Google+ The Bluestocking Firefly: Sci-fi strikes again

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sci-fi strikes again

Once upon a time, way back in middle school, I wrote a series of very bad science fiction stories. I mean, for a twelve-year-old, they were pretty good. Each story had a plot, a set of characters, a beginning, a middle, and an end. All things considered, not bad, right? (The fact that they were heavily influenced by Star Trek is another matter altogether.)

Having abandoned those stories in...uh...eighth grade, when I moved on to the project that then occupied me for the next year and a half (my masterpiece novel, which, while it admittedly was very extensive and very creative, never got finished, although I still know how it's meant to end), I really never went back to science-fiction. Oh, I dabbled in it here and there from time to time; there's a short story I must have written in eighth grade involving a pair of twins, and there's an unfinished piece that I think must be from about ninth grade (possibly tenth, but I'm guessing it would have to be early, judging from the writing style) about genetically engineered people, although that one's rather more fantasy than sci-fi. Most of my writing in high school revolved around fantasy, with the occasional dab at fiction thrown in for good measure.

About...two years ago (possibly closer to three, the draft unfortunately isn't dated) I began a story called 'Heart of Gold' that was meant to eventually be a science-fiction Beauty and the Beast. It never got there, but when last year I decided I wanted to submit something to my uni's sci-fi/fantasy/speculative genre magazine and discovered I didn't actually have anything that really fit the bill (and the deadline was about 3 days away - I'd been working on my dissertation and hadn't had time to work on anything before then), I picked up the 'Heart of Gold' story and revised it into what became 'The Ferryman' - a piece, if I have to be honest, I'm actually very fond of. It was my first serious foray back into the world of science-fiction, and I was exceptionally pleased with how it turned out. It made me want to turn my hand back to science-fiction again, because now I think I have a better idea of what I'm doing. At the very least, I'm a long way from the science fiction I was trying to write in middle school.

Long story short, I'm trying to write science fiction again. Not really sure how well I'm doing; this story has been banging around in my head for a couple of weeks now, and it keeps morphing the longer it's up there. I wrote out the first scene in a notebook, but since I did that the vision I had of the story changed, and most of what I originally wrote out no longer works. So I sat down today, since I wasn't feeling very well, and wrote out what I'm about to post, which keeps smashing around in my head as I'm trying to go to sleep at night. Hopefully it will stick a bit better. Amy, Ramina, and the Empire-class of ships haven't gone anywhere; neither has the Commission or the view in my mind I have of this world. So that's something. It's just the details that keep changing.

So, anyway. Sci-fi makes a comeback in the as-of-yet unnamed following story.

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.

Peleteth Spaceport, located in the Nerat system, was one of the most trafficked ports in the sector, and the main hub for ships coming in from the outliers towards the centre of the Commissioned planets, and vice versa. Level Five, reserved primarily for government and larger ships, was one of the busiest docking rings on the spaceport, but no matter where you disembarked, it was easy to disappear on Peleteth — it was one of the reasons it was such a popular port. Step off a transport, and the crowds swallowed you in an instant. No one wanted to know who you were or where you were going; no one asked too many questions. For the most part everyone was too busy with their own lives to worry about anyone else’s. As long as people kept their heads down and stayed out of the Commission’s way, no one ever noticed one more inconspicuous, unremarkable passenger moving across the galaxy.

The smell of hot oil and old engine grease permeated the main promenade on Level Five, seeping through the ventilation grates and lingering on clothes for weeks after departure. Commissioner patrols walked the promenade in pairs, poking the ends of their rifles into stacks of cargo and watching passengers debark from the incoming ships, their faces unreadable behind tinted visors. Smoke from food stalls and malfunctioning equipment drifted across the ring, settling in a faint haze near the top of the promenade. The buzz of voices provided a steady backdrop of sound, out of which an occasional word or phrase would sometimes emerge; the deck plates rumbled periodically as another ship started up and disengaged from its dock, departing for destinations unknown. A steady stream of new arrivals poured through the promenade and made their way to one of any number of food vendors lining the walls, mindful of the constant eye of the Commissioner patrols.

A young woman, recently disembarked off a transport from Idylla, stood for a moment surveying the promenade before approaching a stall operated by a man whose hand and facial tattoos identified him as from one of the Eratal moons. He served her a plate, but she couldn’t help noticing that his eyes were on the pair of guards across the way; once she paid him, he shook his head at the next customer and pulled a grate down over the front of his shop before disappearing out the back.

The young woman carried her tray to an empty table in the middle of the promenade and plunked it down, dropping her bag on the deck beside her. Glancing around, she slid into the chair and tore off a piece of spiced flatbread, noticing as she did that two guards had been dispatched in the direction of the vendor from whom she had just received her meal. She ignored it and concentrated on her food. It was none of her concern. Two children darted behind her, laughing; one of them tripped on the leg of her chair and fell across her bag. Mumbling apologies, he got to his feet and started after his friend, but froze as the woman’s hand caught his upper arm.

“Not so fast,” she said, her voice low. “What say you return my credits?”

“What credits?”

The woman smiled. “You see those two Commissioner guards behind me?” she said. The boy nodded. “I would really hate to have to call them over.” She looked him over and sighed. “You’re so young. It’d be such a pity.”

His eyes wide, the boy slid a wallet from inside his sleeve and handed it to her. “Please don’t turn me in,” he squeaked.

She ruffled his hair. “Next time you swipe something, kiddo, make sure you don’t get caught. Scoot.”

She watched him run off and glanced inside the wallet before tucking it inside her jacket.

“Would you really have called for the Commies?”

Her back stiffening, the woman turned back to her food. A tall woman stood on the other side of the table, her hands clasped behind her back.

“Do you make a habit of eavesdropping?”

“Manners dictate that one should not, if it can be avoided,” the other woman replied. “But I have good hearing. Are you Amy Jones?”

Her head came up and she took a better look at the other woman. “Braids, tribal tattoos, intricate beadwork — you’re a Kitara tribeswoman. From Ternia Prime. What does a Tern tribeswoman want with me?”

The other woman swung a chair around and straddled it. “You are Amy Jones, then?” she repeated, resting her arms on the back of the chair.

“Actually,” Amy said, carefully tearing off another piece of flatbread and dipping it in the sauce, “it’s Doctor.”

“Doctor Jones, my name is Ramina de Sara.”

Amy popped the bread into her mouth. “Nice to meet you," she said around the mouthful, "but you haven’t answered my question. What do you want with me?”

“I’m the first officer on a small salvage ship,” de Sara said. The deck plates reverberated beneath their boots, and they both glanced to the side in time to see a freighter sail past the observation windows. “My captain wishes to hire you for your expertise.”

Frowning, Amy leant back and folded her arms. “No offence, Ms. de Sara — or is it Commander?”

“Ms. de Sara is acceptable.”

“Ms. de Sara, really, no offence, but I don’t do flick jobs. There’s a lot of crews running bit salvage operations, and quite frankly, I have no interest in signing on — ”

“Your expertise is in pre-Commission, Empire-era ships of the line, is it not?”

Caught off guard, Amy sat with her mouth open for a moment before saying, “Well — yeah. But I don’t see — ”

de Sara lowered her voice. “Doctor Jones, we believe we have discovered a Venus-class cruiser in the Elderan asteroid belt, but we wish to have you present during the salvage operation, as your expertise on the ships of the era would be invaluable.”

Amy spluttered, and finally managed, “Okay, look. First of all, it’s been over a decade since the last Empire-era ship was discovered; I know, because I was writing my dissertation when they found it. Second, it is
extremely unlikely that you’ve found a Venus-class, not in that area of space. Do you have any idea how unusual it would be for it to be in that region? During the Empire — ”

“No,” de Sara said, cutting her off. “I have no idea. I don’t know anything about the Empire, and to be very honest with you, Doctor, I do not care, either. But my captain does care. None of us know very much about the time period or the ships at all. The fact that you think the captain is wrong about the sort of ship we have found will interest him very much.” She slid a data rod across the table. “Read that. It contains everything we have discovered so far, which, admittedly, is not much, but hopefully you will agree that this is an operation which could use your expertise.”

“If you really have found an Empire-era ship,” Amy said slowly, “there’s a lot of channels you’re going to need to go through.”

“We can discuss that later,” de Sara said. “Once you’ve decided to come aboard.”

“Tell me about your crew,” Amy said. “What are they like?”

de Sara stood. “You will meet them when you come aboard. The information is on the data rod. Level Three, docking port C2.”

As she turned to leave, Amy called, “de Sara!”

The tribeswoman turned, the beads on her tunic clicking. “Yes?”

“How did you find me?”

de Sara smiled slightly and didn’t answer. Amy watched her walk away, and then curled her fingers around the data rod. She stood and picked up her bag, a frown on her face. Slinging the strap over her shoulder, she headed off the promenade, and within moments was lost in the swirl of the crowd.

Next: Return of the sci-fi

1 comment:

  1. Write On!
    You create such visuals with your words and your writing flow, as it almost creates a motion picture as I read.
    I want to keep on reading to see what happens next, and the characters seem to choose the right things to say that generate that 'what's going to happen next' sensation.

    Keep on writing, as I always want to read on to find out what happens next.