Welcome back to the blog! I’m Timothy Scott Purvis and this is Story Time With Tim! An ongoing series where I share my old writings and writings that don’t seem to be doing anything more than gathering dust! I have some new offerings that should cover much of this year and am working on new material as well. Maybe this will be the year I get an official publication beyond self-publishing! Or, not. You never know. Gotta keep trying though.
Anyhow, this story is a novella I wrote back in 2019-2020. It’s all about a ship being propelled through space to the nearest star system of Alpha Centauri… I think. I based the plot off of a plan scientists currently have utilizing lasers to push small swarm satellites to one fifth the speed of light in the hopes of reaching Alpha Centauri within twenty years. I thought the concept was fun and came up with a sort of deep space mutiny involving solar sails and stupid people. Just like all great stories do!
Since I have so much going on, I am just going to copy paste these intros and outros. Sure, it’s a little lazy, I suppose. But, I will add some extra thoughts here and there. So, stay tuned and thanks for dropping by, folks!
Check out Part One here –> The Day The Laser Died Part One
Check out Part Two here –> The Day The Laser Died Part Two
THE DAY THE LASER DIED PART THREE
FREDRICK TOOK THE stairs down quickly. Voices drifted up to him lazily and he thought he could hear a little bit of laughter. Which set the hairs on his neck on edge. He contained the desire to shout a dismissive response. Though, just the thought of the act drove a spike into his head.
There isn’t anything funny about this situation! Too long… It’s been too long!
A resounding thud echoed throughout hydroponics as he made his way down the corridor with the latticed worked steel walkway leading across a viewport beneath showing the depths of space. That burned in his gut too. Just the sure audacity of staring down into a dizzying death set a knot in his throat. He came into the main chamber full of encased flowering plants, vegetables, and seeded crops. Enough to survive for awhile he was sure. But he held no expectation of a prolonged existence off the limited food source.
Tyra was busy checking some diagnostic displays as Amiko stood nearby chatting her up, smile broad on her face. Amiko must have finished her rounds in the cockpit inhabiting its own little two-person room to the bottom fore of the ship. It was like a bubble that had plopped onto the tip and not popped. They saw him crossing over into the enclosed chamber and Amiko waved. He wanted to scowl, but forced a smile instead.
“Hey, how’s it going down here?”
Tyra beamed at him. “Everything is wonderful! The plants have been growing exactly as they were supposed to. Even with it being only sixteen years, the oxygen reserves are maxed, the atmosphere fresh, lots of food has been produced and automatically stored, so we have everything we need for however long it takes us to figure out this mess.”
“A mess is right. Have either of you heard anything yet? Neither Guile nor Sela seem interested in trying to find out. It’s been over two hours already!”
“Well, I mean, there’s probably a lot of communications to go through,” Amiko said. “Give the captain time to sort it all out. They’ll let us know when they’re ready.”
“Let us know when they’re ready? While we’re drifting off course every moment they waste?”
Tyra lifted her hand. “Freddy, calm down. I’m just as worried, but I’m not going to lose my mind just yet.”
“Besides, we’re not off course. We’re still heading in the right direction,” Amiko added.
“I don’t believe this. How can you people not be more concerned about this problem?”
Tyra frowned and braced her hands on her hips. “Because running around like chickens with our heads cut off won’t help us any. We’re concerned… terrified even. However, I’m going to reserve my thoughts until Doug and Colleena have an update for us.”
“Unbelievable. Fine, have fun playing in your garden! I gotta… gotta find something to fix. Impossibly, nothing’s wrong on this ship! Well, asides from being lost in space!”
He turned and started back towards the stairs between hydroponics and the cargo bay. He didn’t see, but could just get the sense that the two were turned to one another with worried expressions.
“BUT FEAR NOT, brave explorers! This ruse by the Imperialists will be exposed for the fraud it is! And yours will be the ultimate proof of the Federation’s reach and influence to not just this world Earth, but all of the local cluster as well! Long live the Shou Meng Federation of Nations! And may your awakening be blessed by the wise hand of the Chairman!”
Doug leaned back into the chair with a sigh and a downturn of his lips. Eleven years’ worth of communications and propaganda just ended without so much as a final warning that they were on their own. Now what were they supposed to do?
It was the third time watching the update. And three hours had already been spent going through the last twenty such video files. There were over seventeen hundred communiques (roughly three a week) all together and all Doug had been able to glean was that a war had been started over territory with the western empire and that some group of soldiers mentioned as the ‘Archangel Consortium’ was involved (whatever the hell THAT was—it was just what that pigheaded premier kept repeating).
“I’ll give this to the Corporation,” Colleena muttered from behind him, “they really know how to spin bad news. What the hell is the ‘Archangel Consortium’?”
It was like she was reaching into his head. “Hell, if I know. But the takeaway is clear. Whatever happened on Earth has left us on our own. The Laser Propulsion Engine is dead. And we’re left with trying to figure out how to complete the journey with no sublight propulsion.”
“If the Empire won, wouldn’t they have tried to leave us a communique? Surely, they would have known about this project? It wasn’t exactly secret.”
“I couldn’t begin to say. Whatever the case, it’s been five years and we’re too far out to just head back.” Doug rose out of the chair. “We need to get the crew together and determine our next course of action. Could you summon them to the bridge?”
“Yes, sir. Uhm, do you have any thoughts on what we’re going to do? I’m not going to lie, I’m scared out of my mind.”
He nodded. “I know what you mean. There’s a few thoughts rattling around up there, but I’d rather hear the others’ thoughts first before reaching a decision.”
Colleena smiled and left the room. Doug stood for a second, thinking. The options were few. The ship had no means of chemical propulsion (for all the good that would have done) nor ion thrusters. There were just the solar sails. Which allowed for sublight speed while being pushed by the laser from Earth. Now, there was barely enough solar energy being picked up to deliver the propulsion of an inner solar colonial ship. There was really only one option and he didn’t much care for it. He’d reserve judgement, though, until after hearing from the crew.
THE CONSOLE LIGHTS were a festive display of color. Amiko tried to focus on them rather than the deep void of space just beyond the cockpit’s bubbled window. She’d been sitting there for about half an hour. After Fredrick’s uncharacteristic outburst, she’d needed time to think. It was true, their predicament was dire, but she was just the pilot. And, right now, there was nowhere to pilot to. They had to wait until Captain Holland told them what their choices were. If any.
Fredrick had always had a sharp wit and quick temper, but she’d never seen that sort of panic in his eyes before. They weren’t the best of friends, but they’d worked with one another for the last five years (well, those last five years on Earth, anyway). He was a frequent recruit for airship deployments over Federation territories that would take them anywhere from the edge of Russian Republic dominions to the borders of the Southern Sovereignty below the competing empires of the United Empire of States and the First Nations (often just called the Outlands by the Ministry’s propaganda). As a maintenance technician, Fredrick had been invaluable in keeping the ships she was piloting in top shape and working with engineering to boost speeds when political hotspots flared up to get them out of tense situations.
When she’d been drafted by the Ministry for this mission (details of which she didn’t know much, but had shared with him what she could), he’d immediately volunteered as well. They accepted his request with immense pleasure. Even when he was made aware of the mission parameters, he never hesitated. Not once. That fear in his eyes, though, sank into her heart and filled her with her own dread.
So deep in her own thoughts was she, she nearly leaped out of her chair when the comm beeped. Amiko reached forward and triggered it.
“Amiko,” came Colleena’s voice, “could you join us on the bridge? We’ve finished reviewing the communiques and, well, we want the crew together to discuss our findings.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll be right there.”
The comm was cut and she sat there for a moment thinking.
Why in the hell are the cockpit and bridge separate? What was the logic there? Every other ship I’ve ever piloted had them both in the same location. Captain’s chair, forward viewport, navigation, and pilot. But a bubble on the underside of a giant pill? Goodness. I just don’t even get the reasoning… Now I have to walk all the way upstairs when I could have just turned the blasted seat around and… Grrrr…
She shook her head and got out of the chair. It was just one of those mysteries. The bridge was a small room with a fifteen-foot circumference dead center of the ship at the top level with navigation a room barely the size of the cockpit attached to the starboard side. She put the thought out of mind. The Ministry had to have had a reason for the design. She hoped.
IT WAS A little too quiet, Sela reflected sitting on the edge of the bed. Guile sat at their computer terminal with his back to her seeing if he could gain access to the communiques himself. As the bridge crew, their passcodes gave them certain access to ship wide data files. So far, he’d only been able to bring up public communiques hailing the glorious Federation and all the good it was doing in the world. Sometimes, she entertained the notion of living in some other collective of nations. Maybe the First Nations, but she knew they rarely took in people seeking asylum from other parts of the world, let alone visitors. Immigrating was a thing of the past on Earth and so her rotten luck had been being born into the Federation. You did what they told you and that was that. Including being hurtled twenty years into the future across the black reaches of space (however many light years that was—she thought four, so if they were shy four regular years and they were three quarters of the way there, maybe a lightyear, lightyear and a half left to go. She thought Colleena had mentioned a light year and a half. Still, a lot of time left to go).
Even so, she was grateful to have her husband with her. They were one of two married couples on the mission. The rest were sure to figure out who to pair with. As for herself, she wouldn’t know what to do if she’d been separated from him for this lifelong propaganda trip to another star system. She sighed and looked beside her out the window. Trillions of stars of every color twinkled brightly and she thought she could make out a few nebulas here and there, though much of their stellar gases were much too dim for the human eye to see. It was mostly just a terrifying void of nothing. The stars were pretty, though.
“Something wrong?” Guile said not looking away from the digital monitor.
“I just don’t want it to end like this. In the middle of all this… nothing.” She glanced at him as he grunted.
“It isn’t ‘nothing’, just a whole bunch of ‘somethings’ we will probably never see.” He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the screen. “Listen to this, in one of the news articles through the Federal Press, the Imperial States attempted to invade the western territories of the Russian Republic out near the state of Poland using a new armed force called the ‘Archangel Consortium’. I don’t know what the official communiques told them upstairs, but it sounds like those damn westerners were staging another attempt to conquer the planet. I’ll bet Chairman Weng really put his foot down on it. The Russians are always seeking our help with their problems.”
Sela pulled her knees up to her chest and leaned her chin into them. “But, didn’t Commander Merricks say it’d been five years since the last communique? What if home doesn’t exist anymore?”
Guile turned in his chair fixing his hazel eyes on her. “Why would you say such a thing? The Chairman is a wily man. Besides, Colleena is a scattered brained blonde. She probably just misread the data and Holland had to correct her on it. Likely why they’re taking so long.”
“You don’t honestly believe that, do you?”
He sighed. “Even if it’s true, there’s got to be a reason for it. Still, I can’t imagine nobody picking up the comm to make a call. No, they’re just missing it somehow.”
She watched him turn back to the monitor and resume his perusing through articles and news feeds. Once upon a time, they’d lived in Bombay. It was where they were married and went to engineering school in Kolkata. They spent two years studying there and working the shipping yards as material handlers. They had just graduated when the Ministry drafted them into the Deep Colonial Project. Guile had been most excited for the mission. Sela, however, kept the opinion to herself that she didn’t want to go. Refusal wasn’t an option. There were plenty of nights, however, she prayed to whatever deity was listening that it was a horrid dream and the Federation had set their eyes on somebody else. But every morning she awoke, before that fateful day of launching into orbit, realizing her life wasn’t really hers. When they’d arrived at the space tug Mumbai’s Ambition, they were ferried towards the far side of Lunar base where their deep space destiny awaited aboard the Starmancer.
A buzz drew her out of her thoughts and Guile hit the intercom switch. “Thandan here.”
“Guile, could you and Sela join the crew on the bridge? We’ve finished our review and need to discuss it with everybody.”
“Sure thing,” Guile said and the comm cut. He swirled towards Sela whom was dropping her legs back to the floor.
“Looks like they got something figured out. Let’s go see what Fearless Leader has to say.”
She slid off the bed, stood up, and followed him out of the room.
Thanks for dropping by and reading! Hope you enjoyed! Read to you again next week! Until then, take it easy!
~Timothy S Purvis
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