An international crew is flying the first commercial space station, nick-named Izzie, to the edge of the inner solar system. Their mission is to position Izzie at an enigmatic discovery: a portal to another star system. Along the way they plan to mine a comet and deliver supplies to the colony on Mars. But things don’t go as planned and the crew must come together as a team to save their mission and their lives.
I’ve posted my draft book cover and the book’s working title on this page. I’d love to know what you think of them. Please comment.
Take a look at the draft prologue here.
The meeting was corporate theater, designed to kick-off the most ambitious space venture since the New Economy had emerged. The Director was itching to announce a contract, signed earlier in the day, for a major mining mission. Happily for the young company, this meant the venture could break even. Success depended on pulling off an early launch, and he had already started the wheels turning to accelerate the schedule.
“Good morning, Director.” A slender man in a crisp, collarless jacket spoke as he pushed a coffee cart into the conference room.
“Why so formal, Jared?” The Director was standing in front of a blank wall at the front of the room, notes for the upcoming meeting in one hand.
“It seems appropriate,” Jared answered. “This is the first briefing for the first crew of our first commercial space station. It’s a big day for the Institute.” He took a small electronic pad from his pocket and aimed it at the projector in the ceiling.
“I assume you’ll want fully holographic videos?”
“Yes, thank you Jared.”
Jared set the projector controls. He checked the aim of the cameras, ensuring one captured the entire front wall and others were aimed where the crew would be seated. The meeting would be streamed live so he couldn’t rely on editing later.
As the crew began filing into the room Jared flipped on the cameras and settled in a chair against the back wall.
The mission pilot swaggered in first, pausing at the coffee cart to look around for the cameras. The newly appointed mission commander came next, stepping around the pilot with a frown before he walked to the front of the room and shook the Director’s hand. The five mission specialists followed. They took seats around the shiny black conference table.
Harry was the last specialist to enter. Avoiding the small talk around him, he gazed at the model of their space craft occupying most of the table. It was a gleaming white tube with photon collectors fanned out around one end.
Their mission was to fly the station to its permanent position in space. As measured by interplanetary distances, it would be centrally located: close to Mars and the main-belt asteroids, and at the opening of the anomalous glitch in space. There, in defiance of knows physics, the Helios star system touched our own solar system.
For four years Harry could leave the sorrows of Earth behind. While his crew mates went about their duties, he would spend his days tending the station’s food garden and running botanical experiments. Robots would be his helpers.
“Welcome!” The Director’s booming voice roused Harry from his thoughts. The Director stood at the front of the room, facing the crew, wearing a hearty smile. “While all thirty-six of our candidates are fully qualified and any of them would have been an excellent choice for this mission, you have been selected by our fan base to fly the company’s first Inner Solar System Commercial Station to its permanent position and deploy our clients’ projects. Congratulations to you all!”
It had been a long year for the pilot and mission specialists. Six teams of candidates, like a sports league, had competed for fans and logged points against each other in everything from celestial mechanics to tee-shirt design. Fans had voted one member of each team onto the crew. The results had just been announced yesterday. After months as competitors, now they were one crew under a mission commander chosen by the Institute.
The Director noted puzzled glances towards the eighth person seated with the crew. They would soon know why a mining engineer had been added.
“As you know from history, our world’s early burst of planetary exploration was interrupted by a global retrenchment. How lucky we are to be alive today! Populations have stabilized, the New Economy is prospering, and the space industry is about to boom.”
Jared tapped his pad and the front wall lit up with the logo for the Institute for Space Commerce International, Incorporated: ISC in large letters floated in front of concentric circles suggesting planetary orbits.
“You will position the station at the edge of the most intriguing discovery of the first space age, a point in the orbit of Mars where our solar system touches the star system of Helios. You may have seen the vid of the discovery, but let’s look at it again.”
The crew put pleasant expressions of interest on their faces, knowing at least one camera would be focused on them.
A glitch in space, where two star systems touched, was no better understood today than when it was first discovered. By now, however, everyone was used to the idea. It no longer inspired the same sense of bewilderment it once had.
Jared had brought up a holograph of the Helios system, first imaged years ago by a clunky satellite.
A striped beige disk sat close to the orange-yellow star. The view swung to the left to show a planet following the satellite in orbit. Only partially illuminated from this angle, it hung like a blue egg in black space.
The view swung farther left and zoomed in on a distant phenomenon. Following the blue planet in its orbit were three tiny points of light rotating around an invisible common center. The now-famous signal played: Thump, thump, thump; pause. Over and over every half hour, Thumper’s signal had never varied as long as the satellite’s telemetry had been relayed to Earth. But something had gone wrong and the relay satellite was lost. Earth had received no data from the Helios system for decades.
“Positioning the ISS commercial station at the edge of the anomaly will allow our clients to explore the many mysteries of Helios. One of our clients may be the first to confirm the extraterrestrial signal originates from intelligent life! We still have slots for a few more experiments available on the ISS.” That last bit was aimed at potential clients.
The crew’s doctor whispered to the lab specialist next to her. “I-S-S. Rather an awkward name, isn’t it?”
“I understand the initials have historical significance,” he whispered back.
“Happily, positioning our station at the anomaly will put us in orbit around the Sun on the doorstep of the Mars colony and at the edge of the main asteroid belt.”
“I have saved the best for last.” The Director paused for effect. “We have added a surprise to your mission.”
The crew awoke behind their polite expressions. Jared brought up another holograph.
“This is Comet Hobbs,” the Director said. “It was spotted about a year ago. By good luck, after perihelion, it will head back out into space on nearly the same trajectory planned for your journey. By advancing the ISS schedule a mere three months, we will be positioned to mine a comet for the first time in history. The client has provided a mining engineer to accompany the project.” The Director beamed his delight at the eighth member of the crew.
Thanks for looking at the draft prolog to my next novel. Please let me know what you think of the prolog and the draft book cover posted above. Thanks. Kate