Coffee and (Out of) Control (Beta/WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Anna did not talk to Jaci in the morning. When she awoke, she was alone, and she half wondered if it had all been in her imagination. She swung her feet out of the bunk and sat up, then stood up and stretched her arms over her head. The chamber was sized for Kwakitl, so she had to bend her elbows to keep from smacking the ceiling, but after sleeping curled in the short bunk she needed to get the kinks out of her joints. She ran her hands through her hair, remembering how it had looked in the mirror the previous night, and wondered why the cab’s designers didn’t see fit to put a doorway direct between the dormitory and lavatory. With that thought, she realized that for the first time in a long time she was self-conscious about going out into the main room in a state of just-awakened disarray.

Get over it, Anna. This was ridiculous. She palmed the door open and stepped out to face the others.

Morning sunlight flooded the primary chamber, golden through tinted windows. Laxmi, Jaci, and Ca-Tren sat on couches facing each other, finishing off the remains of a breakfast they had shared. Jaci looked up at Anna’s entrance and smiled.

“Good morning, sunshine!”

Anna grunted a response, not meeting his eye, and shuffled over to look out the windows. “Is there coffee?”

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Coffee and Control

(2,189 words; 8 min 45 sec reading time)

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It’s no secret Anna likes to be in control of the situation. She’s a pilot, after all; control is central to what she does. She has felt out of control for a while now, however, and her own emotional state is just one more area where this is true. She feels a need to reign things in and get back on track.

But first, she needs coffee. They’ve been relying on emergency ration freeze-dried coffee that is at least three years old, so right about now she would do anything for a decent cup of coffee.

I’m just going to say it, this scene was not easy to write. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been grumbling about it a small bit. But only a small bit. I’ve wanted to write this, I just haven’t known how. That said, however, I’m happy with where it ended up. Have a read, then let me know what you think. Did I handle it well? Do you like where it’s going? Or is it all wrong? Where do you want this to go?

Normally, after six scenes, this would mark a chapter end, but I’m not quite there yet. There’s one scene left in this chapter. What do you think will happen? Pour yourself a cup of coffee, enjoy the scene, and let’s talk.


header image credit: Oleg Gamulinskiy / pixabay.com via Pixabay License

The Climber (Beta/WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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The terminator, dividing day from night, advanced westward across the oceanic expanse several hundred kilometers below, though from the cab’s altitude the sun continued to shine through the large, curved left-hand window, illuminating the interior. That window automatically dimmed its view, providing relief from the otherwise relentless solar glare, and Anna noted among the console dials she had earlier designated as probable environmental controls that one of them slowly adjusted its color bar in step with the window’s dimming. Satisfied they were not immediately about to die, she turned away from the console.

Ca-Tren remained glued to the view through the windows. Laxmi and Jaci, however, both appeared to have succumbed to exhaustion from their near-constant stress. Each had claimed a lounger and stretched out upon it, sleeping or perhaps just resting. Anna moved to the inner wall of the cabin to investigate the four small doors set into it.

This was the only straight wall inside the cabin. Behind her, the main outer wall curved in nearly a complete semi-circle, closely matching the outer wall beyond of the tubular cable up which they traveled. The inner wall, a bit more than twenty meters wide, bisected the diameter of the cable, or nearly so. The cable was closer to thirty meters in diameter, so Anna figured the cab took up a bit less than half of that cross-section. Perhaps the answer to what took up the remainder would lie behind these doors.

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The Climber

(1,915 words; 7 min 39 sec reading time)

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Anna has had one hell of a day. In fact, it’s been a hell of a couple months, and she hasn’t had many opportunities for true rest since crash-landing on the planet all those weeks ago. Now she, Laxmi, Jaci, and their Kwakitl friend Ca-Tren are finally on the space elevator, riding the cab — or climber, more accurately — up the cable toward geostationary orbit, and they’ve figured out that the journey is likely to take about five days.

Nothing to do but chill in the meantime, right?

But you know Anna, she can’t rest until she’s investigated her environment, made sure everything’s safe. “Satisfied they were not immediately about to die,” she does finally start to relax, and even let her hair down a little, figuratively speaking. Well, maybe literally speaking; in this scene she gets her first glimpse in a mirror in a very long time.

More to the point, however, with the immediate danger at bay, it’s time for Anna to take stock of her own emotional state. It’s no secret that she and Jaci have been growing closer lately, but circumstances haven’t allowed them much time to explore that, nor even to figure out just how they feel about it. How does Anna feel about that? She isn’t too sure herself.

So, reach back into the climber’s well-stocked bar, pour yourself a cold one, and click that link to find out. Then drop a comment and let me know what you think.


header image credit: Alex Myers / pixabay.com via Pixabay License

Ascent to the Void (Beta/WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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The island rapidly dwindled with distance below them, the sparkling sea stretching away to distant horizons in all directions, while the sun hung low to the west in a blaze of fiery orange and pale yellow. Directly overhead, the sky quickly took on a deep blue tone, set against the now familiar pale turquoise to north and darkening east. Other mountainous island chains dotted the sea in the distance, tiny, as if on a relief map.

Acceleration pushed at them all floorwards, but only gently, and only for a few minutes. Ca-Tren squawked in surprise and wobbled on her feet, Laxmi and Jaci both squatted slightly and reached to the low furniture for support, while Anna held onto the main control console. After the initial rush, they all found their feet, and in less than five minutes the acceleration eased and the cabin assumed a constant, smooth, and noiseless velocity as it climbed the interior of the cable.

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Ascent to the Void

(1,387 words; 5 min 32 sec reading time)

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Last week I mentioned I had one more scene ready to go, and here it is. What’s more, the next scene is already written, too, so you may fully expect that one next week. Wow, three scenes to be published with only a week between them? What is the world coming to? More to the point, will I be able to keep it up? That, my friends, is a bigger question.

Last week we left our heroes having just started the alien space elevator on its upward journey, as Anna whispered to herself, “Next stop, orbit.” So just how long will this ride take?

Remember, the other end of the ride is the ring station, which is at geostationary orbit, 41,000 kilometers above the ground. That’s pretty high up there. By contrast, back here at Earth the International Space Station orbits a mere 400 km high, so we are talking an altitude a hundred times greater. Why so high? Because this is the altitude at which the angular velocity of the planet’s rotation matches the required velocity to maintain a constant state of free fall, or in other words, a stable orbit. Remember, the greater the altitude, the less velocity is required to maintain orbit. At 400 km, the ISS zips along at about 17,000 miles per hour in order to stay in orbit, which is pretty fast. At 41,000 km, the ring station orbits at closer to 6,700 mph (3,000 meters per second), still really fast, but quite a bit slower than the ISS. And, it has to move at this speed, because this is how fast the elevator cable is moving at that height, since it must remain stationary with respect to the ground.

So, the elevator cab, or more precisely, the climber, has a long way to go. How fast it can climb the cable is determined by a number of factors, not least of which is not crushing the passengers with acceleration. In fact, in order to keep the ride comfortable, after the initial acceleration, the climber will maintain a consistent velocity, so it won’t impart any additional g-forces on the passengers beyond what the planet’s gravity provides.

Gravity doesn’t just fade away in orbit, by the way, at least not until you get much farther from the planet. In low orbit, where the ISS flies, the astronauts on board are still subject to about 90% of the gravity we feel here on the surface. The difference is that they are forever falling, with the station itself, but they are falling fast enough that they keep missing the earth and instead curve around it, endlessly (subject to a slight atmospheric drag and inevitable entropy).

So our elevator passengers feel gravity, and while it will eventually become somewhat less strong as they ascend, they won’t really notice, at least not at first. Instead, the higher up they climb, the faster they, and the climber, and the cable, are moving laterally in order to maintain rotation with the planet. They won’t be in free fall until they reach their destination, at geostationary altitude, but they will gradually feel lighter on their fee right up until that moment.

Ok, back to the speed of the climber’s ascent. We’ve established that it shouldn’t go so fast as to cause discomfort to the passengers, but it also shouldn’t go too fast or it might impart undue stress on the cable itself. The faster the climber moves, the more lateral force the cable must impart upon it to keep it rotating around the planet, which will tend to precess the cable westwards due to coriolis forces. Too much force, and the cable could break, and that would be bad.

We also don’t want to go so slowly, however, that the journey becomes impractical for how long it takes. We need a happy medium. How about as fast as high speed commuter train, or perhaps just a tad over that? This seems to be a good compromise, and we arrive at about 300 kph. That’s pretty fast, too, or it would be for an object on the ground. At 300 kph, the climber will reach the same altitude as the ISS in just about an hour and a half. That seems pretty good!

But remember, we’re going a hundred times higher than the ISS.

This journey is going to take about five days.

And that, my friends, is why the climber is stocked with a bar.


header image credit: Official SpaceX Photos / flickr.com via CC BY-NC 2.0

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.


header image credit: user:cottonbro / pexels.com via Pexels License

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.

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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.


header image credit: Lumina Obscura / pixabay.com under Pixabay License