Saturday, July 17, 2010

Return to Titan

The thought occurs that I should not continue foisting my "Goldberg Variations" on #fridayflash readers. There is a risk of annoying readers, not something any writer should do. I'll continue to have the debate with myself about this and, in the meantime, here is another in the series.

Ruth loaded the last transmission from her mother and pressed "Play". Her mother's voice sounded from the speakers.

"Lunar Launch Control, this is TS Zero Zero Five, Goldberg commanding."

Ruth drew her breath in sharply, as she had done every time before, when she saw her mother's drawn face, blood inexpertly cleansed from her right temple.

"Regret to inform result of last system mod/repair failed to meet success criteria."

Ruth shook her head watching her mother's mouth twist in wry humor.

"It was a bust, guys. Ruth, your system re-route nearly did it." Her mother shook her head. "But there was too much damage from the earlier explosion. The remaining couplings couldn't take the strain."

Her mother cleared her throat, flecks of blood appearing at the side of her mouth.

"We're implementing evac plan beta, with some modifications. We can fit almost all the survivors in the backup pod. Someone needs to stay behind — me."

Ruth closed her fists tight, feeling her fingernails digging into her palms.

"Don't listen to the Psych boys, OK? This isn't some 'captain has to go down with her ship' deal. I may be brave, but I'm not foolish."

Her mother paused for breath, clearly fighting pain.

"I have to manually trigger the main engine, what's left of it. That, and the thrusters, will kick the pod into a stable return trajectory. Just pick up my crew. Get them home, OK?"

Ruth looked away as her mother's report was interrupted by a bout of coughing. When she looked again, she could not believe how old her mother looked.

"This transmission will reach you in —" her mother looked away, at some dial or other, "— 78 minutes. By then TS Zero Zero Five will be well on the way to giving Titan a small crater."

Ruth lifted her hand to the screen just as her mother did the same.

"Ruth? Jenna's OK, banged up but OK. And I'm OK too." She smiled. "Just a little more banged up. When you, or your daughters, get to Titan, I'll be here."

Her mother's face resumed its normal controlled self.

"This is TS Zero Zero Five ending transmission. Telemetry will continue to be broadcast for as long as possible. Goldberg out."

Ruth froze the image on the screen. Short, dark hair, shot through with gray. Dark, wide-set eyes. Mouth firm. Almost a mirror-image of herself, these days.

"We'll be there, Mom. Jenna made it back. It took us a while, but we're coming back to Titan."

"Commander Goldberg." The intercom on her desk sounded. Ruth pressed the contact.

"Goldberg here."

"Commander. We rendezvous with Titan within the hour."

"On my way. Goldberg out."


  1. Once again, you tell so much in such a small space, and your characters are so clear and sharp. The relationship between them is rich, even though they're so far apart.

    Now I want to see the rest of the series. :)

  2. This jumped off the page. Immediate empathy for and curiosity about what is happening.

    Have you heard of #tuesdayserial? I don't participate, but many #fridayflash writers do that. If this is a series, you might want to promote it through that one too, find the readership. This deserves to be read.

  3. I love your writing, no matter what you write about. This was a wonderful addition to the series and I would avidly read all of it.

  4. Thank you all so much for reading and commenting. I'm glad you're enjoying the stories.

    @Gracie Glad the relationship resonates. I think that is what I'm exploring with this series, variations on the theme of connection, relationship, separation.

    @Peg I've seen reference to #tuesdayserial, but I'm not sure this qualifies as a true serial. The first one I wrote is certainly the first one (tautology, I know) because to my mind's ear it sounds like Bach'a Aria from the Goldberg Variations. It has the same, slightly, melancholy feel to it.

    @Laura I am as pleased as a cat with two tails to have you say what you did about my writing. Thank you. As to avidly reading all the series, that means I have to, avidly, write it. :-o

  5. Kevin,

    I can't imagine what it would be like to see at transmission like that from my mother...

    You will always be one of my faves. I hope to read this whole series.

  6. Interesting story. I haven't read the other stories in this series, but I was captivated from the first sentence. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  7. Very well written, Kevin. I always enjoy you stuff, you have a easy to read style. I must have missed the earlier stories, and need to go back and read them. There are so many questions I want answered. That's peeking a reader's interest, not annoying them. :)

  8. @Rachel @Jon No worries if you haven't caught the other stories. There's nothing linear about them. It's more "variations on a theme". It works in music. I am not certain how well it might work in writing.

    That said, Raymond Queneau's "Exercises in Style" which was published in 1947 tells a story - 99 times. The idea came to the author after hearing a performance of Bach's The Art of the Fugue (a theme developed through many, many variations).

    I do not know if I am up to either of the above - but the exercise could be interesting.

  9. It took me a while to catch up, but catch up I have. It was well worth it. You characters are engaging and the stories flow so easily. I vote for keeping them alive.

  10. @2Thank you for your very kind comment - now I have to go write the whole series (although, I do have three more pretty much complete).

    @Laurita (biggest, biggest grin) Thank you for saying what you did about my characters. I'm glad they engage the reader as much as they do the writer. Yes, there is more to come.

  11. Love your characters and this installment, my favorite so far :)