First words

Here is the first half of Chapter 1. 

This is SciFi, so if it’s not your cup of tea, I apologize.  But it’s what I am, a creative scientist.  Writing SciFi perfectly fills my need for creative expression and research.

For the record, I’m not looking for a fan club per se.  I will revel in the positive comments, but that’s not solely what I expect.  If you have constructive criticism, I’d love that as well. 

I’m working on my second draft of Chapter 2 today, I have first drafts of 7 chapters.  It’s amazing what utter CRAP you turn out with your first efforts.  I’d like to thank my friends Anita, Roberta, and Tim for critiquing me last Sunday and pointing out that I write in passive voice and it needs to be active

I made another decision for my blog today.  No modern politics.  No modern religions.  We can discuss anything in historical context or in regards to how these things might work in the future, but I believe the current state of these subjects to be something that none of us will change individually, and this is not the place to discuss them.  Please respect that.

With those things said, here is the first 6 pages of “On the Shores of a Dark Sea.”

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Far below the idyllic clouds of Hamor cast shadows across a continent on fire.  Cities burned in radioactive fury, millions of dead turned to vapor by the atrocities of the enemy.  Pillars of smoke rose from the ruined cities, darkening the atmosphere.  As the Michael Stennis orbited Hamor, the daylight terminus passed below and cities once lit by electricity now glowed the deep red of nuclear firestorms. 

The nine Alliance fleets that were assigned to protect the planet had failed.

Captain Sarah Dayson, strapped into her command couch could feel each impact the Michael Stennis suffered.   As the impacts from enemy and friendly fire occurred, Sarah walled off the part of her that knew her crew was dying with each shudder of the ship.  She was buried in the acceleration couch as the thrusters of the Stennis burned furiously to push the ship out of the way of an incoming nuclear barrage.

            A nuclear missile struck the Samville, a troop shuttle carrier assigned to the small fleet that Captain Dayson commanded.  When the Stennis first arrived on scene, seventeen ships rode in with the Stennis’swarp bubble.  Now eleven of those smaller vessels remained, and the Stennis suffered from heavy damage as well.  The Samville ripped in two as the nuclear explosion vaporized its midsection. 

            “Brace for impact,” her navigation officer said with a calm belying the urgency of the event.  “The front of the Samville is going to hit us.  We’re already pushing hard to port, the best we can do is shift the impact to the aft third.”  Peter Corriea, her navigation officer, was young but extremely competent. 

            “How long until impact?”

            “Forty seconds sir,” Corriea replied.
            “Roger.”  Sarah turned to her left to speak to her first officer.  “Mr. Gilbert, advise the Admiral that we may be out of the action.  Stand by to re-assign our escorts to other ships as ordered.”

            “Aye, Captain.”

Sarah turned back to the main screen.  The Samville, struck amidships, was destroyed.  Two large pieces tumbled away from the detonation along with thousands of smaller pieces and a cloud of expanding gas.  ECOMS, the Enhanced COmbat Management System, sounded the collision alarm throughout the Stennis as soon as it calculated a collision was imminent.  Sarah knew that throughout the ship automated systems were taking action to minimize the coming disaster, but the collision was going to be catastrophic. 

As she stared at the main viewscreen, the remains of the Samville could be seen tumbling. Each second passed as if it were a dozen.  Indicators on her holo displays showed that all starboard thrusters were firing to minimize the damage to the Stennis.  Sarah transferred the camera view of the Samville to her station, and then zoomed in on the wreckage.  She saw broken girders and deck plates twisted and distorted by the heat of the nuclear weapon.  As the hulk rotated she saw relatively undamaged sections that might still contain survivors, not fortunate enough to have died immediately.  She wondered if they were aware of the impending collision or if they were too irradiated to care.

The external camera followed the hulk as it moved past the midsection and FTL drive of the Stennis.  The remains of the destroyed vessel struck her ship just forward of the fusion engines.  Sarah watched as the remains of the Samvilleflattened against the hull of her battlecruiser.  Flames erupted along the side of her ship.  The impact of the hulk behaved like a water balloon, flattening before bursting through the outer hull of the Stennis.  Fire alerts dotted her damage control display.  Most of the Samville debris flowed around the cylindrical shape of the Stennis, but some parts punched through and blasted outward from the hull on the other side.   The Stennis was, however, still largely in one piece.  What parts of the Samvilleweren’t absorbed into her ship now dropped lower toward the planet, falling into the upper atmosphere of Hamor.

“Status,” she barked.

“Damage control reports coming in now, ma’am, emergency crews reporting to stations.  Some are already purging areas aft to extinguish fires.  Mostly crew facilities, although medical has been hit hard.  The purged areas are…”    He paused almost as he began.  “To tell you the truth, ma’am, I don’t think you have time for the full list.  Most significantly, the starboard defensive railguns are all offline.  If we take fire from that side, we are dead.”

Sarah nodded at Harmeen.  “Mr. Corriea, can we rotate the ship?  We need to put the starboard side of the Stennis toward the planet.”

“Rotating now.  Maneuver complete in twenty seconds.”

“Mr. Harmeen, status of the FTL drive and fuel tanks?”

“Fully online and operational, Captain.  Fuel tanks are undamaged.”

“Mr. Corriea, start spinning up the core.”  She turned to her first officer.  “Mr. Gilbert, bring our fleet to bubble range, I suspect we’re leaving and taking them with us.  The Alliance can’t afford to lose this ship.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Lieutenant Seto, get a direct line to the Admiral for me.  Visual.”

“Sir, Admiral Heyden on visual.”

The image of Admiral Heyden appeared on the main screen.  Smoke trails lined the ceiling behind him.  The command carrier Binogi had also suffered some damage.  “Captain Dayson, status.  Sensors report nukes going off in your section.”

Sarah took a deep breath.  “Admiral Heyden.  That’s correct, four nukes detonated nearby, one of which scored a direct hit on a troop shuttle carrier.  No expected survivors.  Large debris from the Samville has impacted the Stennis.  Our starboard defenses are down, we’re calling in our escorts close to provide cover on that side, but that will take a…”

A flash of static filled the screen, followed by a momentary glimpse of flames on the wall opposite the camera.  The view screen returned to displaying status panels for the Stennis. 

Sarah looked at her communications officer.  “Seto, what was that?  Get the Admiral back.”

“I’m attempting to reestablish communications, Captain, but First Fleet is not responding.  I’m not getting anything from the Binogi or any of her escorts.”

The tactical situation was deteriorating rapidly.  The battle was lost.  Sarah made a command decision to retreat without permission from First Fleet.  “Mr. Gilbert, notify all fleets that Seventh Fleet is retreating to rendezvous position gamma.”

“Roger, position gamma.” 

ECOMS spoke on the bridge channel.  “Defense systems firing.”

Sarah could feel a continuous slight vibration begin as railguns along the side of the ship began firing into space.   

“Status,” Sarah demanded.

“Sensors reporting gravity lens flares at two seven three mark two nine zero,” Corriea responded.  The port railguns are engaging at full efficiency.  Fourteen flares noted.”

Sarah watched the viewscreen as streams of red tracers raced away from her battlecruiser.

 She knew the guns fired the first shot at the location predicted to have the highest probability of a hit, and traced an expanding circle of one kilogram steel projectiles from that point.  The incoming missiles weaved in an attempt not to be destroyed before reaching their target. 

The projectiles, red hot by their rapid acceleration away from the Stennis, cooled off enough to become invisible within a kilometer of the vessel. The ship looked like bees swarming from a hive when firing.  If the railgun slugs hit a missile, it was a sure kill.  The slugs were accelerated to several kilometers per second, and would strike their targets with the force of a meteorite falling from space.

EF2358 is also firing on the inbounds.  Computer says just under four minutes until hostile detonation.”

“Tactical on main screen, Mr. Corriea.”

The main screen changed from an external view from the ship to a gridded display of local targets.  Friendlies were green indicators.  The expected locations of incoming missiles were displayed as red.  Expanding fans of blue traced out from the Stennis and the EF2358illustrating the coverage of the railguns. 

“Mr. Corriea, once the railguns stop firing, align us for jump.  The singularity better be ready.  I want to go on my word.”  Sarah turned her head and looked at her first officer.  “Mr. Gilbert, how long until we have the escorts in range?”
            “The Yascurra and EF2358 are in range now, along with the freighter Palino.  The other ships are straggling in.  Next is the Menin which will be in range in four minutes, the last to arrive are the strike gunships.  They’re a good twenty or more minutes away.”

Sarah cringed.  The Menin might get left behind, there was little hope to save any of the other ships farther out.  She shook her head at her first officer as a gesture of her regret.  “Tell the Menin to give it all they got, Mr. Gilbert.” 

“Aye.” 

“Status of targets, Corriea?”  Sarah looked at the main screen and noticed numerous red targets.

“The first fourteen have been destroyed.  Approximately twenty more bogies dropped into realspace nearby, and the railguns are engaging the new targets.”

“Approximately?”

“It’s the best I have.  Aft sensors are destroyed, fore sensors are responding intermittently.  Twenty is my best estimate.”

Sarah noted the determined look on the young man’s face, mixed with frustration.  “Then it is the best estimate, Mr. Corriea.  How long until first impact?”

“Just over four minutes, Captain.”

“Mr. Gilbert, advise Mr. Corriea when Meninis riding the bubble.”  Before he could answer, the Captain pointed her finger at her nav officer.  “And Mr. Corriea, your orders are to jump immediately once that ship is in bubble.  Understood?”

“Yes sir,” they answered in unison.

Sarah took a few minutes to think.  Across her ship the crew was tending to weapons, assisting the wounded, securing the dead, and fighting the fires on board.  Heroic acts were saving lives, but young men and women were still dying.  Her ship carried nearly eight hundred crew members when fully staffed.  The Stennis had entered this battle with slightly over six hundred.  There would be a lot less after today. 

She scrolled through the holo displays in front of her.  Over the course of the battle her crew had launched seventy-eight nuclear weapons at the enemy, and the fleet ships assigned to the Stennis fired another one hundred and four.  Of those, seventeen had found targets, two of which were capital ships like the Michael Stennis.  But that wouldn’t matter to the enemy.  The Alliance could kill ten times as many ships as the Hive, and still lose the war.  There were simply too many of the enemy, it required the kill rate of alliance ships to be far too high, far beyond any reasonable expectation. 

She knew she was fighting on the losing side.

Mr. Corriea drew her back to the moment.  “Spin up complete, Captain.  We can jump anytime.”

She nodded.  “Save the Menin.

She’d made the decision to retreat, a choice that would either end her career as a Captain or potentially see her promoted to Admiral.  Time would tell.  Her fleet had lost six escorts and the Stennis was at least partially crippled.  Another seven ships were about to be left behind to die at the hands of the Hive.  Only four would leave with the Seventh Fleet.

ECOMS broke in again.  “Undestroyed enemy missile detected.  Brace for proximity nuclear detonation.” 
“Mr. Corriea, jump the goddamned ship.”
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