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“She is beautiful!” Mat looked her over from stem to stern. Janusia, with her smooth skin that somehow healed itself. Mat stroked her surface with a gentle, loving touch, giving him tingles. He tried but couldn’t find her doorway. Her engines blended seamlessly into her marvelous disc-shaped body. He could not make out the G-sensors he knew were dotted along the periphery of the ship, alternating with the small windows, her only eyes to the world - or worlds.

Mat and his Father stood in her shadow for countless silent moments. She was complete. So much time and effort had gone into her production. So many individuals involved. So much money from so many people all over the world. Now she was finally here, and very soon she would not be.

Petrus broke the silence. “I wanted to be with you, Mat, the first time you saw Janusia complete, in all her glory.”

“She is glorious, Father,” Mat said in all sincerity, but he also imagined himself confined in Janusia’s small space for what would be the next two hundred and fifty years. He hid his anxiety and fear from his father as best he could.

Petrus looked over, trying to divine his son’s emotions. “She is so many things, isn’t she?” Petrus considered his words carefully, well aware of what Janusia meant to Mat. “She’s the peak of technology, a work of art, made of nothing but the finest materials, built to the tightest specifications. She’s a part of us, all of us. And she’ll be your home for a very long time. I do hope you can see her as your home.”

Mat replied with a simple, “Yes, Father.”

Petrus knew his son all too well. He knew Mat would never complain, and that there was much more behind his son’s brief response. As they both continued to examine Janusia, Petrus walked up beside Mat and with one hand lovingly rubbed his back and shoulders. “I know how you love being outdoors. I can only imagine what you must think of being confined in Janusia for such a terribly long time.”

“It won’t feel like such a long time, Father. I’ll be in cryo for most of the voyage.” Those words were for his father, so that he could maybe feel better about the whole thing, but cryo or not, Mat expected the trip to be torture.

They walked all around the outside of the ship. Mat stopped at the point where they had started. He asked his father, “Can you show me the cryo units? And how do you get into the ship anyway? Where are the marks?”

Petrus pointed out two small markings on the ship that appeared to be decorations. “Put one hand on each mark.”

When Mat did, a hidden door to the ship first recessed, then slid sideways, exposing the doorway. A simple step ladder automatically came down to meet them. “Wow! That’s amazing! I looked carefully, but I did not see that door!”

“That’s the new ionic diffusion tech on the hull! It’s not just for areas of damage to the ship. Even the doorway ‘heals’ itself when the door is shut.”

“Reading about it is one thing. Seeing it in action is entirely another!” Mat was truly impressed. He moved his hand along Janusia’s skin again. “She makes me tingle!” he said with a smile. His spirits had lifted just a little. He motioned with his hand for his father to lead him into the ship.

Mat followed Petrus up the steps and they entered a single, large, circular room. There was plenty of head room to stand, and some room to walk between the four workstations which were evenly spaced against the wall, and around the four cryotech beds which were grouped close together in the center. Mat’s spirits took another nosedive as he imagined himself in his cryo-coffin flying through empty space. “Which one is mine?” he asked his father.

“They are all the same,” Petrus responded. “You four decide amongst yourselves.”

Mat ran his hand along the smooth lid of one of the cryo beds. He noticed the tight seal along the edges. He was satisfied with the overall construction of the beds, and with the tubing that connected them to the cryo fluid tank. The tubing was a historical weak spot that engineering swore would not be a problem. He noticed the way the beds were attached to the floor with large, sturdy bolts. The bolts had a brighter sheen than the rest of the bed, giving it a decorative touch. “Nice artistic detail,” he thought. He took a deep breath, imagining himself inhaling cryo fluid, like they had practiced during so many simulations before the big day. “God I hate that cryo fluid,” he thought to himself.

Petrus allowed his son to take it all in at his own pace. Mat’s attention now went to the command console. As Captain of the Ship, this was to be his chair. He walked over and sat in it, with his arms on the rests, looking over the familiar instrumentation. It all came to life with a wave of his hand.

“Hello, Captain Mat. Hello, Ambassador Petrus. Welcome aboard!” a cheerful, disembodied voice entoned.

“Well, hello yourself! It’s Janusia, I presume,” a surprised Mat replied.

The ship’s Synthetic Soul, Janusia, let out a short celebration of colorful lights and pleasant, chiming sounds which circled the cabin several times. “At your service forever, Captain. I am so pleased to make your acquaintance!” Janusia replied.

“Status report,” Captain Mat commanded. He was a little bothered by Janusia’s friendly tone. He was unsure if he wanted to establish a casual relationship with this machine.

“All systems are installed, perfectly functional, and are under my continuous supervision. I am ready to go.”

“G-sensors? Computer interfaces? Engines? Fuel? Oxygen, food and water?” Mat pressed for a little more detail.

“Yes, Captain,” Janusia replied in her same cheerful tone, “Other than the crew’s presence, I am completely plenished, with information, programming, and materials for your physical needs, including the cryo-tech which you did not mention. The gravitational sensors, interfaces, engines, and fuel systems are at one-hundred percent. We could depart this very moment if the crew was on board.”

“Thank you, Janusia. Show me.” Mat turned his attention to the screen in front of him.

“Yes, Captain.” Janusia turned the screen on.

Janusia displayed all the pertinent details to answer Mat’s queeries. Mat placed his hands on the desktop indentations that were made specifically for him. With minimal changes in hand and finger pressure, as well as thought modulation, he could easily navigate through screen after screen, though the displayed information usually defaulted to the task at hand.

Over-ride controls were on either side of the screen, allowing him to take over the navigation, propulsion, and environmental duties of the crew if need be. Further to the right was the communications area, which automatically kept track of every detail of the flight, where he would record his own reports, and from where he would send occasional messages back home. To the left was a small locker which already contained the few personal items which were allowed for him to take on the voyage: a change of clothes, his spacesuit, helmet, trangulae and reader.

With a wave of his other hand, the screens went dark. He proceeded then to inspect the other workstations. “Dirk will sit here,” he thought, as he examined the station where the ship’s engines and computers were controlled. “Close enough to punch me in the shoulder,” he thought. That mental image brought him another small smile. “Dumbass,” he thought, with an even bigger smile.

As Chief Propulsion Officer, Dirk would be in charge of the engines - the two powerful main engines at the stern, and the three smaller positional engines at the stem, starboard, and moonboard positions along the edge of the ship. Dirk would also manage the fuel. Most importantly, Dirk would carefully oversee the computers essential for entering 4D and 5D, generating the fantastic speed connected with those alternate states. The computers intimately connected the engines to the Gravitational Wave Sensors which were also placed strategically along the outside edge of the disc-shaped ship. They were key to achieving Harmonic Resonance, smooth sailing through an ocean of G-waves at sub-photic speeds.

He turned his attention to the navigation console. Ehya would sit here. He waved the screens on to scroll through a view of the visible stars from their current perspective, and views of the same stars from various points along the voyage. The crew had these committed to memory, to help with navigation in case of electronics failure. Ehya was a first-in-class expert at flying the ship manually, again if the need be. He asked Janusia to bring up a view of Cerulea’s star system on Ehya’s main screen. Nine planets around a young, average-sized star. He focused on the third planet from the star, enlarging it on the screen. The blue, fuzzy image of Cerulea was the best that could be gotten from 50 light-years away. It was perhaps just a bit larger, but the blue planet appeared to be very similar to their own in every way - liquid water, about the same amount of heat from its star, probably a similar atmospheric constitution. It was virtually certain that this planet had the potential for life, perhaps intelligent life, though at 4.5 billion years old, Cerulea was about a billion years younger than his own planet. There had been much less time for evolution. That was a theoretical worry.

He turned Ehya’s screens off and moved to the last workstation. Maah would be in charge of the environment. At 40 years old, Chief Environmental Officer Maah was by far the most experienced member of the crew. She would keep inventory of everything on the ship, including the very oxygen that they breathed, and ration things out accordingly. She would keep track of the ship’s health, and execute any needed corrections and repairs. She had been involved in Janusia’s construction from the very beginning, and suffered through every detail until her completion. Maah could take credit for everything Janusia had turned out to be, and she remained responsible for its very life. At the end of their journey, her skill set would be essential for their survival in the environment of an alien planet. The mission would be practically impossible without her.

“What an incredible accomplishment,” Mat thought after spending this time with Janusia. “Father,” he said, “this is your masterpiece.” He thought of how none of this would exist if not for his father. He looked over to see his father in time to catch him wipe a tear from his face.

“No, Mat, this is just a ship. You are my masterpiece.”

“And you’re sending me away, forever,” Mat said, with a new wave of melancholy.

“Only because you agreed,” Petrus added softly. Half of him wanted Mat to refuse to go.

“Yes, Father, I understand. I go for a great cause. I go in your honor and mine. I’m afraid, but I’ll go. I accept my life’s mission.” Mat said this with a tear of his own. “I’ll miss you very much, Father. That’s the hardest part.”

It had all been said several times before, but this kind of goodby required solemn repetition. Now the last goodbye was behind them. Their time together was almost at an end. It was down to these last final moments, and Mat did not want them to end on a sad note.

“Thank you, Father, for all you have done for me, for my very existence. Thank you for your knowledge, your wisdom, and your truth. I love you very much!”

“Thank you, Son, for the gift of your being. Thank you for your knowledge, your wisdom, and your truth. I am certain I received more of those from you than you from me. I love you very much.”

In that moment it felt to Mat the mission had begun. He felt lighter somehow. He shook his father’s hands in the familiar two-hand, cross-arm exchange. Father and son sharing a moment in time, a moment in history, a moment together in Janusia.

“Father, it’s time for me to go.”

“Yes.” Petrus knew the time had come. He took a slow step back and struck a military pose. “Full Cerulea,” he both commanded and hoped, using the traditional military jargon.

“Full Cerulea,” Mat repeated, in the traditional declaration of acceptance of the mission.

Everyone prepared, Janusia complete, it was time to go.

Next Chapter: Final Approach