The fight with the genetically engineered aliens seems impossible. Benny and Gina, both Seeders, stand on the bridge of their massive mother ship knowing they needed miracles to win.
They both know that if they work long enough and hard enough, miracles might happen. Centuries worth of work.
A massive-scale Seeders Universe story that started in the novel Star Mist.
(Twenty-seven years before the discovery of the aliens…)
THE LAST THREE years had gone faster than Chairman Evan West had expected. Around him on the command center of the Rescue One, the fifteen members of his main crew were all standing ready at their stations on the three levels, all scanning ahead as much as they could.
He knew that through the entire ship the thirty thousand people on board were also watching intently.
West was a tall, thin man with bright green eyes, balding head, and wide shoulders. People said he had a smile that made him a lot of friends and he liked to laugh and have fun.
Lately he hadn't smiled much.
The air was tense in the large room around him, but professional. The large screen that filled the tall wall in front of them only showed the quickly approaching front edge of the small galaxy they were calling Destination. The galaxy had a number, but no one called it by that anymore.
West stood beside his large chairman's chair, watching not only his instruments, but those of his second and third in command at their stations on either side of him.
Just nothing out of the ordinary at all.
They were on a mission to find out what had happened to the Dreaming Large, one of the huge Seeder mother ships. It had vanished in the small galaxy they were now approaching.
That had been four years ago, a short time for a Seeder, but a very long time for a major mother ship to vanish completely.
Mother ships were the size of large moons and built to look like a giant bird in flight. A mother ship could hold a few thousand smaller ships and upward of a million or more people. It was from the mother ships that Seeders spread humanity from one galaxy to another, always moving forward.
Chairman West had been a seeder now for three thousand years and had seen many galaxies along the way. And he had helped in birthing more billions of human societies than he wanted to even try to imagine.
He loved his job.
He didn't much like this mission.
His wife and best friend, Tammy, had been on the Dreaming Large when it vanished. He missed their nightly routines of telling each other their days through a trans-tunnel link, even when they had been apart for years. He loved her and always had loved her. They had been a team for centuries.
And he missed her now more than he wanted to ever admit.
Their plan had been for him to finish up the last part of a seeding mission in the previous galaxy and then his ship and a dozen other front-line ships with him would catch up with the Dreaming Large. He liked working the front edge of the seeding as he always did after the terraforming was finished.
He had worried for the three years it took them at full trans-tunnel speed to get here and he had missed Tammy every moment of it. He had no idea what they were going to find. No one had an idea, even though the speculation was rampart.
How could a major Seeder mother ship simply vanish?
Without a word of notice, the two chairmen who jointly ran the mother ship had stopped reporting in to Chairman Ray.
When that had happened, Chairman Ray had contacted him and the idea of Rescue One was born.
There were twenty-two mother ships now, built over centuries, with more being built all the time. The Dreaming Large was the first to vanish.
Tammy had been one of the head botanists on Dreaming Large. She had loved her job, just as he loved his.
The Rescue One had been built especially for this mission.
Unlike most Seeders' ships, the Rescue One had a full military contingent and four warships on board, commanded by West's best friend, Ben Cline. Seeders, by their very mission and scouting ahead, never had much need for military until some of the growing new human cultures hit their early space age stage. So to even put together a military fleet, Cline had scrounged through some more advanced human cultures recently seeded for ships and enough new Seeders to man the ships.
It had taken Cline as long to put his force together as it had to build the Rescue One.
The Rescue One had been built in preparation for almost anything they might find. It also had in its huge hangar twenty of the Seeders' fastest scout ships, all crewed with upward of twenty thousand people each and ready to go.
And it had room, if necessary, for a hundred thousand survivors, a fraction of the humans who had been on the Dreaming Large when it vanished.
Now, finally, after the year of building and three years of travel at the fastest trans-tunnel speeds any Seeder ship could go, they were almost there.
"Anything?" West asked, breaking the silence on the large command center and glancing around the three levels at his first shift crew.
All of them shook their heads.
"Full stop at scouting distance from the edge of Destination," he ordered.
"We'll be at full stop in one minute," Korgan said.
Korgan was his second in command and had been chairman of his own scout ship before volunteering to go on this mission. He had family, a son and a daughter, on the Dreaming Large.
In fact, a good third of the crew of the Rescue One had family or some personal connection to crew on the Dreaming Large.
That made this crew very, very motivated to find the lost mother ship.
"Dropping out of trans-warp now," Korgan said, his voice seeming to almost echo in the silence of the large bridge.
"Full scans," West said.
Then he motioned to Korgan to have the crews of the scout ships stand ready and be scanning as well.
West moved over and stood beside his command chair. He couldn't make himself sit in the chair until they knew what had happened to Dreaming Large. But from where he stood, he could see all the data streaming in.
Destination was a small spiral galaxy on the scheme of things, with about 80 billion stars of all standard sizes. It showed no unusual areas at all.
And not a sign of the Dreaming Large.
The huge mother ship had just vanished.
West left his chairman's chair after a few minutes and walked slowly around to all the stations on his bridge, not so much for information, but to give everyone some time and let himself relax a little.
He had been preparing for this moment for four years. Rushing anything now might lead to even more problems.
Finally, after the longest half hour he had ever spent in the command center, he broke the intense silence.
"Let's have some reports," he said. "So everyone can be together on this. And broadcast these reports to the entire ship please."
Korgan nodded for West to go ahead.
"Anything unusual at all about Destination?"
Three stations reported in that there was nothing unusual. Then Korgan added. "What we are reading matches exactly the last reports of the scout ships two hundred years before the Dreaming Large arrived here."
West nodded. "Any signs of alien or human habitation?"
Six reports came in quickly, one after another, cutting the small galaxy down into six quadrants, just as it would have been seeded.
No alien life, no human life, no remains of any ship anywhere.
As with most galaxies, this one was empty. And if it had an alien race at any level anywhere in the galaxy, the entire galaxy would have just been left alone and the Dreaming Large would have gone on to the next empty galaxy.
Not one sign that the Dreaming Large had even started terraforming the Goldilocks zone planets around yellow stars. Whatever had happened, it had happened before the Dreaming Large entered Destination.
"More information as we have it," West said, signaling to Korgan to cut the communication to the entire ship.
West did one more walk around the bridge, looking at details on a few reports, but finding nothing different at all.
Finally, he went down to stand near his station.
"Rescue One," he said, "please put on the screen a two-dimensional representation of the galaxies closest to Destination. Limit the galaxies to a one-year travel time for the Dreaming Large from this point."
Thirty-one galaxies came up, represented as dots. There were a couple clusters and ten galaxies seemed to have formed a group. Over the last three years he had stared at this very map more than he wanted to admit.
But he knew that the Dreaming Large would not have gone to any of those other galaxies without reporting in. And with Destination being an empty galaxy, perfect for seeding, there would have been no reason to move on.
This was exactly what he had feared. What Chairman Ray had also feared.
"Now, Rescue One," West said to his ship, "please add into the scanning equipment the ability to see pockets of empty space."
Everyone on the bridge crew just stopped and looked at him like he had lost a marble or two.
Almost no one had heard of empty space. He hadn't either until this mission started.
West had been briefed by Chairman Ray and his wife, Chairman Tacita, on the very reality of empty space, or void space as it was sometimes called.
Basically, empty space was a very small bubble in space, often not more than the size of a standard solar system, where space was completely empty and time and the rules of physics did not apply for some reason inside it.
Over the centuries, Seeder ships had just vanished when they ran into a bubble of empty space.
And they would often emerge thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years later having only spent less than a shipboard few hours in empty space.
Chairman Ray had warned West that if there were no logical reasons for Dreaming Large to have vanished, no signs of any debris, or any human survivors, then West was to look for empty space pockets.
The scientists on some of the more advanced Seeder ships had developed a program to show complete emptiness, something normal space did not have.
It had taken the scientists three years of frantic work to finally develop and test the long-range scanning program.
And if this worked, every Seeder ship would get the program as an update and hopefully no more ships would be lost to centuries in an empty space bubble.
For the year that the scanning program had been uploaded to Rescue One, the scientists had continued to make adjustments and sent them along. West had told no one about any of it.
"Loaded," Rescue One said.
"Display on the screen as dots the empty space areas within four galaxies radius of this location," West said.
Then red dots appeared. Only about eight total in that much space, but one was seemingly right where they were.
They were within brushing distance of the edge of an empty space bubble.
"Shit!' West said. "Back us away from the edge of that thing to a distance of two light years."
West couldn't believe that they had almost vanished right into empty space as well.
That had been far, far too close.
"We're back away from it," Korgan reported a few long moments later. "What exactly is empty space?"
"That's where the Dreaming Large is trapped," West said.
The big mother ship had to be right here very close to them, only stuck in a bubble of no time and space. And the mother ship might not emerge for a hundred thousand years.
All West could see in his mind was the smiling face of his wife.
Somehow, they had to rescue the big ship, even though, more than likely, no one on the big ship even knew anything was wrong yet.
But he and Rescue One and its crew had to pull off the impossible and get Dreaming Large out of there.
Over the next five years, the Rescue One went from a military-based rescue operation to a full-fledged science ship. West had remained as chairman on request, a request that Chairman Ray had gladly granted.
And Chairman Ray had put West in charge of the overall mission. All ships' chairmen in the area reported to him.
Entire parts of Rescue One were being reconfigured into research labs to study the empty space bubble holding the Dreaming Large mother ship.
Admiral Cline had taken all his military ships and headed back to help out at the last seeded galaxy with upcoming wars between developing human planets.
The fleet of scout ships they had brought with them all scattered out to do what they do, scout ahead, map galaxies and spot trouble galaxies that had the occasional growing alien race.
Almost every day another science ship arrived at Rescue One and took a location either in space near Rescue One or on one of the large decks where the military ships and scout ships had once been housed.
Almost fifty smaller science ships had now surrounded the small bubble of empty space, studying it, trying to see inside it.
Every Seeder's ship now had the scanning ability to see and avoid empty space bubbles, something that West had no doubt would save ships from losing thousands and thousands of years.
Now they just had to figure out a way to get the Dreaming Large out of there in under a few thousand years.
Every day Chairman West had a meeting with the four top science advisors to get reports on any progress. They usually met for breakfast in his own kitchen in his apartment, taking turns cooking and cleaning and talking about the problem.
All four were chairmen of their own major science ships.
It was right before one meeting that West came up with an idea. He had been sitting at his kitchen counter, staring at a surface rendering of the patterns on the border of the empty space and he suddenly saw it a different way.
They had been working to find a way to shield themselves from the effects of the empty space, go in and shield Dreaming Large as well. What would happen if they just drained the empty space out into normal space?
Or better yet, filled empty space with normal space.
In essence, they needed to pop the bubble, leaving the Dreaming Large surprised at all the company it suddenly had around it.
The four scientists loved that idea and after the meeting, West contacted Chairman Ray and told him about it to get scientists in numbers of galaxies working on the problem as well.
It took seven more years to find the solution.
Seven very long and frustrating years.
Now West stood in the command center of the Rescue One yet again, sixteen years after he had agreed to join this project, ready to try to finally release Dreaming Large.
As everyone had been warned, no one on Dreaming Large would even realize they had been in trouble. As far as those on board the giant mother ship knew, only a few seconds had transpired since they entered empty space and their trans-tunnel drives had suddenly shut down.
If what Rescue One and all the other ships were about to do worked, the hundreds and hundreds of ships that now swarmed the area would suddenly just appear to those on Dreaming Large.
If it worked.
And if the forces didn't pull Dreaming Large apart.
Chairman Ray and others had said that the giant mother ships were designed to withstand plowing into planets and going right on through. Ray wasn't worried about that at all.
But West was.
They had calculated the trajectory where Dreaming Large had entered the empty space bubble and cleared every ship out of the way where it would be headed.
What they were going to try to do was in essence take the pressure of empty space away by opening not just one, but thousands of holes in it all at once. Just as firefighters did to a burning structure under pressure. They opened many outlets instead of just one.
The scientists a few years back had determined exactly what strange gravitational force was holding empty space together like a bubble, allowing a ship to enter and leave, yet holding the space together.
And once they had determined that force, they knew how to puncture the force to not so much let empty space out, but to let regular space and time flood in.
The entire bubble should, the scientists had told West, just vanish as if it had never existed.
West could only hope.
"Report status," West said to all the ships around the bubble ready to send a hundred probes each to open up holes.
A moment later Korgan looked up at him and nodded. "All eighty ships report green, Chairman."
West nodded, staring at the big screen in front of him showing nothing but empty space.
"Mission go," West said.
West knew that once he said that, a computer program from Rescue One would launch all probes at the exact same moment from all ships.
West had been told that the probes would have a small charge when they hit the membrane, so it would look like eight thousand tiny lights flashing at the same time in a sphere shape in open space.
"Five seconds," Korgan said.
Intense, heavy silence filled the bridge of the ship.
West had no doubt not one word was being said anywhere in the large fleet of ships surrounding the empty space bubble.
West could not for a second take his gaze away from the massive screen in front of him.
Suddenly, there was a white flash of light from what looked like the surface of a sphere.
Then a moment later, the massive mother ship Dreaming Large appeared.
Cheering erupted around the bridge.
West just stood there grinning, staring at the screen, knowing that finally, after sixteen years, he would finally get to see his wife's face again. And maybe a little later actually hug her and kiss her.
After a moment, Korgan, a smile almost splitting his face, turned to West. "I have the two chairmen of the Dreaming Large asking just what the hell is going on."
West just smiled right back at Korgan. "Tell them to contact Chairman Ray and let him explain."
Then, for seemingly the first time in sixteen years, he went and sat down in his chairman's chair.
And then on a private channel he said to Rescue One, "Please contact my wife on Dreaming Large and put her through to my personal screen here."
"I will be glad to, Chairman," Rescue One said.
"Thank you," he said.
And then, for the first time in sixteen years, he took a deep breath and relaxed.