It seemed normal, too normal, Raif thought as they trudged through the dense forest trying to keep up with Cinder who was trotting off ahead. The trees were impressively tall, reaching up higher than anything he had ever seen or knew of on Earth. Some were so dizzyingly high that looking up at them made him lose his balance as his eye strained to distinguish the leafy summits from the cloudy sky beyond. But still they were trees all the same. The bark on the trunks ranged from a sandy yellow to a dark brown, and the vivid distant foliage they had seen up close as they landed was only slightly more vibrant and varied than a good autumn’s spread over Thatch Wood.
The ground beneath his feet was mostly red, leafy mulch with occasional mossy branches that had fallen from on high. Some purple fern-like plants grew in thin lines where the lofty canopy let in trickles of light, creating sporadic borders around many of the giants. The trees were so dense that not much else seemed to be growing, and anyway, much of what they were seeing was presumably being ‘filled in’ by the software.
The Great Connection was a vast operation, reaping data from the light of the Universe in super-sensitive, deep space telescopes so finely tuned they could even extrapolate the type of matter the light had travelled through or been reflected off, allowing them to piece together the simulations. It was impressive, but it wasn’t complete. The resolution was maintained by assumptions in the software between one package of data and the next, following likely transitions and patterns. It was in essence a join-the-dots representation, more or less accurate depending on the position and distance of the celestial body in relation to the nearest stars and black holes.
Raif guessed that up until now the operators wouldn’t have had a chance to see how well it renders life forms on anywhere but Earth, and of course they had all the data they needed to make sure that was accurate. It puzzled him. If this were some hacker’s idea of a joke, maybe even Cinder herself, why was it so ordinary? Wouldn’t you have gone to the trouble of making it more alien? More unusual? Floating, upside-down hills in clouds of rectangular jelly or something just as preposterous? But then, maybe this was the double bluff. Just enough to draw someone in. But why?
‘If this is real,’ Raif said openly to Terry, confident that Cinder was too far ahead to hear, ‘why don’t they know about it? Surely something must flag up.’
‘Well, they said at the beginning that they needed us, people. That computers alone couldn’t deal with all the data, that they could miss things. It’s hard to believe they could miss this, though.’
Title: The Great Connection: Worlds in Waiting
Author: Garry Abbott
Genre: Science Fiction
Following an unfortunate incident involving a delivery drone, a fishing net, and a very tall tree; Raif Masters finds himself forced by his overprotective alpha parents to spend his last school holiday exploring extraterrestrial worlds in ‘The Great Connection’: a real-time simulation of the observable universe, rendered into virtual reality home entertainment.
But Raif, a “child of three”, is not alone. Terry, bound to the service of the Masters family, is looking forward to a very early retirement after one last summer looking after his young charge.
Together they meet Cinder, a fellow simunaught who is seeking a crew to share a secret discovery from the other side of the galaxy that could change the life of the Masters, and the future of the Earth, forever.
But are some discoveries best left unconnected?
Garry Abbott is a science fiction author from Staffordshire in the UK where he lives with his wife and two cats.
Garry has published the short story collection ‘The Dimension Scales and Other Stories’, and his first full length space opera novel: ‘The Great Connection: Worlds in Waiting’. He is currently working on his third title, a sci-fi comedy, working title: ‘Transported’.
As well as writing science fiction, Garry has regularly contributed topical comedy sketches for the BBC and produced scripts for community arts productions and performances.
Garry’s influences include Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Philip Pullman, George R. R. Martin and Dennis Potter.
Amazon.co.uk Author Page
Amazon.com Author Page