Sunday, December 7, 2008

Workshop Participants

Thank you to everyone who submitted story excerpts. I will be working with the following people this time:

1. David Marshall
2. Bill Moonroe
3. Kerry Thompson
4. Ryan Anderson
5. K Richardson

I hope all of you are okay with me posting parts of your work on the blog. If you're not, please let me know right away.

More soon...


  1. Juliette,
    I'm fine with you posting the content.

    David Marshall

    P.S. There are questions you've asked that I do plan to answer in the story. It's good to know that I've successfully planted the seeds.

  2. 1. David Marshall

    She held her breath, and her head and shoulders were wreathed in a coruscating halo of green light as the anemone strands of her gills flared their bioluminescent warning. Straining against her survival instincts, she pushed her head through the veil and into the Lesser Void.

    The Lesser Void was no place for her kind of life. She could not breathe the thin ghost of long-dead water that shrieked past her head. Her hearts raced with excitement and terror. No longer buoyed by the water, she felt her weight, like the tentacles of the Eater Of All Life dragging her back through the veil and down, forever down, into Her lightless abyss.

    She plunged her head back into the life-giving waters, and took a breath so deep that her whole body shook. Her hearts slowly returned to their natural rhythm, once she had reassured herself that the Eater truly did not lurk nearby. And then she held her breath once more, and pushed her head through the veil and into the Lesser Void.

    She repeated the pattern, over and over, until she had seen the Sun bleed to death on a distant part of the veil, as the Eater Of All Life claimed Him as Her own once more. And she stayed until she had seen the tiny Nightsuns build their shining coral reef across the abyssal waters of the Greater Void.

    Well past Sundeath, well into the time of the Eater, she was shaken from her contemplation of the Greater Void as something seized her by her sensitive anemone gills. She cried out in alarm, and gasped for breath that would not come, as her head was still firmly on the wrong side of the veil for breathing. Then the cruel grip on her gills dragged her head back, and into the water.

    She coughed and spluttered, trying desperately to replace the Lesser Void in her gills with sweet, clean water. She couldn't even see the predator that had seized her. She should fight, she should flee, but all she could do was wrap her arms protectively around the burning pain in her chest, the after-effect of trying to breathe nothing but Void.

    Her mother's face appeared before her, stern and disapproving. For a moment, she wondered why she could see her mother. Perhaps this was the part of death where her whole life would swim past her eyes. Including the parts her mother disapproved of, which come to think of it, was damn near all of it.

    As her coughing subsided, she realised that she wasn't dead, not yet, no. The predator that had seized her by the gills was her own mother.

    She would almost have preferred a bloodray.

    That thought brought a burst of laughter that turned into a coughing fit worse than the last one.

    All the way back to the Great Reef, she endured the burning in her chest and the bile in her throat. And her mother lecturing her about the bloodrays and kraken and sandlurkers that could improve the whole arcati race by ensuring that one young girl too stupid to shelter after Sundeath didn't live long enough to breed.

  3. 2.Bill Moonroe

    Rose light faded the Jackal image from Eric’s face-plate to display his famous, chiseled pout. “Today,” he said over the suit mike as he looked at the camera clamped to the railing, “is not just a giant leap for mankind, but is really, finally, the beginning of a new age.”
    Perry waited in Viking II’s airlock with his toes wriggling in cushioned rigidity of his boots, hoping his sighs were too subdued for his own suit mike to pick up. He glanced back at Jada’s solid gold helmet decorated with abstract that blended into her pale green suit. The fabric of her suit accentuated rather than hid her figure as she put a gloved finger in front of the helmet before gesturing at Perry to turn around.
    Beyond Eric, the pink sky deepened to violet towards the zenith above the red and brown of the Columbia Hills. Perry had tuned out Eric’s grandiose droning as he thought, please, pull a Ford.
    “Yes. The Second Space age.” Eric rested his hand on the railing, already turning orange pink with accumulated dust.
    The camera followed him to the lander’s porch edge as he gripped both side to slide down the rail, packing his boots into fine orange soil. He released the railing as dust boiled at his feet, then he lurched back to fall on his backside.
    Eric forced a laugh that made Perry’s teeth clench. “You see, now, in this Space Age, when someone has a slip-and-fall, a congressional panel doesn’t form and stall things for decades.” He stood up, wiped dust from his backside with exaggerated movements as the face-plate darkened to show the cartoon Jackal shining in the golden screening. “We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, then continue the mission.”
    The First Man on Mars turned to face Squyreston, then he pointed at a rover-sized mound of dust on the hills above the settlement. “At last, our boot prints will follow your tracks, and I hope we have your strength of...Spirit.”
    “That’s us.” Jada nudged Perry. He looked at the carbonized rungs, fighting the urge to simply leap, but rather than feeling light, the Martian gravity was just right after six months’ gradual adaptation during Sojourn’s voyage from Earth. The ladder was still reverberating as his boots gripped the talcum soft dirt puffing up around his ankles.
    Pink dust already coated the silver-white lander’s underside, obscuring friction scars.
    Perry watched Jada descended, then quickly looked away; ready to catch her, should she fall, but in a way to not offend her dignity.
    The horizon was close, the Columbia Hills jagged and weathered at the same time, like a feisty, hunch-backed old man, while all around, the landscape was covered with ankle-twisting chunks of dark, porous rock frosted with orange dust.

  4. 3. Kerry "Catreona" Thompson

    The sun was setting astern and some fifteen degrees to starboard, for I meant to make for the largest of the Falibar islands. I had business on Falibana, more pressing business than Morrow's, and a good deal prettier. I'd told him I'd be leaving on the Twenty-second, which was true; but, I hadn't bothered to tell him I'd be leaving from Falibana. That was none of his concern.
    "The Twenty-second," Morrow had exclaimed, his round, fat face growing red. "But, that's not for three weeks!"
    I shrugged, masking my amusement with polite blandness. "If you can't wait, of course…" I made as if to rise from the over soft, red armchair in front of the grain merchant's unnecessarily broad and highly polished mahogany desk.

    His face grew redder and his pudgy hands twisted together nervously, but not so that I couldn't see them trembling. "Now, Shepherd, you're the best man I know, the - the best man."

    "The best sailor, and the best judge of horseflesh, you mean; other than that, quite beneath your exalted notice," I thought wryly. But, I relaxed and pretended to pay attention to his querulous floundering. He wasn't evil, merely silly and a little pathetic, and I'd never more than half considered cheating him in all the years I'd known him. But, it didn't bother me at all to make him wait till I'd seen Jocelyn. We didn't get to see each other very often, and Splangliborn would be there when I got there.

    Morrow was still spluttering. "So, I mean, Shepherd, my dear fellow, if you say you can't leave for three weeks, Well, of course I'll wait. I'll just have too, won't I?"

    There seemed to be something desperate in his babbling, and I looked hard at him with a sudden stirring of concern. Was the genial fool really worried that I wouldn't take his job? Unwillingly and yet wanting to calm him I said, careful to keep my tone indifferent, "I have a little job in the Falibars, man, that's all." I permitted myself a slight, reassuring smile. "It won't interfere with my selecting a Namoranian for Miss Emma, or with my delivering it in time for her birthday. It just means that I can't start for Splangliborn at once."

    Morrow's face cleared like clouds lifting to reveal an untroubled sky. "Ah," he sighed, relief and satisfaction in the long syllable. "Well then, if that's all it is, that's all right." He rose and extended his hand.

    Rising as well, I gripped it. "Do you have a bottle of brandy in your desk, Morrow?"

    He started slightly and gave me a quizzical look. "Yes. Why?"

    "I think you'd better have a nip. You look as if you could use it." Then, I'd turned and walked out.

    So, I'd started. And now, the evening of my second day out from Raklebad, I was within thirty-six hours or so of Falibana. And that's when I saw the island that I knew wasn't there.

  5. 4. Ryan Anderson

    Curo's feet hurt. He stared at the stone path in front of him, and took step after plodding step. Why did Highpass have to be so high? Guaman, his father's pharu master rode up alongside.

    "Look alive, master Curoqonatu! We are almost there!"

    "You would be less chipper if you had to climb this mountain on your own two feet instead of on that accursed bird."

    "I would offer to let you ride, but pharu are temperamental. Last person who rode this old boy other than me ended up with a broken arm."

    The tall flightless bird peered down at Curo with predatory golden eyes. Guaman smiled his toothy smile and rode off ahead along the baggage train. Curo tugged the lead of his pack-llama and trudged ahead. They had been on the road from Stormhaven for almost three
    weeks, and the llama showed no sign of fatigue. In fact, nobody else seemed to mind the walking but him. Curo cursed under his breath and kept walking.

    He didn't want to go to Highpass in the first place, but father had given in to the Choque without so much as a skirmish, and now it was Curo's duty to travel to the capital and learn how to govern as a Choque.

    More like come and be brainwashed, Curo thought.

    He was so caught up in dark thoughts that he almost ran into Guaman's pharu standing in the middle of the path in front of him. Curo looked up to see that the entire train of travelers had stopped at the crest of the ridge they had been climbing. The path ahead plunged down the ridge and then switchbacked up the slope on the far side to a gap in the mountains. The valley was a cascade of green terraces, and he could see peasants working the stair-stepped fields.
    Above the terraces, the walls and towers of High Pass glowed gold in the late afternoon light. High above the rest of the city, framed against the sky by the granite peaks on either side, the Emperor's tower stood. For a moment, Curo forgot about his aching feet.

    "Quite a view isn't it?"

    Curo looked up at Guaman, who was shielding his eyes and looking west, away from the city.

    "Yes, it's lovely, but --- Oh…" As he spoke, Curo had also turned to face west. Laid out below them were the rolling foothills of the Apo mountains, threaded by rivers of snowmelt from the peaks that glimmered in the sun like veins of gold. Beyond the hills, the dusty road wound its way to the Crossroads, and beyond into the Flatlands until it was lost in the golden haze.

    "I hear the view is even better from the Emperor's tower, but of course I'm not allowed there. You will be though! You'll have to tell me about it!" Guaman flashed his toothy smile again, then spurred his Pharu and rode ahead down the path to Highpass.

  6. 5. K Richardson

    Lison Roew watched the Corpon carry the young celebrity through the crowd swathed in what cloaking they had found. He tried to reassure himself that even he would never guess her identity, and his eyes were far better than most. He’d never had a raid that hadn’t gathered a charged audience. All it took was one person seeing the Corpa arrive, and the swarm honed in like night insects surrounding a lone light, to witness and condemn. It was an unfortunate effect of their linked affect. At least during those times his work demanded discretion. And it too often did.

    When he was sure she was secured in the shielded vehicle with his team, he stepped back into PrahNehn’s living quarters. The pack would stand as an impromptu sentry until the Corpa drove away, but they would maintain their distance. He had a well-shielded car and the girl was safely beyond perception. He needed to make the call now, before their long drive. Experience had shown him that delay never made bad news any less difficult to deliver. If the Presidium had any words of wisdom, Collective knows, he would love to hear them.

    How had this gone so terribly wrong? What he would give to have the answer to that question before being held to account. He still believed it was a well-formed plan, and the surveillance had been good. Too good, perhaps.

    He activated the ComBud in his ear with a combination of touch and voice. “Director Roew for Presidi Muhn.” He said clearly, with more confidence than he felt.

    The Presidi himself answered. Lison wasn’t surprised. Putting this call at this time on the bypass list was just the sort of foresight he expected from Muhn. “It’s a little early to be hearing from you, Director Roew.”

    “Yes, sir.” He spoke evenly. “I need to inform you of some complications we’ve encountered.”
    Lison waited for Muhn to take that in. “What ‘complications’?” Lison heard the tension in the clipped sentence and was glad to be talking over the ComLines. He could well imagine the discomfort of Muhn’s fear and anger and disappointment with him. This was the greatest trust that had ever been placed in him.

    “We caught them in the act.” He said simply.

    Muhn’s mic amplified the sharp intake of his breath in Lison’s ear. “You were supposed to scare them, let them know we could catch them. This wasn’t supposed to be a real raid!”

    “I know, sir. We had no such intention.” Lison was careful to keep his tone explanatory rather than defensive. “It was late afternoon, and they’d only arrived at PrahNehn’s home a quarter hour earlier. We never thought . . .”

    “Get out of there.” Muhn spoke with urgency.

    Lison hadn’t expected this. “Sir?”

    “I said: get out of there, before it’s too late.”

    “It is too late.” He stood alone in the empty house, with one car already headed to detention and the other waiting for him.

    “You don’t know what you saw.” It was a directive, rather than an argument. A directive that was too late and divorced from the realities of the situation.

    “I know what I saw, and so do the five witnesses I had with me.”

    “You mean the Corpa?” Muhn laughed. “They’re not psychic, they can swear to whatever we tell them to.”

    It was Lison’s turn to be shocked. Muhn couldn’t be suggesting they use the Corpa’s ability to lie to hide their own honesty behind. “Surely you don’t mean for me to do the same?” He spoke quietly. He couldn’t swear to a falsehood, none of them could, and the Presidi was every bit aware of that as Lison. He was speaking from fear, a child’s reflexive denial.