Fiction Fragment Friday

One of the most important parts of writing a story is determining where to start it. If you start it early then it takes too long to get to the important parts. If you start it too late your readers feel like they have missed something. In this case I had a scene I wanted to describe so I picked my starting moment right at that scene. Unfortunately by doing so I realized that I was starting far too early and this story is actually just a prequal to the story people would really want to read.

I’m not sure if this scene is important to a much larger story or just something I needed to write to flesh out the characters for the story that I should have actually written.

                Two months of intensive conditioning, training, and preparation was not nearly enough to prepare for the moment of launch.  The voices of mission control coming through my headset were completely drowned out by the roar of the engines igniting.  I tried to bring my arms up to grab my restraints, but I couldn’t move them.  My chest hurt as I gasped for breath trying to push down a panic attack.  Nothing in my life has ever compared to that moment and I hope I never go through anything like it again. 

                Everything inside the command module vibrated and rattled.  I was simultaneously smashed into my chair and being violently shaken.  I fought back the nausea knowing if I vomited it would be forced back down my throat.   The real astronauts would also never let me live that down.  Thoughts of the ship ripping apart from the reverberation filled my head.  I was a scientist and had no business going into space. 

                I have no idea how long that first stage of launch was, but it felt like an eternity.  Finally, the pressure lessened enough for me to grab onto my restraints and hold tight.  That was when the second phase rockets ignited.  I was once again shoved back into my seat, but the force was not nearly as bad as the previous stage.  After a few more minutes I experienced weightlessness for the first time.  I could even hear the rest of the crew reporting back to ground control through the communication system. 

                “Hey doc how you holding up?”  It took me a moment to realize Commander Henderson was talking to me.  He was floating a few feet in front of me with a look of concern on his face. 

                “That was the single most terrifying thing I have ever experienced.  You’ve been to space before and still chose to do it again?”

                He laughed.  “Just wait until reentry.”

                “You’re kidding right?  Right?”  I don’t think he was kidding.  At that point though we had a whole mission ahead of us and no guarantee that we would be returning.  Two years ago, I made a discovery that would change my life forever.  Something was coming into the solar system and would be passing close to Earth.  I thought it was an asteroid at first, but as I ran the math and did radio telescope tests it became obvious the object was not natural.  Before I knew it, I was in a small room being threatened by men in black suits.  If I said a word to anyone about what I discovered, they would never find my body. 

                “Ok doc we’re going to be in orbit for twenty-four hours before performing the slingshot move around the moon.  At that point we will be further from Earth than anyone has ever been before.  Not that anyone will ever know.” 

                “Missions don’t really get more classified than this do they?”

                “Nope.  I’m betting this mission is going to have a lot of firsts, but then again if not, we would never know.”

                I laughed and felt a bit more relaxed for the first time in days.  In a week we would be boarding what all my tests seemed to suggest was a derelict spacecraft.  We would only have a few hours to find a way onboard, study everything, and attempt what little salvage we could fit in the command module.  Any longer and we would be too far from Earth to return.  There were more ways this mission could go wrong than I could begin to imagine and if it did, we would be completely on our own. 

                I couldn’t help but wonder what they would tell my friends and family if I never returned.  The cover story for the last few months had been a consulting contract with NASA.  In reality NASA didn’t have a high enough clearance to know the truth behind our mission.  There were less than twenty people on the planet who knew the whole truth.  Four fewer with us in space. 

                “So, Commander Henderson any new ideas on how to get inside if we can’t cut our way through the hull?”

                “Sorry doc that’s your department.  We’re just your ride.”

                “Do I need to remind you that you have a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering and two master’s degrees yourself?  We aren’t even the only two with doctorates on this mission.”

                He just smiled back at me.  “That may be true, but I didn’t find an alien spaceship.  Your ship your problem.” 

                “Ah, but we are on your ship right now.  I’m betting you have an idea or two.” 

                “Nope, but we’ve got two weeks to figure something out.”