I spoke two weeks ago about writing a new beginning to my sci-fi novel Flight of the Kestrel, and the suggestions of my writers group as to how to improve it, and I promised to share it. Here it is. I have taken out all explanation, so it may need to have some put back. What do you think of it? Would you read on?
“Over here sir.” Mike Holland was on his knees. “He collapsed. He seemed to be in pain.”
“Not that it’s easy to tell,” muttered someone behind me.
As Robinson the MO knelt to examine him, I could see it was Balitoth, and my heart sank. It was quite possible that he’d been in pain for some time, and just not shown it. Zoans were a very private race. Robinson looked up.
“Haven’t you got work to do? This ship won’t fly itself.”
The three other crew members on the bridge turned quickly back to their instrument panels, and I spoke softly to Robinson.
“Can he be moved? You can treat him more easily and privately in sickbay.”
Robinson nodded and I called for the stretcher.
Robinson and Ryan put the still-unconscious Balitoth onto the stretcher and whisked him away. Holland got up, brushed himself off, and sat down heavily in the command chair.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“Winded me a bit, sir. I caught him instinctively, and forgot how heavy he is.”
“Yes, all Zoans are stocky, but with that padded jacket he wears to keep warm, he’s a bit of a handful.” I turned to leave. “I’ll let you know how he is, as soon as Robinson finishes.”
Holland said quietly, “Better find Reuel, sir, before he finds out and besieges sickbay.”
“Good idea.” I smiled. “Carry on.”
Shom Reuel, an Altairian, was the other non-human crew member, and he and Balitoth had formed an unlikely friendship. He would be very upset. I went to see him, break the news, and calm him down while we waited. The last thing I needed was for him to go to pieces, not now.
The news was not good.
“I found an adrenal tumour.” Robinson reported. “He must have been in some discomfort for quite a while. Damn Zoan stoicism!”
“How bad is it?” I asked.
“About as bad as it gets,” he said. “He needs an urgent operation, and I doubt very much if we can get him one.”
“Can’t you do it? Surely you’ve got clearance?”
“Not for something this invasive. Zoa would never permit it.”
“Even to save his life?”
“Save it for what?” Robinson snorted. “Life as an outcast? He wouldn’t thank me.”
“Then we’ll have to get him to someone who does have clearance. How long have we got?”
Robinson shook his head. “I can’t put him in stasis, Zoans don’t react well to stasis. And without it – two days maximum.”
Reuel gave a wail of anguish. We’d both forgotten he was there. Robinson grabbed him by the shoulders.
“Stop that now. You won’t help Balitoth by falling apart, and Kestrel needs you even more, with another crew member short.”
Reuel came to attention. “Yes sir. Sorry sir.” But his cranial spines were quivering.
I turned to go. “Come on Reuel, we have to find the nearest Zoan doctor.” I looked back over my shoulder. “Just keep him alive, Doc.”