I would like to invite any bloggers (or review site owners) who routinely review books, especially in the science fiction genre. PJ has three romantic sub-plots, lots of adventure and a thrilling…Continue
Started Apr 23, 2012
Chris Stevenson has not received any gifts yet
TEN THOUSAND MILES out of Triton’s atmosphere, Captain Zachary Crowe was running a final systems check for the jump home when the nav panel lit up – incoming message. Samantha King, navigator of the Shenandoah, stiffened in her seat when she caught sight of the flashing signal.
“Are we available, Zaz?” she asked, biting her lip.
“Not really, but it might be important. Put it on the intercom so Dendy and Carl can listen in.”
She accepted the subspace priority call. The image of a man with a gray crew cut appeared on the grid. Commander Tobias Ellison of the 12th Fleet, Air Assault Marines, sat in a handicap float chair, facing the camera. A long scar cut a trench down the front of his neck.
Zaz eased up from his and stood out of courtesy, wondering why he was being hailed by such a high-ranking military officer.
“I’ve reached Captain Crowe of the Shenandoah?” said the commander, his speech slightly garbled.
“You have, sir,” Zaz responded.
“You’re not representatives of Blue Peace, I hope. I had a difficult exchange with them last year. It seems they’re adverse to taking risks where lives are concerned.”
“No, sir. We’re Planet Janitor, environmental custodians, though we’ve been contracted by Blue Peace before.”
“We found your location on the KED. You were chosen because we have no other vessels in that sector. One of our deep space observation platforms has picked up an inbound stray of approximately three-point-two million metric tons. Preliminary calculations indicate it’s on direct trajectory with two of our flight corridors. The Houston-International Space Complex and the Lunar to NASA Observation Platform are in a direct line for transit. Probable contact-interception is one hundred percent.”
Zaz frowned. They weren’t looking for another job at the moment, but he didn’t want to sound indifferent or unsympathetic. Still, he had a few nagging questions and concerns. “Why can’t traffic be diverted from those flight corridors until the object has passed?”
“You ask the organizations that question, who are running passenger, supply, and maintenance to those locations. You can’t shut down those corridors indefinitely. Besides, the International Space Authority is likely to throw a fit if they discover we allowed a rogue object to approach so closely to our space infrastructure. This is Space Defense Directorate business. We want this handled.”
Yeah, it’s your business and that’s why you’re calling me. Although his façade began to crack. “How much time are we talking about?”
“A little over two hours standard before it passes your vector point. We dispatched two cruisers and two heavy galleons from our Mars base. They’re on an intercept course in case it gets past you.”
“Half my crew is Earth-side,” said Zaz. “You’ve caught me shorthanded. We’ve just come off a Triton mapping expedition and were expecting to make the jump home. I don’t know if we’re the proper solution to this, or if we have the – ”
“According to our records, you have munitions onboard,” said Ellison, ignoring Zaz’s objections. “A strong enough C-6 charge will deflect the solid body asteroid. We’re talking about at least a two-degree shift in course trajectory – a very simple maneuver. This shouldn’t pose any problems for you. We’re asking for your voluntary enlistment to perform a low hazard task for your government.”
Which meant that this would not be a hire-for-profit mission. The last minor asteroid he’d knocked out of the netted him 50,000 Imperials. However, there was something more to consider than just monetary concerns. The situation tugged at his moral center. There had to be a compromise.
“Twenty-five thousand Imperials,” said Zaz. “Compensation for the cost of fuel, in addition to covering the workload and effort put forth by my crew.”
“I would hate to cite the Humanities Act at this point, Captain Crowe.”
“The Humanities Act also indicates that a crew should not risk bodily harm, under any circumstances.”
Ellison frowned. “I didn’t expect you to barter over this. I agree to the terms. However, I do so reluctantly.”
Zaz gave him a pert nod. “Send us the coordinates and telemetry data patch. We’ll set up an interception.”
“Very well. After a mission-accomplished entry, you can expect a transfer of funds to your account and a written commendation, which will be added to your civilian record. Apprise us of your progress and any new information you glean from the encounter. We’re sending the data patch now. We’re counting on you. Ellison, commander 12th Fleet, out.”
Zaz let out a gale-force sigh. This would not sit right with the shipboard crew. The remaining crewmembers were Earth-side, waiting at the Long Beach Port facility. They had been expecting the Shenandoah’s immediate return. Both groups had been anticipating some well-deserved time off after having spent the last seven months (off and on) in the solar system. In that time, they had managed to stack up nine missions: four space debris removals, two ore transfers, two satellite retrievals, and one mission of mercy. The Shenandoah, a converted Russian-built ore freighter, was long past due for a scheduled maintenance check; her hydrogen tanks were low – a prolonged burn would sap their fuel supply.
Samantha flipped back a wild lock of bright red hair. She ignored the data input, turning to face Zaz instead. “I can’t believe you agreed to this, Zaz. You heard it yourself – they have a bead on the rock and are fully prepared to take it out. That’s what our orbital Defense Directorate is for – eliminating imminent threats.”
He wasn’t listening. He could only think of the threat an impactor that size would have plowing through traffic lanes, and the destruction it might wreak if it fragmented.
A few minutes later, Dendy, Planet Janitor’s petite botanist, scurried through the bridge hatch and curled her fists on her hips. She gave Samantha an accusing glare, even though she had clearly heard Zaz making the deal over the intercom. “Say it ain’t so, Sammy. I thought we were making the pod jump for terra firma.”
“Don’t look at me. I’m only the nav officer. Better talk to your captain.”
Dendy sidled up to Zaz. She put one hand on his forearm, like she always did when addressing him.
“Aren’t you getting a little tired of riding in on the white stallion every time someone sends out a distress call?” she asked. “It’s not like you can’t afford to be choosy. We’ve more than filled up our quota for this year. Haven’t we earned that vacation?”
He gazed into her light brown eyes, losing his train of thought for a moment. “It’s not a question of what I want or need,” he said. “That commander could have pulled rank on me and enforced the Humanities Act. Besides, you know our mission statement – we’re stewards, sworn to preserve and protect any habitable environment against all threats. That includes defending the sanctity of all humankind in matters of peril or suffering. Sometimes we have to take it on the chin.”
“Take it on the chin?” said Samantha. “Zaz, I’m punch drunk from taking it on the chin.”
Zaz leveled an intense stare at each of them. “You tell me how it would feel, knowing that any station or ship took a direct hit because we, or the Defense Directorate, failed to stop an incoming asteroid. I’m sure you would have no trouble arranging the funerals and replacing destroyed property.”
Dendy closed her eyes briefly. “You would have to put it that way, wouldn’t you? I guess it’s the right thing to do, even if we are pulling the short straw.”
At the forefront of my earliest years of writing and publication I queried quite a few professional authors for advice and guidance. I wanted to know the easiest, less painful ways of achieving publication with full size books. I had a plethora of old-timers and experts from which to gain any hints or tips that would cut through the crap and get me off to a good start. These contacts came primarily from the Science Fiction Writers of American. They had some standard warnings and insider…Continue
Posted on November 9, 2013 at 9:37pm — 1 Comment
I have probably had more comments and reactions from my character the Wax Man, than any other. He appears in The War Gate, a paranormal romance/thriller. He is actually a sub-antagonist, an assassin hired by the main antagonist. Most of these of observations have come from beta readers and direct email, only one popped up in an Amazon review. I'll list it here. It was quite a nice cap feather.…
Posted on January 7, 2013 at 9:11pm
This post was inspired by a thread in the AbsoluteWriters forum. It really hit home with me, since I've had my own experience. It went something like this:
Where do I begin? How do I begin?
Over the last year I've had three fans, four counting my publisher, compare my book, Planet Janitor Custodian of the Stars, to the…
Posted on January 7, 2013 at 9:00pm