Google+ The Bluestocking Firefly: July 2011
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And more sci-fi

I am trying to keep writing. Only getting little bits done, but at least I'm progressing. :)

If you've just stumbled onto this section, or if you want to refresh your memory, you can go back to the beginning and read this in order by going here.


Amy stood behind the Sophia’s access port and peered through the window at the chute making its way towards the other ship. “So that’s how we’re getting over there?”

Grayson clicked his oxygen tube into place and glanced up. “Ever been in a connector chute before?”

“They’re a bit retro,” she replied. “And I’m pretty sure they were recalled about fifty years ago.”

“That would be a no, then.”

“I’ve got her up and running just fine,” Taz said, ducking through the door. “Nothing to worry about.” He pressed the wall comm and snapped his suspenders up over his shoulders. “Benji, how’s she looking?”

“We’re almost to the Apollo. Give me a minute or two and we’ll be locked tight. You ready to go?”

“Give us a minute or two and we’ll be waiting on you,” Grayson said. “You want us to wait for you to kit up or you gonna join us on the other side?”

“Go ahead and slide once she’s locked,” Benji said. “I need to pick up a few things and then I’ll head over.”

“Got it.” Grayson nodded to Taz, who flicked the comm off and pulled a suit out of the lockers.

Amy double-checked her air tank and settled her helmet over her head. “Do you guys have anything that’s less than a decade old?” she asked, flipping the visor up.

“Unlike the Commies, we don’t exactly have extra credits floating around,” Grayson said. He reached around behind her and secured the helmet. “These do the job and are easy to repair.” He nudged Taz in the ribs. “What would you do with extra credits?”

Taz whistled. “Burger and fries like my uncle used to make.”

The comm crackled. “Sign me up for a new mattress,” Kate’s voice said. “My back is killing me.”

“’Least you have an actual mattress," Benji said cheerfully. "Someone’s the captain’s favourite…”

The sound of scuffling came over the comm, and then, “Sorry about that, guys,” Kate said. “Chute’s locked and the
Sophia’s in position, Captain. Any time you’re ready, slide away.”

Grinning, Grayson locked his helmet into place and switched on the internal comm. “Jones, you reading me?”

Amy winced as his voice squealed through a burst of static and then cleared out. “Yeah, you sound peachy.”

Grayson looked across at Taz. “Taz?”

Taz tipped an imaginary hat. “Got both of you loud and clear.”

“Benji, Kate, we’re headed over,” Grayson said. “Ramina, you up there?”

“I’m monitoring each of you,” de Sara said. “Kate and I will track the data you send back. It would be appreciated if you could avoid any emergencies this time.”

Laughing, Grayson said, “Not sure last time really qualifies as an emergency, but we’ll do our best.”

Amy looked from Grayson to Taz as the access port door opened, hissing as the pressure equalised and revealing the entrance to the chute. “What happened last time?”

Grayson stepped past her and peered down the shaft. “There was a minor accident with a pole.”

“There might have been some blood involved,” Taz admitted, coming up behind them. He handed Amy a plastic case and a canister. “Your supplies, Doc. Hold on tight and keep your elbows tucked in.”

“Sorry?”

Taz ducked his head and pointed down the tube. “The
Sophia is currently attached to your Apollo ship by the connector chute. Kate’s positioned us above relative to the other ship and Benji’s pressurised the chute, so that when you sit on the edge and slide forward, you’ll slide from this end all the way to the bottom, which will land you right down at your Apollo’s access port. It’s quick and efficient and pretty safe. The chute has built-in inertia dampers that will help to slow your motion so you don’t pick up too much speed on your way down — like brakes on a bike.”

“What’s a bike?”

“You know what, never mind.” Taz ushered her to the edge of the chute. “Just sit down and when you start sliding, remember to keep your arms and legs tucked in. And keep your equipment resting on your chest — it’ll hurt if you let it go and it comes back to hit you in the face. Got it?”

Feeling less than confident, Amy nodded and perched on the edge of the chute. She leant forward slightly and stared at the downward slope. “You’re sure this thing is safe?”

“Yep,” Grayson said, and without warning, pushed her forward. “Think good thoughts!” he called after her.

“Was that really necessary?” Taz asked as they watched her sail away.

“Eh,” Grayson said, turning to pick up another crate of supplies. “One of us probably should have gone first, to be fair. She'll be fine.”

Amy wrapped her arms around her supply cases and held on as she shot down the tube. There were dim lights at intervals along the way; she wasn’t certain if they made the slide more or less unnerving. Sliding in total darkness might have been even more terrifying, but on the other hand, having the light highlighted the chute’s sometimes-alarming wear and tear, which Amy wasn’t sure that she wanted to know about. If she was going to risk death in space due to ancient and faulty equipment, she thought perhaps she’d prefer not to know about it.

In a surprisingly short time, her rapid slide began to slow and she skidded out into a wider area and up against a smooth metal surface. Dazed, she sat with her back against the wall for a moment before she realised just where she was, and then she dropped the case and canister and got to her feet to stare at the hull of the Apollo-class ship.

“How was the ride?” asked Grayson’s voice in her ear.

Amy turned to find Grayson getting to his feet behind her. “It was fine,” she replied. “Is Taz — ” She stopped as Taz shot out of the chute. “Never mind.”


Previous: Sci-fi, again 
Next: Boarding the ERV Waratah

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sci-fi, again

It's been awhile since I've posted any actual writing, mostly because I, uh, haven't been doing any actual writing since I've been hip-deep in dissertation work and haven't really had the time. But I realised today that I was starting to slide into that happy place we call depression, which tends to happen when I haven't been writing, and took the day off. Did a little work on the sci-fi story, since that's the one that's been clattering around in my brain lately (except in the shower. Spence has been yammering away when I'm in the shower. Funny.), and this is what spattered onto the page. Most of it is very rough, sorry - I don't have time at the moment to go back and do anything with it. :(

The first section is older, I just haven't bothered to put it up before. It carries on directly from the last section I posted. Links to the rest of this story may be found here.

I do promise that the middle section section isn't totally random. It does have a point, even if at the moment it isn't obvious.

Not really very happy with a lot of it; it'll probably change a lot once I have time to actually work on it, but for now it's serving its purpose - it's getting me where I need to go. And since I don't have anything else to post, here you go.


Taking a deep breath, Amy said, “The information on the data rod de Sara gave me provided me with the data from your initial survey of the ship. Your report describes the ship pretty well, given that the shots you were able to obtain were fairly fuzzy.” She lay down on her back and spread her arms and legs out. Staring up at the ceiling, she continued, “Between the interference of the asteroid, the fact you were operating at such close proximity to a storm, and the age of your equipment, I’m surprised you were able to obtain such good shots at all.” From her angle she was unable to see the expression on Grayson’s face, and carried on without pause. “I’d have expected more interference. In any case, given what you were able to capture, I’d say your initial postulation of a Venus-class cruiser’s mistaken.”

Grayson sat forward and leant his elbows on his knees. “I know none of us are particular experts in Empire-era ships, Doc — Amy, but I was pretty careful to note every detail I could see, and I compared everything to every available record I could find. I don’t think — ”

Amy sat up. “Yeah, but see, that’s why you’ve hired me,” she interrupted. “I don’t doubt that your eye is pretty good, for an amateur, and I’m sure no one can fault your history. But I’ve spent my life studying the ships of the Empire. When I was a kid I had models of every ship in my bedroom. I was one of
those kids.” She wrapped her arms around her knees, her eyes far away. “And then I went away to university. I have degrees in Empire studies. I wrote my dissertation on Empire ships of the line, and I was present during the salvage mission of the last discovered intact ship.” She smiled at the memory. “Such an exciting find — there hadn’t been an intact ship discovered in almost a hundred years.” Grayson coughed slightly, and Amy started. “Sorry. Uh — I was saying — I’ve been present at almost every major salvage operation in the last decade of any wreckage or suspected wreckage of an Empire-era ship.” She lifted her eyes to Grayson’s face. “And I’m telling you that that ship is not Venus-class. The flares on her nacelles are way too pronounced.”

Grayson ran his thumb across his lower lip. “But she is an Empire ship?”

“Oh, most definitely.”

“If she’s not Venus-class, then what is she?”

Amy grinned, her eyes lighting up with excitement. “She’s an Apollo.”

Grayson stared at her. “That’s impossible. There’s only been one
ever recovered.”

“I can’t be positive until I see her up close, but the flare of the nacelles along with the more gradual curve of the body and the gentler slope of the wings all strongly suggest Apollo.” She hesitated. “It is possible that she’s a late-model, retrofitted Mercury; the flares and body would be consistent with that model, and some of the retrofit ships did have wings attached. Your shots didn’t give me enough of a scale to positively determine one way or the other.” She laughed, and added, “It’ll be blindingly obvious once we’re there, as the Mercury-class ships were considerably smaller than the Apollos. Even if it is a Mercury, though, that’s hardly an insignificant find; the retrofit Mercury are a lot less common than their predecessors, and odds are we’d find all sorts of late-era Empire equipment and data inside. What?”

Shaking his head, Grayson said, “I have never seen anyone get as fired up about an old ship as you just did. I mean, I love this old boat. Half the time I don’t know how Taz holds her together, but I love her all the same. But any other ship? I’ve been in the salvage business awhile now, and it’s never been anything but a job for me.”

Amy shrugged. “I don’t care about the other jobs, the ones that turn out to be nothing more than a post-Empire-era ship with a jacked Empire-transponder sending out a signal fooling the sensors. I just love the Empires. It’s like walking through history. Those ships are hundreds of years old. They’re
gorgeous. You don’t see anything like them today. They’re pieces of art. It’s no wonder they named them after the gods.”

Grayson laughed. “You’d have hard time finding enough material to make something like that now,” he said. “I doubt even the Commission could do it.”

“If they wanted to,” Amy said. “They’re a bit more function over beauty.”

“So are you planning on explaining why a six-man crew isn’t going to cut it, or were you hoping I’d forget about that?”

Sighing, Amy said, “Look. Every other crew I’ve run on an Empire salvage job has been at
least a twenty-man operation, and those were all on wreckage jobs with a large percentage of the original ship missing. When I was part of the crew that salvaged the last intact ship over a decade ago, there were over fifty people involved. I’ll admit that there’s almost always been a concern for time — when it comes to the Commission, time is efficiency, and efficiency is everything — but nevertheless, I simply cannot envision six managing the job, especially when I’m the only one who knows anything about the ship itself and only one of your people knows anything about salvage.”

“The entire crew always works the salvage operation,” Grayson replied. “Except Kate. Can’t very well leave the ship unmanned. But they’re all very good.” He hesitated, and then said, “Look, if you think we absolutely need them, we can hire a few more hands, but the truth is that I don’t have the credit, nor does the
Sophia have the space, to take on more people. I owe my crew about two years’ back pay. Usually we just split the profits off whatever we make from the salvage, but whatever we make this time goes to you, and if there’s anything left over there’s some joint debts we need to cover. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t trust very many people. I would rather not take any more people on board my ship than I absolutely have to. I did a lot of digging into your background before I even considered bringing you on — ”

“Thank you very much,” Amy said dryly.

“ — and if I wasn’t convinced that your expertise was crucial in not botching the entire thing, I wouldn’t have even considered it.”

“I appreciate your confidence,” she said, pulling herself to her feet. “If we’re being honest here, Grayson, I’m still not convinced that a six-man crew can possibly pull off a salvage mission of this magnitude. Just for starters, we have absolutely no idea what we’re going to find once we get past the airlock. But you know your people far better than I do, and if you’re not in a hurry and have the time to spend, I have nothing to lose by trying. After all, this could very well be the most exciting find of my career.” She leant down and picked her bag. “’Course, you’re the captain. I’m only the hired help.” She flashed him a smile to let him know she was kidding, and then added, “Can I ask where I’m supposed to sleep? Or do I just kip anywhere I can find a spot?”

“As delightful as you might find sleeping next to the engines, I think you’ll probably sleep better in an actual bed,” Grayson said, standing up. “Your choice — you can either bunk in with Kate for now, or I think there’s a closet we can stick you in until we get something else made up.”

“What, de Sara doesn’t share?”

Grayson gave her a look. “She’s Kitaran.”

“Right. The whole privacy thing. Forgot.” Amy shrugged. “Sharing with Kate’s fine for now. She didn’t seem likely to take off my head in my sleep, and I’m not real fond of closets.”

Grayson held open the door. “After you, then.”


Thousands of light-years away in the outlying systems, a small planet circled a red dwarf star, the faint shimmer of its artificial atmospheric bubble visible beneath the star’s bright flares.

On the surface, two girls raced across a rocky field towards the dark gneiss cliffs rising towards the sky. Behind them, a settlement was barely discernible through the hazy heat waves rising from the ground.

The younger girl reached the cliff face first and smacked her hand against the sheer wall looming high above her head. “Beat you,” she called out, and leant her back against it as she waited for her friend to catch up.

“You know I let you win, right?” the other girl said, wheezing slightly as she scaled the incline. “You’d never beat me if I actually tried.”

“Yeah right.”

“Seriously, Molly, if I ever actually tried — ”

Molly rolled her eyes and pushed away from the cliff. She skipped a few steps and turned to face it, chewing on the end of her braid. “You always say that,” she said at last. “Hey, Jamie told Emily who told me that he wants to join the Commissioner Guards when he gets old enough. Would you still want to marry him then?” She plunked down and started to draw faces in the dirt. “Aunt Ellen says that we should stay away from the Commies because they don’t do anything good for us. What do you think, Jordan?”

She heard coughing and looked up. “Jordan?”

“I think we should go home,” Jordan said. Her face was pale beneath her tan and her skin had turned clammy. “I don’t feel good.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Dunno. Can we go? I can’t leave you out here, your aunt’d kill me.”

Molly got to her feet, her eyes worried. “Yeah, ’course.”

By the time they reached the outskirts of the settlement, Jordan’s breathing had become more laboured and she was beginning to have trouble focusing her eyes. Every time Molly reached out to support her, Jordan waved her away and stumbled on, Molly trailing in her wake.

A middle-aged woman spotted them as they came into the settlement and ran to meet them. “Where have you been?” she demanded. “I’ve been worried sick.”

“We just went out to the cliffs, Aunt Ellen, but then Jordan wasn’t feeling good — ”

Ellen’s eyes went to Jordan’s face. “Have you touched her?” she demanded.

“Huh?”

“Oh, god, Molly, have you touched Jordan today?”

“What — no — ”

Ellen grabbed Molly’s hand and pulled her close, holding the girl’s head against her side. “Thank god,” she said, and then lifted her eyes to meet Jordan’s. “I am so sorry, Jordan,” she whispered. “But there is nothing I can do for you.” She picked up Molly and settled her on her hip. “We need to go.” She began to walk away from the settlement, out into the wastelands.

“Go where?” Molly cried. “I don’t understand, Aunt Ellen — what’s happening?”

“Shh, shh,” she said, stroking Molly’s hair. “It’s okay, sweetheart. Shh.”

Molly lifted her face and stared back over her aunt’s shoulder at Jordan standing outside the settlement, sick and confused and getting smaller and smaller as they walked away.


Amy stood on the viewing deck, barely able to contain her excitement. Grayson glanced sideways at her and hid a smile.

“You’re bouncing,” he said.

Amy realised she was on her toes and dropped back to the deck. “I’m just — this is so exciting. You have no idea.”

“I’m getting it in waves, actually. You’re a pretty good transmitter.”

“Oh, shut up.” She stared at the covered window in front of her. “How much longer?”

Benji, who had just walked into the room, stopped short. “Really?” he said. “I thought I was the kid in the family. That’s usually my line.”

“Sorry to usurp your position, Ben, I’m just — ”

“ — really excited, yeah, I know.” He held up a laser spanner and tossed it to Grayson. “Taz says the cover for the window in here hasn’t been working for a month. Sends his regards but can’t spare the time to fix it if you want the connector chute to be operational, so he recommends you try that.”

Grayson looked at the spanner in his hand and raised his eyebrows at Benji. “Seriously?”

Benji shrugged. “Don’t look at me. I’m the salvage and cargo guy. Also, he says if you break it you owe him two since you still owe him for the last one.”

“Please don’t tell me that your ship breaking down is going to make me miss my first glimpse of my ship,” Amy said. “I might cry.”

“You’re breaking my heart, Jones,” Grayson said. “My ship never breaks down.” Benji made a strangled noise. “Well, never for long. Besides, a captain always knows something about fixing ships.”

“Mhmm,” Amy replied, watching as Grayson flipped open a wall panel and twitched aside several wires. “Any chance any of the ships you know something about fixing happen to be yours?”

Grayson pointed the spanner at her. “I started off as an engineer, lady. I’m not incompetent.”

Amy held up her hands in surrender. “Apologies,
mon capitan. I was led astray by your unhealthy dependence upon Taz.”

“Seriously?” Grayson turned to look at her, an expression of disbelief on his face. “I do not have an unhealthy dependence on Taz.”

The wall panel pinged and the vidscreen crackled to life. “Hey guys,” said Kate, “the Elderan asteroid belt just came into sight, so…we should be stumbling into that ship here in about, oh, I dunno, five minutes? Just so’s you know…”

“Thanks, Kate,” Grayson said and flicked the vidscreen off.

“Wasn’t her hair green this morning?”

“I stopped noticing Kate’s hair colour years ago. Look, if you want to be able to look out that window and actually see something
other than the protective screen, you might want to let me do my job.”

Amy perched on a defunct console and swung her legs back and forth. “Aye aye, Captain.”

Grayson opened his mouth, thought better of it, and turned back to the open panel, ignoring Amy’s humming. Several minutes and a number of sparks later, the screen covering the window began to grind its way upwards.

Banging the panel closed, Grayson folded his arms and turned expectantly towards Amy, but she wasn’t paying any attention to him. She had crossed to the window and was standing with her nose almost against the glass, gazing at the slightly blurry asteroids the ship was passing.

“She’s cute when she’s that absorbed,” Benji remarked quietly to Grayson. “She’s like a little kid.”

“Yeah, something like that,” Grayson replied. “Remind me to tell Taz that the coating on the wires up here is shot and needs to be repaired.”

“Sure, right after the engines get a new coolant tank and the hull gets replated so we don’t get vaporised the first time we hit something bigger than a pebble,” Benji said cheerfully. “No problem. Anything you say, boss.”

“Smartass,” Grayson said, smacking him across the back of his head. “Don’t you have something you can be sorting?”

Benji snorted. “Yeah, sure. I’ve been through our last haul so many times I can list it off by heart. Wanna hear?”

“I’ll pass.”

Amy’s gasp distracted them both. Grayson hadn’t thought she’d actually do it, but her nose was touching the window, her hands pressed flat against the glass, as the ship slowed to approach one of the asteroids. Dwarfed by the size of the rock, the
Sophia crept along its edge, much nearer to the surface than on the previous journey when the solar storm had meant a certain distance had to be maintained at all times. After what felt like an excruciatingly long time, the first gleam of polished alloy came into view, reflecting the Sophia’s search beams. The little salvage ship rounded an outcropping, and Amy let out a little squeak. Her hands flailed.

“Apollo,” she managed to get out, breathless, and then she collapsed without warning onto the deck.

Grayson and Benji stared at her.

“Did she just faint?” Benji asked after a moment.

Grayson opened his mouth, considered, and shut it again as he went to crouch at her side. “Amy?” He slid his hand beneath her head. Amy’s eyelids flickered. “Hey, there you are. Come on, don’t make me call Ramina. I know you’re buddies, but it’d be a pity to spend your first day on the job sitting in the infirmary…”

Amy sat bolt upright. “Oh god, don’t tell me I forgot to breathe.”

Grayson sat back on his heels. “Recurring problem with you?”

“Oh, you know, I get excited, I forget…”

He stood up and offered a hand. She let him pull her to her feet and then turned to gaze out the window at the silver ship before them.

“God, it’s gorgeous,” she said. “How soon can we get aboard?”

Raising his eyebrows, Grayson said, “Well, assuming Taz managed to get the connector chute working again, it’ll only take as long as Benji here needs to get together his cutting equipment so we can get in. Barring checking that there’s not, you know, something on the other side of the airlock waiting to kill us.”

“No,” Amy said, “absolutely not. You are not going to
cut into that gorgeous ship.”

“Well, if you’ve got a better idea I’m open to suggestions,” Benji said, “but most ships have their own complex locking systems that take days to work out and I’ll bet you that something that old and flash has an even more intricate locking mechanism than even the Commission’s ever seen. Fastest way in's gonna be cutting.”

Amy rolled her eyes. “Do you think I’m an amateur? I know how to spring an Apollo’s lock.”

Benji glanced at Grayson, who spread his hands and gave him a helpless look, and shrugged. “Suit yourself. Just before you go work your magic, check with de Sara and Kate that it’s safe to go over. I’m going to go pack up.” He stalked over to the ladder and clambered up out of view.

Amy frowned at Grayson. “He’s pissed at me. What did I do?”

Grayson shrugged. “Took over his job. No big deal. It’s what I hired you to do. Don’t worry about it. Make sure you know what you’re doing and go meet up with Taz. I’ll check in with de Sara and Kate.” He grinned. “We’re about to board us an Apollo."


Previous: Return of the sci-fi 
Next: And more sci-fi

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stratford

So it's been awhile since I last posted, and I'm afraid I haven't got much in the way of writing to put up - I'm deep in the throes of dissertation-writing, and so I haven't been doing much of my own writing lately.

However! I was down in Stratford recently (twice, actually - I just got back from three weeks there, doing research in the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archives, but I was also there over a month ago for a conference) and I have some pictures that I thought I'd put up from when I was there at the end of May. :)

In other super exciting news, I've been accepted to the University of Nottingham to pursue a PhD - hurrah! I get to continue being a geeky Shakespeare academic for another three years. :D

Aaaaaaand pictures.


Roses on the way into town

Hall's Croft

More roses, across from Hall's Croft

Sun setting across from a church/cemetery

Looking across the river from Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried

Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre

Tree!

Cute little flower

Another rose. I love this country at this time of year, there are roses everywhere

Unknown flowering plant

Another unknown flowering plant

Yet another unknown flowering plant (clearly I am not a gardener)

Climbing roses!

Roses in the garden behind Shakespeare's house

Preeeetty rose

Rosebud

Cygnets and mama swan

Swan charging about fluffing its feathers and hissing