The ship’s Combat Information Center was always crowded immediately prior to a Brenner transition. It was Naval Arm doctrine to go to action stations for jumps, and so thirty people were packed into a room much too small for them. All were seated, and all were secured in some fashion against acceleration. Warspite‘s spin had been taken off, and drifting as she was into the Brenner gate’s activation zone, there was nothing to hold the crew to the deck.
“Green board,” a sailor said.
“Very well. Sound jump warning, set the jump clock to 60 seconds, and signal my regards to the gatekeeper.”
The bridge talker’s voice echoed over the ship’s intercom. “All hands, stand by for Brenner transition.”
Seconds ticked away from the jump clock displayed on the CIC’s displays. A petty officer counted down. “Five, four, three, two, one, j—”
NPAS Warspite CRP-62 appeared in the Threshold system an unmeasurably short moment later. She was a cylinder, sixty meters from stem to stern and thirty across the beam. She was wreathed in radiators both port and starboard which made her look much wider. Dorsal and ventral turrets housed her main guns, the radiators cut away near them to give them a clear field of fire. She was, in short, a near-copy of every warship built in the last fifty years, and in spite of her unfortunate hull number, she was regarded as a fine fighting ship.
Her communications room was located in the outer part of the hull, the part that felt the full force of spin gravity. It was rigged for acceleration, however, and Ship’s Subensign Winston Hughes was seated at a workstation against the outboard wall, laboring with pen and paper under the watchful eye of a senior warrant officer. The screen in front of him showed the view from the ship’s telescope, which was aimed at Threshold IV, the system’s most populous world. From the bearing readout, navigational charts spread out before him, and the ship’s position he’d just worked out from star sightings, he was figuring out where Threshold IV was along its orbit, and from that the local time. Jumps were instant, but clocks never read the right time afterward; normally, a computer would have done what Winston was doing now in the first few seconds after a transition, but it was a subensign’s job to learn how everything worked, and here he was. He hurried through the last few calculations, referenced his numbers against the nav charts, and presented his result to the warrant officer.
“Five minutes off,” he grunted, “but good enough for doing it by hand, sir.” The phone mounted to the bulkhead rang. The warrant officer pushed off from his handhold and drifted over to answer. “You’re wanted on the patrol bridge, ensign.”
CIC was amidships and on the centerline, for maximum safety during battle. The patrol bridge, on the other hand, was outboard at the very bow, largely out of tradition. Winston had about twenty meters to go along the ship’s dorsal corridor. Had Warspite been rigged for microgravity, he would have taken it in one good leap—even though he was a very junior officer, on his first subensign cruise in his second year at the Naval Arm Officers’ Preparatory Academy, he still outranked enough of the ship’s company to pass while they yielded. As it was, the collapsible metal companionways and landings between them for use under acceleration that filled the corridor obstructed him.
An acceleration alarm chimed, and Winston felt himself sink to the deckplates as the ship’s engines slowly spun up. He bounced on his feet and guessed they were going at a little over a standard gravity. He reached the bow and turned along the rim corridor, and a few moments later was on the patrol bridge.
The hatch was on the curved inboard wall, and coming through it Winston was facing the room’s primary feature, the plotting board at its center. Past that were navigations and sensors stations, and to the left and right gunnery and engineering. Ship’s Commander Charles Weatherby stood over the plotting table. Winston snapped to attention and waited to be noticed.
Weatherby waved him over. “As you were, ensign. Stand down to watch stations.”
“Watch stations, aye,” the bridge talker repeated, and his voice then echoed over the intercom.
Winston tuned him out and stared at the plotting board. It had been an accurate jump. They were eight hours from NPAB Resolution, give or take.
“No surprises on the board, ensign. You have the watch; enjoy it, there won’t be many more for you now that we’re on the front. Call for me when we’ve arrived, and mind your exhaust vectors after the turnover,” Weatherby said, making for the inboard hatch.
“I have the watch, sir,” Winston replied, and turned to look to the plotting board again.