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Cythera -- Launch

I've just gotten the drafts of lovely cover art for Cythera -- nothing final, so I can't post yet -- but just what I hoped for! Since we're getting closer to the November release date, I thought I'd share a little piece from the book. This is from near the beginning, and gives you a look at the tech and worldbuilding.

Compared to the ship she'd lived on as an adolescent, the cabin was spacious. The walls were the same warm white as the corridor, with the cabinets built into the facing bulkhead, including the sanitary facilities. There was a black carpet underfoot, a screen on the wall facing the acceleration couch, and a bed in the corner, stripped down to the undersheet that wouldn't come off in launch.

"The bedding is in the near cabinet," Serai said, opening the door beside the bed to show folded coverings and pillows, all black and neatly stacked on shelves. "This is the control for the screen, here on the wall." She looked a little sheepish. "We don't have voice control since this is a naval vessel."

"I understand," Cythera said.

"And there's a call button here on the arm of the couch in case you need help with the straps or you get sick in the jump. You can see the screen from the couch, but since we don't have voice control you'll need to turn it on before you settle down." She still sounded apologetic.

"Really, it's very nice," Cythera said. The acceleration couch was black and form fitted, the foam fully adjustable. The belts looked entirely standard. "I'm sure I'll be fine." Were passengers expected to be totally helpless?

Somewhere a three tone chime sounded, and Serai looked around. "That's the first warning. Passengers should keep to their cabins and starcrew need to be at stations. The second tone means it's time to strap in. The third…."

"I know," Cythera said. "It means prepare for launch. I'll be ready. Don't worry. You have done your duty well."

Serai gave her a quick smile and hurried out, no doubt to find her much less comfortable couch at her station, wherever that was. Cythera examined the control panel, standard enough, and turned the screen on. Currently it showed a section of Menaechmi's starfield, the purple haze of the mountains beyond, and a semi-circle of slightly clouded sky, the glare from the brighter Twin just overhead. As she watched, the scene tilted, the camera compensating more slowly. Void Dancer was rising in its cradle, lifting to the seventy degree optimal launch attitude.

"All hands prepare for final check." It was Athian's voice over the picture, brisk and even. He must have done this hundreds of times. "We have launch clearance."

Cythera made quick use of the sanitary facilities, always wise given the pressures of launch even in a large vessel, and then sat down on the edge of the acceleration couch just as the two tone chime sounded. "Passengers and crew to their couches, please," Athian said evenly. "We are ready for thruster check, first burn on my mark."

Hastily Cythera lay back on the soft leather covered foam, reaching for the belts. The first ones crossed over either shoulder, strapping diagonally across her chest with the small sternum pad and bucking at either side of her waist. The second pair originated on either side of her waist and crossed over again, each fastening on the opposite side at mid thigh. Last, the neck safety piece slid behind her neck, cradling her spine, the strap that held it fastening across her forehead, immobilizing her head facing forward. The most common injuries were neck injuries from the G-forces involved, and fastening all the safety straps was no joke.

Far beneath her seat was the faint rumble of the distant thrusters, each a harmless half second burn to make certain they were all online. Here, most of the way forward, it came across as a slight vibration, a shadow of what would be. Void Dancer was sitting at seventy degrees now, the couch situated so that her feet pointed toward gravitational down, simply strapped at a seventy degree angle, not quite standing. She supposed some might find it frightening, the angle and the momentary helplessness of being strapped down, but Cythera felt only the rush of anticipation. It had been so many years since she was off world! She'd wanted a challenge, and this was it. She hung suspended for a moment, caught in the moment before launch, her heart beating faster.

The single chime. "Prepare for launch."

The rumble below grew, a vibration that shook her bones. Void Dancer's main thrusters were far stronger than any ship she'd traveled on before, a roar that grew even far forward. Light blossomed in the camera view, the reflection of flames below licking the hot pavement of the starfield, as slowly, impossibly slowly, the ship began to move. At first it seemed to crawl. She knew that faint hitch was cradle release, the moment when nothing held the ship but its own mighty energies, and then the distant mountains seemed to shift, the horizon creeping and then shaking as Void Dancer lifted on a pillar of fire.

The G-forces shoved her back in her seat, pressing flesh and organs tightly but not painfully. The purple of the mountains attenuated, ridges smoothing, and on the other side of it was a sea of gold, a thousand miles of desert in a million shades of sand, suddenly visible as Void Dancer rose. There was a single, faint metallic flash far out. Was that the Merrow? Did those who loved Hereu weep as they watched him ascend in a column of light?

Down range, the strip of green beneath showed between desert and sea, a bay and white shores, the curve of land back toward the southwest, and then they were over open sea, half a continent away from where they began. And now the pressure grew less. Clouds flowed past the camera, white wisps over ocean, and then Void Dancer broke through them, the curve of the planet clear, sea graying to haze at the horizon.

No, not the sea graying, Cythera thought, but gathering night. They were charging into evening as they rose, the stars coming bright through thinning atmosphere.

Another slight hitch, the direction of "down" changing as the ship's gravity came online. Now she lay flat rather than at seventy degrees, the wall ahead of her rather than beneath her. The camera flared, then compensated with filters, the lesser Twin rising over the edge of the world. Menaechmi turned blue and green beneath her, ocean troubled by the whirl of a vast storm on the other side of the world.

Cythera watched with tears in her eyes, moved as always by the beauty that cut to the heart. So lovely and so fragile, her home! Did Hereu watch the same scene? She hoped someone had stayed with the boy to explain what was happening. It would be frightening if you didn't know what to expect.

"We have achieved a stable orbit." Athian's voice was calm and professional. "Passengers and crew may unstrap. We have a hundred and fifty two minutes until our optimal jump window. Warning will be given at twenty minutes till."

Cythera marked the time in the corner of the screen, a countdown helpfully beginning, and reached for the release for the forehead strap. The journey was begun.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 14th, 2013 06:37 pm (UTC)
::may have seen a sneak peek::

Aug. 15th, 2013 01:32 pm (UTC)
Indeed you might have! :)
Aug. 16th, 2013 05:57 pm (UTC)
It's up on the SC site now! :D
Aug. 15th, 2013 10:42 pm (UTC)
I love your work. Love love love love love. :)
Aug. 16th, 2013 12:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )