I beta-read my own book, after six major edits, and decided the opening chapters were tepid. I was supposed to describe the hero’s emotional journey prior to the inciting event. Was not getting it done. Thankfully, none of you have seen it. Here’s a second shot. Comments welcome.
Act 1 – Chapter 1
For thousands of years, L2, the second Lagrange point, had been a favorite stop for spacecraft inbound from Jivada. One-and-a-half million kilometers from Earth, with a permanent view of the dark side, L2 was an ideal staging vector for precise Saraf Drive jumps into atmosphere.
In 2021, NASA put the James Webb telescope there. It wouldn’t matter if interstellar commerce was out in the open, but it wasn’t. Not yet.
The alternative waypoint near L5 was too far from Earth to measure ship-to-ground spacetime curvature. Even with beacon telemetry, Doctor Elbert Holland Harrison’s thirty-meter Mirage might pop out of N-Space a hundred meters off the surface, or it might not.
A bounce would send him back the way he came. A skip would put him on the daylight side of the planet, possibly in range of an uncompromised radar installation — which would see him, invisibility technology be damned.
While Jivada Traffic calculated a landing solution, he brooded in the company of Claude the housekeeping maroli. The machine hovered in a corner of the salon, a nightmarish figure, gutworm-tech tentacles spilling out of a bioform cavity in a waist-high metallic egg.
It was the first size-one labor appliance Elbert had ever actually taken title to. He was becoming fond of it, calling it his hunchbacked manservant.
Elbert said, “I haven’t been back in thirty years.”
Claude was silent. Elbert pushed to his feet. “It’s just a two-hour trip, but there didn’t seem to be any point. Emma and her husband started spending half their time on Jivada.”
Elbert went to the galley. Claude followed. “Emma’s my youngest daughter, by Francine. I visited for a birthday party. She was sixty-six at the time.” He browsed a cabinet. “The other girls were always good about spending time with us. Do we have tea?”
Claude lifted a floor hatch, retrieving a box of Earl Grey. “This device stores tea in the time vault.”
“Emma’s husband has a house in Tarpon Springs. That’s where his parents live.” He waited for Claude to strip off the wrapper. “They had a rental on Jivada, but after Francine was gone for a year …”
He filled a mug from a hot water spigot. “Loyal House was not my house. It was Francine’s. Emma’s her daughter, a blood relation. Seemed like the right thing to do.”
Claude offered a tea bag. “This device listens.”
“I’m not a pauper. I could have bought a space yacht if I wanted one, was not all that excited about having it given to me. But I appreciate it now, and it was a grand gesture on the part of our family friend.” He gave Claude a sympathetic smile. “This boat’s previous master. Did anyone tell you she passed away?”
Claude replied with the <AF> tone.
“Age reversal’s hard on us. She was three-hundred-twenty-six. The spirit gets tired.” He took a breath. “I’m a hundred-eighty.”
“This device is thirteen-hundred years old.”
“Were you commissioned with the boat?”
Claude signed <AF>, then scooted off a virtual console instantiating in the companionway. “Jivada Traffic says go in five.”
It was an hour before sunrise in the boondocks east of Marathon, Texas. Elbert stepped out of his spaceboat into cold desert air. Churned-up dust settled around his shoes. The mangled corpse of a rattlesnake wrapped around a landing strut reminded him to watch where he was walking.
The closest highway was too far away to reflect the glow of headlights. There was nothing to see except stars and the outlines of distant mountains.
In due time, an all-but-invisible cargo shuttle landed thirty meters away. The pilot, a Turkman of apparent middle-age, introduced himself by saying, “We never met, but my boys and I handled your move to the big sandy, back in 1928.”
Elbert shook his hand, chuckling. “Don’t tell me times are so lean the owner has to make deliveries.”
“Nah. I wanted to meet you.” He gave Elbert’s hand an extra squeeze. “I brought you my newest Cadillac.”
The Escalade was a tight fit, leaving barely enough room in the space yacht’s garage for Elbert’s motorcycle. The leasing agent had advice to offer. “This is about as close as I come to New Mexico, on account of military air traffic. If I was you, I’d unload the car out by I-10 and drive the rest of the way.”
Travelling west on I-10, Elbert put a finger on what was stuck in his craw. It feels like a fall from grace.
He wasn’t the only one suffering. Francine had isolated herself from the whole family. Never mind she was born in 1888 South Dakota, technically an American citizen. She was Anye Iravat, a member of the lemur tribes, a fox in a dress, a mythological fragment of Earth’s secret history and, when on Earth, a shadow person.
She’d learned to resent it. It was called the furry blues, and Francine had it bad. For his part, Elbert didn’t like calling it a disorder. It seemed more along the lines of an identity crisis, or a phase one goes through upon reaching one-hundred-thirty years of age.
It was still a loss, deeply felt. Cruising with the early morning sun in the rearview mirror, there was nothing he could do except call his middle daughter, hoping to solicit a little comfort.
Charlotte was at her villa in Portugal, thinking about a nap. It was, she reported, unseasonably cold there. “It’s even colder in France. Maurice says the grapes might not be worth harvesting.”
Elbert smiled into the camera. “Are you kids doing all right?”
“You mean, since last week? What’s the matter, Pop; are you feeling lonely today?”
“Everyone except me seems to be managing their ninety-year marriages just fine. I keep thinking, with the disclosure coming up, maybe Francine will snap out of it.”
His daughter made a solemn face. “I love her to pieces, but then what? Are we supposed to forgive her little snit over furbags not being able to go shopping in Chicago, or whatever she thinks she ought to be able to do? What about the way she treated Emma for being born without the werewolf curse?”
“Let’s be thankful it didn’t start before your sister became an adult.”
“Yes, lets. Pop, whatever decision you make, I’m here for you.” Charlotte peered at the edges of the call frame. “What are you driving?”
“Cadillac. About to cross into New Mexico.”
“Do you like your new spaceboat?”
Elbert laughed. “I like it a lot.”
Writing is a never-ending editorial process, isn’t it? Even after “final” drafts have been produced, the author always seems to be able to find room for change! Thanks.
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Ha! I changed it again after you read it!
I rest my case, your honor.
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