Aug 12 2011

Salazaris’ Review Forum

Published by at 11:20 pm under Review Forums

Salazaris is working on The Deeping Space.  When the son of a world-famous ecologist gets lost in the forbidding jungle, he finds himself on the rim of a civilization that has existed in subterranean silence for nearly a thousand years. His arrival signals the beginning of an imminent war against the oppressive government whose iron grip has held the citizens bound within the confines of a staged psychological experiment. Risking everything for a people who believe him to be a traitor, he must win a war that will save the citizens, and himself, from eternal subjugation.

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Salazaris’ Review Forum”

  1. Salazarison 21 Aug 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Chapter 1: Rough Draft

    In the dark I lay restless, watching the lightning flash against the silhouette of my father’s body. He was hunched against the metal wall of the cargo hold, knees to his chest, head hanging drooped. In the sporadic pulses of light I watched his fingers quiver nervously as he twirled his wedding band around and around. His eyes were closed but his mouth moved rapidly, lost in a state of deep concentration. His body was here but his mind was far, far away.
    We were in the cavernous belly of a shuttle hurtling endlessly through a dark night whose tranquility was shattered by thunderheads thick with rain. The shuttle flew its computed course high above the jungle, thousands of miles from home. I lay wrapped in a thin blanket, my head resting on my boots, on cold metal floor that barely muted the mechanical whine of the engines. The rest of the cargo bay was filled with scientists and soldiers hunkered down between towering heaps of scientific equipment and supplies. Men sent at the single request of my father.
    The shuttle rocked in the turbulence. Somewhere in the back, chains rattled. I lay silent, feigning sleep, puzzling over my father’s state. I do not want him to see me watching.
    I am the first and last child that my father bore. I have grown up under his watchful gaze, my life whittled and chafed by his designs. He is a brilliant man, one of the world’s leading ecologists, who pioneered the theories that gave sustainability to the Mars colonies. His work continues daily and long into the nights. His mind, I believe, has begun to whither. My mother’s death was the initiation of 19 long years of pain. In my heart I carry the burden of his struggles. 19 years ago, there were complications during my birth. I survived. My mother died.
    I don’t suppose that I will ever forgive myself for her death. I cannot forget the nights when I have laid awake listening to his bellows echo in our small home. Though I have always loved him, I sometimes wonder if deep within he wishes I had never been born.
    A blast of thunder shakes me from my thoughts. The shuttle’s engines struggle to match the force of the wind and balance the wings as it slices through the rain clouds with steady course. It might as well be a submarine for all the water here in the sky.
    Somebody coughs in the dark. My father jerks, his eyes scanning the hold. He stands up carefully and staggers towards the cockpit. I shut my eyes until the door closes and then look back one more time. I do not think he will not sleep this night. I lay awake for another hour before allowing my mind to rest.

    I awaken to the jarring sounds of the shuttle preparing to land. Daylight streams in through the windows, the storm having subsided at last. The cargo hold is filled with activity as soldiers strap down any loose items and ready themselves for the mission ahead. The scientists aid in the preparation of the supplies and flock to help carry the most fragile equipment. I find my father standing against the door to the cabin, holding a cup of coffee and surveying the scene.
    “Early to bed, early to rise, Damien,” he tells me as I approach. “It’s a thing you should learn.”
    His gaze strikes me sharply and steadily.
    “I can afford to relax a little bit, can’t I?” I ask, yawning.
    “There will be little time to relax in the next few days, even for you,” he says.
    “I think you need to tell that to Seth,” I say, noticing my friend fast asleep in a pile of large packs. “Should I get him up?”
    “If you don’t they might put him in a drop crate. Might be fun to watch, I guess,” he says before sipping his coffee.
    I laugh and make my way over to my companion. Seth Folson is the closest thing I have to a best friend. He’s a brute. Larger than most men twice his age, his fists can crush watermelons. His diet matches that of a small third world country, and he has been known to pull cars out of the way to get better parking spots.
    That was a joke, kinda.
    I give him a shake with my foot. He swipes the air with a big paw and turns over.
    “Get up, man,” I shout above the din. He mumbles something incoherent.
    “Let’s go big shot. Today’s the day you signed up for!”
    Seth’s father is a big businessman back in the States who, upon hearing of the expedition, offered to fund the whole deal. He loves to put his name all over my father’s work. Seth and I have come during the holiday break to travel with my father and study alongside him before we return to National University 8. He had insisted, repeatedly, that we go.
    “It’s hard enough to sleep even without you in my head,” he groans.
    We walk back across the cargo hold and enter the cockpit. I shut the door and the mayhem behind me. In here, the sound is muted. The temperature is carefully controlled. Five seats face a panel of controls and the windows to the world beyond. There are surprisingly few switches that the pilots can actually use; most of the driving is done by computer. A deep swath of jungle lies far beneath the ship. Clear sky clashes with the foggy green hills on the horizons edge. We have slowed to a steady speed. The engines push us up just as much as they do forward.
    Seth and I grab warm drinks and eat the dry rations given for breakfast. Two navigators pore over maps and flight data across the room. Our destination is a small research base located here in the rainforest, a karst landscape filled with canyons and caves that twist deep into the earth. The catch that almost prevented the mission was that the base is located in the middle of foreign soil, in a region known to be a hive of guerilla warfare. My father had desperately asked that we try anyway. The government hesitantly agreed.
    At that moment he bursts into the room, startling one of the pilots.
    “Cargo secure, captain, “ he says assertively, “all personnel are prepared for landing.”
    “Landing site determined, coordinates entered, awaiting your command, sir,” replies the other of the two pilots.
    “Let’s go boys,” my father says coolly as he straps himself to a chair. Seth and I sit down and buckle in.
    “Check one, check two, preparing for landing maneuver,” barks the pilot.
    “When you are ready, captain,” my father says. The pilot presses the screen of his interface.
    The engines fall silent and the ship slowly sinks into a nosedive. My eyes are pressed into my skull, my stomach in the vicinity of my throat. The world spins rapidly as we plummet straight down. Seth is yelling in exhilaration. Stars begin to appear in my vision. My heart is racing, my mind screaming for release.
    I close my eyes and suffer the fall.
    Suddenly the engines refire, the spinning stops and the ship swings into a tight arc. I am pulled against my straps, thankful for their securing hold. The canopy appears out the window, and within moments the terrifying descent is over. The ship floats over the concrete slab that used to be a runway. With a jolt, we land.
    Out the window I see a concrete building in ruins, the vegetation threatening to reclaim its land. A flagpole stands crooked over the base. A strange shape hangs limp from its crown. With horror I recognize the outline.
    A corpse.

  2. Mynaon 22 Aug 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Awesome! I’ll read chapter one in a bit 🙂

  3. Salazarison 22 Aug 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Ok I’ll read yours!!

  4. Milanon 22 Aug 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Wow! This is great fun to read. You have some lovely turns of phrase that got me hooked early and kept me going to the end. My comments below are very minor things, so don’t dwell on them much…

    on cold metal -> on a cold metal; ‘thunderheads thick with rain’ – nice! whither -> wither; request – perhaps behest? ‘joke, kinda’ – the slang, outside of speech, detracts slightly from the very mature writing and description, but if his personality is meant to be informal you could have more of it to be clear; deep swath of jungle – I’m not sure how I can sense it is deep, perhaps dense? ‘The catch that almost prevented the mission was that’ – convoluted sentence, could perhaps begin by noting the base is on foreign soil, then note it represented an obstacle. Concrete slab used to be a runway – but it seems it still is, since the shuttle landed on it. Or was it a runway for non-VTOL craft?

    The pilot’s dialogue seems a little mechanical, perhaps it could have a little personality – how does he say the things he says? Seth’s complicated relationship with his father bodes well for the complexity of the plot. Other bits and bobs – I am not sure yet whether we’re on earth or some sort of terraformed Mars. We’re thousands of miles from home, so I perhaps we’re still on Earth. I’m not sure how the father is both brilliant and withered-over-19-years. But a nice way to introduce the protagonist’s age.

    Hope all that doesn’t sound too picky and all over the place. I enjoyed it very much and I am definitely looking forward to more.

  5. Grenacon 23 Aug 2011 at 12:23 am

    Hah, I really love this chapter. I like the hinting at Damien’s relationship with his father. Your manner of writing is something I can easily be drawn into.

    Few minor spelling errors that Milan has already covered and that’s pretty much it. There’s nothing I can find to crit really, I’m sorry if this comment was useless UAU;

    Eagerly awaiting more 🙂

  6. Salazarison 23 Aug 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Thanks Milan and Grenac. Changes made. Great suggestions. My convoluted paragraphs are a bit clearer… I hope.

    Welcome to part 2.

    “Good God,” mutters the captain, “what have they done?”
    My father sits silently, stroking his thinning hair.
    “It’s… deserted.” Seth gapes.
    “Not deserted, destroyed.” I say in awe.
    Several hangers lay in ruin, hulls of metal pocketed by scars. The jungle looms dark and thick over the edges of the cracked runway, as if hungry to shatter the stones. A feeling of dread creeps up within me. I bite my lip in unease.
    We rise from our seats and silently enter the cargo hold. The soldiers crowd the windows, alive with hushed whispers. They stand at silent attention when their commanding officer steps into the room.
    “Gentlemen, this is enemy territory.”
    He pauses for affect, letting the words sink in slowly.
    “Reports of militant action have been, needless to say, confirmed. When we exit the shuttle, we are on high alert. Expect the enemy at all times. Your duty is to protect Dr. Clay and his team as they retrieve their highly important data.”
    He glances sharply at Seth and me before continuing.
    “Due to the unexpected state of the base, headquarters as well as bunking will remain here, on the shuttle. All other procedures will be carried out as normal.”
    The crowd murmurs. We had hoped to sleep outside of this metal cage.
    “Remember, soldiers,” the captain continues, “our efforts will be spent on getting the necessary data, and getting out of here quietly. Carry on.”
    The soldiers return to their work, voices echoing at a dull roar. I puzzle over the captain’s speech, thinking that his last words were directed more at us than the soldiers. Getting out of here? Is he really that nervous?
    With a groan the bay doors open, and several armed soldiers leap onto the runway and disappear into the forest. The huge pallets of equipment are carefully slid into position for unloading.
    “You two,” my father speaks softly as he addresses Seth and me, “stay close at all times.”
    He pats me on the shoulder and strides away to direct traffic. I can’t help but feel resentment towards this command. We are almost adults, after all. Seth voices my complaints.
    “I didn’t come here to be babied,” he says to me. “I came to brave some jungle!” He flexes comically and slams his fist into his palm, challenging the wilderness.
    “Calm down sucker, keep you’re head low,” I grin. We walk over to a crew of scientific aids carrying bags of food and join in, lifting the heavy loads.
    Out onto the hot tarmac we walk, pressed against the ground by oppressive heat and stunningly bright light. Arms burning, I make my way to a white tent that has been constructed in a matter of minutes. The air-conditioning has already kicked into gear. After dropping the load onto the growing pile, I step back out into the heat and look for the hanging corpse.
    Just past the nose of the shuttle I see it, limp in humid air. Four soldiers stand beneath it carrying a stretcher. One mounts a ladder to reach the rope. I make my way over to them, attracted by the mystery of the dead man’s fate. Seth calls out to me but I keep walking, transfixed.
    Upon closer inspection I find the corpse is more of a skeleton, hollowed out by time and whatever ungodly creatures feed upon the dead. He is dressed in full military camo, boots and all, but with a crooked skull sun-bleached and dry. The body is cut free and laid down upon the stretcher. Seth appears beside me and watches silently as the soldiers reverently cover the bones. They lift him uniformly and march at a slow step towards the jungle to bury the body. Their boots fall with a steady rhythm.
    After watching for a moment, I make my way back to the campsite that has grown clustered under the shadow of the ship. A tower rises from the ruins of the original headquarters, where I know a sniper will be making his bed. My stomach calls for food, but my thoughts are glued to the dead soldier.
    Poor man. I utter a silent prayer that his soul may be at rest. Unfortunately, his death still cannot explain to me the devastation that has befallen the base. My mind frantically whirls, trying feverishly to interlock the pieces of the puzzle.
    The government spent years channeling money into this place. It was a large part of our military strategies back before I was born. I remember reading about it in school. Why then had they abandoned it in such haste, and without even a thought for the defending troops? That part had not been included in the books.
    What could have led to the withdrawal of a decade of military occupation? Surely not the guerilla armies, they had not come to power until a few years ago. I glance at the dark forest, wary of the dangers that lurk in its thick shadows. What could have changed?
    I stop by the mess hall and grab a meal before making my way back to the shuttle. As I clamber up the ramps, I am relieved to find the cargo bay largely empty. There is a computer in the cabin that I desperately want to use. It’s part of the shuttle’s controls. Strictly off-limits. I creep around the soldiers’ bags, and lay my food down on a crate. When the coast is clear, I slip inside the cabin and press the door shut.
    After checking to make sure no one is lurking in the pilot chairs, I slide down into the seat facing the monitor. Typing quickly, my pulse pumping hard, I enter the ship’s computers.
    My fingers fly across the keyboard, information streaming almost faster than I can read. I hunt for clues about the occupation that occurred do many years ago. Nothing strikes me as significant. I browse the war, the withdrawal.
    Nothing but mainstream headlines, like Military Tactics Shift, in popular newspapers.
    I take a deep breath and shift my own tactics, searching instead for the beginning. I find a news brief about a team of geologists who explored the site and admired its “record-breaking cave entrances” and “diverse bat population.” After that, the next update is just America Declares War and an article about the occupation.
    Puzzled over this new finding, I probe further. The articles describe the events connected to the battles and political debates at home. I follow a link to some sort of government website. Suddenly, the screen flashes black and a new window appears.

    ‘Welcome back, Dr. Clay’ it reads in simple text.

    I gasp. Then, just as suddenly, my heart sinks.

    I’m being watched.

  7. Crystalon 23 Aug 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Sorry; I meant do do a review earlier, but I lost track of time. Expect one tomorrow.
    (But, from what I read so far, it looks really good.)

  8. Milanon 23 Aug 2011 at 9:06 pm

    More great stuff! This section has settled down quickly. You have some great phrases. Still don’t know what this base is for, I wonder how many more sections you’ll be teasing me! Here’s some more wall-of-text edits, feel free to add paragraphs at each semicolon 🙂

    ‘“It’s… deserted.” Seth gapes.’ – with the period after the sentence, it seems he gapes after he spoke; ‘“Not deserted, destroyed.” I say in awe.’ – similar – perhaps should be a comma; ‘pocketed by scars’ – perhaps ‘pocked’; ‘hungry to shatter the stones’ – more great mood, although I don’t immediately connect stones wih cement; ‘pauses for affect’ -> effect. ‘letting the words sink in slowly’ – redundant, but perhaps you mean he speaks the words slowly (which could immediately follow the dialogue); ‘With a groan the bay doors open, and several armed soldiers leap onto the runway and disappear’ – possibly a run-on sentence, maybe break at the first ‘and’; ‘crew of scientific aids’ – aides; ‘Surely not the guerilla armies, they had not come to power until a few years ago.’ – I imagine an army in power could move fairly quickly, days not years?; ‘It’s part of the shuttle’s controls.’ – perhaps ‘It is’; ‘occurred do’ – so; ‘Puzzled over this new finding’ – but it seems he is just finding historical info that he had expected; ‘‘Welcome back, Dr. Clay’ it reads…’ – comma after Clay. So either the computer thinks he is his father, or he has a doctorate at the age of 19? Did he login as his father?

    Sorry for rambling, this is looking good. Perhaps add some flavour of the guerillas – might they be ruled out as this is not their modus operandi, rather than ruling it out due to the limited years passed? Looking forward to section 3, no rush of course, I’ll keep looking in.

  9. Grenacon 24 Aug 2011 at 11:13 am

    – I think Milan pretty much covered any issues here C:

    This story is really going somewhere interesting. I can’t wait for part 3.

  10. Crystalon 24 Aug 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Yeah, Milan pretty much got everything. One thing that I have to say, though, is that you are awesome at writing descriptions. I can picture everything so clearly!

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