Author Topic: THE STARS WITHIN - sci-fi drama novella  (Read 179 times)

Offline Farfadet

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THE STARS WITHIN - sci-fi drama novella
« on: November 13, 2019, 01:48:37 PM »
Hey, guys just finished reviewing my novella and wondered how it looks for the first chapter. It's pretty dark so I kept it short in length.

Thanks in advance!


Thomas could see Dr. Falsteid's lips move but he couldn't make out the words. His vision blurred and his ears focused on the old clock from another era going tic,toc, tic, toc, tic, toc, like the thoughts bouncing on the inside of his skull.

Not again, why me?
I thought I beat this.
sh**ty company making us work in those damned mines. They know it makes us sick and they won't pay a damned cent.
How am I going to keep working?
I don't have enough money to pay for the meds, it's already hard as it is.
They don't have the decency to pay off our debt when we get sick.
What are the side effects?
We're slaves here.
I should've left this planet years ago. This wouldn't have happened.
Come on Tom, you knew the risk. It's not like you had a choice, though.
I'm gonna have to tell everyone again.
Molly, Sam, the guys.
The baby...
The baby
sh**.


His vision cleared and all he seemed to notice was the mythrium dust covering everything from the old clock to the desk and even his clothes and skin. That's what made him sick. He wiped the silvery blue dust on the desk with an indifferent finger, leaving a small trail where you could see the real brown color of the wood. They were so used to that dust. 

"Am I gonna make it?" he blurted through his tight throat. Of all the questions massing in his head, that's the only one he could manage.

Dr. Falsteid rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, Mr. Hudstrom, uh... Things would be different if we were on one of the Main Planets. They have better equipment, better installations... better everything. They wouldn't even have to cut you open and the nanobots would remove the cancer cells from the inside, but here, we're just a mining colony. The company pays for everything and we just don't have the budget – hell they barely pay me more than a miner." Just by looking at his brown jumpsuit, same as his, Thomas knew the doctor told him the truth.

"That f**king company, it's all their fault," he said waving his hand towards the exit. "They know this dust makes us sick and they don't give a sh**. Rich people just want us to send it up there so they can keep traveling the stars. But no one cares if we breathe tons of that sh**, if it covers our skin or if we die mining it for them – there's a f**king accident every other day or so for god's sake – and they don't even have the decency to pay for us when they make us sick."

"I understand Mr. Hudstrom," Dr. Falsteid answered with more cool than he had. " but there's really nothing I can do..."

"Of course not," Thomas interrupted him. "You're barely even a doctor. The only reason you'd end up here is if you failed med school or if you had a criminal record or something, no other doctor in their right mind would be foolish enough to come on this barren dead planet." He knew it was uncalled for but Thomas was so angry. Angry at the company, angry at the cancer, angry at everything and, most of all, at himself for ever deciding to come here.

"Maybe there are those who just want to help Mr. Hudstrom." The doctor said putting his glasses on the desk. "But their hands are tied because the company won't give them the resources they need. I've given the same news you just received three times today and each time I've had to give those pills and nothing else. Why? Because that's all I have and believe it or not, they're not considered expensive out there. I know it's not much, but at least you have a chance."

"I'm sorry Doc. It's just... with all the money I owe the company for my equipment, the rent, the food, and the baby...it's almost two months' salary just for these. I shouldn't have said that. "

Dr. Falsteid put his glasses back on. "Don't sweat it. I'm used to it." How can you? Thomas told himself as the doctor made the small orange container glide on the desk. "Here, this one's on me," he continued.

Thomas remained stunned for a moment. "Thank you," he finally said. "Thank you."

He took the pills and went for the door in a hurry in case the doctor would change his mind. He closed the door behind him, looked at the glowing packets inside and put them in a pocket of his jumpsuit. He crossed the waiting room. How many of them would have bad news today he wondered as he pressed the button on the elevator that would bring him back underground. He needed to go back to work, he already had lost a lot of standards from the time spent in the doctor's appointment. It was all deducted from his pay in the end, since he was responsible for his digging. He stabbed angrily at the button over and over again as if it would bring the elevator faster.

The doors finally slid to each side and he went inside, pressed on his destination and waited. Lights went dim between each basement."B-5" a feminine voice announced. The doors opened to a massive tunnel. Workers welded twenty feet high scaffolds on each side so others could gather the sap from smaller mythrium veins. He walked in between them to the sound of men shouting at each other and plasma cutters ripping through the silvery blue, almost glass-like, roots.

He put his hand on the recognition system. "Welcome Mr. Hudstrom," another feminine voice said. "Entry time: 11:34."

"Yeah, f**k you too." He thought as he continued deeper into the tunnel instead of turning left as he should have to reach maintenance. After news like this, he needed to blow off some steam.

He had to walk a couple of minutes before he saw the white and red boring machine at the far end of the tunnel. It was massive, filling the entirety of the tunnel with its three drills covered in thousands of plasma cutters. It almost looked like a creature with an opened mouth gnawing at the earth.

Sam ate a sandwich seated on a scaffold that was being built right behind the drilling beast. Workers emptied bags after bags of mythrium dust that the machine had just extracted which explained why he was on break. Sam listened, nonchalant, to engineers explaining the best route which would contain the most mythrium when he saw Thomas and nodded subtly. After all those years of friendship, they understood each other more than anyone.

Thomas took the small door leading to a maintenance shaft and began his ascension on the precarious ladder that would take him above ground to an abandoned room he had found on his second year of being on this planet. He and Sam always came here to relax. He peeked in the room. It was empty -as always.

There were only two chairs in the center of the room right in front of a massive window giving an impressive view of the outside world. When he had first come here, it was a luscious world with trees and birds of all kinds, but all that extraction had left the planet barren as if they had taken its life force along with the mythrium dust. All that was left now were dunes of yellow sand with trails of grains pushed by heavy winds escaping their peaks like flags planted by a conqueror.

"Thomas, my man!" he heard a deep voice from behind.
He turned around. "Hey, Sam. Gotta make this quick, we only have fifteen minutes before the superintendent makes his round. "

His friend's dark skin was paler than usual because of the silvery powder covering it. "Yeah, I know. How'd it go?" he asked. The lack of a quick answer gave him a hint. "Ah, sh** man. Not again." Sam took him in his arms hitting him with a soft fist on the back from time to time. Thomas reciprocated the hug. It seemed to last an eternity. It felt nice but he was too busy holding his tears in to enjoy it as he should have.

Sam broke it off first. There were streams of darker skin underneath his glasses.  He kept Thomas' shoulders in his hands. "Have you called Molly yet?" he said after a sniffle.

Thomas looked away. He couldn't bear seeing his friend sad because of him. "Not yet..." he said through the ball in his throat. "... I just couldn't find the strength. I don't want to see her cry … Not again. I'm the one who told her to come here, that I would make some good money and then we could move on one of the main planets but it's all a scam. Now our baby is gonna grow up without a father."

"No no no, don't talk like that," Sam said. "You're gonna get through this. You already did once, remember? You're the strongest guy I know. There's no way I'm letting you get away from all those poker debts." He smiled and seated Thomas down on one of the chairs. "I've got something for you. Something I've been saving for a special occasion. It's not special, sh**ty more like, but at least it'll cheer you up."

Sam went to a corner and fumbled around removing a metal sheet from the wall. He plunged his arms inside and when he got them out, he had a six-pack of bottles in his hand.

"Beer?" Thomas said. "Where'd you get a hold of that?"

"There's another pilot who makes it. Sells it for a fortune but  I'd say it's worth it." Sam opened a bottle and passed it to him and then opened himself one. They both took one long sip and exhaled. It didn't taste very good but it still lifted Thomas's spirit. "It's not fair man," Sam continued. "We're the ones doing all the hard work. Without us, they wouldn't even be able to fly their stupid ships into space. There would be no colonies. But are they grateful? No. They don't give a sh** about us. They say the military needs that dust to protect us but from what, they should protect us here, from them."

Thomas scoffed. "We're just numbers to this company. They don't even give names to mining planets. I thought I was going to be different, you know? That I'd make my money and leave but after the rent and food and cancers, there's barely any left. Like it or not, we're stuck here." He threw his bottle through the glassless window and watched it disappear between dunes.

"You're stuck here," his friend said with a sly smile. "With my pilot salary, I'm free to go anywhere."

It was sarcastic, of course.

Thomas gave a thin smile. "Yeah right, you barely make more than me and you can't even afford decent beer. Anyway, the superintendent will start her rounds soon. We should go."

"Hey, Tom," Sam said seriously. "If anything happens to you - and nothing will - but if something does, do you really think I'd let your kid grow up without a father figure?"

Thomas felt his eyes on the brink of brimming over. "Thanks, Sam." he managed to say before descending through the dark hole.




Thanks to anyone reading this!

Offline rivergirl

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Re: THE STARS WITHIN - sci-fi drama novella
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2019, 09:18:40 PM »
Thomas could see Dr. Falsteid's lips move comma but he couldn't make out the words. His vision blurred and his ears focused on the old clock from another era going : tic,toc, tic, toc, tic, toc, like the thoughts bouncing on the inside of his skull.

Not again, why me?
I thought I beat this.
sh**ty company making us work in those damned mines. They know it makes us sick and they won't pay a damned cent.
How am I going to keep working?
I don't have enough money to pay for the meds, semicolon it's already hard as it is.
They don't have the decency to pay off our debt when we get sick.
What are the side effects?
We're slaves here.
I should've left this planet years ago. This wouldn't have happened.
Come on comma Tom, you knew the risk. It's not like you had a choice, though.
I'm gonna have to tell everyone again.
Molly, Sam, the guys.
The baby...
The baby
sh**.

His vision cleared and all he seemed to notice was the mythrium dust covering everything from the old clock to the desk and even (if you say from, if feels like you need to add "to" instead of "even".)his clothes and skin. That's what made him sick. He wiped the silvery blue dust on the desk with an indifferent finger, leaving a small trail where you could seein the real brown color of the wood. They were so used to that dust. 

"Am I gonna make it?" he blurted through his tight throat. Of all the questions massing in his head, that's the only one he could manage.

Dr. Falsteid rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, Mr. Hudstrom, uh... Things would be different if we were on one of the Main Planets. They have better equipment, better installations... better everything. They wouldn't even have to cut you open and the nanobots would remove the cancer cells from the inside, but here, we're just a mining colony. The company pays for everything and we just don't have the budget – hell they barely pay me more than a miner." Just by looking at his brown jumpsuit, same as his, Thomas knew the doctor told him the truth.

"That f**king company, it's all their fault," he said waving his hand towards the exit. "They know this dust makes us sick and they don't give a sh**. Rich people just want us to send it up there so they can keep traveling the stars. But no one cares if we breathe tons of that sh**, if it covers our skin comma or if we die mining it for them – there's a f**king accident every other day or so for god's sake – and they don't even have the decency to pay for us when they make us sick."

"I understand comma(this is a direct address) Mr. Hudstrom," Dr. Falsteid answered with more cool than he had. " but there's really nothing I can do..." Dr. Falsteid answered with more cool than he felt, "but there's really nothing I can do..." Sorry I'm seriously nitpicking. If this is being entered into a contest or submitted to an agent, it will need more polishing. Bone up on your punctuation. I won't comment on the punctuation any more

"Of course not," Thomas interrupted him. "You're barely even a doctor. The only reason you'd end up here is if you failed med school or if you had a criminal record or something, no other doctor in their right mind would be foolish enough to come on this barren dead planet." He knew it was uncalled for but Thomas was so angry. Angry at the company, angry at the cancer, angry at everything and, most of all, at himself for ever deciding to come here.

"Maybe there are those who just want to help Mr. Hudstrom." The doctor said putting his glasses on the desk. "But their hands are tied because the company won't give them the resources they need. I've given the same news you just received three times today and each time I've had to give those pills and nothing else. Why? Because that's all I have and believe it or not, they're not considered expensive out there. I know it's not much, but at least you have a chance."

"I'm sorry Doc. It's just... with all the money I owe the company for my equipment, the rent, the food, and the baby...it's almost two months' salary just for these. I shouldn't have said that. "

Dr. Falsteid put his glasses back on. "Don't sweat it. I'm used to it." You've switched back to Thomas so you will need a new para. Consider putting his thought in italics for a more natural flow. That way your reader can see the thought without the clumsy announcement that Thomas thought or told himself. Flow is everything How can you? Thomas told himself as the doctor made the small orange container glide on the desk. "Here, this one's on me," he continued.

Thomas remained stunned for a moment. "Thank you," he finally said. "Thank you."

He took the pills and went for the door in a hurry in case the doctor would change his mind. He closed the door behind him, looked at the glowing packets inside and put them in a pocket of his jumpsuit. He crossed the waiting room. How many of them would have bad news today he wondered as he pressed the button on the elevator that would bring him back underground. He needed to go back to work, he already had lost a lot of standards from the time spent in the doctor's appointment. It was all deducted from his pay in the end, since he was responsible for his digging. He stabbed angrily at the button over and over again as if it would bring the elevator faster.

The doors finally slid to each side and he went inside, pressed on his destination and waited. Lights went dim between each basement."B-5" a feminine voice announced. The doors opened to a massive tunnel. Workers welded twenty feet high scaffolds on each side so others could gather the sap from smaller mythrium veins. He walked in between them to the sound of men shouting at each other and plasma cutters ripping through the silvery blue, almost glass-like, roots. I can see this!

He put his hand on the recognition system. "Welcome Mr. Hudstrom," another feminine voice said. "Entry time: 11:34."

"Yeah, f**k you too." This is in italics so its not a thought He thought as he continued deeper into the tunnel instead of turning left as he should have to reach maintenance. After news like this, he needed to blow off some steam.

He had to walk a couple of minutes before he saw the white and red boring machine at the far end of the tunnel. It was massive, filling the entirety of the tunnel with its three drills covered in thousands of plasma cutters. It almost looked like a creature with an opened mouth gnawing at the earth.

Sam ate a sandwich seated on a scaffold that was being built right behind the drilling beast. This sentence is clunky. Thomas glanced at his friend Sam. He was sitting on a scaffold, his feet dangling, as he hurriedly crammed a sandwich in his face. Behind him the enormous machine blah blah blah Workers emptied bags after bags of mythrium dust that the machine had just extracted which explained why he was on break. Sam listened, nonchalantly adverb, to engineers explaining the best route which would contain the most mythrium when he saw Thomas and nodded subtly. After all those years of friendship, they understood each other more than anyone.

Thomas took the small door leading to a maintenance shaft and began his ascension on the precarious ladder that would take him above ground to an abandoned room he had found on his second year of being on this planet. He and Sam always came here to relax. He peeked in the room. It was empty -as always.

There were only two chairs in the center of the room right in front of a massive window giving an impressive view of the outside world. When he had first come here, it was a luscious world with trees and birds of all kinds, but all that extraction had left the planet barren as if they had taken its life force along with the mythrium dust. All that was left now were dunes of yellow sand with trails of grains pushed by heavy winds escaping their peaks like flags planted by a conqueror. Great descriptions

"Thomas, my man!" he heard a deep voice from behind.
He turned around. "Hey, Sam. Gotta make this quick, we only have fifteen minutes before the superintendent makes his round. "

I crave to know more about Thomas. Maybe you can sneakily show us the callous on his hands or have him rub the whiskers on his face. Anything to show your reader what he looks like, how old he is etc...Your reader needs something to base an image in their mind.

His friend's dark skin was paler than usual because of the silvery powder covering it. "Yeah, I know. How'd it go?" he asked. The lack of a quick answer gave him a hint. "Ah, sh** man. Not again." Sam took him in his arms hitting him with a soft fist on the back from time to time. Thomas reciprocated the hug. It seemed to last an eternity. It felt nice but he was too busy holding his tears in to enjoy it as he should have.

Sam broke it off first. There were streams of darker skin underneath his glasses.  He kept Thomas' shoulders in his hands. "Have you called Molly yet?" he said after a sniffle.

Thomas looked away. He couldn't bear seeing his friend sad because of him. "Not yet..." he said through the ball in his throat. "... I just couldn't find the strength. I don't want to see her cry … Not again. I'm the one who told her to come here, that I would make some good money and then we could move on one of the main planets but it's all a scam. Now our baby is gonna grow up without a father."

"No no no, don't talk like that," Sam said. "You're gonna get through this. You already did once, remember? You're the strongest guy I know. There's no way I'm letting you get away from all those poker debts." He smiled and seated Thomas down on one of the chairs. "I've got something for you. Something I've been saving for a special occasion. It's not special, sh**ty more like, but at least it'll cheer you up."

Sam went to a corner and fumbled around removing a metal sheet from the wall. He plunged his arms inside and when he got them out, he had a six-pack of bottles in his hand.

"Beer?" Thomas said. "Where'd you get a hold of that?"

"There's another pilot who makes it. Sells it for a fortune but  I'd say it's worth it." Sam opened a bottle and passed it to him and then opened himself one. They both took one long sip and exhaled. It didn't taste very good but it still lifted Thomas's spirit. "It's not fair man," Sam continued. "We're the ones doing all the hard work. Without us, they wouldn't even be able to fly their stupid ships into space. There would be no colonies. But are they grateful? No. They don't give a sh** about us. They say the military needs that dust to protect us but from what, they should protect us here, from them."

Thomas scoffed. "We're just numbers to this company. They don't even give names to mining planets. I thought I was going to be different, you know? That I'd make my money and leave but after the rent and food and cancers, there's barely any left. Like it or not, we're stuck here." He threw his bottle through the glassless window and watched it disappear between dunes.

"You're stuck here," his friend said with a sly smile. "With my pilot salary, I'm free to go anywhere."
It was sarcastic, of course.

Thomas gave a thin smile. "Yeah right, you barely make more than me and you can't even afford decent beer. Anyway, the superintendent will start her rounds soon. We should go."

"Hey, Tom," Sam said seriously. "If anything happens to you - and nothing will - but if something does, do you really think I'd let your kid grow up without a father figure?"

Thomas felt his eyes on the brink of brimming over. "Thanks, Sam." he managed to say before descending through the dark hole.

Great descriptions in here!

Offline Farfadet

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Re: THE STARS WITHIN - sci-fi drama novella
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2019, 09:59:29 AM »
thanks a lot rivergirl, nice advice.

It's true I've struggled with how to incorporate a good description of Thomas in there. I'll see to it.

And yeah, punctuation is my bane!