Lately, I’ve been getting back to work on the space anthology known as Yuva – and for good reason. Not only has our group been blessed with the arrival of some new blood in recent months, but for many of us (me especially), the inspiration bug has bitten after a long hiatus.
Don’t ask me why, but writing for a different genres can be very temperamental. One minute, you find that all you can write about zombies and apocalyptic scenarios; next minute, its all space ships and futurism. Somebody really needs to put a label on inspiration, one that reads “non-transferable”!
In any case, here is the latest sample from my latest anthology story, “Arrivals”. In this scene, we find one of the main characters (Marcellin Strauss) aboard the ship that will take him and its crew to rendezvous with the Second Migration, a flotilla of ships that are rapidly making their way towards Yuva…
* * *
The tiny space inside his helmet felt terribly confining. And at the moment, the heads-up display, with all its colored light and constant barrage of information, was not helping. And top of all that, there was the launch clock that was slowly counting down in the lower left corner. At the moment, it was the largest thing in his display field, and impossible to ignore. It’s every tick kept pace with the automated voice coming in from Control, and with the frantic beating of his heart.
Strauss could only breathe and try to remember what he had been told during the past few weeks of crash-course training.
Breath steadily, sit tight, and trust in the instruments.
Not exactly the height of preparation; but at the moment, what else could one do? At this point, the ship pretty much flew itself and all they could do was trust the equipment not to kill them. And considering that Strauss wasn’t even flying the thing, he was left with little to do but wait and try not to panic.
Hartberg’s voice sounded in his ear. “Commencing engine ignition sequence…” He felt a low rumble as the ship’s engine began powering up and preparing to slam hydrogen and anti-hydrogen together in a controlled reaction. “Ignition sequence in five, four, three, two, one…”
They were hit by a hard jolt. Vibrations that were enough to make all the colored lights in his field of view turn into a blurred mess took over. Like everyone else in the cabin, he was thrust into his seat and felt the restraints grab him tighter. And within seconds, they began shooting down the runway.
Hartberg‘s voice spoke again within a few seconds, relaying their progress to Control in an unbelievably calm tone.
“Thrust capacity reaching optimal… acceleration normal… beginning ascent in ten seconds…”
Breath steadily, sit tight… he thought as he continued to be pushed back into the seat.
The runway continued to recede behind them. In the distance, he could see the Great Expanse growing larger as they drew nearer to the coast. And then, he felt the slightest lift as the runway dropped beneath them.
Hartberg‘s reports became faster and closer together now.
“Ascent begun, engine function nominal, orbital velocity in sixty seconds…”
The vibrations subsided a little, so that the readouts in his vision seemed discernible. He could only ascertain so much from them, but the fact that all were in the green was reassuring.
Their acceleration mounted and they continued to climb, and Strauss felt himself being pushed harder back into the seat. It was a funny paradox, how breaking the hold of planet’s gravity meant having to endure additional gravitation stress. It was as if Yuva didn’t want them to leave and was trying to pull them back in.
Trust in the instruments, he told himself. Trust in the pilot.
Up ahead, all he could see now was the deep azure of the sky, the slowly receding clouds, and the faint dots of the distant stars. The engine continued to slam particles together in an ongoing effort to achieve maximum thrust, and his body could feel additional bit of acceleration they achieved.
Beneath the noise of the ship, the voices and the instruments, he could hear a dull moaning. It was coming from him, and growing in intensity. A voice soon sounded in his ear, one of the operators at Control demanding to know his status.
“Control to Eagle One. We’ve got Strauss showing very high levels of epinephrine. Advise on the need for a sedative, over.”
Strauss quickly keyed his comm and replied. “This is Strauss. I’m fine. I’m just fine, over. I’m good, don’t dose me.”
His hurried, panting reply was followed by that of the Captain’s, who was sure to use all the proper comm protocol.
“Control, this is Eagle One Actual. That’s a negative on a sedative, over.”
“Roger that, Eagle One.”
There was a slight pause, during which time Strauss stopped making noise and tried to catch his breath. The Captain came back on and tried to talk him down.
“That’s it, Strauss. Just keep breathing. We’re almost there.”
Strauss heard him and felt somewhat reassured. He kept breathing and kept his eyes ahead, focusing on the distant stars. These were much more calming than all the readouts that continued to frantically tick away, showing their speed, engine pressure, altitude, and anything else that was rapidly changing. In time, the sky began to change color. A flare of orange light flickered through the cabin as their sun’s light hit them for the first time without refraction. And very quickly, the distant stars began to burn much brighter.
That’s when Strauss noticed everything change…
The cabin ceased vibrating, the numbers in his field of view began to drop off, and he no longer felt himself being thrust back into his seat. In fact, he now felt the restraints tugging against him to keep him from floating away.
They had done it. They had broken atmo, and were now floating in high orbit above the planet. Hartberg’s voice came back on the line to announce this.
“Control, this is Eagle One. We have broken atmo. I repeat, we have broken atmo, over.”
There was a pause as Strauss was sure the people at Control were howling out in celebration. Just about everyone in the cabin was doing the same. Meanwhile, he licked his lips and tried to get his heart and breathing under control. He could feel his head beginning to spin as his blood pressure dropped and his adrenals took a break. He also became aware of an incredibly dry feeling in his mouth.
All of this made him painfully aware of how sober he was right now, and how much he wished it weren’t so.
Man I picked a bad time to stop drinking!