Here are a few short stories I've written. These are riddled with errors, and probably suck for the most part, but that doesn't keep me from embarrassing myself.. Enjoy!
In the not so distant future, our planet has tuned out the fact that unlike a century ago, our life span has shortened to a fraction from what it used to be. This is because of an infectious virus generated by our own scientists infected most of our population on and off our planet within the first three years of its outbreak. A mutated strain of the flu, when introduced to a human reduces our lifespan to 27 years. It's almost like watching Logan's run with the lack of middle aged or old folks. Because of the adaptive properties of this virus there are dozens of strains that have to be dealt with, making it harder for a cure to be found, still just like the common cold we can mask the symptoms, and slightly lengthen a horridly short life.
Despite the ailing population we've been pretty good with our technological advancements. We're green, and because of the shortened lifespan the focus has become on the younger generations even more now than ever. We can't time travel or go faster than light as some stories from the past would suggest, but we have outposts on or orbiting most of the planets in our solar system, cryogenics and long term space travel are our methods. It was slow, even more now with our shortened lives, but with what we call â€œgenerational leapfroggingâ€ we can keep our fore fathers works alive.
I guess an introduction is in order, I'm Ted Behnson; I'm one of the lucky .02% of the human race who isn't infected with the virus. My current home is a satellite station orbiting Europa. We're one of the very few habitats that are completely free of the disease. I'm alone in respect to relatives; they are all earthers and have been infected most of who I grew up with have since passed.
Because of the threat of infection, the defense of this station is dealt out with sometimes little less than moral execution, probably a necessary evil. Technology has given us the ability to detect the virus from a couple dozen kilometers. Most of the inhabitants are extremely rich people who could buy their way to safety, however in my case I was brought here because of my work in quantum mechanics. My work in the past was in perpetual or renewable energy sources. However the thought of a non-infected habitat, and large amounts of cash changed my field considerably.
I'm employed by a company called Kryokaughn, which is in to everything from shipping freight, to research. Currently this company is known best for its work in cryogenics, and enabling our species to circumnavigate our solar system, the technology has made them extremely successful. Current projects that I'm evolved with are artificial gravimetric fields, so the huge spinney space stations can live without the large mechanical artificial gravity simulators. The main goal of reducing the size to population ratio in these orbiting space stations, along with the obvious reduction of energy needed to keep such a monstrosity spinning all the time.
The other project that I'm forced to work with is something called VTMD or Vector based temporal matter displacement, which is a big name for putting matter through a tear in space with an end result of faster than light travel. Ridiculous as this sounds some of the big wheels up top are hell bent with it, and see it as the answer to humanities problems with the disease. Zachary Kockert is the bazillionair heading that project and is known for his flagrant hurling of cash at any issue that comes into his path. Most of the scientists working for him are there for the hurled cash and not the research; I'm the ladder although I have little faith in this line of work and consider it back burner to the gravimetric research.
A few weeks after breaking some serious ground on the research, we now have some really good working full scale models working in some of the non gravitational areas of the habitat, though some of the issues with power consumption were still slowly being resolved. We still have a lot of work to do but it's less research, and more production, and marketing. So just like any other project the team that was involved in the research was slowly dwindling down in their numbers. I seen the end coming for weeks now, it's just the thought of pouring my entire life into these damned worm holes left a lump in my throat I really hoped I would get something else to sink my teeth into, so I sought council with Zach.
Zach was fairly eccentric, with little social skill, however with his success as a leader, and a businessman this was not the case. He was a 37 year old scientist who was one of the major shareholders in Kryokaughn though he didn't do any actual scientific work, his duties were more administrative, but he knew enough. My one on one with him didn't go well in respect to getting something else to work on. My direction now was to get my entire team, and focus on the VTMD array, I was not pleased.
My past experience with this project was the financial end, scheduling meetings and overseeing the day to day stuff, little research, however Zach seeing the success of the other projects I've been on wanted me on this to see where I'd take it, so took it I did.
The emitter was a large cannon looking machine with 32 electron emitters at the offensive end. It had wires and hoses all over the place and was definitely too large for any normal size space craft, but this attempt was for function, not application. We had to get something working first. As big as the array was the computer core attached to it was huge also, it was a multi layered, multiple core super computer and was about the size of the array itself. It seemed that in the previous 10 years of the project they created a program that needed some massive computing power to make the machine work; it really reminded me of something from the 20th century.
The machine literally needed a couple days of preparation before any kind of testing could be done the work was very slow. When they did test, it was a very noteworthy occasion, people from all over the habitat came, some even earthside.
The machines main core is brought on-line, and the program is loaded into the volatile quantum memory. This is where the processing actually happens. Once that's done a few molecules of a substance called Kegrizine was replicated at the focus point of the 32 emitters and held there with some confinement beams, not too much unlike the technology of the gravimetric research we worked on before. It takes 42 seconds for the computer core to generate the algorithms, afterwhich all 32 emitters' fire at the particles. In theory the emitters with their specific natural frequency destroy the particle and generate a sub atomic tear in space. Then the emitters starting from the original focus point then widen the tear to a diameter large enough for a ship or whatever to pass through it.
Not so much as one piece of research was done after the point of entry, or after the tear for that matter. But we're taking it one step at a time. It's been seven years since the first failed test, and other than a brilliant light show all tests since then ended in the same failure. The best result is a sub molecular blip on the physics scanners, but we're not transporting quarks we need ships to go through.
This mornings test would be different, we're not just going to tear a hole, there'll be an attempt to bring something through. We've employed some defense weaponry, a rail gun with accuracy down do a tenth of a micron at a half kilometer. Though we won't be shooting that far it's aimed at the focus point of the confinement beams. Loaded in this gun is a round of ammunition that has a trace element that we can scan and detect at a radius of a couple kilometers even if only a few particles get through. The theory is that the blip is actually a subspace hole, and we needed proof that it was there, this may get us that proof.
We started early on the Saturday test, not many people were present because of the lack of press. One of the reasons because of the controversy the rail gun has as a terrorist weapon, and perhaps the small chance that we get a rail popping in and out of wormholes, we needed to be as safe as possible and we weren't absolutely sure where it'd end up.
Just like previous tests the arrays systems were brought on line, the particles were replicated at the focus point, and the computer started whacking away at the mammoth program, and after the 42 seconds the emitters show off their light show at the exact time the gun fired. It looked just like any other test.
At first glance in the blast shield there were remnants of the round the rail gun fired off and it seemed that again we had our failure, but even worse we had more proof that it just didn't work. However 20 minutes later Chad, one of the team leaders in charge of the rail gun itself screams â€œHoly Shitâ€ fairly loud and got the attention of most of us in the laboratory, it seemed he scanned for the trace element and sure as shit most of it was in the blast shield, but there was also some .256 Kilometers from the focus point.
After further investigation it seemed that the portion of the round fired from the gun did make it into subspace, but only for about .21 Kilometers, the rest of its travel was normal trajectory into a bulkhead a few (un occupied) decks over, it's a good thing we turned the gun towards that area before this live test. The tear must have collapsed while the rail was partially through, even though the rail didn't make it through in its entirety the test was deemed a huge success.
After almost a year of development that sprung from that series of tests we can now send larger items through, and keep the tear open longer. In fact most attributes we can manipulate now, but the most important. It seems that we have never broken the .21 kilometer distance ceiling and it's beginning to look as if we never will. Every effort to lengthen, or shorten that distance have failed.
After the initial tweaks to the system we've subcontracted a group that specializes in miniaturizing the array. The talent of this group teamed with our scientists was very successful in getting the array crammed into a four man craft that now can only seat two. Although the computer core is about two times slower and now has a cycle time of about 90 seconds. But we do have a working model ready for un-manned tests.
While the ship is pretty fast by most standards, it still does not break any speed records with the help of the VTMD array. Doing the math, if a ship can leap .21 kilometers every 90 seconds or so isn't too impressive at all, but we still press forward. This made the gravimetric stuff seem easy.
With the ceiling set at .21 kilometers and gaining no ground with the experiments over the next few years only yielded marginal improvements in computer core speed. It seems this project was in danger of failing. So Zack brought in what he called second protocol.
I wasn't sure what this second protocol was until we met with him and another scientist that many didn't have much respect for was at the meeting. Arnold Faulkner is an arrogant ass who was in love with the publicity he got through his work more than the work itself. The meeting started with an overview on how we've become stagnant with the progress of the project. Arnold scoffed at the progress as if he could do better, he had no clue.
The meetings agenda became apparent when Zack mentioned a two pronged attack at an answer. One team lead by myself, and the other led by Mr. personality himself. The first team will work on computer clock speed, and the other will work on breaking the .21 kilometer distance barrier. I really wanted to work on the distance ceiling, but Zack was adamant about the directions we were to go because of Arnolds experience with the theoretical sciences, Arnold was also very vocal about his expertise. So off we went on our divided tasks, I was to focus all efforts of my team on getting a computer core fast enough to break a noteworthy speed record. I did however take comfort in the fact that Arnold will hit the wall we all have with the distance issues.
We started with the program itself and made it more modular so it could run faster; we separated everything we could away from the algorithms that generated the hole. There's only so much you can do with software but we did end up bringing the original 90 second cycle down to around 45 seconds. However just like anything else the first few things are easy like low hanging fruit but the further we pushed it we were grabbing at nanoseconds. To obtain any speed record with the craft we would have to get the down at 1.2 billion cycles a second. This would get us to about eighth the speed of light (about 269,000,000 Kilometers per hour). It seemed like the methods we employed would never get those results.
It seemed like the wheel needed to be reinvented and with the numbers the length of the ship would have to be the size of a piece of dust to get it through the hole over a billion times a second. The VTMD array would generate the tear in space; the ship would power itself through the tear with its own engines. So theoretically the ship would NEVER come close to any speed record. The multiple tears in space would in essence place the craft further forward getting the distance faster but not actually going faster than a normal ship.
As technology usually does it gets smaller and faster as time goes on, this coupled with some small breakthroughs with some programming methods the core computer (now called eddie) can hack at the program with a speed of 2 cycles a second. Still not close but eons further than anyone thought possible. So we started looking everywhere for an answer.
A surprise visit from Zack yielded a lead on some research with some biological computer technology that may have some of the answers we're looking for, the last time we used that technology we hadn't the expertise to deal with it much less integrate into the core. With much discussion we met with a man on mars colony which again led us to an underground outpost that wasn't on any record anywhere.
The facility was deep in mars core it seemed like it took an hour to get down there. First time I've seen an elevator the size of a waiting room. We went through a lot of security and a health scanner to see if we we're infected. After a few hours and a lot of a lot of red tape we found ourselves in the office of the computer scientist Jodie Archibald and waited for 20 minutes before she arrived.
Jodie was an introvert with thick rimmed glasses and a dirty lab coat. Her hair dark, and in a pony tail tied with a red rubber band, perhaps attractive if it wasn't for all the layers of geek she wore. Her demeanor was a defensive one as she was very protective of the technology she worked on. The meeting was more of an interview of what and how we would use her technology that is, if she was so gracious to bestow it upon us lowly normal people.
After the NDA paperwork on BOTH sides we also shared what we were working on and found her very interested in the programming methods we used to gain the speed we did with the computers we currently used. The end of the meeting resulted in an agreement of which we would marry samples of each others technology and see how it goes in the safety of the outpost.
The array would sit this one out and we would just use simulation software (as we have done in the past) to test core speeds with our program. The lab was set up and the core was brought on line which to our surprise was about the size of a breadbox. Looking at the core and its size didn't leave a good feeling, but I pushed forward as Jodie was confident.
It took a few weeks of editing the program to suit the new core but nothing major. The morning of the first test Jodi was very excited. It was a straight forward test the core being less complicated than eddie was easier to set up and get going which was awesome. We loaded the program into the breadbox sized computer and ran it with a very quick speed of 4200 cycles a second. While my jaw dropped in amazement Jodi was on the other side of the fence being visibly pissed on what she though was a poor result.
After the first test we ate lunch in the outposts cafeteria which had a military feel too it but the food wasn't bad. Jodi had the table manners of a pit bull, chomping and gulping with her mouth open as she talked, it was almost cute except for the fact she would only talk shop and nothing else. At the end of lunch we I called it a day and went back to my room with the test results as she went back to the lab.
The next morning coming back to the lab I found her still there from the night before working on the computer. The next test after her tweaks resulted in an astounding 12700 cycles a second more than a 300% gain from the last test. The reason for the bottleneck from the last test was that the computer had some non-organic pieces that connected some of the peripherals including the crystal memory core which slowed the data transfer rate. A couple improvements also would be widening those data paths and using a separate computer for each module of the program, which theoretically would get us another 700% gain on top of that. Still less than 100,000 cycles a second but we'll take it step by step.
The test results gave us a lot of information and a direction that may get us further than any solid state computer could. So we designed the system and sent the specifics and benchmark data to Zack for his decision. We were hoping to get the ship here for a real unmanned test with the new system; of course we'd have to build it first.
I was in the hole at mars for two months before we heard back with the go ahead from Zack. But to Jodi's disappointment the computer system will be built here and will be installed back at Kryokaughn. I really thought she needed to get out of that hole for a while, god knows I sure needed to.
Over the next few months still in this god forsaken hole we completed the computer with all the improvements. Slightly bigger than the breadbox, but leagues smaller than the eddie which now seems like an old relic in comparison. The data pathways were widened as were all the bus speeds. In the simulations we got the cycle time up to 101,422.06 cycles a second. We really needed to get that number in reality so back to Kryokaughn we went.
Cryostasis has always sucked not so much getting into the state but getting back out. The blindness lasts for days, and the taste that it leaves in your mouth lasts even longer, not to mention the forgetfulness and muscle pain. The six month trip was indeed a pain but only when we got back. Just like every other time I've gotten chilled I vow this time is my last.
After the teams' multibillion dollar travel and rehabilitation that lasted almost eight months we found ourselves back in the lab ready for the real integration of our technologies. While Jodi was present in all the integration activities her input was limited. I guess because if the simplicity of her design there wasn't really any need.
The previous simulations covered most of the issues we would have so the installation went very smooth. Because of the size differences between Eddie and the natural core processing unit we now have enough room for a Third seat. We all tried to guess who would be on the first manned flight, but knew that was at least a year away.
With the completion of the first craft we were ready for an unmanned test, which started of course slow with a conventional engine only test just to benchmark its performance. This was followed by a one jump leap with the computer core cycling once leaping forward the normal .21k. Both of these tests were successful. The next test was a multiple jump with an ultra low frequency, through a lot of arguing and discussion it was decided to start with 20 cycles and a frequency of 1 cycle per second. This also went off without a hitch. Similar tests went for weeks gradually increasing the number of cycles and decreasing the time between them.
It seemed the only drawback of these tests was the time increase for the ship to make it back to the starting point each time it traveled further. That was until Jodi suggested that the test path should start and end at the same place. Go figure with all the brain power here that it took that long for someone to come up with that little gem.
With every test going completely successful we decided to mash the gas as it were and see what this thing could do. So we decided on 200,000 cycles at 5,000 cycles a second. This was about 6 times the speed of the last few tests. We were all confident as the ship used its conventional engines to get up to its conventional speed. The emitter as it's done many times in the past fired its first tear in space just to find its ass end still in that tear as it collapsed. This ended in a fantastic explosion as the craft was cut in half.
After seizing the wreckage it was found that it wasn't actually cut in half. It was actually only the trailing few inches of the dorsal fin that was clipped causing the entire thing to start slowing down and it was actually multiple tears that took chunks out of the back end of the ship resulting in the explosion.
Over the next few days as the reality set in we started planning the construction of the next ship just to be halted by Zach for a meeting to asses the progress of the two teams. I really dread letting Arnold know of our failure and the ensuing eye rolling, I just know his wall is harder than ours my feelings are mixed when thinking of him succeeding.
The meeting I think went well and most of our data is promising with concrete data that is on a definite upward trend, which in comparison to the other team was riddled with techno babble and promises of what â€œcouldâ€ happen. While I can see through Arnolds haze some others thought he was progressing, I hope Zach seen it as I do. I really hate that bitch.
The direction going forward now, because of the improvements in clock speed due to the natural core and the explosion Zach thought it made more sense to focus all attention to the distance ceiling. So, while Jodi led the construction of the new craft I took my team and worked along with Arnold, did I mention I hate that bitch?
It took six months before the craft was ready for testing. I was excited as the distance ceiling as usual has been stagnant; it seemed every ones foreheads were sore from beating them against the wall. So we went to the testing grounds for its maiden voyage.
The new ship called the Torino was a small black and white ship with two seats. Her lines were sleek, and looked like it was moving fast as it stood still. I was really excited to see her fly. The technical drawings I seen to date did it no justice.
First flight just as the last ship was a one hop, trip and it went very well, we were all looking for program glitches, and didn't worry about benchmarking the speed of the craft until we got going faster towards the speed of the last disaster we KNEW we would not have this time. We took it slow and steady.
After a few flights one of the scientist in the control room mentioned a speed increase compared to calculated predictions that were pretty significant. So we calibrated our instruments re tested the baseline of the crafts conventional engines and ignored the obvious. And found nothing out of the ordinary that would cause the speed difference until Jodi jokingly suggested perhaps it's jumping further than the .21 K.
After Jodi's joke we found that in the tests that it was actually jumping exactly .21K but the difference in speed was something that we did not encounter before. After finding the miscalculation we found that the tear in space was not collapsed before the introduction of the next tear so in a sense the ship was traveling through more than one tear at a time.
This error caused much rejoice and was not sought out before because of the paradigm of the cumbersome algorithm that is now a small chore with the new processors. With the new data and the lesson we've learned from this â€œmistakeâ€ we re-engineered the ship with multiple levels and doubled up with a multiphase emitter that would work in tandem. If one could get us inside of two or three tears at a time the thought of four emitters could get us to who knows.
It took us a year to get the craft working with the multiple emitter configuration, when it was time to test the craft we knew results very soon would be of groundbreaking size. The craft still with it's two seats didn't physically look different than it did before. Its looks were where the similarity stopped.
Just like the ships before it we started slow with a one cycle test. Of course one cycle means four leaps into subspace. This went off without any issues, and again pushing the envelope on every test after that one went off without a hitch. It seemed this craft loved to fly. Every unmanned speed record was ours for the next century if we just walked away today and did nothing else. We all knew what was next.
Manned flights seemed to be more tedious than the unmanned stuff because of all the regulations. It took months for the two people to be chosen for the tests. In the end it was Jodi and I. Some think risking the brains of the craft was risky, but we convinced Zach that we could react to problems better than any other. He was pretty non-existent; we all think he's working on something else somewhere else. The manned test much to our surprise went on without him being there.
Of course we started slow and worked up traveling some of the lanes we've all traveled in the past when we normally were cryogenically frozen to travel. It's odd traveling to a place in moments when it took months before the construction of this ship. All precursor to what was to ensue, the ship has proven itself. Redundant systems gave confidence and the robustness of the design was very solid, it's like the evolution of life looking at the monstrous array from the past to the sleek lines of the ship we see today.
Jodi and I logged a lot of hours into the ship together and built quite a rapport with each other, and the next trip would be outside of our solar system. If the ship failed to function that far out it would take decades to make it back. We knew the risks but were confident in the craft we built, so we packed enough supplies for a few weeks, and got ready.
But before we could even make any trip the ship was loaded with all known star charts, so we wouldn't get lost. The ship was also equipped with some gravimetric systems from our work on previous projects. The fruits of that labor were some passive shielding for debris, and some inertia dampening to keep us comfortable during the conventional engine burns, some data collection systems for surveying, and a beefed up communication system that runs along the same subspace channels as the emitters do.
Against some opinions (not including my own) we also installed some offensive weaponry including the rail gun (upgraded of course) some concussion missiles and a repulse laser system. We probably would never use them but need to be ready for any situation that may happen; besides the training on those systems were immensely enjoyable.