The Next Age
For those of you who have been following these occasional snippets on my blog from my latest Sci-fi novella, and who love traditional science fiction as opposed to what the movie and television industries currently present to the world, which in reality is nothing more than soap opera in a space setting, here is another excerpt once again taken completely out of context, this time from the beginning of the chapter I am currently working on.
One thing The Next Age very definitely isn’t, is Sci-fi soap opera. My literary heroes in the genre have and always will be, Arthur C. Clark, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, who all loathed the idea of any form of idiotic deep and meaningful scenarios occurring between crew members aboard a space craft.
I remember reading about the arguments between Arthur and Stanley Kubrick when he was asked to co-write the script for 2001 – A Space Odyssey. In the end a compromise was reached with only one crew member played by Kier Dullea and the decidedly homicidal computer Hal.
After each corvette docked within the vast automated shipyard where the process of break up would be carried out, its crew transferred via shuttle to Gogol. Five days later the CEDF now consisted of two Behemoth class battle cruisers – Gogol and its inanimate sibling Terra, named after our home planet by Glen. Both massive planet killers had their hanger decks modified to accommodate the squadrons of fighters formerly housed aboard the old corvettes, while both ship’s crews retro fitted the former fleet’s armaments to increase the battle cruiser’s firepower.
“What is the best way to blindside a powerful opponent intent on destroying you gentlemen?” Glen began, at the beginning of a council of war held in Gogol’s command centre. “I’ll tell you – attack them where and when they least expect it! To that end Gogol has located the Avran’s home planet.”
“How far away are we talking here sir?” Major Moshe Jacob enquired.
“If you will allow me to answer the major Glen,” Gogol began, “the planet Maal is in the Vida planetary system of the Andromeda galaxy’s inner spiral arm. I have calculated that even travelling at the maximum speed allowable within a wormhole, it will take us at least five months to arrive at the outer limits of the galaxy. Given that our people noticeably suffered ill health after just one month travelling in this manner, we would need to stop from time to time to allow recovery. The one thing we must all be is fit and alert when we reach the galaxy. That also applies to Terra and I. Though we are not living breathing beings like you, even we need to rest occasionally.”
For everyone aboard the battle cruisers, a giant leap into the unknown depths of the universe was about to begin, not so much with a roar as a whimper. Totally preoccupied by what was about to happen, Glen and the men and women serving with him brushed aside the fact that according to the calendar, the month of September had begun back on Earth, considering it as nothing more than a mere irrelevance, due to the present set of circumstances they found themselves in. Not so for Gogol. This important fact meant that the Andromeda galaxy was now to be found in the constellation of Pegasus, thanks to the precession of the equinoxes, first discovered by the Greek astronomer and geographer Hipparchus in 125 BC. To give you an example – as the Earth rotates about its axis it responds to the gravitational attraction of the sun upon its equatorial bulge, so that its axis of rotation describes a circle over an enormous period of time, in this case approximately 26,000 years.
All this actually meant was that Gogol now had to calculate a path across the vast distance between Sekker, directly opposite the Earth and the Solar System in the Milky Way, and Maal situated in the Vida system, utilizing various stars along the way as waypoints based on Sekker’s current position relative to where Andromeda appears to be in the heavens at this particular time of year.
By the third week Gogol was satisfied that it had finally determined the shortest route possible, after literally spending thousands of hours of continuous calculations, while its crew went about their daily business. The reason for the need to use waypoints was twofold. First of all, both ship’s crews needed to recuperate from the effects of wormhole fever, a debilitating side effect of this particular method of space travel. Secondly, even though both ships had the capacity to create a wormhole, each one they formed had a finite length according to the universal laws of physics. In other words it was not possible to create one long enough, which would stretch across the mindboggling distance of 2.5 million light years from Sekker in the Milky Way, to Maal in the Andromeda galaxy.