The August Patreon short story came out last night, a 6,300 word long classic science fiction story about a headstrong young boy who encounters a starship bent for retirement on his out-of-the-way world.
The starship crash-landed somewhere in the dark and early hours of morning. The thunderclap sound of it striking the East Bay woke Tamuel up, heart racing and confused. He glanced out his window, but didn’t see anything. He stumbled out into the common room to see if he could see anything different from the balcony.
“What was that?” One of his siblings also was apparently out and looking around for the cause of the sound. “There’s no storm.”
Outside, through the windows opened to allow the cool land breeze rushing out toward the ocean to pass through the foundling dorm’s corridors, Tamuel saw only stars and the looming dark of the Berenthais Mountains.
Tamuel squinted through the dark to see that it was Shau who had woken with him. Several of the other boys grunted and swore from in their rooms, annoyed at the late interruption to their sleep. Group classes would start early in the morning, this was an unwelcome event.
“I—” Tamuel stopped as the horrid wail of the tsunami sirens pierced the night.
Everyone woke up and streamed out of their doors, sleep forgotten as fear jolted them awake. There was a mass of panic before some of the prefects, older and well-drilled, asserted order. “Line up! Those of you near the east corridor, march to the stairs and head to the third floor. West corridor, march! Do not go back to your rooms to take anything with you. Move now!”
The thirty boys fell into lines and the entire common room split right near Tamuel into two groups that streamed out into the two stairwells. Emergency lighting, red and calm, dappled their worried faces as they rushed upwards.
Minutes later the water struck. It rushed up Watt Street, just several inches of foaming sea, lapped at the wheels of the carts parked around the dorm, then gently poured out through the storm drains and retreated back down the street leaving only some confused small fish behind.
The warning sirens stopped, leaving a strange quiet to fall over all of Weatherly, from the distant East Bay to the Callum Docks.
They all waited for whatever came next. Some of the second floor girls started to complain about Tamuel’s siblings staring at them in nightdresses. It was creepy. Tamuel understood. They were not all really siblings, they’d all been raised in the foundling dorm together. Go stare at some other girl from Summerstown’s foundling dorm.
“Hey, get off the balcony,” one of the prefects shouted from the back. “We don’t know if something else is coming.”
Shau was pressed against a railing, looking out toward East Bay with night vision binoculars. “Nothing else is coming,” he announced. “It’s a fucking starship crashed into the bay!”
“Language!” snapped Tosha, one of the prefects. Tamuel shivered when he heard her voice. She’d been singling him out for any dorm infractions and worse for the last year. “Who was that, is that Shau? Get over here. And what are you doing with binoculars? You’re supposed to leave everything in place during a drill.”
Tamuel decided to take a chance and shoved past siblings to get to the balcony. Shau was his closest sibling. Shau would let him use the binoculars.
“Shau, let me look!” he demanded.
Shau passed the binoculars over. Tamuel looked out over Weatherly to the curve of East Bay, skipping over the roofs of hundreds of structures in grainy green, and he gasped. There it was, a shark-fin shaped mass squatting in the dark pool of water where they normally sailed their tiny catamarans on weekends.
He recognized the shape. “It’s an Interstellar. It’s a Shatter Dart.” Thousands of tons of bio-organic, semi-sentient starship. With a crew of hundreds, it could leap between the stars. Hundreds of light years with each carefully planned gulp of the void-mouth contained deep in the belly buried under the water in East Bay.
“What the hell’s it doing here?” Shau asked.
“That’s it!” Tosha had pushed through and stood right behind them both. “I gave you a language warning, and asked you to get off the balcony.”
She grabbed Tamuel from behind. It was a violation, broaching someone’s physical space like this. The last time Tamuel had formally complained there’d been a disciplinary board hearing. No one would step forward as a witness. Tosha was six years older than him. A respected prefect who had the ear of the adult board. He’d learned to try and stay invisible to her since then. He’d wished for cameras inside, like the street cams, but that would be a violation of dorm privacy.
Tamuel twisted loose from her and shoved the binoculars into her hands. “It’s a starship.”
Tosha couldn’t help but raise the binoculars. Tamuel, as he’d hoped, had completely yanked the prefect’s attention elsewhere as she succumbed to curiosity and looked out toward East Bay.
He yanked Shau away from her. “Nothing like this ever happens in Weatherly,” he said as they pushed through the crowds of siblings toward a stairwell.
“My binoculars!” Shau protested.
“Fuck your binoculars,” Tamuel hissed, just low enough none of the prefects would hear him. “Nothing like this happens in Weatherly. Or in Summerstown.” Or even, for that matter, Yelekene. Their entire world, all the archipelagos scattered across it, were far from the Core. Ships of this size had last visited Yelekene a hundred years ago, to ship terraforming equipment and raw materials here. Even the original Founders had come via smaller cargo skip-planers that had been disassembled upon arrival.
This… this was something different.
“What are you doing?” Shau asked as Tamuel pulled him down the stairwell.
“We’re going to be first to see it,” Tamuel said.
“We’ll get our asses handed to us.”
“All the prefects are upstairs herding us. We won’t get a better chance.”
Shau stopped. “You know how many demerits I have? No, I have to stay put.”
Tamuel paused. He really didn’t want to do this alone. Going out into the town at dark, it wasn’t scary, they’d snuck out before. But he’d rather have some company if he was going to head out onto the open ocean in the dark.
He briefly reconsidered, then bit his lip. “Then just cover for me as long as you can. Tell them I went to use the bathroom or something.”
“Yeah, sure,” Shau said. “Good luck, Tam. I hope it’s worth it, you’re going to be pulling weeds in the garden for weeks if you’re lucky.”