ASF Starshard, Remar Sector, Year of the Wolfrise, 2452 CE
I’ve been to nine planets in twelve years and it’s starting to show. New planets that is, beyond the Coalition’s territory. I’m about to add number ten to that list- Kes Annel, a planet on the edge of the Coba Sector.
I focus my thoughts, and thin metal tendrils unfurl from the skin on the back of my hands. I sigh as they slip into the contact ports on the jump controller’s console and my innate magick connects with the swirling vortex of energy within the primary depth well reservoir. It is a feeling both wondrous and exhausting.
Jumping a flagship even small distances takes a toll on a jump controller, especially if they aren’t an Old One, and that I certainly am not. Jumping a ship the size of the Starshard such large distances requires a full depth well reservoir, and it’ll leave both the well and the controller absolutely drained. This far-jump will be my last. I sink further into the reservoir, drinking in the thrumming energy.
“Depth well flow is good,” I murmur.
“Co-ordinates up, Dovus’shinraal.” The voice of my suk’jan sounds distant as I begin melding with the ship. I lose all sense of self. I am no longer Dovus, but the Starshard herself.
“Shields stable, Dovus’shinraal,” another of the Starshard’s Technomancers reports. My essence touches the shields, verifying that they are indeed strong and sound. An unshielded ship will break apart during a jump, far or otherwise.
I murmur acknowledgement and glance to the big viewport before me. The co-ordinates are displayed in the lower left-hand corner, superimposed over a glowing backdrop of prismatic jewels that are the fires of the void. I pull up the jewel we will be visiting, displaying it to the lower right.
Kossadé burns a bright purple. Ages ago, Kes Annel was the seventh planet of twelve in the Kossadé system. Today it is the third, a colony planet settled by a people known as the Jahkaru, to mine the mage-metal found far below the surface. We’ve yet to come across a planet that does not support one or more method of weaving magick, or have some kind of mage-metal upon it. Mage-metals are very useful to magick users, especially ones like Sikkari’s Technomancers. We’ve come to meet the Jahkaru for the first time, and to arrange trade with them, if they be willing.
“Admiral Eldarsson, I’m locked in,” I say. My voice slurs the words, as if I have been drugged, and in a way, I suppose I have. Tapping this much raw energy intoxicates one like nothing else, and it is this addictiveness, as much as the physical toll to the body, that limits how many far-jumps a controller may do.
“Whenever you are ready, Master Dovus,” the Admiral’s voice comes back to us. I’m aware of my suk’jan, Astarus, who stands close at hand, monitoring me.
“All hands, brace for far-jump,” he says over the comm, and then begins count-down.
The energy begins building in my very bones, like the buzz of fine furywine. By the time he reaches ‘one’, the music in my veins has reached a crescendo. It crashes over me and I am the ship, fully and completely. Space and time fold around us, collapsing here to there just long enough for the shielded ship to slip through.
My inner space becomes a riot of rainbow colours chiming the crystalline song of time and space. The music of the stars fills me to bursting. The Starshard trembles in her passing, and the skin of the ship, my skin, takes on the variegation. It ripples over us, a caress gentle as a lover’s kiss, and then the ship is through. The jump is complete.
There is silence. I see and hear nothing, save the interplay of fading iridescent colours behind my closed eyes, and the remnants of the music of magick.
“Dovus’shinraal?” My suk’jan’s voice recalls me to the here and now, and I open my eyes, greeted by the sight of Kossadé in all its splendour. The mottled orb of Kes Annel hangs before us, a tiny speck of green and brown against the fierce amethyst glow. Fine traceries of gauzy white glide across Kes Annel’s surface.
Suddenly I am so exhausted I feel as though a week’s sleep wouldn’t be enough. I slump against the jump controller’s console, and try to focus on withdrawing the conduits. This jump, my last far-jump, has taken a greater toll than I expected, but I consider it a phenomenal success. It is the longest jump attempted yet by one not supported by the unique gifts of the Old Ones.
The tendrils sluggishly slither back beneath my skin, and I lay my head down, wanting nothing more than to surrender to slumber.
“Well done, Master Dovus. You have our thanks.”
It took me a moment to process that the disembodied words belonged to Admiral Eldarsson. While I fought a losing battle to wake myself, Astarus responded to the Admiral.
“Many thanks, Admiral. This jump wiped Master Dovus out. I’m going to take him to his quarters to sleep it off.”
“Of course, Master Astarus. Do whatever is necessary.”
Astarus’ towering frame leans over me, as I try to keep my eyes open, but they are weighted down . The Chocban Technomancer reared up so that his front-most ‘legs’ became arms. Four strong limbs swing me up, supporting me with ease. The other four trundle us along swiftly. I sway gently with the serpentine movement, and my eyes flutter open. I focus on the Chocban’s furry, otter-like face.
“Well, this is quite embarrassing.,” I murmured. Astarus looks down at me. The corners of his mouth are turned down, and his nose is wrinkled up.
“I should be taking you to the healer’s hall, Dovus’shinraal. This jump took too much from you. Pica should see to you.”
My eyes close again. “You chose right, Astarus. I just need to sleep it off.” I’m aware my voice is beginning to slur again and I subside, allowing my head to loll against the Chocban’s chest. He is warmer than a human would be, aided by his fur. I feel the puffy cushioning of it beneath his grey Technomancer robes. It’s becoming such a struggle to stay awake.
The slow thud of his four-count heartbeat increases.
“Dovus’shinraal? Master Dovus?” Astarus’ voice is frantic. “Answer me, Dovus. Wake up. You can’t sleep just yet.”
Astarus’ voice sounds muffled, as if he were speaking from far away. I try to comply. I know it’s important, but every inch of me feels leaden. I can no longer even muster the energy to move a pinky finger, much less raise my arm, or open my eyes. And forget speaking.
Astarus is still talking, voice anxious, but I can no longer even process what he’s saying. It’s just a jumble of sound. He rears up on his hind-most legs and spins around. My stomach roils slightly at the sudden sensation of vertigo that washes over me. Astarus takes all of my weight with his upper arms. Hugging me tight, the Chocban sinks down, and six legs speed us along in the wrong direction. I pass out while trying in desperation to communicate with my suk’jan.
A cold sensation running through my neck brings me back to consciousness. I wake to find myself in the Starshard’s healer’s hall, a thick needle inserted into one of the big vessels of my neck. I crane my head to the side, wincing, and see that I am connected to a bag of gently glowing, opalescent fluid.
“Well, well. You’re awake.” Pica’s voice pulls my gaze to the other side, and I find the head of the healer’s hall coming through the door to my recovery bay.
“Dovus, you’re a fool. You nearly died. Why did you expend so much of your own energy? The depth well was full.”
“I did?” I croak out.
“Kas. If Astarus had been slower, or had left you in your quarters, we’d be consigning your ashes to the void right about now.”
“I don’t know.” But I did, didn’t I? It was the last time I would ever feel the addictive pleasure of facilitating a far-jump. I had opened myself to that exhilarating rush more than I had intended, and it had drained every last drop of energy I’d had.
“We made it, didn’t we? I didn’t die after all. I’ll be back on my feet in a day or so.”
Pica shook her head, lips pinched in a thin line, but said nothing else.
It took me three days to recover enough to leave the healer’s hall, and another four to fully get back to work. Our mission turned out to be a grand success, leading to an alliance with the Jahkaru, so it was worth it in the end.