Expeditionary Marine Lt. JD Rawlings is nearly as battered and hastily patched as the ship he is assigned to, the Navy frigate Rontar. Scars of recent repair are disturbingly visible on both. But that is not the worst of it, by far.
Lt. Rawlings discovered betrayal, an ambush by the alien Shaquaree, but his method of discovery is seen by many survivors as the catalyst which precipitated the battle. The Shaquaree then nearly annihilated mankind’s best military and diplomatic personnel in a matter of only minutes. Only one ship, the Rontar, with Rawlings aboard, managed to escape the butchery with an emergency Transition-jump. Rawlings wonders if his next action will be defending humanity against the aliens or himself against the crew members who blame him.
When they appear in the Hylea system nothing there makes any more sense than the shocking treachery of the aliens. The system is supposed to be uninhabited, yet there are EM transmissions from the Earth-class planet. There are supposed to be subspace comms with Earth and the remaining Navy and Marine Fleet, yet there are none.
Alone, barely functional, defenseless, can the frigate, the Navy crew, and the few remaining Marines survive long enough to gain answers to the critical questions? Who is sending the EM signals, and why is the Hylea system shaped differently than the star charts indicate? Did those intractable aliens follow the Rontar to finish the job? Why are the alien Shaquaree so apparently dedicated to wiping out humanity?
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wanted to explore some ideas of character growth within defined parameters, as well as ideas about certain aspects of physics. Plus, I thought this was a pretty good story to tell.
How is writing Science Fiction different from other genres?
That depends on how committed the author is to adhering to physical laws as we know them or perceive them, or whether they are comfortable bending or even breaking those laws.
I don't want to force my readers to abandon credulity or any semblance of truth. I think the premise, the story, and the settings have to be acceptably believable to be truly enjoyable.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Certain types of stories demand certain types of characters. Like any other author, I make them up out of pieces of people I actually know, or pieces of people I would like to know. Then I blend the pieces together in the way that seems to benefit the story the most.
Captain Lewellyn was passing a continual stream of maneuvering commands to the helmsman whose hands and fingers danced intricately over his console and whose voice whispered commands into a microphone pickup floating two centimeters in front of helm's lips.
“What’s going on?” I whispered to Lt. Cmdr. Dotes, whose legs and butt I could see sticking out of an access cover under a control desk.
Dotes bent back to see who was whispering to him and replied in his own whisper, “Something’s wrong! Terribly wrong! Nothing is where is should be for this system.”
“We’ve only got partial nav sensors back,” his whisper became muffled as he went back to work while he talked, “and what we can see doesn’t match the star chart for this system. I mean, the bodies all seem to be the correct bodies but they’re not where they should be. The bridge AI is crunching what few data points we have but it’ll take a little while.”
Dotes backed out of the access panel and closed it, then stood on the non-conductive pale-blue plastic and nanotube decking plates and booted up the desktop work console. In the bridge area the deck plates were softer, squishier than most other areas of the ship, almost like carpet. I had heard some of the working offices like the Science Department had the softer stuff, too. We didn’t have it anywhere in Marine country, which was just fine by me. The desktop flickered for a moment then glowed as the interface loaded and brightened.
“No holos yet, but at least I’m getting the damn desktops to work,” he whispered angrily. “We’ll just have to keep doing our jobs manually and in 2D for a while longer. Hell, when we first hit this fucking system we didn’t even have maneuvering on gravitics or any but the most basic of sensors. That’s why we were still sitting out here beyond the outermost orbits. Now that we have gravitics and at least partial navs back online . . .”
He leaned a little closer to me and barely breathed out the words, “Cap’n was eager to get into the asteroid belt to gather raw materials and assumed reality would match the star charts.” Then he shrugged. “Who wouldn’t? The navcoms update the system star charts automatically for drift and spin as time passes. But, none of the orbitals are right. None of ‘em! I mean, they looked close initially but we wound up in the belt, not above it.”
“So he’s maneuvering us manually, visually, through an asteroid belt?” I queried, hardly believing I had actually whispered it out loud.
I mean, the very idea of that had been anathema to any and all space travel for literally hundreds of years. Then, I actually began thinking about the asteroid belt and maneuvering a spaceship within one. As a very young man I had worked as an asteroid miner for a short time, and we had tiny two-person hoppers which we often used to maneuver around a particular asteroid or two, but never any more than that and especially in nothing larger with more power and inertial requirements.
Dotes nodded, and added, “I’ve never seen it done before. Never even heard of it outside of drunken bragging by fools. We were supposed to go up and cross over the top of the ecliptic but the belt is ragged and elliptical, not circular and flat. It is supposed to be circular and flat, only twenty kilometers thick on average. One of the extended sides of the ellipsis a hundred klicks thick was on us, around us, before we realized what was happening.”
By then I had managed to apply more than two consecutive brain cells to the issue.
"But, space is HUGE," I argued. "There should be lots of emptiness between significant bodies way out here."
I saw Dotes bite back an instant and angry response, sigh, then he said, "Commander, none of those objects are where we would normally have assumed them to be. They are all on new and different orbits at different velocities than expected. We may as well have popped into some new system no one has ever mapped before!"
In a moment of silence as I pulled my size fourteen combat boots from my mouth, I magnified my right eye implant in to focus more closely on the captain. Sweat dropped from his nose unnoticed and I could see a vein pulsing on his left temple. His uniform, normally immaculate and starched, was now rumpled, wrinkled, and sweat-stained, and his short, white beard and hair were matted in some places and sticking out wildly in others. His eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot, darting around the vidscreen rapidly to stop momentarily at a point before moving on.
His breathing was quick and shallow, fully autonomic, with every scrap of his mental focus on the screen in front of him. There were short pauses in his speaking to the helmsman as his mind processed what his eyes saw, and his voice was the loudest noise on the bridge. Dotes or someone had turned off the klaxon on the bridge and even with the hatches open I could barely hear its angry wails.
Gods Above! Even with a massive quantum computer interfaced with him, both the captain and the computer were hampered by still-marginal sensors and were virtually blind—almost literally navigating by optics alone.
About the Author:
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, ranging through Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
Thus far in my life I have spanned two successful careers; one as an auto repair tech, shop manager and instructor, and one as an eBusiness and IT employee of General Motors.
With several decades of avid reading of everything from sci-fi and fantasy to suspense and thrillers, with a healthy dose of espionage tossed in, I began writing for my own hobby interests. I have authored multiple sci-fi, fantasy, thriller and suspense novels, primarily for my own enjoyment as I love writing a good story. (No one warned me this would be addictive!)
Links to Purchase Print Books
Link to Buy COMMANDER – Into the Future, Book 1 by James Heritage Print Edition at Amazon
Link to Buy COMMANDER – Into the Future, Book 1 by James Heritage Print Edition at Barnes and Noble