Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Stars Beyond Tomorrow (Peek 1)

Here's a project that remains unfinished.  "The Stars Beyond Tomorrow," is my attempt at writing a Space Opera, and it is based in a universe I created with a short story I wrote called "Last Strike For Tomorrow."  In this book, we would see the American Space Force sending a new exploratory mission out into space following a violent and bloody interstellar war.  Events in Last Strike set the stage for the book, and one of these days I might get around to completing it.  As it stands now, I have about 10,000 words and a solid plot waiting, but it remains low priority at the moment.

So, here it is, the introductory scene to the yet unfinished book:

            Commander Owen York staggered down the hallway of the derelict starship.  Gravity shifted under him, as the vessel surged and sputtered in the throws of death.  The USS Windsor, which had once been the pride of the United States Space Force, was now little more than a burned-out wreck, a hunk of hot metal smoldering in the depths of space.  Another casualty of war.

            This battle cruiser had seemed to be the pinnacle of modern technology to the folks back on Earth, but it was little more than target practice for the ruthless Kradoran warships.  It was a dead hulk now, along with a hundred others just like it.  There was no hope for the ship, but a few of the crew were determined to survive.

            Commander York knew the odds.  Even if he managed to reach a life boat, he'd probably be blown away by a Kradoran fighter, or captured to face untold torture, but if the Kradorans didn't catch him who would?  Who was left to rescue him out here, three light years from Earth?  This final wave of human resistance had seen utter destruction, and there were no more space-faring vessels he could consider to make a rescue attempt.

            Maybe it would be best if he returned to his post, and awaited death with dignity.   No, Owen could never do that.  He was a survivor, one who had to keep fighting, regardless of the odds.  If death awaited him, he'd face it, but he was damned if he'd sit down and wait for the inevitable.

            It was getting hard to breathe, as the atmosphere grew thin.  There were gaping holes blown through the Windsor, and no power left in the air circulators.  The nearest life-pod was a hundred feet away, though it felt like a mile as he trudged through the dying vessel.

            The lights went out when the massive fusion drive grew cold from lack of fuel.  It was so dark in the hallway; no windows to shine even faint starlight.  There was still limited gravity, however, which didn't surprise Owen in the least.  He knew the engineering layout, and understood that the gravity generators had a separate backup.  The auxiliary battery would last a few minutes more.

            He moved forward, searching for the frame to the lifeboat's access hatch.  He found it before long, and moved his hands around to locate the opening mechanism.  The flat touch-plate gave no response to his fingers, as the power had been cut.  The manual release was directly under the panel, hidden by a sheet of metal that cut Owen's fingertips as he pried it open.  Inside, he felt the round handle and turned it clockwise several times to release the seal and grant him access to his one means of escape.

            A breath of fresh air greeted him as the hatch slid open.  As soon as the hand crank widened the gap enough, he slid his thin body through, and found himself weightless inside the small, open airlock.  He pushed off the ship's hatch and floated into the large padded chamber beyond, and as he entered the life-pod's lights kicked on automatically.  The escape craft was charged and ready to go.

            So much space for one man.

            Owen felt very alone at this point.  So many of his fellow crewmen had died, and here he was, the last man out.  Captain Alvarez would have most likely stayed, had a falling support beam not incapacitated him at the start of the battle.  It had only taken a few minutes for the Kradoran warships to lay waste to the Windsor, and to every other ship in the strike force.  When defeat was certain, Commander York had ordered the evacuation, and sent his captain out with the first wave.  Had those lifeboats survived?  Owen had no way of knowing, for the external sensors had been knocked out before they'd launched.

            Sitting down beside the control panel, Owen programmed the lifeboat to disengage from the Windsor, and hoped his trajectory would be clear of debris.  He didn't plan to go far.  It was safer to hide amongst the debris for the time being, wait for the Kradorans to leave.  Then he could scout around, and see if there was anything worth seeing before drifting back in the direction of Earth.  With the lifeboat's ion drive, he might get there in a few thousand years.

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