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Scarmiglione'

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Halos
« on: May 04, 2005, 09:20:33 am »

Awakening


It took several hours for everyone in the chamber to open their crypts and wake up.  Fortunately someone had found a hard ventilation switch to circulate some of the internal air.  Jack Truman walked up and down the chamber, making sure everyone was okay.  The last paragraph of his dossier contained a powerful combination of words designed to trigger his motivation and spring him into action.  It worked, he knew it, and he was just fine with that.  So he jumped up and approached the woman who woke up about he same time he did.

“Do you remember your name?”  He asked, his tongue tripping a bit.

“First Officer Katja Najarin, Captain,” she responded quickly.

“Good.  Great,”  he nodded.

“Let’s get these folks comfortable and civilized again, and then we’ll check the other chambers.”

That one command resulted in the two of them busily attending to their shipmates for the next few hours.  There were various side-effects of the sleep; some minor amnesia that the psyche-dossiers failed to repeal, a few folks whose stomachs rejected the solid food, and some minor bruises and cuts.  But overall, everyone in his chamber was okay.  He brushed aside the growing questions from the more-awake colonists with a friendly smile and made his way to the far front of the chamber.  There he tapped twice with a drink canister on a hatch to his right and got three taps in return.  He spun open the hatch and swung it open.

“Anybody over there?”

“Yessir Cap’n!  All present and accounted for!”

“What’s your name again Mister?  I’m a little fuzzy.”

“I know what you mean sir.  It’s Johnson.  Did we make it Cap’n?  Are we there?”

“Don’t know yet Johnson.  What’s the status of your group?”

“We got a few injuries sir.  Mostly bruises.  The bugs’ suspension threads didn’t hold, or something.  We’re at an odd angle and few people fell out of their bunks.  But if our threads didn’t hold I’m betting number four’s didn’t either.  It’s gonna be a lot worse for them.  They’ll have woken up upside down compared to us.”

“Roger that Johnson.  I’m going to check three and four and then we’ll see where we stand.  Keep everyone cool.”

“Right on!”

Jack heard Johnson giving an update to the people in his chamber and he turned his attention to the left hatch, banging with his canister.  He got a tap in return and swung it open.  He immediately heard the distinct sounds of people in pain.  Without hesitation he swung his legs through and clambered into the chamber.

It was a mess.  The engineers had done their best to account for the fact they couldn’t know which angle Deep Mother would assume when she finally touched down, so they had divided the colony cylinder into quadrants, with each quarter of the colonists lying at 90 degrees to the next.  The result was that no matter how they landed, one quarter of the colonists would open their life cells to find themselves staring at the “floor” from the ceiling perspective.  That was considered to be better than risking all of the colonists eating the metal floor had they all been facing the same way.  To mitigate the injuries, each colonist was supposed to be wrapped in thin silky suspension threads that would slowly stretch and gently lower any upside-down colonists whichever way gravity pulled them.  But something had gone wrong and the suspension threads had failed spectacularly.  Colonists had woken up with their faces smashed into the lids of their cells and when they tripped the release mechanism they fell eight feet into the racks of food and clothing.  The impact started the gag reflex to blow out their diaphragm implants, which meant that there were colonists undergoing involuntary dry-heaves while lying on broken bones and bruised faces.

“What’s your name son,” he said to the young man that had returned the greeting tap.

“Childers,” he said weakly.  He had a nasty purple bruise on his head.

“Okay Childers.  We’re going to get everyone taken care of.  Don’t you worry.”

Jack turned around and stuck his head back into number two and called for medics and medpacs.

He made his way through the colonists, stepping over them gingerly.  Many of them had taken hits to the head as their feet got caught on their coffin lids when they fell out.  Some had been conscious enough to break their fall with their arms, literally.  Even so, almost a dozen colonists had survived the ordeal without a scratch.  They were already busy administering first aid to the worst injured.  There was a triage area set up near the back of the chamber, where the medical supplies were stored.

A stone formed in the pit of his stomach when he saw how they’d managed to clear enough space to work on the wounded.  A pile of ten corpses lay stacked against the bulkhead, loosely draped with an emergency blanket.  Jesus Christ.  He’d been sitting in his bunk gathering his thoughts and being moody while people twenty feet away from him died!  His people!  Guilt clawed up his back.

“What do you need?” he said softly to a woman who was binding a shattered arm.

“Just more help,” she said quietly.  He listened for accusation in her voice, but didn’t find it.

“It’s already on the way.  I’ll set them up at the other end and we’ll work towards the middle.”

She nodded, relieved.

He moved to step away and she touched his forearm.

“We could use some good news too.”

He gave her a small smile and began working his way back towards the front of the chamber.

“Johnson!  Najarin!” he called through the hatchways.  “Let’s get to the bridge!”

They climbed through another portal towards the front of the ship and approached a massive bulkhead with a small conical hatch set deep into the center.  Johnson pulled a pair of magnifiers over his eyes and slid into the cone.  He scanned the hatchway for a few minutes before reaching out to the compression handles.

“Looks good Cap’n.  Want me to pop it?”

Jack nodded, and a whoosh of air signified the seal had been broken.  Johnson slid his way through the opening and disappeared.

“Looks intact!” he called back.  “She rolled a bit though, so the floor’s at an angle. Watch yourself!”

Jack crawled his way into the bridge.  It was small, crammed with instruments, and covered in a superfine layer of dust that disappeared in a puff when disturbed.  Johnson wasn’t kidding about the ship having rolled.  He was leaning far to one side while staring at the first of several paper cards hanging from a slot in the bank of instruments.

“She set us down easy,” he said.  “Computer is gone, but we expected that.  Ablative shielding opened up like a flower on the way down.  I bet it was a helluva sight!”

“Great.  Check the planet readings with the hard instruments.  See if we’re dead or not.”

“What’s the matter Cap’n?” he grinned, “You don’t trust the computer?  She died for us you know.”

“Of course I trust the computer.  Check the hard readings.”  Jack ran his fingers over a tiny painting of a grassy mountain in front of a yellow sky.

“Atmosphere optimal, gravity optimal, temperature optimal…”

“That’s not right,” Jack interrupted, his brow furrowed.  “It’s not supposed to be optimal.  Nominal, not optimal.  Survivable but not perfect.”

Johnson shrugged indifference.  “You know what they say about gift horses.”

“Whatever,” Jack mumbled.  “We got time for recordkeeping later.  Let’s go take a look.”

He reached down and grabbed a section of the flooring.  It slid up and out of the way, revealing a hand-operated elevator and air-lock system.  They climbed in, closed the floor over their heads and Jack spun the crank that would lower them to the exit door.

The floor dropped quietly on heavily lubricated rails and for several minutes all they could hear was a faint metallic tapping sound.

At the end of the their oddly angled descent Jack locked the floor down.  He reached over to the large mechanism that would break the seal of the ship and looked back at his shipmates.

“Ready?”

Johnson and Najarin raised a matched pair of light-weight flechette rifles to their shoulders.

“Ready,” they replied in unison.

Jack flung the switch, and the door mechanism banged loudly.  The door didn’t move.

“What the hell?”  Jack said.  He looked at Johnson.  What happened?

“Beats me.  Door should be clear.  It’s nothing internal.”

Jack worked the mechanism again, and again it clanged and remained shut.

“Boost me up to that porthole.  Maybe I can see something.  I’d hate to have to cut our way out of here.”

Standing on their shoulders, Jack worked a small crank that rolled away a small metal plate.  A beam of sunlight cascaded into the airlock.

He leaned forward, craning his head to get a view of the ground.  And he saw three things he absolutely, utterly did not expect.

The first thing he saw as his eyes crested the metal rim was a glimmering jewel a hundred miles wide set far back into the desert.  But it wasn’t a jewel.  It was a shimmering city wreathed in green that gleamed like a diamond in the summer sun.

The second thing he saw was people.  Humans.  Dozens of humans.  Dark-skinned, swarthy humans in flowing robes of a thousand colors.  

And the third thing he saw was the profile of a particularly effective-looking gun expertly cradled by a great giant of a man with a hairy barrel chest and a great unruly moustache.  The man pointed to the door and slowly shook his head no.




Jack’s mind froze.  He rolled over on his back, his eyes glazed.

“It can’t be.  It’s not possible,” he muttered, falling to the floor.

“What is it Captain?” Katja asked.

He ignored her as he spun the crank to raise them back to the bridge.

“You find out where we are and how long we were in-flight,” he ordered Johnson.

“But Cap’n.  This isn’t Maia?” Johnson asked.

“Something went wrong.  Something goddamn went wrong.”  He stormed over to Katja, his eyes revealing a streak of fear and confusion.

“There were people out there.  People,” he whispered, sitting down heavily on a lopsided chair.

“And a city.  A great city.  A huge city.”

Katja looked at Johnson.  Is he off his rocker?  Side effects from the hibernation?

The elevator reached the bridge and Johnson started combing through readouts.  He found something that interested him and pulled it out.

“Incredible!” he wondered. “Cap’n.  Look at these. We were supposed to be in-flight a little over a hundred years.  But when Mother got to the Hyades, she couldn’t find Maia.  It was just, gone.”

“What do you mean gone?”  Jack asked.

“Just gone.  She doesn’t know why.  So she turned around and headed back.”

“Headed back?  Headed back, to Earth?”

“Yessir.”

Jack rubbed his cheek with his hand.

“I don’t think they know who we are.”

Johnson screwed up his face.  “How can they not know who were are?  Everyone in the world knows who we are and what we were going to do.  Hell they fought wars over us.”

“Johnson.  That was what, two hundred years ago?  Look here.  And here.  She spent weeks trying to contact NASA for pick-up.  And then, look here, for some reason she decided Earth was a good match and, God bless her, she carried out her mission.”

Johnson scanned the readouts further.

“Dropped us here, at these coordinates.  On Earth,” he said.

“Best as I can tell, the Indian subcontinent,” Jack confirmed for him.

“So we just spent two hundred years in hibernation so we could move from Kansas to India?”

“It was a failsafe.  Mother kept us alive as best she could.”

“But Cap’n.  That mean’s the mission’s a failure.  We’ve failed everyone.  Our families, our country.  We’ve failed the human race!”  Tear threatened his eyes.

“I got that Johnson.  But did you hear me?  There are people out there.  Outside.  On Earth.”

Johnson and Katja’s eyes locked.  The significance of that statement suddenly hit them like a lead weight.

“There aren’t supposed to be any people on Earth!”

“Not after two hundred years!”

“We were the survivors!  Weren’t we?”

“They lied.  They lied to us!”

“What happened?”

“The ecology collapsed, didn’t it?”

“Unsustainable.”

“Global warming?”

“I thought it was global cooling.”

“Doomsday!”

“Oh my God.”

Jack Truman waited, absorbed in his own thoughts.  When all the exclamations had been voiced, he shifted his weight and spoke.

“We didn’t fail them.  The mission is a success.  These people don’t know who we are or they would have talked to Mother and docked with her to retrieve us.  They aren’t NASA.  For all we know NASA no longer exists.

“Mission control recognized the possibility that Maia may have already developed life.  They sent us out with the best tools man could develop to establish a foothold in an hostile environment.  I see no reason why we should deviate from the mission.”

Johnson shifted uncomfortably.

“Shouldn’t we try to talk to them or something?”

“I don’t think you understand the situation here Corpsman.  They are armed and they have jammed our outer doors shut, which means we can’t vent fresh air and are relying on air processors that are operating a hundred years beyond expectation.  We have a mess of wounded that are getting only basic care and people that have been cooped up for two centuries being crawled on by spiders!

“Get back to chambers two and three and find the guys with infantry training.  Tell them to gear up from the supply storage and report here when they’re ready.”
 
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Jac

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Halos
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2005, 10:12:55 am »

Quote
“We were the survivors! Weren’t we?”

“They lied. They lied to us!”

“What happened?”

“The ecology collapsed, didn’t it?”

“Unsustainable.”

“Global warming?”

“I thought it was global cooling.”

“Doomsday!”
I thought the planet got eaten by a giant space-goat... :D

Good story, Scarmig... I'm liking it.
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I have never regretted that I chose to "take the red pill." But there are days, just rarely, when the truth is so ugly, so brutal, so unmerciful, so relentless, that even if I wouldn't rip the truth from the wall socket and hurl it out the window to crash on the sidewalk below, I wouldn't mind if it featured a snooze button so we could savor just a few more moments in slumbered pretension and warm, fuzzy lies pulled snugly up over our heads.
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debeez

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Halos
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2005, 04:38:19 pm »

Most intriguing...

Please hurry up and write more!
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Christine
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George Potter

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Halos
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2005, 12:03:35 am »


Enjoying this a lot, man! Keep it coming. :)
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Docliberty

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Halos
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2005, 07:33:43 am »

I like where you're going with this.  Interesting possibilities.
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Doc

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"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." H. L. Mencken

Scarmiglione'

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Halos
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2005, 09:20:26 am »

There's more coming.  But I'm getting close to some sticky areas.  May take a little bit of germination to work them out.

And I'm not working from an outline, which I should be, so as I go along I get more and more terrified that I'm contradicting details laid out previously.

I'm also struggling with my writing style.  Depending on what color the moon is each day I run from highly technical and expository to pages of inane dialogue to flowery metaphoric imagery.  Most annoyingly I cannot seem to be consistant about using narrative prose to reflect inner dialogues.  I like using narrative prose to reflect inner dialogue, but it's difficult to keep the point of view consistant (main character speaks in inner dialogue, but interactions must be carried out in conversation.)  I find myself uncomfortable switching between third-person omniscient and character-POV-don'tknowshit-ient.  

Somebody tell me if there's a better way to make those transitions.
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Claire

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Halos
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2005, 09:48:44 am »

Scarmig,

Sounds as if you're suffering from typical "first-draftitis." You have my sympathies. The problems you're describing are common -- especially the conflict between first-person narrative and third-person omniscient. First step is: breathe deeply.

Working from an outline would help a lot. Even if you don't end up following it faithfully, it still gives you a compass to follow. When you veer off the path, you'll at least be conscious that you are veering.

I never work from outlines on short pieces. But on something novel- or novella-length, I definitely would, as it's too easy to get halfway through and go Ohfuck, I've written my characters (or they've written me) into a situation we can't get out of. I've got drawers full of 100-page novel starts that seemed like a brilliant idea, then hit a wall because I hadn't thought the plot through.

Working from outline will also tell you in advance whether you can get away with the third-person limited (or first-person) POV, or whether some points in your story absolutely require third-person omniscient or third-person objective. (http://teenwriting.about.com/cs/writingfiction/ht/ThirdPerson.htm).

You'll know before you start whether your story line is going to require the writer-god to know something that some or all of the characters don't.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2005, 09:49:54 am by Claire »
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Scarmiglione'

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« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2005, 10:52:17 am »

Technically this is the second novella I've started.  First one was written some 18 years ago on notebook while I was bored in highschool.  Typical light-fantasy dreck.  (Hey look!  A dragon!  Nobody's every seen that before!)  It had some cool ideas in it, meaning that even this late into the game I think the ideas are cool.  But I don't remember struggling through this narrative perspective stuff at the time.

In any case, I improve by being suicidally critical of myself, so no worries.  Besides, writing it here blows away any first publishing rights, so it's not like I'm losing anything.  (Everyone feel free to shoot me if any lightsabres show up.)  ;)
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Joel

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« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2005, 10:57:07 am »

Outline or no outline, continuity is always going to be an issue.  You have to be ready to edit with a sharp hatchet.  For me, at least, editing and polishing takes longer than writing.  The hard parts aren't the ones where you shout, "Oh dear gaia, what was I thinking," those are easy.  The hard parts are the ones where a passage or paragraph or scene or whatever isn't right for the story, and deep inside you know it, but dammit you're in love with every beautiful word of it.  Sometimes you have to strangle your own children.  It's for their own good.

I read everything aloud.  If it doesn't sound good on my tongue, it doesn't stay on the page.

Outlines are a problem for me.  It would take me as long to write a full, formal outline of a novel as it would to write the damned novel, because I don't know where the landmines are till I plow the field.  I start with situations and objectives, then work on character profiles.  I always work on getting to know the characters first.  I've got lots of details about them that never make it directly into the novel, but those details inform the things they do and the way they do them.  I don't get comfortable with a story until characters start telling me to screw off, they're going to do it their way.
 
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Scarmiglione'

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« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2005, 11:31:37 am »

Quote
Outline or no outline, continuity is always going to be an issue.  You have to be ready to edit with a sharp hatchet.  For me, at least, editing and polishing takes longer than writing.  The hard parts aren't the ones where you shout, "Oh dear gaia, what was I thinking," those are easy.  The hard parts are the ones where a passage or paragraph or scene or whatever isn't right for the story, and deep inside you know it, but dammit you're in love with every beautiful word of it.  Sometimes you have to strangle your own children.  It's for their own good.

I read everything aloud.  If it doesn't sound good on my tongue, it doesn't stay on the page.

Outlines are a problem for me.  It would take me as long to write a full, formal outline of a novel as it would to write the damned novel, because I don't know where the landmines are till I plow the field.  I start with situations and objectives, then work on character profiles.  I always work on getting to know the characters first.  I've got lots of details about them that never make it directly into the novel, but those details inform the things they do and the way they do them.  I don't get comfortable with a story until characters start telling me to screw off, they're going to do it their way.
Characterization is going to be a big problem for me, but then that's part of my reason for undertaking this.  The "character" of the ship was easy.  I relate to that mentality.  Real-breathing people of which I rarely consider myself a member, are alien to me.  :)

 
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Claire

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« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2005, 11:40:12 am »

John's got a point. A full formal outline, in addition to taking a lot of time, also tends to be more linear than the wild & crazy creative process wants to be. But knowing your characters, their situations, and a rough plot -- and knowing them all pretty thoroughly --- in advance still helps. Have no idea where you stand in that regard.

We started Out of the Gray Zone, for example, with a 20-page single-spaced synopsis. At several points, I changed specific events without deviating from the overall course. In one place I went completely off on a tangent, inventing a new character and a whole sequence of events around him that went on for several chapters. But fortunately the synopsis still kept me from surrendering the intended storyline to that diversion.

Voice is always a real problem. We faced something similar to what you're facing; if you're seeing the story through one character's POV, how to do you clue the reader in on all kinds of little things the reader needs to know but your character doesn't know, doesn't see, doesn't directly experience. Very challenging.
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Claire

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« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2005, 11:41:16 am »

John's got a point. A full formal outline, in addition to taking a lot of time, also tends to be more linear than the wild & crazy creative process wants to be. But knowing your characters, their situations, and a rough plot in advance -- and knowing them all pretty thoroughly --- still helps. Have no idea where you stand in that regard.

We started Out of the Gray Zone, for example, with a 20-page single-spaced synopsis. At several points, I changed specific events without deviating from the overall course. In one place I went completely off on a tangent, inventing a new character and a whole sequence of events around him that went on for several chapters. But fortunately the synopsis still kept me from surrendering the intended storyline to that diversion.

My past attempts at fiction have been sans outline, sans plan. And all failures. Working with a partner meant I had to show him were I wanted to go (and gave him his chance to add a lot of input, which he did). And that turned out to be a great advantage.

Voice is always a real problem. We faced something similar to what you're facing; if you're seeing the story through one character's POV, how to do you clue the reader in on all kinds of little things the reader needs to know but your character doesn't know, doesn't see, doesn't directly experience? Very challenging.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2005, 11:43:51 am by Claire »
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

Joel

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« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2005, 12:04:51 pm »

Quote
knowing your characters, their situations, and a rough plot -- and knowing them all pretty thoroughly --- in advance still helps. Have no idea where you stand in that regard.

We started Out of the Gray Zone, for example, with a 20-page single-spaced synopsis. At several points, I changed specific events without deviating from the overall course. In one place I went completely off on a tangent, inventing a new character and a whole sequence of events around him that went on for several chapters. But fortunately the synopsis still kept me from surrendering the intended storyline to that diversion.

There's something to that, if you've got the discipline to do it.  Situational ethics are also a factor.  Before I wrote The Last Faithful Man, I filled two essay books with notes about every character, every phase in every major character's life, every battle, every major event.  But then I was writing about something that had (sort of, possibly) actually happened, drawing from a bunch of disparate, fragmentary and contradictory sources, and generally trying to make a rope from a pile of twine snippets.  For example, the only battle that archealogists all agree King Ahab fought in, is the only one not mentioned in the Bible at all.  Elijah runs from Jezebel, and goes to ground inside the very kingdom of her father - huh?  Why?  So yeah, very detailed synopsis.

But with real fiction, I set up a situation and decide where I want my characters to end up, and a few stops along the way that help illustrate whatever point I'm trying to make.  For me, finding out how they get there is more than half the fun.  But then, I'm not writing to a deadline and it doesn't matter to anyone but me whether I finish the course or end up with just another dead-end folder in my computer.  For me it's just play.  Deadly serious play, sometimes, but still play.

I think William Gibson coined the phrases cyberspace and meatspace.  A few years ago I made one of my own; litspace, which is where I live when I'm working with the characters.  If they're not real people to me, I'm not ready to start writing their story.
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