May 22, 2015

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-Scorpius Cell Chapter 5

Here’s our ‘Free Fiction Friday’ offering straight out of our Solar Winds universe. Be sure to start back with chapter 1, or Read the first two tales Scorpius Cell and The Cloaked Promise on our author page.

 

Solar Winds: Scorpius Cell

by

David A. Dickinson

Chapter 5

 

When she arrived at the space port, she found an automated one-way passage to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, awaiting her. Pretty unassuming, she thought, since Titan boasted the largest University at Cronus City. Still, Andrea never dreamed of attending, having never before left Mars Provincial. Who exactly was footing the bill, she wondered? [Read more...]

Review: Universe Between Edited by Dean Wesley Smith

On sale now!

Note: once we’d returned from our travelling expedition last month, we arrived to an expected stack of review books from the past year. Though our current writing obligations demand that we can’t go full tilt back in the world of book reviewing, we thought we’d crank out the current stack we found on our doorstep as part of our summer reading. As a writer of both fiction and non-fiction ourselves, we feel that just about every book deserves a fair shake, especially if someone gave us the privilege and obligation to read and review em!

The fantastic is often were you find it. Adventure awaits in the realm of the very small, the very large, and in time frames too fast or slow to be perceptible to the human eye. We always love the idea that the strange and wonderful is always riding side-by-side with us through life, if we only know where to look for it… [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Watch the Launch of AFSPC-5 Live

The X-37B during encapsulation.

Image credit: Boeing/USAF/ULA

The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B takes to space once again this week with several high profile public missions aboard.

This will be the fourth flight of the automated reusable space plane for the USAF. Also aboard are the Planetary Society’s LightSail test demonstrator, a NASA experiment studying advanced materials and long term exposure to space, and the ULTRASat cubesat dispenser.

Launch is set to occur from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday morning May 20th at 14:45 Universal Time (UT)/10:45 AM EDT. The X-37B will ride into orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket flying in a 501 configuration. The launch window is four hours long. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-Scorpius Cell Part 4

Here’s our weekly  installment of free sci-fi goodness. Our current tale is the first in our ongoing space opera saga set in the Solar Winds universe. Start back with chapter 1, or read Scorpius Cell and other works of science and speculative fiction in their entirety.

Enjoy!

Solar Winds-Scorpius Cell

by David A. Dickinson

Chapter 4

The Professor squeezed his wine out into the cabin and gulped down the inky globules. Laughing, Andrea downed hers in swift swallows, the musky odor rushing to her temples.

“And me without my boots,” she said, kicking up her bare feet.

As the star closed in on them, it grew into a sharp elongated spindle. As they closed the gap between them, portal lights shining, lit from within by an amber glow, became visible. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Blues for a Martian Sunset

Credit: NASA/JPL/Texas A&M Cornell

Ever wonder what an extraterrestrial sunset looks like? It’s a surprising irony that, while the skies of our blue planet host crimson sunsets, the twilight skies of the Red Planet have just the opposite. The cobalt hues of the image above are not an artifact of processing, but how the sky really appeared from the point of view of the now defunct Spirit rover as the Sun set over Gusev crater back in 2005.

[Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds: Scorpius Cell Part 3

Here’s Part 3 of our ongoing space opera set in the Solar Winds universe. Be sure to start back at Part 1, or read the tale and others like it written by yours truly in their entirety.

Enjoy!

Solar Winds: Scorpius Cell

by

David A. Dickinson

Chapter 3

Moving into the bay, Andrea kicked away the pistols as she led the others up to the bridge portal. Grabbing the deck communicator from the door, she spun and let it drift to Karl. “Time for your award-winning performance,” she said. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Tumbling Progress

Liftoff of Progress M27M.

Image credit: Roscosmos

It all started, as most drama in space does, with a routine launch.

Last Wednesday on April 29th, a Soyuz-U rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Progress M-27M. Progress was a routine uncrewed resupply vessel headed, for a fast-track docking to the International Space Station four orbits later. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-Scorpius Cell Part 2

Here’s your weekly dosage of free science fiction with Solar Winds: Scorpius Cell part 2. Be sure to start back at part 1 here. Let’s get right in to the action transpiring out in orbit ’round Uranus:

Solar Winds: Scorpius Cell

Chapter 2

by David A. Dickinson

Karl sprung out into the clear, firing both his and Andrea’s discarded sonic pistol into the fray. Remembering where the three armed guards had last stood, he carefully selected his shots. The compressed sound waves tore through the air, leveling two surprised soldiers.

“The Armory!”  The Professor shouted.  “Don’t let them secure the Armory!” [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Astrophe

Yearning to break the surly bonds…

(photo by author).

It’s a feeling that every lover of space has sometimes.

Exploration of the cosmos is truly a final frontier, a place that often seems to be our logical destiny. But sometimes, there’s a persistent nagging at the back of our primate brains, a feeling that, just maybe, the learning curve is too steep, and maybe space is too hard… perhaps, this still unquiet voice says, the true reason that we never hear from alien civilizations is that this final crucible of leaving the planetary cradle is just too tough. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-Scorpius Cell Part 1

Here it ’tis: our weekly Friday installment featuring the start of a brand new tale. This one is set in our Solar Winds universe, which fans will remember from our The Hunt for Beagle tale. This also begins the saga of Andrea Makati as an adult and the adventures of Scorpius Cell. We’ve been working on this story line for about the past decade now, and it is ready for prime time. the First two installments are  up on our Amazon author page,  and number three is forthcoming soon. We envisioned Solar Winds as a fast-paced serial installment, with a space opera-theme that’s Star Wars or Dune-sized in scale, but with the sensibilities of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Gravity—or the lack thereof—works in the Solar Winds universe, and the laws of physics must be obeyed. And hey, you might just spot a dash of a Legion of Superheroes vibe in the tale as well.

Enjoy!

Solar Winds: Scorpius Cell

By

David Dickinson

 

“Every trumpeted beginning brings with it the muted promise of an end.”

Hanna Jillian Sweeten,

The Violet Integer (2215, Old Earth Time)

 

The pressurized hatch protested then finally hissed open, revealing the three figures to the inner bowels of the ship. Finally, we are actually doing it, Andrea thought to herself.

She cleared the maintenance access hatchway and slid into the forward chamber. Everything looked just as The Shrink’s diagrams said it would.

“Gravity should be taking over,” Karl whispered to them. He slid down out of sight. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Catch a Close Pass of Asteroid 2015 HD1 Tonight!

Credit: The Virtual Telescope Project

Caution: low-flying space rocks!

A funny thing happened on our way back to Florida late last week. On April 18th, as we disconnected from the hotel wifi and the cyber world one last time, we admonished the universe not to send any ‘alien invasions or killer space rocks’ our way until we could get our base camp established in Florida on Monday. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Shadowfall Part Four

Fans of extrasolar eclipses and free science fiction rejoice: here is our final chapter installment of Shadowfall. Newcomers will want to start back on Chapter 1. And here, without further fanfare is the action-packed conclusion:

Shadowfall

by David A. Dickinson

Chapter 4

“I’d stay back, fry-bait,” he called back to her. She was silent and pulled in closer. She felt beyond dead now. She’d let him waste precious breaths taunting her.

“Y’know, some folks just ain’t cut out to be Guardians,” he continued, reaching into his vest. “They ain’t cold-blooded enough to take the heat,” [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Chasing the Dragon- Watch the CRS-6 Launch Live!

The launch of CRS-5 in January 2015. (Credit: NASA/SpaceX).

Watching space launches can be an addicting pastime. We’ve got just such a chance for a ‘fix’ today, when SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lights up the sky over the Florida Space Coast this afternoon with the CRS-6 mission headed to the International Space Station. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Shadowfall Part 3

And here it ’tis… part three of our four part eclipse tale Shadowfall. The idea for this story actually came up in a  late night discussion on just how bizarre eclipses could get in the far future. We had originally envisioned the gruesome competition described in the story as talking place in Earth’s far future, when the rotation of the plant had slowed down to the point that it was possible to actually chase after the shadow of the Moon on foot. We soon came to realize, however, that this would work much more effectively on a fictional exoplanet with a retrograde moon!

Shadowfall

Chapter Three

by

David A. Dickinson

She stopped and lifted Yeara’s limp ragdoll body up on one shoulder and began hopping along with her. “We’re almost there,” she shouted.

“Kendra,” She shrieked back, pointing just ahead. “It’s Merak…” [Read more...]

Astronomy Video Of the Week: An Eclipse Time Lapse

Totality. Image credit: NASA/Griffith Observatory

Miss this past weekend’s total lunar eclipse? Yeah, us too, as we found ourselves in Maine, the only state that missed out on even partial phases of the April 4th total lunar eclipse. But skies were clear Saturday morning across western North America, affording observers fine views of the eclipse. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Shadowfall Part 2

Here it is; the continuation of our eclipse-fueled  science fiction tale Shadowfall. And this is just in time for the end of the first eclipse season for 2015. If you’ve ever wondered what sort of eclipses might occur on far-flung worlds, look no further than this tale. But beyond that, Shadowfall also considers just what humans of the far off era might make of such bizarre spectacles. Read more of our original scifi tales as well, and be sure to start at Part 1 for Shadowfall here.

Enjoy!

Shadowfall

Chapter 2

by

David A. Dickinson

Kendra and the others had all heard tales of the Swarmers and how they had entered the inner core solar systems of the Diaspora generations ago, nearly exterminating mankind. They were replicating machines, mindless drones with just a single directive: replicate themselves at the cost of any emerging civilization that stood in their way. Neither Kendra nor any of the others had seen a Swarmer; no one alive had. But evidence of the destruction that they had wrought was still strewn about the star system. Helium fusion generators turned into weapons had managed to save humanity then, but only the Guardians possessed such technology now. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Watch the April 4th Total Lunar Eclipse Live!

Totality as witnessed during the 2003 total lunar eclipse.

(Photo by author)

Ready for the next big eclipse? The big ticket celestial event for April is coming right up, with the first of two total lunar eclipses for 2015 occurring on the morning of Saturday, April 4th. This eclipse features the shortest lunar totality for the 21st century at just four minutes and 43 seconds in duration, and the eclipse will be visible from around the Pacific region, including most of North America. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Shadowfall Part 1

As eclipse season one of two continues, so does the eclipse-fueled scifi here at Astroguyz.com. This week, we start in with an original four part tale: What kind of bizarre eclipses might occur on distant worlds? Our latest tale Shadowfall gives eclipse chasing a bizarre — and deadly — twist:

 

Shadowfall

Chapter 2

by David A. Dickinson

 

“C’mon kid,” Kendra heard Merak huff under his breath. “You’ve just gotta make it over this salt pan…”

Kendra knew it was a joke, of course, but she still lacked the will to turn around and slap him.

“What do you mean,” she heard Yeara call out from far in front, not even bothering to look back. “Out there, from behind the next barren salt pan?”

“You guys are just wasting energy,” Garath hollered back to all of them. “I’ll pass your drying skeletons next saros ‘round.”

“A lovely sentiment,” Kendra said under her breath to no one in particular.

She’d tried not to notice the appearance of an occasional skull and rib cage that jutted up from the crust of the desert pavement under her feet. Instead she ran faster, keeping her eyes focused on the distant flat horizon, with its flat grey expanse reaching up to meet the metallic blue sky. All around them, brighter stars and planets burned through, though the bloated red sun was high overhead, trying its best to fry their soft bodies to a crisp. Kendra knew that only the ancient backwards moving moon and their own two feet kept this grim fate from becoming a reality.

“Why don’t they just haul the old bodies off?”  Yera asked, half knowing the answer.

“It’s not worth the effort,” Kendra replied. “No one comes here to this old husk of a world any more. Why would they?”

“Just us,” Merak called out. “We’re the only ones crazy enough to tease hell.”

Kendra tried to ignore the burning in her lungs that stretched down to the very soles of her feet. She felt like someone had struck a match inside of her and was now slowly roasting her from the inside out.

She stuffed the sensation as deep inside of herself as she could. These weren’t her friends anymore. Not if she wanted to survive.  She tried not to think of home, or the lush blue waters of Slonath.

“Folks used to live here, y’know,” Merak said, pulling up along side of her. “Heck, they used to spend fortunes back on old Terra just to witness what’s going on over our heads just now.”

“Folks are crazy,” Yera barely huffed under her breath.

Was she faking it or dropping? Kendra thought to herself. She was so strong back on Grimm’s Planet…

“…and besides, those are just stories parents tell their kids when they don’t want ‘em to grow up and become spacer pilots.”

“The umbra is life,” Garath quoted their instructor, “Stay inside it and live.”

Kendra looked above her as the ghostly white glow of the corona shown down on them. Was that a flash? Was she falling behind? Were they even moving in the right direction? She saw rows of shadow bands race past her, a sure sign that she was on the grim edge of the moon’s shadow as it raced across the ancient and desiccated face of Priea.

She squinted to get a better look at the Elites. Herrick would be there, their trainer from back on Grimm’s Planet.

“They… say… if you run fast enough, you can get ahead of it, and take a ten minute break… before it catches up.” Kendra didn’t want to know who said that, and she forced herself to not even entertain the idea of stopping now.

“Don’t listen to him,” Yeara told her. “We’ll be passing his body burnt to a crisp at marker one.”

“I wonder how long you can really manage to live outside the shadow…” the boy continued, slowing pace. “Maybe they’re lyin’ to us…”

Kendra continued to concentrate and focus straight ahead. “There,” she said. “There’s Herrick.”

She could just see his tall wiry form in the muted light, rhythmically slapping out an intimidating pace. Unlike many of the other Elites, he disdained use of polarizing visors or smart wicking fabrics and preferred instead to run mostly unencumbered.

“And he’s not even augmented,” Yeara once whispered to her in training.

“This is his third Shadowfall,” Kendra said, noting the three diagonal hash marks tattooed on his leg. “He does this for fun.”

In the days leading up to their drop off on this scorched world, Kendra had tried to wrap her mind around what that meant. Fun had been the furthest thing from their minds when Kendra and the hundred-odd eligibles of the Diaspora had signed up to complete their first Shadowfall. They were 16 Terran years old, and some of them came from as far away as the outer Comet Cloud just for a chance to compete. Of course, most of the Diaspora tried to ignore the bleak reality that was Shadowfall. Many thought it was at most a diversion, a nod back to the days of human savagery.

“Most of you won’t make it,” Herrick told them in a flat baritone voice on their very first day.  “In the 30 hours it’ll take to reach the Terminator, most of you will simply fall back beyond the umbra and fry. Others of you may succumb to… other hazards. This isn’t your Mom’s garden tea party on Jangor now.”

Kendra had looked around her on that first training day at the glowing faces of hopefuls. Shadowfall was legend on some worlds, and some trained their whole lives for it. On other worlds, participation was expected; a family rite that bordered on the religious. You could tell the type, kids like Garath with a thousand-yard stare that looked old beyond their years.

And then there were the thrill seekers, those who’d grown tired of the predictability of virtual reality and now seemed bent on taunting the real thing.

Kendra was none of these. She could have declined the chance to run Shadowfall, but like most of the kids on Slonath, she’d thrown herself at a chance to escape the life in the slums that she would face otherwise. Completing a Shadowfall was a threshold, a gateway to a life as a Guardian and a way out of crushing servitude. A Guardian’s word was law, and those of the old Legion Order — like Herrick — were rarely trifled with.

“Less than 1 out of 20 of you will survive Shadowfall,” Herrick had continued during their training. “Few can keep pace with the umbra… and fewer still have the will.”

Kendra remembered looking around her that day in training, at the glowing young faces that drank in Herrick’s every single word. She wondered how many of these eager starlets would jump into the sack with Herrick right then and there, if given the chance.

“The shadow of the moon moves just fast enough during eclipse for you worms to keep up with it… that is, if you can manage to keep and sustain a brisk pace.”

“Why the astronomy lesson?” Merak had whispered to Kendra that day.

“Because I’ll be pissing on your dried bones next Shadowfall if you don’t pay attention,” Herrick shouted at them. “This is a testament to your ability to survive. If the Swarmers come back into this system again, we’re the only thing that can stop ‘em.”

To be continued…

Read Shadowfall and other original science fiction tales by David A. Dickinson.