He awoke like wading through jam. There was that rhythm of a brightly delivered knock on his quarters door.
‘Compositor. If you please,’ and there was the high cheery voice.
After the customary reflex swear word Sylan opened one eye.
‘Yeah. On my way ’ the gruff bark was acceptable in the situation.
As the door slid open a slender face, bright yet with some concern looked up at him, at the caller’s side a large dog stood tongue out, tail wagging. Sylan scowled at both.
‘Lady Ensign Croí Eadrom,’ he said being as civil as possible.
‘This is my dog. Reluctance,’ she said in mock sincerity ‘Thus you can see I am disturbing your precious rest with great Reluctance,’
Sylan pinched the bridge of his nose. Irrespective of her superior lineage, exasperation begged he should empty the nearby jug of water over her. Thankfully her whimsicality stilled the urge.
‘We have an issue?’ a fatalistic question. This was the problem with serving on a scout corvette, no room for two shifts of Compositors.
She grimaced remaining wide-eyed, again comic
‘A cluster of titchy Depressions. A light year out and closing. Popping in and out. C’mon,’ she said to both Compositor and dog and they followed, Sylan not sharing the carefree easy canine gait. How and from where? In the meantime he had to consider those fist size version of black holes, darting out of the Four Dimensions seeming not to be adhering to The Speed of Light. Corvettes could dance away from them, the larger the ship, the greater the time and space needed to steer away from them; hence corvettes, a wide gossamer, scouting ahead, seeking these, the latest unexpected and broadcasting the warnings.
When it came to the welfare of the World Craft, five hundred myles long and an irregular width at maximum of a hundred myles, warnings had to be multiplied to scales of years of time to react. Initially all on the shoulders of a few. He supposed that was how it worked. He only dealt in figures, not ramifications.
The Ensign as usual chattered away about how she loved the corvette, the stars, the mysteries of The Universe. She made the whole vista of danger seem, so natural, to be met and respected.
Lorgaire Thall captain of the Corvette Gealbhan was again reading It Doesn’t Work Like That. A somewhat bold treatise on The Ethereal by controversial theorist Maighdean Ardea. Nonetheless he oft referred to it for perspective. Unknown and Unexpected being the trade of The Avant Squadrons. The constant challenge of matching the Four Dimensions with depths of The Ethereal.
‘I maintain this is more evidence of White Hole possibility Captain,’ said his navigator handing him the summary ‘This clutch of Depressions did indeed just appear. Flung out as it were,’
‘The Ethereal was enough of a trial upon The World, Navigator. Out here in the Cosmos these seeming spontaneities would have us believe travel between stars near impossible,’
‘As we journey we learn Captain,’
‘Indeed we do Navigator. At one Inspiring and Humbling,’
‘Once long ago, around and on The World we The Ard Tiarnai thought ourselves knowledgeable above all. The High King did warn us,’
Captain, Navigator and Lieutenant of the Watch all turned. Compositor Sylan, typical of his race could not match their physical elegance, yet his eyes bright and manner alert indicated the dexterity so common amongst The Fiontraíoch folk. Woe unto any of the Ard Tiarnai who thought the Fiontraíoch to be lesser folk.
‘I regret having to disturb your rest time. Master Compositor,’ Captain Thall said.
‘The Cosmos is no respecter of our comfort,’ Sylan replied ‘We should be grateful we got this far,’
‘I respect the gloom of your long-term forecasts Compositor,’
‘It would be nice to be wrong on that score, but I suppose Captain, the more persistent we are the more we reduce the possibility. How may I assist you with these Depressions?’
The Navigator laid out the chart and the information dutifully printed from the Assessor machines, and he appraised Sylan of his own estimations. Naturally Sylan listen attentively. Not his place to interrupt a Navigator.
‘May I sit Captain?’
‘Of course Master Compositor,’
Seated he surveyed the evidence, then with all due respect asked the Navigator to repeat his own estimations. The three officers accepted this; novice ensigns were ever lectured not to ever question a Compositor. Sylan set down his thick pad of paper and with an ancient pen began to write. As he did he spoke. His gruff basic accent falling away as his tones turned to a slow steady litany.
‘It bears repeating sirs, if the opportunity arises, you should visit the hub of the Engines of World Craft. Of course Compositors and our like have to witness this majesty. The many chambers, five miles underground set in catacombs so grand in dimensions that if empty a squadron of battleships of the fleets could dock in each. Therein are the devices. The towering grey obelisks inscribed with external wiring like long forgotten runes. Their companions, the shimmering black towers, plain, implanting in an observer the feeling they are watching them with hidden eyes. All connected by intricate patterns of piping veins for miles of secret wirings, and leading far beyond to deeper places wherein lie the vast dangerous machines. Heavy and looking deceptively ponderous as they churn, or slowly spin or grind away supplying the World Craft with its atmosphere, tides, weathers, days, nights, shielding from the uncaringly hostile universe, and by magnificent ingenuity its movement at speed belying the bulk,’
Two pages were by then inscribed with figures, small neat script starting in the horizontal, then veering at occasions into vertical, and back again to level until the script became patterns within patterns.
Sylan stopped and slumped a little over his work, from one alcove on the deck appeared the Lady Ensign Croí Eadrom a raven on her shoulder up in a light steps she moved to Sylan and upon reaching him set her hands gently upon his shoulders, in response he absently patted hers. She and her bird looked to her Captain. Before she could speak, he said, with a sigh.
‘Yes I know Ensign. You come with Grave Concerns,’
At mention of its name the bird inclined its head. The Captain treasured these irreverences of hers.
‘As you wish you may take Compositor Sylan back to his quarters where he may be allowed to resume his rest. Thank you Compositor,’
Mute and now smiling Sylan rose and once more patting the ensign’s hands left the deck. He knew he had been at work, but right now, even though recently formed, the memories were evasive, he would shepherd them in after he rested. The bird hoped onto his shoulder. Her menagerie. Ever the mystery.
On the deck the Navigator examined the figures.
‘Captain. I will need to verify by examination through my two auditors and Assessor machines, but it would seem we need swift evasion of the squadron, alert the sub-fleet on station to act as necessary and to pass this back to fleet command with a strong recommendation they report onto World Craft Naval for them to alert Council and High King that the World Craft should take prompt oblique course from current,’
‘That is indeed a heavy work load Navigator. You must attend without delay,’
Permission given The Navigator left.
‘Lieutenant of the Watch,’ Lorgaire Thall said ‘As we cannot burn up any time waiting, I will be in my quarters drafting the introduction to my final despatch, a task which will take some time. Corvette Gealbhan is now within your charge. Ensure those Depressions are observed for the slightest deviation in path or alteration in speed. Therein will be the only reasons for you to interrupt me,’
Lieutenant of the Watch gave out the necessary orders to all crew on observation duties. In addition to make sure nothing was missed he allocated extra crew to the task. All matters attended to he took his stance, gazing outwards, not action of any use of course; yet you could not help but be drawn to the immensity, a craft had to have its share of viewing ports. No amount of devices could make up for the urge to physically see.
Being alone he allowed himself the luxury of a sigh. There would be no rest for the next five, even ten watches. Any information which suggested The World Craft would have to make even the slightest change in direction would end up being a converted to a political decision. Not just propulsion or direction, but environmental adjustments would be made, even shifts in populations to compensate. How many of the thirty millions he wondered. And there would be those subsequent affects on the productions of support, the shepherding of floral and fauna.
Decisions to be taken upon the entire Dynamics which would start with the information from one speck of a craft. Although the responsibility now weighed upon all of the crew, he was glad to he out here and not back upon the World Craft locked into the entirety of the administrations levels likely to be tasked with coping of any changes.
A door opened, there were soft skipping footfalls.
‘Ensign Croí Eadrom’ he said, without turning ‘Is our Compositor settled?’
‘He rests,’ she said drawing alongside, no bird nor dog in sight, in a most unconventional action she whistled soft ‘How is it possible someone can produce so many figures, so precisely, so quickly, ahead of any machines?’
‘I am sure I do not know. In any case it is not good manners, nor productive to question the nature of any race, nor why within each race some excel at one discipline or another. There is no room for such,’
‘That’s true. Just curious,’ she quipped joining in his gazing ‘We all have our tasks,’ another soft whistle ‘Makes you think though, dun it?’ he winced at he mangling of language ‘I mean. Here we are, all in a flurry over titchy things,’
‘Depressions can carve through a planet’s surface if they strike. The damage to something as delicate as a World Craft is ghastly to imagine. Solid objects we can handle,’ he gestured to the depths, the unseen ‘Those Depressions are unstoppable. All necessary actions must be taken soon,’
‘Yer,’ she continued ignoring the requirements of acceptable speech ‘We’re not so grand are we? We have to keep on our toes,’ one hand drifted into a pocket of her jacket and she brought out a small brown and white rabbit, which she proceeded to cuddle and stroke. ‘Always keep alert I say,’
The Lieutenant had been waiting this, she always did this at some stage, but he’d caught her out, surely.
‘That’s a rabbit,’ he pointed out with solemnity. ‘I would suggest there is not even any lerts,’
‘Rabbits,’ she replied with a dignity so heavy as to be comic ‘Are always alert. Hence her name,’
‘Alert?’ he replied sensing defeat.
‘Quite so,’ she said, and with the rabbit settled on one shoulder popped upon a large pocket, the heads of two mice mouse appeared. ‘These are the Concern Sisters,’ she explained ‘I need discuss with the observation crew their morale, I will explain I have small concerns,’
He shared the rest of the crew puzzlement on how she managed to inspire cheerfulness, or level out tensions with such humour. No one of course discussed just why she was here. It was unspoken. To do so might upset the entire system; each unto their own, on this journey vast to them, but a speck to the Universe.
One slender thread in the pattern of Survival. From here on a corvette to Council of The High King on the World Craft. It was how The Dynamics worked.