Writing exercise #14 – Open skies

Part two of the text I posted on Friday. Maybe the start of something longer?


Teej shouted as her dart was fired away from the building by the catapult. Shouted with that half laugh, half exhilarated terror she always felt when the Gs hit her. That was one hell of a launch though, using actual hand wound springs to send them zipping off into the clear air. Anything to save power, and they needed what they had to charge the darts. She had about two hours’ flying time now, but that had to include getting back to the tower. Landing was somewhat less fun, consisting of aiming at a massive patch of sticky webbing strung between two of the tower’s decorative projections – and hoping that the retrieval crew got to you with their hooks and winches before the sticky wore off and you just slipped down the side of the tower. She wondered whether one day the fear of that landing process would drive her from the sky.

In any case, that was not today. She was skimming along silently, climbing to about 3000 metres, just about to cross low marshland of the coast and head out over the sea. It was a crappy mission, really, the first reconnaissance of that sector since Jared had failed to return from a mission a month ago, but she was still relishing the sky. Because that’s what fliers did. Even if your lover – and, she’d thought, maybe future husband – disappeared while flying. Even if she saw his crumpled dart on a hillside below her, she’d still be a flier. And she knew suddenly that she’d never fear the landing more than she loved this.

The darts were small, one person craft with not much in the way of comforts. But as a flying machine using minimal power in an uncertain world, they were unbeatable. Light and manoeuvrable, almost invisible until you were right on top of them even before they deployed their built-in dazzle mode – and such sheer fun to fly. It was the closest humanity had ever come to being birds, and maybe that was why she always felt so giddy at the start of a mission.

She checked her heading, checked the transponders of the other darts – just six of them, now that Jared had gone. Everyone was in formation, and they were perfectly on course. She checked her heading again, rolled her shoulders and grinned at the blue sky, at the sparkling water and the uneven green bumps of the Scatter Islands running not quite left to right in front of her. She’d done her mourning, and no doubt would mourn some more yet, but just now everything felt perfect. Jared would have understood.

Whatever had happened to him, he’d gone while he was flying, and he’d always said that was how he wanted it to be. So had she, if it came to it.

An hour later, as she fell away from her dart and down, down, away from the blue sky and towards the sea where it crashed against the cliffs of Big Skerry, she wasn’t so sure she still felt the same way.

Writing exercise #13 – Clearly

In case you’re only now coming to this series of short writing exercises, here’s the explanation of what I’m doing.

This one’s a demonstration of why one of my English teachers – not the good one! – used to get so frustrated with me. She could set me any subject and I’d twist it around and produce an SF or fantasy story. It’s also a two parter, though even with the second part it’s once again only the start of something much longer. Second part to follow on Monday.


Being at the top of the Southern Tower always scared her, even now. Somehow it was more frightening being this far above ground but on a fixed surface she couldn’t control than it was being in her dart even higher up. Trust issues, Jared would no doubt say. Would have said… She took a deep breath and brushed away the moisture from her eyes. Up here it would be the wind, anyway.

A voice came from behind her. “Lieutenant Sanna.”

She turned, momentarily made dizzy by her own motion over the transparent material beneath her feet.

“Everything alright, Lieutenant?”

“Yes sir. Sorry sir. Just this…” And she gestured at the 2000 metre height of the tower beneath them, and the Colonel grimaced.

“Gets me every time too. But I thought you flyers were immune to this sort of thing.”

He gave her an arch look and she was suddenly sure he’d seen her tears and was just trying to distract her. After all, he must be well aware that the effect was by no means restricted to the land bound. She smiled gratefully.

“Well, you know how it is, sir. Us flyers just can’t count on you land dwellers to keep it still long enough for us to get away.”

He chuckled and looked down at his feet again, down through the two kilometres of almost perfectly clear building and right down to the ground.

Teej had never been able to understand why their ancestors had built the thing. There were plenty of other tall buildings in Valinq, but none of them made of this glassy material. Apparently it was possible – or would be if they had to power – to polarise the tower’s clear surfaces, providing apparently normal spaces for humans to occupy. But they barely had the power to run the lifts – and thankfully to keep them opaqued – so anyone who came up here had to have a pretty good head for heights, to say the least.

She looked over at the rest of her squad, all in black night issue coveralls with their dart harnesses over the top. One or two of them were finishing last minute equipment checks, but otherwise they were ready. Ready to launch the mission to find out why Jared had died.