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This Is Not Hard Sci-Fi

Discussion in 'Creative Archive' started by Cycloneblaze, Apr 6, 2012.

  1. Welcome to "This Is Not Hard Sci-Fi", my first ever story published on any forum ever. Let me explain.
    I am quite a writer, and I enjoy writing short stories. But I;ve never written one for the internet or a forum before. Mainly because I didn't know what to write about. Then someone, somewhere, somewhen, on tvtropes mentioned that one could not easily write an interesting story about an inanimate probe. Clearly, they had no idea what they were talking about. I took this as a personal challenge, and a motivation to write, and this interesting story (hopefully) about an inanimate probe (a space probe, that is) was born.
    It's totally unrealistic in a sci-fi setting, hence the name, and it's rather disjointed since I'm writing it by the seat of my pants (my favourite method). I have only a vague idea where the plot is going, and I have no clue how many chapters it will be - because I'm doing it in a chapter format. There should be a new event for our little probe in every chapter. Think of it as a way for me to pour out my ideas onto paper (so to speak) more than anything, but I still want it to be a story you out there can read and enjoy. Comments are appreciated, and criticism welcomed.
    Now, let's begin; the first chapter is in the next post.

    current number of chapters: 3
     
  2. Chapter One: Diagnostic Procedures

    “The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.” —The Call of Cthulhu, H.P Lovecraft

    Mankind had always strived for new information. Among the scientific community – especially those calling themselves astrologists – probes were a big thing. They were a great tool for finding out about the universe at large, for interacting with things they themselves could not interact with. So it came as no surprise when the old probes that had fallen into disuse were superseded by newer models. One such probe, the “Cyclone 2” model, was now being prepped and readied for imminent launch. (Cyclone 1 was the victim of a freak accident involving a paranoid conspiracy theorist, an RPG launcher and laughably lax security. ...It was a prototype anyway.)

    The announcement came: “T minus five... four... three... two... one. We have lift-off.”
    The control centre had been frantic for a little while – as was often the case when facing into a launch, but now the mood was celebratory. The rocket, carrying the Cyclone 2 probe, had been launched without great mishap, and now they could relax, as all they had to do was monitor it – and wait. So they did, fetching some champagne while they were at it. This was their second, and their successful, attempt, after all.

    In the rocket itself, the probe was waiting too. Not that it had any idea it was waiting, as it had no sense of time passing. Or impatience. It was functioning only at its most basic level, self-generating power for its long journey ahead and waiting to be launched from the rocket. Then, it could begin its mission. Soon enough, the probe was jolted awake, in a sense. It received a burst of power that knocked it online – not hugely elegant, but it did its job. The probe was caused to query where it was, what was going on, and to begin to establish its mainframe and internal programming. Not long after it stopped caring where it was, as it hadn't been launched yet. It began to prepare itself, internally and externally, for this coming event, the most important in its lifetime – not that it made distinction.

    To describe the probe physically, it resembled a steel orb, in two halves that were linked by a core in the centre. The two halves had metal plating of some kind, split into parts, with rivets and seams visible – though they were, in reality, tightly sealed. The front half was not a complete half, with a round hole in the top from which a lifeless lens stared. It looked like it had a bit of room to move, too. The rear half also featured a hole, though larger, through which a thruster of some sort was visible. There were antenna, four of them, ringing the centre end of the two halves, and on each was three grey rings that resembled more traditional solar panels. The halves were a rather dull steel colour, though they still had that “newly-manufactured” shine. The core within was a deep black, so much so it seemed to absorb light. Though, if it did begin to absorb light, it could change to a blinding white that would reflect light, to avoid overheating, via a thin shield. It did this now, purely for diagnostic purposes.
    Lighter, thick lines could be seen running over the core, in an odd pattern. Bright yellow energy would periodically run through these – this was an indicator of its diagnostic state. Yellow meant it was booting up and preparing, green meant it was somehow changing its internal state and wasn't observing or performing its normal functions, blue meant everything was normal and it was functioning properly, orange meant it had a problem of some sort that was hindering its function, and red meant it had a critical problem or was seriously damaged and wouldn't function at all for much longer. Purple meant it was running low on power – not that this was likely to happen, it generated its own power internally, via an advanced fusion reactor dubbed the “Flare” reactor which was extremely efficient and, it had been said, foolproof. That was it really, - not an overly complex design.

    The rocket was now almost at its final position, where it would enter high orbit and release the probe. It readied itself for this, changing direction subtly, as did the probe, which was by now almost fully booted. It was simply waiting to enter space. The rocket suddenly reached that magic height, adjusting its thrusters and power in order to enter orbit, and soon it was racing around the earth. It slowed slightly as it approached the correct point, opening the cone at its top, which contained the probe, and suddenly the probe was launched away from the rocket at a fair speed. The cone closed. The rocket would continue to orbit the earth until it was ready to return to earth where it could be salvaged, but the probe continued to fly away from its home in a straight line. One might have liked to think that it would be sad to go, but it was an inanimate probe, nothing more. It had no intelligence past its – admittedly rather excellent – programming, and it was by no means sentient.

    It now began to become slightly more animate, as it further prepared for its journey. Now that it was out in space, it could really begin. The first thing it did was to activate its “Manipulator” thruster – so named because it could manipulate the forces it generated to propel the probe in any direction at a moment's notice. The thruster itself, inset into the sphere, began to glow blue with some fierce, internal fire, and suddenly a flame, of sorts, issued from the gap. It was somewhat dispersed, not really resembling a true flame, and it resembled a flame even less when two blue glowing rings appeared, encircling the “flame”, one smaller and closer to the tip of it that the other. These turned a powerful orange as the flame really came into being, with a mixture of whites, reds, yellows, and oranges, and began to propel the probe forward at tremendous speed, close to light speed.

    Next, it activated its “Disruptor” particle shield. Using advanced technology, on an atomic scale, it generated and manipulated a shimmering shield of energy which absorbed any energy that it found outside of it (such as kinetic, from a large impact) and used it for one of several things – to reinforce itself; to force the offender away; to loose a huge charge of energy in the form of a bolt that could destroy almost anything and be kilometres long, if enough energy was absorbed; to recharge or add energy to the core, or to power the Manipulator thruster for a short while. It didn't absorb energy within it. It was rather wide, surrounding the tips of the antennae rather than the sphere itself. Speaking of which, the rings on the antennae had become powered, and were now blue, absorbing sunlight, and slowly moving up and down the antenna (and bouncing off each other). The shield didn't usually use energy generated by the Flare reactor, either, preferring to use its own stash. It soon became invisible, to aid visibility for the lens.

    Speaking of which, the last thing it did was to activate its “Optics” lens (very fancy, and trademarked, names were common to its most useful parts.) The previously dead lens began to fill with life, as it slowly lit in a reassuring amber colour. At least it wasn't red. The light was white in the centre, bright amber around it with little lines in a circle surrounding the centre, resembling an iris, and layers of darker gold lay below. It was deep black at the edges. The lens suddenly became very lifelike, and eye-like, as it moved – as if to look – to the edges of its vision, and then began to roll around the outside edge slowly, and comically. It returned to the centre, blinking (by closing the centre, white, light) and calmly began to observe everything around it. It may have looked lifelike, but it really was just following its programming, observing and registering everything around it.

    Now it was ready. The Manipulator drive threw itself into full throttle, and the probe pretty much vanished for places in the Universe, never before observed. Though it didn't know it, and it wouldn't know it even when it saw them, it was about to witness some very strange things...
    ------
    Right, first chapter! Lots of description about the probe, mainly because I was getting an image of it into my mind while writing. I may end up drawing it sometime. Anyway, onto the next one.
     
  3. Chapter Two: Where Are We Now

    The probe kept moving, further and further from the star it knew best, the planet it called home. The planet where it had been designed, constructed and launched from, at any rate. But this didn't matter to the probe. Hours passed, days, turned to weeks, to months, to years, to decades. Slowly but surely, as the world moved on, the little drone was forgotten about. And that was the cue for things to get interesting.

    The probe had been moving across the Universe at light speed for millions of years. It was designed to do so, as it still looked as good as the day it had left the rocket. But it was only now that it was crossing over into the “unobservable” universe. One might think that the probe might have become more interested, but no, it treated this boundary with the same level of interest as all others. It was just another meaningless marker. They stop making a difference, when you've passed pretty much all of them.

    But this boundary did make a difference. The Universe was not as the astrologists of the probe's day had suspected. Their observable Universe was but a small pocket, left alone by the vastness of everything outside of it, and the probe was about to meet the guardians of this sacred boundary, within which life had first tread.

    As soon as it crossed this invisible line, the outside Universe collapsed into being, it being usually hidden to observers within, and a being appeared. The being was vastly tall, many times higher than the probe, and resembled a male human, a homunculus of sorts, crafted from sleek, shimmering metal that seemed almost liquid. It had no head, its body did not continue above its shoulders, instead a small, orange, star, a glowing ball of gas, floated there. This somehow breathed life into the odd being. It raised a hand, and suddenly the probe found itself stricken, cut off from its Manipulator thruster and drifting slowly. The energy running through its core turned a bright orange. The being's gaseous head began to radiate waves of light a short distance from its head, and it spoke. “I am Helios, and I am one of the Sacred Sentinels. What is your business here, leaving the Sacred Realm?” The sentinel's voice was loud and commanding, but the probe took no notice. Even if it could hear and understand the sentinel, the probe would have ignored it, as it was too busy scanning and evaluating Helios and trying to re-establish a connection with its thruster. Of course, it could not – Helios was preventing it.

    Moments later, a second being appeared. This being was identical, it being the other Sacred Sentinel, but in place of a head it had instead a white-yellow, glowing, halo. The halo tumbled over and over and spun round and round, but it seemed to be anchored to a fixed point. It radiated waves of light, signifying that the sentinel was speaking. “Helios? What have you found?”
    Helios turned to look at his fellow (not that you could tell). “Halos, – for this was the other being’s name – it appears to be an observational probe, of some sort. The sapients must have sent it.”
    “Really?” Halos asked, in mild surprise. “They must have come a long way. They have never sent any device through this boundary before.”
    Helios nodded. “Although this probe does not seem capable of faster-than-light travel, or temporal travel. It must have been millions of years getting here.”
    Halos shook his head. “Surely the sapients must have seen this coming. I very much doubt they are still able to monitor it. They may be able to monitor any future probes, they may have advanced that much... but this one, I fear, is lost to them.”
    Helios nodded, again. “A relic from a lost time?”
    “I hope not. However do remember we are forbidden to enter. We cannot find out.” Halos warned the other being.
    “I remember, Halos.” replied Helios without a trace of impatience. “In any case, I suppose we must let the probe continue.”
    “You are right, Helios. Let it go. May it witness many strange and wonderful things.”
    “Indeed.”
    The first sentinel dropped its hand and the light running over the probe's core turned bright blue again. Its thruster reactivated, and it speeded of into the depths of a new, unobserved Multiverse, as the two sentinels watched it leave.
    ------
    Bit of a short chapter here, compared to the previous one... I hope I was entirely clear on how the sentinels look... they are there because Earth, or my version of it because I refuse to refer to it as such in this story, was the first place life ever appeared and so was granted a huge, enclosed area and two guardians by the Multiverse itself (which I may go into later). Other civilisations may have grown faster, or become better - there are a vast number out there - but humans, or the sapients as the Sacred Sentinels call them, were the first. Though really it's life in general, not just the human race.
    And while they know quite a bit about us and our developments, they are forbidden to enter the Sacred Realm, just like everyone else who isn't already in it. By the way, Halos is pronounced like Helios is, with the oh-ssss sound on the end. Long s, like a hiss.
    Anyway, I have an idea for the next chapter, so hopefully it won't be too long coming.
    Your move, Pokécharms. :8B:

    Also, this is my hundredth post here! Woo.
     
  4. Chapter Three: Genius Loci


    And so the drone sped on, out ever further, into the vastness of space. It was a long time before it came across anything more interesting than a nebula. Pretty, but the probe had no interest in such things. Its makers knew what a nebula was. There was a planet at the edge of it, but a quick scan indicated that it was just a dead ball of rock, nothing more. The probe's makers knew what this was, too. But the planet had no interest in being ordinary.

    It rotated around to face the drone, as yes, it had a face. The planet had a titanic maw, a huge gorge carved into the front of it, kilometres long, and two wide, staring pits for eyes. A strange light that belied wisdom and intelligence – and age – spilled from the holes. Now this the probe had no record of. Like the sentinels before it, the planet spoke to the probe, and like the sentinels, the probe ignored it, incapable of hearing. It did record that the planet appeared to be speaking, and to be sapient, though.

    “You! You.. sphere! Ball! Thing! You... let me think.” The planet lapsed off into silence.
    “Ah yes.” it continued. “ Now I see. You are some sort of intelligence-gathering drone, are you not?” The planet peered at the probe. It's face was strangely expressive and alive. It moved a lot.
    “You're a long way from home. Well, well, well...” The planet grinned evilly. “I was getting hungry! You know that this mouth isn't just for talking!” The huge split in the planet opened, surprisingly, and from it spewed molten rock. The rock formed a huge, thick stream that coated the probe, which was forced to activate it's Disruptor shield. Very soon the rock hardened, encasing the probe, and it was then drawn back into the planet's core.

    As the probe entered the planet's hellish centre, the rock soon became molten. It drifted off the probe, which saw that floating in the centre of this planet lay a gigantic molten core of iron. Sheer gravity that not even the Manipulator thruster could deal with took hold and pulled the probe into the centre. But the probe wasn't worried. (It did not have the ability to worry.) It closed its eye, causing the core to light up in green, and it's shield absorbed the vast amounts of heat energy that was all around it. Very soon the centre of the core began to harden, causing the planet to wonder if it had eaten something that disagreed with it. The answer, it became clear, was a resounding yes, as the probe discharged the energy in colossal shockwaves, destroying the solid core, propelling the molten core away at super-high speeds and, eventually, the surface of the planet began to crack, from the cracks spilled light, and the planet's eyes widened.

    “Oh, damn.”

    The planet shattered into pieces with an almighty sound (not that anyone could hear it), tearing the planet's consciousness apart immediately and killing it. The probe zipped around and destroyed the parts of the crust with the remaining energy. Then it noticed something. The time spent in the malicious planet's core had recalibrated it's thruster to cope with huge gravitational wells, and the probe found it could now manipulate and attract the bits of the iron core. The drone didn't quite understand it, but that was not it's concern. So it took a number of pieces of solid iron and formed another shield around itself, and sped off again, away from the site of destruction.
    Very soon, the probe found the bits of iron to be useful. As it passed another, smaller planet, a moon of this planet sped around and unfortunately hit the probe. The iron was dented, and the drone dazed, and sent flying into this planet's atmosphere. The iron melted again as it sped through the thick atmosphere, and the probe pulled all of it below itself to cushion it's impact. This worked, the probe cannoning into the planet's surface, and sinking into the iron undamaged.

    It pulled itself out of the iron before it hardened, and decided that a better course of action than trying to escape this planet's gravity on its own would be to find something to help it do so. So it sped off, heading for the largest collection of life-signs it could find. Because, oh yes, this planet was inhabited.

    Unfortunately.

    ------
    So, stuff happens, it's cool, we get somewhere. I think this chapter is more of a way for me to get us somewhere where stuff will happen, because I'm sure I can think of event to occur on this god-forsaken planet. Now tell me what you think.
     

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