I’m going to be brave and share the first chapter of my book. I’m still wordsmithing the text, but I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m aiming to launch the entire thing as an eBook later this year.
Part of the reason I’m ready to share is because I submitted this chapter to a podcast run by two professional editors. They read it and gave a critique here. I found their comments helpful (although it was weird to hear someone read my words aloud) and they left me feeling ready to share.
Settler Chronicles is about a group setting up a colony on a far away world. Nothing goes according to plan then they discover a conniving plot one of the settlers has set up to ensure the colony fails. Will they catch the saboteur before it’s too late…
14:21hrs Day 114
“Mayday, mayday, mayday.”
Hovering by the control room door, Gary Holbrook kept his eyes glued to the monitor as Joan Taggart’s voice crackled over the radio.
“Right engine’s down, left’s responding sluggishly. Have to land. Over,” said Joan sounding infinitely far away—and for practical purposes, she was. Outside, beyond the safe colony walls she was piloting Shuttle 2.
In the control room, the main monitor displayed Joan’s forward cockpit view. Towering spires of rocks extended towards the sky in all directions and Shuttle 2 was losing altitude bringing the rough terrain closer and closer. Acting Captain Craig Spares leaned over the duty officer, Lucas Ordaz, to get a closer look at the landscape.
Gary took two more paces to towards the main video feed. As the ship’s doctor, he felt outside his element, but unwilling to leave. He happened to be walking by when he heard his wife, Margo’s voice over the radio – she was on the shuttle with Joan. Taking a deep breath, he tried to forget that he hadn’t taken time that morning to ask Margo why she was going.
“There,” Craig said, pointing to a piece of landscape that looked the same as the rest. He picked up the microphone and pressed the transmit button. “Shuttle 2, there’s a flatter region at your 2 o’clock, aim for that. Over.”
“Margo get your helmet on,” Joan said, unaware she was transmitting. “Control, say again about landing site, over.”
“Your 2 o’clock.”
“They don’t have helmets on,” whispered Gary, his eyes fixed on the screen displaying the shuttle’s forward view. All sensors showed that Thesan’s atmosphere lacked oxygen. If the bubble of the shuttle’s hull was compromised, their atmosphere suits were all that would keep the two people on the shuttle alive.
“Dr. Holbrook, get ready to receive casualties,” said Craig without looking away from the monitor.
Gary didn’t move; rescuing Joan and Margo was impossible. The colony’s only other shuttle lay trapped beneath a mangled hangar door.
The three of them in the control room watched helplessly as the shuttle’s flight pattern grew more erratic, creating the illusion that the pillars of rocks were dancing and twisting. As the shuttle got closer, the rock formations appeared to be grabbing at it with Lovecraftian tentacles. Watching made Gary feel sick to his stomach, but he couldn’t turn away.
A single rock tower loomed in the display. In a split second, the monolith of pock-marked grey consumed the view. The display went black, and Joan’s life sign monitor winked out.
“Can you get any visuals?” demanded Craig. Lucas looked down to the secondary screen in front of him and began searching the video feeds. “Margo, can you hear me?” transmitted Craig, seeing that Margo’s life signs remained strong.
“It appears she got her helmet on in time, but she only has 25 minutes of air. No, make that 20 minutes,” said Lucas reading Margo’s suit sensors. He turned to Craig. “Her suit has a leak. She needs to fix it right away.”
“Margo, do you hear me?” said Craig into the comms system. There was no reply.
“Can you bring up her helmet cam?” Lucas turned back to his display.
“It appears to be damaged, look.” Lucas switched the main display view. The screen showed mostly black with a few patches of smudged light.
“Okay, keep trying the other cameras.”
Lucas flipped through views until he came to the shuttle’s cargo hold view. The camera, once showing the shuttle’s interior, now surveyed the grey landscape. Harsh blue light from the brighter sun illuminated the area. They could see a slice of the valley floor surrounded by finger-like rock formations. The crushed forward section of the shuttle could just be seen at the top of the screen. Debris littered the landscape between the two sections.
“Margo, please respond,” transmitted Craig.
The three of them stood in silence as they waited. Gary closed his eyes hoping to hear Margo’s voice.
“There, movement,” said Lucas pointing to where the valley floor moved. Gary too another step closer to look. A grey mass extended upwards. Thick waves of what appeared to be viscous drips slowly revealed the mass to be a human form.
“Is the valley floor liquid?” asked Craig.
“It shouldn’t be, but I can’t get any in situ details,” said Lucas. “All the shuttle sensors died in the crash.”
To Gary it looked like thick mud coated Margo’s suit. With muddy gloved hands, she was trying to wipe the sticky goo off her visor. After a few moments, she must have got enough muck off to see the aft part of the shuttle wreck. With viscous fluid reaching halfway up her shins, she started wading towards the wreckage.
“Ten minutes of air,” said Lucas.
“Margo, respond,” said Craig again.
Gary watched Margo emerge fully from the sludge and walk to the aft section. Mud clung to every surface of her suit.
“There’s no way she’ll find a tear in her suit covered in gunk,” said Lucas, checking the sensor readings once again.
Margo stopped and stared directly at the camera. Gary couldn’t make out her face under the smeared surface of her helmet. Alarms must be going off telling her she was leaking air. Why isn’t she trying to fix her suit?
Margo turned and stepped out of view.
“Bring up her helmet camera,” snapped Craig. “Margo! Respond!”
“Leave her alone,” said Gary his eyes fixed on his wife’s life signs. “Let her have some peace.”
“She’s out of air,” said Lucas slumping into his seat.
On cue, Margo’s life sign monitor winked out.
And that’s all I’m sharing at this point. What do you think? Please comment below.