Hello, my name is…
1 - Charles - They Hyades Cluster The secret of the Chinese defense of the Hyades Cluster was that it was a defense in depth. First, they kept an eye on every star system within a hundred lightyears of the Hyades. That was mostly passive sensors to track our movement, but there were some ships or permanent bases in the mix. We spent years giving them good tracking information on our raids. The second layer of their defense was the constant occupation and monitoring of all stars within fifty lightyears of the Hyades core. We raided them often, destroying whatever monitoring platforms we could find. The third layer was composed of their nodal fleet bases. Their reaction times to our incursions were measured in hours once we reached the Hyades central core. We hit them from time to time to keep them on their toes. The fourth layer included the deep fleet anchorages inside the Hyades core. That is where Chinese or Shang ships went to rest, relax, and repair. They were the key to holding the Hyades. They were also the key to taking the Hyades. That is why we never attacked them during the Pre-Invasion buildup.
2 – Medron Pryde – Angel Strike
3 - Medron Pryde – I’m Tired, Boss “I’m tired, boss…I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head, all the time…can you understand?” – The Green Mile
This is how I feel today. I’m just tired. I’m sad. One man does what he does and the whole world goes mad around him. People saying that those who died deserved it because of who they voted for. People hoping that those who voted for the other side are the only ones who died. People joking about the dead. People being ugly to each other.
4 – Jack – Sunnydale Scorchdale is another prize in Sunnydale’s cap when it comes to providing living space for rugged and individualistic men to live on. Which is another way of saying that it pretty much ranks a zero on the habitability scale. It’s a rotten little piece of rock so close to the local sun that it’s literally tide-locked. The sun holds it so firmly in its gravity that one face of the miserable little rock always faces the sun. It doesn’t even have an atmosphere measurable by anything short of scientific instruments. It’s evaporated on the near-side and frozen on the dark-side. Even the thin line where light and dark meet is basically worthless as living space. I have been there. It is not a fun place to visit. You could not pay Mrs. Hart’s little boy enough money to make me want to live there.
5 - Charles - The Hyades Cluster Interstellar navigation is a complicated affair. The simplest way to describe it is to say that there are hyperspace runs or rivers between stars, and the brighter or larger stars have faster runs. Hot and bright blue giants make some of the best runs, though stars that hot are extremely rare. Elnath is one of the very few blue giants in Earth’s stellar neighborhood, and it sits on a nearly direct route between Earth and the Hyades Cluster. All of the best hyperspace runs between Earth and the Hyades go through Elnath. It is a natural choke point, and the Chinese controlled it. They fortified it. They protected it, because it guarded the approaches to the Hyades Cluster. That is why Elnath was our first primary target in the Hyades Campaign.
6 - Jack - Sunnydale Sunnydale was a prime piece of stellar real estate when we colonized it. She’s hotter, brighter, and more massive than our own sun, and all of that makes her very special. Every star reaches out to nearby stars and forms links with them, the hyperspace runs that most ships use when traveling through the stars. Larger, hotter stars make stronger runs, along with systems composed of multiple stars. Sunnydale’s mass and power make her equal in strength to many of those major beacon stars. You can travel farther, faster, and safer on a Sunnydale Run than on the vast majority of runs anywhere else in the galaxy. That is why she is part of the highway to the stars we’ve used to explore the galaxy. And that is why we used her to attack the Hyades.
7 - Jack - Sunnydale The reason people live on a miserable little rock like Scorchdale is simple. It is rich in the rare earth minerals that all modern construction techniques rely upon. It may not be as rich as some other planets in the Sunnydale system, but it is easily ranked in the top thirty percent of all known worlds. It is far richer than Earth, and that makes it a valuable little rock in the heavens. There are riches to be found on Scorchdale, fortunes to be made, and industries to be built. It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have a planetary ecosystem to worry about. That is why Scorchdale is home to more planet-based industries than any other rock in the Sunnydale system. And its ranking on the galactic charts is impressive to say the least. It’s one of the reasons that Sunnydale was the only non-Core World member system represented in the Group of Ten when The War began. I think they were actually the fifteenth member. Yeah. I know. They don’t like to change the name.
8 - Charles - The Hyades Cluster Elnath is on the outskirts of the Hyades Cluster. Scientists claim it is not part of the Hyades at all, but its commanding position made it the gateway to the Hyades. We had to take it, but the approaches were not easy. The sub giant stars Asta and Cornus lay between Sunnydale and Elnath, and most of the best hyperspace runs ran through one of those two systems. Asta was on a direct line between them, which made it an obvious first target. That is why our first target was the brighter and hotter Cornus. We opened up with increased raids against the systems around Asta, destroying every monitoring platform we could find during a month-long campaign. Then we attacked Cornus. Their surprise was almost as complete as our destruction of every facility in the entire Cornus system.
9 - Medron - Angel War
10 - Betty - Weylan Most historians recognize that the Albion were one of the most advanced races that have ever lived. The Peloran still use Albion technology two thousand years after their death with only minor improvements, and we’ve all seen how dangerous they are. The irony is that for all their technological advancement, the Albion did not believe in technology. They must have been fanatical engineers at one time to build up such a massive advantage over the rest of the galaxy, but the Albion who created the Peloran were a different matter. Technology’s true purpose for them was as a tool to improve the genetics of life. To make all life stronger, faster, and better. The Peloran were one example of this. But it was the Weylan who truly demonstrate just how close the Albion were to bringing about a new era of biological technology that would have revolutionized…everything.
11 - Jack - Sunnydale Sunnydale was out on the end of a nice little trade route back before The War started. Ships took the Alpha Centauri-Tranquility Run, took the next run to Unity, and then completed the final hop to Sunnydale. One hundred and nine lightyears of hyperspace compared to ninety-four lightyears of normalspace. That’s a real direct route let me tell you. And once in Sunnydale, traders could branch off to all the little systems in the neighborhood. The Chinese and the Shang took most of them out during The War, but Sunnydale was still on the end of that nice little direct route back home. And our best ships could maintain an effective one thousand lights all the way into Sunnydale. It was the fastest route to the Hyades Cluster that we controlled. That’s why Sunnydale was worth everything we sunk into it.
12 - Charles - The Hyades Cluster Chinese hyperdrives were never as fast as ours after the Peloran came, but the Chinese held Capella. That star system was one of the strongest beacons systems we settled in the early years, and it was strong enough to form a direct connection with Elnath. Despite their slower hyperdrives, the Capella-Elnath Bridge was one of the most powerful routes humanity controlled in the years after Contact. It allowed the Chinese to travel out to the Hyades Cluster far faster than any of our ships could make the Sunnydale Run. Capella and Elnath was their highway to the Hyades, and they used it to turn the cluster into the strongest fortress in the stars humanity had ever created. The Earthborn part of humanity at least. And considering how important Capella and Elnath were to keeping the cluster in contact with Earth, they were heavily defended as well. Easily an equal to everything we built at Sunnydale.
13 - Betty - Weylan The Albion did not create the first cybernetic intelligence. They were never more than interesting toys to the Albion. The Peloran were the kind of advancement the Albion believed in. Making life stronger, faster, and better. The Arnam were designed to bring humanity to deep aquatic environments. The Weylan were designed to do the same in aerial environments. To expand the range of planets and environments humanity could live on without technological support. But something happened when they finally cracked the biological code in the human brain that allowed the Weylan to use six full limbs at the same time. In parallel, as computer scientists put it. The Albion over-engineered them far beyond that needed for running a mere three sets of limbs. The Weylan brain can consciously think in dozens or hundreds of different directions at once, without losing concentration. They can perform dozens of tasks at once as easily as anyone else can maintain a conversation. They are living, walking, biological computers. And when two or more are gathered together, they can do some impressive tricks.
14 - Jack - Sunnydale Sunnydale’s not as important as it used to be. We’ve got faster hyperdrives and faster hyperspace runs to work with now. And Sunnydale is closer to the heart of our space than the frontiers now as well. But it is still the heart of trade for everything within forty or fifty lightyears. It’s only real competition is Unity, and that’s pretty good competition if we’re being honest. But Sunnydale has the advantage of infrastructure. We built them up into the premier Western Alliance fleet and ground base short of Alpha Centauri. We needed it to support the fleet and the army we used to hit the Hyades Cluster, and we left all of it behind after War’s End. Factories. Shipyards. Warehouses. A wealth of infrastructure no single system could ever afford to build on its own. Sunnydale’s got it all. That’s why people like me keep showing up. Well…I may have a few other reasons. I am a bit of hero there, you know. I saved the planet. The pretty ladies are real appreciative of that. Rather demonstrative too, if we’re bringing out the five-dollar words.
15 - Charles - The Hyades Cluster If Capella is the highway to the Hyades Cluster, and if Elnath is the outer gateway, then Kappa Tauri is the innermost gate. Its two system primaries are bright and hot F-type stars just outside the inner Hyades Cluster core. They are lightyears apart, but there are a dozen other stars within ten lightyears of them. Some are amazingly hot and massive in their own right, and all of that gravitic interference converges on a single point. It is a highway through hyperspace linking Elnath with the heart of the Hyades. It was the single point in the Hyades defenses that the Chinese could not afford to lose, because we could flow reinforcements into the cluster with ease if we ever took it. That is why the Chinese reinforced it so heavily after we struck Elnath. And that is why we did not strike Kappa Tauri.
16 - Medron - Wolfenheim Rising
17 - Betty - Weylan The Albion gengineers built the Weylan to be capable aerial soldiers. They succeeded in creating an entire new race of humanity who could wield any standard weapon while flying without any technological assistance. That alone would have made the Weylan a wild success. But their ability to concentrate on multiple focuses at a time, and cooperate with others of their kind, made them a genuine breakthrough in biological science. Flying and fighting starships had always been the province of computers that followed the orders of their human commanders. No human could operate the systems at the speed or accuracy required to survive combat. The Weylan changed all of that.
18 - Jack - Weylan I met my first Weylan at Sunnydale. That’s true of a lot of alien races, by the way. I grew up knowing that aliens existed, but most of them outside the Arnam weren’t really part of my world view. The Arnam love water almost as much as me, so that made us birds of a feather, so to say. Fish of a scale? Whatever. The point is, I never met a Weylan until Sunnydale. And I can’t say I ever really thought about them either. They had no influence on my Earthborn life. So the first time I met them was when their fleet arrived to support us at Sunnydale. I’ll be honest. The first thing I thought was…angels. Seriously. Look, we’ve all seen the religious art. The Christmas tree toppers. The cute little wrist jewelry dangly things. So don’t be judging me.
19 - Charles - Weylan Michelangelo. Raphael. Leonardo. Donatello. The greats. Artists that will live on throughout human history as some of the best who ever lived. They influence how we see the world to this day. Angels for one. Human-shaped? Check. Wings? Check. So what happens when many of us meet our first Weylan? Human-shaped? Check. Wings? Check. It is a logical connection for our minds to make, even if it is false. The Bible describes angels rather differently, but when it came time to make beautiful art, our greatest artists chose to humanize them. That also is logical. They were creating art for humans, and it would not live forever if we did not enjoy it. As I say. Logical. But there is no doubt that our legacy of art influenced our eventual Contact with the Weylan.
20 - Betty Weylan The Weylan ability to focus on multiple lines of thought, while doing so with the quickness of the Peloran mind they were based on, allowed them to fly starfighters and starships directly. Without advanced computer systems running interference. Weylan crews interfaced directly with the individual system controls inside the central computers, while cooperating with each other in a fugue state. They became the collective brain of Albion starships, able to operate at least as fast as any electronic computer system, while maintaining the common sense and randomness that humanity enjoys to this day. A starship operated by the Weylan reacted faster and better than anything else in space. Their warships were simply more effective than anything run by mere electronic machines, and that brought them victory after victory when the last great war came upon them all.
21 - Jack - Weylan So, the first time I met the Weylan, I was there on Sunnydale Station, minding my own business, face stuffed full of a churrito like a chipmunk preparing for winter, when the Weylan walked on board. There were three of them, times about fifty. And I do mean three of them. Two girls. One guy. And around fifty of each of them. Perfectly identical clones, the lot of them. And they were pretty as angels to boot. Even the guys. Speaking for a friend here. So they might have made a bit of a scene on coming in. Think about it. A crowd of people walking around and doing their business in the market. Then a whole host of angels stop by to visit. Not that they’re really angels, but you get the visual, right? Pretty much the definition of shock and awe if you get my meaning. They do know how to make an entrance.
22 - Charles - Weylan Our legacy of art influenced how we saw the Weylan after Contact. It also, ironically, influenced how they saw us. And it influenced how they interacted with us, down to the words they chose when it was time to translate their language into ours for purposes of conversation. I assure you that there term for fleets is no accident. Hosts. And what they call their soldiers. Seraphs. They were not blatant enough to call their home Heaven, but the name they did give us is equally interesting. It has long been a synonym for utopia in many of our languages. Arkadia. Yes. The Arkadian Ring is their home. Rather appropriate considering their more prominent physical attributes.
23 - Medron - The Gemini Affair
24 - Betty - Weylan The Albion of Arkadia were the foremost gengineers in a race famous for their genetic tinkering. The Weylan were their greatest creation, and if there was any system the Weylan defended more than Albion itself, it was Arkadia. They manned the orbital forts and the defense fleet. They flew the fighters and made up a large percentage of the army that would have defended against an invasion. But when the Ennead finally came for Arkadia, there was no invasion. The Weylan were better. They were the best. They shot the Ennead out of the sky ten times for every ship they lost. Some accounts say a hundred. They filled the skies of Arkadia with the dead and burning hulks that had been starships for days on days. The Weyland never surrendered. Not when the last of their warships fell. Not when the last of their fortresses burned. And not when the Ennead tore the entire planet of Arkadia apart piece by piece.
25 - Jack - Sarah I met Sarah at Sunnydale when her people first arrived to help us. She was the first of her kind I ever met. Yeah, she was pretty as an angel. No, she wasn’t one. Her race is younger than the Bible, and they don’t even look like Biblical descriptions of angels. But…they sure do look a lot like the art. When I asked her about that, she just shook her head and said, “I really can’t say.” I may have asked if that was a “can’t” or a “won’t.” And she may have smiled and said something about the complexities of the American language. So I may have made it my mission to pump her for all the information I could get out of her. So she told me stories about flying around in the skies of her native Arkadia. And about fighting the Ennead. Oh. Did I miss that part? Yeah. She’s over two thousand years old. She watched the Albion die. And then she helped kill the Ennead. There certainly is a spark of the avenger hiding behind those fiery eyes.
26 - Charles - Michael My family had business concerns throughout human-occupied space, so I met many aliens in the century after Contact. Michael was not the first Weylan I met because of this. He was the first one I spent enough time with to truly know, though. Which meant I had to ask him the question I had long avoided when I met members of his race. Why they looked like angels. They don’t, really. Not the written descriptions. But they do look like the artist renditions. His response was to smile and say, “I really can’t say.” My response was that he needed to if he expected to work with me. He told me after that, and the truth is not as salacious as some theorize. They truly are not related in any way to the angels of our religious beliefs, but can play the part with perfect sincerity when they wish to. I will never forget the first time Michael invited us to a church Christmas program he had a small part in. I will give you one guess what part he played.
27 - Betty - Weylan The fall of Arkadia was the end. Until then, the Albion had been fighting to protect their legacy and their lives. After Arkadia fell, the Albion knew that nothing they had could stop the Ennead from killing them. After Arkadia fell, the Albion surrendered to the inevitable. After Arkadia, they gave their assembled armies and navies one last command. “Kill them all.” But the fact is that the Weylan didn’t need that command. The Weylan had been born on Arkadia. All of them. Their children had been on Arkadia when the Ennead tore it apart. The Weylan would have killed the Ennead for free after that. They did exactly that with their Peloran and Arnam cousins. They visited the same destruction on the Ennead that the Ennead had done to their homes. To their creators. That is the mettle of the Weylan. They can be the nicest people you’ve ever met. And they can be the worst avenging angels you never want to see. They are good allies.
28 - Jack - Sarah Sarah was the first Weylan I ever got to know. Sunnydale really opened my eyes to a lot of things. But speaking of eyes…Sarah had some amazing ones. You know her people can see a lot more than we can, right? Radio waves. Microwaves. Infrared. Ultraviolet. Even some X-rays. Let’s just say that with a visible spectrum that wide, it can get hard to hide things from them. And Sarah was always really good at figuring stuff out I didn’t want her knowing. I fully admit to maybe being a bit intimidated by those red sparkling eyes. You would be too if she gave you that long, hard stare that says she knows what you’re thinking. Made me feel like I needed to go to confession, and I’m not even Catholic. She took some pity on me in the end, though. Went over all the things she could learn about a person just by looking. That’s mostly from infrared, by the way. Heat vision. We humans tend to betray a lot of our emotions via heat. She may have helped me work on learning to mask those from people with her peepers a bit better. All very valuable instruction, I assure you.
29 - Charles - Michael Michael commanded the fighter squadron designated to liaise with my Cowboys. He and his two copilots flew with me throughout the Hyades Campaign, and proved to be valuable allies. We walked through Chinese streets together, meeting the locals and projecting a calm I wish I had truly felt. We spoke about everything under the stars, from my time growing up on Earth, to all of the places he has seen in the skies of his native Arkadia. He helped rebuild their civilization after the Ennead destroyed their homeworld. And yes, that places him at well over two thousand years old. But like most of the races the Albion gengineered, he has spent most of that time relaxing and enjoying the life he helped rebuild. He would still be there now if he had a choice. Arkadia is his heaven, the place his people have made their perfect home. But then the Shang came calling. Michael and his people cannot start a war. That is part of their basic genetic coding. But they can, by God, finish one once it starts.
30 - Medron - The Vagaries of Hyperspace I have been writing or developing the Jack of Harts universe for years. It started with the characters, and then I began to flesh out the universe around them. What kind of universe would forge someone like the people I wanted to write? I realized early on that it wasn't going to be any form of a dystopia. I grew up on Star Trek, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, and Battlestar Galactica, where the men are men, the women are women, and the furry little creatures from Alpha Centauri are furry little creatures from Alpha Centauri. Sorry for those who missed that. There's a bit of a sliding joke in that line. ;)
Most of those had pretty loose rules when it came to hyperspace. Otherwise known as Plot Rules. Hyperspace does whatever the plot requires. I like the simplicity of that, but I'm a bit of a wargamer. I like rules.
So as I have developed Jack of Harts, I've been slowly putting together rules for how hyperspace works. They barely showed up at all in my first book, Forge of War. Though that book took place entirely in the Earth and Alpha Centauri star systems. And for story purposes (ahem…Plot Rules) I really didn't need to explain it. There's a reason for that, and it involves why Alpha Centauri is Earth's gateway to the stars. But it wasn't important to the story, so I didn't touch on it. The action started on Earth, went to Alpha Centauri, and stayed there.
My Wolfenheim Rising and Angel Flight stories required a bit more theory of hyperspace to be remarked on though. I still kept it rather light, as I don't want to bog readers down with infodumps, but there is one thing I did note. It's called a Hyperspace Run. Every star has them. These are the rainbow rivers of light I describe. They reach out to other stars and create the runs that most ships use to travel between the stars. Note the “most” in there. Ships can travel in the deep dark, away from the runs. They just go slower.
I will note that I picked the rainbow rivers of light motif for the gravitic links between stars, the “highways” we use to travel, from old Norse mythology. The gods of Asgard used a rainbow highway to travel between the realms. You may have seen an example of that idea in recent movies that sport a certain Norse god and his manipulative brother in them. ;)
The point is that I wanted these links to be as realistic as possible for speculative fiction, while also being fun to play with. I am a wargamer, after all. So I came up with some complex rules for how far stars can reach, and how fast their runs are based on how hot or large the star is. I have entire spreadsheets detailing this, along with real universe 3D coordinate maps of where every major colony is. And the real space, real star system data, we use to go between them. Maps of normalspace and hyperspace that I use to plot the time and range of each movement in the Wolfenheim and Angel stories.
Serenity orbits the real star known as Beta Hydri. Sunnydale, where the fleets assemble to assault the Hyades Cluster, orbits the star called Psi Tauri. And Bosphorus, the doorway to the Pleiades Cluster and The Gateway, is the star we call 16 Tauri or Celaeno.
Every single colony I've mentioned is noted in my files, and almost every single one has a real star it is associated with. A real place we have observed with our own eyes and telescopes. We know where they are, we know what kind of stars they are, and sometimes we even know if there are planets around them.
So if you give me a real star, I can tell you if we have colonized it. And if you give me two stars, I can tell you what stars you have to travel through to get from one to the other. Because the information is in my notes. I just try to keep that out of the stories as much as possible. Infodumps. Not everybody likes them.
But I rather enjoy having it all sitting in the background, ready to trot out at a moment's notice. Who knows? Maybe someone wants to take the midnight train to Rigel one day? I can tell them how. Though the Plot Rules might make the exact pathway a little vague. ;)
31 - Betty - Weylan The Weylan spent the two millennia following the last great war rebuilding their civilization. Arkadia was a binary system, and the other star had a gas torus in orbit thick enough breathe in. There is some speculation that it was created via an Albion experiment, but hard information was lost when the primary Arkadian planet was destroyed. The Weylan moved into the gas torus, and towed pieces of the old planet over to act as small planetoids they could live on. They’ve lived in the seemingly endless skies of Arkadia ever since. They’re wings make them uniquely adapted to the environment, and under normal circumstances they probably would have multiplied like rabbits in their new world. But that is one thing the Weylan can’t do. Have babies. They are born infertile.