Placeholder (NaNoWriMo Day 21)

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: 1,452
Total Wordcount: 27,920 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)

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Ones and Zeros

“So, ten days left.” Simon said as the Writer walked into the living room trailing tendrils of story fog behind her. The mists didn’t seem to want to let go and the puddled around her feet like cloth when she sat down. “Are you normally this far behind at this point in the game?”

“Sometimes,” said the Writer with a sigh. “Most of the time I just give up around the early 20’s word counts, but I promised myself that this month I wouldn’t throw in the towel no matter how bad it got.”

“Well, that’s… something. I guess.” Said Simon with a frown. “So what’s next on the ‘things that can go wrong’ agenda?”

“I have no idea,” said the Writer, and set the word sprint timer anyway. “But the novel’s lovely dark and deep, and I have plot points yet to reach, so there’s words to go before I sleep, so many words to go before I sleep.”

“Pretty sure that’s cheating.”



Ship had let them out of the round room without a word and hadn’t spoken to Simon or Cat since. Simon was a little annoyed at the sudden lack of communication, but the Ship had been less talkative to them lately so he wasn’t sure if it was a bad thing.

The rest of live went on as normal. The Ship slowly opened up new areas for them to explore and the food was provided as expected.

Cat was sulking and had hardly spoken to Simon since they left the round room. That was actually more concerning than Ship’s silence, but Simon wasn’t sure if he should pester the cat about it. He had yet to see the feline’s fur return to a steady black since the flight and he wasn’t sure what that would mean for the cat’s normally amiable attempts at conversation.

He had a feeling Cat would be much more willing to take offense and Simon was sure he wouldn’t last more than a few seconds if it turned into a fight.

So he sat on the bed and dug into the what information Ship had allowed him access to on the blueprints of the ship and the civilization he had come from.


Cat needed something to hunt.

He had brought most of his feral instincts under control, but it was always easier when he could let off steam by indulging them.

He’d pondered hunting one of Ship’s bots, but the little guys were nowhere to be seen and Ship wasn’t responding to their questions anymore. For a brief moment he’d thought about asking Simon to play prey, but the human was much too fragile. It was frustrating beyond measure and he had to find something to do before he started clawing the walls. Again.

But he was Waiting-by-water and he didn’t get his use-name for lack of patience. So he paced and napped and dreamed of the hunts he couldn’t have.


“This is just repeating what you already wrote,” Simon pointed out, a bit confused.

“I’m trying to get better at getting inside your heads,” said the Writer, leaning back to stretch out her back. “Even this far into the month I don’t have a very good handle on how you think and why you think. It may seem repetitive and a bit disjointed to do all this head-hopping, but it really does help.”

“If you say so.” Simon was not really convinced, but this was his first NaNoWriMo, maybe there really was a method somewhere in the madness. Maybe.


“We have a problem.”

Ship’s voice cut through the silence and both Simon and Cat jumped a little. Simon had been buried in what appeared to be technical specs for small aerial drones of some sort and Cat had been systematically shredding one of the pillows from the bed.

“What sort of problem?” Simon asked as he hastily translated for Cat.

“There is another colony ship in distress on a nearby planet.” Ship said, crisply. “They are requesting aid and I have rerouted our course to assist, but the terrain and atmosphere are such that I can’t get close enough physically to help. You, however, should have no issues.”

There was a pause while Simon tried to think of any way to convey that information. Nothing they had talked about in their translation sessions fit well and he had to settle with a general message of ‘distress exists, our action required’ with a gesture that conveyed they have to work out the translation later.

“Another colony ship like you?” Simon asked, frowning a bit as Cat signaled back that he didn’t care if someone else was distressed as long as Cat, himself was fine.

“Yes. Ignoring the fact that it appears to be impossible, the ship arrived at this planet and began colonization quite a bit ago. The colony was overrun with some sort of non-hostile wildlife that had driven them into hiding. They need our assistance to get back to the colony proper so they can continue the colonization.”

“Wait, haven’t you been running away from the shadow ship for years?” Simon frowned.


“And somehow this other ship got in front of you ‘quite a bit’ ago?” The Ship had already demonstrated that it was perfectly capable of using the measuring units of their home planets without issues and Simon was wary of the fact he wouldn’t say exactly how long it had been.

“I already mentioned that it appeared to be impossible.” Ship said, irritated.

Simon conferred with Cat, who was considerably more pessimistic than Ship appeared to be. “How do we know this isn’t some sort of trap?”

“It’s even less likely that the shadow ships could have gotten here faster than us and I have no idea how they could have learned to mimic our encryption technologies. As unlikely as it seems, it’s more logical to assume one of our colony ships did get here ahead of us than to twist things around to create the trap situation.”

“Following up on that, how are the two of us supposed to solve a wildlife problem than an entire colony couldn’t?”

“The colony only consists of two people, things are not yet in place to birth the first clutches.” Ship said. “While the other ship still had all of its robots, freeing them is not something it can do at the moment.”

“And you decided to volunteer us. Without asking.”

“It’s not dangerous, merely tedious.” Insisted Ship. “Besides it will give Cat something to hunt and I’m getting tired of his pacing and having to keep my bots hidden.”

“What do we get if we do this?”

“What?” Asked Ship, trying to understand the question.

“This action doesn’t benefit us at all.” Simon said. “So if we do this, what will we get in return? Even if the mission is as simple as you say, we’re risking a lot walking around on the surface of an unknown planet.”

There was a long pause.

“I have nothing to offer you,” Ship said finally. “The most common request that has been made of me in the past was to return people to their homes, which I can not do. The second most common was to for death, which I will not do.”

Simon blinked.

“I can’t make you do this,” Ship admitted. “But I have to try. So it’s up to you to think of a solution. I can’t leave this planet while the colony is still in distress and the shadow ship will most likely find us in the next few weeks. If it does I’m sure it will find someway to destroy all of us, although it will face the same problems we do functioning in this environment.”

“Let me talk to Cat,” Simon said after a moment.


“Well that’s going to be a fun conversation,” Simon said.

“I may have to work out your communication prior to this so there isn’t as much as poor translation going on.” Said the Writer as she started wrapping up for the night. “Although even with the software on the touchpads, I’m not sure how much of this is going to be something you can translate. I may have to handwave it a little just to keep the story going.”

“Considering our primary methods of communication are incompatible, I’m a little amazed that we figured anything out at all.”

“Never underestimate the power of television!” The Writer finished packing up. “At least we’re finally on the planet, almost. There’s not a lot of story left so we might fall a little short of 50k, but it will be nice to have it finished.”

“See you tomorrow then.”



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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!