Tom felt a definite sense of relief when he saw that the portal was open. The wormhole would carry his ship directly into the uterine quadrant - all he had to do was maintain his exact terminal velocity as he passed through the event horizon. Radio reception was patchy in this region, but Tom had heard that other exploratory fleets sometimes reported the portal sealed shut. On other occasions it had proved virtually impassable owing to the menace of huge meteor showers - glowing blood-red in their destructive fury - that annihilated without mercy even the most intrepid pilot.
Five more hours, give or take, he mused. His fuel status was just starting to worry him. The vast plasma field that had accompanied his ship for the past hour and a half was just starting to dry up, forcing his ramscoops to search more widely for every precious atom of ionic energy. Tom glanced round at the remnant of the fleet that had made it this far. He could just about make out the silhouette of his best friend, Belinda, in her X-wing corvette. It was a good deal slower than his nippier Y-beam interceptor, but her fuel consumption was such that if Tom ran out of juice, Belinda might well make it through to complete their mission.
They had been together in the refectory when the klaxons had sounded, driving everyone to their waiting spacecraft. Tom had slammed down his coffee cup and bolted for the door, knocking aside the slower members of his squadron, eager to be the first to locate and board their target. Minutes later he was belted into his interceptor, awaiting the slingshot thrust that would eject them out of their home base and into the nether regions of space. The actual launch was so powerful that Tom momentarily blacked out, overcome by the gravitational forces that pinned him to his cockpit seat. Once he regained consciousness, he was overwhelmed by the magnificence of the sight before him. The sky was literally ablaze with a sea of artificial comets, some blue, others pink, each one the exhaust flare of a powerful ramjet engine. A few experimental craft boasted two tails but it didn't take Tom long to realise that they were merely flying around in circles. A number of other craft must have been experiencing problems with their attitudinal thrusters because they were clearly flying in the opposite direction from everyone else. But all too soon the chase was on and Tom was delighted to find that he was very much at the head of the pack.
In the end it all came down to luck. The target had not been in the area predicted by his navigational computer and his radar failed to pick up any sign of its flight path. Tom was left with little choice but to follow a sweeping pattern and try to eyeball the target visually against the inky blackness of space, no mean task when the planetoid was itself unlit. In fact he came close to smashing himself to smithereens, but a few expert thrusts placed his landing gear safely upon the smooth surface. Leaping from the cockpit, he raced to the waiting hatch, yanked it open, and dropped inside. The resounding click told Tom that the planetoid was now sealed: no one else would be allowed access; success or failure lay entirely within his hands.
Three days later an augmented planetoid docked securely against the waiting boom of the Gaian shipyard, where extensive reconstruction work was scheduled. Lead time was estimated at approximately nine months after which an M class star cruiser would be sent out on its maiden voyage. The entity known as Tom no longer existed. He had been cybernetically assimilated into the greater mass of the planetoid but with the knowledge that his genetic code would play a pivotal role in its future development. In short, he had given his life that another greater life might begin.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 "As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things."
Gregory Kane is a missionary from the UK who ministers in Mozambique, Africa. He can be contacted through his web site at http://kane.elim-moz.org/
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