Turn to the Stars

This is the sequel to “Run from the Stars” and it concludes this series.

I was up at 4am this morning giving the text a last check. It’s now sitting in Amazon’s servers waiting for me to finish all the other jobs that need doing before it can be released. I have both electronic (Kindle) and print versions ready to go. Kobo and Nook will follow almost immediately.

Progress

This is where we are now.

Run from the Stars (book one of two) is available in electronic editions on Amazon, Kindle and Nook.

The proof of the print edition of Run from the Stars is on its way to me, probably sitting in a mailbag at Heathrow by now. If it arrives in time I plan to release the print edition on Thursday 21st May. Incidentally (subject to the usual confusion about dates) this is Jane’s birthday.

The proofs of the electronic edition of Turn to the Stars (book two of two, which concludes this story) are on my Kindle now, and I’ll be checking them over the weekend.

The artist has just sent me the first rough of the TttS cover and it’s totally gorgeous.

There’s no publication date yet for TttS but I’m trying to get it out this month, technical problems and the day job willing.

 

The Prologue

This was the prologue which I wrote for the original version of Run From The Stars, but then dropped from the electronic edition.

Prologue
The Secret Places

Department of History,
University of Astropolis,
Homeworld.
9th Jan. 3001.

This is the story of a work that almost refused to be written.
When, fifteen years ago, I made the final years of the Arcturian Confederation my chosen field of study, I hoped to write a definitive history of this fascinating period. I was encouraged by the wealth of information available in both the Space Fleet Headquarters and University of Astropolis databases.
However, as time passed, I became increasingly aware that the story revolved around one young woman, whose intelligence, courage and sheer determination changed the course of events in a way that, even now, is hard to comprehend.
To understand the autumn years of the Confederation, I had to understand Jane Gould. But, at a remove of one and a half centuries, she was making things difficult for me, just as she had infuriated her contemporaries in the early twenty-ninth century.
The official logs of the spaceships are still in the Space Fleet database at Astropolis, as are some of the personal records of the officers involved. The motivations of William Keefe, Douglas Spence, Ian Sinclair, Heloise McAlister and many others are easily understood from their journals. But for Jane Gould there was no journal, and without it I began to wonder if there was any real hope of completing this project.
Too many crucial events were completely undocumented. Much of what Jane Gould did, she did on her own, without her equipment, and out of range of sensors. My sense of frustration was compounded by the certain knowledge that her journals had once existed. In them she had not only recorded the missing periods, but added her personal comments. In fact she had gone beyond that: In the long, lonely hours when she had cruised between stars in her eighty-footer, she had breathed her hopes, and confessed her fears to the recorders. A few, maddeningly incomplete, fragments remained as appendices to her colleagues’ records. But the journals themselves she had removed from the database.
She said that she had done it because she had told too much. She said that the recordings still existed, but she had put them in her “secret places,” and that they would be returned to the main system when she had the time to edit out everything that was hurtful. But she never had a chance to begin that review of the material, let alone finish it. I believed, as did most historians, that the journals were lost beyond recall.
There matters remained for many years, and probably would have remained for ever, had it not been for a chance remark spoken by a biochemist of my acquaintance over dinner.
“I was on Mercia last week,” he said, “taking soil samples. Do you realise the Gould family are still farming at Hallsfield? You know, where your Jane was born.”
It had never occurred to me that there was still a Gould family. I had committed the classical error that has dogged Arcturian scholarship, and which I had sworn to avoid. I had refused to believe that anyone outside the nine worlds of the Arcturi had better data. Jane Gould left no descendents – but I had forgotten Thomas Gould, her brother. Sixteen hours later I was on a liner bound for Mercia.
Driving up to Hallsfield Farm was a deeply moving experience, seeing for the first time the roads that Jane Gould herself had used a century and a half before. I presented myself, and was ushered into a warm, dimly lit parlour. I was introduced to Karin Gould, sixty years old, but quick witted and bright eyed. She explained that she was Thomas Gould’s great-great-granddaughter, and quickly understood what I was doing. She sent a teenage brunette with brilliant blue eyes to get what she called, “Auntie Jane’s Box,” and poured black coffee for both of us while we waited.
When the girl came back she was carrying a green container the size of a small suitcase, and I felt a sudden thrill. It was a Confederate Space Fleet emergency medical case, and the date code was late in 2829. Jane Gould herself could have handled this box. I held my breath while Karin opened it. On top was a blue silk evening dress, ragged with age, but obviously made for a very small woman. From beneath this Karin removed a jewel box and laid it on a side table. Finally she pulled out a cracked leather shoulder bag, from which she produced a case containing five little plastic rectangles. Hardly daring to hope, I slotted them one at a time into my wrist unit, and each time I was rewarded with a flood of data.
They were Jane Gould’s personal journals, and they were complete.
I have of course made the original journals available in both the Space Fleet and University databases. But in this series of books I have tried to tell the true story of the woman who was dragged against her will onto the field of history and, through her own inner strength and unshakable courage, went on to remake that history in her own image.

 

Calendars

Our story leads to places on many different planets, and all of them take different times to go around the stars that they use as suns. This means they all have different lengths of year, which isn’t too much of a problem. It’s quite easy to make up a calendar to fit the numbers. For example Jane’s home planet, Mercia, has a year which is just over 581 days. The calendar they use divides this into 83 weeks of seven days, and 21 months of which 20 have 28 days and one has 21 days, or 22 in the occasional leap year.

The real problem is telling someone the date of an event, or working out how old somebody is, when the calendar they are using looks absolutely nothing like yours.

Jane sat back in the seat, calculating in her head. Mercia, her home planet, had circled the F-type star that it used for a sun a little over thirteen times in Jane’s lifetime. But converting her date of birth to the atomic time scale used between the stars, then allowing for tidal drag, and the effect on the Earth’s rotation of eight centuries of intermittent nuclear bombardments, today was Tuesday the 21st of May 2830 – Jane’s twenty-first birthday. And, if God was still on speaking terms with her, she’d like to ask for just one present – some way of stopping Arthur before anyone else had to die.

So how do we make that calculation?

The trick is to have a clock and an almost-Gregorian calendar that gives the time and date on a “pretend Earth”. Seconds, minutes and hours have the lengths we know and love, but there are no leap seconds, and the pattern of leap years we use now is kept without any attempt to correct it. This operates in parallel with the planetary calendars. Every day on a planetary calendar has the date according to the “pretend Earth”, or Galactic Co-ordinated Time to give it its proper name, printed next to it. Of course because of the difference in the lengths of days sometimes a GCT date is printed on two adjoining planetary days, or two GCT dates are printed on a planetary day. For legal purposes, or fun things like knowing when birthdays are, you use the GCT date. For things that depend on the seasons, such as farming and summer holidays, the local planetary date works.

 

The first review

This is my first review, thanks to Holly Lisle

 

R Billing takes hard SF, accelerates it way past the speed of light, and runs it directly into a wall of suspense that knocks you breathless. And I love Jane—she can take a beating and stay on target—and I cheered her from start to finish.

Where does the power come from?

The Confederate eighty-footer, mainstay of Space Fleet, needs to be able to get far enough from the gravity well of a planet to be able to engage the Orthodynamic (faster than light) drive. That means it needs some serious engine power.

Chemical propellants won’t do the necessary. The Space Shuttle needed solid rocket boosters and a huge external fuel tank. There’s no time to fiddle about with that sort of stuff when you need to rush to the rescue or chase after the bad guys.

What Jane needs is something that will fire up pretty quickly when she turns on the master switches, and that will keep everything contained within the hull.

There’s only one process in nature that will do the business, and that’s nuclear fusion.

I do mean fusion. Conventional nuclear power uses fission. The great advantage to fission is that it’s very easy to start. If you get a critical mass of any fissile material in one place, the chain reaction just lights up of its own accord. The problem is stopping it before you have a melted reactor and at best a puddle of horribly radioactive gunk, at worst a mushroom cloud.

Fusion is much more house-trained. The quantities of fuel involved are far smaller, and the radioactive waste decays away in a couple of days. More importantly the reaction is, from the engineering point of view, exceedingly difficult to get to run at all. If anything breaks the flame just goes out.

Or as Jane explains it, “There are some things I shouldn’t tell you and some things that would take too long to explain. If I say that wherever I go I leave a little more helium and a fraction less hydrogen behind-“

So that’s how it works. Of course there are a few problems involved in getting a notoriously slow reaction to run fast enough, and in containing the fusion plasma at about ten million degrees Kelvin.

That’s just engineering-