Hello! I haven’t posted in a while, but I’m still alive, and am in fact planning on dabbling in the self publishing arena with some shorts. If all goes as planned the first one will be out sometime early next month.
The first one will be my novelette, In The Water, plus an additional short that is undecided as of yet. If this goes well I will see about trying to have a pack of three or four shorts out every few months.
Here is the opening of In The Water for a little sample of what to look forward to!
The ship shook around him and the lights dimmed as fuel jettisoned out the breached tank and froze, leaving a glittering trail of crystals in the black vacuum. Jame Willard focused the viewscreen on the planet ahead, doing his best to hold it steady as the engines shuddered.
“You sure about this?” said Willard, looking to engineer and acting navigator Mathus French. “It looks like mostly ocean.”
French shrugged. “Jillian knows this sector like her own neighborhood. She sounded damn sure, you heard her.”
Willard stole a glance at the remaining crew behind him. Navigator Ami Jillian, medical officer and communications expert Travor Young, and executive officer Soolin Bratford lay strapped to gurneys taken from the medibay, asleep―or in “hyperactive coma” as Young had called it before falling into one of his own.
None of them had spoken since Jillian’s brief moment of lucidity, when she’d directed them to this planet as the best option for help. Willard sighed and turned back to the controls. It was too late to change his mind now. He had no choice but to trust her.
They drew closer, the tanks spraying out the last of the fuel. All Willard could see of the planet were sparkling oceans and swirling clouds. “There better be some land on the other side,” he said, and dipped irreversibly into the world’s gravity well.
“Drop the fuel tank,” added Willard. “Taking that down with us would be suicide.”
“Right.” French pressed a button. The ship rocked as the tank detached and floated away, driven by the pressure of the escaping fuel.
“Still no hails?” The blue and grey sphere expanded quickly on the screen. Without direction from whoever lived there, finding a place to land would be nearly impossible.
“Nothing,” said French. He looked at Willard, his usually confident eyes wavering with worry. “No encoded light signals, not even radio. Nothing at all.”
“There has to be.” Willard brought up his own communications panel, but it was just as blank as French’s. “They must be using a nonstandard encoding. We really need Young for this.”
“Should I try to…wake him?”
“No time.” Willard flicked a switch, and an automatic harness strapped him securely into his chair. “We’re gunna have to go in blind.”
Willard rocked in his seat as the ship rumbled and groaned, crashing through the first of the atmosphere. He thumbed a button that extended the ship’s wings, giving him some limited steering ability.
“Oxygen readout looks good,” French shouted over the increasing noise. “She was right on that much, at least.”
They broke through the cloud level and plunged toward the sea. Willard pulled at the controls, doing his best to keep them falling at an angle. “Any sign of land?”
“I’m gunna have to pop the chutes soon, you sure there’s nothing I can aim for?”
French shook his head. “Just water, as far as I can see.”
Willard cursed and searched the horizon for any break in the flat, blue line. There was nothing―only the endless rolling waves sparkling in the sunlight. He pulled a handle and a half dozen emergency parachutes shot into the sky, catching the air.
Willard’s stomach flattened against his spine, and he sank into the G-absorption gel of his seat. An instant later he could breathe again, and they floated gently toward the expansive sea, swinging back and forth beneath the massive chutes.
“Send out an emergency signal,” said Willard. “All encodings that we have available.” He watched their altitude drop, the numbers on the screen flickering away before they could even be read.
With two hundred meters to go, he disconnected the chutes and crashed into the water. He slammed back into his chair again, the gel cradling him. He saw the chutes float away and land harmlessly in the waves.
The bobbing and rocking of the ship calmed, and Willard unstrapped himself and scanned the sensor readouts for signs of flooding. The ship was built to float, but going through a violent reentry after already being damaged could cause major problems.
He saw no immediate signs of concern and stood up, his joints popping and his muscles singing with relief at finally being unfolded from the chair. He ran his hands through his hair and let out a heavy sigh.
“Now what?” said French, unstrapping himself.
“Now we wait for someone to find us.”
The ship rocked gently in the waves. Six hours with no rescue, no sign of land, and no response to their signal, Willard’s trust in Jillian’s decision to send them to this place began to fail.
He’d moved his crewmates back to the medibay and now sat watching over them as he munched on a packaged sandwich. They all seemed so serene, but if he looked closely, he could see their pupils flickering constantly beneath their eyelids. Any moment one could wake up and speak, as Jillian had―sitting up straight, face still and calm, eyes wide with sudden awareness. She’d spoken the coordinates, said help would be found there, then lay back on the gurney once more. Willard had since strapped them down to prevent them from injuring themselves or wandering away.
Young seemed to think it was some kind of virus before he’d succumbed to it himself. Willard just wished he could talk to them. Something had happened on that station before they left, and if he had the details, maybe an answer would present itself.
He thought back over it again, though the memories were hazy with alcohol. They’d been on Coron. The planet was a gas giant, so the station was built on some of the larger chunks in the planet’s rings―made for a great view.
He’d been at the bar with French, having drinks and trying to decipher the sport on the holovid. French joked about Young getting shot down by Jillian once again, and how he was probably sulking back on the ship rather than doing all the work he said he was backed up with. Jillian and Bratford were on the dance floor in the crowd, out of sight.
The people there gave Willard the creeps. It felt like they were all staring at him, even when he could see they weren’t.Everyone seemed like they had eyes in the back of their head―and in the sides of them too. Despite how packed the place was, he never so much as bumped shoulders with someone. Walking through the crowd made him feel like a boat cutting through waves; the people moved smoothly out of his way without even looking. They must have weirded out Jillian and the XO too, because after only ten minutes on the floor they came storming out of the crowd of dancers, pulling on their jackets.
Bratford grabbed Willard’s arm and leaned in to be heard over the music. “Pay up, Wings,” she said. “We’re leaving.”
He remembered standing up and scanning his card, and when he turned around a group of people blocked their path to the exit.
One of them stepped forward; he was shaved bald as was the fashion, and dangling jewelry hung from his nose and lips and ears. “We’re sorry,” he said. “Please, just stay a while longer.”
Bratford pushed through them, and Willard followed. The people continued to apologize and insist that they stay, but it didn’t get physical until he and the crew reached the docking bay. Then the crowd seemed to get desperate and tried to restrain Bratford and Jillian. Willard remembered pushing and punching, throwing people to the ground as they rushed to get into their ship.
As Willard lifted off from the station, something punctured one of the fuel tanks. A rogue piece of the ring? Maybe. Or maybe something thrown at them by the people of the station in order to sabotage their escape. The safe option would have been to turn back and get repairs, but Bratford had insisted on getting out of there. It was only minutes later that she and Jillian fell into their state.
What had Bratford and Jillian been so angry about? Had one of the baldies slipped something in their drinks? Or pricked them with a needle? Or maybe something more overt?
“Jame.” French poked his head in the door. “Got a bit of trouble.”
Willard popped the last bit of sandwich into his mouth and brushed the crumbs off his hands. “What’s up?”
“We’ve got a leak.”
Below deck, water gushed up in a wild fountain, splashing across the floor of the engine room. Sparks flew from the humming machinery. “We’re gunna have to seal it off and shut her down,” shouted French. “It’s too dangerous. We’ll have to run on backup power until we can get the hole patched and this water cleared out.”
They backed out of the room and French activated the emergency doors, sealing the breached room off completely from the rest of the ship. “One of us is going to have to go outside and patch that leak.”