Any thoughts on this?

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September 30th, 2015 at 1:07:43 PM permalink
Nareed
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O U R S
by Katarina G. Carpenter

I

“Come in,” Dr. Marina Brook said without looking up from her screen.

Doctor Green, the Chief Scientist onboard Imhotep, stately rolled in with a quiet, metallic cacophony, almost like bass wind chimes.

“I’m fine,” Marina said. “But thanks for checking up on me.”

“I will not ask,” Green said, “how you knew it was me.”

“No one else on the ship makes such a musical entrance, my dear friend.” Marina still did not look away from her screen.

“You are incorrect, however, as to my purpose in coming here.”

Marina looked towards him, green eyes peeking from reddish, feathery bangs purposefully cut too long. “And no one else is quite as verbose, not when on business; it’s almost as though you get paid by the word.” She smiled. “Come in, please.”

“Thanks.” He rolled to her side, then lowered the oblong water-filled tank containing him so his eyes were nearly level with hers. His mouth remained, as usual, behind the speaker of his translator.

She did not suggest he make himself comfortable, nor did she offer him something to drink. Floating inside his life support tank was as comfortable as he could get outside his quarters. The tank contained food and drink for several days.

“I came to see you, as you note on business, regarding your choice of landing spot.”

“Oh?”

“It seems odd to pick such a barren spot.”

“Ah!” She stood up and turned her screen towards him. “You see no life at all in this low-lying valley, right? Nothing seems evident from orbit, yes? Not even a blade of grass.”

“Right.”

“And you wonder why a biologist, namely me, would want to land there.”

“Right.”

“What with being ship’s Chief Scientist and all, this concerns you. Surely the semi-arid coasts and deltas at the lakes, which contain what passes for lush vegetation on this planet, should prove much more interesting.”

“It is self-evident. That’s where the bulk of the life is.”

“Ah ha!” She sat down, placed her palms on her knees and leaned towards him. “That’s where the bulk of the visible life is.” She kept looking up at him expectantly and said no more.

Green fixed all three eyes on her. His third eye, located where a human’s nose would be, served only in dimly illuminated spaces. He could barely keep it open, much less wide open, in the bright daylight illumination onboard. But humans found it intimidating to be stared at with more than the normal number of eyes.

Marina smiled with closed lips and continued to look at him. Clearly she knew him well enough by now to know what he was up to. He felt his six tentacles curl inward in a smile anyway, the six mechanical tentacles outside his tank mimicking the expression.

“I am missing something,” he said finally. She nodded. “You don’t want to tell me what it is.” She nodded again. “May I -no, dare I ask why?”

“I don’t know. Dare you?” Her smile broke fully now.

“I believe I do dare.”

“It is thrilling when you realize it.”

“Can I get a hint?”

“Oxygen levels.”

“They seem perfectly compatible with T-class life.”

“They shouldn’t be. Land life is too sparse to account for them.” Again she looked expectantly. Green knew she’d say no more until he at least attempted to guess at her mystery.

He went about it methodically. If the vegetation on land could not account for the oxygen content of the atmosphere, Green knew, then the source would be in the large lakes of this dry world. Even on more typical moist planets, when life-bearing, the oceans were often the major source of oxygen. This was so elementary a fact that a half-competent biologist would consider it at once, and Marina was more than half-competent, considerably more.

“You think the oxygen source is in the valley.”

She shook he head.

“Not in the valley itself. But the way to the source will be there.”

“Why not in the lakes?”

“They’re too small and too shallow.” She made a dismissive gesture with her left hand. “Even if they were chock-full of algae, and we can tell by their color they’re not, they could not produce enough oxygen to maintain the levels we’ve measured.”

She stood up and moved towards the small drinks dispenser. On the desk, next to her screen, stood a framed picture taken on her wedding day. His tentacles relaxed from their smile.

“The lakes are likely salty,” she said, her back to him. “Such rivers as exist show rather fertile banks, almost like the Nile back on Earth. They’re short and empty in the lakes over wide, muddy deltas.”

She turned back to him, a steaming cup in hand, and again looked at him.

Much as he enjoyed Marina’s company, and his work onboard ship, he felt a sudden longing for the oceans of home.

“Oceans!” he exclaimed. “You think there are underground oceans.”

She smiled and nodded, her bangs obscuring her eyes more than usual.

“You think life originated there, underground.”

“And from there it has moved, gradually, above-ground.” She agreed. “Quite recently, too, in evolutionary terms, to be so sparse as yet on the surface. See the graph there,” she nodded towards her screen, “it shows oxygen distribution, approximately, on the surface. It’s very slightly higher near volcanic vents in that valley.”

Green lifted two tentacles in a nod, pleased that Marina understood his body language. “Good spot,” he said.

Marina laughed, a soft musical sound. “You are sparse with your praise.”

“I do not get paid by the word.” She laughed again. “Seriously, it is a good spot. If you can find oxygen issuing from the vents, Captain Aster might just let the ship stay here for longer than the customary two-day hurry up survey mission. And for biology, too.”

“Oh, I hope so! Not that we can prove life originated underground even if we stay here a month or two, but we could get the navy to plant a research station here, at least. Maybe sponsored by a big research institution back on earth or Proxima. If they can look past planetology and astrophysics, that is.”

“We’d be long gone by then.”

“Not me.” A soft clang announced Green’s external tentacles pulling in tight. “Oh! I’m sorry, sweetie!” She placed her coffee cup on the desk then hurried towards him. She touched a hand to one of his tentacles, the outer sensors transmitting the warm and soft sensation of her touch. “You could stay here with me.”

“I’m not a biologist.”

“So what?” She placed her other hand on a different tentacle. “”You’re a competent, all-around scientist and an excellent administrator. You could run a planet-side research team just as well as the one on this ship.”

He lifted a tentacle and shook it up and down, his people’s gesture for shaking one’s head. With another tentacle he pointed to the wedding picture beside the screen. “That has nothing to do with it?”

Marina let go off him, her eyes narrowing and appearing to flash in anger. “I’m fine!” she said, then turned away. Green backed off a full revolution of his wheels and waited, unsure what to say.

----

That's about half of part I of "Ours."

Any thoughts? Does it seem clear? Is it of any interest?
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October 6th, 2015 at 8:31:12 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
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While hardly overwhelmed by the feedback, I've re-read all I've written so far and I'm very satisfied with about 97% of it.

There's one sticking point early on, right after I cut off above, where it's revealed Marina is a transgender woman. That fact has to be given early, so as to make the Big Surprise(TM) have the intended impact. But the way I came up with it destroys one fact about Dr. Green which causes problems later on. So that has to go and I have to think of something else.

What would you think of Green asking "Have I become the new 'transcription error'?"

Explanation: Marina has XX chromosomes, but the second one has an SRY gene in it. That's THE gene that is exclusive to the Y chromosome. This is a real condition, very well documented in the annals of medicine. The mix-up is often referred to as a transcription error. In the story this has several consequences. One is that Marina grew sick of hearing about it growing up, ergo Green bringing it up.

A minor point, though, is whether Marina is transgender or intersex. I could argue both points.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 6th, 2015 at 12:42:14 PM permalink
Fleastiff
Member since: Oct 27, 2012
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Quote: Nareed
A minor point, though, is whether Marina is transgender or intersex. I could argue both points.
Transgender is a medically supervised process involving psychological, hormonal and surgical re-assignment to a polar male or female identity whereas transgender is a state of not meeting either one of the polar extremes of male or female in the entirety. It can start at birth with medical uncertainty or error or it can develop in psycho-sexual imagery, but it is simply a situation where the polar extremes of 'male' or 'female' are insufficient to fully describe the individual. If an individual has a penis and is arrested, the category is 'male' irrespective of any other concern, since the primary concern is to protect female arrestees from male rape. If an application is being made for a drivers license or a library card, there is less need to be restricted to the polar extremes and no reason at all why an individual who wears a dress can't have a library card as 'Georgina' instead of "George".
October 6th, 2015 at 6:42:47 PM permalink
Face
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Quote: Nareed

Any thoughts? Does it seem clear? Is it of any interest?


By the first "page" (what I can see on one full monitor), I was thinking "this feels too wordy".

By the second page, I was thinking "I don't really "get" Sci-fi".

After that, I forgot about the criticism and am now just wondering what happens next =)
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
October 6th, 2015 at 8:04:25 PM permalink
Nareed
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Quote: Face
After that, I forgot about the criticism and am now just wondering what happens next =)


Wow, thanks!

What happens next, right next, is undergoing remodeling. When that's done, let me know and I can email you the rest.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 7th, 2015 at 6:47:53 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 301
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Quote: Face
By the first "page" (what I can see on one full monitor), I was thinking "this feels too wordy".


By that do you mean there's too much dialogue?
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 7th, 2015 at 7:25:43 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
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Tiny little change:


Quote:
“Oh, I hope so! Not that we can prove life originated underground even if we stay here a month or two, but we could get the navy to plant a research station here, at least. Maybe sponsored by a big research institution back on earth or Proxima. If they can look past planetology and astrophysics, that is.”

“We’d be long gone by then.”

“Not me.” A soft clang announced Green’s external tentacles pulling in tight. “Oh! madigba, shuaza!” She placed her coffee cup on the desk then hurried towards him. She touched a hand to one of his tentacles, the outer sensors transmitting the warm and soft sensation of her touch. “Ke doon bair ne mabdi.”

“I’m not a biologist.”


I need to put in an explanation of what that was. in brief, Green's people, call them Aquatics, cannot produce the same sounds as human beings, and viceversa. So there is an Aquatic-Phonetic English, basically English transliterated into sounds they can make. Likewise there is a Human-Phonetic Aquatic, where the transliteration is to sounds humans can make.

I figured it would be a nice touch for Marina to speak it a little. Later in the story it makes a bigger difference.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 7th, 2015 at 10:11:51 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 301
Posts: 9756
Quote: Nareed
What happens next, right next, is undergoing remodeling. When that's done, let me know and I can email you the rest.


Got it!

At the very least, I got something I like better. I'll retype that section this evening at home.

PM me and let me know how much of the story you want. I'm up to part VI or so (though I think I'll remove the numbers and substitute action breaks, like so: * * *) Part 2 has Marina, Jeff, Jenn and Roy the navy man down on the planet looking for evidence. part 3 has them taking a break for lunch, whereupon they get streamed (think of Star Trek and beaming up) back to the ship, whereupon the Surprise takes place. Part 4 must be Marina being examined in sick bay, where the Big Surprise takes place. Part 5, well, that would be telling, but you get to see the captain at long last. Part 6 is a work in progress still.

I'm having trouble deciding how someone would react upon finding a duplicate who is completely identical to herself, only different.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 7th, 2015 at 7:47:01 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 301
Posts: 9756
I need to refine the fix. It's hard to write cogently, even a short scene, after a long work day. But here's the rest of part 1:

Marina lowered her head. Not turning toward him, she said “I’m going to miss Hank,” her voice broke, “every day for the rest of my life.” She turned slowly. Eyes glistening. She blinked a few times. “But I do not base my life’s decisions based on where we spent most of the third year of our married life.”

“I’m sorry. I should not have implied-“

“This is a big deal, or it might be.” Marina went on. “If life originated underground in this world, it would point the way to how and where life may have originated in other worlds. Earth, Proxima, Wolf, Ist, even Waterworld,” she looked pointedly at him.

“You’re right. I shouldn’t-“

“I like to think you understand such things. That you know I’m building a career and this might be a great chance, if a lot of things happen to happen –which is rather a long shot, I admit, but it looks good. Not that I’m trying to get away from the memory of my dead husband!”

She turned away again, shaking sporadically. She had not raised her voice, but then she rarely did. If she knew him well enough by now, so he knew her as well. She was angry.

He approached her, slowly, and laid an external tentacle on her shoulder. He knew his touch was neither warm nor soft, but that making the gesture mattered to her.

It worked, she turned to face him, one tear running down her face.

“I’m sorry,” Green said.

She put a hand in one of his tentacles.

“Look, Chuckles,” she said, “you just have to stop hovering over me trying to make sure I’m okay. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate your support, and you friendship. But asking me every day how I’m doing is too much.”

Her rebuke was gentle, and the use of his nickname meant she was not really angry at him. “But you’re still sad.”

She drew back, not letting go entirely, mouth open and eyes wide. She lifted one hand and seemed about to say something, but instead she laughed. She put a hand to her mouth and tried to contain herself. He shook a lifted tentacle in disbelief. The human males he knew, none of whom he felt close to, were not as hard to comprehend as this one female.

“Oh, Chuckles!” she said. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t laugh.”

“It seems preferable to the alternative.”

That just made her dissolve in laughter, which she didn’t even try to hide. He let go of her and waited for her fit to run out.

After a few moments it did.

“Oh, Chuckles,” she said again. “I’m going to be sad for a long time. It’s not about not feeling sad, but that the sadness doesn’t keep you from going on with your life.”

“It doesn’t work that way with us.”

“I know.”

“Have I become the new transcription error?”

No,” she answered with a quick shake of her head. “No. You could never get me that angry. Not ever.”

He lifted four tentacles in a shrug. “I guess not. If it’s made you want to hide your gender identity.”

“I don’t hide it. I just don’t tell everyone. I don’t tell everyone I’ve a mole in the back of my left thigh, either.”

“Why did you tell me?”

“That I’m transgender?” she shrugged. “You were so homesick that day, and talking about your adolescence, I felt I had to share some of my experiences. I can’t talk about my life between 12 and 18 without being explicit about it.”

“Perhaps you also thought it wouldn’t matter much to me.”

“Perhaps.”

“It did matter. It still does. I like to think I need to know you if I’m to be as good a friend as you’ve been to me.”

She took a step toward him and hugged him, as much as she could given his circumstances.

“You are,” she said.

He hesitated a moment, then asked, “Will you be okay.”

Marina took two of his tentacles in her hands.

“I’ll be just fine.”
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 8th, 2015 at 6:59:11 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 301
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Quote: Nareed

“Have I become the new transcription error?”

No,” she answered with a quick shake of her head. “No. You could never get me that angry. Not ever.”

He lifted four tentacles in a shrug. “I guess not. If it’s made you want to hide your gender identity.”

“I don’t hide it. I just don’t tell everyone. I don’t tell everyone I’ve a mole in the back of my left thigh, either.”

“Why did you tell me?”

“That I’m transgender?” she shrugged. “You were so homesick that day, and talking about your adolescence, I felt I had to share some of my experiences. I can’t talk about my life between 12 and 18 without being explicit about it.”


“Have I become the new transcription error?”

"No,” she answered with a quick shake of her head. “No. You could never get me that angry. Not ever.”

He lifted four tentacles in a shrug. “I won't make you want to hide your gender identity.”

“I don’t hide it. I just don’t tell everyone. I don’t tell everyone I’ve a mole in the back of my left thigh, either.”

“Why did you tell me?”

“That I’m transgender?” she shrugged. “You were so homesick that day talking about your adolescence, I thought you might feel better if I shared some of my experiences. My life between 12 and 18 centered around hormones and surgery. I couldn't be kind and avoid the subject.”
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
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