I still don't have a title for this piece. I'm hoping that something brilliant and powerful comes to me soon, because referring to it as "Sci-Fi Novella" is driving me a little batty. But again, this isn't completely unusual. I haven't had titles for about half of my projects until I was nearly halfway done. I'm sure it'll come.
And so, without further ado, here's an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the Sci-Fi Novella-in-Progress:
“The American Sector is sending a standard greeting.”
“Put it through,” Paige said, smoothing her uniform and walking to her seat. Earth was replaced with a middle aged woman with dark hair in a tight bun and dark eyes staring at the screen.
“Greetings, Callisto 2. I’m Majorie Banks, commander of the American Sector Station. What brings you here today?”
“Greetings, Commander Banks. I’m Paige Lybrand, captain of the Callisto 2. We’re here today on a standard supply run.” She pulled up her computer manifest. “We’re scheduled to pick up food and medical supplies, a shipment of construction materials for the development of the Saturn 2 spacestation, and,” she paused to clear her throat, “thirteen parakeets.”
Commander Banks eyes glistened as she suppressed a laugh. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I got that last item.”
Paige put her computer in her pocket. “It’s actually thirteen budgies. The Jovan Council approved a request for Dr. Hailey Heslop, a scientist on Callisto, to set up a parakeet aviary to breed birds. People love their pets and the Council feels the time is right to see how well domesticated animals fare in interstellar environments. With human companions, of course.” Paige blushed as she heard barely muffled laughter in the background of both the station and her ship.
“Of course,” Commander Banks said. “But why get an odd number if they scientist plans to breed them?”
“One’s for me, okay? I like birds. I helped the scientist get approval for the request and she procured an extra bird for me.”
Commander Banks smiled. “There’s nothing wrong with being an animal lover. I hope the experiment works. Pets would certainly make interstellar life more pleasant.”
“More interesting, at least,” Paige said. “I also want to advise you that we’ve discovered two items of interest. There’s a dark matter mass over the Middle East and Pacific Sectors. We’re transmitting what we have to you,” she said, nodding to Malaki who nodded back as he sent a copy of the data.
“It formed suddenly over the past three hours. We tried to advise you of it, but our long range communications have been disrupted all day. In fact, we’ve been trying to hail you since we discovered it and this was the first transmission to go through.” Commander Banks walked to her communications console to study the data as it arrived. “Thank you. It’s more than we’ve been able to find. What was the other item?”
“Our communications director picked up strange transmissions originating in the Pacific Sector. We aren’t sure what it is. Our computer is running a decryption sequence now, but it hasn’t been able to identify it.”
Commander Banks paled. “Dark matter and strange signals from the same place? That doesn’t sound good.” She stared at the computer console again.
“Do you believe it’s safe for us to continue our approach for the pick up?” Paige asked.
Commander Banks pulled out her computer and studied it. “Your supplies are scheduled for lift off from the procurement station in Cape Canaveral in fifteen minutes. I think you’ll be okay …” the signal cut off abruptly, leaving the screen blank.
Paige turned to Janelle. “What happened?”
Janelle shrugged, “I don’t know. It just cut off without warning.” She stared at her console, her green eyes widening. “Captain, I just detected three, no four, mushroom clouds in the Middle Eastern Sector.” Her console went blank. “I just lost my visual. I’ll have to turn off the dark matter scanners to pick up the data on the ground.”
Paige’s brown eyes matched Janelle’s. “Get these viewscreens working again!”
“I can’t,” Malaki said, “our systems are going haywire. They aren’t responding. The satellite communication feeds have stopped transmitting.”
“Switch the sensors. I want to know what’s going on down there!”
Molly got out of her chair and walked to Paige’s side. “Captain, I think we should leave.”
“We don’t know what’s happening,” Paige said.
“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” Molly asked, staring at Paige sternly.
“I’m detecting six more nuclear energy spikes in the Middle Eastern sector,” Janelle said.
“It’s a nuclear attack,” Molly said. “We need to leave!”
“I don’t understand,” Paige said, rooted to her spot in the middle of the bridge. She stared at the blank viewscreen in confusion. There are no nuclear weapons. Everybody disarmed. We made sure of it.”
“Obviously somebody either didn’t completely disarm, or they rebuilt those weapons,” Malaki said.
“Think about it,” Molly said, “the Middle East Sector and Pacific Sector are isolated from the rest of humanity. The puzzle isn’t that hard to put together, Paige. You know what happened.”
Paige sighed and sank in her chair. “I know, but we can’t make any assumptions. What I don’t understand his how the communications can also be down.” She thought a moment, then sat up straight. “It doesn’t matter. We know enough to understand that an act of war just occurred and we are obligated to evacuate the area immediately.”
Everybody on the bridge started at Paige as she sat with her hand against her head. Finally, Malaki turned to face Paige. “Ma’am, was that an order to retreat?”
Paige snapped form her reverie. “Yes, of course. Set course for the Martian Transport Station. Maybe we can find out more there.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Malaki said, setting the coordinates. “I guess the budgies will have to wait.”
“I guess so,” Paige said, rubbing her head as she imagined the blue jewel of Earth wrapped in radiation behind them.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt and will be sure to post more as the novella progresses!
That's all today. Take care and have a great week.