The drive stuttered, again, a shiver so small it may as well have been subliminal passing through Anesidora 's hull. Despite how small the vibration felt, Carina knew it was the product of titanic energies, forces well beyond human comprehension, struggling against one another deep inside the Anesidora as the ship's systems manipulated the fine structure of spacetime. She opened a link to the engineering deck, watching as the telepresence fog shifted and danced through a dozen colours and patterns and forms as the connection stabilised. Then, the pastel blue walls of the engineering room whispered into existence, Saeltza hanging from one of the reaction mass pipes which circumnavigated the cramped space, his small, simian face lost in what could almost be meditation.
"Saeltza? We need to talk about the drive, again."
"There's nothing much new to talk about," he said, eyes still shut. "It's a displacement drive. We may as well be ants trying to troubleshoot an internal combustion engine. We're out in the Periphery, lightyears from any kind of civilised system. We'd better just hope that the Anesidora can limp on a few dozen more lightyears."
"It's not the drive itself that's broken, that's what you told me," Carina replied, pinching the bridge of her nose. "You're saying you haven't made any progress on fixing the housing?"
"Fine, I'm an ant trying to fix the supports holding the engine in place. Better metaphor?" Finally his eyes, impossibly ancient, opened a crack. He looked tired. Exhausted. Burnt-out. "It's only gotten worse since you last asked. The matter bound to the void bubble inside is held in place by a self-repairing nanoscale structure, it helps to dissipate heat and absorb shocks and, somehow, integrate with the ship's control systems. The self-repair mechanism has gone wrong, hurt by what happened at Lysaidon." Lysaidon. The memory still burned in her mind, the furious glaring eye of a star's death cutting into her mind's eye. "It's growing tumours almost as fast as I can strip them off. Every time I try and strip it back and regrow the support mesh, it gets corrupted. I'm an engineer, not some kind of doctor. I couldn't fix modosophont nanotech, let alone whatever magic our transapient sponsor is using. All that's changed is that we're running out of feedstock and raw material "
Snapshot from Decisions Decisions
In the wake of the Version War and in the spirit of the ComEmp, the Andian Mission was instituted in 4744 by some groups in the NoCoZo to help the badly damaged, isolated, or poor systems of the Outer Volumes as well as try to contact the remaining fleets that were unaware of the end of the war.
The Mission was based on a mixture of tolerant and pragmatic NoCoZo philosophies and managed to get support both from the Sophic League and the Mutual Progress Association. This idealistic organization managed to contact hundreds of lost worlds, doing much good in the following millennia. While the core organization soon ossified and lost sight of the original goals, the active arm remained much the same as when it was started due to the amount of interstellar travel.
In 6037 there was a formal break. The core Mission eventually developed into an archival data storage concern, while the Outer Volume Andian Mission today remains a highly regarded support organization in the Carina-Vela Outer Volumes and beyond the Aquila Rift.
Text by Anders Sandberg
Initially published on 16 September 2001.
Updated June 27, 2020 by Todd Drashner