In 2055 the theory of faster than light travel was debuted by Zefram Cochrane. By 2060 Earth had launched her first FTL ship, the Phoenix. Earth entered into Galactic society on the eve of her last Interplanetary war.
       In 2359 all of the Sol system prepares to celebrate the tricentennial of Starflight.


-- Builder Station, El Nanth; April 17, 2359

       It had taken two years. As long as it took to convert her in the first place. Three centuries of sitting still had damaged the Old Girl. Idleness is the enemy of both man and machine. Vacuum and cold had crazed glass, fused metals and rendered gaskets never meant for vacuum and cold worthless. Two years of hard work to come to this day.
       Cadet Igo NeAnsisi keyed the ancient intercom. "Final countdown. By the board. Impulse engineering?"
       "Life Support?"
       "CD Engineering?"
       "All departments report green and go. Captain, we are ready for departure."
       Jerry LaSaille stretched in the pilot's seat. "This is FTL-100 to Builder station, we are ready for departure."
       "Roger that FTL-100, you are cleared for departure."
       "FTL-100, now departing, save out spot for us."
       "Will do FTL-100, safe journey and Godspeed."
       "Cast off umbilicals."
       NeAnsisi said. "Umbilicals cast off we are on internal power."
       "Release docking clamp."
       A wrench and clang reverberated through the ship.
       "Docking clamp is free."
       Jerry gently tapped the joystick The ship moved free from where she had been moored so long. Swung around and departed the station's outer docks. He tapped again until she was free of the station. The Old Girl responded just as well today as she did 300 years ago.
       "Builder station. FTL-100 SS Savanna requests a warp departure for Earth."
       "You are cleared for warp departure Savanna. Have fun at the festival."
       "Astrogation, are we locked in on the course for Earth?"
       Cadet Jenerifer Aigi hunched over the scope, barely able to contain her thrill.
       "Holding... Holding... Lock! Course laid in sir, and locked."
       "All hands warp speed in 5 seconds. 4, 3, 2, 1" Jerry shoved the throttle forward and the Savanna leapt forward into subspace., and her long forgotten home.
       "All hands we have warp factor three and holding steady."
       Cheers broke out among the cadet crew. Jerry spun out of the pilot seat and headed back to the ship's wardroom.
       "All hands to the wardroom."
       In the few minutes everyone was gathered. Jerry pulled the bottle out of the ice where it had waited, popped the cork and glasses were passed around.
       "Gentlebeings. You have worked two years to bring this ship back to life. Blood sweat and tears have fallen all, and the labor of love is done. The Savanna will be at the Starflight tricentennial. They will stare in awe at the Phoenix, and mourn the Bonaventure. But the Savanna still sails under her own power. A toast then, to the oldest functional starship to hail from Earth.
       "Here, heres" sounded about the cramped room.
       "And second, a toast to the people that made it possible."
       The intercom spoke. "Captain LaSaille. The USS Terra is on the line."
       "Good. Looks like our ride is right on time. Everyone back to stations, unless you want to take two years getting there."
       The young people scattered laughing back to stations and Jerry went back to the pilot's compartment to rendezvous with the Terra.


-- Aquarius Station, Earth; July 5, 2030

       The Engineers gathered around the computer, and muttered to each other. Outside in the black of orbital space floated the object of their concern, the DY-350 otherwise known as USS Cheetah.
       Meyers said. "Useless."
       Williams said. "A total waste."
       Glenn said. "The entire program down the tubes."
       Von Braun said. "But gentleman, it worked. The ion integrated pulse drive principle functions as we anticipated it would."
       Williams said. "Sure, that's fine, but the impulse concept is a total failure. The acceleration will crush anyone that tries to use it. A 30g spaceship drive is a total waste."
       "Not now, perhaps not right now gentleman. We hang her up for a while. We can work on a method that will allow the drive to be used. Some artificial gravity system will do the trick perfectly."
       Meyers said. "NASA is going to can all of us, that day will not come."
       Von Braun said. "The ship is built, when have you known a government to throw away money?"
       The entire gathering focused withering looks on the offending engineer.
       "OK OK governments waste lots of money, but it would cost more to break her up, than store her."
       We can only wait and see. Meanwhile, we have other fish to fry. Lets file the report, and get on with it."
       The SS Cheetah said nothing, but floated in her darkness.


--El Nanth, beyond the Grinder; April 17, 2359

       "This is SS Savanna to USS Terra."
       "We have you Savanna. She looks good Jerry."
       Captain LaSaille looked in the scope, the Terra was clear as a bell. Three things Starfleet insisted on for this trip, subspace radio, a transponder, and at least minimal sensors. None of which the SS Savanna had at the time of her first sailing.
       "Thanks, the kids did a great job. We are dropping to sublight, now."
       The two ships slowed, the delicate little minnow, and the great whale of space. The doors on the specially built pod of the planet class cruiser opened to receive the waiting ship. LaSaille held his course and let the pilot of the Terra move in around the Savanna. Once again the muffled clang of the docking clamp, and the great doors closed off the blue-white heat of El Nanth to the stern. In a moment the gangway seal had pressurized, and the main hatch was open again.
       Jerry keyed the intercom. "OK, bring all systems to standby. We have watches set, bridge and engineering. Everyone one else is free to go. Enjoy your trip."
       Jerry sat a moment longer, the viewport now showed only the forward end of the docking bay. Faces of Ane and other species filled the windows. No one else alive had ever seen the Savanna away from her familiar dock at Builder Station. Well two weeks of on ship leave, he might as well enjoy too.


-- University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Earth: December 4, 2059

       Gerry said. "Mark, you have poured over those equations for two weeks, can you tell us anything?
       "I have run the figures through Tin Lizzy as well, I keep getting the same thing. It will work."
       "We have wondered what di-hydrogen was good for, now we have something."
       "Yep." said Gene Phillips. "Something we can do with it. But you need hardware to do it, and the Corporate Sector is not easy with spaceships. They like to keep us peons down."
       Mark leaned in. "What about NASA?"
       "What about NASA, ever since the U.S. spun them private they are poorer than church mice. A few older DY designs they can't even maintain."
       Gerry replied. "There is one ship."
       "The Cheetah. They can't even use it."
       "A ship they can't use, they would have sold it by now."
       "Not the Cheetah."
       Mark said. "OK, spill."
       "The Cheetah is the strangest ship to ever get a DY rating it looks totally unlike every other DY class ship. She was a test bed for a new kind of drive, wildly successful, and they can't use it."
       Gene said. All right professor, I am stumped too. A wildly successful drive they can't use?"
       "Thirty g drive."
       "Moth-er. What makes you think we can use it?"
       "Well Mark, am I mistaken, or is there a measure of gravity control in those figures of yours?"
       "Yes, depending on how you arrange the warp bubble axis you get gravity, steady on the inside."
       "So, will it handle 30gs?"
       Mark tapped a while on the keyboard.
       "Why do you use that thing?"
       "For data entry Professor. Why would anyone use a keyboard?"
       "Talk to her."
       Gene snorted. "Are we back on the smart computer thing again."
       "Look try it." Saille thumbed the mike on. "Elizabeth?"
       "The computer spoke in a pleasant female voice. "Yes Doctor Saille."
       Gene crossed his arms. "Pointless anthropomorphizing."
       "I was speaking to Doctor Saille Mr. Phillips."
       Gerry continued. "Yes, based on the data from the 'FTL transmission', will the gravity field developed by the drive counter up to a 30g thrust and provide a 1g environment inside the craft, at the same time."
       "An interesting question Doctor. Let me chew on it for a while."
       Gene said. "Do you honestly trust any data from so open a question?"
       "What would you have me say? She understands English, nuance and idiom."
       "Properly program you equations for a start."
       "Gene, for a cutting edge physicist you are strangely Ludite in some departments."
       "Like want?"
       "I happen to know you still use a wintel PC for your personal work."
       "Hey is still works and does useful work at that. These tri-logic thngys aren't even proven."
       "Fifty years is not long enough to prove a technology?"
       "I just don't trust them, androids and all. It's spooky. Give me good solid microprocessors, and old fashioned Microsoft programing.
       The computer said. "I have your answer Dr. Saille."
       "And the answer please?"
       "Yes, if all data is correct the parameters you state can be reached. A printout of the necessary performance is being produced now."
       "Well boys, lets get a ship and get to work."


-- USS Terra, El Nanth to Sol passage; April 20, 2359

       Jerry wandered around the Terra. I was so different from the little Savanna that it now carried. Massive, fast, comfortable. Even far better than the Kongo he captained some hundred years ago. That was a thought, he might have her brought around as well. The last functional Constitution class ship, last of the "sacred 12". Damn. I'm becoming a starship collector. That has to qualify as one of the stranger hobbies. The Savanna, the Kongo, the Serendipity, what next, an old Galaxy class down the line? Was this some urge to serve again? No, the time was passed for captaining starships. He, they had other matters that required minding.
       "Captain LaSaille?"
       Well that was worth minding. A sweet young female voice. "Yes? Cindy Karnack, isn't it?"
       "Yes Sir. Did you really sail the Savanna all those years ago?"
       "Yes, I did."
       "That would make you over 300 years old. No human has ever lived that long."
       "Bit strange, I admit. But that is the case of it."
       "Would you believe clean, healthy living?
       She looked skeptical.
       "I didn't think so. The short and long of it, I am a rare mutation. I know of only one other person that has my unique physical nature, and when I met him he was over 3000 years old."
       "Who was that?"
       "Leonardo Da Vinci among others. He is elderly now, failing. I give him the peace he has earned. Last I saw him he called himself Flint."
       "No women have it?"
       "Its a big universe Mr. Karnack, I can't tell you. Someone else discovered Flint. Only a top secret rating got me access to those logs. Because I have not seen others, I cannot say they don't exist. Flint himself said I was first 'other' he had met besides himself."
       "So why the mutation?"
       Why humans? I am an accident born of an accident. I don't look for rhyme or reason in the actions of nature anymore. I've lived long enough to understand the short patterns, and not long enough to understand the long ones."
       "So why don't you look?"
       "If I didn't tell you, would you know I was different from a normal human?"
       "Well no."
       "I can't tell either. I don't have a special scent, glow in the dark, or really have any physical difference that marks me as different."
       "What about intelligence? You said this Flint was Leonardo Da Vinci."
       "Well, at the time he tried that, he was over 2000 years of age. Experience can go a long way to faking super intelligence. When you have seen more, heard more read, more than any 200 men could, you start altering your perceptions I would imagine. I have nowhere near that number of lives under my belt. The experience of all those years nearly cost Flint his humanity. It took a personal tragedy to show him that. He warned me to never lose touch with what I came from. Advice I try to heed.
       "So, what have you done?"
       "I have been a soldier, a scientist, an explorer, a doctor, a starship captain, a leader of industry, an artist, and a professor, among more minor professions. I imagine I will do much more before I am done. But three hundred years ago, I was a starship smith, and Savanna was the ship I worked on.


-- Houston, Texas, Earth: January 5, 2060

       "Director Fursbin. I am serious, I wish to buy one of you ships."
       "Dr. Saille, I am quite sure you do, but you must understand that spaceships do not come cheap."
       "I do understand. The University of Michigan has been given a grant to fund construction of a faster than light starship based on the Cochran Equations. We would like to reduce the time required by starting with a finished hull."
       "Quite impossible you understand, but which finished hull did you have in mind?"
       "The USS Cheetah."
       "Impossible, that ship is dangerous. It would be irresponsible to sell that death trap to anyone."
       "What if I tell you Cochran Equations mean that the ship will be safe to use?"
       "Then what stops us form doing the conversion?"
       "Lack of funds? I happen you know you don't have the money to meet your immediate payroll, never mind mounting an extensive ship refit."
       The Director slumped in his seat. "You have us nailed Professor, I don't know if NASA will be a going concern by the end of the year."
       "So, sell us the ship. It will keep you in the black, and I can guarantee your scientists a place on the crew."
       "You would do that?"
       "Yes I would."
       "Well, under the circumstances, I think we can cut a deal."

-- Reflections...

       Jerry shook his head. History said that NASA went down several years later. As to want happened to Director Fursbin, nothing was said. One more person that likely died hating him. Well, as long as they could hate him from far away. Morbid thoughts. Were people getting on his nerves again? No, the young people that had helped him restore the Savanna definitely did not get on his nerves. Difficult and officious people always had. He had met more than his share of those.

-- Lexington, Kentucky, Earth: July 23, 2060

       Gerry sat at the banker's desk. "Mr. Arbuckle, you wanted to see me."
       "Yes Mr. Saille. Our records show you have been spending funds at an alarming rate."
       "My funds Mr. Arbuckle."
       "It is a fiscally irresponsible action Mr. Saille."
       "My funds, my future. Why should you care?"
       "Mr. Saille, it is our business to care, and to see that our customers do not harm themselves financially. Under the circumstances we are going to have to place a limit on your spending."
       "Yes, you will thank us for it later."
       "What you are going to do Mr. Arbuckle, is close my accounts, all of them."
       "That does not make the issue go away Mr. Saille, your record will go to your new bank. But that is your choice, what bank shall we transfer them to?"
       Gerry tossed a duffel on the desk. "This one. In cash."
       Ah, er. Mr. Saille, that would be quite impossible, we, er, don't carry that amount of cash in the branch."
       "We are at the main branch Mr. Arbuckle. Bullion is an acceptable substitute, if you can't find the cash."
       "That would not be possible unless you have a bullion licence Mr. Saille."
       "I do. Now, cash or gold, your choice. If you do not start filling this duffle forth-with, I am having the directors, and yourself arrested for fraud. Now, fill."
       "Mr. Saille, please reconsider this move. It is not in your best interest at all."
       "Last I checked and that was this morning, it is still a free country. That means I can do as I please with my money. Now, close my accounts and fill the sack, and don't even think of calling security."
       Arbuckle's finger snapped back form the button under the desk as if it was hot. He stared at Gerry Saille. Gerry pointed at a button on his phone.
       "That one calls the cash office."
       Arbuckle pressed it.
       "Hello, cash office."
       "Mary, I need 1.26 million US NewDollars cash. In my office."
       "Yes Mr. Arbuckle. Is anything wrong?"
       Gerry shot him a look.
       "No Mary. Normal transaction."
       Gerry said. "Good, very good. We wait."
       A half hour later the door opened to admit a elderly guard with the cash cart. Gerry started to flip through the money packs.
       "Mr. Arbuckle, you might want the datawork ready. This is after all a normal transaction."
       Arbuckle stared at him but started to draw up the necessary forms on the desktop. He reached for the security panic button again.
       "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
       Arbuckle jumped back. Gerry had finished stuffing the cash in his duffle. He walked over to the desk and signed the forms.
       "I don't trust you or your goons Mr. Arbuckle. Keep your hands on the desk. Aleilan."
       The Ane faded into view.
       Arbuckle shot to his feet. "How did that get in here!?"
       "Same way I did, through the door. OK lets go."
       Gerry grabbed her around the neck, and they were gone. Arbuckle fell back into his chair.

-- USS Terra, El Nanth to Sol passage; April 25, 2359

       Jerry relaxed in the main lounge of the Terra. Large, holographic plains with Kilimanjaro in the distance. A holographic sky and a warm breeze. You could easily forget you were even on a ship. The door to the lounge opened making a very ship looking hole right in the middle of the "plains". So much for illusions.
       **Yes Jeraban.**
       **A suggestion to Captain Dalaban that a building be placed where the door opens to the lounge. It would enhance the illusion.**
       **Suggestion noted.**
       Jerry looked at the young man that entered. "Good morning Rick. I trust you had a good night?"
       "Yes Sir. Nice cabins. I had a few questions if you would answer them."
       "I understand that you experienced Earth in the mid-21st century. History no matter how good always misses something. Either because it was not wanted to be remembered by those that wrote the histories, or to common to mention, but the present has no idea what it was. First hand accounts are best, and you are the last first hand account."
       "So, what truth do you seek Rick?"
       "What was the world like, the flavor of living at the time?"
       "To quote Dickens if I might. 'It was the best of times, it was the worse of times.'"
       "How so?"
       "On one hand we were reaching out to the stars, colonizing our own planets, and looking ahead. On the other hand the hard won freedoms and lessons of the 19th and 20th centuries were being lost and forgotten. The world was at the same time reaching inward, and turning on itself."
       "With the promise that was there, why did you leave?"
       "Someone wanted me dead Rick, and I am not indestructible."


-- Aquarius Station, Earth: August 30, 2061

       Gene had the radio going as they worked on the intermix chamber. I was a tricky piece of work. The radio continued blaring the news.
       "Today the European Union in a landmark decision has banned the public use of cash. Citizens of the Union have sixty days to turn in all cash, and to be issued Union debit cards if they do not already have proper money cards. Economists hail the move as a step towards a rational economy."
       Jerry muttered. "beginning of the end."
       Gene looked up. "Excuse me?"
       "I said, it's the beginning of the end. Earth is getting to be a bad place to live."
       "Why, because they ban filthy lucre? Sounds like a grand idea to me."
       "You don't see the implications Gene. Now the government controls your money, they can control what you spend it on, or even make it all go away."
       "That's crazy talk Professor. Why would anyone want to do that?"
       "You need more history lessons Gene."
       "Too busy to study history. Besides, the administration just declared history a non-credit course."
       Gerry's head snapped up. "Tell me your kidding."
       "No, really, it's in the catalog. History doesn't count toward a BA or a BS."
       "More like the end is near."
       "What the hell, history is a bore."
       "It is until you need it."
       The phone rang. Mark jumped up to get it.
       "Professor, it's for you."
       "No rest for the wicked or the weary." Gerry took the phone. "Hello."
       "Professor Saille. This is Armand Grant Vice President of Marketing with Satyr Systems. I understand you are teaching Political Philosophy."
       "Yea, I do that once in a while. It's a break from the physical sciences."
       "We are Satyr Systems are sponsoring the Philosophy department this year Professor."
       "Very nice. How does that network?"
       I have a copy of your class syllabus. I notice that among the various things discussed is 'The Corporation as Government; Pro or Con'. I must admit that as the sponsor of the department Satyr Systems is concerned as to how corporate culture is presented in your class."
       "Why don't you come down and listen. I think you would be a fine example of the 'Con' side of the argument."
       "I was lead to believe that you might be difficult Professor Saille. This is however a major concern of Satyr Systems. We do not wish students in our sponsored department to receive a bad image of corporate culture."
       "In other words, you would like me to censor the information I am teaching."
       "Censor is such an unnecessary word Professor Saille. However if information that reflects badly on the corporate culture of Satyr Systems is taught, we will have to ask that another instructor be assigned to the course."
       "Mr. Grant. Do you know who I am?"
       "You are Professor Gerry Saille. Currently employed at the University of Michigan, currently."
       "And what is Satyr Systems, legally that is?"
       "A fully owned subsidiary of Bicorn Industries."
       "And who is Bicorn Industries?"
       "They are a privately held corporation, Professor Saille."
       "Exactly. I am the majority stockholder."
       "If you want to keep your miserable little job Mr. Grant, you will take your censorship, shove it where the sun won't shine, as far as any professor or instructor at this or any university is concerned. Do you understand me?"
       "Yes Sir."
       "Good, good-by."


-- USS Terra, El Nanth to Sol passage; April 25, 2359

       Jerry sat back. "That was just the tip of the iceberg. It was simple Rick. Government was corrupt and tired, multinational corporations had bigger budgets and more employees than the government. The players of the first class even had their own armed services. Colonel Green's War had left a world weary of war even more weary. No formal truce was ever declared, it just ran down. No one could find Green.
       Then I found him. I found him behind the Optimum Movement, behind the Neo Ludites. Once again fermenting war, and making another bid for power. I worked where I could to stop him. The bad part was Green also found me. I was harried by assassins. I'm hard to kill, but I wasn't willing to find out what the limit was."


-- Ann Arbor, Michigan, Earh January 21, 2062

       Gerry staggered away from the car, his head was pounding, and he hurt all over. "My God, Anne!" was his instant thought. A few steps back to the car, and he knew that it was pointless to try. He slumped back to the pavement. Too much hurt, too much to move. He could hear the police sirens coming but it hurt too much to move. Tears burned the wounds on his face.

       "Professor, you are lucky to be alive."
       "Ow, tell me about it. Have you gotten all of it?"
       "Well the scanner shows you mostly free of any objects. There is an object behind your sterum however."
       "I was shot in the war."
       "Your records don't show that."
       "One of those little bush wars, what records."
       "Well yes, but."
       "It's an old wound, leave it be."
       "It's your body Professor."
       "At least we still have that."
       "Let me bandage that last wound. We will be keeping you overnight Professor."
       "Professor Saille, you are in no shape to leave the hospital."
       "Guess what Joey, yes I am."
       Gerry hopped off the table. His shirt was in tatters as well as his pants. He grabbed a set of scrubs form the bin.
       "I'll get them back to you."
       The police were waiting in the lobby.
       "Professor, we have a few questions."
       "Do you know of anyone that would want to kill you?"
       "Not by name. That I have enemies is obvious."
       "What was the identity of the woman in your car."
       "Anne Degeeves."
       "Your relationship with her?"
       "You don't seem overly grieving Dr. Saille."
       "I tell you what. You live through a car bomb, and see how 'emotional' you feel right after it. Now, unless you have something significant to say. I have things to do."

       He left them standing there and went straight to the Ane safehouse. The bright purple paint had some kind of tradition. Most people avoided the rundown looking house, it was easy for the Ane to acquire it. He came In the back door none the less.
       **Gerry?** Aleilan of course.
       **They bombed my car, killed Anne.**
       **Gerry? What can I do?**
       **Be there girl, just be there. That's the fifth try, and this time... This time they touched me.**
       **Where now?**
       **The ship is back from the trial runs, everything checks out. We go to the ship.**
       **We haven't finished everything.**
       **We might get a week, outside to finish supplying things.**
       Jerry grabbed fresh clothes, checked his gun. Anne didn't like him carrying on dates. Leaving it with Aleilan saved if from the house fire, and from the bomb He took Aleilan firmly.
       **OK, to the ship.**
       Aleilan teleported them to the deck of the Savanna. They immediately started to float. Aleilan looked a little odd.
       **The warp system is shut down. You head back and start the supply train, I'll get the ship up and running.**
       **Errr, Right.** She popped out.
       Gerry took careful inventory of everything aboard. He got the new tri-logic computer up and working, then risked a ground call, right to Elizabeth's channel.
       "Professor that is not my name, my name is.."
       "Not now, no time for pleasantries, I don't know how long until this is detected. Start uploading now. The balloon has gone up."
       "Yes sir. I will begin at once."
       Communication lights came on, and the computer started to load. He left it. A few minutes latter an Ane arrived with a couple of crates strapped on. He got busy unstrapping them and getting them put away.


-- Sol, gravitational boundary, September 3, 2359

       Jerry slowly paced the forward lounge of the Terra. The entire three-deck high bay was transparent. He was on the gallery in the middle of it. An unaltered view of space in warp flashed by the ship. Not everyone was comfortable with that view of space, it unsettled some people. Jerry loved it.
       He was nervous. Silly that. It was three centuries since he had fled Earth, leaving broken dreams and broken ships in his wake. He had been back countless times. But the Savanna had never been with him. And that was causing anxiety. Funny that.
       "Captain LaSaille to the Savanna, Captain LaSaille to the Savanna."
       "Understood, I'm on the way."

       Within an hour the cadets had the Savanna at peek readiness. The last time, he was near here he was anything but ready, and headed the other way.


-- SS Savanna, Aquarius Station, Earth January 25, 2062

       For the next several days he hauled and stored crates, watched the upload and caught meals and cat naps when he could. The Savanna's antimatter supply was 90%, that would have to do, the di-hydrogen was stable and in place as well. Once Elizabeth was in place he got her working on the astrogation. No time to tie her directly to the astrogation station. He listened to the radio. None of the news was good. The People's Republic of Oecania outlawed mobile anthropomorphic computers. The United States, what was left of it, outlawed androids, and cash as well. Didn't matter, he was leaving. Earth can go to Hell.

       Gerry had the ship powered up to a minimum, a stable warp field for gravity. Aleilan watched him making the final preparations.
       **Girl, this ship is leaving in about an hour.**
       **I know.**
       **It's time to get off.**
       **I'm going with you.**
       **Do we have the supplies?**
       **Of course, I planned this.**
       He gave her a quick hug. **Company will be good.**
       The lock alarm sounded. Jerry grabbed is gun and headed to the lock. Gene Phillips was picking himself off the floor.
       "Good afternoon Gene."
       "Professor Saille, what's going on, why the sudden gravity."
       "The ship is powered up Gene, I'm leaving."
       "But, the crew, the mission briefing, nothing has been done yet."
       "That isn't why she was built Gene. I paid for everything for a reason, now I am leaving."
       "Leaving? Where?"
       "Place called El Nanth, it's a long way off, and I don't think you want to make the trip."
       "Professor, I can't let you take the ship."
       Gene braced himself to fight. Balling his fists. Gerry brought the gun up. Gene's eyes went wide.
       "I wasn't asking your permission. Get off Gene, or I will shoot you, and shove you off."
       Gene backed quickly out of the lock, and floated when he hit the zero g of the station. Saille quickly sealed the station hatch, and then the Savanna. He released the docking clamp with a clang and rumble. The Savanna floated free. Saille hurried to the pilot cabin and touched the thrusters moving the ship away from the station.
       Gene Phillips grabbed for a hand hold and scrambled down the docking tube, colliding with the First Officer of the near by Solar Guard cutter Titan on the way down.
       "What in tarnation is going on kid?"
       "Professor Saille, he's stealing the Savanna."
       "What? You can't steal a ship."
       "Well, he is, he forced me off at gunpoint and undocked."
       "Come on!"
       The officer dragged Gene into the ship, and started shouting commands.
       "All Hands, now hear this, rig for emergency undock. Captain to the Cockpit."
       "Captain isn't aboard Sir."
       "Screw it, Launch." He slapped the radio. Station 2, the Titan is departing now, emergency scramble. Sound the acceleration alarm."
       "Titan what is the emergency?"
       "The Savanna has been hijacked. Are there any ships in orbital position?"
       "Affirmative, the UES Emperitor is just over the horizon."
       "Give me a relay."
       "You are on Commander."
       "The is the USS Titan to the UES Emperitor. We have a hijack situation. Can you respond."
       "Which ship Titan?"
       "SS Savanna Emperitor."
       "Isn't that the new starship?"
       "We will respond."
       "This is HMS Mars. We are in position to intercept."
       Roinson rolled his eyes. "Mars we have quite enough help thank you."
       "Mars is on an intercept course Titan"
       Damn stubborn Commonwealther. Commander Roinson fired the main thrusters of the Titan. The Savanna had already gained a considerable lead.

       Gerry listened to the radio traffic. He was moving out at a clean 1.2 g. He had to get out of Earth's mass shadow before he could use the FTL drive. He watched the Titan pull away from the station. Then the flare of the Emperitor. She had to be pulling three gs by the size of the motion change. A third blip showed up. The IFF said HMS Mars. She would have to break Newton's Laws to even think about intercept.
       Captain DePaul of the Emperitor grunted in his acceleration couch.
       "Can, you, match, trajectory?"
       "Yes, sir. Intent, sir?"
       "Catch, her, or, blow, her, up."

       Gene sat crushed back into the Titan's couch, he could see the flare of the Savanna.
       "Commander, if he get out of Earth's mass shadow, he is gone, we will never catch him."
       "Where is that for the Savanna?"
       "200,000 klicks."
       "We have a race then, don't we. Lieutenant, what is the aspect?"
       "We have a better start position sir, but the Emperitor is really pouring it on. She might beat us out on sheer guts. Mars doesn't have a chance. Too great a aspect change."
       "As long as they don't collide with us, fine, let them play."

       Gerry looked at the scope again. Emperitor was behind, but catching up. The Titan was pulling 2gs by the closure. Mars was out of the race before it started. He reached over and nudged the throttle to 2.1g. Better recalculate the departure.

       Gene continued to watch out the port. The Titan was not catching up anymore. The Emperitor moved in closer, she had matched the trajectory, and now stood between the Titan and the Savanna.

       Gerry was in the computer room when the proximity alarm when off. He hurried back to the cockpit. It was the Emperitor, she was right behind him. The radio was calling.
       "Saille, cut your throttle and surrender. We have you locked in our sights, you can't get away from an atomic warhead."
       "Fire and die Captain. Breach my containment and you destroy everything in the immediate area."
       "I point out that you will be dead also Dr. Sallie."
       "Point taken. I guess I'll have to recalculate again."
       "Your should have calculated better the first time Doctor."
       Gerry shoved the throttles to the stops. The Savanna shuddered, and he felt a waver in the gravity. He checked the range. Over the edge. He pushed the other throttle, the stars suddenly streaked.

       Gene had watched the Emperitor close, the range was getting tight and he had a lump in his throat the size of an apple.
       Commander Roinson slapped his shoulder. "They'll get him son."
       "No sir I don't think they will."
       The Radio man reported. "Commander, the Emperitor is calling for surrender or they will shoot."
       Gene tried to jump up. "NO, NO, they can't shoot!"
       Son, I understand all the work by..."
       "BEEP the work, it's the antimatter. She has 15 KILOS of ANTIMATTER!"
       The color drained from Commander Roinson's face. "Get Emperitor on the radio, NOW."
       A sudden light filled the cockpit. Gene strained forward to see. He saw a point of light beyond the expanding cloud, it winked, and streaked. He closed is eyes and his body shook with rage.
       Roinson stared. "By God, they blew up. He must have shot. All stop. Start calculating what we have to do to get back to Earth orbit.

       Jerry pulled back and the stars focused again. The Earth and Moon shone twin crescents in the darkness.
       "Well Aleilan, I better get some calculations started so we are headed the right way."


-- Sol, gravitational boundary, September 3, 2359

       "Savanna, you are cleared for departure."
       "Thank you again Terra, we are ready to go. Release the docking clamp."
       A thud from deep in the ship.
       "Terra we are clear of the gangway."
       "Understood Savanna. Hold station keeping, we will clear your space."
       The Terra reversed the process it had used to dock the Savanna.
       "Savanna, your are clear to maneuver."
       "Thanks for the ride, we will see you at the festival."
       "One thing Captain LaSaille, did you tell them you were coming."
       "Nope, I like my surprises."
       Sol shone a pale light in the distance out here beyond the oort cloud.
       "All hands, prepare for warp speed." Jerry sounded the alarm. "Warp speed in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1." He shoved the throttle forward. "Now."
       Savanna smoothly accelerated to warp three, and held steady. The sensor made navigating the oort cloud easy. Savanna was soon approaching the orbit of Pluto, the control boundary for the Sol system. Right on the button the automatic beacons asked, and received the transponder signal. Then the unusual, a voice on the line.
       "FTL-100, please confirm name and planet of registry."
       "That is SS Savanna, FTL-100, El Nanth."
       "Savanna, what class ship are you. Your profile is not on registry."
       "This is Captain LaSaille. Who am I talking to?"
       "Lieutenant Grizon Sir."
       "Lieutenant, that does not surprise me. The Savanna is a prototype ship. Only one ever built"
       "Sir, your engine profile is way to low to be a prototype."
       "That all depends on when the prototype was built doesn't it?"
       "Well yes sir. When was the Savanna launched?"
       "2062 Lieutenant."
       "2062? But that's impossible."
       "Impossible things happen all the time. Do you have a visual on us?"
       "Yes sir. A small ship."
       "But a good one. I am requesting a warp approach to Earth orbit. The impulse drive is more than primitive. I would like to make the party."
       "Ah, yes Sir, warp approach approved. Please reduce speed to Warp Factor two. Follow the channel you should be receiving now."
       "Negative Lt. Grizon. No such gear here. Give me the plot and we will work it out. Affirmative, speed is warp factor two.

       The news moved at warp 9 around the system. Savanna soon had a crowd of warp shuttles and even a Starfleet ship, the new Galaxy, following her into Earth. Traffic control saw they kept their distance. The news buzzed around the stations. A three hundred year old ship was coming to the Starflight festival. A three hundred year old ship from Earth no less.

       The Savanna approached the center of the Festival. The monstrous Aquarius Spacedock, main port of call for civilian ships entering or leaving Earth. It was said that parts of the station dated back to the ancient Skylab. The first long term orbital station.
       The fleet was waiting. Each saluted as she went by. One of the few times in the history of Starfleet that her ships had saluted a civilian vessel as one of their own.
       Savanna passed within the massive doors, and softly approached the dock. A place of honor for the prodigal returned home. With a firm thump the Savanna hard docked against the station. Faces filled every available viewing space on the station and every ship in sight.
       "Savanna, this is Aquarius Station, welcome home."

To Sail the Starry Sea. -- Garry Stahl, Febuary 2000

       My muse dragged me out of a warm bed to start this one. The Savanna's tale wanted told in more detail.
       Of small note, there is at least one location in this tale that is real. "The Purple House" is a student residence house in Ann Arbor on the University of Michigan campus. It is indeed a brilliant purple, and I understand the by-laws of the residence house would make it easier to tear down than paint it a different color. A relic of the sixties it would seem. Last time I was in Ann Arbor, the Purple House was still there. It only has to last another 62 years.

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The Above is a work of fiction. All characters are fictional, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.

Copyright Garry Stahl: Febuary 2000. All rights reserved, re-print only with permission.

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