I did it! With the kids watching while I typed the last three words, I crossed the 50,000-word NaNoWriMo finish line!
Here are more gems from my manuscript:
Good taste, however, seemed to be thoroughly lacking that week.
"Rita, Ann, will you come look at this?" Thomas called from the office.
The two sisters shrugged at each other, then picked up their cups of tea and wandered over to see what had made their friend so exasperated.
Ann gave a small shriek and Rita nearly dropped her at what they saw.
On Sr. Thomas' computer screen was a horrifying nasty skeletal creature with a huge oblong head snapping its jaws at a woman who, was cowering in absolute terror. Over the hissing and snarls came a voice that lilted like all salesmen of any age:
"Don't know what's waiting on that unexplored alien ship? Not willing to be caught by surprise? Well, neither are we. And, thanks to the cinematographers of old, we don't have to be."
The scene changed to space suited figures wandering in a dark cavernous room with large, leathery eggs.
"Every Monday night, we'll be analyzing the procedures and tactics of others who have gone the way we dare go now. After each full-length feature presentation in its extended form remastered exclusively for CruiseGalactic, we will have analysis and discussion."
The scene changed to the woman strapping herself into her seat and opening the ship door, blasting the alien into space.
"We don't have to operate in a vacuum. Come join us for these life and death discussion. Remember: they made the stupid mistakes so we don't have to!"
The last image--that of a man on a hospital bed with a pale yellow scorpion-like creature with long legs clamped over his face--froze. Over it appeared a small box that said in bright flashing letters, "First showing tonight: ALIEN, directed by Ridley Scott. Download a reminder into your calendar now! Avoid death by alien incubation!"
Rita and Sr. Thomas peeked inside the gym while Sr. Ann and the engineers from the Edwina Thomas and Rocky Flats waited anxiously. They had refused to let the sisters enter the room.
The gym walls, floor and ceiling were a crazy quilt of exercise mats of different sizes, shapes and colors. Various hand and foot holds stuck out everywhere. In one corner a container the size of a truck (sat?).
"All right, I see what you did with all the floor mats, but why?"
As if having waited for that very question, Sr. Ann reached between them and tossed a ball she'd been holding into the room. Rather than making the expected parabola, it continued on a straight path.
"A zero g room!"
"Isn't it wonderful?" Sr. Ann said gaily. "And in the box are things we can use to set up tunnels or obstacle courses or practice moving items--"
"How did you manage it?"
"We reversed the polarity of the gravitational field," Sr. Ann said casually, while the engineering team behind her fought to suppress their snickers. They'd obviously been planning the joke for a long time.
"Mmmm-Hmmm." Sr. Thomas turned her back to the room and gave the team her best "don't kid with me" look. "Which means…?"
At first, Sr. Ann gave them her usual wide-eyed, innocent look, then said, "Oh, we pulled all the gravity plating out of the floor somewhere else and attached it to the ceiling, powered up an RCH generator and set it for .978g, which is actually the acceleration force for the Edwina Thomas right now. The gravity generator provides counter-force for the acceleration force, and there you go! Zero g. But it's so much more fun to say we reversed the polarity!"
Sr. Thomas rolled her eyes. "All right--as long as you don't start padding your repair estimates."
"Oh, no, Sister!" Sr. Ann said with complete innocence, while the team behind her did their best to feign innocence.
(Set up: Sister Rita and James (a former almost-love interest and the reason she fled into space) are trapped on board an alien lifepod taht activated when they entered. They are running out of air and have no idea if they'll be rescued. Rita, BTW, has been struggling wtih doubts about her calling for a long time.)
She pulled out her sampling equipment, thoughtfully. As soon as the door had shut, systems had come on. They had light, heat, and gravity of a fashion. Could it be…?
She broke open the seal of a sample tube, breaking the vacuum within. In her mind, she heard the air rushing into the tube. She prayed her imagination was true.
"What are you doing?"
"Checking the air."
"Is there breathable air? Didn't you remind me repeatedly that this an alien ship?"
"Let's have a little faith," she snapped and he fell to sullen silence.
The timer on the screen ended and results appeared. She almost cried with relilef, but made herself repeat the experiment before saying anything. The results came up the same the second time.
"Oxygen/Nitrogen! Praise God! It's a little thinner, but no more so than say, Tibet."
"So how does that help-- What are you doing?!"
Rita had her hand on her helmet and was about to release the seal. Her hands, however, refused to carry out her commands. "Come here. We're going to do this one at a time," she told him firmly.
"Are you out of your mind? What if there's something the scanner didn't pick up?"
"Then I'll asphyxiate and you'd better be ready to slam this helmet back on me. Then we pray the skinsuit medpod can keep me alive until we're back on the Edwina Thomas. Listen to me, James. You are right. We should have been rescued by now. That means there's some kind of obstacle. We need to save the suit air in case we do have to force that door open to get to the Basilica.
"So, what we're going to do is this: I'm taking this helmet off--don't fight with me, James. I'm the expert--I'm taking this helmet off and testing the air. If I'm not sick or turning blue in five minutes, you take yours off, too. I'll hand the helmet to you. You'll be ready to put it back on. Got it?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," she lied. "Ready?"
He shuffled over to her and held out his hands. "Ready."
He took a deep breath. Come on, girl. "You remember how to put the helmet on?"
"You trained me," he said, then added. "You want me to go first?"
"No. My idea. I'm first." She took some deep breaths as if steeling herself for a plunge into a cold deep lake. Then with a sudden yank, she twisted the seal and yanked her helmet off.
The cold thin air hit her like icy water and she gasped, then coughed.
"Rita!" his voice came loud through her earpiece.
"I'm OK! I'm OK! It's just cold!" her breath came out in little clouds and she could feel the sweat in her hair turn to ice. "It's about 8 degrees"--she stopped to cough as the sharp chill seared her lungs. The humidity's low, too. Brrr!" her teeth were chattering.
"Are you sure?" James was watching her with a new kind of fear.
"Look at my chest."
"The monitors on my chest. How do they read?"
Grimacing at his foolishness, he looked at the monitors. "Everything's good. Heart rate's a little fast."
"Imagine that." She laughed then coughed. "Oh! I'd forgotten what it's like to breathe such cold air! It actually smells very clean, though. There's kind of a…raisin scent…"
"Should I?" he reached for his own helmet.
"Not yet. Start a timer. We'll wait five minutes. I'll bleed a little air from my tank to yours so we'll be even."
"No. keep all your air. If anything happened to you--"
"No heroic posturing, please! You know, I think it's getting warmer."
By the time James took off his helmet, the temperature had risen to 30 degreed Celcius. Soon, it had risen another six.
Rita activated her helmet long enough to graph the readings, then pulled it off. "It's tapering off but nowhere near stabilizing yet. We have to assume that the pod is programmed for the optimum temperature of the species. We'll have to pray that that's something we can handle, too. At the rate it's going, it'll be another hour before we have to depend on our suits to keep us from dying of heat. In the meantime, I am dying of heat." She reached behind her and flipped the suit catch. "Do an emergency evac from the suit and set it up for emergency donning in case we have to get back in them quickly."
"Are you sure?"
But Rita was already bent forward and sliding out of the suittop. "That's better!" she said with forced brightness. James gave an elaborate shrug and followed.
Suddenly, there was an earsplitting schieking and scratching that made both of them slam their hands over their ears.
"What is that?!" James shouted.
"How should I know! We must have triggered an alarm!"
"What? Why now?"
"I don't know! Maybe it picked up our life signs with the suits off--"
"Look!" James pointed to a hologram that appeared in a corner. "Quick! It's showing us what to do!"
Had he gone insane? "Great! Do you speak alien?"
"Well, neither do I!"
The screeching continued, loud and insistent, tearing at the few nerves she had left.
"But it's showing you what to do!"
Me? Showing me?! "James would you think for a minute! We don't know what it's showing us. We don't even know if they see in our visual spectrum! Even if they do, are these the instructions for a course change or a hibernation sequence? And even if we knew, they've got six arms!"
"No! I can't! I don't know what to do! I'm not a saint! I'm not even--" Suddenly the sobs ripped from her and she grabbed her stomach and her face screwed up with pain. "I'm not even a good nun!"
Suddenly, the holo disappeared and the shrieking ceased. There was no sound but her sobs.
That's it. The rest would give the ending away.
So, NaNo is won and now the real work begins. Time to fill up holes, clean up words, look up tech and truly forge this bunch of glorious fun into something that I hope will one day sit proudly on the bookshelves. Hope you enjoyed sharing my race with me. I'll let you know how the rest of the marathon goes.
Final NaNo Count:
Words written (per MS Word): 50,336
Words written (per NaNo counter): 50,010
Places I need better words: 96
Holes I need to fill: 22
Tech I need to write: 35
Characters, places that need names: 24