New Excerpt – Wreck of the Nebula Dream

When writing my re-imagining of the Titanic disaster, I tried to take the luxuries and appointments of the 1912 ocean liner and put updated versions in my futuristic spaceliner. Titanic boasted a heated swimming pool, in First Class, only the second of its kind anywhere. (The other was on her sister ship Olympic, launched the year before.) For the Nebula Dream’s passengers, since weight and mass aren’t a problem in outer space, I envisioned one entire level of the ship being given over to a re-creation of the beautiful white sandy beach and azure ocean of a resort planet.

In search of exercise, wanting to keep his edge, the hero, Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson, seeks out the beach on his second day. The experience proves to be less – and more – than he was expecting. Here’s the extended excerpt:

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Taking the shortcut directly from the gym to the huge aquatic complex on Level Five, Nick discovered it too was in a partially finished state, lacking a number of the features the Ship had raved about in its holos, but he didn’t care. The main pool area, which took up three quarters of the level, had been designed to imitate a beach on Tahumaroa Two, combining actual soft, white sand and water with a holo­graphic ocean and sky – enough for him, in his present mood.

This area of the ship was more popular with the leisure class of passengers than the gym had been. Maybe Easton should ask for a change of duty, become a lifeguard. Too bad the guy couldn’t swim. Dropping his blue and white SMT towel on the sand, Nick realized the mother and two children from the shuttle were there, busily constructing an elaborate sand castle. Taking off his military issue sweat pants and folding them into a neat square on the towel, Nick noticed a flock of the annoying ‘Lites. They were at the other end of the “beach”, playing some boisterous game,throwing each other into the water as violently as possible.

Oh yeah, the gym rat was definitely wasting his time on Level Four, in the deserted training facility.

Diving expertly under an incoming three foot wave, com­pletely at home in the water, Nick swam out to “sea” until a sonic barrier alerted him he’d reached the end of reality, about to smack into the hologram generator. It wasn’t nearly enough of a workout for him, but Nick was getting used to the Dream’s facilities falling short of his expectations. What do I know, after all? I’ve never traveled on a luxury liner before. And never will again. Doing a somersault in the warm ‘ocean’, he scanned the shore, treading water.

Several of the ‘Lites were chasing each other along the sand. As Nick watched, two of the Inner Sector youths stumbled into the family party, crashing on the sand castle. The young men got up, apologizing to the woman, who was gesturing angrily, upset. The kids went to work rebuilding. Rolling over onto his back, Nick floated on the waves for a minute or two, gazing at the holo sky, thinking it would be more realis­tic with a few birds, maybe some clouds. Had SMT skimped on their artistic design fees to the holo generation firm?

Tiring of the whole thing, Nick dove under the water, coming up stroking smoothly, heading to shore.

He focused in on the beach scene as he swam. Mother still arguing with the  ‘Lites who had so rudely invaded her family’s space. Boy rebuilding sand castle. Where’s the girl? Continuing his swim to shore, he scanned the beach, more as something to do than because he was genuinely concerned. But as he got closer and closer to the shore, and failed to locate the child, he grew uneasy.

There was a lifeguard tower in the center of the beach area, but Nick remembered he hadn’t seen any actual SMT employees on duty when he strolled onto the sand.

Suddenly the woman broke off her argument with the ‘Lites, who scampered away, fleeing to their own party. Panicky, wide eyed, she called out something Nick couldn’t hear and waded into the water up to her knees.

Swearing under his breath, Nick stepped up his pace.

Trying to help his mother, the boy pointed excitedly at the water. He ran to the edge of the waves, grabbing the big teddy bear his sister had been carrying on the shuttle.

Now Nick was stroking full speed, convinced the toddler had indeed ventured into the water. As soon as he was in close enough, he stood, searching for any sign of the child. She’d been wearing a vivid green one piece playsuit; he vaguely remembered noting it as he passed them on his way into the water.

A flicker of color off to the left caught his eye. It took Nick less than thirty seconds to reach the limp toddler, floating unconscious in the gentle waves. The playsuit had evidently been designed to provide some flotation support, but she must have swallowed too much water, or breathed it in.

Nick carried her to the beach in three rapid strides, laying her gently on the damp sand, just above the waterline. “Call the Ship for help,” he yelled as the mother and boy ran toward him. Afraid to waste time waiting for a medteam and their equipment, which could dry her lungs in seconds, he commenced the old fashioned mouth to mouth resuscitation techniques. The child might not have time to wait.

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WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM is available from  SmashwordsAmazon for the kindle and Barnes & Noble for the Nook  at a special 99 cent  price through May.

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