I’m going to go ahead and post the prologue and first two “chapters” I wrote for my NaNoWriMo novel I had planned to write this year, but never got around to finish. I wrote all this in one night and then stopped beause I am a loser and real life shit happened and I lost the will to continue writing. I have the entire plot and outline planned out, I just have to – you know – write it.
So now, for your consideration, the beginning of “Those Who Watched Over Us”
We are faced with difficult decisions during our short life. Many times we are victims of circumstance and must deal with the emotional, physical and moral choices that we face in these situations. If we are lucky, we emerge victorious and wiser, ready to face the next distraction along the path we walk.
Our story begins on the star ship Melpomene, where a young student named Lucena of the Royal Space Academy stares out into the emptiness of space outside the Main Command’s window. The large generation ship wades through the silent vacuum of space that mirrors the echoing silence of the ship’s interior.
She wasn’t meant to be on the ship. She wasn’t meant to be alive at all. She had no notion of what was in store for her or the people of her world, but it did happen. It happened but a few, agonizing months before. Her, like many people of her generation, did not pay much attention to the world around them an instead focused on their own drama-filled lives. Who was going to make top rank? What was I going to wear to the annual Royal Academy Ball next week? What was going on with Bill and Jane that had everyone in the academy buzzing? If only she had stopped and spent an afternoon looking at the sky dotted with fluffy, misshapen clouds that she would never see again.
What was left now was a large star ship. People with fore-thought and some money had taken it upon themselves to fund a large scale project in the event that they would need evacuate their world and find another suitable planet to live on. About 15 years in the past, the first three ships carrying the King Father, brother to the King and first sister to the King departed on separate ships along with a few dignitaries and a range of other professions divided equally of varying genetic diversities. They left with little fan faire and it seemed the mass media had largely ignored, or were told to ignore, the disappearance of part of the population.
They had known more. However, it was too late. It was marketed as a space exploration good-will mission with a set destination that would only take a few thousand years to travel. A system of stasis chambers would allow the Royal Family and their passengers to sleep peacefully along their ride into the unknown and wake refreshed and rejuvenated when they arrived. Or so we were told.
Alerting the public would only cause mass hysteria and if that happened it was unlikely that anyone would make it out alive. In order to allow our species to thrive, sacrifices had to be made, plans had to be thought out, secrets would have to be kept.
All that aside, what we were left with now was a population of individuals inside a tin can floating through space towards a destination they had never heard of. Leaving behind a way of life, family, a sense of security and the humdrum boringness of the day-to-day duties. It almost made studying and test taking and training a treat and delight just to know what would be coming next.
Lucena was unprepared for this. Some days she wondered if she could have just been happier staying on her world when the last ship left instead of stepping inside. At least there she could have held her mother’s hand for one last time. Instead, she wondered if there was anything left of her mother to think back on.
Captain Drud Aarit was a seasoned pilot of the Royal Space Fleet and was always prepared. Every night he would crease his bed sheets and lay his perfectly folded uniform on his simple, yet practical dresser. It was sensible to pick him for this job and the Royal Academy trained him well. He among twenty-seven other pilots were chosen to undergo training and psychological preparation to pilot the generation ships that would ultimately find their destination on a similar planet light years away from their home.
Ever the perfectionist, Drud studied the material and asked questions, perhaps too many questions, but it was not like him to go into a situation ill-prepared for what may happen. They were briefed on how to fly the star machines, how to launch into hyper space, how to control the stasis capsules so that a rotation of three crews could man the ship for the time needed to get to the final destination. They would be the ones who waited, the guardians of their people.
Their psychological conditioning took the form of what was to be expected while they traveled the emptiness of space. They were assured that plenty of entertainment would be available to them as well as a wide variety of simulation rooms if they missed home. Family would most likely not be joining them on this trip, but would be following as soon as technology allowed them to transport more people in a quicker span of time. Their jobs were merely to get the ball rolling on a new and exciting opportunity for the race.
“What is the greatest achievement in your life?” he was asked.
“To be a part of the greatest military the world has ever known, of course,” he responded.
“Of course,” the administrator replied, “do you see yourself becoming more than just a pilot?”
“I will do as my nation calls me to do.”
“Very well, what about a family?”
He paused, being unattached at the moment and disconnected from his mother for quite some time, he answered, “It is not in the cards for me. I am what people call, “a loner.”
“I’ll be blunt with your Drud, this isn’t an easy task. We’re basically asking you to take a ship out into open space; full of people you have no emotional connection to, and safely deliver it and them in one piece to an entirely different world. There is no saying that you would make it there alive let alone get the star ship off the ground.”
“I am aware, sir. I have practically nothing to lose.”
The administrator shuffled his papers. “Drud, we have everything to lose if this doesn’t work out.”
Now he stood facing darkness through the thick pane of glass separating him and nothing. Any weaker man might break down and shed a tear for the billions of people left behind or for the unknown that lay ahead of him. However, for Drud there was a sense of calm that came over him shortly after the star ship launched out of the atmosphere and left the world below. After the passengers had found their way to their stasis chambers, his mind was at rest. Something he had normally not found before. There was always a rebellion to quell, a princess to protect, or a law to upkeep. This time, it was just he, and he was not quite sure how to deal with this newfound feeling.
Drud walked the interior of the Main Command and stared at the many books that lined its walls. “Blueprints of Star Ship Melpomene.” “Heating System Specifications.” “Medical Wing Specifications.” “Distress Signal Manual.” “Using the Star Ship’s Navigational System.”
There were also a magnitude of videos he could load and watch, encompassing the entire movie history of his planet. He saw they even included some of his most favorite B-rated films he secretly adored since his childhood.
He had found that as the captain of the star ship, he had little responsibility compared to his previous jobs. The ship practically flew itself towards the final destination but had to be monitored for its life support system, fuel consumption, and among other things, its movements in and our of hyperspace.
The Melpomene was the most advance of the nine star ships that departed the home world and the last. Drud had been instructed that it would most likely catch up to the other six star ships (with the two other star ships that roughly left around the same time) within a thousand years. At that time, they would be in contact with the other ships and would be able to share the advances that they had developed within the time period after the first star ships had left and then make their way equally to the new home world.
“One thousand years,” he thought. Luckily enough for him, he would switch off with one of the other pilots in ten years and then sleep for twenty. He would wake up from his dream feeling renewed, he was promised; ready to command the star ship for an additional ten years.
As he thought this, it was the first time he ever felt powerless.
“Sir?” a voice shot through the emptiness of the cabin and shattered the defining silence.
Drud, caught of guard shook his head and blinked a couple times as if adjusting to new light.
“Did I disrupt you, Captain Aarit?” Siany, the second in command for the medical team responded a second time. She stood in the door way standing up straight in a cleanly pressed white uniform with the medical decal over her left breast. A concerned look was painted over her darkly shaded face and her dark, ebony eyes cut into Drud deep to the core.
“Um, no, no problem here Siany. What can I do for you?”
“The unidentified female passenger has woken up. Did you want to speak with her now?”
“I suppose this would be as good as a time as any.”
It was a dream. It had to be.
Lucena stared out of the hallway in the Royal Library of the castle where she had been interning that summer. Something was going on. Outside she could see the smoke rising from the dry land below. If the castle was not safe, it seemed nobody was.
The fire brigade was unable to keep the flames at bay that had been building up for the past six months. The land was too dry. No rain had fallen in almost a year. And even before that rain had become so sparse. The once rainy season of her childhood memory had never come. The flowers of a spring rain never bloomed. The food she was so accustomed to eating never was planted and the water she had taken for granted flowed away from wherever she was.
It was horrible to say she was one of the lucky ones. She had been picked out of the entire academy to be one of the students allowed to live in the royal palace an intern as a royal page and assistant to the Queen. It was supposed to teach them responsibility and get them up close to the action and groom them for their future careers in the military.
But now, as she stared into the hallway, frozen, at the running people and the crying children, nothing from the academy could prepare her for this.
“Move, out of my way! I will have you killed for this. Now, MOVE!”
A wrinkled woman who looked ancient pushed aside the frantic crowded and headed toward where Lucena stood. She was covered in some of the most expensive cloths and walked with a sense of deservingness, seemingly oblivious to the emotion around her. Lucena recognized the woman as the Queen’s mid-wife, the woman who had delivered and raised over three generations of queens and kings and was now working on the fourth.
Lucena had caught the ruthless woman’s eye and it was too late for her to duck back into the room away from Obal’s withering hand.
“You, Page!” she commanded of Lucena. “Come with me now!” Obal grabbed Lucena by the jacket and even though quite advanced in her age, was able to drag the young intern down the hallway into the nursery.
“What is your name?” Obal spat.
“Quickly, can’t you see that we haven’t much time? Now, WHAT, is your name?”
“I see we are using one work answers here. Now, stop me if I’m moving to fast for you, sweetheart.” She dragged Lucena to the back of the room where a stack of suitcases and a bassinet were kept. “I need you to follow me with my luggage as I carry the young princess to the star ship.”
Still confused, Lucena blankly stared at the old woman’s grey, furrowed brow and was in awe of the multitude of creases stemming from her crooked eyes before Obal snapped her thin, boney fingers in her face waking her up to the situation.
“Did you hear me or should I get a more competent individual to do this menial task?”
“I’m fine, Ms. Obal.”
“You better be. Get a move on, I need to get on first and get prepared.”
Obal led Lucena down the hallway and through the frantic individuals that continued to holler down the corridors and panic over the tragedy that was befalling the castle. Papers littered the floors and suitcases ripped open as women tried to stuff them back together with items they had pilfered through in the various rooms.
Outside, Lucena could hear the emergency broadcasting system blaring the warning system with a pre-recorded message repeating “A fire emergency has been detected on the compound. Please exit the compound in a calm and orderly fashion and report to your pre-planned safety zone to await further instructions. Thank you.” If order was meant to be followed, the plan had surely backfired.
Up and down corridors the trio weaved. The luggage Lucena was instructed to carry grew heavier with each turn, and then eventually with each step. Only the boost of adrenalin kept her moving, well that an a poke to the eye with Obal’s ugly, old fingers.
“Keep moving, Lucena, we’re almost there!”
The baby princess was crying constantly through the whole ordeal, Lucena was almost able to ignore it with the other noise and distraction around her but they soon found themselves in an untraveled part of the castle.
“Not many people know this. Come, sweetheart, just a bit more to go.”
The small corridor opened to the back of the castle where the flight mats were stationed for travel. Today, Lucena looked up and saw three mighty star ships of a size she could not comprehend. The wind outside generated by the turbines on the star ships was horrible and she could barely stand straight. Unbelievably, Obal seemed to stand quite firm on her feet, what was it that this woman was on that made her this unwavering machine?
“Over here!” Obal called to Lucena. The trio walked towards the first ship. On the side of the ship in bright blue lettering, Lucena could make out the name “Melpomene” as well as her nation’s royal flag.
“Melpomene, I wonder what that means,” Lucena muttered to herself.
At the base of the Melpomene was a crowd of people pushing to be let on. A large man in an official Royal Space uniform tried to beat them back with his muscular arms. “You need to show your pass before I can let you on. If you did not reserve a spot, you cannot come on! Now step away!”
Mothers with children held their infants up and wailed to let their daughter live. “Please, just take her with you!” they cried.
It was not until this moment that Lucena began to grasp the gravity of the situation. Most of these people would not be getting out of here. Was this really the end?
Obal’s bags started to weigh Lucena down and she shifted her weight from one foot to the other and tried to rotate her shoulders to keep them from fatiguing but it seemed nothing helped. What was this woman bringing with her that was so important?
The three of them stood in front of the crowd of people for what seemed like forever, staring at the monstrous structure of steel and glass in front of them. Lucena wondered exactly how many people could fit on it.
And through this whole time, it only flashed in her head now – “What am I going to do?”
It was at that moment that Obal cleared her throat and hunched back on her ancient, but strangely sturdy legs and began to launch herself forward through the unending crowd of people blocking the ramp entrance to the star ship.
Crying woman after woman they passed dressed in smoke covered rags with soot stained faces. The smell of despair and sweat hung low and thick in the air as they trudged forward. Somehow the acceptance of defeat passed over the crowd and parted to allow Lucena, Opal and the infant princess through to the boardwalk.
There stood a monstrous man with his arms crossed watching over his men pushing back the crowd. His head was held high but and obvious weight was upon his shoulders as he was the gatekeeper to the only chance of survival. His long brimmed hat rode low over his brow and cast a dark shadow over his face from the blistering and dying sun that shone overhead. It was difficult to see the expression in his eyes, but as the trio trudged closer, Lucena could see a man who had seen a lot in his life of war, pain, suffering, but nothing could have prepared him for what was on display for him this day, and especially what was in store to come.
Lucena could hear Obal begin to grunt and mumble obscenities under her breath as she moved closer and closer to the edge of the wailing crowd. The space between people was not as large here and Lucena could hardly breathe as she poked Obal’s luggage in and out of crevices to try and move herself and the bags through the tight crowd.
Those at the head of the crowd were most interested in saving themselves. The terror in their eyes spoke volumes. Once confident and arrogant men only interested in money and politics now were facing their fate at the gate to their only chance at salvation. Where once the men used their power, money and sex to propagate themselves …