COVID-19 Log: WIP for April 23, 2020



Editing an over 28,000 word novella takes a long time. I’m actually okay with that, since I’m not (paid) working today, and we don’t have the grandchildren. My wife is going nuts since she’s far more social than I am, and she’s spent long periods of time talking by phone to our daughter and my Mom.

I thought I’d share portions of my current work in progress (WIP), which involves space travel, time travel, espionage, aliens, and real technology. I’m especially proud of the research I did on mid-1960s American spy satellites.

Here’s a sample of what I’ve been working on. Let me know what you think (and remember, this is not the polished form):

“That son of a bitch,” Smirnoff spat out as ear-splitting klaxons and flashing alarm lights on the bay’s walls announced the opening of the primary launch doors over fifty feet above their heads. “What’s he doing? Romanovich knows the first trial flight isn’t scheduled for six weeks, and Cosmonaut Dobrovolsky won’t arrive here until next Tuesday.”

Utkins could smell stale cigars and vodka on his breath. “Well, Lieutenant! Stop that ship. Don’t let it get off the ground!”

She screamed at her troops and they all rushed forward. Smirnoff ranted at nearby technicians to override the launch bay doors as they were vainly pounding keys and gibbering something about the security lockouts being disabled.

The ramp had been fully retracted by the time the Lieutenant’s complement reached the ship. She ordered them to fire their rifles, sparks flaring off the impervious skin.

To the left, from around the edge of the craft, the two men Smirnoff had ordered to check Romanovich’s quarters were accompanying a very recognizable, diminutive figure, spindly legs extending out of oversized boxers. “Fuck you, Volkov,” Smirnoff murmured with satisfaction. “I see Romanovich pulled one over you.” Then he watched as a blast of force exploded outward from the slowly rising spaceship, vaporizing the irritating Lieutenant and seven other “heroes” of the state.

Volkov and his two escorts were blown off their feet at the same time as Smirnoff and seventeen others at this end of the bay. His back registered the bland coldness of the concrete beneath him, as he witnessed the large, golden globe track upward, climbing above the Siberian wastes. Its loss heralded an unpleasant death for Volkov and everyone under his command. But if it meant the world would no longer have Sergei Volkov in it, Smirnoff didn’t mind paying the same price.

As the spacecraft soared past the two mile mark upward, Vasnev frantically punched in the remaining calculations that could chart their journey through timespace. The craft’s inertialess drive made it seem as if they weren’t moving at all.

Leon cradled himself in his arms, looking in no particular direction, still feeling buried alive, even at the edge of space.

Lynn concentrated on the enigmatic engineering readouts on the alien display, fruitlessly trying to avoid replaying the last moments of her Daddy’s life as she had experienced it during her initial trip through the effect.

Clark’s thoughts were following a similar trajectory, but in this case, he was determined to use those memories of the past to make a better future.

Thankful that his quirky involvement in Falkon’s project hadn’t actually lead to deadly Saurian encounters at every turn, now once again in flight, in spite of having beaten the odds up until now, Travis expected to die very shortly.

Aiyana found she had actually enjoyed her brief role as the proverbial Mata Hari, but that seemed like a distant fantasy compared to what she anticipated over the next few minutes.

Carson thanked whatever fate was responsible for having been given a second chance to make things right, and considered himself the only one on board who truly understood the stakes they were all playing.

Having completed the navigational inputs provided by Everett, he allowed the automatic guidance system to control the vessel, giving in to the grisly temptation to envision his own dead body or bodies. Who was he anymore? He had memories of several parallel lives. All of them were called Vasnev Gottorop Romanovich, but it wasn’t a simple matter of each one being from a different point in a singular history. One of the bodies was behind him now, semi-frozen at the bottom of a rusty drainage pipe in northern Siberia 1965, but where and when were the rest of them?

“Vasnev, I’ve been reading some sort of power output on this lower panel since before takeoff and I still can’t figure out what it means.” Lynn tapped the small display screen located below the edge of the main engineering panel at her left knee.

“Let me…seems to be some sort of backup transmitter. I think…yes, if I understand these logs, it has been in continual operation for months, maybe longer.”

“What is it, Vasnev?”

“Something that marks this quantum reality from the one I remember, Dr. Everett. There’s a communications device in operation here that was non-functional in the ship I recall flying.”

“Transmitting for that long? To whom?”

“Perhaps to them.” He redirected his attention at the main navigation visuals. “I’m reading several other…maybe twelve…fifteen…twenty alien spacecraft matching our own configuration…one of them is much larger.”

“Where the fuck did they come from?” Leon felt trapped, like when he was on board the submarine Nereid.

“On an intercept course?”

“Only two, Doctor. The others seem to be headed to our launch point.”

“How long before the temporal jump?”

“Six seconds. Four. Lead ship closing to within 3,000 kilometers…”

On Friday, March 12, 1965 at 11:42 hours Zulu, the United States Air Force KH7-Gambit reconnaissance satellite was passing approximately 150 kilometers over northern Siberia. It’s stellar camera, taking images of the star field to indicate position and time, captured several objects descending from the northeast. They passed below the camera’s field of view in less than four seconds, but the satellite’s primary strip camera, then aimed at the suspected site of a Soviet experimental weapons development facility, reacquired them.

Seven days later, after the capsule containing the undeveloped film was jettisoned for parachute recovery over the Atlantic by a C-130, it was rushed to Eastman Kodak’s Hawkeye facility in Rochester, New York for processing. Less than six hours later, the developed results were sent to U.S. Air Force imagery research analysts in Washington, DC. While most of the imagery from the KH7 satellites was declassified in 2002, details of the satellite program remained classified until 2011. Only information for KH7-16, mission number 4016 failed to be released. The Pentagon’s official response was that the data had been corrupted in flight and was permanently lost.

However, starting in the late 1990s, conspiracy theory websites and discussion forums began spreading the rumor that a covert Soviet weapons manufacturing program in northern Siberia had been attacked and destroyed by spacecraft from beyond the solar system. Those unsubstantiated reports continue to be presented in fringe online venues into the present day, at least in some quantum realities.

“I believe your culture has a joke, and please forgive us, but humor is a difficult concept.”

Theodore Falkon hadn’t slept in something like 36 hours, although without a watch, phone, or other method of telling time (and the very concept seemed hysterically funny at the moment), he couldn’t be sure.

“You want to tell me a joke?” He had just watched the alien spacecraft commandeered by Carson Everett, Vasnev Romanovich, and their companions vanish into a chronometric vortex, narrowly evading two other nearly identical ships. After that, the image in the middle of his cell evaporated into mist, leaving the industrialist feeling queasy.

Every week or so, fresh clothing was provided, and something like a shower alcove had been added to his quarters one night when he’d finally been able to sleep. He didn’t feel quite like a flood victim or interned refugee anymore, so much as a political prisoner, playing a game of psychological cat and mouse with his as yet unseen tormentors.

“Here it is.” Something like the cross between a chortle and a low growl reverberated around him. “I have some good news and some good news.”

“That’s supposed to be, I have some good news and some bad news. You then give the subject of your commentary the choice of which one they want to hear first.”

“I told you humor is difficult for us.”

“So, what’s the good news?”

“The good news is that, although the odds were heavily against them, Dr. Everett’s party has accomplished the theft of one of the spacecraft and will intersect with the Ka’ala effect at a point to where they can accomplish their goal of sealing the temporal apertures.”

“Isn’t that bad news for you?”

“You haven’t asked what the good news is yet.”

“Okay, what’s the other good news?”

“After they’ve finished their task, it still won’t matter.”

“What do you mean by that?”

The inhuman laugh repeated itself, but this time, it didn’t stop.

A spherical object exactly 42 feet in diameter, descended through broken cloud cover approaching the surface of the South Pacific and supersonic speeds. It’s skin glowed white with friction as it decelerated toward a small island chain located 2980 nautical miles due east of Auckland, New Zealand. The flight crew and a number of the passengers aboard Air New Zealand flight 1009 on route to Santiago, reported seeing a fast moving streak of light approximately 50 miles north of their position, but it disappeared too quickly for positive identification. ATC Auckland, Santiago, and Buenos Aires were all unable to corroborate the event via radar.

Less than 30 seconds later, a second object followed the same trajectory as the first, but by then, it was too late.

Vasnev, what the fuck? I thought you said this was inertialess. I feel like we’re going through a blender.”

“I have no control. The guidance system has a mind of its own.”

“We’re being shot at,” she screamed. “One of the other ships followed us.” Lynn tried to find something to hold onto as she sloshed around in her tub of Jello.

They couldn’t hear the sound of an energy discharge or explosions, but every time there was flash on the nav screens in front of Vasnev and Lynn, the ship suddenly swerved in a radically different direction. Only their protective, goo-filled cradles protected them from being mashed into a similar consistency.

“Are we…still headed toward the…effect?” Carson couldn’t raise his head high enough to see the status board.

“The island yes, but…” The vessel suddenly dropped straight down and instant later, skirted the ocean, ten feet above the waves before climbing into the afternoon sunshine. “I see…the complex…control building…”

“The effect!” Lynn found the central valley as their craft momentarily stabilized its course, then saw the crowded administration platform and looked east.

“It’s not there!” The ship danced left as if avoiding a grasping fist. Vasnev watched an amber blur shoot past their starboard side, missing them by just 200 meters. He managed to see it bank right and climb. “It’s trying for another pass.”

“But what happened to the effect?”

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