Daily Prompt: Resist

Nu Book 1 – The Esss Advance

Artistic representation showing the Trojan asteroid Hektor and its tiny moon. Credit: H. Marchis & F. Marchis

Note: AMC stands for Asteroid Mining Company and AMC Scorpion is the first of a new class of mining assay ship with added defensive capabilities.

From Chapter 33 – Scorpion Encounter

As the crew was winding up the analysis of the three drilling sites and preparing to depart for their last target, Julie picked up the signature of an inbound ship drifting toward them from the direction of their last claim.

“We have visitors approaching stealthily from the sunward direction,” she announced to everyone on the bridge.

“Well, that’s never a good sign,” Sted replied. “That usually indicates foul intentions. Bundy, I want you prepared for immediate missile defense. Bill, spin the laser capacitor back up. I want it at full charge in the next three minutes. Once that’s done, I need both of you to get into your vacuum suits while monitoring your consoles.”

With that, Sted switched to the all-ship channel. “All hands prepare for enemy engagement. This is not a drill.”

As soon as Sted donned his vacuum suit, he strapped himself into the command chair and turned to Julie. “Give me the latest on your contact.”

“Contact is at fifty kilometers and drifting toward us at one hundred kilometers per hour. I can’t get a good visual because of the sun, so I cannot identify the vessel’s class. They are, however, already in missile range for the type that destroyed the AMC Pride.

“Okay, Julie. Prepare to come about. I want the prow facing the visitors as I hail them.”

“Bill, I need the main laser trained on their ship and dialed up to its highest setting. Be prepared to fire on my order.”

With that, Sted switched to the universal hailing frequency. As soon as Julie had the Scorpion facing their enemy, he activated the microphone in his helmet. “This is AMC Scorpion. Please identify yourself immediately.”

Five seconds after the transmission, Bundy Meacham looked up. “We have two inbound missiles. I am engaging laser defenses.” He paused for a moment. “We have two direct hits on the missiles and both have been destroyed.”

“Fire the main laser,” Sted to Bill Overton. “I want multiple holes in that ship immediately!”

With that, Bill sent three fifteen-second pulses through the drilling laser with only two seconds between each pulse. He began analysis of the laser hits immediately, but the sun made any confirmation difficult. “I can’t get a reading on the result of the drilling bursts,” Bill said. “I know we hit them hard, but the sun is masking any readings.”

“Julie, spin up the engines to half power and move us away from the asteroid to get a better angle for Bill’s analysis. Bill, prepare for another three pulses if necessary.”

Once again, Sted hailed the enemy ship. “This is the AMC Scorpion. This is your last chance to identify yourself. Please advise if you have casualties or need assistance.”

AMC Scorpion, this is Powell Madigan aboard the Falcon. We have sustained significant damage and multiple casualties. We surrender and request immediate assistance. I repeat. We surrender and request immediate assistance.”

“Standby, Falcon.” Sted turned to Bill. “Can you get any better readings?”

“We definitely breached the hull, sir,” Bill replied. “I detect a significant plume of atmosphere streaming out of the ship.”

Falcon, this is AMC Scorpion. We will be coming around and approaching from the stern of your ship. Any sign of resistance, and we will put more holes in your hull than you can count. Please let me know the number of personnel aboard and the number of casualties. We are only a mining assay ship and do not have the facilities to afford any relief. We can, however, contact our closest mining platform for assistance. They will contact the Space Navy to schedule a rescue mission. That assistance will be at least a week getting here. Monitor the emergency channel for updates on the rescue party.”

AMC Scorpion, this is the Falcon. We have a crew of fifteen. We have seven dead from decompression when you ripped open our crew quarters. The remaining eight crew members should be able to survive at least three weeks on our remaining air, water, and food supplies.”

Falcon, this is AMC Scorpion. We are now one kilometer to your stern. We have recorded all of your transmissions and will send these along with our request for assistance. We will advise the rescue party of your current state. Scorpion out.”

Sted turned to Julie. “Please contact the mining platform. Send along the contact recordings along with the coordinates of this asteroid and the condition of the Falcon. We also want to register our claim immediately. That asteroid is our biggest find to date. The platform may want to follow the Navy back here to begin their mining operations.”

Chapter 96 – Boarding the Shuttle Back to the Moon

Nu Book 1 – The Esss Advance

AMC stands for Asteroid Mining Company and Cam is Cam Dunston, the CEO of AMC.


Jessica turned back to Sted with such a mischievous grin on her face that Sted could not help but smile. They had just gotten off the transport cab at the shuttle docking facility with their transport bags for the trip back to Luna. Jessica had been gloating for the past two days since the orders had been received for the two of them to board the shuttle for this return trip. Apparently, her suggestion to Cam that Sted was anxious to get back to AMC to work on the new Epsilon fighters had struck a chord with not only Cam but also with the Admiralty.

“Will you stop gloating?” Sted asked, smiling. “Yes, it was probably your suggestion to Cam that got the Admiralty to lift the lockdown of the shuttle. I’m sure they were considering it anyway though, because there are several dozen people here that are needed urgently on Luna and Earth. The shuttle will also be able to bring back some additional specialists for altering the Voyager III design to turn it into a fighter-carrying ship instead of a peaceful interstellar explorer.”

Jessica grinned. “You look so good eating crow! I promise to stop serving it to you now that we’re boarding the shuttle. I think I’ll let the cooks on board prepare our meals for the long trip back, and I’m sure they don’t have any crow in the larder!”

“That’s it! You’re definitely going to have to be punished once we get onboard.”

“Well, you get almost three months to figure out the best way to administer your punishment,” she said. “If you need some suggestions, I’m sure I can think of a few!”

They moved across the large shuttle receiving area and took the lift down into the shuttle. With the shuttle docking facility on the opposite arm from the interstellar development platform, and with both rotating around the central core, the shuttle had been designed with its main entrance on the top of the craft, where it locked onto the docking facility.

With so few returning on the shuttle, and with Lockheed still trying to lure Sted into their service, they had been assigned a luxury suite for the trip back. The suite was almost as big as Sted’s apartment back at the shipyard. The only difference was the presence of a real office facility right in the suite and the lack of a kitchen/dining space. All dining on the shuttle took place in the main dining room, similar to a cruise ship on Earth’s ocean liners.

As Jessica unpacked their few belongings, Sted palmed the desktop communication screen to find out the details of his orders. He knew the Navy would not let him be idle during the long trip, so he was not surprised with the number of emails with attachments waiting for him. Only one of the emails was highlighted in red, so he touched the screen to open it. A video recording from Cam popped up on the desktop.

“Hello, Sted,” said Cam’s recorded voice. “There is a locked drawer in the desk that will only open to your right thumbprint. Inside is a chip containing the latest design specs for the Epsilon class fighters we are starting to put together here on Luna. As soon as you get settled, I want you to review the designs and draft any suggestions you might have beyond what you’ve already communicated to us through Rear Admiral Cunningham and directly to me when you disagreed with her assessments.

“By the way, your suggestion for interchangeable skins for the Epsilons created quite a stir among the engineers here. We have already redesigned the mounting of the outer shell layer, and one of our youngest and brightest engineers has come up with a way to change the surface of a single outer layer to switch to matte black from mirrored by running a current through the transparent surface layer. When current is applied, the layer changes from transparent to a dusty charcoal black. When the current is turned off, the layer switches back to being completely transparent, and underneath is the mirrored surface. We just got the frequencies of the alien laser used to destroy a camera-carrying missile out in Jupiter orbit, so we will be adapting the mirrored surface for those specific frequencies.

“What we are looking for from you is a set of fighting tactics to be used by the Epsilons against one of those smaller craft that came to visit us so recently. Based on those tactics, we need to know what changes need to be made to the fighters.

“We have arranged for your communications to have top priority from the shuttle, so if you have specific questions or need additional information to continue your research, just store your requests on this console in the High Priority Request folder, and they will be routed to us automatically on the next transmission. Likewise, we will have our responses and any requests that we might have in the High Priority Response folder on your desktop. When any response is posted in this folder, you will get both a visual and auditory signal from the desktop. Also, if you are not in your quarters at the time, your personal communicator will be notified.

“I look forward to hearing from you in the very near future. By the way, Vice Admiral Bunting sends his personal regards to both you and Jessica. Her suggestion to bring you back to Luna came at just the right time based upon the intelligence the Navy has been gathering about the aliens. We can’t get you here any faster than the shuttle can fly undetected back from the shipyard, but at least we can take advantage of your expertise while you’re in transit.”

As the message went dark, Jessica tapped Sted on the shoulder and then put her arms around him from behind. She knew how valuable Sted was to the Navy right now, but did they know just how valuable he was to her? She sincerely doubted that.

“Well, honey,” she said. “I know they’re going to keep you busy most of the way back. Just remember, you promised some punishment for me on this trip, and I expect you to deliver.”

With that she kissed him on the top of his head, swiveled his chair around, and then sat in his lap for a hug of reassurance that she needed desperately.

Devastation – A Taste of Nu Book 2

Chapter 15 – The Newsies

Two months of smoldering panic had gripped the human population of the world. The special edition of the New York Rag had sold out three successive printings over a two-day period. The television news media in the North American Union had no choice but to break with their government handlers and release pictures of the devastation caused by the alien retaliatory strikes in the Peoples Republic of China. Once the cat was out of the bag, what was the point of the government trying to control the news?

Just one week after the strike on China, Richard Collins, with the help of ‘The Insider’, had once more scooped the competition by breaking the story of the replacement of the Babuyan Islands pyramid. Along with this story, the blogger also provided naval intelligence estimates of the impact of the six active pyramids on the world’s oceans. The outlook was grim. The fouling slick was killing plankton, fish, and bird life in an ever-spreading path of destruction.

So, what was humanity doing to fight these alien oppressors? That was the big question being asked by all the political pundits on the 24-hour news channels. So far, it was a question without answers, and the heat was being turned up by governments all around the world on the Council of Eight to provide guidance or hope or both.

Today’s headline read ‘Japanese Food Panic’. The fishing industry in Japan was pulling in less than sixty percent of their normal supply of seafood. That seafood made up a considerable part of the diet of the Japanese population, and this kind of reduction in the supply had many people going hungry. This was the first step in the breakdown of civilized society, because hungry people became angry and lawless people. Those with food stockpiled were being raided by mobs of hungry adults trying to find food for their children, and who could blame them?  The natural law of survival of the fittest was rearing its ugly head and people around the world were scared.

 

Infinitesimal – Chapter 23 – Cam’s Office

As Sted took a seat in front of Cam’s desk, he couldn’t help but be awestruck by the lunar landscape spread out before him. Cam’s office took up a full third of the top floor of the circular tower, and the entire outside wall was made of some kind of transparent material.

“What a view!” Sted exclaimed.

“I thought you might be impressed,” Cam said as he entered. “The two-inch thick transparent sapphire windows cost a small fortune, but I think the result is worth the price. My only reservation was the exposure to meteorite impact, and I’m sure you can understand why.”

“Well, you can’t live your life in fear,” Sted replied. “I’m not completely over the trauma from the meteorite that killed my friends and took my legs, but to go back into space as the captain of my own ship again far outweighs any of my fears. I would bet that the chance of being killed by a high speed impact in the belt is more than a thousand times greater than here on the moon.”

“Statistically, you’re being a little conservative. My insurance carrier tells me they didn’t even consider the risk of impact from a meteorite, because the chances of it happening were so infinitesimal. Just look at the rim of this crater, which has been here for over two billion years, and you can actually count the number of small impacts per square kilometer. It averages out to less than one impact per square kilometer every three thousand years.”

Sted nodded. “That desk top looks almost identical to the windows. Is that transparent sapphire as well?”

Cam thumped it with his knuckles. “Exactly. We ordered four extra glass panels in case of breakage during installation, and we got lucky. The construction crew only damaged one. The crane operator misjudged the momentum of the window panel as he was moving it into place, and it banged against the side of the tower. One corner of one panel was slightly damaged, so I decided to use it for my desktop. We just had the crew cut off thirty centimeters from the damaged end and then build a pedestal of nickel from the deposits left by the asteroid that formed this crater. Then our chief engineer designed my workstation to fit into the panel as seamlessly as possible.

“Speaking of our chief engineer,” Cam continued, “I would like to introduce him to you as soon as possible. His name is Aidan McBride, and he is currently on the factory floor working on the Delta class prototype. I can’t think of a better way to get you up to speed on the project than to get your two heads together. I just need you to palm these two employment forms on my workstation, and then we can head down to the factory floor. Later this evening, the three of us can get together in my apartment for some dinner and talk some shop about where we want to go with this project. Do you have any questions or objections?”

Sted shook his head. “I’m ready when you are.”

He stood up and took one last look at the spectacular lunar landscape before palming the forms.

Chapter 20 – Remembering Northern Song

Here is chapter 20 from Nu Book 1 – The Esss Advance. UAMC stands for United Asteroid Mining Company and USpN stands for United Space Navy. C8 stands for the Council of Eight, the defacto government of all things above the Earth’s surface.

This is one of the longer chapters in my book, but it contains a complete background story.


As Sted headed over to the Lockheed Lunar compound, his mind went back to the incident with the pirates hired by the Chinese to steal UAMC’s ore barges. Based upon the trajectory of the barges when they were discovered, Captain Landsted surmised that their destination was the L4 Lagrange point in Earth’s solar orbit. Since the Chinese had established a major colony at L4 to bleed off population pressure on Earth, it was a good bet that the mined ore was headed directly into Chinese hands.

Because the ore being hijacked was from the platinum group, it was obvious to everyone aboard the USpN Charger that the Chinese were back up to their old tricks of flaunting the C8 and building warships at a shipyard hidden amongst the many peaceful population platforms at L4. There was probably no better place to hide a shipyard and all the personnel required to operate it than right within a high-density space colony.

When Captain Landsted submitted his preliminary report to Space Navy headquarters on the C8 platform orbiting Earth, he was directed to continue the investigation at the L4 source. The Admiralty promised a backup force would be dispatched directly in support of this mission in case trouble arose with the Chinese colony. Meanwhile, naval intelligence was tasked with uncovering anomalies in the delivery of all materiel to the colony over the past twenty-four months. What they found was eye-opening. Their intelligence report back to the USpN Charger set the stage for the upcoming encounter.

Sted remembered the day of inspection like it was yesterday.

Northern Song, this is USpN Charger inbound for an unscheduled inspection of your facilities. Please acknowledge and prepare for a shuttle inspection party to dock at cargo bay three in fifteen minutes,” Captain Mark Landsted said. “Lieutenant Adams, open a line to Shuttle I.

USpN Charger, this is Northern Song acknowledging receipt of your request for docking in cargo bay three. Please note that cargo bay three is not available. The bay doors are currently inoperable and under reconstruction after failing maintenance check. Please have your shuttle routed to passenger bay seven, where we will have a team waiting to assist you in your inspection.”

“Commander Richardson, that intelligence report was very specific that the last shipment of control components arrived at cargo bay three. How would you suggest we gain access to that area?” Landsted asked.

“Sir, we should send the shuttle to passenger bay seven but drop a squad of marines over cargo bay three as we transit the colony,” Sted replied. “Their full battle gear won’t show up on the Chinese radar, so the first indication we have arrived will be when we knock ever so gently on their door with a thermite breaching ring. We can have the squad into the bay and contain the breach in less than three minutes, according to Lieutenant Gomez.”

“Very good, Commander. Shuttle I, you are cleared for docking at passenger bay seven. Keep your squad of marines on board until the general alarm sounds aboard the colony. That will mean we have breached the cargo bay. At that point, deploy the marines to protect the inspection party and to keep the passenger bay clear for your departure.”

He pressed another button on his console. “Northern Song, this is Captain Mark Landsted. We acknowledge cargo bay three is unavailable. Our shuttle will be directed to passenger bay seven. Commander Kim Cho will be leading the six-man inspection team.”

He turned to Sted and motioned him over for a private conference. Sted pushed off from his station and caught hold of the back of the captain’s chair with practiced precision. He hooked his belt tie-down to the tie-down ring on the chair and looked at Captain Landsted in anticipation of further orders.

“Sted, I want you to suit up and follow Gomez’s squad down to the cargo bay. Coordinate with Gomez so you arrive just after the breach. I want you wearing a full recording package. I’m sure our surprise will catch them moving that equipment out of the cargo bay prior to our inspection, so everything will more than likely be out in the open. Once you record what they have on board, order Gomez to destroy every piece of equipment in the bay. Then open every storage room in the bay and drop a thermal charge in each. The lesson has to be very painful to the Chinese, and I don’t care if we destroy a few storage rooms of non-essential equipment or supplies. I only want you and that squad in the cargo bay for twenty minutes. After that, get out and back to the ship. I don’t want a firefight with the Chinese while you’re on board if at all possible. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir,” Sted replied. “No firefight while on board if it can be avoided.”

“Good. Keep open command channel two during the entire operation,” Captain Landsted continued. “I will have your video feeds live on my console as well. As you are entering the breach, remember to plant the laser relay beacon on the hull of the colony so we don’t lose communication.”

“Permission to speak, sir?”

“Of course, Commander. What’s on your mind?”

“Sir, as you know, everything usually goes south in the middle of any combat operation. What are my rules of engagement? Is it more important to take out every piece of equipment in the bay or to protect the squad should the Chinese prove more recalcitrant than we are anticipating?”

“We must send a clear message to the Chinese,” Landsted replied. “You can destroy everything in sight if that’s what it takes. The team is important, but the intelligence you gather is primary. My feeling is that this colony is only a shell surrounding a shipyard in the making. Why else would they have so many passenger bays except to ferry workers from the other colonies here on a regular basis? Your live feeds are the critical part of this operation. It will give us the evidence we need to launch a full-scale attack on this colony to destroy that shipyard.”

“Thank you, sir,” Sted replied. “That clarifies the mission objective. You will have your intelligence regardless of the cost.”

While suiting up to join the assault team, Sted went over his objectives with Lieutenant Gomez so that there would be no confusion once the action started. Sted had specific instructions from the captain, and Gomez needed a full briefing in case something happened to Sted during the operation.

Gomez and his team deployed first, with Sted deploying just three minutes later. Sted had a bird’s eye view of the action as the team landed outside of the cargo bay, set up a defensive perimeter, and attached the breaching charges.

“Lieutenant, you are cleared to breach the hull,” Sted ordered from 1,000 meters out. “I will be at the breach in two minutes. Once you’re inside and have cleared any threats, let me know.”

“Yes sir,” Gomez relied as he activated the thermite switch.

Sted’s face shield went dark as the light from the thermite ring flared brighter than the sun for almost ten seconds. When his face shield cleared again, Sted saw the last of the marines entering the breach. That meant that the cargo bay was already in vacuum and not under pressure. Otherwise, they would have been waiting for the outward flow of air to subside before trying to enter.

As Sted’s battle gear absorbed the impact of landing next to the breach, he jammed the base of the laser relay beacon against the hull, releasing the Insta-weld arcing charge and bringing the relay online.

Charger, this is Commander Richardson confirming beacon plant. Please confirm receipt of the beacon feed.”

“Confirmed,” came the immediate reply.

“I’m waiting for Lieutenant Gomez with the ‘all clear’ before entering the breach.”

Sted lowered his camera into the breach to get a sit-rep without exposing himself to enemy fire. As he looked at the camera display on his helmet video feed, he saw the occasional burst of laser fire from the far interior. In the vacuum of space, no sound accompanied the light, but every few seconds, Sted felt shudders through his magnetic boots.

Charger, Gomez is running into more resistance than anticipated,” Sted reported. “The immediate area of breach appears to be clear. I’m going in without confirmation from Gomez. I’m leaving camera one at the breach to continue recording. I’m designating my shoulder camera as camera two. Once I’m secure inside the hull, I’ll activate my high-definition hand camera on feed number three.”

With that, Sted released his boots and activated his back and side thrusters. From three meters above the breach, he oriented himself for a headfirst dive and then squeezed the thruster in his left hand just enough to get his whole body through the breach with minimal exposure.

“Gomez report!” Sted ordered as soon as he was clear of the breach and had a good view of the entire cargo bay.

“This is Gomez. We have an internal security force pinned down behind the cargo shuttle in the bay, sir. Chandler and Singleton are not responding and assumed down. The remainder of the cargo bay has been cleared.”

“Keep their heads down, Gomez, while I start recording the cargo. If they get out of hand, blow up the damned shuttle as long as you give me a few seconds of warning to take cover.”

“Yes, sir. I’m sending Corporal Allen to assist you with opening those crates tied down to the interior bulkhead. I have two corpsmen sealing the hatches from the ship’s interior. We don’t want to be surprised by unexpected company.”

Sted accelerated over to the crates Gomez mentioned and considered which to open first. Their time would be limited, so his selection was critical. What he was looking for were control console-sized crates or anything that might hold military grade laser components. As he was considering his selection, Corporal Allen arrived. Sted directed him to open one of fourteen identical crates located halfway between the two hatches, which were now sealed.

The Corpsman dialed down his hand laser and directed it at the closest crates, peeling back the outer packing material. Then he reached in and pulled out exactly what their intelligence report had specified. The writing on the console was in Chinese, but the function was obvious. The battle screens surrounded by missile and laser deployment controls had a universal look. There was no mistaking what this was.

“Corporal Allen, set a charge in the center of these crates while I record as much detail as I can about the one you opened. Then we should move to the next set of crates. We only have five minutes left in our twenty-minute window, so be quick about it.

“Gomez, get ready to blow the shuttle as we withdraw. We don’t need any live fire at our backs. Have the remainder of your squad prepare charges to take out whatever remains in the cargo bay as we head back to the breach. Every charge should be set on a ten-minute timer and then launched as we exit. I want the squad well clear of the colony when they blow.”

With his orders clearly spelled out, Sted headed over to Allen, who was dismantling another crate. This time what he pulled out was completely foreign to Sted. All he could do was record everything and hope the intelligence team could identify its purpose.

“Take cover. We’re blowing the shuttle in five, four, three, two, one, Now!”

Three bright flashes bathed the cargo bay interior, and then pieces of the shuttle began flying everywhere. Sted and Allen just had time to hunker down behind the crate they were inspecting. That’s when the shuttle’s fuel tanks blew in a huge secondary explosion.

As the lights died down, Sted gave the withdrawal orders, and everyone jetted for the breech, raining down explosive charges to every corner of the bay as they retreated.

Gomez had one of the downed marines over his shoulder, and his sergeant had the other. They were the first out of the breach, with the remainder of the squad spraying cover fire around the bay just in case someone popped their head up to fire at the retreating marines. Sted was second to last out, followed by Allen, who was covering his back.

“Commander Richardson, we have Shuttle II inbound to your location. ETA forty seconds,” Captain Landsted said over the command circuit. “We got every second of your recordings through the relay. Based on your ten-minute timer orders, you have four minutes to get the squad into the shuttle and away from the cargo bay before it blows.”

“Gomez,” Sted called, “Shuttle II is at your nine o’clock approaching with the shuttle bay doors open. Get everyone aboard ASAP. We have less than four minutes until those charges blow.”

Sted moved alongside of Gomez to add his suit’s thrust to that of Gomez to make up for the extra mass of Chandler’s body and armor. Even with the extra push, they were the last to make it into the shuttle bay. As the shuttle doors closed, the outer hull of the colony erupted with a series of explosions. When Sted moved to the cockpit to get a better view of the damage, he saw that the interior of cargo bay three must have given way. Atmosphere was pouring out of the breach, along with melted and twisted pieces of cargo. He also saw suited and unsuited bodies floating listlessly among the detritus of what looked like a pitched battle.

Charger, this is Commander Richardson. The squad is back aboard the shuttle. We have two casualties. The entire area around cargo bay three on the colony has been destroyed with multiple casualties. I recommend you coordinate a rescue mission with the colony. There may be a few suited survivors outside of the cargo bay.”

Charger copies,” Captain Landsted replied. “Make your best time back. I don’t want you exposed to any retaliatory strikes. We have five destroyers inbound to either finish off this hidden shipyard or board and secure the facility if they surrender. We won’t be dealing with survivors from those explosions until the action is over.”

Commander Kim Cho’s voice sounded over Shuttle II’s speakers, “Shuttle I is clear of passenger bay seven.” Sted and the shuttle pilot could see the other shuttle pulling away from the Northern Song colony as it accelerated in a wide arc back toward the USpN Charger.

Northern Song, this is Captain Landsted aboard USpN Charger. You are ordered to stand down all forces aboard. We will give you one hour to accept full surrender of your facility to the United Space Navy. If you do not acknowledge surrender, your facility will be destroyed. No ships will be allowed to depart from your colony. Please observe the five additional destroyers inbound from Earth. Their ETA coincides with your one-hour window. Acknowledge receipt of these orders.”

Charger, this is Northern Song acknowledging receipt of your orders.”

With that settled for the moment, Sted returned to the shuttle bay from the cockpit to check on the status of Chandler and Singleton. When he got there, both had been stripped of their battle armor and were strapped to medical gurneys with IVs running into their arms. That meant both men were still alive.

Sted turned to Gomez. “What’s their status?”

“Singleton took a hit to the back of his helmet that knocked him unconscious. We’ve stabilized him for now, but the docs onboard will have to check him out, because he hasn’t regained consciousness. Chandler lost his left arm below the elbow. The suit saved his life, but he’s still in shock. We’re keeping him warm and hydrated for now. There’s nothing else we can do until we get him back to the Charger.”

“Thanks, Lieutenant,” Sted replied. “We should be back aboard in the next ten minutes. I’ll go forward again and report their condition to the doc so he can be ready in the shuttle bay.”

With that, Sted turned back to the cockpit to make his report, hoping the doctor would be able to patch up the two marines. He didn’t want to lose anyone under his command. He thought of little David Barns being carried away in the ambulance, never to be seen again.

Chapter 48 –Sted’s New Billet

Sted had moved his few belongings into a small apartment in the personnel housing ring. After reporting to the Space Navy’s  Research and Development section, Sted had been assigned housing space and an office. The Navy had even pulled up his records and prepared a complete set of both regular and formal naval dress uniforms and had them delivered to his apartment. The first time he walked into the unit with Jessica and his travel bag in tow, he was more than a little surprised to find the place completely laid out. The furniture was all in place, the pantry was stocked, and the refrigerator and freezer were filled with several weeks’ worth of supplies. He even had a small office with current naval issue communication equipment.

As a ship’s captain, Sted was not used to having so much space. On a destroyer class ship, the captain’s quarters were about a quarter the size of this apartment.

“What do you want to do first?” Jessica asked. Both of them had worked the “day” shift (a holdover from planet-bound way of thinking), so they were free for the next sixteen hours. The twenty-four hour/three-shift mode of operating was still standard, even though they were far out from Earth and its twenty-four hour rotational cycle. Some human habits just seemed to have a life of their own.

“I had planned on spending time setting up the apartment, going to the commissary to stock up on supplies, and then getting some shuteye, hopefully with you by my side,” Sted replied. “Now it appears we have a little more free time. How about I put together a quick dinner for the two of us while you go out to the commissary and pick up some wine? After that, I want to spend some time with you. If it’s not too forward of me, I think we should discuss possibly moving in together.”

“Wow! You don’t mess around, Captain Richardson,” Jessica teased. “I’ll take a little extra time getting the wine while I think about your generous offer. Give me about thirty minutes. I’ll get a fresh set of clothes for tomorrow morning, too. I think we may be ‘discussing’ this offer for most of the night, and I want to appear at least somewhat fresh at the office in the morning.” She chuckled on her way out the door.

As Sted opened the pantry again to see what he might prepare on short notice, he could not keep the grin off of his face. Yes, this night had a lot of potential.

Review: Nu Book 1 – The Esss Advance by Charles E. Waugh

This is the first unbiased professional review of my science fiction novel and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Happymeerkatreviews

nu-1

I was kindly sent a free paperback copy of this book by the author Charles E. Waugh.  The Esss Advance is the first in the Nu Trilogy of books.  It’s a very interesting and promising science fiction novel, here is my review. 

Billions of years ago a conflict arose between two alien races. Now, with humanity having expanded its space travel, Earth and the Milky Way galaxy are about to become a new battleground.

‘The Esss Advance’ is the first in the ‘Nu Trilogy’ of books. It’s a science fiction novel set in our future, a future filled with advanced technology and space travel. The book starts with a prelude which is worth reading as it sets up the whole story of the conflict between two alien races long ago. After that the book focuses on one main character for a while, Sted Richardson.

The start of the book…

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Orbital Path

Chapter 5 – The Accident

The trip down to the Tranquility Base took just over two hours. During that time, Sted and Commander Olsen reviewed the list of everything that had to be accomplished aboard the Revere before they could deploy again.

Blyleven, on the other hand, sat quietly in her shuttle seat looking out the viewport and speculating on what the next two months would be like with them trying to meet clandestinely. They were going to continue the ruse that the two of them were at odds with each other, and the captain would call her into his office every so often to chastise her. That was easy for him but very difficult for her. She was the one who had to cause the disharmony on the bridge and bear the brunt of criticism from the rest of the crew. She was the one who had to act sullen and upset all the time while inside she was actually ecstatic to be in a relationship with her man. Every so often she would glance over at her two superior officers, and just seeing Sted caused her stomach to do flip-flops. She knew the next two months on the bridge of Revere would be torturous, and that made her angry.

 

The landing at Tranquility Field was uneventful. The three passengers donned their helmets and exited the shuttle about 300 meters from the airlock entrance to the base. On the short trek across the rough ceramacrete landing field, Olsen turned to Sted.

“That asteroid must be fairly close to the Earth/moon system already, so it also must be small enough to have gone undetected until very recently. I wonder how they intend us to alter its orbital path in such a short time span.”

Sted paused and opened the outer door to the airlock. “Do you speculate like this before all of my briefings?” He smiled. “Have just a little patience, Olsen. All will be revealed shortly.”

Sted entered first and punched in the base access code as Olsen and Blyleven entered behind him and secured the outer airlock door. They all heard the air rushing into the airlock, equalizing the pressure with the interior of the base. As they watched the gauge on the panel cycle upward, Olsen was about to ask another question when Sted gave him an annoyed look. Then all hell broke loose.

Sted saw a bright flash of light as he was thrown against the inner lock door with both Jeremy and Lorraine’s suited bodies crushing against him. The sound in the enclosed space was deafening, but it was nothing compared to the scream that Sted let out from the searing pain he felt in his lower legs and feet.

As he faded into unconsciousness, Sted caught a last image of bloodstained pieces of his two crewmates’ shattered helmets flying overhead.

Missing Legs

Today I want to share a chapter from my novel “Nu Book 1 – The Esss Advance”. You will see the reference to ‘missing’ in the first paragraph. I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 15 – New Legs

When the prosthetic legs arrived, Emily scheduled Sted for surgery. The latest prosthetic devices were attached surgically. Gone were the days of the simple mechanical devices that simulated the missing limb.

Above the biomechanical knee joint was the latest in medical technology. A 3D-printed carbon matrix hollow shaft was designed to slip over the severed femur bone. Then a calcium-based paste containing osteoblast cells from Sted’s original surgery was layered over the matrix to stimulate bone growth. The body, in effect, created its own glue by building bone tissue around the carbon matrix shaft. Once the prosthetic was joined to the bone, it sealed itself in a bond as strong as the original bone.

That was only the first step in the procedure. Next, the severed muscle and nerve tissue in the preserved stump was married, via stem cells, with the specially prepared ligament and electronic fibers in the prosthetic. The electronic fibers were connected to the processor embedded in the lower portion of the prosthetic. This allowed the actions of the lower leg and foot to be programmed to react to the stimuli from the brain through the nerve/fiber interface.

Just two days after the surgery, Sted was working with his physical therapist, Alice Wheeler, in programming the new legs.

Alice could be very intimidating when she wanted. Her dark hair was pulled back into a bun to keep it out of the way of her work, and her eyes appeared to be almost too big for her face. This may have been due to the startling amount of mascara she wore and her long eyelashes. Regardless of the reason, Sted knew those eyes missed nothing. Now he knew what people meant when they said they felt like they were under a microscope.

They started with simple movements.

“Okay, Captain,” Alice said. “I need you to imagine each simple movement in your head, and then I need you to direct your body to execute that movement. Let’s start with the left foot. I want you to imagine you’re pointing the toe of your left foot toward me. I have initialized the processor in the left leg to read the electronic signal coming through the nerve/fiber interface in your thigh and to react by pointing the toe. Now, point your left toe at me.”

Sted obeyed just because he had nothing better to do with his life right now. He was sitting on a cushioned table in the PT suite dressed in a light blue form-fitting top and shorts. When he imagined pushing his toes forward and pulling his heel back, the muscles in the thigh reacted ever so slightly to accommodate that motion, and the nerve/fiber interface was stimulated by his brain. The fuzzy electronic signal the processor received was recorded and associated with pointing the toes.

“Works,” Sted reported laconically as his new foot pointed in a delayed reaction.

Alice nodded as she typed something on the keyboard that was connected to wires leading in to the heel of his left leg. “Now, imagine relaxing the foot. I have programed it to return to its normal position.”

Sted let off on the pushing motion in his mind, and his thigh muscles and nerves reacted again. The movement of the foot back to its normal position was delayed slightly once again as the processor made the association between the fuzzy electronic signal and the desired reaction.

“Okay,” Alice said, “this is a first level association between your body and the prosthetic. When you try to point that foot again and then relax, the reaction should be immediate. Why don’t you go through several repetitions and see if the reaction of the foot seems appropriate to you.”

Sted tried several times to cycle his foot from pointing and then back to relaxed mode. The foot responded immediately this time, though in a somewhat mechanical fashion. He was also surprised that he got feedback from his heel moving against the top of the cushioned table.

“What is that feeling I’m getting of the prosthetic heel moving against the top of this PT table?”

A big smile lit up Alice’s face. “We have built skin-like nerve sensors into the prosthetic that provide feedback to the processor, which slows down the signal enough for the nerve/fiber interface to pass the information back to the brain. It won’t take your brain long to map the returned stimuli to the feelings it got from your original nerve cells that relate to touch.”

“Does that mean I will eventually be able to feel everything my prosthetic legs and feet contact?”

“It is not an exact science at this point,” Alice replied. “The human brain is very adaptive and can usually fool itself into thinking that the returning nerve pulses come from what it thinks are your original legs. It takes time and practice, but we hope you will get the same results as some of our other patients, where the interface becomes almost transparent. We will just have to wait and see how your brain adapts.

“At this point, there is no nuance programmed in for doing this at different speeds, or doing it with or without moving the toes or any of a dozen other variations. We need to program in all of the gross motor movements first. We can program the fine motor movements once we have all of the larger movements settled.”

“Why do you have to connect wires to the processor in the leg?” Sted asked. “Wouldn’t it be easier to do that wirelessly?”

Alice nodded. “Certainly, but how would you like someone to be able to control your new legs against your will with a simple wireless connection? Those leg processors have to be completely isolated and only responsive to your nerve/fiber interface. Once we finish programming your new legs, you will take complete responsibility for your own security. You will password protect the hardwired interface so that even I won’t be able to change the programming against your will.”

“So, when can I start walking?” Sted asked with the first sign of hope in his voice.

“We can’t begin walking practice until we test out all of the gross motor skills from the knees down. It’s going to take at least two days of trial and error to get all of your gross motor movements programmed. In particular, when we work our way up to knee flexing, we have to be careful with the bonding between the prosthetic and the bones and musculature in the thighs. We don’t want it to tear because we’ve not programmed the reaction of the prosthetic properly. You’re going to have to show some patience.”

Sted sighed. “I’ll follow orders while you do the programming. I really need to feel whole again, and I’m not going to do anything to slow down this process. What’s next? More motions with the left foot, or do we program the toe pointing in the right foot?”

“I’m going to program one leg at a time so you don’t get any ideas of trying to go off walking before you’re ready. I know your type, Captain!” Alice smiled. “We’re going to program rotating the left foot clockwise and counter-clockwise next. Then we go to toe curling and then wiggling your big toe. So, let me enter clockwise rotation. Now, rotate your left foot clockwise without rotating your hip joint. We’re just working on foot movements at this point.”

The two of them worked the entire morning on Sted’s left ankle, foot, and toe movements. Then Emily came back to the lab and placed Sted on his gurney and wheeled him to his room for his lunch break.

Sted hardly noticed the food he was consuming. His emotional state was very fragile, and he felt like his life was at a tipping point. He had been depressed and despondent from the time he first woke up after the accident until he “felt” the heel of his prosthetic move against the top of the PT table. That odd sensation had sparked an insane hope that he could climb back out of the disaster his life had become.

His life goal had seemed completely beyond his reach until now. But if he could learn to walk with his new legs and even “feel” sensations passed back to his brain from the sensors on the surface of the prosthetic device, then there was no reason to think he could not command a space vessel once again.

But then doubt crept in, and he whipsawed himself back into despair, because he knew that naval regulations prohibited him from commanding a ship. The interstellar ship that was about to be constructed would be under the command of a United Space Navy captain, so how could he possibly gain that position?

By the end of the meal, Sted had reached a decision. He would do everything in his power to get back into a captain’s chair, in or out of the Navy. Once there, he would prove his worthiness despite his injuries. To hell with the regulations! They weren’t written in stone. They could be changed, and he would make every effort to do just that.



 

My latest Review:

on September 4, 2016

 Fast-paced military science fiction, I was very impressed that this is a first novel for Mr. Waugh. The author has really done his homework, as he has worked with many concepts of science, history, anthropology, space travel and military technology in this book. The story “reads” very well, editing is good, I only found 3 or 4 instances where the wrong word was used or misspelled. I really like the chapter structure and the 3 main story lines that are going on (two alien ones, and one human). I can’t wait to get the next installment of this story–hope it comes soon.
Nu Book 1 – The Esss Advance is available via this link on ==> Amazon.
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Interlude 1 – 4 Billion Years Ago

Today’s Daily Prompt is the word Millions.

Here is a short excerpt from my science fiction novel Nu Book 1 – The Esss Advance where I use the word millions in its truest sense.


 

Interlude 1 – 4 Billion Years Ago

As the Nu scout ship approached the twenty-seventh star in this promising stellar nursery, the crew’s anticipation was palpable. This star had the appropriate yellow light spectrum. The giant gas planets circling the star were at a distance that precluded liquid water. However, there were at least three planets between the gas giants and the star in the zone where water could exist in its liquid state. This could be the first star in the nursery where they could begin their work.

“Set our heading for the largest planet where we can refuel. From there, we will have an excellent view of those interior planets,” AlvaResh said. “Record as much as you can of our pass through the outer shell of debris around this new star. If we find what we hope, we will need to establish our initial base there. I want to know both the water and mineral content of each body we pass to select our first candidates to send to the planet with the greatest potential.”

AlvaResh was now a seasoned leader. The “Crossing” had tested the Nu to their very limits. The pod had had to share the tiny interior space of the Harbinger for millions of years on minimal rations. After all, the void between the galaxies was enormous indeed, with nothing to hold their interest but their slowly approaching galactic neighbor. Boredom was their biggest enemy. It was only through the force of the leader’s will that they were able to keep focused on survival and the rebuilding of the Nu race and a shorter-lived race of warriors to combat the Esss when they arrived.

Now, in this star system, their real work could begin in earnest.

 



 

on September 4, 2016

Fast-paced military science fiction, I was very impressed that this is a first novel for Mr. Waugh. The author has really done his homework, as he has worked with many concepts of science, history, anthropology, space travel and military technology in this book. The story “reads” very well, editing is good, I only found 3 or 4 instances where the wrong word was used or misspelled. I really like the chapter structure and the 3 main story lines that are going on (two alien ones, and one human). I can’t wait to get the next installment of this story–hope it comes soon.
Nu Book 1 – The Esss Advance is available via this link on ==> Amazon.
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You may also visit the website www.TheNuTrilogy.com for more details.