Out There: The 1k
(A snippet from chapter 16: In for a Credit)
There was a pause, and then, “Prepare to be boarded, and your hold searched.”
“Yeah, see, I have a problem with that. I’m carrying some highly sensitive cargo that can get a little...explodey.”
“What scraprat carries volatile material?”
Yune was done with this game. Not only did he loathe the derogatory term ‘scraprat,’ but it instantly placed him at the bottom of the social crate. Salvagers ranked a hair's breadth above bounty hunters, smugglers, thieves, and pirates. It was the ‘gone legit’ gray area of the dregs of galactic society that most people wanted to ignore. Plus, it was a slur also applied to people like him that he’d endured growing up due to his origin.
At least being a salvager put him above his current conversational partner.
He powered up the pulse cannons. “The kind that sees through the demands of rust-brain pirates who think I’m dumber than a box of magbolts.”
A blue pulse bolt zipped past the hull.
“Got ’em,” he grinned.
“Pirates?!” Will’s heart slammed into his chest.
“Trying to get an easy score.“ Yune’s eyes narrowed as he raised the shields and readied himself for a fight. He gripped the yoke, “They picked the wrong ship.”
He tilted the Horizon at an angle to avoid another shot that scraped the shields protecting the underbelly of the hull. The ship shuddered in response.
He flicked on the internal com to contact the little girl on the deck above, “Squeaker, get down here and buckle up now,” he cut the com, “You, too, Sparky.”
Will dropped into the wide seat behind the pilot and fumbled with figuring out the buckle. He had enough room to sit cross-legged without a problem. He had yet to explore the rest of the ship, but he was sure it was just as oversized as everything on crew deck. It was all just big enough or tall enough to be annoying, “Why do the mik have to make everything so big?”
“Because my people are big,” Yune said in exasperation.
“So what happened to you?”
His eye twitched, “...I’m gonna throw him out the airlock.” He flicked the switch to unlock the outer seal.
Selka reset it, “You are not going to throw him out the airlock--”
He spoke over her, and she over him, “Yes I am--”
“--No, you’re not--”
“--I’m gonna shunt him out with the trash--”
“--I’m gonna jettison his tiny butt into space and watch him spin--”
“--Will you stop it?--”
“--I’m gonna do it--”
“--Just a little?”
“--How can you throw someone out the airlock ‘just a little?’”
“--It’s possible with a tether.”
“Yune Darrak, you are not throwing a child - let alone one of the One Thousand - out the airlock. His tiny butt stays in the ship.”
“Fine,” he grumbled in defeat and pointed at Will, “You got lucky this time, Sparky.”
Will had followed the overlapping exchange with wide eyes, unsure if the short mik was being serious or not.
Terra jumped into the seat behind Selka. She struggled with the buckle, paired with sudden anxiety that kept her fingers from working properly. She’d never been in a seat like this before.
Selka helped them both buckle up.
Yune skillfully maneuvered the ship behind the large pirate vessel, and fired five rapid shots directly into their engines from the twin front canons. Three of the shots hit before the ship raised its shields. Two of its six exhaust burners winked out.
The pirates, however, were still able to follow them toward the planet.
Yune angled the ship toward the massive chunks of drifting ring debris.
Her eyes widened when she realized what her best friend planned to do, “Yune, no.”
“Yune, yes,” he sharpened his focus.
“You’re going to fly through the ring?” she exclaimed.
“That’s the idea.”
“Are you crazy?”
“You’ve asked me that before.”
“And I mean it.”
“You’ve said that before, too.”
“I meant it then, too.”
“We need to go where their weapons are going to be more of a problem to them than us. If they wanna follow me, it means they’re desperate. And stupid.”
Will’s fear spiked as he watched the rocks quickly close in. “We’re gonna die!”
“We’re not going to die,” Yune said.
“That looks like a lot of really big ‘we’re gonna die’ to me!”
“I’ve flown through worse. Have you ever seen the Ephypsan aurora star up close?”
“No,” Will squeaked.
He put more power into the forward deflectors, “I have.”
Yune plunged into the edge of the wide ball of moon debris encircling the planet, simultaneously dodging pulse fire.
Selka held on. Sure, he had bragged about flying through the infamously hazardous field dozens of times before to bolster his piloting skills - and she had witnessed him pull some amazing feats - but she always thought he exaggerated that story to sound more impressive.
When the keth blew up Ephypso four centuries ago, it took its two moons with it, creating the Ephypsan Asteroid Field.
Much like with Ilthall’s ring, a ship’s sensors would go haywire if they got too close.
All navigation through it had to be done visually on instinct and skill.
No pilot in their right mind flew through the planetary rubble, much less close enough to see the synthetic star of ephypsan particles at its heart where the planet once existed.
The menacing-looking pirate ship didn’t seem to care about Yune’s tactic. It stayed on their tail.
His vision glitched and flickered, then stabilized. It gave him an idea. “Selka. Get on the turret and take out a couple of those antennas. Let’s see if we can blind these guys for a while.”
She left for the central gun a deck above, climbed the ladder, and slid into the seat. She fired up the targeting system, took aim at one of the diffusion antennas, and fired.
Two blue bolts struck the tower, blowing it into a cloud of shrapnel.
The ship’s sensors fuzzed out. But that meant the pirates were affected, too.
One wrong directional guess without sensors, and it would be lights out for everyone involved. “Come and get me now, muckskiffer,” Yune challenged.
Will kept a white-knuckled death grip on the sides of the seat as he lived the frightening roller coaster ride. “Left!” he ducked instinctively as they barely missed a large chunk of rock.
Terra covered her head with a squeal of fear.
“Right! Go right! Watch out!” Will panicked, “You’re gonna hit it!”
“Stop backseat flying!” Yune barked.
He twisted and spun his vessel through the drifting rocks, coming close to the larger ones to bait their attacker into slamming into them.
The pirate ship let a torpedo loose in the field. It streamed between two rocks, slamming into one close to the Horizon.
Yune rolled the ship out of the way and down to avoid colliding with another.
Bits of rock flew into the path of the pirate ship, making them regret their decision as they flew straight into it. Debris peppered their shields, weakening them significantly.
The Horizon’s shields easily deflected the much smaller ones. A lesser skilled pilot wouldn’t make it without getting at least a few major dents in their ship’s hull - shields or not.
The Horizon burst through the other side of the ring. It sped across the gap between it and the planet's atmosphere.
The sensors winked back to life, immediately showing what they didn’t want to see: a red blip with the pirate ship’s transponder signature over it.
“Huh,” Yune was impressed. They made it through the ring blinded with a damaged ship - having taken further damage from the ring - and still stubbornly pursued them. They were determined, he had to give them that. “Guess they’re desperate and stupid.”
“They’re gonna catch us!” Terra gripped the sides of the seat.
“They can try.”
The Horizon dropped back, dipped under the approaching ship, forcing them to angle their vessel upward to avoid a collision, and fired. One well placed shot from the forward canons hit the rear of the pirate ship. The shot sent sparks and a panel flipping through the sky.
Yune led them on a bee-flight between small sparsely wooded mountains. The other craft maintained pursuit and continued to attack with pulse fire.
“They’re really trying,” Will didn’t dare blink.
Under different circumstances, Daj Craice was a pilot Yune would like to throw back drinks with. It was a rare soul who could keep up with him.
He increased the thrusters to top speed, and disappeared into a thick cloud resting between the mountains. Sheets of heavy rain slapped against the viewport.
Yune’s vision flickered. He cursed under his breath, “Not now.” He grit his teeth and focused on the feel of his ship, his skills and training, and kept his unblinking eyes glued to the view.
Faint lines of blue faded in through the cloud like runway markers. He kept the ship within the 'lane.'
Selka provided cover fire.
The blue haze bowed outward up ahead.
Ghosts of floating islands appeared in the clouds seconds later.
“Scak!” Yune adjusted course to avoid them. He wove the Horizon through the range like a thread through silk, following the lines flowing around the islands, and reacting on instinct seconds before another obstacle appeared.
Will’s heart lurched. They looked like the large floating island from his and Terra’s shared dreams.
“Hang on!” Yune rolled the ship between them, up, and over, coming dangerously close to the rocky sides.
“Up, Yune, Up! Up! Go up!” Terra covered her eyes.
“I am going up!”
The Horizon’s underbelly swept frighteningly close to the rock between two islands.
He grimaced in silent apology to his ship.
Selka ducked inside the turret instinctively as Yune brought the ship too close for comfort to one of the floating islands, “Watch it!”
“I am watching it!” Yune yelled back as Terra clamped her hands over her eyes.
“Watch it better!”
“Anybody else have suggestions?!”
“I have a couple,” Will volunteered.
"Keep it to yourself!”
The pirates couldn’t match his death-defying flight and veered upward over the obstacles. It slowed as smoke trailed from its engines.
The Horizon’s speed easily left their angry assailants in the dust.
The pirate ship drifted toward the grassy surface of a nearby floating island to land, conduct repairs, and curse the names of Dak Ryder and the Echo Eclipse.
Yune exhaled softly when his ship entered a separate valley beneath the storm and he could finally relax. “Transient islands. Forgot about those,” he set the vessel back on course toward their destination.
“W-we’re alive?” Terra uncovered her eyes, “Is it over?”
Will breathed, stunned for a moment before catching himself and cheering, “That... was... awesome!”
“I know,” Yune smirked.
“That was amazing! You were all like ‘vvrrm!’ and they were all ‘woosh!’ I couldn’t see anything! We were in a cloud! How did you do that?”
“A lot of luck,” Selka interjected as she entered and sat in the copilot’s seat, “It’s kept him alive so far. He’s the luckiest person I’ve ever met.”
“Training, skill, and talent keep me alive,” he corrected her with the tone of having to defend himself repeatedly over this, “and maybe a little luck.”
She shook her head in humor at the ancient argument between them. Yes, he had trained. Yes, he was a talented pilot, but there was no way he could repeatedly get them and himself out of near-impossible situations based only on that.
“How did you know they were pirates?” Will asked.
“There is no orbital security system. The Dyne doesn’t care who lands here, as long as they don’t start any trouble. It’s still the wild frontier out here. And didn’t I tell you to scram, kid?”
Selka punched him in the shoulder.
“Fine,” Will and Terra unbuckled and headed for the door, but he paused. “I didn’t know anyone could fly like that. I wish I could. Then we could go anywhere.”
Will’s statement resonated strongly with the mik pilot. For much of his life growing up, he’d felt the same: a need to run from the darkness in his life, and to have the freedom to choose when and where he could go, and to fly. That freedom lived each time he sat in this chair. “Hey, Sparky. Stick around if you want.”
“Really?” Will’s voice piped up in hope.
“Just keep your hands to yourself. Don’t want you living up to your nickname.”
“Me, too?” Terra’s eyes lit up.
He begrudgingly agreed, “Sure. Why not.”
Selka grinned. A tiny crack had formed in her best friend’s tough exterior.
Both happily sat back down in their seats, "So,” Will leaned forward, “Dak Ryder?"
"It's a name I use when I," he emphasized to mean his real name, "don't want to be associated with something." He actually hated the name ‘Dak,’ but he used it to own it and destroy its original purpose: to own him. ‘Ryder’ came from a brighter point in his past.
Will smiled, "Cool. Like a secret identity?" the idea of an alternate persona appealed to him, “I want one.”
He and Terra began rattling off different names they could call each other - Carve Cutthroat, Swift Starstrider, Eve Legend, Indy Striker, the Ace of Space - and all other odd slapped-together creations.
To fill the time, Will recounted the hectic space flight with sound effects and a dramatic replay.
Yune grumbled at the childish retelling as the cockpit filled with chatter and exclamations from the kids. The cabin felt cramped. He regretted letting the little moamrats in.
It took a great deal of willpower to keep from screaming, ‘Get out!’
Title: Out There: The 1K
Age range: 12 onward
Word count: 333,469. Currently in round 2 of edits with a beta.
Author name: Kay Gilbert
Why it is a good fit: It deals with issues of sudden change, finding a purpose, finding belonging, abandonment, self construct, abuse, struggling to fit in in a world you're not made for, found family, love (not romantic), how things aren't always black and white, self discovery, and self acceptance. It emphasizes the fact that mik and masakan-humans have grown beyond petty terran issues about a person's orientation, pronouns, and social constructs. They're considered petty, because the mik and masakans crossed those hurdles a long time ago. They're more socially mature in understanding that people are born the way they are, and differences are accepted as normal - so they're non-issues to them, and it confuses them as to why terran-humans (the most juvenile human species) think they are. There is also a lot of humor.
I think I have a story that needs to be told.
The hook: Will and Terra are experimented on to turn them into altaran-humans - an extinct human species - in order to give them control over a power only altaran-humans could wield; control of their own living source energy, and that of the Source Field - the life of the galaxy. This energy force and the wavelength it’s on are visible only to the altarans and some animal species. To those who can see it, it’s a blue light. The altaran-humans' living source (soul) exists on that same wavelength, putting them in tune with the Field. The Regent splinter cell who kidnapped Will and Terra plans to use that power to destroy the keth once and for all. Yune finds out he's more than a defective mik-human. He's connected to the Altarans and the planet of Ilthall in a unique way that puts his entire sense of self and the world into question. The story is mostly from Yune and Will's point of view.
Synopsis: One thousand children prophesied to save a galaxy embroiled in war are taken from Earth at the turn of the 21st century. This story follows the frightening and fantastical adventures of two of those children - Will and Terra - who are given a strange power through genetic manipulation for a plan to defeat the unstoppable force of the faceless, merciless Keth.
Yune Darrak - a devil-may-care space pilot and salvager, and his best friend, Selka Kelnaris - a disillusioned, empathic bounty hunter and former member of the Ai Hiri order - accidentally rescue Will and Terra from a Regent secret lab while on a bounty hunting job to retrieve Senator Runell, who was responsible for the attempted kidnapping of 50 of the terran children. All four are inadvertently caught up together in the mystery of an extinct human race, altaran-humans, while keeping Will and Terra out of the clutches of the keth, the Alliance military force (the Regents), and anyone else with malicious intent after them due to their status.
They travel to the small agrarian world of Ilthall, where Yune plans to transfer guardianship of the kids to Selka once he steals her ship back from the planet's monarchy. They become tangled up in a Regent splinter cell coup to occupy the planet, and encounter the last of the altarans.
All of them face changes to who they are, and challenges regarding what they will become.
Yune wants his old kid-free life back.
Will and Terra want to know who they are now and where they belong.
Selka wants to protect the kids.
Education: Associates degree in general education from Cuesta College. Trained with a writing mentor. Private voice acting lessons. A history of working in the film industry, and in theater.
Personality: I'm a life-long fan of sci-fi and fantasy. I prefer soft sci-fi that deals with powers and found family. I have a tendency to be silly, putting my sense of humor into my work. Singing gives me life, I love performing as an actor, I do voice over work, and I'm an audiobook narrator. I'm a storm enthusiast, a space nerd, and a lover of worldbuilding, and pie. I might not be a great storyteller, but given enough coffee and time, I can build you a world from the ground up.