Monday, 16 November 2009

Legendary Space Pilgrims - the first pages

Time for a taste-test of my upcoming release. I hope to have it out by the end of January, edits and private life permitting! Have a read, if you care to, and tell me if you'd pick up this book if you saw it on a bookstore shelf...

MONDAY 1

The clang of the work-bells forced its way into Mario’s consciousness. A sliver of light pushed through his eyelids, and he pried them all the way open.

Morning again. Monday morning. But on Planet Monday, every day was the same. No joke. He threw back the thick rough-woven blanket and heaved himself upright.

His limbs were slow to respond as he lurched into the plastic wet-cell that towered beside his bed. What had he been up to last night? It sure didn’t feel like he’d slept the full nineteen hours. He slid the pane across the opening and flinched at the shock of the cold water. After thirty seconds the water switched off and he stood still as the airdryers around the cell’s base kicked in. The air wasn’t much warmer than the water, but it felt good.

Stepping out of the cell into the two-by-four-foot floor space of his living quarters, he opened the long drawer built under the bed and pulled out a sky-grey tracksuit, standard issue. Some things never changed. He chased the thought across his consciousness and peered out the tiny window above the bed. Square grey buildings met his gaze. Above hung the eternal grey clouds. Nothing ever changed on Monday. Unless…

Unless he’d been mindwiped.

He groaned and let himself sink onto the brown bedcover. Looking up at the emergency transport tube access in the ceiling just above head height, he examined its round rim. No dust. That meant the tube had been used in the last few hours. Dust coated everything on Monday within just a few hours.

He blinked and shivered as he stared unseeing at the vid-wall’s moving feed of Ocean region. Last night, they’d sucked him up that tube. Wiped his emotional memory. Extreme feelings were erased from the workers—a technique no one ever remembered going through. But everyone knew it happened, since afterwards only the simplest facts remained. Had he really been emoting so badly?

Mario scratched his head, put on his boots, then the second bell sounded. He rose, seized his blade-gloves by the cuffs, and moved to the door as it swished open simultaneously with all the other doors up and down the hallway.

The two hundred inhabitants of the third floor stepped out of their quarters as one. To be precise, the third floor of Wing B, Building 17, Sector X9, Foodstuffs Region, Planet Monday. The doors swished closed again and the workers turned to march towards 17’s central hub.

Mario strode over the hallway’s threshhold to the third-floor lobby and accepted a breakfast pack from the dispenser in the doorway. He bit off the cap and squeezed the warm coffee-flavoured sludge into his gullet on his way to the mass transport tube. He joined the line in front of Wing B’s accessway and guzzled the rest of his breakfast while he waited. Smiles greeted him, but he’d lost all memory of their owners.

Monday-morning-itis. The clown who named this planet deserved to be recrewed to Sewage Region. Just because they discovered it on a Monday…since when do you have Mondays in space, anyhow?

He chucked the empty plastic foodsack in a waste unit to the left of the accessway, slipped on the bladed work-gloves, and stepped into the pod that opened before him.

The thin plastic shell closed. A jolt accompanied the sudden blackness as the pod began its journey. The familiar whoosh of the surrounding air calmed him, which was a bonus for the emo-reader implanted in his neck. If it didn’t detect strong emotions, he wouldn’t get sent to be mindwiped. But it was too late for that. Again.

The chip in his neck beeped, warning him to prepare for landing. An open accessway lit up the pod from below just before its bottom opened, dropping him out of the tube. His knees bent to take the impact. He shot out of the darkness feet-first to land at the edge of a vast field of oats.

Mario flexed his elbows and knees, noting new bruises on his wrist, shoulder and lower leg as well as the usual ankle stress from landing. As far as he knew, the transport tubes had never killed anyone, although they sure doled out a beating-up to those who used them. But he’d come off lightly today.

To his left and right, other morning-dazed freshly-podspit bladers slowly righted themselves and faced the day’s task. X9 was Monday’s oat capital. Their harvest became the breakfast porridge served by dispensers in every part of the planet.

Nineteen hours, and counting down. Days were long here, but then, so were the nights. The line of workers moved forward, cutting the oat-stalks with the blades sewn into the thumbs and index fingers of their gloves, then releasing them to be sucked into the transport tubes that filled the grey sky with their spidery network. No longer set to carry human-occupied pods, the tubes now gently removed the harvest for processing in X9’s huge barns some miles away to the east. To the west, the first of the dormitories was barely visible on the horizon. Ahead, to the north, grew oats and oats and oats, fading into the skyline where they met the cold whiteness of the clouds.

Mario paused and pulled off his gloves to raise his jacket’s hood and tighten its edge around his face. Monday had no weather to speak of—at least not like on Old Earth as he’d seen in the vid-hall movies. Only night and day. But it sure was cold, except where the sunlampsglowed from the undersides of tubes. For the crop, of course, not the workers. He shrugged and threw himself into the rhythm of the work, just as he’d done on more than two thousand other days since coming to X9.

What happened yesterday? What had he done to deserve this mindwipe? As he struggled to remember, he caught sight of dark-blond dreadlocks peeking out under the hood of the worker to his right. A sudden shock of delight rippled through his chest. His chip gave a single low beep. 10% of critical emo-level has been reached. Adrenaline pumped though him.

Ten percent wasn’t really dangerous, but it could get that way. He worked a little faster so as to get ahead of his neighbour, then cast a quick glance back. The lumpy dreadlocks framed a pale and petite face, with brown eyes that gazed steadily back into his own.

His heart began to hammer. Two beeps sounded. Twenty percent.
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