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01 Innocence

Anderson walked onto the bridge of the Serengeti and into darkness. A clear dome stretched out over the command deck, making him feel as though there was nothing between him and the pitch-black void of space. Standing at the railing, he looked out at the universe.

At the speed the Serengeti was traveling, the aberration of light played tricks on his eyes, tricks on his mind. The Serengeti was north of one of the spiral arms of the galaxy. The craft had risen up out of the galactic plane and into the dark intergalactic void, and yet the Milky Way appeared in front of the craft, not below and behind it. Rather than departing from the Milky Way, the Serengeti seemed to be approaching a skewed, distorted image of the galaxy.

The artificial warp field surrounding the Serengeti was transparent to visible light, allowing Anderson a spectacular view. The field distorted space around the Serengeti, allowing the craft to reach a relative velocity of just over ninety-nine percent of the speed of light. But, as Einstein first observed, the speed of light was not so gracious as to concede even the most minuscule variation, and so the photons emanating from hundreds of billions of stars in and around the Milky Way still raced ahead of the Serengeti at over a hundred and eighty-six thousand miles a second, each and every second. The Serengeti’s speed, relative to the galaxy, meant the light from these stars was warped and distorted in a surreal confirmation of General Relativity.

Like rain falling on the windscreen of an airplane, light appeared to rush at the Serengeti. The light twisted around so the stars behind the Serengeti appeared in front of the quarter-mile long spacecraft. It was as though the Milky Way had been imaged with a fisheye lens. Billions of stars making up the core and the spiral arms of the galaxy appeared compacted together, locked into the perfect shape of a ring. It was a blinding light of concentrated, lethal cosmic radiation, dimmed to natural levels by the Serengeti's electromagnetic shielding.

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