Sneaky Peek

I’m not going to do this every time…  but I guess I’m happy and surprised at how much I actually got written last week, so in honor of that, here’s a quick, sneak peek at where the stranded colonists find themselves in the first few chapters.

“Time to atmosphere: sixteen minutes, forty-five seconds.”

Lin staggered as a wave of dizziness assaulted him, and reached out a hand to steady himself against the back of a chair as he lurched across the bridge.

“Tactical confirms, Commander.”  Hunt’s voice sounded stronger and steadier than a man rudely awoken from Stasis Sleep had any right to sound.

He glanced at his crewman under the deep red of the tactical lighting conditions.  The shadows made the other man’s ordinarily sculptured features look gaunt and drawn, belying the officer’s wellbeing.  Hunt looked up then, and his serious expression softened as he met Lin’s gaze.  Lin experienced a brief, shared understanding of how lousy he felt and offered the man a wan half-smile, and a curt nod.

Lindsay Derby had woken to a flashing red light on the panel of his LiSSSC.  He was disoriented; nauseous from the time spent in an almost complete state of suspended animation – Stasis Sleep.  Standard waking called for a good meal followed by a carefully monitored hour or two in the ship’s gym, but the emergency lighting, and the voice of the ship’s System, that had moved like a rolling echo through ZHACC’s empty corridors, attested that this had been anything but a standard waking.

It doesn’t look good – the ship is in a bad way and they are close – way too close – to a planet that they really shouldn’t be even on their radar.  How did that happen?

Nikolai Rhostov – Kolya to many that knew him – leaned against the glass of the observation lounge that overlooked the isolation area below. It had started already, and that made him think they were cutting it damn fine, unless they meant to have these people in stasis for years before the expedition launch. Every day there were three, maybe four more people brought to the facility below, given the recommended treatments for people that were about to be put on ice for the next… however long it took, and plugged into the boxes that would be where they would spend the entire journey to their destination.

It was his own, personal ritual: to go there, watch over the induction of the many souls for which he would be singularly responsible during that time. His mind anyway – his brain – once he was given The Treatment.

The second chapter looks back to what had happened before the colonists left the Sol system to head to their new destination. The big question, what is this treatment, and where did it come from?

Memories spiraled like powder-winged moths toward self-sacrifice against the burning in his psyche.  Their sudden immolation, brilliant and painful, coated his mind with the sharpness of bitter frustration.  He couldn’t wake; he didn’t sleep; he knew nothing of himself but that there was change, inside… outside… he was nothing but difference.

All right, son… just relax…just feel a sharp scratch and—

Sharp scratch… terrible whirling… sounds like a throbbing, mechanical heartbeat… rasping, scraping… being skinned from the inside out; blood boiling, synapses burning, fusing…

Chapter three, and we’re back in the ‘future’ which is really the present for our colonists, and Kolya wakes after the crash – in part still lost in memory.

Abandon ship… Emergency Protocol Seven…

“…all able crew report to…” Lindsay’s lips felt dry and cracked as he mumbled the words out of his memory.

“Easy, Lin, easy.”

A woman’s voice began to penetrate the confusion.  She was familiar, and yet the remembrance of exactly who she was escaped him as surely as did full consciousness.  He should know her, but something…

It was the eyes. The vision of them dominated his senses, narrow vertical slits of dark within lavender, a starburst of additional darkness expanding as they looked on him.  He could see little of the rest of a face but the slender chisel of a nose.  Someone leaned toward him as he tried to move and he felt the press of a hand against his shoulder.

Kolya’s not the only one having a hard time waking after the splashdown. Lin Derby, the expedition commander seems to be experiencing strange visions, and a good deal of confusion too… just what’s going on, and who is the strange being  that distracts him from his reality?

It was coming on dawn, or at least he thought it was.  The hours seemed to be passing ceaselessly as Kishan worked to try and pull the fragment of message down onto the Portable Interface and so far he wasn’t having much joy. As he worked through the night, the pod’s primary system faded out to an empty green screen with a blinking cursor.  He ran diagnostics, and all they showed him was that there was no reason for the computer to fail.  It was powered, undamaged…

“So why don’t you just work, you temperamental heap of crap!”

Kishan’s fingers flew ceaselessly over the console, trying to force binary grafts, to breathe life into the only remaining piece of ZHACC that might hold any value to this makeshift colony’s efforts in survival.

Meanwhile Kishan, the System Engineer, is busy trying to get the computer interface back up and running to discover what might have happened to cause the accident.  Seems like he’s not having much luck.

After all that, (and the few curves thrown to me during the writing of those chapters) I went back to my process of outlining.  I know where I’m going (barring additional curves) I’m just not sure quite how I’ll get there, and I still need a bigger piece of paper.

About Eirian Houpe

Writer and Teacher. Published works: Eternal Dance (as Linden S Barclay) and articles for Wigston Magna Dog Training Club, and SFX Magazine.
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