Thursday November 24th, 2011

The exercise:

Space week continues with the prompt: adjustments.

In order for mine (and, awesomely enough, pretty much everybody's in the comments as well) to make sense, you'll have to go back to Monday and the beginning of Space Week and read from there, as each of us is working on our own continuous story.

I have no idea how I'll manage to wrap all this up with Sunday's post, but I'm determined to find a way. So, consider that fair warning that my writing on the last day could be like two thousand words.

I'm mostly joking.

Mine:

It had been a difficult adjustment after Eric had left. His declaration that he was accepting a promotion to Head Engineer on another ship had blindsided her and left her to raise her son alone.

Eric may not have been the father, but he had made promises when he first entered her life. Now, on top of her motherly responsibilities, she was burdened by feelings of betrayal, violation, and bitterness.

And now this. Faced with a ticking time bomb with only three options, the last of which was utterly out of the question.

1. They both would die.
2. She would die so that he would live.
3. He would die so...

She couldn't even finish the thought.

Looking up from where he lay sleeping on his bunk, his IES making it seem like he was a patient in the infirmary, the clock embedded on the wall of their compartment showed her there was only six hours of oxygen left for both of them. Which left just five hours for her.

If Eric hadn't left he could have saved us both.

She knew it wasn't a fair thought, but she was too angry and frightened to care. Rising from her seat at their shared desk, she moved silently to the door of their room. She paused to look back at her boy before exiting, reluctant to be apart from him for even a moment.

But she still had her duties to attend to and the call had come in for some adjustments to be made on Engine Three. No point sacrificing herself and then have a ship failure render it meaningless.

Leaving the room and turning left, a thought crept into her mind and took hold with barbed, icy fingers. It nearly stopped her in her tracks but she forced herself to continue walking as it tumbled over and over through her head.

What if there was a delay and her son needed more than an extra hour of air?

She was so troubled by this possibility that she didn't hear her name being called somewhere behind her until the third try.

"First Class Mechanic Sanchez!"

13 comments:

Greg said...

I suspect that if you end up with two thousand words to right you'll post a teaser and a link to Protagonize myself, but feel free to make me look like a hopeless optimist!
These stories are growing well, aren't they? I think you have to take credit too though, as you're posting the prompts and guiding how people's stories develop :) Curiously, your prompt today fits perfectly with where my story's going!
I like how your last line reveals how this all links with the previous piece and creates instant tension because we don't know who's calling her! And Miranda's doubts and fears for the future feel all too real.

Adjustments
"What keys?" Captain Mogadef furrowed his brow.
"The keys to the Wassail," said Maros. "I know where I originally put them, but then we had to make those adjustments three years ago to increase the spin slightly, and I can't for the life of me think if I put them back or not."
Three years earlier the asteroid's spin had been slower and as the last of the ultradense mineral Marosite had been mined out, the loss of gravity – nearly 15% of a gee – had been both noticeable and inconvenient. So the Wassail, the ship that had landed them on the asteroid, had been fired up, its engines used to give the asteroid a little push that increased the spin and compensated for the loss of gravity.
"You can't for all of our lives remember where you put the keys?" said Marylee, her age showing at last as a note of panic crept into her voice.
"They're probably in the keychest," said Maros, trying to sound nonchalant. "I'm not usually very forgetful."
"It won't work," said Griffen, interrupting Mogadef. Mogadef tried to interrupt him back, but Griffen waved a frostbitten hand in his face. "It won't work, there's never enough fuel in the Wassail to pull us out of the decaying orbit now."
"There doesn't have to be," said Maros, also ignoring Mogadef's attempts to be heard. "There just needs to be enough to push us up for long enough for the shuttle to return."
The other five crew nodded, each thinking it through in their own way and deciding that this was, at least a reasonable chance at salvation. Captain Mogadef seized the silence with a kind of angry triumph.
"The keychest went back with Alanna, two flights ago," he said.

writebite said...

Outer Space - the Adjustment

Anna and her crew arrived safely on the distant planet in a spiral galaxy, far, far away. Amazingly, there was no jet lag effect like younget on Earth as the trip took no time at all so there was little adjustment to be made except to the heavier gravity and thinner air. Still, for her first adventure to outer space, Anna thought these were tiny inconveniences that added to the excitement of the scenario unfolding before her. This trip was something to write home about, that’s for sure, but few folk back home actually knew where she had gone for her vacation and they were sworn to secrecy.

The time schedule allowed for a short jaunt across the sands with her crew before they had to return to Earth again. You see, although you could think yourself across a sea of galaxies, you still had to match your vibrations to the places you were travelling to, and that was enhanced by using portals as physical windows of opportunity, as it were, to connect via the correct wormhole. Choosing the wrong time frame or the wrong portal could lead to...well, let’s not go there, shall we?

Anna allowed the crew five Earth minutes of exploration before rendezvous on the ship’s deck.
Several crew members gathered specimens of rock - shiny black obsidian, rough red octagons which looked like garnets, and flaky green fuschite all abounded here - a motley collection of semimprecious stones that were larger than their Terran cousins. 

Anna’s wrist computer announced the impending departure time so she gathered her crew members and they boarded again, strapped in and ready for home, having stowed the specimens in the overhead lockers above their seats. 
No one noticed the small obsidian sphere which had rolled out of the bag and off to the side. The unwritten rule of instellar travel and collection of artifacts was one of minimal disturbance and accurate recording and stowage of said specimens. Anything less could disturb the unified field in which they travelled, and that wouldn’t do. No, not at all...

Anna plugged in the coordinates for home and prepared the crew for count down. As before, she suggested a mantra for them all to think themselves back to Earth as she engaged the thruster, onl y this time, little did she know how one thing out of place, one tiny distraction in her concentration, could throw the whole mission into chaos...

Jordan Jack Rockerbie said...

@Marc, yaaah, the keyboard thing is really annoying. if i type slowly and think about what i'm doing i can compensate with the right shift key, but who does either of those things when writing? hahah. am looking into new laptops. needed a reason to procrastinate studying exams, now i've got it. whoo!

mine

jake couldn't sleep. he had had a restless night, tossing and turning on top of the sheets. now he just stares up at the bunk above him, half-dreamt thoughts flitting through his tired brain.

a soft glow peeks in through the drawn curtains of the room, the day dawning.

is it morning already?

his thought is interrupted by the bedroom door swinging open loudly, admitting a torrent of light from that hall that eclipses the figure standing in the frame. jake sits bolt upright on the edge of his bed. tom, the body on the bunk above him, turns over and mutters something incoherent, though certainly laced with curses.

'git up, boys!' the man in the doorway says, stepping through. it's sergeant pepper. not actually a sergeant, and not actually named pepper either, but it had become the unwelcome nickname the other members of the project had given him.

'we've had to make an, erm, adjustment to the schedule,' he bellows, tearing the sheets from tom's bed and giving him a light slap to the cheek.

'up, up, up!'

'whadaya mean, adjustment?' jake asks, the more awake of the pair despite his sleeplessness.

sergeant pepper fixes him with a cold stare. the coming news is obviously not to the man's liking.

'as i said, there's been a change to our schedule. we're skipping to week one oh three.'

'does that mean...' jake starts, but is cut off by the sarge.

'yup boys, we launch next week.'

above him, tom groans muffled curses into his pillow.

Cathryn Leigh said...

I feel the need for a Dun Dun Dun... after writebright’s post there... (oh and I haven’t seen Puss-in-Boots yet, but I wonder if there’s an influence there.)

Anywho to my post, yes let’s see how shall we continue. Hm... I think I know what these felines are up to and how things will end with Sunday’s post. We’ll just have to see what sorts of trick they have up their sleeves. *grin*

Contact Continued
Well I would have returned sooner,
Stowie shook Lolita off and she sat with a plop on the ground.
But, teleportation can only take one so far and I cannot leap from the moon to the planet, so I had to wait until this one was brought down.
The whole time he spoke, Stowie paced around Lolita. She couldn’t tell if he was trying to protect her or enforce her imprisonment.
Fine excuse,” one of them snorted.
Stowie stopped in front of that feline and hissed. All the others turned and hissed as well. Seeing their attention was distracted, Lolita tried to edge away, but she didn’t get far. She tripped over a root and landed sprawling on the ground. Her surprised yelp brought there focus back to her.
What shall we do with this human who isn’t of the Nueri Nin Ni?” the felines spoke once more with a single voice.
“Stowie?” Lolita looked around, suddenly unable to hear his distinct sound, or see his face, with the slightly cocked her.
Attitudes were adjusted,” the voice told her, “Stowie once more belongs to us.
Lolita looked up at all of the yellow eyes looking down upon her.
“Don’t eat me?” she squeaked.

writebite said...

JJR, invent a new english...abolish caps forever i say!
CL, oh no, poor lolita.....meow...(i love cats)

Brittany said...

The alien DNA took time to adjust to the human's inferior cell activity. Traveling through arteries and capillaries, the parasite wrapped around some neurons at the base of the spine. It bore a whole through one neuron's plasma membrane and pushed itself in, heading straight toward the nucleus.

In the nucleus it would hide, feeding off chromosomes and RNA until the cell died. Then, it would replace the dead cell with a cell of its own. It would move on to another and another, growing stronger, waiting for years until the whole spinal column was in its control.

Jordan Jack Rockerbie said...

@writebite, funny, 'cause when i write comments on sites like Facebook or Protagonize i tend to not follow capitalization rules. proper nouns get it, but nothing else does. not even 'i.'

g2 (la pianista irlandesa) said...

Good Lord this section got long. Hope you folks don't mind.
- - - - - - - - - -
I stumbled around the corner, nearly tripping over Ime in the process.

"That plan's not gonna work," I sighed. "My brothers are in there."

Is that a problem?

I nodded. "They're the kind of people you want to avoid, especially Finn."

Finn?

"Finn, my older brother." Obsessed doesn't even begin to describe Finn's devotion to the cosmic and the alien. It was the air he breathed, the blood in his veins. Don't get me wrong, it's interesting stuff, it's just that I'm in the camp that wants to establish contact and learn from other beings, and he's on the other side of the pitch ready to slice the poor things open and anatomize some of them, then put the other ones in zoos and labs.

There is another with him?

I nodded. The other was Mark, my younger brother. He was the inventor of the family, and a sweet enough kid, but more often than not he sided with Finn because I was a much smaller threat than our older brother, especially when crossed.

Ime's eyes swirled nervously. What will we do?

I studied the ground. "We'll have to lay low in the house for the night, then hit the road tomorrow."

What will striking a road---?

"It's an expression, it means to leave."

What an odd expression, Ime warbled.

I shushed Ime, cringing at the hitch in the noise inside. "It's weird, but we can discuss that later. See that light up there? That's the porch of my house. Go up there, and wait under the light. I'll be up there in a few minutes."

Ime nodded and scurried off. I took a deep breath, fingering my keys, and murmured an apology to Mark.

Finn deserved this.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What did you do? Ime finally asked after being scooped up, carried up two flights of stairs in the dark, and set down again on my bed.

I shrugged. "Made sure they stayed in the barn," I answered breathlessly, scuttling around my room for a few changes of clothes and what food and money I could scrounge up.

How did you persuade them? I could feel Ime's eyes follow me. They made me a little uncomfortable at the moment.

"I didn't." I stuffed my chosen possessions into a backpack I'd used exactly three times before on different failed camping trips.

What did you do, then?

Before I could answer I heard glass break outside. My throat shriveled up. I'd forgotten about the window.

"Hop in," I said, holding the backpack open. "There's enough room for you in here." Din swirled in my head, confused. "Ime, come on. I promised to keep you safe, and it's not safe for you here."

More breaking glass, and a shout.

Ime finally nodded and gingerly got into the backpack. "It's going to be bumpy," I warned. I started for the door but decided against it, choosing instead to lock and bar it.

When Finn finally managed to climb out through the window of the locked barn, scramble up the hill to the house, and break down my bedroom door---an incredible and frightening feat, given that his only physical strength comes from extreme anger---all he found was a disheveled room, a hastily scrawled note ("Will call later, I can explain"), and an open window looking out to the indestructible gutter I'd used as an escape pole, and the woods into which Ime and I had fled.

Marc said...

Greg - that's a thought. We shall see what Sunday turns into though :)

Funny you mention the prompts guiding the stories, as I was quite tempted to throw out a really random prompt at one point just to see how you all handled it. But I think everyone is doing such a great job with their stories it just wouldn't be fair at this point :D

Oh man, you build up all that hope and then just smash it to bits with that final line!

Writebite - clever twist at the end there, really makes sure the tension is maintained for the next segment of the story.

JorJack - are laptops cheaper over there by any chance? If so, that'd be pretty handy!

Hmm, the plot thickens!

Elor - well I'm glad one of us knows what we're doing :P

Things appear to be getting rather dire for our poor hero!

Brittany - definitely creepy. Extremely well done, sends shivers up my spine.

g2 - wonderful work. Great tension and keeping things wide open for what's to come :)

Jordan Jack Rockerbie said...

naw, it's generally cheaper to pick something up in North America, especially with Box Day/Week coming up when i get back.

writebite said...

jjr...back atcha. i can't be bothered capping in emails for example. i only do hemin formal writing like here!

Aaron said...

My got busy the last couple days trying to get into school. Finally the continuation of my story continues.

Epsilon Adjustments

Epsilon 442 returned his attention to his view screen. The Deltas it seemed were about to decide what to do about the anomaly.
"Deltas the anomaly would not be a concern if it had not followed us before and is now closing in on Eden. They are certainly aware of us and we must prepare for contact. The question remains do we send out a team in one of the guardians or do we wait for them to come to Eden."
"This scenario was never foreseen by the Alphas or the Betas and so they have left no instruction. We the elder generation will vote and then act according to the majority."
Epsilon held his breath and lowered his pulse, his entire focus on the outcome. Then as suddenly as it began it was over. A guardian ship would be sent to intercept.
It would take an extremely skilled pilot to survive the mission, but it was not impossible for space adapted humans. They learned computer programming at the same time they learned to read. They rebuilt fusion drives to graduate academy. Everyone was an asset and could maintain all of Eden without another human. Of course that was largely because Gaia maintained everything in reality. She was the cerebellum and the crew was the frontal lobe.
Delta 289 had the floor and was asking who would volunteer to intercept. So far the same people who had voted for this were not stepping forward.
"Will none volunteer for this mission? Will none protect Eden?" Delta 289 asked.
"I will fly the guardian to intercept the anomaly," Epsilon 442's voice cracked over the speaker in the Delta chamber, “I’ll have to make a couple of adjustments but with Gaia’s assistance I fly the guardian alone.

Marc said...

Aaron - oh good, I thought you were going to leave me hanging!

Worth the wait! Can't wait to see how this turns out :)