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.


header image credit: user:GeorgeB2 / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

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?


header image credit: Stefan Keller / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Chapter 7 and ‘Cafeteria’ (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Li-Estl led the three humans back down darkened stairs to the crude lift, locking doors behind her as they went. Descending the vertical cliff face, Anna looked out across the dual-moon-lit ocean, the myriad of stars reflected below as shining above, and lifted her gaze skyward. She searched for that one faint moving star, the one she briefly saw from the observatory, but it had passed on from her view.

Once back at the main residential level of the cliff community, they passed through rocky corridors dimly lit by the occasional oil lantern, seeing few other Kwakitl along the way. Anna expected Li-Estl to lead them back to her schoolroom, but instead they followed a different path. More stairs and twisting hallways challenged Anna’s sense of direction, but she felt they were heading much deeper into the interior of the mountain. After about fifteen minutes of this, she noticed a gradual increase in ambient noise level, and ahead the corridor appeared more brightly lit. The noise, she came to understand, was the sound of many Kwakitl voices, all talking at once, and moments later they came to its source.

The corridor opened into the largest chamber they had seen yet, and it was filled with dozens, perhaps well over a hundred, Kwakitl, seated in circular clusters around low tables. Smoky lantern light lit the chamber, and the smell of frying fish and salty kelp pervaded the air. Anna’s stomach rumbled, and she realized in all the excitement she had conveniently ignored how hungry she had become. Even the cooking kelp smelled good to her now.

“We eat,” Li-Estl told them through Jaci’s translator, “then I show where you sleep. Tomorrow, much more talk, yes? Also, tomorrow big day. But now, eat.”

Read more at

Cafeteria

(2,057 words; 8 min 13 sec reading time)


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Some enterprising regular readers have already found this latest scene available online a full twenty-four hours earlier than this announcement post, so if there’s a lesson here, it’s… check back often! Ok, I might have placed a hint or two on Twitter.

More dropped hints in this scene, a bit of mounting mystery and tension. If you’re eager for what happens next, all I can say is, enjoy the slow burn!

Is it really another spacecraft, another starship, arriving in orbit over Kepler 62f? And if so, who is it? Could it be rescue for our marooned astronauts? Did Earth send a second mission only a few months after the first?

Or is it someone else?

Many questions to ponder over fried fish and stewed kelp.

This scene also marks the beginning of Chapter 7, as you will note from the website menu, or from the overview page for the novel. It also marks another 2,000-word scene in a string of them. Am I getting wordier? It’s still not the longest scene, and the overall average remains just above 1,500, so I think we’re good there.

Here’s a question for you to ponder. What is it that Anna could observe from the ground that makes her think the arriving object is on a path for orbital insertion? Think on that, and comment below. Otherwise, until next time!


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Telescope (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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The ship was not huge in the telescope view, but her shape stood out clearly. Anna could see the double ring structure of the Alcubierre drive, one ring forward and one aft, both tethered to the central fuselage much like the orbital ring was to the planet. She could almost, but not quite, make out the blister of the observatory on the nose of the ship, and the bay windows of the cockpit just above. She could see the hangar doors from which she had launched the shuttle, open wide in the belly of the larger ship, awaiting the return of the smaller craft, a return which now would never come. That shuttle lay smashed and abandoned in the lagoon of a forbidden island.

A sense of loss and of longing came over Anna, and her vision blurred a little. She wiped the moisture from her eyes, upset at her own emotional reaction when she knew she needed to remain laser-focused on survival, dedicated to the task of getting her crew and herself back to that starship, more than forty-one thousand kilometers away, no matter how close the telescope made her seem.

Read more at

Telescope

(2,000 words; 8 min reading time)


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Did I say last week that this chapter was a little slower? Well, it’s not slower anymore. We’re going to end the chapter on a cliffhanger, one that makes it obvious that the tension is about to ramp right back up again as we head into Chapter 7. Of course, you’ll have to go read the scene to see what I mean!

Seriously, it will take just 8 minutes of your Sunday afternoon. Go read it!

Are you done yet? Because I want to discuss what you just read! What do you think the ending of the scene signifies?

You may have noticed a few devices I’ve been using all along to ratchet up the narrative tension. Almost from the beginning, there has been a time lock, a deadline by which Anna and her crew need to figure out their own rescue, and in this scene I gently remind the reader that this deadline is approaching. Many stories use either a time lock or an option lock to introduce tension, but in SoAL I’ve opted to do both. As the scenes progress, our heroes have their choices gradually narrowed down to fewer and fewer options, and there are plenty of hints that later there will be fewer options still. Remember how many space suits they have with them? Hmm, yeah, future problem brewing there.

If you were Anna, what would you do next?


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