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Chapter 4 – A place called Home

Returning to his own sector, Veo headed for the main control station. Glancing out of the window he saw a large gas planet drift by, the swirling reds and oranges colliding with each other creating dramatic swirls as a graceful but deadly storm ravaged the surface. He was using the planets as a chain of slingshots, accelerating him out of the system. FTL travel was available, but much less scenic. Exodus, like all Opus class vessels were equipped with extremely efficient and agile sub-light engines, enabling high acceleration but unequalled ability to evade projectiles, ships, drones and generally act as a hit and run vessel.

The size of ship allowed for this manoeuvrability, but had other reasoning. The larger carriers that roamed deep space battles could carry several Opus ships, ready for strategic deployment for large scale planet attacks while the carrier absorbed damage and attention. However, the cost of Opus ships mean that seeing them in one place in groups larger than 2 or 3 is extremely rare. That’s not taking into account the effect that much ego has in such a confined space such as a solar system.

It was as the beauty of the serene, untouched planets that sat gracefully within this system passed him by that the question of why appeared. Usually he was willing of any and every contract, uncaring of the victims or damage. A job was a job. But that was because usually missions and contracts made sense. They were high priority targets. Frankly, he was almost offended that he had been requested to deal with what was, albeit satisfying, a low level and simple mission. It could just have easily been dealt with a new recruit on training. There were no threats, hell, Veo hadn’t even heard of the place up until now. Cardum wasn’t even a patrolled system, it didn’t need stealth. Or did it? Stealth not from the prying eyes of traders, travellers and the Cooperative, but from the Shareholders themselves.

Realising something was missing from his thoughts, he activated the autopilot and located the Kettle. Tucked away, the Kitchen was the opposite of the luxurious feel of the rest of the wood and leather ship. Everything glowed with a satisfying white glow of new technology. There was very little room to move about, but, much like the weapons system, hundreds of modules were hidden and stored away in vastly complex compartments, meaning everything and anything could be summoned for the purpose. All accessed from thought, the only two items that weren’t summoned by command were the kettle and the kitchen sink. From deep within the sideboard, a gentle hum could be heard as a teapot appeared, rising proudly. Water was stored within a few pressurised collection tanks. When in asteroid belts or the atmosphere of planets, trace molecules of water vapour pass though an extensive filtration system before being deposited there for use. Not much water was needed, just enough for drinking and showers. Any long trips would mean Veo entered the sleeping chamber to go into stasis.

Tea leaves were an expensive commodity in this part of space. Earth had been blessed with two things: life and hot beverages. As colonies expanded and explored, tea plantations were seen to grow once more to satisfy the needs of billions. There was only so much that could be produced despite advancements in hydroponics and aeroponic. As such, it came at a high price – one Veo was willing to pay.

Becoming lost in his thoughts, a tall, sleek black tower glinted faintly in the distance. Home. Suspended in orbit around a moon, Company HQ was an elegant and cannily evil looking structures. Many of the new stations had expanded grotesquely horizontally, modules being clamped on as necessary. However, this had been planned to expand vertically, with pre-designed parameters architects had to work within to keep the stiletto form true.

Once docked, he exited into a large, torus shaped room. The main floor that greeted everyone, it was a decadent expanse, constructed for no other reason than to prove wealth. Blissfully ignorant to the attention seeking construction, Veo stormed through to the nearest transport to several floors down, where he could get lost in the bustle of people and never ending corridors. His memory served him better than he expected, and within the modest but dull depths of offices, he found his Boss.

Stuark sat commandingly in a fabric swivel chair. Unfortunately, there were some phases that space travel hadn’t eradicated. For his power, Stuark was seemingly friendly, casual and easy going, yet with an overpowering character that reminded you of who he was. Veo knocked, entered and placed a sheet of e-paper on the desk, a large “COMPLETE” watermarked across the paper. Silently, he sat.

“Good, how was it?”

As Stuark looked expectantly at Veo, the true power dawned upon him. His entire demeanour was relaxed, calm. Yet, his eyes told a different story. A dark past, untold power and destruction. Each blink saw thousands die, a look not to kill, but to wipe out a solar system.

Stuark was the head of ‘Operational Management’. He dealt with any problems that arose. His CV was full of euphemisms, but quite simply he stopped anyone from getting in the way of progress for the Company, no matter the cost.

“Veo, are you okay?”

Snapping back to the room, Veo continued.

“Sorry sir, yes. No issues encountered. Weapons fully operational and effective. Complete success, sir.”

“Good good, I do prefer it when these little matters are taken care of so well. Thank you Veo, it’s always nice to see you do a good job. You have my word that you’ll be rewarded for this mission.” Stuark winked, putting Veo on edge.

“Why me, sir?”

Taken aback, Stuark looked puzzled and bemused.

“Forget my curtness, it’s just been bugging me. I mean, uh, it’s not my standard mission? It was rather, well, easy if I do say so.” Veo’s eyes darted around the room, focusing on anything but the man that sat opposite him. His subconscious had acted rather bravely, but left the conscious mind reeling with consequences.

“I see. I wish I could answer you, frankly. I’m not privy to such information. Well, I am, I just can’t disclose it to you.” A wry smile crept upon his face. “But you fully well know that, which means you have also probably worked out why not, and where the order came from. But I aided in your judgement of this not one bit.”

“I see.”

“Good. You’re a very able person, Veo. I wouldn’t want that to go to waste now. Which is why this mission, however menial to you, was in fact very specifically chosen for you, if you catch my drift.”

With another wink, Veo was dismissed.


It’s clear to me that a staple diet in the future of PC gamers will be F2P games. Clearly, with the shift of TF2, it’s now a much more respected model of business and thus feasible. Perhaps this was Valves plan for years, perhaps it was a last minute thing. The success of League of Legends also cannot be ignored.

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Chapter 3: A tangled Web

 Scuttling across an asteroid, the large spider sank its fangs into the icy rock. Feeding on the minerals within, it soon became satisfied. Releasing it grip, it floated away into the ether before taking a more controlled course towards the mother ship that lingered, observing her brood. Across the entire belt, hundreds of these metallic spiders were doing the same, feeding and retrieving minerals for the Queen.

 A method such as this for mining was a fine art indeed. The farming and nurturing of spiders was simple. Convincing them of their duty was somewhat more complex. Once started however, the process was extremely efficient. At each feed the spider retained a minimal amount of the extracted substance, used for replication. Over time the spider would assimilate the materials gathered and begin to produce more of itself, creating 3 or 4 much smaller robots that would begin to feed also, grow to a substantial size through assimilation of harvester materials and the process started again, snowballing exponentially. These complex procedural coding sequences allowed for efficient if complex mining. It did allow for large scale ease, however. A set of Queens could be dropped off in a number of belts, each beginning with a few spiders. Over time, they would begin to replicate until eventually the process was so largely scaled that it may take a matter of hours for entire asteroid belts to be consumed.

 The Artificial Intelligence within the spiders was set so that they would see themselves as natural beings, purely with the aim of growing. They had no real idea of their true purpose. Of course, it is rare that the sole aim is total and utter devastation of rescources. The Queen has a limited cargo capacity, and as such the spiders need to be controlled so as not to consume everything. On board the Queen are various sensors allowing for scans and data of the belt quantities, quality and materials so that numbers of spiders can be redirected and allocated to certain tasks, increasing the optimum yield from each mission. Once a belt depleted, spiders assimilate themselves into a new Queen, meaning there is very little waste and the scale increased further.

While the traditional mining method used by much larger corporations was indeed effective, but required far too high set up costs for them to be available to a small groups of miners. The process was slow and waste high. Should the spider technology be known to large corporations, efficiency and profit would sky rocket. In the interest of recourse balance, they thankfully did not.

The Hub received new transmissions from the Queen. Data reports and updates, nothing too exciting. They weren’t ready yet, but the extraction was going well. The Hub itself was currently in orbit behind one of the moons on a bordering planet Cardum. Rich with untouched asteroid belts, it was a perfect place for these elusive miners to find refuge. The moon was a much better hiding spot than orbiting the planet. Scientists tend to be annoyingly attentive and may notice a large blue station floating across the sky.

A prototype Queen entered the docking hub, fresh with data from a test flight. Rather than needing collecting, Yanis had been experimenting with sub light engines allowing remote collection.

As he accepted docking procedures, Yanis observed through the bay window a new day dawning. Encroaching from the edge of the Moon, a large, green expanse rotated effortlessly into view. No matter how many days went by, the view never grew old or any less spectacular. However, something felt distinctively different today. Not being able to pinpoint it, Yanis ignored the gut feeling and went back to work.

It was then the room was drenched in red, flashing light. Having only ever seen this in training scenarios, Yanis darted his eyes around the various data feeds to try and work out. As soon as he located one that might help him, the alarm stopped and everything went back to normal.

“What the?….”

Ignoring his previous work, he went to work out what had happened. Within a few seconds he had displayed on the panel in front of him all the data logs within the last few minutes. Ruling out most of the usual issues that would have caused visual clues, he was left with all sensors having read normal except for one: Gravimetric. A huge, unusual, out of the ordinary, well into the extraordinary spike was displayed on the graph.

The technology used for these scanners was rare and only used really for mining vessels. Designed to initially work out density and size of celestial bodies, usually asteroids, it scanned the space time surrounding an object and analysed the imprints and distortions that objects had upon it. Thus, they could work out how dense one asteroid was compared to another, irrespective of size. Computers and algorithms then displayed this information in a visible and understandable format, visualising it for humans to act upon as necessary.

With the spiders this had become somewhat redundant, a more hands on approach used, but none the less this technology served useful for random day to day tasks such as identifying objects as ships or debris.

In solving the mystery of what had caused this spike, several possibilities passed through Yanis’ mind. It could not have been natural, while the scanners detect black holes, they tend to be more sustained than what appears to be no more than a minute. Such a localised effect in a short space of time suggests that it was controlled. The Hubs sensors didn’t alert them to a new object in the area, meaning whatever it was it was either stealth, small, or both. Human? Likely, other races hadn’t ventured very far into this sector yet. Plus, any ship too large but cloaked would have still caused a gentle increase in the gravimetric data, where there was none. So whatever it was, it was small. The ability to cause such a spike? Experimental weaponry or technology of some sort. Something people wanted to keep quiet either way as they’d come to this quiet system to test it.

Gragd entered, confused by the alarms.

“What happened dad? Anything dangerous or?”

“I’m not sure. Quite possible, we shall see”

“Uhh…okay then. Whatever”. Gragd left the room in equal befuddlement, but reassured in the knowledge that whatever it was, his dad hadn’t the foggiest what it was and any further questioning would lead to nowhere.

Yanis decided to look at the planet below. The ship had activated the technology between the moon and the planet, so whatever it was it was designed to be aimed or used on Planets rather than in the empty voids of space. It was then that he saw what was wrong. Smoke was spreading from a single point: Cardum. Horrified and confused why he hadn’t seen this earlier, he began to locate the image files that the Hub took every few hours. The Hub did this for any detected point of interest automatically, meaning any life form, movement, ship, moon or otherwise ignored by humans wouldn’t go unnoticed and could be recorded at a later date if necessary. Updating for changes every few hours, the computer had noticed a change in the state of the city settlement, and documented accordingly.

Zooming in for a closer look, the devastation was clear. In the minutes that had passed since the alarm, the city had already began to be consumed by lava. The smoke hadn’t spread very far yet but was growing in volume at an alarming rate as the city began to smoulder.

Clearly it was a weapon. A few hours before, the city was whole, the landscape peaceful. On such a large planet to choose a target, choosing the only settlement clearly meant the attack was directed. As far as he knew, all that the planet was home to were scientists, nothing threatening enough to require continent scale destruction such as this.

A priority flashed to the forefront of his mind. Overtaking the questions, confusion and worry came a much more urgent task: save lives. His mind had already taken care of the practicalities, no immediate threat was known and as such the trip was safe despite giving away their location. It seemed though, that even if survivors had the will to report their location, they did not have the means.

In the hanger stood a compact cargo ship. Equipped with the basics, he fired up the engines and set out. It was already carrying emergency supplies, anything else could be dealt with later or back on the Hub. Opening a video link to the Hub, Yanis’ face appeared on the living room wall where he explained everything he could fathom.


A splutter emanated from the device as data was received.

 “Elizabeth! We’re getting high density yields 300m down from here.”

 “That’s what I like to here. Keep scanning. I’m going to head to the surface and let HQ know. We can have teams down here tomorrow to do deeper sweeps.”

 As Elizabeth moved towards the surface various readouts on her visor began to grow back to life as signal was re-gained. They’d had only been 30 minutes or so into the cave system, but the density of the rock around them clearly so thick in mass that any signal was denied access. Parallel to the tunnels was the city, a new and growing complex that had only existed for a matter of years. The tunnels had only just been discovered in the recent exploration phase once all the critical systems were up and running within the colony.

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I’m currently in the process of re-writing and editing the book I wrote for NaNoWrimo last year. As such, I thought I’d upload it as I went along for you all to comment, enjoy or critique. All feedback/comment is welcomed, and please feel free to share/pass it on!

Shadow

Loitering in orbit over the planet was a single, small ship. All was still. Silence whispered with the galactic winds. The planet below was ignorant to the vessels existence. To Veo, battle cruisers had always seemed cumbersome, and as such an ignorance to his proximity was both vital and amiable. When on contracted missions such as these, his own vessel was much more preferred. Sleek, compact and deadly, many years had been spent by Veo creating his beauty and only true love in the universe. An almost infinite flow of money had allowed him to create the most feared, respected, but most importantly, advanced, vessels within The Company.

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I like electric cars. I like the idea of them, and though see the issues with manufacturing them, the benefits for their use in cities and densely populated areas for short journeys cannot be argued with. For me, I wouldn’t mind one. I do about 10 miles a day, hardly a large enough mileage to warrant paying so much for ever increasingly petrol prices. An electric car would be perfect, could pop to work and back each day in a nice little ‘smug-mobile’ due to saving the environment, and save on petrol.

The LEAF

However, there is one major and glaringly obvious issue. Cost. The cost of electric cars is currently far too high. Only now are we seeing the ‘affordable’ range coming into reach in the shape of the Nissan Leaf. I was shocked to find that these are £20,000 with the gov’t grant of £5000.

While many may like the idea of owning one, electric cars are currently stupendously over priced. Companies have spent far too much time and frankly, money, making electric cars the same as petrol. They have made high performance cars to go  ‘ooh, ooh, look at this car, it’s as fast as a petrol car’ which frankly, while impressive, is besides the point. People buying electric cars currently don’t want or necessarily need speed or high performance, nor can they afford it. That time, money and research should be focused on making them affordable. After all, isn’t this what the whole point of them is? Having widely-used electric cars will in theory help the planet. At the very least will reduce our reliance on petrol and reduce the oil companies power. Once a base range of electric cars that people can both afford and use day-to-day, performance will naturally increase with the technology.

Slightly more attractive ZoeEV

Renault, have however taken a step in the right direction. Their Zoe EV is expected to be around £14,250 which is much more manageable and realistic in terms of actual purchasing power. Not cheap enough, but a step in the right direction. The way they achieve this price too is via renting the batteries rather than selling. This reduces cost for consumer, but also means that newer batteries can be installed hassle free, as they’re swapped out at petrol stations. But one company isn’t enough. Frankly, until the VW Group get an equally tempting proposal out of the door, I shaln’t hold my breath.

To solve this issue beyond just moaning at manufactors, the question of government grants needs to be assessed. £5,000 clearly isn’t enough for people to currently be willing to upgrade. The infrastructure isn’t yet in place for long-distance journeys, and all round investments need to be made and to educate the public as to whether this is indeed a valid alternative. Increasing gov’t grants to make electric cars not only affordable but tempting will go some way to increase demand, thus causing manufacters to get their act together.

This, coupled with my various plans for making a self sustaining and self sufficient UK would detract from much of the political issues petrol creates, both national and international. At the end of the day, the adoption of electric cars cannot be too detrimental, assuming it is done well.

While it’s great that electric has been displayed to do high performance things to show it’s not sub-par to petrol you could kind of do with having a car people will actually buy and use  as that’s the whole point in making them Green. If a few people take them up, the impact will be minimal. Let’s hope that soon electric cars become more widely recognised as a valid alternative and a valid fuel source.

Let us also hope, that newer models will have better, less clichéd names such as the LEAF. And less white interiors. Look nice, but impractical for kids!


Recently people have have noticed me going on about the advantage to the consumption of insects. This may seem rather trivial due to the proliferation of reality TV, however, I see it as an exciting opportunity to introduce a new source of food in our diet, while being sustainable and ultimately practical source of feeding our ever expanding population.

There are two articles really that sparked my interest in this idea. It may seem odd at first, but hopefully can neutralise the idea from the portrayed wackiness for entertainment sake that we’ve become used to.

Firstly however, I’d like to briefly describe the benefits of insects as a food source:

  • Sustainability – Insects are much smaller than cows to farm. They produce less methane too, meaning less green houses emitted but also more consumed due to space for trees and no deforestation
  • Efficiency – Much larger quantities can be produced quicker, cheaper and in less space. Also harbour all the nutrients that meat does.
  • Already used in food – “The US Food and Drug Administration allows, for example, up to 75 pieces of insect in 55mm of hot chocolate and up to 60 aphids in a portion of frozen broccoli.
  • High class restaurants often use them in exotic dishes already
  • Lower health risks – Due to insects being different to us so much, co-infection is much less likely. “less than 0.5% of all known insect species are harmful to people”
  • Morals – I dare say vegetarians are more likely to eat them due to a lack of morality attached with insects like there are with mammals. Stress to livestock is caused through enclosed environments – something insects naturally dwell in.

Insects are plentiful, multiply and grow to adulthood rapidly and require little food to sustain them. They are the perfect source of protein. As countries in the west and developing world wake up to the looming threat of food shortages, it’s time that governments seriously considered an alternative source of protein.

My passion for this subject is not to say that I wish to see every restaurant dealing in only-insect food sources. Rather, I think that it is an appropriate time to approach the topic with a more serious attitude, a realistic application of entmophagy that is beyond the merely surreal. It provides a pragmatic solution to the food issues currently facing the world, and increasing populations in the west are set to only further this. It is time for us to adjust to the idea of entomphagy as a real solution, a real idea, a real meal. If we become more willing to the idea as a culture, were we faced with a more prominent scenario of being required to eat insects, we are in a much better position to adapt and survive. They can be introduced slowly through increasing amounts of pastes and nut-replacements they are used for. Once this is successful and more importantly, widely known and accepted, then direct consumption is a possibility. However, it is still possible that huge benefits can be gained from using them as increasing amounts of substitutes (which they already are) which people are probably blissfully unaware of.

Efficiency and Sustainability

The main issue currently with livestock farming is that it’s both wasteful and dangerous to the environment. With much of the rainforest being cut down to provide room for livestock farming, we are perilously close to loosing the ‘lungs of the world’ – the Amazon rain forest. With livestock contributing up to 18% of greenhouse gases, cutting down the rainforest to replace it with a contributor is vastly counterproductive. With insects being much smaller, we can grow them in much larger quantities in much smaller spaces. There’s also the fact that we can easily stack farms on top of each other rather than being restricted to one plane. It’s not exactly common to see cattle navigating stairs.

Equally, being cold blooded, insects require much less food input for what we gain as energy is not wasted on body heat.

Ten pounds of feed yields one pound of beef, three pounds of pork, five pounds of chicken and up to six pounds of insect meat.

This is a 60% yield compared to 10% of beef. Equally, more of the insect can be consumed. 20% of a cricket is inedible, compared to 30% for pork or 65% for lamb. So all around, they are much more efficient and thus more sustainable in an age where the green credentials are vital to judgement.

There’s not much more I can say really. It’s a fairly simple idea, with many benefits to be gained. It’s simply a case of changing and accepting the mindset to increase insects in our diet. We are already someway there with using insects instead of livestock and other less sustainable sources of food in using them as dyes or substitutes. But we have a long way to go before it is widely accepted within western culture. In South Asia it is already widely accepted and a necessity as livestock cannot fulfill all of the needs in such a densely populated region. It is time for us to begin to change the way we think and become more comfortable with the idea of entomophagy, for one day we may have to do the same.