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Fur Feathers Scales and Stars - 2.5

by ExOmelas


A/N: Hi everyone, I realise this is a bit longer than usual, so if you'd like me to cut it into sections I can try. The issue is that the natural split is into 800ish and 1300ish, which is a bit lop-sided.

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   The drill site wasn’t far off something Margo imagined could have been found on Earth. She knew the humans regularly bored down into the Earth’s crust, searching for the fuel that preserved their lives. Well, operations had been scaled back in recent years, she supposed. The impossibility of cobbling together enough fuel for an entire ‘Space Team’ had kickstarted a rather more earnest search for renewable energy than had been taking place up to that point.

Margo had had a lot of time to read about Earth’s history while floating along through space.

What the Aeralins were searching for, Dreko had explained, was a substance called Nokyemin. Nokyemin was apparently a dull grey powder that, when mixed properly, could support structures hundreds of times its own mass. Well, that explained the astronomically high ceilings of the palace, Margo figured. Without Nokyemin, they’d be unable to support such imposing buildings without quadrupling – or worse – their expense.

“Dr. Whipple?” The young attendant’s voice came from the doorway of the ward.

Margo shook her head and blinked rapidly a couple of times. It didn’t matter why the drill was here, she told herself. It was – and there had been an accident, with casualties. She looked over to the doorway.

“Yes, Aliner?”

Aliner was about fifteen Human-Years old and her confidence around this tense, serious industrial site was rarely high.

“It’s Dr. Hugel’s wife, Doctor,” she said, her voice high but steady enough. “He’s asked if you’ll come see her again.”

Margo rolled her eyes. “How did you manage to end up with a hypochondriac for a chief doctor?”

Aliner’s eyebrows shot up, then she drew them tightly back down and cleared her throat.

“He said to say it was urgent,” Aliner said.

Margo sighed and nodded. “Of course, yes. Tell him I’ll be there as soon as I’ve checked on Jenopti’s ribs.”

Aliner nodded and hurried off down the corridor as fast as she dared with the shadow of gravity surges looming over her. Margo thought it was at the very least odd that there hadn’t been a single surge since they got here. They’d been lured into traps in the past … They’d always got out of them, of course. But they hadn’t been fun experiences. She would send a message to McCaw or Dart later, remind them to keep on guard around the Archess. She, however, had work to do.

The ward was much like the one on board the ship. The only difference – other than the ceilings – was that where the wall’s ceramic tiles faded away, underneath you could see that the walls were made of stone. Still, the Aeralins, as Dreko had explained was how the planet’s dominant species referred to themselves, had managed to keep the temperature comfortably warm without being stuffy. Margo was impressed.

“How’re the ribs, Jeno?” Margo asked as she approached his bed.

He tried to shrug then winced.

“Not great.” He sighed.

Jeno had been near to but not quite underneath the main collapse of the cave-in. A lump of stone had bounced out of the carnage and glanced his ribs. More importantly, however, his proximity meant that he’d watched it all happen, watched the stone and beams crash down on the heads of his friends. Well, it had happened in front of him. How much he’d been able to process properly in the short time before he passed out was another matter altogether. Margo had noticed him twitching in his sleep a couple of times and was more worried about what was going through his mind than what he was doing to his stitches.

“I’m just glad we haven’t had any gravity surges since you lot got here,” he said. Once side of his mouth tugged upwards as he spoke. “It’s bloody embarrassing.”

Margo snorted. “Sure, and you’d also have re-cracked your ribs as you smashed into the ceiling. That would have been embarrassing … It is dangerous though, right? I mean, that’s what caused the cave-in?”

“Almost certainly,” Jeno agreed. “And apparently we have you to thank for their halt.”

Margo spluttered and stared at him. Then she took a deep breath and her brow sunk into an even deeper frown. “What are you on about, Jeno?”

Jeno grinned. “My cousin, Reka, she works in the palace. She says your captain’s been ranting about some space-bumblebee trying to keep him alive so he can get revenge or something.”

Margo hung her head and sighed. “Great, just great.”

Jeno seemed fine, and rather sleepy, for the moment, so Margo figured it was time to go see Mrs. Hugel. She glanced around the patients as she left and everyone seemed fine, or at least stable. With a deep breath, she set off down the corridor to Dr. Hugel’s private suite, where his wife, Elia, was being treated.

“It was right there, just in front of me.” Elia Hugel started to reach her hand out but then shook her head out and dropped it back to her side. She shuddered and continued, “I’ve never seen something so dull but … sparkly … at the same time. Look, I’ve been working on this site for the past nine years. I know what Nokyemin looks like and that was not it. But it somehow … was. I’m sorry, Dr. Whipple, but I don’t know how to describe this.”

“No, no, that’s fine,” Margo said. Her eyes were wide and she was staring at a random point in space about a foot above Elia. “I’m glad you’ve remembered anything with all the dust in your lungs.”

‘Hypochondriac’ may have been a stretch for a description of Dr. Hugel. It was obvious that he knew Elia was in serious danger, and she was, but Margo had just checked on her ten minutes ago. She’d been recovering surprisingly well, having indeed had a vast quantity of dust in her lungs only a couple of days ago. The medical tech around here was incredible, Margo thought, she’d have to have some sort of survey of the equipment before they got back on board.

But far more importantly, she’d just had an idea. A really obvious idea that would have occurred to her hours ago if she hadn’t been distracted by fears of traps or Chip’s crazy ideas, but an idea nonetheless.

“How deep were you drilling?” Margo asked, “I don’t need an exact number, but was it deeper than usual?”

“Yes, quite a lot deeper than usual,” said Elia, “Well, ‘usual’ is becoming a lot deeper all the time anyway, but only recen- Oh. Oh. Oh, God. Oh, holy hell.”

Margo’s eyes narrowed. “What? What, Elia? What are you thinking?”

Elia smiled probably the weakest smile Margo had seen all week, and she’d been treating Visely the snake for most of it.

“Probably much the same thing as you,” Elia said, “That drilling deeper was a seriously bad idea.”

Dr. Hugel, who had listened to this conversation with a gaping mouth, asked, “What do you mean, love?”

“I … I don’t know exactly.” Elia’s eyes roamed about the room as if she was literally searching for an answer. “I’d have to know if the surges are still happening in places where the drilling is continuing but … it’s not ridiculous is it? That drilling too deep could have thrown something out of wack?”

Then an even more horrifying realisation occurred to Margo. “Oh God, I have to convince Chip this has nothing to do with Lezeki before he does something stupid.”

Margo thundered down the corridor, past the ward – hoping that the patients wouldn’t be too worried by her obvious panic – and all the way to the stairwell at the end. Thankfully the door was push to open so she sprang up and shouldered her way through it, then sprang up the stairs three at a time. Three floors up, she screeched to a stop and raised herself up to grab the door handle, threw it open, then dropped back to all fours and kept running.

“Drek!” she shouted, “Dreko! Where are you?”

Assuming he was in the communications room, this seemed the most efficient way to find a way to get through to Chip. A moment later, his lanky black hair popped out of a doorway and his eyebrows shot up into it.

“I’m in Comms!” he called. He was near the end of the corridor, but Margo was almost on him already. He jerked back into the room as she let her jaw hang open to pant.

“I need … to talk … to Chip.” Her legs were shaking as she entered the room and all the attendants at the stations around the room were staring at her. She dragged in a deep breath. “Open a video link with him!”

“Right away, Doctor!” An Aeralin directly across the room from her nodded and started tapping at a keyboard.

Margo didn’t bother to look around and just sprinted the last few feet to where the Aeralin who’d spoken was opening a channel with the palace.

“What’s the matter, Dr. Whipple?” Dreko said from somewhere behind her.

“I don’t know exactly – well, I know what the matter is but I don’t know to what extent it’s actually a matter.” She shook her head. “Oh, it doesn’t matter. I just need to talk to Chip before he does something stupid.”

“Your captain, Doctor?” The Comms Aeralin had raised her eyebrows and stopped typing.

“Yes, my captain,” Margo said, glaring at the keyboard until the Aeralin started typing again. “He’s … going through some stuff.”

“Just do what she says, Pira,” Dreko said, moving up to stand next to Margo.

“Done,” Pira said, stabbing a final key.

Pira glanced up at the screen above them, where an image of a dark room with lots of blinking lights was rapidly coming into focus.

“What is this?” Margo asked.

“It’s the palace basement,” Pira explained, “More specifically, the defence fleet control room. This is the place that controls what scout ships go where.”

Margo gulped. “That cannot be good.”

“What do you think he’s going to do?” Dreko asked.

“I – I don’t know,” Margo said, “Turn it up!”

Pira grabbed the dial and twisted it round and round, until Margo heard a familiar voice dishing out orders. Oh, the days when that was the most comforting sound in the galaxy.

“He’s out here somewhere, this we know,” Chip was saying. He was a little fuzzy on the screen, but Margo could make out his grey-clad form striding around the room. “But we have limited resources and we need to –”

“Chip!” Margo screamed.

Chip sprang into the air and clutched at his head.

“What in God’s name was that?” he yelled, staring at the Aeralin who was manning the phone.

“Dr. Whipple, sir,” the Aeralin replied, “She’s coming from the drill site comms room. On the screen, there, look.”

Chip’s eyes met Margo’s over the webcam and he was frowning.

“Mute the screen,” said Chip. “I need to concentrate.”

Margo felt like a stone had just been thrown at her chest, like she was discovering how Jenopti felt when the walls of the mine came crumbling down around him. But there was a red cross over a speaker symbol in the top-right corner of the screen, and there was nothing she could do about it.

“Dr. Whipple!”

Margo sighed and turned round to face Aliner, who was once again standing in a doorway behind her.

“What’s the matter, Aliner?” She wished her voice wasn’t quite so impatient – that wasn’t going to improve the girl’s confidence, but this was not a good time.

“Dr. Hugel sent me,” she said, panting slightly. “A report came through from the Kil-Sec drill site – it’s about a hundred and fifty miles away. The surging is continuing in all the sites over there, as is the drilling. Except for one. There was a problem with the drill – just a normal overheating malfunction – that meant drilling had to stop at the Retan site. The surging has stopped in the couple of miles round there too. It’s the drill, Doctor.”

“Oh God,” Margo said, “Chip!”

Her eyes were fixed on the fuzzy little version of him on the screen above, but she could see him clear as day. She’d seen him every day for the past three years, since this had all begun. She had spoken to him, advised him. Most days of her life she would have called him one of her best friends. He was her best friend, no matter what was—

What the hell was that? There was something moving in the shadows beside him, coming towards him round the side of a console. She screamed his name again, to warn him, to just please get through to him.

But he couldn’t hear her. Worse, he wasn’t listening.


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Sun May 28, 2017 7:32 pm
Rydia wrote a review...



Specifics

1.

The impossibility of cobbling together enough fuel for an entire ‘Space Team’ had kickstarted a rather more earnest search for renewable energy than had been taking place up to that point.
This is a really run on sentence and I think it would be much better to end after 'energy'.

2.
Margo had had a lot of time to read about Earth’s history while floating along through space.
Try to avoid the double had whenever you can because it's awkward. This could become 'Floating through space had left Margo a lot of time to read about Earth's history.' which places the emphasis on the reading about history rather than floating through space too and makes it a less passive sentence.

3.
Aliner was about fifteen Human-Years old and her confidence around this tense, serious industrial site was rarely high.
Remember, you're writing from Margo's perspective so she wouldn't know Aliner well eough to make this observation. It could instead be said that her confidence doesn't seem to be high.

4. It seems unfair of Margo to call the doctor a hypochondriac when he's worried about his wife. When it's family, people are always more concerned tha they would normally be and this makes me dislike Margo. Which is odd because until now she has been overly compassionate if anything. She didn't even say anything when she knew the bugs were planning something bad so it's weird she'd now openly criticise someone.

5.
“Not great.” He sighed.
This should be a comma and a lower case h.

6.
“It was right there, just in front of me.” Elia Hugel started to reach her hand out but then shook her head out and dropped it back to her side.


7. I've realised I've reviewed this chapter before, but I think you've changed some things and I didn't know the characters then so I'll continue anyway!

8. It seems really out of character for Chip to ask for Margo to be muted when we know he trusts and respects her. I think instead the comms system should be only working one way so Margo can't be heard even at the start.

Overall

Lots of exciting things here and some good advancement but I think you need to make the characters a little more consistent. I've not much else to say since I've covered this chapter before!

~Heather




ExOmelas says...


Awesome, will fix the nit-picks :) (and will try and fix the consistency stuff on a more macro level)



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Sun Apr 30, 2017 6:33 pm
MissGangamash wrote a review...



Hello and Happy Review Day!

Okay, so I can't find any glaring nitpicks so yay on that!

Right, onto the story. I like the sense of unease and danger in this chapter. I felt it building up through and Margo had come to her realisation. I think your characters are becoming more fleshed out now. At first I felt like they were a bit... flaky? Two dimensional? I'm not really sure how to explain it. There wasn't really much that made them... them. They seemed to be just characters going through the motions. But now I feel Chip is becoming more prominent and his paranoia is evident. I feel like he feels he needs to prove his worth so he is creating a battle for him to win when there isn't one.

I also felt sorry for Margo when Chip cut her off. She felt like he valued her opinion and then he just completely ignored her :(

Good chapter!




ExOmelas says...


I'm glad they're getting more depth to them. There's quite a lot of them and there was so much going on that it was hard to get right down to the character development. Thanks for the review :)



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Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:09 pm
RippleGylf wrote a review...



Hello! Ripple here. :D Hope you're having a wonderful review day. ;)

As a disclaimer, I haven't read the rest of it yet, so I don't have any context as far as characters and plot are concerned.

The drill site wasn’t far off something Margo imagined could have been found on Earth. She knew the humans regularly bored down into the Earth’s crust, searching for the fuel that preserved their lives. Well, operations had been scaled back in recent years, she supposed. The impossibility of cobbling together enough fuel for an entire ‘Space Team’ had kickstarted a rather more earnest search for renewable energy than had been taking place up to that point.

Margo had had a lot of time to read about Earth’s history while floating along through space.

I think you successfully offset the lump of explanation with the short second paragraph in a humorous manner. So, excellent job there. :D However, I think that you should try to avoid situations where you have to write "had had." While grammatically correct, it feels odd to read. Try rewording it a bit.
Aliner nodded and hurried off down the corridor as fast as she dared with the shadow of gravity surges looming over her. Margo thought it was at the very least odd that there hadn’t been a single surge since they got here. They’d been lured into traps in the past … They’d always got out of them, of course. But they hadn’t been fun experiences. She would send a message to McCaw or Dart later, remind them to keep on guard around the Archess. She, however, had work to do.

You have a couple instances here where you start sentences with the exact same word consecutively. While this can occasionally be used to great affect, it seems purposeless. Changing that could help it flow better.

The rest of the work can be a bit exposition-heavy at times, but otherwise it's really well-written. I would love to read the rest of it! It seems like an intriguing sci-fi piece. Keep writing!




ExOmelas says...


Thanks for the review :) Not entirely sure what you mean by exposition? Is that the same as explanation?



RippleGylf says...


Yep. Sorry for the confusion.



ExOmelas says...


Okay, cool. A reviewer below has commented about that too. Definitely something I want to work on.



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Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:55 pm
Rydia wrote a review...



Hi, thought I'd take a look at this! I've not read any of the previous parts so if you feel like I mention something which you've covered in another chapter, please feel free to ignore me!

Specifics

1. The first paragraph is confusing! This could be because it follows on from the end of the last chapter but it feels disjointed and I'm not sure why it's relevant that operations had been scaled back in recent years? How does this relate to the drill site looking like a human one and is it earth operations which have scaled back or just ones on this planet?

2.

Margo had had a lot of time to read about Earth’s history while floating along through space.
I'd always advise avoiding that awkward had had. Here you can do so by flipping the sentence to something like, 'Floating along through space had left Margo with a lot of time to read about Earths history'. I think you could also cut out 'along' to make the sentence snappier.

3.
Aliner was about fifteen Human-Years old and her confidence around this tense, serious industrial site was rarely high.
I'm not sure why 'Human-Years' is capitalised and is this Aliner's confidence which isn't high or Margo's? It feels like Aliner's but it's a tad awkward to suddenly jump into her head for a seemingly unimportant piece of information - you could instead describe from Margo's point of view that she seems on edge and have Margo presume that she's worried something else will go wrong.

4.
They’d been lured into traps in the past … They’d they'd always got out of them, of course.


5.
Still, the Aeralins, as Dreko had explained was how the planet’s dominant species referred to themselves, had managed to keep the temperature comfortably warm without being stuffy. Margo was impressed.
That's a bulky sentence and I had to start trying to read it a few times before I got all the way through because I stumbled with the comma placement. I think maybe it should be something like:

Still, the planet's dominant species, the Aeralins (or so they referred to themselves), had managed to keep...

Does it matter that Dreko was the one who explained their name to her?

6.
“Not great.” He sighed.
This dialogue tag is a touch awkward. It should either be - "Not great," he sighed. - or - "Not great." He let out a heavy sigh.

If you add a little extra description to the action then the reader won't see it as a badly written dialogue tag.

7.
“I’m just glad we haven’t had any gravity surges since you lot got here,” he said. Once One side of his mouth tugged upwards as he spoke. “It’s bloody embarrassing.”


8.
Margo snorted. “Sure, and you’d also have re-cracked your ribs as you smashed into the ceiling. That would have been embarrassing … It it is dangerous though, right? I mean, that’s what caused the cave-in?”


9.
“It was right there, just in front of me.” Elia Hugel started to reach her hand out but then shook her head out and dropped it back to her side.


10.
‘Hypochondriac’ may have been a stretch for a description of Dr. Hugel. It was obvious that he knew Elia was in serious danger, and she was, but Margo had just checked on her ten minutes ago. She’d been recovering surprisingly well, having indeed had a vast quantity of dust in her lungs only a couple of days ago. The medical tech around here was were incredible, Margo thought, she’d have to have some sort of survey of the equipment before they got back on board.
I'm wondering how the medical team being incredible relates to having the equipment surveyed before they'd back on board? That feels disjointed and should probably be broken into two different sentences.

11.
Margo thundered down the corridor, past the ward – hoping that the patients wouldn’t be too worried by her obvious panic – and all the way to the stairwell at the end. Thankfully the door was push to open so she sprang up and shouldered her way through it, then sprang up the stairs six at a time, which was basically an entire flight at a time. Three floors up, she screeched to a stop and raised herself up to grab the door handle, threw it open, then dropped back to all fours and kept running.
Leaping six steps at a time is unrealistic and I feel like it harms your storytelling. Your descriptions are normally really engaging but whenever a reader hits an anomaly like this - something which doesn't fit with the tone - it pushed them out of absorption mode and puts them in questioning mode instead.

12.
“I don’t know exactly – well, I know what the matter is but I don’t know to what extent it’s actually a matter.”
The repetition of matter here feels like it's forced for comical effect. Using the word problem or 'an issue' would be much more natural speech.

Overall

There's a lot of great tension in this piece and I think Margo's a really strong character and the supporting characters have nice lines of dialogue, though I perhaps don't find them particularly interesting or like-able. But they feel realistic and that's good enough to support a strong lead.

I think you've got a easy to read style and you give a good level of information and description without dragging the pace down so nicely done. Every now and then you break the readers immersion by having something which feels off tone - usually something that's a bit too comic during a serious moment - but for the most part it's an engaging read. Keep it up!

~Heather




ExOmelas says...


Thank you :) Good lord I did not realise how many typos this had o.o I'll take a look at this in more detail when I get the chance, so I'll let you know what I end up doing with the nit-picks. The comic moments thing is also interesting, because parts 1.1.-1.4 are almost entirely comic. This and the next chapter are sort of this level, then 4 onwards is much more straight up. I think I prefer it that way, so I'm re-tooling chapter 1 a bit. I'll take a look at the humour in here and see what I can do with it. I still want it to be a friendly story, but you're definitely right about needing to improve my timing of moments like that.

Thanks again :)



Rydia says...


No problem, I'm glad it was helpful :)



ExOmelas says...


Oh christ, just read that first paragraph again... ugh I forgot how much I changed my mind while writing this story. So much stuff needs updated *slogs through* (they know longer know anywhere near as much about the humans so I need to slip info in less)



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Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:09 am
Dracula wrote a review...



Hey, Biscuits! Hmm, right now, my preference is for the old title. I think it matched the sci-fi, out-of-this-world-weird style of the story a little more. Who knows, though, maybe my opinion will change as I progress with the story. And maybe you'll think of another title later on too. Or maybe you'll stick with this- either way is fine and to you. :D

Nokyemin was apparently a dull grey powder that, when mixed properly, could support structures hundreds of times its own mass. Well, that explained the astronomically high ceilings of the palace, Margo figured.
Your introduction to this new substance was great. Informative but not too long. You also related it to the plot (high ceilings) rather than giving standalone info, which is always a bore.

“How’re the ribs, Jeno?” Margo asked as she approached his bed.
Margo comes across to me as a caring mother with lots of things on her mind. Like a mother with two school-aged children and two babies, constantly being pulled between school runs, soccer games, nappy changes and screaming kids, while at the same time trying to update her personal blog and save time to cook dinner. Yet somehow she manages to juggle it all.

“Yes, quite a lot deeper,” said Elia, “Well, usual is becoming a lot deeper, but only recen- Oh. Oh. Oh, God. Oh, holy hell.”
Do you mean 'the usual' is becoming deeper? Usual by itself doesn't make sense to me. Also, I like the way you showed Elia's sudden realisation. The dialogue says it all, no description needed. :D

“Oh God,” Margo said, “Chip!”
Reading this scene, my pace picked up so much. I was reading like BAM BAM BAM AHHH BAM BAM my pace was so fast. :P That sounds weird in text but in my head it describes how I was reading perfectly. XD Basically, the situation is desperate and you've made that loud and clear.

But he couldn’t hear her. Worse, he wasn’t listening.
Uh oh. I love Chip! Don't let anything bad happen... or do if it helps the plot development... but... ugh... poor Chip.

This was another great chapter. I think the length is fine, it took me no more than twenty minutes to read through, which is a good length for a chapter. Keep letting me know when new chapters come out, please.




ExOmelas says...


Wow you are really fast at responding O.O Yeah...I can't actually remember what the "usual" meant. I think I meant that they were digging deeper than usual, but that usual had been getting deeper and deeper for a while... I'll figure it out.

Thanks for the review! :D




Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
— Albert Einstein