Chasing Falling Stars (4/5) : NaNoWriMo 2016 Prequel

It’s NaNo season!

Welcome to the haphazard posting of the world/plot/story-building for my 2016 NaNoWriMo Novel! In which my Fictives and their Writer attempt to shape the rough outline of a story from the void. All of which will probably be tossed out the window when November 1st hits, but… that’s half the fun, right? 😉

This is shameless MuseFic, so there will be snark and world-building and lots of spoilers. Of course there is also a very good chance that the November story will ignore most of the spoilers, so it’s probably a 40-60 chance at best.

You have been warned…

Post Wordcount:  1,257
Total Wordcount: 3,871

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“Well that was… interesting.” Simon looked over the scattered piles of worksheets, index cards, and colored markers. “Did any of that work?”

“Eh, not really.” The Writer cleared off her desk (again) and added the failed experimentation to the floor piles. “To be honest, I really don’t think I’ll ever be much of a planner. Every time I do get an outline down, I end up mutilating it with stuff I figure out as the story is running.”

“So what now?” The Muse had given up trying to share the sofa with Simon and had summoned her own armchair into existence. She’d gone back to reading her tablet and keeping half and ear in the conversation. “We’re starting to run out of planning time.”

“Let’s redefine the situation,” the Writer picked up a blank sheet of paper. “Look, I couldn’t find a way to make the Giant Spaceship of Giant-ness work, so let’s toss that. Let’s make it a tiny spaceship of tiny-ness that only needs to kidnap one person.”

“So I’m alone?” Simon looked considerably more interested in that idea.

“Yeeeee–no.” The Writer abruptly changed her mind. “No, there’s an alien on the ship, just one, and the computer is an AI.”

“Five dollars says it’s a giant cat alien,” the Muse said without looking up from the tablet.

The Writer studiously ignored her and attempted to look innocent of imminent cat’ing.

Simon was not impressed.

“You’re trapping me in a spaceship with a tiger?”

“No, no, bipedal cat, like Kzinti, Mrrshan, Hani, or any of the hundred other Cat Folk.” The Writer was doodling again. “And more like a snow leopard, fluffy cats in spaaaaaaaaaaace!”

“No.” Said the fluffy humanoid cat who had been summoned into existence against his will. He was significantly less fluffy than the Writer had intended. He twitched an ear and lengthened it slightly even as his overly floofed tail shrunk to something more pantherly.

“Just a little more fluff?” The Writer begged as the leopard deftly edited his appearance.

The cat hissed and his fur remained depressingly short. He did add a bit of a lion ruff however, as he began to ponder his backstory and biology. It seemed safer to add some protection to necks if you were going to be fighting neighbors with claws.

“There’s something significantly off-putting about sharing a spaceship with a predator,” Simon pointed out. “Can’t he be an impala or something? No offense.”

Cat shrugged and ran fingers over his white and black speckled fur. In their wake the pattern turned from snow leopard spots to something akin to television static.

“That’s sort of the point, isn’t it?” said the Muse trying not to be hypnotised by the rippling patterns. “Man versus Nature or whatnot.”

“Man versus Nature versus Artificial Intelligence is one too many versuses.” The Writer sighed. “I really need to figure out what is going on in this story.”

“Why did your spaceship kidnap me? Let’s start with that.” Simon was still on guard as Cat summoned his own comfy chair with help from the Muse.

“It’s not my ship,” said Cat. “It kidnaped me as well.”

Simon looked at the Writer who shrugged helplessly.

“It’s an AI, right?” The Muse had retreated to her own comfy chair once the cat was settled. “So… Ship, KREE!”

“I object to the fact that worked,” said a very small spaceship that popped into existence next to the Muse. It hovered quietly, using tiny puffs to air to correct for drift. “But I concede the point that it might be best to ask me directly.”

“So, err– Ship, what is your purpose?” Demanded the Writer.

“Given that I am on a continuous journey, there are three possible possibilities I can think of. One, I am running from something. Two, I am chasing something. Or three, I am looking for something.” The Ship gave a small wobble of uncertainty. “I could also be broken, but I prefer not to dwell on that possibility.”

“None of those appear to be good reasons for kidnapping people,” Cat growled. He was tweaking his legs back and forth between plantigrade and digitigrade, testing out the balance between all fours and upright.

“I am required by programming to have two biological crew members.” Ship said.

“Then why are there six bedrooms?” The Muse had pulled the blueprints out of the interdimensional easy chair cushions and was looking over them and ignoring Cat’s fur.

“A minimum of two.” Ship admitted grudgingly. “My original programming was not intended for this situation, I’m doing my best to improvise.”

“So you are meant to have a crew of six, somehow ended up with a crew of zero, and started kidnapping people?” The Muse frowned. “How is kidnapping crew part of the programming? Oh look, this thing has a garden in it!”

“You’re looking at it the wrong way.” Simon said. “Any technology advanced enough to develop an AI this complicated would probably have done it through a teaching process rather than a hard set of rules. Think about it, every rule we could come up with would have an ‘except if’ clause and a machine can’t help but learn that.”

“Which means whatever it is they set you out to do was important, if they were willing to leave you in charge.” The Muse looked at Ship thoughtfully. “They had to be willing risk that something like this would happen and the AI would the one trying to complete whatever task it was they started out to do.”

“True, but maybe this isn’t anything important,” said the Writer, “After all, people die going to the grocery store more often than they die on epic quests.”

“I refuse to be kidnapped because someone was out of milk,” snapped Cat. “And I doubt the readers would appreciate the feeling of realizing dozens, if not hundreds of people have been kidnapped and died all because an AI didn’t know when to give up.”

There was a long pause. A long thoughtful pause.

“THAT IS A HORRIBLE THEME!” The Muse lobbed her pillow at the Writer with a snarl. “No, no, NO. Put that in the DVD extra bin and write it as a ‘How It Should Have Ended’, I am not spending all month working on a story that ends up all being this huge misunderstanding over some inconsequential detail that’s killed people.”

“Can we at least keep the ‘because the AI didn’t know when to give up’ and just rework the context?” The Writer asked hopefully. “We’ve done stories about the one-vs-the-many, but the computers all come out on the side of the many. What if just this once the computer decides the one really is more important?”

“I don’t see how that’s possible,” said Ship, a little perturbed at suddenly being the theme. “No matter what my original programming was, I can learn and adapt so I would eventually understand the error in logic.”

“What if it’s not an error?” The Writer insisted. “What if it’s logical to keep chasing the white whale in this situation?”

“You’d better have a really good explanation or the readers are going to hate that idea too,” Simon pointed out drly.

“I have all of November!” The Writer started enthusiastically doodling again. “I’ll work it out, no worries.”

“We’re writing MuseFic for November, aren’t we.” said Simon, resigned to his fate.

“Looks like it,” Cat agreed.

“We have three days left,” The Muse said stubbornly. “We can still turn this around… Right?”

In the silence the Writer continued to doodle.

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Martha Bechtel

My name is Martha Bechtel and I write fantasy and science fiction stories, paint small model horses silly colors, cast resin and plaster magnets, code random code (and Wordpress plugins)... Come on in and join in the fun!