Quantum Fever – my new Sci-fi novel.

Phew – I have just completed the first draft of a new Sci-fi novel this afternoon!

This one is called Quantum Fever. It all came to me in a rush when two ideas collided in my head. It all flowed from there.

I started writing it and then seemed to lose the thread. But fortunately it all fell back into place. It is always a joyous relief to complete a novel

So – this is where I would appreciate your assistance. If you could run your eyes over the opening section and tell me what would be the best way of addressing it in the rewrite.

Cheers – all thoughts gratefully received.

Chapter 1

 

‘I think they know I’m on to them,’ I thought to myself as I prepared to initiate the risky business of guiding the Starship Explorer out of Quantum Space. It was not a good thought to have in one’s head at such a time. We had been travelling through the quantum fields, jumping the folds of space. It was time to emerge into linear space again – a task that was fraught with danger and required my complete concentration. Any stray thought at such a time was a distraction that could prove fatal for us all. Grimly I pushed the intrusion to one side and refocussed my mind.

I gripped the controls tightly and allowed the impulses to flow through me. My training kicked in and I felt myself entering the bubble as my focus became intense. The control room faded away. My mind gelled with the controls and through them into the ship’s instruments and out into the universe beyond. I found myself unified. All thoughts were quelled. I was one with the ship’s computer. Its sensors, motors and systems were melded with my mind. Through them I was able to clearly see our destination beyond, laid out in colours and shapes. In the quantum world everything constantly changed but I could still discern the pattern I wanted. I am still not sure how we Starship Commanders did it. There was some intuitive element that could not be taught. Not many people could achieve this concentrated sense of being, even with all the training in the world. Somehow I was able to gather myself, the ship and its crew, and latch on to the destination pattern and bring us all together. Through the ship’s computer I could control everything at will and secure the merger. It was an exceedingly rare skill.

Our task on this mission was to explore sector XLP12. The astronomers reckoned it looked very fruitful and ripe for harvesting.

There were only twenty starships; the limit being the rarity of Commanders like myself. We were a rare breed. Quantum jumping was a feat requiring a certain mind and it carried a high rate of attrition. Even using all of the vast resources of the Empire it was still only possible to commission a mere twenty Starships. Despite all our thousands of worlds monitoring all potential children for the training programme we only just managed to replace the experienced Commanders, as they expired, with new recruits. The training programme, even with maximised Immersive Education, took many years. Building Starships was not a problem. It was no wonder that we Starship Commanders were in great demand and held in such high esteem. The whole System depended on a constant stream of new resources. Their own resources were nowhere near sufficient. They could not even sustain the very air, water and food. All required constant replenishing from outside. Without a constant new supply of materials the whole system would collapse.

We were vital.

Our astronomers identified likely areas of our galaxy to explore and our intrepid Starship Commanders carried out the business. While the astronomers could identify likely planets for colonisation or harvesting it wasn’t until we actually arrived and were able to do detailed surveys that we were able to check the viability of the proposition. Sometimes a solar system was not as lucrative a proposition as it might have appeared from afar. For that is what it was really about. We were mercenaries, employed by large business concerns. We sought to provide profit for our employers.

Our small number of craft, each with its crew of six, rode the quantum universe, skimming the waves of space, and emerged into the selected sectors. Once having carried out the process successfully we could then lay down a gate for others to safely follow. Our job was to explore, identify potential and point the way for the conglomerate harvesters to follow in our wake. We searched for either resources or worlds to colonise.

Unfortunately this pioneering work was dangerous. Many ships failed to materialise again into linear space and were presumed lost for ever in the sea of quantum strangeness – a universe too weird to contemplate.

On top of that many Starship Commanders came back altered, driven mad by the experience of touching that strange quantum universe. They went mad – a condition known as Quantum Fever.

Our life expectancy as a Starship Commander was limited, usually only lasting a handful of years. Indeed, I was among the most experienced. I knew my days were numbered. Each trip was like playing Zen roulette. But the Empire needed servicing. It was expanding ever faster and without the resources we discovered it could not possibly sustain its relentless growth. We had to find those resources – the metals, organics, water and gases. We also had to identify worlds that were worthy of being colonised, to provide homes for the burgeoning population.

The pushing back of boundaries was driven by gritty determination as the Empire possessed an inexhaustible thirst for expansion, and we were that forefront. In my early days I had felt like an intrepid pioneer. But that had soon passed.

While in that bubble I held it all in my mind – the pattern of our destination, the Starship itself, the crew and all that was contained; I held it together and guided us through to the point at the centre of that pattern. I could not afford to leave any part behind. It was a massive effort and responsibility. Emerging from quantum travel was never easy. Bringing everything back into that oneness at the quantum point was so difficult, and it never became easier no matter how many times you performed it. This was now my two hundred and twelfth such trip and my experience only seemed to confirm that the universe always proved stranger and more dangerous that anyone could possibly have predicted.

I felt the ship judder as if attuning itself back in the reality of linear space. It was a judder that went straight through me as if my mind was also realigning itself in reality. But it was a judder that was familiar and came as a huge relief.

We were back.

I felt myself relax. Being the vanguard of an operation was not an easy job. There was no telling what you might find when you emerged. It was highly unlikely but we could emerge to find ourselves in the midst of a stellar catastrophe. The light from those stars took thousands of years to reach Haven, our home planet, anything could have happened in the intervening time. Not that I allowed myself to worry about that any too much. Just controlling the variables for us to emerge was an exceedingly taxing experience that left me feeling drained of energy as if I had poured all my own resources into achieving it. I had to trust to luck for the rest. The odds were with us.

But we were safe. Nothing untoward had occurred.

I sat at the controls, released my grip and allowed myself to relax. I could hear the buzz of the command room again. The ship was alive with its usual familiar noise. The crew were already deploying their equipment to check on our surrounds. The gate was already in the process of being deployed. There had not been any calamities that I could detect. You never knew quite what to expect when you emerged into a new sector but it looked as if we were lucky again.

‘Well done Skip,’ Mant Damsin, my assistant Commander, muttered approvingly.

I sat with my hands lightly resting on the controls and examined my mind to see if I could detect any changes – any signs of that dreaded Quantum Fever that we were so prone to.

It was OK. I felt just as crazy as I’d ever been.

Then that thought resurfaced. I think they know I am on to them and I also thought that they were on to me.

 

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