Walking about in the main square of Marrakesh – through the Medina and down the narrow alleys of the souk one can still get a flavour of the ancient days.
The second Kasbah that we visited out in the Sahara the other side of the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh was the most picturesque Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou.
It was basically a fortress built on a hillside that seemed to be made of red tinged mud. It had a fabulous setting and I can see why it was used in many films.
Our first sight of it was awesome.
Walking up through the narrow passageways one did get a feel of the danger of those olden days. It seemed defence was always the first thought. Trade must have been a dangerous business.
I was so impressed with the architecture and beauty of this Kasbah. You got a glimpse of history as you walked through its lavish rooms with their decorated ceilings. I could imagine them seated on their couches, laid back with hookahs, with music and dancing, a feast in front of them, making deals, entertaining and pulling out all the stops to impress.
An older Kasbah whose mud walls are melting back into the ground
While this made me laugh it is tragic!!
The far-right is setting the agenda.
The wave of populist propaganda is dividing the world!
From the obnoxious merchant banker Farage to the Neo-Nazis, all over Europe – the far-right spreads its hate, fear and division.
It’s time we promoted peace, understanding, tolerance, compassion, unity and togetherness!!
I wrote God’s Bolt a short while ago. It is available from Amazon in both paperback and in a digital form.
It tells the tale of a young woman trapped on the Space Station as the world is destroyed.
Here is section 1:
Year 2178 – Impact day
I have never felt so utterly alone. A raging storm of nausea was gnawing at my belly as I began my routine morning broadcast – except that there was nothing normal about this one.
‘Good morning everybody,’ I said cheerily, putting on my best smile. ‘This is Helen Southcote beaming down to you from the United Nations International Space Station.’
I was totally unsure of the wisdom of continuing these tridee broadcasts, particularly on such an auspicious day as this. Who on earth was tuned in? Surely they’d all be in a panic, desperately seeking safety for themselves and their loved ones. Nobody would be at all interested in any platitudes from me. But the powers that be, in the form of mission controller Brad Noone, had assured me that it was necessary. The psychologists thought that it might help to continue with normality and reduce panic. Who was I to argue? They’d provided me with a script. I suppressed my anger and upset. Put aside my personal feelings about what had happened to my friends. The show had to go on. I was doing it for the kids, I kept reminding myself – it was for the kids.
‘The earth sure looks beautiful spread out there below me.’ I showed them images of the planet below me with its green seas and swirling white clouds.
With a lot of trepidation, which I hoped did not show too much, I turned my attention to the subject that was foremost in everybody’s minds. ‘Preparations are well underway to deal with the remaining threat from Chang’s comet,’ I assured them. ‘Missiles are poised to destroy the largest incoming rocks but President Khun Mae Srisuk has urged everyone to either seek sanctuary in the prescribed shelters or to evacuate to designated regions of safety. There are bound to be some meteorites that will cause some collateral damage. Better to be safe than sorry.’
I offered them one of my best smiles. The cheery tones sounded so phoney to me.
‘This promises to be one of the most spectacular shows you’ll ever see,’ I promised them. Be reassuring I’d been instructed – be upbeat. Lie. Even the most optimistic reports were predicting widespread damage across the United States, Canada and into Russia. The earth was going to be bombarded with the biggest deluge of rocks in recent history. Chang’s comet was a monster and even broken up as it was, presented a real danger to the survival of the planet. They just had to hope that this time the scientists had got it right and every single major threat would be neutralised. It was a big ask. They had not managed such a brilliant job up to now. This last ditch effort was to target all the remaining large rocks and pulverise them in the upper atmosphere so that the remains would burn up on entry. If all went to plan it was certain to be the most amazing display. The worry was that if a single one of those chunks of rock was missed……………….……….. well that didn’t bear thinking about. ‘Make sure you watch from safety!’ I chastised them. There were always some thrill seekers who sought to put themselves in danger. ‘As for me, well I’ve got the best seat in the house, a real grandstand view. UNISS will be in exactly the right place to record the whole sequence of events and you can bet that I’ll be relaying it to you live as it happens!’
I then proceeded to give them a dull and boring update on the various experiments taking place, the weather, solar activity and conditions in space. Normality. That’s what I’d been instructed to do.
‘This is Helen Southcote signing off until tomorrow. Be safe! See you soon’
‘Good job!’ Brad Noone intoned in his dulcet tones after I’d shut down. That was high praise coming from him.
‘Yes, Good one Helen,’ Happiness Ntobe added more enthusiastically. There was an element of wonder in her voice. She found it hard to believe that I’d pulled off such a jaunty performance in the face of such a terrifying prospect. I didn’t need telling. The mood back at Mission Control was one of great trepidation. It was tinged with fear verging on terror. They knew the real picture of what was coming and their confidence was not exactly riding high. Their minds were fixed on their family and friends. But I was a seasoned professional at the age of 33. I’d learnt to control my emotions. I’d been broadcasting for eight years now. I was used to it.
The rest of the day was mine and it lasted an eternity. Time dragged. I immersed myself in the routine of the station. I had to check on the work of all my absent colleagues; looking in on the horticulture work of Jeff and Bander’s, the weird zero G chemistry of Lynn and Izabel’s as well as my own work. I saved Jomo and Remi’s lab until last. That was still too painful. It set me crying. Then I did a check of the station security. All the time I was doing my rounds I kept up a running commentary with Eunice, the station’s computer, and the guys at Mission Control – Brad, Neil, Janice and Happiness. I think they were doing the same as me – desperately trying to occupy themselves, to take their minds off what was shortly going to be happening, at least the human components were. Eunice was just a chunk of metal, plastic and electricity. She had no mind. I don’t think it worked for any of us though. No matter what I was doing I kept getting images of a huge rock battering into earth and the planet being smashed to smithereens. I wished I’d never seen those damn sensationalist media images. Stupid, irresponsible rubbish. President Khun Mae Srisuk should have put a stop to it. They never should have gone out.
In the afternoon I resorted to putting the music on as loud as I could in order to drown out my thoughts and did my exercise routine with even greater ferocity than usual. Even that didn’t help though. Nothing could rid my mind of those images that were clogging up my head.
After an eternity, the twilight horizon crept over the edge of the planet and the coast of the United States of America crept into view. Despite the mass evacuations it was still lit up like a giant funfair. The sight of it sent chills through me. I could imagine the scenes in the cities below me. I’d seen the news reports. It was pandemonium. Impact was centred right over the Eastern seaboard. One of the most populated places on earth. I know they’d moved most people out but it still did not bear thinking about. I could imagine the huge throngs of superstitious religious lunatics – those who had called the event God’s Bolt and believed this asteroid was an act of God, sent to punish us for the sins of humanity – gathered on the hilltops praying to God and exalting him to spare them. Part of me desperately hoped they would prevail even though my rational self ridiculed their foolishness and maliciously hoped a meteorite or two would land right among them and put an end to their nonsense.
Already the sky was lit up with a criss-crossing of orange streaks from the early vanguard of rocks liberated from the blasting of Chang’s Comet. They were harmlessly burning out in the heavens and putting on quite a display but one that was merely a precursor to the main show.
I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and it was nothing to do with the lack of gravity. I was a seasoned pro when it came to weightlessness. No – I knew the number of planet-busting rocks that were heading our way. Shortly we would see whether all the preparations had paid off. The closer it got the more anxious I was becoming. My head was full of doubts. I could sense the uncertainty that existed down there on Earth. If they were not convinced how could I be? I just hoped our depleted and unpractised military knew what they were doing and could neutralise the threat. Ironically I just hoped that the long decades of peace resulting in the run-down of all military weaponry had not completely emasculated them. My confidence was not super high. I knew we had very little left in the kitty to throw at the threat. I knew more than most of the magnitude of the operation; it was running more on hope than logic.
At 10.23 p.m. Eastern Time the main show began.
I was seated in the viewing gantry with Mission Control plugged in. The many tridee displays showed the scenes from a variety of sources both on Earth and out in space. I found myself flicking from one to the other. People in Mission Control were talking out loud, oblivious, commentators for various channels were babbling, it was all a background cacophony to me. The heavens were lit up with trails of meteors and the explosions of surface to air missiles – I knew that all our larger missiles had been expended.
By 10.35 p.m. my hopes were on an upward trend – it was beginning to look as if we were weathering the storm. My spirits were rising. I was beginning to think High Command had pulled it off. Then it happened. A huge ball of fire arced through the sky as various explosions blossomed around it but failed to make any dent on its progress. I watched in horror as it descended and scorched its way to the ground. I swear the whole planet shuddered when it hit. The strike was just inland of Washington. Even from this distance I could see the enormity of it. A great welt of livid molten rock, expanding swiftly to become what looked to be the size of a third of the entire country, was flung into the air as a broiling front of superheated air and dust radiated out at supersonic speed. The seething gasses rushed across the ground as crimson clouds were flung up into the upper atmosphere threatening to reach out into space itself and even engulf the space station.
I watched horror-struck and numb. Though I was so very far away the speed of the expansion of that livid cloud was staggering. It was consuming the rest of the continent at an alarming rate in a glowing storm while yellow fires blossomed into a huge swirling cloud above the impact site and huge lightning bolts raged. The Earth seethed with livid orange flame.
Around me the various channels roared and went silent as they too were consumed. Mission Control was amongst the last to go; based as it was two thousand miles away in London. My mind grappled with the horror of what I was witnessing. I could not conceive that Brad Noone, Happiness Ntobe, Neil Cox and Janice Cervantes along with that whole centre at Mission Control with all those dedicated staff, were gone. It was too much to take in. I could not allow myself to even think about Jomo and the others. I could not. That just could not be. I could not allow that. No!! No!! NO!! I shook my head in disbelief. This could not be happening. I squeezed my eyes tight shut.
Over the next three hours I watched silently in some strange unreality, dissociated and analytical, as the rest of the planet was consumed by the boiling sea of fire. Through the thick fiery skies I counted four further enormous impacts further north in what must have been the States, Canada and Siberia. It confirmed everything of my worst fears for me. The last of the stations from the other side of the planet went down. The whole world was silent now and gripped in that raging torrent of fire. From where I sat it looked as if the whole world had become a ball of molten rock, a superheated furnace.
The worst had happened.
All night I sat there watching the scene below waiting for it to sink in. Things had settled somewhat. The whole planet was now a glowing writhing ball of crimson and orange cotton wool. It now looked almost serene from up here but I could well imagine what it was like down there – the force of that blast and the heat of those winds. No matter how deep underground anyone had gone I knew there was no safety to be had. Nobody was surviving this event. This was every bit the extinction event the media had predicted. I kept telling myself that it had not really happened. This was one of those media simulations.
Somewhere down there my family and friends, the colleagues I had said goodbye to just days before, my lovers, they were all gone. Nobody could have survived. They were gone. I had watched the solid rock of the Earth’s crust ripple, fold and rupture releasing torrents of fermenting magma. That can’t have been real can it? It was a tridee. It was special effects. It could not possibly be real – could it? I could not imagine it so it couldn’t have happened. It was too enormous.
Strangely I felt like laughing. It was absurd. All that huge effort that had gone into conservation was wasted. All those precious plants and animals were gone. The ironic thought came into my mind that we had been killed by a surfeit of peace. If only we had not disarmed and done away with all those nuclear weapons. If only we had kept the missiles. We’d fallen victim to our own desire to become civilised. If this had happened a hundred years earlier we would have blown that huge chunk of metal into dust.
That was the ultimate irony.
I still could not really accept it. I did not believe what my eyes were telling me. It was not happening. I was not really watching it for real. This was nothing more than a sensational tridee programme.
It occurred to me that I was on my own. That was when it hit home. I was on my own. I would never see them again. I would never see anyone again. I was completely on my own.
I forced myself not to give in to hysteria. Once I’d started down that road there was no telling where it would end. But once those thoughts were born they could not be unborn. I kept feeling what it was like for a wall of searing heat to vaporise a human being. That is what had happened 4 billion times.
Despite the logic of my own eyes I kept imagining that somewhere down there, perhaps in a submarine at depth, someone would have survived. But I knew that was impossible. The thin crust of the world had been fractured into a million pieces. The tectonic plates would have been ripped apart. I knew the science. I’d seen the magnitude of the impact. The magma was flowing freely, the oceans boiled. Nothing could have survived – at least no life of any sophisticated nature. I had no doubt that the extremophiles, the bacteria and algae adapted to extreme temperatures of volcanoes and underwater vents, would survive. In a billion years or so perhaps the planet would be green again and a new range of organisms would call the planet home. But what good was that to me?
Strangely I did not feel like screaming like they do in the tridee movies, though I thought that maybe I should. No tears came to my eyes, no swearwords to my lips. It was beyond all that. I was completely numb.
I think I spent hours, days, in a stupor just staring down at the raging planet and not registering a single thought. I did not eat or drink and not even Eunice’s chiding registered with me. My universe had been blown apart. Everything I loved was gone. I could not take it in. Somehow, despite the obviousness of the possibilities, I had not prepared myself for this. It was too big, too enormous. I still refused to believe it. Perhaps it would all settle down and be OK?
I was outwardly calm, though the inside of my head was raging as it futilely tried to absorb the facts. It was gone. The whole Earth was gone. They were all gone. I would never see anyone again – not anybody. I would never see green fields or blue skies ever again. I was on my own. I would spend the rest of my days in this Space Station, this cage, this hell. I would never see Mum and Dad, or Joe and Richard. They had been burnt alive, seared to a crisp. Everything was just ash. My friends and lovers were gone. They were seared with fire. Seared to cinders. Everything was destroyed, smashed, broken, burnt, consumed, swamped with magma, broken apart. There was nothing to heal. I was on my own. I was on my own. I was on my own. For the rest of my days I was stuck in this prison. I would never breathe proper air. I would never walk on the Earth’s soil. The silly thought came into my head and tore at me – my dog was gone. All dogs were gone. All animals were gone. They were flecks of heated ash in a hurricane of fire. Nothing could have survived. I was on my own.
My head was roaring like the atmosphere on Earth. My mind was raging like that hurricane on Earth. It was eating me up.
I think I was trying to shock myself into reacting, to feeling something. But the feelings would not come.
I stood mindlessly staring out at the ball of fire below me and that ball of fire was in my head. What it was doing to the planet it was doing to me – eating me alive. That naked molten lava was in my head burning my brains. It was agony. Those hurricanes of fire were burning up my thoughts, whirling them into raging whirlwinds of scattered meaningless thoughts. My sanity was whirling, spinning, tearing itself apart. It was a monster. It was something out of my worst nightmare but thousands of times worse!
It was all pointless, all hopeless. I could not face it. I could not face the future. I did not want to be alive. They were all gone. Why me?? WHY ME!!! I FUCKING DID NOT WANT TO BE ALIVE!! I WANTED TO BE WITH THEM!!!! I WANTED TO BE WITH JOMO!!!!
Thanks for reading!
In the UK:
In the USA:
This was written as both a stand alone and a sequel to God’s Bolt.
It tells the story of Helen Southcote’s journey through the solar system and out to the stars.
It too is available in both paperback and digital on Amazon.
Here is the opening section:
Year 0 Day 1 – 2325
I opened my eyes to discover I was in my own room. It gave me such a shock that I quickly closed them again. That could not possibly be right, could it? I mean, I had to be dreaming.
I lay there with my heart thumping trying to gather the courage to open my eyes again.
That room no longer existed. It was my room from 2159 when I was fourteen. I’d recognised it straight away. It even smelt right. It felt right. The bed felt right. All those things that I’d totally forgotten, that were lost in the depths of time but which were flooding back to me down the distant corridors of history through some ninety two years. It had given me such a shock.
This time I opened my eyes slowly and deliberately, braced for what I was about to see.
It was still there. It was definitely my room down to the smallest detail. There were even the scratches on the paintwork by the door where Woody, my beautiful collie dog, used to scratch to be let out.
I couldn’t have been more shocked if I’d bumped into a tyrannosaurus. I’d seen one of those in the reconstruction zoo, subtly called Jurassic Park after some film that had been made centuries before I was born.
I allowed my eyes to roam around taking it all in and rediscovering all those tiny details that I had long forgotten. They were all resurfacing as I looked – those strange lights that I’d taken a liking too, the garish colours of the walls. What had I been thinking? Orange and green. How could I ever have thought that was cool? The patterned carpet that made your eyes go funny. There was definitely something weird that happens to adolescent minds. They go very strange. But how did my parents allow me to do it? They really did indulge me, didn’t they? – Much more than I’d appreciated at the time.
I looked over to the large mural of Carl Sagan that dominated the wall opposite. My hero Carl held pride of place. Around him were my favourite Zook and Zygobeat bands of the day. I remember I had quite a crush on Zed from Isobar. He had the coolest hair and sweetest face. I adored him. Well looking at him now he just looked like a simpering little kid, barely out of nappies. My Dad used to be very disdainful of Isobar. ‘Computer slush for slushy minds’ he used to say, much to my fury. I used to retaliate calling his music ‘archaic noise for the demented’. He used to laugh – which only made it worse.
I edged myself up in bed. I felt so weak.
I looked around for Woody, my dog, but he wasn’t there. He usually lay curled up asleep at the side of my bed. I half expected my Mum to call up from downstairs to tell me to get up; it was time to catch the scud to school, or my Dad to start chiding. What was going on? I expected to hear my brother Rich mumbling and grumbling from his stinking pit across the landing that resembled a rubbish tip, only smellier. He hated getting up while it was still daylight. I thought about my older brother Joe who was away at Uni.
Everything was so right and that’s what made it so wrong. This could not possibly be happening. This room did not exist. Not only was it a throwback to my room from some ninety odd years ago, that had seen so many transformations as I’d grown up and then left home – this being just one incarnation among the many – an incarnation that was buried under layers of decorative archaeology by the time I last visited home. It was also a room that had been completely destroyed when God’s Bolt, that damn fucking asteroid, had wiped out the Earth all those years ago.
So how was I here?
I eased myself up in bed and sat propped up against the wall. My heart had slowed down but my mind was still racing.
I noticed my hands. You get used to seeing your own hands. They are not very attractive as you get old. All those brown splodges of liver spots, and your knuckles all swollen and lumpy, your skin all crinkled and leathery, like some dry, wrinkly tissue paper that you could never get smooth and soft again no matter how much lotion you use. But these were not like that. They were a young woman’s hands. Not the hands of the slip of a girl I was when I had this room, the hands of a mature young woman. I recognised them too, even though I had not seen them for some eighty years or more.
I got out of bed, walked across the room, or should I say tottered, I felt so weak I thought I was going to collapse at any moment, having to rest a hand on the bed in order to keep my balance, and opened my wardrobe to look in the mirror. My hair was a straggly mess but the body and face that peered back at me was that of the twenty year old Helen Southcote that used to be.
‘Eunice,’ I called, ogling this body I had not laid eyes on for over eighty years, ‘what have you done?’
Thank you for reading.
In the USA:
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.’
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.
‘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.
Killing the Taliban
I’m busy killing the Taliban
With my dancing and my song.
Causing their destruction
I don’t think it’ll take too long.
They’ve come out of the Dark Ages
With their joyless cult of death.
We’re fighting their misogyny
With all our hearts and breath.
There’s a misery surrounding them
With their brainwashed ideology.
They live for death; we live for life
And the love of being free.
So with our instruments of love
We’ll play our symphony
And waken the joys of life
From their stone-cold misery.
They made the mistake of thinking
Their god hates music and song;
That women are all second class;
How could they have got it all so wrong?
So with the magic of our strings
And the beauty of our voice
We’ll sing a song of love
That’ll make their hearts rejoice.
So I’m killing the Taliban today
I’m dancing as I sing.
They’ll throw their joyless book away
And let freedom ring!
Opher – 15.5.2019
What kind of miserable death cult is it that kills people for singing and dancing?
What kind of doctrine is it that squanders the wonder of their own lives and seeks to put an end to pleasure?
What kind of cult is this that seeks to live in the past? That thinks stoning is an apt punishment and women are inferior?
I think the human spirit is vital and alive. It knows that song and dance are not crimes.
You defeat such a brainwashed cult by showing them a better way.
Instead of following some hollow words from the Dark Ages we can come together to celebrate, women and men, children and the old, – there’s the treasure.
You kill a wicked, warped ideology with something better.
Time if you please
Meg had been the landlord
Of the Rancid Stoat and Quail
But now at ninety five
She wasn’t pulling ale.
T’was the fire that she was craving
That kept her old bones well.
These days she just huddled close
And listened to the tales.
She’d had a happy childhood
With her sisters, mum and dad.
Wild in the countryside –
Life hadn’t been so bad.
And when she’d been a-courtin’
She’d had her share of bliss
Dancing with the lads
And sharing many a kiss.
But she’d settled down
With her handsome husband Syd
And working well together
Had created many a kid.
Those had been the happiest days
With her family all around.
A house so full of gaiety
Where laughter was the sound.
No matter how they’d grown
No matter how big they were
Even with families of their own,
They were still just kids to her.
She wondered where the time had gone
The years had flown so fast.
But they were full and happy days
When dwelling on the past.
But now her body lurched.
She felt her heart jerk.
Her whole world was spinning
Before a gathering murk.
With a sigh she slid
From her chair down to her knees
As a voice in her head called:
‘Time – Time if you please!’
This was a title with my writing group. I started to write something funny (as can be seen from the rancid stoat) but I was kind of caught up in a little sentimental story and this is how it came out.
Time was what they used to call in the pubs and ring their bell to signal last orders.
One day it will be time for us all.