A cooperative of
online writers and resources
"Gibraltar Earth" by Michael McCollum
(c) 1999, All Rights Reserved
It is the 24th Century and humanity is just gaining a
toehold out among the stars. Stellar Survey Starship Magellan is
exploring the New Eden system when they encounter two alien spacecraft.
When the encounter is over, the score is one human scout ship and one alien
aggressor destroyed. In exploring the wreck of the second alien ship,
spacers discover a survivor with a fantastic story.
The alien comes from a million-star Galactic Empire ruled
over by a mysterious race known as the Broa. These overlords are the masters of
this region of the galaxy and they allow no competitors. This news
presents Earthís rulers with a problem. As yet, the Broa are ignorant of
humanityís existence. Does the human race retreat to its one small
world, quaking in fear that the Broa will eventually discover Earth? Or do
they take a more aggressive approach?
Whatever they do, they must do it quickly! Time is
running out for the human race...
Credit Card and PayPal Purchase
Desktop and printed copies
PDF / Desktop
PDF for small
PDF / Handheld (Tagged)
LIT/ MS Reader
Mobipocket, Others PRC
do not display pictures PRC
Palm OS eBook
Reader PDB Formatted
Open Forum EPUB Format, IPHONE Stanza, IPAD, Others
Other Purchase Options
-- An Excerpt
Dan Landon of the Survey Ship Magellan sat strapped in his
desk and gazed at the large holoscreen that dominated the far
bulkhead. It was filled by a blue-white planet bordered by a patch
of ebon sky. Stretched out before him to the curving planetary limb
was a panorama of fleecy-white clouds and seas of royal blue. To the
right lay a sprinkling of green islands; each surrounded by
aquamarine shoals. At the top of the screen, just coming into view,
was the jagged coastline of one of the major continents. Soon they
would be sweeping over amber plains blackened by herds of six-legged
beasts, mountain ranges capped by snowfields, forests of deep green,
and a river network that was equal to the Nile, the Amazon, and the
the two generations since humanity had won free to the stars, the
race had found but twelve worlds sufficiently like the Mother of Men
to be considered even marginally habitable. This was the thirteenth,
and so far, the best. Preliminary results gave it double the highest
habitability index previously recorded. A solid month of orbital
scanning, laboratory tests, and on-the-ground exploration had
revealed a paradise. For that reason, Landon scowled as he watched
the scenery float by far below. A life spent in the service of the
Stellar Survey had left him with a philosophy that mirrored the
organizationís unofficial motto: "If things are going well,
youíve obviously overlooked something!"
he gazed at New Eden, the crewís unofficial name for their find,
he wondered what they were overlooking. Even after a month of study
by a thousand talented specialists, they had only scratched the
surface of what there was to know. A world was just too large and
too varied a place to be surveyed by a single shipload of
scientists. To understand New Eden completely would be the work of
generations. Where lurked the microorganism that would ultimately
prove fatal to humans, the environmental factor that would render
colonists sterile, or the million-and-one other deadly possibilities
that would turn this beautiful new world into a pestilential
knew that his current black mood was a defense mechanism against the
high hopes that New Eden had spawned in him. It was easy to remain
detached when the system to be surveyed consisted totally of sterile
rocks and gas giants, as most of them were. There was no love in his
breast for the usual dust balls, volcano fields, and oceans of
hydrochloric acid. However, to find this beautiful world and then
lose it because of some innocuous-seeming environmental factor would
be too great a disappointment. Better to keep expectations low until
they knew more about it. Sighing, he moved to retrieve a bulb of
steaming hot tea from its microgravity holder.
was a quiet rattle as the cabin around him shivered. Landon froze
for a long second as his brain analyzed what he had sensed largely
on a subconscious level. A chill had gone up his spine as it
sometimes did when he was thrilled or frightened. Yet, it had not
been just him. There had been a subdued clatter from the storage
lockers that lined every unused centimeter in his cabin. The
holoscreen had flickered with static, hadnít it?
introspection took less time than it takes to gulp. A moment later,
his hand reached out of its own volition and slapped down on the
intercom plate inset into the desk.
he snapped as the duty officer, a pimple-faced ensign, stared back
know, Captain," the boy squeaked. "Weíre getting reports
from all over the ship. Wait a second. Scout Three is reporting that
they felt it, too!"
Three was Jani Rykandís ship, en route back from exploring the
larger of the two moons of the planet. The fact that she was ten
thousand kilometers from Magellan eliminated the thought
that whatever had happened was a problem only with his ship.
general quarters, Mr. Grandstaff."
was already out of his seat, pulling himself hand over hand toward
the control room as the alarms began to bleat. A thousand past
drills provided him with a mental picture of the organized bedlam
that was taking place all over the ship. Before the alarms lapsed
into silence, he was strapped into his control console at the heart
of the big survey craft, surrounded by dozens of screens, none of
which told him what he wanted to know.
was it, Doc?" he asked a white-haired man in his personal
screen after keying for the shipís chief scientist.
it was," Raoul Bendagar replied, "it wreaked holy hell
with our instruments. Half of them lost calibration at the same
precise moment we felt the shock."
must have some idea," Landon persisted.
a second while I check something," Bendagar answered. He
stooped to manipulate a screen on which a series of glowing red
lines were superimposed on a polar coordinate grid. "Well Iíll
keep me in suspense."
glanced up at the captain, a look of shock on his face. "We
just experienced the Grand Hooting Monster of all gravity waves,
Captain. No wonder it knocked everything out of alignment."
frowned. He knew that gravity waves existed, of course. For more
than a century a trio of satellites had orbited between Earth and
Mars at a precise one thousand kilometers from one another. They
used laser beams to maintain their spacing to twelve digits of
accuracy, forming a vast right triangle that detected the
microscopic distortions caused by the collapse of distant stars and
other more catastrophic events. The largest gravity wave ever
detected had distorted space by an amount less than the width of a
proton. This one had been heavy enough to rattle Landon as he sat in
off it, Doc. Couldnít have been."
instruments recorded a distortion wave traveling from Equipment Lock
Two to the boat deck at the speed of light. Call it what you will,
but I say it was a gravity wave."
the communicator on duty reported, "Scout Three has a sighting
usual, Jani Rykandís features were framed in a tousled copper
explosion of hair. Unlike most women who lived and worked in
microgravity, she refused to bob her mane, or to keep it bound in a
hair net. On her, it looked good.
weird going on out here, Captain. Iím getting energy readings from
a point thirty degrees aft of my orbital path."
glanced at Bendagar.
got them, too," the chief scientist reported.
do you make of it, Scout Three?"
got the scope focused on it, Captain. It looks like a couple of
your view through to us," Landon snapped.
instant later, Jani Rykandís features dissolved to show the
blackness of space. In the background were the usual constellations
of stars, subtly or drastically altered from the familiar
constellations of home by the hundred light years Magellan
had crossed to reach this world. At first, there was nothing to see.
This changed when a violet flash of light sparked the darkness. It
put Landon in mind of summer lightning back home in B.C. Except this
lightning managed to illuminate two shapes in the blackness, one of
which glowed for long seconds after the bolt.
us a tighter view, Hirayama," the captain ordered. Onboard the
scout the geologist who was operating the scope controls moved to
comply. The distant stars jerked back and forth a few times as the
telescope zoomed to maximum magnification. When it stopped, there
was no doubt that they were looking at two vessels and that one of
them seemed intent on destroying the other.
prey was the larger of the two, a squat cylinder Ė it looked
remarkably like the pressurized cans in which ground coffee was
shipped to prevent vacuum damage. The ship was obviously intended to
be spun to produce artificial gravity. Its tormentor was a thin
cylinder with a variety of mechanisms jutting from a central core.
While they watched, the attacker again sent a beam of violet to
splash against the hull of its larger prey. They watched as a geyser
of plasma spewed away from the strike in a wide-angled vacuum
recorders to maximum," Landon ordered without being aware of
it. "Hirayama, track them!"
with the telescope focused on the battling duo, it was obvious that
the larger ship was doing everything in its power to escape. It
jinked one way, then the other, always trying to stay ahead of its
tormentor. The effort was futile. The small warcraft matched each
violent maneuver with one of its own, hanging onto its prey like a
small terrier harrowing a large bull. Every few seconds another
violet beam would splash across the hide of the larger craft,
leaving an ugly, glowing scar in its wake. Yet, if the small ship
were attempting to disable the larger, it was having little luck.
After each hit, the target changed course and tried to flee.
headed this way!" Jani Rykandís excited voice said over the
intercom. Sure enough, the larger ship had changed course and was
now headed directly for the scout. As the observers aboard Magellan
watched, the squat cylinder became a perfect circle and began to
grow on the screen. Whatever drive principle the two unknowns were
using was not obvious. There were no flares or other emissions to
suggest they moved by means of reaction engines.
Three, take evasive action!"
particular ideas?" the young woman pilot asked. "They both
look as though they can fly rings around this tub of mine. My God,
look at them come!"
was right. Both ships were growing at an unbelievable rate on the
screen. Soon Hirayama was backing off on the magnification to keep
them in view. It took less than a minute before both ships were
within naked eye range of Scout Three. The larger prey flashed past
at a range of ten kilometers with the small war craft in hot
Landon had been dividing his time between the view from Scout Three
and several long range views of the battle from Magellanís
own telescopes, which showed only an occasional spark of violet
against the ebon backdrop of space. As it passed the scout, the
warship fired another of its violet beams. The beam reached out and
momentarily bathed Scout Three in a violet corona of light. The
signal from the scout cut off abruptly.
Three!" Landon screamed. "Report. Jani, how badly are you
answer was obvious on the screen. Where a moment earlier there had
been a tiny human spacecraft too small to be seen against the
blackness of space, now there was a tiny speck of radiance, a
glowing cloud of plasma that cooled as it expanded.
felt a sudden surge of rage. His vision was clouded by the memory of
a laughing face framed in wild red hair. Then, as quickly as it
arrived, the rage was gone. He felt nothing as he watched the larger
ship again foreshorten until it was a half-lit circle of light
expanding on the screen. It was the same as the view from Scout
Threeís cameras, but with the difference that this time, Magellan
was drawing the battle to it.
we canít do that," Grandstaff said beside him. "Weíre
too deep in the planetís gravity well. The generators will never
stand the strain."
message probe, damn you!"
moment later, Grandstaff reported, "Message probe prepared for
with power reactors and a star drive generator, a message probe was
a small, unmanned starship. Magellan carried a dozen of the
five-meter diameter spherical craft. They were used for sending
reports back to Earth. Not only did they obviate the need to return
home after each system; they were insurance against the loss of
valuable data should the ship meet with an accident.
watched the oncoming pair while monitoring a display that showed
their speed, course, and relative bearing. Since no one had ever
expected to fight a space battle out among the stars, Magellan
was ill equipped to defend itself. The shipís entire armory
consisted of rifles, machine guns, and a few heavier weapons to take
care of pesky carnivores. Still, they had one potential weapon
onboard that might prove useful in stopping an alien marauder.
two craft came on, with the smaller continuing to chew away at the
larger. The damage was beginning to take its toll. Chunks of the
prey were being shot off as a cloud of gas and vapor issued forth
from dozens of rips in the hull.
Landon set up the probeís coordinates himself, not trusting anyone
else to do it. As the warship neared the distance from which it had
destroyed Scout Three, Landon keyed the control that would send the
tiny unmanned starship racing for Earth. Except, its target was not
Earth this time. Landon sent it directly toward the alien warship.
Grandstaff was right. They were far too deep inside the planetís
gravity well for a star drive generator to remain stable. The
message probe disappeared from its launching cradle and moved a
hundred kilometers at superlight velocity. Those few nanoseconds of
operation were sufficient to overload the probeís generators. They
exploded, hurling the probe back into normal space. The excess
energy was converted to velocity. The rapidly expanding cloud of
debris that returned to normal space moved at 0.6c. There was no
time for the unknown warship to react. An instant after the cloud of
debris appeared, one or more of its particles struck the small
warship, turning it into a star that rivaled the system primary for
a few seconds.
Harlan Frees had joined the Stellar Survey because he didnít
relish the thought of taking over the family business in Woomera.
The life suited him. To Frees, the opportunity to lead a party
aboard the surviving alien craft seemed too good to be true.
Scout Two," Landon ordered as Freesís command hovered just
beyond range of the slowly tumbling alien craft. Immediately after Magellan
had destroyed its tormentor, the large ship had put on a burst of
speed to escape the scene of the battle. It had apparently been too
much for the craftís tortured engines. Moments later, the squat
cylinder had gone ballistic. After checking the point where Scout
Three had been destroyed, Magellan went in pursuit.
not human, Captain. No orbital shipyard anywhere near Sol ever built
this thing," Frees reported. He had ordered his vessel in as
close as he dared. In front of him was a vast gash where one of the
warcraftís beams had struck a slashing blow. In the compartment
beyond floated a body. It was badly mutilated, but enough survived
to know that the being had possessed two arms too many.
a shot of that," he ordered Ensign Grimes, his copilot.
you get the body, do a slow pan. Show them the extent of the
Grimes took care to document the alien ship, Frees looked for a
place to dock. The alien shipís slow tumbling motion was a
problem. They would have to latch on and use their own drive to halt
it before anyone could explore. Otherwise there was too much risk of
found what he was looking for and gently nudged the scout forward.
He became conscious of a strange stink in the helmet of his vacuum
suit, then realized it was his own fear producing the odor. He
wondered if Grimes smelled the same thing inside his own closed
Two made contact without incident. Two minutes later they secured
their ship to the derelict with a cable. Five minutes after that,
they had the tumbling motion halted.
got the conn, Mister," Frees ordered as he unstrapped. "If
you see anything other than us moving about in there, blow the
explosive bolts and run like hell for the ship. Got that?"
about you, Lieutenant?"
mind me or anyone. Anything with four arms comes into view, you get
out of here."
moved to the after compartment where the rest of his boarding party
waited. Each of the three were sealed inside vacuum suits and looked
slightly ludicrous with a collection of weapons strapped to their
chests. Firing a gun in microgravity was a tricky business. The
recoil could send you caroming off in the wrong direction, not to
mention the possibility of a ricochet puncturing a suit.
Nevertheless, considering what had happened to Scout Three, the
captain had ordered the boarding party armed.
lead the way," Frees told Able Spacers Goldstein, Valmoth, and
Kurtzkov. "Monitor this frequency and the emergency one at all
times. Everyone set?"
received several clenched fists in response, which was the gesture
that substitutes for a nod in a vacuum suit. After checking to see
that Grimes was prepared in the cockpit, he turned the valve that
spilled cabin air directly to space. This was one time, Frees
reasoned, when they might not have time to cycle through the airlock
in the normal manner. When both inner and outer doors were latched
open, each man floated through the short airlock tunnel and entered
the alien ship.
encountered corridors that were two-meters-square and lined on both
sides with equipment lockers. This confirmed that the ship was
designed to be spun to produce artificial gravity. In ships designed
for microgravity, the lockers would have covered walls, deck, and
overhead. After fifteen minutes spent exploring the dark, they had
discovered several members of the crew. There were more of the
four-armed beings that looked like beetles with fur. Another species
had bulging eyes and thin manipulators that seemed to have evolved
from something like a lobsterís claw. Whether the bulging eyes
were natural or the result of explosive decompression was not
was examining one of the dead when a radio call came echoing to him
through the metal corridors. "Come look at this, Lieutenant. Weíve
found a section with air behind it."
pulled himself hand over hand to where the able spacer shone his
light on a bulkhead. The door was similar to that found on a human
spaceship, although the proportions were different. So, too, was the
control inset in the face of the door. It glowed in a script
composed primarily of rows of dots. Kurtzkov had braced his legs
against a ledge that stuck out into the corridor. He was trying to
lever the door open with his own strength. The hatch did not budge.
That was hardly surprising if there were air on the opposite side.
you sure it isnít jammed?" Frees asked as he floated to join
the two spacers.
think so, Mr. Frees. None of the other hatches we came through
Valmoth, get back to the ship and break out the portable airlock. Weíve
got atmosphere on the other side of this bulkhead."
the airlock took twenty minutes. The biggest problem was finding a
point to anchor the lock in order to control the blow-off load when
it was pressurized. The lock was just big enough for two men in
vacuum suits. Frees and Kurtzkov crowded together and let the other
two seal them in before getting to work on the hatch. A quick flash
of light from Kurtzkovís drilling laser and the airlock filled
soon as his suit collapsed around him, Frees reached out to touch
the hatch control. Pressing one contact had no effect. He tried the
other. The hatch swung silently back on its hinges.
Frees swept his flashlamp around the darkened room. In one corner, a
figure lay huddled in a tight ball. At first, Frees thought it
another corpse. Only after a moment did he notice the unblinking
yellow eyes that stared at him and the quick panting breath.
the captain that we have a survivor," he told the two spacers
still in the vacuum portion of the ship.
carefully, he moved toward the shivering mass of flesh. The being
jumped and whimpered when Frees reached out and touched it on a
pointed shoulder. Slowly, gently, Frees and Kurtzkov unrolled it.
Mr. Frees. Itís a monkey!"
Earth is the first book in the Gibraltar Stars Trilogy. The trilogy,
consisting of Gibraltar Earth, Gibraltar Sun, and Gibraltar Stars,
is an adventure with a galactic scope.
© 2000-2010, Third Millennium Publishing, All Rights Reserved
Michael McCollum, CEO
PO Box 14026
Tempe, AZ 85284-0068
Third Millennium Publishing is a division of SFAZ Technologies and Sci Fi -
Page was last edited on
11/11/10 04:29:02 PM