Science Fiction

The Space Between

By

This book will launch on Nov 11, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒
Synopsis

The Convening Collaborative has received a request for help from a small, unlucky planet called Earth. Earth is sick with a serious infection called MMR.

A ship from the CC's fleet is sent to deliver medication to Earth. The medication will cure the MMR, but at a very large cost to the life forms on the planet. During the drop off, an accidental communication with a human occurs triggering a series of unexpected events. Can the human and the crew of the GSS Prosperity come up with an alternative plan to help save Earth from MMR?

Packed with humor and strong female characters, this fast paced sci-fi book contains thought provoking ideas that will leave you wanting to run away and join the CC. Fans of Becky Chambers will love The Space Between.

The first in the series: Tales From The Convening Collaborative.

Bringing The Human On Board



“We have just had an accidental communication with a full manifestation!  As you know, this is a highly infected planet. Repeat, the planet is infected, so we will board the human form, but will need to use strict quarantine protocols during retrieval and subsequent on-boarding to the ship. Duration unknown.”

“Holy smokes, that’s gonna be a bit of a bear, isn’t it?” Shelley was looking grimly at her controls.

OT wanted to wince at the truth of the words. But the Chief Navigator calmly grunted and instead said, “Nah, we can handle it. We’ve done drills and practiced situations like this before. Just stay calm and worry not, Shells. It’s just like another Capture Retrieval drill.”

“Yes, ma’am!” Specialist Janus Shelley turned her attention to readying the retrieval scoop housed within the rover. Due to the delivery of some medicine, the rover had already been hovering in incognito mode several miles above the planet’s atmosphere. And the quarantine dome was already in place around the scoop. Shelley made sure the dome opened and closed and then let out a loud sigh in an effort to release tension. 

“Do you need to practice the whole sequence in space, Shells?” 

“I wouldn’t say no, ma’am,” the Remote Transfer Specialist replied.

“Okay, I’ll give you about twenty seconds, it’s all we have. On my command,” OT said. 

Yes ma’am!” The Specialist was grateful for the practice. Senior crew members who were alerted to the incident were all either making their way to the deck, or tuning in to the ship’s Navigation Deck monitors. Without prompting, those who were able sent positive energy to the area and to the Specialist herself. Soon Shelley’s shoulders relaxed, and she began to feel excited anticipation instead of worry about the impending maneuver. OT gave a mental thumbs-up sign to the invisible beings who were helping. She privately communicated to her co-workers, “Thanks, she needs that.”

Specialist Shelley was still a bit of a rookie at her job, but she was the Remote Transfer Specialist currently on duty. Capture retrievals only occurred a few times a year at most, and the experience would boost her confidence if she successfully retrieved the human form without incident. If. The word should not be overlooked in this case. Retrieving beings who were Unaware of the gazillions of other life forms living in the known universes was always a little tricky, but it was a doable maneuver. 

However, this planet was suffering from a serious infection, which made it much more difficult for beings to actually become aware. As a result, no one had been thinking there might be an accidental communication, much less a full manifestation. Generally, beings would be too sick to stay aware enough to engage in accidental communications. 

And that meant the stakes were now a lot higher as well. In the past, incidents had been documented where infected (and thus malicious) entities had lured CC ships into retrieving them; the entities had then tried to spread their infection to the CC ship members. But there were also a few documented cases of authentic accidental communications on infected planets, just not in this quadrant of the known universes. Much extra care would be needed in this capture retrieval. But Janus Shelley had already proven to be a solid crew member, and OT was feeling confident they could pull it off.

“Ready, set…and…go!” OT said as the door of the rover’s loading area opened into space a few miles above the planet’s atmosphere. 

Janus moved the retrieval scoop and the quarantine dome out into space, and quickly opened the quarantine doors. Then she practiced scooping and closing the dome a couple of times. It was easier than she thought it might be. 

“Looking good! Nice!” OT’s comments were more effusive than her usual words of encouragement, but the move was complicated, and they needed this to be successful. Besides, Janus was doing a good job. A being with just slightly more Hubris would have passed on the offer to practice; so this would be a good write-up to once again show that taking advantage of extra practice was good…practice. Again, assuming the retrieval went smoothly. 

“Just remember, Shells, the atmosphere will have more gravity to contend with. So you’ll need to give both maneuvers more thrust to get the same motions. Also, when the rover is on the ground, I won’t be able to move it much, so remember that when you are bringing the scoop back into the rover.” 

In this particular Capture/Retrieval situation, dinging the interior of the rover with the scoop was a small peril in the grand scheme of things, but it did bear mentioning.

“Yes, ma’am,” Shelley said. She was in full concentration mode and sounded confident. She brought the machine back into the rover and continued to flex her shoulders in efforts to stay calm as OT closed the loading area doors. OT resumed the rover’s course and then quickly and quietly guided it towards the surface of the planet.

Time was of the essence. OT’s words were the only sounds on the Navigation Deck. “Going into planetside atmosphere in five, four, three, two, one. Entering planetside atmosphere…target area in four seconds. Three, two, one, and go!”

OT opened the doors to the rover again, and Shelley moved the dome-covered scoop to the area where the human was still tentatively tasting an ice cream cone. There was a slightly dazed look on her face. The scooping apparatus looked very much like a magic carpet with translucent cover on top. Overall, it vaguely resembled a personal sized flying saucer.  It was behind the human, so she did not notice it at first. 

Suddenly, Meg, who had been the one to accidentally contact and create a manifestation for the human, sent out another mind command, “Wait!  She’s going to ask to come on board, no need to use a capture sequence.”

OT immediately replied, “Are you sure, Meg? This is an infected planet. ”

“Ninety-eight percent sure, OT. I am in communication with the human’s 6D element, who sees us and is asking to board. I have checked carefully. Neither she nor the human’s other elements appear to be harboring any Ill Intent.” 

Specialist Shelley looked uncertainly to OT for her command. OT said to Meg, “It’s an infected planet, so this needs to go smoothly. And, you know your 98 percent has always been 300 percent in my book. But you still need to convince me.” 

Meg publicly communicated back, “OT, ma’am, she asked for an ice cream, I heard it as a mind command, manifested it, and the human took it and began eating it, as you can see. She also said ‘Thank you’ out loud just before the rover entered the target area. Her 6D element is yammering in my ear, almost hysterically happy at being rescued. I know you can’t see the 6D, but look!”  

The human had just turned and spotted the retrieval scoop and was staring with surprise and curiosity. Then she held out the ice cream. They all watched as she said out loud, “Did you give me this? If you did, thank you!” It was clear to all who could read nonverbals in humanoids that this one was exhibiting no Ill Intent, or even Fear. Indeed, she emanated (emanated!) Goodness. Along with Goodness, curiosity was her primary response. She smiled slightly and cocked her head to one side, appearing to intently study the retrieval scoop. 

Almost reflexively, Specialist Shelley dipped the retrieval apparatus ever so slightly in a gentle response. OT looked at Shelley and then at the human on the screen, obviously impressed with both. OT then communicated to Shelley, “Abort the Capture Retrieval plan. Slowly open the quarantine doors so you don’t startle her.”

The entire crew held their breath while Janus Shelley executed the maneuver. If the human ran, there’d be a messy chase, and the newbie Specialist might flub it.

The human stood still, intently watching as the flying saucer part retracted and somehow disappeared into the apparatus, leaving only a flat, floating platform. The human now looked up as if listening to someone. She smiled a little, still seeming to listen. 

Meg said, “The 6D element is communicating with her human.” Murmurs of surprise could be heard among the crew members. 

“Consciously?” one of the crew asked. 

“Affirmative, I can hear them both. The human is consciously communicating with her 6D element, asking for advice. And the 6D element is sending reassurances and encouragement to the human to approach the retrieval platform,” said Meg. More murmurs from the crew ensued.

After a brief pause, the human said out loud, “I hope you’re right!” to what seemed like no one in particular. Shelley again dipped the machine ever so slightly, as if in response. The human then seemed to become aware of her ice cream again, and she offered the ice cream cone to the machine in front of her with a friendly gesture and smile. This time the machine only dipped and moved back ever so slightly. 

At that, the human said gently, “Okay, I guess you’re right. I can’t quite tell how we’d share this, anyway. May I approach?”  

Shelley dipped the apparatus a little more deeply and moved the retrieval scoop platform towards the human ever so slightly. The human emitted a small smile in acknowledgement, but stood almost motionless for a few seconds more, only moving to take a bite from the ice cream. Then she shrugged and started cautiously walking towards the platform.

Meg exclaimed, “The 6D is encouraging her! She’s saying ‘Well, you don’t know, what we can find, why don’t you come with me, oh girl, on a magic carpet ride.’”

“Is that code for something?” someone asked.

 There was a brief silence; then Meg said, “Most likely not. The 6D element is telling me it is a lyric from a song the human enjoys.”

“Quick, manifest a comfortable seating area for her in the rover!” It was the Captain herself. The video monitors flickered for a couple of seconds, then the Captain appeared on them, looking on intently at the human headed for the retrieval scoop apparatus. Shelley lowered the platform, and the human scooted herself onto it without difficulty.

Meg cut in urgently: “Please do not use the quarantine dome, OT.”

 “I concur,” Captain Cabeza said. “We will use the whole rover as the quarantine area. We’ll follow usual reboarding procedures for the outer parts of the rover. We can then sterilize the insides of the rover after the human is successfully relocated to guest quarters on the ship. But we’ll still need to use the quarantine dome once she’s ready to go to her guest quarters. And let’s ensure the human is made aware of the need for quarantine procedures.”

OT nodded, knowing the Captain could see her, and waved a small command to Shelley. Shelley nodded as well, but her attention was focused on carrying the human slowly towards the rover as smoothly as possible. 

Balancing the human on the platform was turning out to be one of the more difficult parts of the process so far. The human sat with her knees up and her arms wrapped around her legs. Looking down, she noticed some half-dried mud by her boots and brushed it off the floor of the apparatus. It fell to the ground noiselessly. 

As the human did this, her weight shifted, causing Shelley to curse as the platform tipped a little. Shelley paused to regain balance. Then she slowly and very carefully continued to move the apparatus towards the rover. The human noticed the balance issue and said, “Oh, sorry!”

At the same time as Shelley was inching the platform forwards, OT engaged the rendering program for the rover, slowly moving the entire machine from the default of transparent to opaque. She then selected the program that would automatically analyze and then match the local atmospheric pressure and components, so the human would be able to breathe without having to be fitted to an apparatus. 

Meg was wildly adding flourishes designed for humans to the rover’s interior. She had already created a sectional couch, a flat-screen TV, a mini fridge, and some newly manifested lights. A couple of seconds before the human entered the machine, the 6D communicated with Meg and said, “Oh, thank you so much!  If you add some flowers—purple irises—she’ll be yours forever.”

“Okay,” Meg said breathlessly. She produced a bundle of irises and manifested a vase to go around them. The vase of flowers hovered at what would be about eye level to the human once she entered the rover. Meg lowered them a bit so the human would be better able to see the flowers. 

Shelley stopped the platform once it and its passenger were within the walls of the rover. The human hopped off and stared around a bit. After a moment, her gaze landed on the flowers in the vase, still sort of hovering. The 6D said, “Um, maybe a side table for them?”  

 “Of course, sorry!” Meg muttered. A side table matching the general decor manifested, and the flowers lowered onto it slowly. 

The human had been watching the whole maneuver with her mouth half-open. Obviously a bit overwhelmed, she still managed a somewhat playful, “How did you know?” Then she licked a drip of ice cream that was trailing down the cone and onto her hand. Meg didn’t answer, but a napkin suddenly appeared, hovering within reach of the human. The human took it and bowed a little in several directions as a sign of thanks. 

She stood in roughly the middle of the now transformed rover. 

The doors of the rover still appeared open, but OT had used an old trick to return them to transparency mode while the human debarked from the carpet. She then had surreptitiously closed them. OT now asked if she could inform the human of their intentions to bring her on board the main ship.

“Wait.” It was Meg again. “If I may, I would like to attempt to communicate with the human aspect, Captain.”

“Yes, go ahead, Meg,” the Captain said quietly. Her heads bobbed in the video monitors around the control room. 

Meg thought for a second, then made a sound to mimic a gentle throat clearing. 

The human said, “Yes?“ in response. 

 “We would like to welcome you to our rover,” Meg said. “And we would like to take you on board our main ship, if you are willing and ready, ma’am.” She said it gently, emanating friendly hospitality, of course. 

The human looked around the rover without saying anything. She eyed the seemingly open entrance and studied it intently, but said nothing. Various crew members observing from the Navigation Deck were busy studying, making notes, and analyzing the human’s reactions. She emanated no Fear; no aggression, no subterfuge was apparent, or Ill Intent. Instead, she emanated Goodness and cooperative energies like a normally aware being. She appeared to be assessing her surroundings quite carefully, and her gaze went back to the entrance once more. The ship was abuzz with these quietly murmured observations. The human continued to eat the ice cream, and with a bit of pizzazz, wiped her mouth with the napkin. 

She tentatively looked at her arms and legs and tested them out a bit. Then she said, “Well, nothing hurts, at least. I think I must have tripped or fallen somehow and am hallucinating. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.”  Her gaze now returned to the ice cream cone in her hand. She took a fair-sized bite of what was left and savored it before continuing. 

“But it’s definitely not a bad hallucination,” she said shrugging a bit. “You gave me ice cream, you have my favorite flowers…I think that might be a sign of some sort.” She took a deep breath. “The air smells fine.” She paused, then said,  “I don’t see you, but you’re talking to me in a kind voice.” She suddenly scrunched her brow and looked towards the doors. “Are you friendly?” 

“Very!” Meg replied with enthusiasm.

The human took another bite of ice cream and continued to look around. “Well, you sound friendly. And you sound female. Um, are you?”

Meg and the 6D aspect conferred quickly and quietly before Meg said, “Uh, yes, by your standards.”

The human looked at the flowers again with some approval. But then she narrowed her eyes and asked, “Are your leaders male or female?”  

At that, Meg spontaneously burst out laughing, as did the crew on board. 

“Much closer to female, ma’am!” Meg said congenially. 

The human laughed as well, and snorted happily. She finished off the ice cream, still considering the situation. “Most likely, I am lying unconscious somewhere on the trail, but… This place, this hallucination, or whatever it is feels safe, and I really don’t get the sense that I need to wake up any time soon.” She paused, looking around intently, searching for clues in the immediate environment. Then, quietly and more to herself, she said, “And really, I think Petra would tell me if I did…” She trailed off, still standing quietly in the middle of the room. 

Meg realized she’d been holding her energies still, willing the human to come of her own accord. No one on board the ship seemed to be breathing either, at this particular point. All were intently emanating whatever good energies they thought the human could comprehend. The human deliberated a little longer. She tilted her head first one way, then another, her interior puzzlement and curiosity clear to any crew member who could read human body language. After another moment, the human nodded. “The ice cream was delicious, and it’s been a pretty good hike so far, I must say.” At that, she strode over to the couch and rather enthusiastically hopped onto it. Leaning back into the cushions, she said, “Yes! I’m ready to board your ship, that will be fine!” 

Captain Cabeza, watching from her station, said, “Excellent,” rather loudly, but the human did not seem to hear it. 

Meg squelched her excitement, and managed to say with kind professionalism, “Wonderful. Welcome aboard, ma’am! Please let me know if there is anything I can get you, but this won’t be a long ride.”  

Captain Cabeza smiled briefly, then gave the signal to OT, who now re-rendered the doors on the rover from translucent to fully opaque. The human noticed this detail, and squinted a little as the opacity filled in. The ship’s cabin was completely silent for a second as they watched the human carefully take off her slightly muddy shoes and place them on the floor before she rearranged herself crosslegged on the couch. The Captain was aware that all eyes were on her and the human. She smiled briefly again and let out a long whistle, momentarily savoring the moment. The pregnant pause began to be punctured by excited sounds coming from the crew members. OT quietly checked her controls, conferred with Specialist Shelley, and then the rover left Earth.  It appeared ship side in the safe area almost immediately, but stayed in dark mode.

The Captain swiveled her heads in the general direction of OT. “OT, why the delay?”

OT looked up. “Meg’s asking for the delay, ma’am.”  Meg had to speak over celebratory whoops to reply.

Meg spoke up, saying, “Captain, if I may, this being is used to 3D time as it manifests on Earth. Her 6D element informed me that if she arrives instantaneously, it may be a shock.” She paused. “But the aspect is also saying that a ride longer than ten Earth minutes …ahh…‘May freak her out’ is how the soul aspect is phrasing it, Captain.”

“Ah, well, by all means, we’ll stretch this ride out to about seven Earth minutes, how’s that sound, Meg?” Before Meg could answer, another of Cabeza’s heads said, “No, let’s make it five. We will board the human in five Earth minutes. Great job, team!” 

Meg emanated agreement. The Captain then graciously started applauding the crew members. The whole control room whooped back their relief and excitement. Shelley beamed and stiffly pushed back from the operating console. 

OT began to tentatively maneuver dials and buttons to bring the rover out of dark mode in the requested amount of time. But she quickly looked a little puzzled. Shelley caught her eye and understood the issue immediately, as she also had the same question. Shelley cleared her throat and said over the rising din, “And how long is five Earth minutes in CC time, Captain?” 

 “Excellent question, Specialist Shelley,” said Captain Cabeza. “Anyone know for sure?”

An engineer asked a nearby computer, who responded almost instantaneously with: “Earth’s time measurement in this spacetimecontinuum is at a relatively slow processing speed. The easiest translation is that 33.3 CC minutes are equivalent to one Earth minute. This is using standard analog mathematics and physics, which are reserved for planets and beings with 3D processing speeds and capacity.”

 After the briefest of pauses, the computer offered further commentary, “Aside: Some other Earth spacetimecontinuums are even slower, clocking in (lol) at forty-five or seventy-eight CC minutes to one Earth minute.” 

Murmurs emitted from the crew. In the background, someone said, “Why do those numbers sound so familiar?” 

But the engineer ignored the distractions and did a quick calculation. “That comes to approximately 166.5 CC minutes, Captain.” 

“Wow, that’s slow,” murmured Meg. 

The 6D aspect piped up at this. “Oh Lordy, you have no idea. Things move really slow down there.”

At that, Meg turned her full attention towards the 6D, whose presence was anchored in the rover. Meg made her energy deliberately and theatrically become apparent in a space near the 6D on the rover. She beamed friendly energy and communicated in her natural voice. “Welcome aboard, I’m Meg.” 

“Very pleased to meet you! I’m Petra,” the 6D replied, her energetic presence dancing with obvious joy.

Much to Meg’s surprise, the human looked in her general direction and squinted, trying to understand what was going on. Petra immediately said, “She can’t grasp you fully, of course, but she can tell you moved your energy around.”

“Wow,” said Meg.

“Yeah, I’ve been very blessed,” Petra replied.



About the author

I first published a newspaper at age 8 with my brother, but have spent most of my career as a mental health professional. I've also had gigs as a teacher, glass artist, and musician. Non fiction ideas inspire my fictional forays. And like many folks, I want to save the world. view profile

Published on August 11, 2020

Published by

100000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Science Fiction

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