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 The Mold

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summer breeze
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Join date : 2012-07-15

PostSubject: The Mold   Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:57 pm

The serene pinpricks of light that Earthers call stars cannot compare to the brilliant violence which actually exists outside the atmosphere. Here, with only the thin shell of the SS Fleming protecting us from the outer vacuum, the danger is tantalizingly near. Another explosion shakes the ship. The massive space fortress raining fury upon our small but sturdy research vessel echoes the continuous combustion of the stars surrounding us.

I withdraw from my rumination as tantalizing turns to terrifying. Our best defenses cannot withstand the onslaught of the enemy for more than a few minutes. No wonder the outpost stations had been obliterated. Every system of our ship is damaged beyond repair.

“All hands proceed to the escape vessel!” repeats the Fleming’s computer.

“Hurry Captain,” I insist. He initiates the Fleming’s self-destruct sequence and plots her last journey. One short jump in the “Z minus” direction, the attackers will be enticed to follow, and then BOOOM!!!

Once the Captain is on board our emergency containment vessel, the ECV Hope, her door seals and we withdraw from the Fleming. Moments after the trap has been sprung, we hear a shout from the ensign.

“Captain…. Incoming!”

The Hope’s aft erupts.

“I guess we didn’t fool our attackers.”

Two more explosions rock the ship.

“Engines are hit,” reports one crewman.

“Life support systems will fail in two minutes,” Hope’s computer announces.

“Okay. We can’t run, and we have no viable weapons. Let’s talk. Open communications,” the Captain orders.

Standing tall, we force ourselves to look at the face of the creature, which menacingly appears on the view screen. His magnified hair covers the top of his pointed head, the bottom of his pointed chin and the two appendages which extend from the back of his neck. Each slurping word is formed by the manipulation of these “arms” adding to the impression of his throat being turned inside out.

Through an automated interpreter, he interrogates the Captain. “You choose to leave without granting me an interview?”

“I was not aware that an interview was what you sought,” counters the Captain.

“Now I have you at my leisure. You have no power and soon you will have no life support. You and your crew will be my ….Guests. I will have my interview and it will last as long as I wish. It may be one day, one week, or perhaps, one lifetime. Prepare to be boarded.”

Instead of a contingent of these grotesque creatures breaching our own small Hope, a squad of heavily armed attack drones infiltrates our ship. Though we outnumbered these warriors by three to one, our hand to hand weapons would not have penetrated their metallic skin. We are relieved of our side-arms, as well as communication devices. Feeling naked, we are herded out of the breech in the Hope’s hull onto the waiting space fortress.

Our mechanical escort leads us through glaring corridors and into a sterile common room. Here they leave us in the company of a completely different model of droid. Stout round utility droids, equipped with cold metallic fingers, strip us of our uniforms and give us nomadic robes made of what appears to be rough animal hair. The humid air clings to the walls and our throats. The chlorine-like smell reminds me of the overused swimming facilities back home. The officers are separated from the crew and each given a small six foot square room which would open into the common room, if the doors were ever unlocked. I and the rest of the crew remain in the larger room. Here we eat what little we are brought, sleep on the floor during the hours we think are night, and wait.

As the communications specialist for the former Fleming, the crew informally allows me to adopt a position of leadership. I assign a crew member to inconspicuously act as an inter-mediator for each officer, in order to maintain the original chain of command. Cycle after cycle, I sit by the door of the Captain’s room, speaking loud enough for him to hear, but quietly enough to remain undetected by any who may be observing us. I talk to him about the struggles the crew face, what they delight in, what they will rally for or rally against. I want to keep him connected to his crew. If he does not know their heart, how can he effectively lead them? For now, we are well, nervous about the unknown but happy each of us is still accounted for.

Finally, another living being enters the common room. I recognize him as the menacing face which confronted us from the view screen on the day we lost the Hope. Our captor stands at least seven feet tall, and is clad in dark brown leather from shoulder to ankle. He is so charged with electricity each of his hairs stand on end. The air buzzes with anticipation. The armed robotic assistant accompanying him will not come within three feet of its master. I retreat from my spot on the floor because his path carries him to the Captain’s room.

The captor points to one of the uninhabited rooms. The robot transfers the Captain from his quarters to the indicated room following its master. The robot closes the door to the room and takes a position outside as sentry. One hour later the captor emerges and leaves the way he had come. The door is left open and there lay the Captain, with his hair singed and ugly black burn marks on the bottom of his feet. A few of our engineers carry our injured leader back to his sleeping room and we try to nurse him with what little rations we can muster. Within moments, the robot locks the Captain’s door and follows the path of its master.

After our sleep period, the captor and his steely, armed escort return. He tries to observe the behavior of the crew without being conspicuous. He fails. All activity stops when he enters. Eventually the crew migrates away from him. He checks on the Captain’s life signs and then leaves. The next cycle, the captor and escort return to watch us and check on the Captain. On the third day, our captor sits in the middle of the common room cradling what could pass as a ball of modeling clay. Secure in the shadow of his robot guard, the captor proceeds to form something out of the clay. He presses, kneads, and then stops to think. He starts again returning to the clay with new fervor. This process repeats itself numerous times.

Intrigued by his change of routine, I sit approximately five feet away, watching him. During his pauses, the captor looks around the room and notices me. At first he regards me as one would regard a fly on the wall. Though I did not move, my continued presence became a nuisance to him - like a pest buzzing around his head, just far enough out of reach to bother him but not worth the effort of action. Still I stay. Finally, he reciprocates my curiosity. He motions me to sit next to him.

I hesitate, giving myself a chance to inspect his surroundings. His hair is not on end and the air around him does not crackle. I pay close attention to the hair on my own arms as I approach. Evidently, he can turn his electronic field on at will. I proceed to where he indicated. He shows me his handiwork.

“This is the footprint of a great warrior,” he explains through the translator attached to his collar. “You can find this footprint on many battlefields in many conquered lands. Everywhere this warrior stepped the enemy fell away. It will occupy a place of honor among my possessions. My people regard it as the symbol of a warrior. In your own way, you are a warrior. I can see this. Your gaze is direct and true. The others stare with false bravado. Give me your foot.”

His order is so unexpected I do not respond. Suddenly, I find my foot in his grasp as he fits it into his mold. My toes touch the top, my heel touches the bottom. The shape does not match mine, but the size does. He looks up and smiles at the shock on my face.

“He was my son.”

Abruptly he releases my foot. He stands and orders, “Robot, go retrieve the leader.”

He picks up the unused portion of the clay and drops into my hands. “Make for me the symbol of your warrior.”

As he walks away, I find my voice and ask, “Sir, what is your name?”

He stops, and without turning replies, “Maanesiah.”

“Your name is ‘grief’?”

He turns to study me, sighs, and continues on his path toward the torture chamber. The hairs on his head begin to rise and the air starts to crackle around him. When the door closes behind him and the robot assumes his post as guard, I stare at the lump of clay in my hands and think. “What symbol would humans decide represents a warrior?”

I begin my project. I use some of my water ration to keep the clay moist and pliable. All through the night I work, taking up my post by the Captain’s door for inspiration. His moans are audible through the locked door. I do not know how long he can withstand this torture. Surely these electrical impulses forced on his heart will weaken it forever.

I finish my assignment, and three days later Maanesiah comes into the room. He is not here to socialize. He marches straight to the torture chamber. The air around him carries the stench of burnt hair. Hoping to delay his appointment with the Captain, I move to intercept him. He stops, expecting me to move on. I do not. Instead I present him with my finished mold.

“My assignment is complete, sir.”

He looks down at my slightly lopsided blob. His anger swells and he storms to the torture room, commanding me to follow. The armed robot encourages me to obey with the tip of his weapon.

“What is the meaning of this?” Maanesiah bellows. “I gave you the opportunity to become an ambassador for your people. I told you of my son! I trusted you with my name. I opened up and let you sample my pain. Do you repay my kindness with such a lackluster attempt? You insult me with this formless mass! It looks no better than the lump I gave you. I do not think you appreciate the helplessness of your situation. You do not have enough power to throw away such gestures and walk away unscathed.”

I step towards him. In surprise, Maanesiah lowers the intensity of his shield. I open the mold to reveal two halves, each with two inner chambers complete with valves.

“This is the heart of a warrior,” I explain. “Through this muscle the warrior pumps blood to each member of his body just as he pumps passion into each member of his squadron. With it he loves and hates- experiences sorrow and joy. Each side balances the other, adding their strength to his blood and completing his soul. Where his weapon reaches wounds appear, strongholds topple, enemies vanquished. Where his compassion reaches wounds are healed, cities rebuilt, friends upheld.”

Moving closer I thrust the clay heart against his chest making it an insulator between us. “Your grief is overwhelming because you have no joy to balance it.”

Pointing to the Captain’s chamber I add, “Your hatred is not fulfilling because you have no love in your heart. Hate can not be complete if there is no love of equal or greater strength.”

Silent and with his shield now turned completely off, Maanesiah reaches out to take the mold from my hand. He closes it and we make eye contact. Quietly he comments, “Such wisdom for one so young. How many years have you lived?”

“Twenty-one.”

“My son was eighteen. He graduated from the academy with top honors. For three years he won every battle. With every assignment he brought our community honor. But I was proud of him even without his victories. I always considered him to be my greatest accomplishment.

“He died from a disease he contracted while serving on a military surveillance team. The team was to inspect one of your people’s ships which had crash landed on one of our colony worlds. There had been no survivors from the crash, yet your human presence had a devastating effect. Some in our government think it was an interdiction force, whose purpose was to land on the planet and neutralize any potential enemies by infecting them with this disease. Whatever the intended purpose, your people caused the death of our entire colony and my son’s team.”

Maanesiah stops and bows his head, his course hair relaxing with sorrow. Seeing his anger had been replaced by grief, I offer a suggestion.

“An exchange of information may prove that we have the cure for this disease which has had such a dramatic affect on your people. Imposing your grief on the Captain will not revive your son or ease your loss. I am sure the Captain would sympathize and do all he could to assist your search. You may be able to stop the spread of this disease and save others from the same ‘maanesiah’.”

Maanesiah raises his head and places his heavy hand on my shoulder. “Young man, how did you come to learn our language?”

“My father taught that ignorance was dangerous and one should always strive to increase his knowledge. He also taught that one should study his enemies closely, not to learn their weaknesses, but to discover the similarities between you and them. Sometimes these similarities can become the foundation for peace. I have spent many hours with the translator, dissecting your language, each syllable and sound. I know a machine cannot convey emotions or connotations, but at least it gave me basis to start from, a foundation to build upon. I have studied your language for many years, so that when our two great cultures found peace, we would be able to communicate freely.”

Maanesiah turns and leaves the torture room, taking his robotic escort and my plaster heart with him.

Three weeks later, after the Captain has almost fully recovered, Maanesiah returns. The crew collectively holds its breath, wondering what will befall the Captain. For this visit two things were missing, however, his robotic escort and his electronic field. He unlocks the Captain’s door and walks to the torture room. He motions for the Captain to join him. In his native tongue he calls to me.

“Young man, come and join us so that you may translate the emotions and connotations.”

I follow and am granted the position of translator for the upcoming release negotiations.

“If any progress is to be made,” I suggest, “our meeting place should not be in a room full of hurt and anger.”

“Agreed,” replied Maanesiah. He turns to the Captain and announces, “Your ship has been restored to full operational status. You are free to go, though I ask you to stay and assist us in searching for a cure to this disease.”

“As Captain, my place is with my ship and my crew. No matter how much I may long to be a part of history myself, I must return. I can, however, reassign one member of my crew as an interim diplomatic liaison as well as access to all research facilities at home. If I can find one who is willing to stay, I would place them in your keep, knowing a breech of trust in this manner would extend hostilities between us, instead of relieving them.”

“Do you believe any will volunteer?” asks Maanesiah.

“Sirs,” I interrupt. “If I may be so bold as to offer my request to be the one to stay. I know both languages, am familiar with the research databanks at home and I believe I have also gained each of your trust.”

Both leaders agree to my proposition and preparations are made for the release of the crew. Captain, Maanesiah and I make a promise of frequent contact. The Hope fulfills her mission in bringing her crew safely home.
Maanesiah and I enter his office to commence our search for a cure. There on a shelf, next to his plaster footprint, sits the plaster heart I had made. “One thing has intrigued me since the day you gave this to me,” he says. “Who was the model for your mold? After whose heart did you fashion this?”

I reply, “My father, the Captain.”.
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Lora
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PostSubject: Re: The Mold   Thu Jul 19, 2012 7:17 pm

I love sci fi and fantasy fiction! I thought you did very well with the dialog that you did put into this story, now just give us a little more of it. I love the way you surprised us at the end. Nice touch. It really gave it a nice ending. I noticed that you kind of keep things a secret until the very last minute with a lot of things in a story. That isn't always necessary. It can cause the reader to have too many questions and give up on a story. For example, I didn't really understand that the captain was being led to a torture chamber until it was too late and I had almost forgotten about him. So, keeping the secret about the captain's identity was good, but that's the only thing that you should hold back on.

Give me an idea of how scary this creature is. For example, is he roaring or growling at the people? Does he have a furious look on his face?
Standing tall, we force ourselves to look at the face of the creature,
which menacingly appears on the view screen. His magnified hair covers
the top of his pointed head, the bottom of his pointed chin and the two
appendages which extend from the back of his neck. Each slurping word
is formed by the manipulation of these “arms” adding to the impression
of his throat being turned inside out.

Give us some understanding what the crew is going through in this scene. Do some of them look scared? Are some of them toughing it out pretty well. Give us some specific, moment-by-moment actions of what some of the key people are doing, especially the narrator and the captain. The reader really needs to connect to those two characters to really give us the impact at the end.
Instead of a contingent of these grotesque creatures breaching our own
small Hope, a squad of heavily armed attack drones infiltrates our ship.
Though we outnumbered these warriors by three to one, our hand to hand
weapons would not have penetrated their metallic skin. We are relieved
of our side-arms, as well as communication devices. Feeling naked, we
are herded out of the breech in the Hope’s hull onto the waiting space
fortress.

Here's a perfect place to put some dialog between the crew members expressing their fears, possible plans for escape, etc.
I and the rest of the crew remain in the larger room. Here we eat what
little we are brought, sleep on the floor during the hours we think are
night, and wait.

Put this into dialog.
I assign a crew member to inconspicuously act as an inter-mediator for
each officer, in order to maintain the original chain of command.

Don't tell us you talked to him, make make him talk to him.
I talk to him about the struggles the crew face, what they delight in,
what they will rally for or rally against. I want to keep him connected
to his crew. If he does not know their heart, how can he effectively
lead them? For now, we are well, nervous about the unknown but happy
each of us is still accounted for.

Here's an area where I got a little confused. Who's the 'him' in this? Because you were talking about the captor and his assistant just previous to this. In several places you use pronouns where you should have said specifically who it is you're talking about so as not to confuse the reader.
I retreat from my spot on the floor because his path carries him to the Captain’s room.

Later in the story you talk about being able to hear his screams coming from that room. It would bring more tension to the story if we hear those kinds of sounds coming from that room a little sooner.
The captor points to one of the uninhabited rooms. The robot transfers
the Captain from his quarters to the indicated room following its
master. The robot closes the door to the room and takes a position
outside as sentry. One hour later the captor emerges and leaves the way
he had come. The door is left open and there lay the Captain, with his
hair singed and ugly black burn marks on the bottom of his feet.

Another opportunity to use dialog to help the reader connect to the caption and the crew.
A few of our engineers carry our injured leader back to his sleeping
room and we try to nurse him with what little rations we can muster.

Throughout the story, consider the writing technique, known as, "Don't tell us, show us." For example, instead of simply saying he returned, the crew might hear heavy footsteps coming down the corridor before the door smoothly slides open, and with the armed escort standing behind him, he stands in the doorway suspiciously scanning the crew.
After our sleep period, the captor and his steely, armed escort return.
He tries to observe the behavior of the crew without being conspicuous.
He fails.

I hope some of this helps a little bit. Many precious blessings to you.

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God Bless, Lora  Nice Ta Meet Ya
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The Mold
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