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Characters & Other Cool Stuff

The core of any novel, whether science fiction, historical, or literary, is found in the characters who tell the story. Returning is no exception. Like any full-length novel, a lot of people cycle through the pages. Some are around from beginning to end, others play their part and disappear.

Before we look at the characters, though, let’s take a quick look at the settings. Returning doesn’t span the longest period ever, to be sure. I suspect that record may go to James A. Michener’s Centennial, which starts in the Jurassic Period and ends in 1976. Returning only goes back to 84,859 BCE, and ends in 2127. Still a considerable period, of course.

In 84,859 BCE (or 525 on the calendar then in use), the starship Warrior sets out from earth on an exploration mission. Everyone going recognizes that this will be essentially a one-way trip, not because they won’t be able to come back, but because they won’t be able to return during the lifetimes of anyone living on the planet when they leave. The ship has the ability to travel at the speed of light (but not faster), and the crew don’t age, or even notice the passage of time, when they’re doing this. It’s just that, after traveling, say, 200 light years, while the crew have aged only a few seconds, the rest of the universe is still 200 years older.

When they return it’s 86,985 years later, and no one has ever heard of their civilization, except perhaps in the Atlantis legends. The entire culture was wiped from the planet a couple hundred years after Warrior departed.

The returnees were sent out by the Gehunite Empire, which by 525 had consolidate rule over most of the planet. The capital is the city of Salmik, in the old country of Gehun, which was located more or less where Florida is now, but covered a larger area.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the characters.

Kimewe Romiwero, Captain, Gehunite Imperial Navy: Captain Romiwero is Warror’s commanding officer. She is 30-years-old when the ship departs, and 45 when it returns. Pleasant, fairly easy-going, but definitely in command.

Marina Fehmadaatin: A pretty, blue-eyed blond, who could probably take Chuck Norris without raising a sweat. She’s an Imperial Navy sub lieutenant when Warrior departs, and a lieutenant during most of the modern part of the story (she’s promoted to lieutenant commander right at the end).

Grekim Vordik, Surgeon Commander, Gehunite Imperial Navy: Vordik is a native of a colonial world, New Barzak, which has a much higher gravity (1.84). Because of this, he’s shorter than average (4’11”, which is actually tall for his planet), and very powerfully built. Think someone the size of Danny DeVito with Schwarzenegger’s body. New Barzakites are not dwarfs. Their proportions are normal, they’re just shorter and stronger because of the higher gravity.

Carla Tuttle, PhD: An astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, England, and a professor of astronomy at Queen’s College, Oxford. She’s the first to notice Warrior returning, after observing a massive energy bloom 12.8 AU from earth.

Sara Ellsworth: A 15-year-old girl from Denver, Colorado. She’s the first to actually contact Warrior, when she scolds them for broadcasting voice over an amateur radio band reserved for code. One of the central characters.

Will Gordon: The President of the United States. A former fifth-generation evangelist, Gordon has been president for 29 years. Puts out the official story that Warrior is a British hoax, as official US policy considers the earth to be no more than 6,000 years old. Because the ship is 5.2 kilometers long and 450 meters in beam, this isn’t that easy to do, since it can be seen from the ground.

William VI: The King of England. He appears to be the great-grandson of the current Prince William. Very nice fellow, all things considered. Married to an astrophysicist.

Sir Charles Vickers, Bart.: Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Married to Rick Phillips, Esq., a barrister from Leeds. Has a few uncomfortable moments when a spaceship suddenly parks itself next to a British-commanded space platform, then just sits there in ominous silence for several days, making him question just what they’re up to.

Charles Colquhoun, Maj, Highland Regiment: The military attache at the British Consulate in Denver, Colorado. Name pronounced Kuh-hoon.

Felia VII: Empress of Gehun. The title is more symbolic than anything, since the “empire” now consists of little more than Warrior’s crew, and her elevation to the post is simply the result of her being the only member of the royal family still alive. Her normal function is as ambassador at large. She is also an exobiologist.

Arik Brynnazen, Warrant Master at Arms, Gehunite Imperial Navy: Warrior’s master at arms. His sister, Kara, is a captain (later colonel) of Imperial Marines. The two of them, along with a number of others aboard Warrior, are Neanderthal.

Zhvassish, Lieutenant Commander, Gehunite Imperial Navy: A native of the planet Grikna, and a bipedal, 6’3”, 230 pound humanoid reptile. Scary looking, but, like most of his kind, quite gentle and outgoing. There are several others aboard Warrior.

Simon Marsh: Director, United States Department of Internal Security. A cabinet officer in President Gordon’s regime. Not a particularly nice fellow.

Ellen Harris: Sara’s best friend, also fifteen.

About HIMS Warrior

Warrior Class: His Imperial Majesty’s Starship Warrior is the lead ship in a class of three. The others are HIMS Aspirant and HIMS Exultant. The starship is the 13th vessel with that name to be commissioned into the Imperial Navy. Previous Warriors included eight sailing vessels, one heavy cruiser, one diesel-electric and one nuclear submarine, and a system patrol ship (a type of armed spaceship used for patrols inside the solar system). The Warrior class starships have a length overall of 5.2 kilometres, and an extreme beam of 450 metres. Normal complement is 38 officers and 250 other ranks, plus an additional 30 civilian scientists, and 800 potential colonists. By the time Warrior returned in 2126, those 800 colonists had grown to a total population of 10,796,814,202 on three colonial planets.

Streamlining: Conventional wisdom holds that spacecraft, which operate in a vacuum, do not require streamlining. This is true, in most cases. Warrior class starships, however, have a maximum powered speed of between 120,000 and 130,000 kilometres per second. At those speeds, the sparse atmosphere of interplanetary space becomes significantly denser, with each square metre of ship’s surface encountering between 12,000,000 and 13,000,000 cubic metres of space every second. This is still a lower atomic/molecular density than still air at sea level, but it’s enough to affect performance. In consequence, the ships were made long and slender, with a pointed bow, so that the ship itself resembles an oversize sewing needle with a squared off stern.

Jump Drive: Space is, to borrow a line from Douglas Adams, “big.” At a speed of 127,000 kilometres per second, which is as fast as Warrior ever managed to go, it would take a bit over six years to reach the nearest star, which, so far as we’re aware, doesn’t have any planets able to support life. At that speed, we’re getting into relativistic time, so that six year trip would only take a little over three and half years from the crew’s viewpoint. In either case, it’s still a long time to travel if there isn’t going to be anywhere to land once you get there (not that a ship the size of Warrior is capable of landing on a planet anyway). Jump drive solves this problem, at least for the starship’s crew. The jump drive opens what Gehunites call an Arkhgaizim Passage (wormhole, in contemporary parlance), allowing the ship to move instantly from one point in space to another. In this way, a 200 light year passage can be accomplished in a second or two. Still, this is relativistic time. A few seconds pass aboard the ship. Outside the ship, the journey still takes a great deal of time. A jump of 650 light years, requiring roughly 4.7 seconds of ship time, consumes 650 years in standard time. Even in jump space, Einsteinian limits apply. You can’t go faster than the speed of light. The crew doesn’t age because, having reached the speed of light, time stops for them, but it continues for the rest of the universe. This is why a mission that ultimately reached a point a bit over 8,000 light years from earth before starting back, took 86,985 years to make the round trip, while the crew aged only 15 years.

Luxury Accommodations: Crew quarters aboard Warrior class starships are the most luxurious every provided for naval personnel. The size of the ship allows each crew member sufficient room to have his/her original home literally duplicated aboard the ship. The duplication is, of course, only skin deep, and does not include the exterior of the original home. The view from the windows in these quarters is a holographic image of what would be seen from the original location, and duplicates a normal day/night cycle for the current season.

Weapons: Warrior class starships are armed with high energy laser and particle beam weapons. These are capable of doing tremendous damage, mostly from heat. The ship’s company of Marines are armed with 10-mm semi-automatic sidearms, or with 8-mm semi-automatic rifles. High energy weapons are impractical for individual Marines because of the heavy powerpacks required. When in dress uniform, swords are worn. These may be either new, stainless steel ceremonial swords, which are unsuitable for actual fighting, or family (inherited) swords, which were usually made of tempered, high-carbon steel and intended for combat use. Sword design depends largely on where a crew member’s family originated.  

Some Things to Know About 2126

Europe is Different: European countries all eventually followed Britain’s lead in pulling out of the European Union. Most reverted to their original currencies. One thing retained was the open borders policy between European countries, and the elimination of duties on imports. Essentially, the European countries kept all the good parts of the old union, but threw out the annoyances.

The United States has Issues: The original US Constitution was replaced with a new version in 2019, the replacement going into effect with final ratification in 2022. Under the new Constitution, the US becomes official a Christian nation, and all churches receive tax support. Non-Christians are still required to pay the tax, which goes only to Christian denominations, a system designed to “encourage” non-conformists to move somewhere else. Abortion is illegal, and having or performing an abortion is punishable by death, as are sexual relations between men. It is official US policy that the Bible is literally true, so a spacecraft returning from some 80,000 years before the recognized date of creation naturally causes problems. Illegal immigration problems have been solved by a combination of turning the country into a place hardly anyone wants to move to, and automated border protection systems that kill anyone trying to cross anywhere except a legal crossing point. By 2126, farmers are actually having problems getting labourers to come up from Mexico. Most aren’t interested in the mandatory data chip implants, and, in any case, there are more jobs in Mexico. Climate change has likewise been taken care of with the discovery that the sea is not  rising, the coasts are sinking. Science, in the Age of Republicanism.

The Sagan Space Platform: A large space station, orbiting at an altitude of 400 KM, and commanded by a Royal Navy captain. Presumed to be the largest man-made object ever placed in orbit until Warrior returns. Named after Carl Sagan.

The Hawking Stellar Array: A large, multi-mirror orbital telescope, named after British physicist Stephen Hawking. Capable of seeing farther, and clearer, than any previous telescope. This is the largest telescope of any sort ever constructed.

Doctor Who is Still on the Air: Various oblique references throughout the book suggest that the classic British science fiction programme is still being produced in 2126, with Series 121 scheduled to be broadcast that year. A bar conversation indicates the current Doctor is number ninety-five, and that Clara and Me, looking exactly the same as they do now, still pop up from time to time, having for many years now been portrayed by CGI actors. Warrior’s one-man transport pods apparently look uncomfortably like Daleks to the people on the space platform. More explicitly, the novel also indicates the BBC is still operating in 2126.

Gehunites Can Manipulate Gravity: Gehunite technology allows them to manipulate gravity. They have artificial gravity aboard their spacecraft, and miniature gravity generators in the soles of their boots allow them to walk normally in zero-G conditions. They can negate gravity in their shuttles, but not on anything smaller, so if they land on a high-gravity planet they just have to suffer the effects. The ability to manipulate gravity in devices large enough to contain the equipment also allows them to eliminate perceived inertia inside their vessels, allowing acceleration to very high speeds without killing the passengers, and eliminating the need for seat belts on shuttles.

Gehunites Use Both Firearms and High-Energy Weapons: Warrior, and the shuttlecraft she carries, are armed with high energy laser and particle beam weapons. These require a great deal of power, which makes them impractical for individual issue, so personal weapons are ordinary firearms. The standard long arm is an 8mm rifle. Standard sidearm a 10mm semi-automatic pistol. Officers and senior enlisted personnel wear a sword with the full-dress uniform. Swords may be functional, or merely presentation weapons, mostly based on whether a particular officer chooses to wear a new sword (usually stainless steel, so impractical for combat), or an old family sword (likely passed down from a period when swords were still used as weapons).

Most Americans Get News from GNN: The General News Network supplies most national and international news for American television. The network’s policies as to what is, or isn’t, newsworthy reflect government policy. Consequently, Warrior’s return is treated as a British hoax on American television. The energy surge was reported, but once the cause was established the stories quickly dried up. Local stations usually only carry local news.

Camp Antelope: Located in Wyoming, Camp Antelope is a huge detention facility for anti-social elements. These include “useful” homosexual men (scientists, mathematicians, artists, etc) deemed too valuable to society to kill, atheists who don’t know when to shut up, some illegal aliens awaiting deportation (these live in their own section and do not interact with the Americans), and anyone else the government wants to disappear permanently, but doesn’t need dead. Once an inmate enters, they will never be allowed to leave, even if their confinement later proves to be a mistake.

Cars are Electric and Mostly Self-Driving: By 2126, available petroleum reserves have shrunk to a point where using oil as fuel has become problematic. At the same time, battery technology has advanced sufficiently that most electric cars are able to travel upwards of 600 miles on a full charge. Individuals can do their own driving if they prefer, but all cars now have fully-autonomous navigation and control systems and are capable of driving themselves. Except for large cities, most power comes from solar panels on individual buildings, bladeless wind generators, and small-scale hydro installations. Large cities mostly get their power from nuclear or, if they’re on the coast, wave power systems. Petroleum reserves are starting to run low, so it is no longer routinely used for fuel.

The UK Still has a Monarchy: In 2126, King William VI is on the throne. He is, presumably, the great-great-great-great-grandson of Queen Elizabeth II. That is to say, presumably the grandson of Prince George. He is married to the former Lady Martha Aberforth, PhD, a Cambridge educated astrophysicist, and the eleventh Countess Morency. One of those ancient titles that has been death-dutied completely out of any relevancy.

Interview with Captain Romiwero

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