In the mean time, I wanted to share an extract from the draft of "Departing", the next story in my "Walking" series! I was told I needed a new story to bring in for workshopping in my fiction class, so I wrote this draft over the last weekend. I thought I'd share part of the draft, and not the finalized story, so you can perhaps see a little bit into how much my stories may change in the revision process.
Finally, I did indeed submit my story "Cold Warriors" to Analog a week or two ago. No word yet.
The building is mostly empty right now, and I see rooms full of advanced equipment. This must be the laboratory where the bulk of the genetics work goes on. I feel gratified that my hunch was right. Merrick leads me to a room towards the back, where the lights are mostly off. I see a few computers idling, along with several tables of lab equipment. It seems to be empty.
“Doctor Moreni?” Merrick calls out. Silence. Then a woman emerges from a doorway on the far side of the room.
“Yes?” she says. She steps forward into the light, and I involuntarily feel my breath catch slightly. Her wavy brown hair is tied back in a ponytail and draped over a lab coat that has faded to gray, which in turn rests over a surprisingly rustic full-length dress. From her face, I can see she’s probably in her thirties, but I can’t guess better. Most striking, though, are her eyes, a brilliant green which seem to glitter like emeralds in the dim light. Those eyes study me with more than a little curiosity.
“Who is this?” she asks.
Merrick half-turns towards me. “This is...Doctor John Smith. He’s been with us for about two weeks now, and I thought he might be able to help with the problem you mentioned.” Her head tilts in interest and she looks at me with something more akin to excitement now.
“You’re a doctor? Of what?”
I give my customary half-smile. “Why, practically everything.” She smiles politely and shakes my hand when I hold it out.
“Well, I’m Catherine Moreni, lead scientist for New Hope. I hope Merrick’s right, we’ve been having some…growing problems, that I can’t figure out for the life of me.”
“I’m glad to help out,” I reply with a smile. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done any kind of molecular biology, but I know a bit about it. As long as I don’t have to tend to the plants directly. I’m pretty horrible at that. My brother was the one with the green thumb in the family.”
I’m relieved to see she finds me amenable, as she smiles and begins walking back to where she came from. Merrick nods at me and heads out, leaving us alone. I follow Catherine to the back, where she’s retrieving a small box of microscopic slides.
“I was just about to go over the latest batch of samples. Care to join me?”
I smile again. “I’d love to.”
I lean back and rub my eyes, surprised at how tired I feel.
“I just can’t believe it,” I say quietly. Catherine looks up from her own equipment. “Every sample… Traces of degeneration and…corruption at the cellular level, even in plants and animals that otherwise appear healthy.”
Catherine’s brow furrows. “Corruption? What do you mean by that?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. It just seems the best word to describe this. Somehow these cells are just…wrong, but darned if I can explain it. I also can’t believe,” I glance at my pocketwatch, “That we’ve already been at this for three hours. Care for some dinner?”
As she stretches she smiles back at me. “I’d love to.”
“I have to say, I’m impressed.” I speak between bites of food a half-hour later. I’m enjoying a mixture of breaded meats, while she picks at a salad that’s half-fruit. “I haven’t seen such a large collection of intact computing and lab equipment before. How long have you been working at this?”
“It’s been going for…over ten years now, I think,” Catherine says. My eyebrows flick up for a second. “I’ve been here for most of the last five. We’ve traded, scrounged from old Solar Alliance bases, wherever we can find it. It’s been a lot of hard work for everyone.”
“I’m sure. How do you power the place? Merrick won’t tell me.” I take a long sip of my drink, silently longing for some Aldeberan whiskey.
“He doesn’t really tell anyone. We had some cobbled-together generators at first, but they all broke down eventually. Merrick found a replacement a year after I got here, and it’s worked fine ever since, baring the occasional glitch.” She looks up at the last phrase as some of the lights flicker slightly, a phenomenon everyone seems to be largely used to. “What about you? Where are you from?”
I shrug slightly. “Oh, nowhere in particular. I’ve been travelling for a very long time.”
She leans in, her mouth curling with mischief. “Even better! You must have some good stories from outside. I haven’t left the dome in over a year. What’s it like out there?”
“About the same as it’s been for centuries. Desolate, not much alive out there. People still fighting over what’s left, or just trying to get by.” She nods soberly. “It’s not all bad, though. I stopped in a town called Sinkhole not too long ago…”