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Author Topic: Terminus  (Read 2607 times)

Anslol

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Terminus
« on: 04 Sep 2013, 09:49 »

I was gonna try to submit this for a contest but got tired of waiting for my brain to make ideas. So, I'll just post it here as I write it vOv.

 

Terminus

The human race has thought of itself as the pinnacle of life throughout history. From the ancient Egyptians and Industrial Age nations of old, to the post-faster than light constellation spanning Alliances and galactic regional governments. The more humanity spread, the more our egos grew as intelligent life was found to be fleeting and rare throughout local space.

There was a time where we questioned why life was so rare. Why had races flourished and died? Why did great civilizations expand and collapse on themselves with such sudden implosions?  We questioned this great puzzle for centuries as our knowledge of the galaxy and universe grew. We drew the conclusion that life, much like human life, had a penchant for self-destruction. It seemed that humanity, for all its sins and faults, simply adapted to its suicidal tendencies more than others.

Golden Ages came and went, our collective wisdom grew and wilted, human factions flourished and died, yet we pressed on into the centuries. Those centuries soon became millennia. We had grown, we had prospered, and we had advanced beyond what our past selves could have ever imagined. We believed our race and its factions to be the alpha of our galaxy. But we were not foolish enough to believe ourselves the only life within the entirety of the endless cosmos.

The universe is unequivocally vast.  We casted our eyes beyond the rims of our Milky Way, deep into the darkest reaches of space. The vastness of the universe called out the exploratory nature within us, and it could not be held back. Fleets left the Milky Way, filing out in columns of soldier like precision towards their intended destination galaxies. The macrocosm of our home spiral soon became the center of a celestial web composed of bright lights cast from our ships, stations, and artificial worlds as we spread out using tools to bend the very fabric of space to our whim.

The more we spread, the more audacious our goals became. Eventually our ambition caused our race to turn our caution into something resembling negligence as we fumbled through the universe so much as children traverse a cityscape they know nothing of. Like children in a living city that waited until the opportune moment to strike at its prey.

Rivalka Niorunen
“Vicarious Experiences: The Great Expansion”
PEA 175
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Anslol

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Re: Terminus
« Reply #1 on: 04 Sep 2013, 09:55 »


Chapter 1
Year: PGE 2316
Sagan’s Wanderlust en route to:
Galaxy: UDFj-39546284 (Fornax Umbra)
Constellation: MJ53-177A.8 (Tiverot)
Solar System: P9C-559-1383.c (Dingir-Gin)
 

The hexagonal corridors and minimalistic bulkheads of the Sagan’s Wanderlust slipped past Vance Eiril’s field of vision as he trudged towards the vessel’s Sheath Hall. It had been two months since Vance was woken from his own frozen dreams to monitor the status of the vessel and its precious cargo. Since waking, Vance had busied himself with arrival preparations and orientation scheduling. The ship’s Mer would notify him of his scheduled rounds each morning at 0430 ship time, tactfully waking Vance with bright overhead lights and the whirring of electronic alarms from his ship linked implant. After a moment of begrudging appreciation to the Mer’s friendly reminder, Vance would make his way to the Sheath Hall to run his checks. Despite minor fatigue nibbling at his consciousness, he consoled himself with the fact that this would be the last check he’d need to run.

His boots clunked against the solid metal plating of the floor as the doors to the Sheath hall snicked open with barely a sound, anticipating his entry into the colossal valley of frozen, dreaming humans. Despite having seen the sight before him countless times, Vance still took time each round to admire the seemingly endless walls of soft blue light casting playful shadows across the countless surfaces of the Sheaths. The long, angular caskets latched on to transdiamond covers to look all the world like brilliant, over-sized sapphire pendants holding the vague form of a human within. The pendants stretched from wall to wall, floor to ceiling, never hinting at where they might end.
Fortunately, he did not bear the responsibility to wake all of the Sleepers.

Continuing down the cat walk of his side of the Sheath Hall, Vance willed his AR subroutines to cast a finely squared grid over his field of vision. Information on four Sleepers began to scroll before him as he walked towards his final destination. He’d be waking a group of four this round. Three were baseline humans with limited augmentation he had met prior to departure five years ago, two doctors and one Auditor sent by their company. The fourth was a Diver, much like Vance. It fascinated him to see one of his own playing colleague to baseliners instead of living between stars and galaxies like many others of their kind. He wondered what would drive someone to choose such a boring life stuck in one solar system.

He set aside musing of his faction’s social structure as he entered the retrieval chamber. Console screens appeared in the air before him, moving backwards with each of his strides to the control node. Eight depressions ringed around the half circular chamber, each a perfect molded outline of a Sleeper Sheath. The walls within each depression shifted slightly as Vance pressed down on the control node, allowing his hands to sink into the chromic, viscous mound. The walls of the depressions waved and lapped at the sides of the silhouettes with each motion of Vance’s fingers within the node.

Ghostly blue light began to flood the dimly lit room as Sleeper Sheaths pushed through the liquefied walls of the depressions, pulled further into the room as Vance slid his fingers out of the node. The material of the sphere clung briefly to his hands before snapping back to the node as the Sheaths ceased their movement, locking into their respective pockets.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, this is your ship Tender speaking,” Vance said as he ran a finger tip down the middle of the node. “We’ll be arriving at our destination system shortly.” While he knew none of the Sleepers could hear him, the temptation to mock the inane customs of FTL baseline crews was too much to resist.

As he spoke, hair line cracks appeared in the middle of each Sheath, slowly folding the transdiamond covers into themselves to allow their habitant to exit. At the same time, clear gel receded from the body of the occupant and into fine vents set inside the sheaths save for a thin line of body clinging liquid becoming opaquely white. The newly formed body suits would inject a cocktail of nanites and chemicals to quicken the waking process of each occupant while recalling medical history to ensure no complications would arise. Within a minute, all four Sleepers were conscious.

“Welcome to the Dingir-Gin System everyone,” Vance said with a thin smile.
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Anslol

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Re: Terminus
« Reply #2 on: 04 Sep 2013, 10:56 »

Also, please comment. I thrive on feedback, be it praise or verbal bitch smackage for making my sentences too long.

(god damn my like of Alastair Reynolds)
(also god damn my dumb ass posting in a nearly dead forum section T_T)

EDIT: Wow, not a single comment?
« Last Edit: 05 Sep 2013, 07:51 by Anslol »
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Repentence Tyrathlion

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Re: Terminus
« Reply #3 on: 05 Sep 2013, 13:57 »

I'll bite.

Seems interesting thus far.  Not much to go on though.  What kind of length are you shooting for, what target audience are you going for, and what's your goal for this?  These are useful things to know for a critic.
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Anslol

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Re: Terminus
« Reply #4 on: 05 Sep 2013, 14:02 »

Yeah I'm sort of stuck at this part. For me, it's a way to practice and push my skill with wordplay and stage setting. I always loved Reynolds work, and that of anyone else who could describe a scene or something and make me really feel and see the thing. Sure, they may do it long windedly, but they do it in such a way that I WANT to keep reading. It's just a big experiment in seeing how far my writing ability and vernacular can take me.

Length wise? I dunno. I have a basic outline from start to finish in my mind, but I'm having issues executing with without being grossly cliche. In the end, IF it turns into a sprawling, awesome story, cool. If not? Live and learn, right?

EDIT: THANK YOU FOR COMMENT!
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Vieve

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Re: Terminus
« Reply #5 on: 05 Sep 2013, 14:05 »

A few.
1) Check your contest rules to make sure they do not disqualify contest entries for being "previously published elsewhere".  Being posted on the publicly accessible Web can count as being "previously published elsewhere."  If the contest administrator is following the same general rule as many RWA contests do, "publicly accessible" means "if you can Google it, it's public".  As another general rule, contest judges usually only check if a) there's a tie situation or b) an entry's very familiar and/or really freakin' good.
 
2) Why did Vance's arrival preparations and orientation scheduling take two months?  Is there something significant about that period of time?  Did the Sagan's Wanderlust reach the outer edge of the Dingir-Gin system and begin to decelerate/something similar?  On that note, how long does it take the ship to get from one end of the system to its destination within the system?
3)  Why is Vance fatigued?  Has he been pulling long work shifts over those past two months?  And dude, he seems to be more relieved that he is going to be done with his job than he is looking forward to communicating with someone other than the Mer.  What's going on with that?  (You do suggest that he considers being stuck in a single solar system as 'boring'.  You could play that up.)
4)  Vance says "destination system".  Does he mean planet or asteroid instead?  Or are they going to hop over to the next solar system/slip through a wormhole?  If that's the case, why are they waking up in Dingir-Gin?
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Anslol

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Re: Terminus
« Reply #6 on: 05 Sep 2013, 14:07 »

1) Er I'm not submitting this, sorry lol. Should have clarified. I'm putting it here because I just wanted to see if that story idea was cool or not. Putting it on backstage disqualifies it.
 
2) The 2 month thing would be answered if I had posted the next section that explains the nature of the ship and the type of travel, but I didn't want to post it cause...well it's just an explanation, not much of a story...trying to figure out how to tie it with a story.  Basically it took them two months to get from one galaxy, to the galaxy they're in now.  I'll post the description and make it WIP heh. SEE BELOW!

3)  Without giving a lot away, he's not where he's at his 'prime.' He freezes and unfreezes to tend to duties to keep his body and health tip top since he can't remain where he'd normally be as the ship pilot vs. the tender.  And yes, he IS relieved. He wants the people off, and moving to the next cluster of more interesting space (in his mind) then what may well be....well, check the galaxy reference number on Google ;)

4)  Vance says "destination system" because it's an actual solar system. But I see your point. I want them heading to a specific outpost so I should clarify that. Dingir-Gin is where said outpost is, and for good reasons that I won't spoil :3
« Last Edit: 05 Sep 2013, 14:21 by Anslol »
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Anslol

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Re: Terminus
« Reply #7 on: 05 Sep 2013, 14:20 »

Chapter 1a-
The Skip Ships
 

 All Skip Ships were monstrous behemoths of alloy, sensor clusters, docking bays, copious sleeper sheath halls and, in some cases, weapons. The mammoth vessel’s interior reflected the same efficient and minimalist design features as its outer hull. Skip ships served only one purpose; to safely move human beings across the vast and majestic gulf between the galaxies throughout the universe.

FTL engines were still used within galactic clusters by all factions of humanity, but only the Hardinger-Liuz Drives were capable of reaching beyond the wall of the galactic rim and out into the darkness of true deep space. Consequently, such vast power could only be contained within even vaster machines capable of holding the exotic reactions of the Drives. This inherent trait left little consideration for such amenities as interior design and human pleasing curves and aesthetics more prevalent in FTL vessels, outposts, and artificial worlds.

 While only the most experienced Interstellar Engineer could possibly explain in-depths the workings of the Drive’s acceleration systems, the basic principal of its function was simple to grasp. While FTL engines warped space around a vessel for it to achieve speeds greater than light could travel in vacuum, the Hardinger-Liuz Drives ignored the necessity to travel through the vacuum of space altogether. By manipulating forces equivalent to that of a black hole’s singularity, the Drives wielded gravity like a great interstellar blade to assault the very foundation of reality itself, rending and twisting the quantum foam of space to the requirements inherent with trans-galactic travel in Skip Space.

Quantum foam manipulation, while a relatively old method of travel, had improved over the centuries to the point that the oddities and fluctuations inherent with trans-galactic travel became trivialities. Drives sliced through the fabric of reality itself to enter what was known as Skip Space, a far more complicated concept in and of itself. Once a ship had entered Skip Space, it could travel literally anywhere its crew desired.

To house these powerful Drives, vast ships larger than cities (and some outposts) were created. Skip ships ranged in size between four to twelve kilometers in length and one to four kilometers in width. Each ship was capable of holding hundreds of thousands of passengers, tucked away in sleeper sheaths while their bodily functions, though sustained by the machines many subsystems, remained in limbo between life and death to ensure their preservation during the journey between galaxies. Intricate factories, docking bays for FTL vessels, and even small cities could be placed within the Skip Ships should the crew deem it necessary for the trip.

Each ship housed a single Hardinger-Liuz Drive at the rear of the angular and lengthy hull. Around the Drive, the hull flared out in all directions in slim rectangular obelisks of varying length, all angled at precisely forty-five degrees and pointing away from the behemoth vessel. At the side of the obelisks facing away from the ship and towards deep space were hundreds of thruster vents which propelled the ship through regular space. The obelisks only shut off when, at the heart of the explosion of towering propulsion engines, the Hardinger-Liuz drives flashed into life in a brilliant burst of white and purple. Once activated, the burst travels in separate paths along the lengths of the propulsion obelisks until reaching their apex, where they gouge reality and push the vessel through the celestial wound into Skip Space. It had been five relativistic years since the Sagan’s Wanderlust had entered Skip Space to its far flung destination from its departure point within Andromeda.
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Etienne Saissore

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Re: Terminus
« Reply #8 on: 07 Sep 2013, 10:50 »

I kind of like space opera with elements like massive colony ships, galactic distances and a history which is long enough to allow a space faring society to develop the required infrastructure. Terminus seems to have a lot of this feeling so big thumbs up for that. Let me sum up some of my impressions.

We now know that there are factions, and people can be divided at least to Divers, Auditors and baseliners. Vance is referred to as the ship Tender, and he is waking up only four people, out of who knows how many. His duty is said to be to monitor the ships functions.

As important task as it is, he's not really described like he were in possession of much authority. I get the feeling he's either closer to a care taker/janitor of the vessel rather than the captain, or the society where the characters are living is extremely equal and unstratified.

At this point, I don't think this ship is on a military mission, I think the procedures and concerns would probably have been different if this were the case, and order of things would have been more hierarchical. Vance's greeting seems to imply the system they've arrived at is something they're already familiar with, and the chapter 1a implies that this is not the first or the last journey of this kind, and therefore the military might probably have less interest in being involved in this than if the mission were something no one had ever tried before.

What is unclear for me is why does the travel take so long, and why is there a need for suspended animation if the quantum foam drive is so much more powerful than a regular FTL drive? What exactly is the advantage the Hardinger-Liuz technology offers over the old-fashioned, conservative FTL technology? Maybe there's something we readers don't quite know about it yet.

I'm personally not a big fan of the concept of force in sci-fi science because it's not really a foundational quantity in current modern physics, unlike fields, or energy-momentum etc. But I guess that's just a pet peeve of mine, in the story it definitely delivers the message and has a good ring to it.

The story teller appears to be marveling at what he sees, and might even be a bit overwhelmed by the scope and complexity of the world. It creates a sense of vastness which is great. In my view, Vance is also appears to be a believable and even realistic personality, he enjoys knowing things others have no clue, and secretly feels pity, or even contempt towards the baseliners.

I'm definitely looking forward to the continuation of this story and sorry if I misunderstood or missed something. I just felt it might be more useful for you to actually say something more than simply "I like it."
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Anslol

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Re: Terminus
« Reply #9 on: 25 Sep 2013, 09:07 »

1b-

The sprawling tendrils of light and life extend across most of the lunar surface. Towers of glass and crystal jutted into the man-made atmosphere of Luna, making the celestial satellite look less like a moon and more like a miniature model of the Earth it orbited.  From above, the seven major city centers of Luna could be seen in their warm yellow and white glory. The warmth and life before him did less to sooth his homesickness and more to compound it. Seven cities, eighty-five million people, three space ports, one home. He could tell you in the blink of an eye every single statistic you might need to know about Luna. He could tell you predicted GDP for the next ten years, past, present, and future population demographics, ship movements, data-node activities, and even popularity ranked social activities in the most obscure, ethnic districts. But at this moment, none of it mattered. He just wanted to stare at his home.

Gatchen Thuss slouched in his isomorphic chair, keeping his breathing shallow and mind empty. The massive bulk of Luna raced ever closer towards him as cities, skyways, highways, and buildings races by. A small smile grow over his melancholic visage as the motion suddenly stopped over the familiar site of three identical towers jutting out from the lower city looking for all the world like a crystal growth. White wisps of cloud and mist kissed the towers as the sun rose in the distance, setting the crystal city on fire as a lunar day dawned on his home. Aramethia was by no means the largest city, or the most well-known, but it was his one and only home.

With what little resolution he could muster, Gatchen stood with a small sigh as the projection slowly dissipated from view to leave naught but the cavernous construct of the Terminal to weight down on his spirits. Realistic as its products may be, the knowledge of it all being a façade always lingered in the back of one’s mind. Baseliner, Auditor, Diver and Mer, even the construct addicted Phases knew it to be nothing but a mirage. Well, one would think the Phases would know, but then again they’re addicted so…

Gatchen put aside the impromptu social analysis and stretched before running his hand over his face and beard. Grey eyes carrying the wisdom of years accented by the faintest of wrinkles focused on the Terminal exit as he made his way out and into the Skip Ship’s hallways. The crew and socialization decks of most Skip Ships tended to be as spartan as their more functional counterparts unless one had the money to spend on upgrades. Even then, it seemed less like a welcome redecoration and more like piss poor makeup on a particularly ugly but highly efficient worker. Regardless, it served its purpose to keep minds from wandering too much out in the black. Most minds needed a break or distraction to prevent any unseemly breakdowns. Even the biggest of ships could still feel like a coffin to anyone not of the star-living factions. Five factions, nine-billion associates of said factions, 7,462 of their Skip Ships in the Milky Way, 27,101 of their FTL ships in the Milky Way, and only three wars between them all. What went on in their heads was anyone’s guess.

Gatchen rested his back against the lift walls as the capsule doors sealed before launching up through the vacuum tube towards the top decks with the rest of the waking crew. Gravitic field manipulation kept Gatchen from being crushed on the floor as the lift moved at 89.4 meters per second. As the quiet whirring of the lift system died down, the capsule doors slid open once more revealing the brighter lit corridors of the top deck of the vessel. Of the 12,431 occupants, approximately twenty were awake and moving about the ship, ever tracked by manufactured bacteria strewn across the vessel to detect motion and heat to transmit back to the Mer. This tracking method was one ‘innovation’ Gatchen could never get used to, as the idea of millions of bacterial ‘eyes’ staring at him left a feeling of paranoia more so than of security.  Though human they may be, Mer and other space-living factions had may as well been aliens for all their differences and radically alternate branches of advancement.

He continued his trek through the corridor to the passenger lobby of the top deck to await word of when the vessel would reach Dingir-Gir’s south east edge before contact with the outpost there was made. From there, transportation and holding patterns would be negotiated. Once done, the long month of work in the literal ass end of reality would commence for him. Though the data may be interesting and the environment mysterious in its own right, the thought of being so far from everything made him feel somewhat uneasy. The knowledge of what said ass end of reality was bordering only compounded his unease. Why invest so much time and life studying nothing? The outpost was LITERALLY at the system’s edge next to NOTHING. A swath of black with the odd anomaly here and there was what constituted a few decades worth of work to study the so called ‘0 Point.’ All this fuss over a spot in an ancient galaxy that technically shouldn’t even be coalesced anymore to study a swath of nothing, and for what? He supposed that’s why he was where he was, to find out why investors were bothering with this place. That’s what Auditors did after all: absorb information beyond normal baseline ability, digest it, spit it out, absorb it again, and see if something new popped up. Any true Auditor could do this, even the youngest of their faction. Data was naught but a transparent, three-dimensional puzzle of pure art to ponder over….at least that was how he had it set up in his mind. His attention to detail and centuries of experience had helped him form his own personal system of analysis that just made sense in his mind. Fortunately, it created results that made sense to clients. Unfortunately for Gatchen, however, said clients decided this robustly reinforced talent should be used in the farthest reaches of the Web at Dingir-Gir as opposed to the untested abilities of a younger Auditor.

“I’m getting too old for this shit,” he said quietly to himself as he pressed on.
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Etienne Saissore

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Re: Terminus
« Reply #10 on: 06 Oct 2013, 07:06 »

So this is a flashback to the beginning of the expedition?

I think Gatchen might be somewhat less action oriented and more contemplative than Vance. For betting purposes, I make the guess that out of these two, he won't make it through the struggles which might be ahead.

There are many new grains of information about the purpose of the expedition, the surrounding society, and the path the humanity and technology have taken. Makes me automatically want to try to fill the gaps, like how would you feed a lunar colony, or what kind of social engineering could keep a space colony free of drama, or how would you design a bacterium with an antenna - on this stage there are way more questions than answers ... such as where is the next part?
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Anslol

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Re: Terminus
« Reply #11 on: 06 Oct 2013, 17:42 »

1) Not a flashback. He's in an isometric holo system just bringing up his old home to watch.
2) Maybe, maybe not. If you paid close attention, you could figure out just who or WHAT he is :3
3) The next part is coming after I figure out how to manage 400 patients awaiting enrollment because :GUBMENT:, I finish the marketing plan and executing a product launch for this small business, finish planning for the next 4 weeks of major fleet engagements, aaaand design an ENTIRE ad campaign for a county government rep who wants to make recycling sound fun and engaging.

Welp. I'll try to do SOMETHING though.
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