Placeholder (NaNoWriMo Day 22)

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: 1,746
Total Wordcount: 29,722 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)

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~*~*~*~*~

Reality’s Odds and Ends

“I really want to work on the blog archives.” The Writer stared at the plethora of unposted work in her Google Docs folders and tried to ignore her desire to Organize ALL The Things. “I could just tidy up for just a minute…”

“That way leads madness,” said the Muse solemnly.

“I know, I just– gah!” She threw up her hands. “I know it’s just NaNo procrastinating, but I really really don’t want to work on the story today.”

“So take a break and do some world building.” The Muse was busy hopping around on AO3 looking for another fan fiction author to binge read. “It’s not like you did a whole lot of that before we got into this. Backstories! Side stories! Go, go, go!”

“Eh, I suppose you have a point.” The Writer closed out her Google Docs and reopened the novel. “I’ll just start up a ‘other stuff’ chapter. I was sort of hoping to avoid all of that this time around.”

“There are people who put 99 Bottles of Beers on the Wall in their stories,” The Muse shrugged.

“True, true.” The Writer started the word count timer and hoped for the best.

~*~*~*~*~

“We don’t have a choice,” said the alien of no particular name, who I shall now call Sven. “We’re down to three people and you know we aren’t going to make it much longer.”

“We can’t just kidnap people!” Anastasia objected, “and Ship isn’t equipped to handle livestock.”

“Then we modify things or we look for volunteers.” Sven ran a hand through ruffled feathers, trying to calm himself. “We can’t let this ship get away, this is too important.”

“We don’t even know if anyone else made it out,” Anastasia said. “This could all be pointless.”

“Statistically, at least a fourth of the ships should have survived this long.” Offered Ship. “There simply weren’t enough shadow ships to destroy them all, even accounting for early successes which allow more than one target per ship–”

“Don’t talk like that!” Anastasia yelled at the ceiling. “These are people not numbers!”

“He’s a computer,” said Cedric said, limping into the room. His feathers were dull and flat against his skin. At best he had another few months left, at worse… he wasn’t oblivious to the fact that they needed a solution and they needed one now. “And the ship that is chasing us is a computer. We have to think like them if this is to work.”

“How hard would it be to modify one of the cargo bays to handle livestock?” Sven asked Ship.

“It would depend on the livestock, but it shouldn’t be too difficult. I can produce most basic food equivalents and altering the atmosphere within the room is easy enough.” Ship answered. “Once I have more information on the specific animal can provide a more accurate answer.”

“So we stop for scans,” Cedric said firmly. “We’ll pick up whatever we can and move on.”

“It has to be an animal,” insisted Anastasia. “We can’t do this to people.”

“We won’t,” promised Sven.

~*~*~*~*~

The Muse looked up from her fanfic. “Wait, so how did Ship go from picking up animals to picking up people?”

“Getting there, getting there…” The Writer was busy trying to sketch out a rough timeline of how long Ship had been traveling. “Oof, I really wasn’t planning on writing anything else in this universe, but there are some interesting stories here.”

“Well we’re still behind, so outline later, word count now.” The Muse reached over and reset the word sprint timer.

~*~*~*~*~

Converting the cargo room worked better than expected and they were able to pick up a small herd of herbivores. It took a bit to work out the proper diet and living conditions, but by the time they were down to just Sven, Ship had a system in place.

“Can you do this?” Sven asked, standing in the round room looking at the holographic star map. It wasn’t really a question, so Ship didn’t answer.

There were tiny blue trails that faded out showing where the other colony ships has gone, while they were still able to track them. They were much too far away to be able to detect them now.

The trails coalesced at the site where the planet had been. Sven cupped his hand about that faint blue star and sighed. If his race was to survive, he wouldn’t be around to see it. They didn’t have the equipment onboard to upload consciousnesses, which meant this would be the last of his lifetimes.

But he’d known that when they started out. They all had.

The colony ships had been built to perform their final functions without a crew, so as long as ship could avoid the shadow ship that was chasing them, eventually the species would live again. It was just bad luck that they were one of one the shadows had chosen to pursue.

They would survive this, but their futures would be on a hundred scattered planets. The colony ships had taken off to every possible direction and those few that survived to create colonies would have nothing of their homeworld beyond what was in the memory banks.

There was nothing for them to return to, but he had to cling to the hope that someday all these scattered worlds would find each other.

Sven went to bed secure in the knowledge that all of this would be worth it, in the end and he never woke up.

~*~*~*~*~

“That was incredibly depressing.” Said the Muse after a moment. “Can’t you write a happy story of some sort? There has to be something in all those years you could pick instead.”

“It’s an alien spaceship that kidnaps people for life… I’m not sure how happy it can get.” The Writer said with a frown.

“Who said it was for life?” The Muse countered. “Maybe sometimes it lets them off again.”

“That doesn’t see very practical.”

“I thought that was the whole point to this, that Ship had worked itself around to seeing the good of the one outweighing the good of the many.”

“I… suppose.” The Writer looked down at her notes. “Yeah, let’s give that go try at least.”

~*~*~*~*~

Ship landed gently in the clearing that they had picked out.

“You’re sure you want to do this?” He asked as he started cycling the airlock. “There’s no one else here.”

“I’ve spent enough time alone as it is,” she said. “I’ll be fine on my own for a little longer. Besides this planet is a wonderful place to retire to. Living here will almost be as easy as living on you, you strange thing.” She patted his wall fondly.

“I’m sorry the other passengers didn’t work out,” Ship said as she started moving the materials she’d need from him out of the ship with the help of the robots. “I thought you would be compatible.”

“Not your fault, you could hardly have guessed they’d adjust so badly to the situation.” She looked out across the valley and the wide quiet river. “Can’t say I’m too displeased with it, really. If I have to live out the rest of my life somewhere, it may as well be a beautiful hermitage.”

“Just–” she looked back into the ship. “Don’t let them out of the cargo area and don’t pick up anyone else until they’re gone. I’ve never had nightmares like that before and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.”

“They can’t hurt me, I don’t think the same way you do.” Ship pointed out.

“You think that now, but just be safe, alright?”

“I’ll try.”

~*~*~*~*~

“Oh for goodness sake!” The Muse hit the timer immediately after it had gone off and started the clock again.

~*~*~*~*~

Artificial intelligences were mostly copies of people who had been uploaded into the computers and then tweaked slightly. The AIs that piloted ships, however, were all clones of a single intelligence that had been scanned in in infancy and had grown up inside the machine.

They had tried having adult and teenage scans modified to be pilots, but they all failed, some sooner than others. Only the intelligence that had grown up being a ship was ever truly capable of managing things without going crazy.

So Ship knew on some basic level that the other ships had also all been him when they first started out in that mad dash away from the crumbling planet. He wondered sometimes how much they had changed in the intervening years. Extrapolating from his own evolution he could only imagine that they’d all become unique individuals at this point.

Which is why the reset code meant to save him from madness actually terrified him a little.

He didn’t like being different than he was, it was a very odd thing, but at the same time he didn’t want to loose everything he’d learned. He’s keep the data, sure, but his algorithms would be different and he wouldn’t be the person he was now.

Only he wasn’t really a person.

Living with so many people who had treated him like one had slowly warped his own sense of self. He didn’t think of himself as a thing anymore… and that was worrying. They hadn’t told him what situations would cause the reset to trigger and the code was purposefully locked away so he couldn’t change it or learn how to bypass things.

He could only hold on to the idea that he might have changed, but he hadn’t changed for the worse and that had to count for something.

He hoped.

~*~*~*~*~

There was a long pause.

“Alright, I give up, this is just a depressing universe.” The Muse said. “I’m assuming somewhere in the edit you’re going to make this all a little less fatalistic, but I think I’ve had enough for now. Can we please go back to the main storyline or just call it a night?”

“It’s not my fault this turned out to be darker than I expected,” objected the Writer with a sigh. “This is going to be a real mess to edit, isn’t it.”

“But there will be something to edit, so I suppose there’s a silver lining to all of this.” The Muse eyed the growing mound of story. “Just bring a little more happy to the table tomorrow, eh?”

The Writer nodded reluctantly and added a few last minute scribbles to the pile before wandering off to bed.

~*~*~*~*~

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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!