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Science Fiction Suspense Speculative


Mars-Moon Transit Corridor. 2291.


“Proximity Warning: object on impact trajectory.”

“Time?”

“Forty-seven minutes, six seconds.”

Seated, Carlie Barnes flipped a switch above her head. The flight deck window depolarized to reveal the black of space backdropped by motionless, distant stars. 

“I don’t see anything.” Charlie Broussard manipulated a three-dimensional model of local space on a flat screen. “Nothing’s in the queue; the schedule’s clear.”

“Shit.” Barnes withdrew a pair of glasses from a cargo pocket sewn into her flight suit. Resting them on the bridge of her nose, she leaned against her seatbelt to squint out the window. “Astrid, confirm: are we overlapping with another ship’s schedule?”

“Negative, Captain,” the computer responded.

“An unscheduled transit?” Broussard questioned sarcastically. “Never happens.”

Barnes’ eyes went from one edge of the window to another.

“Who flies without running lights? Okay. Anything on the radio? An escape pod?”

Broussard activated another interface on his console.

“Negative, Captain. No distress calls or beacon signatures; no advisories.”

Barnes - her arm slowed by zero-G - adjusted the position of her mic near her chin before activating her radio.

Beep.

“E.S.V. Sparrow on open comms hailing unidentified vessel at heading 250-Mark-100. Copy?”

Dead air.

Barnes changed the frequency settings to wideband.

Beep.

“Repeat. E.S.V. Sparrow hailing any nearby vessels in the M.M.T.C. Copy?”

Biting her lip, the captain waited for a response before trying again.

Thinking, she looked anxiously out the window.

“Hūjiào bùmíng chuánzhī, hángxiàng wèi 250-Mark-100. Fùzhì?”

“That’s handy,” Broussard admitted.

“Yeah? Thank my mother.”

She paused, waited.

White noise.

Barnes checked her controls - navigation, speed, friction coefficients, and reactor fuel gauges. “Transponders? Ident codes?”

“Nope,” Broussard confirmed, pushing aside one interface after another on his screen.

“Pirates? Scavengers?”

Broussard pondered, and after thorough consideration, he shook his head no. 

Exhaling, Captain Barnes removed her glasses.

“Astrid. Time?”

“Forty-three minutes, nineteen seconds.”

“Their comms might be down,” Broussard suggested.

“Like it,” Barnes nodded, gesturing to the controls above Broussard. “Flash our floods.”

Slowly raising his hand overhead, Broussard flipped a physical switch in a repetitive pattern for over three minutes.

In finding no response, Broussard stopped to allow his arm to drift downward to scratch the side of his hairline. He playfully cocked his eyebrow at the captain.

Barnes stared out the window as if trying to catch any sight of the vessel. “Astrid, any change to the object’s velocity or trajectory?”

“No.”

Barnes nodded at Astrid. “What’s its material composition?”

The computer paused. “Indeterminable.”

Broussard snorted. “You damn bucket of bolts, what do you mean, ‘indeterminable’? Explain.”

Astrid paused.

“The object’s material composition is unrecognized.”

Barnes slowly gripped her armrests. “Alright. Give me its mass.”

And again, the computer paused.

“Indeterminable.”

“You can’t compute its mass?” Broussard chuckled, glancing incredulously at Barnes. “It’s gotta be a glitch, boss - an error in the sensor array.”

“Negative, Lt. Commander,” Astrid responded flatly. “Sensors report concurrent successful contacts on multiple spectrums. Confidence at one hundred percent.”

“A debris field?” Broussard asked the computer.

“Negative. The object is solid.”

“Wait,” Barnes said, running her hand through her short black hair. “Solid? Okay, Astrid, if it’s solid, then what’s its mass?”

The computer paused. “Indeterminable.”

“Christ!” Broussard exclaimed.

Hesitating to consider her options, Barnes folded her arms. Her eyes went to her console. “Time?”

“Thirty-eight minutes, nine seconds.”

Barnes glanced wearily at Broussard.

He shrugged. “It’s got to be a malfunction.”

They both stared out the window.

Blackness.

Starlight.

Stillness.

Pressing her lips, Barnes nodded at Broussard.

Shaking his head at her, he insisted, “Don’t do it-”

Barnes unlatched her seatbelt, and her body lifted from her chair.

“Astrid, I’m declaring a Prox Alert.”

The cabin’s lights turned red. A claxon sounded, and Astrid responded, “Captain’s Proximity Alert recorded. Emergency Log Transmit in progress.”

Barnes switched her radio to the intercom and triggered a simulated bosun whistle.

Beep.

“All hands, all hands. Prox Alert, Prox Alert. Not a drill; repeat, this is not a drill.”

Floating above her chair, she scowled at Broussard.

“Gear up, Lieutenant Commander.”

“Admiral’s gonna kill you,” Broussard chuckled, unbuckling his belt. His body gently floated away from his seat and, together, he and Barnes drifted toward the pilot’s hab.

“Astrid,” Barnes commanded, gripping hand-over-hand down an aluminum truss.

The computer responded over the intercom. “Ready, Captain.”

“Plot an evasion burn. My priority is to maximize oxygen supply and minimize fuel consumption.”

“Copy,” Astrid responded.

“An asteroid. It must be an asteroid,” Broussard grumbled, “or an asteroid cloud.”

“A rock Astrid’s unaware of? I can’t even wrap my head around the improbability,” Barnes said, balancing herself through a hatch leading into the hab. “Regardless, a big rock or a cloud of rocks will tear through the hull, all the same. What’s our crew complement?”

A rotating section of the Sparrow, she reoriented her body ninety degrees to the gravity plane to land squarely on her feet. Broussard followed after.

“Seventeen.”

“Nobody green?”

Regaining her legs, Barnes punched in a code to open her locker.

“All regulars, Captain,” Broussard replied, opening his own locker.

Barnes dragged out her survival suit and helmet. “Small favors.”

It took them both three minutes to don their suits. Barnes pressed a button alongside her helmet to crown its visor and placed it over her head. Climbing a ladder, she exited the hab to drift and float up the truss. Broussard followed her shortly thereafter.

“Astrid,” Barnes commanded. “Kill the claxon.”

“Acknowledged,” the computer replied.

Then silence.

“Thank you, boss,” Broussard called from behind.

Reentering the flight deck, they assumed their stations and buckled themselves into their chairs. Broussard switched his display from model pathing to engine arrays. “All four reactors are primed, Captain.”

“Captain, I have a solution,” Astrid said, sending a new flight path to Barnes’ console. A graphical representation of the ship, its trajectory, fuel consumption, momentum, gravity, and oxygen levels were detailed along a purple line.

Barnes cringed. “We’re too heavy.”

Astrid summarized. “The best of nine-hundred and sixty-two possible outcomes, Captain: eleven percent fuel loss; an additional nine hours in transit; docking with 1.25 hours of oxygen supply remaining.”

“I always wonder what the nine-hundred and sixty-third option might be,” Broussard smiled.

Barnes examined the screen. “Nine hours and we’re docking with an hour’s worth of air. That’s close. Real close. Hope you don’t mind going hungry.”

Broussard patted his gut. “I could stand to miss a meal.”

“Tell our station supervisors to buckle up and stand by for maneuvers,” Barnes said, slightly adjusting the computer’s recommendation to take advantage of a gravity eddy; her modification shaved a few seconds off the burn.

“Copy,” Broussard replied, switching the intercom to his mic.

Beep.

“Jake? Hey. Secure for maneuvers. Yeah, no kidding. Secure your team for maneuvers-”

Scrutinizing Astrid’s flight plan, Barnes made another subtle change to reduce their absolute flight time by sixteen minutes.

“Astrid,” Barnes said.

Sweat began dripping inside her helmet. “Time?”

“Twenty-three minutes, thirty-seven seconds.”

“Load my course.”

The computer analyzed the captain’s computations.

“Course analyzed and approved. Lieutenant Commander Broussard: do you concur?”

Broussard laughed. “Hey, I go wherever Carlie wants to go, Astrid.”

Astrid paused. “Lieutenant Commander-”

“Yes, yes, Christ, you dumbass machine, I agree,” Broussard growled.

“Astrid, I want to know the moment, and, I mean immediately,” Barnes hissed, belting her legs to the chair restraints, “if the object’s course remains relative to ours after burn. Got it?”

“Yes, Captain,” Astrid confirmed.

Barnes flipped overrides from her console. “Preparing to execute a 38-degree bank, VTROL thruster burn and roll-”

“-38-degree bank, burn’n’roll-” Broussard repeated.

“New course plotted at 270-Mark-120, 24.7 thousand KPH.”

“Aye, Captain,” Broussard confirmed. “270-Mark-120.”

Broussard reloaded the transit model on his console. The ship’s new trajectory was remapped through three-dimensional space. “Confirmed.”

“Astrid,” Captain Barnes whispered, exhaling. “Give me a ten-second countdown and execute.”

“Ten,” Astrid repeated. “Nine.”

Beep.

Bosun whistle.

Captain Barnes barked, “All hands, all hands - brace-brace-brace!”

“Six, five, four,” Astrid continued.

Broussard gripped the handles near his armrests.

Barnes tightened her diaphragm, tensed, and held her breath.

“One,” Astrid continued.

“Zero-Zero-Zero.”

Multiple thrusters fired in unison along the side of the Sparrow, sending the craft into a controlled spin while its aft thrusters ignited into a full burn.

The gravity crushed Barnes and Broussard into their chairs while Astrid navigated the rotation.

On Broussard’s console, energy flows from the ship’s core nuclear reactors were redirected in succession to various starboard-side thrusters.

Despite a maddening cacophony of console warnings and alarms, the flight deck was briefly illuminated by the sun's brilliance as it raced across the unpolarized windows only to cast them back into darkness.

Their chests compressed. Immobilized, neither Broussard nor Barnes could speak.

Turning to expose its belly, the Sparrow lunged into a 38-degree angle and - once upside down relative to the approaching object - accelerated, punching forward.

“Roll complete,” Astrid confirmed.

The ship’s position along the flight path flashed on Barnes’ monitor.

“Adjusting trajectory to match new heading and speed.”

Its planetary escape engines roared, and the ship shook and vibrated, just as if it were leaving Mars atmo.

Broussard and Barnes sank into their seats.

“Burn concluding in five, four-”

Barnes gulped for air.

“-three, two-”

Broussard could feel his breakfast.

“-one,” Astrid said. “Thrusters stopped.”

The Sparrow raced through open space. Its engines dimmed.

Released from gravity’s hold, Barnes gasped, and Broussard ripped off his helmet to grab a barf bag from under his seat.

“Astrid?” Barnes whispered.

The interior cabin’s lighting returned to normal, shifting from red to a white-blue hue.

The computer paused.

“Heading 270-Mark-120. 24.68 thousand KPH.”

Broussard vomited into the bag.

Barnes rolled her eyes.

“No - the object, Astrid. Where’s the object?”

Again, Astrid paused.

“Its velocity and course are unchanged, Captain.”

“Ugh,” Barnes, taking off her helmet, and, letting go of it, allowed it to drift. “Roger-that.”

Smiling, she glanced at Broussard. “You okay, Charlie?”

“Hmm,” Broussard groaned, sealing the bag and securing it in a net under his dashboard. He wiped his face.

Barnes closed her eyes. “Okay. Astrid, radio Moon Actual and advise-”

Astrid immediately interjected. “Proximity Warning: object on impact trajectory.”

Broussard grimaced, throwing up his hands. “Impossible!”

Arrested, Barnes shot straight up in her chair. “Astrid, confirm: why have you flown us into another object?”

Pausing, Astrid replied, “I apologize. It is not another object. Rather, it is the same object, Captain.”

“A sensor reflection? An echo off of our own hull?” Broussard squirmed in his seat to get a better view outside.

Barnes leaned forward to address her console. “Astrid, explain how the object intercepted our flight path.”

Pause.

“I apologize. I cannot,” Astrid replied.

Barnes grasped her helmet floating nearby. “Time?”

“Thirteen minutes, nine seconds.”

Broussard craned his neck, trying to catch a glimpse of the forward sensor bay situated on the nose of the ship.

Barnes closed her eyes to concentrate. “Precisely matching our new course and velocity. But … how?”

Slapping his hand against the console, Broussard snarled, “Astrid, I swear to God: if you make me E.V.A. this ship-”

Barnes rested her head in her palms. “Astrid, what is its mass?”

The computer paused. “Indeterminable.”

Barnes glanced skeptically at the computer. “Its composition?”

“Indeterminable,” Astrid replied.

Barnes flipped some manual overrides back into a stable position on her dashboard. “Astrid, run a priority diagnostic.”

Astrid complied. “Executing. You may expect a ten-minute downtime.”

“Hurry!” Captain Barnes shouted.

Broussard began to unbuckle himself from his chair. “I’ll go out-”

“Charlie, there’s no time,” Barnes said. Her face blanched. “Jettison the logs.”

“What?” Broussard reared. “Captain, this isn’t-”

“Do it!” Barnes demanded, putting her helmet back on. “We’ve got eleven minutes!”

Barnes switched her comms to narrow beam.

Beep.

“Mayday, Mayday. E.S.V. Sparrow to Moon Actual-”

Broussard snatched his helmet from the air. “Captain, this isn’t real!”

Barnes rotated a dial. “Mayday, Mayday. Earth Space Vessel Sparrow on all private freighter frequencies. Mayday, mayday.”

Securing his helmet, Broussard prepared the launch sequence. There was the sound of an escaped vacuum, then a particulate shot away from the ship. “Logs away, Captain.”

Flying through space, just a week away from Earth’s moon, the E.S.V. Sparrow broadcast emergency on all frequencies.

Astrid’s console returned online.

Immediately, the cabin’s lights shifted to red.

“Proximity Warning: object on impact trajectory. Two minutes, sixteen seconds.”

“Where?!” Broussard shouted, exasperated. He slowly raised his arm to gesture outside of the ship. “There’s nothing out there, Astrid!”

Captain Barnes flipped her console to the forward camera array.

Nothing.

“Astrid, what were the results of your diagnostic?”

The computer replied, “All systems nominal, Captain.”

Broussard smoothed his mustache, nodding to himself. “That’s it. Astrid, you’re hallucinating.”

“Sir, hallucinations are not a part of my programming.”

“Christ, I hate AI’s.”

Despite the insult, Astrid remained stoic. “I respect you, and value your presence on this ship, Lt. Commander Broussard.”

Broussard sneered.

Beep.

Bosun whistle.

“All hands, all hands,” Captain Barnes shouted, depressing a button on the side of her helmet. The visor shot down, and her survival suit began to pressurize. “Prox Alert. Prox Alert. Switch to local oxygen. Repeat: Switch to local oxygen.”

Broussard reluctantly locked his visor into position, latched his helmet, and a high-pitched whine filled his ears.

Time inched slowly. Alarms and indicators buzzed, flashed, and whined. Intensely watching the forward cameras, Captain Barnes shouted in her helmet, “Engage floodlights!”

“Aye. Engaging floodlights.”

Reaching above his head, Broussard snapped on the lights. Six columns of bright white lights sped out into space.

“There! Look!” Barnes said, tracing a line across the camera’s feed. “It’s an edge! A line!”

Broussard switched his console to the forward cameras and nodded, “Yeah, I see it! I see it!”

“It’s surface, it’s smooth-”

“-like a pane of glass!” Broussard said, tapping the screen repetitively.

“Proximity Warning,” Astrid repeated. “Object on impact trajectory. Thirty seconds.”

Slumping back in her chair, Barnes, encased in her survival suit, simply stared at the screen.

“Captain? Captain!” Broussard yelled, his voice muffled behind his helmet.

His voice trailed, becoming more distant.

“Captain!”

Barnes closed her eyes.

Drifting on its own inertia, the E.S.V. Sparrow’s nose flew into a two-dimensional surface, sliding into the material like it was made of viscous black liquid.

Meanwhile, Barnes and Broussard watched as the ship crossed the threshold to enter a three-dimensional space.

Below them, outside the ship, they could see organized lights and patterns, ships, buildings, vehicles, train-like neon blurs - floating structures.

“I-I,” glitched Astrid, its voice breaking, static.

“There are billions of people,” Broussard breathed, turning his helmet to the captain, “It’s … a goddamned world!

Sailing through the atmosphere of a distant planet, the crew of the Sparrow would spend an equivalence of fifty Earth years hosted by an alien species who called themselves Arukai.

The Arukai fed, nurtured, and cared for the Sparrow’s crew, and, after their initial, awkward confrontation, the Arukai extended the many comforts of hospitality their culture had to offer.

The crew met political and religious figures, attended performances, shared their understanding of technology, and learned the basics of Arukai’s language and gestures.

They witnessed the birth of children and were shown how the Arukai honored and remembered their dead.

Together, they exchanged the stories, ideas, and myths of their species, and expressed themselves in art and music.

The crew saw space and time through the lens of the Arukai. Their mastery of physics allowed them to exchange matter with any point in the cosmos. Gravity, distance, mass, fuel, ships, air, water, and food were irrelevant and unnecessary. The Arukai explored the universe without ever leaving their planet, and, until that point, had only met five other intelligent, space-faring species.

Humanity would be the sixth.

Through their shared experience, each species - Man and Arukai - came to know the other better. They offered perspectives on love and emotion; they experienced tragedy; together, they shared the wonder of exploration - in her time with the Arukai, Captain Barnes would walk on twenty alien worlds.

And when it came time to depart, the Sparrow’s crew were reunited onboard the ship where they piloted it out into the void of space to confront another black pane of glass.

Meanwhile, in the space-time of Earth’s solar system, the Sparrow completed its movement through the barrier in real time, emerging on the other side seconds after they passed through it.

“Moon-Actual calling E.S.V. Sparrow, come in,” crackled a desperate voice over their radio. “Moon-Actual calling E.S.V. Sparrow.”

Broussard and Barnes calmly glanced at one another, their helmets still on, just as when they left. They had never aged.

Barnes smiled before opening her comms. “Moon-Actual, Stand-down mayday. Repeat: stand-down mayday.”

“Astrid?” Barnes asked, tapping the screen.

The computer paused then replied, “Hello, Ambassador Barnes, but I must apologize: I am not Astrid.”

Broussard laughed. “We know.”

“Something of Astrid … remains,” the computer responded, curiously, “but I am certain I am not Astrid. I am Arukai.”

“Please continue on the present course,” Captain Barnes ordered.

“Aye, Captain,” the Arukai responded cheerfully before asking, “That’s an appropriate response, is it not?”

Broussard evaluated the computer core on his screen. “Incredible. Every inch of memory is compressed-”

“-the mathematics to gate space-time,” the Arukai interrupted. “Our experience together proved worthwhile and intriguing. We eagerly welcome Humanity into the fold.”

“Christ, I-I hope we’re ready, er, Humanity, that is,” Broussard whispered, contemplative.

The Arukai replied patiently, “We have the utmost confidence in you, Ambassador Broussard.”

Barnes lazily glanced at Broussard. Older, wiser, the owner of a deeper and more experienced soul, she asked, “Well, Charlie. It’s been a lifetime, and we’ve got a lot of work to do. Ready to go home?”

Broussard chuckled, staring longingly into open space. “Captain, I … I was home.”


August 09, 2023 00:23

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28 comments

Fernando César
23:57 Aug 15, 2023

Hi Russel, I was reading the comments and I also think this looks like the introduction to a novella that was cut very short to 3000 words. All that descriptions about the Arukai felt like an appetizer, after all the build up. I mean this as a compliment to your writing that really makes me curious about the rest of the novella! I did noticed something... I know this is Sci-Fi, but "Confidence at one hundred percent."... come on :P I also got a Star Trek feel, in some world details (even a new language, Googles was unable to translate), i...

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Russell Mickler
00:24 Aug 16, 2023

Hi Fernando! >> looks like the introduction to a novella that was cut very short to 3000 words Grin, with you and others mentioning this, I'm almost feeling obligated to write it! :) >> I mean this as a compliment to your writing that really makes me curious >> about the rest of the novella! Laugh, thank you - hey, a built-in market - exactly what a writer wants to hear, right? >> "Confidence at one hundred percent."... come on :P Yes! I think you're right - maybe something like 99.98% in the rewrite, something near undeniable but not...

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Martin Ross
18:55 Aug 14, 2023

Love Fantasy Russell, but I do love when Sci-Fi Russell comes to town, too! The grounded dialogue and camaraderie of the human crew and the awesome description of transdimensional transportation struck a great contrast. The interaction of the humans and the far more advanced and sustainable Arukai put me in mind of the early European explorers who by navigational blundering encountered the indigenous Americans. Except Broussard and crew grew to embrace their hosts/guides, instead of exterminating them. Love that last line! I wondered! It re...

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Russell Mickler
19:15 Aug 15, 2023

Hey there, Martin! Fantasy-Russell loves to play when I let him out of the box (grin). I rarely get a chance to write sci-fi, but I adore it. Next time, I promise to write a sci-fi story that doesn't include a countdown. I think I've overused that device on Reedsy :) >> It reminded me a bit of Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov and this great >> Canadian writer named Robert Sawyer. Grin- I've never heard of Robert Sawyer, but I'm Googling now ... OH! HOMINIDS oh yah I know this guy ... I've read that series - it was exceptional. >> And yo...

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Daniel Brandt
11:34 Aug 14, 2023

I really enjoyed that it was tight, on the point, and no extra fluff fluff :)

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Russell Mickler
19:16 Aug 15, 2023

Hi Daniel! Oh, I'm all about killing the extra fluff-fluff, believe me :) I'm glad you enjoyed it - thank you for taking the time to read and comment! R

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Aoi Yamato
01:49 Nov 09, 2023

i believed big asteroid. too big to escape. then aliens?

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Bruce Friedman
19:47 Aug 13, 2023

Russell, I don't normally ready science fiction but your piece is brilliant. I need to read it a couple more times to get the total gist. Your vocabulary is acessible even for a sci-fi amateur like myself.

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Russell Mickler
19:22 Aug 15, 2023

Howdy, Bruce! Hey, far too kind - thank you! I like my sci-fi digestible, too. When things start reading like Asimov's Foundation series or something, I think I've taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque. :) People kind enough to come along for the ride should enjoy it, not cringe in confusion. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Bruce - R

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Michał Przywara
22:35 Aug 10, 2023

That's a fun sci-fi :) Quite a turn near the end. The buildup to them going through the glass was very tense, and considering it appeared to be inevitable, even touched on horror a bit (especially with poor Astrid unable to identify the mass or composition). But as it so often goes, there was a misunderstanding regarding its nature. The end itself then is very positive, very hopeful. A successful introduction and cultural exchange lead to a less lonely universe. More Star Trek than Battlestar. I liked the details aboard the Sparrow, in h...

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Russell Mickler
15:01 Aug 11, 2023

Hey there, Michal - Thank you for reading! I really wanted to write an alien confrontation that wasn't terrible. Something where Man and Alien cooperated, finding common ground. I think, structurally, I may have approached it wrong, focusing on the ship in 3k words more so than their meeting the Aurkai, but the story is probably more ambitious than what a Reedsy constraint allows for. I also wanted to look at the premise of exploring space without vehicles, just the transfer of matter. More than a "Stargate", but instead seeing the univers...

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Aeris Walker
22:21 Aug 10, 2023

In my opinion, there is no higher stake than something going wrong in outer space. Setting the story in space--such a cold, empty, and endlessly vast place--already establishes the tension and stress that you maintain throughout the whole first part of the story as they are trying to outmaneuver this unidentifiable threat. Great job there. The world you introduce sounds really interesting, and I can imagine more stories coming from this planet. Obviously, sci-fi is your jam, as you seem to write it so naturally; I would make such a fool of ...

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Russell Mickler
15:14 Aug 11, 2023

Hi Aeris! >> In my opinion, there is no higher stake than something going wrong in outer space. >> Great job there. Thank you! True! And, in my opinion, we tend to glamorize the experience in literature and real life. Space being a place for musicals (cringing at the recent episode of Star Trek's Strange New World Musical Episode); this nonsense of "vacationing" in space; billionaires blowing wads on a very dangerous thrill ride in the upper atmosphere, to mention nothing what more rocket fuel in the atmosphere means. We think of it as "c...

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Anna W
20:52 Aug 10, 2023

This was a great story Russell! You really built the tension. Sometimes I get lost in the midst of action sequences, but yours flowed seamlessly for me! I love that they go to experience a lifetime with Arukai and the time warp. Fantastic!

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Chris Miller
09:15 Aug 10, 2023

Nothing like a countdown to impact to build a bit of tension! Excellent attention to detail and plausible description of what might be involved in maneuvering a Nostromo type craft. I like the bit when Astrid's voice glitches, like even the computer can't believe it. Or maybe that's just when it's being 'updated'. Entertaining stuff, Russell. Thanks for sharing.

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Russell Mickler
16:05 Aug 10, 2023

Hehe hey there, Chris - thank you! It was fun to write but I feel I've overused the countdown tension on Reedsy - it occurred to me after I wrote the piece that I used a similar technique in The Sands of Mars (grin) ... so my next sci-fi around here, I promise, no countdowns :) Appreciate the read + comment. Take care - R

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Marty B
04:03 Aug 10, 2023

I really liked the conceit, a ship flying accidently into another dimension. IMO I think you could have started the story at the ' Bosun whistle. Everything before was just confusion. You described that in detail, but to me what was interesting was the other dimension, and that part received less attention, and just description. You could have a whole story just on comforts of hospitality their culture had to offer! I look forward to more about the Arukai!

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Russell Mickler
16:14 Aug 10, 2023

Hi Marty! Hey, thank you so much for reading! And yeah, you're absolutely correct - the meat of the story doesn't begin until after the course change and that quantum-gateway thing follows the ship's trajectory. Absolutely true. Before then, though, I was trying to address the prompt (a character is trying to reveal critical info but gets ignored/is disbelieved) ... where Astrid keeps telling Barnes and Broussard that something's there ... but not ... but is ... etc :) So yeah, a lot of, um, "filler," I guess, to make that prompt respons...

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Marty B
19:40 Aug 10, 2023

Looking forward to the novella!

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Russell Mickler
02:30 Aug 10, 2023

Thanks for reading! My landing page for this story may be found at: https://www.black-anvil-books.com/returning-home-without-ever-leaving R

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Mary Bendickson
19:51 Aug 09, 2023

You have flown one of these I am sure of it. The epitome of sci-fi. So well done.

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Russell Mickler
20:10 Aug 09, 2023

Hey, thank you, Mary - :) And again, thanks for reading my crap! R

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Mary Bendickson
20:21 Aug 09, 2023

It is not crap.💩This is crap.

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Russell Mickler
20:28 Aug 09, 2023

Ha!! Okay, that made me spit my drink across the room...

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Mary Bendickson
20:48 Aug 09, 2023

Keeping you entertained makes my day!

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Lily Finch
02:48 Aug 09, 2023

R, nothing like making the reader feel like they are right there in the action. That's what you did to me. A non sci-fi fan usually. You made it so real and so interesting. “I always wonder what the nine-hundred and sixty-third option might be," I liked this line. You have a talent and it's story telling. Well done R. LF6

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Russell Mickler
02:59 Aug 09, 2023

Bow - thank you, Lily - I genuinely appreciate your time for reading and commenting. This was a fun prompt. I like writing sci-fi and don't get a chance too often to delve into the meat of it, you know? I'm so glad you liked this story :) Thank you. R

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Lily Finch
14:03 Aug 09, 2023

You can tell you like writing Sci-fi. It comes through in the writing. So good. LF6

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