Sol and Centauri - a science fiction story

Okay, I don’t really know if this is the right board, or even forum to post this on. It’s something I’ve been working on for a while and I want to get as many people as possible to read it.
Anyway, I’ll give some background so you can stop here if you don’t like the sound of it :o. It’s a story I’m writing after reading books like Starship Troopers, Night’s Dawn and the Commonwealth saga. Amazing SF, highly reccomended. It’s set in about 2350, when we’ve colonised Alpha Centauri as well as most of the planets in the Solar system. I’ve gone for quite a light, progressive, realistic (IMO) society, and I’m trying to move away from SF cliches - Star Wars lasers, boringly aggressive aliens, etc. There’s some violence, but nothing really graphic. Bit less than the level of the Halo novels, for comparison.
So far I’ve written a total of almost 100 pages in Word, but I’ve actually only got about 30 I’m happy with. I’m in the middle of viciously editing my writing. I’m planning quite a long story, so what I have is only a fraction of the story. I originally wanted 3 seperate stories, but now I’m set on one big one with four parts.

So without further ado, here’s the first part. I’ll post more on demand :slight_smile:

Sol and Centauri

Part I: The Quantum Age

PROLOGUE

2188 ce
Night was just shifting to dawn; Alpha Centauri A slipped over the horizon, casting yellow radiance on the silently waking planet. Alpha Centauri B was already well up, but it was too far away to do much good, providing only a little more light than Earth’s Moon. This was the period when it would hang above the planet like a beacon, seeming to those on the surface to rotate to its own orbit. But those on the surface rarely noticed – having not evolved past the Alpha Centauran equivalent of primates.
That fact had been a big relief to the operators of the initial scan – the Expanded United Nations didn’t feel ready to deal with an intelligent alien species just yet. Eighteen months after that first detailed scan, the humans were here in earnest.

A large patch of space over the planet’s equator suddenly found the component atoms of the EUN spaceship Noctis appearing in its midst. The atoms rapidly coalesced from their quantum state into a more tangible existence – reforming bonds that were broken by the Quantum State Inducer array back in Earth orbit.
The Noctis was barely a spaceship; it was a large, rounded affair that wasn’t dissimilar to one of the primitive crustaceans that ruled the earth before evolution stamped them out. An almost-hemispherical top hull formed its main bulk, cradling the majority of the ship’s insides – fusion tokamak, long-range sensors, structural bonding force field generator, and zero-gee crew compartments. Around the edge of the dome, hanging just below it, was crew quarters ring, rotating to provide a semblance of gravity. Inside the ring was the ship’s underbelly, a mess of pipes, gantries, pseudomorphic arms, and extra sensors. The Noctis’ two atmospheric shuttles were stowed there as well, attached to the bridge-neck, facing away. They were embraced by grasping hordes of armatures and skeletal appendages, keeping the shuttles safely and firmly attached to the ship.

Sorry, it got chopped off by the character limit. Here’s the rest of the prologue:

Admiral Constantin Adrienne couldn’t help but stare at the sight before the Noctis. Alpha Centauri A was rising higher, illuminating a crescent of the planet below.
The Noctis’ bridge was a hexagonal arrangement of hardglass and metal hanging below the centre of the hull. To anybody other than the ship’s designers or crew, it would appear totally unprotected from the elements, but there was actually a huge amount of radiation shielding, structural enhancement force fields, and a high-frequency raser screen to ward off micrometeor impacts. And it afforded an amazing view. All that intruded on their full hemisphere of vision was the bewildering array of holographic-plate screens and control boards, but those could be stowed in their lockers at the back of the bridge. At the moment, they were all fully extended, overlaying readouts and control graphics on the crew’s view of the Alpha Centauri system.
“All right,” Constantin said softly. He didn’t bother twisting to face his bridge crew, four others; the motion would send him spinning, something he really didn’t need in the zero-gravity environment. He’d spent a long time settling into a relatively motionless position.
“I want reports from all departments. In the usual order, please.”
“Navigation; quantum shift was ninety-four percent accurate. Location confirmed as geosynchronous orbit at nineteen-point-nine degrees north, seventy-point-zero degrees west.”
“Ship’s systems; everything nominal. Tokamak running hot and green.”
“Sensors; passive monitors picking up the usual garbage… there is evidence of a strong burst of EM radiation sent as or before we arrived, which will bear looking into. All other readings nominal. Looks like there are no threats.”
“Defence; structural force field on standby-one. Crew in ready mode. Awaiting orders.”
Constantin finally tore his gaze away from the planet and focused on the holoscreens and readouts from his bridge crew, resolving to make sure there were some very good image recordings of the flight.
“Okay. Sensors, can you confirm environment green-status?”
“Affirmative.”
“Defence, take the shields down to level two. Repeal ready mode status.”
“Acknowledged.”
“Systems, ready the shuttles. Tell the crew to board them. Await my order to launch. I’ll be going down with them.”
“Aye, sir.” Constantin couldn’t detect any jealousy in the man’s voice.

The Noctis’ two shuttles almost resembled the jet fighters of the early twenty-second century, but scaled up. They had roughly cylindrical hulls and fixed wings that swept out and back. Just where the wings started to thin out, about a metre from the side of the hull, were the impeller drives. Five-metre-long tubes, they were integrated into the wings, the skin of the shuttle flowing around them, making the shuttles look almost organic.

Constantin reached out and grabbed one of the struts that protruded into the bridge to assist manoeuvring in zero-gee. He spun himself around and propelled himself to the back of the bridge, through the hatch into the small neck that connected the bridge to the rest of the hull. Someone had commented that the awkward-looking construction made the Noctis look like a mushroom, but most of the ship’s crew didn’t take kindly to the analogy. He drifted up to the level of the shuttle docking ring, a widened area of the bridge-neck. A flight officer waited by one of the hatches that the shuttles were docked to; the other was shut and locked, ready for the launch.
“Sir,” the officer saluted. Constantin nodded, pulling himself through the hatch.

Several minutes later, the metallic arms cradling the shuttles began to retract. The shuttles gradually increased power, and bled gasses from their manoeuvring jets to gain some distance from the Noctis. Once they were a hundred metres away, their main combustion engines kicked in and they streaked away, heading for the dark side of the planet.

The small craft shook as they dropped through the upper atmosphere, heat radiators deployed from the tail-fins glowing red, orange, then white as they tried to dissipate the energy of the friction on the hull. The impeller tubes on the shuttles had been tilted down, allowed the freedom by the pseudomorphic sections of the wings in which they were housed, and roaring away on full reverse to counter the force of gravity.
The vibrations faded away as the ship entered the lower atmosphere, and the corona of fire disappeared, though the heat-tails were still glowing. The impellers’ whining howl increased.
The landing zone had been chosen on the last, unmanned trip to the distant planet. The site was a green field, strangely almost devoid of vegetation except the grass-equivalent on the planet, a low carpet of what looked like miniature ferns. As the shuttles crossed the dawn line, Alpha Centauri A seemed to dip back below the horizon.
The deceleration became more fierce, until the shuttles were barely going fast enough to keep them aloft. They were a hundred metres above the ground when covers slid open on the shuttles’ wings, revealing horizontally-aligned impellers that powered up immediately. Their lower, more sombre thrum replaced the roaring of the main tubes. Pseudomorphic landing gear deployed, and the shuttles touched down.
A ramp deployed from the leading shuttle; Constantin walked down it slowly, carefully, solemnly. He was wearing an environment suit, even though experts analysing the sensor results from the last flight said the atmosphere should be breathable. The shuttle’s crew watched from the hatch, some grinning ecstatically, some looking as sombre as Constantin.
His booted feet touched the earth. He turned back to the crew in the shuttle, face serious. And he broke out in a grin bigger than the yellow sun rising behind him for the second time in an hour.

Not a bad start. Try to avoid too many technobabble cliches though.

I like a good SF yarn as much as the next Blenderhead, (judging from the number and interest in SF pictures around here)… but I don’t think this is really the right site for posting the complete TEXT.

A link sure. There’s plenty of writing boards out there.

Now, if you were posting a chapter illustration, I’d have no beef with an excerpt to go with it :cool:

Yeah, I was wondering if this was the right place for the whole story. I probably should have asked first. Anyway, if anybody’s interested in the rest of it, clicky here. I did find a good writing forum, but it’s a bit dead at the moment.

Try to avoid too many technobabble cliches though.

Could you give an example? I’ve tried to avoid any sort of cliche, but I may have missed some or just not known about them…

"Navigation; quantum shift was ninety-four percent accurate. Group cohesion nominal. Drop waypoint approaching.”

I would think that a quantum shift would mean that it would always be 100% accurate but whatever. This is what I think he was talking about. I personally go for soft sci-fi because I don’t care as much about the technology, but from what I’ve read of hard sci-fi, writers tend to throw together as many science words (tachyon, plasma, dark matter, neutrino, etc…) together as possible. Your story didn’t have too much though, so it’s not that much of an issue, but some writers like to fill their stuff with pseudo-scientific babble in an attempt to create atmosphere.

Nice story though, there’s nothing wrong with posting it here.

I’m liking it. Definitely “up my street”. :wink:

Dang it, I wasn’t going to write a book. I did. :rolleyes:

Its picky and according to my own comments, doesn’t belong here anyway!

PM me if you want picky, otherwise, enjoy.

Actually, no. Just have fun with it. Especially since I haven’t read the rest of what you posted yet anyway.

I would think that a quantum shift would mean that it would always be 100% accurate but whatever.

Well, depends on what it means, doesn’t it :wink: I won’t go into details, though.

This is what I think he was talking about. I personally go for soft sci-fi because I don’t care as much about the technology, but from what I’ve read of hard sci-fi, writers tend to throw together as many science words (tachyon, plasma, dark matter, neutrino, etc…) together as possible. Your story didn’t have too much though, so it’s not that much of an issue, but some writers like to fill their stuff with pseudo-scientific babble in an attempt to create atmosphere.

I’ve found that, too, but I still like my sci-fi cold and hard. As long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story, as long as it fits, I don’t mind. I mean, it gets a bit silly when the story revolves around the hyperquark warp ununantiobtanium warble generatifyer. I’ve tried to limit this in my story by only writing about things I have a basic understanding of. (Quantum physics is a slight exception; I’ve read a book about it, but most of what’s in the story is made up.) That way I avoid making silly references and tripping myself up when I use technospeak that actually doesn’t mean what it sounds like.
Hope that makes sense :stuck_out_tongue:
Anyway, yeah, I do use plasma, because it’s a natural phenomenon, and not only possible in sci-fi. I try to stay away from dark matter :P… and I haven’t read up on tachyons or neutrinos, so they’re out. Just saying.

I’m liking it. Definitely “up my street”. :wink:

I’m glad you like it :D. I’ll post more here if people have a phobia of other forums (;)) but otherwise have a look at the link I posted.

That other forum has a readability issue - gray on black with a tiny, unchangable font size. I gave up trying to read it on there. I’ll probably cut & paste when I get time to read through, as it does sound interesting.

(BTW, the QM jump sounded kinda silly, plus the torch drive seemed overkill, but landing on grass with spikes was worse.)

If you’re using Firefox, just go to View>Page Style>No Style, and also you can change the font size by holding Ctrl and scrolling the mouse wheel, or Ctrl +/- on the numpad.

(BTW, the QM jump sounded kinda silly, plus the torch drive seemed overkill, but landing on grass with spikes was worse.)

Care to elaborate? And, by torch drive do you mean the fusion engines?

About the other forum, I haven’t had readability problems, but maybe I just use a higher resolution.

I noticed an error, which I edited: the first paragraph of the second post, where it said the bridge was unprotected from the elements. Someone on the other forum pointed out that this was instant death in space, and I thought I fixed it, but apparently not. Anyway, it’s fixed now.

didn’t read the whole thing, but you mention in one sentence that the spaceship didn’t have a crew ring… then went on to describe the crew ring.
small nitpick, have fun with it.

I said they almost didn’t have a crew ring. :wink: I’ll probably change the wording to make it a bit clearer.

Readability - I sometimes use FF, but not usually. That forum has a fixed font and at my LCD resolution, its about 5 mm high. And being dark grey text on black… well, there’s a reason most paper is white. Maybe you can customize the colour somewhere, but it was obviously a designer style over usability.

I noticed the unprotected too. Glad its fixed.

Ok. Picky picky. But nobody would propose a realistic open air colony on Mars, much less Venus these days, nor just a “rocket ship” flying to Centari in a few weeks or even a year or two - people know better.

Ya, “torch” meaning fusion drive. Having a fusion drive for ground-orbit shuttles is overkill. Especially if they’re in each other’s wake… :slight_smile: And do you really have flimsy tokamaks on the shuttles as well, for all the power?

Spikes digging into the ground would decelerate quickly… at about 60Gs, eh? A parachute or drag anchor maybe. But how could you really pick a piece of ground flat enough to belly-land from orbit unless it had been prepped as a landing strip by the prior scouts? A scount mission would have would have prepared the colony ship ahead of time. Unless this is the scout mission, in which case they would land on water or on their tails. I couldn’t quite tell what the prelude guys were doing there. As befits a prelude though, it could be cut out. The rest of the story (that I’ve read) really is unconnect to the prelude so its kind of pointless for me to argue about it…

Anyway, quantum mech in SF writing is notoriously babble. You’re basically talking a “teleporter” - and without a reassembly terminal too. That’s even more different from a spacewarp. Seems unlikely you’d need tokamak’s, fusion drives (far less efficient than a tokamak, so you’d need something better than a tokamak for power), a QM jump… and you still don’t have artificial gravity? If you have fusion drives, it wouldn’t take long to get to the outer solar system. If you’re only going to be on the ship for a short time, pointless to have a spin ring. If you’re planning on using it as a space station, assemble it in orbit, too much hassle & risk to travel in it.
Going from the “outer solar system” presumably due to gravity well, and then “rematerializing” right smack in orbit?

All this odd mixture of tech developed in-between the time frame and that we still haven’t gotten to Centari… it strained my suspension of disbelief.

If there was some kind of break-through theory & device that blew away all assumptions and gave us simple QM jumps, it would be big big big. Probably throw in artificial gravity, reaction-less space drive and time-travel to boot. (ok, not required, but about the same level of Magic required. Actually, AG/SD/TT are all related “problems”. Only the Alcubierredrive idea separates the physics between those concepts, kind of)
QM teleportation, as understood now, would require scanning every single atom, dis- & re-assembly, just like in Trek. Major tech, basically impossible. Can’t teleport an object whole. Wormholes maybe.

Could solve most of that by just dropping the jump concept, at least for the initial colony. So what if it took them 20 years to get there on a beefy fusion drive? If you have that much fusion reactant, you wouldn’t even need the ring, just boost under 1/4 or 1/8g most of the time. Whatever.

Skip the survey mission. If you need space warp for the main bulk of the story, say warp drive was later perfected and the colony expanded like crazy. Ignore the non-intelligent natives unless they become an issue, or put in in a moment of reflection or discussion by a character.

Sorry for the picky book

Ya, “torch” meaning fusion drive. Having a fusion drive for ground-orbit shuttles is overkill. Especially if they’re in each other’s wake… :slight_smile: And do you really have flimsy tokamaks on the shuttles as well, for all the power?
Good point, actually. I wasn’t thinking too carefully when I was writing the shuttle bit. I’ll change it to impeller engines. As for the tokamak thing, I understand them to be fusion reactors. As in, any fusion reactor could be called a tokamak. Are there other types?

Spikes digging into the ground would decelerate quickly… at about 60Gs, eh? A parachute or drag anchor maybe. But how could you really pick a piece of ground flat enough to belly-land from orbit unless it had been prepped as a landing strip by the prior scouts? A scount mission would have would have prepared the colony ship ahead of time. Unless this is the scout mission, in which case they would land on water or on their tails. I couldn’t quite tell what the prelude guys were doing there. As befits a prelude though, it could be cut out. The rest of the story (that I’ve read) really is unconnect to the prelude so its kind of pointless for me to argue about it…
Is it necessary for the acceleration to be so slow? I’m saying, isn’t there a way that deceleration from the blades digging into the ground to be limited - the thickness or texture of the blades, for example? Then, since they’re pseudomorphic (don’t even know if that’s a word :P) the properties could be adjusted to slow the craft at different rates. But I was looking for something interesting and exotic, which maybe doesn’t really fit.
As for the point of the prelude, it’s really a plot hook to get the reader interested (so sue me :rolleyes:) as well as showing the first manned mission to AC. They are the scouts. As for the picking of a suitable piece of land, we have satellites now that can take a photo with enough resolution to pick out cars. I don’t find it hard to imagine that in the future they’d be able to pick out a flat plain from orbit. True, I should include something about scanning for a landing zone, but a suitable site could have been found by a prior unmanned scout.

Anyway, quantum mech in SF writing is notoriously babble. You’re basically talking a “teleporter” - and without a reassembly terminal too. That’s even more different from a spacewarp. Seems unlikely you’d need tokamak’s, fusion drives (far less efficient than a tokamak, so you’d need something better than a tokamak for power), a QM jump… and you still don’t have artificial gravity? If you have fusion drives, it wouldn’t take long to get to the outer solar system. If you’re only going to be on the ship for a short time, pointless to have a spin ring. If you’re planning on using it as a space station, assemble it in orbit, too much hassle & risk to travel in it.
Going from the “outer solar system” presumably due to gravity well, and then “rematerializing” right smack in orbit?
Yeah, it’s babble. I don’t really explain it fully within the story, I think. So here’s a basic rundown of my imaginary ‘teleportation’ device.
Basically, the idea came when I was reading up about QM, about the wavefunction. It seemed pretty cool that things have an equation that can describe where they have a likelihood of being found. So I had the idea that what if you could influence certain variables in the wavefunction to make the particle appear where you wanted it? Total nonsense, of course. But lots of SF is - I mean, it’s science FICTION. So th Quantum state describes the state of an atom that has had its atoms’ wavefunctions shaped by a specific outside force - this might be in the form of radiation, whatever. So basically, you apply the quantum state through a very complex series of specific inputs of force, and the next time you look you find the atoms somewhere else.
As for launching from the outer solar system, I concede that it doesn’t make much sense. That will change. Lucky I was planning a round of revisions anyway :wink:
However, that still doesn’t really provide for artificial gravity. Actually, it probably does, but it would be expensive to maintain the area in the quantum state for a long period of time, and you couldn’t do it on people.

If there was some kind of break-through theory & device that blew away all assumptions and gave us simple QM jumps, it would be big big big. Probably throw in artificial gravity, reaction-less space drive and time-travel to boot. (ok, not required, but about the same level of Magic required. Actually, AG/SD/TT are all related “problems”. Only the Alcubierredrive idea separates the physics between those concepts, kind of)
It is big big big - at least in the time that the prologue is set. I didn’t include it, but the launch required a complex setup at the departure location to actually apply the needed ratiation to every single particle in the precise way. Of course, leaving that out was probably a mistake :o

QM teleportation, as understood now, would require scanning every single atom, dis- & re-assembly, just like in Trek. Major tech, basically impossible. Can’t teleport an object whole. Wormholes maybe.
Exactly, as understood now. That’s the whole reason I wanted to write an SF story, to step beyond and extend the real world. I have had some ideas for a story set closer to the present with more believeable technology, but hey, frankly, this is more interesting :wink:
Wormholes will appear later. Can’t say more…

Skip the survey mission. If you need space warp for the main bulk of the story, say warp drive was later perfected and the colony expanded like crazy. Ignore the non-intelligent natives unless they become an issue, or put in in a moment of reflection or discussion by a character.
Well, they’re essential to the story in that they’re what I imagined for the universe. Like hyperdrives in SW or ZTT jumps in Night’s Dawn.
There were no natives, except for smaller mammals. It wasn’t relevant, though, so I didn’t mention it.
EDIT: Sorry, I did mention it after all :P…

Anyway, thank you a huge amount! You picked it apart pretty comprehensively, and probably made a lot of it look like nonsense while doing it :). Which is fine, because you’re right. It’s an SF story. But I do like this sort of criticism once in a while, because it helps me make the story stronger.
EDIT: I’m in the middle of rewriting the scene, making it quite a bit better IMO, based on these and other comments.

EDIT: Okay, I changed it quite drastically. In my eyes, it now makes more sense, while being a bit less romantic (I love fusion engines… bye bye…).

Trust me, most of the stuff I’ve written in the past was just as romantic.
I also love classic space opera, like Doc Smith & even Burroughs, unless its passing itself off as realistic. I mean, Smith basically ignored the speed of light even in some series.

re: Tokamaks. They are the current favourite prospect for fusion, but there are other possibilities. They’re big and contankerous, prone to leakage (which is why fusion still is “10 years away”) and are unlikely to ever be anything else. A shuttle-sized fusion device will likely not be a tokamak. Something like a fusor (search for it) or some other even more exotic generator is a more likely.

re spike brakes: yes, the “pseudomorphic” ship elements were interestingly exotic! Implied a lot of potential uses. Far more than just good body armour hopefully. The problem I was trying to point out, was that without artificial gravity they couldn’t slow the 'planes that “fast” without smearing everyone. Yes, you could locate a RELATIVELY flat surface, but think about a plane that comes in with no landing gear. Then think of the shuttle deorbiting likel that. Would you risk a landing like that? Especially when you’ve got portable fusion power, advanced ships, and they can jump you more fuel ias needed in an instant? This is the odd mix of advanced and “current day” technologies I was getting at.

QM jump: I know :slight_smile: just wanted to make sure you knew what rules you were breaking - and especially where the internal logic didn’t make sense.

Just keep in mind how much strain you’re making on the believability. Good hard SF breaks as little known science as possible. There’s even a growing number of non-FTL drive stories (really, the whole point of FTL is so that the characters can get from A to B without boring the reader to death)
Niven & Brenda Cooper’s Building Harlequin’s Moon is an example. The biggest stretch (well, other than good fusion and sentient A.I.s) is virtually perfect suspended animation via nano-tech. A main character creates a terraformed world by going “cold” and being reanimated by the nano-tech every few centuries or so as required. No laws of physics being broken though. QM teleportation of macro objects is not even theoretically possible though.
One note about the name - remember its the Centari system in orbit around Alpha, not the AC system.

That aside, the pacing and the rest of the writing wasn’t too bad, etc.
I assume the edited story is at the forum. I’ll have to cut & paste it into a document so I can read it :slight_smile:

LOL!! I didn’t know someone has already started a possible story for the next
Blender movie project.:smiley: Way to go Bakerman. Bravo!!:D:D