The year is 2453. Humanity has expanded far outside the Solar System, settling far-off worlds and meeting two other intelligent species, the sluggish hive-mind of the Greeont and the bird-like K’kahrani. Together, all three have formed the peaceful Union of Species, a loose federation of the eight known inhabited systems.
War between the stars is unknown. The distances are too vast, space too empty, to bother fighting across star systems. Off-world industries, asteroid mines, and artificial habitats dot the inhabited systems, leaving clean and beautiful worlds for the large majority of sentient beings to live on. Even old polluted Earth is now a bright blue jewel among the stars, cleansed of centuries of neglect.
Peaceful exploration is the task of ships like the UES Lewis & Clark, currently on a long-range mission, Jumping from star to star in a particularly sparse region of space. At the limits of its reach, it has come to a dark part of the sky, with a crew hoping to uncover more knowledge about the universe. Humans and K’kahrani alike share a desire to explore, to find out, to map the emptiness of space.
Old maps used to say “Here there be dragons” at the edges, to indicate the unknown regions. The captain and crew of the Lewis and Clark are about to discover that space is not as empty as they thought…and that there are worse things than dragons…
AUTHOR’S NOTE: So I’ve had this story idea buzzing in my head for a while. One of the reasons I started this blog was to encourage me to actually get this particular idea on paper…well, pixels. And it worked! I never could decide if I should write it as a novel or a script. Right now, script wins (a little easier). So, if I’m not blogging about stupid stuff, I may be writing more here.
AUTHOR’S OTHER NOTE: “UES” stands for Union Exploration Starship
SCENE: A black starfield, with a darkened gas giant planet in background, about the size of the Moon as seen from Earth. All is calm, slowly rotating field of vision…suddenly, a bright white-blue spot appears, expanding as a spaceship emerges, seeming to burst forth from nothing. Bluish and white coruscating arcs of energy blow away from the ship, dissipating into space.
The ship is squarely Y-shaped, two thick arms pointing forward, with a connecting body at right angles between them; a large cylinder sticking out behind, slowly rotating. At the top center of the connector section sits a recognizable ship’s bridge (similar to modern tanker). Camera pans slowly over the ship, passing over the words “UES LEWIS AND CLARK” before centering and zooming in on the bridge.
CUT to bridge, utilitarian, functional with several people strapped into chairs in front of blinking consoles. They are dressed in gray flight-suit-like uniforms. All are working swiftly and with purpose, as if something important (but routine) has just happened. At rear center sits a tall black man, not working a console but watching everyone else: this is CAPTAIN SAMUEL JEFFERSON.
CAPTAIN: Helm, report.
A small Asian woman, LT KIM, near the front turns her head away from console. Australian accent.
KIM: Sir, transition complete. All systems functioning normally. Power levels are pretty low…but better than we expected, after jumping so far.
CAPT: OK, Lieutenant. Sensors?
Stocky dark-haired man, LCDR DONOVAN, turns from his console, American (NY) accent.
DONOVAN: Just what we expected, Captain…it’s a rogue planet, super gas giant, probably 3 or 4 Jupiters in mass or so. Just enough for us to latch onto. Velocity’s not much, just drifting out here.
CAPT: Great news, Mr. Donovan. (Slight hint of eagerness) Anything else out here? Tell me we didn’t make the longest-ever jump to a non-stellar mass for nothing. (Slightly relieved chuckles from some bridge crew…this was a slightly dangerous manuever)
DONOVAN: (smiling) Good news there, sir. Looks like star TL4-133 is well within reach, just as we hoped. Give my guys a little time to scope it out and we’ll give a full report.
CAPT: Excellent. Should have quite some time, while we languish here waiting for the engines to heat up…
XIOPANG: (voice heard over intercom) I heard that, Captain! And it’s “fusion reactors” please, not something so plain as “engines”! (slightly pained)
This is CDR XIOPANG, Chinese Hong Kong by way of colony on Luna.
CAPT: (smiling) Whatever you say, Chief Engineer. (pauses) Full briefing in the wardroom, all departments, in, oh, four hours. (Nods from several people on the bridge, a few “aye aye”s over intercom) And well done, everyone…it’s not every day that a ship manages to jump so far with just a rock to grab on to. Everyone, secure from Jump detail.
A bell sounds, three quick trills in a row before repeating a few times. People turn back to their consoles; a few, including the Captain, unstrapping and floating easily around, moving towards the exits in fluid, practiced motions.
To be continued…
Playingwithwordz by Joseph P. Dunn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.