Ship in the Void – Pt.3

Welcome back to my dream story!

This series is based on an odd dream I decided to turn into a short science fiction story for the blog even though I usually write fantasy. I’m not doing any beta read revisions on these, so they will read like the draft version they are. These will just be fun little shorts between other posts. 

If this is your first time coming to the story, you can find earlier posts at the links below, and I’m tagging them with the Dream Journal tag if you want to search. 

The Story Continues…

Velocity was deceptive beyond Earth’s atmosphere. With no scenery flashing by, my movement seemed minimal relative to the gargantuan spacecraft. The deceleration was noticeable, though. As I passed into the docking bay, a force grabbed my chutes, pulling them to the side as I plummeted toward the landing net. With loose legs, I crumpled into it, pressing flat as the net worked to halt my momentum. 

A faint blue glow enveloped me as the net stretched deep into the bay. The force field did not suddenly snap back like a physical net, shooting me in the opposite direction. Instead, it eased gradually into a neutral position and activated the “sticky” property to maintain a slight pull toward the net. 

I hit the button to start retracting the ascent chutes while the net was still rising. By the time I could stand, everything was away and I was ready to proceed. The net anticipated my actions. Each time I raised my foot, the net illuminated a step in the right direction with the same soft blue glow. The sixty seconds between each lift takeoff allowed enough time for these landings.

“Welcome Bitsa,” Flash greeted me as I passed through the airlock.

Flash was Tryss’s second-in-command. He was 5′ 2″ with dual citizenship in Korea and Norway, and he had a lean build that was all muscle, maintained from his days as a university gymnast. Flash’s real talent, though, was in programming. He could hack, counter-hack (I’m pretty sure that is a thing), and finesse systems faster than most anyone. It’s why he picked his call name, “Flash.”

Mine is Bitsa. My brothers used to joke about how I was always messing around with “bitsa this and bitsa that.” I took apart more of their tools and toys over the years than any of us remember. It was no surprise when I went into engineering, and I thought it was fun to turn that family saying into my call name when I could finally select one for myself.

“Thanks, Flash,” I replied. “Are we still clearing this spire?”

He nodded. “About half-done, so we are ahead of schedule. Take Lima-group as planned, and I’m still sending the new kid your way when he drops.”

My previous robotics partner was recently promoted out of the squad, so our latest addition was assigned to me more often than not.

I smirked at Flash’s tone. “Yes, sir.” 

Grabbing a charged energy pistol from the bay armory, I headed toward lima-group. 

Each spire had the same layout, with sections spiraling from the tip toward the join alphabetically. The sections each consisted of ten floors laid out in alphanumeric grids. Our docking bay was in golf-group, which meant I had four sections to travel to reach Lima. 

The hallways lit up in anticipation of my presence and darkened behind me as I passed. The soft light might be easy on my eyes, but it was very sterile. When the manned mission staffed up, the walls and ceilings would show images of stained glass, murals, and other art to lighten the austere atmosphere. All of those extras were not operational for our little repair visit. I only saw a soft white light and silver-grey paneling.

As this spire would be our initial base of operations, my current task was to clear lima-group room by room, looking for anomalies. If there were any glitches here, we could focus on those closest to us first. We were not expecting any. So far, all issues noted by ground operators were in the sphere, but our orders were to take no chances.

Arriving at lima-group, I used the lift to start on the top floor. I stepped into each room to activate the automation and took measurements of all life-support controlled factors. It was tedious, boring, rote, repetitive…and I ran out of synonyms before I ran out of rooms to step into and out.

“Bitsa,” Flash’s voice came over the comms, “Juicy has dropped. What’s your twenty?”

I stepped out to confirm based on the hall signage. 

“Copy Flash. I’m at Lima, floor three, grid papa-zero-eight, moving in alpha vector.”

“Copy, Bitsa. Juicy incoming.”

I could hear Juicy’s groaning sigh in my head, and I grinned to myself. He hated our team’s probationary name more than most. It would be about five minutes before he arrived, and I was not going to extend this lovely assignment by waiting around.

Door.

Door.

Hallway.

Door.

Door…Open door? My pulse jumped.

Not creepy at all…

I tilted my head and looked at the crack in the doorway at the end of this hallway. Lights flickered beyond as the automation triggered them in anticipation of my entrance, but I stopped short.

“Flash, Bitsa here.” 

“Hold, Bitsa, drop in progress,” Flash replied to my call, so I waited. 

The wait was no more than thirty seconds. “Bitsa, go.”

“I have a glitch at Quebec-one-zero” I reported. “Manual door with an automated lock is open with lights in the area flickering.”

“Copy, Bitsa. Mark on our map and proceed with a preliminary investigation.”

“Understood.” I marked the location on my HUD and looked at the door. 

My pulse kicked up further, and a shiver went down my spine. It was just a door and some malfunctioning lights. This was no big deal. Right?

I closed my eyes and silently cursed Big Ben, my eldest brother, for making me watch that sci-fi horror movie with him the day before this mission. Abandoned spacecraft? Check. Flickering lights? Check. Monster, alien, ghost, or psychopathic crazy person jumping out to kill me? I really hoped not.

I’m a rational person. There is no way my heart would be pounding like this if the movie had not put such thoughts in my head. It was just a glitch, a malfunction. I could handle a glitch. I could fix a malfunction.

Taking a deep, calming breath, then another, I did a little body shake to settle my nerves and reached for the handle.

To be continued…

Ship in the Void – Pt.2

Welcome back to my dream story! As a reminder, this series is based on an odd dream I had a bit ago. More details stuck with me than usual, so I decided to turn it into a short science fiction story for the blog even though I usually write fantasy. This one has a bit more exposition to it.

I’m still not doing any beta read revisions on these, so they will read like the draft version they are. These will just be fun little shorts between other posts. 

If this is your first time coming to the story, you can find part 1 at the link below, and I’m tagging them with the Dream Journal tag if you want to search. 

The Story Continues…

“Mark twelve, go!” 

At Tryss’s command, I hit the button on my interface and tucked my chin, bracing for what was next. The first ascent chute deployed, yanking on my suit and rocketing me upward. While the suit took some force from my body, it was still similar to what the astronauts felt back when they took shuttles into space.

The ascent chute itself looked like a parachute made of golden lace, but that lace was not fabric. Thousands of solar-powered AG filaments connect in a flexible web that is stronger than steel. Once deployed, the filaments charge and react to gravity the same way similar magnetic poles react to each other. The filaments, once charged, are repelled from the Earth’s center of gravity. 

The force and speed driven by the repulsion are extreme upon initialization. Then, like a magnetic force, the impact dissipates with distance. This dissipation is why we have three ascent chutes in our equipment. One is strictly a redundancy, but a second chute is necessary to leave the atmosphere and navigate once in orbit.

The extreme forces lasted for about five minutes before easing enough for me to look around. Earth’s curvature grew more distinct even as other details faded with my rising altitude. It was a sight that never failed to take my breath away. The world glowed like a living blue marble, giving me a contradictory sense of enormity and insignificance. I could reach out and hold the world in the palm of my hand.

What will it feel like to be the first humans to leave our solar system? I wondered. What would it be like to watch the world fade until it was nothing in the vastness all around you?

That was not my mission. I wasn’t selected for the first flight, but with any luck, I would maintain my spotless record and be on the second mission once it was approved and ready. 

My HUD flashed with a thirty-second countdown, and I brought my mind back to the mission. At this point, without a second chute, I would see my speed drop until I fell into a stable orbit around the planet unless I reduced the charge flowing to the filaments and allowed my orbit to degrade. As my objective was further out, the second chute would deploy on this new mark.

The HUD flashed again at fifteen seconds, and I prepared for the second chute deployment. I could already see my squadmates ahead of me navigating with their two chutes on the target trajectory. Below, a line of chutes followed me up like a migration of glowing golden jellyfish.

Another flash and my second chute deployed, unfurling quickly to catch the sun. It filled with solar energy as a sail with the wind and pulled tautly against the connecting lines. A current shot through the lines for both chutes, making them solidify. With easy hand movements, I could now shift the position of each chute relative to myself and each other. 

Using my HUD, I triangulated my target and shifted my trajectory to intercept. It was still too distant to make out more than a fleck flashing silver in the distance. Unlike my training lifts or my one mission to the space station, this one would take me to Inspiration. Despite not being able to see the ship yet, I felt my excitement grow once more.

Inspiration was the first human vessel capable of interstellar travel. At least, it will be capable once the final modifications, uploads, and tests are completed. The massive construction project was a cooperative effort between fifteen countries and more than twice as many corporations and research organizations. It began nearly a half-century ago with a group of scientists living around the world. They all met regularly online as a club to exchange ideas and build upon those ideas together.

Some of those scientists had the right connections to politicians and investors. Some had connections to patent and international lawyers. What could have ended in unrest, conflict, or even war, was instead the trigger for an unprecedented level of international cooperation. The standard of living rose globally, driving increases in education and freedoms in nearly every corner of the world.

Earth was in a scientific Renaissance, and this ship was the guiding light. Initial construction happened in pieces around the world for the ship and all of the assembly robots. When they were finally ready, AG platforms lifted and maneuvered every piece into place. For the next twelve months, the bots and remote operators joined the sections and installed final components.

Since that time, six supply ships with additional materials and installation bots had docked and delivered supplies. One month ago, ground control powered up Inspiration on a live broadcast to begin live testing on the software. Celebrations sprung up around the world and lasted for days. When the initial tests cleared successfully, plans for an unmanned, automated test drive moved into their next phase.

It would be a short program to initiate travel to open space, scan the area, then jump back. The entire process was expected to take less than four hours and bring back a wealth of knowledge. The first target date for a manned trip would be six months from that initial jump, pending a “go” from all departments based on the initial data, including analysis of the physical impacts on the mice going on the three-plus-hour tour. 

Then, a week ago, there was a glitch detected by a tech monitoring some of the programs, a malfunction in a system. A second problem followed, then a third, and all ground investigations came up empty as to the cause of the malfunctions. All the operators, bots, and measures read as though nothing was wrong, but the glitches continued.

Yesterday, my unit was activated, and a lift was authorized. We specialize in space repairs, and three of my squadmates were members of previous supply drop checks on Inspiration, including Tryss. Our mission was to perform a complete system check, hardware, and software, looking to isolate what could be causing the problems. If we needed to dismantle entire sections of hardware to find a shorted wire or bent screw, that is what we were authorized to do. We had two days to find an answer and a solution, or the test flight would be postponed. 

“Mark One reporting in. G-9 docking bay identified and perimeter guiding lights are lit. Report green for dive.” Ace’s voice came over the mic in my helmet. 

“They called it a dive because docking during a lift was a little like cave diving. You had a docking bay that was effectively a black hole in the ship surrounded by a circle of lights”

They called it a dive because docking during a lift was a little like cave diving. You had a docking bay that was effectively a black hole in the ship surrounded by a circle of lights. You shot for the hole, dove in with your chutes, and a magnetic field in the void caught your chutes and automatically guided you down to a force field net where you could retract your chutes. 

The net had some give to it in case there was a malfunction and you came in hot. It would catch you gently and stabilize. When you cleared safely, the net glowed gently under your feet and in a path guiding you to the airlock. 

“You have a go, Mark One,” Tryss replied to Ace.

The daunting responsibility of our mission hit home for me as the ship loomed closer. A large sphere made up the ship’s core, with starbursts spearing out of it like rays of the sun. Each “ray,” known officially as “spires,” could be detached and independently navigated or used together to navigate the ship as a whole at sub-light speeds. The center of the sphere held the interstellar drive. From afar, it looked like one of those old spikey ocean mines, but that was before you realized the gargantuan size of the ship.

As I passed along the nearest spire, the golden glimmer of my chutes faded. This mini-ship was the size of a skyscraper, and it blocked out the light of the sun at this angle. The faint glow of the ship’s exterior lights was dark in comparison, but it would make identifying the docking bay easier. 

Beyond my chutes, I could make out the ring of lights circling the pit. The HUD’s infrared showed me where my unit was gathering one by one. I adjusted my chutes a final time, aiming for the darkness ahead. With a final nudge, the ship swallowed me whole.

To be continued…

Ship in the Void – Pt.1

Dream a Little Dream

Today is all about catching up on all my ARC activities. I’m at or behind several deadlines related to sending out review copies, and today is the one-month weekend mark before Hidden Memory is officially released. I still need to set up my Bookfunnel account, perform final checks on the copy to be uploaded, finalize my ARC sign-up form, create the MailChimp ARC invite that points to Bookfunnel, and identify bookstagrammers and others like that to request reviews. Today marks one of the final milestones before the very last Amazon uploads, so I’m hoping I can get it all complete. 

I will share some of the details next week if all goes well. In the meantime, I had an odd dream recently. Usually, I don’t remember much of my dreams, but this one had some of the details stick with me more than usual. I wrote them down in bullet form, and I have decided to turn them into a short story here on my blog. It will be the draft version with the only editing from Grammarly, and if it ends up making no sense…Well, it was a dream. So, while science fiction is not my go-to genre, here is part one of my sci-fi short, Ship in the Void:

Stage one – Liftoff

I looked up at the clear sky in anticipation of my imminent ascent. Despite having made numerous AG lifts before this, it still made her pulse race every time. The speed. The altitude. The weightlessness. It was like skydiving with additional exhilaration from going well beyond the stratosphere. 

“Final check!” Tryss, our unit commander barked out. “T-minus ten minutes to liftoff.” 

Tryss was…intimidating. Gifted with Amazonian height, she topped everyone else in the unit, measuring 6′ 3″ barefoot. When you added in the leanly corded muscle, stellar record, strong voice, and eyes that missed nothing, she could inspire awe in anyone. 

She was also gorgeous. Her head was shaved, accentuating sharply defined cheeks and full lips. There was a warm glow to her smooth brown skin, and it echoed in the melted chocolate color of her eyes. I’m certain her appearance gave her no end of grief as she made her way up the astrocore ranks. That certainly did nothing to lessen my jealousy.

At Tryss’s command, I quickly started performing final equipment checks with the rest of the squad. We were all wearing our AG (anti-gravity) suits. When I compared AG lifts to skydiving, it was not only about the feel of flying.

AG suit design supports AG chute use for lifting humans into space and bringing them back. Each suit carries three ascent chutes, two drifters, two descent chutes, and thirty-six hours of compressed oxygen. They regulate body temperature, even in space, and process liquid waste. The drifters, extra oxygen, and waste features are all to get us back into the atmosphere without burning or breaking up on re-entry.

Checking my gear at this stage was primarily about the monitors on all this equipment and the suit itself. As my gauges read in the green, I started with the boots and worked up through each piece. The suits were constructed of an ingenious fabric that was self-repairing and self-sealing. A code activated each suit’s connective properties. Once it was “on,” each piece was sealed in place when put on.

The boots merged into the pants, which melded to the shirt, then the gloves, helmet, and equipment vest that integrated and monitored me and all my equipment. All-inclusive, it was over 100 lbs of gear wrapped around my torso and settled squarely on my hips.

All the seals were looking good, so I did a final check of the face shield. The helmets were made of the same flexible fabric with a sturdy frame around my face. It contained the shield mechanism and a holographic HUD I could toggle visually or manually. The shield functions measured air pressure and would maintain a healthy atmosphere in the suit, adjusting resistance and air consumption from either my reserves or the environment accordingly.

To test it one final time, I slowly touched my nose with my bare left hand. The face shield flared, sparkling a faint orange glow and producing a soft tingle against my skin. Finally, I put on the final glove, and it merged with my sleeve. By all measures and senses, I was clear to go.

“T- minus two minutes!” Tryss called out.

I looked up to see others touching their noses and putting on that final glove, ignoring how stupid we all looked. My position was number twelve, so I lined up.

“T-minus one minute,” she called. “Get in line and sound off!”

“Twelve, go!” I yelled out when it came to me. 

Tryss looked at her wrist as we finished the sound off. We were all a go. No one would miss this lift.

“Ten!” she started the final countdown. 

My adrenaline spiked, and I shook out my jittery limbs as I waited.

“Three. Two. One. Mark one, go!” Tryss shouted, and the first of our unit deployed, shooting upward.

“Mark two, go!”

One by one, we took off, until finally, it was my turn. My jitters always settle in the buffer-time before a lift, and it was a steady hand I raised to my interface.

Three. Two. One.

“Mark twelve, go!”

To be continued…