Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 3


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 3: Mysterious Sludge and Searching Code

“Blood!” Jan exclaimed.

“Blood isn’t dark brown and drippy at the same time,” Seren sighed. Her suit for her job of walking the outside of Hokulua station to find leaks, had been filed with some strange liquid. Everyone had panicked and the supervisor called security and given them the day off.

“What do you think it is then, smarty?”

“I have no idea.” Seren smiled mischievously.

“You didn’t?”

“I snuck a sample while everyone was panicking.”

Jan laughed and shook their head before asking, “You’re going to investigate aren’t you?” Then added, “I suddenly have a free day so I’m coming with.”

As they headed to the pods, Seren sent her father a message. Work cancelled. Need a hand?

They were half way to his lab before he replied, Sure.

They were almost at his lab when the lighting darkened and the screens in the corridor showed a red alert.

“Attention Hokulua station. We have been attacked by and repelled pirates. The station is in lockdown until further notice. Please stay in your homes or work areas while we assess the situation.”

“Hey Dad. Whoa… what’s going on?” Seren was shocked at the massive pile of spare electronics and junk in the center of her father’s lab.

“Hey kids. This was the original pod and stasis for Hoku. I’m trying to compare the code to what we have now to see what happened. There’s no way we can hand over the everyday functions of this station to a faulty AI.”

“Okay… can we use some equipment for a special project?”

“You stole a sample from the mystery suit?” Her father didn’t miss much. “Go ahead and don’t look surprised. I have spies everywhere.”

Seren giggled. He meant it literally. He had created a series of linked micro-robots that would crawl the air ducts, sewage, and water to make sure everything was clean and, in theory, find any leaks or issues. Unfortunately the station seemed to randomly fry them. He probably knew about the suit because he was dating the structural engineer who was in charge of the space walks.

Getting a chemical breakdown of the substance would take about an hour and then it would take time for the computer to give a list of possible results. When she’d gotten it started, she asked, “Anything we can do?”

“I could use a second pair of eyes with this code,” he replied. When he saw Jan’s eyes widen with horror he added, “And someone to try and put this stuff back together.” He gestured to the pile of computer parts that housed the original AI. “I took it apart to see if anything had been tampered with. It hadn’t.” He sounded dejected.

Sitting down with a tablet, Seren put the two codes next to each other. After a few minutes of staring at code and trying to tell the difference between natural evolutions, faulty, junk, and malicious code; her eyes started to swim. “Dad. Why didn’t you just write an AI to find any faulty code?”

“I did. It came back corrupted and asking me if I knew the difference between a fish and frigate.”

Eyes glazing over, she let her mind wander. This was too much code to look at; it was like trying to find a planet in a dark solar system from a quadrant away. She needed to narrow it down.

“What were you working on, this morning, when it gave you that weird phrase?” she asked her Dad.

“I was trying to tweak the power consumption on the docking bays. They’re taking as much energy as the ships engines and I don’t get why.” He didn’t say anything more, just went back to his work.

The docking bay doors were a very simple system with only two components, an air shield and a door opening. She pulled up both sets of code and isolated them.

“Analysis complete,” Hoku station said and made everyone jump.

“Thank you Hoku. Can you tell me what it is?”

“The compound has cocoa, sugar, milk, and flour. Best answer is that it’s a form of space based Cetacean.”

“Hoku… you just gave us the recipe of chocolate pudding and then said it was a space whale.”

“That is correct. It’s all about the cetaceans.” The statement was completely ridiculous. All three of them couldn’t help but laugh.

When they’d stopped giggling, Mr. Plentyn said, “I’ll tell Martin to let me know what his investigation shows. Could be pudding, could be whale, could be bearing grease for all this thing knows.” He tapped the computer console.

It was more code staring and sighs of frustration. Jan had almost finished re-assembling when Seren saw something.

“It’s the shields that are taking the energy. They’re modulating at a subspace frequency.”

“Does it repeat?” He took her tablet and worked on it quickly. The shields were transmitting their position but the exact message was odd.

“It keeps repeating, ‘fear, pain, death,’ over and over again.”

“What could that mean?” said Jan.

No one had the chance to answer because the intercom blared. “Violet alert. We have incoming hostiles. Everyone prepare for combat.”

Mr. Plentyn gave them each a repair kit and said, “You’ve been recruited to help with damage.”

“Aern, why in the Mother-of-Stars are all our defences down? I need weapons and shields, NOW!”

Read Chapter 4


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 2


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 2: Asteroids and Pirates

Stars filled her view screen and Annie sighed. Space was beautiful. Reluctantly she manoeuvred the little fighter back towards the debris field and her next target.

Hokulua Station had shields that would deflect most debris but with a micro-star at its core, it generated enough gravity to pull stray asteroids and rubble with it. Small fighter ships were used to defend the station against big impacts. There were also occasional pirates or planet-hopping wildlife.

“Hokulua tower, I’m on vector to my next target.”

“Roger that Echo 2. Make it snappy, you have your other job to get to.”

The next target was an asteroid the size of a living quarter. Her scans showed that the asteroid was mostly water which would require a wide beam plasma blast. But it wasn’t moving right.

“Tower. Target is moving slower than expected. Can I get a proper scan from Astrometrics?” Annie wished that her older brother James was at the coms. He’d have listened.

“Echo 2, a second scan isn’t necessary. Blow that thing and come home.” Just as she expected, the old man just wanted to get the job done.

“Negative tower. Scans are indicating water but-”

Tower cut her off with, “No Buts, child. Just do your damn job.”

“I’m sorry tower. Without a second scan I’m going to do a scoop-and-shoot.” That old man would rather risk the station than be a few minutes late. Annie was convinced there was something off with the asteroid.

“Stop showboating and destroy that asteroid or I swear to the Eater-Of-Stars you’ll never fly again.”

A scoop-and-shoot maneuver was exactly what it sounded like. She’d fly by the asteroid and then extend the little ships shields. It would scoop the asteroid and she could move it away from the station. Once it was at a safe distance she’d shoot it.

It was a tricky thing to accomplish. Annie swung back around and started to follow the asteroid, matching its speed and direction. She needed to be right on top of the thing to catch it in her shield. The darned thing was moving really slow and she almost bumped it.

It was made harder by the swearing and insults from the tower.

“Tower, this is hard enough without you berating me. I request radio silence.”

“Echo 3, here. I second Echo 2. Shut up tower.”

“Echo 4 agrees with the other Echos.” The rest of the Echos agreed.

She’d forgotten that she wasn’t alone out here. There were a half dozen other ships. She appreciated their backup.

The asteroid took much less force than it should have to move. She overdid the throttle and went twice as far as she should have.

“Tower. I have completed scoop and I’m moving to a safe distance to shoot.”

The normal safe distance is fifty times the size of the object but in this case she doubled it. She shot a short direct plasma blast at the edge of the asteroid. If it was water filled, like the scanners said, it would chip off a corner and nothing else. If it was what she suspected, it was going to explode.

A piece chipped off and Annie sighed. “Tower. I have-” she was cut off by the shockwave from the exploding asteroid. It tossed her ship towards the station with such power that her vision blurred and she thought she was going to lose consciousness.

Everything was ringing and it took a while before she could hear the station Tower. When she could hear clearly she heard her brother James, “Echo 2, do you copy?” He sounded worried.

“Echo 2 here. Tower I copy.”

“Echo 2 get control of your ship. We have bogies incoming.” The ship was spinning like a grounder in zero-g for the first time. She gently took control and directed it away from a crash course with the station.

“Tower. Did you say bogies?”

“Yes. Echo 2. Form up with the rest of Echo wing and get out there.”

The attacks from pirates were rare and Annie had the seconds it took her to meet up with her squad to wonder at the coincidence of the timing. If she’d been at the regular safe distance for a scoop-and-shoot, there would be a hole in the station. That’s not to mention if she’d listened to tower.

Echos were the only squad out there. They didn’t have a regular patrol or military presence. They were so far out from colonised space that no one expected an attack. If they’d showed up just ten minutes later there would have been no one around.

“Echo squad. This is Echo leader. We don’t have to win this one, we just have to make sure no one dies. We hold them back until Alpha squad can come clean up.”

The battle was a blur of ships, asteroids, blasters, and commands. After it was done, Annie barely remembered any of it. They’d been lucky that the Pirates had only sent a scouting party. A few clean shots to their ships and they turned tail and ran.

If they’d come in a destroyer sized ship, the station wouldn’t have been able to defend itself.

As she peeled off her flight suit, James came up to her his brow furrowed in anger. “What the black-hole were you thinking?” His reddish-purple eyes, exact copies of hers, glowed with frustration.

“Something was off and I asked for a second scan. I followed procedure until that mouthy space-monkey tried to cut corners. I was right, too. If I’d followed orders we’d have lost a ring or worse.”

He pulled her into a hug and said, “You scared me, sis.” After a pause, he added, “I’ll check the logs and talk to the bosses. But until a full review, you’re grounded. Except for space walks.”

She’d forgotten about her second job. She hoped repelling space pirates was a good enough excuse.

Read Chapter 3


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 1


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 1: All kinds of leaks

The stars were in different places, they always were, but with a little concentration Seren could map out their location. The universe was impossibly large, but her and her people had spent time untold sailing the stars.

Hokulua was a generational exploration and protection space station. Most GEPS were crawling with scientists, soldiers, and their children. Hokulua was quiet but it wouldn’t be for very long. There were a ten million souls on their way to the station and it would be the flagship of the Starchild Family.

“State-of-the-art my ass!” shouted Mr. Plentyn as he paced around the living quarters, angrily tapping at his tablet. “More like experimental and unstable!”

“Did Hoku refuse to give you your coffee again?” Seren’s large smile lit up her face making her skin seem to glow. Her bright green eyes were questioning as well as teasing.

“No, Hokulua Station didn’t refuse to give me coffee… more than once. It’s this blasted power drain. I can’t seem to stop it. The station is using twice as much power as it should and every time I patch a hole a new one opens up.”

“Have you asked Hoku?”

“Dear child. Why would I bother asking a glorified entertainment AI something I know it can’t answer?”

“So you asked and it gave you one of those weird phrases again?”

It was Aern’s turn to smile at his daughter, he shared her dark brown skin and reddish hair but he had light amber eyes. “Yes it said, ‘Plasma Beasts are at the gates’; whatever that means.”

“Wish I could help,” she said and meant it.

Walking over to the wall and the food dispenser, she asked, “Hoku, can I have some orange juice and a breakfast number four please.”

The soft deep voice of the station’s AI replied, “That will take forty percent of your daily recommended rations food intake. Are you sure you want to proceed?”

“I’m doing a space-walk today and will need the extra energy. Please proceed.”

The food appeared in the food slot and she could have sworn she heard Hoku say, “Good luck.”

She ate in silence, watching the stars. It was the way she ate most mornings. Her father was up and fed hours before her and she liked the quiet.

“I’m here to make sure you don’t miss your first shift,” Jan stood at the door in their uniform. Their blonde, almost white, hair and nearly translucent skin glowed slightly in the dim light of the living quarters.

Seren made a rude noise and drank the last of her juice.

“Jan you know that you don’t need to wear your uniform right?”

“Just because the rest of the military isn’t here doesn’t mean I can slack off. Might as well get used to it.” Jan was officially known as Private Jan Ng, they’d graduated and passed military training a week ago. Seren hadn’t applied for the military but instead tested and passed the tests for both the engineering corps and her real passion, the archeological civilian branch. She wanted to follow her passions but didn’t want to leave her father. He’d had too many people leave him already.

“Well I’m not wearing a uniform until I have to.” Instead, Seren wore a deep red button up shirt with a pair of snug kaki pants, with her comfy dark brown boots.

“I love you, Dad. I’m off to find out where our air is disappearing to.”

Barely looking up, he replied, “Love you too. Be careful.”

“Dad! I’m eighteen!”

“The vacuum of space doesn’t care how old you are.”

She kissed his cheek and headed out.

“So, Private, are you excited for everyone to show up?” Jan’s parents were part of the advance team with Seren’s father that were sent ahead to prepare stations or sent in to repair old stations.

“Mother-of-Stars, yes! This quiet is painful; I’m so glad I won’t have to do this again.”

They headed to the nearest transportation pod. A small train-like transportation controlled by the AI. It would seat twenty when the station was fully manned.

Each pod could move along one of the arms of the station. Like all Starchild Stations, Hokulua was built with a micro-star in the centre of four large rings. Each ring touches at least touches the other rings and has four bridges connecting to the micro-star engine and power station.

Each ring is given a designation, Alpha, Beta, Charlie, and Delta. Each quadrant of each disk is given a letter, A, B, C, and D. Finally each quadrant of each ring had a hundred floors. Each of the floors was roughly six hundred square metres.

“So we need to walk the entire alpha-ring today?” asked Jan.

“No just the top of A quadrant,” Seren said and then added, “That’s still four kilometres.” They had been hired to inspect the outside hull of the station and make sure that there were no air leaks. If there was an air leak, even a small one, it would glow a florescent orange when it hit the cold of space.

The transport pod stopped at the spaceport and they reported for duty. There were five of them that had been hired but only four had shown up.

“Just like Annie to be late or forget to come to work,” joked one of the others.

They were given their sections and assigned space suits. Seren went over to hers and something wasn’t quite right. The suit wasn’t hanging like the others, but was put together and leaning in the locker storage.

The visor was oddly tinted dark brown. She was about to disconnect it when Jan grabbed her hand. With a tremor in their voice, they said, “Your suit is leaking blood.”

Read Chapter 2


While you wait for the next chapter, check out previous serial stories:

Serial Story 2019 – Results

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

You voted and this year’s serial story will be an Adventure Mystery, written in the third person, with 2 regular human main characters in an original setting.

That turned out to be pretty vague and I decided a few things.

  1. I want to write a classic YA style mystery
  2. I want it to be on a space station
  3. The Welsh words for Star Child translates into the perfect name for a YA mystery.

So without further ado I give you the description of this year’s serial story:

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station

Hokulua Station is the newest in generational exploration and protection space stations. Brand new and not quite working right.

Seren’s dad is the head or engineering for the new station and in charge of getting all the bugs worked out before the rest of the colonists arrive. That leaves her with plenty of time to explore. Something isn’t quite right though; weird noises, things going missing, and power drains that no one can explain.

Seren and her best friend Jan are going to do their best to figure out what is going on before someone gets hurt.

This should be an interesting and fun year.

Later Days,

Éric

Sailing the Rubble of Galaxies – Proof-of-Concept

Every once in a while I get an idea for a novel but I’m not sure how well it’ll transition from brain to page. So I take the story out for a test drive. I call it a Proof-of-Concept and wrote about it here.

I’ve had this idea stuck in my head for the past few weeks -and I think I like it. I love the idea of a warship’s crew needing to find something else to do when there’s no war left.

Of course they’ll turn to piracy until the real threat shows itself again. It would borrow a lot from Arthurian myth but with a little Pirates of the Caribbean feel.

Let me know what you think.

Sailing Rubble of Galaxies

“Nice of them to design these cells with portholes,” admired former security commander, Nessa Muldune. It seemed like a strange waste of outer hull but she appreciated being able to see the stars.

“Shut up traitor,” sneered her jailer. Lieutenant Alfred’s disdain was a relief after the months of him awkwardly hitting on her. “We’ll be at New Mars soon and you’ll get what’s coming to you.”

The United Martian Empire (UME) Camlann was a Starcruiser class ship, with a crew of twenty-three. Her mission was to explore the other edges of the galaxy for any and all resources that could help in their war against the Ares Republic.

“Alfred, take a walk.” Doctor Anson made sure the man knew it wasn’t a suggestion.

Waiting until he’d left, Nessa said, “Peri, if you’re here to tell me how much you’ve always hated me I don’t want to hear it.”

The perfectly androgynous face of the ship’s Doctor broke into a smile. “You’re an idiot Muldune, but I don’t hate you. I agree with what you did, but they expect us medical types to be Peacers.” It was one of the worst insults for a Martian to be called a Peacer. Peace would only happen when the Empire’s enemies were all dead. Any other opinion was heresy.

The Doctor shook their head in either annoyance or amusement, Nessa couldn’t tell, and added, “I just wanted to tell you I’ve looked over the logs and I’m going to testify for you at your court-martial.”

“But that could get you thrown in here with me.”

“Doubt it. There are perks to one of my fathers being an Admiral. I’m not the only one who thinks the Captain went too far this time.”

Lifting her hand, Nessa said, “No. Shut up. Until we’re safely in dock on New Mars, I don’t want to hear about it and I don’t think you should talk about it either.” Pointing at her ears and then the walls, Nessa added, “What you’re saying could be taken as the M word and you know how the Captain doesn’t like that word.” The last person to hint at mutiny had been spaced without a trial. Her multiple commendations, stellar military record, and Red Star of Honour were the only reason Nessa wasn’t sleeping with meteors.

”Fine, but you’re not alone in this and I wanted you to know that.” Peri smiled again and turned to leave.

“Thank you. Old friend.” They’d served together for nearly twenty years, since Nessa’s first tour of duty when she was a green fifteen-year-old ensign.

Alfred walked back in and started saying crude things about the Doctor. Nessa ignored him; she was doing the same thing she’d done countless times since she’d been put in here. She went over the incident to see what she could have done differently.

They were pushing the limits of known space when they’d gotten a distress call. It was old earth Morse code. When they arrived at the coordinates they found three ships; an Ares Bird-of-Prey, an ancient frigate and a third ship they’d never seen before.

The ancient frigate was what was giving off the distress code. It must have been five hundred or more years old. Nessa’s first mistake was to suggest that the frigate might have star-maps that could lead them back to earth. The Captain had laughed at her and mocked her for her silly superstitions. He was one of the many Martians who were convinced all sentient life had evolved on New Mars.

They’d hailed the Aresian ship and received no answer, but when they hailed the unknown ship it answered with what sounded like a riddle.

Myrddin searches for Arthur

It was all they’d say. It seemed like it was a recording on repeat. When the mysterious ship opened its gunports, the Captain had ordered her to open fire. She hesitated and she still didn’t know why. It was like she froze. The Captain had thrown her to the side and fired on the ship himself.

It had done nothing, their weapons didn’t even dent the ship. The Captain was furious and ordered her to fire on the Aresian ship. Their stardrive was powered by antimatter and the explosion would be more powerful than their weapons.

It was at that point that she’d ruined her career by saying, “Sir, we can’t. If those aliens are powerful enough to take a full blast from our ion cannons, we need to get access to their tech, not blow it up.” And she’d made it worse by adding, “Not to mention that frigate could hold the key to finding our original home world.”

“New Mars is my home world you Peacer trash. Take the traitor to the brig.” To the security guards credit, they both looked uncomfortable jailing their commanding officer. The captain had blown up Aresian ship and the frigate with one hit. The alien ship had given off one unintelligible message before it exploded. The Camlann barely made it out on time, thanks to its top of the line Stardrive.

Now she was on her way to a court martial and, if she was lucky, a life time sentence of hard labour on some mining asteroid. If she was unlucky, she’d be put in the Colosseum for sport.

Nessa felt the telltale wobble of the Camlann’s Stardrive powering down and looked forward to once again seeing the planets of the New Mars system; it was the crown jewel of the empire.

The ship shook violently and all she could see out the porthole was an asteroid field. Something was wrong.

“Brace for impact. We seem to have gone off course.” The Captain’s voice sounded calm.

Nessa felt sick. There’s no way they’d been off course. Out her porthole, all Nessa could see was darkness and meteors; she should have been able to see New Mars, it’s yellow dwarf and the other five inhabited planets.

Something had happened. The Captain’s voice came back on, “Oh Gods! What have they done!”

Aaron Ashmore

Aaron Ashmore has been in so many of my favourite TV shows! Veronica Mars, Killjoys (on Space Channel! You should definitely watch it!), Warehouse 13, Twice in a Lifetime (in my favourite episode!), and Smallville.