Title: Beta Space
Description: or BS, as you wish
Lynet - February 17, 2008 04:49 PM (GMT)
I’m suffering from writer’s block and have been trying to get motivated by rereading Pharaoh Farrow. So while I try to get my thoughts in order for Gerry, here's another excerpt from near the end of the book about my favorite hero, Pharaoh. The following info might help understand the chapter.
Alpha Space is normal space, like where our sun floats.
Beta Space is my version of hyperspace, a fictional space in which the laws of physics may be circumvented allowing faster-than-light travel or time travel (according to dictionary.com).
Calida Carcer Dolon is the woman he was hired (by her father, Mallory) to find.
Carat is another word for money because the standard medium of exchange is diamonds, usually embedded in small plastic disks. Carats sounds like carrots. :D
Crystals are laser handguns.
Gamma Grid is the lame name I gave to a super destructive weapon. <_< Gotta work on that one.
Hilda is his small space ship.
The Delian League (centered on the planet Neos Delos) is a galactic league of various civilizations of which there are many, including the...
Lethian: Mushroom people who are revolting against the league.
Mustanen: Mysterious pirate race. :ar:
Renenet: A race that attaches enormous importance to the written word, even more so than humans do.
Takoda, or The Bird, is the name of one oversized vulture. Calida was living with and studying his species, Feriturus Falconiformes Furiae, rather like Dian Fossey and the gorillas.
Now, one entire chapter from near the end of the book, broken in two pieces because it's a little long. It's one of my favorite chapters. :)
Lynet - February 17, 2008 04:53 PM (GMT)
Chapter Fourteen: Extinction
Three days later we had two days still to go in Beta Space before we’d drop into the Renenet Connection Area Seven.
After her initial outburst aboard the Hilda, Calida had kept to herself for a few hours, but soon recovered the abrasive personality I knew too well. We argued about everything: the food, the state of the head, the dust, the static, the trash in the corner, the storage locker panels that were jammed shut, the storage locker panels that would never stay closed, and, of course, my snoring.
It was hard to avoid her in the ship’s cramped quarters, but I tried, and was sitting in the darkened cockpit, looking at Hilda’s damage report, along with the estimated costs of replacement parts, when the lights brightened. For some reason, the Hilda had decided that anywhere Calida was to be found, all lights were to be at their brightest level. I hadn’t asked why. I didn’t care. She’d be gone soon. In any event, without turning around I knew that Calida had come into the cockpit even before she spoke.
“Where are the rest of your wrenches?” she demanded.
“I’ve no idea. I leave that box for the mechanics. They probably helped themselves to some of them. Hilda, store that list. I’ll get back to it later.” I looked up at Calida. She was frowning at me. She was always frowning. If she had ever smiled, I would not have recognized her.
“All I need,” she said, “is the 3 cm. To fix the sink.”
“Sorry, Calida. It could be around somewhere. But you don’t need to do anything with the sink. It works fine.”
“It does not work at all.”
“Well, it did until you started messing around with the pipes. Leave it alone. We have to talk about the Renenet, and about the last paper you published.”
Her eyebrows rose almost out of sight. “My research?”
“That’s right. Let’s go sit in the galley. I’m thirsty.” I climbed out of the chair and waved her through the hatch ahead of me. We punched up a couple canisters of beer from the cooler and squeezed in on opposite sides of the tiny table.
She sipped at the beer and made a face, as usual. At the start of the trip I had figured she had her favorites and they weren’t in stock on the Hilda. After a while I decided she simply didn’t like beer and was drinking mine just to spite me. OK, Farrow, I thought. You’ve endured a lot worse than the company of Dolon’s daughter. Don’t let her wear you down.
I swallowed half the canister, then scratched at my chin. “Calida, we have a problem with your last manuscript.”
I’d learned long ago that any sentient’s labors in the fields of science can be an extremely touchy subject. Having once constructed an hypothesis out of a hodgepodge of observations, it becomes a serious matter of pride with said sentient to defend that hypothesis to the last drawn breath. Now, many a scientist has lectured me on the marvelously fluid nature of the scientific hypothesis, but I think that, deep in their souls, they believe it’s the other guy’s hypothesis that is so marvelously fluid, and not their own. Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are scientists. But the reaction I got from Calida was exactly the one I expected. And I would have gotten that reaction even if I’d walked all around it on tippy-toes. So I had laid it in front of her, point blank.
Her eyes narrowed to thin slits. Her face flushed from her hairline clear down to her shirt collar. “And what,” she said very quietly, “might that problem be?”
“Your research has led you to conclude, apparently, that contact between worlds leads to the extinction of all life on both worlds. Was that your conclusion?”
“I have spent fourteen years gathering data. There is no other conclusion possible. Other qualified scientists will support my conclusion once they have had a chance to examine my data.”
I heard the emphasis on the words, qualified scientists. I was obviously excluded. “That may be,” I said, “but some of the civilizations of the galaxy have been in contact for more than a thousand years. Are they included in this data?”
“Yes. Extinction isn’t necessarily immediate.”
I blinked, pondering the breadth of her definition of words like ‘immediate.’
“You have not,” she murmured, “stated what the problem is.”
“The problem,” I sighed, “is that you are exactly right. Contact leads to extinction. The Renenet have declared war on all life. Within the next few weeks, we will all be extinct, including the Renenet.” I lifted my beer and swallowed the rest.
Calida ignored hers. It sat dripping condensation on the table, and on her limp fingers. I reached for the canister and lifted it clear, hating to waste a perfectly good brew. After staring at me in silence for a few minutes, watching me drink her beer, she said, “This is nonsense.”
“Not to the Renenet. They’ve already started. Maybe you never fully realized just how important your work was to them. They followed it avidly for fourteen years. Your conclusions about contact and extinction? Whoa. Time to launch the fleets and meet destiny as it has been laid down by Calida Carcer Dolon.”
“I do not believe you.”
“Didn’t think you would? That’s why we’re going to meet the Renenet. I’m assuming you’ll believe them. I’m hoping that you’ll stop them.”
“Why,” she sputtered angrily, “are you spinning these wild stories? Why can’t you just tell me the truth? Who are you and why have you interfered? A spy? Is that it? Like my father, except not working for the Lethian. It’s Delos, isn’t it? The Renenet control the League, along with the humans. Everyone knows that. That’s why we’re going to their system, the Renenet system. I want the truth.”
I pushed fingers through my hair, pondering the problem of prying open the closed mind of this obnoxious human sitting across the table from me. I knew she was still hurting from the death of the bird, and that she blamed me, as well as herself. I also knew she would defend her thesis about extinction to her last breath, unless I could convince her it would be the last breath for all the rest of us as well. Thinking back over my meeting with the Renenet I foresaw a major clash of personalities. Calida radiated negativity.
“My stories may be wild, but they’re true.” I took another swallow of her beer. “We’ll start at the beginning. I was hired by your father to find you. He didn’t explain why you were missing and I didn’t care. I needed the carats and he was willing to pay.”
Calida grimaced and I raised my eyebrows.
“Look at my ship, Dolon. I need the carats.”
She glanced around the galley, then nodded. “All right. I’ll go with you that far. I know Mallory, and the state of this ship is obvious. But why hire you? Who are you?”
“A private investigator.”
“Oh, I like this story,” she said acidly. “I don’t believe it, but I like it. So how do the Renenet and Delos fit in?”
Hmm. Entertaining her was not my plan, but I was committed now. “I stopped at Taxin Post to get some information about Alecto. Unfortunately, I encountered an old enemy and had to leave quickly. I left my ship behind and got passage on a freighter headed for the Furies.”
“An old enemy?” she leaned forward, eyebrows raised. “From another private investigation?”
I hesitated. We were in danger of going off on tangents. “Yes. But it’s not relevant. As I said, I was on the freighter headed for Alecto. But it never got there. It was hijacked by the Lethian.”
“I’ll be damned,” she said, bringing a fist down hard on the table top. It wobbled. “Better and better. You were captured by the Lethian? The rebels?”
This, I thought, is not going well at all. “Yes. They captured the freighter, Tarnkappe, and her crew. They killed the captain. The Lethian creature in control was called Zeva, and she discovered, from the papers your father had given me, that I was looking for you.”
“And I suppose she knows my father. Probably worked with him.”
I considered explaining what her father was really up to, but let it pass. “I wouldn’t know. Are you interested in what she said to me?”
“She said your father had information her people wanted. For some unknown reason he was not cooperating and couldn’t be found. And thinking to use you for leverage, she wanted you. Delos, meanwhile, had discovered that your father was a Lethian spy and was also looking for him, and for you. Unfortunately, no one could find either Mallory or Calida Dolon. All this, Zeva told me.”
I paused and swallowed more of the beer, studying her reaction. Her expression, however, was strangely blank.
“I presume, then,” she said after a moment, “that she offered you a large sum to finish the job of finding me.”
“True,” I sighed. “A substantial sum. I agreed to it and she let me go.”
She curled her lip in disgust, “So venal. One side or the other. It doesn’t matter to you, does it?”
“Marry me and live here on the Hilda. Give it all up. Spend the rest of your life drinking cheap beer, missing the occasional meal, breathing dust, sleeping on a narrow bunk . . .”
“Living free of all responsibility? Try putting this old scow of a ship down on a planet and doing something constructive for a change.”
“Like inciting the Renenet to war? Conspiring with the Lethian?”
She stood up suddenly and furiously from the table. “Damn you, I’m trying to stop the war! You, on the other hand, sell yourself to whichever side pays the most. Private investigator? Hardly! I know what you are, a mercenary, thriving on war, on destruction, on death.”
I leaned back against the bulkhead. “Au contraire, Sweetheart. When I’m emperor, my first act will be to outlaw wars, rebellions, insurrections, coups, bombs . . .”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Typical, as I . . .”
“And any who violate that act will be summarily executed. The era of my rule will go down in history as the Pax Pharaoh.”
Lynet - February 17, 2008 04:57 PM (GMT)
“You’re wasting my time,” she snapped, then added an unattractive remark concerning me and my mother before charging out of the galley, slamming the wide-open panel of the Warm-it shut as she passed. It bounced a couple of times against its frame, then swung slowly open again.
Farrow, I thought, you’re handling this with your usual genius. I sighed, turning the canister around and around in the damp ring it left on the table top. I was still there a few minutes later when Calida walked back into the galley and sat down again.
“So,” she sniffed. “I apologize for the comment about your mother. She probably had no control over what you’ve become. And I need to hear the rest of this. Zeva let you go. Then you went to Delos?”
I played with the canister for another minute, considering whether to humor her. But I had no real choice, did I, so I continued, “No. Delos came to me. I was arrested when I returned to Taxin Post.”
“Arrested for what?”
“What things, Pharaoh?”
I shrugged. “The warrants were for theft, rioting, destruction of public property, piracy, treason, and murder.” I finished the last of her beer, then tossed the empty canister into the open mouth of the galley disposal.
“Murder?” she said, frowning. “Who did you murder?”
“A murderer. And he shot at me first. But Delos had me cold. And they also knew, although I’m not exactly sure how–maybe they found the holo’ of you on the Hilda–that I was working for your father and looking for you. They offered me a deal. Bring you in and they wouldn’t hang me.”
“I knew it!” She brought both of her fists down on the table this time. My other crimes were forgotten. “I knew you were working for Delos.” “And you think they won’t hang you? You don’t trust them, do you? That would be stupid.”
“It’s in writing.”
“Easily destroyed and denied.”
“True. That’s why we’re not going to Neos Delos. We’re going to the Renenet System.”
“They’re no better. You’ll be hanged.”
“Hmm. Don’t think so. They were helping your father hide from Delos and the Lethian rebels.”
She was clearly stunned by this little bit of news. “Why?” she breathed. “The Delian League is too important to them. Why would they protect a Lethian spy?”
“He’s a double agent, Darling. The Gamma Grid is a trap for the Lethian rebels. The League, apparently, doesn’t yet understand that the trap is so big it will swallow us all. But he discovered the truth, and disappeared until he could figure out what to do about it. You have underestimated your father all along.”
“No.” Her eyes moved around the bulkheads as if searching for something. “No!” she said more emphatically, focusing on me. “Not Mallory. It’s not possible. There’s another reason.”
“What do you know about this Gamma Grid? Do you understand what it is?”
She stood up uncertainly, then sat down again, pushing the wild hair behind her ears. “Yes,” she said, staring through me. “Yes, I do. And he’s right. It’s a chain reaction that will destroy the entire galaxy. The Gamma Grid is a worm hole connecting Alpha Space and Beta Space.” She hesitated a moment, then continued. “The Delian labs experimenting with this Grid were destroyed by it. Along with that little planet where they were doing the tests. The data sent to Alecto by Mallory is now, according to his notes, the only record anywhere of the work of that lab.”
“And what’s the danger of this worm hole? I’ve seen worm hole regions marked on the charts. They’re not common but they aren’t all that unusual either.”
“Not like this one. It reaches into the heart of a star and sucks it dry, pulling its core into Beta Space. The core of the star implodes and the outer layers explode, a supernova, destroying everything in the vicinity. The size of the star is irrelevant when its core collapses that fast. What you have here is the means to destroy entire planetary systems.”
“And a supernova big enough to destroy the galaxy?”
“No. It’s the Grid worm hole itself that we have to worry about. Worm holes open and close in fractions of seconds, and normal worm holes connect two points in Alpha Space. Not the Gamma Grid Worm. It connects Alpha and Beta, and there were implications in the data that the sudden infusion of so much energy would prevent its collapse, allowing it to grow, and branch. More hydra than worm, I’d say. One after another nearby stars would explode, feeding it. A chain reaction. Maybe Andromeda would be sufficiently far away. Maybe not. Of course, we’d end up as a mighty big hole in space-time, sucking in nearby star clusters.”
She stopped, and we contemplated each other across the stained top of my little table, both of us absorbed with how close we were to the end of all things.
I rubbed slowly at the stubble on my chin. “I guess Delos didn’t understand about this domino effect. They just assumed the Lethian would destroy themselves when trying to reproduce the worm hole that destroyed the Delian labs.”
She didn’t answer me and I could almost see her brain working behind her eyes. “Now,” she said at last, straightening her shoulders. She spread both hands, palms down, on the table in front of her. “Tell me the rest. Tell me about the Renenet. You said the pirates had Mallory. How did that happen? Why did he leave the Renenet? What’s the connection between the Renenet and the pirates?”
“When I arrived in the Furies, I met the Renenet. They, too, were looking for Calida Carcer Dolon.” I stopped. The territory ahead was a mine field. Moving cautiously, I continued, “I learned that the Renenet do things a little backwards. They write down their history first, then live it. Take, for example, their mining operations. They calculate how much ore is present and can be removed. They carefully record the entire operation. Then they perform the operation, taking out exactly what they had recorded they would take out.”
“Suppose they overestimate.”
“I suspect they’re extremely careful in their calculations. You didn’t know this about them? Didn’t they ever want to talk to you about your work?”
She moved her head slowly side to side. “It makes no sense that they would view themselves as our executioners. I spent fourteen years on Alecto, studying Feriturus as they are now, as they used to be. I studied their evolution as well as their present culture. The Renenet were not the first who made contact with Feriturus on Alecto. It was the Tsekani, as a matter of fact. Followed by a League survey. Finally, the Taxin Mining Corporation arrived, did a more thorough survey, then left. The changes started during the approximately one hundred years, DST, between the Tsekani and League contacts. I found . . .” She hesitated.
“It was during that one-hundred-year period that Feriturus discovered the bow and arrow and started to use it in hunting. As a result, they started hunting larger prey. One food source is now extinct. The Matunaaga are on the way to becoming extinct. The Feriturus culture has become increasingly competitive, pursuing ever more scarce resources. There are fewer young, more deaths per thousand. They, too, are moving toward extinction.”
“Maybe they’re just in a slump.”
“Sarcasm,” she snapped, “will not void fourteen years of effort collecting the data on several millennia of Feriturus lives.”
“I was completely serious. But forget it. Assuming you are correct about Feriturus, that the creature discovered a better way to hunt after encountering the Tsekani, although I cannot imagine how an encounter with that crowd would inspire anything, why did you then draw a connection between Feriturus and the rest of us?”
“When I realized that Feriturus was headed for extinction, because of contact with the Tsekani, I went back to my history books. And I gathered papers published by others.”
“Yes, but none of them had yet made the connection that I had. The data added up. The process is unmistakable. Contact leads to massive changes on any world. Not just technological. Whatever the sentients of that world may have believed about themselves, the galaxy, and their role--their place in this universe--is changed drastically and forever. Their philosophy, religion, art . . . the culture must change, must adapt.”
“The culture that evolves around any sentient is as important an adaption to its world as is its physical adaption. Consider the Lethian. They are an extension of the Krikor. Did you know that?”
“Not until I was introduced to the nursery. Then I guessed. They can’t survive very long away from the plant, right?”
“It’s not a plant, but you are correct that they cannot be away from it for very long. Until first contact–and for them it was the Renenet–their culture had evolved elaborate rituals of tribal interaction around everything from commercial transactions to mating. Every ritual–every one of them without exception–took place within the tribe’s Krikor. But the Krikor cannot easily leave the planet. It usually dies. The Lethian have adapted their ceremonies, even abandoned some of them, to meet the challenges of commerce with the rest of the galaxy, but have lost their anchor, half their souls, and you see the result.”
Hmm. Maybe. Change is inescapable, and you adapt or you die. The first bacterium encountering another bacterium in the primordial soup learns that. The galaxy is just a bigger bowl of soup. But I had no intention of arguing the point. Instead, I nodded, and stepped deeper into the mine field.
“The Renenet have mobilized and are attacking other systems, living the history that was written, that contact leads inevitably to extinction. They want . . . um . . . to discuss your extinction theory with you, to review some of the finer points.” Parallel universes, I recalled, had been one of the finer points, but I passed over the thought and pushed ahead. “I agreed to bring you to them. I believe you can stop their attacks on the other systems.”
She was quiet, eyes narrowed, pondering. “And the pirates?”
“I left the Renenet and landed on Alecto. I met Ferghus and he wanted to come with me to look for you. He told me about the Lethian you’d been talking to before disappearing. When we left Alecto, we encountered Mallory Dolon. He intended to join us. Unfortunately, we all got caught in a skirmish between the Renenet and the Lethian. Escaping the fighting, we were picked up by the Mustanen.”
Elbows on the table, hands clasped so hard the knuckles were white, she watched my face intently, searching, I suppose, for signs of deceit.
“The Mustanen,” I plowed on, “don’t want war with the Renenet. They might lose. So they told me to find you and deliver you to the Renenet in exchange for Ferghus, Dolon and Maddock.”
“Uh . . . someone from your father’s ship, the Hippolyte.”
“How did you find me?”
“You sent a message from Alecto and disappeared, along with the Lethian, about eight days later. Obviously a ship had come in answer to your signal. I looked for a Lethian colony within a four-day range of a Beta Space message pulse.”
“Thanks.” I reached for the cooler and punched for another beer, letting her absorb it all, one way or another.
“You’ve had two already,” she said.
“Two beers. Alcohol destroys brain cells.”
“I’ve got plenty to spare. Most of them, I don’t even use.” I smiled at her as I opened the canister and raised it to my lips.
“That,” she snorted, “is painfully obvious.” She stood up. “I’m going to lie down. I have to think about what you’ve told me.”
I sat in the galley, enjoying my beer, considering her last crack. Maybe she was right. Maybe I should cut back on the beer. A shortage of working brain cells might explain how I’d gotten all tangled up in this war, yet again. Not to mention getting myself into the unenviable position of transporting Dolon’s dreadful daughter.
OK, then. After I drink the current stock in the cooler, I’ll restock it only half way. We’ll start with that. Fortunately, there’s plenty to get me through the next few days.
Decisions made, I got up and returned to the cockpit, thinking to sort through the list of engine repairs. But I dozed off, lulled by the relatively uneventful days we’d spent in Beta Space. My mistake.
Lynet - February 17, 2008 05:03 PM (GMT)
So it's basically the whole plot summed up in one chapter. :rolleyes: But it's the personality clash that I had the most fun with. Since Pharaoh had spent most of the book looking for Calida, getting into all sorts of scrapes, I couldn't wimp out on her personality.
Surprised_by_Witches - February 17, 2008 05:27 PM (GMT)
Well, marriage to her would never be boring, that's for sure. I like Pharoah. I like the way his mind works, never in the predictable ways . . . marry him, indeed. :rolleyes:
Surprised_by_Witches - February 17, 2008 05:38 PM (GMT)
Just wanted to add: I love this, the details you put into it, the smart alecky personalities. You should work on this some more!
And I know what you mean about writer's block. I know what I want to say but have been feeling ill for about a week now and when I'm sick my creativity just flies out the window. I've got so much to catch up on! But am struggling with exactly how to say it. I know I have to be patient and wait for my illness to go, and then I'll probably write like crazy.
But until then . . . the easy thing for me about writing for the sims is, if I'm not sure how to proceed I play for a while and it comes to me.
But at this rate Connor'll be out of college before I get around to writing about Sophomore year!
Lynet - February 17, 2008 05:47 PM (GMT)
Thank you. :)
The thing with character personalities is staying true to to them. It is so easy to get carried away with the scene and forget how the character that you had been working with in previous chapters would probably react. I remember rewriting this chapter several times because I'd lose track of Calida as a person distinct from Pharaoh.
Yes, Gerry has been stewing. There is so much to tell, but I have to set up the situations, and those chapters bore me. I have started one and even have the pictures but can't get through it. I'll try later tonight.
Sundays are my only days off for a while, and they are catchup time for groceries, laundry and other chores, like paying bills. :(