Reef Passage (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

First light saw the makeshift trimaran glide smoothly across the calm lagoon. The orange and white checkered sail easily caught the morning breeze blowing across the low-lying atolls sheltering the inner waters, and the boat picked up speed as Anna steered toward the southern tip of the island.

She took one final look back toward the ruined shuttle and the beach camp which had been their home for the past few weeks. The shuttle seemed sad and forlorn, battered and canted at an unnatural angle in the shallow water. Hull panels Anna had opened in her attempts to repair the scramjet engines were missing, ripped away in the fierce storm, while others displayed obvious damage where wind-tossed tree limbs had smashed into the side of the craft. What sections were not dented and ripped were sandblasted to a dull grey and uneven finish.

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Reef Passage


When storms toss you broken tree limbs, you build boats with them. What else? And when aliens kidnap a crew member, you sail after them, even if it’s a big, bad ocean out there.

And if you’re a scientist, you never stop sciencing (I know that’s not a word, but it should be), even when the subject of your study is trying to kill you.

Laxmi and Anna have made the best of a bad situation, salvaging what they can and using storm wreckage to modify and upgrade their life raft into a sailing trimaran. The locals on Kepler 62f have taken Jaci with them, and now Laxmi and Anna must pursue them across an alien ocean.

But as they set off on the start of this perilous journey, Laxmi makes an observation about their environment. It seems a small thing.

Here’s a hint: it isn’t.


header image credit: user:dr.scott.mills / flickr.com under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Outfitting (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

The beach lay strewn with fallen trees, a bounty of choice from which to find three relatively straight and sturdy spars. Anna took her inspiration from the Keplerians’ own design, as she knew it was a good one. Lateen rigs had served ancient humanity well, from early days moving goods through Egyptian waters, to latter days on small boats for training young sailors. An easily handled rig, it would give them some modest upwind capacity using the materials at hand.

With plenty of climbing rope available, Anna and Laxmi soon had the mast stepped into the bottom of the raft and stayed forward and to either side. To avoid the need of a backstay, Anna rigged the port and starboard shrouds to pontoon handholds a meter aft of the mast step.

The shuttle’s emergency gear included five parachutes, just one of which provided more than enough material for a sail.

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Outfitting


Have you ever wondered how to turn an emergency life raft into a sailing trimaran? Well, if you ever find yourself marooned on a small island in the middle of a big ocean on an alien planet thousands of light-years from Earth, who knows? It might be just the skill to have.

Especially if the native inhabitants of that planet have made off with one of your crew members and left you with almost nothing with which to survive.

I will confess that way back when I first started writing The Silence of Ancient Light, I imagined a prologue scene with Anna, our protagonist, on Earth before the expedition begins. The scene involved Anna participating in a single-handed ocean race, navigating her sailboat alone across the Pacific, and yes, I meant it to serve as foreshadowing, as well as to provide some initial clues into Anna’s essentially introverted character. I dropped the scene before I ever wrote it, thinking it superfluous, but now I’m considering that it might serve a purpose after all, if nothing else than to explain just how it is that Anna knows how to build a crude sailboat and then operate it.

What do you think? Too much?


Header image credit: user:janrye / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Notes in the Dark (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

They’re coming.

I don’t know if you will find this or not. I don’t know if you’ve survived. Moments after your warning about the storm, it hit, and it hit with the ferocity of a caged tiger suddenly sprung loose. Not that I’ve ever seen a tiger, of course; they went extinct long before I was born.

Visibility immediately went to zero, with so much water and debris filling the air. I’ve never seen a hurricane start so quickly! I did the only thing I could, which was to drop into the fire pit and hope the shallow depression would provide some protection. Even so, several branches hit me, and I suspect I’ll bear the bruises for many days to come. Thankfully, no more broken bones, however.

I lost track of time, but the storm lasted for some hours, then it died away almost as quickly as it arrived. The weather on this planet is weird.

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Notes in the Dark


So begins the handwritten note left for Anna to find in the dark confines of their ruined shuttle’s maintenance access. Yet, where is Jaci, the note’s author? Abducted by aliens seems likely, in this case! And if so, how will Laxmi and Anna find him?

Yes, you’re right, it didn’t take me another week to put out another scene. It has only been a day. I assure you, I’m not likely to keep up this pace, but who knows?

So what do you think of the direction the story is heading? Is it going where you expected, when you started? Is it surprising you? Is it disappointing you? Let me know what you think!

Until the next scene…


Header image credit: Johannes Plenio / pixabay.com via Pixabay License

Damage (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

They found the shuttle in bad shape. They had seen from across the lagoon that it was no longer sitting level in the shallow water, and now they could see the reason why. One of the landing struts canted at an angle implying significant damage to the undercarriage, and another had snapped off completely. The hull appeared battered where tree limbs had struck it during the storm, and a spiderweb of cracks glazed the cockpit window. The airlock door hung open, the interior dark beyond.

Anna’s heart sank when she saw the extent of the damage. She had entertained hopes of repairing the shuttle enough to fly it closer to the space elevator, if not actually back into orbit, but at first glance this now appeared beyond her available resources. Without a proper shipyard, or at least Aniara’s maintenance facilities, the shuttle would likely never fly again.

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Damage


Alien visitors have come and gone, and before that a major windstorm, leaving our marooned explorers camp and shuttle in terrible shape. Anna and Laxmi still don’t know whether Jaci is alive or dead, in hiding or kidnapped by the aliens. With options running out, they investigate the wreckage of their shuttle, once their only hope for escaping this planet and getting back to their starship in high orbit.

Thank you for alpha-reading my first draft. No obligations, of course, but if you’d care to leave a comment, feedback of any kind, you are more than welcome. Otherwise, stay tuned for the next scene, in probably about a week’s time.


Header image credit: user:TPHeinz / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Fire in the Dark (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

Darkness fell on the steep-sloped jungle with near the speed of turning out a light. Laxmi and Anna descended the cliff as rapidly as they dared in fading twilight, and by the time they retrieved the rope, shouldered their packs, and hacked their way back into the brush, the leafy green canopy turned black with night. Not a star penetrated to guide their way, and the twin moons were yet both below the horizon. The powerful beams of their headlamps created a circle of light only as far as the next set of creepers and fronds, and half a meter beyond the reach of their knives darkness ruled the forest.

“Are you sure this is the way we came?” whispered Laxmi. “I don’t remember it being this thick.”

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Fire in the Dark


Anna and Laxmi now have proof that they are not alone on Kepler 62f. Having emerged from the ancient cave ruins of what appear to be a long-lost alien civilization, they see a primitive boat approaching their island from the ocean. They still cannot reach Jaci on the radio, and they are hours away at best from returning to the camp.

With night falling quickly, they descend through the jungle slopes of the mountain, not knowing what they will find.

As always, feedback is welcome! Please remember, this is a first-draft, and you, dear reader, are my alpha reader. Help me improve the story! Perhaps you can even influence what will happen in future scenes, not yet written.


Header image credit: user:Demon989 / wikimedia.org under CC BY-SA 4.0