The three Rangers looked at each other. The planet’s sun was sinking low in the sky. Deep yellow-orange light was caught by crystals in the Heart of Transcendence, making the massive device glitter. Brenda looked up at one of the spars. “All feels a little unreal,” she said. “If it weren’t for those –” she pointed at the jar of Quantium-40 Elanor held and the cases of data crystals Cat was carrying, “you could probably convince me we imagined the whole thing.”
“What should we do from here?” Elanor asked.
Cat stared off for a minute, thinking of a response, before turning her eyes back to Elanor. “We fix what needs to be fixed and then see where it leads from there. We just made a discovery that could change everything, but we can’t share it unless we figure out a way to get back.” She smiled and gripped the data crystals tightly. The other women nodded in agreement. “Let’s head back to the ship,” Cat said before spinning around in the direction of their vessel.
They made their way back through the forest, emerging on the bluff where the Ang’seillia waited. Darkness had fallen, but the light of two moons and thousands of stars shone from the sky, making soft reflections off the hull of the Minbari scout ship. The boarding hatch opened automatically as they approached, almost as if the ship was inviting them in.
Brenda lingered for a minute at the foot of the boarding ramp, taking in the moonlight and the roar of the waves on the cliffs below. “It’d be nice to come back here,” she said before turning and boarding the ship.
Within minutes, Cat had taken the Ang’seillia out of the atmosphere and on a course toward the jumpgate. As they expected, it did not activate when they approached. “Bring us in as close as you can, Cat,” Brenda asked. “I’ll run a scan and see if we can figure out what the problem is.”
As Cat did so, Brenda studied the readings coming in from the ship’s scanners. A few minutes later, she nodded in satisfaction and looked back up. “Got it,” she said. “Look.” She activated the ship’s holographic display, and an image of the triple spars that made up the jumpgate appeared.
“This gate has an automatic maintenance system which replenishes the Quantium-40 from reservoirs at the end of each spar, right here.” She pointed, and the display zoomed in on the end of one spar, where they could see a small, box-shaped attachment. “The reservoirs are empty. Fill them up, reboot the maintenance routine, wait a few hours, and the gate should be good to go for another few thousand years.
“All it will take is one of us to go EVA and refill the three reservoirs. Anyone want to volunteer, or shall we play rock-paper-scissors for it?”
Cat put out a fist. “I always enjoy a game of chance,” she grinned. Elanor and Brenda did the same. “Rock – Paper – Scissors – Shoot!” Cat said and looked immediately disappointed when she saw two rocks and her only pair of scissors in the pile.
Brenda giggled as Cat groaned and began to put on an EVA suit. “All you have to do is fill them up, and we will let you back in,” she said as Cat snapped on the helmet.
Before stepping out into the airlock, Cat turned to the two behind her. “If I don’t make it back, tell my ship I love him!” she smirked as Elanor handed her the supply of Quantium-40. Stepping into the airlock, the door closed behind her and she could feel the air being drawn out as the door to the outside slowly opened. She jumped out and floated along the exterior of the ship, turning on the suit’s rockets to keep the momentum toward the jumpgate. The world around her was silent except for the occasional blast from her rockets.
Reaching the gate, she put a hand out and reached for the first spar. Catching it, she held on tight and maneuvered her way to the first reservoir. She filled it with no problem and then the other two. Feeling accomplished, she turned to the Ang’seillia, activating the comm inside her helmet. “All right, how do I kick this on?”
“Go back to the first spar, where you started,” Brenda’s voice came through the com. “You should see a control panel of some kind. If it’s like most of the other jumpgates I’ve ever seen, there should be a series of pictures to walk you through the re-activation routine.”
“Right,” Elanor added. “Whoever designed these things realized they needed to be as independent of language as possible.”
“Hop to it,” Brenda said with a chuckle. “I’m warming up the airlock for ya.”
“Gee thanks,” Cat replied to Brenda with a smile and began making her way back to the first spar. Once there, a black control panel door stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the sea of whites and grays. She pulled on the handle with all her might, accidentally making the door fly off its hinges.
“Oops..” she mumbled staring blankly at the door in her hand. On the back there were a series of pictures. “Here we go,” she said to herself reading the first few and started pressing and flicking the correct series of buttons and switches. After pressing one large big button on the bottom and pulling the lever next to it a hum started to emanate from the gate. “I think I got it!” Cat practically yelled over the com, raising her hands in triumph.
“Well done,” said Elanor.
“Yeah, good on ya!” Brenda called. “Now just fit that door back into place and we’re good to go.”
By the time Cat had gotten the little door back into place and locked down, the hum and faint vibration had spread through the entire jumpgate, like a wilted plant coming back to life after being watered. She made her way back to the Ang’seillia’s airlock, where Brenda was waiting to help her out of the EVA suit.
“The jumpgate’s showing fully activated and ready to go,” Brenda said. “You ready to fly us home?”
Cat breathed a sigh of relief as Brenda helped her out of the uncomfortably hot suit. “I think so! Man that suit is hot.” She fanned her face with her hand, taking off the last of the suit, hanging it up, then making her way toward the controls. She sat down turning on the engines letting them warm themselves up.
“We ready?” She looked over her shoulder as she buckled herself in. They both nodded, sitting down and doing the same thing as she. When the controls showed the engines were ready to go, Cat turned the ship towards the gate. “Jumping in 3..2..1..JUMP,” The ship launched forward.
As the Ang’seillia made the transition to hyperspace, Brenda gasped audibly as she looked at her navigation board. The other two Rangers looked at her with expressions of alarm, and were surprised to see her grinning widely.
“Bringing the Eulinthis gate up to full scratch has boosted the beacon signal strength in all the adjacent sectors,” she said. “I had plotted our course home back the way we came, through Vinzin and Centauri space, but Now I’m seeing the Minbar beacon! If we adjust our course we can get home in one jump and half the time — two days instead of four!”
“I don’t know a lot about jumpgate navigation,” Elanor said, “but isn’t it risky to make a single jump over that kind of distance, on a previously unknown route?”
“Can be,” Brenda said, “but the Minbar beacon is about as solid as it gets. And it’s not going to reject the signal of a Minbari ship, whatever it’s origin jump point was.”
“I guess it’s up to the boss, then,” Elanor said, looking toward Cat.
“Hhmm, well we certainly could use a way to get home faster. We of course run the risk of something going wrong and us getting lost in hyperspace. Of course there is the factor that if we go back the way we came we do run the risk of someone already picking up on our trail and waiting for our return.”
“Ooh, didn’t think of that,” Brenda said. “Wouldn’t put it past the Centauri to be laying for us.”
Cat sat for a second and pondered. “We also should get this technology back to base as soon as possible before something happens to it…” She turned to Elanor and Brenda. “I say let’s try a shortcut!”
“You got it,” Brenda said, looking back down to her navigation board and working the controls quickly. After a moment she looked up, smiling. “We’re locked on to the Minbar beacon. We’ll be home in … forty-six hours.”