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Purify (intergalactic archeology)

Purify - a couple of chapters - can you relate to/get to like these people?

Chpt1 - Early

“We’re Early!”

“Impossible,” said Danno, the captain of the String Slider Tony Robinson. “We can not to travel to times in Earth’s past and this planet had only just shown up as having nuked itself into oblivion.”

“Sorry,” first officer and pilot, Lisa said, “but we’re still early.”

“I’ll put us behind the major moon and then I’ll work out just how early we are.”

Moments earlier, a superstring connecting Earth and the target planetary system unfurled into real space just large enough for the String Slider ship to slip out like an interstellar poo. String Sliding was a way to cross the vast distances of space instantaneously. Clearly this violates Einstein’s theory of relativity but it turned out that you can only travel to eras within time distance from the originating system. In other words you could not go back in time and this seemed to satisfy the Einsteinists. If you were on the Earth and you saw a star explode then you could travel to space close to the exploding star - but it had still exploded.

Lisa steered the ship to the far side of the planet’s larger Moon and stabilized the orbit. Meanwhile the captain went to his cabin to talk to the ship about how they could have arrived early.

“Tell me, Tony. How can we possibly have arrived before this doomed planet has played their merry dance?”

“Well, Danno, That’s a good question – lets look at the evidence we have gathered so far. We are here and the world does not seem to have committed planecide yet but, if we go over to trench two we find that there are definite signs of heightened political tension and this piece of broken pottery could signify that the hostilities have already started.”

“That’s all very interesting, Tony but, if the war hasn’t started yet, how come we know about it on Earth already. We’re not supposed to be able to travel here because we’re not supposed to know that here exists if it hasn’t given the signal to Earth – which it quite clearly hasn’t.”

“There are two possible explanations Danno but let’s take a look at this re-construction of the main buildings on the surface to see why this war is about to happen….” “Forget that!” shouted Danno, “What are the two explanations?”

“Well, number one is that we are hallucinating this happy planet and, in reality, it actually is already destroyed. The other explanation is that the signal was somehow accelerated to the Earth while we took the normal route, if you can call string sliding normal. Thus making us arrive before the actual apocalypse.”

“Captain, CAPTAIN – I need to speak to you,” It was Carrie, the ship’s ethicist-historian.

“This is all I need – YES Carrie – I bet I know what you are going to say.” Captain Danno opened his door and let Carrie in.

“Captain, I have just heard that we’re early and the planet hasn’t popped yet. We have to try to save it.”

“You know that’s not possible. It is wrong on so many levels and even if we could – which we can’t – we are not allowed. You know the rules far better than I do and the Prime Directive about not interfering isn’t called the Prime Directive for nothing. Carrie, we don’t even know how much time we have – for all we know it could have already started.”

“It hasn’t.” Nobody noticed Lisa had also entered the captain’s cabin. “We have two of this moon’s orbits – about sixty five planet days before the end of this world. I did the calculations and we are eighty days too early.”

“Come one come all!” said Danno, “Its like Clapham junction in here sometimes. Look, I was just telling Carrie that we have to wait. We can’t stop this war even if we tried. It has already happened.”

“It hasn’t - not for another couple of months. We need to at least try. Tony, how many lives are lost in this war?” Carried asked and then immediately regretted asking.

“Well, we know from earlier records that a typical global thermonuclear war has kill ratios of about eighty five percent. This planet has seven point two five billion inhabitants. However, most of them live in three conurbations and history tells us that, in these situations, the kill ratio goes up to ninety four percent. So that’s approximately six billion eight hundred and fifteen million souls terminated either in the first blast or the subsequent nuclear winter. We have seen evidence of nuclear winters if you look at the striations in trench three where you can just make out the ice age epoch...”

“Danno, that’s more than the population of Earth for Christ’s Sake! – How can we sit back and let that happen just so we can go in and mop up the detritus for our people. It just doesn’t add up to let this world die. We have to do something.”

“Look,” the Captain pleaded, “we’ve all just come out of a string slide. We’re all bound to be overwrought. Let’s sleep on it and we’ll discuss it again in the morning. I need to think about whether we should go back or if there is somewhere else to be. Why couldn’t we have arrived post apocalypse like normal then we wouldn’t have this problem?”

Slowly, reluctantly, the crew returned to their own cabins to think about the situation they found themselves in. It was true that the mineral recovery ships should never arrive until after the event that signaled their destination and by then the mineral recovery could usually proceed without a hitch. The Historian can piece together the immediate events leading up to the war while the Captain and Pilot concentrated on recovering the post nuclear fission products for the scientists back on Earth to turn into the medicine that was so desperately needed.

The word misfortune is inadequate to describe the extinguishing of six point eight billion souls. There was a growing movement on Earth that believed their mission was unethical. Benefiting from someone else’s misfortune was considered wrong somehow at the best of times but when that misfortune was the death of over six billion people it would certainly put it into perspective. Until now they could comfort themselves by thinking that the ‘misfortune’ had happened millions of years ago and was logically unavoidable but the possibility to arrive early did change everything. If the Time Rebels on Earth got to know that it could have been prevented then that argument would look a lot shakier and their case for intervention would be strengthened.

Danno called Tibor, The ship’s doctor, “I suppose you’ve heard?”

“Yes,” Tibor replied, “and before you ask, I think Ill sleep on it too. But I noticed that you haven’t deployed the scanner drones.”

“I was hoping no one would spot that. Or, if they did, that they might think that it is because there aren’t any isotopes to trace.”

“But you and I both know that they are general observation drones, so, Danno, what’s the real reason?”

“I didn’t want to get too attached to them … the people of … hell! Don’t we even know what this place is called? … I didn’t want to get attached to a people, knowing what we know is about to befall them. It’ll make it all the harder to obey the Prime Directive.”

“You should deploy the drones Danno,” Tibor said and the captain knew he was right. Before he slept Danno asked Tony to send out three drones; two into the moon’s orbit and one to the planet to observe and report. Tony, of course, was delighted to be allowed to open three new trenches, here, here and another one way over there near to the ancient settlement.

The captain contemplated de-activating Tony and going with the standard HAL voice but Carrie liked Tony’s enthusiasm and, deep down, so did Danno.

Chpt2 String Theory

The next morning the crew members who had managed to sleep woke up with more questions than ever. The captain was wondering if he could get some help from Earth base.

“Tony, tell me again why we cannot use Strings to communicate.”

“Danno, it’s like this,” Tony answered, “first you have to find a string that is already connecting the two points you want to jump between. Then you have to use some tachyons from the particle batteries to unfurl the string at the source end. Next the ship has to enter the string and have it close up behind it. As the string re-curls, the ship starts to slide along the strings long dimension in zero time until it reaches the opposite end.”

“Enough! Tony – this much I know already – ‘If a string has one end then it has another end’, the Zen master saying that we were all taught at astro-school but why does that mean that no-one has ever been able to send a message through one?”

“Because String Sliding is psyonic, you need a conscious mind to ensure the string unfurls at the other end. All attempts to send un-manned objects through a string slide failed – the string simply never unfurled at the destination end. We still have no idea where the enclosed mater has ended-up from those earlier experiments. However …”

“Yes, Tony. What is it?”

“Well, technically, we are now at a point in space-time of Earth’s distant past and, although any message to Earth through normal space will take an age to reach it, you have to remember that we have all that time to play with.”

“So, we can get a message to Earth but they cannot get a reply back to us without sending someone along too. Tony, call the crew together we need to work out what we are going to tell Earth.”

Over breakfast the crew assembled in the mess. By the time the captain joined them it seemed that the doc and Carrie were in the middle of a row with Lisa only just managing to keep the peace.

“We have got to try!” “No point!” “Wait for Danno!” “But six point eight billion people!”

“Might die,” said Danno as he entered. “I’ve been speaking to Tony and he thinks that we could get a message to Earth.”

“What will we tell them?” asked Carrie.

“That’s it,” said Danno, “we can only tell them. There’s no easy way for them to reply.”

“And any message that we send them will arrive before we set off because we’re early, remember?” pointed out Lisa.

“And I don’t remember any talk, on Earth, about having received a message, either from us or from anybody, before the signal of the planecide that selected this system for a mission.” added Tibor.

Danno explained what Tony had said about the possible acceleration of the planecide signal. “There’s no reason to believe that our signal would get accelerated and so it might arrive after we set off, like it should.”

“That’s a big might.” said Carrie, “and, anyway let’s say we do send a message – what would we say and what would the point be?” she added.

“The point would be that it might stop them sending other String Sliders to arrive early and spare their crews the dilemma that we are facing for a start. It could help them investigate why we have achieved the impossible and arrived early and it could help them understand why we decided to go against the Prime Directive and attempt to save these … Tony, what is this system called?”

“The nearest sound we could make to their planet name is ‘Guger’, Captain.”

“… These Gugerians” the captain finished.

There was a silence as his words sunk into the crew. Carrie was the first to speak.

“What … how are we going to stop it though?”

“As I see it we have three options.” Danno said, “We could try to talk to them and persuade them that they are about to annihilate themselves, we could take away their capability or we could try to scare them into thinking that we would destroy them ourselves unless they pulled together. Have any of you got any better ideas?”

Lisa said, “Why not let them think that they have had their pathetic war but we take the warheads while they are mid-trajectory. That way we are only interfering as little as possible. They’ll be a little puzzled but probably grateful.”

“Tony is that possible?” asked Danno.

“’fraid not, Danno. The ship’s systems are capable of only eighty seven percent warhead capture,” replied Tony, cheerfully.

“I want to go down there.” Said Carrie, “I want to get a feel for these Gugerians and what makes them want to mutually assuredly destruct. This is a unique opportunity to observe before Armageddon instead of after it.”

“I’d like to go down too,” added Lisa, “I am sick of only seeing dead planets.”

“So, that’s both chameleon suits taken,” said Tibor, “Looks like you and me on observation duty, captain.”

“No problem with that, I’ve seen the weather reports. It seems these two moons wreak havoc with the planet’s tides causing wild seasonal shift at this time of the planet’s orbit.”

The chameleon suits were another spin-off of the same theories that opened-up the far reaches of the galaxy. Super small strings were woven into a one-piece jump suit and they communicated the full light pattern from one side of the suit to the other. Using a combination of blue screen special effects and ray-tracing computer graphics technology coupled with superstring theory made the ultimate invisibility cloak. They are thirsty for power but work pretty well.

“We still haven’t decided on the wording of the message to Earth,” pointed out the captain.

“How about – ‘arrived early, no isotopes to collect as planet war not happened, going to make sure it doesn’t.’ Short but to the point, I think,” said Tibor, “That should stir things up if they get the message in time.”

While Lisa and Carrie got ready for the jaunt to the surface of Guger, the captain read over the intelligence from the observation drones. They had gathered enough for the universal translator to decipher their languages and determine that tensions were indeed on the rise. The data pointed to an unusual three-way friction between the main continents. Geographically the planet was split in to three with the largest continent occupying the position of what we would call the South Pole. The people down there were poor and uneducated and their religious leaders were stirring up paranoia about the other continent’s intentions. Meanwhile the other two continents were suspicious of each other’s economic goals. Both of these continents had rich regions and poor ones with trade from one’s poor area to the other’s rich one and vice-versa. Neither continent was currently buying from their own poor regions, believing that to be an admission of economic failure. However one, of them had started to buck this tradition and the other felt that this was an even greater slur on its country’s produce. Threats and counter threats had been batted backwards and forwards and there had even been some minor skirmishes at the points where the continents were closest to each other. Curiously, the Gugerians had not developed aeroplanes. Since most of the occupied land was in three great continents, they had developed trains to a very high level of sophistication. Ships were used between the continents mostly to transport goods and only occasionally people since most Gugerians were very insular. In fact, Insular didn’t cover it. Due to the isolation, it had been possible to manipulate the masses into a great racial hatred. Despite not developing planes nor needing them – all three continents had developed missile technology to a fine art. This was demonstrated recently by the ‘sabre rattling’ tests that each continent had recently held.

Danno had decided that they would try plan A and try and persuade them that getting along with each other was by far more favourable than the death of ninety four percent of their populations. To do this Carrie and Lisa would have to go down and find-out who the major trouble makers were and attempt to bring them together somehow. They have the technology to get the recalcitrant leaders together in one place, once they had been identified, but if they had to use it then it would mean blowing their cover and violating the Secondary Directive (the one about staying hidden). If possible they were to manipulate subtly the leaders so that it appeared that they wanted to meet.

It was a long shot given this planet’s recent history but worth a try in the first instance.

“Tony, can you tell me the exact whereabouts of Carrie and Lisa?”

“They’re right in front of you captain,” replied Tony.

“Damm, those chameleon suits are good!” remarked Danno, at which point the girls started to giggle.

“OK ladies, fun’s over. Remember – emergency jaunt return if there is the slightest risk of you getting hurt. Gugerians are almost humanoid but don’t let that deceive you. They are pretty nasty pieces of work by all accounts and they don’t take very well to strangers in their midst from their own bloody planet let alone off-world aliens.”

Carrie and Lisa jaunted to the planet’s surface. They decided to start with the southern continent first. Analysis showed that it had most free land and so the chance of anyone seeing their jaunt trails was lowest. The chameleon suits also contained mini life support modifiers that could take the Gugerian atmosphere and make it breathable and they also did a reasonable job of sorting out the temperature for the wearer too. However, the temperature on the southern continent of Guger was beyond the suit’s capabilities and immediately the girls began to shiver.

“We need to get indoors quickly,” shouted Carrie. “You don’t need to tell me that,” replied Lisa and the two headed north which isn’t hard when you have been jaunted to the South Pole. Over the very first ridge the girls spotted a small village. Quickly they headed for the warmth of what looked like an inn.

Slipping indoors behind a large man (at least they believed him to be male) with a big furry hat they immediately found the source of the warmth and sat by an open grate fire.

A Gugerian hound seemed to eye them suspiciously, sniffing the air from their direction.

So - with these two chapters I wanted to show that I am trying to do more descriptive writing and that I am having a go at writing what I hope are likeable characters. Is this enough to make you want to read more? - Can you feel attached to any of these characters?

I think the story is posing

I think the story is posing an ethical dilemma that could be really interesting, and it's one that I can't recall seeing before (maybe other readers have). So that's a very good thing.

Chapter one did have sort of a 'talking heads' feel to it, and I was glad to see some members of the crew leave the ship and head for the planet in chapter two. The chameleon suits are a good idea, but I think I would spend more time at that point in the story describing what the descent to the planet--and being on the planet itself--feels like to Carrie and Lisa. I like the detail that the suits weren't quite up to keeping them warm, but I would build on that: what does a Gugerian hound look like? What sort of fur is the Gugerian's hat made of (color, texture)? Are there weird plants in the area where the two women touched down? I think more physical details like that will help bring the planet and its native creatures alive--and give the reader a better sense of what will be lost if the crew of the String Slider don't try to stop the war.

You might also try limiting these first chapters to a smaller number of characters. That would give you more time to explore each one in depth and give readers a better chance to become familiar with them. Then you can introduce the other crew members as the story goes on.

So I think you have a crew facing an interesting problem here. You've said you're planning to move on to another story, and that's great. But I hope you do eventually come back to this one and give it another try sometime.

Thanks - there is more

Thanks for the encouragement, Richard. There is more of this story on my website here Purify

I agree that I am sometimes in too much of a hurry to get the ideas out. This could be because I was writing it for NaNoWriMo. I will try to take more time with future efforts. I am working on a short story about people who are fabulously successful because they never seem to make a bad decision whereas in reality what they have is an ability to hop back in time a few seconds to minutes when a choice doesn't work out right for them. They overcome those Oh-No! moments.

KarnuVap - but you can call me Karnie.

I stopped reading after a

I stopped reading after a while, sorry. If I had given it more of a chance I could probably be able to give you more feedback on characterization. All I can say right now is that some characters did stand out, others seemed kind of cookie-cutter.

A few things that bothered me and made it difficult to keep reading:

* Lines like "Lisa steered the ship to the far side of the planet’s larger Moon and stabilized the orbit." Is Lisa parking a car behind a building? No, it is a spaceship. Make it sound cool!

* An awful lot of 'As you know Bob' exposition. This is where you attempt to write exposition as dialogue by having characters tell each other what they already know, or should already know if they had half a brain.

OK - Got that

OK - Plot exposition not through dialogue. Got that.

Thank you for trying to read it anyway. This is what I need - I know why the ship is exploring planets that have recently undergone all out nuclear war but new readers will not and I have to explain it before the reader gets bored.

But, by the same token, I have to get some character interaction before the reader thinks its all exposition and no characterisation.

I guess the balance is out there and I just need to find it.

With yours and Technomanser's comments I am going to write something new (rather than re-write the other two) - would welcome your comments on it when its ready because you've really helped me so far.

KarnuVap - but you can call me Karnie.