This is an excerpt from a Sci Fi story I am working on. This portion introduces one of the three main characters of the story. Enjoy and let me know what you think.
30 years ago…
9 standard years old
2 days till Tunnel Gate opening
3 days till first dive
The numbers floating in the tank started to swirl. Malthus knew what the numbers meant. Abstractions in math of general scientific principles. The gravimetric weight of the largest body in his stellar system balanced against the mass of this star computed against the distance to its nearest stellar neighbor, the star around which swung Melody. Melody is the nearest trading partner his system, Parsons Deep, had. It was their way-point to the rest of the Terran Commonwealth.
The numbers wouldn’t stay numbers though. They drifted and twisted in the holotank forming into the tunnel gate that represented freedom. Freedom for Parsons Deep and the eventual freedom of Malthus himself.
Of that Malthus was as sure as he was that the numbers were not supposed to be dancing like they were.
They equation for the transport shifted and turned until it was the sleek form of a Terran Commonwealth exploration frigate. Its compact body moved slowly towards the complex equation that had completed morphing into the Parsons Deep tunnel gate. The whole gate seemed to glow and pulse in a way Malthus knew it never would actually do. The physics of the Bore Drive created no visual effect other than the gravitational lensing within the ring itself.
As the Bore Drive completed its power up the tunnel opened. Gate control called out to the Captain of the frigate heading toward the breach in space and time it had created.
“This is Parsons Tunnel One to TCN Odysseus. You are clear for your tunnel dive. Maintain present vector and delta v for approach and transition.”
The frigate Odysseus moved quickly across the tank as the gravitational function representing the sun faded slowly behind the mass equation for Titan, the largest planet in his system, around which the tunnel gate was positioned at Lagrange point 5. This position representing the mathematical balance point determined to be the most advantageous for maintaining the wormhole the Bore Drive would create.
“TCN Odysseus, please confirm target vector and relative velocity as instructed. Our instruments are detecting a significant drift in your y-axis.
“TCN Odysseus please respond.
“We repeat. TCN Odysseus please respond this is Parsons Tunnel One. Captain Malthus Andronicus, please respond. Captain Malthus respond! Malthus!”
“Malthus I requested that you respond with the answer to the equation please. Malthus are you paying attention?”
The sharp nasally voice of Professor Li brought Malthus out of his daze just as the frigate was about to crash into the balance equation for the wave function of the Bore Drives power requirements to maintain the wormhole to Melody.
“My apologies Professor.” Malthus’s fingers quickly punched in the equation on his keypad and the numbers floated besides the others in the tank in a soft red color in contrast to the soothing blue of the question. The numbers hung there as Professor Li looked over Malthus’s work and then into Malthus’s young eyes. For a moment Malthus thought the numbers would stay red and he would have to endure the sad look Professor Li gave him when he made a mistake both the Professor and Malthus knew he should know.
After a moment the color did change to bright green. However Professor Li’s eyes remained sad.
“The equation is correct.”
“Thank you Professor.”
“There is no need to thank me for providing the correct answer Malthus.”
“Yes sir. Excuse me sir, but you seem displeased?”
“No. No Malthus. Not displeased. Disturbed perhaps.”
“With my performance sir?”
Professor Li stood and switched off the tank. He rose slowly and moved across the room to open the blinds. The soft glow of the artificial sunset bathed the room in a warming light and Professor Li stood staring across the city scape as it prepared for evening.
“No Malthus, not with your performance but with your attitude and your attention. You have not been really here for the ending of the last several lessons. You appear to be somewhere, or perhaps, some when else.”
“My apologies Professor. I…” Malthus hesitated as he stared down at the pad in his hand. A small green light pulsed in the upper left hand corner. “I have been distracted,” he completed.
“It has been getting worse young man” said the Professor turning to face his pupil. He stroked his grey beard thoughtfully and crossed the short distance to his desk and sat.
“You are most preoccupied with your upcoming trip, no?”
Malthus simple sat and stared at his pad. He was more concerned with the pulsating green message light than with the corrections of his tutor.
“Very well. Your answer is correct, and an old man cannot compete with adventure can he. No Malthus I know I can’t. It is nearly the end of your study period and you have done exemplary. Other than your attention span that is.” The professor gave Malthus one of his little half smirks letting him know Professor Li was not truly upset.
“Run along. Perhaps some extra fresh air will focus you. Although somehow I suspect only the trip itself will do that, no?”
“Thank you sir, yes sir. I’m sure you are right.” Malthus blurted out as he packed his tablet into his satchel and slipped his communicator into his ear. Rushing out of Professor Li’s office he wasn’t able to hear the exasperated sigh from his tutor.
Malthus rushed across the quad of green heading down spin from the learning sector towards the nearest transport hub. He barely looked across the massive cylinder to watch the artificial sun slowly fade. The local birds flew from the learning sector on one side of the cylinder across its radius towards the office sector hoping to scavenge the remains from the end of shift office workers day as the workers made their way home. Malthus deftly dodged the other students as they casually made their way either to extra curricular activity or onward to their own homes. Pulling his tablet from his satchel he flipped on the screen and checked the incoming message that was still flashing. As the screen came to life he recognized the contact for Stan.
Stan was Malthus’s best friend. Three years older, Stan or Stanislav lived with his father on an old freighter that plied a triangular route from Melody to Parsons Deep and on to New Caledonia, repeating the trip once a standard quarter. At first Malthus was disappointed. It seemed, somehow, that Stan had broken into the daydream Malthus had had at the end of study regarding the Terran Commonwealth Naval vessel. A short video clip of one played on a loop across his screen.
It took Malthus a moment before he shoved the tablet back into his satchel and increased speed to the transport hub to catch a pod down to level one. It took him that moment to realize that the video was not that of a small frigate but was of the much larger exploration class cruiser. Also, the video was not some clip Stan had found in the archives. This cruiser was in the midst of docking at the Parsons Deep Orbiting Municipal Complex.
* * *
Stan had folded himself into a cross-legged sitting posture vaguely reminiscent of the lotus position. His long blonde hair was braided into three rows and intertwined with orange ribbon that almost, but not quite, was nearly completely dissimilar to the orange of his work single suit. Malthus hung at an oblique angle to his older and lankier friend in the zero gravity of the docking cargo area of Parsons Deep OMC. Malthus lazily squeezed his juice cube and let a small blob of pink liquid float over to his mouth as, for the fifth time, he brushed his friends braid from in front of his face.
“I thought it would look bigger in person” Malthus choked out through the mouthful of juice.
“It’s half a kilometer away.” replied Stan “Believe me. Up close it’s more impressive. Especially when you see one rounding the horizon on planetary approach.”
The grey and blue 280 meter long cruiser TCN Magellan had lodged itself against the largest docking port available at the OMC. Any ship larger would have had to position itself at one of the exterior hard points and Malthus and Stan would never have been able to get half as incredible a view as they had now. At least not without being inside one of the myriad of support tugs, supply vessels and inspections pods that buzzed around the sleek cruiser. Even then it would have been a much narrower field of view through the small ports on the support vessels.
“Even with your lumbering great big cargo transport?” Malthus asked.
“Just wait, one day when you’re in your own lumbering transport you’ll see just how big it looks.”
“I’m not going to be in a cargo ship. I want one of those licensed exploratory scout ships.”
“Right, barely big enough for the crew, smells to high heaven, and you can barely make ends meet. You’ll love it.
Malthus spun slightly away into his own lotus position as he sent a particularly large pink blob directly at his friend’s ear. Stan saw it at the last second and managed to slurp it up before launching a soybean at his friend hitting him squarely in the forehead.
“Anyway, I wonder why it’s here.”
“Has to be for the gate opening.” Malthus opined. “My Dad said there would be some sort of Commonwealth people showing up. I thought it would just be the colonial representative not an exploratory class ship.”
“Yeah, I guess they want to make sure all their money works when the Bore Drive finally goes operational.”
“Stan! Stanisslav Micorivich!” the unmistakable bellow of Stan’s father Alexi nearly shook the pair from the spot they had managed to float in for the last half hour.
“Stan! It’s nearly time for dinner. What are the two of you doing here?”
Alexi Micorovich was a stark contrast to his son. Broad where Stan was lanky, his tight close cropped hair and travel business suit could not have been more the opposite of the long-haired 12-year-old floating almost buddha like before him.
“Watching the ships Pa.”
“Ahh, good. Keep an eye on those Commonwealth restrainers. Never know when they will decide to create some new regulation or constraint. Or maybe a new tax.” Alexi watched the small inspection pods circling the forward section of the ship as one seemed to slowly bounce against one of the main gun batteries.
“Pa doesn’t like the new tunnel gate.”
“Now that’s not true son. I have nothing in particular against the gate itself. Or for that matter any gate in and of themselves. They are just the tools that we use.”
“What is it you don’t like them Mr. Micortivich?”
“He doesn’t like the idea of them.”
“What I don’t like, Malthus, is the ideas that can happen when people don’t think through the consequences of the gates.”
“But I thought the consequences was faster, safer, and cheaper travel for everyone.”
“Ah that’s only part of it.”
“Oh you started him up now Malthus” interrupted Stan.
“You see” continued Alexi, “that’s what people think are the consequences but there are what are known as second and third order effects. The Commonwealth helps you build those gates so they expect a return on their investment.”
“Well that only seems fair as they helped pay for it.”
“But what they can ask for is not always just resources and capital. Sometimes they can ask that you have to follow the rules they want and keep some people from keeping as much of their capital.They change your rules to benefit themselves.”
“But don’t those rules also benefit others. Isn’t the true measure of a rule how well it benefits or hurts the most people.”
“Sometimes though people don’t see that the rules just constrain everyone and sometimes, less rules are better than more.”
Malthus was about to respond regarding the necessity of rules when the communicator beeped in his ear. He quickly tapped the communicator as it announced that Esha Andronicus, Malthus’s mother, was the incoming call.
“Malthus dear” came the soft voice of Esha “time to say goodbye to your friend and come home from the docks. You know your father doesn’t like you going there by yourself.”
“But mother, Mr. Micortivich is here as is Stan and he’s nearly 13.”
“I’m sure Mr. Micirtivich did not ride out to the docks with you and I don’t care how old Stan is. You are only 9.”
“Get home before your father does. It is nearly time for dinner. Then we need to finish backing for the transport out to the tunnel gate tomorrow.”
“Best do what your mother says” chimed in Alexi.
“Yeah it’s time for our dinner to, right Pa.”
“On my way Mom.”
Malthus uncurled himself, pushed off from the rail, and twisted to wave goodbye to his friend in one surprisingly fluid motion. He flew across the dock towards the transport hub for the inward bound pods.
2 thoughts on “Beyond the Following Star”
I love sci-fi so naturally this jumped out at me, really like the gate concept although i found the opening dialogue regarding said gates etc.. a little too forward perhaps? I felt i had an image of it in my mind but with a few blanks spots i suppose? Overall though i really liked it, i want to read more….
Thanks for the comments. They are helpful. Was wondering if you could expand on what you mean by the dialogue was too forward. Just not understanding what you mean. I am glad you enjoyed this small part I put out. I am planning on posting more do please consider following my site so you can get notifications when they are posted.