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Monthly Writing Prompt
For this month's writing prompt write a scene using the following sentence to start;

The streets were deserted. Where was everyone? Where had they all gone?

Writing Tip
Our monthly writing tips are written by our very own TerishD. You can read more in Terish's Blog located in "The Abstractions" area of the forum.

Look Back

When not able to write ahead, it helps to look back. In my case I had written a paragraph ahead of the story. What I needed to do was add a section of exposition (talking) presenting some facts. In going back, I realized that I could insert a section where a 'tour' of the surroundings could be done. This allowed for character interaction, story development, and other things that enabled me to present the facts in an entertaining manner.

One should not face a writer's block with the mentality of bursting through it. I have found in my own experience that a writer's block is usually due to my mind indicating that it has a problem in 'channeling' the story. One reason might be a re-imagining of certain story points. Another reason however is that there is a problem in where you are at in the story, so you need to look back and find out the problem with the 'journey' that prevents the tale from advancing.

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 Outside - Engineering in Control

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Number of posts : 1287
Age : 58
Location : Ringgold, Louisiana
Current Mood :
Registration date : 2008-07-21

PostSubject: Outside - Engineering in Control   July 28th 2010, 12:27 am

Outside - Story Thirteen
Engineering in Control

Part 1

Yes, I get a turn at this. I might not be a pilot or someone who regularly talks, but I am an important member of this crew. I thus knew that my time to speak would come, and it has.

For someone that few hear from, I am rather well known. My reputation as a quality mechanic in high-energy generators started with me in the military. I actually had no plans to quit serving the people of the United Inhabited Worlds when Thor came to me.

“Master Sergeant Sandra Lee, I was told that your time of service was coming to a completion.”

I knew who the man was. As a mechanic myself, I stayed aware of others in my field. Thor Hawkins had not made his name as a mechanic, but his ability to construct a quality spaceship had earned him enough money to make his own venture into space. I knew that he had built his own spaceship, and had taken it into space himself. I thus wondered why he came to me, so accepted his offer of a drink.

“I am not Chief Master Sergeant yet, so I don’t believe my service is over.”

“I want to make you an offer that will have you thinking otherwise.”

One does not really get proposals in my line of work, so I had to ask, “Why?”

“Because I would be stupid to offer the job to anyone with less of a reputation. I can take care of my ship. I am hiring others that can take care of my ship. I thus really do not need a mechanic, but I felt that you might like the challenge.”

I was not taking his offer seriously, but I did consider Thor someone worthy of spending time with. The fact that he did not go directly into mentioning money caused me to treat him with some respect. I thus decided to see just how much of a challenge he would present to me.

“Who have you hired?”

“Castle, Clover, and Diamond.”

I knew all three names. Only one I considered an equal, although another I wished that I had access to myself. I however focused on the one that fit neither category.

“Diamond is old school. He flies a jalopy.”

“He let me fly that jalopy. It performs rather smoothly.”

“Would you trust him with your engines?”

“We had a rather engaging conversation in my engine room. I believe he could keep it hobbling along if things got desperate.”

I knew a number of young punks who I considered in that category. The older men however had a depth of understanding that did give them some standing with me. While the technology had improved, the basic mechanics of our engines had remained the same. Those old men could thus look at the technology with the wonder of why we had made some decisions that they considered wrong. I had learned things talking with them, so accepted Thor’s words.

“I have heard about Castle. Do you really believe that he is a good as they say?”

“He can tear down, repair, and put back together a boat faster than anyone I have witnessed. He lost me however when he mentioned designing fabric to hide special ducts. I could not believe that he wanted to go out into space, as he could make a fine living building boats for others.”

Those words actually matched my own thoughts, so I asked, “Where are you going?”

“Where there is money. I don’t want engine problems, or somebody in the engine room that I have to worry about. I want to focus on the money.”

I did not have money problems, but that did not mean that I did not have a hole in my life. “Both Castle and Clover are young, and known for doing things their own way. I want that freedom as well.”

Thor shrugged and sat back in his chair as he said, “Don’t think that you won’t have people looking over your shoulder. That is why I need you. I need someone that has the confidence to look back and keep the others I hire out making money.”

Okay, I was intrigued, so asked about the third name. “I could use a computer whiz right now. How do you rate Clover?”

“Let me put it this way. He buys top of the line equipment, then has it perform even better. I am not going to say that he is the best mechanic, but he knows everything about his engine and designs circuitry to up the precision of its operation.”

That was not my problem with the computer geeks in the military, so directed my inquiry. “Can you talk to him? I don’t want somebody that can talk computers, but someone that can talk.”

“He has lived with the Amish for the last number of years, so has a very practical outlook. Yeah, I can talk to him.”

I will admit that I suddenly was more than intrigued. “Tell you what, Thor. Make me an offer, and I will consider it.”

“I am not buying you drinks for that. I want you to allow me to make counter-offers.”

I liked his attitude, so agreed. My appreciation for Thor increased as I saw the type of offers and counter-offers that he sent to me. He did not so much offer a large pay, but proposals for becoming wealthy. It made me believe that the man was realistic about his search for money, so I finally took one of his offers over that of the military.

The first term of service to Thor was rewarding, but it also assured me that he was correct about my employment. I did have competition for my job among the crew of the Menlo Park. I found myself having to stay at work with the engines just to keep others from shouldering their way into my space. We had health issues and other concerns on that voyage, but not engine trouble. There were troubles in the engine room, but it was from differing opinions and not because the engine broke down. I felt tempers would get hot again at the start of this tale, but I was determined to hold my job as the top mechanic of the Menlo Park.

“What are you doing, Castle?”

The man was not really doing anything. He was in my part of the vessel however, so I felt a need to challenge him. He continued to stand staring at a wall showing gas flows, temperature readouts, and other facts of the engine operation as he mumbled his reply.

“Wondering if this design would be better for Diamond.”

“What are you going to do, build him a whole new boat?”

I knew that was the wrong question to ask him as the words left my mouth, as Castle could rattle on for hours about spacecraft designs. “I could. I have the parts, but he has been flying his boat almost longer than I have been alive. I am thus wondering how to keep him happy.”

Glad to get such a short response, I went ahead and moved the conversation along. “Listen, there is nothing wrong with his boat. He just needs new a new sensor panel. Truthfully, Clover is probably right that he just needs to update his computer system.”

“I was thinking to also upgrade his weapons. His boat really cannot deliver the punch that rest of us can.”

“I believe that you would be surprised how much power his boat has. He redid his core when we went in, and he had me triple-check a number of things.” I thought for a moment, then said, “I don’t know how his lasers and blasters are set, but the engine can give the power.”

He fixed his gaze on me, then asked, “Do we have those parts?”

“I didn’t nix anything you requested, Castle. I highlighted a few that I wondered if Thor would pay for, but if he did not come to you then it got ordered.”

One benefit of working for independents was the lack of oversight. I had the liberty to order whatever I thought would do the job. Of course, I also had the knowledge of having others that could challenge every action I made. What I however learned was that they would not stop me, just harass me for my choices. Of course, I had the power to do the same with what others spent their money upon, which I did with an added comment.

“I cannot understand why you ordered civilian blasters when there are those of us among the crew that can get you military grade artillery.”

A strange expression crossed the man’s face, then he said, “Felix.”

Over the speaker came the reply, “Say it quick, as I am heading to bed.”

I listened to hear if Indigo was in the room with him as Castle replied, “Did you order some blasters?”

“No, as when I left the military I loaded up the back of my boat with a number of loose parts. They are in my storage.”

“I am talking with Sandra about improving some things with Diamond’s boat.”

“Yeah, I can help you there. Let me get some sleep first.”

“Thanks. Out.” Castle then looked to me as he said, “Well, I guess that problems are being solved.”

Felt like the opening I needed to reassert my dominance. “Then can you leave?”

He did not move, but studied the instruments as he said, “I want to thank you for the pizza. I know that wasn’t Naomi’s cooking.”

“Thank you, but it was Naomi’s cooking. I just supplied the recipe. That girl might be a farmer’s daughter, but ain’t going to be remembered as some lady from the back woods.”

Sorry about the ‘ain’t.’ I did work in the enlisted ranks of the military. I can swear with the rowdiest of sailors, and I have a couple of tattoos. I try to hold myself above the men however, so I usually try to speak properly. The engine room is my territory however, so I do get a lax when back there. Castle likes being around hardware as well, and speaking about it, so he calmly spoke as well.

“Something is sparking in the intakes.”

Yeah, I heard him. It was my engine however, so I considered ignoring what he said. I only looked because Castle did know my job, and I did not want him taking it over.

My fist slammed a panic button that cut our kert fields as I quickly switched systems and punched commands on my board to send an electromagnetic signal before saying, “Okay, those of you at point. How do your engines look?”

The voice of Watson came back, “No problem here.”

Clover did not respond as quickly, and it did not surprise me that he could supply a more in-depth response. “Copper, but we are talking atoms. What are your readings, Sandra?”

“I was getting sparking.”

“It’s copper. I would be surprised if it didn’t spark.”

That is my major problem as the mechanic of the Menlo Park. I have a number of people that are not afraid of challenging my esteemed opinions. That was the challenge that Thor had brought to me long ago, and the desire to prove myself caused me to leave the military. I looked at Castle admitting that he had not mentioned a problem, but only made an observation. Clover was the one that tried to make me look bad. I thus ignored Castle’s presence while I searched my own mind for the reason I shut us down.

The voice of Thor came over the speaker, “Listen, we are here, so we check this out.”

I mentally thanked my captain for buying me seconds to search my memory. “Listen, we shut down once due to carbon. Copper won’t only disrupt our fields, but react with our gas. I am not saying this is valuable, but we might need to use thrusters through this area.”

Suddenly, the voices of our aliens came over the speakers, “Menlo Park, what is the reason for yo… ARUH!”

I don’t know if I got that final sound right. I however made my own sounds as did Castle as we watched a video feed. I had originally opened up a view of our cameras just to get a sense of the atmosphere around us. While I expected the usual sight of nothing, seeing the readings in my intakes caused me to visually check our surroundings. What Castle and I, and anyone else also watching video signals – maybe Doug – saw was the large saucer being surrounded in flame.

This might be posted a little early, but I will be unreliable for a week or so. Will post second part when I can, then should be able to return to my regular 5 day schedule.

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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Number of posts : 1287
Age : 58
Location : Ringgold, Louisiana
Current Mood :
Registration date : 2008-07-21

PostSubject: Part 2   August 3rd 2010, 8:23 am

Outside - Story Thirteen
Engineering in Control

Part 2

I did not wait for a report from our aliens, but yelled over the communication system, “Who is challenging my shutting down our field now!”

Malcolm said, “I guess that our aliens need somebody lucky with them.”

While I had switched our communications over to radio, I considered that our helmsman had not noticed, so had spoken assuming he had a universal audience. I did not let that concern bother me, but called up routines to show me the readings of our surroundings. Since Castle was in my territory, I made use of him by giving him orders to check some gauges. I finally spoke not really caring who heard me.

“There is heavier stuff than copper around us. It seems to be moving pretty fast though.”

The voice of Clover returned, “This is weird. I am seeing an odd wall of heavy particles.”

Just being curious, I asked, “What program are you running?”

“My own. It is a development of the usual atmosphere specification program. I further developed it for those scans that I ran while we moved to Prastin.”

I knew about that program, as it had pulled data from the ship’s sensors. Clover had other programs that pulled from the sensors. I did not mind those, as I really did not concern myself with the software. I however found myself worrying about our situation.

“Clover, can I run that program?”

“No, as I have it taking advantage of routines that my better boards can handle. I do write my code to allow me to access it through the ship’s system however, so I can let you have access to a front end.”

I skipped any chatter as I said, “Thanks, Clover.”

It took a couple of minutes, but I saw a new icon show on my main board. I knew that Clover stayed working on our trip to Prastin, so expected the software to be rather buggy. What came up was a rather clean view however with a number of options that I found very responsive. As I played with the software, I found myself appreciating what I saw.

“Can I have this program, Clover?”

“Rachel has already asked for a version that will run on the Menlo Park’s computer system. I will let you know when it is finished.”

I looked a bit more at what the program was showing me. I actually waited for Castle to say something. His silence however told me that I had control, and I worked to reinforce that fact as I gave the commands to open up communications with those light years away.

“This is Sandra of the Menlo Park. I shut down communications accidentally, as I shut down everything here.”

That was a lie, but it was a lot more rational than some stories that I heard Darlene or Malcolm state. My voice was also one that most were not used to hearing. It thus took a few moments for a voice to return from Outside Control.

“No Nope here, Sandra. I cannot imagine you allowing the Menlo Park to have a problem.”

“Truthfully, if I weren’t being bothered by Castle, I might have missed this. Our saucer people learned a lesson the hard way. This is only something we bring up in pilot school however, and it is my first time to actually experience it.”

The face of Castle now lit up, and he declared, “A super-nova nebulae.”

I really was not a public figure, but I knew how to handle an audience. “Glad that you recognized it, Castle. It means that you actually paid attention in flight school, although you are one of the few non-military on board this vessel that attended.”

A shocked expression came over the man’s face as he said, “I thought it was required.”

“No. Our esteemed captain didn’t. He was in construction, so gained his license by being equipment-rated. Another pilot got his simply because he was rich and lucky.”

“HEY!” Clover blurted out. “I was fined for a number of laws that I broke. One of the requirements set down by the courts was that I had to attend flight school.”

“So, youngster, are you looking?”

“That is my program that you are looking on.”

Another voice came over the speaker, “Hell with the youngster, this old man wants to see this. I am certified to teach pilot’s school, and I can’t say that I ever saw this except in reports.”

The words from Diamond had me think of something else, so I said, “Speaking of reports, we are not that far out. Surely others have encountered this.”

Another seldom heard voice came over the speaker, “This is Ang Hui of the Hubble Space Array. We are expecting to correlate your data with a few more reports.”

“It sure would have been nice to have an alert to be expecting this.”

“It would be nice to get timely information.”

The speakers erupted as an ancient fight broke out between those Outside trying to make money and those Inside attempting to keep control of an expanding human population. It was an old argument to me now. I had been able to ignore it when with the military, although joining an independent vessel I quickly became introduced to the differences between those Inside and those Outside. Understanding how I made money, I quickly came to gain the same view as my shipmates. Knowing that I had money secure in the bank, I let the argument rage on as I saw what Clover’s program could tell me.

I saw the icon for communications switch to electromagnetic. I simply considered that while those elsewhere debated, Thor or Rachel was considering the worth of their surroundings. That assumption became confirmed when I heard the captain’s voice over the speaker.

“Any way to make money off this?”

I replied, “There is enough here to bother us, Thor, but it is not dense enough to enable any mining.”

Castle said, “We can make up something, if you want to distract the saucer people.”

Our captain returned, “No, it is much too early for that.” He paused as if to allow us to say more, but hearing us stay quiet he spoke further. “What is keeping us from returning to tachy?”

I replied, “Safety. I don’t want what happened to the saucer to happen to this ship.” Diamond came into the room and moved to look at the screen with me as I said, “Malcolm, call in the points. Also, we probably need a pilot at the helm.”

Thor’s voice came back strong. “I will fly my ship through this.”

As I began marking volumes to plot a path through the moving wall of atomic matter, Diamond asked, “Castle, will my boat be able to run this program?”

“Once we upgrade it, sure. I mean, you are going to get Clover’s old boards. They will run this a lot better than the computer on board this ship.”

“This is nice. I mean, he had my ship running hot while we were on the way to Prastin, but I could not even see what extra information my ship was processing.”

Castle kept his face even as he added, “Oh, I have been checking into that new heart and liver. I believe that Naomi plans on cooking them.”

“Hey, don’t you knock that lady’s cooking. I would love to have a wife like her.”

I laughed with Castle at the response from Diamond. Having two pilots with me, I had them verify the vectors I was establishing to move through the nebulae. The communications with Outside switched back on as we discussed how long we would have to travel on just thrusters. I let the two pilots handle the details of movement as I was called to respond to questions of our surroundings by Inside astronomers.

As the conversation ended, an electronic voice asked, “Menlo Park, can we gain a copy of your flight plan?”

Clover answered, “It is my program, and I guess that I could downgrade it to other computers – for a hefty fee.”

The voice of Malcolm returned a more diplomatic reply, “You can just follow us, Zephyr.”

“Thanks, but we need to clean our hull – again. We should not be far behind you however.”

“Okay, but listen to our chatter. That way you will be aware of any corrections.”

“Understood, Menlo Park.”

I had returned to looking at what the two pilots had determined to be the best course as the voice of our captain came over the speaker. “I am sitting at the helm. Send me the tactical as soon as you can.”

Castle kept looking to me as a sign that he did not mean to act improperly as he punched some commands on my board. Accepting his acknowledgement of my authority, I stayed silent. As the data was transferred, I spoke to assure my command of the situation.

“Thor, I am keeping Castle and Diamond with me. Consider them your points. As we move and gain more data, they will be here continuing to supply you with a good route.”

He returned, “And it is Clover’s program they are using. I warned you about those three when I first met you, Sandra.”

“You hired the best, then hired me because you needed somebody to keep these boys in line. Well, they are here working as a good team. You do your thing trusting that you have the best guiding you.”

“Will do. Oh…” My head perked up wondering what Thor would say. “We need to make our usual report. This was your show, Sandra, so I am marking you as the one to make the final presentation.”

“No problem, Thor. I can handle it.”

And I did.

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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