Quantum Fever – my latest Sci-fi book.

I have now started work on the rewrite of this new book.  Any views would be much appreciated.

This is the second section:

Tow Ragg had his office at the far end of his palatial floating mansion where he could look out over Haven, their home planet and the capital planet of their system – affectionately called The System. He liked nothing better than to gloat over the masses below. Not that there was a lot to see, the surface was always a construction site. The surface that Tow looked out on was the bare Plexiglas that formed the upper tier of what was now the planet, and work was always going on adding another tier to the ever growing edifice. It was hard to imagine what the place had once looked like. Right down through those layers of dwellings, underneath it all, was the actual surface of the planet. It did not seem real. But Tow could visualise the honeycomb of doms, layer after layer that went down hundreds of layers deep until you hit the bedrock of the long unseen surface, and that gave him great satisfaction.

His floating home was positioned high up in the stratosphere overlooking his home world. A great dome encased the whole massive development. His mansion was constructed to one side of the great dome. It had many rooms, with the servants occupying a separate wing while his wives and children occupied another leaving him undisturbed in the centre to go about his business uninterrupted.

In front of the house was the massive heated swimming pool, cum lake, where every morning, at seven sharp, he performed his exercise by briskly swimming forty lengths.

Around it were the gardens. He had commissioned flora to be reconstructed from the data banks of Haven – one of only ten such places in existence. He even had colourful tweezes flitting back and forth – just a few, enough to impress. You did not want to overdo such things.

The magnificence of the floating mansion was unimaginable to the trillions who spent their lives buried in the cramped quarters underground – and that was what always gave him the greatest satisfaction.

‘They have arrived safely,’ Tow Ragg reported, using her encrypted communicator.

‘Good,’ Eldy Mors replied, the relief evident in his voice. ‘It is always tense.’

‘We have a lot invested in this,’ Rhad Flik stated, her anxiety clearly on display.

The three of them were the controlling powerhouse of the business enterprise, known as the Consortium, which employed Tahsin Roeg, and other Starship Captains, just like her. Theirs was the empire that had made them all obscenely rich.

Tow laughed. ‘Not enough to make a dent in your wad,’ she said teasingly. Rhad Flik had a reputation for being miserly. She resented every single credit wasted and begrudged spending every last one – even if the returns were exceptional. To her money had to be deployed to maximum effect. She played the game with an intensity that the others couldn’t match. For Rhad it was all about winning, accruing and investing. That was what she lived for. Every new launch was a fraught experience for her. She stood to lose billions. The fact that she could make trillions if it was successful was irrelevant. A few billion was a microbe on an agar dish to her. She could lose it a million times and she wouldn’t miss it. But even so she loathed losing. Making vast profits – that’s what gave her the adrenalin rush. That’s why she did it. But still she begrudged the billions necessary to carry out the project. She wanted every cred accounted for. Her miserly attitude made her the butt of many jokes but she could not see it.

Despite the huge fortune she had amassed every jump was still a nerve wracking experience for her. She lived it second by second, in a terrible state, on tenterhooks as if her life depended on it, waiting for news that the ship had emerged.

‘You know how precarious these jumps are,’ Rhad muttered resentfully. She did not appreciate being teased.

‘And Roeg?’ Eldy Mors enquired.

‘She seems to be holding up,’ Tow replied tentatively. ‘We’ll know more in due course.’

‘We’ve had a good return from her,’ Eldy noted. ‘But I wonder if we should not rest her up now?’

‘We’ll see,’ Tow replied thoughtfully. ‘She’s the best we’ve had. Nobody has been more successful.’

‘Yes, but we shouldn’t push our luck,’ Eldy suggested.

‘We can’t afford to lose a starship,’ Rhad Flik chipped in.

Tow laughed again with that annoying chuckle that really grated on Rhad. ‘Starships are ten a cred, Rhad. We can commission a new one for a mere trillion. It is starship commanders that are the real difficult gold dust. That’s the limiting factor. We’ve only got twenty of them and they are not so easy to replace. You can’t train them. You can’t breed them. You have to discover them and they’re rarer than sane politicians.’

‘So what’s the situation?’ Eldy Mors enquired, changing the subject.

‘They’ve emerged,’ Tow reported. ‘The ship and crew are intact and there are no reports of anything untoward. Tahsin Roeg seems to have pulled it off again. It appears every molecule has arrived. She’s left nothing back in quantum.’

They listened intently.

‘They are already deploying the gate. It will take several months to consolidate and connect, as you know, but the process is in hand.’

That was always the first consideration. The gate had to be deployed. That enabled the conglomerates to follow through and begin the process of harvesting. The gate was the crucial thing. Even if a ship was crippled and the crew badly disabled by a poorly executed emergence it was still sometimes possible to deploy a gate.

‘And the system?’ Rhad Flik asked impatiently. The bottom line was always the profitability with her. She was dying to know what sort of return she was going to get on her investment. Having planets to harvest could be extremely lucrative. Once the gate was established they could plunder the resources. The real bonanza was to discover a planet that could be colonised. If it was feasible, in terms of cost, to create an atmosphere and make a planet habitable, they could put in the tiers and create massive condominium developments that could prove extremely lucrative. That’s where the real money was to be made – catering for the consumers. Housing was always at a premium.

‘As we already know,’ Tow replied, a little tinkle in his voice. ‘Four gas giants, four rocky planets, three of which might be suitable for colonising, and four planetoids which might also prove good for harvesting. There’s no way we’re going to come out of this without a whacking great profit.’ He was already feeling ecstatic. The difficult part was over.

‘But are they as good as was indicated,’ Rhad asked eagerly. Already the figures were spinning around in her head. The trillions were mounting. This system had real promise. There was a killing to be made and she knew it. This one had looked like a real bonanza.

‘Rhad dear,’ Tow replied, unable to refrain from chuckling. ‘It is far too early to know anything more. Give them a chance to carry out the analysis. They’ve only just arrived. Rest assured – there will be plenty to harvest on this one. We’ll have our bellyful of ammonia, water, hydrogen and the full gamut of metals. It’ll fill the coffers to overflowing.’

‘But are any of those rocky planets habitable?’ Rhad pressed, unable to stop herself.

‘We don’t know,’ Tow said with amusement. ‘Three of them look like good possibilities. We’ll know more when they’ve done a recce. Don’t worry your head. We’ll come out of this one with a really good profit. You can rest assured on that.’

‘I think we should inform the consortium,’ Eldy Mors interrupted. ‘They need to know that the starship has emerged safely.’

‘Already done,’ Tow informed him. ‘The consortium is fully in the picture. I’ve already flashed them. They know their investments are safe.’

‘Such a good idea,’ Rhad said meditatively, ‘to spread the costs across many millions of investors while accruing the bulk of the profits among us three.’

‘Well all those investors stand to make a good return on their money too,’ Tow asserted happily. The emergence had put her in a really good mood. He could already smell the profits pouring in. ‘But we deserve the graaf’s share. We’ve made the decisions and organised the whole thing. They’re just hanging on the back of our tunics. There’s millions more eager to get involved if they don’t want in on it. We direct the operation. We deserve every credit we get, don’t we Rhad?’

Rhad nodded in agreement, not registering that Tow was pulling her string, and the tridee image of her that hovered alongside the image of Eldy Mors on Tow Ragg’s desk, narrowed her eyes thoughtfully as she contemplated the slice of the profits that would be heading her way. ‘Just as long as we screw every cred out of this project we can – to make it really worthwhile.’

 

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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.