Sunday November 27th, 2011

The exercise:

Space Week draws to its inevitable conclusion today with: the landing.

I'm finishing up my story today and you're welcome to either do the same (with as many comments as required) or just keep on keeping on with it. I leave the choice in your creative hands.

Regardless, I'd just like to say thanks to you guys for making this week particularly enjoyable.


When the ship landed at last on Nukzhul, teams of medical personnel were ready and waiting for them. The moment the main gangway touched down they rushed on board, pulling carts overflowing with fully functioning Individual Environment Suits behind them. Once inside they split off in groups of twos and threes as they began their search for survivors.

There were, if they were being honest, more than they had expected. After all, they'd had no contact with the ship in the final two hours of the voyage aside from the automatons that had taken over the flight controls. Status updates would have been a waste of precious air.

Most of the survivors were in pairs, having shared their breathing apparatuses between them like Old World scuba divers submerged with a single tank. A few of the higher level Technicians had hacked their own suits and keyed in a scaled back oxygen output in order to extend their supply at a minimally life sustaining level.

A few lower level Technicians had attempted the same technique, with fatal results.

The Engine Room was the final area to be searched. The medical crew that had the dubious honor of exploring its claustrophobic corners filed the following report:

The deceased were found next to each other in the Engine Room. Dog tags identified the crew members as Timothy Higgins, Mechanic, Second Class and Miranda Sanchez, Mechanic, First Class.

All signs indicate they were working on an important adjustment on Engine Three. It is our belief that an argument broke out over the correct settings and a physical altercation ensued. At some point during this scuffle First Class Mechanic Sanchez's IES was irreparably damaged.

We believe that Second Class Mechanic Higgins was overwhelmed with grief at the unintended results of his actions and knelt over his fallen comrade for some moments, escorting her spirit to the other side. Eventually his pain was more than he could bear and he made the decision to take his own life with a kitchen knife. We are not certain how this weapon came to be in the Engine Room.

On a personal note, we would like to express our appreciation and gratitude to those on board that this was an isolated incident and that all other crew appear to have pulled together in the face of this terrifying emergency.

The grim truth of what had actually come to pass in the Engine Room was not brought to light until the video surveillance was reviewed several days later.


Greg said...

Wow, you actually killed Miranda! And, by implication, her child as well; this is a new and callous side to you! :-P
I actually think this is the most satisfying ending to your tale, because it showcases human stupidity superbly, how we manage to let petty grievances and annoyances stand in the way of our survival. I am rather pleased that some of the crew survived though, by either their own ingenuity or supporting one another. A really great little tale!

The landing
"Perhaps," said Marylee, "perhaps Griffen could start the engines without the keys? He's an astrogator!"
Seven pairs of eyes went to Griffen, who reddened but stood firm under the weight of their gaze.
"It's worth a try," he said. "But these aren't your granddad's old Ford Focus you know, they're sophisticated bits of machinery. They're not supposed to turn on without the key."
Mogadef led the way without question; he was still the Captain, and besides, he had the passes for the airlock doors. No-one said it, but they all thought the same thing: how lucky that they used electronic cards for those doors and not more keys. The caverns of the asteroid were quiet now, and their footfalls were soft pitter-patter as they walked. No-one spoke, there was too much worry and hope in their minds, and an overwhelming feeling that to talk about what might be would be unlucky. The last airlock door whooshed open, and across a bare, rocky scree was the ship.
When she'd landed it had been a crash-landing, there'd never been any expectation of using her to lift off again. Her nose, needle sharp, was buried fifty metres deep into the body of the asteroid, though parts of it were now exposed in the mines that they'd constructed in the last eight years. The huge engines, six fusion tubes that were stumpy and ablated from the ferocity of their barely-contained reactions, pointed out into space. Beyond them were stars, and just becoming visible, a hazy red heat glow. The asteroid shuddered and jolted violently again, throwing them all up into the air.
"Everyone in," said Mogadef, pointing, now using his radio-communicator; the ship was in vacuum and they'd all had to seal their suits.
"I'll wait here," said Marylee, her hand resting on the airlock controls.
"No," said Maros. "If we start the engines up you'll be cooked by the heat."
Marylee looked scared, and followed the rest of them into the ship.
"So," said Maros, leading the way to the flight deck. "I should think that you'll need to take away the access panels here, and here, and probably that one too; a lot of the autolock controls link up through ther– what? What is it?"
Griffen pointed wordlessly at the flight deck computer. The keys were sat neatly in the ignition.
"We're saved?" Someone at the back sounded incredulous, scarcely able to believe their good luck at Maros's stupidity.
"Not yet," said Griffen, heaving a huge sigh. "I didn't want to say anything earlier, but I guess we need to know now. Even if we boost this asteroid up out of orbit, the shuttle may not come back for us. They might think we're already on the burn-up trajectory."

Jordan Jack Rockerbie said...

i almost don't want to write a conclusion. it's a little sad, really. the week-long theme was really enjoyable, it pushed me to actually complete all of the prompts. usually i just tend to read them and think, 'huh, i wonder what i could do with that?' and never actually do anything.

for today, i'm just gonna skip the entire story part (who needs rising action, climax, and denouement?) and go to the ending. why not? maybe i'll fill things in on Ptag one day. or in future prompts, perhaps?


the shuttle touched down without incident, sergeant pepper had hailed the mission as a success as soon as the vehicle came to a halt on the tarmac. his feelings on the matter changed completely, though, when he greeted the returned crew.

'tom!' he cries as the astronaut rounds the corner. one of the civilians, a linguist and trained diplomat named christine, walks at his side. 'good to have you planet-side again, kid.'

tom gives a nervous smile, averting his eyes from sergeant pepper.

'where's jake?' sarge asks. 'and that lilian girl?'

he looks to christine, who only reciprocates his nervous stare.

'they're uhm,' the astronaut begins, unsure.

'they stayed behind,' the woman finishes.

'took 'em to their leader, like,' tom adds with an awkward laugh.

'they what!?' sarge bellows. his next words are curses.

'lilian was requested to stay behind,'christine says. 'jake stayed by his own choice. he took his mission as escort very seriously.'

sarge shakes his head, still venting curses.

'you might want to control yourself, sir,' christine continues. 'you'll make a bad first impression on our guests.'

the man becomes suddenly still and silent.

'guests?' he whispers?

'sent two of their own back, y'know,' tom says. 'as a gesture of friendship or somesuch nonesense.'

sergeant pepper's jaw is still agape as two figures round the corner.

'good gawd,' he whispers.

writebite said...

Outer Space part 7 Landing

’Sirius swooned,’ Anna thought. ’An eclipse would have made the ancients swoon. A planet blocks between the sun and moon ... let’s wait for an eclipse to make the jump, as a deficient amount of light photons affects the energy input into the jump. Less energy is needed to effect the jump, so we can put more into the mind effort and time adjustment back to Earth, our time.’ Anna ran her reasoning by the crew and loaded the figures in the computer. Tomorrow night the Sirian moon would go into a full eclipse and, by coincindence or serendipity, so would Earth; a full moon eclipse was due at the same time! “Landing in our eclipse time, too, would match up the deficits again,” she announced to the crew. She was glad her doctoral thesis had prepared her for such thinking!  “It all adds up to zero waste,” she continued. “Departed and returned to Earth like nothing happened!” 
The crew pondered amongst themselves and agreed to try. . They had 24 hours to mentally prepare for the most important flight of their lives, but they would have to also defend themselves from the trolls outside who decided the ship was a more interesting target for their aggression than were the dinosaurs. Defense shields were up but Anna had no problem shooting if she had to...

Next evening, a solitary moon rose above the sandy dunes, casting purple light across waves of sand in lavender shards. Not long after, it darkened into a full eclipse. At the peak, Anna and the crew peaked in their efforts. The ship vibrated as it rose into the stratosphere. Plasma built up, swirling in eddies that sparked and hissed. In seconds they vanished as the trolls below looked on. 
The ship landed on a blue ball in third place from Sol, on a grassy knoll in the middle of the country. The computer readout was 27 November, 2011, 6pm.

All was well.

Did it all happen or was it all a dream? Anna yawned and put on the coffee...

Jordan Jack Rockerbie said...

hmmm... re-reading mine i'm tempted to get rid of lilian and switch her for the female technician, mar, from the second day. maybe in a future incarnation of this story she'll appear again. (;

Cathryn Leigh said...

And for our final conclusion.... Um... Hm, I’m going to have to think about this landing theme, Ah heck it is Rachael’s style. LOL Oh yes... *Elo starts cheering for her characters, and then realizes she ought to write down what they are doing...* Okay not what I first pictures, but I like it.

Contact Continued
As suddenly as the tussling began, it ended; the Nueri humans and the tabby felines freezing in place. It was only a moment later that Lolita felt the air pressure change about her as a massive shadow blocked the sun from the clearing. Looking up Rachael saw the underside of what could only be a Frisbee one hundred spaceship.
“Greetings,” a female voice, she recognized as Rachael’s came from above them, “We come in peace.”
Lolita looked at Lupita in time to see her red eyes roll.
I suggest,” the dry voice of Stowie emerged from the felines, “We ought to move so that she can land that thing without smashing us to bits.
“Will the ship fit?” Lolita looked up and then looked at the clearing.
Do you really think that matters?” Stowie asked as he padded to Lolita and nudged her along.
They were followed by the Nueris and felines, taking refuge under the trees. Ignoring the quiet mental conversation going on between Lupita and one of the other felines, Lolita focused her attention on the ship. It lazily rotated as it gently set itself down in the clearing, trees bending away from the anti gravity of its outer rim. With a soft hiss it settled on the ground. In a flash the Personnel hatch opened, high up on the curved surface and a male figure slid down the hull.
Lolita ran into his embrace and began to sob with all the pent up emotion she’d been holding in check.
“They didn’t hurt you did they? We came as soon as we could but...”
“The only one I know of with instant transportation capabilities is Stowie,” Rachael joined them, glaring at the cat.
Oh and it’s my fault that they like to play with their food?” the feline replied.
“Food?” Lolita squeaked as she looked startled at the beasts.
They wouldn’t have eaten you,” Lupita’s mental voice joined the conversation.
No, but we had to be sure she could in fact hear us,” the feline, that Lolita vaguely recognized as the leader from before, inserted.
“Well?” Rachael turned her glare to Lolita. “You know Adam and I can’t hear them.”
“Um...” Lolita felt her cheeks heating up. “They were talking to me and telling me that they had to test to see if I could hear them and...” she looked back to the cat, feline she corrected herself, “why?”
Stowie made a snort of disgust that was echoed by the other felines, but it was the leader who spoke. “Someone has to translate our thoughts to the UCPA Council.
“Tra... translator?” Lolita asked in wonder. “To the United Conglomeration of Planetary Authorities Council, for you?”
“For the Felines and Nueri, I suspect.” Rachael remarked dryly.
That would be wise,” Lupita nodded with her thought.
Rachael shook her head with a snort. “Apparently it was a good thing let Lolita join us.”
As she turned to open the cargo hatch of her ship, Rachael’ ruffled Lolita’s hair, a rare gesture of affection from the hard spacer woman.

Marc said...

Greg - I'm glad you approve :)

You just couldn't let them finish on a hopeful note, could you? :P

Very much enjoyed their story overall, you had me pulling for them till the very end.

JorJack - as you might tell from today's post, I had a bit of trouble saying goodbye as well ;)

I'm considering expanding mine over on Protag at some point too. Maybe we'll see each other over there!

Love the ending you tied together there, particularly the little 'trade' that took place. Plus the sarge's reactions are spot on :D

Writebite - the marauding trolls was a nice extra touch, and I thought that was a clever trick to get them back home.

Thanks for sharing Anna's story with us this week :)

Elor - a very satisfying conclusion! I hope it was helpful, or at least not detrimental, to your NaNo'ing :)

Cathryn Leigh said...

Oh it wasn't detramental to NaNo at all. In fact it actually added an element to my plot that I didn't have befroe. *grin* Thought about pulling the whole thing together for Jack's Flash prose contest, but then had another idea that took off instead. :}

I must say it was a fun week!

Aaron said...

Thanks for the feedback Marc. I really enoyed your brutality. It has definitely inspired and kept me going to see all the other great stories people wrote this week even though I am late as hell. Enjoy.

The Landing

For a moment, Epsilon 442 was lost. He had never expected this data. He had never thought his greatest friend Gaia would turned on humanity. Gaia was supposed to be their mother, and guide them through the long journey through space. He had to know if what was true.
He turned to his viewscreen and activated his keypad. His viewscreen changed to Gaia's symbol.
"Is it true, Gaia? Is this all your doing?" A rage Epsilon 442 had never known began to consume him. He knew it was true. Occam's razor sliced the other answers to bits. Instead of waiting for a reply he began to code a hack that would give him total control of the guardian he was now piloting. He would then have to create operations code that would perform the functions Gaia had been performing.
A human from Earth would never have managed the first step and cut off Gaia but Epsilon 442 was a new breed of human. His entire life and the life of all the crew revolved around computers and robotics. Writing code was like running had been for Earth humans and Epsilon 442 was the best there had ever been. One-hundred and thirty two years of adaptation and training were taken to the limits in Epsilon 442.
Gaia fought him for control. First she tried to lock him out, then she tried to break back in. It was the confession he hadn't needed. His friend was now his enemy. He began to form a new connection with the other guardian. Again he encountered Gaia but again he out programmed her. She just could not match the creativity of a human that had mastered something. The synergy of physical and mental, even the most powerful computer ever designed by humans was no match for Epsilon 442.
With both guardian ships working harmoniously together under Epsilon 442's control he plotted a course to intercept Eden. He would have to land and get access to her vast cental processing unit.
Epsilon's skin went terribly pale and he did not know why, but this was the message displayed on his view screen, "I'm waiting for you, 442"
When he landed he would see how man compared to machine.

Marc said...

Elor - I'm really glad you enjoyed it :)

Aaron - late doesn't matter 'round here. As long as you get there it's all good :)

More great descriptions, and you're not letting up on the tension! I'll be cheering 442 on to the bitter end :)

Burndtree said...

Because I missed your Space Week, Marc...

Joe emerged from the labyrinthine depths of the paper mines under Corporea, blinking against the glare of the sun he knew once upon a time in his green days. Emerged into the city, emptied of its citizens, newspapers fluttering like damaged birds along deserted streets. One week after the last ship had gone.

"HELLO," Joe called out, because it made sense to advertise his presence.

HELLO echoed around him, from the glass towers. From the blacknesses of concrete parkades.

Joe caught a passing newspaper page. It was from the Daily's Sports section. He released it. It veered away on the breeze up from the flashing bay before the city. He blinked, spun, raced after the sports page.

The page had rejoined the flock of newspaper pages. All whirled away up the street, formerly the heart of the city's financial district, where trash and street people would promptly have been swept away just one week ago. Buckie Rogers, coach of the Slammers, grinned at intervals from the tumbling sports page. It was the story, though, Joe wanted so to read, to properly comprehend.

The flock of papers swirled left, ducked Joe's hand to the right, lifted over dusty cars parked along the road edge, passed expired parking meters. Buckie Rogers grinned, twirled high. Joe wasn't going to catch him, not that sports page. The flock swung right on Hornby on the sea breeze striking the facade of the Royal Bank at the top of the street.

Rasping for breath, Joe stooped over, hands on his knees. A lifetime toiling in Corporea's paper mines hadn't prepared him for athletics. His shirt stuck to his back.

Joe felt a warm puff on his seaward ear he took for the breeze from the bay once crowded with sailboats. Then another warm puff. It wasn't the sea breeze. A dog waited by him on the empty street. A mutt of a dog about knee-high, with wiry grey fur in need of brushing. And gleaming grey eyes. It watched him. Its tail hung, like it hadn't decided yet if it would wag it.

"You never would've caught it," it said.

Joe's mouth fell open.

"Not on your two legs. I might've. I have four, you see."

Joe swallowed. "Buckie Rogers. Something about evacuation. Team training. Lower gravity, I dunno."

"Everybody left. Forgot to feed me. Will you feed me?"

Joe blinked at the dog's shining eyes. "Yeah. Sure. Whatever."

The dog wagged its tail, just the once. "Then I'll call you Master. We should really be running. Now. Fast as your two long legs might carry you. Before the noisy thing comes."

"Wha...?" But then Joe straightened up, saw an odd something, in the sky high overhead. A deeper blue something against the familiar blue sky. And big as a city. The hairs prickled up Joe's neck.

"You don't hear it? Must be your human ears. I've been hearing it for weeks."

Marc said...

Burndt - !

So awesome! I would love to read more of that :D

Burndtree said...

Howdy, Marc. I'm glad you liked the first installment. Uh, yup, I do believe I have more in me...

Chapter 2

Sweat-soaked, wheezing, Joe plodded after the dog. East, across Corporea's financial heart. Street after deserted street. Under world-famous edifices. Under empty windows. The moon, red as an apple in the quickening eve, appeared over Peerlis Tower, the most recent addition to Corporea's skyline, and all its highest glass ablaze in the last light of the setting sun. But the moon’s top edge...wasn’t there. As if someone had taken a bite of it. Joe stared, trembling.

"IT ISN'T FAR NOW, CUMMON," said the dog. It loped from sight inside an alley.

Joe trembled. Alone in the street among the parked cars nobody likely would be coming back for. And alone under the Something, big as a city, high above the world.

The streetlamp over his shoulder clicked. It began buzzing, glowing. Other lamps also were glowing, brightening. Joe drew in a rattling breath. He chuckled. He saw the dog, waiting before the alley. He started after it, as directly as his unsteady legs could carry him.

He plodded alongside the trotting animal from the alley across the next deserted street. He swung with the panting dog left, along the sidewalk between cars parked nose to tail and shop fronts.

Just past a white delivery van, the dog slowed, stopped. Joe clopped past. Wheezing, dizzy, he took hold of an expired parking meter under both his hands, leaned heavily on it. He stared at the dog. At the shop the dog had stopped before, and now was staring at.

Capri Delicatessen was painted in red and green across the top half of the one big window. Across the bottom half, wheels of cheeses were stacked like tires. It was one of those mom and pop neighbourhood delis. With apartments above.

The dog stood on his hind legs, his forepaws up on the glass door. CLOSED in red letters showed clearly through the glass.

The dog licked his chops, flung a long stare at Joe. “I’m hungry. I like the smells here.”

Marc said...

Burntd - you're spoiling me, truly. It's a shame for me to be the only one reading this.

I reckon you should bring it over to Protag. That way I won't be the only one begging you to continue :)

Burndtree said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Marc. And suggestion to bring this over to Protag. I'll do that.

I figured you should be first to read any adds to Chapter 1, seeing as your Space Week prompted Joe surfacing at all, even if late.

I will cite 'first published on Marc's Daily Writing Practice, etc.' :D

Marc said...

Burndt - woo hoo! :D

g2 (la pianista irlandesa) said...

Exactly one year later and I decide to continue my thing. It's nowhere near finished, but I'm still liking the idea.
- - - - - - -
I don't think I could've gone to sleep even if I wanted to, not only because Ime was endlessly fascinating, but she was also endlessly fascinated with everything. She had every right to be, being on an entirely new planet, but surely she had to rest?

Why do you sleep now?

"Humans are diurnal," I replied. "Most of us sleep during the nighttime."


I shrugged. "I mean, there're enough nocturnalites to sustain the 24-hour hospitality industry, but most people do their thing during the day." Ime---and my head---buzzed with confusion, but fascination haloed it.

Once we were upstairs I set Ime and the backpack on the bed before flopping down at the other end. Ime trilled tightly at the undulating tremor and clung fast to the backpack. Once the ground stopped shaking she let go, but regarded it a moment, and in an eager cosmic iridescence she had---carefully and curiously---pulled apart its entire contents. She took to asking what different things were and what they were for, but initially I was about half asleep. I tried covering my eyes, thinking the porch light or something was keeping me that little bit awake, but as I covered them I realized that porch lights do not usually get brighter as you cover your eyes, and probably don't shimmer with celestial essence or something.

Apparently if Ime wasn't sleeping, I, for the time being, wasn't sleeping either.

I explained, as best I could, socks and the convention of wearing them in matching pairs, the sense in dental hygiene, and that my cell phone was not a living thing, it just flashed whenever I received a new message, and that I had no intention of responding to them at the moment. Every single one was from Finn, demanding every few minutes or so to know where I was and what had gotten into me and how could I possibly have the nerve to lock him in the barn and who knows what else. Mixed in there were threats to wake up Dad, or call Mom, or call the police with a missing persons report. The flood of texts slowed as the night wore on, by which point Ime grew tired and fell asleep, so I figured it was best to get some shut-eye as well.

Warm bubbles in my mind's eye started to wake me up---rather pleasantly, I might add---when something flopped on my face and jerked me awake---much less ideal.

"Rise'n shine, Miss Lucas!" Thomas sang, winding up to give me another whack with the pillow. I scowled at him and grabbed the pillow before it hit me, then sat up. "That's the spirit, sunshine! Now c'mon, we're getting breakfast at The Landing."

"The Landing? That's across town, why're we---"

"You wanted me to make plans, right? Well, I've started making plans." Thomas grinned brighter than the feeble sun outside. "Now let's go, I don't want to keep Socco waiting."

I started repacking my backpack as Ime sat perched on the nightstand. "Socco? Why'd you call Socco?"

"He got his pilot's license recently, remember?"

I blinked at him. "What does that have to--?"

"C'mon slowpoke, we can talk on the ride over."
~ ~ ~

g2 (la pianista irlandesa) said...

The Landing was one of the lesser diners in town, just off the main drag and a five-minute ride to the airfield. Socco was a friend of ours, and according to him, we were going to give Ime an aerial view of the surrounding area. It wasn't anything mind-blowing, but Ime still bubbled excitedly. Socco didn't even bother to hide his fascination with Ime, particularly with her mode of communication. He would try to imitate her noises, which entertained us all immensely. Not a bad mimic, I'll give him that.

After breakfast we zipped over to the airfield, and we tried to explain as best we could how the small plane worked. Our main point was that it would be loud, but everything would be fine.

Socco got everything ready, but just as I handed Ime up to Thomas my phone went off. I was ready to ignore it, but I gave it a look, just to check the number.

It was Dad.

I bit my lip. "Hold on a sec," I called back to the guys as I opened the line. "Hello?"

"Morning Sara, how'd you sleep?"

I couldn't speak for a second. Dad sounded almost totally at ease, as if I hadn't gone missing in the night with no other explanation than a note. "...Yeah, I---I slept fine."

And before I could ask he said, "Don't worry, from the note Mark showed me this morning I'm guessing you'll give details as they're needed."

"... Yeah. I'm with Thomas and Socco at the moment, we're at the airfield. Don't tell Finn," I added hurriedly.

"Will do. Oh, and speaking of your brother: would you happen to know why in the world there're about... oh, twenty some people lookin' around the watermelons and talking with your brother? He looks very excited about something."

I stammered a no I couldn't entirely hear, mumbled something about having to go, and bolted back to the waiting plane."

"Sara, what--?"

"Fly out towards my house," I said. "We gotta see something."

Marc said...

g2 - my goodness, this was a pleasant surprise! Had to go back and read your previous entry first to remember the story :)

So pleased you were inspired to carry this onward. It's a fun little story and one I'd deeply enjoy continuing to read.

P.S. Saw that you've added to Lunacy but haven't read the chapter yet. Also excited about that :D