With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends? A Science Fiction Short Story.
13 Thursday Dec 2012
This week I promised to put a sample of my science fiction writing online, but things haven’t gone according to plan. Yesterday a WordPress update totaled this blog and it took an afternoon to resurrect it in the form you see here. (Some features are still not functioning properly. My apologies if things aren’t working as they should.) On top of that my son and I now both have stomach flu, which isn’t pretty, but we’ll live.
What won’t happen is me being able to post as much of the SF story as I intended, fit it into the Elite mythos as thoroughly as I wanted to, or edit it as much as I’d like. So, there you go. It’s still in draft stage, and I only have part I even remotely close to completion. Hopefully it will give you some idea about my writing style and what you can expect from Out of the Darkness.
What it is not is an extract from Out of the Darkness. I may rework the scenes/characters below into that story, but I suspect there isn’t enough here to fill a much longer work. Please also note that this work has not been seen or endorsed in any way by Frontier Developments, and Out of the Darkness may be different in style depending on FD’s eventual writing guidelines (which I know nothing of at this time).
With all that said, I hope you enjoy it and would think about contributing to the Out of the Darkness Kickstarter project so I can write a much longer Elite story for you. (Part II of the story below will follow as soon as I can get it done).
I’m Kickstarting Out of the Darkness, an Elite book, here:
Thank you for your support.
With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends? Part I.
KerriK stretched, trying to ease the eternal cramp in his muscles. The nyrolon fibres of his flight suit creaked—the inbuilt decontamination enzyme-sheaths too long overworked. The dried sweat had left salts and proteins crystallised in a cocoon-like coating on his skin that cracked whenever he moved. His eye muscles pulled against the encrusted gunk gluing his eyelids together, but nothing happened—he hadn’t been able to sleep for… how long? He pawed at the sticky mess with a stubby gloved finger. The crust came away, tearing several eyelashes with it.
“—.” He tried to swear but the curse stuck in the thickness in his throat. At least he could see again, even if it was only in blurred smudges of colour. Muscles vibrated like torsion cables as he stretched out a trembling hand toward where he remembered the provisions dispenser to be. He stabbed at the phosphorescent green blur and missed. Frakin’ Macruin tub. How am I supposed to fly something built by eight foot squid? Ah! Somewhere inside his sponge-filled skull a neurone fired. He felt down the outside of his left thigh, and found the bottle carefully wedged between two of the pads of the anti-G harness. Come to Daddy! He wrapped the bottle in his gloved fist and, as lovingly as a father holding his newborn for the first time, lifted it to his mouth. The cork had a reassuringly moist, woody smell—there was still some left. He pulled it out with his teeth and let it fall into his lap. The stinging smell of the liquor ploughed furrows up his nostrils and set a neon light show off inside his brain. So much better than that fermented urine from Earth. He tipped the bottle up, and like a babe nursing at a teat, took the tiniest drop onto his tongue. Nothing. His breath caught, heart accelerating until he thought it would jump through his ribcage. Mustn’t panic, there’s still some left. KerriK knew the effects. Complete lucidity, connection to self and everything around you, and no need to sleep. It was incredibly expensive and illegal in every civilised star system. But its unique effect on human brain physiology was the only reason he was still sane—alone in this wreck of a ship. But to stay sane you needed more… and then still more. He wondered if he could ever be normal again. He’d been on the stuff for three months.
The liquor began to wind tendrils through his thoughts, seeking them out and pulling them into sharper, painful, focus. This was the worst part, but he’d already pushed through it more times than he could count. He had to be quick, before he lost the ability to function. He scrabbled at the cork, catching it in the bulky gloves on the fifth try. He twisted his head sideways, shoved the cork between his teeth and screwed the bottle up onto the cork with both hands. He recognised his own desperate need to protect the precious contents of the bottle. I’m probably addicted was the last thought he would be able to control for some time.
Hunched over the table, the warm numbness filling his head was pleasant; the beginning waves of nausea were not. KerriK had been drinking through the night and now he had no more money for beer to fend off the incoming hangover. This was not going to be a good day.
“KerriK, you pile of shit. I knew I’d find you here.” Like balls of lead being forced through his ears, the words squeezed into his head, crushing it from the inside.
“Whaddya wan’, Shane?” He didn’t open his eyes, even the subdued lighting was enough to drill spikes through the back of his retinas.
“Officer Shane to you.” Through the fug of alcohol he was dimly aware of Shane’s fingers weaving between his dreadlocks.
“Piss off. I’m restin’ me head. Stop feelin’ me up, you queer.” His head was yanked up and back. KerriK felt lancing hot pain as several dreads parted from his scalp.
“Frak it! Gerroff!”
“I said Officer Shane.” Shane pushed down, hard, and KerriK saw the table top coming up to meet him. His nose exploded wetly across his face. He screamed and bucked but Shane still held him by whatever was left of his hair. The wild swing he made at Shane’s stomach was batted aside like a child’s. Shane dragged him off the seat, out of the booth, and forced him to kneel. KerriK felt the hardness of a gun barrel pressed against his temple.
“Say, wha’? Wha’ do yer wan’ me t’ say?” Kerrik’s thoughts circled tighter as panic gripped him. He couldn’t focus.
“Don’t kill me!” I’ll say anythin’, anythin’.” He could barely make out his own words through the sobs, and the blood which filled his mouth.
“You’re a dumb fuck. ‘I’m sorry Officer Shane.’ Say it.”
“I’m s-s-sorry, Officer Shane. Really sorry.”
“Better. Now listen. The Bureau’s called time on your loan, KerriK. Today you’re going to pay them back. Now move.”
So Where’s Part II? Reality and My Writing Process
I started writing on Tuesday evening, full of hope, excitement and a plot. This will be easy, I thought: plotted, written and edited in a few days. Easy.
By Wednesday I’d realised that the story wasn’t going to be as short as I’d thought. In fact I was now estimating it was going to be about double the length I’d originally envisaged. (The new estimate: 3000 words.) OK, a bit tougher, but still do-able, I thought. So on Wednesday I posted part I above. I now had hope, more nervous excitement, and a longer plot.
On Thursday I caught stomach flu, from my son who was now off school with, what else, stomach flu. Writing completed on Thursday: next to nothing. I still had some hope, more nervousness, the excitement, and the longer plot unwritten. I would catch up on Friday. Yes.
Friday came, and my boy was better. Hooray! Writing? No. School rules say it’s forty eight hours after the last episode of vomiting before he can go back. So, there’s an active small boy at home who needs looking after. I still have stomach flu. My wife goes out to a party in the evening. My son is in bed. At last I can write! I thought. But I still have stomach flu. My brain feels like dead-lead in a steel box with rocks in it. I wrestle with my plot, thick-headed as I am, and guess what? My ending is rubbish. Deus ex machina is writing jargon for the struggles a character faces being solved by a contrived, heavy-handed intervention from the writer. That’s what I’d done. More thinking, another possible ending. Hope was now fading; the nervousness was increasing; the excitement was still there and the plot was getting longer. Saturday was coming…
It’s Saturday as I write this and I am feeling much better. Hooray! My boy is at home, as is my wife. For reasons best known to them, they like to spend time with me. I can still get some writing done, I think to myself. They go out. I start to think about the story. My second ending is also rubbish. It works, but will actually be pretty dull to read. I think of another ending. This one is better! Yes! It has more drama, a twist, and even some action. I like it. I have a story I can write. I start to write the story. I realise that this more involved ending is going to require a much more substantial back story to support it. I’ve just doubled the length of the story. Again.
So, it’s now Saturday morning and I’m looking at a weekend with the family, which is lovely, but not too great for productivity. I also now need to outline (I do that sometimes now ), write, re-write, and edit a six thousand word (or so) story in less than a week. In all honesty, to polish this so it’s going to be worth reading is going to take longer—this story is unlikely to be finished any time soon. Hope gone, nervousness gone. The excitement is back now I have a decent, longer, plot.
Where does that leave things? It’s a story I intend to finish, and I’ll post it when I think it’s ready. I don’t like to do less than my best. It almost certainly won’t be finished before my Kickstarter project deadline ends on the 23rd of December. So, I’m doing what any decent Kickstarter organiser should do: I’m being honest and up front with my (potential) backers. If, for whatever reason, I can’t deliver I’ll let you know, and give you reasons why. And if my stories get delayed, they do so so I can get them right. It’s up to you if you want to back someone like me, because that’s the way I work: right on time? Not if there’s not enough time to get it right.
If you want to see some finished short fiction follow the link below:
My finished full-length works (both completed in twelve months) are here:
http://writerandauthor.com (“Faye Ling” is me too!)
And if, after all the melodrama you are still interested in funding my project, it’s here:
These are the joys and the realities of the writing life, but I am sorry if any one feels I have let them down.