Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Another Story

For a time I was writing a space opera based on the Classic Traveller role playing game system.  I also incorporated the philosophy of Objectivism.

I have just posted the existing text on an alternative history site.

An Incomplete Space Opera.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Step Back - Part 32

Starship Eagle
In Geosynchronous Orbit

The hanger was sealed and repressurized.  The Soyuz spacecraft had been secured to the deck.  To Boatman’s eyes it was clearly a relic of an ancient day.  The green fireproof nomex fabric that covered the reentry and mission modules of the spacecraft gleamed in the light of the hangar deck.

The Ranger honor guard in their deep green dress uniforms had secured their feet to the deck with grip shoes.  Both Alice and Judith as well as captain sterling were wearing communication headsets that were linked to the cluster of supercomputers that controlled the Eagle.  For this event the headsets included a small speaker which would broadcast the translation of individuals speech in Russian.  Evelyn alone was not wearing a headset.

The loudspeakers blared.

“Soviet Visitors, arriving.”

As if this were the signal to act the docking hatch of the mission module opened and the two men floated forth into the hangar.

Both Leonov and Gorbachev had changed to their mission uniforms for the meeting.  Upon their egress in free fall Boatman spoke to them clearly in Russian.

“Welcome gentlemen to the starship Eagle, I am Evelyn Boatman.”

“You spear Russian?”  Said Gorbachev.

“Yes, Mikhail Sergeyevich.” Boatman replied.  “This vessel was originally designed to cross interstellar space at one fifth the speed of light.  With acceleration and braking the journey to Alpha Centauri would take about twenty five years. As you can imagine this gives a new meaning to the concept of boredom.  As I had time to catch up on some reading I chose to read Tsiolkovsky and Korolev in the original Russian.”

“And Lenin?” Gorbachev asked.

“No,” said Boatman, “of course not, I leave psychotics to the correct professionals.”

“Of course.”  Gorbachev replied.

Boatman then stepped with the grip shoes towards Leonov and extended his hand.

“Cosmonaut Leonov,” he said, “it is an honor to meet you, sir.”

Leonov took and shook Boatman’s hand.

“Thank you, sir.”

“You’re welcome”  He replied.  “Allow me to introduce these good people.  First this is Captain Dennis Sterling, the commander of the Eagle.”

Captain Sterling nodded and put forth his hand to be shook.  Cosmonaut Leonov and Gorbachev responded in kind.

 “This is my adopted daughter, Doctor Alice Boatman.”

Alice said the word, “Hello.”  This was translated into Russian and transmitted back by her communications set.

“Hello Doctor Boatman.”  Said Cosmonaut Leonov.  Gorbachev had simply said, “Hello.”

And Boatman made the last introduction.

“And this is Judith Grant, she is presently receiving treatment for some severe injuries she received on the ground.”

Both of the Russians had read of the incident in Dallas.  And both decided at that point to simply nod.

Boatman then looked at the Soyuz spacecraft and spoke to Leonov.

“You’re flying with the standard heat shield on this mission?”

“Yes.”  Leonov replied.

Boatman frowned and shook his head.

“While Russians do tend to be a bit conservative in engineering you still have more energy to bleed off during reentry from this altitude.”  He said.  “Would you accept a ride down to a lower orbit before attempting reentry?”

“Yes.”  Said Leonov.  “We would.”

“Yes.”  Said Gorbachev.

“Of we’ll have to secure the spacecraft to the deck, with your permission.”  Said Boatman.

“Of course.”  Leonov replied.

“And while that is taken care of, we could do a short tour of the ship.”

“That would be good.”  Said Cosmonaut Leonov.

“Yes, thank you.”  Said Gorbachev.

After a set of grip shoes had been issued to the cosmonauts, the group made their way to the main engine room.

“And this is the primary control station for the Quantum Singularity Drive. “  Said Boatman.

He brought up and image on the primary large flat screen monitor. The grey image showed an grid with a distortion at the center.

Boatman spoke.

“What you are seeing on this image is not the singularity itself but the distorting effect of the gravitational pull.”

Gorbachev spoke.

“A physicist at Moscow University told us that you have recreated the gravitational effects of a frozen star on the subatomic level.”

“Essentially, yes.”

Gorbachev had used the Russian term for the phenomena.  The English term Black Hole translated directly into Russian was unfortunately and commonly used as a rude anatomical reference.

Leonov then spoke.

“If I under stood the concept correctly you generate usable energy by dropping matter into the singularity?”

“Yes,” Boatman replied, “protons and electrons in the process of being gravitationally merged into neutrons give off photons which in turn are used to heat up normal matter.  Which then leads to this...”

Boatman changed the image on the screen to a diagram of the larger drive section.

“...in the normal rocket mode for insystem propulsion at lower velocities we use ordinary hydrogen for the reaction mass, but for interstellar flight we scoop the mass from outside of the ship.”

“As in the Bussard Ramjet?”  Said Leonov.

“Yes, but there are some difficulties.”  Boatman replied.

“I’m sorry.”  Said Gorbachev, “but what is a Bussard Ramjet?”

To Gorbachev the mission commander’s face had taken on the appearance of a university lecturer who had just joyously discovered a dullard in his classroom.  Unfortunately for Gorbachev the dullard was him.

Boatman spoke.

“The ramjet was proposed as a means of starship propulsion by Doctor Robert Bussard, in this the system would magnetically scoop the hydrogen in interstellar space and use it as fuel for a fusion rocket.  But there were two basic problems with the concept.  The first is that artificial thermonuclear fusion requires neutrons in the nucleus of the fuel.  Thus our use of Deuterium and Helium-3 as fusion fuels.  The second is that maximum velocity of the system is limited to the exhaust velocity of the rocket motor.  Which on the Eagle is twenty percent of the speed of light.  Now this configuration of the system is generally known as the Ram Augmented Interstellar Rocket.”

Cosmonaut Leonov had a question.

“As I understand it, Hydrogen is magnetically neutral, so how can it be magnetically scooped up?”

“Good question,” said Boatman, “In our system we use a laser to separate the electrons from the proton core.  So the protons are then scooped in and used as the reaction mass.”

Leonov nodded.  Boatman then looked at his watch.

“And it appears to be time for dinner.”

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Step Back - Part 31

Tuesday, October 14, 1969
Baikonur Cosmodrome, USSR

Mikhail Gorbachev could hear the engines of the first stage fire at about ten seconds from the end of the countdown. At the point of zero the clamps holding the Proton launcher and the Soyuz payload to the pad let go. Gorbachev felt his weight multiply by an order of magnitude as the rocket lifted from the pad.

Aboard the Kite in orbit above the Eastern Hemisphere a sensor operator spoke up.

“Captain, we have a major launch at Baikonur.”

“Let's see.” Lieutenant Siekmann said as he floated from the command seat over to the sensor station.

It was the Proton launcher they had been tracking. At first it only had a standard shroud for an unmanned payload installed on it. Then it had been brought back from the launchpad to the assembly hall. The Proton was then returned to the pad with the payload shroud for a Soyuz orbiter on it.

Now the Soviets were actually launching it.

“Very good.” Siekmann said as the first stage of the Proton dropped off. “Let's continue to track it.”

In discussion it was speculated that the initial payload may have been a weapon. With the launch of a Soyuz it appeared that the Soviets had second thoughts about a hostile act and were now attempting a contact mission.

On the command deck of the Eagle the Soyuz spacecraft was also being tracked.

Judith Grant was also watching the proceedings on the command deck. She was doing so while standing up, having recovered sufficiently enough to do so.

“So who would be aboard it?” She asked.

“Good question.” Evelyn replied. “The command pilot should be Alexi Leonov, he's now the senior cosmonaut since Gagarin died, I have no idea who would be in the second seat.”

“No idea at all?”

“Well it wouldn't be any member of the Politburo. Remember, the Communist leadership as a general rule sees other people as something to be used, not one of them will risk their own necks on a contact mission no matter how desperate the situation on the ground may appear. Under the circumstances they'll send someone up who may be up and coming in their system but is still expendable. At this point I could only guess who it is and the guess would likely be wrong.”

Judith nodded. Evelyn then spoke again.

“But the fun part will be the question of how do they get back down?”

“Doesn't the Soyuz have a heat shield?”

“Yes, but it was designed for reentry from a low orbit. A reentry from this altitude would have more energy to bleed off and would require a heavier heat shield.”

Judith nodded in thought and then spoke.

“So if they are using their standard heat shield the Russians would need a ride home?”

“Yes.” Evelyn smiled as he replied.

President Nixon was notified of the launch. He was also told that the Uptimers had the situation under control.

Both men had remained in their pressure suits during the flight to high orbit. Gorbachev patiently waited and kept his hands to himself as the Soyuz approached the Eagle. He had no idea how to read the gauges aboard the spacecraft and touched nothing because he wanted to avoid a fatal foul up.

“Damn...” Said Leonov. “There was just a jump in neutron readings, then it’s gone.”

“What does it mean?” Said Gorbachev.

“No idea, it could be natural.” Said Leonov. “But I would seriously reconsider any plans for fatherhood.”

Suddenly an unfamiliar voice in Russian spoke over the ground to space communications channel.

“Soyuz spacecraft, this is the starship Eagle, do you copy?’

Leonov answered.

“Yes Eagle, we copy.”

“Very good, as we do not have a docking port that is compatible with the Soyuz we wish to bring you aboard through one of our landing craft airlocks, will that be a problem?”

Leonov turned to look at Gorbachev. Gorbachev looked back and shook his head.

“No, Eagle” Said Leonov. “That will not be a problem.”

On the command deck Boatman turned to Captain Sterling.

“Right, do it as we planned.”

In the mission control center in Moscow the Mission Director listened as Leonov sent a progress report on the contact with the Uptimers. But then a mid-level Party Man who was sent to supervise the mission suddenly jumped up and shouted.

“No!” He shouted. “No! Stop the docking! It is forbidden to surrender state secrets!”

“What state secrets?” Said the Mission Director.

“The Soyuz spacecraft! It’s at the front line of Soviet technology!”

The Mission Director and others in the room shook their heads.

“There has already been a discussion on this. The Star People are from the 24th Century, to them the Soyuz is a historic relic, and there are no state secrets to preserve.”

A KGB Colonel in uniform in the mission control center then spoke.

“Comrade, They are using Thermonuclear Fusion as the power source for their auxiliary generators. And their primary power plant uses the effects of a frozen star at the microscopic level to generate thrust and power.”

The Colonel was assigned to the project to understand the Uptimers and had read the translated transcript of the 60 Minutes broadcast. He then asked a friend at Moscow University to explain the concept of the Quantum Singularity.

“You may as well classify the plans for an old winter sleigh.” He said. “In any case, perhaps you should take a break from the stress of this situation.”

The way the Colonel had phrased it was an order and not a suggestion. The Party Man looked at the two junior KGB officers who had just stood up behind the Colonel.

“Perhaps, I should.” The party man replied.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Step Back - Part 30

Senator Edward M. Kennedy had set aside some time after his normal three-martini lunch to see a lobbyist. The subject of the meeting was the people from the future and the question of what to do about them? Kenneth Hudson was an old school lobbyist from Minnesota and had come to Washington after the initial election of Hubert Humphrey as senator and with the rest of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party crowd from that state. Kennedy despised the lot of them but kept silent lest they become open opponents to his own rise to power. And there was no question that after his rise to the White House that there would ever be any more opposition from the Right for him to contend with.

After the initial ritual of shaking hand taking seats Kennedy spoke.

“So Ken, what did you need to see me about?”

“It’s the people from the future, I tried to see them again, yesterday.”

“Why?” Kennedy replied. “They hate us and they are total fascist trash. They’ve made no secret of it, that ship of theirs will have to be destroyed and what’s left of them on the ground will have to confined for the rest of their lives. We can’t have them continuing to contaminate our people with their insane ideas.”

“I know that,” said Hudson, “I know that now.”

Kennedy had received a review copy of The Concept Of Government from a sympathizer in the publishing industry. The content of the anonymously authored work was nothing less than appalling.

“Throughout its history the fundamental value of the Democratic Party was power. As with the Communists and National Socialists in Eurasia, they had sought absolute power over everyone in their domain, the United States of America. And as with the predecessors the power over their victims was exercised without any restraint whatsoever. As a result it became absolutely necessary to remove the Democratic Party from power and permanently eliminate the basic structure and the intellectual infrastructure that supported it.”

The method of elimination wasn’t described in the text but it was easy for him to guess. The tract in general was absolutely appalling. And there was no question that whoever wrote it had to be found, punished, and permanently silenced.

“So tell me what happened.” Kennedy asked.

Hudson began.

“I heard that the bitch that shot the Teamsters rep had been replaced by the ship’s engineer. With the bitch replaced by what should be a dullard I decided to give them another chance for a meeting.”

“And what did you find?”

“I walked right into their office and there is a girl, a teenage girl, sitting at the secretary’s desk. Seriously, she had long brown hair and big granny glasses on like a schoolgirl, and she was dressed as a slut. This was obviously somebody’s little girl playing at being a executive secretary. So I decided to play along. The little slut immediately stands up and points one of their Sci-Fi guns, like they used on our cops in Minneapolis, right at me and orders me to leave. Can you believe that?”

Kennedy nodded.

“With those people I would have to believe anything.” He said.

“Can something be done about them?” Asked Hudson.

“Something will be done about them.” Senator Kennedy replied.

Ken Hudson had not told Senator Kennedy the full story.

Hudson had entered the office unannounced. There he found what was clearly a girl who appeared to be no older than 14 years old and was dressed as an obvious slut. He was not aware that this was a Monty Python Monday at the office and that the secretary was dressed as the receptionist character played by Carol Cleveland in the Travel Agent Sketch. The custom made long sleeved red dress was clearly designed to show off the still developing cleavage of her current incarnation.

For Hudson the surrealness of the environment was ramped up a notch when the obvious schoolgirl spoke with a clearly mature if cheerful tone of voice.

“May I help you?” She said.

Hudson replied.

“I’m Kenneth Hudson, I’m here see the new...”

“She was looking down at the screen of her workstation when she spoke.

“Just a moment...Mister Hudson...you are a Democratic Party activist and were ejected from this office. And you were told never to return.”

Hudson spoke up.

“Now see here...”

The apparent girl stood up and drew a Gauss pistol from a holster under the desktop. She pointed it straight at his head. He could clearly see that the sights of the pistol were aligned between her right eye and his own right eye.

“You won’t get away with murder.” He said.

“Of course not,” she replied, “this event is being recorded and will be replayed at any hearing held by my superiors aboard the Eagle, and I will be cleared of all charges.”

Hudson couldn’t respond.

She spoke again.

“Now, for the last time, get out!”

Hudson raised his hands and backed away, he then turned the quickly walked out the door.

He initially went to the police in Arlington, Virginia to file a complaint.

“What do you want me to do?” Said the desk sergeant. “Commit suicide?”

“I want you to arrest that slut!”

“No Mister Hudson,” said the obviously graying desk sergeant, “you want me to help you pretend that you had valid business in there. First, it is a diplomatic legation. Sovereign nations tend to get upset when their legations are violated. And the people from Alpha Centauri are clearly a sovereign nation. Second, they told you to never come back again. What part of this order did you not understand? And third, that girl you are complaining about is probably older than both of my grandmothers combined, those folks from Alpha Centauri are funny that way.”

The fact was that Sergeant Charles Burns of the Arlington Police had already met Miss Victoria Grosse and had dated her. He also knew that she was two years into her fourth incarnation, and that with great age came great sexual experience.

She also made it clear that in the long run he should find someone closer to his own age.

Step Back - Part 29

Monday October 13. 1969

On the mess deck of the Eagle Alice and Judith were having breakfast. Judith spoke.

“Alice, could I ask you a personal question?”

“You can ask.”

“Are you a lesbian?”

Doctor Alice Boatman looked up from her breakfast. She clearly did not expect this question. But then a friendly visit from the Spanish Inquisition would have seemed more likely to her.

She gave Judith the straight answer.

“I’ve tried it, but I would rather do normal sexual intercourse.”

“Oh.” Said Judith.

Now Alice had her own question.

“So what brought up the question?”

“Um...I tried it myself.”

“Was it a summer camp or a boarding school?” Asked Alice.

“Summer camp.” Said Judith.

It was at this time that Evelyn appeared at the table with his usual breakfast of four scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browned potatoes, which was all covered with cheese sauce, and a glass of chocolate milk.

“Did I miss anything?” He asked.

Alice gave the straight answer.

“An intimate conversation about girl stuff.”

Evelyn raised an eyebrow as he sat down. He then spoke again.

“Have you touched on why you’re not married yet?”

“Dad! You know why!”

Judith had to ask the next question.

“Alice, why not?”

Alice closed her eyes for a moment before calmly answering the question.

“There were only about a million men in the Alpha Centauri system altogether, and most of them were the wrong age or already married.”

The Evelyn spoke.

“This touches on why we mounted the rescue expedition to begin with. The fact of the matter is that the more functioning minds there are in a society the better off everyone in that society is in general. We didn’t come here out of altruism but out of a selfish desire to improve our own condition in the long run.”

“The more the merrier?” Said Judith.

“That’s one way to put it.” Evelyn replied.

A thought suddenly came to Alice’s mind.

“Remember what the dormouse said, feed your head...”

On that afternoon an Aeroflot passenger jet transport touched down at the Vienna airport. It carried a delegation from North Vietnam.

The rulers of the remnant of the Communist state in the north had decided to throw in the towel. Virtually the entire apparatus of the Communist State had been incinerated by the Uptimers from orbit. And there was no means by which they could continue the war of aggression against the Republic of Vietnam in the south. The only course of action open to the Communists was to seek peace on any terms.

In New York City the United Nations General Assembly continued their refusal to accept a delegation from the Republic of Biafra.

On Mars a mixed group of uptimers and American Astronauts walked up to the rim of Valles Marineris, the Great Canyon of Mars. The Americans were originally trained and equipped for walking on the Moon. But the spaceship Owl and her landers were available and the adapters were fabricated to allow the recharging of the life support systems of the suits from the Uptimer systems.

One of the Americans spoke to another.

“Jim, this is astounding!”

Jim Lovell looked out across the canyon. He had never thought that this day would have come. The appearance of the Uptimers was a surprise. The history files they brought back had been a shock to everyone at NASA. Lovell had personally watched as the service module that had been allocated to the Apollo 13 mission was taken apart for examination. And he was there when the faulty wiring in the fuel cell system that would have failed was exposed to the full view of everyone.

Now he was walking on the planet Mars. But he wasn’t simply playing a tourist. One of the goals of the mission was to confirm the history files on the physical resources of the red planet. The resources had been discovered and developed by colonists in the original timeline. They were here to perform a survey to verify those records.

There was much work to be done.

In Dallas within the headquarters of the former William Grant Ministries his widow Katherine was in a deep state of rage.

“How dare they!” She shouted. “How dare they mock our Lord Jesus Christ!”

On the table in the boardroom was the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine. It was open to a page with a cartoon. The cartoon depicted a terrestrial human having a conversation with what would eventually become known as a Gray Alien. The alien was speaking to the human.

“Oh yes. Jesus came to us too, we gave him some candy and he comes back to us every couple of weeks. Why, what did you guys do?”

To the Reverend George Muller it was clear to him that if the Widow Grant didn’t calm down she would blow a blood vessel in the brain.

He spoke calmly.

“Katherine, they are not mocking our Lord Jesus Christ, they are mocking mere mortal men, and honestly most men these days could use a good mocking.”

The Widow Grant spun to face Reverend Muller. With the whites of her eyes fully visible as she responded.

“How can you say that?”

Muller calmly replied.

“Because it’s the truth.”

The Widow Grant stared at him silently. Again Muller spoke.

“In this case what The New Yorker did was to reprint a cartoon that originated a bit over fifty years from now on the original timeline.”

The Widow Grant was livid. She shouted back at Muller.

“You believe the lies of the creations of Satan?”

Muller gently shook his head before calmly replying.

“Katherine, only God may create life and matter, and the fallen angel has no power except that which WE grant to him.”

With full fury the Widow Grant pointed to the door and shouted.

“GET OUT!”

Monday, October 20, 2014

FURY

I just saw FURY starring Brad Pitt and a M4A3E8 Sherman Tank..

This is a very realistic war film which clearly depicts the horrors of war, particularly against a totalitarian state. And if anything it has reinforced my long standing contempt for peace activists and pacifists in general.

Oh, I wouldn't bring a child or a lady on a date to see it.