Yes, yes, and yes, ladies and gentlemen. It is not an advertisement or some other new and odd form of procrastination, I actually have what I think is a publishable prologue.
This is the first bit of my novel There Be Dragons(pend.) and I am super excited for my fiction writing to make its first appearance on the interwebs outside of emails and file sharing. Please be harsh! Tweet or email me how you guys feel about it (For better or worse).
So let’s not stand on ceremony. Without further ado: The Prologue!
Chapter 1: Dawn.
Seemingly all at once, the pod of space whales breached the surface of reality, showering the sky with light in fourth dimensional color. The behemoths spouted stardust in a massive exhale, relieved at their return from a long journey outside of time. One by one, an entire host arrived. With a fizzling of refracted photons and a slight ripple of quantum foam, they began to fill the vast, convex horizon of the Earth. First came the huge, kilometer long bulls, but soon after came their calves closely escorted by their mothers.
The hull of the The Captain’s Daughter bobbed gently under Nikolai in their wake. He gleefully cheersed them with a swig of fiery rum, while his feet dangled 200 kilometers over the blue planet’s surface. Nikolai had spent too much time aboard the Daughter to ever fear falling. Afterall, Nikolai had swabbed her deck since he was fifteen years old. He knew that so long as he was inside the plasma shields that held his life giving oxygen in and the shells from other ships out, he was safer aboard the Daughter than anywhere else in the whole wide galaxy.
It didn’t help that Captain Draughton called him a Nancy whenever he wore a safety line, so Nikolai had learned to be especially careful. However he had to admit that the grouchy, whiskey-soaked captain had a point: safety lines made for sloppy work.
On the other hand, Captain Draughton could find any reason to call him Nancy. It became somewhat of a pet name in their seven years working together aboard the unconventional brigantine known as The Captain’s Daughter. She was small, but she was fast. She’d be faster, if Draughton hadn’t insisted on the 300mm cannon running along the keel be her trademark.
Nikolai mocked it in his first couple years aboard, but that was only until he saw one of its rounds punch through a dragon freighter’s hull clean from port to starboard.
He sang a shanty to himself as he bounced his boot heels against the gunwale,
“I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning.”
Christmas Day it was, and Nikolai – thinking it rude not to celebrate the birth of such a savior – was quite and honestly drunk. He had swiped a bottle of rum from the cargo bay and popped the cork as the ship’s mercury clock struck midnight on Christmas. He hadn’t taken his rum ration in months, so he figured Draughton (too cheap to hire a proper quartermaster) owed him at least one bottle.
Currently, the captain was planetside negotiating passage from one side of Earth’s Partition to the other. Though the blue titan was beautiful and quiet from this height, the politics and bureaucracy below were something nasty. Nikolai imagined Draughton would be sure to decline mentioning the five hundred bootlegged gallons of dragon beer hidden in the hold of the brigantine
But in all honesty, Nikolai didn’t mind when Draughton left him in charge. Whether it was for an hour or an afternoon, the captain’s absence made him the highest ranking officer on the ship. The deck would be his. Not that he wanted to be captain, on the contrary, the full time position sounded exhausting. But it was as if the questionable choices of his youth – to leave home, to join a pirate crew, to sail from port to port with illegal and looted goods, to learn to befriend murderers, assassins, and brigands of all shapes, sizes, and walks of life – were finally leading somewhere better than the galley or the gallows. If a captain is king on the deck of his ship, then Nikolai had to admit: it felt good to be king. Even if it was only for a little while.
He cheersed himself and sang,
“And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?”
He could no longer deny that his head swam with the rum’s viscous playfulness, and for the first time in years he questioned if sitting this close to the edge was a good idea. Time to get back to work, he supposed. He raised the bottom of the bottle and finished it.
He wiped his chops with his sleeve, and with a flick, he let the bottle slip from his fingers and watched it plummet to Earth at its unforgiving 9.8 mps². With a bloop and a wash of blue, it separated from the one-way shield. It fell free, helplessly tumbling toward the Earth’s surface. It was barely out of sight when the friction in the air heated the glass to its farthest reaching temperatures. The silica ignited against the oxygen in the atmosphere, incinerating the bottle in a flash. Glowing hot sand scattered across the terran backdrop in a silent firework. A millisecond later, it was all long gone. Too light to ever make it to the surface, everything the bottle was would forever become part of the atmosphere that destroyed it.
Nikolai hopped back onto the safety of the deck. The flotilla of whales was all present by now, and began strolling toward their breeding grounds on Neptune. They passed within five kilometers of the ship, creating a gravitational wake that continued to bob the ship against its atmospheric anchor. Nikolai was suddenly glad about the decision to abandon the ship’s edge. Draughton called it luck, Nikolai attributed it to good instincts, but it was unmistakable that he always seemed to find himself in the right place at the right time. Nikolai’s mother would tell him that the universe was saving him for something special. If the captain agreed, he failed to mention it. Nikolai tried to avoid the superstition that plagued most sailors, but he couldn’t deny that it was out there somewhere, waiting for him. He felt it. Though he was pretty sure that piracy wasn’t it, he knew the Daughter would take him where he needed to be.
The whales were close enough for Nikolai to hear their song. The low, droning murmur shook the deck with subsonic subtlety. Nikolai had always been fascinated by them. Space whales, or Cetea Tractus, truly existed partially out of phase. Even the molecules that made up their being resonated at a different frequency than any matter scientists had encountered in the galaxy. It raised questions if they were from another galaxy, another part of the universe, or even another dimension of space-time. The idea of differently constructed matter existing in dark space was mind-boggling enough, but physical living, breathing, reproducing life forms were unheard of.
They were named ‘Space Whales’ not for their appearance, but rather for their massive size and family strurcture. In reality, they looked closer to millipedes, with evolving blue to purple to green segmented bodies and thousands if not millions of flagellar legs protruding from their bottoms. However, by far their most interesting feature was their ability to literally swim through the fabric of reality. It didn’t take long after their discovery for teams scientists and fool-hardy cosmonauts to hunt them down and derive ways to extract their oil, giving simple man the ability move among the stars.
The Old Human Empire was built on the blood of these magnificent creatures, and the rest of the galaxy entered a new age of space travel as a result. Much like the tasting of the apple and the Industrial Revolution, the results were mixed. A new age of prosperity dawned upon the civilized species of the galaxy, but this new technology quickly roused the attention of the Dark Lady and her dragons.
The Dark Lady wielded arcane magics and an army of ancient reptilian hulks. They lived in the dark for millennia, roaming the galaxy unhindered. At the thought of the burgeoning young race, the Dark Lady were fascinated by the humans, but the dragons found the hairless apes as grotesque and inferior. In their eyes, the humans were a threat that the Dark Lady was too blind to see. In a coup, they killed her in her sleep and installed a Grand Council in her place, declaring martial law over all the Milky Way. They slaughtered humans in the billions and enacted a vast culling of their strange magics. The Old Empire fell and plunged the galaxy into chaos.
A confederacy of free human planets formed to take back their homeworld, but couldn’t decide how to run it once they did. Now Earth is parted into the Imperial East and the Allied West, subjecting the depleted planet to more degradation and more war.
Now on this odd vista of civilization, the exhausted space whales gave already had so much of their blood so that other living things may shed one another’s. The giants find themselves fast on the verge of extinction, leaving the petty kingdoms in outdated ships and at the mercy of the vast and cruel Dracophate who traverse the galaxy with stolen magics.
Nikolai pondered how these creatures, who infused the the fabric of the universe itself managed to weave their way into a vital part of human history. He wondered if man was better off as savages wondering the undeveloped, factoryless savannahs of Earth. He wondered if the whales knew. About the trouble humans had gotten into with their blood. About the cruelty living things inherently harbor in their fight to survive. About the whalers waiting for them on the far side of the planet, to gut them, burn their oils, and begin the cycle of violence anew. More somberly, Nikolai continued to hum the carol to himself,
“O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day in the morning.”
He felt guilty for taking advantage of an ancient species’ mysterious and unyielding instinct. Despite their total helplessness in the face of the more intelligent and more advanced whalers, the whales still obeyed their biology with unflinching loyalty. Their amazing gift undone by naive genetic sentimentality. The importance of tradition surpassing that of existence. The past dooming the future.
Nikolai felt guilty that he made a living and sent money home to his mother, all while traveling space on the dime of these beautiful creatures.
Then again in the atrophy of the universe, were we all just seeking our own personal path to the sunset? A disturbing question emerged from a burrow in Nikolai’s conscience: Whose destruction did he himself seek? Would he fade for many years into drawn out disappearance? Decay and loss, like the gifted yet ill-fated phenomena known as ‘space whales’? Or would he be the bottle? His hand forced by the unseen forces of the universe to dive? To travel so fast that his corporeal form couldn’t hope to stand it. And to inevitably explode into dust under the pressure, hopelessly drawn to the unreachable.
The communicator on his belt rang in a shrill tone as if it had an answer. By the time Nikolai flipped it open Draughton was already barking on the other end. “Privateer office wants to have a word, Nancy,” he said. “Pull the old girl around. Not a scratch.”
Nikolai patted his cheeks and took a puff of cold, synthesized deck air to sober himself. He said into the radio, “Got it, cap. Be there in five.” Draughton didn’t answer, but two beeps told Nikolai that his communicator had been turned off.
The whales were almost out of sight now. And there was surely nothing left that represented the bottle. He sang into oblivion,
“And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day in the morning”.
No one and nothing answered him. Only a mild, high atmospheric breeze washed the smell of ozone over the deck. Nikolai figured he was on his own on this one. Besides, it was time to get back to work anyway.
Thank you everyone who read this, truly. It’s hard to sit down and do this, and any kind of recognition is more than a simple sentient meat sack such as myself can ask for.
Please subscribe if you want to continue this journey with Nikolai and take a look at any other projects I have going. (AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS WELCOME!)
For now, I’m going to go into a fugue and let my brain heal from bringing this thing back to life. Thank you guys again and again! Good luck, God Speed, Write on.
Photo Courtesy: Fantasia 2000. Disney.