Thought I may as well chuck up a piece of writing that I did at the end of last year. In theory it’s the prologue to the novel I have been (avoiding) writing for the past year or so. It’s slow going, and I find inspiration very infrequently. Even so, I am a little proud of what may be the opening to a novel that may or may not exist one day.
I won’t go into too much detail about the plot, which I have mapped out in my head and on a random bit of paper I have floating around in my study somewhere, but it should be enough to say I am planning the the novel to be set in Australia, a hundred or so years into the future – at least in the first book of the trilogy.
I won’t go on about it too much.
Enjoy, and feel free to leave me a comment with any advice, complements, or (more likely than not) criticisms.
Who knows, maybe I’ll be inspired to continue writing.
Australian Space Agency Launch Pad; Woomera, South Australia, Australia; 6:13am ACDT, 20th September, 2122 CE
Above the launch-pad the shooting stars that had glistened over the horizon throughout the night had given way to a subtle glow as the sun began to rise.
And for a moment it seemed almost as if the world wasn’t about to collapse.
The Australian Space Transport Ship Ark-10 waited impatiently, blowing recently evaporated liquid-nitrogen from its sides while it was made ready for departure.
“Engines cooled. Ark-10 on internal power,” there was a pause, and then, “T-Minus sixty seconds until lift-off.”
The voice over the speakers was calm and measured, but there was a sense of urgency that dominated the onlookers, some of whom had already been jostled into the shuttle-bus that would take them to be loaded into the next ship to take off, Ark-11.
If you looked closely at their faces you would see that they were scared, and that some of them had tear-streaks staining their cheeks.
You would see how tightly they gripped the hands of their loved-ones.
You would see the bribes of money and jewellery and information that was being passed between the passengers and their guides.
Oddly, it would be in only half an hour – if all went to plan – and they would have been shuffled onto the ship and sent on their way.
Not much had changed about space-travel since the first attempts in the mid-20th Century, and the largest changes of all had happened in the last twenty-four hours, when the news had broken. That news had sent people rushing to Woomera from all over the country. The smarter, richer, or more paranoid people had already arrived. The lucky ones had already left. And while those with the means had flown, looped, or even driven out to the middle of South Australia in an attempt to get onto one of the last flights off a dying planet, it was clear to those who took a moment to appreciate the gravity of the situation that only a few would ever make it off.
From Ark-10, a child who had only just qualified to meet the height restrictions looked out of the small window directly in front of him. The window faced outwards, but was tilted at a slight angle so that he could see straight up to the sky if he craned his neck backwards. For the last ten minutes the boy had been watching as the sky’s colour changed from a deep blue, streaked with light, through purple, and finally into the orange he saw now. What he didn’t know was that his seat was going to turn suddenly upwards, so that he was facing the nose of the vessel, as soon as thrust was applied, and he wouldn’t be able to see anything. Which, in hindsight, was probably lucky.
Actually, there were a great number of things he didn’t know, really, but that was okay – he wasn’t worried. The only thing that concerned him slightly was that he wasn’t sure whether his mother or father had gotten onto the ship with him.
Surely they had.
They wouldn’t leave him here.
“T-Minus thirty seconds. All systems are optimal.”
As time went on, the golden streaks above the world that had disappeared as the sun’s light got brighter began to reappear. Some people thought they saw little explosions, before light would blaze in pin-pricks overhead.
On the ground, a mother and daughter boarded the bus, but were separated in the crowd. Usually this bus would do two trips to load the passengers on board. They only had time for one now.
The daughter heard her mum call out to her, telling her to follow the instructions and that they would see one another soon. The daughter called out to her mother, telling her she loved her.
There was no response, but the bus was very loud.
From the viewing station a kilometre away from the launch-site – incidentally where the bus had just left with the mother and daughter – two parents looked on at the smoking vessel, a single pure-white cigar that would save their son. They looked at each other wordlessly, and the father held his wife’s hand tighter to stop his own from shaking.
Eight of the last ten ships had made it up. It was going to be okay.
The pair exchanged a smile, knowing that their son would make it. After all, they’d prayed together before putting him on the bus.
“T-Minus fifteen seconds. Ready for final count.”
The child had noticed that the ship had stopped vibrating. The whirring that he hadn’t realised he had been hearing for the last few minutes had stopped. He wondered who was crying, but couldn’t turn to see anyone. He decided it was his mother. He hoped she’d be okay.
He called out to her and told her it would be alright, but it only made her sob louder than before.
On the ground, the electric shuttle-bus shot forward towards the launch-pad, and the driver lowered the heat shields around the windows. They didn’t have time to replace the bus if it was burnt up by the rocket, but they usually didn’t drive directly at a launch.
The speakers on the bus played the final countdown, and all the occupants went quiet. Those who could, squinted through the heat shield near them to see the lift-off. There was a great deal riding on this launch – some people had family on Ark-10.
“T-Minus 10 seconds. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three.”
As the count landed on three, exhaust fumes billowed out of the tunnels that had been dug below the launch-pad as the engines powered up and began to thrust, held back only by the weight of the cargo.
On the bus, the driver slowed down by instinct, and braced himself for the heat as a shockwave hit the vehicle and the ground began to shake.
At the viewing point, the parents of the boy fell to their knees and closed their eyes, praying once more for their son’s life.
On Ark-10, the child was thrown backwards as the passengers’ chairs were moved into take-off position. He couldn’t hear anything anymore, so he thought the woman who he was convinced was his mother must have stopped crying.
Above, those not watching the space ship would have seen glitter in the sky – a huge storm of debris from the collisional cascade had entered the atmosphere as the ship began to buckle, almost lifting off the ground.
The only sound was the roar of the engines as Ark-10 began what should have been a long, uncomfortable journey towards the Martian colonies.
“Lift-off. We have lift-off,” the same emotionless voice reported over the speakers, as the debris-field entered the atmosphere yet again, and began to burn up.
Over the next ten minutes, a number of things happened. Firstly, the boy on the space ship, Ark-10 passed out. That was quite normal for boys of his age, who were not built to withstand the high-G environment of a space ship at full-thrust. Secondly, the parents opened their eyes, and watched with horror as Ark-10 sped towards the debris-field which was spreading across the sky, from horizon to horizon. Finally, the daughter realised that her mother was no longer on the bus, and screamed out for her while the others sobbed in sorrow and fear as their hopes and their loved ones joined the debris-field in the sky, and burned up in the atmosphere as they were torn apart aboard Ark-10.