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Dark Fall novella snippet #2

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Dark Fall novella snippet #2
Post by runsforcelery   » Sat Sep 09, 2017 9:56 pm

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This one is quite a bit longer, so I may let a little more time go by before I give you the third one. :D


____________________________________________________________
Officers’ Lounge
Generation Ship Calvin’s Hope
March 402 Post Diaspora


“— and that’s it,” Shirley McKellen, Calvin’s Hope’s chief environmental engineer, said in a flat voice. “Our reserve will carry us another seventy-five years — maybe ninety, if we stretch it hard and start winding our population down pretty damned quickly — and that’s about it.” She smiled without any humor at all. “I’m sure three quarters of a century seemed like an ample safety margin to the mission planners.”

“And it should’ve been,” Seong Cho Mee, the ship’s logistics manager pointed out. She shook her head. “No one could have predicted this, Shirley!”

“I didn’t say they could have,” McKellen replied. “And, trust me, no one’s blaming you, Cho Mee.”

“Of course we aren’t,” Anderson said. “It does establish our parameters, though.”

“Would that give us enough time to convert the ship into a long-term orbital habitat?” Patricia Anderson asked.

“No,” Joe Vogel, the ship’s chief engineer, was a blunt-spoken man at the best of times. Today his voice was hard, almost harsh. The others looked at him, and he shrugged. “Like Shirley says, the mission planners provided what they thought would be plenty of margin, but they expected us to move dirtside. In theory, we’d have enough enviro margin to give us the time for something like that, Trish, but the ship’s too banged up and at least thirty percent of her systems — including the fusion plants — are within twenty, thirty years of their design lives. We don’t have the right tech base — or one that’s deep enough — to build new ones, either. We can probably baby the ones we have along, keep them up and running for quite a while, but when they’re gone, they’re gone.”

“But if that’s our only option . . .” Patricia said.

“If that’s our only option, we don’t have an option — not in the long-term,” her husband said quietly. “Joe’s right. When they built her, they did a hell of a job, but no one ever expected her to turn into an orbital habitat at the other end. She’s designed to get us to a planetary environment, not support us indefinitely in space.”

“Then we are well and truly screwed,” Leonidas Konstantopoulos, the ship’s chief medical officer growled, and heads nodded heavily around the table.

They shouldn’t have been screwed, Anderson thought bitterly. Angelique Calvin had taken the time to do it right, and KCR-126-04 had come up golden after her painstaking, exhaustive astronomical examination of possible destinations. The G4 star the expedition had renamed “Calvin” in her honor had multiple planets; one of them was squarely in the “Goldilocks zone;” its size and mass had promised a gravity almost identical to that of Earth; and spectroscopic analysis had confirmed an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere and an abundance of H2O. KCR-126-04 was a long way from Sol – just over 201 LY — and very few of the other stars in its vicinity were good candidates for habitable worlds, but that, too, had been fine with Calvin. Anderson sometimes thought that was because she’d known she wouldn’t be making the voyage. Perhaps she would have settled for a destination closer to Sol — like Beowulf, only fifty years’ travel from humanity’s homeworld — where her colonists were more likely to have close neighbors if she had been. But perhaps not, too. Given the inability to exceed the speed of light, even “close” interstellar neighbors were hardly right next door, so the likelihood of ongoing physical contact between them wasn’t all that great.

But Anderson was pretty sure she’d had other reasons, as well. He himself had never lived under the Earth Union’s authority. All he had to go by were the history books, the history vids and holos. His own life experience had been utterly different from anything they portrayed, and even if that hadn’t been so, the personal notes left by the original crew made it clear the official histories had been . . . filtered to suit the Earth Union’s view of the universe. He didn’t understand that, either. Not experientially. But he’d read Angus Calvin’s journal, and he knew Angelique had wanted a destination so far from Sol that the poisonous political ideologies she believed were choking her homeworld to death would never reach it.

Apparently, she’d figured 200 light-years was probably just about far enough.

Besides, Calvin III was such a perfect destination. Despite the distance, they’d known that.

They’d selected three alternate destinations just in case, though. They could have diverted to any one of them in the first thirty or forty years of the voyage if they’d discovered their chosen home was less desirable than they’d thought. But they’d used those decades for additional observation of Calvin III, refining their knowledge of it as they drew ever closer to KCR-126-04, and every one of those observations had only confirmed its suitability. Indeed, Maryellen Abramatsovna, the expedition’s original astronomer, had noted in her journal that Calvin III “could have been Earth’s twin . . . only better!”

So those alternates had been passed up and Calvin’s Hope had continued toward her destination.

And, as she came within only two light-years of journey’s end at last, everything had changed.

“Is there any hope at all of colonizing the surface?” Seong asked.

“No,” Patricia Anderson said gently. She’d inherited the position of chief astronomer as well as command of Calvin’s Hope’s survey shuttles. Now she shook her head, her expression grim. “We knew it was going to be bad from the moment the Hammers hit, Cho Mee. We just never let ourselves believe how bad.” She shook her head again. “I don’t have the library resources to nail down all the details to do an accurate comparison, but sixty-six million years ago, it was Earth’s turn to get hit. They called it the ‘dinosaur killer,’ and it left a crater over a hundred and eighty kilometers across. But Earth only got hit by one of the damned things, and it was only about fifteen kilometers in diameter. Hammer Alpha was tw0-thirds again that big, it was traveling faster . . . and it hit less than ten years ago.”

She paused, her expression haunted, and Anderson touched her fist as it clenched on the tabletop. They knew exactly when the massive asteroids had hit, and his wife still woke, weeping, from nightmares of that moment.

Angelique Calvin had seen to it that Calvin’s Hope’s telescopes were the finest technology could build. They were capable of awesome resolution . . . and Patricia had been visually observing their new home when the terrible glare of Hammer Alpha reached her. Calvin’s Hope was still four years from turnover and more than five and a half from Calvin III, and that sudden boil of light had two years to cross the Gulf between her and the planet. Patricia had known what she was witnessing had happened years before . . . and that hadn’t made it one bit less horrifying.

She hadn’t seen the asteroid before impact. The cameras had captured it, but it had taken significant enhancement to actually pick it out in the instant before it hit atmosphere. Such a tiny thing, compared to the scale of a planet. The computers said it had been no more than twenty-five kilometers across, but it had been traveling at over 50 KPS when it hit atmosphere at an angle of sixty-four degrees. And if she hadn’t seen it coming, she’d seen the horrific impact only too well.

She’d been mapping Calvin III’s continents, humming to herself as she evaluated probable landing sites, and the strike had been squarely in her field of vision. She’d seen the atmosphere splash away as the Hammer entered it. She’d seen the incredible fireball, seen the huge vapor plume hurl fiery ejecta clear into the thermosphere. She’d seen the atmosphere go dark and curdled, seen the planetary albedo change in a matter of hours. She’d watched the spectral analysis shifting and known — known — what that celestial desecration might mean for the survival of her friends and family.

And then, eight hours later, Hammer Beta landed.

She hadn’t seen that one. Alpha’s companion had come in on the far side of Calvin III . . . which had put it almost squarely in the middle of the Angelique Ocean. Beta was smaller than Alpha, but its ocean impact had made it even deadlier, in its own way.

“It’s a frigging nightmare down there,” she continued harshly, “and it’s still getting worse. The direct energy release was almost seven hundred yottajoules — that’s one-point-five trillion megatonnes — in a fraction of a second. If you’d been standing two thousand kilometers from the impact point, your clothes would’ve caught fire from the thermal pulse, and all of that heat was transferred to the planetary atmosphere. Alpha’s crater is over six hundred kilometers across, and everything that used to be in that hole had to go somewhere. Debris — rocks, dust, volcanic glasses — was blown as much as fifty kilometers from the surface, and when it reentered the lower atmosphere, it was so hot it set fires anywhere there was fuel. It was like putting the whole damned planet into an oven, but after the fires, came the cold. There was so much crap in the atmosphere that it was like throwing the switch on one of our freezers. What hadn’t burned froze, and it was a coastal strike. Two thirds of the crater are inland from what used to be the coastline, but Alpha vaporized something like five hundred and sixty million cubic kilometers of rock, a lot of it shallow sea bottom with heavy concentrations of limestone and gypsum. The sulfur content from that’s having a catastrophic impact on the atmosphere and pushing the albedo even farther.

“And then there was Beta.” Her face was like iron, her eyes full of ghosts and horror. “It was a deep-water strike, deep enough there was a lot less sea bottom involved, so it contributed less rock and sulfur to the mess. But it still sent tsunamis clear around the planet — at least three separate waves — and vaporized over two hundred thousand cubic kilometers of saltwater. That helped scrub some of the precipitates out of the atmosphere, but they came out in salt rains that poisoned everything they hit. We’re ten-plus years into the event now, and it’s still getting worse, not better.

“I knew from our orbital observations what it was going to be like down there, but it was only an intellectual awareness. It wasn’t real to me. I’d seen it through our telescopes. Now I’ve actually walked through it. For the first time in my life, I’ve stood on a real planet . . . and I wish to hell I never had.

“We’ve all seen the HDs of Earth — the sequoias, the savannas, the rain forests and plains. Well, there’s none of that on Calvin III. Not anymore. Oh, there are tiny pockets, but only tiny pockets, and with the entire atmosphere still in flux, God only knows if any of them can go on surviving. There’s evidence of high tectonic instability, too. We can’t be sure without longer to observe, but it seems to be increasing steadily, and it looks like the meteor strikes may have activated an area of volcanism bigger — and more destructive — than Earth’s Deccan Traps. In the end, that may release as much atmospheric contamination as both Hammers combined. It’ll be over a longer period of time, but that only means it will prolong the agony, delay any possible recovery time for hundreds — thousands — of years. We don’t have the data or the right software to model this with any degree of reliability, but the computers say that something like eighty percent of the planet’s animal life died within the first six or seven local months, and the process is still underway. The best models we can build suggest that nothing bigger than an Earth raccoon is likely to survive down there, and it probably won’t reach bottom and begin rebounding — if it ever does rebound — for a long, long time. This is a geological event, the kind of thing that takes millions of years to work through, and we don’t have millions of years.”

She closed her eyes and shook her head for a moment, then opened them again and faced the logistics manager squarely.

“It’s still getting worse, Cho Mee,” she repeated softly. “We’re past the catastrophic impact stage. Now we’re in the long, dragged out dying stage. I don’t see any way we could possibly build a settlement or a habitat down on the surface with a chance in hell of long-term survival.”

“But in that case . . . ?”

Seong’s voice trailed off, and Anderson looked at her.

“In that case we have to find another option. And if we can’t find one, then we’ll damned well make one. We didn’t come two hundred light-years just to give up at the end of the trip, by God!” His gaze circled the table, his eyes hard. “We’ve got those seventy-five years Shirley mentioned,” he reminded them. “That’s not long enough for us to make Beowulf, or even any of our original alternative destinations like Bryant, even assuming the ship systems had that much endurance left. But we’ve got time to think and plenty of time to re-tank from the gas giants, once we get the atmospheric distillation plant deployed. So we’re not going to run out of air or power tomorrow, and the last damned thing we’re going to do is to panic or let anyone else in Calvin’s Hope panic. Is that clear?”

The others glanced at one another, then looked back at him, and nodded. They were hesitant, almost timorous, those nods. But they grew stronger, more determined — even confident — and he nodded sharply back to them.

Now if he could only feel as confident as those nods.



"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: Dark Fall novella snippet #2
Post by fallsfromtrees   » Sun Sep 10, 2017 3:27 am

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Thank you for the snippet. Two major strikes will mess up a planet
The only problem with quotes on the internet is that you can't authenticate them -- Abraham Lincoln
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Re: Dark Fall novella snippet #2
Post by Dauntless   » Sun Sep 10, 2017 8:21 am

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most intresting
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Re: Dark Fall novella snippet #2
Post by cthia   » Sun Sep 10, 2017 1:18 pm

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Couple of things here...

Patricia Anderson witnessed the disaster to her homeworld just four years after it happened. That's awful. Then she saw the follow up destruction. So sad. How she remained so calm, I haven't a clue. I would have shit nuclear fuel. And I would still be loosing it.

This snippet makes more clearer to me the "generational ships" realities. One captain had already lived out his life aboard, and naturally abdicated the captain's seat.

Earth Union? Is this the precursor to "The Solarian League" already spiraling downhill...
...
But Anderson was pretty sure she’d had other reasons, as well. He himself had never lived under the Earth Union’s authority. All he had to go by were the history books, the history vids and holos. His own life experience had been utterly different from anything they portrayed, and even if that hadn’t been so, the personal notes left by the original crew made it clear the official histories had been . . . filtered to suit the Earth Union’s view of the universe. He didn’t understand that, either. Not experientially. But he’d read Angus Calvin’s journal, and he knew Angelique had wanted a destination so far from Sol that the poisonous political ideologies she believed were choking her homeworld to death would never reach it.

Apparently, she’d figured 200 light-years was probably just about far enough.


Also, it makes one wonder whether the denizens of Calvin's Hope will still retain rights to their intended planet in the future when the planet licks and naturally heals its own wounds and again becomes the perfect planet.

Late Edit:

Why didn't they carry Band-Aids for the engine?

Son, your mother says I have to hang you. Personally I don't think this is a capital offense. But if I don't hang you, she's gonna hang me and frankly, I'm not the one in trouble. —cthia's father. Incident in ? Axiom of Common Sense
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Re: Dark Fall novella snippet #2
Post by akira.taylor   » Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:16 pm

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cthia wrote:Couple of things here...

Patricia Anderson witnessed the disaster to her homeworld just four years after it happened. That's awful. Then she saw the follow up destruction. So sad. How she remained so calm, I haven't a clue. I would have shit nuclear fuel. And I would still be loosing it.

This snippet makes more clearer to me the "generational ships" realities. One captain had already lived out his life aboard, and naturally abdicated the captain's seat.

Earth Union? Is this the precursor to "The Solarian League" already spiraling downhill...


I think that is the alliance that collapsed into Earth's Final War. (The Solarian League was always an interstellar power, and I think was after hyper drives.)
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Re: Dark Fall novella snippet #2
Post by drothgery   » Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:19 pm

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akira.taylor wrote:I think that is the alliance that collapsed into Earth's Final War. (The Solarian League was always an interstellar power, and I think was after hyper drives.)

It started after hyper drive (which has been around a very long time in the Honorverse), but before Warshawaki sail and impeller drive.
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Re: Dark Fall novella snippet #2
Post by dlewis0160   » Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:25 pm

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cthia wrote:Couple of things here...

Patricia Anderson witnessed the disaster to her homeworld just four years after it happened. That's awful. Then she saw the follow up destruction. So sad. How she remained so calm, I haven't a clue. I would have shit nuclear fuel. And I would still be loosing it.

This snippet makes more clearer to me the "generational ships" realities. One captain had already lived out his life aboard, and naturally abdicated the captain's seat.

Earth Union? Is this the precursor to "The Solarian League" already spiraling downhill...
...
But Anderson was pretty sure she’d had other reasons, as well. He himself had never lived under the Earth Union’s authority. All he had to go by were the history books, the history vids and holos. His own life experience had been utterly different from anything they portrayed, and even if that hadn’t been so, the personal notes left by the original crew made it clear the official histories had been . . . filtered to suit the Earth Union’s view of the universe. He didn’t understand that, either. Not experientially. But he’d read Angus Calvin’s journal, and he knew Angelique had wanted a destination so far from Sol that the poisonous political ideologies she believed were choking her homeworld to death would never reach it.

Apparently, she’d figured 200 light-years was probably just about far enough.


Also, it makes one wonder whether the denizens of Calvin's Hope will still retain rights to their intended planet in the future when the planet licks and naturally heals its own wounds and again becomes the perfect planet.

Late Edit:

Why didn't they carry Band-Aids for the engine?


maybe they are talking about the Earth Union in
By The Book" from Beginnings, written by Charles Gannon?
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Re: Dark Fall novella snippet #2
Post by feyhunde   » Sun Sep 10, 2017 8:54 pm

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The Earth union was badly written as a scary socliast green European enemy who ruled Earth in the early years PD. They were also quasi luddites who wanted to shut down colonization and hated nuclear power in star ships and corrected history in the files of outbound colonies.

Felt like a straw villain from a much worse writer who let his politics overwrite storytelling.
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Re: Dark Fall novella snippet #2
Post by kzt   » Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:28 pm

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feyhunde wrote:The Earth union was badly written as a scary socliast green European enemy who ruled Earth in the early years PD. They were also quasi luddites who wanted to shut down colonization and hated nuclear power in star ships and corrected history in the files of outbound colonies.

Felt like a straw villain from a much worse writer who let his politics overwrite storytelling.

Put Jerry's CoDominion there and the effect is much the same.
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Re: Dark Fall novella snippet #2
Post by feyhunde   » Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:42 pm

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kzt wrote:
feyhunde wrote:The Earth union was badly written as a scary socliast green European enemy who ruled Earth in the early years PD. They were also quasi luddites who wanted to shut down colonization and hated nuclear power in star ships and corrected history in the files of outbound colonies.

Felt like a straw villain from a much worse writer who let his politics overwrite storytelling.

Put Jerry's CoDominion there and the effect is much the same.


Basically the straw villain of many a libertarian/"True American" pulp writer. Most trying to be Heinlein or Jerry. And they did it better.
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