Book two of the Apollo Quartet, The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself, is coming together. It’s a somewhat more ambitious story than Adrift on the Sea of Rains, and has required a lot more research – particularly into space technology which never made it off the drawing-board and proposals for space missions which never happened. There may even be slightly more technical detail in this book too…
To demonstrate that I’ve not been spending my evenings and weekends (only) browsing the internet and watching telly, here’s the opening 500 words of The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself. These may change before the novella sees print – I have a tendency to rewrite and polish almost constantly when I’m writing. However, the excerpt should give you some hints of what the novella is about, and perhaps even what alternate space history scenario it explores…
This time, when he returns home he knows she will have left him for good; and her decision weighs on him still, even as the J-2 engine ceases its muted roaring and the force pressing him into his seat abruptly vanishes. She has threatened to leave him before, many times; and she came so very close when he returned from Mars. Somehow they have stayed together. The fight two nights ago was the worst for a long time—she’d had the right of it, and he’d known it, which only made him argue all the more fiercely. After Mars, she told him never again would she sit at home worried and afraid, putting on a brave face for the press, living a lie which consumed her, which ate her from within like acid on the soul—
But he could not refuse this mission.
Someone bumps his elbow, and his attention returns to the here and now. His hands have lifted from the arms of his seat, and he can no longer feel the pull of the Earth. To his left, the mission commander, Captain Carl J Springer, USN, stares fixedly at the control panel from within the upturned polycarbonate bowl of his helmet. On his right, the systems engineer, Anna Gibson, has a gloved hand up to a line of three switches, and it takes a conscious search of his memory before he identifies them as the fuel cell PURGE. His training was rushed, and it has been so long since he last flew in space. He does not know this Apollo spacecraft as well as he should; but it’s not like it really matters—
Brigadier General Bradley Elliott, USAF, is the most senior officer aboard this spacecraft but he occupies the centre seat because he has the least senior role in its crew. He is the navigator.
True, there is the necklace of Salyut space stations in Low Earth Orbit which must be avoided, and the US cannot afford another “incident”—especially since the Pentagon is pretty damn sure the Soviets have started arming their TKS spacecraft with tactical nukes, in defiance of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.
Elliott is also a passenger on this flight. And he is going on a journey much further than his two crewmembers.
Much, much further.
But he has tasks to perform. Springer and Gibson have already begun the Post-Orbit Insertion Checks, from page 2-11 of the Launch Checklist, making safe the systems they will not need for the rest of the flight. Elliott must do his bit, so he punches Verb 06 Noun 62 into the guidance computer DSKY to perform the first of these:
HA 100.8, Hp 96.4, RVI 25490, he tells Mission Control.
Capcom acknowledges his figures.
We got pitch up to horizontal, says Springer.
APS firing for orb rate, adds Gibson.
Houston, we are configured for orbit, Springer confirms.