The Stars Came Back -079- Book 2a

INT – DAY – Officers mess

Lag, Stenson, Allonia, Seraphina, sit at the table, with food and settings for six. Helton walks in with the book and sits down to general greetings.

Helton: A bit more readable already. Take a look.

He slides the book over to Stenson.

Stenson: Yup. Looks like a math primer, alright. Hmmm… Base twelve.

Seraphina: What do you mean, “base 12”?

Helton: We count in base ten – ten digits, zero through nine, then you add a column when you get to ten, and at ten times ten you add a hundreds digit, and so-on for any power of ten. Computers are binary, use base two – ones and zeros.

Lag: Where did you get that?

Helton: In a cave Harbin and I hid in, back during that event that didn’t happen at the mine, after we weren’t hit by pirates. It was closed. The hole on the back there is where it got hit with a grenade shot at me while I was carrying it on my back.

Allonia: If you hadn’t been carrying that…?

Helton: -Both Harbin and I would likely be dead.

Stenson: You can see some writing around the edges of the blast hole, here. Lost a lot of stuff, though.

Seraphina: That font looks like the Planet Mover message.

Helton: Let me look at that again.

He pulls the book closer, and the other crane their necks a bit to get a better look.

Ship AI: (OC, thin, dreamy voice) Nice folks. Quiet. Good listeners.

Helton: Uh, what was that?

Everyone: …

Helton: Taj, WHAT did you just say?

Ship AI: (OC, normal voice) What? I didn’t say anything.

Helton: Just now, you said something.

Ship AI: (OC, petulant) Of course I did. I said I didn’t say anything!

Helton: No, BEFORE THAT.

Ship AI: I was talking to Quinn on deck 5, but I’m not sure how you heard that.

Seraphina: Deck five? I thought there were only three decks here?

Lag: That symbol there. It looks like the three line “equals” sign in the Planet Mover’s message.

Helton looks where she was pointing. He flips back and forth through the pages rapidly, suddenly starting to tremble a bit. As he flips describing what he’s seeing and what it represents, the pages flash by on the screen. They show densely packed symbols, tables, diagrams, short “phrases,” etc.

Helton: Counting, just like a child. You start with counting. Number symbols. Then basic arithmetic operations – add, subtract multiply, divide. Fractions. Roots. Algebra. Geometry. Pythagorean theorem – that HAS to be a proof! A circle gives us pi and irrational numbers. Physics – definitely physics diagrams. Free-body diagrams. Text describing the problem – switch the objects moving and acting on them, change in syntax, change the formula… THAT’S Got to be a table of elements, with hydrogen, helium, oxygen. Water. Balancing chemical reactions. More symbols. More math. Mostly text. Good GOD….

Helton looks up at them. They look at one another.

Allonia: Is- is that a book ABOUT the planet movers?

Lag: I think it’s a book BY the planet movers.

Helton: Mother of all that’s warm and fuzzy.

They sit staring at the book, soaking up the implications when Bipasha walks in with a a tray of food. She sits down chattering, then notices their stunned silence.

Bipasha: I was just talking with Kwon about how we seemed so lucky to get a high-paying easy job, then so unlucky to find out we were set up, then lucky to get through it all and make a pretty penny, then … What’s got all you all bent? Is the book that good a read? I…

Helton: Until we know for sure, NO ONE says ANYTHING. Agreed?

They all nod their heads.

Bipasha: Agree to what?

Lag: Don’t breath a word to ANYONE

Bipasha: Even uncle Harbin?

Helton: OK, your uncle, he deserves to know, and I’m pretty sure he can keep a secret.

Bipasha: Um… OK, I guess. What?

Helton: I think this book was written by the Planet Movers, and it may be a universal translation text for their message.

Seraphina: Not just a text book?

Helton: How would you send a message to someone in ANY advanced culture, regardless of what language they speak or what their background? It doesn’t make any difference if you are counting on fingers, flippers, or feathers, or what symbols you use, 2+3=5. If they have space travel, they have science, and the basis of ALL science is mathematics. Start with counting, work your way up, defining and building counting numbers, then arithmetic symbols, then use pictures for physics and chemistry which are both pretty universal, then build a written language out of that by describing the things in the physics and chemistry diagrams. Build up from there. We have more than four hundred pages totally intact, and about the same that are damaged to some degree by the grenade. Diagrams and text look dense, so it’ll take a while to decipher, but the more I look at this, the more I think that’s it. It might be premature, but-

Stenson: I think you’re right. A basic, universal medium, a printed book: tough, and will only be readable by someone in a relatively high oxygen atmosphere who uses visible light. ANY space-faring race could translate the message with this, if that is what it is.

Allonia: But it’s incomplete – will it still work?

Bipasha: That’s worth more than this planet. You DO know that, right?

Helton nods his head in wonder.

Allonia: (incredulous) You’re joking.

Bipasha: No. Just about any government in the universe would kill us all in a heartbeat to get their hands on this.

Seraphina: Some might kill us to cover it up, too.

Helton: So… do we keep silent, sell it, or copy it and put it out on general broadcast for everyone to see at once?

Bipasha: If we sit on it, it won’t pay the bills.

Stenson: We don’t have the tools to properly decode it and understand it here.

Allonia: I think it should really belong to everyone, so the best minds can really figure it out.

Seraphina: Give it away? You are very sweet, dear, but crazy naive.

Helton: Crazy? I agree that giving it away kind of makes it hard to pay the bills-

Seraphina: There are people who don’t WANT the truth to be known, just like they don’t want Jews alive, or self-aware computers, or honest politicians. They feed on the problems. They’d kill us and destroy the ship to keep it secret for their own purposes.

Helton: And I thought Kwon was the only conspiracy-nut I knew.

Lag: She’s right, though.

Helton: I don’t follow.

Stenson: There ARE people who would want to keep this under wraps. Think about what ANY major religion would think of a potential challenge to their message?

Allonia: This is insane! People will want to kill us to get it if they knew we had it, others who would want to kill us to destroy it, it’s so valuable no-one can afford to buy it, but it’s REAL value is in letting everyone know what it says, but then it’s of no value to US!

Bipasha: But, we don’t know for SURE that that’s what it is?

Helton shakes his head, still leafing through the book.

Allonia: What languages does everyone here speak? Anyone know anything but English?

Seraphina: A bit of Spanish and Hebrew.

Bipasha: Hindi

Stenson: Math, a bit of German

Lag shakes his head.

Helton: Some Latin and Greek, and a handful of words in a dozen other languages. COMPUTER. Awake? What language analysis programing do you have?

Ship AI:(OC) My name isn’t “computer”.

Helton: … well, how much?

Ship AI: Nothing specific to this task. Basic organizational tools may get a lot, if you are correct in your basic assumptions, depending on damage. I have some vague records that indicate I worked on a language problem long ago.

Helton: OK, then. We need to find out what it says, scan as much of it as we can with every tool you have, Stenson, to establish if it’s genuine as well as what it says. We don’t say anything to ANYONE until we know more. Then, if we are reasonably sure it IS a real artifact Rosetta Stone, THEN we figure out what to do. It might be worth more as a hole-card than a played one.

Allonia: I guess that sounds as good as any plan, at least for now.

Seraphina: For once I get to be in on the conspiracy! Silence for now. I just hope more good than evil comes of it.

Stenson: As if I didn’t have enough to do.

Bipasha: More knowledge is always better. How long?

Ship AI: A few days to a few weeks, if it is laid out as logically as Helton suggests, and depending on what was damaged. At least it looks like we are starting from the beginning.

Helton: Well, I’ll get to work on it, and in the meantime-

Seraphina: meals don’t cook themselves

Lag: -things are heating up at the New Medina complex, and there is a lot of intel to evaluate

Stenson: The drives and power cores need all the new parts installed and checked-

Allonia: I have a couple of projects to work on while the good sergeants get better.

Bipasha: And we need a new PAYING cargo lined up.

Helton: Well, then, let’s get to work, while more of these pages “come to light”…

Fade to black.


[I need to take another short break – the next mission was actually the first one I wrote, and needs some substantial re-writing to make sense with all the stuff that’s gotten put in before it now. It’s also job application season for teachers, so I’ll be busy with that. Should be back in a week or two.

Also, speaking of books. Any thoughts from the world and readers which you’d prefer in (electronic) published form:

Just one big book, ~150 k words, ~$4;

Free “teaser” intro, maybe start thru the escape from the prison mine, then five volumes of missions and repair, and a “finale” volume, at $1 each, so total story price is $5 if bought in parts;


Something else]


17 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back -079- Book 2a

  1. Book length: I prefer “Unintended Consequences” to “Perry Rhodan”; a “Harry Potter” would be even better.

    • I’ll take that as a compliment.
      But in order to sell it,I have to finish it, so making it too long will be problematic. I’m already over 125k words, and eyeballing what I’ve done, and what I need to do, I expect it’ll be north or 150k words total. Of course, you should remember that when I realized it was just over 100k, I was figuring 120k-125k total to finish. I’d like people to get their money’s worth 🙂
      For those not used to thinking in terms of word-count, the first two Harry Potter books had about 162k words between them.

  2. Book, but you need to make it a book. This format reads like an outline, not like a complete book ala Harry Potter. It’s way too long to be a screenplay.

    I don’t know anyone who judges the worth of a book on the number of pages in the book. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the greatest works of fiction and yet it is a very small book.

    • Judging worth on length, no. Judging price, yes. Presumably you understand the difference.
      And, where is it written that this format is unacceptable? I am of the belief that a good story is a good story, regardless of format, and a bad story is a bad one, again regardless of format. The plays of Euripides are pretty short of stage direction, as I recall, but few who are familiar with them would question their value. (no, I am NOT comparing my story work to one of the greats of ancient Greece, merely the formatting of same)

        • Snidely put.
          Depends on your definition of “first.” Yes, the obvious corrections will be made in any published version for sale, as well as some revisions discussed elsewhere (legrangian points, Allonia defending herself, B&E w/o notice through an airlock, etc).
          Relevance of question?

          • Well, normally writers go back and polish their work — you know, rework clunky sentences, find those “perfect” words, fix errors in plot and character, etc. Writing is an art, not a science, and a first draft is like a rough piece of furniture to a craftsman.

            For instance: “Allonia: This is insane! People will want to kill us to get it if they knew we had it, others who would want to kill us to destroy it, it’s so valuable no-one can afford to buy it, but it’s REAL value is in letting everyone know what it says, but then it’s of no value to US!”

            This is a run-on sentence with mixed tenses (will, knew, had — People WOULD want to kill us if they KNEW we HAD it/People WILL want to kill us if they KNOW we HAVE it).

            Five ideas in the sentence:
            1. People will want to kill us if they knew we had it.
            2. People would want to kill us so they could destroy it (which makes no sense — they would kill us TO GET TO IT to destroy it. Killing us wouldn’t destroy anything — but us.)
            3. It’s so valuable no one can afford to buy it. (Huh? Where’s the appraisal?)
            4. It’s real value is in letting everyone know what it says. (I don’t think value is the right word here — maybe “importance” or “worth”?)
            5. If 4 applies, it’s no value to us. (We don’t want to know what it says? Or we can’t send it to auction and make money on it? It may have a value but it might not be a monetary value.)

            And now you know why I don’t really offer critique except in a general way. If I tore up everything the way I did this one sentence, you’d be begging me to quit reading! 😉

            Overall, you have a good story but it has room for improvement.

          • If you were that picky with every sentence like this I might start to take your critiques less seriously. People often don’t talk in perfect grammar – I’ve overheard enough HS student conversations (and talked to enough of their parents) to know this first hand very well. To make a big deal out of a young lady using slightly mixed tenses and a run-on sentence when she’s excited and talking about the discovery of a life-time is a trivial “error.” Someone pointing out that they didn’t buy the “sneak in through the airlock undetected, looks too much like magic” problem is MUCH more relevant (which is why I will have that part addressed / corrected in the released version).
            Some of your critiques are very reasonable (e.g, not buying Allonia’s need for self-defense), even if I tend to disagree I see your point. Others are absurd, such as thinking Allonia needs an appraisal in order to consider something valuable, even after others have said it’s likely worth more than a planet, and quibbling over subtly different words you only seem to get when it’s to your advantage to argue them (such as confusing price and worth earlier) even when her meaning is clear.

            “Polishing” could take forever, but eventually things have to ship, or they can’t get sold. If a regular publisher decides to pick it up, I’d happily consider larger changes.

          • Sorry. I spent many years writing and editing for a living. Since you asked the relevance of my question about your first draft, I assumed that you wanted an answer.

            I’ll shut up now.

          • You don’t have to shut up. You DO on occasion make some good points. There is no body language or tone in words on the page; for whatever reason the way your comments came across to me was “this thing is crap, needs a LOT of work, you should be ashamed to consider publishing it in the current form, your are clearly a total amateur. Here, let me rip one stupid little thing apart to show you how bad the whole thing is. Neener neener.” Your tone (inferred from the words and phrasing) hit me as quite condescending.

            I also said “depends on definition of first.” I HAVE gone through all this stuff multiple times. I am also a fairly slow reader, and while never formally diagnosed, I suspect I’m mildly dyslexic. I’ve been a terrible speller since forever. Editing my own writing is a very slow, tedious process. But I HAVE done a fair bit after the first words are written for each section. I’ve re-written parts you’ll never see, and re-worked the overall story tremendously since I started. This is the first draft I’ve run by anyone else (you guy, thanks for the feedback and corrections), and I know that things can always be improved. I ALSO would like to get it (the story, in SOME format) done sometime in my lifetime.

    • Speaking of formatting – what do the regular readers think? Good, bad, non-issue, what? Since the regulars are obviously a self-selecting crowd, are there any irregular readers that would be regulars if it were not for the format?
      Look’n fer feedback, here, laddies ‘n germs.

  3. I made a comment way back about the screenplay format vs book format. Maybe back in Ch 20-something.

    Rivrog casts his vote for book format.

    BTW, have you “teased” Analog yet?

    • When you say “book format,” do you mean re-writing it into a “normal” prose narrative style format, or just “one big book” (as opposed to several smaller books).

    • Blog-meat. I’d prefer a sail made of bacon…. Oh, meEt. Sorry. Yes, sounds good, but not something I’ve done before, so I’m open to suggestions on methods and activities.

  4. I like to see this in book format. Maybe some minor reformatting to move it closer to book vs. screenplay but not an entire rewrite. You made a very valid point when you mentioned earlier that a some point a product has to ship. Maybe when you write the second book in the series (subtle hint there) start from scratch writing it as a novel.
    Kindle format preferably but that would not be a deal breaker. Individual book price is controlled a great deal by the market. Having said that though, I would have no problem paying $4.99 for just what I have read if I saw this on Amazon. That would be especially true if a sample chapter or two were available.

  5. My $.02? I’d be interested in purchasing as is (with minor editing), provided it were sold as in this format. There are quite a few who do it in serial form, $.99/episode, then later do an omnibus slightly cheaper total. The ‘Wool’ series is done this way, and has really taken off. My guess is thata couple of years ago, Howey was at a similar place. No telling how much in sales, once it got a following. Okay, there’s some telling, but without me going and looking it up, there’s no telling. Anyhoo, the script-like format might be something to set it apart from the crowd.

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