I'm really not supposed to admit this, but The Outer Planets has been in the hopper for over 30 years. When the story originally began to take shape in my mind, the 2040s seemed like a very distant future. Not so much anymore.
This Near Future novel envisions a global economic collapse brought about by an environmental upheaval in the 2020's. That's looking a little less Fi and a lot more Sci than it did thirty years ago. It also deals with technology that seemed wildly fringe at the time it was originally penned, and now seems on the brink of happening...soon.
Here's a quick introduction to the story.
What Lissa Bruce knows could kill her.
A female video reporter with an altered identity and a damning secret joins the crew of a research mission bound for Jupiter, only to find the past she wants to escape is already onboard.
Lieutenant Mitchell Coe, the loyal aide de camp to a murdered General–and Lissa’s late spouse–is the one man with the power to blow her cover…or salvage her heart. But after a series of malfunctions threatens the mission, Lissa suspects she’s not the only one aboard with a dangerous secret.
Lissa Bruce is in a shuttle on approach to the NSS Robert Bradley--a planetary research vessel about to embark on a three-year mission to Jupiter. As the final member of the crew, she's a very late arrival.
The staccato whine of a digital transmission interrupted her thoughts.
“Beginning final docking maneuvers,” the pilot said.
The shuttle’s retros fired, edging her closer to the mother ship’s extended docking arm. The ships wouldn’t link directly during docking, the potential for collision between two pressurized vessels deemed too high risk to be acceptable. The docking arm’s specialized shock system was engineered to absorb and cushion the brunt of most hard connections.
The pilot’s hands played over his console, and the shuttle’s docking head locked on target. The retros pulsed twice more. Lissa’s seat rattled with vibration when the vessel connected.
“Captured,” the pilot announced, flipping a switch.
A ratcheting sound filled the cabin as the shuttle fused with the docking arm of the Bradley.
“Destination Shuttle Five is locked and secure,” the pilot informed the Bradley docking crew. “Preparing to offload one passenger.” He left his console to assist her as the docking arm swung in a slow arc, bringing the starboard hatch of the shuttle broadside to the mouth of the airlock.
Lissa unbuckled her harness and stood, giving the pilot a quizzical look. “Destination Shuttle Five?”
“Yes, well, it was a major undertaking changing the ship’s name from Destination to Robert Bradley at the last moment. They overlooked a few minor details.” He unlocked the storage compartment near the exit hatch. “Like renaming the support vessels.”
A crooked smile pulled at Lissa’s lips. Good to know at least a few things had escaped Bobby’s brand.
The shuttle made a smooth union with the airlock and green lights activated on the cabin panel. “Dock integrity confirmed,” a voice said on the speaker.
Lissa gathered her two bags from the bin and moved to the hatch. Now for the tough part. Facing Daniel.
The pilot motioned to the com-con switch on the bulkhead to the right of the hatch. Lissa pressed it. “Crewmember Lissa Bruce, requesting permission to come aboard.”
She waited while soft space static played on the speakers.
“The NSS Robert Bradley welcomes you, Ms. Bruce,” a deep and familiar voice answered. “Permission granted.”
“That’s the old man himself,” the pilot whispered. “Captain Storing.”
“In the flesh,” Lissa acknowledged, squaring her shoulders and raising her chin. Daniel wasn’t going to make the most congenial greeting party, but she owed him her trust, her complete and unquestioning support. He had his own cross to bear in proving himself to both Mission Control and his crew.
The hatch hissed open. Lissa nodded her thanks to the pilot and carried her bags into the airlock. The rush of intermingling atmospheres brushed her face and lifted the hair off her shoulders, bringing a sad smile to her lips. So like a desert breeze on a cool spring day. Something she wouldn’t experience again for a long, long time.
The pressure equalized, and the inner hatch popped. Lissa squinted when the Bradley’s interior lighting flooded the small chamber. In the glare stood an imposing man wearing full naval dress uniform and no trace of a smile.
Willing her legs forward, Lissa stepped onto the deck of Captain Daniel Storing’s ship. Behind her, the hatch to the docking bay closed with a clack, followed by a low rumble as the airlock depressurized.
Escape route sealed. Point of no return.
She looked into the commanding blue eyes of the man before her. The eyes of Zeus, as an awestricken friend had once described them. He studied her, neither relief nor anger evident in his gaze, his face molded into its usual professional scowl.
“Welcome aboard, Ms. Bruce.”
As a civilian, no salute was in order. “Thank you, Captain.”
He stepped forward to shake her hand, and she dropped her bags to the deck. His fair hair was cut in a standard military chop, though there’d been no gray at his temples the last time she’d seen him. She waited for his reaction to her new look. None came.
“It’s good to be onboard,” she said, cursing the slight quaver in her voice. So much for keeping emotions in check; Daniel knew her too well, and he wasn’t easily fooled. He must’ve known that stepping onto this ship was like walking into the jaws of hell—but a far safer hell than the one lying in wait for her back on Earth.
We truly have a lot to be thankful for this year, and we'll be taking some time to acknowledge how blessed we are with all the good things in life.
Over the upcoming long holiday weekend, I've committed to getting organized and gearing up to crank out my backlog of titles, so I won't be blogging on my regular day, next Monday, November 27th.
See you in two weeks!
Have a great holiday.