Thursday 4 July 2013

Red Shift

Welcome to the third Xeroversary. A slightly different, quieter, more introspective affair this year. Every day this week I'll post an extract from one of my works in progress. A little something to whet your appetite for the future, I hope.

I cannot settle on a title for this, but Red Shift is my current favourite. It's set in the same world as yesterday's extract, and if that seems unlikely... you'll just have to take my word for it... ;)

And as the protagonist, Jaeger, regains consciousness after his ship has crashed, it occurs to me that this is the third extract this week in which the lead character has been knocked out in some fashion. Maybe I should start giving them protective headgear. Grimm is his ship's AI.


The roaring, screaming noise of tortured metal was all around him and never ending; it swallowed him whole. A portion of the hull was torn away and he was dazzled by bright, intrusive sunlight. Frothing impact foam expanded around him. Jaeger thought he saw pine green, and tree trunks and then everything was white.
Then everything was black.
When he came to his head was buzzing. He opened his eyes onto darkness. Swallowing was strange. Everything hurt. His mouth tasted of chemicals and he could feel the foam residue dripping from him. His arms hung loosely past his head.
He was upside down, suspended by the chair's strapping.
"Captain." The voice sounded distant, strange. "You're alive then."
"Possibly. I'm upside down. And I might be blind."
"It's night."
"Or that. How long was I out?"
"Well, it's night."
"And you're as cantankerous as ever. Any chance of some light?"
"Ah. The ship has no power."
His eyes began to adjust. Not to great improvement, but he could make out lighter areas and darker blocks. Over the other aches that gripped him he was becoming increasingly aware of the straps cutting into his shoulders. He supported himself by curling his legs over the bottom of the seat as he awkwardly fumbled with the release catch. His hands trembled and his fingers tingled with hypersensitivity.
The catch snapped open and suddenly all his weight was on his calves in a way it wasn't meant to be. He stayed suspended for a moment, and then gravity triumphed. He grabbed for the chair as he fell and snagged it with one hand, not managing to hold on but flipping himself so that his shins instead of his head slammed into the metal floor.
At the flaring pain of the impact he grunted and curled into himself.
"Captain? Did you break yourself again?"
"If there's no power, why can I still hear your voice?"
He tried to remember if he had ever heard Grimm hesitate before.
"I am no longer a part of the ship."
He thought about that for a moment.
"OK. If you're no longer part of the ship, why can I still hear your voice?"
"I relocated. Now, imagine the cabin layout, but flip it."
"You're on the ceiling."
"I know that."
"So flip the layout. Now make your way towards the weapons locker."
"Do I need a gun?"
"Probably, but not immediately."
He stood up carefully and startled as his head unexpectedly encountered the pilot's chair. He stepped to one side, then held his hands out in front of him, raising one slightly higher to account for any floor fixtures that were now a part of the ceiling, and headed towards the weapons locker.
"Not that direction."
"Did I mention I can't see anything?"
"Just follow my voice."
He turned ninety degrees to his right and headed towards the source of Grimm's voice, cautiously sliding each foot forward so that he didn't trip over anything. It was a strange sensation, the metal beneath his feet curved upwards as he got closer to the edge of the cabin. Floors were supposed to be flat.
"It's hard to follow your voice when you're not speaking."
"I thought you preferred it when I was quiet."
"I usually do."
His hand came up against the crosshatched metal of the locker and he felt around for the keypad. It was a stretch, almost out of reach, and he tapped in the numbers by rote. An abrasive low tone indicated a failed code. He immediately realised why.
"You forgot it was upside down, didn't you?"
"Why is your voice coming from inside the locker?"
"Just get it open."
Jaeger felt for the top and bottom of the keypad and tapped the keys in the opposite positions. A happy chime indicated a more positive result and he slid the cover open. The locker had racking for a smart assault rifle, two pistols and a half dozen grenades. He liked to carry flash bangs and smokers, but he hadn't been able to afford to replace the grenades since he last used them, and the pistols lived in the holsters at his side, so the only thing in the locker was the smart rifle.
There was a soft glow from the blue strip on the side of the rifle, indicating its active status.
"Why are you in my rifle?"
"Because it was the only thing on this ship capable of supporting me, and my primary system was compromised."
"You may recall the ship exploding and rolling down a mountain."


  1. An AI rifle, uh oh.... sounds sort of like Elrond in space.

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