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Chapter 5

My specialty is navigation, but this proposed change was way beyond me. I tried to follow as the robed figure rattled off lists of equations. I flipped over my tab and began trying to enter the numbers as fast as they were cited. The rep from the matriarch ship did not slow down.

‘This follows the Einstein-Faber theory and will result in a short lived singularity. ‘

This was too much. I stand up and address him directly ‘Did you say you want to create a -singularity-?’’

The man looked up from his tablet and simply said ‘Yes. Please refrain from questions until the end, thank you. As I was saying, once the singularity is created, the fleet will travel on a strict course to the center of the event.’’

“You’re insane!” The exclamation was from a voice I didn’t recognize in the back of the room but I completely agreed with the sentiment.

I added “Why would we not only intentionally create a black hole, but then kill ourselves by travelling into it?”

The matriarch representative was nonplussed, but visibly annoyed. “As I said before, please let me finish my presentation and your questions will be answered. The singularity is short-lived and will collapse into what would be described as a wormhole, traversable on a strict course, depositing the vessels at a point approximately 9784 light years away. All of the data has been calculated and confirmed by the matriarch and preparations for the journey should begin immediately. It should be known that we have already started and shall be proceeding shortly. All vessels that will be joining should do likewise”.

‘You’re insane!” was repeated by another unknown voice in the room. That voice was quickly and enthusiastically joined by others, proclaiming the impossibility of the science and absurdity of the request. It quickly devolved into an unintelligible cacophony of voices until it was silenced by the booming sound of the AI voice of the host bot ship calling for an immediate recess and dismissing all attendees until the next day.

Teegs looked over at me with a nervous smile. “Most exciting start to a conference in years. Now I bet everyone is off to get on the line to their betters letting them know that a matriarch ship is trying to kill us all and find out how to change her mind.” I responded with the thought that loomed large in my mind “Question is, what will they do if it doesn’t?

My com screen blinked on as soon as I stepped in my quarters. In the middle was my commander. Surrounding him was a multilink with what looked like just about every other ship commander in the fleet. It seemed like they had begun their own version of a fleet conference. The only topic at hand was the matriarch ship’s proposal.

“Let’s not jump the gun here. It was just a suggestion. A suggestion. No more.” came from a commander I had never seen before. Although that described most of the faces floating in front of me. The designations beside the names on the screens quickly made me aware that I was in the middle of something bigger that the usual grain negotiations.

“The suggestion was to fly everyone into a black hole.” I could tell by the well creased uniform that the exclamation originated from a Milship.

“We don’t even know if the science is possible. This could all be over nothing.” Cautioned the leader of an CityShip. People were having a problem conceiving of the sheer scope of the proposal.

“We’ve been checking the calculations provided. It’s very advanced and pushes more than a few theoretical limits, but so far, it actually checks out. From what our sims say, given the right starting point, a small star could be collapsed into a black hole and from that, a traversable wormhole can be formed.” Leave it to a Botship to make sure the math checks out.

“I don’t care. There’s no way that we’re committing suicide following some crazed cult ship.” More Milships were making their positions clear.

“All we’re doing now is speculating, what we need are some solid answers” The one clear fact coming out of this impromptu summit is that everyone was lacking any facts at all. As a communications officer, the most important thing I had learned was that you need solid information before making a decision. Especially a decision that would affect millions of lives.

“Answers from a matriarch ship? We don’t even know who’s in charge over there. If any one”. The Milship leaders seemed to have formed a united front.

“Answers will be provided for any relevant questions you have about the navigational change. Data will be provided to all who request it.’ The soft spoken voice was from a robed representative from the Matriarch ship who appeared in the center of the display. How did he even get linked to this exchange? There was a moment of stunned silence as the leaders absorbed the sudden appearance of the object of their previously presumed clandestine conversation. A cityship rep broke the uneasy silence.

“Why? What’s the purpose of this insane course of action?”

The response was measured and precise. “Our matriarch has decided to push forward deeper into the cosmos, in the spirit of discovery and exploration. Without the pursuit of those ideals, humanity will stagnate.”

“Sound like the talk of a cult. Who is running things on that ship anyway? How do we know this isn’t a repeat of the Mycellian Incident?”

“The matriarch would not cause harm to anyone. “ the calm voice of the white robed representative answered.

“I’m sure.” There was little pretense from this milship commander.

“You need to understand, that you’re asking a lot and the fleet knows very little about your ship or your matriarch. “ Another cityship leader entered the conversation in what seemed like an attempt to at least bring the exchange back from the brink of outright hostility.

“How many citizens do you currently house on your vessel?” asked a bot ship. Again, with them it’s all about the numbers

“We have grown to a community of 61.57 million.“ There was an audible gasp across the screens. It seems no one had suspected the population of the matriarch’s ship had reached such a state.

“Your one ship houses a significant percentage of the combined human race left in the fleet. And you expect us to allow you to condemn them to certain death? “ Another leader gave voice to the thoughts that must have been on most of the commander’s minds.

“We are a sovereign community and expect the fleet, if they decide not to join us on this journey, to respect our decision to follow our own chosen path.” The matriarch rep was steadfast. As the tone of the inquisition got more hostile, it was matched by the inverse of calmness in his responses. That in itself only seemed to infuriate some of the more militaristic participants in the conversation.

A milship commander spoke out “We can’t let you destroy a hefty chunk of the human race on the whim of your so called ‘Matriarch’”.

Another cityship leader added to the discussion in an attempt to stop it from spiralling out of control. “Again, you’re asking the fleet to put a lot of faith in a single ship that we have very little knowledge of. We would be a lot more receptive to listening to these proposals if we knew more about your ship, your Matriarch. If she were to come to us to meet in person…”

“No Matriarch has ever left her ship for any reason. This will not change” For the first time there was a forcefulness in the representatives voice.

“We’ll come to you them. I can have a squad there in less than a day” A milship jumped at the opening.

“No armed personnel will be allowed entrance to our vessel. This would be totally unacceptable”.

The logic of a bot ship broke the stalemate. “What if a single representative from the fleet were to board and meet with your Matriarch and then report back?”

After a short pause,“This would be acceptable. The navigational window is constantly closing. Choose your representative quickly and have them transported to our vessel.” The matriarch ship rep’s screen blinked off, as if to put a period on the end of his part of the conversation.

A cityship asked the next question that was on everyone’s minds. “So, who do we send? We all have reps at Fleet Conference already, which one do we send off to meet with this Matriarch?”

“Possibly to the middle of a suicidal death cult”. The Milships seemed to have already made up their mind.

I heard myself speak for the first time during this extraordinary exchange, although I have no recollection of where the words came from. “I’ll go.”