“Okay, I’m ready for the explanation,” Macomber said.
Ed Carr stood and threw his slate’s display to the table’s projection system. The simulation of Odyssey 1’s voyage went up, Ed’s revised version instead of the one they had sold to Congress.
“Okay. Odyssey 1 established contact on Day 112, instead of the 30 days we had expected. According to the system dump and Odyssey’s own logs of what happened, all systems deployed as normal. The sail was jettisoned exactly on schedule. All sensors, including the gravimeters registered almost exactly as Hermes did.”
“Geez, Ed, we know this already,” Peterson said. “Get on with it. What did you and Nina come up with?”
“W-well,” Nina stammered, getting to her feet, “we have two ideas.”
“First,” Ed started up again, “we think that the mesh on Hermes was very inefficient at capturing the dark energy. It just let it through, for the most part. The sail, because it’s a tighter weave, could better harness it, which is why it traveled further than expected.”
“And the second theory?” Macomber drummed his slate’s stylus on the table.
Ed looked at Nina.
“Well, that is, ahem. I think that the dark energy, um, wind, is faster than previously thought. We also think it might be variable. Just like atmospheric wind.”
“How variable?” Peterson asked.
“We don’t know. We’ve only got two data points. Hermes represents a slow speed, and Odyssey a much faster one.”
Nina gave an awkward kind of smile, then threw a thorough calculation from her slate onto the projection. Peterson and Walker went through the calculation step-by-step, but Macomber’s eyes snapped onto the answer at the bottom.
“Three point seven light years per hour? One hundred and twelve light days in five minutes. Over twice the speed that Hermes reached. So which is it? Variable speed or better sails?”
“Both.” Ed and Nina said together.