Remember a little while ago how I was talking about needing to change my alien character from a warrior to a refugee? Well it involved doing a ground up rewrite of the start of the book. So now, because it makes me feel like I’ve done something today instead of sitting watching The Umbrella Academy, I’ll give you the old intro followed by the new one. Any feedback at this stage is gratefully received.
The Old One…
Never leave the legion.
As control was lost and system readouts began to fade from the central command console those words set themselves to repeat in Pilot’s head. He and everybody else around him had always been told that you flew alongside all the others until either victory had been achieved or death had come for you. You did not leave the legion.
Pilot had lined up alongside near a thousand others in a battle formation. The gargantuan battlecruisers of the enemy had floated into view and the command had come through to remain firm. A huge ray had burst out, carved its way through the black space and torn through half of the ships positioned to Pilot’s side. For the first time in his entire life Pilot had felt what he had been told was fear. As a vast section of other ships had burnt out and fell from view he had taken the opportunity to flee. He had no idea where he was going just as long as it was far away from this battle.
He hadn’t got too far until the garbled messages from his command unit began. He’d only got slightly further when they’d cut his engine and life support. If the enemy didn’t kill you then they’d make sure they did the job themselves. He clicked on every single part of the panel in front of him with his white, plated fingers but nothing was operational. He was falling though space at a dizzying rate, revolving, twisting and aimless until he felt the entire ship sink in a constant direction.
He was falling rapidly towards an unknown planet. Checking the viewfinder only gave a blurred image of various shades of blue and green merging together rapidly. The smooth, shining walls on the inside of the craft began to glow with the intense heat of entering this atmosphere. Parts of the ship began to smoke and fizzle. Pilot gripped into the flight controls to ready himself as he tried to get a better view of outside.
There seemed to be only one sun here, it was currently moving towards the other side of the planet. There were vast stretches of blue with great carved out sections of what he assumed was land. Pilot thought of himself as quite fortunate, the chances of him hitting liquid were good. What he didn’t know was if it was going to be shallow or even poisonous yet.
He was close enough now to see small dots of light gathered in small bundles across the land. His path led straight towards a small chunk of land separate from the rest. As his descent gained pace he could see that he’d be just about avoiding the larger collections instead nearly hitting one of the much smaller ones. He gripped tighter to the steering column, as he did so his skin began to crack. Even before impact it seemed his body might not make it. An almost deafening whistling noise echoes around the cockpit as the air rushed past the out shell. Pilot closed his eyes and wished he’d just stayed home instead of counting his last moments before careering into the surface of some distant planet.
With a deep thud the ship plunged through the liquid surface. Pilot was flung headlong across the entire cockpit, landing in a heap at the other side. The intense heat was quickly replaced by angry bubbles that hissed along the hull. The descent slowed as the ship floated down onto the surface before bobbing to a gentle stop at the bottom.
Pilot picked himself up. One of his arms had shattered almost completely in the crash landing. It was still on the floor on the other side of the ship twisting and moving along the floor before finally curling up. Pilot wondered if he would be able to find another body on this planet, perhaps one more suitable for the environment he found himself in.
Just as he was about to enjoy still being alive for now he heard the first drips of liquid seep through the front viewfinder.
And now the new one.
The first missiles came down after the third sun had set. The glass towers were the first to fall as once great symbols of the home world came raining down to the ground below. Both of the moons had been smothered in the thick, grey smoke that now spiralled into the air. The screams of those crushed underneath the piles of rubble were near ear piercing now. There had been no warning of such an attack, no advanced word from the Elders that this would be the fate of so many. For the first time in many memories, they had been directly attacked and with great, relentless force.
Pilot was terrified.
The ground below his feet shook with the impact of another missile. They were landing all around him, stopping for a few seconds and then using their built-in drill heads to burrow further into the dirt. The whirring noises joined together in an orchestra of destruction. As the smaller buildings began to crumple Pilot thought of his duty. He was supposed to find the enemy and make sure they were taken without raising suspicion. This had served them well for centuries but now, as the destroyers came fully into view over the horizon, it would be far too late. Stepping in front of any of them now would result in a very instant death.
So Pilot ran.
His large frame clumped along the bright blue stone pathways through the city. He could now feel the heat on the back of his stone neck. A short distance side he saw another like him who had taken a smaller body. The blue stones were moving around the surface of their skin at speed, trying to keep the new vessel regulated in the panic. Another missile came hurtling from above directly on top of them. They vanished into a cloud of dust and smoke. Pilot accelerated onwards towards the fields. His ship may not be ready, it may have still needed time to align but he needed it now. He needed to get off the home world.
Within minutes he was running through the fields and twisting through right and left turns to get to his sector. Turning his last sharp bend he found in front of him, still with roots in the ground, his ship. It’s sleek, bright white and shell like structure half poked out from the ground. It pulsed and throbbed to itself as the drive fed off the nutrients in the soil. Pilot placed his bone like hands on the smooth surface and the layers began to peel away to reveal the opening.
More bombs thundered down, closer now.
Before Pilot could enter his ship he heard a voice calling him. Even over the booming weapons it still sounded instantly familiar. The Elder had caught him. She stood not far from Pilot wearing the full ceremonial pearl white robe that was now reflecting images of the fires raging around them. The staff, passed down through generations of their people and gnarled more and more with each user, was clutched firmly in her right hand.
“You must stay” she rasped.
Pilot flung himself into the cockpit before the layers sealed again. Pounding his fist onto the control panel charged the drive. He hoped it would take off, he prayed to every deity he had left behind that the ship would lift. The sound of a metal staff being hammered across the hull of his ship from outside rang through the cockpit. It was like being inside a bell.
Then he felt the lift. The drive charged some more as the ship slowly ripped itself away from the field. One by one the roots tethering his craft snapped, each making a metallic popping noise as they did so. The viewfinder opened, giving him an image of outside. The hills in the distance were ablaze with a red mist. The last clank on the hull reverberated as the final root popped. The valleys he played in as a child were swallowed by the dark mists. The towers were now tiny smouldering specks. Pilot gripped onto the controls tightly as he gained altitude, breaking through the cloudy night sky and onwards into the cold space above.
This distance would not do, simply floating around in this system would mean he would be hunted down as sure as the three suns rose every day. The ship had managed lift off but the question in Pilot’s mind had been if it would engage hyperdrive. His hand floated over the console poised for the right moment. As he counted down the timing in his head the ship jolted to one side violently. Looking back he could see that they had located him and were not about to let him leave easily. Another round of cannon fire headed his way, crackling off the hull. The ship started to rotate on its axis, forcing Pilot to stumble backwards and land on the floor. There was no time for any other consideration other than hitting the button and hoping. Pilot hauled himself forwards again, holding out one arm and just about managing to force his huge fist down onto the panel. More cannon fire thumped the ship as the drive whirred into action. Time seemed to accelerate as the screeching noise grew louder and louder until Pilot had to cover his ears with his palms. Then, with an almighty boom, the ship bolted through the warp and was flung into a dark unknown.