NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a writing-community project for as many as possible (around 300,000 this year) to complete a novel of 50,000 words or more in the span of 30 days. November is the chosen month. Many NaNoWriMo participants go on to publish their works. The end product of the November writing blitz is, in my experience, generally a rough first draft, which is one heck of a lot better than no rough draft at all.
This year, my NaNoWriMo novel is a science fiction romance that takes place in the very far future with some extraordinary technological advances, but with human nature being pretty much just the same as it has always been.
Here is the short Prologue. Remember: rough draft. Revisions to the entire piece will take place in the months to come. But whether the following remains in the final draft or not, I like the setup.
"Dirk, I'm getting a spike here on the quantum core field pressure."(c) 2012, J. C. Conway
Cheryl positioned herself closer to the display. She placed a hand on the control pad.
She loved this job--and these brief, infrequent moments were why. Sure, monitoring the quantum drive looked boring and mindless. But it wasn't. Not when something happened. This was when years of training and study always paid off. Other than soft beeps and the low metallic thrum of the spinning space ship, the small control chamber was quiet, and Dirk's station was just 3 meters behind hers. She leaned forward and tried to get a feel for the anomaly.
"I've got nothing here," said Dirk. "In fact, it's a little cold."
That's odd. Cheryl adjusted the display, changing scale. Usually, an increase in one accompanies an increase in the other. It could be a momentary fluctuation. But this was no short-term quirk. The field pressure lurched up, dropped down slightly, and lurched up again. That should not happen unless . . .
She gasped. Her muscles tightened in a quick spasm.
"Check the wave frequencies!" she shouted, and shoved her chair back, rolling to the power grid display. There was a surge 20 seconds ago. Crap!
Cheryl's chest went cold. The protocol was clear. 'Francis,' she thought. A vision of her son—her unhappy little ten-year-old who never wanted to board the Minuend. The boy whose future she believed she was improving by taking him away from Earth to a new planet with new rules. The boy who now, along with 12,000 other residents of this colony ship, would never see the new world, and would be damned lucky to survive at all. The protocol was in place to protect them—to protect him.
Cheryl lifted a red panel and reached for a lever with yellow and black diagonal stripes. "Eject the Core, Dirk!"
"Now!" She pulled the lever. Emergency sirens blared, red lights flashed, and the ship commenced emergency protocol Alpha—sealing and shielding the habitat.
Dirk did not eject the core. "What the hell are you talking about?" he screamed. "If we do that—"
At that moment, the instruments all stopped. They were engulfed in darkness and no time remained to act. In the hundredth of a second between the EMP destroying all circuitry, and the shock wave of the quantum-core collapse, Cheryl could only flash a prayer—that her son somehow survive, that the colonists eke a living from the ship's finite resources, that eventually, but soon enough, Earth advance enough to rescue the Minuend survivors who were now irretrievably adrift in interstellar space.