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: 2,491
Total Wordcount: 36,729 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)
On The Road Again
“Let me guess, this is going to be one of the those days where you write a billion words in a desperate bid to try and catch-up to where we’re supposed to be.” Said the Muse as the Writer dashed into the faux-living room with a giant armful of notes.
“That’s the general idea, yes.” The Writer eyed the already overflowing table with a frown then shrugged and dumped everything on the floor. “I’m starting to think there is a really good chance I’m not going to finish this year, even with all the stuff I’ve written so far.” She looked at the messy desk and with a mutter cleared off onto the floor for good measure. “I’m crazy behind on formatting the posts for the blog as well.”
“So alternate formatting and writing. You know you’re going to want to procrastinate today anyway, use those powers for good!”
“Procrastination isn’t a superpower,” said Simon as he walked into the room followed by Cat and Ship. “It’s a lack of willpower.”
Cat sniffed, “I, for one, applaud your ability to get sidetracked by shiny things at a moment’s notice.”
Cat and the Writer shared a solemn nod as Simon sank into this comfy chair and the Muse crashed out on the couch.
“You aren’t a dog,” Simon said, exasperated, as Cat summoned his beloved beanbag chair and began to nest.
“I’m a large cat-like alien,” said Cat. “I don’t judge you for your for your pathetically weak human body, so don’t judge me for my– no wait, that is totally a lie.” He popped his head up to glare at Simon. “I judge you. So hard.”
“Can we just get on with the story?” Ship interjected. “The conflict between the dates of the planetside ship and I is… itchy. I need this resolved!”
“Fine, fine.” The Writer pulled her grumpy cat timer out of the piles on the floor and set it for a quick word sprint.
The clearing where the colony had been started looked perfectly fine and Simon frowned as Ship came in slowly. There was no sign of any large scale attack or damage and even though the other ship had said the colonists were attacked away from the base, it seemed off.
There was the shell of the colony ship, which had been almost completely stripped down to just it’s control module and a small army of flying and crawling bots. The bots were busy fabricating a new building of some sort, tending to a garden, and building some sort of new flying bot.
Ship landed carefully well outside of the range of the base so he didn’t disturb it with his jets. He was still uneasy about the time difference in their internal clocks and the explanation from the other ship on why the colony wasn’t further along after ten years was also unusual. Apparently instead of landing on purpose, they had landed out of necessity and had spent the first few years trying to repair the ship and leave.
The other ship’s explanation that they had not realized where they were when they first landed confused him, but it refused to elaborate on the damage to his sensors or it’s cause.
But uneasy or not, there was a colony to rescue and Ship couldn’t fight off the programming that insisted that goal take priority over anything else. Including his own safety.
Simon and Cat had geared up for the adventure with the help of Ship’s replicators. For the first time in a long while Simon was wearing actual clothing again, instead of his t-shirt and boxers, and Cat had was wearing a simple backpack harness that allowed him to carry the needed supplies. Simon’s backpack was considerably bigger, but Ship pointed out that Cat wasn’t having to carry his own food since he planned on hunting. Simon still wasn’t sure that was completely fair.
After the dust has settled, Ship popped open the airlock and Simon and Cat careful descended the ramp to the ground. They were greeted by a small gathering of bots from the colony and some of Ship’s bots accompanied then.
They wouldn’t be going to the colony proper, as there was no need, instead they loaded up onto the larger crawler bot from the company and headed south to the caves. Ship had landed them early in the morning, so they would have a good distance covered by the time they had to stop.
There had been some suggestion about simply driving through the night, since it was the bot in control, but apparently the colony ship didn’t want them moving in the darkness.
It wasn’t until they were safe inside the tents that night that they found out why.
“Well, that’s… an interesting start.” Simon said. “We probably need to do a tiny bit more explanation of what the hell’s going on in the next draft.”
“That’s because I don’t know what’s going on yet,” said the Writer with an eyeroll. “Pantsing.”
“So we’re basing the other ship’s reluctant to tell us what’s going on on what, exactly?” Asked Ship, slightly perturbed by the whole mess. “I understand it didn’t trust us before, but I’m clearly me and it’s also me, so how can I not trust myself?”
“So this ship went through a wormhole, which had never been done before.” The Writer said, starting to outline. “It would have emerged near enough to this planet to land safely, but it would have been too damaged for spaceflight, by the attack from the shadow ship and by the wormhole travel. It would have had no frame of reference for where they were, since it skipped ten years of travel ahead.”
“We need to retcon that with blank spaces in the hologram then,” Cat said from his nest. “And I don’t see why that would make the colony ship suspicious of us.”
“It could be there was significant damage to its sensors, so it had a hard time judging from space who he was.” Offered the Muse. “But that doesn’t make sense why it would keep up the secrecy once Ship had landed and it could do a proper verification.”
“Maybe the time issues?” Said Ship. “Those are honestly still bugging me. Where was this ship that it went ten years into the past and years ahead of me?”
“The years ahead is distance, not time.” The Writer pointed out. “That doesn’t count.”
“But it does, sort of.” Insisted Ship. “Look, our clocks differ by ten years, so that means it went back in time ten years. It also went ahead of me, by who knows how long, because you never really decided how long I’ve been traveling and we don’t know what point it jumped from. So the normal travel time could be a lot longer.”
Ship projected a starmap with his own path in blue and the other ships theoretical path in green. “Does that mean that a week ago it went through a wormhole to get to this position and the same time went back ten years in time or does it mean that years ago it went to this position and then also ten years back in time? You have to decide how much lying the other ship is doing, because that ten year gap could also be accumulated from a series of wormhole jumps. Ten years have passed to them, but that no longer has any relation to the outside universe.”
“Oh good grief.” The Writer looked from Ship to her notes and then over to her Muse. “Help?”
The Muse thought for a second, then sighed. “For simplicities sake, they jumped a few months ago, went back ten years, and came from almost the opposite direction of Ship’s path which is why they have no clue where they are. We could be more interesting on the rewrite, but let’s run with something we can understand for now.”
“Sounds good,” the Writer said, and reset the timer.
“Ship, what is that.” Simon said as the faint rustling sounds started to grow louder. It sounded almost like the ocean waves, the noise rising and the ebbing again. Cat had his eyes closed and was listening very carefully, but for now his coat was still mostly black with only quick fireworks of static along his flanks.
“It appears to be some sort of insect, said Ship after a moment. “They don’t appear to be at all dangerous, but there a millions of them.” There was a pause. “Please don’t open the tent to look.” The ship snapped as he turned one of the panels translucent instead.
Cat pulled a hand away from the door sheepishly.
There was a rolling fog that was pouring out of the forest and if Ship hadn’t said anything Simon would have assumed that’s all it was. But now that he knew they were bugs he could pick out the patterns that hinted at a swarm.
“How close are they going to get?” The swarm was still quite a distance, but was moving out from the forest in slow rolling waves.
“The colony ship said it should actually reach you later in the night. Which will be noisy, but harmless. I can increase the white noise generation to compensate.” Ship zoomed in a bit and they could see the mass of small flying insects dancing in the starlight. There was some faint phosphorus light to them, but nothing like the bright fireflies of home.
“Why didn’t the colony ship just tell us that to start with?” Simon said, annoyed.
“I don’t know,” said Ship. “I’m assuming since it was harmless that the ship simple assumed it wasn’t important.”
“That’s not a good precedent,” muttered Simon, but Ship didn’t answer.
Reluctantly Simon went to bed, but Cat stayed up a bit to watch the swarms.
The collapsible tent felt like false ground beneath his paws, but if he tried Cat could pretend he was on the other side of the translucent material, back where he belonged. If he closed his eyes enough that the nictitating membranes swung closed the tent blurred away and his kittenhood memories engulfed him.
The trees were wrong, branching in fractal patterns that ended in leaves instead of the feathery fronds of his home evergreens. The grasses were too tall, swayed too little in the breeze that was too soft to be real. But, but…
He’d spent decades aboard Ship, nearly a third of his lifetime confined to a tiny metal box that he could only escape in his dreams. Now he was as close to home as he’d ever get again.
Cat had made up his mind before he ever set foot off Ship that he wasn’t going back, but that was a fight for another day.
For now he watched the glowing fog as it swarmed towards them and dreamed.
“This was a bad idea.” Blue glared down at the last transmission from their ship. “What are we supposed to do when they get here? If they get here?”
She could tell Red was upset from the angle of his crest feathers, but the elder took his time responding. Blue tried to be patient, but she couldn’t stop herself from swaying slightly as her hindbrain insisted they take immediate action.
The incoming communication from the ship was incredibly simplistic, the interference from the trees and the cave walls allowed for little else, but it had managed to convey the outline of the plan. An outline that only provided an escape for two of them.
Red sighed and looked out across his flock. Blue and Green were the obvious choices, but there was something to be said for allowing Violet or Gray to be on the team. Whomever went would need to mount the secondary rescue for the rest of them and while Blue and Green were the youngest, they weren’t the best planners.
“There must be a reason to the ship’s plan,” he said finally. “So unless we can see a serious danger in following–”
“The thing is senile!” Blue snapped. “Isn’t that reason enough?”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Gray. “It doesn’t think like us, we’ve told you that a thousand times. Just because you don’t like the way it thinks doesn’t make it wrong.”
“We should wait and see,” said Violet and Green trilled his agreement. “Maybe there is a way to get all of us home that the ship hasn’t thought of. It’s working on limited information.” They had only been able to send Yes and No signals back to the ship. Even after several weeks of playing twenty questions, they weren’t sure how much it really understood about the situation.
“They have to make it past the herd first,” muttered Blue and that brought a bitter end to the conversation.
“Okay, the story is getting a little bit crowded all of a sudden,” the Muse objected as Red walked cautiously into the faux-living room. “Nothing personal bird-guy.”
“None taken?” He said as he looked around at the scattered furniture and the swirling story mists that surrounded him. “Would it be rude to ask where I am?”
“Purgatory,” offered Cat helpfully and Red looked over at the talking beanbag with alarm.
“There’s someone in there,” said the Writer. “We don’t have talking furniture. Unless you count Ship.” She added, thoughtfully.
“I am not funiture!” Ship objected with a sharp blast of his jets that ruffled the papers on the Writer’s desk.
“I said ‘unless’, sheesh.”
“You’re in the bits of the story that doesn’t exist yet.” Simon broke in to rescue Red from his confusion. “Think of it as standing outside the story and looking in. She writes things,” he pointed to the Writer who waved. “And she,” he pointed at the Muse, “err, makes things worse?”
“I’ll cop to that, it’s a valid description,” admitted the Muse.
“And I’m here, why?” Red was trying to get a look into Cat’s beanbag den without looking too obvious about it.
“Because the story suddenly got a lot more complicated,” admitted the Writer. “Why are there so many of you there? Why couldn’t you rescue yourselves? Why is the planetside ship lying about why you are trapped there and how many of you need rescuing?”
“Yeah, it takes some getting used to.” Said Simon. “Not what I was expecting from a Writer either.”
“She really has no idea?” Red looked over at Simon, slightly alarmed.
“It’s called ‘pantsing’ apparently and it’ll all get fixed in the next draft… assuming we can get this one finished.” Simon dug in the inter-dimensional cushion of his comfy chair and offered Red a stiff drink.
The bird took it with some hesitation, but happily chugged it once he realised what it was. “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
The Writer frowned, the Muse sighed, and Simon offered him another drink.