L7

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L7 - TRANSIT

Failed colony though it was, Europa had the benefit of being the anchor for the only ID Grid in the Solar System, by fiat decree of Belial. The worm- holes linking Sol and the three Centauri star systems were opened only upon request, and that request took the form of a properly identified imperial vessel moving at the correct velocity through an ID Grid. The only sensa- tions Lahatiel and Nuriel noted during the transit was that the stars were instantly replaced by a bright white sky, there was the abrupt sound of roaring air slipping past the ship, and they both felt gravity suddenly, probably eighty percent of Earth normal. They were over the Great Sea, Thalury, which completely surrounded the Land We Know..

Exiler was configured with a large delta-wing, and she was approximate- ly the size and shape of the NASA space shuttle Robyn saw on Timeline Two, if you omitted the shuttle's large external drop tank, and also clustered six booster rockets around the orbiter. The wing was sufficient to keep Exiler from dropping like a stone over the Land We Know, as long as a cruising speed of about five hundred MPH was maintained.

Coming from the west, Lahatiel turned the ship due north when he reached the Sacred Mountain, careful not to fly too close to the shaft of heat and light that leaped straight up from the center of the lake on the summit plateau which served the role of sun for the Land. Eventually the ship would reach the northern edge of the fold-space bubble enclosing the land and sea, and the elohim would spit Exiler out of the ID Grid over Palato.

But Lahatiel knew it would take many more hours for the passage so he set the ship on autopilot and joined Nuriel in the common space which was a combination dining hall and sitting room and parlor, with many tunnel open- ings in the deck, overhead, and bulkheads leading to other parts of the ship. Instead of a common table there were six smaller individual tables and chairs facing each other in a ring along the wall. The frigate was originally designed for a crew of twelve. Underway, half the crew would be on watch while the other half messed here in the Banquet Room or hot-bunked it in the six staterooms. Everything was a claustrophobic's nightmare.

Six hatches in the Banquet Room led to the six main drive modules, each with a space for performing engineering duties and more hatches leading to access tunnels aft. Forward of each one of these engineering spaces was a large supply room, corresponding to the domed enclosures that capped each engine. Access ways in this space were shaped by the stored material it- self, they were simply the voids between boxes, a bewildering three-dimen- sional maze. The previous crew had plundered most of the supplies.

The flight-deck was all the way forward. This was the ship's "bridge," and it was somewhat more cramped than the common room. Arranged around the rim were empty tubes for Bulldog missiles, radar, communication equipment, and the F/1 Fairchild 500mm CCD optical tracking system called the Big Eye, an import from Earth. There was also a thick circular window dead center with a liquid crystal layer which could be electronically polarized or even made opaque in the event of a laser attack or if Lahatiel tipped the ship di- rectly at one of the Centauri suns. Nuriel marveled that no sizable flat space along the interior bulkheads was wasted as merely a bare wall.

Crew's berthing was between the Banquet Room and the flight-deck, shaped like a pie cut into six pieces with a wide hole taken out of the center. These six "staterooms" had some 900 cubic feet inside each one, roomy as such things went. One entered through blue curtains secured with runners. Each stateroom had a large picture window looking out the side of the ship. In one of these staterooms Lahatiel took his sister to bed, claiming har for hyz wife. Hy hadn't come by har strictly by the rules of the Law of Belial with the ritual death combat, but in the story he planned to tell Belial, which would be embellished with a tale of the death of hyz parents to keep them safe, the capture of Exiler would fulfill the ritual nicely.

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