Category Archives for "Space"

St. Sasha’s Locket

“Jewelia, you go in through the back. Krill thinks there may be an escape tunnel, so check that out first. We don’t want her slipping past us. I’ll go in through the front and make my way to the office. If we avoid the Saletins we’ll be out of here in fifteen minutes,” Darrion Artenan said. He looked pointedly at Jewelia. “No killing anyone this time.”

Darrion chambered a round in his weapon and then holstered it. He reminded me of a cowboy from one of the 20th Century American westerns I had seen on my commpad a few years ago. Except, instead of leather, he wore luminescent red Terelian Dragonhide. And, rather than a revolver, the gun he carried was a silver Colt Titanium Lazerline Pistol that gleamed in the light of Belloua 3’s sun.

“I can’t make any promises,” Jewelia said slinging her weapon of choice, a Molovian .223 Hellfire rifle, onto her back. The gun was huge, the end of the mussel hanging a foot from the ground on her six-foot frame. She checked the rest of her arsenal. Two pistols were strapped to the side of her thighs, a small curved dagger hung from her belt and two smaller knives were in each boot. She always came overdressed to every party, but I guess that should be expected of an ex-assassin.

The locket had disappeared three years earlier from the private collection of Sasha’s great-great-great grandniece. To her it was more than just a relic of a Saint, it was an heirloom of her family, of which she was the last survivor. The collection was being turned over to Fr. Konecsni at the Vatican Museum for safe keeping. Fr. K, as everyone called him, had turned to Darrion for help with getting the relic back.

Darrion’s crew was made up of himself and two others: Jewelia, the ex-assassin, and Krill, the cook, the mechanic and everything else. Then there was me, Lillyanne of Troppe Recovery. I have the gift of finding lost and stolen items, mostly lost keys. On occasion, Darrion would let me tag along on a mission to recover the relic I helped locate.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked.

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The Slow War

The fierce blue star lied. It appeared to be in the center of a field of crowded blue and violet points of light all focused and pulled towards the front of the ship. It was the incredible speed that they traveled at that hid the truth of a warm yellow dwarf star. The glare of the star from this distance hid its collection of planets and asteroids.

Astrogator Vyron Rhoson preferred to see the ″real″ image of uncorrected light. Gazing at the floating images of the stars crowded ahead of him the universe assumed its familiar cast given by relativistic velocity that he had known since childhood. A universe of stars in all directions, without the blue-shift in the direction of travel did not really seem real to him, any more than the world outside the ship’s walls as more than an intellectual abstraction.

Rhoson activate the full scope of the sensor’s abilities once more. The fierce point of blue light became a warm yellow globe speckled with sunspots. The three large gas giants were easy to discern, and the various icy and watery planets and moons were visible as faint crescents and discs. The haze of the cometary belt glowed about the system as each item was located and updated by the computer.

These had been known for years; he was looking for minutiae in the haze of individual photons. He scanned carefully for the high-energy emissions of ship’s drives, power sources or communications. Nothing. Still, he double checked. While he would never live to see the star-system, the survival of his descendants was at stake. Would the ship decelerate and form a new colony, or would they enter into a radiation-filled battleground? Satisfied that the system ahead was still unclaimed, he made the call.

″Still no sign of the enemy in the system ahead, Captain.″ he reported. ″No high-energy signatures, no signs of industry. It looks like a good place to stop.″

″Thank you, Astrogator.″ the Captain replied. ″I want an updated navigational deceleration map and relativistic probe launch tracks for the meeting in two hours.″

″Yes sir.″ I looked like they were going to be stopping at last. They would not have to continue to drift along until they ran into the enemy in the Sagittarius arm. The system ahead would have everything needed for a colony: comets, asteroids and barren worlds. He was a little worried about that second planet and it’s oxygen atmosphere, though. Still, that temptation aside, the system would be a perfect location to fortify and prepare the next generation of generation ships. All of this would take generations of course. Only those that planned ahead went to the stars.

Vyron updated the projected paths for the relativistic probes. Each would speed silently by, dormant for most of their flight, sending bursts of coded data to the ship about the system ahead. The ship meanwhile, would then engage the powerful braking drives and fields, blasting super-heated particles towards the system at near light speed. Not only would Vyron loose his cherished view of blue stars ahead, but the stream of particles would be a loud alarm across the galaxy announcing their presence.

The light of their engines would race ahead of them though the centuries, and be received by the enemy. Slowly, inevitably, ships would be launched, or more likely, ships already in motion would change their course towards the new target. Even though all would take centuries, speed was essential.

Behind them lay a thousand light-years of conflict, where the expanding waves of human and alien colonization had met. He hoped that they had arrived here first, and may have left behind the conflict, for a while. Perhaps they may even be able to flank the alien’s expanding space, as had been intended when the ship was launched so long ago.

All around him were the faint, red-shifted broadcasts of the conflict they left behind. Haggard faces in slow-motion described the constant struggle. He listened to the last broadcast of a doomed world, watching as it died centuries ago. This would not happen to their new home, he swore.

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3

St Lucian’s Star

Earth, 2087

“I’m closed!” I didn’t look when the bell jingled on the front door. It was likely just Alma. Again. The 103-year-old woman could never keep track of her keys. Or her purse. Or her teeth. Locating another lost set of keys was not on my agenda for the evening, but saying no to Alma wasn’t an option. What she lacked in size and strength, she made up for in attitude. The majority of my referrals were from Alma. If I denied her once, most of my clients would go with her. Finding lost keys wasn’t very exciting, but it paid the bills. At least it would be quick and then I could go upstairs, get in my pj’s, eat cold pizza, curl up with Jake and read the latest Declan Finn novel.

I inherited the building that served as both my home and office a few years past when the gentlemen I was renting from died. He had left me everything, which wasn’t much beyond the building and a cabin at Spirit Lake. I sold the cabin and used the money to fix up the building and upgrade the outdated appliances. I didn’t have much, but I didn’t need much.

On the first floor, the front door opened into a hallway that led to two rooms. The larger of the two was my work room, where I entertained clients. The other was my closet sized office where I kept the records for my floundering locating service.

Troppe Recovery.
Nothing is too small to locate.

I could have more business if I had moved to a big city, like New York or Los Angeles, but I liked it in western Iowa. Leeds was quiet and within walking distance of everything I needed. Although, on occasion, I wished for a little excitement.

There were some things I couldn’t locate no matter how hard I tried. It didn’t stop people from asking though. I had little control over when my gift worked and when it didn’t. I was ten when my gift first became apparent. The nuns who ran the orphanage had at first thought I was possessed and tried to get the local priest to do an exorcism. Father Andrew was kind and saw my ability for what it was, a gift. He convinced the nuns that I needed protection from those who would abuse my gift. So, for the next eight years I was kept cloistered in a monastery, using my gift on rare occasions for the Church. The decision to use or not use my gift was left up entirely to me. I never refused, considering the Church and the nuns had done so much for me. Everyone had expected that I would eventually join the ranks of the nuns, but my heart was elsewhere. I was never a very good Catholic, even though the nuns tried.

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1

We Bury Our Own

“Brother Micah has fallen. And it’s your fault.”

Preceptor Adam jabbed his finger into Gabriel’s chest. Gabriel fought the urge to snap it. He was a mere sergeant, and the preceptor was as human as he was. No man of the Order may raise his hand against another human, not for something as trivial as this.

And, more importantly, Adam was right.

“I accept responsibility,” Gabriel said. “I shouldn’t have signed off on his solo patrols.”

“We have the two man rule for a reason, Sergeant Gabriel. We are men, not angels. None of us are above the rule. Not even for someone like Micah.” He snorted. “Especially for someone like Micah.”

Again, the preceptor was right. Among the men he had served with, Micah was the best. He could go alone into the mists, become one with it, and return unscathed. He boasted often of his exploits, and took pride in them.

And pride was the first sin, the cardinal vice that led to the Deluge and the Second Fall of Man.

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The Artifact

Relief would come in just a few days. Captain Miles Mason wasn’t looking forward to it. He knew what it would mean. It would mean he and his team had failed. Failed, like the six teams before them.

Mason lifted another of the mykor tubs from the excavation pit and turned to ­carry it to the sorting station. The sunlight made it difficult to see the way. He turned a dial on the side of his suit. ­The screen across the front of his helmet instantly darkened. His vision improved.

He surveyed his surroundings. Thompson and Clark were working the excavator behind him. Up ahead, Neicroft, his second in command, was tapping the screen of her autodater, logging each tub that entered the sorting station, assigning it a bar code, printing and slapping the little, lined stickers on their sides. Inside, Watson and Coleman would scan them when they began sorting through their contents and then again when they finished. It was a smooth operation.

Still, no one was feeling good. The temperatures had been high the last several days, even for Hadon. Mason was still amazed that a planet that was nearly desert everywhere could have seasons. He remembered with longing that time months ago, when winter temperatures were as low as the mid-80’s.

Lately, the cooling systems on everybody’s suits had been struggling to keep up. They’d all be taking more breaks lately, retreating to the living quarters to strip off their support suits, shower, and get a few breaths of oxygen that didn’t come through the little vent in their helmets.

The certainty of failure haunted them all. For 350 days, they had been on this blazing planet, searching for any sign of a civilization long gone. Fifteen more days, and their tour would be up, and they would all go down as one more team who had failed to produce even the tiniest bit of evidence.

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