First Strike: Prologue


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Well, Kendrik now you've prompted me to post my somewhat unfinished prologue for the book I will never really write much less finish. I need to flesh it out a bit more as some things remain unexplained. Some are on purpose and some are simply because I have the universe ultimately designed on in a separate document and need to figure out how to work in the explanations. I'm still working on the pacing, as the whole thing seems a little truncated and needs more buildup in my mind. Again, I have the whole scene in my mind, I just need to pen it in such a way that the reader can see it as well.

Jeff's eyes snapped open, his ears straining. He had been half dozing moments ago, balancing dangerously on the cliff which led downward into sleep. Now he waited quietly, listening for the sound he was sure he had heard. The only thing making noise was the steady hum of the instrument consoles stacked around his seat and the ever-present rumble of the power plant buried in the back of his ship. Twenty more seconds of not daring to move or breathe and he slumped back into the captain's chair. These long hauls were starting to wear on him. Perhaps too much time in simulated sleep during tunneling? He glanced at the various indicators, making sure everything was in the green. Another couple of hours and the waystation should arrive. Then they could head to Earth. The final leg of the journey wouldn't take more than 20 minutes or so but they needed the waystation to get them close enough.

He felt, more than heard, it a minute later. An impact and a slight shift as the attitude thrusters automatically fired to keep them in position. This time the pressure alarm sounded for a brief second before cutting off. Jeff quickly checked pressure levels and noted that they were holding steady. Then he saw the oxygen levels. O2 was spiking while CO2 levels were rapidly dropping. Frowning, he reached for the intercom.

"Cap, might want to head up here. Think something may have hit us." He thumbed off the intercom and pulled up the video feed from one of the sweeps operating a couple hundred yards away. On the display an external image of the Manifest Destiny sprang into view. Behind him the door swung open and two men strode into the room. The first and older of the two, Captain Windham, walked up behind Jeff and glanced at the screen. The other, Tom Issacson, dropped into the nav chair and began querying the computer.

"What is that?" Captain Windham pointed at the screen where it showed a black bulge sticking out of one of the cargo modules.

"There's another one near the engine." Jeff pointed out another bulge just forward of the engine. "Prox alarm didn't pick up anything. Pressure alarm went off after the second hit but shut off within a second."

"Cap, O2 levels are spiking," Tom was pointing at a digital readout. "CO2 is dropping."

Windham moved behind Tom’s chair and placed his hand on his shoulder, "I'd be more worried if it were the other way around. Tom, looks like pressure is holding. Can you go back and take a look at the damage?"

"Sure, Cap." Tom stood up, "Waystation's due in a couple hours."

"Thanks. Might want to put on a pressure suit first. Don't want any nasty surprises." The captain lowered himself into the chair.

"Another one coming in!" Jeff gestured at the screen. They all watched the screen as another dark mass impacted just above the cargo containers. "Looks like it went into the gangway above the cargo. Cap, if we lose pressure there we'll be cut off from the engineering deck!"

"Jeff, why don't you go with Tom? He might need a hand." Captain Windham turned his attention to maneuvering the sweep into a better viewing position.


Tom was the first to the hatch. He pulled back the cover on a reinforced window and attempted to look inside.

"What do you see?" Jeff finished pulling on his helmet and was walking up behind him.

"Window is all fogged up, can't see a thing. Cap, what's the humidity set at for the gangway?"

Windham’s voice sounded unnatural coming from the cheap speakers in the ceiling. "Humidity is set to 5 percent. But it appears the system is having trouble keeping up. I'm reading humidity at near 69 percent. Temperature is pushing 85."

"I'm going in. Wait a sec..." Tom peered back through the small window, "I think I see something moving in there."

"What?!" Jeff backed up from the hatch, "how could anything be moving in there?" He was halfway to the previous hatch when Tom answered.

"I can't make it out real good." He reached for the latch.

"What are you doing! Don’t open the door!" Jeff spun and sprinted the remaining distance to the opposite hatch. He had just reached it as Tom pulled the latch and swung the hatch aside. "Oh man!" Jeff reached for the latch as the ship suddenly lurched spinning him into the bulkhead.

"Cap, what was that?" Tom was holding onto the latch and kept on his feet but spun around when he heard Jeff hit. "Cap?" Tom watched Jeff get back on his feet. "Cap, if you can hear me, we seem to be experiencing a communication issue. I think...Aarrrgggg!"

Jeff turned to see a wall of green burst through the hatch as Tom disappeared into it. Scrambling as quickly as he could, Jeff just made it through the hatch and jerked it shut as the rapidly expanding vegetation reached him. He pulled open the viewport and tried to make out where Tom was but the view was quickly obscured with fog and vines. He backed away from the hatch for a couple steps, shaking his head before turning and fleeing down the corridor. He reached the bridge in record time and had pulled the hatch open when a blast of warm, humid air hit him. He had just enough presence of mind to realize the bridge was entirely engulfed in vegetation and slammed the hatch shut trimming some of the vegetation that had already pushed out. He backed away from the hatch, wondering what to do when the bulkhead beside him burst inward throwing him into the far wall. Turning, he slowly forced his eyes to focus on the object protruding through the side of the ship. As he was struggling to his feet, the object burst open spewing vegetation into the hallway. Jeff stumbled backward into the opposite bulkhead as the green wave overtook him.
Sorry it's taken me so long to read and respond to this. I got distracted when I first saw it, then I spaced (ahem) it until just now.

That said, I'm very intrigued. Very intrigued indeed. Please share more! :D

I'm curious about the nature of this vessel and her crew. I gather they're space freighters, but what is their freight? Is this the whole of their crew? And this suddenly invading shrubbery! What's this about? Is the greenery striking back for the industrial revolution? :p Are these spacers being incorporated into a plant hivemind? haha

Seriously, though, I enjoyed reading this, and I do hope you see fit to share more in the future. :)

The trees! The trees are attacking!!
I tap two forests to cast Rampant Growth. >.>
Sorry it's taken me so long to read and respond to this. I got distracted when I first saw it, then I spaced (ahem) it until just now.

That said, I'm very intrigued. Very intrigued indeed. Please share more! :D

I'm curious about the nature of this vessel and her crew. I gather they're space freighters, but what is their freight? Is this the whole of their crew? And this suddenly invading shrubbery! What's this about? Is the greenery striking back for the industrial revolution? :p Are these spacers being incorporated into a plant hivemind? haha

Seriously, though, I enjoyed reading this, and I do hope you see fit to share more in the future. :)

I tap two forests to cast Rampant Growth. >.>
Glad you liked it.

As I said, it needs to be fleshed out a bit. I will say that the "shrubbery" which is invading is inspired by my own personal "war" against weeds. We rented a house several years back that sat on the side of a hill. The hill had very few legitimate plants (no grass), but grew weeds like it had been especially fertilized for them. Part of our agreement with the homeowners was that I would keep the weeds cut back. Unfortunately, dealing with regularly growing weeds on over an acre of land on the side of a hill lends much time spend doing mindless "weed-eating". This gives rise to story ideas about a tenacious enemy which cannot be reasoned or even communicated with, whose only purpose is to survive and reproduce, and is nearly impossible to eradicate completely once it has taken up residence.
This is awesome! At first, I thought it was an asteroid or two. But then, I thought, "Maybe it's a boarding party. Space pirates!" And then it turns out to be weeds. Quite an interesting conflict. I'd love to learn more about them. Are the plants intelligent? Or are they supposed to just be mindless? What happens when they dock at the waystation?
This is awesome! At first, I thought it was an asteroid or two. But then, I thought, "Maybe it's a boarding party. Space pirates!" And then it turns out to be weeds. Quite an interesting conflict. I'd love to learn more about them. Are the plants intelligent? Or are they supposed to just be mindless? What happens when they dock at the waystation?
I have something in mind for the waystation, but I think I need to flesh out this a bit more. Just need to sit down and hammer it out.
I started working on chapter one today with a very minor addition to the prologue. Hopefully I can remain motivated enough to finish the next section. Dialog slows me down and my brain has been throwing a lot at me. The general idea for the chapter is already in my head I just need to get the details/dialog fleshed out. It's actually a bit of a rewrite from my first idea of how to set it up. The main plot remains the same, but some of the details have changed due to how I wrote the prologue.
LOL, motivation is a huge issue with me as well. It's really hard to "face the challenge of the blank page" at times. How many chapters are you planning on?
Wait... I'm supposed to be planning?

It's kinda more short story material. Chapter 1 is going to deal with way station arrival. Chapter 2 will probably be escape/aftermath. Chapter 3 is final confrontation. I reserve the right to change this at any time...
First part of Chapter one. Still working on it. . .slowly.

Near the Manifest Destiny, against the backdrop of a sea of stars a distortion appeared. It started small but quickly expanded in a sphere to partially mask the stars behind. Within the distortion, against another set of faint stars, Waystation Caelifera was visible. Then, as if drawing in a sail which carried it from a distant universe, the distortion bubble shrank back to nothing leaving only the station behind.

The waystation program had been instituted almost a century before, when folding technology had been in its infancy. At that time, only the stations were large enough to house the enormous fold drives. Near instantaneous travel had been improved significantly in the years since then. The fold cores had been reduced in size and increased in range. Most new ships now incorporated them into their design. It didn’t remove the need for tunnel (or worm) drives, however. Scientists still had not determined how to account for gravitational effects on the fold bubble. So most ships now used a hybrid of the two systems. Traveling via tunnel to a point far enough away from gravitational bodies that they could safely use folding and then back into system via tunnel. Waystations themselves had been designed for a universe of ships without fold drives. Designed with enormous fold cores they would travel between various points in space, ferrying ships with them. Most traveled between two points along major trade hubs, but several operated more like a city bus, making several stops along a route.

As with all technology, Waystations were slowly being eclipsed. Fold capable ships were becoming standard. The Waystation usefulness was coming to a close. Only older ships, such as the Manifest Destiny still relied on the slowly diminishing network of stations. Operated by a handful of crewmembers, the stations were largely automated. The vast majority of the Waystation was not even accessible without a pressure suit. Only the crew quarters and the main operations center maintained life support.

“Ugh…” Moaned Weylin as he stumbled into the small ops center aboard the massive station, “you couldn’t have waited thirty seconds?” He was late for his shift. Policy required two crew members to be in ops when performing a fold. It also dictated that the crew had to be seated during a fold due to the disorientation which followed. Weylin sank into the unoccupied seat next to Markus who was finalizing the shutdown and recharge of the fold drive.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Were you walking when we folded?” A hint of a smile flashed across Markus’ face.

“You’re supposed to wait,” Weylin rubbed his temples, “I nearly passed out.”

“Perhaps you should set your alarm a bit earlier next time?” Marcus sent the command to launch the sweeps. “Sweeps heading out. Looks like the Destiny is making another ore run. You want to see what their schedule is like? We’re early so we might be able to make the next fold a bit early if they ask nicely.”

“Yeah, whatever…” Weylin adjusted the comm channel and thumbed the mic, “Destiny, Destiny, this is Waystation Caelifera. What is your schedule? Over.” He turned off the mic, leaned over and punched Markus, hurting his own hand more than the other’s muscled arm. “We’re early because you wanted to pull that garbage while I was in the hallway. Best keep watching your back. You have another month on this tub before your leave.”

“Mmmhmm…” Markus was distracted by the digital readout. “No other ships in the area, but I’m getting some strange readings from Destiny.”

“Destiny, Destiny, this is Waystation Caelifera. Come in, over.” Weylin frowned. It was not normal for a ship to ignore communications. All sorts of scenarios flashed through his mind.
“Check this out,” Markus pointed to a screen which showed the Destiny. He indicated several dark masses on the surface of the ship. “Those ain’t part of her hull. She’s been hit by something!”

“Destiny, please respond.” Weylin sent a command to the sweeps to increase their range. “You think this is a pirate trap?”

“Pirates haven’t hit anything this close to home yet. Besides, I don’t see any weapon marks other than those things.” He controlled a sweep in closer to look at the bulge. “Odd, it looks almost organic. Better wake the boss. He’ll want to make the call.”


Commander Paile arrived at ops within a minute. Paile was a Commander who had worked his way up the ranks. The waystations were operated by an extension of the Coast Guard, governed by the Department of Transportation for the Western Hemisphere. With the advancements into space faring, the coast guard services of search and rescue as well as providing safe passage and interdiction were extended outside the atmosphere. The designation of guarding the coast may not have still applied directly, but no one had ever bothered to adjust the name.

The long deployments on a waystation coupled with the small crews of 6-8 resulted in a bit more informality than most vessels would have allowed. Military decorum was rarely followed and practical jokes were par for the course. Paile, however, knew when to shut down such antics. A ship in distress was certainly one of those times. He had seen it enough when he was younger, with far too many mayday calls responded to only to arrive and find all hands lost, to take such a thing lightly.

“Any response?” He looked to Weylin.

“None, sir. I’ve tried broadcasting on all channels.”

Paile looked at the image of the ship on the screen, “Looks like her hull is intact. What is her compliment?”

“Three we know of, sir. But that hull can carry up to 10.”

“Prep the skiff. We need to determine if this is a simple comm problem or something worse.” Paile pointed at the bulge on the hull, “Is that what you were telling me about?”

Markus spun in his chair as Weylin ran from the room to prepare the small skiff. “That’s one of them Commander. I’ve counted four on the main hull and one on the cargo pod.”

“Asteroids usually only leave debris behind, any idea why they stopped on impact?”

“I don’t think they are asteroids, sir. Check out this image,” He brought up a still close-up of one bulge. “They appear to be uniform in shape and possibly organic.”

“Odd. I'll ring up second watch. You get over there with Weylin and see if they just lost comm in the impact.” The commander entered a command to wake the crewmembers scheduled for the next shift. Markus slid out of his seat and left Ops.
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Oh this is getting cool! I can't wait to see what they find aboard the ship.

I love your terminology. "Sweeps" instead of "camera drones." Little things like that really make the story world easier to inhabit. I'm curious about how the fold drives work?
Oh this is getting cool! I can't wait to see what they find aboard the ship.

I love your terminology. "Sweeps" instead of "camera drones." Little things like that really make the story world easier to inhabit. I'm curious about how the fold drives work?
They are more sensor drones then just camera drones. But I haven't really expounded on that.

If I knew the exact inner workings of a fold drive I'd go create one myself... ;)

How about I just give you my notes on it? This represents a couple of years picking at these concepts from time to time.

FTL Travel

Tunneling is the most widely used form of FTL travel (mostly civilian).  It involves opening and traveling through a subspace tunnel from current location to the destination.  Ships in a tunnel cannot be visually detected nor can they be affected from outside of their tunnel.  Time from origin to destination will vary depending upon several determined factors and an unknown number of undetermined factors.  In essence, two ships, leaving from the exact same position at the exact same time may arrive at the exact same destination up to 12 hours apart (depending on the length of the tunnel).  A more accurate estimation of ETA can be determined once a ship has entered a tunnel but due to the communications blackout they cannot communicate this to anyone outside of the tunnel.

The first experiments with tunnels resulted in several lost craft.  It is assumed that the tunnel did not terminate and they were trapped until the power plant or tunnel drive failed.  All future ships equipped with tunnel drives (also known as worm drives) were outfitted with a fail safe that would forcibly collapse the tunnel once a certain distance was reached.  Results of these experiments revealed that the test pilot had experienced psychosis during the flight.  The psychosis appeared to increase in magnitude as the duration in a tunnel increased to the point where several craft arrived without the pilot who had ejected while still in the tunnel.  It was determined that a human could only endure a 15-20 minute time frame in a tunnel before experiencing this psychosis.  Current procedures are to have the crew enter an induced sleep within the 5 minutes after entering the tunnel (if flight time is longer than 10 minutes). Sleep appears to negate the effects of the psychosis, although some studies on deep-space travelers and life-long space-farers have pointed to negative effects being felt after years of exposure.

In spite of the negative effects and potential for disaster, tunneling remains the safest method of FTL travel to this day.

Less Equipment
Less Complex

Impossible to coordinate arrival time
Communications blackout
Long term exposure induces psychosis
Induced sleep is required for travel longer than 10 minutes

Folding involves much heavier machinery and the potential for error is much higher than tunneling. It is near instantaneous travel, but due to magnetic fields and gravimetric pressures it must be done far away from planetary bodies.  This is fairly new technology and is currently only used in small applications.  The physics utilized by the folding core is far too complex to explain in layman's terms, but suffice to say it essentially folds space around itself so that it can be in an entirely different place.  Travel distance is limited by the size of the folding core.  Distance was increased with the invention of the dual-fold core.  It allowed two separate folds to be performed simultaneously nearly doubling the maximum distance.  It also allowed for smaller cores (although maximum distance is decreased with a smaller core it allows for mounting on smaller ships).  Experimentation is currently underway on a triple-core drive.

Folding needs to be performed a considerable distance from planetary bodies.  This is due to gravitation effects on the fold bubble.  Gravitational bodies tend to warp the bubble towards themselves.  In tests this effect has been observed to warp the bubble to the point where parts of the ship remain outside of the bubble.  If a ship were to complete a fold under these conditions parts of the ship may be severed.  Research is underway on an experimental fold drive which negates the effects of gravitational pull on the bubble.  There is also rumors and conjecture that a standard fold can be performed in strong gravitational areas if the forward motion of the ship will carry it fully into the warped bubble.  Most scientists disagree with this notion due to the generation point of the bubble being from ship itself, therefore the ship cannot accelerate beyond itself.  Due to the warping of bubbles, most ships with a fold core tend to also have a worm drive for moving to and from systems.

Initial fold drives were not mounted on ships but were static stations that a ship could dock with which would then pull it to the new location.  These "Waystations" were utilized for quick space travel for fleets.  Once the multiple fold core was developed and the size of the cores was able to be dropped larger capital ships began to be outfitted with the cores.  This had the effect of reducing traffic to the Waystations.  Many have been abandoned and only a handful still operate on several major trade routes, with the majority of their traffic being smaller independent freighters.  The most active stations are located just outside the Sol system and lead to major hubs within the galaxy.

It should be noted that the military is the largest adopter of the fold technology (and also the largest financier of its development).  They use the technology to quickly move their fleets from one location to another.

Issues have happened in the development of the fold technology.  Several ships have left pieces of themselves behind when their drive failed in the middle of a fold.  A number of craft have attempted to fold without finalizing the destination location which results in the ship being essentially shredded and sent in every direction except the core which remains exactly where it started.  Also, in some of the first experiments the fold drive worked, but the designers had failed to account for the mass of the ship in relation to nearby gravitational bodies.  The drive created a field just large enough for itself and left the intact ship drifting without the core.  Because these missing cores have not been found it was assumed that they destroyed themselves on reaching their destination.

To date, no conclusive evidence has been discovered to point to adverse side-effects of folding on the human body.

Near Instantaneous
Reasonably safe

Large Machinery means it can only be mounted on larger ships
Origin and Destination must be away from planetary bodies

Mass Drive
This is the oldest and most dangerous way of FTL travel.  With the discovery of cyclical fusion power generators ships could be built with continuously running engines which would propel them to speeds that were unattainable with conventional solid/liquid fuel engines.  These ships utilized an exponential mass drive which propelled the ship to speeds faster than light.  It is slower than the other two methods and statistically not any safer.  Older generation ships utilizing Mass Drives tended to be considerably more engine than ship.  Stopping a ship from FTL speeds achieved by a mass drive generally involves a considerable distance and the ability to reverse thrust.  Most current travelers avoid using this method due to the disadvantages.

Communications Possible
Travel time is predictable
Stopping a ship externally requires physical blocking

Dangerous - objects in space will collide with ship
Slowest - due to acceleration time, a lower overall speed, and the large stopping distance

Needless to say, the light barrier much like the sound barrier was broken. The mass drive can push a ship beyond that speed with conventional flight. Turns out Einstein was partially wrong...
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I'm really struggling with the next part. It just seems unexciting or uninteresting. I'm gonna have to do some thinking about it. I may have a way to spruce it up but I need to sort out the details in my mind.