This is one of those gems that absolutely should be shared far and wide. Thanks to Cristian Mihai for the original post. The video didn’t come over with the reblog, so you’ll have to go to Chuck Lorre’s Advice to Writers or the original post.
Just broke 60,000 words on Parallax today and I am excited about where the story is going. It is gratifying to see that which was previously just an idea in my mind coming to life on the Blank Page and I am over the Moon right now how everything is coming together so well.
So, in honor of this particular milestone, Here is an excerpt from Chapter 16 for your reading enjoyment:
Chaffee Park was just as he remembered it, though it was a far cry from where he knew he should be. One of seven converted agridomes that ringed Earth Station One’s spindle shaped main section, the wide domes supplemented the station’s life support systems with oxygen from the botanical gardens as well as providing crew and visitors with an often needed reminder of life back home while presenting a breathtaking view of Mars’s Northern Hemisphere, complete with a snowy icecap courtesy of terraforming efforts.
Terraforming efforts? He thought as he felt grass crunch under his shoes. Wait a minute, that was almost a decade ago, when I stopped by for a visit prior to graduating from the Academy. Back then, he was just a guy with a Bachelor’s in Physics and overbearing naval officers for parents. Crap, I’m still in the simulation. Still, the attention to detail was extraordinary, he noted to himself as he slapped at what felt like an insect bite on his neck. He stopped at a red faux wood railing that ringed the base of the geodesic dome windows and looked out at Mars while clusters of small lights suspended on overhead cables added a subtle of twinkling lighting effects.
He felt another insect bite, this time through his blue cadet uniform shirt. His memories ticked over, comparing what he knew then with what he knew now. The automated microbots that tended the agridomes were designed to maintain pollination, not bite visitors. He sensed a pause in the simulation as the operating system detected new data and adjusted itself accordingly. The insect bites stopped, but his clothing fabric felt rougher as it moved over his skin. Tricky little bastards.
Still, the view was nice after so long out on the frontiers of Union Space, so he allowed himself to drink in the vista and lose himself in the moment. As he put his hands on the railing to lean against it, he felt a prickly sensation go up his spine and spread across his lower back like centipedes on a forced march. He suspected that They were doing something to his real body, out there somewhere separate from the consciousness they were trying to pacify with pretty flowers and meadows.
“Quite a view, eh?”
Pratt turned to see a security officer dressed in a gray two piece uniform standing next to him. The officer didn’t turn to look down at him, but he could tell the man was of hardy stock and apparently well armed by the oversized sidearm he carried in a shoulder holster strapped across his right shoulder. I don’t remember this guy, he thought, but what the hell. I’ll play the part for a while. “Taking leave on Phobos Station was definitely worth the Union Credits.”
“Indeed.” The officer turned to face him, his face eerily familiar as he spoke in a low rumbling voice. There was something familiar about the way he spoke. Something very familiar. “I understand that on a clear day, you can see the ice miners working at Planum Australe. It can be most breathtaking if one allows their emotions to have sway.”
“Planum Australe? But that’s the South Pole.” Pratt started and caught himself. “Oh, I see. Yes, I would imagine that it would be quite interesting.”
The officer nodded with a sly smile, tipped his cap, and strolled away.
So, there is a way to throw a monkey wrench into this system, Pratt thought as he busied himself by pretending to stare out the windows. Now to make this work for me.
Time, he learned, had no meaning in this place. Even the digital clocks that normally proclaimed the local time in brilliant block letters appeared to him as clear squares and ovals showed only a jumble of numbers and letters, making them useless for timekeeping. He already figured out that his thoughts dictated what appeared so he experimented on small yet simple objects that he hoped wouldn’t appear out of place to his captors. His first attempts at directly influencing the system met with failure as the simulation paused and adapted, frustrating his efforts once again.
“I’m stuck in a god damned computer game.” He muttered as he took a seat in one of several that ringed the center of the park, shaded by specially grown and planted fruit trees. Frustrated, he bent over and pulled at his hair, feeling it longer than he imagined. He plucked out a hair and was surprised at no sensation of pain. There should be pain. God damn it, he thought, the bastards won’t even allow me some self-inflicted pain. He felt a flush of anger flow through him and although the simulation paused, the pause was longer and brought everything around him to a complete stop. Strong emotions, he thought, could it be that simple?
Two medical technicians dressed in long white uniforms, shiny black boots, and red crosses on their sleeves appeared in front of him. Their faces were covered by surgical masks, but they came overly equipped with medical trauma kits and a stretcher on wheels. He looked up.
“I’m fine. Go away.”
The taller of the two looked down at Pratt. “We received a call of a medical emergency here. Are you feeling all right, Sir?”
Pratt nodded. The system was confused by his new inputs and was using its own constructs to deal with it. “I said I was fine.” He raised his hands. “It’s a beautiful day, not a care in the world.”
“Would you come with us, Sir? We would like to give you a checkup to be sure.”
Pratt pointed to their equipment. “You have half a hospital strapped around your necks. Why don’t you use that?”
“Please come with us, Sir.”
Pratt’s anger rose, making the simulation flicker to the point where large patches of scenery were being replaced by large black squares. He jumped to his feet and raised his fists. “Why don’t you make me?”
The taller of the two medtechs stepped up and placed a hand on Pratt’s shoulder, earning an arm around the back and a push away for his trouble. The second got a lesson in acrobatics as he rushed forward and found himself flipped over Pratt’s back to land heavily on the other side. More and more medtechs appeared and Pratt found himself in an ever increasing brawl that was approaching epic proportions. The fighting fueled his anger and more importantly, the simulation was becoming a vast dark void with him at the center and growing angrier from each encounter. He began to hear a ringing in his ears as the simulation ground to a complete halt.
He opened his eyes and heard alarms ringing all around him. He was in an isolation tube, similar to a Quarantine Pod, but connected to bank of alien electronics that he had never seen before. He ripped out a large collection of connecting tendrils and punched and kicked at the sides of the tube until, by pure blind luck, he managed to hit something that flung the front of the pod open. He climbed out of the pod and found himself confronted by a pair of cloaked aliens. His first punch landed solidly on the lead alien’s head and he felt the bones in his right hand creak as they struck something solid and very unyielding. During the struggle, the cloak’s hood came down and revealed an expressionless metallic face made of a material that reminded him of liquid metal as it turned its head to grab hold of him. He was soon overpowered by the pair and as they tried to forced him back into the pod, he spied a power cable that ran from the pod and only a kick away. He struggled free long enough to give it a good couple of solid kicks. The cable broke free from the pod and began to flail about like a wild fire hose before coming into contact with the flooring. Pratt swung his legs up as the cable’s power surge passed along the floor and completed a circuit with his two opponents. They immediately released him and reached for the offending cable as their internal circuits melted and fused. Eventually, the cable finished discharging its contents and the pair fell inert to the floor. Pratt swung himself down and surveyed the damage.
“The Signiferians use robots.” He observed. “Another question to add to the list.” He straightened his clothing, rubbed some feeling back into his sore hand, and went in search of Koren.
Even in suspended animation, the Locknar was still defiant with claws outstretched and pressed against the pod’s door. It took a few minutes to figure out how to open the pod, but once Pratt got it open, he reached inside to rouse his comrade.
And got a large clawed hand around his throat for his trouble. Choking and gasping, Pratt shook Koren as best he could.
When I was in college, not so long ago, I got to know many of my professors very well. One in particular, a Social Science Professor, used to share with me during Office Hours his particular frustrations regarding writing academic papers on days when the energy level isn’t very high and inspiration is in short supply.
The expression that he frequently used with me was “Plug and Chug”, which basically meant that you keep writing even though you may not particularly feel like it because when you push yourself, you achieve results whether you believe it at the time or not. As Writers, we often want to write when we feel that rush of creative passion, but if you wait only for those passionate times, the end result is a lot of unfinished stories and many many blank pages.
Hey, even Hemingway once said that all First Drafts are shit, but anything written can be rewritten and in my personal experience, once you start on it, you will eventually jog something loose in the Old Brainpan that kickstarts your creativity.
So, grab your coffee, smoke if you got em, and fire up that word processor. Ever Forward.
I’m a firm believer in being as honest and transparent as possible, so this particular post shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
For the past month, I have been running a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to pay for a professional editor and cover designer for Parallax. The campaign got off to a good start with 2 contributions on the first day, but after that it appeared to stall and with about two weeks left to go (Deadline: July 7), I’m having doubts that I will make Goal, despite my best efforts to make this a success.
Truth be told, I’m not a campaigning sort of guy. I’m the guy who writes the stories and gets them out there. They may not be the prettiest girls at the dance, but they have moves and aren’t afraid to show them on the dance floor. Also, I’m torn with the decision of what to do with the funds already contributed should I not make Goal. My first instinct is to refund them back to the original contributor, but there’s still time before I have to make a final decision.
In any case, my campaign is over at Parallax Novel Editor and Cover Designer so please take a look if you should feel so inclined. Thanks for your time and Ever Forward. 🙂
Pratt did a quick assessment of the alien while his inner monkey debated between a fight or flight instinct. Thin, bipedal, dressed head to toe in a form-fitting material that hid its features, yet allowed for robe-like sleeves for its two arms and integrated gloves for the five-fingered hands protruding just beyond the cuffs.
“Welcome, Mr. Pratt, we knew you would come to us eventually.” The alien’s vaguely musical voice triggered an immediate recollection in Pratt’s mind of Gorashto. It waved a gray index finger in a gesture that reminded him of a scolding. It turned and regarded Koren with a silent air of disdain. “You are of no value to us, Subspecies.”
Pratt recognized the species at once. “When I get free from this thing, Signiferian.” Pratt said, struggling against the shackles. “I’ll finish what I started on your colony ship.” Colony Ship? He thought. How the Hell did I know that? “By the way, leave my friend alone.”
“Empathy for an enemy.” The alien observed. “I must take a sample for study.” It reached into a seam of its clothing to remove a small thimble shaped object that it attached to its middle finger. Once the thimble was in place, its tip extended to form a long needle that became so thin that it was practically invisible. After immobilizing Pratt’s head, it gently opened his right eye and inserted the needle.
Pratt bit his tongue as the pain seared through his head and down his body. The physical pain was nothing compared to the humiliation of being violated to the point of screaming without the slightest chance of defending himself. The parts of him that could move strained against the assault, yearning to lash out, but instead merely tensed defiantly. Seconds crept by until the needle was removed and his head allowed to loll down onto his chest, his screams fading to a pain filled whimper.
The Signiferian squeezed out a clear liquid into a small vial and held it up to the light dot.”Excellent, Thank you.” After placing a square bandage over his eye, it turned to leave.
“Wait.” Pratt called out. “At least tell me your name.”
The Signiferian stopped. “You wish to know my name? For what purpose?”
“I want to know who I’ll spend the rest of my life chasing down.”
“I am known as Onus Kortal.” Kortal said. “And I doubt that you will survive our inquiries long enough to be much of a threat. Treasure the time you have left.” Kortal turned and disappeared through the doorway, leaving the room dark once again.
“I’ll make it.” Pratt replied, pulling himself together. His head felt too heavy to lift, so he said what he could while his chin scraped his upper chest. “I can’t see out of my right eye, but I don’t need two to put my hands around that creature’s neck and squeeze the life out of it.” He felt an itch in his right eye socket and longed to give it a scratch. “They want what’s in my genetic code and will do anything to get it. Though I doubt that the starmap I carry around is worth it. They should already have that information in their databases. There must be something more.”
“I concur, Jack.” Koren said. “While the alien was here, I tried to get its scent to familiarize myself with its species. Alas, I could not, but I also discovered something else. I cannot scent you as well.”
“Some kind of sensor deprivation chamber?”
“No, I suspect that everything we are currently experiencing is a virtual construct. An artificial reality designed to keep us pacified and isolated from our captor’s plans.”
“That spike in the eye sure felt real enough.” Pratt’s pain was fading, but not enough to divert him from obsessing over it. His arms and legs were still pinned firmly in place by the restraints. He slowly lifted his head from his chest. “What about you?”
“I suspect that I am being held in a separate location that is networked so that we can appear to interact with each other.” Chair legs scraped the floor. “We must find a way to regroup and investigate.”
“Easier said than done.” Pratt said. “They’re keeping me because I have something inside me that they want. They’re keeping you because you have the status to dissuade prying eyes until it’s too late.”
“And once they achieve their foothold in our Space, they will be in a position to expand outward beyond the nebula and across the galaxy.” Koren stated. “However, something is holding them back. There is a piece of the puzzle that we have not uncovered yet.”
Pratt tested the strength of his shackles. “If I continue to play by their rules, I’ll never get either of us out of this mess. I have to use other means.”
“I’m open to suggestions.”
“This is obviously a very sophisticated system intended to draw on our inner fears and manifest them according to some Signiferian algorithm. I have this thing about being imprisoned.”
“And all Locknar have an instinctive aversion to darkness.” Koren stated. “It is not something that we like to generally discuss.”
Pratt stirred. “That sounds like biology talking. Darkness falls, ambient heat dissipates, and a cold blooded physiology starts to slow down, making it easier for attack by predators.” He stopped. “Anyway, we need to find a way to use their system against them.”
“We need to alter our perceptions of the environment.” Koren said. “Though that level of mental control may be beyond our capabilities.”
“Speak for yourself.” Pratt replied. “I have no intention of staying here in this virtual world while they do God only knows with our bodies. How do we begin?”
Koren laughed, and then fell silent. It was then that Pratt realized that he was alone, in the dark, and in desperate need of a plan.
I pride myself on my originality. That is, when I write an article, it generally takes shape after two steps:
1) It pops into my head.
2) I begin writing it and expand as I go.
I don’t make daily blogging a habit because I’m too busy walking a tightrope between working my Day Job and putting in time working on my novels. I’m also new to the blogging thing so it doesn’t have the same novelty to me as those who embraced it sooner than I.
However, I find it good writing practice and so it continues. I know this is short, but I’ll work on longer pieces in the future. Thanks for your time. 🙂