Classroom (WIP)

(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)

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The cave stretched back toward the interior of the mountain, but Anna quickly adjusted her perception of it. Cave was the wrong word, as it had clearly been excavated and enlarged by some form of avian industry. Kwakitl industry. Anna tried the avians’ word for themselves out in her mind as she looked about the spacious cavern.

The floor was smooth and level, well adapted for the passage of many feet. No rocks or cracks to trip on here. To either side of the chamber, the floor joined the walls in a gentle chamfer, sloping up and curving inward to a rounded, domelike ceiling. The walls and ceiling were not as smooth as the floor, showing some evidence of natural formation left mostly to itself, yet still they remained relatively even. Side passages with similarly rounded aspects led away from the main chamber, and rather than appearing dark, they were lit with natural sunlight. The light came from small circular openings in the ceiling, tubular ducts leading at an upward angle back toward the cliff, apparently cut for this purpose. With a start, Anna realized the light ducts were enclosed with round glass or crystal caps nearly identical to those she had seen in the abandoned mountain temple on her jungle island, and the caps served to diffuse and amplify the light.

For all that Kwakitl society seemed primitive, nevertheless they were capable of forging glass and machining lenses. What other surprises might be held in store?

Read more at

Classroom

(2,030 words; 8 min 7 sec reading time)


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We now know what the avian denizens of Kepler 62f call themselves: Kwakitl. No, I didn’t actually know about the historical Kwakiutl, the First Nations people of British Columbia, when I came up with that name, though I hope both peoples, historic and fictional, will be ok with the similarity. I had in my mind Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god associated with the divine wind who appears as a feathered serpent, except I misremembered the name. As I live in the Pacific Northwest, almost certainly I had encountered the Kwakiutl name before, but there any intentional similarity or relationship ends.

Yes, I’ll probably have to change that name in the rewrite. The similarity is too close.

For now, though, Jaci has been living among the Kwakitl for a few weeks, and he has not been idle. In that time he has learned how to communicate with them, and now he is leading Anna and Laxmi to meet his “breakthrough,” as he termed her at the end of the last scene. His teacher, and more formally the teacher for the young juvenile Kwakitl who otherwise seem to spend their time running around the docks and taking alien visitors by the hand.

Welcome to the classroom of Li-Estl, venerable teacher, mentor, and historian of Kepler 62f.

Before the lesson is done, another surprise is in store for our lost explorers when they learn…

Well, you’ll have to read the scene to find out what they learn, won’t you? And when you do, let’s discuss it in the comments!


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

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

Work in Progress: Flip and Burn

A two-fer!

I’ve combined two scenes into a single post here, mainly because one of them was quite a bit shorter than all the others so far (just under 500 words), and also because I felt like keeping on writing after that one.

You’ll recall that the crew of the starship Aniara has been accelerating in toward the planet Kepler 62f, around which they’ve discovered what appears to be an orbital ring station — the first indication that somebody once lived here, even if they may not be here any longer. They are now halfway there, and it’s time to begin decelerating.

The “flip and burn” maneuver. No, I didn’t coin that phrase. For that, I have to credit a pair of my favorite authors, collectively known as James S.A. Corey (a pen-name for the writing duo Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), best known for their science fiction series The Expanse (and the SyFy TV series of the same name). In the opening chapters of the first book, and the pilot episode of the show, the interplanetary ice hauler Canterbury needs to alter their acceleration trajectory in order to respond to a distress call. The executive officer, James Holden, warns the crew, “This will be a high-G maneuver. Prepare for flip and burn.” (I think the dialogue in the book was slightly different from that in the show, but I digress.)

That, right there, was what made me want to see that show, and then after to read those books, which I now consume just as fast as Abraham and Franck can churn them out. No magic “artificial gravity,” no spaceships that fly around like fighter jets in an atmosphere, just full Newtonian physics at work. If you want to change the direction of your ship, or slow it down, you need to point engines ahead of your travel vector and burn.

If your engines are efficient enough, and you can carry enough propellant, then the fastest way to get somewhere is to accelerate constantly until you reach the halfway point, then flip the ship around and decelerate the rest of the way. That’s without taking into account matching aphelion and perihelion of initial and final orbits, but again, I digress.

Aniara, of course, is not burning as hard as the Canterbury. She’s moving very fast, due to twenty-one days of constant acceleration, but the acceleration itself is relatively minor. At the halfway point, the crew shuts down the engine, flips the ship, and restarts it, for twenty-one days of deceleration. They aren’t changing the direction of their vector, just reducing speed, so no massive G forces on superstructure or crew are necessary.

So, that’s our first scene here, followed by arrival at the ring station. Enjoy!

The Silence of Ancient Light: Flip and Burn


image credit: NASA

Celestes: Ring

The 4th installment of my little space opera is now up, another 1000 words for you to enjoy and critique.

Which begs the question: what makes a story a “space opera”? Does it need to have a large cast, multiple points of view, numerous intricate subplots, and galaxy-spanning empires? Or is any story that takes place primarily in space, far from Earth, visiting other planets and star systems, a space opera? What’s your view?

Either way, please take a moment to read Ring and drop me a comment, tell me what you think!

Celestes: Observatory

Episode 3 is ready for your critique and enjoyment. At almost 2400 words, this scene is more than twice the length of either of the previous scenes, but I hope you’ll find it worth it.

Aniara and her crew are still on approach to Kepler 62f, the exoplanet that has drawn them 1200 light-years from home. Anna Laukkonnen, pilot and astronomer, searches for evidence of life or any technological civilization on the planet.

Please let me know what you think. Remember, this is a first draft, and you are my beta readers!

Now on to the continuing story: Celestes: Observatory