navigator. “It’s bad luck to have a drink with a person who is more than ten years older than you in a month with thirty-one days, except on a leap year.”
Hadoki went to his cabin, leaving his 2IC in charge. He was about to ask the computer to bring up the profiles of Pavel and Fred, when every word that he’d read on them came back to him in a flash. Pavel was brought up in a superstitious family but didn’t see himself as an irrational person, and Fred had admitted to being slightly hypochondriac. Hadoki had an above-average memory, but not the point of recalling files word for word. It was as though a tiny amount of dark energy had leaked in, not enough to cause physical damage but somehow it had expanded the crew’s strengths and flaws. It would certainly take getting used to, and he should probably review the entire crew’s files, but there was plenty of time for that.
Enrique burst in the room. He was one of the most brilliant linguists in the world, but he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and Hadoki’s objection to taking him on the journey had been overruled. It was vital to have someone of his calibre on board to communicate with the aliens that could be present on Planet Félicie, and as long as he had his daily injection of Olanzapine he was as gentle as a lamb.
Enrique had always looked at Hadoki with angry eyes, as if he knew Hadoki had tried to stop him joining the crew, but this time he looked absolutely furious.
Hadoki didn’t have time to get up and defend himself. Enrique had a fire extinguisher in his hand, and just before it crashed on his head, Hadoki thought about how he go down in history, the first victim of dark energy.