An unfinished story

iamspenagain

Cymro's Bitch
Jan 1, 1970
538
3
0
32
The Nast 'Nati, Ohio
#1
It's unfinished because I assumed the others in my creative writing class, who have to critique my story, would probably lynch me if I provided them with a 20 or 25-page story. So I limited myself to 11 pages, which is still over two and a half times the minimum. Anyway, without further ado, may I present to you:

The Spacefarers

Conditions aboard the freighter were, at best, cramped. The corridors, which were almost wide enough for one man to walk comfortably, had low ceilings. The fact that many wall panels were missing, exposing various wires, cables, and conduits, only added to the claustrophobic atmosphere. The lights which ran along the ceilings, which barely illuminated the corridors sufficiently even on a good day, were flickering and buzzing. Many had gone out completely. To make matters worse for the crew, more cargo than could fit in the cargo bays was being hauled on this journey. Crates of various sizes and shapes, some from locations halfway across the galaxy, were strewn about wherever there was room and sometimes where there wasn’t.

The men aboard the freighter were not in much better condition than their ship. Due to long travel periods often exceeding three months (the galaxy is a big place), most of the crewmen were grizzled and unshaven. Some were gaining weight due to lack of exercise. Others were losing weight at appalling rates due to an unwillingness to eat the rations that were forced upon them. Despite their appearance, however, they were widely-renowned in the shipping industry. This was the crew that, despite their patched-together ship and lack of proper supplies, had fought off wave after wave of Orion Marauders, the most infamous pirates ever to have raised hell on the galactic shipping lanes.

Their ship, the Lady Luck, was a decades-old freighter originally used to haul foodstuffs and weapons in the Terran Civil War. Following the war and the defeat of the Separatists, the Greater Centaurian Shipping Company purchased the ship and outfitted it with light weapons to fend off the many pirate groups that had recently begun to take advantage of the Terran military’s lack of military and security power. The engines were replaced with a different make entirely to boost the speed, though engineers complain frequently about the patchwork of wires and power conduits used to jury-rig the engines to the ship. Their reliability was suspect, their power consumption was beyond commonly-accepted safety limits.

The commander of the Lady Luck, Captain Michael Davis, loved his ship and respected his crew. They could handle anything the cosmos threw at them, he believed. His confidence rubbed off on his men, and was often the only thing holding them together. His second-in-command, Commander Jimmy Douglas, was a quiet yet energetic man. Able to swiftly make decisions and act upon them, his decisiveness and calm under pressure had saved the ship and crew countless times. Communications officer Charles Conway, a charismatic Brit with a quick temper and an even quicker wit, had the unique ability of simultaneously charming and intimidating those that would attempt to hold back the Lady. Helmsman and navigator Ahmed Ackbar, a devout Muslim who had become incredibly inverted due to the lack of others who share his faith and culture, had nonetheless mastered the art of flying the spaceship he called home. The crewman at the weapons console, Rocko Cavuto, though this was his first voyage aboard the Lady, had already proven his proficiency at his station.


***

It was three o’clock. Ahmed Ackbar was in his cramped quarters, one of only three single-person cabins on the ship (the other two were the captain’s and the first officer’s). He pulled a small, square carpet from the drawer under his bed and laid it upon the floor. Kneeling on it, he placed the tips of his thumbs on his earlobes and turned his palms upwards. He began reciting the takbir as he slowly moved his hands to his navel. He heard his door slide open, but paid it no mind. Rather, he finished Salaat as per strict Islamic code. Rising, he turned his head toward the door to see Charles Conway. “May I help you?†he asked softly.

“I’m going to the mess for some tea, if you care to join me,†Conway replied. “Tea is one thing us Brits just can’t leave behind. I mean, we could deal with leaving behind India, the Americas, the Middle East, Northern Ireland, but not tea.â€

Ackbar shook his head gently. “You should not compare my homeland or anyone else’s to a cup of tea. Isn’t there anyone else for you to share tea with?â€

Conway smiled. “Nope. You, good sir, are the only person I regularly talk to that isn’t currently on duty. Well, except Cavuto, but I can’t be seen with that bloke. Might hurt my reputation. Or my head.â€

“All right,†Ackbar said. “I have a few things to do, but I will certainly meet you in the mess in five minutes.â€

“I’m looking forward to it.†Conway smiled. Ackbar couldn’t be sure, but he thought he saw a wink come from the face of his colleague.

***

Rocko Cavuto tried his best to stay awake. The only think on subspace was an old show about a retired couple looking after their grandchild, probably being broadcast from some God-forsaken refueling post that everyone but common thieves had forgotten about long ago. Why common thieves would care about old people raising children, Cavuto couldn’t even begin to guess. Regardless of the reasons for the broadcast, however, it still bored the hell out of him. He switched off the subspace multimedia unit (most people still used the archaic word “TV†to refer to it) and jumped down from the top bunk. “Coffee,†he said aloud. “I need some coffee.†He knew if he fell asleep now, he’d never be able to get to sleep in the evening, and his shift tomorrow wouldn’t go so well.

So, without deliberating too much about what kind of coffee to get (there was, after all, an extremely limited variety), he slipped on his boots and headed off to the mess.

***

Only four other people were in the mess when Ackbar arrived, and one of them was Conway. The other three were technicians or engineers or some other people that worked on the lower decks. The bridge crew didn’t often intermingle with the rest of the crew, primarily due to the fact that their duty shifts weren’t synchronized.

Ackbar walked to the window where the man commonly called “Chef†was standing. This title was somewhat inaccurate as most of the food required minimal preparation due to its pre-packaged, instant-heating nature. “I’d like a glass of sour pomegranate juice, please,†he said.

“Sorry, Ahmed, ran out yesterday. That other Egyptian guy that works down on C-deck took the last bit.†Chef’s apology was not sincere.

“I’m actually from Saudi Arabia.†Ackbar’s tone as he corrected Chef was not one of resentment but of pride. “And I’ll have a glass of water, please.â€

Chef quickly filled a glass of water, recycled from sources nobody really wanted think about, and placed it on the counter. “There ya go.†Ackbar picked it up and walked to the table at which Conway sat. Since the chairs had been replaced by cargo crates out of necessity (much to the objection of the crew), he sat on a box labeled “Potentially Hazardous Materials.â€

Conway sipped at his mug, which contained a steaming dark-green substance, possibly a bad imitation of tea. “How are you, Ahmed?â€

“I’m fine, and you?†Idle chit-chat bothered Ackbar, but he was never outspoken enough to start a meaningful conversation with anyone.

“I’m good. Just glad to be having a drink with you.†He sipped his tea again. The mess hall doors attempted to open behind him, but the servos became stuck and made a whining sound. The motors quit, leaving the door half-open.

“Crap!†yelled a voice from behind the door.

Conway rolled his eyes. “Christ,†he said. “Not him again.†Rocko Cavuto sidestepped through the opening.

“Why the hell does that always happen to me? I mean, Jesus, what did I ever do to the door?â€

“Shut up, Cavuto, youâre far too loud!†Conway slammed his mug down rather forcefully. “You know, I’ve spent two months serving with you, and not once have I ever heard you speak in a normal tone. And you’re always complaining about something.â€

(Continued)
 

iamspenagain

Cymro's Bitch
Jan 1, 1970
538
3
0
32
The Nast 'Nati, Ohio
#2
(Continued from above)

Cavuto stood in the doorway and flashed an attempt at an intimidating look at Conway. “Fuck off,†he said. “You could try ignoring me, you know, instead of trying to pick a fight over every little thing that I do.â€

“How can I ignore you?†Conway, though not quite yelling, raised his voice considerably. “Your annoying voice seems to echo through the bulkheads! You’re everywhere, man, and you’re always complaining about something. The door, which, by the way, hasn’t worked properly for at least a year, the low ceilings, the narrow corridors. What the hell is it with you? We all have to deal with those things, you don’t hear the rest of us complaining.â€

“Well,†Cavuto responded, “’the rest of us’ isn’t me, now is it?â€

Ackbar stood up. “Excuse me,†he said, “is this really necessary? Why must you two constantly fight one another?â€

Cavuto began walking toward Chef’s window. As he did, he looked angrily at Ackbar. “You shut up, too, you goddamn pansy. Nobody asked you to get involved. Just go back to your quarters and do some of that religious bull you do.â€

Ackbar sat down again. His demeanor was not that of a man that had been put in his place; he was simply too non-confrontational to become involved in an argument, especially one which he realized was only happening due to the frayed nerves of the crew. Conway, however, wasn’t so calm. He rose from his seat swiftly, charged Cavuto, pinned him against the bulkhead, and raised his fist. “Don’t you dare speak to him or anyone else like that.†His fist quivered due to the energy coursing through his muscles, ready to be released at any time into a punch sure to do as much damage to Cavuto’s ego as it would his face.

Before violence occurred, though, the ship’s intercom crackled. “All bridge and engineering crews, report to your stations immediately.†It was as if Allah himself had intervened. Conway let go of Cavuto and the mess emptied as every crew member scurried to his station. Conway led the way to the bridge with Cavuto on his heels. Ackbar followed them closely. All three had temporarily forgotten about the quarrel in the mess as they wondered what the problem could be. Before they reached the lift, their thoughts were interrupted by a violent impact on the hull. The ship shook back and forth as the bulkheads creaked. All three men lost their footing, almost falling on top of one another. A nearby conduit exploded in a shower of sparks.

“You two all right?†Conway asked. Affirmative responses from both other men followed. “Good. What the bloody hell just hit us?†They started moving toward the lift once again, though their pace had increased significantly. They squeezed into the lift, probably designed for no more than two people, and began the journey upward to the bridge.

***

“All bridge and engineering crews, report to your stations immediately.†Captain Michael Davis flipped the intercom switch to the off position. His second-in-command, Jimmy Douglas, was sitting at the helm until Ackbar could arrive. “What do our sensors look like, Jim?â€

“We’re pretty much blind,†Jimmy replied. “We’ve got minimal sensor readings up to about two kilometers out, but there’s no way we can identify anything and avoid it before it hits us. Speak of the devil, I’ve got a large blip off the port bow heading towards us.â€

The ship suddenly shook violently. “Did it hit us? What was it? Why are we getting sensor blackouts?†Davis shot question after question at Douglas.

Without looking up, Douglas began to answer. “Yes, it hit us. Minimal hull damage, small breech on E-Deck. Corridor three has been sealed off. I think we’re entering a debris field, but I can’t be sure. The sensors haven’t failed, but I’m getting a lot of energy readings. It’s a sensor whiteout.â€

The lift door slid open and out stepped Ackbar, Conway, and Cavuto. “What did I miss?†Conway asked.

Davis rose from the helm and allowed Ackbar to take over. “Ahmed, care to take a look and answer Charles’ question?â€

Ackbar glanced at his instruments. “Well, it appears as if the sun of the system we’re currently in, Epsilon Eridini, is experiencing massive solar storms coupled with sunspots. The energy being released is causing a sensor whiteout. From what I can gather, we’re entering a debris field.â€

Davis turned around to look at Cavuto. “Cavuto, pay attention to your instruments. We may need you to blow some asteroids because there’s no way in hell we’ll be able to avoid them all.†He looked forward again, meeting a viewscreen with an ever-increasing amount of static. “Ackbar, do your best to avoid the debris.â€

Ackbar nodded even as the ship was pounded again. He worked the controls frantically, never looking up from his sensor displays.

“Charging plasma cannons,†Cavuto reported.

“Cavuto, there’s a large asteroid to the fore, I can’t avoid it,†Ackbar said calmly.

“Got it.†A whining noise filled the bridge, growing in volume for about two seconds as the plasma cannons prepared to fire. A loud popping noise followed as an arc of pure energy shot from the top of the ship to the asteroid, obliterating it. At the same instant as the asteroid exploded, Ackbar began maneuvers to avoid another large space rock. The bridge crew grabbed whatever they could to steady themselves as the G-forces changed. The rock Ackbar had been trying to avoid could be heard scraping against the hull, though it caused no significant damage. They had managed to avoid a direct impact.

Davis was becoming angry. “This is ridiculous,†he muttered just loud enough to allow most of the bridge crew to hear him. “Ackbar, get us out of this debris field. Once we’re clear, we’ll wait for the solar storms to subside or rotate around to the other side or whatever it is that sunspots do.â€

“Right,†Ackbar replied. “Full reverse. We’re backing out of the debris field.†The G-forces changed slightly again as the massive freighter began moving in the reverse direction. The plasma cannons fired two consecutive shots, destroying two large rocks threatening to breach the starboard engine.

The ship took another impact. Conway spun around in his chair, his hand at his earpiece. “Captain, I’m getting injury reports from all over the ship. That last impact caused serious damage on C-deck. Cargo bay two is reporting a small fire.â€

“Damn.†Davis leaned forward in his chair. “Ackbar, get us out of here now!â€

Douglas crossed his legs. He looked around in a way that could almost look nervous to those who didn’t know him. “Captain, they may need a hand on C-deck. I’d like to see what I can do.â€

Davis nodded. “Yeah, go ahead.†Douglas rose from his seat to the right of Davis’s and moved quickly toward the lift.

“I believe we’re exiting the debris field now,†Ackbar reported. “I can’t be sure, the sensors are still unable to penetrate most of the static, but I believe we’re clear of most of the debris.â€

“Yeah, I’m not seeing anything huge nearby,†Cavuto added. “Our magnetic shielding should deflect most of the smaller stuff. I’ll keep my eyes open for big rocks.
I’m pretty sure I can blow the shit out of anything else that tries to hit us.â€

Davis breathed a sigh of relief. “All right, we’ll hold position here. Conway, give me a damage and casualty report.

“Right. No deaths reported yet. Lots of injuries, though. I’m transmitting a priority three distress signal, maybe we can find a ship with adequate medical facilities to help us out. Engine two has suffered minor damage, and we all know how minor engine damage has a tendency to royally mess us up. Minor hull breeches on E- and C-decks, those sections have been sealed off.†The plasma cannons fired once again. “The fire in cargo bay two has been contained, minimal loss of merchandise. Several conduits overloaded throughout the ship, nothing major. And I have a splitting headache.â€

***

Ackbar entered the lift after three hours at the helm, relieved by a junior officer. The rest of the bridge crew wasn’t so lucky. Conway was busy negotiating with a ship that had heard their distress signal, the SS Magnificent. Cavuto still had to deal with the occasional space junk that wandered too close to the ship. Douglas was still in cargo bay two, using his leadership skills to help at a triage station that had been set up. And, of course, Davis was on the bridge, preparing for the imminent arrival of Magnificent. He was tired, to say the least. Still, he was grateful for the chance to get away from Conway and Cavuto. Perhaps now he’d be able to rest. Yes, evening prayers, then rest. Glorious sleep, without anyone to bother him.

“Hey, Ahmed!†he heard from behind. “How’d you like to head to the mess and get some tea?â€

“Damn,†he cursed under his breath. “Isn’t there anyone else for you to share tea with?â€
 

Stag

It's me again
Jan 1, 1970
3,292
0
0
52
Florida
#3
WARNING FOR DOUBLE POSTING


**Stag turns around, bends over and slap both butt cheeks with his hands while farting in the general direction of iamspen**

There, that will show you :p

Just kidding, I like your work alot. Nice job.
 

Brikar

The Dude
Jan 1, 1970
3,661
3
0
Massachusetts
#9
Cymro said:
At least I'm not a sack-o-shit...
Well, you are but at the time I thought 'crap' sounded funnier, and also I was on a machine with one of those like "net-nanny" things and I wasn't sure how it would react to such a posting. And I'm sure the school records keystrokes and all that crap.
 

Brikar

The Dude
Jan 1, 1970
3,661
3
0
Massachusetts
#11
The story could use some streamlining in a few places. For example, you have a sentence that says:
The lights which ran along the ceilings, which barely illuminated the corridors sufficiently even on a good day, were flickering and buzzing. Many had gone out completely.
A slight change makes it flow a bit better:

The lights which ran along the ceilings, barely illuminating the corridors sufficiently even on a good day, were flickering and buzzing. Many had gone out completely.
The description of the subspace TV is a bit too much for something that really doesn't matter to your story. Instead of adding to the "realism" of the world you're creating, it just kind of bores the reader as you focus on irrelevenat details. Perhaps you could have something like:

He turned off the TV (which, although still called a "TV" bore little resemblance to that archaic device).
Also, the mention of concepts like "subspace" common though they may be, inevitably draws sci-fi readers to comparisons with "Star Trek". It's hard after 40 years (especially harder for fans) to pull one's writing away from "Trek", which I think you're trying to do here. But there are times when the story feels like it could be right on the bridge of the Enterprise or any other Federation ship. Mentions of hull breaches and sealing off decks is hard to get around, but you might try rewording it and inventing some new jargon or something.

All that aside, I have to say the bits I like the most are the ones with the Muslim character relating to the crew around him, rather than the "action-packed" climax. To be honest, I think you should remove it, and have a more character-based, introspective story about this man and use him to explore a future where the relations between Islam and Christianity and everyone else is still strained for whatever reasons. Perhaps, even out in the vast emptiness of space, the world still seems cramped to these people. Use your tiny starship as a metaphor, maybe.
 

iamspenagain

Cymro's Bitch
Jan 1, 1970
538
3
0
32
The Nast 'Nati, Ohio
#13
Thanks for the critique, I'll take that stuff to heart.

Brikar said:
All that aside, I have to say the bits I like the most are the ones with the Muslim character relating to the crew around him, rather than the "action-packed" climax. To be honest, I think you should remove it, and have a more character-based, introspective story about this man and use him to explore a future where the relations between Islam and Christianity and everyone else is still strained for whatever reasons. Perhaps, even out in the vast emptiness of space, the world still seems cramped to these people. Use your tiny starship as a metaphor, maybe.
That was the plan. However, I needed to end it somehow because I didn't think my classmates would appreciate a 40-page monstrosity. I wanted to show the two sides of the crew while still ending the story. Of course, that can't be done without some sort of crisis situation. The story will continue to be character-driven, and will quite likely be edited to make Ackbar the central character with a limited third-person narrative, as per the suggestions of my professor.

Apparently, my classmates and my teacher really like the character of Ahmed Ackbar. I think it's because he's a character type they've never seen before in science fiction, and because his quiet pride isn't used much in literature at all.
 

Brikar

The Dude
Jan 1, 1970
3,661
3
0
Massachusetts
#15
iamspen said:
Thanks for the critique, I'll take that stuff to heart.



That was the plan. However, I needed to end it somehow because I didn't think my classmates would appreciate a 40-page monstrosity. I wanted to show the two sides of the crew while still ending the story. Of course, that can't be done without some sort of crisis situation. The story will continue to be character-driven, and will quite likely be edited to make Ackbar the central character with a limited third-person narrative, as per the suggestions of my professor.

Apparently, my classmates and my teacher really like the character of Ahmed Ackbar. I think it's because he's a character type they've never seen before in science fiction, and because his quiet pride isn't used much in literature at all.

Fuck your classmates. Do it your way. That's what writing's all about, man.