The ocean is a massive and violent beast, but it has a beauty and strength no other force on Earth can really claim. My wife and I like to escape to the coast on vacation and I happen to like being out on the water any chance I can get. This makes me feel free and a little bit rebellious. Who am I, a weak and pitiful man in the midst of this enormous entity that could easily swallow me whole, yet I defy it and sail its waters.
Imagine now, that we are aboard this vessel of great proportion, but minuscule in comparison to the great sea. Under normal circumstances we have the ability to direct ourselves, to guide us back to land in the event the swell becomes too great. What if? The words creep in like cockroaches beneath a refrigerator, unseen, but lightly heard and creepy. What if we had no rudder? No means to direct ourselves back to the shore, no direction in which to angle the ship? It would be a disaster, storm or no, we’d be subject to the whim of the ocean, and hopeful for its benevolence.
This is where I am with Legends of Vandor. I made the much needed edits, but I failed to realize there was an underlying issue waiting to rear its head, like the iceberg that sunk the titanic, I saw only the surface of it. The story itself, has no direction. I’ve written it in the hopes of dredging up fear and fright of ghosts, demons, and evil of all sorts. Instead it has fallen flat, and rudderless it has lost direction. In a series of events and flashbacks I have lost sight of the true direction of the story.
In light of this I am putting it aside. Setting it down for a time to let my mind rest from its labor in trying to divine what terrors it can. I’ve decided to focus my efforts though; I shall never give up on writing, but for the time being I think I shall focus on what I know I can do well, Science Fiction. I’ve had great response from my novel Kodiak (now if I can just get an agent to pick it up) and I think it is time I focused my efforts on Atlas (the sequel to Kodiak). Below is the prologue for Atlas
Quintar IV – Exodus Fleet Naval Force
Alpha Base – Personnel Quarters
Year 2973: Wednesday Quintar IV Cycle, March 12th: 06:00 hours
A tall man with dark brown stubble growing from his head and beard, looked over schematics for a destroyer class warship. He frowned and narrowed his hazel eyes. This is ridiculous, he thought to himself. He could not fathom why the designers of this ship would create a destroyer versus a gunship. A gunship was lighter, more maneuverable, and ultimately a better fit for his particular skill set. He had managed to out-fly every manner of warship piloted by an EXO with his old URSA GS I; now they wanted him to captain, as of yet, an unidentified type of destroyer. It wasn’t that he was opposed to the commission he had been given, or even that he was going to have to work with a crew that would prove to be wholly inadequate to his former co-pilot. It was the idea that he, Abel Cain, was not going to be piloting a gunship and the fact that he had not even been included in the design of this boat. Boat; that was a better term for it he decided. The aft thrusters had too much lift and not enough thrust and the port and starboard engines didn’t even have adjustable nacelles. How in the world did they plan for him to make an atmospheric landing without adjustable nacelles? At least they had increased the firepower. The Kodiak, gods he missed her, was a formidable opponent; against insurmountable odds at times. However, this destroyer they had planned was sporting twice the number of laser turrets and at least three additional anti-matter canons; that didn’t even include the missile payload.
He surveyed the schematics again, sighing heavily. The command deck was at the front of the vehicle, acutely human in design and arrogant. This had been the downfall of the Kodiak when the quantum plates locked up and sealed against the cockpit. That event had forced them down planet-side, in highly unfavorable conditions, and set them on this path to working with the EFNF and the death … the sacrifice of his best friend. He sighed again. He was going to have to set these engineers right. Who the flast decided to call this thing a TP-D? Seriously, he thought, everyone is going to make endless fun of that designation, even if it stood for Titanium Plated Destroyer. He had promised Echo he was going to name it Atlas, after Zee’s fascination with bears, but he hadn’t even been consulted on this design. If he had the Kodiak still – and Zee – he would have left already, letting the EFNF figure their own shit out. As things stood, if he ever wanted to fly again, he was at their mercy.
Walking across the room he surveyed the quarters they have given him. Thick soft carpets, a bed fit for four, a recliner, and his own desk. This was an officer for an Admiral, not a Captain. He had, of course, refused to be given a Vice Admiralty. Cain knew what he was and what he wasn’t, he was a pirate and a scoundrel. Pirates and scoundrel’s make for poor leaders. He had accepted the Captain’s commission, but that was so he could get airborne again. All this time in the soft, luxurious Admiral’s quarters made him feel like a fraud. The Quintarrans already had him pegged as some kind of messiah, because he had broken their collars. They had been mental control nanite collars, but collars nonetheless. He didn’t know what to do with their idol worship and he didn’t much care to have anything to do with it again. Zee was the last quintarran he had known and come to love as a brother, he wouldn’t make the mistake again. The logical process of a quintarran’s mind was complex and irritating, he had tolerated Zee because the man – alien – had learned a sense of human and a sarcastic wit; one might almost say he was human.
He considered his … significant other? Echo Shade was an entirely different person altogether. The Half-Quintarran woman was like a dream; dark hair, piercing blue eyes, soft lips, and full of womanly curves. He took a deep breath, she mangled his thinking. When they had rescued Cain from the New Exodus prison she had kissed him and they nearly consummated their relationship then, but then she had withdrawn in the presence of her people. He assumed at first it was grief at the death of Zee, but it went deeper than that. The True Quintarran, as they called themselves, had allied with the humans of the Exodus Fleet shortly after Cain and Zee had put the EXO shield in place. The shield that Admiral James Shade had recently destroyed in an attempt to kill the EXOs. If the man had not have died, Cain would have killed him. Maybe not, he was Echo’s father. She had lost both her father and her mother in the destruction of that shield. Now, it was as if she desired to prove she was loyal to the EFNF even more than her father had been. In these parts James Shade was a traitor. That had an odd ring to it for Cain, Jim Shade had called him that once when he befriended Zee and stole the URSA GS I.
The URSA GS I, He thought excitedly, with a partial bit of anger. The Kodiak had been his baby from the moment he was set to design it. He risked a considerable amount in the design. He worked in secret and hid from everyone the fact that he was making a ship that could be piloted by a crew of less than three. His intent had been to steal it from the start, his design allowed the ever capable Zee to control the ship functions remotely through his nanites. Cain had planned to intake a version of nanites similar to Zee’s to control the steering and maneuverability of the ship. He remembered that only as a painful experience and one that had altered his own physiology considerably. He thought over the modifications again, greater bone density, enhanced reflexes, and the ability to remotely link his nanite implants to a warship; the Kodiak specifically. What was he now that the Kodiak was gone, he was a part of that ship and having lost it and Zee; he too, felt lost.
“Captain Cain. You are requested.” Cain looked behind him and turned promptly. The enlisted man at the door saluted crisply in his finely pressed uniform. Cain examined him, the Black collared doublet had a single silver seam just off center from the chest. Above the man’s right breast was his rank and surname, M.C.P.O Remington – which Cain translated internally as Master Chief Petty Officer Six Remington. Six Remington was one of the crew he was supposed to be training for simulations aboard the TP-D; such a stupid designation, he sighed.
“Six, who is requesting?” Cain said as he returned the salute. His own doublet was left open at the collar, although his rank and surname decorated his right breast as well; Cpt. Cain.
“Fleet Admiral Clark, sir.” Six replied, still crisp and direct.
“At east soldier. For goodness sake, you don’t need to be so uptight. Tell Andromeda I’m on my way.” Cain grumbled.
“Sorry, sir, she insisted that I be there as well, as an …” he paused obviously not wanting to say what he had been told, “as an escort, sir.” He finished holding his breath.
“I see. Lead on then Mr. Remington.” Cain said as he pulled his coat ends together, they met with a metallic cling and sealed together without another action from Cain. He marveled at the ingenuity of the design, if only Earth and those in the Sol system had perfected something like this long ago. He shook his head as he followed the Master Chief Petty Officer, who would be his lead engineer aboard the TP-D, out the door.
Captain Abel Cain followed Master Chief Remington along the corridor. The man before him was at least fifteen years his junior; barely out of diapers as far as Cain was concerned. Six Remington walked with a stiff step and rigid back. He had been brought up in military fashion a true child of the EFNF. Cain wasn’t sure about having such a staunch supporter of the EFNF on his crew, but again he had little choice in any of it. The whole mess made him want to turn in his rank and steal the first ship bound for anywhere but here. He stowed his feelings though, Zee had died to bring them to Quintar IV and into the capable EFNF hands; he wasn’t so sure it was a good thing.
“Master Chief, did the Fleet Admiral give any indication of what she wanted to discuss?” Cain asked Six as they continued down the dimly lit hallway. The walls were made of some sort of metal alloy. Cain guessed that the walls bore traces of titanium as well as aluminium. He thought about the alloy as he continued towards the Fleet Admiral’s offices.
“Ship specifications, if I recall correctly sir.” Six replied in his ever formal tone. The boy had grounded upbringing in the military; a fact that further distanced his desire to spend any time at all with Six Remington. So, Cain thought, they’re actually going to ask for my input? He found the sudden interest in his opinion, odd, to say the least; the EFNF had been all too direct in curbing his involvement in the planning of this new ship. Now, he was being summoned? It did not make a whole lot of sense, but he would play along.
“Very good then Master Chief. Have you been summoned as well?” Cain asked.
“Aye sir. The entire crew.” Six replied.
“So this is more than ship specifications, this is an introduction as well as a planning session, or so it would seem.” Cain speculated.
“I couldn’t say sir.” Six replied again.
“I suppose you couldn’t. That’ll be all Master Chief. Continue.”
“Sir.” Six said as the two of them faced forward and continued walking towards the Fleet Admiral’s office. The door to the office was ajar and Abel could see more than a few people milling about Fleet Admiral Clark’s foreboding office. As Six and Abel entered, Master Chief Petty Officer Remington stood at attention and saluted.
“Captain on deck!” Six called out announcing his and Cain’s arrival. Abel Cain cringed at the crisp formality. This was not his style and if he couldn’t break the boy of this habit, it was going to be irritating. Cain gave Fleet Admiral Clark a pained look. Andromeda Clark was a middle aged woman, if you considered middle aged around fifty or so. Her dark brown eyes stared into the well-lit doorway and met Cain’s hazel eyes. To his credit, he didn’t stare, but he did appreciate the older woman’s lithe frame; despite her age Andromeda Clark was a fine looking woman with delicate high cheek bones and soft features. Cain smirked as he noted the stern expression on her face; she had caught him admiring.
“At ease Mr. Remington.” Andromeda said in a melodic, if aged, voice. “There is no need to stand on formalities here. Is there Mr. Cain?”
“Certainly none for my sake Ms. Clark.” Cain said, adopting the Fleet Admiral’s terminology. “I understand you asked for me?”
“You and your crew Mr. Cain. It has come to my attention that you are feeling sour about being left out of the planning of the TP-D.” She said maneuvering with her words.
Cain was apprehensive, the look in the Fleet Admiral’s eyes gave him pause. “I am a bit sour,” he emphasized the word. “I was a major part of planning the Kodiak and I knew every nook and cranny of her. Closest relationship I would say I ever had.” He said with a smirk again. That last drew a stare from Echo Shade; he hadn’t noticed her in the room. Fool man, he thought to himself, try not to get yourself in trouble.
“So I understand. Ms. Shade has made quite the case for pulling you, and the crew, into this. I cannot say I agree completely, but since we’re pinning a lot on your abilities, I think she may be partially right – in the least.” Andromeda gave Cain a knowing stare and for a brief moment he saw something of himself in the woman; that made him cringe. “Have you brought the schematics? I don’t see them.” Cain gulped, he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable under Ms. Clark’s stare and he could feel the sweat beading on the back of his neck. He stood up straight and steeled himself.
“I did not. I assumed that you would have your own.” He said almost challengingly. Echo gave him a look that could freeze fire and he swallowed his pride. “Apologies. It has been a trying few months. The loss of the Kodiak and of Zee has been …”
“No need to disseminate Mr. Cain. I am not here to scold you. As I said I am somewhat in agreement with Ms. Shade. What suggestions do you have?” She put such an emphasis on the word Cain immediately understood that, however acquiescent, Fleet Admiral Clark was no tool to be maneuvered.
Cain cleared his throat and approached the table in the center of the room. It was like he had just noticed the room now; whereas before it had been Clark, Shade, and himself. The office was larger than it needed to be with a single stone formed desk in the left corner. Strewn about the desk was a number of data-films and a stylus. He noted several others in the room; Lt. Boulson, Ensign Krat, Ensign Anderson, MCPO Remington, CPO Martinez, and two airman he hadn’t learned the names of yet. The two new recruits were supposed to be his gunners, but he wasn’t sure about that. Krat, the only quintarran in the group, would be his co-pilot and navigation officer. He had insisted on a quintarran co-pilot, after Zee he understood the benefit of an intensely logical thinker handling navigation; if not direct combat piloting. Anderson and Boulson would be handling defense and weapons; respectively. Remington, he noted again, was his lead engineer and Astra Martinez would be the secondary. He looked the new recruits up and down and decided that he could utilize them in better capacity than combat gunners. If he had his way the laser turrets would be computer operated on near automation.
“Fleet Admiral Clark, I essentially want to redraw the entirety of the plans. The forward cockpit design is pure folly. It is so distinctly human in design it belies the arrogance of our race. To ensure an advantage of visibility over using sensors I think we should put the command deck at the top of the ship, instead of at the prow.” He was just getting started, “The aft thrusters have too much lift, and not enough thrust and the, port and starboard, engines don’t even have adjustable nacelles. I suggest that we give a ninety degree rotation to the port and starboard engines to give the needed lift and put all the power into the aft thrusters for thrust, versus lift. This accomplishes two things. It allows for inter-atmospheric maneuvering and if needed a landing. This does, however, change the weapons configuration slightly.”
“That will be quite enough Mr. Cain. We’re not rebuilding the URSA GS I, this is an entirely different vessel with different mission capabilities.” Andromeda cut him off.
“Alright. It is a destroyer, but let’s at least explore using aggregate alloys. Specifically a Titanium-Lead-Aluminium alloy.”
“What are you getting at Cain?” the Fleet Admiral was losing patience with his vision.
“Similar to the alloy I used on the Kodiak, when it was cooled and magnetized it created a powerful quantum field that I was able to use to lock maneuverable plates into place.”
“What are you talking about, we never saw any such thing on the URSA GS I? The wreckage suggested an odd combination of metals, but nothing that wasn’t already being utilized. What do you mean lead? How is going to help?”
“It is slaked off in the process. Trust me this increases the strength of the armor and lightens it. As far as the quantum locking trust me, the Kodiak had it and it saved that gunship more than once. It will take a few more lines to process it and make it work, but it will be well worth it.” Abel tried to explain.
“I will not have untested science aboard the TP-D, you may be the Captain of this vessel, but I am still the Fleet Admiral.”
“Damn you foolish woman!” Cain lost it, “Do you know how tested quantum locked shields are!? Huh? Have you ever even been to Dark Space!? Flast you bitch. I’ve been there and if you are going to be sending me after the EXO Prime, like I think you are, I am going to determine what kind of shielding MY ship has!” Cain was fuming, his face had gone red, but it paled in comparison the look of indignation on the Fleet Admiral’s face.
“You stupid boy! Get the flast out of my sight. If you think for a minute I am going to let a child vie for the safety of the EFNF you have another thing coming. Get the flast out!” she screeched.
“Very well.” Cain said, coldly; calmly. “I’m out. Find another Captain to fly your Toilet Paper Dispenser!” that last he knew was a stretch, and foolish to boot, but he didn’t care.
Thanks for reading. Until next time.