Placeholder (NaNoWriMo Day 20)

The last place Simon expected to wake up was on an alien spaceship, but there are worse ways to start a NaNo novel…

This is the daily posting of my 2016 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) attempt at a novel. It’s a brand new world and new fictives and although I gave a shot at planning things (see: Chasing Falling Stars), it’s another pantsing effort. So MuseFics away! 🙂

Read at your own risk/amusement: There will most likely be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, contradictions/retcons, uneven characterization and pacing.

Daily Wordcount: 1,482
Total Wordcount: 26,561 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)

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Planet Ahoy!

“Are you at all worried that we’re only halfway to 50k and we only have one plot item left?” The Muse asked as the Writer sat down to work. “As much as I hate being a planner, maybe we should have tried a little harder this year.”

“I did do all those worksheets,” objected the Writer, “and I ended up with a whole lot of stuff that wasn’t interesting enough to write. We’ll work this out– look, worst case we hit the end of the story and then we go back and things of more things that can go wrong in-between.”

“Just remember at some point you’re going to have to make all of these little side trips tie into the main storyline somehow. They have to have learned something from the termites or there’s no point to it.”

“We learned that Ship hates bugs, Cat likes pounding on walls, and Simon has weird dreams when you drug him.” The Writer said. “Those are actually all really useful things.”

“If you say so,” the Muse was not convinced, but she curled up on the couch with a blanket, cocoa, and a tablet full of fanfic. “So have at it then.”

“I will!”

There was a pause.

“Sometime soon?” Asked the Muse, without looking up.

“I’m just, err, finding my notes.” The Writer stared at the blank page for a bit. “Ah hell, how bad can it be?”

And the word sprint timer started.


Simon was beginning to understand why Ship had tried to knock them out the first time it accelerated. Without the benefit of alcohol or drugs the trip was excruciatingly painful. Whatever had startled the ship must have been serious, he could hear the alarm klackons going off somewhere in the background.

Cat was curled into a ball of misery on the floor and Simon envied him, a little. It must be nice to be able to be made of something comfortable. As it was Simon was trying very hard to become one with the uncomfortable couches that ringed the room and it was nowhere near as comfortable.

Ship had promised it would be over soon and Simon clung to that as the ship shuddered and shook. He had no idea if they were under attack or something else had happened. He could only trust that Ship would do its best to keep all of them from dying, since that would be… inconvenient? He really wasn’t sure how important Ship really thought he and Cat were.

There was another sharp shudder and his head slammed back against the wall and he went back to just thinking about the pain.


Cat was not happy.

He was very very very not happy and if this went on much longer he was going to lose what little hold he had left on his flight  or fight responses. Which would bode badly for Simon since he was the only thing in the room. Compound that with the fact that the human seemed to have no natural defenses, or offenses, and it wouldn’t even bit a ghost of a fair fight.

So he had to hang on, just for a little bit longer.


Ship knew he was cutting it close. Simon was only a few minutes from passing out and Cat’s fur was a pure white and he was digging furrows into the floor. But he was almost there and answering the distress call was the first priority… Almost.

With a reluctant shudder Ship pulled the ship out of warp, still short of his destination. Logic circuits battled as the fight over crew safety and his primary directive of civilization survival came to a head. He had been created to save his species from forced extinction, everything else, including the survival of the individual crew members should have come second. But over the years as he’d adapted himself to communicate with them something had changed.


Simon held very still as Cat stalked the room on all fours. The alien was a pure and almost blinding white and there was very little in his movements or posture that didn’t scream predator. So far he’d been ignoring Simon’s corner of the room in his loops, but Simon didn’t want to test his control. Something about the emergency trip had wiped away Cat’s usual personality and he didn’t like the new version of his crewmate.

His safest bet seemed to be to lie low and wait for the cat to calm down again. Or for Ship to open the doors and lure Cat outside. Assuming Ship was paying attention.


“Well, that certainly falls under the ‘how to make things worse’ category.” The Muse said.

“I wasn’t planning on that, but one thing led to another.” The Writer eyed the new bits of story. “May it would make more sense for Ship to flood the room with something to knock them out or keep them calm.”

“I’d chalk it up to him forgetting that they weren’t going to be able to handle the stress. Just run with it for now, what’s the worst that can happen?”

“Cat eats Simon?”

“… Point.”


Cat paced the room, growling mutedly as his senses searched for the threat that must be out there. He’d done his best, but the pain had finally chased the logical voices that kept him civilized down below a more feral chorus of self-preservation instincts.

He’d practiced how to handle this when he was a kitten, they all had, and the small voice of sanity was running through the nursery rhymes meant to calm him. His society had developed techniques for muting the wild instincts to a point where they could interact without the posturing and bloodshed of their ancestors. They couldn’t have functioned otherwise.

But it had been a long time since he’d needed to walk those paths and it was hard to remember. He circled the room again and again.

There was no danger here, but there must be danger here and each footstep was a beat in those childhood songs that tempered his frustrations.


Ship still hadn’t spoken by the time Cat’s fur had faded to an unsettled black and white static and the doors to the room were still hidden.

Simon carefully sat up, keeping an eye on Cat, but the large feline just twitched an ear in his direction and continued his rhythmic pacing.

Simon could hear the hum of the engines, back down to their normal tune from the pained whines of earlier, so there were still moving. To where, or from where, he had no idea. The only good thing he could gather was that they hadn’t taken any significant damage, at least not enough to damage the panic room.

So they were back to playing the waiting game and hoping that the craziness was over, for now.

Simon retrieved his touchpad and curled up to read for a bit, waiting for Cat to finish calming down to the point of conversation.


They were still several days out from the planet where the distress signal originated, but Ship should now able to communicate, abet with a bit of a lag.

When the colony ships landed most of the ship was disassembled to provide the basis for the new colony, but remnants of the original ship continued to operate as a land-based communications and reconnaissance system. That was what had sent the distress call and in theory that’s what should be listening.

But it could still be a trap.

There should have been no way a ship of his type could have passed them. As one of the ships who was being chased, he had traveled at a much higher rate of speed than the others. His mandate had not only been to evade and survive, but to lead the shadow ship as far away from the other colony ships as possible.

So Ship sent out a sharp burst of highly compressed information based on his own internal cyphers. The other ship should be using the same cypher as it was part of his original programming before the cloning.

If this was really another colony ship, another him, then he’d get a similar answer back.

So he waited.

A day later he got his answer.


“See? All’s well that ends well,” said the Writer as she tidied up the writing desk for the night.

“I’m not sure that counts,” said the Muse, refusing to leave her comfortable blanket burrito. “You haven’t really resolved anything beyond the ‘Cat eats Simon’ issue.”

“I’ve gotten them to spitting distance of the planet, that had to count for something.”

The Muse shrugged noncommittally.

“Eh, fine. Tomorrow we land on the planet and then you’ll be happy?” The Writer sighed.

“Get us to 50k with something approaching a rough draft and I’ll be happy.”

The Writer made rude noises and left her to her fanfic.


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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!