New Fiction: Far Away From Home

As I work on other stuff, I still enjoy writing shorts. I started, on a lark, another short series related to the game “Star Citizen”.

Here is Part 1: “Elke Fnjor”

Elke Fnjor

Outside the viewport, the white glow of Kilian split the nebula in half and sent rainbow rays through the surrounding gas cloud. It was one of the most beautiful things she had seen in her short life. She closed her eyes and imagined she could feel the warmth of the rays across the millions of kilometers and through the thick shielding protecting Naval Station MacArthur. Where she grew up, on the edges of Empire space, to glimpse the wan local star through a rare break in the omnipresent cloud layer was considered an omen of good fortune. Not that it mattered much now. Home hadn’t been a fixed location in a long time.

“Elke,” Leslie hissed. “What are you doing?”

She turned to face the row of seats and her roommate.

“Just enjoying the sun, Les.”

“We see it all the time.”

“Yeah, but not in a window as big as I am.”

“Whatever. Get back over here. I don’t want to lose our place because you were daydreaming.”

Elke rolled her eyes and rejoined her roommate. Leslie and Elke were paired on day one of cadet training, and became instant friends. Both were the same age, nineteen when they enrolled, and both didn’t quite fit in with the other cadets. It was no secret the UEE attracted a certain personality, especially in women, when it came to prospective pilots. “Tomboy” would have been the phrase Elke’s grandmother used. Elke just viewed them as women acting how they thought men should act. And looked. Short hair was common. No jewelry. Not that Elke had much use for jewelry, either, but she did like her blonde hair long. Even if it meant putting it up for uniform regulations. Leslie kept her brunette mane shorter – just above the collar. Either way, neither fit in with the look of most of the women cadets.

And that went for their personalities, as well. Leslie was the reserved one – she answered the questions put to her by the instructors quietly, with shaken confidence, even though she was almost always correct. In over a year together Elke had yet to see Leslie initiate a relationship – guy or girl or other – it didn’t matter, every date Elke’s friend went on was initiated by the other person.

Elke, in contrast, was brash – even too forward, some might say. Not in the way her classmates were. Elke personally thought it was all an act for most of them. Telling sexual jokes, gruff laughter and rough physical contact. It seemed to her they were acting how they thought the men thought they should act to fit in. Elke also let her emotions sit on the surface – something frowned upon in the pilot candidate school. A pilot was expected to have complete control over his or her emotions, especially in battle.

But expectations rarely meet with reality. And the reality was, in the simulators, Elke was as cold as a comet at aphelion. Her instructors never failed to give her the highest marks in any scenario. Except the one. But that wasn’t her fault, even if they didn’t think so. Her wing leader didn’t listen to her, and they almost lost the entire wing because of it. If Elke hadn’t broke formation, against orders, when she did, the entire simulation would have been a failure. But, instead of praise, she was marked down for not being a “team player.”

It was a stupid way to grade, anyway. Everything was pass or fail – there was no middle ground.

“Flight Cadet Fin- Fan- uh…” The lieutenant behind the desk at the end of the lobby stammered.

“Fan-your, sir,” Elke offered, standing to attention. “Flight Cadet El-ka Fan-your.”

“Right. Fnjor. Jesus, what kind of a name is that?”

Elke shrugged.

“Old Earth stuff, I guess, sir.”

“Okay. You and Flight Cadet Nicholson, uh, Leslie, are up next. Scan in and post at the door.”

“Aye aye, sir.”

The lieutenant glared through the glas in front of him. Elke hid her smirk. Few liked the “Old Navy” phrases, but they were technically correct, even in this century. She only said them because she knew they annoyed so many of her instructors and there was nothing they could do about it. Be an overt ass, and they’d nail you. But be a smartass and the most they could do was frown upon it.

“Shut up!” Leslie hissed.

Elke rolled her eyes again. She was doing that a lot this morning.

The door slid open.

“Go in, Cadets. And good luck.”

“Thank you, sir.”

They walked into the simulator room. It was a simple affair, four pods in front of a large screen. A man and woman, both in instructor uniforms, stood by two of the pods.

“Alright, ladies, here’s the down and dirty,” the man, a lieutenant commander, addressed them. “You passed your written and oral exams. You’ve both demonstrated competence in single-seat and crew-served combat simulations. This is your final test. It is a pass or fail test; there is no grading scale. Furthermore, you will not know the pass conditions until after the simulation is completed. Do you have any questions?”

“Yes, sir,” Elke waited for the man to acknowledge her. “What ships will we be flying?”

“You find that out when you get in the simulator. Anything else?”

“How long will the test be?”

“Until you pass or fail.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Alright. Get in your pods.”

Elke climbed into the nearest simulation pod. She reclined back. The woman, a lieutenant, leaned in to make sure she was properly in the harness and then gave a thumbs up. Elke responded in kind. The woman disappeared from view just before the hatch closed. She was plunged into darkness.

After an interminable pause, the disorientation of the simulation activating replaced the empty void. She exhaled and inhaled several times, as they had been taught, and blinked rapidly – to adjust to the direct neural input.

The scene before her warped with static while her brain fought the new input. Then it stabilized. She no longer felt the sensation of reclining. Instead, she stood on deck plating in a ship. Before her, to what she recognized as the bow of the ship, was a massive canopy – covering many several-meter sheets of glass – and taking up the entire bow. The view outside was of the inside of a nebula or gas giant – clouded, viscous.

“Where are we?”

She turned and saw Leslie’s avatar.

Elke grinned, “Let’s find out.”

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Update and excerpt from “Redeemer”

It has been a long few months since I last updated. The introduction of my son to my family has, understandably, had some dampening effects upon my time and ability to write. As life has resettled into a semblance of normalcy, however, I am picking back up.

I have continued working during this long break. Just not as much as I would like to. For example, I created a blog on the game I have talked about several times, “Star Citizen”, which is designed as a primer for new players. You can view it here: http://bsvcflightschool.wordpress.com. I have also done some new work in the fan fiction set in that universe, “Transitions” – not posted yet, but I have been working. The earlier works are available here: https://ariccatron.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/the-bengtsdotter-stendahl-voyage-corporation-1192-words/.

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“Snake Charmer” is free; I’m featured on other sites, and more!

Well, life has been very busy for me lately.  As you may have read in my previous update, I have had sick children – to include a broken leg – a wife in a car accident, and issues with the Veteran’s Administration clogging up my time and stressing me out.  As such, I was not writing at a level I wanted.

Things are starting to smooth out, however, and I hope soon to be back at full steam.  I’m still writing, but not doing my usual several-thousand words a day.  No, for those of you wondering, I have not started on “Redeemer: Book III of The Serpent’s Song” yet, beyond outlining.  You will know the day I start it, I assure you.  And, as with “Snake Charmer”, you will see regular updates on my progress.

Speaking of The Serpent’s Song series, “Firedancer” was free on Amazon last weekend and did pretty good.  “The Duel” was free the weekend before that, and did equally well.  This weekend it will be “Snake Charmer” – free from Friday through Sunday on Kindle.

Some of you may remember that my musing on writing action using Iceberg theory became a featured article on the “Eat, Sleep, Write” Podcast website.  Well, in the intervening weeks, Adam, the editor over there, asked if I had any fiction he could put up.  As it happened, I did – part of “Competition” I have yet to release anywhere else.  So I now have some fiction as well as a lesson featured on “Eat, Sleep, Write”.  You can find it here.  For those of you who have followed the previous sections of “Competition” (“Reggie” and “Collared“, respectively) this segment, “Alice” falls between those two to complete the narrative as far as I have released it.

I also put out some more work in my fan-fiction piece, “Transitions”, set in the universe of the up-coming game, “Star Citizen.”

So, all in all, I’ve managed to be fairly productive despite the real world interfering.  And I hope to push myself back into full-time writing ASAP.

Transitions, Part VI: An Erik McKetten Tale (1,650 words)

<< Previous Installment: Transitions, Part V: An Erik McKetten Tale

Concept art for the Pyro System (c) 2013 CIG

Concept art for the Pyro System (c) 2013 CIG

Transitions, Part VI: An Erik McKetten Tale

It was like a dream – a nightmare – the shattered remnants of rational thought in the tortured mind of a person gone insane. Fragments of images flashed outside the ship – rocks, planets, suns. Some exploded into a rainbow, some winked. An asteroid appeared in front of the ship and then vanished. His ears filled with the sound of rushing water and distant screams. His mother stood beside him, droning a series of incomprehensible numbers and coordinates.

He turned to look at her and instead saw a burned corpse. Flecks of skin, charred in the fire that consumed the Great Hall, broke from her face as she chanted the computer readout. Behind her, arms reaching out protectively, the shattered remains of his father’s face contorted in an eternal, soundless, scream.

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Collective Update (including “The Duel” free promo on Amazon):

It has been a while since I last posted anything, and I have made up for it somewhat by including two new excerpts of shorts – one is the continuation of the fan fiction series “Transitions”, and the other is part of a new sci-fi/futurist short set in the same world/universe as “The Duel”.

Also, “The Duel” is finally live on Amazon and will be free starting tonight at midnight.

So, what have I been up to?  Well, about two weeks ago now, my wife was t-boned by an inattentive driver who ran a stop sign.  She has whiplash and the vehicle she was driving is a total loss – but, all in all, it could have been worse.

daddyandshaylaThen, a few days later, the youngest child became ill with a cold/flu thing.  A few days after that, the middle child broke her leg playing on furniture (kids: listen to your parents, we have rules for a reason!).  With my wife’s injuries, and two kids down sick/injured, as well as dealing with insurance, I have been extra busy.

And, finally, the government shutdown leaves the status of my VA benefits in some doubt.

Things are settling down into a “new normal” now, however, and I can finally update.

So, here are some links to what I have been doing:

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Transitions, Part V: An Erik McKetten Tale (1,839 words)

<< Previous Installment: Transitions, Part IV: An Erik McKetten Tale

Next Installment: Transitions, Part VI: An Erik McKetten Tale >>

MobiGlas Concept Art  (c) 2012/2013 CIG.

MobiGlas Concept Art (c) 2012/2013 CIG.

Transitions, Part V: An Erik McKetten Tale

Cat stepped over the limp form of Lena. He opened the drawer Signy indicated and sure enough, amongst other odds and ends, there was a spool of wire. He pocketed the spool and was pushing the drawer closed when the ship lurched, sending him against one of the cargo doors and the contents of the drawer spilling to the deck plating.

“A little stiff on the stick, Signy?”

“I’m sorry, Cat, but I have never flown before.”

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Transitions, Part IV: An Erik McKetten Tale (1,505 words)

<< Previous Installment: Transitions, Part III: An Erik McKetten Tale

Next Installment: Transitions, Part V: An Erik McKetten Tale >>

Inside the 300-series cockpit.  (c) 2012/2013 CIG.

Inside the 300-series cockpit. (c) 2012/2013 CIG.

Transitions, Part IV: An Erik McKetten Tale

Cat turned and sat in the pilot’s chair. The leather groaned in protest, reluctantly submitting to the weight of a pilot for the first time in decades. Cat waited, expecting the chair to rotate and face the controls. Nothing happened. Signy really was lifeless. Only the most basic of functions worked – the secondary systems powered up to open the cargo doors and turn on the lights and life support. Everything else seemed frozen in time.

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