Several years ago I attended a workshop presented by my friend David Farland called Greenlighting Your Novel. In the workshop David told us how Hollywood made their decisions on what movies to make based on their predicted potential audiences, and how some authors did the same with their books. Through the last year I have been studying Hollywood and the movie making business. Frankly, most audience members aren’t passionate on the backgrounds of their movies like this movie goer. While I might rage against Disney for altering the backgrounds of the Marvel Superheroes I grew up with, or completely destroying the Star Wars Franchise, most movie goers are what are known as the popcorn audience. They are really only there to be entertained, and could care less about the history of the franchises.
With that in mind I have been worldbuilding a number of new series, including a space opera, a post-apocalyptic and a high fantasy. The latter two will come out later this year or early next, while the first book of the space opera series is out now. I will continue to write Exodus: Empires at War at a reduced rate. Basically, I am running out of ideas for that series, while this new one has spurred the creative processes to new heights. The first book, The Quantum Universe: Book 1: Taking the Void, has been out on Amazon for several days, unannounced, which was part of an experiment I ran to see how much publicizing really means for sales. It actually had some sales, letting me know that there are people out there looking for my new releases.
So, you may ask, What is The Quantum Universe? In the Amazon blurb I said it was a little bit Star Wars, a little bit Star Trek, a little bit Exodus: Empires of War, and a lot of new stuff. It still has much of the real scientific facts as we understand them as Exodus had. And it builds on the theory that the Universe we see is built upon a foundation of the massive energies of the Quantum Foam, the theoretical construct at the Plank Scale, the smallest possible measurement. I imagined the Foam as a roiling mass of energy, incomprehensible, that gave birth, temporarily, to our physical universe. Temporarily? What, fifteen billion years and counting? Well, compared to eternity it is a blip. Organic brains are Quantum structures, capable of interacting with the foam, leading to Psi powers and superhumans. Nine human nations, six major alien races and numerous with lesser influence, it is quite a tapestry to paint a series upon. The Foam figures largely in everything. Ships draw their energies from it, minds draw on its power to manipulate the macro universe, and matter can be destroyed and returned to it, making the disintegrator beams of popular scifi possible.
And it’s a love story as well, with an isolated noblewoman and ship commander finding her soul mate in a trillionaire industrialist on a personal crusade to kill pirates like those who raped and killed his wife and daughter. Anyway, I fell in love with the ideas within this series, and hope to write at least twenty books in it, learning from the lessons of my first successful series, Empires at War. Because, to be frank, I knew little about series when I started that one. It just kind of took off, and I was just along for the ride. I hope you will come along with me on it.
And now, the excerpt:
“Navigator,” shouted Captain the Lady Kathryn Howard over the cacophony of klaxons and damage alerts sounding throughout the bridge. “How soon can you plot a course back through the jump point.”
“As soon as the helm can get us around and the engineer can power up the engines,” shouted back Lieutenant Sg Yohiri Yamaguchi, her eyes unfocused in the way of a Psi accessing the quantum realms.
The Osaka shook from yet another hit, this one more vicious than any that had come before. The damage schematic over the engineering board lit with a riot of red all along the eight hundred- and seventy-four-meter hull, but most of it centered in the area that they now needed the most.
“That hit went right through our screens and took out the stern jump engines, ma’am,” came the panicked voice of Commander Matthew Luis, the chief engineer, over the intercom.
“Shit,” cursed the captain under her breath. They still had the forward jump engines, but activating them without the accompanying stern units would simply rip the ship in half, propelling half of it back to the star they had come from while the rear of the vessel came apart. There was no guarantee that the bow would complete the journey either. Chances were they would all die if they tried that jump.
Kathryn glanced quickly at the score of holos that hung in the air around her command chair, then to the central plot, showing the system they were in and all the ships and planets they knew about. It was an M class star, one jump point, with a close in gas giant and a planet marked as inhabitable in orbit around that world. She looked to her left, where a number of stations curved around the plot, including the Driver position and her Psi Navigator’s station. To the left were the Weapons Station, and one down the Defensive position. Sensor and Com occupied the other side of the arrangement, while some more crew sat at their posts along the octagonal walls of the bridge.
“We still have eighty percent power on the blink drive,” called out the engineer from his station near the zero point extractors.
“Helm. Can you see a way out of here?” Howard shouted at the driver of the ship, Chief Warrant Officer Chosingar.
The eye stalks of the alien rotated back to look at her, the orbs moving from side to side then down in an approximation of a negative. “They have us surrounded, ma’am. I would risk collision no matter which vector I took.”
Not that it would matter, thought the captain. At eighty percent power, about two hundred and forty lights, the cruiser would not be able to outrun the smaller vessels around her. Even as that thought entered her head the ship shook once again from another hit driving through her shields. A few were in danger of falling completely, losing the protection of the hull by the hardened space around it.
“Got another,” yelled Lt. Commander Sergey Zolotov, the weapons officer. “That one won’t be bothering us anymore.”
“Just get on the next one, Commander,” said the captain in an admonishing tone. “You can congratulate yourself later.”
The officer nodded and went back to work, sending orders to his weapons crews. There was a tendency of those in charge of the weapons to want to fire back at every ship targeting their own vessel. Zolotov was smart, concentrating all of their firepower that could bear on a single target until it was gone. So far he had taken out a frigate and a corvette. The flare of the last ship was still on the forward viewer, plasma spreading out into the space around it.
And that could be us in a couple of minutes, thought the captain, fear running through her, as the ship shook again from multiple hits. How in the hell did we get into a mess like this?
Currently they had a destroyer, three frigates and twelve corvettes around them. None were transmitting any kind of recognition code as was mandated for all of the various fleets of the six-primary species in the Galactic Council. She could only assume they were pirates. In fact, she had known that the two corvettes she had chased through the jump point were pirates, and had thought it a good idea to make sure they caused no further trouble.
Great call, Kathryn, she thought, closing her eyes for a moment and shaking her head. This wasn’t even Terran Empire space. The light cruiser was out in the Void, a region on the edge of the Galaxy where stars were further apart than in the arms, to show the flag. The multiple millions of stars in the region were not under the governance of any of the major powers, though there were many overlapping claims, none pressed. This very region of the zone was claimed by two human and two Vox powers, and all were likely to have ships out here among the thousands of breakaway colonies. She had not looked forward to running into any of the other powers, especially the arrogant Voxannadril, but at the moment she would kiss one of the furballs if they came to her rescue.
Problem was, for all her size, the Osaka was really no better than an oversized destroyer. About twice the mass of the ships that the spacers of larger vessels had called Tin Cans since the days of the wet navies, due to their lack of armor, a light cruiser was just an enlarged version, capable of longer deployments, carrying more weapons, and no more capable of absorbing damage. Still, the cruiser could take on any two destroyers. Problem being that they were surrounded by more than three times their mass in warships.
“We’re picking up a quancom call from that freighter the pirates were menacing,” said Lt. JG Marcus Washington, looking back at her with wide eyes.
“Tell them we’re kind of busy here. Maybe they might want to consider making a run for it while their pursuers are busy.”
If the freighter could find a place to hide, unlikely, they might be able to jump out when the pirates left, if they did.
“Their captain is telling us to hold on, help is on the way.”
The cruiser shook again, a hard-hit tearing through the outer shields and piercing the thin armor. Howard looked over at the damage schematic, a chill running up her spine as she noted the blinking red over the medbay area in the heart of the ship.
“Doc,” she called out over the intercom. “Status.”
“We were hit by a quantum beam, ma’am,” came the voice of a med rating. “Medbay is a wreck. And the doc is gone. Hit by the beam, vaporized.”
The quantum beam, the most devasting weapon the ship carried, compressed and expanded space at the point of impact. Matter didn’t react well to that kind of motion, most times converting to vapor in an instant. Many times fading from reality altogether, back to the quantum foam that was the matrix of the Universe.
The young woman sounded on the verge of tears and Howard couldn’t blame her. She also couldn’t allow it to go on. “Get it together down there, uh?”
“Petty Officer Suarez, ma’am.”
“Get it together, Suarez. Take care of the people down there, and I promise I’ll get us out of this.”
The captain felt bad about the lie, but whatever it took to get one of her crew back to work. They might all be dead in a couple of minutes, but if they weren’t it would be because everyone had done their jobs.
“The destroyer is dead in space,” called out Zolotov, pumping a fist in the air. “I’m..”
The officer’s speech turned into a scream as his console sparked with shimmering power, the force of the quantum crystals powering the weapons feeding back into the controls. The officer jerked, then slumped in his chair, wisps of smoke rising from his nano armor.
“Corpsman to the bridge,” called out the captain over the intercom. “Someone take over the weapons.”
“Ma’am,” shouted Washington, staring at a com screen over his station. “That freighter just took out one of the frigates.”
“With what?” called out a shocked commanding officer.
“I don’t know what, ma’am. But whatever it was, it totally vaporized the frigate.”
That sounded like a class one quantum beam to the captain. Her own ship only carried banks of class threes. It’s a Q-ship? she wondered, thinking of armed freighters that were equipped to ambush pirates. But surely they hadn’t planned on fighting this many of them at once.
“Picking up incoming fighters, ma’am,” called out the PO who had assumed command of weapons from a secondary console. “And what appear to be a quartet of corvettes behind them.”
What in the hell did we poke our noses into here? thought the captain as the ship shook from another hit.
“The pirates are starting to turn away,” shouted the weapons PO in triumph.
“Kill as many as you can,” growled the captain, pointing a finger at the viewer.
The petty officer nodded and got to work. A quintet of quantum beams struck one of the enemy corvettes, blasting through its shields and converting ten thousand tons of matter to glowing particles. The ship went into a tumble, no longer able to do anything but fight for its life. Two glowing balls zipped from the torpedo tubes and hit one of the frigates, blasting through the side and sending it into a tumble as well. This tumble abbreviated as the small warship converted to plasma, its old-fashioned matter-antimatter reactors overloading.
The freighter killed another pair of pirates, while the rescuing corvettes and fighters took care of the rest. In a moment the fight was over. There were no survivors.
“Engineer. What do we have left?”
“Not much, ma’am. Jump drive is gone. Blink drive is gone. Most of our shields are gone. I can still give you full power to weapons and reactionless drive, but that’s about it.”
“Well, get what you can back to working order. We just got rescued, but I’m not so sure about who they are.” Not that we could handle what they have around us, she thought. That class one quantum weapon could take out the Osaka with one blast in her weakened condition.
“Getting another call, ma’am.”
“From the freighter?”
“No, ma’am. From that light carrier appearing on our sensors.”
What in the hell did we get into here? she thought once again.