Placeholder (NaNoWriMo Day 28)

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: 1,988
Total Wordcount: 42,888 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)

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First Impressions

“I’m burnt out,” the Writer stared at the blank pages that waited patiently for words. “I know what happens next, but I can’t bring my fingers to start typing.” She’d cleared the desk off again and the piles of paper almost came level with its surface.

“But we’re so close to the end,” the Muse eyed the remaining word count. “There’s just over 7k left– You’ve written more than this in a single day some years, why not just get it done and over with?”

“I’ve written almost 10k in the past two days,” the Writer said dryly. “I don’t think that’s too shabby.” She leaned back in the chair with a mutter and a roll of her shoulders, which were starting to protest a month spent writing.

“Still…” The Muse sighed. “Look, if you don’t do this now what’s to say something won’t come up and stop you from writing at all the next two days. At least get the poor birds out of the cave, you owe them that much.”

“This is going to be the worst prose ever prosed,” objected the Writer half-heartedly.

“It’s NaNo.”



Blue had tried her best to be prepared for whatever was waiting for her at the top of the rocks, but when she came up over the crest and saw Simon and Cat she froze.

They were unlike any animal she had ever seen and while she knew rationally that they were there to help, she almost turned to run. But only almost.

With a stubbornness born of long hours in the training simulations Blue forced herself over the last bit of rock and up onto the ledge. Cat and Simon had moved as far away as they safely could and neither one of them moved from where they were sitting. Well, mostly. Cat’s tail moved and his coat was rippling in muted static patterns.

Blue took a moment to gather herself and smooth down feathers fluffed in alarm before she tried speaking.


“She knows we can’t understand her, right?” Simon whispered as the large blue bird started making noise while moving towards them slowly. Well large when compared to what he expected birds to be. Considering the side of the rooms in the ship, he’d been expecting something twice his size, not half of it. “Ship, are you getting any of this?”

“It appears to be some sort of greeting, but it’s a very odd dialect. Can you get me a bit closer so I can try talking to her?”

Simon very carefully stood up, moving slowly, but the bird still stuttered to a stop and floofed a bit. He held out the communicator so she could she it and after a few small head bobs her feathers settled again. He moved closer slowly until Ship told him to stop.


Blue was a thinking creature, she really really was. She was not going to react even if her hindbrain was screaming at her to either run or fight. She just hadn’t expected them to be so large. Or so not-people-shaped. It wasn’t her fault that she’d had a bit of a start when the small not-furry one stood up and was sudden so much taller than should have been possible.

In her head she was still trying to make them be people-shaped, but their skeletons were nothing alike. But if she squinted a little, they weren’t quite as scary. So she kept her eye slightly unfocused as it walked towards her. All she’d said was ‘hello’, they should have been able to understand that.

“Blue?” Asked the handheld that the creature was carrying and she almost fluffed with relief that it was the sound of a ship. It sounded different that her ship, but there it was close enough to be kin. She had to resist the impulse to grab the handheld away and was surprised when the non-fur put it on the ground and stepped away.

She waited for him to get at least a heartbeat away and then pounced on the handset.

“You can hear me! Where is our rescue? Did you find a way to come pick us up?” She was speaking much too fast and she knew that, but she couldn’t slow down. They were finally getting rescued. No one was going to die.

“Slow down,” said the Ship, it was speaking very slowly and the accent was all wrong, but she could follow as long as it stayed simple. “I cannot fly there. My crew will help you escape.”

“How?” Blue demanded. She hadn’t heard anything that sounded like a good plan while they were in the caves. “Only Green and I can climb the rocks fast enough!”

“That’s why we have to flock together,” said the ship. “Can they come close so I can translate?”

Blue looked at the two aliens and then down at the handset and then back at the aliens.

She really wanted to say no.

But she was a thinking creature, so she said yes instead and then tried very hard not to run as they came just close enough where the handset could hear them clearly. Only the non-fur was making noise, the fur was still all rippling patterns, but no noise. The non-fur and fur seemed to communicate somehow by gestures and some small sounds, but nothing like speech. She wondered if they were truly people after all.


“I’m not going to eat her,” Cat said with some annoyance as Blue continued to not-quite cower in front of them. “She wouldn’t be tasty even if I did.” The two of them had sat down again in the hopes that being smaller would help, but it didn’t seem to be doing a lot of good.

“That’s hardly comforting,” Simon objected. “Now what ideas does she have on how to get them out of here?”

“She expected me to fly down and pick them up, apparently.” Ship said.

“Right,” Simon sighed. “Okay, ask her if there is a way to make climbing the rocks easier so the others can get out.

Ship translated as best he could and Blue gave him what Simon assumed was an ‘you idiot’ look before replying. He’d met parrots before and they all seemed fond of looking at him like that.

“She said that we could carve some handholds and that might be enough for Violet and possibly Gray, but that Red is too old. They had to carry him to the caves when they were running from the herd the first time.” There was another angry chirp. “And they won’t leave him, even if that means they all die.”

“Well that’s great.” Simon looked over at Cat. “So what have got in the way of moving the herd where we want it?”

Cat yawned and showed off his impressive jaws, but it just made Blue flinch and Simon cuffed his head. Cat shrugged and rolled over on his back to see if being lower and upside down would help Blue. It seemed to, at least a little.

“So we have calls that they made for several things. We could use the food call to lure them out, but we don’t have any food to keep them there once they go.” Simon frowned as Ship kept the translation going for Blue. “We have a danger call that should, in theory, make them come haul ass to stomp on whatever it is dangerous. And then there’s the noise they made when Cat scared them, but I’m not sure if that would make them come or go.”

Blue chatted with Ship for a moment and Simon waited for the translation. They were working out a pattern of ebb and flow to the conversations and it looked like Blue was starting to relax a little.

“Crying danger would be best,” said Ship. “She said they tried stockpiling food and using it to lead them away when the first group was captured. But as soon as they hear the danger call they drop whatever they are doing and return.”

“Wait, so they got attacked twice?” Simon asked.

“Yes, apparently the older group was out and the younger group was nearby, but doing another task. When the older group called for help they had gotten up on the rock, but were cornered. The younger group managed to distract them long enough for everyone to get in the caves, but not away.”

“So it sounds like the danger cry is the one we’re going with then.” Simon looked down at Cat who was trying his best to look cute and cuddly. Blue wasn’t buying his charades. “I’m assuming you are volunteering for transmitter planting duty?”

“I am fast and stealthy and unquestionably the right choice.” Cat said. “But we don’t have any transmitters.”

“I can provide those by early tomorrow morning,” said Ship. “I’ve figured out a way to bring in things by drone, but it has to come to a specific drop point and I won’t be controlling it for the last portion of the flight.”

“Easy enough, we aren’t moving anytime soon,” said Simon as he looked down at the herd with a sigh. They were milling about, having been called back from grazing, and slowly the animals were heading out again. There was a solid line of watchers guarding the cliff and carefully tracking every move the three of them made.

“Is there a point to learning how to talk to them?” Cat asked from his boneless sprawl on the rocks. He was watching Blue of of the corner of his eyes as she talked to Ship.

“Ship?” Simon repeated the question when their conversation paused.

“You won’t be here very long,” Ship pointed out. “And the chances of us ever running into another flock is tiny.”

“If we can defeat the shadow ship, can we go home?” Simon asked. “And if we can’t go home, why can’t we stay here? Wouldn’t two colony ships be safer than one?”

“We have no weapons,” said Ship. “There’s no way to defeat the shadow ship. But if we could, turning around to take you back would risk us running into another ship. Plus Cat’s planet is many decades behind us now, he wouldn’t survive the trip back.”

Cat frowned and pretended to be very interested in the condition of his claws.

“And we can’t stay here, the whole point to multiple colony ships is that we each claim our own planet, that way if anything like the war happens again it will only happen to one of us.” Ship said firmly. “Most likely I will simply keep running until the other ship can no longer repair itself.”

“Which will take how long?” Simon wasn’t sure he really wanted to know.


Yeah, he hadn’t wanted to know.

“Well we don’t have anything else to do tonight,” Simon finally said. “If she wants to talk to us, I’m more than happy to, but we can just chat amongst ourselves.”

Ship chirped at Blue who make it quite clear that she’d love it if they moved further away from her, so Cat and Simon moved back over into the tent.


“Garbage, all garbage,” The Writer glared down at the new story pages with a growl.

“If rough drafts were perfect they wouldn’t be rough drafts,” the Muse pointed out, trying to pull herself out of the epic Jurassic Park fanfic she’d found. “Right now we need the messy bulk of a story out and on paper, sanity will come with the edits.”

“I keep thinking the plot it too slow or too fast and that nothing seems hard enough. I think I need to put in more things where they fail at stuff. Rar.” The Writer poked at the pages. “I know, I know, ‘it’ll get fixed in post’, but it’s still annoying.”

“Well annoying or not, they still aren’t actually rescued yet…”

“Tomorrow, I promise!”


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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!