The decision to enter the Sargasso clearly weighed heavily on the Captain, Jackie could see that, their discussion had brought to light many concerns people had regarding entering such a “forbidden” area of space. Sure, no nation had ever declared the area “off limits” for their own shipping, or for their neighbors, but the curious propensity of the Tironean region to “lose” ships that were crossing it caused early Verge explorers to append the name “Sargasso” to the region’s name, as an homage to the old Earth’s Sargasso Sea. And modern Verge shipping tends to travel around the region. Tales of ships lost that were making jumps “across” the Tironean region abound as well, not just of ships that went to the region and never returned. Growing up on Mantebron, her own family had tales of ships that missed scheduled deliveries and went missing forever.
The last five days had been somewhat frantic aboard the Astrid. Skeeter had been ensuring all of the e-suits and armor were in good order. Dr. Vych and his team had been working closely with Jackie and the sesheyans trying to determine the cause, and hopefully a cure for Swift Miss’ rapidly declining condition. Jackie was not very fond of Vych’s love for genetic engineering, but she had to admit that he knew his stuff. Certainly on humans, there was no finer gengineer in all of space, but could he use that expertise to save the sesheyans from this aging plague. His vague sounds of “ohh”, “ahhh”, and “hmm” did not give her a lot of confidence but his one labtech reassured her that was just the doctor’s vocalization whenever he would connect the dots in a puzzle he was solving. She certainly hadn’t seen any improvements in Swift in the first week of their travel, although the last two days seemed promising. Dr. Vych had concocted some genetic brew that he claimed would halt the advance, if not reverse it. “Or,” as he put it, “we’ll need to find a new test subject if this doesn’t work.” That seemed awfully black and white to Jackie, and Swift had been sleeping soundly. External observation of a sesheyan is not, normally, a good indicator of age, so she couldn’t really tell what was happening. She glanced at the clock on the wall, where she had marked the ship’s expected starrise time. In an age where everything was digital, Jackie took comfort in the simple mechanics of her wall clock and its four hands relentlessly ticking away the moments of life in space. “I sure hope we get through the Sargasso without a hitch,” she said to no one, except maybe Swift Miss, who seemed to be awakened by the gentle shudder of the ship as it reentered normal space. She sat up straight, her wings expanding as if to catch the wind and stop a fall, her eight eyes as wide as Jackie had ever seen, and a piercing scream came from her throat. Moving to rise from the hospital bed, Swift tore at the connectors and tubes attached to her body and stared at the bulkhead as if she could see right through it. “Emptiness, void, vacuum,” she cried, and fell to the floor. Jackie had never seen the like, but she knew how to respond to an unconscious patient.