Saturday, January 21, 2012

My First Science Fiction Romance

So, I was going through unfinished projects and I came across this gem, created during a phase of my "I want to be published" writing journey. While reading it, I realized how important it still is to keep a story moving forward. Here I employ the use of hooks and hangers, something I considered then, and still consider to be very important.

So without further wait, I'll show you a little bit, and please excuse any typos or grammer. It's not polished. :) Where I leave off, is not the end of the chapter. Oh no, I inflict poor Marcus with much more before this chapter ends.

Here's an excerpt from Blame it on Mars:

I should have opted for the lethal injection.


Any worse vibration and his teeth would rattle out of his skull. Marcus strangled the levers beside his seat, knuckles white, hanging on only for an anchor to sanity.

The system’s lights began to die one at a time.

Power cells—failing.


Pressure—failing.


The flipping hydraulics—failing.

All winked out except a little orange light that glowed and pulsed like a strobe, letting him know he could still breathe. Laughter bubbled from his lips. Oxygen? Who needed a damned light to know they were still breathing?

An outline of a seated man flashed across the navigational screen, alerting him to assume the crash position, most likely the product of the same scientist. The genius did bother to think of the extras, like auxiliary power for controlling the ship. But they’d saved enough to tell him to kiss his ass goodbye. Clever.

In the canopy’s frame, a planet grew larger. Big and blue, a Goliath. “Safe bet you’re not Mars.” Wormholes, it appeared, were really tunnels through space. What were you thinking, Marcus?


He let go of the lever and tapped the control panel, then banged on it. Dead, except for the familiar red sign of the seated-man, who took the opportunity to flash at him. Again. He slammed his fist down harder. The image hummed, popped and disappeared. In its place a calm computer generated voice warned him, “crash imminent.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“Crash imminent in 5.2 minutes.”

He flipped a couple of switches, for the sake of doing something. “How about you tell me where I am?”

“Crash imminent in 4.93 minutes.”

“Super.” It shouldn’t matter, but it did. Something about dying alone on an unknown planet disturbed him more than the dying part.

“Crash imminent…” Marcus pounded on the console and the voice died.

“Yeah, okay. Crash is fucking imminent. I’d rather not think about that.”

Yeah, he’d been sent into space to expire, but this was different. Nobody would know he was here. An unmarked, unvisited, grave. The red warning of the seated man came back to life, reminding him of how much his life truly sucked. Marcus ground down on his teeth. “Where’s a good sledgehammer when you need one?”

“Crash…”

Marcus yanked his hands off the levers and banged on the control panel like a mountain gorilla. The cover cracked and all the lights died. “Shut the hell up. Can’t you see I’m trying to think?”

He glanced out the canopy again. Space was no longer visible, only the blues, greens and browns of the world below. “Situation assessment, Captain,” Marcus called out to the empty cockpit.

He dropped his voice a couple of octaves. “Well, we’re a coming in a little steep, she’s hot, and you’ve got no power.” Marcus searched around for something, anything that would tell him he could get out of this. Nothing. He burst into laughter.

“Assessment—you’re screwed. Good news, it can’t get any worse.” He wiped a tear from his eye, flipped a lever and snorted. Could it?

“Please fasten your seatbelts, folks, we could experience a bit of turbulence upon entry.” Oh yeah, a bit. The Martian Destiny’s nose was already a slight shade off molten red. Her tiles glowed incandescent and in minutes, she’d vaporize. “It’s a pleasant 6oo degrees out there. No cloud cover and lot’s of sunshine. It looks like it’s going to be a real scorcher. Don’t forget your sunscreen, folks.”

Marcus laughed again. The Destiny bumped, pitching him sideways. Her armrest caught him across the ribs and sharp pains raced up his sides. “Seat belts. Not a bad idea.” His hands flew to the safety harness, snapping it shut. The ship shuddered and he grabbed the levers, resuming his death grip.

The shuttle lurched and entered the planet’s atmosphere, her speed accelerated at the same pace as his heart. “I’m going to die.”

Not that it hadn’t been the plan. A few days ago he’d been scheduled to be executed, and just when he’d been ready to accept his fate, life dealt him a Trojan horse. At first the mission to Mars looked like a good thing. The package, the presentation, he couldn’t say no. What is it they say about Geeks bearing gifts?

“You will be the first man to walk on the surface.” At least that’s what they told him to get him to agree, that, and threatening to kill him by strapping him down and pumping poison into his veins. Option one or option two? It hadn’t been too hard to decide which was better. Whoo hoo, a glorious exit. Of course he couldn’t say no. And what’s behind door number two, Vanna!


Bad choice. Painful death. Sure, he hadn’t escaped execution and his life had been extended, but for what?

A barbeque.

The heat radiated off the glass like a blast furnace. The exposed skin of his hands began to blister and sting. Taking a breath, he pressed his feet against the floor of the cabin. They slipped across the surface, leaving melted rubber streaked across the decking. Now why did he think it could get any worse? “I wasn’t supposed to die like this.” Marcus closed his eyes and waited for the fireworks.

They never came. The Destiny went from fast, to not so fast, in the time it took him to scream. He flew forward against the restraints, knocking the wind from his lungs in a loud whoosh. Thank God he’d buckled up, or he would have kissed the windshield.

The culprit, a sludge that looked like a clear jelly, melted and streamed along the windows like strands of mucus. The nose sliced through the freaky goo, causing it to boil and bubble. He’d no idea what, but didn’t care. It slowed his descent and that was good enough.

It didn’t stop her. No, that would imply he had a little kismet on his side. It did give him the chance to bring the nose up and get control. Too steep and entry and he’d disintegrate, not enough angle and The Destiny would be torn apart by cross winds. Marcus hit a lever and manually cranked the flaps, slowing her more, praying to anyone that might hear him, that the action wouldn’t rip the ship apart.

It only took seconds to exit the gelatin. By then, he had a better angle on the approach and the situation didn’t look as grim.

As the ground drew closer, he observed a jungle below. Vegetation meant breathable air, well, most of the time it did and it usually meant water. Chances were pretty good the planet below could sustain life. Now, he needed to make it to the surface to find out.

“Come on baby, keep it together.” The Destiny vibrated in response to his pleas. Holding onto the levers took all his strength and determination. Every bone in his body buzzed from the jarring and his arms ached, feeling like they could dislocate at any moment. With all that, he managed to hold on, fueling the hopes of survival he’d tried to abandon on Earth.

The ship began to brush the treetops and Marcus steadied himself. Branches squealed against the skin of the vessel, filling the interior with their shrieks, setting his nerves to tingling.

The first impact sheared off the wings, removing what little control he’d retained. Now more missile than ship, the disabled vessel smashed through the jungle canopy.

The second impact really hurt. The bottom of the ship peeled away like a lid on a can of sardines. The contents dropped out, including him, all in a micro-moment, even though it seemed like it reeled along in slow motion.

The bottom of the ship caught after smashing through a couple of smaller trees and remained behind, to hang suspended in the treetops. The rest of the Destiny and her fuselage continued on and exploded moments later into a brilliant ball of fire. The heat of the explosion washed over him, followed by the smell of burning hair.

Marcus stared at the smoking, charred trees, corpses of the blast, thankful his ride stopped short. He sucked in a breath and started to giggle, unable to believe his luck. What were the chances a man could drop from space and live?

Impossible. It appeared there was a god here, whoever he was and he’d given him a second chance.

Courage fueled, he reached down with trembling hands and unbuckled the harness. The Destiny groaned. “Time to get off this ride, Marcus,” he whispered, not daring to go a decibel higher.

He glanced over at the trunk of blue-leafed tree, a small distance away. “Maybe she’ll hold. Not that far, a few steps, tops. You can do it Marc.” He pushed himself up on shaky legs.

Crack.
Or maybe not. A sound that would haunt him for the rest of his life, not a horrific shriek, scream, or even boom, broke any allusions of living he’d gathered. The Destiny, or what was left of her, dropped like a broken elevator. Straight down.

Marcus didn’t remember the third and final impact. When he came back to consciousness, he found every last inch of his body zinging with pain and didn’t need to remember. His body did it for hm.

He’d been thrown free of the wreck. The seat sat about twenty feet away in the twisted ball of debris. He took a deep breath, then gasped. Pain—like he’d been hit and run by a tank.

Marcus flexed and unflexed his hands then turned his head to the side and stared at the toe of his boot. He blinked, unable to look away. Leg and foot still attached, not a bad thing. However, the angle in which it pointed, about one hundred and eighty degrees from where it should be, now that didn’t look so good. He sure as fuck wasn’t a gymnast, so flexibility could be ruled out quick.

Okay, one issue. Marcus cringed and tried to move his other leg. Success, all the way to his toes. Though he felt pain, it didn’t appear as bad as he first believed. Perhaps he could find a way to patch up and survive. One broken leg was better than two.

“Okay what else is wrong with you?” He squeezed his eyes shut, gathered his courage, opened them and continued to survey the damage. Another mistake. He wished it away, but no amount of wishing would remove the image in front of him.

A large chunk of metal, a souvenir from the impact, stuck up from his body. It impaled him through the right side, under the ribs, aka the love handle, better yet, it pinned him to the ground. Long and narrow, it started off wide at the top, getting skinnier as it entered his body and was pointy like a stake—one great big, nasty metal splinter.

The heat from entry annealed the metal and sealed his flesh around it, keeping him from hemorrhaging. Again, not a bad thing. At least he wouldn’t bleed out. But, the resulting dull surface only seemed to accentuate its size, sucking away any enthusiasm he’d had about being alive. Is it really that big?

He dropped his head back; unable to look further, then lifted it up again to stare at the fragment. Still there, still sticking up, and still pointy. He groaned. And yes, it was big.

Maybe it would’ve been better to vaporize on entry.

“Well, isn’t this fun.” His eyes burned and his nose stung. The oxygen on the planet seemed concentrated. At least one thing went well. With his injuries, he probably needed it.

Now that he knew he wouldn’t be walking away, other not so pleasant thoughts wormed their way through his head. Who and what lived here? For all he knew the planet could be inhabited by some nasty species. Meat eaters. Hoo-rah. Sign me up.

He reached down and grabbed the chunk of metal, pretty sure that it only pierced the flesh on his side, or he’d be dead. He shouldn’t pull it out, not the best choice, but he’d run out of options. He needed to get into cover, splint his leg, and reassess the situation. Adapt, improvise and overcome. The last bit would be the hardest part. There wouldn’t be an ambulance, or doctor waiting to see him. Survival would be up to him. Slowly he counted backwards from three and yanked.

Then again, he’d never been Army and that was their thing. Overcome? Who the hell came up with that anyway? “God!” Sharp pains shot to every nerve ending. Darkness rolled over him and he went with it.

#####

Marcus woke to the sound of rustling leaves, not far from where he lay. He turned his head and reached down to touch the wound on his side. It wept blood, but not gushing. The scrap of metal must have missed the arteries and organs, as he’d guessed. Another impossibility. Someone either wanted him to suffer, or they didn’t want him dead. Yet.

He could smell the fuel and smoke from his ship mixed with the coppery tang of his blood. Yet? God, what was he thinking? He needed to face it. He was going to die, here on an alien planet, far from all he knew, and really, all things considered, did he want to live? He could be the only humanoid on this planet, or worse.

How much longer would it take? He blew out a gust of air and tried to push the throbbing in his limbs to the back of his mind. He didn’t feel close to death, only miserable. “Damn it, Marcus. You’re already giving up. Knock it off. You’re not going to die.”

The leaves rattled again. Something moved under them, coming closer. Marcus narrowed his eyes and willed it to go away. It moved again.

He studied the shifting debris, trying to analyze the threat. It didn’t look like something big enough to eat him. Still, he didn’t like it creeping towards him, nor the thought he could become breakfast. Reaching down, he grabbed the chunk of metal that he’d dropped and did his best to throw it at the moving leaves. He didn’t want to know what—he wanted it to go away.

The fragment landed next to it. The movement stopped. Maybe I scared it away?

It moved again.

Or maybe not.

“Get.” He huffed out the word as best as he could, every breath agonizing. More crackling. Slowly something began to emerge from under the decaying matter. Little bits of blue peeked up at him, while it made its way to the surface, until it finally emergied in one bright jolt of electric blue.

“Ah shit.” Of all the creatures it could be, of all the things his mind could spin from the depths of his imagination, from brain-sucking squid creatures to bug-eyed aliens, he faced the one thing that terrified him more than anything could. “Jesus, fucking—Christ. Why?”

Jungle-survival-training-flashback resurfaced, and Marcus wanted to crawl out of his skin. He could have handled a bugged eyed alien, a snake, even the freaking brain-sucking squid, but not a tarantula and not this one.

Bigger than his hand and covered with wiry hairs, it challenged every fractured bit of bravado left in him. Worse yet, he could see his reflection in its eyes. It arched up like a cat and hissed. Bonus! It’s got personality. Shit. Get me out of here. His heart thumped against his ribs, bouncing into his throat and treating his tonsils like a heavy bag. As he stared at it, he wondered if it was poisonous. Of course it is. Nothing had gone right so far, why should that change?

He grabbed a handful of soil and leaves and heaved it at the spider. It didn’t work. It only seemed to antagonize it. The damned thing rushed forward like a linebacker. He grabbed more leaves and soil, but before he could toss the handfuls, the spider leapt on his leg and sunk its pinchers in.

A sharp stinging radiated from the bite, enough to let him know it successfully injected poison. He screamed and backhanded it, sending the spider to land about ten feet from his head. It stayed there, out of reach, watching, rubbing its mandibles together as if it sharpened the cutlery and it looked to be staring. Hard to tell with all the eyes.

“Get out of here.” It responded by clicking its pinchers together, a sound that nearly pushed him to faint. He grabbed another handful of soil and debris, but his aimed sucked. It landed no where near the blue arachanid. This is bad. Numbness spread up his leg and euphoria hit. Marcus’s brain grew foggy.

The numbing, much like Novocain, rolled up his leg from the bite, giving him respite from the pain. But… He blinked and the spider split into two. Crap. “Stop that.”

“Click, click, click,” it chattered back.

“You’re the fucking spider-whisperer now, Marcus?” He spluttered and started to giggle. His body lifted from the ground, or felt like it did, and a pleasant warmth spread through him. A rumble of laughter rolled from his chest, before he could stop it. Noise right now could attract attention. What if there were more? Whoo hoo. He did his best to push aside the feeling of giddiness and control his laughter, sure that he wouldn’t like the impending consequences.

His eyes began to get heavy. Marcus lifted his hand to his face, and slapped his cheek. It didn’t work. The high wormed its way into his brain, and his eyes slid shut. No. Marcus snapped them back open. “That’s what you want, isn’t it?” He stared at the spider and it made its clicking sound. “Yeah, well fuck you,” he slurred back. “That’s right. Go find dinner somewhere else.”

He needed to sing or something, anything to stay awake, but all that came to mind was little boy blue. You’re losing it, Marcus? Mother Goose? Come on anything but that. You could be dying; make your last moments memorable. Anything but nursery rhymes. What’s wrong with you? You’re a man, think of something manly.

“The buffet is closed. Mary, Mary,” he mumbled, forgetting the rest. Was she Ms. October? “Stay awake, Marcus.” He swatted at his face again and missed. “Shit.”

He glanced at the spider and doubled his efforts. The world around him began to spin. He wanted to close his eyes, but couldn’t. There would be consequences.

Consequences, that sat out of arm’s reach.

Waiting.

“Zack be a thimble, not a prick. Jack jump over a…” He giggled again. “How does your garden grow?” That wasn’t how it went. Was it? “Ah shut. You’re in troub—le. No—sleep, can’t sleep.” The spider began to blur and he renewed his efforts. “Little Bo Peep,” he screamed and passed out.

Marcus had a great nap. Even so, he knew he needed to wake up. It didn’t matter that he was busted up, or too stoned on venom to care. He fought the haze, knowing he needed to pull himself back. How long had he been asleep? Minutes? Hours? It didn’t matter. He’d blacked out with an eight-legged, alien nightmare watching.

Before he opened his eyes, he wished it gone. Once open, he noticed it no longer sat there and then decided that scenario was worse. He began to scan the area. It wasn’t near him. He froze. “Please tell me you are not on me.”

Reluctantly, he began to examine his body.

It wasn’t until he lifted his head and stared at the shrapnel wound, that he noticed the odd bulge. Marcus bit down on his lip and poked it. It moved.

"Eeeeeeeech." He didn’t think he was even capable of a sound like that, but there it was. He’d shrieked like a little girl. It wiggled again, causing the flesh on his side to undulate. He screamed again.

Ah, poor Marcus. But this is merely the beginning of his troubles. His scream attracts attention, and soon Marcus will learn he's not alone.
 
Thanks for visiting today. Have a great weekend,
 
D L

3 comments:

Jessica Subject said...

You left it there? Love Marcus! And of course, I want more! :)

D L Jackson said...

Snickers

Brenda Hyde said...

OMG...so good. Gotta love a hero that can scream like a little girl:)

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