Captain Anton Vasiliev squeezed the precisely measured sachet of vodka into his plastic tumbler.
Celebrating with a drink wasn’t the same without the clink of glass on glass. He cast his mind back to the proud moment when he had finally been awarded his rank of captain, first class.
It had been the turning point in his life. His career had been everything to him as he fought tooth and nail to climb through the ranks. He’d joined the military as a private before working his way up to an office role before he was 22. It was unheard of, most officers were from a group of families who all knew one another, a club where the fee to join was a century of social events and ass-kissing.
But he’d done it on merit; he’d studied his degree on 3 dimensional strategy in his time-off from the gruelling 50 hour shifts.
He’d earned admiration from his subordinates for being just, cool-headed and competent. He’d earned scorn and hatred from those above him because he was an outsider and, to be honest, showed them all up.
But the public had loved him, he was one of them. The admiralty had been forced to raise him through the ranks.
He should have known the strategy would backfire, but he had not foreseen how spectacularly.
He had considered command of his first ship an honour, a sign that they might have reassessed him – decided that he was good enough to join their little circle. He had been short-sighted. Outmanoeuvred. If only he could apply his knowledge of military tactics to these games of politics.
Maybe there was an argument for that little group, everyone who was part of it had been dealing with this kind of thing all their lives. They grew up learning the vital skills to stab someone in the back and having them thank you for it.
He’d spent the last five years on this god-forsaken ship.
It wasn’t really a military vessel. The majority of the ship consisted of engine; it was basically a tube of 400m of electromagnets to accelerate ions to provide the thrust.
Towards the front of the ship was a torus fusion generator to generate the massive amounts of power required to reach the near c speeds the craft had to travel at.
Traveling at such high speeds introduced huge problems; the shielding at the front of the ship was made from the most advanced materials known to mankind. Even hitting the smallest of atoms at near-light speeds would melt any normal steel in seconds. Even the exotic composite martial it was made of required an extensive cooling system that took almost as much energy as the engines that pushed the ship forwards.
The fuel required to support the fusion generator was huge, in order to sustain thrust fuel the front shields were an inverted cone shape. This funnelled hydrogen the ship collided with into the storage and engines. Luckily hydrogen was a relatively abundant gas in the depths of space.
Ironically traveling at higher speeds was easier on the fuel storage – hydrogen was gathered faster and the thrust given by the engine was constant. Getting up-to a sustainable velocity was the tricky part, which was why a string of tanks, empty since the critical first 6 months into the voyage had been slowly re-filling. It set a minimum distance for the flights as the ship had to be traveling fast enough for long enough to gather the fuel required to de-accelerate.
A second ring was tucked behind the fusion generator that housed the living quarters and work-areas of the crew. It was split into eight separate compartments, each end to end forming an octagonal ring around the core of the ship. The whole section rotated, providing the illusion of earth gravity. Each section pivoted so under acceleration, which was almost the whole trip, it rotated so the floor was aligned with where the illusion of ‘down’ was.
When the mechanism for rotating the quarters failed they were faced with 6 months of feeling like the rooms were gently tipping to one side. It was very off-putting.
It wasn’t a perfect system, the ends of a section were particularly nauseous and it was irritating having all the flat surfaces lean slightly outwards, pens had a habit of rolling off anything. The few spills on-ship drifted ran to the edges of rooms.
That was the whole problem with this mission. Anton had spent his life in the military, dealing with a soldier’s problems. Being captain of this ship was like trying to manage a large household where no one got along.
It was so… Domestic. The crew were mostly civvies, they didn’t have the discipline of soldiers and he didn’t have the required authority over them He spent most of his time diffusing such ridiculous problems like relationship issues, arguments and petty complaints.
Last week the engineer had fallen out with one of the scientists, they had been friends for the whole voyage and now they wouldn’t even be in the same room as each other. They were 50 year olds for God’s sake, it was all so childish!
The worst thing was he’d left everything behind for this.
5 years. That wasn’t too much time to be away from your wife… Except his wife had probably been dead for the past 30. In the time-frame of Earth, a hundred years has passed. This was a century long voyage, he’d just experienced time a 20th of normal speed.
Everyone he knew would be dead. His son would, hopefully, have died an old man this year. He wondered if he had any grandsons.
When, no, if he returned he would have been forgotten. If there even is an Earth to return to he would be some ancient museum piece. Forgotten by public opinion.
That was why he had lost, he’d assumed this mission was a great honour. In reality it was a convenient assassination.
It was estimated that technology may have advanced so much in the next, no last, hundred years that they may even get greeted on arrival – Just because accurate FTL travel required a receiving gate when they left didn’t mean it was required before they arrived.
He threw back the shot of expensive vodka he’d been holding for the last ten minutes. It had been packed for the arrival celebration. He didn’t really feel like there would be anything worth celebrating.
He gave the order to begin preparation for arrival at Tau Eridani.