I was only a nipper when the Apollo moon landings took place, but I was old enough to catch the excitement in the air. The launches were my favourite part: the astronauts smiling and waving, the anticipation as they climbed aboard, and finally, the ominous countdown, the numbers enunciated with an authoritarian tone that could not be denied. There was always the hiss and swirl of mysterious fumes that vented from the sides of the mighty boosters, as if the rocket were breathing as it slumbered in its enormous cradle. And then the magic word: Ignition!
What I wouldn't have given to stand and stare up at those great gouts of flame in person. As the rocket climbed into the sky, my imagination soared with it. And I wanted more.
Unfortunately for those of us who craved action in space, NASA missions were few and far between. We knew how to wait for things in those days when there was no Internet, only a handful of TV channels (in the UK at any rate), and no such thing as binge-watching, but even so, our hunger for spaceships needed fulfilling. Star Trek, Space 1999, and The Thunderbirds provided some grist to the mills of our imaginations. Later, I would go on to devour sci-fi novels, but until that happy day, I was happy to watch Captain Kirk, Spock and the crew as they went into action. I was one of those kids that loved science and taking things apart, and here, on the screen, were people who used their brains to solve problems. Star Trek gave me a glimpse of a future in which science would be the answer to almost any problem. Sure, there were times when Kirk had to wrestle with some deranged creature, but there were many scenarios when a quick burst of the warp drive or a well-timed cry of, “Beam me up, Scottie” would save the day. And while Spock could fell anyone with a squeeze on the shoulder, his greatest strength came from being the cleverest person in any room.
You're getting the picture. I've always read widely, and my viewing habits embrace all kinds of drama, but I will always come back to science fiction. As a writer, sci-fi holds a special place in my heart. It gives me the freedom to invent a setting that has never existed and may never actually exist, but which maybe, one day, could exist. For me, a sci-fi story begins with the question, What if…?
For my story in The Expanding Universe 4, Endpoint, I imagined a future in which cyborgs would be used as soldiers. I'm not claiming that this is any way original, but I wanted to explore the idea in my own way. The bots in Endpoint are largely mechanical soldiers but they have organic neural nets, and they come in a standard range of configurations (M1, M2, M3), each with a set of strengths and weaknesses. It followed that such bots wouldn't just be available to one side, and in the arms race that would ensue, specially trained troops would be needed to combat them. And so the Cyborg Tactical Response Regiment was born – the Cutters!
The Cutters will need to train against bots, and in Endpoint, we see a squad of recruits taking part in a tough mission that tests their skills to the limit. And the stakes are high. Succeed, and they'll join the Cutters; fail and they'll be returned to their units. But the squad, led by Sergeant John Chapman, encounter an enemy that does not match their expectations in any way. Can Chapman and his squad adapt quickly enough to win the day? There's only one way to find out, and I hope you enjoy the adventure in Endpoint.
The Expanding Universe 4 is available for limited time and is great value: