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Enduring Mission

by Dennis M. Myers, 08/10/2019

After I wrote the first two books in the Rise of the Automated Empire series, I started on the third (Broken Trust). To be fair, it was supposed to have been the second book at the time. Be that as it may, I know what that third book is going to be, and I have most of it plotted out and ready to go. I put it on the shelf for later, because I am working at starting a career. Writing three or four books in a series that depends heavily on that first book (Final Assembly), before that first book has actually been published, seemed like the wrong way to go. Besides, after the part of the first book that grew into the second (Precipice), combined with what I know happens in the third book, I had a ready made adventure. There is now a destination for an exploration mission, and I had the perfect Captain for that ship, the perfect ship name (Endurance) and had even previously set up two of the alien characters involved in a tag scene in the first book.

I started working out the details of the characters involved, first the alien civilization. Who they were as a species, who my viewpoint characters were, and how they thought. I worked out what parts of the story I wanted to tell from their perspective. I ended up choosing three "males". Two of them are brothers, the third is related by "marriage." I put these things in quotes because they are not strict translations of the concepts.

I also did a lot of work on what their world was like. I grew up with the desert planet Arrakis, and the forest moon of Endor. Star Trek, in nearly every episode showing a new world did the same thing. I have seen so many examples of single environment worlds, I knew I needed to do better. I made sure that as a part of my character's journey, he visits several environments. The forest where he lives, the mountaintop village of the stone builders, the prairieland town at the edge of a river, and the desert he needs to cross. There is more, but you get the idea. Their world is like Earth, in that they have multiple environments.

I had most of that worked out, then I found that I needed more. I had to pick a real star, and have my crew go there. There were two parameters. First, the journey of the Endurance takes multiple years, and second, the new jump engine allows the Pang Yu to get there in less than a year. Since I already had the numbers for those two types of jump engine from previous work, it was all just math and research. It took about three days to find a suitable star system, then plot out the journeys. At one point, I had to scrap it all and start over, because once I plotted out the actual jumps, and the periods of engine overhaul required, it took eleven years. So, no.

The final numbers gave me a seven year journey for the Endurance, which the Pang Yu covers in eleven months. The Pang Yu arrives six months after Endurance. Just enough time for things to go really rather wrong. I have all the jumps plotted out, and the star systems they hit along the way. I'll be placing some scenery there as well as probes and automated infrastructure development. This line of exploration will remain etched in the fabric of the Automated Empire as I move forward.

But here's the kicker. Because these characters had been introduced in earlier work, I had to extrapolate. I have a young couple in Precipice who head into a happy marriage. Whoops. Seven years later, they really should have kids by now. I have a very eligible bachelor with a love interest showing up on the Pang Yu. He's got to have ex-girlfriends onboard. Complications?

Oh, and the cute 12 year old boy from Precipice who's father now runs the ship? He's 21. From 12 to 21 makes him nearly an entirely new character. Heck, he probably has a love interest too. He's grown up on a mission to the stars. What has he learned? How did he manage his teenage years? Were there other teens with him? Oh good grief. I have a lot of work to do, don't I?

So here I find myself setting up the characters I have on the two ships, and the events which lead them to be here, and then I have to add in nearly a decade of personal growth and development. It's actually a lot of fun, and once I have it all worked out, you'll see little bits here and there. It's like I am going through all the processes of making sea salt, then I'll be able to grind it up and lightly sprinkle it into the story to add a touch of flavor. Yes, I know that too much is bad, but none at all makes it feel flat. I'll work hard to have a full environment from which to draw, but I'll leave all the little details that don't make it into the book for supplemental material I can give to folks who log into this website.

I have much of the broad stroke outline worked out, and I feel like I am telling an interesting story. There are a few things that will give our characters plenty of headaches to work out, and I get to explore a whole new world in detail. I get to do much of it from the perspective of someone who lives there, but had never left his home forest.

Endurance is a first contact story, told from both sides. The good, the bad, and the barbeque. I am looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.

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