After about the third Farnsworth crenellation, Virmarn began to weary of space. Oh sure, the initial super-torques using the ampmotor were great, and even a couple of years figuring out the math behind the Scarlett-Fermi phenomenon were amusing, but after a while things, even never-before-seen--things, get old hat. Nothing is very interesting for long if there's nobody to share it with, after all, and the hyper-connectivity of his youth was not a good starting point for a city boy who got bored one day and decided to hitch a ride on the next craft to the Outer Reaches.
OK, hitch isn't exactly right. He'd been at Novosibirsk U and was due to graduate at the top of his class in thermoatomic sciences, and had been promised a ride on the Bolt in exchange for free tuition for his doctorate after he got back, so hitching is a little disingenuous for a class-A genius, but still. Something about the way he got on board seemed, now that he'd had the time to think about it, a little abrupt. Even though it had taken him a full year to agree to the terms and conditions of the contract being offered, first being sure to ensure that Novosibirsk U would be be in existence when he returned (it was, after all, to be a very long flight), it now seemed that things had proceeeded at a very rapid pace indeed. After 6 years in flight, with no-one but the Comm and the Dette to talk to, he realized he should have bargained for a professorship on his return, at least.
It was not good to worry though. The people he'd talked with before setting off were no longer alive, of that he was sure. Periodic entrenchments in the Zip made the time between maneuvers bearable, but separated him further and further in time as well as distance from those who were his peers. By the time he returned, if in fact he'd calculated the last Wurmstrumian hole-skip correctly, even his great grandchildren would be dead.
It concerned him that he'd had to calculate the last skip by hand. Apparently something had gone awry with either the ground-based talk line or the butlerships that had been providing both information and protection. Whatever it was, he'd had no datastream capability as of wakeup, and so had needed to rely on cruder methods for setting course. Who knew what had happended to the support staff, really, as the last Zipout had only been a few hours ago and the last of the ZoneOff was still leaching out of his bowels. A little while longer and it would be possible to think again, which made him concerned about the skip calcs he'd done on first waking up, but there was nothing to do about it now, the coords were in the machine and he'd pressed the Easy button before before cooler heads (his, presumably) could prevail. Now there was nothing but the waiting.
The waiting was agonizing. Comm check equalled nothing, again. He hadn't been responding since Virmarn has come out of the Zip, which was troubling, as the Comm was usually the one that ordered up the wakeup when something needed to be done. The only thing Comm had done was cue up a song that Virmarn like to hear coming out of Zip, and now Virmarn couldn't stop it from playing. After a few hours (more or less) it was becoming aggravating, no matter how enjoyable the beat and volume had been on unZip.
Dette was a little better for wear, but not her usual self. She had responded to an earlier entreaty for warmth, but tepidly. She'd said something about being 'busy', but that was a concept she'd not been able to grasp before the last Zip. Also, she sounded tired. This was what concerned him the most, because no matter how much actual time had gone by, neither Comm for Dette had ever seemed weary before. Virmarn knew programs could get tired, after all he'd read Red Dwarf, but it couldn't have been that long since he'd gone into Zip, because there were all those flock fields and Roku Stanchions to navigate around, which required his awakening, which was, of course, why he was here. Surely no more than a dozen real years had gone by, so why were Comm and Dette so, unavailable?
Virmarn fixed himself a cool toddy (one drink free after an unZip, his contract read), sat in the cool gel of the captain's chair, and unfurled the dashboard emap. Positioning on, nav site on, time/speed/vectoring on, check and check.
The screen flickered on, blips and blots began to appear, and in the chaos of light that ensued Vidmarn was utterly unsettled. There was nothing he recognized. No flock field, no Roku stanchions. Instead of the great bright skymarks he'd been expecting to see, the screen was pockmarked with a million tiny holes of light, an incredible show of glitz and glitter the likes of which he'd never seen. Where was the Drift of Cannulus, the Harbor of Fenestration, the Digger of Vast Holes? None of the typical great sky gaps were present, none of the gigantic tracts of empty space that he'd grown up with and expected to see through many more crennelation jumps. Why, there weren't supposed to be this many stars in one place for eons and eons and eons from where he'd set off, and even then they were only figments of the Astronomer's and Artist's imaginations! This was, in a word, incredible.
And troubling. Clearly, Vidmarn was lost.