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Stellar Pathways, Part 1
By Michael J. Pfeffer



All disclaimers apply, especially to those licensed to Bantam Doubleday Publishing and
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Part One: On-Ramp

Cape Canaveral, Florida
2:45 PM
March 20th, 1998
Several months before the arrival of Kain

The controllers at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport were usually only accustomed to the
occasional piece of space junk floating across their radar screens. The network spanned
upward-looking radars and radio telescopes worldwide, from the historic Arecibo radio
telescope in Puerto Rico, to GEODSS stations in Guam and Korea. Everything was as
usual...

...except for something rising out of the sky north of Los Angeles, California.

Several NASA controllers spilled their coffee as they spun suddenly in their chairs to zoom
in on the display. An airliner-sized object was rapidly climbing, faster than the most powerful
rocket booster. Calls were placed to supervisors- normal high-altitude research aircraft
flights had averaged 90,000 feet above ground, while record-setting flights had surpassed
300,000.

This new radar contact was already at 320,000 feet, and the vertical speed was increasing.

Past the Third Troposphere Layer (325,035 feet altitude)

That same time

Over Lawndale, California

"Stand by... drives powering up... now!"

The pilot of the fantastic craft was just running through the checklist to start interstellar travel.
Yet she was leaning back in the seat, not even touching the controls. A monitor read off the
cues, and the computer acknowledged the instructions it told itself. "External power
disconnect... check. Full system integrity... check. Power direction... check. Weapons
safe... check. Direction and heading... check. Pre-hyperspace checklist complete. Awaiting
execute command, Ms. Morgendorffer."

Daria turned around to the waiting group in the adjacent lounge. One of them, Michael
Andrews, stood and nodded. She turned back to the cockpit controls. "Execute jump on
provided coordinates, Eddie," she told the shipboard computer of the MJP-911.

"You got it," the computer spoke out. The ship began to whine, growing higher in pitch, and
then the stars outside flooded into bright starlines. The whine rose sharply and faded as the
ship accelerated at an infinite rate. The outside became a mottled blur as they leapt past the
speed of light and into the gates of an unexplored dimension.

The six people inside applauded. It was all their first time going through hyperspace, and it
was a spectacular sight. Michael took a bottle of champagne and five glasses from a
compartment. "Well, here's to exploring the stars," he said, popping the cork and pouring.

"You got that right," said Trent. "I mean, here we are, doing what mankind has strived to
achieve for decades, what an entire popular culture is based upon... and here we are,
getting all boozed up over it."

"Yep. Here's to progress," Mara Jacobs said, sipping at her glass.

"I still don't believe it. I mean, you've told us how you got this... well, this whatever-it-is we're
in, but where did it come from?" Jane asked.

(Author's note- see _Precious Declaration_ for the story on how Eddie was found, available
on alt.lawndale.com and Planet Daria.)

Michael shrugged. "That's why we're doing this. I was able to dredge up some stellar
coordinates from Eddie's memory and we're going on that. All I can say is that the trip will
take quite a while."

"Wait a second... how long is a while?"

Michael checked his watch, directly in sync with Eddie's event timer. "About five days, a
week at the most."

"A week? Cooped up in here?" Jesse blurted out.

"It's roomier than it looks," Mara said. She gestured towards the rear of the ship. "We can
still pick up TV from home, and since we're in interdimensional travel, we can pick the date
and time. So when you don't want to watch one show, whatever else you want is on. There's
a VCR, video games, and we can even get other broadcast networks, if we knew where
they were."

"Does it get HBO?" Daria asked.

"No, that costs extra. That way..." she pointed left, "leads to the living quarters. We each
have our own room. Stereos, CDs, tapes, all the comforts, and if you need something
made, watched, or just want a new CD, Eddie will help you out."

"That's right," the shipboard computer said over a speaker. "I'm here to cater to your every
need, and it's my pleasure to..."

"Shut up, Eddie!" everyone shouted. Eddie shut up.

"Up front, you know," Michael picked up, "is the cockpit. Not much to do there, unless you
want to watch hyperspace for a while. If you want, there's even some self-hypnosis
programs plugged in. Just tell Eddie what you want, stare into hyperspace, and before you
know it, you're there."

"Yeah. At least we won't be hitting any traffic," Daria said.

"Nope. Not for another..." Michael checked his watch again. "Seven hundred quadrillion,
seven hundred eighty-nine thousand trillion, two hundred forty-two billion, eighty-one million
light years."

(Author's note: In numerical terms- 700,789,242,81,000,000 light years- that's a lot, if you
didn't guess already. -MJP)

"What's after that many?"

"We'll find out in a week."

"I'll drink to that," Trent said. "This is going to be cool. I mean, if we do meet a civilized race,
shouldn't we worry?"

"If they're so civilized, we shouldn't need to... at least, I hope so."