This is quite a sixties type Sci-Fi novel. It is a book concerned with the nature of reality and fantasy.
A hyper-drive ship on a desperate mission to make contact with an alien race in order to save a doomed planet Earth suffering from overpopulation, pollution and exhaustion of resources, crashes on an unknown planet. The surviving crew are faced with strange landscape and vegetation and have to try to survive. Eventually, following a series of disasters and adventures, they are approached by intelligent aliens.
Here is an extract:
‘I just don’t see how we can possibly manage it,’ Jon remarked despairingly. ‘There’s far too much damage.’
‘We don’t have much choice do we?’ Huan replied. ‘We have to try. There is simply no other option. We can’t simply give up, can we?’
‘I suppose not,’ Jon conceded. ‘But I don’t know enough about these systems to even try to patch it up. I normally rely on the computer for that sort of information. There’s no hard copy.’
‘There’s nothing we can retrieve from the computer?’ Gina interceded.
‘Maybe the basic functions,’ Jon replied thoughtfully. ‘As for the higher functions- well, I think we’ve got no chance. The whole thing was blown to pieces. Besides, those were always way beyond my pay scale. I wouldn’t have a clue.’
‘Some basic life support and control of the ship would be nice,’ Huan said nodding his head.
‘Hmmm,’ Jon replied studying a section of motherboard closely with a magnifying glass. They had cleared as much of the debris as possible and Jon was set up at a work-bench. All around him were computer motherboards and components, many visibly displaying the scorch marks from the overload. ‘I might be able to patch together something. Can you pass me that soldering iron.’ He began reconnecting the circuits with his micro-soldering iron. ‘I’ll trying patching up as much of this as I can,’ he gestured towards the array of boards they had retrieved from the ship’s computer. ‘It’ll take me forever and a day and I can’t guarantee that anything will work but if I can get the mother to work we’ll at least be able to see where we are and work out where we’re going.’
‘Better than being as blind as a mole in a tunnel at midnight,’ Huan suggested cheerfully. It was important to keep morale up. ‘We’ll leave you to it and get back to the bridge.’
Jon merely grunted, already engrossed in his task.
The bridge was now clear of the debris caused by the explosion. Most of the equipment was damaged beyond repair but anything that could be repaired had been carted to the workshop for Jon’s attention. The rest, the utterly useless bits of mangled plastic, had been dragged to the airlocks and jettisoned. It had been an emotional experience every single time. These were the same airlocks that they had used to send off the dead on their journey to forever. Every single evacuation of the airlock had been a reliving of the burials. Every acting of lugging debris through the corridors had reminded Huan of the way they had carried the bodies on that same journey. It was all so raw in his mind. He knew that the thought of the crew, his friends, drifting away endlessly into space would remain with him for the rest of his life.
The bridge itself still looked like a battle-field; the scars in ceiling and walls where plates had been ripped, the exposed equipment and wiring, ripped and torn; the jagged holes where consoles and seats had been ripped from their stays. It made for a chilling sight.
In the midst of this they had resurrected four seats and one console that although not functioning, due to the destruction of the computer, appeared to be in good condition. They had some hopes for it.
The ship itself was still drifting powerlessly in the emptiness of space. The lack of sensors and screens to show them their position meant that they were isolated, as blind bats, with no way of telling their position or where they were heading. They had been thrown out of hyperspace into who knew where? Nether could they communicate out and had no means of contacting anyone. It was a ship as alive as a graveyard in a blizzard. Their only hope was that Jon might be able to repair enough to get the computer up and running on some basic level, to return power to the screens and enable some power to the console so that they could regain some power and control. It was a tall order but despite Jon’s cynicism Huan had confidence that Jon would get it done.
Huan relaxed into his new Captain’s seat, thoughtfully bringing his fingers together in what might have been mistaken as a prayer and smiled to himself. He was thinking about Jon in the repair room with his head heavily bandaged and his nimble fingers guiding the soldering iron. He knew that he would succeed. They would get their eyes back.
Gina eased herself into her seat and watched Huan closely.
There was little they could do to be of use. This was a waiting game.
‘I think he looks like a cross between a pirate and an ancient Egyptian mummy,’ Huan remarked.
They waited, occasionally discussing the possibility of restoring some of the systems and feeding Jon with coffee and food.
‘Well,’ Jon drawled, looking up from his workbench. ‘I’ve checked out this monitor screen and despite being chucked halfway across the ship, bounced off a few walls and buried under a ton of scrap it seems to be functioning perfectly. I suppose on a trip to the stars you want things that will keep going. There’s not a lot of retail outlets in this neck of the universe. They built things to last.’ He lugged the huge flat-screen monitor off the bench where he’d had it plugged in. ‘Time to connect it up.’
They helped him get it across to the bridge and housed in one of the resurrected control consoles.
Jon was down on the floor straining away in the restricted space, digging wires out of the cable well and connecting them up to the monitor.
‘Now,’ he said, dusting his hands and beaming up at them. ‘Assuming the sensors on the outside are still functioning, which they should be, they’re built to withstand just about anything and the Hull’s not breached or we wouldn’t still be breathing. When I’ve got this connected up the lights should come on.’ There was a further rattling around accompanied by a few grunts and the odd oath and Jon popped up again. ‘This will be a bit of a miracle if it comes off,’ Jon grinned at them, leaving them to think that it was not anything of the kind. Jon rose up and started messing with the wires inside the console. ‘That should do it.’ He popped up from behind the console. ‘I’ve rigged up a simple on/off switch on the console, nothing fancy I’m afraid. Then we’ll see what happens.’
Jon stepped back to admire his work. ‘You flip it boss,’ Jon said grinning. ‘I don’t want to get fried just when I’m recovering from this knock.’
Huan looked at him and flipped the rather archaic switch without hesitation. He knew Jon well. They’d trained together. It might not work but it certainly wouldn’t kill him.
The screen instantly flicked into life but remained quite blank.
Jon frowned at the blank screen and frowned. ‘Hang on,’ he said clambering back behind the panel. ‘I’ve just got to rig in a selector to hitch in the sensors.’ He seemed pleased with his work.
Soon they had a whole series of switches and the screen that could switch from one view of space to another.
‘Great,’ Huan exclaimed, beaming with delight. ‘That’s marvellous’
Gina was almost jumping with joy. ‘You’re a genius Jon.’ It was obvious that Gina saw it as the first step on the road to normality. Perhaps it was but Huan was not quite so sure. He knew that this was only a small step and doubted they’d ever get back to any level of what could be considered to be normality.
‘OK,’ Huan said a little more soberly. ‘Step one complete. Now we can at least figure out where we are and where we are heading.’
Without the power of the ship’s massive capacity they were reliant on simple laptops but they were sufficient. Jon patched in and matched up the starcharts. Gina began manipulating the programme to run the search for a match.
Jon continued to flick through the various sensors like a kid with a new toy. ‘Well that’s a miracle,’ he declared with a certain smug satisfaction. ‘They all seem to be working. What’s next?’
‘Next?’ Huan frowned, looking up from over Gina’s shoulder. ‘Next might be a little more tricky. Next is getting us some power. I think we need to see if we can get the plasma drive back on line.’ He spoke matter-of-factly as if this was entirely feasible. ‘Then at least we’ll be able to get more power into the ship and be able to limp along where we decide and not just drift where the wind blows us.’
‘Oh so that’s all?’ Jon replied, paradoxically not looking at all displeased at the size of the task. ‘Just get the plasma drive operational. Do you know what that entails?’
Huan grinned at him. ‘It’ll keep you out of mischief Jon.’
‘Even if we get the fucking thing running,’ Jon said with a look of disbelief. ‘What then? Do you suppose we can just limp along to the nearest starship repair shop? I doubt there’s a Starship or colony within 3 billion light years of this patch of nothing. We’d need to get the hyperdrive going if we’re ever to get out of here. There’s no way we can ever get home, or anywhere else or that matter, at anything below light speed.’
Huan, still grinning, nodded. ‘Let’s not get ahead of ourselves Jon. One step at a time.’
‘I suppose you want me to overhaul the whole hyperdrive while I’m at it,’ Jon suggested cynically. ‘After all we don’t want to go through those judders again, do we?’
‘Better get to it then,’ Huan suggested innocently.
‘So let me get this right,’ Jon said. ‘ Just get the plasma drive going for now? Don’t worry about the hyperdrive just yet?’
‘Yep – that’s about it,’ Huan nodding vigorously. ‘Just the plasma drive for now.’
Gina seemed oblivious as she continued feeding in the sensor feeds and patching them into the starchart programme.
‘Look,’ Jon replied, beginning to get his head around the enormity of the task. It was quite overwhelming. ‘I may be pretty amazing but I’m not a flaming magician.’ He was beginning to get a bit peeved. ‘You’ve no idea what you are asking. Our whole control system has been ripped out and most of the innards blown to smithereens. You want me to rebuild it from scratch with scrap salvaged from the wreckage.’
‘It can’t be done.’
‘As you said, we’ve got no choice,’ Huan replied resignedly. ‘It’s that or nothing. We can’t float around here for ever more with no power in the hope that some passing stranger might just notice us and stop to pick us up. There’s no future in that.’ He was busy peering at the screen over Gina’s shoulder. The programme was processing the data.
The screen showed a composite picture of the cosmos around them. There were very distinct and peculiar clusters of stars.
‘I’ve never seen anything quite like that before,’ Huan muttered.
‘Neither has this programme from the look of things,’ Gina replied absently. ‘It’s really having trouble matching this up.’
‘Even supposing that the drives are both intact and functional,’ Jon resumed. ‘And that’s a big ask, given what happened. How on earth am I supposed to fix up some controls? That required most of the computing power the ship had and that’s been blown to fuck.’
‘I guess that might be the next step,’ Jon suggested. ‘Perhaps we have to work on getting some degree of computer power back up.’
‘Is that all?’
‘What else can we do Jon?’ He shrugged. ‘If you need any help. If there’s anything we can do. Just ask Gina or I and we’ll be there. Neither of us know too much about the drives or computers for that matter, and we might not be too handy with tools but we’ll do whatever it takes.’
Jon seemed speechless. He stared back at Huan, scratched the back of his head where the knotted bandage was pressing and finally turned away to collect his tools. ‘Yep, sure thing,’ he muttered. ‘Better get busy.’
Huan turned back to frowning at the peculiar arrangement of stars displayed on Gina’s screen.
Days passed and they slipped into an unreal routine.
The starchart programme had not proved successful in identifying their position. They remained completely lost.
Huan and Gina spent their days clearing up and doing all the dirty work for Jon. Power was resumed and they were able to dial up the full range of meals. The life support mechanisms all seemed to be functioning properly despite the damage to the ship and the meltdown of the main computer. It was quite clear that there were no immediate threats for them to deal with. It was merely a question of how much they could salvage and get working again. Jon had thrown himself into it with a vengeance though none of them really believed that there was any way out of this.
Three months had passed since the accident. Huan had spent three months without a harmo suit, without drugs, without therapy and with no hope of rescue. He sould have been depressed but he did not. He felt strangely good. What should have been a terrible nightmare was actually quite a challenge. He felt quite invigorated. His body felt positively sparkling and his mind felt so clear, clearer than he’d ever felt possible.
Here they were utterly lost in an infinite ocean of galaxies with no hope of rescue and he felt elated.
They assembled for their daily progress report. Jon had worked ceaselessly on a wide number of tasks.
‘Right guys,’ Jon began his report. ‘I’ve now fully checked out the explosion area. As you know it was the hyperdrive generator. It blew everything to pieces and sent a surge through the controls to the bridge. It’s a wonder any of us survived. We are incredibly lucky to have any emergency lighting or support systems. It’s only that our wonderful designers built in secondary systems that enabled us to survive. We owe their foresight a great deal.’
‘Well done the design boys,’ Gina said gaily.
‘And the bad news?’ Huan enquired.
‘Well,’ Jon mused. ‘It’s prett well done the hyperdrive in for good, I reckon. I can’t build a new generator from scrap.’
Gina looked a bit more glum. They all knew what that meant. Without a hperdrive there was no way back.
‘And the good news,’ Huan continued.
‘I’ve now managed to restore some basic level of computer control and I’ve rigged some basic control mechanism for the plasma drive unit. If it works we should be able to get some power and manoueverability.’
‘That great Jon,’ Huan beamed. ‘That’s absolutely great.’
Gina was beaming again.
‘It’s not quite as good as it sounds,’ Jon warned. ‘If it works it’ll be touch and go. I don’t know if I’ve been able to get enough computer power to run it. It takes a lot of processing to control a drive of this complexity. At best it’ll be incredibly clumsy and the whole thing could cut out at any time.’
‘Never mind,’ Huan said enthusiastically. ‘It’s still great. First we get our eyes and now we’re getting some legs. Things are looking up. Let’s not worry about the hyperdrive just yet.’
‘Who’s worried,’ Jon replied shrugging expansively. ‘It just can’t be done.’
‘We’ll cross our bridges when we get to them, shall we?’ Huan suggested with a laqugh. ‘Right now we need to get this hulk mobile and see if we can’t get to landfall.’
‘I’ve identified a planet that looks quite promising,’ Gina added. ‘It’s not too far away. We might be able to reach it if we can get the drive running.
Things were looking up.