The further from home we get, the darker our universe becomes. Exploring the universe isn’t all beer and sausages. In Wings of Earth: 8 – Fastest Track, Eric Michael Craig’s epic space opera takes us where no human has been before.
The Ptolemy hung on the edge of the target zone waiting for the Hermes to emerge from Nth space. It was mostly a formality since the small jump ship was supposed to arrive and spend only a few seconds confirming its location before it jumped back to the Nakamiru on the edge of Zone One.
Unfortunately, the ship was late.
“Where are they?” Captain Drexler asked over the commlink. The ship’s captain knew nothing about the details of the experiment and that made him irritable.
“Calculating an Nth space displacement is exceedingly complex. I am sure they are confirming everything before they make the jump,” the chief scientist said without the slightest twitch of an eye. Dr. Keral Albaan was the head of the telemetry team and almost devoid of personality. To him, everything in the universe was a measurement and a calculation. There was nothing to get excited about when you were waiting on the data to arrive.
The frustration was that if something held up the test, it would take longer for a deep-comm signal to arrive with an update, than it would for the jump ship to emerge and return to complete its mission.
For now, they had nothing to do but sit and watch the chrono.
“Chief, can you check sector-six?” Isaacs asked, cutting in on the commlink. The sensor specialist was young and prone to enthusiastic outbursts that annoyed Albaan, but this time, she sounded more restrained. “I’m picking up a distortion.”
“Is it a system problem?” Paul Kanumba asked, walking across the science lab to look at her screen. The engineer had worked with Albaan on several science missions and tried to keep the other team members from annoying the Chief unless it truly required his attention.
“I don’t think so,” she said, leaning back and letting him scan the system controls. “It wasn’t there a minute ago and I can’t get it to clear up. It’s emitting energy across all bandwidths.”
“No natural phenomenon emits uniform multi-spectrum emissions. It has to be hardware,” Albaan said, without turning.
“I copy that, Chief,” she said defensively. “The emission is biased toward the upper end of the G/I spectrum. Right at the temporospatial threshold. Range is twelve megaklick.”
“Is it the Hermes emerging?” He swung his head a few degrees in her direction.
“If it is, it’s taking its time,” Kanumba said, putting the sensor display up on the main screen. The spike in energy was visible and expanding. “The Tahrat pops out in under a hundredth of a nano-second.”
“And it’s in the wrong place,” Isaacs added.
That certainly doesn’t look like a normal Nth space emergence. Albaan raised an eyebrow several millimeters while he contemplated the possibilities.
“What the hell is going on out there?” Drexler asked from the ConDeck. “Helm is reporting we’re losing our navigational fix.”
“It’s like we’re being pushed sidewise,” the helmsman’s voice carried across the comm.
“Hold position,” Drexler growled. Annoyance edged his tone toward outright frustration.
“Are you detecting anything on your standard sensors?” Albaan asked. He doubted they’d be able to pick anything up, since the standard kit on a science vessel was limited in comparison to his team’s own gear.
“Nothing,” the captain confirmed. “That’s why I’m asking if you have something?”
“Possibly. Check sector-six,” the scientist said, swiveling in his seat to look at Isaacs.
She nodded. It was still there.
“We’re still moving,” the helmsman said.
“Inertial controls say we’re stationary,” the ship’s engineer reported, cutting in on the conversation.
“Sector-six is… wait… what the hell is that?” the captain said. The optical images from the ConDeck appeared on the main screen of the science lab.
A vivid green glow rolled out like a flat disk against the background of space, and the stars seemed to spread out like reflections on the surface of a bubble.
For an instant, it seemed like the fabric of the universe was stretching.
“That might be an Nth Space rupture,” Albaan said quietly. An intrusion event was only a theoretical possibility, and no one had any idea what it would look like.
Or, more importantly, if it would be possible to survive one… if it did happen.
A Bite of… Eric Michael Craig
If you could be any of the characters in the book who would you wish to be and why?
Wow, this is actually a very tough question. I have worked hard to build an ensemble cast where all my characters are unique and talented in their own way. And then as the author I kick the snot out of them all the time.
I mean, I’d love to be a starship captain, but I don’t want to have Ethan Walker’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Life. (I actually had someone essentially put that in a review). The truth is I think giving good characters something really hard to do makes for a good story.
So yeah, I love my characters, but I don’t love the life they have to live to tell the story.
This is quite a major series now, what has been the hardest aspect of writing it?
I am probably right at a million words into the universe now (counting the Shan Takhu Legacy prequel trilogy) and it has been quite the process to keep it organized from a technical standpoint. I am an absolute plotter when it comes to my writing (in that I outline everything in detail). By doing that it lets me keep the story focused and on track.
In a long series though, that involves keeping the beat points in the right place for each episode and keeping the overarching backstory on the right beat placement too. With Book 8, I just passed the middle point on the backstory, where the main characters go from reactive to proactive and I needed to nail that turnover cleanly to drive the story line forward to the major climactic moment that is still several books away.
I actually wrote three complete versions of this story with different focus perspectives before I decided exactly how I wanted to land the characters for the rest of the series. Tossing away close to 200K words was the hardest part of the process.
What is your snack food of choice to keep you going when writing?
Does coffee count as a snack food?
Seriously, I don’t usually eat at my desk, and since I have an office in a separate building from my house, I don’t like to break away and go get a snack. Especially when it is snowing outside.
I do keep a bag of Werther’s Caramel Coffee Hard Candy on my desk (notice the COFFEE theme here?), but mainly it’s to keep my voice working well enough that Dragon will recognize it. I write about a third of each book using dictation software, so I don’t think keeping the vocal cords lubricated is really the same as snacking. It’s more a production tool, I guess.
Eric Michael Craig in his own words:
I’m a caveman trapped in the real world, wrestling with the future.
You might call me a shade tree quantum mechanic. Camping between the particles of an atom, I’ve learned there is infinitely more than what’s contained in its structure. I’ve carved sculptures out of the quantum foam and danced in the whirlwind of the zero point.
To figure out how life and the universe works, I studied electrical engineering, architecture, and physics, but I learned more roaming the edges of science, where all the Mad-Max, crazy-inventor types live (I wouldn’t call myself a crazy inventor type, even though I’ve raced in blind abandon across the empty wastelands of discovery).
So, what does that make me?
I could say I’m just a receptacle for coffee, but it might be the lack of coffee that keeps me moving. (Where the hell did I leave my coffee cup?!?)
You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and his website – or participate in the discussion and fun by following the Wing of Earth Facebook Page and joining his Wings of Earth Facebook Group.