The Stellarball by Jose Diaz

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SUMMARY: In a distant future where space travel takes place using alternate universes, The Stellarball, an immense cargo ship, on its way to be decommissioned runs into unexpected difficulties that test its captain's resolve to a maximum.

The impossibility of speeds that approached that of light had restrained man's dream of interstellar flight for hundreds of years after he had successfully ventured out into space. Then the discovery that it was possible to cross into parallel universes of varying sizes made his dream a reality. Suddenly man was no longer restricted by the sluggishness of his ships. Now a ship only needed to bore into a smaller universe, travel in it until it reached its destination, then bore back into the universe where it had started from. Hundreds, even thousands of light years could be traveled in a matter of months.

When the new technology was in its infancy, many were the minuscule universes destroyed by ships bumping into them while trying to reach a universe of a size that would accommodate their flight plans.

Then maps of the many possibilities were charted and the initial chaos turned into a sensible way to explore the galaxy and even beyond.

Many alien races were discovered, some friendly and others not so receptive to the uninvited guests. But to the amazement of the human race, technologically speaking, they were superior to every other race they discovered in the galaxy, and except for a few belligerent races and one in particular that was almost as advanced as they were, the Terrans managed to befriend their galactic neighbors. But, the Telkans were conquerors. They disliked the thought of another race challenging their dominance.

The magnificent glow of the Milky Way's myriad stars was progressively blocked from view by the bulk of an immense spherical starship that appeared, haphazardly revolving around its own axis like a ball thrown into the void by a colossal child at play.

As the moon-like vessel rotated, gigantic letters appeared one by one on its side: SFS STELLARBALL. Below the gargantuan letters, smaller characters: COMMISSION DATE - SF YEAR 1082.

The Stellarball, a behemoth of a ship that measured over twenty-five thousand meters in circumference was on its final voyage. It traveled in universe 12B from the outermost edge of the galaxy to Sol. Its cargo included obsolete war material to be recycled, and thousands of men and women returning to Terra after years of fighting rebels in the primitive planets at the fringes of the galaxy.

The Ball, as its crew was fond of calling it, was designed and built over one hundred terran years before the first Telkan war. It was one of the first great warships constructed when the Federation embarked in an ambitious effort to better its arsenal in response to the Telkans rambunctious presence in the Milky Way. Having been built before the advent of shielding, armor took over one half of the material used in its construction. The Ball was later retrofitted with a type of experimental shielding, which was later abandoned by the federation as unreliable when the superior magnetic shielding was discovered. But The Ball was never equipped with the new technology.

Saved from scrapping after the end of the second war with Telka as the result of having been converted to a cargo ship, it had served the Federation well as a mover of troops and arms to worlds loyal to the Telkans throughout the galaxy that thought themselves still at war with the Federation; but now, after more than three hundred terran years of unwavering service, the great ship was on its way to be decommissioned and later destroyed.

Inside The Ball, a very wide corridor curved ever so slightly until it disappeared in the far distance.

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