"Report, all stations!" shouted Colonel Deed, even as he plopped down in the centered command chair.
"Aye, sir," came the almost-in-unison response from the small-but-highly competent crew, even as they activated their holographic controls surrounding their individual seats again.
As far as seeing anything wrong, the red-blue compressed vision of space continued unabated. Whatever was wrong, the S.S. COSMOS was still speeding along at thousands of times the speed of light.
"No communications, Colonel," said, in a forceful and confident voice, Lieutenant Brahms, even though such was expected in regards to another vessel streaking along at the same multiples of the speed of light as the COSMOS.
Captain Rogersmith spoke up with more than a little concern in his voice, "Colonel, our navigational direction is off by several hundred light-years!"
"And our speed is increasing!" came the voice of Major Evans, from the flight controls. "It's almost as if something were dragging us, faster and faster."
"Engineering?" immediately asked Colonel Deed of Lieutenant Utanizki.
Rapidly checking the holographic readouts in the tube of interactive light that surrounded his seated self, Lieutenant Utanizki was quick to respond, in a tone and with an expression of clear-cut fear for their collective lives...
"The negative energy engines are reaching overload capacity, sir. It's almost as if something or someone were adding to that energy in order to vastly increase the engine output that is folding Space-Time around us."
"Science?" asked, a split-second later, Colonel Deed of Lieutenant-Colonel Nevins seated at his holographic science station.
"It's hard to pin down, Colonel," proclaimed, rather loudly, the XO of this small band of Universonaughts.
"Pin it down, man!" roared the order from Colonel Deed.
"I'm trying, sir, but whatever force is acting upon the COSMOS seems beyond my computer's ability to track and analyze. The nearest thing I can compare it to is something living. And it seems to be increasing our speed from eleven thousand speed-of-light multiples to at least a hundred thousand times the speed of light!"
"That would mean," pondered Colonel Deed to himself, as his eyes turned back to the blue-red ball representing condensed Space-Time, "that we'll reach the edge of the known universe in minutes instead of months."
"I verify that, Colonel," Captain Rogersmith comfirmed, quite vocally, even as the impossible set of holographic readouts told him so. "Edge of the universe within range now."
"So do I, Colonel," Major Evans also verified from his own impossible set of holographic readouts in regards to the flight details of the S.S. COSMOS. "At this rapidly building velocity of at least two hundred thousand times the speed of light, we'll reach that point in extra-universal space in less than five minutes!"
Five minutes...instead of two months. Hardly enough time to properly operate the holographic controls, much less prepare one's Self mentally and emotionally...
"Increase the shielding around the ship, Mister Utanizki. At this space-equivolant velocity, the very solidity of the ship will start to break apart."
"Colonel Deed," exclaimed Lieutenant Brahms from the holographic tube controls dealing with communications. An area having no relative readouts since first leaving, via the Ort cloud, Earth's solar system. "I'm getting something on one of the sub-sonic channels. It's not quite communication as we know it, but it is active and seems to increase along with our speed."
Before any response could come from Colonel Deed, everyone was suddenly pinned to their seats, even as, in regards to those seated within holographic tubes, their readouts continued to increase in output and detail...
"Hang on!" shouted Lieutenant-Colonel Nevins from his scientific holographic tube, even though he could no longer lift his arms in order to fine-tune the readings. "Whatever's doing this is about to...!"
Before he could finish his statement, the rapidly speeding vessel stopped cold at what was, indeed, the edge of the known universe. Something that could be easily descerned by the holographic viewscreen now filled with images, instead of the ball of blue-red that had been displayed within an ocean of black for the years already spent streaking along at speed-of-light multiples.
"What the hell...?" exclaimed Colonel Deed.
Such was equally expressed, non verbally, by all the other Universonaughts, as they swiveled toward the visual dominating that same viewscreen.
Their individual holographic tubes no longer displaying rapidly changing readouts...save for two.
"Colonel!" loudly, much more loudly than before, exclaimed Lieutenant-Colonel Nevins, as his own holographic readouts settled down into something readable. "I'm getting something here. Something big and alive! It's the universe itself, sir. It's an actual living entity!"
A fact that was somewhat supported by the holographic viewscreen imaging: the universe as a whole, seen from its very edge, in a position almost outside it all, was undulating and seemingly moving. Almost as if it were "breathing", with a "heart" seemingly pumping energy about as if it were blood.
Even as Colonel Deed breathed that almost silent two-word statement, rising from his center seat to step closer, between flight and navigations holographic tubes, and get a better look at what had not been seriously considered by those scientists and physicists that sent these Universonaughts on their one-way trip. At least a dozen or so years, ship-time, earlier.
And as for communications...
Lieutenant Brahms gasped, "Sir! The sub-sonic band of communications activity I was receiving...it was the universe 'thinking' to us!"
"The S.S. COSMOS crew have reached the very boundary of the known universe. Reaching a point whereby the ordinary met the extraordinary. A point in space and time we call...the twilight zone."