Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SFF Challenge: Leather, Ether & River 1856 words

Here is the second piece I wrote for the SFF Challenge.

This piece fits into my Dragons in Space WIP, but I'm not sure I'll actually include it since it takes place about 10 years before my story starts. I'm really hoping this makes sense and that you, the reader, can see the images I'm trying to create. I'm still building this world and doing a lot of research, so if anyone out there can help, I'd totally welcome it.

The first line is from a Tori Amos song, Leather.


“In a sense,” he said, “you’re alone here. So if you jump, you best jump far.”
Sonya Lee looked over her shoulder at her teacher Master Abdul. The light inside his helmet threw his broad smile into stark relief. She let out a shaky breath, the fog blooming against the glass of her helmet. “I don’t think I can do it, sir.”
“And why not?”
She swallowed a lump in her throat. “I’m afraid of heights, sir,” she whispered.
“What was that?” he asked as he tapped the side of his helmet with a gloved finger. “The com didn’t catch that.”
Sonya coughed and said, just a little louder, “I’m afraid of heights, sir.”
Master Abdul let out a belly laugh. “You want to fly in space but you’re afraid of heights?”
She shrugged, the leather of her uniform creaking beneath the snug space suit. “There’s no gravity in space, sir. No falling down.”
He continued to laugh. “I can see why you failed to Bond with a Flyer.” He struggled to contain his mirth for a few moments then finally cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders. “Nonetheless, you still have to do it. The Jin-saw won’t be complete until you do.”
Sonya nodded and turned to face the canyon they stood on the edge of. The yellow rock was bright in the direct light of the sun. She knew the heat was intense but her suit protected her from it.
She tried to tell her self that the gravity on this moon was less than that on the planet’s surface, but it didn’t help. She’d still be falling and if she wasn’t caught, she’d hit the rocky bottom and die. Taking deep breathes, she looked up into the ether and spent a few seconds counting the stars and willing her heartbeat to slow.
As she counted, Sonya felt a vague sense of worry in the back of her mind that she knew wasn’t her own. The worry came from below, but she couldn’t tell where. She tried to concentrate on the feeling but it slipped away like oil on water.
“Any day now, Trainee Lee,” Master Abdul said. “You will continue to be alone here,” he tapped the side of his head again, “until you make that jump. So just throw your self out there.”
Sonya nodded and took a few long strides backwards. Heart pounding, she closed her eyes and ran forward. She meant to keep her eyes closed, but when she felt her feet leave the solid rock her eyes popped open and she screamed.
Even with her space suit on, she could feel the air rushing past her. The yellow rocks below were coming up much faster than she expected. Flailing her arms and legs in a vain attempt to slow her fall, she drew in what she thought was her last breath for a final scream when she noticed a dark shape launch off the canyon wall.
Sonya’s scream died in her throat as she watched the Moon dragon dive beside her. He was small, for a hatchling, but still large enough to carry two humans on his back. His smooth hide looked like the star filled sky above; black with hundreds of white specks that covered him from sleek head to slender tail and across his wings.
For a moment, Sonya and the dragon were even in the air and she could see into his large black eyes. A wave of love and reassurance radiated from them and for the first time Sonya noticed silver flecks in their depths.
With a short flap of his wings, the dragon pushed him self faster. Sonya spread her arms and legs out and watched as the dragon turned to position him self below her and spread his wings wide.
She hit his back with a bone jarring thud and quickly locked her arms around his neck. Closing her eyes, she pressed her face to the glass of her helmet. Tears pooled beneath her nose.
Are you alright? The voice in her head sounded like a little boy’s.
Sonya gasped and sat up. They were flying through the canyon now. The walls flying by at speeds she wasn’t comfortable thinking about. The Moon dragon had his head turned so he could see her with one eye. The sense of worry in Sonya’s mind was still there but was being combined with more reassurance and an overwhelming sense of joy.
“Yes, I’m fine now,” she said aloud.
Good. He turned his head forward and the worry dissipated from Sonya’s mind. My name is Hey-song. Can we do some real flying now?
“This isn’t real flying?” Sonya asked with a grin.
I want to be up there. Hey-song jerked his head towards space. I don’t like how the gravity drags me down here on the surface.
“Me neither,” Sonya laughed. “Let’s fly!”
Hey-song opened his jaws and let out a roar that Sonya felt more than heard. He pitched up and pushed his wings hard. Sonya locked her arms and legs around him and kept her gaze towards the stars.
It wasn’t long before they broke through the moon’s thin atmosphere and began an orbit around the yellow satellite. Sonya felt the weightlessness of space tug at her and her muscles ached because of how hard she was holding on.
We shouldn’t stay out here too long. Sonya pushed the thought toward Hey-song as Master Abdul had taught her.
Ack! You don’t need to shout, he grumbled.
Sorry. Sonya said, mentally pulling back. We don’t have the right equipment for a flight like this.
We’ll just do one complete orbit and then we’ll head back, okay?
Alright, she said. She was going to ask a question but her mind froze as they came around the side of the moon and her home planet came into view. It looked so much larger from space than it did on the moon’s surface. A green and blue ball streaked with lines and swirls of white. An orb of life filled with both humans and dragons.
Agitation flared in the corner of her mind that was now always connected to Hey-song; disturbing her thoughts. Turning her eyes from the planet, Sonya saw two dragon hatchlings flying towards them. They were riderless, and for the first time, she realized how small Hey-song was compared to other hatchlings.
The two new dragons circled her and Hey-song. Sonya couldn’t hear what the other dragons said, but she could feel the tension in Hey-songs body and hear his angry responses.
Fly off, tolai!
Sonya winced against the words bouncing around in her head. What’s going on?
Hey-song snapped at a dragon that flew too close. They’re taunting me. They’re trying to get me to race them.
Suddenly, one of the dragons dove down and snapped its jaws right over Sonya’s head. She let out a little scream at the sight of those long, sharp teeth. 
That’s it, tongsal nom! You want a race, you got one. First one around the moon wins.
“Hey-song,” Sonya shouted. “Can you take me back to the surface first?”
No time, he said as he drew even between the other two dragons. This hapung ends now.
Knowing there was no way to change his mind, Sonya readjusted her grip, said a prayer to the Mother Dragon and made a mental note to talk to her dragon about his foul language. As soon as she was settled, all three dragons launched forward.
Hey-song’s body rumbled as pouches beneath his wings filled with a special chemical concoction. Once the pouches were full, a pair of moon rocks within the pouches struck each other and caused a spark. The ensuing explosion launched him forward as if a rocket was strapped to his back.
Hey-song folded his wings against his body and shot ahead of the other two dragons, leaving twin trails of vapor behind. Sonya looked back over her shoulder and saw the larger of the two gaining. His pouches were larger than Hey-song’s so he could sustain a longer burn.
The larger dragon continued to gain on Hey-song and was less than a tail length behind when he seemed to slow and fall back. He had burned off all the fuel in his pouches, and while he continued at his previous speed, the larger dragon had to wait for his pouches to fill before he could do another thrust.
Sonya could still feel the rumble between her legs. Hey-song was still burning his fuel and gaining speed. How are you doing that?
Doing what? Hey-song asked.
How are you still burning your fuel? Haven’t you run out yet?
Run out? Hey-song sounded appalled. I never run out. There’s always a continuous flow into my pouches. Do others run out?
Yes. Sonya turned her gaze forward and risked removing an arm from around Hey-song’s neck so she could lower her sun visor. They had come around the other side of the moon where the sun blazed bright and hot. It’s a safety precaution, she continued. Your body stops filling the pouch when it’s full so that you don’t run out of energy. It takes a lot for your body to make that stuff. Didn’t you know that?
Hey-song shrugged his shoulders. No one ever told me. I thought all Moon dragons flew like this.
Well most dragons have to drift for a while as they wait for their pouches to fill.
Huh. Well, sucks for them. He turned his head and gave her a toothy grin.
As they continued their orbit and turned their backs to the sun, Hey-song shut off the flow to his pouches and spread his wings wide to catch the solar winds. Tiny veins glowed orange between the white specks as his wings absorbed the sun’s radiation.
Sonya looked back again to see the other two dragons way behind with no chance of catching up. I’m pretty sure you won.
Of course I did.
Sonya laughed as they continued to sail on the river of solar wind. It didn’t take long for them to return to their starting position in the space between the moon and the planet.
We better get back soon, Sonya said. Master Abdul will be mad at us for being gone so long.
Let’s wait for the other two to show up. I want to see the defeat in their eyes.
Oh, come on, Hey-song. You don’t need to rub it in.
Yes I do. I’ve been getting crap from them, and others, ever since I hatched, just because I’m smaller than everyone else. I’m tired of it. I want them to respect me.
And beating them in races will do that?
Yes. Hey-song said as he turned to watch the other two dragons finish the last leg of the race. That wasn’t even my fastest. He called to them. I was taking it slow so as to not upset my human here.
Sonya couldn’t hear their responses but she did see the rude manner in which they flipped their tails at Hey-song. He laughed as he headed back to the moon’s surface.