Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Writing Prompt Wednesday IV: A New Hope

Today's Writing Prompt Wednesday entry, my fourth, violates the letter and spirit of the rules.* Just so you know.

I present the following first-draft excerpt from a work in-progress:


Alteram was back onboard, sitting at the technical console, the round high table that wouldn't catch a second glance if relocated to an Earth coffeehouse. It looked like something out of an Ikea catalog. The same console that he had worked at all night during the trip home.

He had not doubted that his theory was sound, but he was thrilled to have been able to implement the changes, however minor compared to the overall task, on the fly. (The pun, mercifully, was lost on him.) The fact that those initial tweaks were already tested and proven to work only helped him push forward now.

He needed the boost. This second phase was not going as well as the first. It wasn't going well at all.

Above the surface of the console/table and immediately to Alteram's left, a holographic schematic was suspended in the air, this time motionless, with line after line after line of words hovering to the rear, blurry. To his right, also floating above the surface of the console/table, two inch tall red numbers flashed on and off.

00:00. Off. 00:00. Off.

Behind the numbers, a marble-sized Earth image hung in a three dimensional grid of lines no wider than human hairs, and rotated slowly, but faster than real time.

00:00. Off. 00:00. Off. As they flashed, he thought he could hear them taunt him.

Failure. Off. Failure. Off.

Alteram sighed, his shoulders slumped.

At last he turned his head slightly toward the schematic, and as he did the blurry words moved through space from behind the diagram to the forefront, and sharpened until legible.

The lines of text scrolled down a little, seemingly on their own, then paused before scrolling up, several “pages” back, faster and faster, as if a virtual roll of microfilm was turning somewhere, and only the data displayed.

When he found the section he wanted, Alteram began to read. Again. He could have written it all himself at this point, word for word, from memory. His own memory, even.

He came to a line that, this time, made him sit a little straighter, if not exactly up. Not quickly, he didn't cry out his species' version of “Eureka!” and no lightbulb appeared above his head, but he needed to find something – would have settled for anything – to help him break through the wall he'd been banging his head into the past few hours. He'd looked at it all so many times, that all the likely, logical solutions had been considered and were used up, and he was now considering the unlikely and the illogical possibilities. Maybe this one was it. Or would, he hoped, at least move him forward.

The schematic moved to the front again and took focus, then zoomed in to one section. Alteram watched circuits move, flip, invert, then reconnect, as he willed this visualization of the ship's gravity manipulation system to reconfigure itself. Satisfied with the modifications, he turned his attention to the Earth and grid to his right. The numbers turned green and now read 01:00, then moved to the background, making way for the Earth-grid to come forward and take center stage.

Alteram crossed two fingers

what was that about?

then began the simulation.

The numbers started to count down as one intersection of grid lines – the intersection furthest away from the Earth in the hologram – began to bend, to point and push toward the earth. The lines came together, focused into a sharp point, stretched by an unseen force – like a sharpened pencil pressed to fabric, as if to pierce it – gathering other grid lines along the way, as the point stretched closer, closer, closer to the planet, until it was just about to touch the surface

00:00. Off. 00:00. Off.

The numbers, again red, took their place, front and center. The pointed lines had not reached the Earth before the timer reached zero.


Alteram grunted. And slumped.


Failure. Off. Failure. Off.

It was possible, he knew it. He could – would – find a way to make it happen. Ethan had agreed to leave the Earth on the condition that Alteram could bend time, that Alteram could have him home almost the instant after they'd left. Alteram promised that he could, and he was going to keep his promise. He knew it could be done, he was just overlooking something, missing something. He had to figure out what it was. Quickly.

He turned back to the diagram and text, and started over.


Humbled, I am
Boudreau Freret

* The WPW rules say, in part:

1. Find something... online... that's been published in the past week or so, and pick a quote from it.
2. Use the quote as a prompt and write something...

I wrote something, then found something online, not published in the past week or so, and fit what I found into what I'd already written. So while I may be a fraud, it cannot be said that I am a dishonest one.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Dude, way to write. Are your fingers cramped now? That's an insane-o word count.