Chapter 1

And Night Became Day

From the blackness, a rocky beach emerged.

A veil of clouds drifted in front of a Full Moon as a seagull sailed alone on the cool night breeze.  Gentle waves rolled ashore and pulled back to the abyssal sea.  The darkness of night gave way to early morning as the azure sky lit with the somber hues of tangerine.  The clouds awoke.  The seagull floated down on arched wings, hovered for a moment, and landed gracefully on the wet sand.

Nearby, Thomas Warfield sat on a wide piece of driftwood and rested his elbows on his knees.  He gazed out across the ocean toward a rising sun as two children ran by flying a red kite in the shape of an ancient Chinese dragon.  Farther down the beach, families gathered and children played.  Thomas leaned back, snuggling into a woman whose jet-black hair flowed over her shoulders.  She draped her arms around him and whispered into his ear, “It’s time to go.”

“Maria.” Thomas turned toward her, closed his eyes, and breathed in her scent.  She smelled of sweet roses on a spring morning and he squeezed her.  “I don’t want to lose you again.”

He remembered the first moment they met, the way she shyly leaned into the restaurant looking for him on their first date.  He pictured how she used to hold her favorite pink and white purse in front of her.  Thomas felt the tender sweetness in her voice when she asked him what he did for a living and the quickening she showed when Thomas told her about his work as an astronaut.  He loved the way her brown eyes sparkled every time they met.  Nevertheless, as they fell in love, space was the last place he wanted to be.

A thunderous wave crashed on the shore.  From it, a frothy brine surged up the beach and swallowed Thomas’s feet.  As though trapped in an hourglass, he watched the sand around him begin to sink.

Maria leaned in and whispered firmly, “But it’s time.”

Thomas squeezed her arms, feeling the essence of her memory. He knew she was right.

In the distance, they heard a faint but clear beat.  It grew nearer like the approach of tribal war drums.

Boom, boom.  Boom, boom.

He turned toward her and ran his fingers through Maria’s silky hair.  Hanging from her neck, a silver chain and oval locket sparkled in the sun.  He slid his hand down her back and pulled her toward him.  Her lips parted, as the drumming grew louder.

Time slipped away.

“I miss you, Maria,” he said as he stared at her pained eyes. “I need you.  I will always need you.”

“Mi amor,” she said as she pressed her lips to his, as if trying to bury his pain.  Maria pulled back.  She gazed deep into Thomas’s eyes and caressed his cheek. “But they need you.”

Thomas leaned into her hand and kissed her palm as the sounds of the ocean faded.

The drumming grew louder.

“No not yet!  Just a moment longer,” he pleaded as he pulled his wife toward him and held her with the strength that comes with all long goodbyes. Behind them, small rocks tumbled from the cliff onto the sand.

The drumming intensified and the ocean fell silent.  A cyclone of wind and sand whipped around them and the clouds evaporated into nothingness.  Maria embraced Thomas and buried her head into his chest.  The sky transformed from deep blue to featureless white.

With his eyes clenched shut, Thomas held Maria against him until her form vanished.

The air was still and cold and silent as the Sun consumed the sky.

Thomas floated in the void, alone.

* * *

September 24, 2068 – Present Day

Thomas opened his eyes, his shivering body submerged in a vat of glowing yellow orbs.  Clenching the silver locket, he peered through a frosty oval window into his new world.

The drums stopped and Thomas heard the softness of a woman’s voice nearby.

“Reactivation of cryostasis chamber seven is complete.”

The egg-shaped hatch to the cryostasis chamber glided to one side as Thomas’s bleary eyes adjusted to the bright lights of his new world.  The glowing balls that surrounded him warmed from a soft yellow to a fiery orange.  Thomas shifted uneasily as a flurry of robotic arms moved into position, each equipped with a long syringe and a series of tubes filled with clear fluids, others with red.

Thomas groaned, sat up, and rubbed his eyes.  Recovery from five years of time-dilated cryostasis was never easy.  Mirroring his movements, the needles darted about with supernatural precision, injecting fluids at strategic positions on Thomas’s naked body.

He waved them away.  “Stop already.  I’m fine.”

Another robotic arm floated above Thomas and projected a blue laser swath, scanning his body.

“Good morning, Commander Warfield,” echoed the soft voice of the ship’s computer.  “According to the Medical Monitor Implant, your vitals appear to be within normal ranges.”

Still clutching the locket, Thomas rubbed the sides of his head.  “Thanks, CLARA.”

He lowered his hands and looked down at the locket, the chain wound tightly around his finger. He stroked the darkened silver etchings. I miss you, Maria.

Sensing Thomas’s elevated heart rate, CLARA, the Cognitive Logic and Autonomous Research Assistant responded, “The effect of the medications should be felt momentarily, Commander.”

“Who else…” His eyes just droopy slivers barely open, Thomas swallowed deeply and cleared his throat.  “… is awake?”  And where are they?”

“Mr. Stawford Sinclair is piloting Tesla Prime on the command deck.  He filed a report a few hours ago that the ship is handling well and he expects that we should be arriving in a few days.”

“Oh,” moaned Thomas trying to clear his head. “Good.  We’re almost home.”

“Not exactly, Commander,” replied CLARA.  “Mr. Sinclair is currently analyzing an unusually dense debris cloud within the Kuiper Belt.”

“I thought the Kuiper belt was sparse, mostly empty space.”

“Yes, Commander however it appears we are in the vicinity of the dwarf planet, Anansi.  The mass of the debris field seems to indicate that the dwarf planet has been destroyed.”

“Destroyed?  Are you sure?  How?  Any sign of what caused it?”

“Negative, Commander.”

“Can we go around it?”

“Based on our velocity and the required decelerations, Mr. Sinclair believes that going around the debris field would add 26 hours to our flight time.”

“Fine, just… make sure he has the Nav information he needs.”

Thomas climbed out of the cryostasis chamber and plodded across the cold and sterile floor toward a faded black jumpsuit hanging inside a hermetically sealed pod. Thomas opened it and pulled out the suit.  Sewn onto the shoulder of the outfit was a blazing gold and red insignia of the ISC, or International Space Collective.

“How far are we?”

“Tesla Prime is approximately 200 AU or twenty-seven light-hours from Earth.  Ms. Julie Anderson is attempting to communicate with Earth.”

“Good.” Thomas yawned. “Wait, attempting?  She hasn’t established a link with Earth yet?”

“Negative, Commander.  Ms. Julie Anderson is cycling through various known frequencies on the command deck.”

“Well, if anyone can lock on to a signal from Earth, it’s her.” Thomas pushed each leg into the jumpsuit.  “Okay, the others?”

“Mr. Jack Crayton is in Engineering running diagnostics on the Arc Coil Einstein Engine.”

“A diagnostic?  Is anything wrong?”

“Unknown.  Mr. Crayton is convinced that the ACE Engines sound… ‘off kilter’.  However, I am unable to translate this colloquialism.”

Thomas zipped up the front of his jumpsuit.  “It means something is wrong.”

CLARA continued, “Mr. Daxman Spinner is in his personal quarters.”

“Wasting time, I’m sure,” grumbled Thomas.  “Tell Daxman to get his ass to the engine room and help Jack.”

After a brief pause, CLARA returned.  “Message sent, Commander.”

“Good.  How about Sophie?  Is she okay?”

“Doctor Sophia Belanov is in the Hydroponics Lab running tests on several Protean plant specimens.”

Thomas arched his back, stretching out the stiffness.  “Has she made any progress?”

“Affirmative.  From the plant specimens that we collected on Proteus, she has successfully isolated a number of different compounds including naphthoquinone, vancomycin, and four flavinoids.  Additionally…”

“CLARA, English please.”

“I am, in fact, speaking English, Commander.  If you cannot understand, I will run a diagnostic of-”

“No, CLARA.  That’s alright.”  Thomas sat down on the edge of his bed.  “I’ll talk to Sophie about her findings later.”

“Understood, Commander.”

“And Isaac?”

“Doctor Isaac Yeatman is in the Science Lab running simulations on data collected from the Tau Ceti star system.”

“And has the good doctor made any discoveries?”  Thomas changed course.  “Never mind.  I’ll talk to him myself.”

“Understood, Commander.”

Thomas massaged the kink in his knee.

“Ugh, wait.  That’s everyone.  Why was I the last one to be reanimated?”

“The crew felt that you, more than anyone, needed your beauty sleep, Commander.”

 

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15 Responses to “Chapter 1”

  1. pylgrim August 24, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    A great start. Want to read more, no time! Happy writing, TeslaPrime.

  2. Cup O Swank Studio September 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    I like it! It grabs you right away and moves quickly along. I read more sf than MOST girls and the reason I enjoy this is that you meld a human touch with the technology. The red dragon kite is a good example. I’ll read more! 🙂

    • dequils September 11, 2012 at 1:00 am #

      Thanks for the kind words. Hope you enjoy the rest of the chapters. 🙂

  3. Seyi sandra September 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    Fantastic opening, I can feel the intrigue already, can’t wait to read the rest of the chapters. I would definately buy the novel once it’s released.

  4. David E Kriebel (@DavidEkriebeL) September 23, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    Love the beginning. Nice tangential cut from a memory that embraces Thomas as strongly as he embraced Maria. Then we find him embraced by “glowing yellow orbs.”

  5. David Schick October 11, 2012 at 6:27 am #

    Great start!

  6. Paul Wandason (@tadpaul353) November 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    Wow…I’m hooked!

  7. ayoskermie January 1, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    Yes, I liked how you started this out here. It was a direct start and I felt suddenly sucked into the story automatically as you started talking about veiled silver clouds, and of the moon sailing “on the cool night breeze”. That whole paragraph, in fact, was a great opening and it had me to not want to stop reading till I got to the final sentence of this whole chapter. Nice Write, and now I cannot wait for the Next Chapter! 🙂

    • dequils January 2, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

      Thanks! Hope you enjoy the rest. =)

  8. Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 5:04 am #

    Its really very gripping…. The way it keeps your attention and it has this effect of making you want to read more, bravo… I’ll carry on reading… 🙂

  9. mossadninja March 3, 2013 at 1:52 am #

    Excellent imagery and descriptive language. I could hear the waves, the seagulls. Although I knew he was dreaming before the reveal it was still a touching original moment

  10. carolkean April 4, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    You passed the Page One test! I’m ready to read more.

  11. zoetewey April 13, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    If you’re interested in potentially getting more readers, you might want to submit this to online fiction directories. Specifically webfictionguide.com. That’s the largest one–though there are others.

  12. somu April 20, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    well yeah… Its a very smooth start..

  13. Paul Sampson (@pausam) May 1, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    Very colourful start.

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