Jandrax began with a one page prolog designed to set the scene.
A sphere floating in space, silver against a backdrop of stars.
The stars shift their colors, doppler down, out. The sphere hangs alone in darkness where here and there are concepts yet unborn. Six antennae project; it is not so much moved as displaced. First it is here, then it is there, but it never crosses the space between here and there.
Within the sphere, eight souls are busy taming the nether energies, the Synapse, so that they might emerge from otherwhere in the place of their choosing. One prowls restlessly in a place foreign to his nature, and one moves quietly in the darkness with certainty in his mind and death in his right hand.
The dark figure paused outside the room where the computer split seconds into their million component particles and prepared to extract them from netherwhere. He watched the stars fade out on the screen past Dennison’s sandy head. Only a moment would pass until the stars returned and New Harmony lay below. Synapse drive can cross the galaxy in a heartbeat.
He released the trigger and hurled the grenade.
The explosion echoed through the sphere; Jan Andrax ran toward it. The bomber was gone when he reached the computer bay. Flames roared in the confined space as Staal staggered out, his clothing afire. Jan beat out the flames and leaped in to rescue his partner.
In the control room, Captain Georg Childe heard the explosion and shouted into the com. There was no answer. He tried again, then aborted without further hesitation and the stars returned.
Synapse drive can cross the galaxy in a heartbeat.
Four seconds had passed.
A lost and stranded starship is not a new concept. MZB used it in Darkover Landfall, her prequel to the Darkover series. Heinlein used it in Starman Jones, although he managed to let his young hero save the day and bring back his ship.
For me it was just a concise way of setting up a situation I wanted to explore. I gave about twenty minutes thought to Synapse drive, whatever that is, because it doesn’t figure into the story after it fails. If I ever need to write another story in this universe and time period (Cyan shares the universe, but takes place before the Synapse is discovered or invented), I’ll have to actually work out how it functions.
Incidentally, did you catch the beginners goof? Between paragraphs three and four I switched from present to past tense for no good reason. Jandrax continues next post.