Reunion (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Anna stepped back from Jaci, still holding his arms, and looked into his eyes, smiling into her own. She wasn’t too sure about the beard, but it did give him a rugged mountain man appearance. The babble of avian voices around her rose in volume and pitch, and light feathery touches pressed against her legs. She took a deep breath, broke from Jaci’s gaze, and looked around her.

The small avians, the children, who had accompanied Jaci through the crowd now pressed in close to all three human visitors. The excitement in their demeanor was evident as they hopped from foot to foot and squawked at each other, at Jaci, and at Laxmi and Anna. Jaci laughed, reached a hand down to be taken under a juvenile wing, and gestured to Anna and Laxmi to do the same. Anna hesitated, then reached out her own hand, and quickly she found it tucked in tight between wing and avian body. The small bird-like juvenile squawked and tugged, clearly impatient to lead her somewhere, and she let herself be guided, along with the others, through the crowd and toward the cliff face.

Anna looked back at the pier and the trimaran that had been her home for the past two weeks. The sailors were wasting no time as they loaded bale after bale of fish from belowdecks up onto the pier, and a line of shoreside avians carried the bales toward the waiting cliffside elevators. Standing on the outrigger, gruff and grizzled, his scar bright against his dark feathers, Gamma supervised the operation silently. Perhaps sensing Anna’s gaze, he looked up and caught her eye, but his impassive expression did not alter, and after a moment he returned his attention to his sailors and docksiders.

What lay behind that inscrutable gaze? Anna wished she could have talked with the old bird, but the gulf between them was hardly less than the depths of space between their worlds.

Read more at

Reunion

(1,784 words; 7 min 8 sec reading time)


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After a busy month (some travel involved — see my Instagram feed), I’m back with the next scene, and what’s more, the kickoff to a new chapter. At the end of our last scene, and of Chapter 5, Anna and Laxmi are finally reunited with Jaci, who appears to have been living quite happily among the avian denizens of Kepler 62f. What happened to him in the meantime? What has he learned? They have much to talk about!

The tension for our heroes ratchets down slightly from the past scenes — they need a bit of a break — but they’re not out of the woods yet, nor off the planet, and there are still plenty of surprises in store. For the moment they’re no longer in danger of immediate death, but they still have no idea how they are going to get home.

Jaci also gets a chance to show off a little in this scene. He’s felt a bit like a bump on a log for much of the voyage since arriving in the Kepler 62 system, but now he finally gets to demonstrate why he was picked for this mission in the first place. You’ll see what I mean when you read the scene.

As always, please leave a comment and let me know what you liked and what you didn’t!


header image credit: Johannes Plenio / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Nightwatch (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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That night, Anna could not sleep. Much weighed upon her mind, not least the disturbing death of the avian sailor at the hands — sorry, tentacles — of whatever sea creature it was they had encountered. The mood of the entire crew was obviously somber, their joy at the bounty of the catch shadowed by the loss of their crewmate.

She rolled out of her hammock and found her way up on deck, careful not to disturb the other sleepers. The crew mostly slept the entire night through, more hours than a human required, with just a minimal number on watch to guide the vessel through the dark. Anna supposed they considered fishing strictly a daylight activity, or perhaps they had caught their quota and now just wanted to get home.

She could understand that. She just wanted to get home, too. At this point the mission appeared an abject failure, and living to tell the tale remained her only interest. She knew Laxmi, and Jaci too if he was still alive, might feel otherwise…

Read more at

Nightwatch


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Will Anna, Laxmi, and Jaci ever find their way home? Is Jaci still alive? And what was that tentacled thing?

At least Anna is able to find a few moments of peace and quiet, gazing at the stars, to ponder her fate. Things have been a little hectic lately, after all. It would be easier if she could talk to the avians, but that seems out of reach for the moment. Although there perhaps may be some small amount of understanding….

Readers, I have a question for you. Would you find it helpful if I posted word counts, or the average reading time (or both), for each scene? The scenes have been mostly in the range of 1000 to 2000 words, averaging right in the middle around 1500 words. If you knew in advance that a scene was on the longer side, or shorter, would that make you more or less likely to read it? I realize, if you’ve been following along from the beginning, that you’re probably reading through each scene anyway, so knowing in advance likely won’t make a difference to you, but what do you think it might do for new visitors to the site? Of course, jumping right in at the middle would probably be confusing, so perhaps it really doesn’t matter.

As a for instance, this current scene is 1,093 words (so on the shorter end of the spectrum), and Scrivener, my composition program, tells me it should take 4 minutes and 22 seconds to read (that’s very precise, though not necessarily accurate).

Let me know what you think in the comments. I’m undecided on this idea.

Until next time!

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header image credit: user:7645255 / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

Denizens of the Deep (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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Laxmi and Anna soon picked up on the shipboard routine. They rose in the mornings with the sun, ate meals with the crew, and otherwise tried their best to stay out of the way. The previously spear-wielding fishing crew, now that no strange alien boat presented itself, put away their spears and melded in with the sailing deck crew, so apparently all were interchangeable. Anna had trouble recognizing individual avians from one another, but Laxmi soon had many of them identified by distinguishing characteristics.

“That one there, with the circlet of feathers on his head? He’s clearly the leader, the captain. I’m calling him Alpha. Then those two, that one beside Alpha, and the other currently up on the foredeck, directing some work up there: those seem to be his primary deputies, or lieutenants, or deck bosses, I suppose. The one beside Alpha, with the grey streak in his feathers across his head, he’s Beta. And the one on the foredeck, who has a scar across one eye, he’s Gamma. Then there’s the cook, who seems to also command a lot of respect from the others. He’s probably next in line for importance among the crew, so I’ve designated him as Delta. For now, of course. There are only so many letters in the Greek alphabet, so eventually I’ll have to come up with a better system for naming them.”

“You don’t think eventually we can just ask them what their names are?”

Read more at

Denizens of the Deep


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So, humans can eat avian food, mostly, and sometimes it’s pretty good (fried fish! so apparently this ocean has fish), and sometimes… well, read on to see what Anna thinks of the breakfast they’re served.

It appears their captors — or rescuers? — are the Kepler avian equivalent of deep sea fishermen. Or fisherbirds. Neither Anna nor Laxmi are entirely sure of the appropriate term here. They use tools and build ships, and they have language and culture and structured society, so they would appear to meet the definition of an intelligent species, though they seem pretty far from space-faring technology. Are the avians the builders of the ring station? If so, what happened in the 1200 years since broadcasting the signal received on Earth?

They may be fishermen, but they also carry spears, so perhaps all is not as peaceful and serene upon the oceans of Kepler 62f as might at first appear. Are factions among the avians at war with each other? Or is there something else they fear? Are they the apex predator of their world?

More importantly, from Anna’s point of view, can the avians help them find Jaci? And will they? Laxmi may be in her element, studying alien biology, but Anna feels no closer to finding a way off this planet than before, and perhaps even farther from it.

Stay tuned. The next scene is already written, so expect publication within the week. Meanwhile, please enjoy (and comment upon!) Denizens of the Deep.

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

First Contact (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

The aliens arrived in less than two hours.

Anna kept reminding herself not to think of them that way, that this was their planet and that she and Laxmi were the aliens. As Laxmi had told her, what now seemed a very long time ago, when they were still safe aboard Aniara. Keplerians, for lack of a better word, was how she would think of them.

Read more at

First Contact


This is it! The moment you’ve all been waiting for! What do the aliens from Kepler 62f really look like? And how will they treat our hapless marooned astronauts?

Oh, right, just like Anna, I have to remind myself, if we’re on their planet, we’re the aliens, not them. But you get my drift.

A reminder for all, if you want to read the story (for free!), all you have to do is click that link above, right here in this blog post. It isn’t going to charge your credit card, and it’s not going to download anything, nor pop up any ads or anything like that. It isn’t even going to redirect you to another website. It’s just going to take you to a static page on this website where the entire scene is available. And, all the scenes so far written leading up to this one are available there, too, so it’s nice and easy to read them in order, each one linking to the next at its end. Don’t miss out!

And another reminder, this is first draft material, destined for ultimate publication as a Kindle e-book and, if it does well enough, in paperback once all revisions and edits and proof-reads are complete. This is your chance to be my alpha reader, and absolutely feel free to comment and let me know what you think works, what you think doesn’t, what you would like to see more of, or less of, or even if you find a grammatical or typographical error. Or just comment and discuss ideas!

What ultimately gets published later will undoubtedly be different from what you read here, but this is where it starts, where the story idea is developed, the characters find their arcs, and the plot resolved.

I look forward to hearing from you!


header image credit: user:Pawel86 / pixabay.com under Pixabay License

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.

Read more at

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