Authors note: All posted excerpts are rough, uncorrected text only.
Mostly just a place where I leave samples of works in progress, stuff like that. First up is ‘Bug’ a little Mystery tale from the ‘Associated Worlds’ timeline.
Dr Abel Cailley, a man found abandoned on an Earthlike planet far outside the Association worlds, the trading Empire grouped around the Orion Spur of the Milky Way, is living a mostly comfortable self sufficient life when a trade emissary ship lands close by his neatly kept enclave.
Part One: Discovery
With a slight shimmer, the Associated Worlds Exploration Vessel Sagittarius V skirted the flare fields around a borderline sun in the inner Perseus Arm of the Milky Way. “Another day, another system.” Commented Lars Sorenssen, Astro-navigator dryly. “Six Gas giants. Oort cloud depleted. Solar output approximates lower habitable end of Hertzsprung Russell. This is an old system. Estimate average planetary age at six point three billion standard years. Hey! The Goldilocks zone has a habitable profile world. Point seven nine two standard diameter. Point nine eight magnetic field. One moon.” He rattled off the orbital figures enthusiastically and flipped the file to the dark haired, grey uniformed Commander of their trading expedition.
“Show.” Marnie Chan, Expedition Commander said curtly. She flipped the close up into the control cabins wraparound holo display, then eyed the scrolling screen icons carefully with intrigued dark brown eyes. “I vote we go and take a look.” She said after a few moments reflection. She looked around the cabin for contrary opinion. There was no dissent. Everyone knew Marnie as a competent and careful Skipper who never wittingly put the Sagittarius V and crew at risk. If she made a call, you could lose serious money betting against her. “Setting for high trailing orbit. Readying data acquisition units for deployment.”
The hundred metre long flattened torpedo shape of the Sagittarius V accelerated rapidly after its target, transitioned, and appeared a second earlier in high geostationary orbit over the small blue green world.
“Beacon!” Kit Hussein yelled moments later. “Broad spectrum coherent.” She waved excitedly from her comms station. Everyone perked up, heads swivelling towards her. “Language, definitely coherent language. AI suggests humanoid speech!”
“Human, hominid or humanoid?” Asked Marnie Chan pointedly. The crew seemed to hold its breath for a moment. Non-human intelligent life? After over three centuries of searching?
“Poor quality. Signal is weak. I’ll run some extra filters on the recording.”
“Lost expedition? Colonisation operation?” Marnie cocked an interrogative eyebrow.
“None reported this far out from Capital. We’re right at our range limit, and the Sagittarius V is one of the most modern ships in the Association. No-one goes faster or further than we can.”
“Let’s not prejudge, hmm?”
“It’s a warning.” Kit sat back and stared at her console.
“Of what? We’re too fast to get a target lock on.”
“It’s in English. Earther English. There’s also translation into old Russian, standard Chinese and Hispaniola on a subchannel. Twenty first century archaic North American.” Kit reported. An new form of tension materialised in the cabin.
“Earthers? What are they doing out this far? They stopped spaceflight just around when the Associated Worlds began.” Marnie raised an elegantly sculpted part-asiatic eyebrow. “Over three hundred standard years ago.” She added, glancing around the cabin for confirmation.
“AI Confirms definite Earther speak.” Kit replied.
“Okay. Check for known and projected military grade signatures. Any detection pings, heat plumes, point source gravity waves, or anything to suggest a hostile launch or weapons presence?”
“No, just the same message over and over.”
“No, just a verbal ‘do not land’ instruction.”
“What are they hiding?” Marnie tapped a genetically sculpted perfect lip with a perfect finger. “Earth stopped sending out starships when their economy finally collapsed back in the early twenty second century. After the war, the whole system was put in Quarantine. No Association trader will go anywhere near it. They hate us, and they’re crazy enough to murder any Free Traders dumb enough to transition within range.”
“Why?” Kit must have slept through history at school.
“Because Earth wanted control, and the colonists didn’t want to be their slaves.” Marnie said without rancour. “Earth sent forces to try and recapture the colonies, but local guerrillas fought them off. After that, they ran out of money to send any more troops.”
“How come?” Kit batted naive eyelashes.
“Spaceflight used to be ruinously expensive. In the end the Earthers were firing autonomous assault mines to shoot down unarmed cargo ships. It got pretty barbaric for a while. Then it just stopped.”
“Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that.” Kit replied, embarrassed.
“But if he’s an Earther, what’s he doing almost a thousand light years away from home?” Marnie spoke for them all. “More to the point, how?”
“Slower than light expedition? If they used a pre Drive propulsion system, relativity could mean they’ve only just landed.” Suggested Lars.
“Lars, there are no record of any slowboat type expeditions. None were ever built that we know of. That’s just space opera.” Marnie glanced at him disdainfully. He’d been navigating subspace for so long, he’d forgotten how to do ‘real’ space time relativity Math. Lars caught her look and had the good grace to blush a little.
“No orbital systems, no detection arrays. Just a voice only ‘do not land’ warning. Weird.” Kit said, almost to herself.
“There’s a settlement down there. Planetary temperate zone, mid latitude. Geometric pattern of cultivation. Five kilometres on a side. Two buildings. A large garden like feature around the bigger of the two. Pitched roofs. Local and modern materials. No other visible settlements on the surface. No landscape deformations indicating hidden features. Signal is being broadcast from this location.” Lars reported. “I’m picking up unshielded drone traffic from what seem to be cultivator units.”
“Flip it up. Let’s all see.” Marnie said “Magnify.” She told the cabins AI, and as the view blossomed murmured. “Impressive.” Glancing around, she decided. “Get an autonomous drone down there. I want interactive for first contact. Remote presence only.”
“Drone generating.” Lars confirmed, a little disappointed about the ‘no landing’ protocol. He always enjoyed that first smell of a habitable world.
Down in the hold, a blocky machine glowed to life, ribbons of actinic static briefly crackling around the edges of every feature. After a few minutes a circular aperture opened in one side and silently extruded a three metre long, round ended grey metalloceramic cylinder, which gracefully floated through an open circular hatch marked with black and yellow warning chevrons. The hatch hissed shut behind it. “Deploying.” Said an automated voice to no one in particular, and the little cylinder spat out of the Sagittarius V and dropped smoothly into the small planets atmosphere. Spiralling down towards the cultivated square of vegetation on the surface, re-entry flaring around minimal drive field as it punched through a layer of high cloud.
End of sample