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Travellers

Travellers

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Travellers

Länge:
313 Seiten
4 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Sep 21, 2014
ISBN:
9781311541215
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

After 437 years in space, the Phoenix is in desperate trouble. The ship has arrived at Alpha Centauri only to find that the planets are not habitable. They only enough fuel left for manoeuvering into orbit.

Along the way, the cryonics system that keeps the 96 passengers frozen failed. Repairs done at the time were inadequate. The crew is afraid that they will not be able to revive any of the passengers.

An alien spacecraft approaches and adds to their worries. Schwink, the pilot of the alien ship offers help. Sonia, the Captain of the Phoenix welcomes the offer. Her crew are more skeptical and wary of the aliens.

A power struggle on the alien mother ship threatens the safety of the humans. Read the story to see how the travellers cope with their trials and challenges and deal with their alien saviours.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Sep 21, 2014
ISBN:
9781311541215
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Charles Dyer is a consulting engineer, former senior lecturer and former technical magazine editor. He creates 3D models to help with visualisation and realism in his writing.

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Travellers - Charles G. Dyer

Travellers

CHARLES G. DYER

Copyright © 2013 Charles G Dyer

All rights reserved.

ISBN-13: 9781311541215

Smashwords Edition

License

Thank you for purchasing this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are products of the author's imagination. It remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be reproduced, copied and distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to purchase their own copy at Smashwords.com, where they can also discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.

It would be greatly appreciated if you could post a review on the site where you purchased this book.

CONTENTS

Prologue

Chapter_One

Chapter_Two

Chapter_Three

Chapter_Four

Chapter_Five

Chapter_Six

Chapter_Seven

Chapter_Eight

Chapter_Nine

Chapter_Ten

Chapter_Eleven

Chapter_Twelve

Chapter_Thirteen

Chapter_Fourteen

Chapter_Fifteen

Chapter_Sixteen

About_The_Author

PROLOGUE

A double row of tank traps and four rings of electrified razor-wire fences surrounded the huge facility. Within the wires were dog runs for dozens of silent but deadly packs of killer hounds that would put wolves to shame. Beyond the fences, broad tracts of the New Mexico desert had been cleared and levelled. A dozen helicopter gunships patrolled this no man's land, day and night.

Constant patrols of heavily armed militia, on foot and in armoured cars, ensured that perimeter breaches were virtually impossible. The entrance was impenetrable with a series of sunken pits that could only be bridged once central control activated the hydraulic platforms. Armoured watchtowers at 500 metre centres completed the defences.

Massive buildings in the centre of the complex housed several rockets that were ready for launch. For two years, a series of similar heavy-lift rockets had left the launch pad to convey materials and fuel into high Earth orbit. The remaining rockets were for transporting passengers to the spaceship that was being assembled a thousand kilometres above the Earth's surface.

Most of the passengers had been living on the facility for the duration. The outside world was in chaos. The obscenely rich passengers had pooled their considerable wealth and concocted a scheme to escape the lunacy of the world. They were convinced that they could start a new civilisation on one of the planets of Alpha Centauri.

Scientific advisors assured them that such a destination was preferable to Mars where the lack of an atmosphere and water would present them with ongoing hardships. These blinkered academics had 'irrefutable proof' that there were habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri solar system.

At the opposite end of the complex to the launch pad were vast warehouses. These housed batteries of chickens and cattle as well as both aeroponic and hydroponic gardens. This made the facility completely independent from the rest of the world. In addition to the fresh food, there were immense stockpiles of dry goods and fuel. The army of technicians and militia were well fed and safe. For what it was worth, they were also paid well in excess of their normal pay.

The world outside no longer was a place where money had much meaning. Anarchy, looting and the total collapse of civilisation meant that there were no incentives for anybody to leave. Similarly, fear of dismissal and the consequences of that were a major motivation to continue giving of their best.

~#~

Originally, there had been a hundred people in the billionaire's club that planned to leave Earth. One died in a plane crash on his way to the secret space centre. One got cold feet and bought an island that he turned into a fortress. Two others simply did not turn up. Their money had been spent on the project, so it was assumed that some misfortune had befallen them but there was no way of checking because all forms of communication had been destroyed or otherwise disrupted.

Thousands of billions went into the bold venture before the world went awry. A hardcore of twenty men, who called themselves the Phoenix Foundation, had been planning this contingency for years. When they saw that the inevitable was imminent, they offered very expensive one-way tickets to a select few. Once all the finances were in place, they bought up all the materials and expertise they needed and established the space centre.

The strange thing about the passengers was that they had very little to do with each other. They lived in prefabricated houses with minimal space between them.

Some of them did make use of the employees' recreational facilities but there was minimal socialising.

The entire plan depended on finding a ready to occupy terrestrial planet. The passengers were allowed no baggage at all. The clothes on their backs and whatever personal trinkets they cared to wear or carry in their pockets were all they were permitted to take with them. All the materials and equipment that were to accompany them were chosen with careful consideration of weight, bulk and eventual usefulness. Both available space in the cargo modules and weight were crucial design factors that affected choices.

The spacecraft was the biggest practical design possible and everything was geared to successful completion of the voyage within its design life of 450 years. No provision was made for failure other than backup systems. Once started, the mission could not be aborted.

As the instigators of the project and the biggest investors, the Phoenix Foundation were utterly selfish and ruthless. They regarded the other passengers as incidental baggage whose inclusion had been foisted on them for financial reasons alone. In some cases, this baggage included their own spouses or children. Their over-inflated egos would not allow them to leave trophy wives or offspring behind, no matter if they despised them or not.

~#~

David Blackwell was one of the passengers that were regarded as baggage by the Foundation. He toyed with his DoAll. I think that humanity wished its doom on itself.

How so Dad? Sharon sipped orange juice from an antique Waterford crystal tumbler.

Liver spots and wrinkles on his hands gave his age away. His face was line-free and only a smattering of grey marred the temples of his black hair. As far back as I can remember and even before that there've been stories and movies of an apocalyptic nature. People seem to have a morbid fascination with death and chaos. Instead of taking the doomsayers to heart and trying to avoid such a crisis, people have fed the demon. The more fantastic the story, the more popular it was. Many of them were bizarre with outside influences like aliens. But lots of tales predicted economic collapse as the root cause of mankind's downfall.

Yeah but nothing new really, is it? Sharon lay back and slouched in the couch. This sort of this has been going on forever. America is just another one of a long line of failures. The Egyptians, Mayans, Incas, Greeks, Romans, etc. all had their day in the sun and they all screwed it up. I guess there'll be another Dark Age and then slowly things'll get back to normal.

Humph! David huffed. Maybe normal is what's going on right now. And this time, it's not just America. The whole darned world is in the same state. Do you think I'd have thrown everything away to be frozen in space for hundreds of years if there had been the remotest chance of setting up shop somewhere safe on Earth?

Sharon thought, I wonder what Mom would have thought about all this. She had had similar discussion several times before with few variations. Since the death of her mother a few months before the start of the space programme, she had become her father's confidant and sole reason to live. He was determined to do everything in his power to save his daughter from the untenable situation that had developed almost overnight. In turn, she felt that he had a raw deal from life despite having made an incredible fortune.

David's first wife had died in a car accident. Sharon's mother had been sickly even since giving birth to Sharon. Several firms had exploited him with poor pay and long hours before he finally got a lucky break. His DoAll design was an instant success that conquered the world. Before the collapse, his daily income from royalties was never less than seven figures.

Sharon admired him for his faithfulness and unstinting devotion to her mother despite the fact that she could not have been much of a companion. One illness after another kept her miserable and bedridden for long stretches at a time. When she was up and about, she was too weak and frail to be of any comfort to her doting husband. Most men would have filed for divorce or taken lovers on the side.

She absently twirled a finger in her short blond hair. The jet set fashion before they retreated from normal life was that women wore what was called sharp hair. It was cut short with a duck tail down to the nape of the neck, bangs that came to a point in the centre of the forehead and sharp-pointed pseudo-sideburns that terminated at the earlobes. As far as she knew, all the other female passengers wore the same style.

~#~

One of the Foundation member's trophy wife lay alone on a deck chair at the side of the Olympic sized pool in the employees' recreation centre. The hot desert sun was something she relished. Gillian Cooper had the misfortune, although many would say fortune, of being the wife of one of the richest men in the world. As a marginally successful Formula 500 desert racing car driver and popular photographic model, she had attracted a significant entourage of admirers and suitors. Youth is easily dazzled by the lure of big money and smooth talk. She fell into the trap.

Jake Cooper was the epitome of gentlemanly charm before they were married. The façade was dropped on their wedding night. It was soon apparent to her that he was only interested in her public image and satisfying his lust. He was both mentally and physically abusive. Old money had made him arrogant and domineering. Personal success had reinforced those unfortunate traits and added cunning, possessiveness and pitiless indifference to the mix.

Jill, as friends called her, was rich in her own right. Her parents had left her with substantial insurance payouts when they died in a car crash. Her modelling career funded her passion for speed until she became good enough to attract sponsorships. Her early years as a loner in the racing world had taught her just about all there was to know about mechanics and high-powered machines.

She squinted at her perfectly manicured nails. Humph! It's been an awfully long time since they had dirt under them. Seeing that she was still alone, she adjusted her bikini so that she could get an all-over tan. Christ, there better be sun where we're going or I'll kill Jake. He was the only family she had but she could not bring herself to think of him as such. He was a depressing millstone around her neck and she did not know how to get rid of him.

Her kidneys still ached from the last beating. He was an expert at inflicting pain without leaving marks. She shuddered when she thought of his repertoire of dastardly and devious tricks. The bastard must've paid all the guards extra to keep an eye on me. She recalled how she had swiped an armoured car to leave the complex. The gate guards didn't buy my story for a minute. It was almost like they were expecting me. Shit, if only I'd learnt to fly, I could've nicked a chopper instead. That was the worst beating he ever gave me. I wish I could find someone to teach me martial arts.

Thank God that son-of-a-bitch bully is so wrapped up in giving everyone in this shitty place a hard time that he's seldom home, she muttered. He thinks I'm going to be his brood mare wherever we're going. Well I'm damned if I'll ever give him that satisfaction. In the first place, I wouldn't want any child of mine to be his and secondly, he doesn't deserve to be a father.

~#~

On July 2, 2050, 82 passengers stood at the observation window hardly daring to breathe as they listened to the monotonous twanging voice that calls out the countdown. They pointed their DoAll cameras at their hope for the future. Thirty seconds to go and the first latticed umbilical tower retracted slowly on its pivot. The massive thirty-storey high Raven 3 rocket trembled on the launch pad as its engines warmed up. Huge plumes of white smoke tinted with yellowish orange began billowing through guiding blast channels to either side.

Riding piggyback on the rocket was a diminutive Space Ferry that had a pilot and the first fourteen passengers. It was also loaded with perishable goods, water and equipment for the spacecraft. It would drop them at the spaceship in orbit and return with some of the workmen. Seven trips were planned to take all the passengers and the last two crewmembers into space.

Above the arid sea of green mesquite, chaparral and yucca of New Mexico, the clear blue sky shimmered with the heat. Islands of distant purple mountains broke the hazy skyline. Great mushrooms of pink dust tumbled over the desert sand at the ends of the blast channels.

With fifteen seconds left, the second and shorter umbilical girder was retracted. A monstrous explosion of reddish brown dust spewed laterally away from the site as the main engines fired and great fireballs blossomed below the rocket.

The normally confident Jake Cooper gripped his hands tightly together in front of his safari suit. His face was taut and drawn as he repeated the countdown, …four, three, two…

The flames, smoke and noise intensified to a crescendo. Four supporting gantries swung back on their hinges and the rocket slowly began to defy gravity.

As the rocket ascended on a miniature sun, the acceleration became more obvious to the onlookers. Through the magnified images on their DoAlls, they could see the white-orange fireball below the engines and boosters followed by a pinkish-white spear of burnt fuel. Anxious seconds ticked by and after one minute of flight, the first of the pioneers were travelling at two thousand kilometres per hour.

Another minute passed in which most of the spectators forgot to breathe. Suddenly, the image enlarged as the four strap-on boosters were successfully ejected in a fiery display. The Raven was flying at five times the speed of sound.

Cooper grunted, Huh! Six more to go. His face broke into a broad grin. The palpable tension at the window crumbled as handshakes, backslapping, hugs and smiles were exchanged. For many, the ice was broken as jubilation replaced trepidation. People that had been uncommunicative neighbours for two years suddenly treated each other like old friends.

As usual in public, Jill had to play the dutiful happy wife or suffer the consequences in the privacy of their dwelling. She did not regard anywhere that had to be shared with Jake as a home anymore.

~#~

Cooper wanted to be last to leave because he liked to be in control of everything and he trusted nobody. Some of the Foundation members were already in space so he felt reasonably sure that things were going as planned up there.

On the eve of departure of the final Ferry, a group of disgruntled technicians finally had their chance to settle old scores with the bully. He was working late as usual. If what he did could be called work at all. He stalked about looking for trouble. In his eyes, a coffee break was malingering. He acquired a reputation very early on in the programme when more than once he slapped a mug of coffee out of some poor unfortunate's hand and bellowed at them to get back to work or face dismissal. And that was only one of a long list of grievances.

The malcontents knew Cooper's routine, so they waited until he entered an isolated area to ambush him out of earshot from others. They wisely hid their faces behind masks and beat him repeatedly with pipes, fists or anything else that came to hand. They hit hard enough to bruise but not to cause any breaks or permanent injury.

One of them said, It's creeps like you that started all the labour unrest in the first place.

Another muffled voice added, Yeah, it's a pity you can't take the rest of your type with you. I hope it's a worse hell than here.

When he limped in through the front door, Jill wanted to laugh and clap. She wished that she knew who did it so that she could reward them somehow. Why didn't they kill the bastard?

~#~

In the morning, Jill had to lead Jake to the preparation centre. His eyes were so puffed up that he could not see. They were fitted into g-suits and dosed up with space sickness medications.

At last, a bus took them to the elevator on the landing pad. There was only room for two plus their attendant technicians on the narrow platform. Nearly half an hour passed before they were all strapped into their seats in the cramped interior of the Space Ferry.

The waiting for the countdown was easier on the pilot than the passengers. At least he was familiar with the routines and had systems checks to occupy him. Jill tried to suppress her flying jitters by playing a game on her DoAll. Some people talked to each other and the rest nervously lay in their seats wrapped up in their thoughts or reading books on their DoAlls.

Terrifyingly severe vibrations heralded their final hour on Earth. Clouds of gas and ice obscured the view out of the Space Ferry's windows. Jill gripped the armrests so tightly that she began to worry that she might puncture the g-suit gloves with her nails. A sideways glance at Jake made her feel much better. He looked green about the gills and decidedly uncomfortable. I thought you liked speed and flying. She laughed.

Despite the insulation of the Space Ferry, the noise of the rocket motors was considerably louder than any aircraft they had ever flown in. Then the mind-boggling force of lift-off thrust them deep into their seats and distorted their faces. Jill pressed her lips tightly together. Holy shit! This is way faster than any racer I've ever driven.

After a few minutes of bedlam, the Raven jettisoned its booster rockets somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico. As the flight progressed, the vibrations and noise lessened almost exponentially. The pilot was in constant radio contact with ground control but none of the passengers could hear what was said.

When the third and final stage of the Raven was dispatched into the fringes of the atmosphere to disintegrate and burn up over the Atlantic Ocean, the Space Ferry lurched forward. They were now in space and heading directly to the assembly area.

Half an hour later, they arrived at the Phoenix spaceship and docked. The pilot said, Please remove the g-suits and tie your seat belts over them. They will be worn by the last of the workers.

Weightlessness took everyone by surprise when they released their seatbelts. They floated about helplessly until Captain Sonia Wright came in and introduced herself. She said, The ceiling is low to help you to walk. There are plenty of grab handles and they're all painted green. Don't touch things that are painted red or yellow. See, you walk with both hands and feet, like so. She demonstrated. Her left foot matched her right hand movements and vice versa. Also, you should not move too fast. Quick movements can make you dizzy or even cause you to faint.

Shaking hands in zero gravity had strange effects unless both people were holding onto something. The recreation area was designed to accommodate a dozen people. The six crewmen, twelve passengers and two androids were somewhat cramped for space.

The passengers were given a quick tour and then one by one, they were placed in their cryogenic capsules. Cooper and his five cronies of the Foundation refused to get into their capsules.

Cooper said, You will start this mission right now. There's no reason to wait.

Sonia turned in her seat and glared at him. Yes there is. There are still a dozen men out there in a service module that's attached with a tether. They rely on this ship for supplies.

One of the cronies said, Their work is finished, right?

Yes but…

No more buts, Cooper snarled, if you can't do your job, you can join them.

Another of the rich thugs said, They'll survive until the next ferry gets here.

Sonia realised that argument was futile. For the past week, the Foundation members had been bossing the crew and threatening them. The arrival of Jake Cooper made them all that much more insufferable. She reluctantly initiated the engine firing protocols. Ben, radio those poor guys and tell them what we've been ordered to do. Get them to loosen the tether. Carl, I want it on record that we were following orders, under duress.

Yeah Cap, Carl Bock tapped his monitor, I've been recording everything those freaks ever said and I've added notes to alert future crews not to delete the stuff.

The crew and their stubborn taskmasters had to don g-suits for the duration of the 35-hour firing of the engine. During that time, the Phoenix left Earth orbit and accelerated to one percent of the speed of light. The Foundation men sat grimly through the 2,5 Gees ordeal. Only when the Phoenix was well and truly on its way to Alpha Centauri did they finally submit to their imprisonment in the cryonics capsules.

God's truth! Sonia wiped her brow with her overall sleeve. What a bunch! Thank goodness I won't be around when they're woken up.

Some of them don't deserve to be woken up, ever. Ben Judd strapped himself into the co-pilot's seat.

Somebody gave that Cooper guy a good workout, Helen Reid laughed.

Sandra Wells said, Well if the five minutes we saw of him is anything to go by, I'd say the swine probably earned it.

~##~

CHAPTER ONE

The long narrow windscreen of the cockpit was the only window in the Phoenix. The view had remained unchanged during a voyage that had lasted for over four hundred years. Now the vast star-speckled black vista of space was rapidly filling with a spacecraft of unknown origins and unknown intentions.

Anne sniggered nervously. Head on, it looks like a flying saucer that people dreamed up at the dawn of the space age.

Yeah, Gordon held onto the back of a seat, but now it's turned sideways and it's got a weird chunky shaped fuselage… Huh, sort of like the original Space Shuttle.

What should we do? There are no weapons of any description… Sonia turned to look at the six

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