No idea. It's half the reason I started this thread - to dig up the good stuff.
crossover in the tubes for when I finally finish the Doorstop. Here's the prologue - feedback welcome.
The Concordance Extraction Corporation’s LongJump shockpoint drive was humanity’s most sophisticated form of faster-than light travel. It functioned using wormhole technology, folding space-time between two points, tearing a hole in both, and travelling through the resultant ‘tunnel’. It was fast, energy-efficient, and offered a ninety-eight per cent chance that its users would arrive where they were supposed to – less if the appropriate maintenance procedures were not carried out every three weeks.
Needless to say, the CEC liked to keep quiet about that last bit.
This particular shockpoint drive was not well-maintained. It had, in fact, been quite comprehensively sabotaged, before being patched together with components from a completely different class of ship. Furthermore, the only crew-member on the shuttle it was presently attached to had locked himself in one of the stasis-pods and was quietly waiting for the hallucinations to go away.
The autopilot, being an autopilot, was not concerned by any of this. It simply counted down with its onboard timer, then activated the drive at the pre-programmed time.
It was at that moment, of course, that everything went wrong.
The drive core started to shudder, rattling around in its mangled containment cage. A trio of cables caught on the frame and whipped loose, their spark-spewing tips scorching dark trails across the surrounding machinery. A portal formed in front of the shuttle – not clean and smooth, but turbulent and ragged, pulsating in an unnervingly organic manner. Thrusters sputtered into life as an uncontrolled power surge sent the ship’s AI into its death throes, sending the little craft tumbling end over end into the wormhole’s waiting maw.
Thirty seconds later, the portal collapsed, leaving no trace of the shuttle except for a few fragments of drifting, sparking debris.
The space between dimensions is indescribable, impossible for the human eye to even process. To look upon it is to invite blindness, insanity, and worse. It was perhaps fortunate, then, that the shuttle’s passenger saw nothing of it, absorbed as he was with his own, more private nightmares.
Eventually, though, the visions that danced before his eyes, engraved into his brain, began to change, the alien script twisting and writhing like a field of mating snakes. Technical specifications began to emerge alongside scientific principles, names and shapes searing across his half-awake mind.
The shuttle wheeled onwards, towards its new destination.
“It is now 23:40 Greenwich Mean Time. We are about to witness the end of the world as we know it, and usher in a new world as never before imagined. The Earth Federation Government is about to host a ceremony at the Prime Minister’s residence, Laplace, to celebrate the birth of a new era. The ingenuity of mankind has allowed us to move beyond Mother Earth and build worlds of our own to inhabit. Tonight will mark the beginning of a new epoch. Let us come together in this joyous moment to honour the past, the era of Anno Domini, and greet the dawn of the Universal Century with open hearts and minds. So with great enthusiasm, let us open the door to our future together. Farewell Anno Domini, and welcome, Universal Century!”
The news broadcast echoed through Syam Vist’s helmet radio as he attached the bomb to the solar panel. The three rings of the Laplace station were spread out below him, the vast blue-green mass of Earth shining through the gaps. His own native Armenia had just dipped past the terminator, the last light of day fading and dying from its sky. The Federation’s soldiers would be moving soon, herding the dispossessed, the unwanted, and the unlucky to their new ghettos amongst the stars.
He secured the last cable, giving it an experimental tug to make sure that the knot was sound, and then turned back to his crewmates, flashing them a quick thumbs-up. Acknowledging radio-blips sounded off, and they began to move back towards the little maintenance shuttle they’d ‘liberated’ from the station dock.
“Hold on – we’ve got a problem here.”
The voice was loud and sudden enough to almost make Syam lose his grip on the panel’s handholds. Abbas, the leader of the operation, sent out a long, reproachful blip – keep it quiet, idiot.
“Look, this is serious.” It was Meruzhan, their explosives expert, his voice strained and curt. “The warhead’s missing. I say again, the warhead is missing.”
“Zhan, do I need to remind you that the Feddies are probably monitoring every channel in this airspace?” Abbas growled. “So we got sold a dud. Keep going. The other stuff works, and that’s more than enough.”
“You don’t get it.” Even through the static of the radio system, Meruzhan’s voice was shaky. “I checked the device on the way here, and it was fine. Someone took it out. Someone on this crew sabotaged our fucking bomb
“Shuttle Thirty-Seven, we are not reading you as scheduled for a maintenance session at this hour.” The new voice was in English, with a broad American accent. “Please respond.”
“Oh, for the love of-” Abbas growled. “Everyone switch to channel thirty. Should buy us some time. Zhan, relax. We’ll sort this out.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not trained in that language,” the station operator said. “Please wait while I get a translator from another division.”
Tinny muzak crackled through the speakers, only to be cut off abruptly as Syam adjusted the frequency. He glanced up across the vast expanse of the solar panel. Their shuttle suddenly seemed to be a very long way away.
Abbas’s exasperated voice cut in a second later. “OK, people, who’s seen that warhead? It’s shiny, metal, and about the size of a football. Anyone?”
“Haven’t seen it, sir,” Syam replied.
“Not a clue. Sorry.”
“It will make us whole.”
“Shuttle Thirty-Seven, be advised that changing channels whilst on duty is in strict contravention of station radio protocols.” This announcement was in perfect Armenian, though still with a distinctly foreign accent. “I say again, please respond.”
“Sorry, Poghos, what was that?” Abbas asked, pointedly ignoring the operator.
“The bomb. It will make us whole. It told me so. Don’t you hear it? Aren’t you listening?”
was that about a bomb?”
“Shut the fuck up, you Federation pig
!” Abbas screamed. Static rasped down the line as he took a few deep breaths to calm himself. “Poghos, slow down. You’re not making any sense.”
“All will become one. That’s what it said. The thing inside the station. It’s been whispering to me. Whispering since we arrived.” A weirdly high-pitched giggle. “It’s shown me such beautiful things.”
“All units, this is Laplace Control. We have a terrorist alert on the station. I repeat, we have a terrorist alert on the station. Shuttle Thirty-Seven, you are asked to surrender immediately, or we cannot guarantee your safety.”
Through the gaps in the panel, Syam could see lights begin to move. Federation gunboats.
“Everybody, get back to the shuttle!” Abbas yelled over the rising wave of radio interference. “Get back to the fucking shuttle
“You don’t understand, do you?” Poghos continued. “You won’t end anything here. This is a beginning, a wonderful beginning. And I get to push the button.”
The shuttle exploded soundlessly. The crewmen nearest to it simply disintegrated whilst those further away spun outwards, bits and pieces detaching from their bodies as the concussive force shook them apart. Syam was shoved through the shattered remains of the solar panel as if by the fist of an angry god, his suit’s armour shielding him from the whirling debris as he fell towards the station.
Their other devices had been triggered as well. The shuttle engine they’d strapped to the main habitation ring was careering round its tight little orbit, the backwash peeling open the hull like a knife, whilst the second solar panel was now nothing but gleaming wreckage.
Laplace Station burst open when he was less than five hundred metres away, the pressure of the escaping air too much for its abused frame. A corpse struck his back and flopped away, its broken limbs waving almost comically. A shard of glass scored a fine, bright scratch across his visor. And then he saw it, and everything else seemed to vanish at once.
It was a broad, tapering double-helix like two intertwined tongues, laterally segmented and covered in glowing runes. It arced past gracefully, catching the light reflected off the station’s punctured mechanical entrails. Syam tried to follow it, craning his neck… and then a wall of dull, grey metal slammed into him, and he blacked out.
The Federation picked up Syam Vist two hours later, during its third and final sweep for survivors of the Laplace Massacre. He did not speak for two days, instead concentrating on folding paper napkins into strangely bulbous, twisting spire-shapes. When he finally talked to a crew-member, it was to request more paper. His captors assumed that his mind had been damaged by the incident, perhaps because of guilt over the massive loss of life he had helped cause.
That would come later.
The New Year bells tolled across the Sweetwater colony, trailed by a ragged cheer as the massive screen overhanging the central plaza blinked from U.C. 094 to 095. A trio of Jegans soared lazily overhead, the ponderous sweep of their massive beam rifles spelling out a silent We’re watching you
. It was two years since Char Aznable’s attack on Earth, and here, in the former headquarters of his Neo Zeon faction, tensions were still high.
The lights in the bar were dim, the glittering sweep of the vast colony-cylinder still visible through the old-fashioned bay windows. If he looked carefully, the boy could see the tiny, blinking pinpricks of small-arms fire in the poorer districts near the docks.
Someone sat down next to him, one brightly-painted fingernail tapping the side of his glass. “Aren’t you a bit young for that?”
“This place doesn’t have a minimum drinking age. Doesn’t have a minimum enlistment age, either. I think the two are connected. Besides, why do you care?”
He turned to look at his new neighbour. She was middle-aged, her blonde hair shading to silver and her eyes hidden behind a pair of expensive-looking sunglasses. ‘Expensive-looking’, in fact, seemed to be the best way to describe most things about her, from her tastefully-understated clothing to the improbably smooth skin of her face. Glancing around the bar, he saw two more people wearing the same brand of glasses – large, bulky men in dark suits who weren’t quite
standing between him and the exit, but were close enough that they didn’t need to be.
The boy brushed his hand against his pocket, feeling the comforting bulk of his pistol. “Did my father send you?”
The woman smiled. “And what if he did?”
“I’m not going back. I’ve… I’ve made too many mistakes. There’s no place for me there now.”
“Then I think you underestimate your father,” she replied evenly. “And, for that matter, your mother. Still, that’s got nothing to do with me. I came to offer you a job.”
“I’m not interested.” The reply was swift, automatic.
“Of course you are. You see, those mistakes you mentioned? I’m giving you a chance to fix them.”
A short, bitter laugh. “What, you can bring the dead back to life?”
The woman’s smile broadened. “Honey, that’s the least
of what we can do.”