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Sailing The Dark

By the third decade of the twenty-fifth century, interstellar travel was completely lost, and interplanetary travel wasn't doing so well, either. The old ships had stopped working, and new ships were an odd mix of reinvented twenty-first century technology and surviving parts from a vanishing magical age.

It was in that time that Pieter van Riis financed and assembled the Falkenberg. Van Riis set off from his home, the Hibernia habitat at the Earth-Moon leading Trojan, to sell supplies and parts to his cousin Tomas, a councilman at Valhalla Camp on Callisto. The Falkenberg was a strange ship. Because he didn't have big engines or anything more than a fission power plant, van Riis talked the Hibernians into using their surviving defense laser batteries as a launch system, and those beams sprayed a thousand times the sun's feeble light force into the Falkenberg's sail.

To brake, van Riis was going to rely on Jupiter's magnetic fields and blow a magsail bubble. He just needed enough reaction fuel to get into Callisto orbit and then back into the Io flux tube for the return trip. But it didn't work that way. Whether from breakdown or intrigue, the Hibernia lasers cut off way too soon. The Falkenberg lacked the fuel, sail size or field strength to tack or thrust towards Jupiter. It missed by a full AU.

In those days, rescue was rare - piracy and salvage were more common - so van Riis and his crew set the ship on automatic, said their goodbyes and crept into hibernation chambers to wait. The Falkenberg settled into a ninety year orbit, traveling out beyond Neptune. Stories of Old Confederation tech machines and parts - maybe even a small vacuum distiller - grew as the decades past, though the original manifest is lost and Hibernia is an abandoned dead hulk.

On its first return back to the inner system, the Mars-Belter war ragged, and though missions from both sides tried to board the ship neither succeeded. Their records are still sealed and the legend grew.

And now it returns again. We spotted it out past Jupiter, its old red sails unfurled, tacking against the feeble light, its orbit slowly changing, circulizing. We may not be fast or big, but we're the closest ship and the salvage law is clear. We're using a lot of fuel on this minimum time course, but turn-over is near and within hours we'll have matched course. Who knows what treasures remain inside!

- last transmitted log entry from Captain Devon Sella, owner of the Belt prospector Largo's Fortune.


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