My science fiction short story

Discussion in 'Free Thoughts' started by Challenger78, Jul 25, 2010.

  1. Challenger78 Valued Senior Member

    Hey guys,
    I don't post regularly anymore, but I thought if I wanted honest feedback, this'd probably be the more likely place to get it than say, facebook..

    So here's my short story entitled "Launch". It's a bit clunky.. But If I'm not gonna be a writer, best find out early eh?
    If the paragraphing here doesn't work for you, try here:

    “Opening Airlock in 10…”
    All around the airlock, men in blueEVA suits started their final checks, looking for leaks, locking helmets into place. The blue glow of their Heads Up Displays lit up the decompression bay. Their bodies moved with the unhurried grace of professionals, who had clearly done this before. Well, most of them did, My own partner seemed to be having problems moving about. I hoped it was just nerves.
    The rest of the blue dots moved towards the rectangular airlock, while a voice counted down.

    “5…4… 3..”

    Outside the window, there were stars, clearer than ever, with no pollution or air to make them shimmer. They stood there, pinpricks of light from millions of miles away. No one glanced out the window as they completed weapons checks. We’d had months to get used to the view. Ahead of me, I could almost pick out Hadley Station, the white, pre-fab buildings catching the raw glare of the sun, bouncing off its golden solar shielding. That station was about to be the first moves in our first Space War.

    Glancing back, I saw my home for the last day, the ISA shuttle; Destiny. Black tiles gleamed with an illogical sheen, as if someone had been mopping and cleaning them, and as I drifted further away from her, I could see the scars of micrometeorites, one of many hazards she had protected us against.

    “Decompression cycle complete, Airlocks open”

    I felt the airlock doors open, the vibrations moving through the metal plating of the deck. One by one, the men, activated their thrusters and hurtled towards the rocks that formed our objective. The deck still vibrating from their departure, I followed suit.

    “Squad Audiolink Online”..

    At first, static filled my helmet, as I activated my own thrusters and headed out into the void. Usually, One would get a dizzying sense of vertigo, as if the ground had fallen away, but months of training had gotten rid of all the queasiness of space flight. The voices of my teammates filled my ears, the tinny chorus somewhat reassuring. One by one they checked in, before the radio was mostly silent. In space, radio transmissions can give away your position as surely as tracer fire. Not a good thought to be having on any mission.

    “Audio simulation online”

    A series of lights lit up my arm panel, indicating that my radar and laser targeting system had come online, already detecting the other astronauts and dozens of micrometeorites. Using thrusters, I brought myself towards the nearest set of rocks, watching, and listening for any sound of enemy fire.

    Normally there is no sound in space, but developments in laser radar and computer-assisted tracking systems had allowed real-time movements of meteorites and bullets to be translated into passable audio simulations. The shrinks back on earth thinks it helps with situational awareness. Thankfully we could still switch it off if we wanted too.

    An observer would see dozens of flashing blue lights, as we all moved off our shuttle in formation. The same observer would have noticed those lights cut out as momentum carried us towards the tinier specks of light in the distance. In space, the difference between life and death could be in the tiny gaps between thruster bursts. Especially if someone was glancing out the window.

    Moving in groups of two, the astro-commandos, moved from asteroid to asteroid, lit up only by the light from the thrusters of the man next to them.
    My partner was a rookie named “Raj”, hindi for King, which is his real last name. He copped a fair bit of shit about it since he came from an upper class family. We both linked up above one of the pre-fab structures that once housed engineering equipment for the arduous task of mining the moon.

    So far so good.

    Hovering there like little specks above the boxy white-washed structures, the teams of astro-commandos swiftly maneuvered for entry. Stacking up against one door at a time, we would attach explosive charges to each airlock entry.

    Raj’s fingers stumbled in attaching the charge. Calmly, giving no hint that he almost actually blown us both away into the depths of space, I guided his hand to the plastic tab marked ADHESIVE. His arm felt stiff, probably because of the suit.

    “Easy there, Attach the bottom adhesive first, then Arm the charge”.
    Faceplates being what they are, I couldn’t tell if he was annoyed or relieved that I intervened. I hoped for the latter. Backing up against the wall,I waited for him to pull the ARM tab, when his head exploded.

    It wasn’t an explosion like you see in those old action flicks from the noughties, but more like the outgassing of a wounded hot-air balloon. The hole is his faceplate let loose globules of blood, like those bubbles in lava-lamps back on earth. Bits of bone and brain matter smeared against my own faceplate. King was clearly dead, but his body would float forever in space. All this happened in the space of a few seconds.

    Without thinking, I grabbed hold of his body to prevent him from floating away, when I noticed the gaping hole where his faceplate used to be. Shit. Looks like there would another one for the micrometeorites.

    Tracers flew over my head, looking like little shooting stars, with a point of light, and a nice vapour trail. Guns in space were completely different from your standard firearm. Basically miniature railgun in design, the bullet was twice as large as a .50 cal round on Earth, almost the size of a man’s hand.

    The SAR-51, or “Potholer”, as it was known by its unlucky victims, accelerates its highly conducive projectile using overlapping electromagnetic fields, to over 2.4 meters per second, about 7 times the speed of sound. Of course, that distinction is lost in space, save for the giant gaping hole it leaves in people.

    As I pressed against the wall, bright glaring flares of light sprung up here and there, men dying as their microfusion tanks exploded.
    I thrusted closer to the wall of the pre-fab, pulled the ARM tab myself and waited. A bright yellow glow started around the edge of the blast charge.

    Unlike the “Frame charges” used back on earth, this did not use det-cord, but a powerful acid, ignited by the incendiary chemical lined along its edges. Had the late Raj set of the incendiary without sticking it to something, we could have been blown off into space. If that weren’t enough, detonations are dangerous in space, sending fragments everywhere at high velocities. While the chances of a “natural” micrometeorite hitting you in space are remote, man made ones are a whole other matter.

    The charge evaporated in a ball of gaseous vapour , taking the door with it. Tracers still flew outside.
    After all that effort, I was in. Damn that was exhausting.
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  3. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    ConducTive, surely.
    And 2.4 KILOmetres per second at a guess.

    More (if reqd) later when I get time for a closer look.
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  5. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Okay, picky-picky time.

    1) if the guy can see a sheen on the exterior tiling then he's either using a "torch" of some sort or the unit is on the sunlit side of whatever they exited. Would stars be visible in that light? (As per lack of stars showing in photos taken on the moon - the ambient light drowned them out).

    2) Micrometeors - it's not a meteorITE until it hits the ground (by definition).

    3) A round twice the size of a 50 cal at 2.4 km/ sec?

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    That's ~100 grammes at 2400 m.s[sup]-1[/sup] = 288 kilojoules, how much recoil is it going to generate? If there's nothing to soak up recoil (i.e. there's no mechanism for gas extraction and ammo feed) that's enough energy to send a 100 kg (guy + space suit) backwards at 75 m.s[sup]-1[/sup]. Or maybe you don't want to go into that much background depth. And the NATO standard for incapacitating a human is "not less than 78J" [1], ~300 kJ is overkill (it's a higher energy than any WWII 37mm anti-tank gun), although suits may be armoured in the story. But don't forget the round isn't going to slow down therefore it's a line-of-sight weapon, and absolutely not the sort of thing anyone would want to fire inside a shuttle, unless they want to go home in a colander.

    4) Moving from asteroid to asteroid? In the Earth's asteroid belt (at least) you can barely see one asteroid from another they're that sparse.

    5) I'm not sure about the workings of the breaching charge. Would acid act quickly enough or be concentrated enough?

    6) Vapour trail from tracer rounds? I think any gas from the tracer compound would disperse too quickly to be of use, but it would add a (very small) increment to the muzzle velocity.

    Of course none of the above detracts from (or actually interferes with) the story (provided you're consistent). I.e. I am capable of reading SF as fiction, but you asked, and that's the sort of thing that goes through my head whatever I'm reading.

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    Otherwise... get on with it! (And maybe add a quote or two from ol' Bill

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    1: i.e. "lethal if it hits a vital part of the anatomy"; Exterior Ballistics with Applications, Klimi, G. P522.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2010
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  7. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Continuation - after kicking myself for missing it in the last post:
    Um, what's the point of turning off your radio if you're going to be emitting radar and laser? On the other hand any system capable of picking up and tracking micrometeors should be more than good enough to track outgoing rounds (thus you don't need tracers), especially if they are fitted with, say, specific-frequency trackers so that each guy knows whose round is whose.
  8. NMSquirrel OCD ADHD THC IMO UR12 Valued Senior Member

    im not taking you to see any star trek movies with me dyw...
  9. scifes In withdrawal. Valued Senior Member

    you got that right!

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    D, i think challenger was looking for literature-based criticism rather than a science-based one, he might've made that clearer since this forum does run by a science name..
  10. Challenger78 Valued Senior Member


    Yeah, I know, but his thing helps anyway.

    Huh. So say it wasn't on the moon, but along the lines of near-earth asteroids? If there was an asteroid belt between earth and the moon, could the moon block out the light from the sun partially enough, but still reflect enough light ?

    If I were a writer, I'd probably keep you as a tech adviser.. So what would you suggest? I need something visceral, enough to send people spining. Lasers? Gauss cannons ? Something that could fire in space.

    I kinda forgot to mention this, I've been using their universe/setting as a starting point:

    Assuming advances in chemical engineering, what do you think ? What could I use instead? Magnesium adhesive ? A bubblewrap-like plastique? My knowledge of chemistry is pretty non-existent, but I was trying to get around the problem of using explosives without an atmosphere.

    That's actually my fault, In grappling with the idea for the story, I wasn't sure if I was going to use chemical mini-projectiles or gauss weapons. So that vapour trail bit was leftover filler from when I ran with the chemical bullets idea. You would have hated my original idea, mini-missiles filled with simple oxygen-fuel mix as bullets, in rocket pods on top of their eva.

    I'll probably edit the sections with this new information and see if I can make it more streamlined. I hope the context, character and his goals came across as reasonably believable.
  11. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    You're not the first to say that.
    My wife used to say "There's a war film on TV tonight: you can either watch it or critique it, but not both".

    Ah, you don't think
    Was encouragement enough?

    It could, but you'd already effectively stated they weren't in shadow - with the bit about the sheen tiles. (Again, if they weren't in shadow then they're using their source of light).

    I'm available*. Er gauss cannons/ rail guns/ coil guns etc still produce recoil. How about linking the weapons to the "jet packs"? Automatically compensate for recoil by thrusting forward as the trigger is pulled... I still think the weapon itself is slight overkill though.

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    Ah, okay. "objection" withdrawn.

    Why do you need to get rid of explosives? They incorporate their own oxidiser as part of their make-up, if that's what you were thinking of.

    Updated Gyrojets? Not so bad (except at short range).

    Yup. I'd read the rest of it. I'd also probably pay for the book after scanning that bit in my local bookstore.

    * Seriously. You want any help/ critique and I'll give it.
  12. NMSquirrel OCD ADHD THC IMO UR12 Valued Senior Member

    5,478 i can see his critisism IS constructive..

    does it have to be chemicaly based?
    gravity assisted weapons? kinda uses the gravity of the target to lock on..
    i have always like the magneticly based weapons in sci fi..or even light based weapons..chemical based weapons in sci-fi is so technologicaly archaic..
  13. Challenger78 Valued Senior Member

    Ok, So in an attempt to address some of those problems.

    So even if the sun is behind them, they can't see the stars right ?
  14. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    What confuses people (i.e. the Moon landing conspiracy nutters) is that if the sun is "up" (or you aren't in direct shadow) then there's light all around. It's the lack of atmospheric scattering that makes space look "black" and people associate a black sky with stars being visible, whereas the sunlight would be too bright for them to show.

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    Zarya from the Space Shuttle, no stars visible

    Same link.

    My apologies if my previous posts came over as harsh, they weren't intended to be, merely as factual as I could make them. One guy I used to regularly proof read/ critique suggested to another writer that he avail himself of my services with the words "Your best bet is to get [Dywyddyr] to do a hatchet-job on anything you write before publishing next time, it'll save a lot of re-writes and disappointed buyers".
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2010
  15. scifes In withdrawal. Valued Senior Member

    you kidding? i've already reserved him for review of my upcoming weapon of planetary destruction, in..uh.. a couple of decades

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  16. Challenger78 Valued Senior Member

    bwahahahah. I actually did like the idea of the gyrojets. Or at least linking the EVA/MMU.

    On that thought though..
    What if I removed the sun from the story and replaced it with tales of darkness ? . I'm worried about removing the atmosphere of the story.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2010

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