TSG (old draft) part 1
A whole novel. Does anyone remember Stephanie?
Stephanie is my favourite character. Long before she made her time-travelling cameo in Who Built The Humans? she was the star of a 100 word microfiction inspired by the idea “An atheist meets God” all the way back in 2015.
I’m an atheist, and I thought it would be funny.
It was funny, then I went home and fell asleep.
I woke up knowing Stephanie. Knowing she wanted to be a poet, that she lived in a novel, and that she was about to go on a cosmic adventure through multiple collapsing realities in a sci-fi/spiritual search for the ‘core universe’.
It came to me like an acid trip. Not that I’ve tried acid, never had the chance, but I know a few people who have and when I told them about what Stephanie goes through, they told me the plot was very similar.
So it gets weird.
It’s a novel. The last draft was 165,000 words. I am going to be pitching it to an agent I like in the next week or so, so I wanted to gather some last minute feedback. I am usually self-pub only (just for the creative freedom) but I feel that this novel needs a proper marketing campaign behind it.
That said, I’m still on the fence. If it doesn’t work out with the agent, I have alternatives.
Enjoy the story, and please to let me know what you think about this opening section. If you like it, I’ll post some more soon.
THE STEPHANIE GLITCH
Toumai raced across the Artifice, his motors wheezing as he slid desperately through his own private airlocks and corridors. They were too small for humans, too awkward, or out of reach. He cursed himself for not leaving an avatar behind on the research deck. This absentmindedness had cost him valuable seconds.
His white eyestalk wobbled as he turned tight corners on his way to the emergency. He scanned the area ahead again. The sensors were not broken. A human heart was beating in the research deck. But the only body there was unfinished. It didn’t have a heart yet.
Toumai queried the room yet again. The unmistakable beating of a human heart replied.
Dismayed, the machine checked the most recent progress logs for the research deck.
SKELETAL STRUCTURE OPTIMAL
MARROW STRUCTURE OPTIMAL
!!!WARNING!!! POD FAILURE: PREMATURE BIOLOGICAL PROCESSES DETECTED
!!!WARNING!!! POD FAILURE: CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM ACTIVE
!!!WARNING!!! POD FAILURE: LIVING BODY OUTSIDE POD
The news terrified him. The crew were accounted for, sleeping peacefully inside another asteroid, and nothing had docked with the research station for years. They were in uncharted space. Nobody else was out here. Barely anyone knew the ship was this far out at all. The only answer to the heartbeat mystery was that the body, mindless and malformed, had somehow birthed itself from the cylinder and started walking around. But that was impossible. He queried the pod itself. All systems were nominal. The printer bugs were still in idle communication around the skeleton, their tiny minds ignorant to the growing panic in the silent starship. The blue light in Toumai’s bulbous singular eye darted around desperately, a mimicry of human terror.
He checked the signal a third time. It was not a glitch. The beating heart had a faint murmur, evidence of truly biological origin. The atmospheric sensors on the research deck had detected a slight increase in temperature and air density in the moments after the heartbeat began. Air had been displaced. A source of heat had appeared in the room. But the pod was secure. The skeleton had not grown flesh and broke free. Someone else was there.
If Toumai’s suspicions were correct, an intruder had just teleported into the most sensitive laboratory of the starship and was stood in front of the most precious living experiment in human history. But there was just one problem with this theory: Teleportation had not yet been invented.
Toumai was uncharacteristically nervous. His human passengers had once talked of these things before entering their long sleep within the coldbeds. They had shared theories of superior alien intelligences and universe builders. Being scientists themselves, they were informed by the nature of their experiments and presumed that sometime, in the distant past, another civilisation may have made those same experiments. Toumai remembered what Tomek and the others had said over dinner before their long sleep. Something about life being a video game. Something about archaeological simulations and the decreasing probability of being inside the first universe. Something about black hole cosmology. He was not built to follow everything closely, but to manage the ship and maintain a conversational level of understanding with the crew.
He was smart enough to know that these theories were just rewrites of old creation myths, told from an allegedly atheistic standpoint, but that didn’t help him. He was still nervous about what waited ahead. The visitor who defied all known laws of physics.
The heartbeat on the sensors changed. Whoever it belonged to was nervous too.
He tucked his body into a ball and zipped through another small airlock, reappearing in a hall carved out of one of the larger asteroids. He zoomed past the hulking algae corridors. As he got closer to the research deck, he unfurled three mechanical arms from his underside. This particular body carried no weapons, but if he had to, Toumai could stab or electrocute the intruder with his tools.
He opened the door and entered the room, beaming an immediate report to the dreamscreen network, keeping the sleeping crew informed.
“Identify yourself.” His voice was harsh and cold. The intruder, clad in dark blue spacesuit and darker armoured panels, turned an opaque orange visor his way and stifled her laughter.
“What are you going to do, weld me?”
Toumai let off a warning zap from one of the tools. A quick scan revealed that the intruder’s armoured spacesuit was not registered in any cargo logs. It didn’t show on any database either and had no recognisable branding or insignia.
“Oh Toumai, you and I both know that you weren’t instructed to kill intruders, just in case one of them was from upstairs.” The intruder’s voice had an air of confidence, but it was rested upon shaky foundations. Toumai was still scanning her. Human. Nervous. Female. Approximately thirty Earth years old. The intruder stepped back from the looming machine before continuing, just in case.
“And that is precisely why I am here.”
“Are you a Virtualist?” the machine asked. The intruder hesitated. She knew he would be scanning her vocal patterns for evidence of deceit.
“No. My name is LP. I am from upstairs; I’ve come to perform an extraction.”
“You know, the other universe. The one you were built to search for.”
Interesting start that has the reader wanting more. Not enough of a story to know if it will or will not be worth reading further.