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Excerpt from 'The Star Queen'

Chapter One..Timeslip



The Star Liner, ‘The Star Queen’ dropped out of hyperspace far too close to the Star for comfort. The star was just ahead and slightly to the right, and they were well inside its corona. It was not a calculated point of emergence, but one that was just an accident of circumstance. An explosion that couldn’t happen had just happened in her engine room. The resultant damage to her energy converters and jump engines caused the field that kept the ship in hyperspace to fail. There was no warning, just a ripple in space, the sudden appearance of stars, and the howl of every major alarm on the ship. The ship’s starboard forward viewports automatically and almost instantaneously, became opaque against the intense glare of the star. But it was still not fast enough to prevent a residual image being burnt onto the retina of everyone on the bridge. For a few precious seconds they were all blind, but gradually their site began to return and they turned their attention to their instruments. The ship’s kinetic energy level was still uncomfortably high, with the damaged energy converters being unable to compensate.


To Captain John Kane as he hastily shut off the alarms, it was something of a blessing in disguise. Their high kinetic energy levels caused them to scorch past the Star, and out of its gravitational field at just under the speed of light. It saved the lives, for the moment at least, of all on board as the ship came out of the star’s corona leaving a trail of smoke which rapidly dissipated in the vacuum of space, but other than the minor split in the engine room wall, there was no serious external damage. As they moved away from the star the hull began to cool, and the smoke from the overheated skin eventually disappeared. For a few moments though, it did get very hot inside the ship.


The ship’s energy screens, tied to the energy converters as they were, had failed as well at the instant of emergence, and without their speed and vector away from the star, they would certainly have been destroyed.


From the myriad of displays on the bridge, Kane could see the converters cutting in and out as the engineers fought to bring them under control. He quickly contacted the engine room, and ordered that work on the converters should be suspended until they had put enough distance between themselves and the star. He didn’t want the ship to come to a sudden stop, or to even slow down for the next few minutes at least, before they were far enough away to ensure their survival.


He touched a control on the panel in front of him, and forcing emotion from his voice, spoke into the air.


“This is the Captain. There is no cause for alarm. I repeat. There is no cause for alarm. Some minor damage has occurred to the ship as a result of an explosion in the engine room. Everything is under control, and for your own safety, all passengers should remain in their cabins under vac seal.

Please stay calm. I will keep you informed. Thank you.”


The next few minutes were tense, but finally he was satisfied that enough distance had been achieved, and ordered the engine room to recommence work on the converters. Almost immediately, he felt the ship respond to the engineers’ efforts. Each time the converters cut in a little Kinetic was converted to Potential energy, and their speed was dropping. Inertia and internal gravitational controls were still holding, which was just as well, because handling emergencies while you are floating about is not the easiest thing to do. In addition to which, without Inertia protection, they would probably all be unpleasant smears on the walls. So only he and the bridge crew knew, from their displays, of the tremendous stresses that the ship was experiencing.


Commander Marsden was standing in front of Nav Con, engrossed in the view from the holographic displays, when the Captain addressed him,

“Your report Commander Marsden if you please,”


“Yes sir. I can confirm that the star we have just passed is definitely Sol. We have managed to reduce our speed to a little less than half-light and we are heading away from it, on a course that will intercept the Earth in about fourteen minutes. A bit of flying debris managed to total the DC equipment, so we can only manage a general broadcast on ordinary radio frequencies. Any message we send out will only reach Earth about seven minutes before we do. There are some strange readings here which I would put down to time displacement, if it wasn’t for the fact that Stringer has finally proved that time travel through physical means, is impossible.”


DC was the general abbreviation for the Dansk-Carter carrier wave, which enabled faster than light communications, and had been a significant success of one of the first Russian American collaborations. Without it they would have to rely on radio, and radio waves only travelled at about twice the speed they were currently doing themselves.


“I think Mr Marsden that we have enough problems without worrying about things that can’t happen.”


“Yes Sir.”


“Sir, this is the Chief Engineer.” came directly into the Captain’s ear, “I can maintain power to inertia and gravity control using batteries for about fifteen minutes. The converters are now dead, and there is absolutely no way that we can repair them. They will have to be replaced, and because our lords and masters think they can’t be broke, we don’t carry spares.”


“Thank you Mr James, I’m sure you are doing all you can,” he said, and then to himself, unless a miracle happens, in about twelve minutes or so, it probably won’t matter anyway.


He turned once more to the navigational displays, and then addressing his XO again, he asked,


“Mr Marsden. Is there the slightest possibility that we might miss the Earth?”


“No Sir”


“Do we have any lateral thruster control?”


“None sir, all the controls for those went in the explosion as well. We could fire them directly, but I estimate that it would take twenty minutes or so, to suit up and get out on the hull.”


“As we don’t have twenty minutes, would you be kind enough to determine our exact point of impact.”


“Yes sir, I’m on it.”


It seemed like a lifetime had passed, though in actual fact it was only about thirty seconds, and then the commander spoke again,


“I have done that sir. It appears that we will impact in the same place as that meteorite in the early 20th century. Used to be called Siberia I believe. It’s where they built the City of Siberiana,”


He paused,


“Twelve minutes to go.”


It was highly likely that the ship would give up all of its energy when they hit, and the resultant explosion would be nuclear in intensity. When the smoke eventually cleared, there would not be much left over a fifty square mile area.


Damn, thought Kane, here I am trained to remain calm and do the right thing under all circumstances, and all I really want to do is scream. Why couldn’t the moon get in the way? Why do twenty million people have to die? Perhaps the orbital defences can destroy us before we kill all of those people.


But aloud he said,


“Mr Marsden. Let’s get out an SOS then. Use whatever communication is available. Commence a general broadcast on all frequencies. Make it as detailed as possible, and set it to repeat. Direct it toward the orbital defences if you can.”


“Yes sir,” he paused as his hands swiftly moved across the communication controls. “I’ve commenced the transmission sir, repeating every six minutes or so. Though, it’ll probably only repeat once. I can’t raise the orbital defences, so I’m beaming it to where they ought to be.”


“Thank you Mr Marsden.”


He would have given his right arm for some escape capsules like they used to have in the early days. Designers had got a little blasé because things just didn’t go wrong anymore, and in their wisdom, had decided that they were an unnecessary luxury. It made for smaller ships and a lot less weight, but it was also a short sighted policy that took no account of the old adage ‘if it can happen, then it will’. Maybe, when they received the distress signal and technical report, they might just reconsider, and once again place the safety of the passengers and crew before any financial gain. It was a policy that had never ever been popular with Captains, and if the demise of the Star Queen could reverse that, then it might just be a worthwhile sacrifice.


Inwardly, he raged at his inability to destroy the ship himself. Had he been able, he would have done so without a second’s thought. But without the power that the converters supplied it was impossible. Siberiana’s only hope was the fact that there was just enough time for the Earth’s orbital defences to be alerted, and to destroy the ship before it reached the atmosphere.


“Two minutes Sir, I have received no reply.”


“Thank you Mr Marsden.”


He touched the panel in front of him, opening communications with the crew alone.


“This is John Kane.” he said, informally “There are now one and a half minutes to impact. Thank you all for what you have tried to do. I could not have wished for a finer crew, and it has been my pleasure to serve with you.”


“Paul, I would like to give you my hand. You’ve been a good friend.”


Paul Marsden stood up, and clasped the Captain’s hand.


“The pleasure, John, is all mine,” he said.


“Thank you Paul.”


At that moment, the ‘Star Queen’ became a shooting star. Within a microsecond her skin had burnt away, and all life on board had ceased to exist. As a white hot mass, she gave up all of her energy and exploded devastatingly just before she could impact deep into the Tunguska forest region of Siberia. Trees were levelled for twenty five miles in all directions, leaving them burnt and blackened like some huge discarded wagon wheel.

The time was 7:17 am and the date was June 30th 1908. (


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