Today, we feature a sneak peek of Timothy Burns’ science fiction novel, Outside of Space.
In the depths of interstellar space, the ancient mile-long starship Zaspar’s Pride encounters a massive and enigmatic alien artifact. What could have constructed an object larger than the average star, and more importantly, why? Tobar Rus, the technician whose blunder causes the Pride to become stranded far beyond any hope of rescue, must find out if he and his crew-mates are ever to leave. Outside of Space is available from Amazon.com.
Here is an excerpt from Outside of Space:
Chapter 8 “Visions”
“We can’t let…”
“Absolutely not,” Captain Markus stated, firmly speaking over the stunned outbursts of the others. “Let me be perfectly clear about this, everyone: there is no way that I will allow the Pride to be taken into that artifact.” He spoke with conviction, like the capable leader he had proven himself to be in his years as commander and ultimate decision maker over a crew of a thousand. There was no sign in his voice of the terrible ordeal he was going through, just an absolute determination to see his ship and crew emerge from this emergency whole and unscathed.
“Ozzy, can you stop production on those thrusters?”
“No, sir. The nanoassemblers being used are operating under lockout conditions. I cannot access their controls.”
“Then shut down the power and raw material feeds to them.”
“Yes, sir… Done.”
“You know, don’t you,” interjected Tobar, “that they will reroute both of those, and make it impossible for us to shut them off again?”
“Of course. At this point, though, I’ll settle for slowing them down as much as possible.”
“Then you have a bigger plan?” asked Stef.
“Not yet, no. what I wish to do now is explore our options. Anyone?” he glanced around the passenger compartment of the shuttlecraft at the faces of the only sane and loyal crewmembers he could trust. Bright, capable people all. Surely, between them, he and they could work out a solution to their dilemma.
Stef was the first to speak up, after she saw that no-one else was ready to comment yet. “We need to take back control of the ship.” She said, not believing that anyone cared to state the obvious answer.
Tobar responded to that with, “And then what? Remember, we are way outnumbered by people under the influence of the artifact. That’s our real problem.”
“I agree,” said the captain. “As long as it can affect any of us it is a threat. Can we do anything about either nullifying its effects or escaping them?”
“Well,” replied Tobar dryly, “I don’t think we can run.”
“Why not?” asked Jin. “What about using these thrusters they’re making? Can’t we use them to get away?”
The captain and the engineer glanced at each other with a look that asked who wanted to tell her. Tobar deferred with a hand gesture to his captain.
“No. In a nutshell, thrusters work by accelerating mass and spewing it away, on the principle of action-reaction. The mass of the Pride is so great that reaction thrusters, no matter how big they are or how much of our spare mass we feed into them, could only ever alter our course by a minute degree. Enough to get us moving towards the artifact, albeit incredibly slowly, but it would take literally thousands of years for us to reach the nearest star at that rate.”
“Oh,” was all she could say to that. After a moment’s thought, she resumed. “Well, then, you’re not going to like this any better. All my research so far indicates that there is no way to reduce anyone’s sensitivity to the artifact’s effects. Boost it, maybe, but if I were to alter their brain chemistry enough to block it out it would cause serious injury. Like permanent brain damage or even death.”
Everyone took a minute to think that over. Eventually Tobar asked, “So what are we left with?”
No-one had an answer to that. When it became obvious to Stef that there was no other choice, she said resignedly, “The neuroboost. Let’s find out if we are really being spoken to.”