The Honeycomb Comet

The Honeycomb Comet

by Roger Bourke Jr. White

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781456762261
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 06/21/2011
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

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The Honeycomb Comet

Tales of the HX
By Roger Bourke White Jr.

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2011 Roger Bourke White Jr.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4567-6226-1

Contents

Preface....................1
Book One The Comet is Discovered....................3
Interlude 2188....................69
Book Two The First Siege of Titan....................71
Interlude 2324....................95
Book Three Osmore Was Right!....................97
Interlude 2374....................119
Book Four Pressure Point....................121
Appendix Rubyzin and the Ooze Zone....................149
Interlude 2437....................153
Book Five Alien Invasion!....................155
Appendix An Alien PoV....................193
Interlude 2536....................205
Book Six The Second Siege of Titan....................207
Interlude 2611....................259
Book Seven The Emperor of Earth....................261
Interlude 2816....................287
Book Eight The Human Hunt....................289
Interlude 2856....................309
Book Nine Chance Encounter....................311
Interlude 3158....................341
Book Ten Mastering the Horse of the Galaxy....................343

Chapter One

The middle-aged man and the young lady sat at a table in the Luck of Jonas Café in Belt Transfer Station 24. The man studied the hard-copy letter she had just handed him. He was pale white, grossly overweight by Earth standards, and dressed in what seemed to be some of the oldest clothes in the Solar System, but they were clean. The lady was young, neat, lightly tanned, and dressed in a fashionable workday casual outfit. She watched calmly as he studied the letter.


22 Aug 2137

Dear Mr. Bomorov:

You may not remember me, but we met at the Space Supply 26 convention on Ceres.

This is to introduce my daughter, Kim Ying-tai. She has expressed to me a strong desire to become a deep spacer. I have sent her to you as one of the most dependable deep spacers I know. Please give her any assistance you can in getting her career started.


Thanking you in advance,
and hoping we get a chance to meet again, I am
Sincerely yours,
Kim Nian-zu

The man read it and grunted. He held the letter up against the light. "Nice bit of work, Miss Kim."

"Just call me Ying-tai."

"Just call me Bull."

John "Bull" Bomorov smiled slightly at the girl and she returned it big, beauty-queen style. He pulled his computer out of a pocket and spoke to it. "Honey, give me a quick bio on Kim Ying-tai."

The girl's expression didn't change as Bull scanned the virtual screen and remarked, "Very impressive, Ying-tai."

Then he asked, "Honey, how old is this data?" The girl's eyes widened briefly as she saw Bull read the answer.

"As I was saying, Miss Kim—"

"Ying-tai, you can call me Ying-tai."

"Yes. This is a nice piece of work, Ying-tai. A hard-copy letter on good Earth-origin paper and multiple data files. Must have taken a fair amount of research and manipulation. You're resourceful."

"Thank you."

"But not perfect. The dates on some of your files are too recent to be believable. But the biggest red flag is that no parent ever recommends his child to become a deep spacer, and certainly not a father like you've described here. How many people have you offered this to?"

"You're the first," she said.

"I can believe that. Now, this next part is important. Why did you pick me first?"

Ying-tai looked at him thoughtfully and finally asked, "The whole story?"

"The whole story."

"I came up here to be a deep spacer. I'm an analyst on Earth. No one gives a damn about me, no one will give me a break. I want to be more, a lot more, but that's going to take money."

The man leaned back in mock amazement. "Oh my gosh! It's a four-eyed analyst with ambition. Welcome to the party, girl—"

"I don't wear glasses," she snapped quietly. "That wasn't who I wanted to fit in with." But Bull wasn't listening.

"But then again, you're here and the rest of the four-eyed ambitious analysts are still down there, aren't they? So, why are you here?"

She shrugged. "I've got bigger dreams, and less to lose, I guess."

"Now we're getting somewhere. How did you pick me?"

"Easy, I did my research. There are only three veteran, and still active, deep spacers in station right now. You, Van Cleeve, and Kasravi."

"Yes, yes, yes. We go way back. How about Pierre Menendez over there? He's been out ten times."

"Last time was a year ago."

"Good. Continue."

"It's not on his résumé, but it's sure all around this station that Van Cleeve is not someone you share a room with."

Bull stirred his drink while he thought. "Good, you don't believe the whole world is on the computer screen. Continue."

"The rest is hunch. I looked at who's coming in, the next sixty days, and no one looks better than you." She smiled a more relaxed and natural looking smile, not the beauty queen smile.

"How about Kasravi?"

"She would do, and I'll go to her next."

"Not with this same story, I hope."

"Why not?"

"This is a small community up here, Ying-tai. Your escapade here with me will be all over it by the time we say good bye."

She glared at him. He raised his hands as if she was holding a gun on him. "I won't have to say a thing! You see Ivan over there tending bar, Pierre over there. These people aren't strangers. If Kasravi chooses to ask, she'll know everything except what we've specifically said.

"If she asks me, she'll know everything that's relevant to her. I work with Kasravi, I don't work with you ... yet."

Ying-tai stood up.

"Sit down! I said I don't work with you yet." She sat down.

Bull leaned forward and said quietly, "Girl—"

"Woman, or lady if you must, but I like Ying-tai," she insisted.

"Ying-tai, we do keep some secrets around here, but not many. My next expedition is one that could use a helping hand, but none of these space dogs here are interested."

"Why not?"

"It's a long story that I'll tell you over dinner, should you decide to accept."

"You're offering?" Her face filled with excitement.

"I'm offering."

"I'm accepting!" She held out her hand for Bull to shake. It was a strong hand, and there was a roughness to it that said she did a lot more than push electrons around. He felt better.

He said, "Whoa, that's just for dinner! You haven't heard about where or why we're going. That could make a difference. But let's talk about it over dinner in, say, an hour?"

Chapter Two

In the hour before dinner, Bull had changed to a more presentable in-station outfit. He found Ying-tai looking even better, too. She'd taken time to enhance her makeup and hair and put on evening clothes. They made her look like a tourist, but Bull accepted that; she was a greenhorn, after all. They ate in the restaurant-bar of the hotel.

"Deep spacers all have their hobbies," Bull said. "Some are pretty strange, but almost all are tolerated because they keep us going out here.

"Legend has it that more than one deep spacer is a serial killer, but if he or she is a million miles from another person, who cares? We spend years in space, we spend days on a transfer satellite like this one, then we spend years in space again. That is, if we come back. Deep spacing may be the dullest thing mankind does, but it's not the safest. Those of us who are old deep spacers get treated pretty well, as long as it's clear we're going back out again soon, or that we've saved up a big bankroll." Bull leaned forward and said quietly, "But there's nothing sorrier than a deep spacer who's lost his nerve and his bankroll."

Ying-tai nodded and kept enjoying her meal. Bull straightened and took a bite before continuing.

"Anyway, one of my hobbies is finding the Honeycomb Comet. And what is the Honeycomb Comet, you may ask?"

"I'll ask," she said between sips of wine.

"Well, it's what I call the mother of those rare honeycomb meteors that have been found a few times now."

"Honeycomb meteoroids? Never heard of them."

"If you're going to be a deep spacer," Bull smiled, "you're allowed to call them 'meteors' even before they burn up. We leave 'meteoroids' to the astronomers and the tourists.

"Anyway. There aren't many, and they're considered a minor curiosity by everyone else who knows about them. Most people think of meteors as solid rock or solid metal—throughout history mankind has known that's what they are. Well ... that's not completely true. Now that we can catch them before they hit the Earth's atmosphere, we're finding more variety, and that makes them good prospecting tools.

"Meteors are chips off of something bigger. If you find a meteor with lots of lithium, for instance, it came from a lithium-rich asteroid. Backtrack its orbit to the point it was blasted away from the asteroid, then run time forward with your best guess at the asteroid's trajectory, and you find the asteroid. Jonas 4 was found that way. Elias Jonas was one hot prospector, and lucky too ... but then any deep spacer who's rich and alive is lucky.

"Now to do this hot-prospect-asteroid finding right, you need to find a couple fragments that came flying from the same asteroid and that got blasted off at the same time—preferably recently. You track their orbits carefully, mix in a whole lot of computing power provided by Trajectory Central for a price, and voila! A location and vector for the mother asteroid comes out."

"It's as easy as that?"

"Well, the location is a probability spheroid, and if your data is fuzzy, or the collision is old, or something deflected one of the meteors, or they came from different collisions, the spheroid can extend from Jupiter to Mars. And you've spent a lot of computer power and cash for not much help."

"Bummer."

"Looking too long for answers from TC has bankrupted more than one deep spacer. We all keep our fingers crossed, and we keep close tabs on how well it's going, so we know when to cut bait.

"However, I feel real good about what I've got. There have been three recorded honeycomb meteors—very lightweight meteors made of something a bit like pumice. Those exomineralogists who've bothered to look at one are interested in it, but not excited about it. I look at the honeycomb and I see a cheap, lightweight construction material. If these meteors are coming from a honeycomb planetoid, it would be a mountain of the cheapest, strongest construction material available in deep space. Any of the Belter construction companies would be very interested in the find." Bull leaned forward again. "But even more important to me, I've

looked at the honeycomb carefully. It's more like bone than foam, Yingtai. Besides, how are you going to get rock to foam without gas being rapidly depressurized? And depressuring gas means gravity, planetarysize gravity, not asteroid-size. No, the Honeycomb is a genuine mystery, and I aim to solve it."

Bull leaned even closer. "There are two unrecorded finds of honeycomb. I found them! That's my secret, and I got good trajectories on them. The way I figure it, anyone lucky enough to find two honeycombs is lucky enough to find the Honeycomb Comet. I call it a comet because my preliminary extrapolations put it out in the Kuiper Belt. And that's why I'm going there."

"The Kuiper Belt? Beyond Neptune?"

"Way beyond Neptune."

"That'll be a long trip."

"Not that long, six years, I've got constant acceleration on my ship, but then you probably know that, don't you?"

"Yeah, point-one G from solar wind ... all the way there and back. Ummm, it's the hottest thing out here in the Belt. ... But you've got only two trajectories?"

"Three. A friend of mine who knows about this hobby of mine just found another. He didn't bother to collect it, but he sent me some careful measurements."

"So now you're burning up the nanoseconds on Trajectory Central?"

"I'm in the queue even as we speak."

A shadow came over Ying-tai's face. "So you're asking me to sign up for a six-year voyage to the Kuiper Belt to help you with your hobby? Which is to find a strange comet that may or may not exist?"

"Six or seven years, yeah. This is no space tanker run, Ying-tai, this is real deep spacing. It may be for you, it may not."

"How come you're telling me about this ... secret comet?"

Bull looked confused for a second. "Secret comet? Oh ... the Honeycomb! Remember, I said this was a small community. Everyone here knows about my hobby. It's no secret, they're just not interested. Everyone has their hobbies. Van Cleeve is into watching girl-girl wrestling, and he sincerely believes there are Dark Ones waiting for us beyond Pluto. That's one reason I can't take him on this expedition. He's a good deep spacer, but he does have his peculiarities.

"Kasravi loves horses, and she's trying to bring back Voyager 10. Van Cleeve thinks that's a great idea so the Dark Ones can't find us. But Kasravi knows Van Cleeve is playing with a short deck, so she won't ask him for help.

"Hobbies are tolerated, but nobody thinks much will come of anybody else's. I'm back from my seventh run. I've been modest in my station spending and lucky in my prospecting. Searching for the Honeycomb is a hobby I can now afford. Everyone knows that and everyone knows I'm outfitting for it. In fact, I've invested heavily in getting this constant acceleration drive technology developed so that getting to the Kuiper Belt becomes feasible. The drive supports my hobby, and the company developing it should be a good investment in the long run. People know what I'm doing on this.

"No, I'm not trusting you with any deep secrets yet. We work together awhile before that happens, if ever."

"If ever?"

Bill looked at Ying-tai. "We don't have many secrets up here, Yingtai, but those we do have are dearly kept. We may trade some at some later date, we may never feel that close. We'll see.

"In the meantime, that's about all there is to say about this Honeycomb expedition. We'll be out there searching, and we may come back by way of Pluto. Does this still sound like your cup of tea?"

"Pluto?"

"Yeah, there hasn't been a manned expedition there in twenty years. I should get a fair chunk of change from the government for providing one. This may be a hobby, but that doesn't keep it from being a paying hobby."

"Isn't it out of the way?"

"That, my dear, will depend on what Trajectory Central comes up with. But when you're that far out, the gravity well is essentially flat and orbits are really slow, so it's simply a matter of point-to-point distance. There's nothing complicated about the math. If it's on the way, we stop by, if not, we don't."

"When do we find out anything?"

"TC will have a first pass tomorrow morning. In the meantime, would you like a tour of the ship?"

"Sounds good."

It was a short walk to Bull's ship, the Blue Yonder. There he began by introducing Honey, the ship's computer, that Ying-tai had heard him addressing. Then they toured the control room, the workshops, and the labs. They peered into the cargo area though they didn't suit up to enter it. But back in the control room Bull called up screens that showed the various unmanned probes, the legged crew-carrying walkers for exploring a planetoid or meteor's surface, and the jetted rovers that shuttled the walkers from the ship and back.

"This is no space yacht, Ying-tai, but it is designed to be comfortable for long journeys. It's a prototype. The company I've invested in is making more of these constant-acceleration ships for commercial application.

Continues...


Excerpted from The Honeycomb Comet by Roger Bourke White Jr. Copyright © 2011 by Roger Bourke White Jr. . Excerpted by permission.
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The Honeycomb Comet: Tales of the Hx 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Cyreenik More than 1 year ago
The Honeycomb Comet is a collection of stories built on the premise that mankind will travel to the stars, but not using a faster-than-light technology such as the space opera genre’s now-famous warp drives. Instead White has crafted stories in which mankind uses constant acceleration slower-than-light drives. “This presented a big challenge.” says White, “These stories had to span decades, not a just a few hours, and still be interesting. “I took on this challenge for two reasons: First, we are unlikely to have warp drives, so stories using them are as realistic as stories with maidens riding unicorns. Second, if you have warp drives then Sirius becomes just another LA suburb, and the experiences of interstellar travel becomes pretty ho-hum, not pretty exotic.” Humans may not have warp drives, but there is plenty of high tech magic in these stories. The book opens with John Boromov, a crusty Belter prospector, discovering an abandoned fragment an ancient alien starship drifting through the Kuiper Belt, and that fragment is filled with civilization changing technologies. The book chronicles the adventure as mankind moves from discovering this ancient fragment to discovering that the alien it came from is moon-sized, to having one of these moon-sized aliens, still alive, come close to Earth! “These HX aliens are not just alive,” says White, “They are an ecosystem, just as the human body is. In my Honeycomb Comet world, humans are a mosquito to these HX aliens. Humans come, and try to suck off civilization changing treasure, and the aliens try to swat them when they do. “And when I say civilization changing, I mean just that. Think of living our lives without pizza sauce or ketchup or french fries. If Columbus hadn’t discovered America – home of the tomato and the potato – that’s how Europe would be today. That’s the kind of change I mean when I say civilization changing.” These stories are about the people who deal with these exciting events – some can’t wait to exploit these opportunities, some fear that nothing but trouble can come to mankind from tampering with these creatures from the stars and their forbidden treasures. It’s a fun series of stories, and like all White’s Tales of Technofiction books, told in a very different fashion from conventional science fiction story lines. If you want to read a different kind of science fiction, on in which good science is as important as good characters and a good story, you’ll like this.