Raymund Eich

Aalund’s Final Mission

Ebook

A captain, a commissar, and the ultimate crisis at 0.99c:

If your propulsion system goes off-line, how can you slow down?

$0.99

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Description

“”””

A ‘solid’ (Locus) ‘engaging story’ (Tangent) of relativistic war

A captain, a commissar, and the ultimate crisis at 0.99c:

If your propulsion system goes off-line, how can you slow down?

After decades of service, Captain Aalund has one final mission: tow a wormhole to an enemy star system, then retire on a tropical beach.

Until enemy action knocks out the tractor beam generator back home.

Now, his ship can’t slow down.

How can he save his ship and crew from dying of old age in the depths of interstellar space?

What challenge will he face in the unyielding fanaticism of his ship’s political officer?

Sample of “Aalund’s Final Mission”

Captain Henrik Aalund floated in air in the command deck. He felt like a strand of seaweed, his foot hooked in a loop of fabric bolted to a bulkhead. An experienced spacer, he welcomed free fall. His stomach handled it, and the ache in his knees went away.

The command deck was a cylindrical chamber. Workstations ringed the room. His officers labored at their consoles, bright eyes intent, screens washing the concentration creases in their youthful faces with blue-white light, dexterous fingers flying over keys. The chamber simmered with pent-up energy. Four years of minimal activity while under thrust had given way to flurry of action. Like desert plants back home on New Arizona, springing up flowers during the brief moments that rain fell. Good officers. Young, but focused. They had a hell of a lot of things to do and only forty-eight hours to do them. Their time was almost up. If they were late, or the beam team back at the Gliese 22A system had messed up years ago…. Aalund winced and pressed the flat of his hand against the chest of his pale gray jumpsuit. His stomach could handle free fall better than the stress of deceleration prep. He fished into his pocket and pulled out a foil packet of anti-reflux tablets. He chewed them up, chalk texture and fake cherry flavor, and forced them down with a thick swallow. The officers on the command deck were too busy to notice. All but one. Okizuna floated on the other side of the workstation ring, in front of the screens surrounding the chamber. He had to be near Aalund’s age but his smooth face and combed head of black hair hid it well. Okizuna steadied himself with one hand on the former ceiling. The fingers of his other hand hooked the green collar of his jumpsuit. Emphasizing the green, the color worn by the League’s political officers. Useless hands, useless mass. Fleet Command knew Aalund and all his officers were loyal to the League. Why didn’t the political leadership know it? Okizuna stared at him with unblinking eyes until Aalund looked away. Better to watch the screens anyway. The largest one showed a synthesized exterior view of his ship. A pie plate? A flying disc for sports? A washer for a machine screw? All the metaphors fell short of how thin and flat was Vasco da Gama’s laser sail. Right now, deep blue covered almost the entire sail. Like the tropical ocean near the Fleet retirement colony on New Kerala. Finish this mission, the third and final one of his long career, and he could finally go there.

He refocused with a blink. Finish the mission first.

Not all the sail was ready to receive the deceleration beam. A spot of bright white near the disc’s edge dazzled his eyes. Reflector fabric, not yet furled and replaced with the deep blue tractor fabric. Aalund’s stomach turned more sour. “What’s our sail status?” he asked Lt. Fuller, the rangy, long-faced propulsion systems officer. The kid had tested well and passed all the sims they’d run during the thrust phase. But tests and sims only got an officer so far. “We had to repair a couple of the robots out on the rigging.” Fuller spoke as if it were no big deal. “Don’t worry, Cap. We were ahead of schedule before this and are still on pace.” On the other side of the chamber, Okizuna raised an eyebrow and turned his stare on Fuller. “Good work. As usual,” Aalund said to Fuller. Better to draw the commissar’s scrutiny onto him than his officers.

Aalund’s gaze returned to the exterior view of his ship. A tiny spar poked out from the center of the laser sail. Another screen zoomed in on the spar. Spaced along it were black blobs and beads. Most were tanks of uranium salt water for the in-system maneuvering rocket. One was the suspended animation module holding a brigade of marines. Another was the containment vessel surrounding Vasco da Gama’s most important cargo: the wormhole to be deployed at the Union-controlled star Iota Persei.

Better containment, more efficient solar panels, higher burst energy to be delivered from the other end back at Gliese 22A. The brass and the civilians from the Defense and Transport ministries swore it would overpower the Union’s wormhole at the target star, not the other way around. Aalund rubbed his sternum again. If they were wrong, the wormhole would destabilize. Rapidly and violently enough to tear Vasco da Gama and the thousands of souls on board into molecules.

The data overlays showed the thing rested calmly inside its containment. For now. Watch the damn thing like a hawk and jettison it at the first sign of trouble. Deal with Okizuna’s second guesses after they were back in League space.

Rotation of one of the black blobs on the spar caught his eye. The blob crept around a gigantic axle. Its array of radiator fins turned exquisitely slowly, like an expert geisha moving a paper fan. If Aalund paid attention to his foot, he could just barely sense the rotation. Not just any black blob. The command-control-crew module. A tiny bubble of life in the whole massive structure. And a couple hundred reasons to chuck the wormhole if it even hinted at destabilization. “Triple-C flip status?” he asked Zelenka. She absently tugged on her dusky-blond ponytail. “Fourteen minutes to completion.” He checked his watch. The circuitry could calculate the relativistic time effects more accurately than he could. “Two hours until the deceleration beam hits us.” “Roger that,” said Fuller. The others made comparable noises.

They were young, but competent. Fleet had upped its training regimen in the decades of subjective time since Aalund graduated the Academy. Status lights turned from yellow to green on everyone’s boards. In the exterior view, deep blue swallowed the spot of white on the laser sail.

With forty minutes to go, the estimated tractor efficiency of the laser sail came within tolerances. The decel beam would bring them to the Iota Persei system at a slow enough speed to use the uranium salt water rockets to maneuver. The last minutes ticked by. Chairs extruded and his officers strapped in.

Aalund buckled himself into his seat. Tight enough that his body didn’t slide out in free fall. His pulse pumped but his heartburn had eased. His officers had done their job. Vasco da Gama was ready for the beam to hit the sail and negative light pressure to slow them down.

The countdown timer on his watch ticked down. He gripped his padded armrests, waiting for the decel beam to push his rump against the seat cushion. 00:02, 00:01, 00:00. Nothing happened.

Sample of “Aalund’s Final Mission”

Captain Henrik Aalund floated in air in the command deck. He felt
like a strand of seaweed, his foot hooked in a loop of fabric bolted to
a bulkhead. An experienced spacer, he welcomed free fall. His stomach
handled it, and the ache in his knees went away.

The command deck was a cylindrical chamber. Workstations ringed the
room. His officers labored at their consoles, bright eyes intent,
screens washing the concentration creases in their youthful faces with
blue-white light, dexterous fingers flying over keys.

The chamber simmered with pent-up energy. Four years of minimal
activity while under thrust had given way to flurry of action. Like
desert plants back home on New Arizona, springing up flowers during the
brief moments that rain fell.

Good officers. Young, but focused. They had a hell of a lot of things
to do and only forty-eight hours to do them. Their time was almost up.
If they were late, or the beam team back at the Gliese 22A system had
messed up years ago….

Aalund winced and pressed the flat of his hand against the chest of
his pale gray jumpsuit. His stomach could handle free fall better than
the stress of deceleration prep.

He fished into his pocket and pulled out a foil packet of anti-reflux
tablets. He chewed them up, chalk texture and fake cherry flavor, and
forced them down with a thick swallow.

The officers on the command deck were too busy to notice. All but
one. Okizuna floated on the other side of the workstation ring, in front
of the screens surrounding the chamber. He had to be near Aalund’s age
but his smooth face and combed head of black hair hid it well.

Okizuna steadied himself with one hand on the former ceiling. The
fingers of his other hand hooked the green collar of his jumpsuit.
Emphasizing the green, the color worn by the League’s political
officers.

Useless hands, useless mass. Fleet Command knew Aalund and all his
officers were loyal to the League. Why didn’t the political leadership
know it?

Okizuna stared at him with unblinking eyes until Aalund looked
away.

Better to watch the screens anyway. The largest one showed a
synthesized exterior view of his ship. A pie plate? A flying disc for
sports? A washer for a machine screw?

All the metaphors fell short of how thin and flat was Vasco da
Gama
’s laser sail. Right now, deep blue covered almost the entire
sail. Like the tropical ocean near the Fleet retirement colony on New
Kerala.

Finish this mission, the third and final one of his long career, and
he could finally go there.

He refocused with a blink. Finish the mission first.

Not all the sail was ready to receive the deceleration beam. A spot
of bright white near the disc’s edge dazzled his eyes. Reflector fabric,
not yet furled and replaced with the deep blue tractor fabric.

Aalund’s stomach turned more sour. “What’s our sail status?” he asked
Lt. Fuller, the rangy, long-faced propulsion systems officer. The kid
had tested well and passed all the sims they’d run during the thrust
phase. But tests and sims only got an officer so far.

“We had to repair a couple of the robots out on the rigging.” Fuller
spoke as if it were no big deal. “Don’t worry, Cap. We were ahead of
schedule before this and are still on pace.”

On the other side of the chamber, Okizuna raised an eyebrow and
turned his stare on Fuller.

“Good work. As usual,” Aalund said to Fuller. Better to draw the
commissar’s scrutiny onto him than his officers.

Aalund’s gaze returned to the exterior view of his ship. A tiny spar
poked out from the center of the laser sail. Another screen zoomed in on
the spar. Spaced along it were black blobs and beads. Most were tanks of
uranium salt water for the in-system maneuvering rocket. One was the
suspended animation module holding a brigade of marines. Another was the
containment vessel surrounding Vasco da Gama’s most important
cargo: the wormhole to be deployed at the Union-controlled star Iota
Persei.

Better containment, more efficient solar panels, higher burst energy
to be delivered from the other end back at Gliese 22A. The brass and the
civilians from the Defense and Transport ministries swore it would
overpower the Union’s wormhole at the target star, not the other way
around.

Aalund rubbed his sternum again. If they were wrong, the wormhole
would destabilize. Rapidly and violently enough to tear Vasco da
Gama
and the thousands of souls on board into molecules.

The data overlays showed the thing rested calmly inside its
containment. For now. Watch the damn thing like a hawk and jettison it
at the first sign of trouble. Deal with Okizuna’s second guesses after
they were back in League space.

Rotation of one of the black blobs on the spar caught his eye. The
blob crept around a gigantic axle. Its array of radiator fins turned
exquisitely slowly, like an expert geisha moving a paper fan.

If Aalund paid attention to his foot, he could just barely sense the
rotation. Not just any black blob. The command-control-crew module. A
tiny bubble of life in the whole massive structure.

And a couple hundred reasons to chuck the wormhole if it even hinted
at destabilization.

“Triple-C flip status?” he asked Zelenka.

She absently tugged on her dusky-blond ponytail. “Fourteen minutes to
completion.”

He checked his watch. The circuitry could calculate the relativistic
time effects more accurately than he could. “Two hours until the
deceleration beam hits us.”

“Roger that,” said Fuller. The others made comparable noises.

They were young, but competent. Fleet had upped its training regimen
in the decades of subjective time since Aalund graduated the Academy.
Status lights turned from yellow to green on everyone’s boards. In the
exterior view, deep blue swallowed the spot of white on the laser
sail.

With forty minutes to go, the estimated tractor efficiency of the
laser sail came within tolerances. The decel beam would bring them to
the Iota Persei system at a slow enough speed to use the uranium salt
water rockets to maneuver.

The last minutes ticked by. Chairs extruded and his officers strapped
in.

Aalund buckled himself into his seat. Tight enough that his body
didn’t slide out in free fall. His pulse pumped but his heartburn had
eased. His officers had done their job. Vasco da Gama was ready
for the beam to hit the sail and negative light pressure to slow them
down.

The countdown timer on his watch ticked down. He gripped his padded
armrests, waiting for the decel beam to push his rump against the seat
cushion. 00:02, 00:01, 00:00.

Nothing happened.

“”

Sample of “Aalund’s Final Mission”

Captain Henrik Aalund floated in air in the command deck. He felt
like a strand of seaweed, his foot hooked in a loop of fabric bolted to
a bulkhead. An experienced spacer, he welcomed free fall. His stomach
handled it, and the ache in his knees went away.

The command deck was a cylindrical chamber. Workstations ringed the
room. His officers labored at their consoles, bright eyes intent,
screens washing the concentration creases in their youthful faces with
blue-white light, dexterous fingers flying over keys.

The chamber simmered with pent-up energy. Four years of minimal
activity while under thrust had given way to flurry of action. Like
desert plants back home on New Arizona, springing up flowers during the
brief moments that rain fell.

Good officers. Young, but focused. They had a hell of a lot of things
to do and only forty-eight hours to do them. Their time was almost up.
If they were late, or the beam team back at the Gliese 22A system had
messed up years ago….

Aalund winced and pressed the flat of his hand against the chest of
his pale gray jumpsuit. His stomach could handle free fall better than
the stress of deceleration prep.

He fished into his pocket and pulled out a foil packet of anti-reflux
tablets. He chewed them up, chalk texture and fake cherry flavor, and
forced them down with a thick swallow.

The officers on the command deck were too busy to notice. All but
one. Okizuna floated on the other side of the workstation ring, in front
of the screens surrounding the chamber. He had to be near Aalund’s age
but his smooth face and combed head of black hair hid it well.

Okizuna steadied himself with one hand on the former ceiling. The
fingers of his other hand hooked the green collar of his jumpsuit.
Emphasizing the green, the color worn by the League’s political
officers.

Useless hands, useless mass. Fleet Command knew Aalund and all his
officers were loyal to the League. Why didn’t the political leadership
know it?

Okizuna stared at him with unblinking eyes until Aalund looked
away.

Better to watch the screens anyway. The largest one showed a
synthesized exterior view of his ship. A pie plate? A flying disc for
sports? A washer for a machine screw?

All the metaphors fell short of how thin and flat was Vasco da
Gama
’s laser sail. Right now, deep blue covered almost the entire
sail. Like the tropical ocean near the Fleet retirement colony on New
Kerala.

Finish this mission, the third and final one of his long career, and
he could finally go there.

He refocused with a blink. Finish the mission first.

Not all the sail was ready to receive the deceleration beam. A spot
of bright white near the disc’s edge dazzled his eyes. Reflector fabric,
not yet furled and replaced with the deep blue tractor fabric.

Aalund’s stomach turned more sour. “What’s our sail status?” he asked
Lt. Fuller, the rangy, long-faced propulsion systems officer. The kid
had tested well and passed all the sims they’d run during the thrust
phase. But tests and sims only got an officer so far.

“We had to repair a couple of the robots out on the rigging.” Fuller
spoke as if it were no big deal. “Don’t worry, Cap. We were ahead of
schedule before this and are still on pace.”

On the other side of the chamber, Okizuna raised an eyebrow and
turned his stare on Fuller.

“Good work. As usual,” Aalund said to Fuller. Better to draw the
commissar’s scrutiny onto him than his officers.

Aalund’s gaze returned to the exterior view of his ship. A tiny spar
poked out from the center of the laser sail. Another screen zoomed in on
the spar. Spaced along it were black blobs and beads. Most were tanks of
uranium salt water for the in-system maneuvering rocket. One was the
suspended animation module holding a brigade of marines. Another was the
containment vessel surrounding Vasco da Gama’s most important
cargo: the wormhole to be deployed at the Union-controlled star Iota
Persei.

Better containment, more efficient solar panels, higher burst energy
to be delivered from the other end back at Gliese 22A. The brass and the
civilians from the Defense and Transport ministries swore it would
overpower the Union’s wormhole at the target star, not the other way
around.

Aalund rubbed his sternum again. If they were wrong, the wormhole
would destabilize. Rapidly and violently enough to tear Vasco da
Gama
and the thousands of souls on board into molecules.

The data overlays showed the thing rested calmly inside its
containment. For now. Watch the damn thing like a hawk and jettison it
at the first sign of trouble. Deal with Okizuna’s second guesses after
they were back in League space.

“”

Additional information

Format

Ebook

Writer

Raymund Eich

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