Nyx didn’t remember the trip to the Sol system being quite this quick from their former location. Mirelle assured her that it was normal to be able to reach Mars in less than a week. Jianyu frowned over the timeline but admitted he had no way to check her calculations right now.
A ship slipping through spacetime took on its own internal rhythm. The lights dimmed and brightened on a predictable schedule, imitating an imaginary day halfway between the 24-hour cycle of Earth and the 29-hour cycle of Epsilon Eridani. The Coalition had chosen a 27-hour day as a compromise between its two surface-dwelling species; Centaurians and Falacerians largely lived underground, while Minervans took on the circadian rhythms of their host bodies. So much of life in the Coalition had been about living in the spaces between what was ideal, about finding a compromise that worked well enough for everyone.
Nyx had never concerned herself with those kinds of decisions when she’d been a part of the Coalition. As a captain, she’d worked within the rulebook when it was convenient, and found new ways to interpret those rules when they failed to account for the strange new challenges of life beyond the boundaries of known space. Now she found herself staying up late into the ship’s night cycle, scrolling through old handbooks, remembering the way things had worked before.
An hour before they were due to drop back into the normal flow of time, Nyx assembled the crew on the bridge. She stood in front of the window, between the navigator’s and pilot’s stations, facing the interior of the ship. The window curved just enough that she could see the distorted starlight in her peripheral vision, wavering as the perspective bent and shifted with the Benevolence’s changing position. The starlight slid over the purple fabric of her shirt, catching on the silver insignia on her breast: five silver dots, arranged in a circle.
Mirelle and Sera looked up at her from their seats. Mirelle seemed composed, sitting with her hands in her lap. Sera had at least managed to clean her vest off, which meant she looked about as good as she had in a while. Jianyu was sitting beside Mirelle, looking grim. Weyland had his usual inscrutable expression. Xrrt was strapped into her modified chair, but leaning over to speak with Flowers, who had his boots propped up up on the nearest console.
It wasn’t much of a crew, according to all her old handbooks. They barely had the numbers to pass muster on a repair barge, never mind a real starship. The idea of this handful representing the entirety of the Coalition was laughable.
But this was what she had to work with. This was the best chance she was going to get to make things right. She’d spent her whole career learning to compromise, and now she was going to have to make this work.
“The problem with living through history,” she began, “is that you can only see it clearly after it’s over with. With the perfect vision of hindsight, it’s possible to put events in a larger context. To see that everything worked out, or everything failed, for a reason. But in the midst of a chaotic time, all you can see is what’s in front of you.”
She wasn’t sure if any of them understood what she was getting at, but they were all looking at her expectantly. She continued, “Some day, in the future, I know we’ll be able to look back on this moment and see it as part of a grander trajectory. I hope we’ll be able to say, yes, this is the moment where we chose to make the galaxy a better place, and look at everything we accomplished after that decision.”
Sera looked like she was itching to interject. Nyx continued before she could. “Or perhaps we’ll say, this is the moment we decided to make some easy cash. Or this is the moment we tried something new, and it didn’t work out, but it was part of the process of learning what does work.”
The Benevolence hummed under her, a soft vibration travelling up through the soles of her feet. Her crew was watching, waiting. “Starting now, you are all working on a Coalition starship. We cannot follow every rule the Coalition laid out. We have no diplomats to protect us. We have no higher officers to appeal to. We may have some money, just enough to keep us flying, if we play our cards right.”
That got a raised eyebrow and a smirk from Flowers, who was still lounging with his feet up. But the others were with her, at least, especially as she said, “I am not asking you to rebuild the entirety of the Coalition alone. I am not expecting that the trajectory we’re on now will end where it started. What I’m asking you to do, what I’m hoping we can achieve, is to make the small parts of the universe we can reach a kinder place. I ask you all to live in the spirit the Coalition intended, in the service of a peaceful galaxy.”
She looked down at Mirelle, who was still sitting patiently, and Sera, who was squinting up at her as if she didn’t quite recognize her own captain. “Begin preparations for arrival near Mars. We’ll be touching down near Uchronia City.”
Mirelle picked up the cable that would connect her with the ship’s navigation system. Sera began to punch commands into her console. Nyx headed for her chair, and turned at last to face the starlight.