|Posted by David Conyers on March 9, 2014 at 8:40 AM|
Extreme Planets is now out, and available from Amazon. Gardner Dozois says of the book in Locus, "The anthology does contain a lot of solid, entertaining, core SF"
Here is an extract from David Kernot and my contribution to the anthology, "Petrochemical Skies" set on a carbon planet.
David Conyers and David Kernot
Jenna Seno rechecked her astrogation calculations for the fifteenth time. The numbers came out the same and still she didn’t like them. She rolled her shoulders to relieve the tension in her back. It would be a long shift.
Despite her lack of practical experience, Jenna knew the info-courier, Banshee Stalker, could make the next hyperspacial jump but only if she used the gravitation field from the Iyangura class star system properly. From twelve light-years out, slingshotting them thirty-two light-years across the void to Hadrian Secondus was a risky move and a stark contrast to the slow three light-year-per-day pace through ‘safer’ space routes.
“Well, Seno?” Crandon ‘Towers’ Kerman, the Banshee’s captain, cracked his knuckles like he didn't have a care.
Jenna swallowed to free her tight throat. She didn’t know what he wanted her to say.
“Are you ready? Or do I need to baby-step you through your calculations again?”
Like her, Towers was strapped into an acceleration couch on the ship’s bridge, ready for any unexpected forces the jump might generate when they transitioned space-time points. He didn't seem bothered by the risky slingshot trajectory.
He wasn't being fair, but she pushed her inexperience aside. “Captain, if I make a mistake we’ll end up in the heart of the system’s star.”
He sneered. “Would you rather we took the long route, through deep space?”
“Want to lose six days and an expensive amount of energy generating our own slingshots? Our competitors will beat us to our client.”
Jenna closed her eyes. She wanted to scream. She hated that he was having fun with her.
One nagging thought compelled her not to agree with Towers; they could all die. She gathered courage and voiced her concern, “Captain, it _is_ safer to open a wormhole in a near absolute vacuum, deep into the void.”
He laughed. “Even near stars, Seno, there’s a vacuum.”
“I guess… I suppose——”
“Make the jump.”
She couldn’t be sure of her calculations, not yet, she only needed another minute. “What if we collided with any planets in Iyangura 281A?" A collision would be fatal. She wanted to mention the radial velocities if they came out of hyperspace too close to a planet.
“The Stalker’s hyperdrive automatically compensates for that.”
“I said jump!”
Without waiting, Towers punched his authority codes into the bridge’s console, transferred her coordinates to the ship’s semi-AI via his biometrics.
Towers! Damn him! The man was a reckless fool.
Invisible forces pinned Jenna into her acceleration couch.
Anti-matter engines burned a point into the vacuum the size of an atom, until a massive gravitation singularity expanded from space-time and formed a wormhole. The _Banshee Stalker_ slipped into it and shifted: everything moved, like a bug swimming in a jug of water poured into a bigger jug, and then into an even bigger jug…
They fell, and Jenna tensed every muscle, closed her eyes from the vertigo. They accelerated away under high-g maneuvers toward who knew where. A vacuum hopefully but close enough to Iyangura 281A to appease Towers.
The wormhole opened on the opposite mouth and pulled the _Stalker_ through before it collapsed.
The other side greeted with a noise like hail on a roof. Ship sensors highlighted the hull bombardment exceeded ten thousands rock pellets. Their craft decelerated rapidly, and Jenna opened her eyes. On the bridge, virtual skin schematics lit the outside scene. They weren’t in a vacuum but conversely they didn’t fall into the million-degree heart of a sun. Visuals displayed a planet.
Debris shot skyward, a mix of giant boulders and fine dust flung outwards. Smaller rocks peppered them like machinegun fire. The visual displays showed the wormhole opening had pulverized a mountain-sized mass on the surface.
The Stalker spiraled downwards into the kilometer-wide crater, which sparkled like a diamond. Jenna closed her eyes again and contained another scream, hoped their disintegration would be instantaneous and painless.