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This book is a take off on 'captains courageous' set in space. It is intended for upper children to adults.
I was tired of this trip already! You wouldn’t have thought it possible… Well unless you knew me. Spoiled rich kid, that was me to a T. Father was a bank president and in big with the governor. Mother was a wealthy socialite, into all sorts of causes; environmentalism, living wage, sexual freedom… She was in to it all. They only had one child, me… And I suspected that I was an accident.
I’d been to a series of private schools; my parents had been violently against the de-governmentalization of schooling (not that they would have sent me to a public school!) and considered anyone who home schooled their children radically antisocial (although they kept a rather quiet on that point as there were some important people in their circles who home school). So I went to private schools.
Not religious schools, mind you. They went to the big Presbyterian church in town, but that was purely a social thing. The pomp and circumstance were OK, but as for any of the faith stuff, the God stuff…
So, anyway, I’d kept getting sent to a series of exclusive and expensive private schools. My folks were too busy to deal with me, and I don’t think they would’ve known what to do with me if they had had the time. But I would get bored and then get in trouble and then get sent elsewhere. The current trip was after one of these blowups, kind of a desperation attempt to get some kind of connection going, before trying me add yet another school
And the trip did look OK on paper. TR Galaxy trips had bought into the latest technology and bought the starship capable of going ‘where no man had gone before’. Not actually, of course, since everyone knew the Gypsies traveled all around the galaxy in their ships. But their ships use the old Grav space drive and they took months just to leave the solar system, hardly a good tourist attraction.
Whereas with the new neutron space drive we had gone out five light years and had left home only two days ago. And of course each time they took the ship out they went further as a great advertisement; ‘Go faster, go further’.
So here I was, almost five light years out, and bored. I had to eat at a table with my parents, an excruciating prospect. The only thing worse than being ignored by my parents was having them spend ‘quality time’ with me. Our conversational interests utterly diverged.
And the ship was so small you could either be in your cabin or in the dining/observation/recreation room. And it wasn’t set up for anything decent in the way of video board games.
And girls! With my pocket money and being who I was I’d never found it difficult to find a girl to fool around with at school or on trips or vacations. But there was no one on this trip! Most of the passengers were older and ugly and I couldn’t seem to get anyone on the crew interested. I supposed they were afraid of losing their silly jobs.
So here I was sitting strapped into a seat in the observation lounge, up against the back wall, waiting for the ship to break out into normal space. So what! All we would see were some stars. And the captain would tell us that one of them was the sun.
My parents were sitting up in the front of the room, no doubt having hoped I would’ve sat with them. So I sat back here. How boring. Everyone else was in front, almost everyone else. Next to me sat an infant on his or her mother’s lap. On the other side of me an older couple talked quietly to each other. A porter stood a few feet in front of me and off to the side.
As the countdown time got smaller and smaller, talking and movement gradually ceased. Everyone, even me, stared at the gray screen in front of the room. Gray, because there was nothing to see a neutron space.
10… Nine… Eight… We all sat up in our chairs… Seven… Six… Five… OK, it was a boring trip, but still five light years sounded impressive… Four… Three… Two… One… Entering…
My world suddenly exploded. There was a blinding light, and then darkness. The entire front of my body felt like it was on fire. As my hands went up to my face I heard first a blinding crash and then a sharp hiss. I smelled the sharp smell, tasted a bitter taste…
Each area of the ship had its own computer dedicated purely to life support and disaster recovery. The computer had access to its own sensors, and had a short reflex loop and several automatic responses.
The first trigger for these reflexes was when several sensors reported a sharp temperature increase, accompanied by damaging levels of radiation. Simple triangulation showed multiple locations for the heat source, but clearly outside of his section. So the computer began the snap closure of the intersection barrier and began the process of delivering a cooling spray.
Immediately afterwards, two contradictory sensations were received. Firstly, the heat source seemed to have been removed. This would have led to a cancellation of the door closing except for the second sensation: a sudden drop in air pressure. So the doors continued to close
The computer noted with disapproval that a human was going to be injured by the closing of the door. There was no way to prevent it, certainly it couldn’t prevent the doors from shutting; the pressure drop was continuing.
However this upcoming injury, added to the other factors, caused the computers next decision. There were five passengers and one incapacitated crewmen, all injured to various degrees, about to be trapped in a single sections air.
It changed from the simple cooling spray it had initiated, and added sleepy gas in its liquid, rapidly vaporizing form. This gas would cause an almost instantaneous coma-like condition in everyone that inhaled it, reducing dramatically their need for oxygen, nutrients and liquid; and slowing any physical damage.
All this happened before the computer had processed the visual input from its various automatic cameras. When he did process them, the results confirm the decisions it had taken. There had been an initial blinding flash (currently unexplained) but when the sensors recovered from that they brought in pictures that showed…
The observation lounge had been an area about 20 feet by 30 feet clamshell shaped. It had consisted of three segments, two in the larger semicircular and, and the remaining one covering the smaller end. About 5 feet past the edge of the section was a jagged wrip all the way across the chamber. Immediately new reports came in from other areas of the ship… The parts that were left…
There had not been much choice in the matter of reentry. The ship was missing over a third of its hull, and the resulting surface was extremely rough, not exactly the ideal surface for an atmospheric flight. And the damage included the loss of sensors and altitude jets.
Luckily the designers of the ship had not built it on the cheap. With their rich clientele in mind they had built in numerous safety factors into the ship. As a result while many sections of the ship were open to the atmosphere and the main computer had been left wherever the rest of the ship ago; all of the few passengers left were strapped in and treated medically, and the remaining nodes were capable of running the ship.
So reentry was possible, and would be attempted, but would not be easy. To protect the open side of the ship the descent, the reentry, would have to occur backwards.
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