Placeholder (NaNoWriMo Day 5)

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: 1,325
Total Wordcount: 8,026 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)

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Rage in a High Tech Cage

Simon looked up from his tablet as the Writer attempted to sneak in from the story mists.

“Right, so… didn’t you say weekends were when you got a lot of wordcount?” He asked, putting away his research of Science Fiction TV Tropes. “I haven’t seen you all day.”

“I was working!” The Writer objected. “Just… not on this.” She sat down at the desk and gave the pile of story notes a frustrated glare. “And now that I have time, I’m a little burnt out.”

“Excuses.” Simon snapped and shrugged off the Writer’s glare. “Look, either you want to win this thing or you don’t. I’ve seen what you can do in a five minute sprint before. If you have fifteen minutes you have the time to make a daily word count.”

“I have to have some idea what I’m going to write!” The Writer objected.

“Swap POV then,” Cat said as he wandered into the proto-living room. “If you don’t know what to do with Simon give the rest of us a shot.”

“Hmm,” the Writer looked down at the story. “Couldn’t hurt I suppose.”

“Then we’re off.” Simon set the word sprint timer.


There was something wrong. Waiting-by-the-water prowled the corridors of the ship trying to pin down what his sense were telling him. His fur was fading from its calm black to an enraged white, dancing in static patterns across his body. Finally he realised that the door to the sixth crew quarters had vanished. He glared at the blank expanse of wall for a few minutes before slashing at the metal. The gouges healed a few seconds after he left them, but the screeching sound satisfied his frustration.

“There’s no need for that.” The voice of the computer still lacked the smells and body postures that rounded out the language, but the cat-like alien had learned to understand its pitiful attempts at communication.

“Who is it? What is it?” He snarled, tensing to strike again, night-black claws vivid against his pure white hand-paws. It was pointless, but it was all he could do. The computer had made it quite clear over the years that nothing he could do would cause permanent damage.

“It’s harmless.”

Waiting-by-the-water swung again, landing punches on the wall instead of claws, rejoicing in the fact that the occupant of the room had to be hearing the drum-like thuds. “The last one was harmless and you saw what it did!”

“And you killed it.” The computer snapped. “This one has no claws, no fangs, no poisons, no protective hide or scales. It is harmless and you will leave it alone.”

“Or you will hide it from me for all its life?” The cat sniffed, ears twitching as he waited for a response from the room. “Can it outlive me? Can it survive alone and trapped knowing that I wait outside its door?” He roared, a deep bellowing echo of pent up rage and frustration. “Let it out! Let me see what demons you have brought me this time!”


There was something on the other side of the wall.

Something that sounded angry and large.

Simon listened to the muted roar echo from behind the wall and looked down at the tablet that he had been given. It had minimal information about the other crew member, most of which boiled down to ‘don’t offend it.’ The alien looked something like a large panther with black and white fur that rippled like static in the short video clip.

“It can’t get through the wall.” The ceiling said. The unexpected noise made Simon start a little, but he quickly calmed.

“Did you have broadcasts from their world like you did from Earth?” Simon asked, frustrated with the lack of information.

There was a pause.

“Yes, I have several weeks worth. I have just made them accessible on the tablet, however you will not be able to learn or speak the language.” The computer said. “Their methods of conversation extend beyond the verbal, which unfortunately I did not recognize at the time.”

“So you can’t talk to it?’ Simon was starting to seriously reduce his chances of ever leaning the room.

“We have conversations, but they are… limited.” The voice said. “I have requested that they leave your quarters alone. I will not allow you to meet until the hostilities have been negated.”

“I’m trapped in here until then?” It wasn’t really a question, Simon was already pulling up the recorded broadcasts and the voice never answered the question.


After a faintly bland lunch and an even blander dinner Simon was finally starting to get a feel for the broadcasts. It seems to be similar to the combination of fiction and fact as Earth’s and there was plenty of chances to watch the interactions between cats.

The voice hadn’t been kidding when it said he would never be able to learn or speak the language. It was combination of housecat mews and yowls all the way up to tigers coughing purrs and lion roars. It sounded angry no matter the context, but he was slowly figuring out what actions let to what results.

And it was actions, not just noises that seemed to matter. Action, fur pattern and color, there was a hint from the videos that smell was also possibly a component. If the computer had worked out a way to communicate, it was at a very simple level that hopefully he could imitate.

It was very much like working out what emotional response he needed to use with humans, only the context was insane. He’d have one chance to get this right, otherwise those claws would likely be the end of him.

Simon kept at it until he was yawning to hard to follow what he thought might be a sitcom. Reluctantly he turned into bed. The faster he could work out how to interact, the faster he’d be let out of the room and the faster the roars and muted thuds of the cat hitting the wall would stop.


“I have a very odd name.” Cat said, after a long moment. “We can change that later, right?”

“Everything is just a placeholder,” the Writer said, “no pun intended.” She sat back in the chair and gave him a thoughtful look. “I was thinking something that showed a patient stalker, something contrary to what you’ve become. To show that movement from what you used to be on planet and what you’d become after decades of captivity.”

“I don’t mind that then, I suppose.” Cat yawned, showing off a very impressive set of fangs. “I am quite violent now, although I’d like to point out I’m sure I have very good reason.” He flopped down on the couch, looking up and the nonexistent stars.

“I have a couple of ideas,” the Writer said evasively.

Simon and Cat exchanged looks.

“Well at least my personality it turning out to be a plus,” said Simon. “Who knew the ability to mimic social interactions would be useful when you’ve been kidnapped by a spaceship.”

“I still think I’m going to eat you.” Cat said, studying the claws on one paw-hand. “Nothing personal.”

“I will lock you in your room first.” Snapped Ship, darting from the mists. “I can’t believe you are being so unreasonable about this.”

“If I had a good reason for killing the last crew member I’d assume that the reason carries over to this one. I did ask if he was dangerous.” Cat gave Simon a suspicious look, but it lacked effect since he was looking over at him upside down.

“I am dangerous!” Simon said, annoyed.

“I will lock both of you in your rooms.” Ship threatened.

“Right, and how are you doing that? You can’t make me do anything.” Cat said.

“I can knock you out and use the bots to move you.” Ship said. “That’s how I got you on board.”

“You wouldn’t dare!” Cat snarled and threw a couch pillow at the spaceship.

The Writer wanted to object, but they were throw pillows after all.

“Look, it’s late, I’m worded out, can we pick this up tomorrow?” She yawned. “I promise to get started earlier in the day!”

Her fictives looked at her.

“I promise to try.” The Writer grumped.

And they called it a night.


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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!

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