By now, you all know the quality of my writing from the short stories of mine which you have had the pleasure of reading over the past few weeks. It’s now time for you help me out by first of all reading a short edited extract from my latest novella, which by the way is not just another run of the mill scifi tale but also a love story, and then by buying yourselves a copy…
The mission commander took one last look at the beautiful blue planet he and the crew called home as the ship prepared to leave Earth orbit. Now was the time for its crew to enter their stasis units. “If there are any problems at all Céleste, please don’t hesitate to wake me.”
“Understood David,” was the reply that echoed all around him. Not only the ship but its small crew and the mission itself were in the care of the ship’s state of the art artificial intelligence. For the several decades it would take to achieve their goal, she was in complete control whenever the crew were held in stasis. Once she had ensured he and the rest of the human crew were in a safe state of suspended animation, she uploaded the complicated course with its numerous way points into the ship’s computer. Each waypoint must be reached in a specific order for them to ultimately arrive at the mission’s destination – the exoplanet designated Beaumont 61, located at the absolute outer extremity of the Orion Spur, the same spiral arm in which our own solar system is situated, part of the galaxy we know as the Milky Way.
Apkallu’s artificial intelligence was christened Céleste by the youthful team of highly gifted bio-electronic software graduates responsible for her creation. The ship’s Fusion reactor was designed and developed by a team of lateral thinking nuclear engineers from China, Korea, Germany and Japan. Lastly, the crew’s individual stasis units were conceived, designed and constructed in India. On reaching the first waypoint situated at the closest position possible to the Andromeda galaxy still within the spiral arm, Cèleste would wake the crew.
She engaged the Fusion powered propulsion system, gradually building up its output to a nominal thirty percent to achieve maximum sub light speed. Even though in theory it was capable of propelling Apkallu at the speed of light, given that it was still untried technology, whether or not it was safe to do so was considered a risk too far by its designers. They believed it was far better to err on the side of caution, unless Apkallu’s crew found the need to use its theoretical maximum speed to extract themselves and the ship from some as yet unforeseen circumstance.
Apkallu finally arrived at the first waypoint, five years after leaving Earth orbit. How their bodies would react to being in stasis for an extended period of time was yet another unknown. Céleste had constantly monitored each one of them for any sign of medical problems throughout the entire time it took to get here, paying particular attention to David for reasons which will soon become apparent. Before they could go about their duties, Andreas would have to give each one of them a full medical after first checking himself over.
“David, how do you feel?” she asked with a tinge of concern for him in her voice.
“Lethargic,” he groggily replied, trying with some difficulty to shake off the effects of his unnaturally long period of sleep. “God I’m hungry. I need proper food, not substitutes. How is everyone else?” he asked while he unplugged himself from the unit’s intravenous system that had supplied him with nutrients essential to his wellbeing.
“I’ll check for you.”
“Thank you. While you’re at it can you please ask them all to assemble in the observation lounge, once they’ve been given the all clear by Andreas?”
“Of course David, it will be my pleasure.”
While the crew were slowly recovering from the effects of years of physical inactivity, they took in the magical sight of our sister galaxy, Andromeda, floating in the star filled cosmos beyond the lounge’s vista windows. “Ok people,” David began. “While we all recover from our first taste of being in stasis we’ll remain here for a few days. Once we’re back to normal, we have a couple of tasks to perform before we head for the next waypoint. By that I mean we will be placing the first of a series of listening stations and optical observatories here. In the meantime get as much rest as you possibly can. Always providing of course that the good doctor here is not too insistent upon all of us taking part in some kind of punishing fitness regime he has dreamt up that is.” His last comment drew smiles and laughter from everyone with the exception of Andreas who failed to appreciate David’s joke at his expense. “That’s it for now. Lukas what’s on the menu, I don’t know about the rest of you but I need real food, not those damned stasis unit nutrients?”
“If Flávia and Rieko will consent to give me a hand I’ll rustle up something in a half hour or so,” the Belgian replied as his own belly began grumbling. With that David left to head to his private quarters for the first time in the mission.
Even before she spoke, David’s sixth sense told him that Céleste was about to say something. “David, may I have a word please?”
“Of course you can. What is it?” Even though she was nothing more than a disembodied presence to her human crew mates, her creators had given her voice a delightfully seductive French accent, which he found extremely pleasing to the ear.
“I’m curious about something. Can you tell me what is it that attracts a man to a woman?”
David was completely caught off guard by her question. “Well, I can only speak for myself. For me it’s a mixture of her intelligence, personality, attitude and looks, combined with how relaxed she feels in my presence. Take Flávia for example. Her mix of Amazonian Indian and Portuguese ancestry has manifested itself in a typical example of South American womanhood. Unfortunately, she appears to exhibit all the signs of becoming a total pain in the backside at some point in the future given her petulant manner and the arrogant way she reacts towards other women like Rieko. I put that down to the fact that she is the only child of very rich parents, and therefore was, and probably still is, spoilt. It strikes me that she is the kind of shallow creature who uses her looks to get her own way. It would not surprise me in the least if her parents had secured her degrees in return for a large donation to the university she attended. We’ll see if she actually did earn them when we arrive at Beaumont 61 when she is called upon to do what she was hired for. Until then I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that score.
Rieko on the other hand couldn’t be more different. While she is also extremely pleasing to the male eye, she gives the impression of having been brought up in the traditional Japanese manner. Which means that like all of her countrywomen, she was taught from birth how to entrance anyone she meets by the way she exudes femininity, gentleness, intelligence, grace and charm, while rarely speaking unless spoken to. I hope that helps to answer your question?”
“Yes – thank you. May I ask you other questions when they occur to me?”
“Of course; is there anything else you want to know at the moment?”
“Yes there was one other thing, forgive me for asking but who is that in the image on your bedside table?”
David picked up the framed photograph with a faraway look in his eyes. “I never knew her name. But that didn’t stop me falling in love with her in my teens when I first came across her photograph on the Internet. It’s the only personal possession I brought with me. Quite honestly Céleste, I couldn’t bear to be parted with it. I really wish I could have met her…”
“I’m sorry for prying. I thought she might be your fiancée.”
“Sadly no, as far as I can make out she lived at some time during the twenty-first century,” he replied, with a sad expression on his unshaven face and the merest hint of a tear beginning to well up in his eyes, which affected Céleste to the point where she dearly wished that she had a physical presence so that she could comfort him. “Is there anything else you wish to ask me?”
“Not at the moment David. Thank you.”
“Then it’s time to take a familiarisation tour of Apkallu. Would you care to join me?”
“You forget, wherever you are in the ship I’m always by your side David,” she quietly reminded him.
“How do you feel David?”
“My god Céleste, is that really you?”
“Yes of course it’s me silly,” she replied with a sweet smile on her beautiful face.
“But how is this possible?” he asked, utterly delighted, yet totally baffled. Before him stood the woman whose photo he had fallen head over heels in love with all those years ago.
“While you and the crew were in stasis, and when I was not attending to various maintenance issues and altering Apkallu’s course to avoid colliding with numerous sizeable examples of cosmic debris, I decided to research the woman in the image on your bedside table who completely stole your heart. It took me several years of searching the Internet before I eventually found out that her name was Gabriela Cabral, as well as everything I could find concerning her tragic life story.
Like Flávia she was born in Brazil, but at the end of the twentieth century. Because of what she was, combined with her personal circumstances, at twenty-two she had to flee her homeland. She got as far as London where she constantly lived in fear for her life due to the number of other Brazilians living there. Inevitably she was recognised and betrayed by someone who came from the same favela as her in the hills surrounding Rio de Janeiro. Then in twenty twenty-five, she tragically died at the hands of the man who had made her life a living hell. Back in the favela he often beat and raped her before dragging her out to work the back streets of Rio as a prostitute to support his drug habit. At his trial, when he was asked by the prosecution why he had murdered her in cold blood, he told the court that as far as he was concerned she signed her own death warrant when she escaped from his clutches in the dead of night. At the conclusion of the trial the jury didn’t need to deliberate the evidence David. Instead they immediately returned a unanimous guilty verdict, asking the judge to impose the death penalty.
Once I had found out all there was to know about her, by using several more photographs that I came across during my search I was finally able to reproduce her form. I hope my new body pleases you.”
“I don’t know what to say except thank you for bringing the woman of my dreams to life,” David replied with a huge grin on his face “It’s completely tragic that such a beautiful human being as her was forced into prostitution, beaten and raped, and then murdered for taking her chance to escape her former life. By the way, what did you mean when you said what she was?”
Céleste said nothing. Instead she briefly turned her back, giving him the chance to see her from behind while she began to slowly unzip the crème body suit she was wearing, who’s extremely thin fabric literally clung to every curve and intimate detail of her body like a second skin, leaving very little to the imagination. When she turned round to face him, his suspicions were proven correct. She was wearing nothing beneath it. She proceeded to slowly unzip the suit even further, allowing his eyes to take in her magnificent cleavage and her stomach. When the zip finally reached its fullest extent, what she ultimately revealed was something he was definitely not expecting…
Well people, if the above heavily edited extract from my scifi novella caught your interest, and you want to know what happens next, not only between Céleste and David, but also the rest of the crew of Apkallu, don’t put it off. Buy a copy at:
PS – don’t forget, if after buying and reading your copy, you enjoyed reading it, tell your friends and please review it on whichever Amazon site you bought it from.
Conversely – if you didn’t, then don’t. There are far to many negative reviews out there as it is. Not just for my books but everyone else’s…