Placeholder (NaNoWriMo Day 4)

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: 2,162
Total Wordcount: 6,700 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)

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~*~*~*~*~

Ask a Stupid Question..

“This is a very odd way to write a story.” Simon was watching the Writer as she broke out the colored pens and index cards in an attempt to figure out what facts the story had already established. “I know you tried in October to get the story outlined, but making it up as we go along seems so… messy. Can we at least hammer out a little bit before we keep going?”

“I tend to come up with the best ideas organically. My brain is really good at taking what I’ve already laid out and then coming up with these neat connections.” The Writer paused over the Precursor Aliens card and then finally put a big question mark on it. “Right now we’re just finding all of the ideas that we might be able to work with.”

“Is my conversation with Ship nothing but exposition then?”

“Sort of, but I’m trying to find ways to introduce conflict.” She frowned at the ‘time and space travel’ index card.

“It’s a lot easier writing non-fiction, I don’t suppose you’d rather just write that?” Simon offered. He’d written plenty of self-help books, surely it couldn’t be that bad to be in one.

“Stop complaining and get back on the ship…”

~*~*~*~*~

It look Simon longer than he was happy admitting to calm down again. The voice in the ceiling was silent the entire time, although Simon was sure who (or what) ever it was hadn’t left the monitors.

When the shock wore off, he got up off the bed and went over to what he assumed was the window. When he ran his hand along the expected glass there was a ripple, like heat waves off hot pavement, and a slight resistance that increased as he pushed.

“It’s a force field, or something close to that.” Offered the voice. “There’s a lot of things I’m not going to be able to explain. The time required to teach you the underlying sciences would exceed your lifespan.”

“‘Magic’ is also a good answer then,” Simon replied dryly. “But I see your point.” He stared out at the stars for a long moment.

“So why me?” He finally asked.

“Because I need you.”

“For what? I write self-help books for humans, so unless you’ve got a few more people hiding around that’s not a skill set that seems at all useful.”

“Your skills aren’t the reason I need you.” The voice replied in what Simon assumed was meant to be a calming manner, but came off as rather patronizing. “Be assured you have value to me, even if you don’t know what that is.”

“No.”

There was a pause.

“Excuse me?” The voice sounded much more stilted. “Please rephrase, I am not understanding your response. I am assuming it is an idiom I am not familiar with.”

“No means no.” Simon looked up at the ceiling. “And there is no greater context than that. You have said something I don’t agree with and I am voicing that disagreement. I am assuming there is the concept of dissent in your language.”

“I don’t see why you think you have a voice in the matter.” The ceiling voice had gone quite cold and clipped.

“This is, quite literally, my life on the line. So I should play along and agree with whatever you propose? That seems childish.” Simon returned to sit on the bed, looking out the window and ignoring the ceiling. There was a risk in antagonizing the voice, but there was also quite a good chance that his life was of less value than it had suggested.

If all they needed him for was to continue living, then he could be facing life in a zoo or other exhibit. At best they might need him as a pseudo-ambassador to prove that there was intelligent life on Earth. But he was certainly replaceable, unless there was some reason they couldn’t return to the planet, which his seamless abduction appeared to disprove.

“That’s all the explanation you are getting for now.” The voice snapped. “For the moment you appear harmless, but if you want to fear something, then fear me. I won’t be letting you out of this room until I’m sure you don’t pose a danger to the other crew.”

“You kidnapped other people?” Simon was a little surprised that the internal voices that normally objected to the rest of humanity seemed pleased with the idea.

“The crew is not human, but you should be compatible.” There was a pause. “Assuming you are as harmless as your broadcasts indicate. I am assuming from the fiction I’d received that dangerous individuals match a certain physical profile that you don’t appear to have.”

Simon let that go without comment.

“Please let me know when you required a second meal. I have extrapolated your needs as best I could, but there may be some tweaking of the schedule and contents required.”

A small screen appeared on the wall and another recessed storage unit opened, this one holding something that looked like it might be a tablet.

“In the meantime, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the current situation. Your technology was advanced enough I am assuming you will know how to use these. If not, speak and I will hear you.”

Simon almost instinctively said ‘thank you’, but resisted. He was in no mood to play nice anymore. The voice had shown itself to be somewhat emotional, but not particularly vindictive or rage-prone. The fact that it was offering information, even if he had a feeling it would be highly censored was a good sign. He got up from the bed, grabbed the tablet and gave the wall screen a cursory glance.

The screen appeared to be a diagnostic report on the room, showing ambient temperature, humidity, lighting, and air composition. There were a variety of sliders and he noted that they all were limited in range. Probably to keep him from killing himself, based on the voice’s previous assertion that most kidnappees took this badly.

He wondered how many people had died before they figured it out.

On the way back to the bed it occurred to him that he was assuming the ship had kidnapped humans before. Playing the conversation back in his mind he noted that the voice did appear to be unfamiliar with his species, so there was a chance he was the first one captured.

Kidnapped, captured, abducted– he still wasn’t quite sure what to call this.

~*~*~*~*~

Simon walked back out of the story fog, still holding the tablet and followed by Ship who was keeping out of arm’s reach.

The Writer, however, was nowhere to be seen.

“Really? We just got started.” Simon put the tablet down on the wooden end table and went digging in the comfy chair cushions for a drink. “You’d think she would at least hang around to see what we came up with.”

“This is my first NaNo too,” said Ship. “I haven’t a clue how any of this works other than there is apparently zero planning and we’re pretty much in charge.”

“I don’t suppose that means we can come up with a better plot while they’re gone?”

“Why not?” Ship gave a bit of a shake and his form flowed down until he had assumed a silvery male humanoid shape. He rummaged in the couch cushions for a soda. “So our general premise is that I kidnapped people to take the place of my original crew, who died of natural causes or by accident. The reason I need them is because I’m being chased by a slightly stupider ship and I need it to keep chasing me.”

“So if we need it to chase you, what things could go wrong that would jeopardize that?” Simon sat down in the chair and sipped his bourbon thoughtfully.

“I could not have enough life-signs.” Ship noted. “So anything that endangers the lives of you or Cat.”

“You could slow down for some reason, which means they could catch up. I’m assuming their job is to destroy you?”

“Correct,” Ship nodded, he was trying out various forms of sprawling lounge on the couch. “I could also go too fast and they would lose the signal and stop chasing me.”

“It could go too slow as well,” Simon pointed out. “So damage to that ship could also cause issues. Wait, what happens if we destroy that ship somehow, wouldn’t that solve things?”

“If the ship is destroyed they will send another ship and that one might realize I’m a decoy.” Ship pointed out.

“But it would take years to catch up to you, wouldn’t it? You’ve been keeping ahead of the other one by just a hair on purpose, but you aren’t that much faster.”

“It’s been centuries since I left. Technology must have gotten better in the meantime.” Ship frowned. “But if it has, wouldn’t that mean they’d have already sent a more powerful ship after us?”

“And if we’re using time dilation and space travel, you’ve been gone for centuries to you. That means you could have been gone millennia at home.” Simon paused and gave Ship a thoughtful look. “Has it ever occurred to you that the civilization that you’re doing this for might be dead and gone at this point? Whatever it is that you are playing a decoy for might no longer be important.”

“Hmm, let’s try this.” Said Ship. “The planet I’m from is long gone because it was destroyed in some event. I am a decoy for one of the actual colony ships that escaped the explosion and is off to resettle somewhere else using embryos and genetic technology that will allow us to recreate our homeworld on a compatible planet.”

“We launched hundreds of ships, some decoy, some colony with the remaining survivors and there were people chasing us for some reason, but they didn’t have as many ships. So if this one is destroyed there won’t be another one coming.” Ship paused, thinking of the giant plot holes in this plan. “But if it thinks we are destroyed it will leave to find and destroy another ship, or colony if it finds one.”

“Wait, so there’s nothing stopping us from destroying it though?” Simon looked infinitely more interested in the story now that there might be a space battle waiting in the wings.

“I have no weapons and I’d be hard-pressed to get it to crash into anything.” Ship said, morosely. “I don’t see what good it would do even if we could. I suppose I could get it to follow me into something lethal, but it would most likely be a suicide run and I’m not fond of that idea.”

“You’re basically on a really long suicide run,” Simon pointed out.

Ship ignored him.

“So there were limited participants on each side of this thing.” Simon said. “If we destroy this one, or find some way to defeat it, that means we could turn around and find someone else and help them. Alternately we could run into a second bad guy ship, if it had gotten rid of its corresponding good guy.”

“The second one isn’t a pleasant possibility, but yes.”

“Also, have you never run into another species with spaceships? What happens if we run into someone who can fight back for us? Or who sees both ships as a threat?”

“I hadn’t, up until this point.” Ship sighed. “I suppose it’s something to add into the pot of ‘things that could do wrong’.”

“So what, we just pick one and run with it?” Simon asked. “I’m not sure how this works, but aren’t we supposed to have some overarching thing that resolves at the end of the book?”

“That should be our triumph over the bad guy ship and then your choice of whether to stay or go” Ship said. “But that would mean the space travel doesn’t have time effects, otherwise you’d have nothing to go back to.”

“Huh, good point.” Simon frowned thoughtfully. “So let’s rule out the time dilation and play warp coils with the whole thing. We’re going to black box everything anyway. May as well add that to the list.”

“Whoops, sorry about that!” The Writer wandered back into the pseudo-living room with a yawn and a stretch. “I got side-tracked playing Final Fantasy. Again.” She looked over at Ship’s new humanoid form suspiciously. “What have you two gotten up to while I was gone?”

“Plotting,” said Ship, innocently.

“You aren’t keeping that body in story.” The Writer insisted as she headed over to her writing desk to check and see if they’d be messing with her notes. “And you don’t have any glaring new plot twists to throw at me, right?”

Simon and Ship exchanged looks.

“No?” Simon finally said.

“I don’t like this body much anyway,” Ship sniffed, finishing his soda. “This isn’t efficient at all.”

“I’ll take that as a good thing,” the Writer settled down and picked up a pen. “So, ready to rumble?”

~*~*~*~*~

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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!