Traversal

Avatar Author: Jim Stitzel I dabble a little in a lot of things -- writing, webcomics, gaming, photography, web design, music, and more. I'm a full-time code-wrangler and a part-time farmer with 40 acres, a lot of animals, and far, far too much to do. Read Bio

The tiny craft’s re-emergence into real space was unremarkable in every way. No flash of light to mark the rift it tore in the black, no radio or gravity waves, and even the EM radiation typical to subspace travel was dampened so as to be indistinguishable from the universe’s own background noise. The ship was decked in a non-reflective nano-material that absorbed all forms of energy that struck it, recycling it back through the hyper-efficient engines for a continuous, if nominal, power supply. And so, for all intents and purposes, the craft was invisible to all but the most advanced surveillance tools.

And in this part of space, perfect concealment was tantamount to survival.

“Feather the engines back,” Harking commanded. “Drift us from here.”

“Aye, sir,” the pilot replied.

“How long until traversal?” Harking inquired.

A pause while the pilot did the math. “Just under three lights, less than 30 minutes at our current course and speed.”

“Barely good enough,” Harking muttered, “but it will have to do.”

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Comments (8 so far!)

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  1. Avatar HSAR

    Great “this is how the world ends” feel to the opening sentences. A hint towards a greater purpose and some slick terminology.

    You certainly haven’t lost the touch.

  2. Avatar Jim Stitzel

    I just wish I could remember what inspired it. I’d had those first two paragraphs sitting in my draft folder for over a year, and only just decided to finish it the other day.

  3. Avatar HSAR

    Does it really matter what inspired it? I can’t say I think about that kind of thing a lot.

  4. Avatar Jim Stitzel

    Well, I remember that something specific I read or heard served as the seed for this little stealth draft and for the universe it lives in. So of course, now I can’t remember the ideas that spawned from that. :-)

  5. Avatar HSAR

    The second time I read it, it strikes me that such an ultra-absorbent material would almost certainly show up on sensors quite clearly – it would block out background radiation and appear as an ultracold entity in space.

  6. Avatar Jim Stitzel

    Interesting point. I guess I was thinking that, in terms of the vastness of space, a single ship is actually quite small and difficult to detect — unless it was giving off large amounts of energy, which this ship is designed to minimize.

    I’ll have to put some thought into this. It’s something I could certainly use and build on. I’m going to have to think about how enemy technology might change to detect moving, cold pinpricks in space.

  7. Avatar HSAR

    It’s briefly mentioned in some of Alastair Reynolds’ books and it’s something I’ve done a lot of thinking about for application in the HSAR universe – ultra-absorbence is absolutely fine in the micro scale, but stealth is very hard to apply with broad strokes.

    Absolutely it will be hard to detect a “small” ship in the context of a solar system, but that would be the case even if were unstealthed and just using passive radar. You would need to actually be mimicking the background radiation as best you can in order to improve on that – and even then, gravimetric sensing would still pick you up as the most-dense object for several million miles.

  8. Avatar Jim Stitzel

    Point.

    There may be a little hand-waving from here on out. :)