Chapter 9 and “An Open Door” (Beta/WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Kepler 62f’s larger moon hung low over the eastern horizon, following the planet’s sun rising high into the turquoise sky. Gentle waves lapped at the sloped stone roof and washed against the stern of the wrecked trimaran, pulled up onto the rooftop out of harm’s way. A pile of meager belongings, retrieved from the boat, sat on the roof: a knapsack of food, a solar charger, a pair of handheld tablets, and the two e-suits, neatly folded with helmets sitting atop them.

Anna sat beside the pile and looked out at the water, at the broken rooftops and spires of the ancient city pushing their way above the waves, structures she had at first thought to be rocks and reefs, worn down by the ages and the frequent storms of this world. How far had the sea level risen here? How deep down were the streets and avenues these people had once walked? She could not tell.

She turned her gaze upward, following the line of the gleaming space elevator cable, reaching far into the heavens until it dwindled out of sight. The sun was near its noon zenith, so even with Kepler 62’s dimmer light she had to shield her eyes against the brightness of its light, and she could not make out the orbital ring at the elevator cable’s other terminus. Would this millennium-old artifact still work? She knew it was doubtful, but she had pinned their hopes on it, and now they were here. Only one way to find out. She turned and dropped her gaze to the building wall behind them, and the elevator’s base just beyond it.

Read more at

An Open Door

(2,483 words; 9 min 55 sec reading time)

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A while back I mentioned something about how the menu structure on the website, breaking the story down into chapters and scenes, was becoming unwieldy, at least for my 13″ laptop screen. Even more so on a mobile device! So, that is now done. Have a look, you’ll see that under Works in Progress / Alpha Reads and then The Silence of Ancient Light, there are now two entries for Part One and Part Two. Part One has the first six chapters, and Part Two has the rest of what I’ve written so far (which is to say, chapters 7 and 8 and the first scene of chapter 9). Now, I should warn you that the divisions of the chapters into parts is somewhat arbitrary, more around neatly organizing the menu onto the web page that organizing the structure of the story. If and when this story makes into a finished novel format, these part divisions are unlikely to remain with it.

So, with that out of the way, welcome to Part Two, and the beginning of Chapter 9!

When last we left our heroes, they had just shipwrecked (again!?) upon the island of Ar-Makati, the forbidden island that is also home to the thousand-plus-year-old disused and possibly ruined space elevator. The space elevator which Anna is holding out as their best hope of getting back into orbit and thus finding a way to return to their starship. Clearly they have some rather large hurdles to overcome to make all this happen, but just as clearly their next order of business is going to be to find a way into the interior of the ancient buildings of this island.

And so that’s what they are now setting out to do. The only problem is, almost everything is underwater. But come on! These people crossed twelve-hundred light-years of interstellar space to get here! A little water is hardly likely to stand in their way, right?

As always, I welcome your feedback, both on the structure of the website as well as the story itself. Tell me what you like! Tell me what you don’t like, too.


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Fear and Trust (beta/WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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An awkward pause ensued, filled with the slap of waves against the wooden hull, the creak of timbers as the boat rocked in the swell, and no more. Anna’s heartbeat pounded in her ears, so loud to her that surely the Orta could hear it, and she was certain the game was up, they were caught, when Ca-Tren’s avian squawk sounded and Jaci’s tablet streamed its written translation.

Are you not Orta? What else could you be? Most assuredly you are not Kwakitl, and though you wear a bowl of water over your head, a fish tank you carry with you and yet live within, I also do not believe you are a fish. Our fishermen tell tales of creatures like you in the deep sea, and perhaps that is where you are from, but… I do not think that, either. We have legends about you. Mothers tell their daughters myths about you, and most Kwakitl do not quite believe in you, yet they also fear you. I do not doubt there was trouble at Ar-Danel if you went there. You are the creature in the dark children are taught to fear if they do not heed well their parents.

Read more at

Fear and Trust

(1,506 words; 6 min 1 sec reading time)

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“You are the creature in the dark children are taught to fear if they do not heed well their parents.”

How’s that for being typecast? Clearly Ca-Tren is not going to let an eight-limbed tentacled water-breathing spacesuited alien three times her size intimidate her, as she shoves all her cultural conditioning deep down beneath her educated knowledge about how the world really works. Well, her world, anyway. But how will this Orta emissary react to her defiant spirit?

Astute readers will notice that Jaci’s translator seems to be doing a much finer job of turning Kwakitl avian squawks into English language than it was just a few days before. And sure, Ca-Tren has a certain style to her manner of speech, but is that really her, or an artifact of the translator? I may be moving too fast here, but remember this. It will come up again.

Thoughts about this scene? Sure, if you just came upon this without reading the previous scenes, it won’t make much sense, but I’m assuming by now that you have been following along since the beginning.

What’s that you say? You just now found me, and you’re confused but want to learn more? Fear not! You can see the full overview list of all the scenes, from the beginning, here:

The Silence of Ancient Light

Settle in, as there are 45 scenes like this one, over 73,000 words (200 paperback pages), and according to my fancy reading-time calculator, that’s almost five hours of reading (though you might read faster than that), and we aren’t done yet.

When you get back here, drop me a line or two to tell me what you think. I’ll keep the light on for you.


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Interrogated by the Orta (beta/WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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An hour passed, and then another one, or at least so it seemed to Anna. Without sight of the sky, and without easy access to Jaci’s tablet, she could not really be sure. Once her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she realized it was not quite complete, though nearly so. The hatch was well sealed, but still a faint circle of dim grey outlined its circumference and provided some small reference in the pitch black. Occasionally the circle would be obscured, and she knew that was Jaci, between the hatch and her, shifting about to find some less uncomfortable position.

The hold may have been dark, but it was far from silent. Only a few centimeters of wood separated Anna’s ear from the ocean waters outside. The port outrigger in which she and Jaci were hiding was windward, and with the trimaran beating upwind on its southerly course the narrow hull spent most of its time lifted out of the water. The water was not flat, however, and as the boat climbed each wave the outrigger plunged into it, surrounding them with frothy, noisy, bubbling sounds of the sea sluicing past, until the stomach-dropping moment when the boat crested the wave before tipping down into the next trough. These were not big waves, nor deep troughs, and it was not a strong wind, but with only sound and motion to go by, it felt like the previous night’s storm remained with them.

Fortunately, Anna’s nose gradually adjusted to the initially overwhelming odor of fish. The hold was mostly dry, though not completely, and didn’t seem to have been used for quite some time, but the not-quite-rotten smell permeated the wooden planking. In the first hour, she could hear Jaci trying hard not to retch, and he muttered a few choice comments about the environment, but equally fortunately he managed to control his reaction. Anna sympathized, as she too fought not to feel sick. By the third hour, however, the aroma, like the noise, had become background: present, but no longer overpowering.

Read more at

Interrogated by the Orta

(2,093 words; 8 min 22 sec reading time)

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When last we left our heroes, they had locked themselves into the dark, smelly, claustrophobic holds of a small fishing boat and entrusted their fates to a teenage alien. The invading Orta were hot on their trail and about to intercept their boat at any moment. What would happen when they arrive? Could Ca-Tren, the youthful Kwakitl, talk their way out of a jam? Or would the Orta simply shoot her on sight, as they had already done to others back at her village? Or would Ca-Tren give them up to save her own feathered skin?

Follow the link above to read the entire scene, here on this site. And if you do, feel free to drop me a comment, here or on the scene page itself, with your thoughts. This is a work-in-progress, after all, and also an early beta read, so I welcome your feedback. Or, feel free to just read it for your own enjoyment. It’s free!

If you haven’t been following along from the beginning, however, you might want to go back and start from there. With this new scene, we’re currently up to a 72,000 word count for the entire story, and there’s still more to come. And every part of it written so far is available here on the website. Look to the menu at the top of this page, under Works in Progress / Alpha Reads, for the entire chapter and scene listing, also available in list form under the title page for The Silence of Ancient Light, and under each chapter heading. Or, click here on Arrival to go straight to the first scene! A link at the end of each scene will take you straight to the next one, so it’s easy to keep reading in order without having to pop back out to the menu.


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Chapter 8 and Escape (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Silently they slipped between the rocky headlands forming the lagoon, seeing them as no more than dark patches blotting the multitudinous stars from the sky above and their reflection from the still waters below. With but a whisper of wind to pull the lateen sail, the small trimaran all but ghosted beyond reach of the solid shore and into the vast deep of the ocean beyond.

A subtle glow emanated from beyond one shoulder of the island, limning the cliff edges along the lower slopes. That way lay the main lagoon and the docks on the beach, Anna knew. That way lay the Orta craft, and the glow no doubt was its landing lights. Anna took comfort that the high-tech craft remained in the lagoon and not out searching the waters for she and her companions, even as she realized it bode poorly for the Kwakitl of the island.

She turned away from the island, allowing her eyes to adjust to the night sky and the sea. Though moonless, the stars lit the nighttime waters to the far horizon, and there, just west of due north, though she needed no compass to tell her the direction, fell the straight, thin line of the space elevator, its impossibly high reaches still lit by the long-set sun, until it descended into darkness. For many weeks this beacon had called out to her, and finally she could point her tiny ship, her craft of avian manufacture, straight toward it. No more detours, all her crew were aboard, and as they pulled away from the lee of the island in their wake, the southeast trades steadily grew and pushed them toward their goal.

Read more at

Escape

(1,874 words; 7 min 29 sec reading time)

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Thus begins Chapter 8 of our continuing story, and also a new phase of Anna’s, Laxmi’s, and Jaci’s adventure. Our intrepid heroes have slipped the bonds of Ar-Danel, the island of the Kwakitl, with the aid of none other than Ca-Seti, or Gamma as Anna first knew the grizzled old fisherman-soldier. Those they thought their captors have become their accomplices, and those they think friends… well, none can say at this point who is friend, and who is foe. Escaping the Orta invasion, Anna and her friends hope to sail the small Kwakitl boat to the base of the space elevator, a shining goal always visible, and so far always just out of reach. They don’t know what they will find when they get there; they don’t know if it will help them return to orbit or, like so much else on this poor planet, it will be yet another piece of ancient technology long fallen into disrepair.

They don’t even know if they will get that far, as the newly-arrived Orta with their high-tech machines are clearly looking for them.

What will happen next? Read on, and stay tuned!

Have a thought about the story so far, or a question, or a suggestion? Drop me a line in the comments below!


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Grotto (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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She descended into a pool of water, halfway up her calves before the ladder ended and she stood on firm sand. The sounds of conflict from outside became muted and muffled, as if a door had been shut, and while there was no mistaking the shrill whistles of Kwakitl soldiers squaring off against their technologically far superior foe, the reverberating echoes of waves lapping against stone dominated the rocky chamber. Anna’s eyes gradually adjusted to see Laxmi, Jaci, and their juvenile guide waiting for her in the dimly yet colorfully lit grotto. Shafts of sunlight pierced through gaps in the ceiling of boulders, lighting the watery floor in hues of aquamarine and turquoise, reflected to dance across the stone walls.

The young Kwakitl regarded her for just a moment more, then shook her head in an unmistakeable come-hither gesture before darting into a darker gap between two stones making up the chamber’s walls. Jaci turned to follow, with Laxmi and Anna right on his heels.

Read more at

Grotto

(1,902 words; 7 min 36 sec reading time)

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Things have gone poorly in the first meeting between Orta and Kwakitl in a thousand years, and the breakout of hostilities does not bode well for our heroes’ chances. They have escaped from the initial conflict into a hidden system of sea caves, led by one of Li-Estl’s students. But where do the caves lead? Where are they being taken? And what good will any of it do against the technologically far superior Orta, who have arrived with spaceships, hovercraft, and beam weapons? The Kwakitl have only sailboats and spears, so can they provide any real protection?

For those paying attention, the grotto into which Anna and her friends are escaping is based upon a real place here on Earth. Most likely, there are many such places to be found on this world of mostly water, but I had one place in particular in my mind as I envisioned and described the caves, a place I had the good fortune to visit in 2004 while sailing in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. Should it ever be reasonable to do such travel again, and you find yourself there, be sure to visit The Baths on Virgin Gorda. As in our story, those tunnels lead to a different destination as well, though not one quite the same as on Kepler 62f.

As always, tell me what you think! What can I do to improve the story? What don’t you like? What do you like? Where would you like to see our intrepid adventurers go next?


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