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Inter Astrum

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The spaceship slid through the inky blackness of space. None of the crew inside took any notice, nor would they have had any reason to do so. The ship never bumped like a car or plane would, and never changed its rate of speed. Nothing inside would indicate any movement at all to anyone observer. They would not be able to feel the ship’s movement for a long time, until they started to decelerate outside the orbit of Mercury. This may have seemed paradoxical in a time long since lost to the past, but the crew took it all for granted.
“How long until we reach the planet?” asked the captain.
“F-fa-fairly soo-soon, captain,” answered the first mate.
“Good. I can’t stand being cooped up in this ship much longer.”
“We won’t be much longer. Once we reach the planet, we can set up our base. After that, smooth sailing!”
“Sailing? What’s sailing?”
“Oh, I’m sorry—sometimes my interest in anthropology rears up. It’s an archaic form of transport across large bodies of buoyant substances. The basic idea is to harness the power of the wind, usually with a large area of material perpendicular to the wind direction. The wind then pushes that material forward. The material is anchored to a craft designed to accommodate the builders. The craft is moved forward because of the power of the wind.”
“Oh. What primitive creatures must use that! It’s certainly fortunate for us that we have moved beyond such things!”
“Yes, sir. Very fortunate.”
As he was leaving for his private quarters, the captain passed an engineer and a navigator who were busily recalibrating a secondary navigational instrument.
“Betcha we get there within a day,” whispered the engineer.
“I’ll take that bet. 500 credits?”
“Deal. If we get there by this time tomorrow, I win. Otherwise, you get it.”
“Deal.”
Betting was forbidden by order of the captain, but these two didn’t care. They were absolutely indispensable to the ship, some of the best at their jobs in the galaxy, so they could afford to break some rules, especially such a minor one. After all, by now they had broken it 3,147 times already in the last year, so there wasn’t much point in stopping. They were simply incorrigible to boot, so despite the captain asking them to stop more times than he could count, they continued to make bets. The captain had settled on keeping everyone else from gambling, which had worked out pretty well.
“One more thing,” said the captain as he returned and accidentally stepped on a piece of the instrument that the engineer and navigator had been working on. “How long is fairly soon? I was about to start sleeping, but if we’ll be there within a few hours I don’t want to have to wake up.”
“I would guess our schedule says we should get there within the day, sir. Wouldn’t want to miss that!” piped up the engineer.
“Trying to fool with the bet now, are we?” kidded the navigator.
“Ya, pretty much. Hey, why is this thing broken?”
“Who knows? Still don’t think we’ll get there.”
“Double the bet? And if you sat on this thing, you’re paying.”
“Sure thing. If you sat on it, you’re the one paying.”
“Be quiet over there!” yelled the captain.
“So, anyway, sir, we should be there within a day and a half.” The first mate answered.
“What did you say over there?” asked the captain.
“Nothing, sir!”
“You said something about the schedule. What?”
“We’re supposed to get there within the day, sir. Otherwise we’re off target. The commission will be mad.”
“Thank you! First mate, speed us up. I don’t want to go over schedule.”
“Oh come on! That’s cheating and you know it!” whispered the navigator.
“No it’s not. We’ve never had a rule about that.”
“Yes we have! Remember the thing about how soon we’d get that fluxor, and you called up the company that made them and told them we needed rush delivery?”
“Only because you had bribed the pilot to go slow!”
And so they fell into pointless good-natured bickering.
The captain retreated back to his private quarters. Picking up his viewer, he focused it on the planet below.
He observed the planet for a long time. As the viewer magnified the planet, he noticed a strange creature, the likes of which he had never seen before. It appeared to be bipedal, and had only two arms. As he watched, it craned its head skyward, and the captain noticed that it appeared to have a rudimentary intelligence. There was something in its eyes that made them deeper and more thoughtful than others.
“First mate, take note of this planet. I think the commission should look back on this planet in a little while. One of the creatures on it has the potential to become sentient in the future.”
“Certainly, sir. I’ll make note of it.”
As the spaceship slid past Earth, man’s forerunner stared up into the sky.





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