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All the Heavens - Title

Chapter 19

It took nearly an hour to get everyone settled down to the point they were merely scared instead of babbling mindlessly in overwhelming terror. Elric and Jon had done yeoman’s work questioning everyone about the sequence of events. The Knights were gathered in Aaren’s Captain’s quarters while Marak and Taanen kept the men secluded down on the cargo deck, safely away from any portholes or windows so they couldn’t see the frightening sights outside.

Elric thought it was kind of like sticking a chickens head under its wings.

“Alright, let’s have the whole story,” Aaren ordered. “How did this happen?”

Jon and Elric looked at each other, then Jon shrugged and indicated for Elric to take the floor while he went and checked on the men. He nodded briefly at him then addressed the rest of them. “Katrina and I were doing our inventory on the cargo deck when Marak came down with the pay box. They were getting in our way so we told them to go down to the steerage deck.”

Katrina nodded. “You should have seen Marak’s face. He didn’t like being told what to do.”

“Yeah,” Aaren said slowly. “I’ve noticed.”

Elric’s face was somber. “Yeah. Anyway, none of them were on deck. None of us were on deck either. Everybody was below. There was no one watching the sky. When the ship took off, no one noticed it. Who knows how long we may have been traveling?”

Katrina was puzzled. “That explains why no one saw what happened. But how did it happen?”

Horace raised his hand. “It was probably either me or Mira. When everyone went below, we were up on the aft castle beside the wheel. We were talking a bit then we went below with everyone else. One of us must have bumped one of the gems on the wheel and turned the engines on. After that, whoosh!, up we went.” He put a hangdog expression on his face. “It’s probably my fault.”

Jon sighed. “As much as I like ribbing you, there’s no way to know who actually did it. We’re all new to this stuff. It’s a wonder we haven’t blown ourselves to pieces or something.

“But how did we get so far away from Gaia?” Mira asked. “I can’t find it anywhere. Did we jump to another star?”

Aaren shook his head. “No. I was standing outside the navigator’s quarters staring up at the sky, trying to figure out what was going on when the men came trooping back up to the main deck. They saw the stars, looked over the rail, and went completely crazy.” He shifted in his seat. “Gaia was under us if you can believe that. It covered a third of the sky under the ship like a giant fuzzy ball. You could see the mountains and rivers and oceans and everything, like one of those fancy globes you hear about. Only it was moving and alive. There were clouds all over the place and a bunch of them were really dark with flashes of lightning in them. It was actually kinda pretty,” he added.

He saw their expressions and hurried on. “But as soon as the men saw it they lost their minds. They gang-rushed the wheel trying to steer us back down and made it worse. One of them hit the blue button on the hub of the wheel and accelerated us to system speed.”

Aaren and Elric had discovered the purpose of the gemstones on the hub of the ship’s wheel. The top gemstone was a diamond and pressing it turned on the power from the star engine. The black onyx bottom turned off the power to the star engine. The pink sapphire in the middle controlled power for the skengine and the lacewing sails for moving around in the normal sky. The green and blue gemstones on either side activated the faster speeds. Pressing the emerald activated what was called banking speed, which was anything from 150 to 300 leagues per hour. Pressing the blue sapphire activated what was called system speed, which was anything from 300 leagues per hour up to ¾ of the speed of light. The green handle on the left of the wheel was the accelerator control for banking speed and the blue handle on the right was the accelerator for system speed.

“I saw one of them get pushed against the blue handle, they grabbed that hand release at the top of it and the handle went all the way forward. Then suddenly, Gaia fell away from us like someone dropped it down a hole. That’s when I knew we were in trouble. I got over there as fast as I could to hit the black onyx and turn off the power but by then it was too late.” He took a deep breath. “My friends, we are well and truly lost. We don’t have the slightest idea where we are.”

Horace’s jaw muscles were jumping. “So we’re dead?” It came out nearly as a shout. He was terrified, Mira saw and covering it up by getting angry. And loud.

“Slow down big guy,” she advised him. “Give him a chance. No one’s dead and we’re not in any danger.”

“Not in any danger?” he echoed incredulously. “And just how do you know that? What god reached out and whispered that little nugget of information in your ear?” He was fingering his dagger and Mira could only be thankful that he wasn’t wearing his newly acquired magical sword. In his current frame of mind, riddled with guilt mingled with fear, he could easily take someone’s head off before he stopped to think about it.

“None,” she replied, “but I’ve still got my common sense. What happened to yours?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re the soldier, the guy with all the military training and background. Tell me, where’s the danger? What enemy do you see on the horizon that’s getting ready to charge us?”

“There isn’t any horizon,” he scowled at her.

“Cut the comedy,” she barked. “Where’s the danger?”

Elric leaned across to whisper to Aaren. “Maybe we should have made her the Captain.” They grinned at each other, their argument temporarily forgotten.

“It’s an unknown situation,” he shot back. “That’s the danger!”

“We were planning on coming out here anyway. Would that have made it any less of an unknown?”

He thought about it for a minute, his body relaxing slowly. She nodded to herself, he was calming down. Good. For a minute there it had seemed like he was going to hurt somebody, probably Aaren. Or her.

While Horace wrestled with it, Jon came in and joined them. “Two guards are stationed by the door,” he reported. “With orders not to allow anyone in here except us.”

“Thanks,” Aaren said gratefully, glad for any interruption. “How are they taking it? Have they settled down any more?”

“Actually, they’re taking it pretty well,” Jon said admiringly.

“What do you mean?”

Mira tensed, expecting a reaction from Horace but none was forthcoming and she relaxed again. Jon didn’t notice. “They knew we were going into space eventually,” he told them. “So now that we are here and not dead–”

“Always an important point,” Horace interrupted.

“–they’re starting to settle down. They knew from what we told them it would be weird and different.” He shrugged and sat down. “I don’t know, they’re just taking it really well.”

Amazed looks were traded around the table.

Katrina broke into a smile. “Well then, let’s head for Harpel and rescue the damsel in distress.” She strummed a chord on her lute.

Elric and Aaren traded glances. “Uh, that’s the hard part,” Elric said for both of them.

Her expression clouded. “I thought you guys were studying up on that navigation stuff?”

Aaren was guarded. “We’re trying.”

“What does that mean?” The rest were scowling at them too.

“Uh, those books we found contained a lot of information on the planets and their relative positions,” he said hesitantly. “And I know we were heading in the general direction of the sun before I shut off the power so we must be somewhere between Heraup and Gaia.”

“What’s Heraup?” Horace asked suspiciously.

“The next planet closer to the sun. Well, it used to be a planet but it broke up during the Chaos Wars at the End of the First Age. Most of the pieces are scattered out in a ring all the way around the sun but there are a bunch of them clumped together like the Pebbles. Most of the maps refer to that cluster as Heraup.”


“Go on,” Mira told him.

“Well, if we’re between Gaia and Heraup, we should be able to get a sighting from the stars that can narrow it down a bit.”

Elric made an angry noise. “You’re out of your mind. All the patterns in the constellations will be changed! A sighting wouldn’t do you any good.”

Aaren’s lips tightened immediately. “Are you still harping on that? I told you the distances aren’t big enough for the constellations to change their shapes yet. We’d have to go a lot further than we have for that to happen.”

“Not big enough? Did you look at the scale on that map?” the mage snapped back. “That’s plenty big enough for me, thank you!”

“But not for the stars,” Aaren retorted hotly.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” Mira interrupted. “Calm down. And please, tell the rest of us what it is you’re talking about.” They both started talking at once. When it became apparent that neither one was going to yield the floor to the other, she was forced to interrupt again.

"Gentlemen!” She tried not to yell but it was close.

Startled they stopped and looked at her.

“Let’s try this again,” she said tiredly, her head throbbing painfully. “Elric first, then Aaren.”

“Hey,” Aaren objected. “Who’s the Captain around here anyway?”

She gave him a deadly look and he subsided.

The mage nodded. “Thank you. Well, Aaren thinks the constellations we’re used to seeing at night will still be the same up here. But he’s wrong, they’ll be completely different!”

“Different how?” Horace asked.

“I’ll give you an example. Have you ever looked at the pattern that a grove of trees makes? Then looked at them again from a different angle and distance? The pattern changes doesn’t it? It looks like they’re arranged differently.” He looked around at his audience expectantly and saw them nodding thoughtfully. He smiled and continued. “The same thing holds true with the stars. From a different angle and distance, the pattern, the constellations, will be different. That’s why it won’t do us any good to take a sighting.”

“But there must be some way of navigating,” Katrina objected. “Otherwise, how could anyone use these kinds of ships?”

“You’re right,” Elric agreed. “There is a way, and it’s contained in those maps and charts in the navigator’s stateroom. Each map shows the stars from different angles. Each one shows different patterns, constellations. All we have to do is figure out which map to use and we’ll be able to navigate without any problem.”

Aaren snorted disparagingly.

Elric’s lips tightened in annoyance and he continued quickly. “Those maps are organized by a weird kind of code. There’s one named Gaia and shows the stars and planets right where you’d expect to find them. Obviously, that map is for use in the immediate vicinity of Gaia. But there are other maps, dozens of them, that have different names; each one shows different star patterns and constellations. What we have to do is figure out what the names mean. If we can do that, we’ll know which one to use to find our way home.”

“Or to Harpel,” Mira interjected, remembering their pledge to rescue Marak’s daughter.

“Uh, yeah, or to Harpel,” Elric agreed reluctantly.

Aaren’s voice was ice cold. “Finished?”

The slender mage flushed angrily. “Yes,” he snapped.

Everyone shifted and focused on the tall priest.

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