Expedition

Don’t miss the “Writing Of” and Reading Sample below!

Expedition

The humans of Earth planned for a long intergalactic journey. What they didn’t plan on was running into the neighbors.

In 2096 Captain Christopher Perry led the starship Expedition on a centuries-long search for a suitable world to colonize. Assisted by Mosis, a sentient AI, the unsuspecting crew is awakened by an alien transmission, leading them to the remains of the Vingah race, preserved in stasis.

With a rescue mission in full swing, the allies are challenged by an aggressive species, bent on acquiring the Vingah’s secrets. The confrontation’s outcome will change the destinies of three disparate races, and allow the victors to spread their influence throughout the galaxy.

“This author knows how to craft a sci-fi world. The technology is well thought out and plausible, and I love the other beings he created. Can’t wait to read the sequels!”

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The Writing of Expedition

This book began a decade before I got serious about writing, but never made past the first chapter. I dusted off the manuscript to see what could be salvaged, but in the end, only a small portion of the original was retained, along with the main idea.

As initially envisioned, the book was intended as a stand alone short story. After I finished it, my beta readers (bless their hearts) were interested in more back story concerning the villains of the piece, and I was compelled to add a significant amount of new material. This moved my “short story” clearly into the novella category and I was quite pleased with the final product.

A late afterthought as I was writing included the information of two other colony ships sent out from Earth long after Expedition was launched. My intention here was to goose up the story with an interesting tidbit, but instead it led to the perfect opening for a trilogy. Though each book may be read as stand alone, they all tie together and come full circle by the end of the third installment. When you finish with Expedition, you won’t be able to resist Odyssey and Exploration. Enjoy!

Reading Sample

Prologue

For eons, the warm and beautiful planet of Khrusos blessed its inhabitants with idyllic conditions, fed by the light of its twin stars. The Vingah were an insectoid race; winged, peaceful, and extremely intelligent. When their larger star went nova, it formed a black hole which began to draw the life out of its companion. The Vingah scientific community recognized the danger and devoted themselves to finding a way to survive or escape their home planet. By the time discoveries were made which might help them, the resources to do so were no longer available. Khrusos, and its people, were dying. With escape now impossible, message buoys were sent out into the void in a hopeful attempt to find aid elsewhere. Meanwhile, drastic action was needed to save what they could before time ran out.

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Expedition was launched from Earth in 2096 as the ultimate expression of human ingenuity and foresight. The greatest scientific minds in every discipline made up much of the crew, and aided by a sentient AI named Mosis, they were tasked with two primary goals: scientific research and discovery in all fields, and the location and colonization of a suitable planet. With no indications of other life in the universe, and a ship which could attain a mere ten percent of light speed, it promised to be a long and lonely journey.

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Observed from space, the swampy gray-green planet of Grazill would not normally be suspected as the home of an intelligent species. The reptilian Lydokk were simple creatures, mostly concerned with raising their young and tending to their homes and crops. It wasn’t until they looked up into the sky that their curiosity became an unquenchable thirst which drove them to find out what existed beyond their home world. Eventually, this drive thrust them into space where they discovered the existence of other life forms, setting in motion a series of events which would forever change their fate.

Chapter 1

The pale ruddy light of an unnamed red giant reflected like pink champagne off the polished surface of the colony ship, Expedition. Turning lazily on its axis, the vast ship revealed a quilted patchwork of tightly sealed escape hatches, portals, and cargo doors of varying sizes and shapes. Still sleek and beautiful, despite advanced age, it continued its quiet journey through unexplored space like a giant silver volleyball served into the heavens.

To the casual observer, had there been any, the huge vessel might have appeared to be drifting aimlessly through uncharted space – lost and forgotten. In fact, Expedition spent the last four-hundred-eighty years flawlessly executing its mission. Undaunted by the passage of time, the enormous vessel was neither lost, nor (by her crew), forgotten. Even now, with everyone in stasis, the ship was bristling with largely unobservable activity.

Expedition’s sentient Mission Coordinator was a unique melding of the human brain and synthetic alloys. Provided with an independent power source, he had been strategically placed at the very heart of the ship, safely shielded and with direct feeds to and from all the ship’s critical systems. Mosis (Master Organo-Synthetic Intelligence System) continued to collect and store energy, maintain the shields and propulsion systems, make necessary repairs, chart the surrounding space, and manage all the independent probes sent to collect data on anything within their reach. New data was routinely analyzed, prioritized, studied, and when necessary, stored for future retrieval. Discoveries and advances in every scientific field yielded incredible breakthroughs which would have amazed the world they left behind.

Expedition’s carefully selected crew of three hundred, comprised of officers, science teams, engineers, and support staff, were not scheduled to be awakened again for some time. The first two years of shake-down time allowed the crew to became accustomed to each other, their duties, and their new home. Afterwards, they were awakened for a twelve-month work period every eighty years, and so had ‘aged’ only six years since leaving Earth orbit. Those few years, of course, meant less than nothing as the latest therapies kept the crew young, healthy, and productive.

Even in stasis, the crew went about their lives and work uninterrupted, thanks to an implanted neural port which linked them to Mosis, each other, and the virtual world in which they lived and worked. New discoveries and advances in medicine, propulsion, shielding, energy, and weapons affected the ship and crew alike, almost ensuring the success of their mission. Other changes had a more direct bearing on the crew itself; the most radical being the medical and regeneration treatments which promised to relegate disease and aging to the history books.

While Mosis was fully engaged in the routine affairs of running the ship while the crew was in stasis, he felt the longing for human interaction, conversation, and the everyday ebb and flow of life which was the norm when the crew was awake and physically moving about. While the word loneliness didn’t exactly apply, it was close enough to describe how he felt during the long years of stasis. Feelings…those were something relatively new; one of the advances incorporated into his systems during the last work period, and he was still becoming accustomed to them.

Even though human speech was slow and cumbersome, he was eager to interact in person with the crew using his new abilities. Unfortunately, such interaction was eighteen months in the future, and so would have to wait. In the meantime, there was more than enough to keep him busy, such as the replacement of the particle shielding in quadrant nine which was scheduled to begin today. Internal sensors showed green across the board, allowing him to focus on the external sweep he had been conducting before sending out the work remotes.

That was when it happened.

Quite literally out of nowhere, a communications signal was being broadcast, even as the proximity alert shattered the silence of his thoughts. Mosis brought up Expedition’s defenses and scanned the area again – there it was! Only .0012 seconds ago nothing was out there, yet sensors and optical alike confirmed what looked like a probe, though its size and odd configuration were foreign to him. The object held station just outside the shield and above the North axis where the primary communications array was located. There was no message yet, simply a signal repeated at regular intervals indicating the object wished to establish contact.

It was possible it had already been there, overlooked, and only activated itself in response to Mosis’ sensor sweep. This seemed extremely unlikely, but the only other possibility was it literally just arrived. No, ‘arrived’ wasn’t quite right; perhaps ‘blinked into existence’ would be somewhat more accurate, which presupposed a faster-than-light capability.  Mosis and the crew had been working on the problem of FTL travel for the duration of their journey, and only recently proposed a possible solution. Just as curious, Mosis noted, was the paradox of the unusual signal used by this seemingly advanced messenger, coupled with its apparent ability to know their exact location.

As the seconds ticked past, Mosis was introduced to an unusual disquiet known as consternation. Though usually fascinated by new emotions, this one was unwelcome, and made it difficult for him to think. Something was wrong here. There were too many unanswered questions, and he and the crew could be in danger. At the moment, it was two am by shipboard clocks; thus, the crew, in their simulated world, were all fast asleep. Alerting the Captain was the first thing he should…

Mosis was interrupted by the urgent receipt of another message. One of Expedition’s own independent probes, number B-271, signaled its return to the ship squawking… a priority one alert! Every probe sent out from Expedition, no matter its purpose or function, was programmed to return to the ship immediately under very specific circumstances, and this was the first time it ever happened. Mosis felt a surge of both curiosity and excitement as he instructed B-271 to proceed to a retrieval bay for decontamination and data uplink. Absently, he noted this particular probe was not scheduled to return for several weeks, its survey of the nearby system cut short by the information it was compelled to deliver.

Mosis instructed the shield to admit the probe while a small hatch opened and the internal guidance system shepherded its wayward charge inside. Docking arms reached out to cradle the probe and lock it in place as the bay doors sealed themselves once again. Routine external decontamination began, yet Mosis paid little attention as he activated the access codes.  The priority one information took only milliseconds to flash over the interface, and if Mosis been human, he would have cursed in disbelief, and then smiled as the nature of the message became known. Well, he thought, a little good news to go along with the bad. His duty now, though clearly unpleasant, meant he was probably going to be enjoying the physical presence of the crew a bit sooner than they expected.

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It wasn’t supposed to hurt this much, or last for so long. Christopher Perry, Expedition’s Captain, fought to stay calm as the muscle cramps and nausea intensified even as the pounding in his head threatened to split his skull like an overripe melon. None of his other awakenings were anything like this one. He was all too familiar with the minor physical discomforts associated with revival from stasis, but the symptoms were gradual, and for the most part, mild. This time something was very different, and he struggled to retreat into the comfortable mists of the stasis ‘sleep’ he knew so well. Despite his wishes, however, it was clear his mind and body were being rushed, even forced, to consciousness.

The warm stasis fluid began to drain from the chamber, and he shivered as it opened to admit the harsh artificial light and muted signals coming from the attached monitor. As usual, the interior of the chamber automatically elevated him into a sitting position. Weak and trembling, he somehow managed to dislodge the oxygen mask from his face and grip the side bars just as the nausea reached its peak. His stomach tried to dislodge the non-existent contents of his stomach again and again as the throbbing in his head continued.  Like an out-of-control marionette, muscles twitched and jerked all over his body. Worse yet was a universal bone-deep ache, as though he had endured a severe beating.

The minutes dragged on in the fight to quell the rebellion of his own body, along with a rising sense of panic. What could possibly have gone wrong? Why was his awakening being rushed this way? Was everyone else experiencing the same thing? Unfortunately, the questions skittered by unanswered as he struggled for control. As his breathing slowed, his brain recognized a shrill two-toned alarm which must have been there all along, though he was unable to perceive it.

Bloodshot eyes snapped open to the glare of an angry red emergency signal flashing on the monitor. He coughed in an attempt to clear the phlegm from his throat.

“Mosis?” he called out, voice hoarse, cracked, and barely recognizable.

Mosis replied immediately in his very human-sounding bass voice.

“My apologies for your discomfort, Captain, but we have a double Priority One alert. Under the circumstances, there was no option but to initiate an emergency awakening. Are you able to communicate?”

In the almost five hundred years aboard Expedition, a Priority One alert had never been declared. One could be called for several reasons, but some of them meant immediate action was required. A double alert, even more unlikely, indicated two possible threats at the same time. Mosis’ instructions were crystal clear; awaken the Captain only, fully brief him on the situation, and request orders. Meanwhile, Mosis retained broad authority to deal with any problems as he saw fit until given direct orders from the Captain.

Christopher Perry closed his eyes as he grappled with the gravity of a situation he never expected to face. Had he remained in stasis, he would have been aided by the rest of his staff who, no doubt, would assist him in making whatever decisions were necessary. But he was alone, and the weight of command settled directly on his capable shoulders. At least the nausea and the throbbing in his head were beginning to dissipate, if not as quickly as he wished.

“I’m with you Mosis, but I can’t think very clearly right now. Do you have anything to…”

“One moment, Captain. Place the oxygen mask against your nose and mouth and breathe deeply.”

As he did so, a cool mist filtered through the mask with a mildly citrus-like odor. He breathed deeply for no more than sixty seconds and visibly relaxed as the nausea and headache virtually disappeared, while the muscle pain and spasms retreated to a level of mere discomfort.

“That should be sufficient, Captain. You may remove the mask and leave the chamber when you are ready. I am prepared to brief you on our status.”

Lowering the mask, Perry twitched his lips in a half smile, half grimace, and made a mental note to ask Mosis if he could provide the same treatment a bit sooner if the situation ever repeated itself in the future. If there was any way to be spared the symptoms of a crash awakening, he wanted the protocol in place ahead of time.

“Thank you, Mosis. I am feeling better, but do I have time to get cleaned up before we get down to business?”

“Yes, Sir. The ship appears to be in no immediate danger, though shields and weapons are active. I believe you have sufficient time.”

Perry cautiously swung his legs over the edge of the chamber, blinking to further clear his vision, and shuffled slowly into the cleansing station which was part of each stasis suite. A fresh towel, underclothes and uniform awaited him on the hooks overhanging a small bench outside the shower stall. The faucet activated when he stepped in, and as the warm water washed his body, his mind also cleared enough for him to at least begin grappling with whatever crisis caused his awakening.  He stepped out of the stall, dried off with the soft towel, and dressed quickly.

Perry returned to the main chamber room, as the stasis unit, now cleaned and sealed, lowered itself into the floor. Without any prompting, a series of view screens came to life along the walls around him. The captain’s chamber was the only one so equipped, and he nodded in approval as Mosis displayed a comprehensive summary of all the major systems of the vast ship. Perry scanned the information with practiced ease, and Mosis waited patiently a few moments before speaking.

“As you can see, Captain, our present status is green in all categories, and the ship is at full readiness. And if I may anticipate your next question, it is our future status which is of concern.”

Perry crossed his arms and looked down in his customary ‘I’m thinking’ posture, digesting both the raw data before him and the carefully chosen words in Mosis’ report.

“Explain please.”

Mosis complied quickly without going into detail.

“One of our probes has returned with a priority one data dump. Just prior to its arrival, a small object of unknown origin appeared near the communications array, trying to establish contact.”

Perry’s eyes narrowed as he thought.

“Are the two events related?”

Mosis anticipated the question and replied promptly.

“B-271 is reporting evidence of an alien civilization in the adjacent system. With the arrival of an alien object so soon after, I suspect the two are indeed related. Until we establish contact, however, there is no way to be certain.”

Perry raised an eyebrow, but made no further inquiry.

“Very well. I will meet you in the level three conference room in five minutes. Please have a galley remote deliver some hot coffee and a light snack for me.”

“Yes, sir,” Mosis replied, as Christopher Perry turned and walked swiftly out into the corridor toward the main transit tube.