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The Catherine Kimbridge Omnibus Collection I, page 1

 

The Catherine Kimbridge Omnibus Collection I
 


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The Catherine Kimbridge Omnibus Collection I


  The Catherine Kimbridge Collection Volume 1

  Three Complete CKC Novels (1-3)

  The Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles #1 - Inception

  Copyright © 2012 by Andrew Beery

  The Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles #2 - Redemption

  Copyright © 2012 by Andrew Beery

  The Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles #3 - Exploration

  Copyright © 2013 by Andrew Beery

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  I’d like to thank my wife Lori and my two daughters, CJ and Jackie, for putting up with me while I wrote this next book in the Catherine Kimbridge universe. Any similarities between people in this book and my immediate family and friends is purely intentional. Of course, I wouldn’t be much of a pastor if I didn’t acknowledge God – to Him be all the glory!

  NOTES from the author

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  The Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles #1

  Inception

  Andrew Beery

  Copyright © 2012 by Andrew Beery

  Chapter One – A Beginning…

  Personal Log

  2067 was the year I died for the first time… It was painful. Had I known how often I’d be expected to die over the next several millennia, I might have made a stronger effort to stay dead.

  The year actually started off rather nicely. I finished my PhD in high energy physics and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in the United States Air Force. My first posting after the promotion was to the Lunar One Air Base where I worked with my father, Dr. Robert Kimbridge on “The Project.”

  “The Project” was our name for a VASIMR Ion Drive interplanetary space craft that used Thorium LFTR reactors for both shielding and power. Capable of a sustained point one G of acceleration, our prototype was expected to make the Mars run in less than a week. By the end of November, the ESX Arizona was ready for her first trial runs, and I was her pilot. History has an odd way of repeating itself.

  * * *

  The newly promoted Lt. Commander Catherine Kimbridge sat at the controls of her highly modified light cruiser. The Air Force, along with most of the world’s militaries, had recently adopted uniform rank designations. Officers O1 and above utilized naval rank designations while enlisted personnel and warrant officers W4 and below utilized Army ranks. It still seemed strange to her to be in the Air Force and hold what, until a few years ago, had been a naval rank. Of course, the newness of her rank was in its own way strange.

  The craft had originally been designed to transport a crew of fifteen between Lagrange Point Two (L-Point2) behind the Earth and the various lunar bases dotting the moon’s surface. Before the ESX Arizona had been thoroughly modified by herself and her father, the craft had been expected to make such a trip in roughly a week. Now the much larger VASIMR engines could heat the Arizona’s fuel to a plasma state in microseconds and provide enough thrust to make the trip to the inner planets in a comparable time frame.

  The addition of several Liquid Fluorine Thorium Reactors (LFTRs), as well as the fuel pods for the VASIMR drive, limited the available space to three people. This was of little concern to the petite redhead because for this first trip she would be the only occupant. Her goal was to achieve insertion into a Mars orbit in 6.4 days. Considering the best time to date for a manned spacecraft was on the order of ninety days, this would be quite an achievement.

  “Lunar One, this is the Arizona. My board is green, and I show go for Mars burn.”

  “Arizona, we confirm your board is green. You are go for umbilical disconnect and Mars burn. See you in two weeks and God speed!”

  “Roger that, Lunar One. Arizona out.”

  Cat, as her friends called her, leaned forward in her auto-molded acceleration couch and flicked on her AI unit. At the same time, she peered out the nanite-infused dura-glass window of the cockpit. Lunar One was about a kilometer below her present position. At the moment, the Arizona was tethered to the terminus station anchoring the upper side of a lunar space elevator platform. One thousand meters of ultra-strong, incredibly flexible, diamond fiber weave connected the base station that was Lunar One with the terminus station that was Lunar One Beta. Technically the base station was Lunar One Alpha, but Cat had never heard anyone actually add the Alpha. Most people called the facility L1 and let it go at that.

  “Ben, disconnect umbilical and execute sequence Mars-1A when we are clear.” Ben was Cat’s name for her AI. Computers had finally surpassed human’s raw intellect, but they still lacked that spark of imagination that defined humanity. Nevertheless, since most experts now acknowledged that computers were self-aware, for all practical purposes, it had become common practice to allow them to choose their own names. When the AI that was Ben came online some four years ago it elected to pull a name from Cat’s personnel file… the name of her first dog.

  “Umbilical disconnect confirmed. Drifting two meters per second. The Arizona will clear all moorings in twelve seconds.”

  Cat waited while the seconds counted off. The last of Lunar One and its tethered twin slipped away.

  “LFTRs one, two, and three scaling up to 68 percent capacity. VASIMR thrusters powering up. Plasma drive is online. Commencing point one G burn in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… we are go for VASIMR drive at point one G. Estimated arrival at Mars insertion point in six point two days.”

  “Thank you, Ben. I’m heading down to the engineering deck. Let me know if anything unusual happens.”

  “You are welcome… Please define unusual within the current context.”

  “Ben, you’re a smart machine. Use your imagination.”

  * * *

  Yarin watched the small craft with eyes four and six. History was in the making. In point of fact, that was why the Heshe was there.

  This young bipedal race was in many ways a younger version of its own. They had an amazing capacity for logic coupled with compassion. Yet, neither logic nor their vibrant emotions were their masters. They existed and built their society by establishing a middle ground between the two.

  The ancient Heshe cast out with its sensor-enhanced consciousness for others of its race. They were few in number now… And growing fewer with each passing millennia. These humans, as they called themselves, would likely never meet the Heshian Expanse. The Heshe were leaving this section of the galaxy
. Regrettably, the very thing that made humans so fascinating doomed the Heshe – and very likely humanity as well.

  For all their knowledge and love of learning, the Heshe had never lost their ability to believe in the unprovable. They, like their kindred spirits in these humans, had an innate ability to transcend their logic in regard to a faith in an uncreated creator. In many ways humanity mirrored the Heshe’s own understanding of the divine.

  Their love of the creator prevented them from taking life for any reason other than nourishment. When faced with the advances of an aggressive species they were defenseless. It was ironic that these humans were perhaps far better able to defend themselves, despite their vastly inferior technology. Yarin hoped this was the case. It would be sad to see such potential lost when the D’lralu came to claim their fertile solar system.

  The small craft was slowly making its way to the fourth planet. It was using a crude ion plasma drive that would literally take days to accomplish what Yarin’s quantum fold drive could accomplish in milliseconds. Still, this was a first for this young race. The technology being demonstrated would make practical the exploitation and exploration of the human solar system. This, in turn, would produce a paradigm shift in how humans viewed themselves and their universe. Their rate of technological growth would soon outpace anything the human species had accomplished to date. But would it be enough?

  * * *

  Cat Kimbridge put down her fork. Dinner was a flash-frozen smoked salmon steak with a light horseradish sauce and German potato salad from a famous national chain restaurant called “Teddy Peters.” She sipped her glass of lightly sweet white wine. This was day six, and she was right on target for Mars orbital insertion – hence the celebration.

  Soon they would be in orbit, and the sensation of acceleration induced gravity would cease. One of the interesting innovations in the Arizona was a fully gimbaled living space that automatically rotated with acceleration to provide a consistent up-and-down experience for the crew. It wasn’t artificial gravity, but it was the next best thing.

  “Ben, status report.”

  “All systems nominal. Orbital insertion in approximately 18.4 minutes.”

  “Report fuel status.”

  “Primaries are at 71 percent. Emergency reserves are at 98.3 percent.”

  Cat sat up straighter in her seat. 98.3 was not the number she had been expecting. “Explain the delta between the emergency reserves now and mission start.”

  “Certainly. At 18:42 on December 4, 2067, the port reserve tank was hit with a micro-meteor that breached the tank for sixty-eight seconds until the nanite fiber mesh could seal the hole.”

  “And why didn’t you report this?”

  “I just did, Commander.”

  “Correction. Why didn’t you report it at the time of the incident?”

  “I was following your previous orders. Report only what is unusual. A loss of fuel due to micro-meteor impact occurs in 3.2 percent of voyages between Earth and Mars and is…”

  “…therefore not unusual,” Cat continued. “Ben, new orders. Please report anything that impacts the operational readiness of this ship by more than a percent in a time frame that is atypical.” Cat was so used to thinking of Ben as an intelligence in his own right that she occasionally forgot how incredibly literal AIs tended to be.

  “Command accepted. Shall I also report anomalous reading occurring outside the ship?”

  “Absolutely.”

  “Very good. I wish to report an anomalous reading outside the ship.”

  “Specify.”

  “Two spacecraft are approaching at .2c.”

  “What… Nothing we have can go that fast!” Cat screamed as she dashed for the bridge of her small ship.

  “Thus the anomalous nature of this event,” Ben continued in his monotone voice.

  Cat sat in her command chair and brought up her holographic interface with a wave of her hand. “Ben, isolate the sector the two anomalous craft are vectoring in from and display on my board.”

  “Not possible. Targets are vectoring in from multiple directions.”

  “Fine!” Cat yelled. “Use the Arizona as the center point and show both approach vectors. Label the targets one and two based on the first to reach us.”

  “Understood, parameters accepted. Plotting multiple vectors now.”

  “Give me a time frame. How long before they get here?”

  “Assuming neither craft changes velocity or vector, craft one will be in our vicinity in three minutes and twenty-six seconds. The second craft is adjusting its speed to arrive at exactly the same time.”

  It was the longest three and a half minutes in Cat’s thirty-year life. She had Ben try to hail the two craft, but there was no way to know if their communication technologies were in any way compatible. Neither craft responded to her attempts.

  “Ben, prepare a message buoy. Attach a complete log and sensor track from our friends out there. On my mark, send it off best possible speed for Lunar One.”

  “Buoy ready. Launching for Lunar One on your mark.”

  When the approaching craft were five seconds out Cat gave the order to launch.

  “Craft One is altering course and speed…”

  A sudden brilliant flash lit up the holographic matrix in front of Cat. “Ben, report. What was that?”

  “The message buoy was destroyed by a tightly focused ten-megajoule coherent energy beam emitted from a dorsal array on the first craft.”

  * * *

  Yarin watched the D’lralu scout ship destroy the small probe the Earth craft had ejected moments before. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do. The D’lralu had not been expected to encounter Humanity for another hundred years or so. A scout ship showing up now meant humanity had far less time than the Heshe had anticipated. If the D’lralu scout kept to standard procedures, it would disable the human craft and then dissect both it and its crew to learn as much as it could prior to reporting the find to its home command. Once that report was made… Humanity was doomed.

  * * *

  “Ben, abort orbital insertion. Emergency acceleration… Get Phobos between us and that ship!”

  “Emergency acceleration engaged.”

  Cat felt herself pushed back in her chair as the Arizona reached for her peak acceleration of 1.2 gravities. Older chemical rockets could achieve much greater accelerations, but the Arizona had been designed for efficiency and not acceleration.

  “How long before we are shielded by Phobos?”

  “Current projections indicate we will not be able to accelerate fast enough to successfully hide before the approaching spacecraft intercep…”

  Cat was thrown out of her seat as a blinding flash enveloped the bridge. The flash was accompanied by a thunderclap and the sound of twisting metal. A shower of sparks filled the space between Cat and the main console.

  “Ben, report! What just happened?”

  There was no response. Her AI was offline. Scrambling to reach the backup overrides, she threw the breaker and brought emergency power systems up. Twenty seconds later Ben reported he was back online.

  “There has been a hull breach near the aft thrusters. The VASIMR drive is inop. Chemical thrusters are online but will be insufficient to return to Earth orbit.”

  “Can we repair the drive?” Cat asked although she suspected she knew the answer.

  “Negative. The primary drive was fused by a 250-megajoule coherent energy beam.”

  “250-megajoule? How is it we are still alive?”

  “I would speculate that the operator of craft one simply wished to disable us.”

  “Well, they’ve succeeded,” Cat mused quietly. “I wonder what they want?”

  “Unknown, Commander.”

  “Ben, can you bring up any sort of display… I’m blind here.”

  “Holographic systems are offline, but I can bring up a flat panel display.”

  “Good boy. Give me a split view, I want both crafts displayed.”

&n
bsp; The main view screen flickered to life. The ruddy red of Mars appeared as a small colored marble in a field of jet black.

  “Isolate the alien crafts and highlight.”

  A yellow icon with a little “1” appeared in the upper right corner of the screen. A second icon with a “2” appended to it appeared in the lower middle section of the screen.

  “Commander, Craft One is emitting an energy signature similar to what it emitted just prior to firing on us and the buoy earlier. I suspect it is about to fire again.”

  “Quick, fire the maneuvering thrusters… Put us into as fast a spin as you can… We can’t outrun them, but perhaps we can spread enough of their blast around that our meteor shielding can protect us.”

  At about the same time the AI engaged the thrusters, the first alien craft fired. Fortunately it was nowhere near the 250-megajoule blast that had disabled her engines. But it was enough. Had she not been spinning, the shot would had breached her hull somewhere near environmental.

  Cat struggled to hold her seat as the Arizona spun wildly in her attempt to dissipate the energies being fired at her by the other craft. Suddenly the emergency klaxons, which had started the moment the ship had begun taking fire, ceased.

  Ben automatically fired reverse thrusters to stop the rotation.

  “What happened? Why did they stop firing at us?”

  The AI responded, “The second ship intervened. Analysis would seem to indicate it instantaneously trans-located to a position just in front of the attacking ship and physically collided with it. The first ship has been destroyed. The second ship is in a rapidly decaying orbit. It does not seem to be under power.”

  They sacrificed themselves to save us, Cat mused. “Ben, do we have enough chemical thruster left to maneuver under them and push them into a stable orbit?”

  “Unknown. That calculation would require knowledge of their mass.”

  “Get us in position. Speculate assuming their craft masses similar to ours for a comparable size. Will we have enough fuel?”

  “Within the parameters specified there is a 19 percent chance we will have enough fuel.”

 
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