Read Beyond the Event Horizon Online

Authors: Albert Sartison

Tags: #aliens, #first contact, #alien invasion, #solar system, #extraterrestrial contact, #terraforming, #colonization of space

Beyond the Event Horizon

BOOK: Beyond the Event Horizon
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BEYOND THE
EVENT HORIZON

episode one

 

by

Albert
Sartison

Published by
Albert Sartison at Smashwords

Copyright 2015
Albert Sartison

1.00

 

 

Smashwords
Edition, License Notes

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Contents

Prologue

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

The events of this book
continue the story begun in
“THE CONTACT”
and follow on immediately from the end of
the previous book.
“BEYOND THE EVENT HORIZON”
can be read as a stand-alone story,
although certain nuances of the plot will not be understood if you
do not know the preceding events.

 

For more
information visit me at Goodreads

Albert Sartison
(Goodreads)

 

Nature creates
ability; luck provides it with opportunity.

François de La
Rochefoucauld

 

 

Prologue

In 2177, close
to the Solar System, scientists discover a source of disturbance to
the space-time continuum: radiating gravity waves that did not
appear to have the signature of those caused by natural
processes.

On the basis
of the approximate distance to the source and the intensity of the
waves generated, its mass ought to be compatible with the size of a
binary star and exert a strong influence on the movement of the
planets in the Solar System. However, such a system of heavenly
bodies is not known to exist.

Attempts to
detect the mysterious object with the aid of Earth-based
observatories and orbital telescopes are unsuccessful, but
astronomers succeed in determining the location of the anomaly. Its
distance from the Sun is estimated to be six light hours, which is
within the range of high-speed spacecraft. A research expedition is
being equipped to go to its location...

1

By the evening
of the day of departure, the weather was already beginning to
deteriorate. When Steve left the house and got into a taxi, the sky
was shrouded in a light mist, changing its colour from dark blue to
milky. When he reached the spaceport an hour later, bundled his
things together and walked towards the terminal entrance, there
were sparse rain clouds overhead.

All those
taking part in the expedition were sitting in their seats in a
small private conference hall. As he entered, Steve saw dozens of
faces turn towards the sound of the door opening. Since working on
the ‘Dawn’ project, he had got more used to such situations and had
become more relaxed about facing people he didn’t know. Dozens of
pairs of unfamiliar eyes directed towards him no longer brought on
wobbly knees and a dry mouth as they had done before.

Also, he had
now taken his finals. As soon as Shelby had finished checking and
marking his work, Steve would no longer be a student, but a
fully-fledged adult. An astrophysics specialist. Since the
assessment was no more than a formality, it was time to conduct
himself accordingly and not look up to his more senior colleagues
from below, but consider them his equals.

Steve nodded
to them in greeting and looked round for an empty seat. He started
by looking along the back rows, but after thinking about it for a
second, looked further forward, closer to the podium. The closer to
the speaker, the easier it was to take in what was said. Steve knew
this from his experience of lectures at university.

Under the gaze
of those present, he stepped forward and sat in the front row. It
was better that way. He looked to either side. On his right was a
gloomy-looking elderly man working away on his tablet. When Steve
had approached the seat next to him, he hadn’t even given him a
glance, but just took his coat off the seat irritably. To his left,
a little further away, was a group of people, clearly scientists,
who obviously already knew each other. They were quietly discussing
something. Clive was sitting a little further along the same row.
They looked at each other, and Steve acknowledged him with a brief
nod.

A voice
suddenly rang out from the stage. “Greetings, team!”

Everyone
stopped talking and turned their heads to the front. Once satisfied
that he had the attention of his audience, the speaker
continued.

“Permit me to
introduce myself. My name is Kimble, and I have the honour of being
the captain of our expedition ship.”

Compared to
the others, Steve, as a former participant in the ‘Dawn’ project,
knew more about the expedition, so he already knew the captain’s
name. But this was the first time he had seen him in the flesh. The
captain’s appearance radiated the confidence typical of all ships’
captains.

“Our route
takes us beyond the limits of assimilated space,” continued Kimble
in a confident voice. “This makes our expedition the first of its
kind, taking us far beyond the orbits of the planets.”

The captain
switched on the screen behind him to show images of the Solar
System.

“If you look
from the Earth’s viewpoint, our target is roughly in the direction
of Mars, but at an angle to the plane of the ecliptic. This will
mean that after only a few days of travel, we shall be far away
from our entire space transport infrastructure, and should
unforeseen circumstances arise, we will have no-one to rely on but
ourselves.

“I am not
saying this to arouse fear. But each member of the team must
realise that the expedition has to be taken seriously; we can’t
expect help from anyone. And now please proceed to the exit. We
will be taking off immediately, and the shuttle is already waiting
for us. I’ll tell you the rest of the details on board the
ship.”

Steve, who had
just made himself comfortable in expectation of a long and detailed
explanation, looked surprised as he had to stand up and make his
way to the exit with the others. That was probably the shortest
briefing he had ever attended. It was clear that the captain was no
lover of long speeches.

On his way
out, Steve slowed down. When Clive caught up with him, he again
nodded in greeting.

“Well, how did
you find the briefing?”

Clive looked
discontented.

“I don’t
understand why we had to assemble in the hall. We all know where
we’re going anyway.”

“Perhaps just
so that everyone knows who their captain is.”

“It’s all the
same to me,” said Clive in a loud voice, not in the least concerned
that the captain himself might hear him.

Steve just
smiled. Clive was being his usual self. Previously, Clive’s awkward
socialising skills used to irritate him, but he found them rather
amusing now. Perhaps Steve was beginning to grow up...

Outside, the
weather had finally broken. The spaceport field greeted them with
pouring rain, lightning and deafening thunder. A strong wind blew
cold spray into their faces, and although the bus was waiting for
them under a small shelter, giving some protection to the face, it
meant their feet got wet through almost instantly.

The bus closed
its doors with a hissing noise and set off immediately. The sound
of its powerful electric motor was barely audible against the noise
of the rain beating down on the roof. With every gust of wind,
water lashed against the windows as if someone was amusing himself
by spraying the bus with a hose, its valve fully open.

It was clearly
not flying weather, and Steve looked around him in alarm. The dense
rain prevented him seeing very far, but as far as he could make
out, there was no other movement in the spaceport. The bus, rocked
by the strong wind, passed long rows of parked tankers, their
lights off.

Fifteen or
twenty minutes later, the bus left the field in front of the
terminal and was now passing between launch pads. They were weakly
illuminated, and it seemed that most flights had been cancelled.
Those ships that had not managed to land before the onset of the
bad weather were awaiting the end of the storm in orbit. Nor were
any launches taking place.

The wind was
so strong that even the space elevator was not running. As they
passed, its cables stretching up into the sky were barely visible
in the glare of the floodlights. They were rocking considerably,
despite being thick and under strong tension.

Steve got up
from his seat to talk to the captain. The bus was going at quite a
speed, so it wasn’t easy to keep his balance. He staggered up to
the front where Kimble was sitting, busy with his tablet.

“Sir, why are
we in such a hurry? I thought lift-off was scheduled for five in
the morning,” said Steve, raising his voice to make himself heard
over the sound of the wind and rain outside. Gusts of cold air were
blowing into the bus through a slightly-open hatch in the ceiling.
The larger drops were trapped by filters, but fine spray still
found its way in. Jets of wet air were beating right into the
captain’s face, but he seemed to be enjoying it.

“The plans
have changed. I’ll explain everything on board the ship,” he
answered curtly, making it known by his manner that he had no
desire to discuss the subject with every member of the team
individually.

Steve said
nothing, but looked out through the windscreen. Nothing could be
seen apart from the cat’s eyes in the asphalt.

“But won’t it
be difficult to take off in this weather?” he asked.

“I’ve taken
off in worse weather than this. It will rock a bit at first, but
nothing to worry about,” said Kimble to allay his fears.

“Taken off? I
thought you were the captain of a large cargo ship,” said Steve,
rather surprised.

Large cargo
ships, as a rule, transported ore from the asteroids and were so
big that they never landed on the surface of a planet. They
unloaded in orbit.

“Even I was
young once, Steve,” said the captain, smiling.

“Forgive me,
sir, but non-flying weather has always been non-flying
weather.”

“So it has,
but no-one ever told us about it in the SSS,” replied Kimble as if
to himself, looking at the screen of his tablet. Glancing back at
Steve, he said, “Everything will be OK.”

The trip had
already lasted at least half an hour and they had still not reached
their launch pad. Steve had not realised that the spaceport was so
huge. The glare of powerful floodlights was soon visible in the
distance. It seemed they had finally reached the shuttle that was
to deliver the team to their ship awaiting them in low orbit.

The bus slowed
down gradually, and the light became brighter and brighter then
suddenly disappeared, leaving a few floodlights illuminating a
launch pad with a squat shuttle mounted on it.

Steve
discovered to his surprise that what awaited them was not a civil
ship but a military one. Quite small, squat, streamlined,
predator-like – it had already opened the entrance under its belly,
from which a red light was emanating. The powerful engine nozzles
suspended above it looked significantly larger than those of
civilian ships of the same size.

The bus drove
as close to the shuttle as it could, then finally stopped. Steve
was sitting next to the door, so was the first to leave the
passenger cabin and come under direct bombardment from the cold
rain. The water didn’t just fall from above, it beat into his face
from all sides, even from below, bouncing up under his untucked
shirt and running in a cold stream down his stomach.

Steve ran for
the shuttle as fast as he could. You might think that the faster
you run, the less wet you get, but in such rain, it makes no
difference. His clothes were soaked through the second he left the
bus.

The interior
of the shuttle was quite spartan. Everything was functional, with
no concern for either convenience or comfort. Steve hadn’t expected
anything else. The wide entrance led into something like a cargo
hold, which, unlike civilian shuttles, had two rows of seats for
spaceborne troops, their backs to the walls. Further on there were
illuminated racks for weapons, which now stood empty. Further on
still, the compartment narrowed, ending in a door to the cockpit.
Unlike the space for passengers, the cockpit had narrow windows,
their lower edges roughly at shoulder level. All the lighting above
was red, but looking down, there were a vast number of lights of
every possible colour. The two pilots were already strapped into
their seats, chatting to each other.

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