A bull with a view

If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

Well, that certainly sounds science-fiction-y, doesn’t it? So my first instinct would be to choose the Ringworld, Larry Niven’s Grand Cosmic Artifact and just about the ultimate of all tourist destinations. But that would be cheating, since this is writing assignment. (Also, I do not want to meet any angry Protectors).

So: where I want to go on my summer vacation

The singleship drops out of hyperspace smoothly, as it does automatically whenever it encounters a stellar mass directly in its flight path. With a gentle lurch, the probe is away, its sensors already collecting data even before the AI begins to ring the alarm in the pilot’s cabin. With a yawn, I reach over and kill the buzzer, and the ship’s AI begins scrolling data down the far wall.

There is no impact warning, and a quick glance at our orbital math in the display shows the singleship is already thrusting to attain a stable orbit. So nothing to panic over, just a routine dropout.

I scratch and yawn and stumble to the kitchen unit, which already has my coffee waiting. One of the many benefits of traveling with an onboard AI; it generally anticipates my needs, and knows I’m not good for much of anything without my morning coffee.

Another ten steps, into the ship’s bridge, and I call up a live video feed. “Let’s see what’s outside, Kepler.”

Kepler is the astronomy subroutine of the AI’s greater whole, and since we’re dealing with a new stellar mass, he’s my go-to boy for in-system primary explorations. Plus, I like his accent.

The viewscreen drops to black, and then is rather suddenly filled with an enormous, luminous blue ball of light.

“The display is dimmed by several orders of magnitude, of course. What you’re looking at is a B-class giant with a luminosity of roughly 700 Sols,” Kepler lectured, in that slightly German-accented English. “Spectral readings indicate this is a known mass, visible from Earth.”

It would be, if it was that bright, I thought. “Catalog designation?”

“Beta Tau, also known as Gamma Aurigae, or Elnath or Al Nath, ALS 15829. In the constellation Taurus, a naked-eye object in Terra’s night sky.”

I rubbed my chin regretfully, clearly no discovery bonuses to be had for this trip then. “So we’ve dumped hyperspace for one of the five thousand?”

“Yes sir, it is a very well-known stellar object, but ours is the first exploratory vessel in this physical location. It is generally ranked the 27th brightest stellar object in Earth’s sky, just after Bellatrix. It has a binary companion, would you like the data?”

Drew it to a close at this point, lest we get past “travel brochure” and into a full short story or something. Swiped a lot of elements from Niven and Pohl and all of my favorite classic SF authors…but space opera seemed an appropriate approach, given the topic.

I have a special place in my heart for Elnath, of course, since I chose it as my GM handle, too.

RecDave Seal