Today is the first day of November. This means it is also the first day of National Novel Writing Month. As such I am going to try to get to 50,00 words on a project. I was going to start a new project for htis, but instead I’ve decided to use it for motivation on a previous project. So instead of starting completely from scratch, the first several days this month I will edit and post what I’ve got already and then I will try to add 50,000 words to my current total word count. I asked the Blogosphere and a few friends earlier int he week what I should work on and the resulting responses, almost unanimously, have asked for a sci-fi, a space opera to be precise. For those of you unfamiliar with the term a space opera is a sbub-set of sci-fi where space travel is taken to be a given. The technology is well-established and everyone is familiar, much like everyone knows how to ride a horse in a western novel or most people can drive a car in a modern day novel, most people will be familiar with space ships and how to fly them in a space opera. The most classic examples I can think of right off the top would be ‘Star Wars’, ‘Star Trek’, and ‘FireFly’.
I will try to write and post on a daily basis, but please keep in mind, that aside from the first few posts, this is going to be coming out in a very raw and unedited form. But please, feel free to hit me with any questions or comments or suggestions for things to happen next. I’m always up for ideas.
So, that being said, I present to you my first day of NaNoWriMo:
Into the Fleet
I stumbled through the cavernous ruins of old Philadelphia with little more on my mind than my next drink and the song I’d heard at the last bar. I was having a fantastic time. This morning I’d graduated college with a few dozen good friends, all aces in the fields of biology and physics. I’d even already been placed at a large scale terraforming firm, ready and set to work on the new Luna dome or maybe on the Mars expansion, even though I’d probably be stuck designing better grav-flow toilet systems for a while. Seriously though, being comfortable on a zero-G shutter was turning into a bigger deal than you’d think. As more and more of humanity moved into space for tourism, exploration, or better living it was the little things that were coming to matter most.
I wandered alone through the broken streets. I couldn’t remember how long ago I’d lost my friends. I knew half of them had bugged out at the border between new Philly and the old section of the city. The ruinous area I was wandering through was little more than burnt out warehouse and long-haul shipyards.
I guess I liked the idea of the long-haul spacers far more than most liked the reality. It was a romantic concept, like the pirates or navies of old, sailing off into the stars in search of riches and adventure. It probably wasn’t that great, but it was fun to think about. Even with all the tech innovations of the past 80 years no one had been able to force their way around the light speed barrier equations. The equations derived by iconic scientists like Einstein and Lorentz stated that time slowed down as you approached light speed. That meant that the faster you went the slower time flowed. For the long haulers on the ship they may only experience a few years ship time, but decades would pass here on Earth.
Two generations of long-haul ships had already sailed into the stars and returned. They’d established colonies, brought riches, and the data cloud was full of new star charts and conspiracies of alien races or strange artifacts. Each long haul ship was greeted with a great deal of anticipation and maybe a few very distant descendants.
I was headed down to old Philly now for one such landing. The “Mercy” had put to deep space about 75 years ago and returned this morning with a cargo full of Uranium ore and a dozen other rarities earth had been running low on when they left. Things like titanium and francium, rare items before asteroid mining had reached its peak.
But the crew stories were the important part. They were living pieces of history, singing old songs, wearing old clothes, and dancing old dances. They told stories of star clusters and planets ripe for colonization. They spoke with old accents and were ever curious to know anything of the recent past. Most of my drinks at the last bar had been bought by a long-hauler named Curtis who had wanted to know anything I could tell him about the last 80 World Series, and being a Baseball buff I had happily obliged.
The ‘Growling Bear’ bar held a crowd you could hear from half a dozen blocks away. Music roared into the night and the crowd poured alongside it into the street. This area of the district was otherwise largely deserted this time of night so no one bothered to care enough about the noise to do anything about it.
My face split into a grin and I staggered forward into gleeful jog, joining the crowd. I started laughing almost as soon as I hit the bar, pushing up to the worn marble surface just as a mountain of a man yelled “Drinks on me!”
I cheered his good taste with the rest of the crowd and snaked a beer from the barman inside of a minute later. Thank God for good timing. Sometimes, I think I was just born lucky.
The party was wild. There was absolutely no doubt about that. About 10 minutes after grabbing my beer I stumbled into a clear spot in the crowd, staring stupidly around me at the open space and sudden silence. Something hit me hard in the jaw and I spun around, wondering what it had been. The noise of the crowd sprang back to life in a wave of roars and shouts. It wasn’t until the next fist landed in my gut that I realized I’d stumbled directly into a very large and multi-person fistfight. Well, I’m as game as the next fellow, so I snapped a fast kick into the knee of the nearest man, slugged the last of my beer, and threw myself on top of two smaller men nearby with a howl of joy.
I never knew what started the fight, or really who was on which side, but 15 minutes later I was one of the 5 still standing. All of us were grinning ear to ear and bleeding from half a dozen places. We roared with laughter and stepped over the fallen bodies back toward the bar. Whatever disagreement had started the fight was long forgotten.
On one side of the bar there was a more quiet corner, an island of peace in the storm. I sidled near enough at one point to learn it held the ship’s Captain and several recruitment officers. The “Mercy” had lost several good hands and needed replacements for their next ship out. Plus, the newest colony they’d helped found was still looking for colonists. I stayed as far away from that corner as I could from that point on, even though part of me wanted to sidle closer to the Captain. She was lustily built in her mid-40’s and I chuckled at the idea that by the time she got back into town I might be hitting on her as a younger woman.
I ran into Curtis the baseball fan again near the bar and hugged him sloppily, thanking him for pointing me toward this amazing night. He laughed out loud and shoved me back toward the quiet corner, asking if I’d signed yet. I laughed, and was about to explain that would never happen when the man-mountain bought another round. Curtis and I cheered together and spilled half our beers in a sloppy toast before drinking deep.
The party was finally beginning to slow by the time the sun started it’s momentous rise. I was almost too drunk to stand. I hummed sloppily with music that had stopped several minutes prior, my glass still half full. Four of the men still standing were the other victors of the earlier fight. There was the man-mountain of flowing beer, and even Curtis was still standing. He leaned on a stool near the Captain’s corner and swayed slightly with the turning of the earth.
I waved a farewell and started staggering in the vague direction of the door, not sure if I could still find a cab this time of night. It wouldn’t be the first night I’d slept off a bender in a doorway or alley. College was full of such fun.
I think I was about halfway to the ever moving door when a voice rang over the sound of people snoring. “Mr. Cord! What’s the count?”
It was a woman’s voice, deep and full-throated, ringing through the bar with the familiarity of command. The man mountain stood tall and turned toward the Captain’s corner, suspiciously sober-looking. “7 sign-ons for crew, 17 for the colony,” he called back.
“17 is not enough, Mr. Cord.” Her voice rang across the bar with a strange combination of determination and excitement. “Find me some Volunteers.”
I’d heard the rumors, of course, people missing after a long haul ship left dock. Curtis himself had said something earlier, something back at the first bar. What had it been? I thought backward and thought hard, vaguely picking his voice out of my stupor. “You enjoy the party, man, but whatever you do, you don’t be there when it ends.”
I hadn’t paid any attention at the time. I had been focused on counting how many times the Cubs had won the series in 80 years. It had been zero, but at the time I was drunk enough it had required counting.
People started surging around me, roaring drunk with booze and shock. Several of the men still standing held heavy wooden sticks ready in practiced hands. I ducked a swing and ran toward the door, adrenaline forcing the booze from my mind. The next man to come at me got a punch in the gut and my knee in his face. Something hit me in the shoulder and I spun, catching a glimpse of Curtis’ face looking vaguely apologetic before another blow came crashing down.
I looked up from the floor. The alcohol had absorbed most of the hit and my eyes focused on Mr. Cord, the man mountain, standing over me. He had seemed so friendly when he was buying drinks. I slammed a heel into his leg, but his lips curled into a mocking smile. “Welcome to Galactic Fleet service, Boy!” He said.
The hard wooden club came crashing down again and everything went black.