Experimental Writing: Part 7

Owain and Esther sat open mouthed staring at the creature before them.

“What…what just happened?” Owain stuttered.

“I’m afraid that my employer’s Security clearly isn’t as tight as they believe it to be and my mission has been compromised.  What is incredibly disconcerting is that whoever was behind this attack is clearly working with someone local.”

What are you?” Esther exclaimed.

Meredith slipped the beanie hat back on, followed by the dark glasses.

“It’s probably best if I go now, and if you forget that you ever saw me.  Go and get your sister.  Go and do something fun – away from here.” The alien slipped out of the door, leaving the two conscious humans gaping at each other.

Esther pulled herself together first.

“Quick!  After him Owain!  We can’t just leave him!”

“I don’t know, bet.” He took in the muscle entangled with furniture and sprawled on the floor in a localised disaster zone around their table.  “This looks like it could be serious – and we don’t anything about Meredith really.  Maybe he deserved this?”

“Owain Rhodri Griffin!  You ought to be ashamed of yourself!  I hope Ma and Da never hear you say such a cowardly thing.  Meredith is clearly in trouble and we should do what we can to help her.”

Before Owain could react, Esther had slipped round the tables after Meredith, and out of the door.

“Wait! Come back!” Owain’s shoulders slumped and he ran a hand across his face.  The gesture turned into an unconscious imitation of his father as he tried to make his adolescent fuzz rasp like a day’s worth of stubble – without success.  It suddenly occurred to him that there might be more of these jokers outside.

“Hey!  Come back!” he repeated, as he followed the path his sister had taken moments before.

*****

The lady on duty in the cafe came from the kitchen behind the counter, carrying a plate, chattering away.

“I’ve just made some pice bach*, cywion, would you like a few?  The Director likes us to have some on the counter all the time, but they much better fresh.”

She looked up and took in the scene of devastation.  A goon spread-eagled over a table, head hanging backwards over the edge, twitched.  Another, contorted around a chair, groaned.

“Ach-y-fi!”

*****

Esther burst through the door of the Arts Centre and into the car park: Meredith was not there.  How could she have moved so quickly.  The girl ran to the pavement and looked up and down the road.  There!  There was the strange creature hurrying along, whilst still somehow looking unobtrusive.

“Meredith!  Meredith, bach!  Wait!” Esther ran after the alien, as Meredith looked over a shoulder and did a double take.

“Meredith!” The girl panted; youth was on her side, but she was distinctly bookish, not completely hopeless at PE, but it was not her forte.  “Meredith, I want to help, if I can.  But I need to know why you’re here, and why people are after you.”

*****

Owain fumbled the keys to the Landrover from his pocket as he cannoned down the corridor from the tea room to the main entrance.  He nearly dropped the bunch as he barrelled through the door.  He regained control on the fourth attempt, having looked like he was juggling a hot potato, the keys slipping, sliding, falling, up again, begin again, as his hands tried to hold on.

“More haste, less speed” he muttered under his breath as he finally caught the bunch, having turned the clumsiness around and caught the bunch with the ignition proud of the rest and ready for action.

As he came through the door, he could hear Esther calling Meredith, but the majority of his attention was taken with the two shiny black SUVs that were parked-up outside the Arts Centre.  The two cars looked like sinister twins, and were the sleeker evolution of his own vehicle.  They had certainly not been there when he, Esther, and Meredith had arrived some thirty minutes before.  As he ran to his own Landrover, he started thinking that perhaps he should do something to slow these monsters down.  He had some thought of sticking a screwdriver from his tool kit through some tyres, but as he passed the SUVs, he noticed that the tyres were already flaccid and in fact seemed to be dribbling and flowing.

Owain shook his head and climbed up in to the driver’s seat of his car.  He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, started the ignition and put the Landrover into gear.  He pulled out of the car park and set out in pursuit of his sister.

*****

“Why are you here?  Why now?”

Meredith was just drawing breath to reply when Owain pulled up beside them.

“Get in quick, then, and we’ll be off.”

Meredith looked up at Owain and back at Esther and was trying to work out what to say when Esther grabbed an arm in one hand and pulled open the door behind the driver with the other and pushed Meredith in.

“Well done, Owain!”

“Right-o.  I’m just going to drive for a bit and then you can tell me where we’re going.   If I don’t know just yet, then I won’t give anything away by my direction.  But Esther asked you a question, several questions, and I’ve got one of my own: what have you done that’s got you into trouble?”

“Hmmm…it’s probably best if you don’t know everything, but you’ve probably worked out that I’m not from Earth.  I’d don’t know who those people were, but they’re obviously trying to stop me.  As for what I’m here to do….it’s a…it’s a…well let’s call it a rescue mission.

*****

*I’ve slipped in some Welsh here and there, and hopefully I’ve got it more or less right.   If I revise this story, I might add in a few more “in a minute now”s, “ti’n iawn”‘s and “shw mae”‘s…we’ll see. Perhaps I should put in a guide for the words I have used.  On the other hand, most of the terms I’ve used are exclamations and terms of endearment, that don’t really need a lot of explanation.  Pice bach though might need some description beyond the context: essentially these are what the Welsh call Welsh cakes, although there are a couple of synonyms as well.  If you’ve not come across Welsh cakes before, these are a little flat, round cake, cooked on a griddle or stone.  They are lightly spiced – nothing too exotic – and contain dried fruit like raisins and sultanas.  They are delicious, moreish, slightly crumbly, and best enjoyed with a cup of tea.

© David Jesson, 2019

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another. We’re over half way now and I know where we are heading but there is still some way to go.  I think that we’re due for some plot exposition, so…

Option 1: Straight Q&A between Meredith and friends

Option 2: Flashback, from Meredith’s perspective

Option 3: Cut to Antagonist…

Option 4: Other(?) – Please comment!

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

 

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Experimental Writing: Part 6

Meredith hopped into the back of the Landrover.  Bunter chipped in with a prompt to put on the seat belt: clunk click every trip [smiley face].  There was also a social cue:

“This is so kind of you – thank you.”

“Oh, no trouble, bach, we’re heading that way anyway.”  This from the driver.  A sub-routine of the AI – one that hadn’t achieved sentience and independence – tagged this individual as male.  A warning flag appeared: the driver was adolescent, albeit coming to the end of this development age, and hence prone to naturally occurring chemical fluctuations that could cause risk-taking.

“I’m Owain, by the way, and this is my sister Esther.”  Meredith could see Owain using some kind of primitive mirror to look into the back of the car.  The boy had his attention on the road, but he couldn’t help being intrigued by his passenger’s outfit.

“We’re going to pick up my sister.  She went to a party there.”  The sub-routine labelled the person in the passenger seat as an adolescent girl, but just coming into this stage.  “Why are you heading there?”

“Oh, I’m just doing some walking around here.  I camped up on the mountain last night and when I came down this morning I realised that I’d gone a bit off course.  There’s no where to get anything to eat in Llangynidr, and Crickhowell looked to be the closest place to sit down and have a bit of a think.  Is there anywhere you’d recommend?”

“Hm. Well, I quite like Number 18 –

“Oh, you would!  Trying to be trendy!”

“You be quiet, or I’ll not give you a lift again!”  The boy’s words sounded serious , but Meredith was beginning to get a feel for tone, and accompanying facial expressions and realised this was not the case.  “I suppose you’d recommend Bookish!”

“Nothing wrong with having a read at the same time as getting a drink – you should try it sometime.”

“Courtyard Café?”

“That’s always so busy – lots of families with little ones.”

“How about that new one – down by the art centre.  I know it’s a bit out of the town, but it would put us in the right place for picking up Nerys.”

“I don’t want to put you to any trouble.” Meredith tried to decide if it would be better to part company sooner, and avoid the complication of an extended contact, or to stick with the encounter and gather further information.

“Oh, no trouble.  We’ve got a little bit of shopping to do, but that’ll keep.  Be nice to check out the new place.”

They drove through the town centre, passing a mix of shops that seemed like they’d been there forever, or that they’d popped up yesterday.  It was still quite early really, but the town was definitely waking up, and starting to get busy.  On through the town centre and out the other side.  The road took on a more residential feel, and after only a minute or two they came upon a stone building that looked old, but not ancient.  It was a large, single story building, with gabled rooves.  It was set back slightly from the road and had its own small car park.  Bunter informed Meredith that it was an old school, approximately 150 Earth cycles old.

No one noticed as a CCTV camera followed the small group across from the Landrover to the front door.

They entered the building: to the left was the gallery and a sign pointed to studios and the café to the right.  Owain opened the door and led the way into a short corridor.  Here there was one door at the far end and a couple of doors on the left.  The door into the café was open and they walked straight in.  The space was light and airy: the walls were painted white and pictures for sale hung on three of the four walls.  The high ceiling had a couple of skylights that let in lots of natural light.  Sturdy tables made of a light-coloured wood and of various sizes were scattered around in no particular pattern, grouped with chairs in twos and fours.  Subtly, Meredith tried to steer them to one of the larger tables which was as much in the shadow as it was possible to be – at least it wasn’t in the direct light coming from above.

A cheery soul was behind the counter and welcomed them in; she was alone, and the party were clearly her first three customers of the day.

“What can I get you my dears?”

Owain started the proceedings by ordering a large latte and a large slice of bara brith, complete with butter and marmalde.

“Oh! You are greedy Owain,” Esther exclaimed, “you’ve only just had breakfast!”

“Breakfast was hours ago, and I’ve been working on the car for Nerys.  Unlike you, I spend more time doing things than with my nose in a book.”

Esther gave him a nudge in the ribs with the boney of elbow of gangly 12 year old.  She went for a fruit tea and piece of short bread.

“It looks so good, I don’t know what to go for,” said Meredith, gazing at the counter and trying to work out what everything was.  Bunter immediately popped up with several suggestions, including one for a drink with a big pile of sculpted white stuff, topped off by a scattering of multicoloured strands and a small red sphere.  Meredith muted the programme.

“I’ll think I’ll just have a filter coffee, please, and a piece of the toffee blondie.”  Meredith saw that Owain was pulling out his wallet.  There was no need for the cue here: “No, please let me get this, as a thank you for the lift.”

There was gentle back and forth as Owain accepted, with grace, but not too easily.

“I’ll bring everything over to you, cywion” said the lady behind the counter, the term of endearment clearly an automatic reflex.

They sat down at the table and started talking about life in the valleys and rebuilding the car and so on.  Neither Owain nor Esther noticed that Meredith was adept at steering the conversation away from anything to do with their purpose here.  The drinks and cakes were brought over with a “there you my dears” and “have you got everything you need?” and “just shout if you need anything”.  They tucked in: Meredith had never tasted anything like this before and was wondering about the feasibility of getting some coffee plants to take back home.  And a cook book…

“So where are you heading next then, bach?” Owain asked.

“I’d quite like to see Llyn-y-Fan Fach, but I don’t know if I’ve got enough time.”

“Hm.  Well, it’s about an hour’s drive from here, I guess, depending which way you go, but I don’t think that you could walk it in a day.  I’d be tempted to get the bus from here to Brecon, stay in the youth hostel or something and then walk up to the lake from there.  Are you planning to camp there?”

“I hadn’t really thought about it.  I’d like to do some…sketching there.”

“Have you got a map?  I’ll show you the roads.”

It was at this point that Meredith started to feel uncomfortable.  The AI hadn’t flagged there being a problem with any of the food and drink, but it was not settling lightly on what a medical person would describe as Meredith’s stomach.  Things were taking a decided turn for the worse, and rapidly.  Meredith was just about to excuse himself when a group of men burst through the door.  They did not look friendly.  They threaded their way through the tables raising pistols to point at the three at the table.  Owain’s chair scraped back; Esther looked on with open mouth.  By chance the lady behind the counter had stepped out to a back room, so it was just Meredith and friends surrounded by half a dozen gunsels.

“Just stay where you are sonny, and no ones gonna get hurt.” It was not a local accent.  He pointed at Meredith “You’re coming with us.  Now.”

Meredith stood.  The term ‘technicolour yawn’ was unfamiliar to Owain and Esther; it was a phrase that was more familiar to their grandparents.  But if they had known it, it would have been perfect for the current situation as rainbow coloured liquid burst from Meredith’s mouth and sprayed over the gunmen.  Unknown to Meredith, the coffee contained trace amounts of dimethyl disulphide and butanediamine, and it was these that had reacted unexpectedly with the alien’s digestive system. Even AIs make mistakes.  Still, every cloud has a silver lining: the spectacular outcome of this natural chemistry was the perfect distraction.  Fighting to overcome the effects of losing everything consumed in the last 24 hours, Meredith jumped and simultaneously changed shape, shedding clothes in the process.  Initially the shape became a long thin cylinder, but as the tip of the cylinder touched the ceiling, Meredith’s body contracted into a sphere: from here it was a question of playing the angles.  At this point the gunmen were still concerned over the vomit that had landed on them, and were discovering that the liquid was starting to eat holes in clothes.  Incipient panic boiled over as they tried to react to the sudden movement through the fog that fear of chemical burns and disgust of wearing someone else’s stomach contents had created in their minds.  Before they could start stringing coherent thoughts together, the men were bowled over by what appeared to be an oversized basketball.  Somehow the alien managed to miss all of the works of art and all of the other furniture, bouncing off wall, ceiling, and heavies, to create a highly localised zone of carnage.

The sphere rolled to a stop by the small pile of clothes that had crumpled to the floor during the unconventional disrobing; Meredith put the clothes back on as he had the first time, shaping the body to suit the clothes from the inside.

Adjusting the glasses, hat, and scarf, there was a realisation that the boy and girl were staring at him.  With the men on the floor beginning to groan, Meredith said “Thank you for your help this morning, I really appreciate it, and I’m sorry if I’ve got you into any trouble.  I’d better get going, and I think you should find some where to lie low too.”

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another. Now we need to work out whether Meredith is going to get some assistance from Owain and Esther, or whether it’s time to part company.

Option 1: Head for the hills!

Option 2: Head for somewhere busy!

Option 3: Part company – Meredith should get a bus out of town or something.

Option 4: Plan B  (Please comment on what you think Plan B is!).

 

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

Experimental Writing: Part 5

Meredith began the shlep to Crickhowell by leaving Llangynidr on Cyffredyn Lane, which at this point was wide enough for traffic to flow easily in both directions.  The road was bounded by high hedge on both sides, with a decent verge.  A little further on one of the verges petered out and the other narrowed.  People travelling the road  began to feel hemmed in as trees grew up behind the hedge on one side and the river narrowed; traffic still flowed in both directions but two large things, such as a bus and a lorry had a ticklish time passing.

Meredith groaned.  The sub-routine had indeed developed proto-sentience and had started referring to itself as Bunter for some reason.  Words would be had with the mission controllers and with the AI programmers when all this was over… Still (groan) Bunter was doing a decent enough job.  Whilst the road was not perfect for pedestrians, Bunter advised that the verge on this side did not get narrow; stay on this road, it becomes Cwm Crawnon Road; up head there is a bridge over a small stream, the road kinks, but there is a footpath.  Hang on…recalculating…find a break in the hedge on the left, the stream is the other side and the footpath will be there…

The intermittant sounds of sporadic traffic were dulled by the shielding vegetation.  Meredith made reasonably good progress along the foot path and the traffic noises were muted still further as the stream parted company with the road for a while.  It was surprisingly reassuring when the noise of these backward vehicles increased again: still on track.  The two finally came together at the thing that Bunter had described as a kink. Here, for some reason, the road crossed over the river on a small, rather primitive stone bridge.  The path by the river continued under the bridge and Meredith was confronted by a choice: stay on the path beside the river and head further into the countryside, or stay closer to the road on an uncertain verge.  The river path was certainly the more scenic, and would perhaps provide better cover- the moment of indecision was ended by a large green car pulling over.  Meredith thought the driver looked a bit too young to be allowed out, but he was leaning out of the window and shouting something.  Meredith couldn’t quite make out what it was, but a (thankfully) non-sentient routine picked up the sound and ran a translation.

“Bore da!  Going to Crickhowell are you?  Need a lift?

*****

The Land Rover was a long-wheel base Series I dating from 1957 – late in the production run, but one of the first to be fitted with a diesel engine.  Mostly loving care over the last 62 years meant that it was in surprisingly good condition.  Owain had found it after a relatively brief period of neglect.  A farmer had died, his feckless son had come home from his towny job and tried to make a go of it, but really hadn’t had the first clue about farming.  In then end he’d sold the farm to one of his neighbours for, if not a fraction of its real worth then certainly not full whack.  The neighbour had then proceeded to make quite a lot of that money back by selling off the ancient farmhouse and a small parcel of land to Owain and his family.  They’d moved in when Owain was fifteen, and he’d quickly found the vehicle, quietly mouldering in one of the barns.

His first emotion had been one of delight, and then he’d wondered where the keys might be.  They’d found them a couple of days later when sorting through various detritus clogging up a lovely antique oak dresser in the kitchen.  His da had let him try the engine which spluttered in a rather sick way, but did start, albeit with various unhealthy sounds as the engine cycled. They’d turned it off again, but both had been caught by the dream: despite the inevitable tensions that arise between a teenager and their parents, they commited to the joint project of restoring it.  Neither had any previous experience in this regard, but YouTube had been a great teacher.  On and off it had taken the best part of two years to get it back up and running smoothly.  It had been left muddy in the damp shed and this had done the body no good at all.  It had been left standing for several years and the tyres had perished.

The final job had been to repaint the Land Rover: everyone else in the family had felt they had the right to a say in what colour it should be.  Ma said Canary Yellow; Nerys, two years younger, and drifting towards becoming a goth wanted black; Esther, his youngest sister, pink; even Dylan, the youngest and shyest of the siblings, put forward an opinion – Dragon Red.  Owain and his da refused to listen though, united in a belief that there was only one colour suitable for a car – British Racing Green (although they’d never call it that in front of the neighbours).

Owain spent many happy hours learning to drive in the Land Rover: because he had access to the farmyard, and permission from Mr Kendrick, the farmer who had sold them the farmhouse to use his land, Owain was ready to take his test on his 17th birthday – which he passed with three minor faults.  When he returned home the house was festooned with streamers and balloons and there was a big party.  Afterwards, when his friends had gone home, his da took him aside and had handed him the keys to the Landie.

“It’s yours,” he said, simply, “you’ve earned it.  Now, we’ll have to think about what we can do for your sister.”

*****

Crickhowell was a small town as such conurbations go, but decidedly larger than Llangynidr, and indeed one of the larger communities within the boundaries of the Brecon National Park.  It was something of a focus for tourists, despite the less than imppresive remains of a castle.  There were excellent B&Bs and other hostelries.  Owain was headed that way to pick up Nerys who had been at a sleep over, and since he was going Esther tagged along to go to the book shop (although truth be told she needed little excuse to tag along with Owain, especially if a drive in the Landie was on offer).  Ma, too, had pressed a shopping list into his hand as he picked up the keys, ‘since you’re going, love’.

Esther was carefully pecking out a message to Nerys on Owain’s mobile, to let her know they were coming, when they spotted the strange figure at the side of the road.

“That poor soul looks lost, Owain.”

“Yeah…shall offer him a lift?”

“I’m not sure what Ma would think” Esther said doubtfully, “but they’re only little!”

They pulled over.

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another.  Last month’s did not come to a clear decision, but I promise coffee features in the future, I just got a bit carried away with the back story to the random encounter.

Moving on; this moths poll:

Option 1: Aliens love coffee!  Who knew?

Option 2: Coffee does not love aliens – ew!

Option 3: What is all this caffeine nonsense anyway?

Also, if you’re in favour of coffee, let me know what you think Meredith should try in the comments.

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

Experimental Writing: Part 4

Enfys?  Eirian?  They both seemed a little too obscure – they were bound to attract the wrong sort of attention.  Meredith was perfect though – the subroutine was doing good work, although it was clear that care was needed if it wasn’t to develop a personality…more information was needed though and time was of the essence.  The sub-routine was given a metaphorical pat on the head and set back to work.  Yes, there – an electronic wagging tail.  Meredith sighed.

Meredith sighed, but immediately decided that this was out of character: a Meredith should be happy, optimistic, light-hearted.  In a word: merry.  Of course this wasn’t the proper translation of the name, but that didn’t really matter.  How many Meredith’s these days had anything to do with sea or were lords?  But a nickame – all this information had been supplied with the sub-routine’s analysis – such as Merry was very much in keeping, and when translated into grzzt, it wasn’t  million miles from the alien’s own nickname – although that was very much meant in a pejorative sense where it came from.  So it goes.

*****

It was a little after 8 am when Meredith found itself on the outskirts of Llangynidr.  First order of business, find some local currency.   Meredith gave a slight start of surprise when it realised that there was only one cashpoint local to where he was.  This was located at Walnut Tree Stores, which was described as a corner shop.  Clearly this must be some local idiom however, because when it had been located, Meredith found it halfway along the positively rural Coed-yr-Ynys Road.  Thankfully they opened early, and there were even a few cars in the car park, suggesting that there were a few people in there.  Meredith drifted in.  The helpful sub-routine provided a reference picture of the  cashpoint terminal and Meredith spotted it tucked in a corner next to the rack of magazines.

Casually, an arm slipped through one strap and the backpack was pulled round to the front for a quick rummage, which brought forth a wallet.  If anybody had been close enough, they would have just seen a credit card, which was slipped into the machine.  Thirty seconds later and Meredith had complete control of the cashpoint.  It would have been easy just to eviscerate the machine, taking every note that it contained, but the easy course of action would lead to problems sooner or later.  Pursuit problems.  Being remembered problems.  The card was spat back out, and £300 pounds popped out of the machine in a mix of tens and twenties seconds later.  What was left behind was an active programme that was covering Meredith’s tracks – it wouldn’t do for a discrepancy to be noted, so the programme would work its way back into a bank’s database and create a brand new account.  Good enough for the time being.

The card and the money went back into the wallet, save for one £10 note.  The alien navigated the shelves carefully, picking up a fizzy drink, some chocolate bars and something that the wrapper said was a pasty, whatever that was.  On the way to the till, the sub-routine popped its virtual head up again and pointed out something called a ‘pack of cards’,  apparently it had noted something useful, for which a pack of cards might come in handy.

“Bore da!  Will that be everything then?”

“Bore da.” The speech synthesiser managed to match the accent exactly.  “Er, yes, I think so…Oh I’ll just have this as well, diolch.”  A packet of chewing gum, from a rack by the till, was added.

“Very good then.  Do you need a bag with that?  Only I’ll have to charge 5p for that you know.”

“No, don’t fuss yourself, it’ll all go in here.”  The tenner was handed over and whilst it was rung up and change made, the backpack was once again swung round and the goods went into the bag.  A few coins were handed back and Meredith made a pretence of casually checking the change, without overdoing it so much that it caused offence, he selected a small coin and dropped it into the collecting box for the air ambulance that sat on the counter.

“Diolch!”

“Lawn!”

“Bore da!”

“Bore da!” Meredith said over one shoulder whilst walking to the exit.

*****

Meredith stopped for a moment outside as if checking the bag was closed properly.  In reality the AI was providing an update. Llangynidr was small and there was no cafe.  A 6 km or so walk was required to get to the nearest one.  The bus timings were irregular and unhelpful.  Meredith sighed and set out for Crickhowell.  Coffee seemed to be important on Earth, and it would seem to be a good place for a base for a least a couple of hours…and free wi-fi!  Sold!

*****

As Meredith walked along the streets, it didn’t notice that CCTV cameras were turning to follow it…

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.  So for example, you’ve helped me to decide that the story is science fiction, our protagonist, who is a rogue with a dash of ranger,  is an alien, but the story is set on Earth.  Right…what next?

Option 1: Coffee!

Option 2: Random encounter on the road.

Option 3: Coffee rudely interrupted!

Also, the sub-routine seems to be developing its own personality.  Any suggestions for a name?

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

Experimental Writing: Part 3

On the homeworld, the pilot would have just bounced down the side of the mountain; the tough, flexible ‘skin’ would have protected it from the bumps, and even accommodated the sharp stones that occasionally peeked through the soil and scrubby grass to catch the unwary foot.  Instead, there were these strange things – legs in the local parlance – to get used to.

The AI embedded in the computer was constantly chattering over the commlink providing information on the locality, mission updates, and health status.  Thankfully it had quit with the reprimands for leaving the sidearm behind.

This was the worst part of these rushed missions: an on the move briefing into the local culture, which kept on being updated as the AI interrogated available information and tried to work out what was significant and what was not.  Not always as easy as it might seem.  There seemed to be a lot about political events half a world away, which was important if you lived here permanently, but which was of no significance at all if you were an alien looking to do a job and skedaddle before anyone found out about.  And there was so much information to sift through, although the AI had already clocked something significant in the local lore and had dedicated a sub-routine to focus on that alone.

The Client had picked up the signal of the thing to be recovered, but considering that it had been missing for more than 2000 years, it wasn’t entirely clear what the rush was about.  At this point, there was no cover story, credible or otherwise.  The local population would just have to be avoided as best as possible.

The creature gave something approaching a sigh combined with a gallic shrug as another sub-routine decided to give it an update: information flowed.  This world had more than 6,500 languages in use…so far, so primitive…and the local indigenous population used two different ones and…yes, oh perfect.  The dominant one was used more widely, and indeed was used world-wide, but would be the mark of an outsider, especially if the accent was wrong.  The minority language was even spoken by the whole population, but the ability to speak even a little would be helpful – still that could be dealt with.  Another sub-routine was assigned to the problem of languages: it was one thing to know the lexicography, but another to use it in an idiomatic fashion.  The AI studied the problem, with an electronic weather-eye, on the mores associated with using either of the two languages.

Various things came to light as the AI tried to deal with the languages.  Further sub-routines were added to deal with issues as they came to light.  Pronouns…that required a significant chunk of processing power to unravel.  Different pronouns for gender…a sub-routine that was starting to develop its own personality chipped in with  an apposite home-grown phrase translated into the local idiom: not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Gendered pronouns! And for that matter only two genders!  The same helpful sub-routine started pushing through information on gender politics, equal rights, LGBTQ+, before it was suppressed by the AI.  The subroutine was allowed to continue collecting information, but an edit was made to prevent the sub-routine pushing through information without checking with the AI first.

What to do? What. To. Do…? The alien was neither male nor female as these…(quick check)…as these ‘humans’ defined them.  A choice would need to be made.  From the creature’s perspective there was little to choose between the two options.  Reviewing the notes on gender politics suggested that this was something to steer well clear of: alien undercover operatives are by definition and inclination averse to becoming involved in public debates prone to descending into acrimony.  Still, on balance, it appeared to be easier if you were ‘a man’ rather than ‘ a woman’.  For the most part it shouldn’t matter, but the pilot knew that it was important to commit to a part and be ready for the worst. This only happened if you got comfortable in the role.

The pilot, decided that it was time to start building a cover. Firstly, a name…  The sub-routine put up a metaphorical hand.  The AI reviewed the sub-routine’s work.  It was pointing out that it might be possible to build a certain amount of ambiguity by selecting a name that was both masculine and femine.  It put forward a few suggestions…

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.  So for example, you’ve helped me to decide that the story is science fiction, our protagonist, who is a rogue with a dash of ranger,  is an alien, but the story is set on Earth.  Now is the time to choose a name for our MC.

Option 1: Enfys (“Rainbow”)

Option 2: Meredith (“great/sea lord”)

Option 3: Eirian (“bright, beuatiful”)

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

Experimental Writing: Part 2

It wasn’t until after dawn that the wings of the cocoon unfolded.  Ostensibly this was the first sign that anything was actually happening, although the craft had been monitoring various electromagnetic frequencies for some time.  A data-squirt had arrived from the mothership with a mission update including a hack-patch to allow the pilot to interface with local operating systems.  The onboard computer started processing the information available and put together a languages pack and location specific briefing information.  It also sent files to the onboard synthesiser to start producing the equipment that might be required: clothing, interface patches, documentation for a legend – the usual.

The pilot got its first look of (another) alien sky.  Slightly bluer than it was used to: it prompted the computer to check for nutritional requirements and whether there would need to be any supplements to adjust for the predominant frequencies of light.  It released itself from the webbing that constrained it in the pilot’s seat.  Anyone who had been passing, who happened to be able to speak grzzt, would have been able to discern some muttered imprecations.  These mutterings mainly related to having been uncomfortably squished into a seat meant for a completely different species, and that just because it was a shapeshifter, it didn’t mean it should have to put up with this sort of thing.  Mind you, a casual passer-by probably wouldn’t have noticed all of this, being distracted by the form that flowed over the lip of the cockpit, disdaining the retractable ladder-rungs that had automatically deployed when the wings of the canopy had unfolded.  Reaching the ground, the shape flowed into a perfect sphere about half a metre in diameter and rolled along the side of the craft.

A hatch popped open in the side of the craft.  Things started to drop into the hopper as they were manufactured: trousers, a top, a hat, dark glasses…

More grumbling, the grzzt equivalent for: “What the…?”

Some kind of appendage extended from the spherical alien and reached out to the trousers which it held up in a rather disdainful manner before bringing them close and flowing into them.  The same was done for shoes – the creature didn’t bother undoing the Velcro straps but just extended the ‘legs’ from the end of the trousers and pulled them into place.  By the time the process was complete, the sphere had become a reasonable approximation of a small human being.  Dark glasses and a beanie hat disguised the ‘face’, for the most part.

A canvas back-pack dropped into the hopper, followed by various bits and pieces that were hastily stuffed into it.  A couple of things, one which looked vaguely pistolesque, were held up for inspection.

“Nah.”  They were tossed into a receptacle next to the hopper.

Finally, a device on a strap appeared, and this was placed on a, for want of a better word, wrist.  A string of symbols flowed across the screen.  Something vaguely finger-like on what was approximately a hand curled back over itself and swiped the screen off.  In response, a warning sound issued from the craft and a message, in grzzt, played:

“Alert.  Field pack incomplete.  Please collect standard issue armament.”

If the pilot had been familiar with Earth idiom, it would probably have sucked its teeth, if it had any, at this point.  But it wasn’t and it didn’t so it just ignored the message, and went back to checking through the kit in the back-pack, making sure it had everything it wanted.  What might have been a sigh issued from somewhere that might have been a face.  It left the pack by the open hatch and walked back to the cockpit.  It swung itself up the ladder in a long-armed simian fashion, disdaining to use its legs.  Leaning over the lip of the cock-pit it pressed a button and something that looked a lot like a tablet computer detached from the cock-pit console.  It lowered itself by one…arm, and then jumped the rest of the way to the ground.  Digits flew across the screen as it programmed something.  By the time it made its way back to the synthesiser’s hopper, a new thing had appeared.  It looked a lot like a plaster and it immediately slapped it onto its…head, about where an ear should have been.  The tablet was tucked into the backpack, which was itself heaved onto a shoulder.

The hatch over the hopper was closed.  The message from earlier was repeated, this time much more muffled.  The pilot tapped the watch and transmitted an authorisation code: the wings folded back automatically and, simultaneously the ladder retracted.  A nozzle released quick-crete over the whole cocoon making it appear to be just another rock.  The quick-crete was permeable to a range of gases, as well as being an efficient absorber of selected parts of the EM spectrum (some of the visible spectrum, tailored so that the coated cocoon would match other rocks in the area, some other bands, but not too many from any one part of the spectrum – should anyone come snooping around then it wouldn’t appear that this ‘rock’ was absorbing unusually large amounts of energy).  This energy powered the transformation of the absorbed gases into the required reaction mass, powered various systems that would keep the spacecraft safe and secure, and charged the energy storage systems.  And if things went terribly wrong with the mission, in a couple of years’ time, if the ‘rock’ was still here, then the accumulated energy would be catastrophically released, turning the rock to its component atoms.

The day was starting to warm up (getting the electrochemical processes off to a flying start: the pilot headed off down the mountainside.

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.  So for example, you’ve helped me to decide that the story is science fiction, our protagonist, who is a rogue with a dash of ranger,  is an alien, but the story is set on Earth.

Without giving too much away, the protagonist is piloting the craft that has just landed in the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Last month the consensus was that the MC is retrieving something: we’ll be coming back to that later.  Right now, our MC has collected their field pack and is walking away from their spaceship.  Are they:

Option 1: Heading into town (local)?

Option 2: On their way to the big city?

Option 3: Heading further into the countryside?

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

Experimental Writing: Part 1

“Niflheim!”

Bjarni Thorssen had long ago decided to live up to the Viking looks that were his birth-right.  On the international stage, a stellar scientific reputation (literally and figuratively) was rarely sufficient on its own to rise to the top of the pile.  To break into the big-time, you need something extra, something on which the Cult of Personality can go to work.  Over the years, Bjarni had let his beard grow (although he refused to plait it), and let his speech become infected by traditional oaths.  Many would be surprised to learn that Bjarni, a giant in height, girth, and character was, by nature, introverted.  In meetings he could be loud and tenacious in fighting his corner, but no one really saw him in his home environment, and the reality would ave jarred with the mead-hall image he liked to project.

There were many jobs that he would never get: it was the peacemakers who got such plum roles.  But various scandals had thinned the herd considerably, and there were many jobs in the international astronomy community that were his for the asking.  He had a long term plan, and right now Director of the European Space Organisation’s Chilean based observatories was exactly where he wanted to be.

Quiet in private, Bjarni’s bombastic public persona had actually been an inspired appointment at a critical time in the funding landscape.  When there’d been talk of budget cuts, Bjarni had lobbied hard and actually been able to increase his budget (to the chagrin of a number of his peers, who hadn’t been so fortunate).  Whilst this funding didn’t mean the new telescope that the community was calling for, and which Bjarni hoped would be his legacy, essential maintenance had become  exciting upgrades, and he’d been able to fund several new post-doc positions.

One of these now stood in front of him.

“You’ll see that the Duty Operator had a go at a quick calculation, which indicates that the object will strike the Earth.  To be honest, I think they were a bit previous in attempting this, and whilst I’m all for open and honest, and I can see where there might be some advantage in releasing the numbers, I think I would be inclined to file them.  There really wasn’t sufficient information to make an accurate assessment at that point.  The object was watched for another few hours, and in the morning it was possible to refine the calculations which show a reasonably close approach, but nothing that’s going to cause people to head for the bunkers.”

“Don’t you believe it” Bjarni growled, “people are idiots.”

Bjarni noted the careful hand calculations and could see that the erroneous early assessment had been made by Earl Travis, a young buck eager to make a name for himself, despite only being a year or so into his PhD.  The revised calculations had been made by the woman in front of him.  Ris Patel, one of his new appointments, had real potential.  Another twenty years and she’d probably be having this conversation on his side of the desk.  She had the rare ability to see the political landscape across academia and the funding bureaucracies that kept this facility operating, as well as being an outstanding astronomer.  She just needed to develop her persona…

The ESO was the first to report on the object, and it was soon confirmed by other reputable observatories around the world.  No one ever found out where the spurious collision story came from, but Bjarni was very impressive in a series of interviews and very carefully explained that, as the ESO had said in their first statement, there had never been any danger to the Earth… He would go on to win an award for this work (a small one, not a Nobel, or anything like that), but the cash was enough for a small shindig at the observatory.  But as Professor Thorssen doesn’t play any further part in this story, we’ll leave him there.

*****

With all the excitement over the object, which the astronomers decided was probably just a very large comet, and then spent months arguing over what to call it, no one really paid any attention to the rather spectacular shooting star that occurred at around the same time.  Esther, saw it, with her older brother Owain. They’d gone out star gazing and were lying out on the hillside above Abercynafon.  Owain was pointing out the constellations (and not just the obvious ones that everyone knows) when a streak of light spurted overhead and fled across the horizon.

“What was that, Owain?”

“A shooting star, bach.  There’s all sorts of little bits of dust and things up there that hit Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.  That must have been quite a big bit of rock though to make that much light and to go on for so long.  It’s a pity we didn’t get a picture.”

Neither of them connected it with the triple sonic boom that occurred about an hour later, nor, in point of fact, did they realise that that was what they were hearing.

At this point there was not much to see, but they had an impression of something going quite fast overhead.  They thought it must be an RAF fighter on night maneuvers.  They didn’t hear whatever it was playing ducks and drakes across the Tallybont Reservoir.  If it had been eligible, it would have beaten the existing record, but Kurt Steiner’s 88 skips were safe in the Guinness Book of World Records for a while longer – this was no small stone, propelled by a human…

Slowed by it’s entry into the atmosphere and then around the world, slowed further by on board systems, slowed further still by it’s journey across the lake, the space craft jinked lazily up the hillside and then settled next to a little knot of trees.

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.  So for example, you’ve helped me to decide that the story is science fiction, our protagonist, who is a rogue with a dash of ranger,  is an alien, but the story is set on Earth.

Without giving too much away, the protagonist is piloting the craft that has just landed in the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Are they:

Option 1: Escaping?

Option 2: Scouting?

Option 3: Retrieving something?

Option 4: On a jolly?

I ‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for two weeks, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you thing this is heading!

See you next month!