Friday, March 02, 2012

30 Day Writing Challenge - Day 2

After writing about something from my childhood yesterday, I was determined to write something very different for today's challenge and decided that doing something with a science fiction flavour to it would be fun.

I feel like this is something that could have been a lot better with more time but, three hours or so after putting pen to paper (at least, metaphorically) I'm done with something that (at the moment, at least) I quite like.

So, without further ado, Day 2's challenge - Facing the Fear...

Facing the Fear

The Fahrenheit class frigate Navarro dropped out of Patch-Space on the trailing edge of the Ginobi Nebula, its propulsion systems spooling down amid dancing fractal clouds of virtual particles.
                It hung silently in the darkness, a bulbous needle whose uniformity was only broken by the pinpricks of light that were the retro-fitted environment blisters along its grey hull. A thing of purpose rather than beauty, the Navarro was little more than a spine of exposed superstructure; braided filaments organically weaved together to contain a Polyakov Drive.
                “We are here.”
                Alana Dshae looked at the field screens; a panorama of stars had replaced the nothingness of Patch-Space while, seemingly below them, lay the roiling blue and orange dust clouds of the nebula.  She felt her breath catch slightly in her chest. They were actually here; they had made it all the way to the bounds of The Rim.
                “Which means,” continued the melodic voice of the construct, “that we do not have long before your scheduled displacement.”
                “You’re sure about this?” she asked, not for the first time.
                “As I believe I mentioned when you asked this question fifteen hours and thirty three minutes ago, far greater intellects than mine were gathered in order to select you for this mission. The body of their opinion was that you have a high chance of success.”
                “And what if I change my mind?”
                “Our projections suggest you won’t.”
                “Maybe there’s a part of me that wants to change my mind, just to spite you.”
                “Maybe.” The construct cocked its head slightly to one side, the barest hint of a wry smile etched across its almost human face. “But it’s something that has already been factored into our projections.”
                She flung her head back and pushed her long black hair with both hands, staring up at the ceiling with her hands on her head.
                “I guess,” she said finally, “I guess, I just find it hard to believe that, out of all the trillions of people in Gathered Space, someone thought I was the best person to do this.”
                “If it makes you feel better about yourself,” replied the construct, “you were actually the 4,212th person, in order of preference, within Gathered Space.”
                “You were 4,212th on the original list. But due to the chronological parameters of this mission, only a thin sliver of Gathered Space could be considered. This area was then further narrowed by the requirement that there needed to be a Fahrenheit class frigate both in range for transport and available to make the necessary jump. Thus, we were highly restricted in our selection.”
                “Ok, I’m suddenly feeling altogether less special.”
                “I could tell you that you’re very special to me.”
                “Would you mean it?”
                “Not really, no.”
                “There,” she said with a broad smile. “That’s when you’re meant to lie to me.”
                “I’ll bear it in mind for next time. But, perhaps, we should cease our vague flirting and run through the mission one last time?”
                “Sure. But we’ve been through it quite a few times already; I think I’ve got it by now.”
                “You really don’t realise just how important this is, do you?”
                “Meet alien race, make a good first impression, say all the right things, job done and I go home with a nice story to tell.”
                The construct made a noise that might have been a sigh.
                “The Hordyxtl are not just an alien race. They are an ancient race, possibly one of the first civilizations to have emerged within this galaxy; the Hordyxtl are one of the Unfettered.
                “Ok, meet ancient alien race, make a good first impression, yadda yadda.”
                “And there is one thing I might not have mentioned.”
                “We are the third Level Eleven civilization to attempt this. As far as we are aware, at least two other Level Eleven civilizations have attempted to make contact with the Hordyxtl during the last three centuries.”
                “Why am I not liking the sound of where this is going?”
                “Just over two hundred and eighty standard years ago, the Barandian Empire sent a scout vessel into the nebula. When that vessel did not return, the Barandians assembled an armada of vessels and confronted the Hordyxtl.”
                “Barandian Empire? Why doesn’t that name ring a bell?”
                “The Hordyxtl obliterated them. The fleet was reduced to dust before it even had a chance to get within weapons range of the Ginobi nebula, several of the Barandian perimeter systems were entirely obliterated by means as yet unknown and--”
                “Wait,” she said, holding her hand up to stop him.” are you telling me that the Hordyxtl destroyed whole planets?
                “No,” replied the construct, dispassionately. “They destroyed stars.”
                “And you don’t know how?”
                “We have a number of theories.”
                “But you don’t know.”
                “You said there were two attempts.”
                “Yes. The Moorovians made the most recent attempt, seventy three standard years ago.”
                “Moorovians? Small, blue, furry? Smell a bit like burnt toast?”
                “And they’re still around. I mean, I’ve met a Moorovian” she pointed her index finger at the construct. “That’s a good sign, right?”
                “The Moorovians, unlike the Barandians, are not a species geared towards warlike confrontations. They acquired data on the nebula, and the Hordyxtl, from records on an old Barandian orbital and sent a trade mission.”
                “But? I sense that there’s a but coming up here.”
                “The Moorovian vessel returned with its full complement of crew but they had all, without exception, gone mad.”
                “Insane. Crazy. Deranged. Psychotic--“
                “I get it. It wasn’t a question.”
                “You phrased it as one.”
                She ignored it. “And do we know why?”
                “We have several theories.”
                “Such as?”
                “The primary theory, with an estimate of 93.2% probability, is that the Hordyxtl naturally excrete a series of chemicals through their skin which, when absorbed into the system of other species serves to stimulate the amygdala region of their brain, or the counterpart of the amygdala in other carbon-based lifeforms.”
                “And in plain English.”
                “Those who are in the presence of the Hordyxtl experience overwhelming fear.”
                “And you’re telling me this only now?”
                “Our projections suggested that this was the ideal time to inform you. Sooner than this and there was the chance that you would worry and be distracted, later than this and there was a chance you would not have time to adjust to the new parameters of your mission.”
                “So, let me get this straight, you want me to go meet an alien race that has destroyed one civilization and driven the members of another one mad?”
                “You are a bunch of fuckers, you know that?”
                The construct stayed silent.  She pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, deep in thought.
                “So why now?”
                “The Hordyxtl relayed a message to us that they were prepared to engage in a dialogue with us, provided we send a representative to them at precisely this time. If we had missed this window of opportunity, we were uncertain as to the timescale of another.”
                “So why not send a construct? Something not affected by the Hordyxtl?”
                “That was not, unfortunately, an option.” replied the construct, somewhat ruefully. “The Hordyxtl appear to have a somewhat negative view of machine intelligence. They were very clear in their message that no constructs – either humanoid or ship-bound – were to come within a 6 AUs from the nebula.”
                “Can’t I just nano-bond something to override the effect?”
                “Nano-bonding requires a semi-sentient system to be positioned within your brain. We determined that there was a chance that the Hordyxtl would interpret this as an attempt to send a construct by proxy.”
                “So I just have to face it?”
                “Exactly,” the construct created a field screen and expanded it to fill the width of the room. “If you like, I can show you the simulations that we have run on your likely performance?”
                “No,” said Alana, with distaste. “Just tell me what to expect.”
                “It is difficult to predict with any real accuracy. Your brain will be flooded with alien chemicals and you’ll likely experience both long-term memory recollection and an intense fight or flight instinct. You may relive fearful experiences from your past or hallucinate and experience new ones.”
                “You are just filling me with confidence, here.”
                “Your flippancy at this point is reassuring.”
                “I can still say no, can’t I?”
                “Of course.”
                “But you know that I won’t. You know I’m not the sort of person who can welch on a deal.”
                The construct shrugged. “Our probability modelling suggested that would be the case.”
                “Yes, I suppose so.”
                “And if something goes wrong when I’m in there?”
                “You revert to the back-up you made before we departed.”
                “A back-up who won’t know any of this and wouldn’t remember what a bunch of fuckers you are…”
                “You realise if I was a different kind of person, I’d be kicking your metal ass about now?”
                “If you were a different kind of person, you wouldn’t be here Alana.”
                She turned away from the construct and stared again at the field display that showed the nebula, swirling gases and dust that seemed frozen from this distance. There was a knot of tension in her midriff but she knew there was no way she would turn back.
                “Ok, let’s do this.”
                “You’re ready?”
                “I’m ready.”
                “Then I’ll initiate the displacement.”
                She took one last look at the environment blister which had been her home for the past nine days. There was a good chance she would never see it again.
                “I’m ready to face the fear.”
                The world faded to white.


Jeroen Bloemhoff said...

Oliver Davies 30 day writing challenge
Day 2 - Facing the fear (semi autobiographical)

It's a nice warm, autumm evening. Most of the city is already asleep, and it's quite still on the road. But there are two figures disturbing this stillness. A boy and a girl, riding their bikes, chatting and laughing with eachother. An unknowing onlooker might think they're a couple. They enter a series of allies, and come to a halt. It seems as if the girl has arrived home, but she doesn't make any attempts to enter her house yet. She is still talking with the guy, and the bikes are put aside.
'Come on, you know I can't tell what I heard' she says
'Okay, but I think I know what they said anyway.' he replies.
'Oh really now?'
'Well, what is it then?' she asks of him, looking expectantly.
What is it? he thinks. Well how about the fact that I love you with whole my heart, that just thinking of you puts a smile on my face, that I will try my hardest to be with you, because you make me feel happy?
But that is just what he thinks. The transition from thought to spoken word doesn't happen. It's not that there's anything going wrong, like stumbling in front of a full classroom, answering a difficult question.
It's the biggest fear there is that stops him. The fear of rejection. The fear of getting hurt. Again.
'Ehm...' he finally replies.
'Well?' she says inpatiently. Probably because she knows what's coming, he thinks.
'Well' he starts, looking at the sky 'it is probably that I'm in love with you'.
The words finally leave his mouth, very soft and nervous, even though he normally has a really loud voice. Or so he's been told.
She looks at him. He looks at her.
And as he expected, he gets rejected because she puts on some bullshit story about her previous boyfriend. The boyfriend that he helped comfort her from. It all end with an awkward silence and hug, and the girl making up all kinds of excuses and comfort talk. He says it's alright.
Little does she know that he spends the remainded of that night drinking whisky while listening to blues. Gary Moore. Classic. And he enjoys how well this scene fits with his feeling. This feeling of misery.
With a small sigh, he drains the last of his whisky, shuts down the music and goes to sleep, mind still racing with what happened.

And to this day, when passing certain locations, or hearing about certain topics, still makes him remember that song. It fits. Because he still got the blues for her.

redacted said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Esther Zuidgeest said...

Cool story Oliver! too bad it ended before the encounter. The story makes you want enravel the mysteries of these aliens. :)
Here is my slightly shorter story

30 day writing challenge:
Day2: Facing the fear

Ian mackenzy is his name.
He hears a lot and because of that he doesn't hear much. The sound of the plane's engine prevents it. "Oh god, why am i up here?" he thinks.. He could have bailed out half an hour ago when the plane was still on the ground. But now he can't go back.
"why did I agree to do this?" he thinks. He knows why. He's always been the calculating one, the one that doesn't take a risk. His girl friend left him a month ago. Said he was controlling her too much. Maybe she was right, but how could he just let her go out every night without asking were she'd been and what she'd done. His thoughts are intervened by an even louder noise; the sound of wind passing the door that just opened. Fear accelarates his heart as he is one step closer to jumping out the plane. He forces his body to move to the door. His limbs feel stiff as they protest.
He feels the wind playing with his hair. He looks down.
What a sight!
There is a change. First there was only fear, but now as he looks down into that vast space below him, he feels invited.
The air is saying: feel my freedom, feel my rush, feel my beauty.
He jumps.
He never felt so free.
Ian mackenzy was his name.

Gemma Neeleman said...

Facing the fear

Love.. For so many people, it is the answer to many questions. The answer to life and something you might not even be able to live without. For me it is a fear. Losing control of what I am, what I want (is it my heart talking or my head). Thinking about someone too much for your own good, that is how it feels. You really want to be with the person, but it frightens you so much that you will pull it very close at times and at others try to push it away, fast! Too affraid you aren´t enough to be loved all at once and someone will crush it in a blink of an eye. You want to stay the way you are, however you will do anything within your reach to be there for that person, no matter how much it might expose you. Are you putting in too much effort? Will the person stay within your reach, even with all your flaws? Something I like to keep distance from me... Love....

Anonymous said...

30 Day Writing Challenge
Day 2: Facing your fear

It was bigger than anything she had ever seen. She trembled, and with a disgusted look on her face she did a few steps backwards. She didn’t know what to do. There was no one at home to protect her. She had to face this fear all by herself.

Quickly she looked around. She was looking for a weapon, and noticed her high heels at her rooms’ door. Perhaps she could use those? But no, she shoe sole would be too small, so there would be the possibility that the “thing” would not be hit. And in that case, there might be a very small chance that it would touch her hand. It might be easier to use her sneakers. Their shoe soles had a bigger surface, so her chance to hit her target would increase.

She stared at the “thing”, sitting still on the wall. She had the feeling it was looking at her, preparing for attack. She tried to remember where she had put her sneakers, and soon remembered that she had left them downstairs. Perhaps she could run downstairs, grab her shoes, and then come up again to face her foe once more. But this time, she would be armed.

But what if, when she returned, the “thing” was gone? Then it could be everywhere, and her room would no longer be a safe place. While looking at the “thing”, she slowly opened her backpack. She put her arm inside, feeling the different objects inside, analyzing in her brain how the objects would work, being used as a weapon. She pulled a book out of her backpack, and decided this would be the weapon of her choice. She shoved her backpack aside and was now eye in eye with the “thing” on her wall, ready for action, ready for a fight.

Slowly she did a few steps forward, decreasing the distance between her and her adversary. Her facial expression was confident. She would get rid of this disgusting creature, and make the world a better place. She raised her book in both hands, and then bumped it against the wall. The creature was now crushed. With a sigh she removed the book from the wall, and looked at the dead creature, now lying on the backside of her book. With her book in her hand she walked to her window, and opened it. With her index finger she shot the tiny, dead spider out of the window.

redacted said...

Me wants more of this story said...

I want mooooore of this SF!!!! :((


Oliver Davies said...

There is definitely more of this story swimming around in my head somewhere.... :-)