Chapter 30 - Gemini

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The white ships fell into an odd formation, three in a row and spread widely, with the other two behind the left and right ships. Terris recognized the hole in the pattern and carefully slid Dawnhammer into the rear center position.

As a precaution, he pulled both Marcus and Dawn to the center of the command deck with instructions to fire on any ship that showed hostile intent. Haden brought the Hammer's gun batteries online. A pink glow descended on the white ships. If the newcomers were aware of their defensive posture, they gave no indication.

Dawnhammer began to move forward into the tunnel. Terris was surprised at the lack of inertia.

"They're using gravity." Haden's voice was clipped.

"Meaning?" Terris queried, his gaze locked on the blue planet ahead of them.

"They have modified Guardian technology, a terrifying concept, or we are dealing with some major unknown factors."

Terris nodded.  They were committed to their course.  These were potential allies that might decide the fate of humanity.  If they were hostile, Terris thought, humanity wouldn't stand a chance against them and it would be best to know up front.

Accelleration was instant and smooth.  One second they were gliding by asteroids and the next, Dawnhammer was moving too fast to identify individual rocks.

In less than a minute, Haden announced they were approaching the light speed barrier.  Some schools of thought believed that once the threshold was broken, the mass of the vessel would become infinite.  Gravity drives nullified the question in Terris' mind.  When Dawnhammer hit that barrier, however, he learned first hand.

The tunnel shimmered as the reflecting edges of rock glassed into a single viewable surface.  Brown and gray disappeared as light blossomed in every direction.  Patterns of infinite intricacy were born and died in the span of a thought, only to be replaced by others.  The command deck was flooded by the spectacular display.  Terris felt his heart swell at the beauty. 

Dawn turned to look beyond the port side and in contrast to her, the magnificence of what they were witnessing diminished into a mere light show.  Her eyes were filled with wonder, her involuntary smile lit up that which even the tunnel couldn't.  The deepest, darkest corners of his soul were set ablaze by the radiance of her innocent joy.  He basked in that fire, allowed it to obliterate the shadows of darkness inside him.  She turned to look at him and paused.

Her green eyes saw it.  She knew, and he didn't care.  Terris didn't look away, didn't even attempt hide the naked truth of it.

He was hers.  Time slowed to a stop between the beats of his heart.  Her image seared into memory as his mind recognized that which his heart had known since the first time he saw her.

"It's a mass driver." Silas stated, his voice confused.  "Modified to use gravity to accelerate mass."  Terris was confused at the jarring intrusion of his focus.

The faint crack sounded in the air.  "Correct, Silas!"  The voice rang of approval.  "This is based on one of your earlier prototypes.  The weapon you dubbed 'Fuzzy Pretzel'."

Terris turned to see Silas grinning sheepishly.  "The driver core.  It used light at varying wavelengths to accelerate metal pellets.  The wiring had to be wrapped in such a way as to prevent them from being inside the drive path.  Magnets were used to keep them there."  Silas looked down.  "Looked like a pretzel with fuzzy edges."

"We renamed it." The voice stated.

"Probably wise.  'We built a planet with a fuzzy pretzel.'  No style.  What do you call it?"

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