I have always had a fascination with supernovas in science fiction. An exploding star, something which the human mind really can’t comprehend, putting out the same amount of energy in a second that most stars release in a lifetime, also beyond comprehension. Inhabited worlds falling prey to a supernova with incinerates the sentient species and civilization of that star, those were the ultimate disaster novels. Then astronomy came along and found that normal stars like our sun don’t go through supernova. They lack the mass to reach into the iron burning process that proceeds the cataclysmic death of a star. That can only happen to the giant stars, blue and red. The only problem there, at least from a literary point of view, is the giant stars don’t live long enough, only into the millions of years, not even enough time for their planets, if any, to cool, much less for life to evolve. Which doesn’t mean that inhabited planets around normal stars are totally in the clear. A supernova going off close enough to the planet can still flood it with killing radiation.
And what if a civilization finds itself in close proximity to one of these monsters? Like, say, six light months, their own star trapped by the gravitational pull of the giant. And another, space faring civilization, such as, let’s say, the New Terran Empire, discovers them, and also discovers that the sentients have an ability which would surely serve the Fleet in the face of the Ca’cadasans. A rescue effort would be attempted, even though the Empire lacked the resources at the moment to conduct a total evacuation. This was the premise that Supernova came out of. I wanted to introduce another species to the Empire, one that would help the war effort. It was to be followed up by another novel titled Bolthole, about the secret imperial base a thousand light years outside the borders of the Empire. But while writing Supernova, another idea presented itself, and Machine War was born, a series about the battle between the organic and cybernetic in the deeps of space, while the Ca’cadasan war continues to rage thousands of light years distant. I am working on Bolthole now, and hope to have it out by April.
Empires at War is not over. The seven books in the series to date have sold over 80,000 copies, and the same production company, Falcon, that put out Books 1 & 2 on audio are now working on Book 3. I needed a break to plan where the series was going, and now have the next three books at the pre-plotting stage, knowing what the plot matter is going to be. The tentative titles are Soldiers, Second Front, and The Dagger Thrust. I will be coming out with Soldiers in time for Liberty Con this year, June, and follow up with the other books, with probable release dates in August and October. Tales of the Empire is also not over, though I have now determined that those tomes will be made up of multiple short stories (ten to twenty thousand words) filling in the background tales of the Empire.
Exodus: Machine War: Book 1: Supernova will be a full novel, over one hundred and ten thousand words, which will hopefully satisfy those fans who found Tales of the Empire: Exploration Command to be too short. And now for the obligatory excerpt:
“Spectrograph is showing iron burning,” called out the Sensor Officer, looking back at the Captain with alarm.
Captain Walther Huang looked up from his chair, his eyes narrowing as he looked at Big Bastard in the viewer. It didn’t look any different than before, but the spectrograph lines along the side told the story. And we’re sitting nine light hours away, which means what we’re looking at now happened nine light hours ago. And the iron burning stage will only run for about twenty hours. Shit.
“Prepare for jump into hyper I,” called out the Captain, and the crew of the Merriwether Lewis came back with their acknowledgements.
“What is going on, Captain Huang?” asked Dr. Avery Phillipson, running over from the station he was using to monitor the star. “I need more time to take readings.”
“You’ve had all the time you’re going to get, Doctor. I’m not about to risk my ship just so you can get some more information, just before the thermal wave hits.”
“You’ll have plenty of time when the graviton wave hits,” said the scientist, putting hands to hips.
“Not according to my Exec,” said Huang, watching as the lights on the status board turned green, indicating that all hatches to the outside were closed, all crew aboard. “She thinks we’re going to be unable to go to and from hyper once that damned star blows.”
“And I think your Exec is an idiot,” growled the Astrophysicist.
“Since I don’t agree with your appraisal of Commander Harrison, I am going to jump my ship now.”
“You have orders from above to cooperate with me,” said the Scientist with a scowl. “And I expect you to follow those orders.”
“With the clause that I am not to put my ship at risk,” said Huang, standing up from his raised chair and looking down at the smaller man. “Those orders were not a suicide pact.” The Captain sat back down and looked straight ahead to his Helmsman. “Jump her into hyper, Ensign.”
“Aye, sir,” said the Helm, pushing the panels on his board. “Jumping to hyper, now.”
The hyperdrive opened the hole in hyper I, and the light cruiser slid into the higher dimension. Huang felt the characteristic nausea from the translation, something he had grown used to, if not immune. Dr. Phillipson bent over, clutching at his stomach as he was wracked with much more severe illness. Then the ship was through and the space around them had turned the red of the alien dimension.
“Set a course for Klassek, fastest turnover at each hyper barrier.”
“Aye, sir.” The ship started to accelerate from near rest at five hundred gravities, on a course for the nearest star.
“I must protest, Captain,” said the pale faced scientist, trying to glare at Huang and failing, then staggering away.
“Protest all you want,” whispered the Captain, staring at the back of the scientist.
An hour later they were jumping to hyper II, an hour after that III.
“Are you happy, Captain?” asked Phillipson in a hacking voice. “We lost hours of readings, when the star would not blow for at least a day.”
“Doctor Phillipson,” said Huang, trying to keep his temper. “I…”
“We’re picking up severe graviton fluctuations,” called out the Sensor Officer. “I think its collapsing.”
“You were saying, Doctor Phillipson.”
“We’re twelve light hours out in normal space from the star,” called out the Navigator.
“Graviton fluctuations increasing,” continued the Sensor Officer. “They’re going off the scale.”
Dr. Phillipson looked over at the holo which showed the computer graphic representation of the star, its surface falling inward, till the star was three quarters of its original diameter, then half, then a quarter, shrinking beyond, then stopping for just an instant. Then came the rebound, as the pressure reached the point where the star could collapse no more, for the moment. And it exploded out.
“Graviton wave moving by in VIII,” said the Sensor Officer. The sensors went wild for a moment, and then the wave passed. Minutes later another wave passed by, this one in VII. About eight minutes later came the wave through VI, then V, all the way down until the III wave, running through the dimension they were in, came roaring up to the light cruiser.
“All crew, brace for impact.” Anyone with a little bit of forethought sought a chair or acceleration couch. Most made it. Those who didn’t were tossed about by the passing wave, battering the ship like a tsunami moving through a shallow sea. And then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was gone. At least the tsunami part. The roiling space around them was a seething froth of gravitons, the messengers that something had gone horribly wrong with a gravitational point source nearby.
“We’re passing the old hyper IV barrier,” reported the Navigator, and Huang nodded.
Those barriers were now moving as the mass of the star was ejected outward. They wouldn’t change much, at first, but would eventually move out to over twice their original circumference. Then they would rebound in as the globe of ejected mass continued to spread and grow less dense, until they conformed to the mass effects of the new five or so solar mass black hole which was even now collapsing to its event horizon.
“Give us fifteen minutes at this velocity, then attempt translation up to IV,” the Captain ordered the Helmsman.
Fifteen minutes later the translation was attempted, with no effect. The hyperdrive generators sent out their masses of gravitons, raising the region just in front of the ship to thousands of gravities for a microsecond. That should have torn open a hole in the fabric of hyper III, giving them an opening into IV. Instead, they were lost among the roiling gravitons that swirled through space, blown away by the gravitational wind that prevailed.
“No luck, sir,” reported the Helmsman, looking back at the Captain with a frown.
“Try moving us back down into hyper II.”
Again the helm activated the hyperdrive generators, again the gravitons were sent out in the focused beam, this time at a lower power level and a different resonance. And again they failed to open space.
“There’s your answer as to what would have happened to us, Dr. Phillipson,” growled the Captain, looking back at the astrophysicist. “We wouldn’t have been able to translate into hyper, just as my Exec hypothesized. And we would be waiting for the thermal wave to come along and smack us with enough energy to kill everyone aboard, if not melt the ship.”
The cowed scientist said nothing, simply looked down at the deck. Huang turned back to the main holo, configured in tactical mode, which showed the system behind them. According to the projection, the thermal wave had already obliterated the two innermost planets, and was just about to hit the orbit of the third one out. Anything that survived the awful influx of photons would soon be wiped away by the massive wave of particles, traveling at point nine seven light speed.