The First Chapter
Last month I entered "Rise My Lady" (A story segment) in a competition (and ended up getting second!) and this month I am entering the writing competition again but instead of a segment I had to write the first chapter (between 2 paragraphs and 100 pages long) from the cover of a book I had never read before. I chose a book that I picked up at the book fair a week ago. I have never read anything by that author before...I still haven't (and I have no idea if the book is any good, but it sounds interesting) so here it is. Please tell me what you think of it.
My writing of the first chapter of Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey from only the information on the covers of the book, and my imagination.
“They say it’s green and full of rivers that wind down to a huge body of water that covers most of the planet, it’s called The Sea.”
“Bigger than any of the lakes back home?”
“Very much bigger”
“There are lots of trees too,” the pilot added. “There are forests over rolling hills and air that needs no filtering. It’s a jewel of a planet.”
“It really is a wonder that we are the first colonists.”
The pilot turned and looked at the speaker. “We don’t know that, we only know there are no other intelligent species there, now.”
The officers looked at each other and turned slowly back to look at the pilot’s hard eyes.
“There were others?” one said, his voice quivering.
“We don’t know for sure, but doesn’t it seem strange that such a perfect planet could go uninhabited for so long?”
“Yes,” the officer replied after a pause. “But with three thousand of us we can tackle anything. As you said it is a jewel of a planet.”
“The fact that it is such a jewel is why its uninhabitence is so strange. It is a mighty task we face, to begin a new world on a strange planet. Let us hope there are no unforeseen dangers.”
The ship continued to glide over the planet. A shout came from the aft observatory pod. The time had arrived. Men scurried around the cabin. Gears and controls were set for the entry and decent. With a roar the gigantic spacecraft surged forward and down, the pilot struggled with leavers to maintain the right level for entry. They dived. The ship vibrated and tendrils of blue fire flickered along the hull.
“Grab the port wing stick, we’re sliding. Hold it. Now wait for it and ease off.”
“I know what I’m doing you concentrate on flying.”
“Quiet both of you,” called the captain, “and hold her steady.”
The spaceship tossed like a boat on stormy seas. It bucked again, then settled as they passed down into the clouds.
“We can’t see.”
“Of course we can’t that’s what the instruments are for! Check our altitude,” replied the pilot.
The officers voiced their concern of how high the mountains of Pern were.
“Not this high,” replied the pilot, and under his breath, “let’s hope so anyway.”
Clouds parted and the tree covered hills of Pern came into view. Vistas of blue and green stretched before the eyes of the smiling crew. Spires of rock stretched up towards them, thin and pointed at the top, brown rocks rattled and the forests rustled as the ship disturbed the air high above them. Turquoise lakes and rivers wound off into the distance. The vista was startling in its beauty. One thing really caught the pilot’s eye though, a dark mountain. It towered above the surrounding peaks, black and forbidding. They rapidly drew nearer to it and would soon pass right over.
From the ship he could see down into the mountain’s heart where something that looked like a speck of gold shone. Of course it couldn’t be gold because sun couldn’t reach down that far into the crater and the pinpoint of gold would be very big up close. Whatever glowed down there, shone of its own accord, deep down there in the heart of the sable mountain. Its steep sides fled down into the grassy plain where they would land.
Every viewing screen and window held the new colonists attention as they each caught their first glimpse of the planet that they would now call home. All the stories were proven true; lush growths of trees, and grass covered the land, flowers and plants speckled the plains with splashes of colour. From the height of the ship, the clumps of flowers looked like bright coloured gems resting on the grass. A young man started the cheering and soon the whole ship vibrated with the deafening noise of the new colonists.
Inside the cabin the crew rushed about. The pilot had no need to shout orders as everyone already knew the procedure; they had rehearsed it so often. Still some people were a little flustered now that the time had come for the real thing.
“One of the landing jets won’t unfold properly. I think the entry may have damaged it.”
“Then fix it. Why didn’t we know of this before?” the captain roared. “Is it only that one?”
The crew members looked at one another, and shifted uncomfortably. They had all been too engrossed in the scenery of the planet to see the screens or to notice the warnings.
One braver crew member stepped forwards, “I think more than one is damaged, most of the unfolding mechanisms appear to be shattered.”
“We are about to land; get a move on. Get out there if you have to and put them out yourself.”
Two of the men climbed out the porthole and clipped their harnesses onto the rail. They found that climbing around the outside of a ship while inside a planet’s atmosphere is quite a different matter, to the ease of movement in space that they were used to. Eddying gusts threatened to rip the men off their precarious position, but the two held on with the help of their harnesses. Cold fingers of wind crept down the men’s necks as they edged along under the ship. Pern’s gravity field pulled them down and the wind yanked at them. They struggled to reach the first landing jets. Both men had to pull together to open the cover and unfold the jet.
“Well the mechanism is quite damaged; at least we only need them this once,” shouted one before the wind could whip the words away like a rope blowing out in a gale.
As the men struggled to get the last landing jet out of its hatch which unlike most of the others had stayed intact, the other man said, “Well we get the first experience of Pern air. It is quite perfect, though a little on the windy side.” The men grinned at each other and scrambled back to the hatch and slipped into the calm of the ship.
The two men strode up to the captain and with a salute reported that all the landing jets were out and ready to go. The pilot circled the ship once more while the crew ran over all the checks. Then they were gliding in towards the grass upon which no human foot had trodden for many years. The ship sank faster and faster towards the waving grass.
“Now, power the landing jets, now,” the captain roared over the whistling of the wind. Rumbles and shudders shook the cabin and the crew all wondered if something still wasn’t right with the landing jets. Then they burst into life, most of them, but not enough. The ship slowed it’s decent a little but hit the ground with a mighty crash and cries of the colonists could be heard from all over the ship. They met the ground and flew back up and onwards a little before the second crash jolted them and the ship settled down.
Sighs and a few moans came from almost everyone, from relief, the dropping of tension, or pain. A few legs had not survived the jolting, but surprisingly most damages the ship and its occupants had incurred were minor. They were there on Pern, on solid ground for the first time in many, many months.
The captain let down the main door and he himself took the first step out and inhaled a breath of the sweet Pern air. Then he lifted his hands in the all clear signal and the colonists rushed out surging around him and onto the grass, like waves rushing around a stone. The crew came out last, and joined in the laughter but the two officers couldn’t help but remember the pilots former warning of why they were supposedly the first inhabitants of Pern when it seemed such a hospitable place.