Freya's Tears

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Chapter Eight - ZPF Residue

Mission: Book Two - Ginnungagap
Location: New Pacifica - Freya's Tears
Timeline: Day Twelve

A day later, Els found herself back on bridge duty. She was less physically tired today, but worry over lack of fuel and the impending arrival of Folsum’s ships wore against her mental reserves.

A full two modular days had passed since their arrival in-system and still no fuel dumps and no wrecks with full intact tanks had been located. Freya’s Tears was deep into the debris field now, still skirting the outer edges. Els had to conduct multiple micro-adjustments to their flight path every hour to avoid the worst of the damage. Kasli and Tobias had spent their minimal free time in the gunner turrets, clearing a path through the destruction with lasers. Tobias thought it excellent practice as Els marked targets for them to eliminate, and the two gunners had made a competitive game of the task. Even now a hunk of ice that was three times the size of the ship exploded into tiny fragments. Els heard the faint ping of pieces hit the port bow.

“Hah!” Kasli laughed over the intercom. “That had to be a three-pointer.”

Despite her concern, Els chuckled as she scanned the remaining rubble of the iceberg. “Duly noted. I’ll let Tobias know when he wakes up.”

“You do that. I’m leading forty-three to thirty nine now.”

“Shuttle to Freya’s Tears.”

“Hang on, Kasli. I’m getting comm from the shuttle.” Els switched her eager attention to the tachcomm. “What’s up, Austin?” She located the shuttle on her navigational chart several million miles ahead of the ship.

“We’ve got some weird readings in this spot, Skipper.”

Weird readings. She felt her shoulders slump. No fuel. Scowling, she nevertheless knew that Austin wouldn’t report something unless it was important. “What kind of weird readings?”

Hrothgar took over. “Els? It’s a pocket of photon frequency change.”

“Photon frequency change?” She tried to recall her basic quantum physics but nothing came to mind. Accessing the computer, she searched the database for the term and possible causes.

“Actually, it’s more than a pocket,” Austin stated. “It looks like a stream, bisecting our current trajectory from port ventral to starboard dorsal.”

Els looked out the window, knowing she couldn’t see the shuttle or this stream of photons. “Do you think it could be related to what happened to New Pacifica? A weapon or something?” Her console beeped as the information came up from the computer. She leaned forward to read as Kolodka took over the conversation.

“Might be. I’ve never heard of a weapon causing this effect, though. Only…”

Eyes widening, Els stared at the monitor. “A Zero Point Field?”

“Yeah,” Kolodka said.

Austin snorted. “Which is impossible. ZPF drives are theoretical. It’s never been done.”

“Then what’s this?” Hrothgar demanded.

“Sensor malfunction?” Austin said.

Els chewed her lower lip as the men argued aboard the shuttle. The theoretical Zero Point Field was created by a ZPF generator that would literally affect the behavior of atoms—the building blocks of the universe. It was the Holy Grail of space propulsion, allowing a ship to go from point A to point B within minutes regardless of distance. The trip that Freya had taken to New Pacifica had taken seven days with their small drives. Folsum, with his larger military industrial drives, would make the journey in three. With a ZPF drive, Els could have traveled the same distance in less than five minutes.

“What’s going on?” Kasli entered the bridge. “Did they find a fuel dump?”

“No. Something else.” Els cut into the shuttle conversation. “The ZPF doesn’t change anything. I’ll set up a buoy for Folsum when we reach it. Keep on task for now.”

“Aye, aye, Skipper,” Austin said. “Shuttle out.”

“ZPF?” Kasli leaned over Els’s shoulder. “What the hell is that?”

Els sat back to give Kasli a better view of the computer data. “A fairy tale.”

Kasli read the information, frowning in concentration. “Above my pay grade.” Straightening, she rubbed her forehead. “I can’t make sense of it.”

“Me neither.” Els smiled. She cleared the data from the screen. “But I can make sense of your next target.”

“Point taken.” Kasli crisply saluted Els. “Permission to return to post, ma’am?”

Els laughed. “Permission granted, spacer.” She enjoyed Kasli’s quick kiss, watching her backside as she left the bridge for her turret. With a sigh, she turned back to her station and painted Kasli’s next target, daydreaming about a ship with ZPF drives.

 

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