Life continues to be life and the blades of our enshittened fan continue to turn. At a certain level, I know that completely falling off the radar is a Big No-No™ for someone trying to pass themself off as a writer. What about building an audience? What about keeping content fresh and available? Yes, yes, I know.
In the interest of at least having something new to post, I’m sharing a fragmentary WIP that is somewhere in the “things that I may work on eventually” pile. This fragment is probably about a year old. It started as me jotting down a sentence or two of an idea so I could remember and tinker with it later. As is fairly common with me, I couldn’t stop once I started typing. The only thing that kept it from turning into a full-blown first draft of a short story was a severe restriction on time when the idea hit me (I only had half an hour to work with) and indecisiveness about what universe I wanted it to join (if not one of its own).
I don’t know for sure if I’ll revisit the idea; though, it was fun and engaging to brainstorm. This is about the closest I get to outlining anything I write. I haven’t edited anything about it, so it’ll probably read pretty damned rough. Comments and critiques are welcome (encouraged even).
On a moon of another planet, millions of light years away:
[An anthropomorphic creature, bipedal and furred, wanders through a forest on its homeworld. Painstaking detail is paid to every plant, every small animal/bird that calls and scampers, the light of the trinary suns (the feel of its warmth, the way the dappling of the leaves casts multicolored shadows), the gas giant that looms in the sky, the taste of the air, the smell of the water, the insects buzzing and darting over its surface. A small vessel lands in a clearing and a voice calls out the person’s name, beckoning them to depart.]
The transport will be above the horizon in moments and they have little time to catch it. The dwarf star that has been falling into its red giant neighbor is descending faster than any projections. High energy radiation will soon outpace the combined magnetic fields of the moon and planet, and the layer of ionized gases in the atmosphere, all of which have protected life for billions of years. The evacuees do not know where they will go or what will become of them, but the transport is all that will save them now.
The vessel streaks into the upper atmosphere, reaching the darkness of space and the embarkation queue for the transport. The orderly process that the pilots have been practicing for two years has collapsed into chaos. The radio network is jammed with frantic calls. Trans-atmospheric crafts jostle near the bays, fighting to enter first. Several light craft, not designed for orbital operation but hastily refitted and have lost hull integrity and quietly dissolve as the remaining vessels continue to struggle for entry. Beyond the transport, visible by means of the vessels sensors, the cause of the frenzy: the dwarf star swings into view around the giant. Its corona is being stripped by the other star’s gravity and the zone where they meet is a vortex of intense radiation and magnetic entanglement. As the magnetic and gravitational forces of both stars struggle, ribbons of plasma arc back and forth between their surfaces. The dwarf, slowly from their distant perspective but at incredible velocity relative to the giant’s surface, transits the face of its partner. Its brightness fluctuates and it slides silently into the red giant’s surface, vanishing in a turmoil of cavitation. A massive disturbance develops at the horizon of the giant.
The pilot of their vessel mutters curses and shakes their head. There are hundreds of bays and thousands of boarding craft, theirs cannot hope to gain access. As the disturbance grows and forms into a mass ejection with a diameter orders of magnitude greater than the planet their world orbits, the beyond-light engines of the transport begin to activate. The rapid rotation of the red giant will bring the ejection in line with the evacuation in moments and there is no time to accept all of the stragglers. Their vessel jolts with the ignition of the main thrusters. The protagonist feels the acceleration against their back and tugging on their organs as they and the other passengers, barely twenty, are all pressed back into their seats. The pilot growls, bypassing the queue that is now merely a melee. The bays are closed in preparation for the jump and all who remain outside are doomed to perish.
Their vessel swings close to the outer hull of the transport and the pilot guides it quickly into a notch at the base of the massive pylon that supports the ventral beyond-light nacelle. Their little vessel was once a freight carrier for an asteroid mining concern. Broad skids descend from its hull and adhere to the transport’s thick shielding, as it would have done to the exterior mounts on its old parent ship.
The pilot thinks it will hold when the compression field forms around the enormous ship. No craft of any size can withstand the forces of transiting space faster than light, so it is designed to cheat. The nacelles, working with field modulators along the ships length, generate a field that compresses the surrounding space and essentially moves space around the transport. Joined with the exterior of the ship, they will exist within the shield in a pocket of normal space. Other vessels with similar capabilities can be seen copying the maneuver on all sides.
The star once more defies all expectations. The mass ejection collapses back into the corona in a fit of arcing flares that twist cruelly around one another. Where the mass descends into the corona once more, a swirling cavity forms: a vortex that glows brighter than the surrounding plasma as its walls expand and more coronal mass is drawn in. The process accelerates until the glow from it drowns out the image of the star. The sensor readings are confusing: the third star in the system has vanished as well. A gravitational disturbance rocks the transport and the little parasitic vessels attached to it. As the beyond-light drives establish their field and space begins to bend around them, a similar effect occurs around the dying star. The combined distortion throws off the course of the transport and as the computer runs its navigation profile, the pilot shows his score of trembling, crying passengers what will happen. They will all die. The course that would take them away from their destruction has been bent into the growing well of their star and they will be consumed by it. Thousands of alternate course plots flicker on the chart, as the terminal searches for one that evades the cataclysm. Every new plot ends in the same place. As space moves around them, they watch the sensor displays.
Before the transport dives into the well, one of the other vessels separates from the hull, as if to attempt an escape through the field wall opposite the star. Instead it lances in a fluorescent blur that transects the nacelle pylon, shearing the field generator from the transport and sending it slowly drifting away from the main body of the ship. The plates below their vessel buckle with the stress of the impact and they are cast off as well. The field wavers and breaks into dense zones around the immediate vicinity of the nacelles, tearing the transport to pieces that stretch in random directions, unsure which pull to follow. The ventral nacelle’s field remains around their vessel and they manage to watch the last moments of their world and all its people streaking into the emptiness where their suns used to be.
A flash from the ventral nacelle signals a power surge and the field wobbles. Their system vanishes, replaces by strange stars and the tumbling debris of the disintegrated field generator. Before them lies a single-star system with less than a dozen planetary bodies, one of which appears to have to correct environmental conditions to support them. The passengers and pilot share silent glances and he nods, turning back to his controls. Firing the sub-light engines, he plots a course to the pale blue dot in the distance.