This is a story about a sexual FANTASY written for consenting adults. If you're not both of those, don't read it. Characters in a FANTASY don't get sick or die unless I want them to. In real life, people who don't use condoms and other safe-sex techniques do get sick and die. You don't live in a FANTASY so be safe. The fictional characters in my stories are trained and experienced in acts of FANTASY - don't try to do what they do - someone could get hurt.
If you think you know somebody who resembles any of the characters here, congratulations, but you're wrong - any similarity between the characters in this story and any real person is purely coincidental, since all of these characters are figments of my dirty little imagination.
This is my story, not yours. Don't sell it or put it on a pay site. You can keep it and/or give it away with all of this information intact, but if you make money off of it without my permission, you're breaking the law and pissing me off.
As soon as the Folder dumped us into real space-time, Mary and Bill began searching for the tell-tale signal Mary had picked up once before in this region of space. No more than an hour had passed when Bill knocked on my cabin door and came charging in, portable terminal in hand.
"Mary wanted to... Oh!" he turned red when he saw that Gail and I were engaged in a little extra-curricular activity, "Sorry, Captain! I just sort of assumed... Uh, shall I come back later?"
"I have a better idea, Bill," Gail answered on my behalf, "Why don't you take off that shipsuit and join us?"
Said shipsuit suddenly tented just below its equator, but Bill was too intent on his quest to falter now.
"That's very tempting, Doc." he said, "but we've picked up that signal again and it's definitely CM20951212-2! As near as our on-board directional equipment can determine, it originates somewhere along this vector."
He activated the terminal's holosphere and an orange line appeared crossing the sparse field of stars at an upward angle from the center, which represented our current location.
"Well," I observed, not bothering to cover myself. Bill had been in my bed as often as my other senior officers, and I wasn't about to get shy this late in the game. "there don't appear to be any systems for hundreds of light years in that direction. What's your take on it?"
He touched the controls and a green line appeared, cutting a chord across the holosphere and intersecting the orange line.
"This was the planned course of the CM20951212-2." he said, "but to still be in that region of space, she would have had to stop accelerating before she left the solar system! As you know, the mission profile called for acceleration at about a quarter gee to the halfway point of the journey, then reverse thrust for the remaining half of the first leg."
"Do we know that she's still on course?" I asked
"Well, no." he replied.
"Then let's make a jump to a point out here..." I took his terminal's stylus and touched it's tip to the region of the display I was interested in. "That will give us an idea if she's still on course and add another vector to locate her precisely. If you're right, that point should be closer to her current location and we should get a stronger signal."
"Mary's already working on it." Bill said, "Shall I notify you before we jump?"
"No, Mary takes care of that as a matter of routine," I replied, eyeing Gail's lush, naked figure on my bed, "and even if she neglected to, I'd feel the Folder engage."
As it turned out, Bill was almost right. Readings from the second location told us the CM20951212-2 had drifted off-course by about half a degree, which put her several light weeks off the original course. It took two more jumps to pinpoint her location and guage her speed, before we felt confident that our next jump would put us in her vicinity. With no gravity well to worry about, we simply homed in on the CM's signal and depended on round-off error to ensure that we didn't emerge from sidereal space-time right on top of the colony ship.
When you travel for tens to hundreds of light years by folding space and slipping through to your destination, even with the unfathomable precision of the AI's processors working on the calculation, there is still a point where there are just too many decimal places to deal with, and numbers get rounded off. On a short jump, that error is minimal - say a few hundred miles. On jumps longer than, say, fifty light-years, the error can be anywhere from several light-minutes to a couple of light-hours.
Since we had moved closer to the CM20951212-2's projected position with each jump, the final jump was very short, but even a volume of space only a few hundred miles across leaves plenty of room to miss a ship the size of a CM. Someone did a calculation once that showed the chances of jumping directly onto a target for which you're aiming are smaller than the odds of hitting it if you try to jump to one side.
We expected, of course, to find a drifting hulk of a ghost-ship. The CM's were built to last and to take hundreds of years to deliver their cargo, but this one had apparently been drifting for almost two thousand years, and if nothing else, just the radiation should have done in her crew. It was always possible, of course that everyone was still frozen solid in their SA chambers, but I doubted that they'd still be operational after that much time.
I was on the bridge for the final jump, and saw the sensor blip in the battle plot at the same time the rest of them did. It was less than two hundred miles away, but even at maximum magnification, looked nothing like the CM's we had already seen on this trip. I didn't have much time to study it because our velocity vector was almost perpendicular to the CM's and it took some tricky maneuvering to swing us around parallel to her course without wasting too much of our impulse mass. Within a couple of days, however, we were hot on her trail, and I gave Bill the go-ahead to hail her.
Much to my surprise, a wizened, brown face appeared in the viewscreen almost immediately.
"Who the hell is that?" it said, the accent stronger than the Galadrians, but not nearly as distorted as that of the Edenites.
"This is the Golden Hind." I replied, making sure my face was visible in the view screen, "We have been sent by the Federation of Earth Aligned Planets to seek out the colonization missions sent out from Earth in the twenty-first and twenty-second centuries. Your transponder identifies you as CM20951212-2, but I don't recognize the configuration of your ship."
The face had drifted around the view screen to a different angle.
"Yeah, I guess we started out as one'a them Colo-whatsits missions, but if the history programs is right, somepin went wrong, so our ancestors set up shop out here, and here we be!" the brown gnome of a man didn't seem too disturbed about that.
"How many of you are there?" I asked. If they were in distress, we could take a few to somewhere more hospitable, but not very many.
"Oh, reckon we're prolly holdin' steady at about three thousand." the gnome responded. "Now, if you're driftin' too, we cain't take nobody else aboard, but we'd be happy to swap DNA with ya an show ya how we make out. Don't look like you're doin' too bad though."
"No, we're not drifting." I replied, having flashbacks to Eden, "Since your ancestors left Earth, we've invented a drive that lets us traverse space much more quickly. We only left Earth about a year ago, real time. Is there anything you need?"
The wizened face screwed up in thought for a moment, and replied, "Naw, just some fresh DNA. If y'all don't mind swapping, that is."
"Why don't a few of my crew and I shuttle over and discuss it with your leaders?"
"Sure!" the gnome's face broke into a grin, "I'll let the cap'n an' the gov'nor know. Shoot, I reckon y'all are 'bout the most exciting thing that's happened since we passed through that gas cloud back 'fore I'uz born!"
"Um, is there a place to dock our shuttle? Or do we need to come across in suits?"
"Oh, yeah!" he replied, "go on around neat th' back end yonder, just under that big mast, an' you'll see kind of a tunnel through the plastifoam. Just hang off 'til you're lined up so's not to get fouled in th' sails. Keep about a hunnert klicks out 'til then. Them sails can be tricky to see."
That was why the vessel looked nothing like a CM! The original module was buried somewhere within an enormous cocoon of plastifoam! Apparently, the colonists had simply colonized their ship, using the plastifoam intended for building planetary habitats to expand its hull. For many kilometers beyond the bloated plastifoam cloud that surrounded the original module, a fine spiderweb of titanium spars and cables stretched an even finer network of something as yet unidentified. Closer inspection revealed a number of suited figures darting about the network. What they were doing wasn't readily apparent.
There were protrusions and satellites attached to the main body of the ship in various places. A couple of the satellites were rotating slowly, and I briefly wondered why they didn't rotate the entire ship to simulate gravity.
The maneuvering was delicate, but my pilot was good and got the gig landed in the standard CM shuttle bay without incident. The two shuttles assigned to the mission were still parked there as well, and seemed to be in good working order.
.... There is more of this story ...