Placeholder (NaNoWriMo Day 23)

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: 2,230
Total Wordcount: 32,414 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)

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“You’re organizing your fan fiction archives again,” pointed out the Muse from the couch. She was sharing it with Cat who was sprawled haphazardly across her and the cushions in a boneless nap.

“I can’t help it!” The Writer tried to pull herself away from organizing the archives. “It’s got cutting and pasting and formatting and spreadsheets and calendars and, and, and…” Her eyes glazed over with procrastinating joy.

“Well leave it be,” the Muse snapped. “You’ve got twenty thousand words left to write and only seven days to write it in!”

“That’s only, what,” The Writer checked the NaNoWriMo stats page, “2.5k a day? I can do that easily!”

“Only you haven’t been.” Pointed out the Muse. “And just because you can doesn’t mean you will.”

“Which is why I lose NaNo’s. I know, I know.” The Writer sighed and reluctantly put away her archiving tools. “I want to write this story, I do, there’s just all these other things I want to do too. Suddenly. For no reason.”

“It’s just procrastination and you can do them next week,” the Muse said firmly. “You made a promise to these fictives that they’d get their story, even if it was a really crappy rough draft. Which it is.”

Cat made a muffled noise of agreement in his sleep.

“Alright, fine.” The Writer pulled out her story notes. “Where were we again?”


It took Simon and Cat a few hours to work out enough vocabulary to be able to have the conversation about Ship’s request. Ship stayed quiet and out of the way while they worked, but he did flash up helpful comments now and then on the touchpad.

“I still think this is a trap,” said Cat with a growl. “Even if it is the simplest answer, there are a lot of unknowns. But there may be people, of a sort, who need our help.”

“I don’t think we should do this for free,” insisted Simon. “It cheapens our contribution and I don’t want risking our lives to become something it’s assumed that we’ll do whenever asked.”

“What could Ship give us? Food? Luxuries?” Cat said, dismissively. “It has taken our futures and nothing will give those back again.”

“It could make us proper crewmembers,” said Simon. “Ones with a vote and a voice instead of unruly cargo that’s ignored whenever convenient. There’s no way it would ever give us control, but I want some sort of say in my own fate.”

“It would be false control,” said Cat. “I’m sure there are safeguards in place to prevent anyone from getting true override over the ship.”

“False control is better than none,” Simon leaned back against the wall, suddenly very tired of the whole situation. Tired of being kidnapped. Tired of having to ‘wait and see’ for every major event. Tired of having to envision a future where this was all that was left.

He wondered for a moment if the shadow ships really would destroy them when they caught up or if they’d focus only on the ships. But if he hated being trapped on the ship, he hated the thought of having to scratch out a living on a hostile alien planet even more.

Simon had no idea how long he had been on the ship, but he hadn’t been tracking the passage of time on purpose. Once he realized that he would be spending the rest of his life on the ship, he couldn’t bring himself to care. Without other humans, cultural touchstones of time were irrelevant. Birthdays, holidays, what did any of it matter? No day was any more important than another now.

It might be an illusion of control, but he knew where they were, what they were doing, it would give some structure back to his life.

He could only hope Cat agreed.


Cat had long ago come to peace with the fact that his life was no longer under his control and while he wasn’t happy with the idea, it was on he could deal with. He was a little worried that Simon seemed so determined to bring any hint of control back to his life. If the human truly couldn’t accept the fact that he was no longer captain of his own destiny, then his life would most likely be a short and frustrating one.

But Simon didn’t have to end up like the other crewmates Cat had had, this time there was communication. Perhaps Cat could teach him how to live without that control and to accept, no matter how grudgingly, the idea that Ship was in charge.

This was the first time they had true leverage over Ship and it did make his claw tingle a bit to be in a position to finally demand answers to his lifetime of questions. If he hadn’t worried that success in this would feed into Simon’s unbalance, he would have leapt on the opportunity.

As it was… he thought long and hard about his answer.


Ship still couldn’t follow the conversation between Cat and Simon, but he could understand Simon’s end of their attempts at translating concepts. So he had a rough idea of what they were talking about, but the problem with that is those basic concepts had such a wide range of possibilities.

He was a bit worried about that they would demand of him in exchange for helping the colony, but he was prepared to offer just about anything. The more pragmatic part of his processing pointed out that if the demands were too extreme, he could simply leave them on the planet and replace them with suitable wildlife, which the planet had on hand.

The existence of that wildlife was probably one of the reasons that the other colony ship had chosen it to land on. In the unlikely event of being found by a shadow ship, the colonists could have hidden within the herds and gone unnoticed by the scans.

The other colony ship was being very evasive in answering his questions, which Ship was trying not to take personally. If anyone should trust him, it was an alternate version of him. But some of the things the planetside ship had said didn’t make any sense and taking that information as true, he could see how that ship might view him with suspicion as well.

If it was to be believed, that colony ship had been on planet for at least ten years, which shouldn’t have been possible. The scary bit was the internal clocks for both ships disagreed on the current date. That could have been a result of an error somewhere in the timekeeping mechanism, but the planet ship had recalibrated itself several times and Ship could find no errors in the methodology used.

The two ships were currently trying to work out a method they could both agree on to determine which current date was correct, but for the moment they had to agree to disagree. Which grated on both of them since having a known value out of alignment triggered all sort of logic warnings.

The planetside ship refused to provide any guesses as to how they arrived at the planet ahead of Ship and he honestly couldn’t find any himself.

So he just tried not to think about it.


Still not on the planet,” pointed out the Muse without looking up from her tablet.

“Working on it! Goldarnit…


“We’ll do it only if you make us proper crewmembers, keep us fully informed of the situation, and allow us control over issues that don’t negatively impact to your overall mission.” Simon said.

Ship thought about this for a moment. It had fallen in line with one of his guesses on how they would approach the issue, but was less demanding than anticipated. There didn’t seem to be any issues with allowing them control over non-vital aspects of things and while he was reluctant to explain what was going on, he couldn’t think of a way they could use it against him.

Spaceships were poor targets for guilt-tripping.

“What is your definition of ‘proper crewmember’?” He asked.

“We want to be treated the same way the original crew was treated. Same access levels, same authorizations.” Simon said.

“The original crew was non-technical in nature,” Ship pointed out. “They had additional access to information, which you have already requested, but otherwise served in much the same capacity. However, I have no objection to granting you the same sort of ceremonial ‘crew’ designation, if you’d like it.”

“Then you agree to the terms?” Asked Simon.


“Good, then let’s get started planning this madness out!”


They ended up taking over the round room and using the holographic projector to plan out their approach to the planet and start making guesses on how to get from point a to point b once landed.

“So the colony ship, or what’s left of it, is easy to get to?” Simon asked as Cat prowled around the projection, getting a good feel for the overall planetary layout.

“So it says,” said Ship. The site of the colony was indicated in blue on the map and looked to be in a pleasant position in a plains-like area with both a forest and larger lake within easy traveling distance. “We should be able to get relatively close to where the colonist have taken refuge in the caves, but there is some sort of interference that will prevent me or any of my drones from following.”

The cave system was actually a combination of caves and incredibly dense forest that lay to the south of the original colony. Ship estimated it would take Simon and Cat several days on foot to reach them, even after taking a motorized vehicle to the edge of the interference. Ship didn’t want to get too close himself because he wasn’t sure what sort of damage the area could cause.

Simon was not looking forward to the walk, but Cat seemed to be raring to go.

“And we have no clue what the wildlife issue is other than they’ve been trapped in the caves?” Ask Simon.

“The other ship claims to have no detailed video of the creatures and that whatever happened took place while the colonists were out on a rover checking on one of the atmospheric probes. I have to say it sounds a bit suspicious,” Ship admitted. “However the ship has gotten the probes as close as it can and there does appear to be something moving in the forest.” He provided the video clips, but the shapes were blurry and pixelated. “They appear to be roughly the size of a whitetail deer, only more heavyset.”

“You’ve got handhelds for us, right?” Simon frowned at the video. “Will they be able to communicate with you while we’re out there?”

“I have no idea. The other Ship appears able to communicate with the colonists, so I would imagine so.”

“Speaking of communication, how are we going to talk to these people?”

“I will provide translation through the handhelds as well as written communication.” Ship said crisply. “I have created laminated cards explaining the situation that can be easily read from some distance. The colonists will not have weapons on them and it should serve as a white flag of sorts.”

“It’s not fancy, but it should work. I hope.” Simon sighed and looked over the map again. The area where Ship couldn’t go was overlaid in red and it seemed to be following a canyon that carved its way through the mountains. “So how far behind us is the shadow ship?”

“A safe distance,” said Ship.

“Which is?”

“At least two weeks, planet-time. Which should be plenty of time for us to rescue the colonists and then figure out a way to hide them so it continues chasing us instead.”

“Or we could just find a way to destroy it.” Countered Simon.

“Not something I am equipped to do!” Said Ship, who had been fending off the suggestion since he’s explained to Simon and Cat the totality of the situation.

“We’ll work on that,” Simon grinned and they went back to planning out the minutia of their rescue attempt.


“I’m pretty sure that Ship explaining what the hell is going on should be said in the actual text somewhere,” Simon said as he wandered into the room looking for someplace to plug in his tablet so it could recharge. “Sure, we’ve hashed that all out here, but unless you’re going to add that information into Ship’s POV scenes in the edit, it needs to happen on screen at some point.”

He gave up and magiced an outlet into existence in the side of his end table. The Writer thought about objecting to the blatant misuse of protostory power, but he was already plugged in and surfing the internet again.

“I’m still not 100% sure of what the backstory actually is still, so I figured I’d handwave a bit.” The Writer looked down at her notes, most of which were caught up in a war between the doodle plot dragons. She erased the beginnings of a fire at the corner of her table of contents and started putting things away with a sigh.

“You’ve got plenty of time left, right?” Simon looked up from surfing Imgur at the Writer’s despondent tone.

“I hope so.”


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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!