My 8-year-old daughter is taking an IEW writing class as a supplement to her homeschool curriculum. For this her most recent assignment, she was supposed to re-write a story from a selection of Aesop’s Fables according to her own design. In addition, she was supposed to get one of her parents to do the same assignment, to help rusty old out of school folks remember what it’s like to go through the process of writing.
I might have rubbed my hands with glee at that point. “Oooh! A writing assignment? SIGN ME UP.”
My wife was only too relieved to hand this one over to me.
My daughter chose the following story as her subject for the rewrite:
The Good King’s Feast
A good and great king once sent letters to all parts of his kingdom to say that on his birthday he was going to give a feast and a purse full of money to all the poorest persons who would come. So from all parts came poor folks who wanted to share in the king’s good gifts. They came from east, and west, and north, and south. One poor blind man was going slowly along the road, feeling his way, -tap! tap! tap!, with his stick; but of course, as he could not see, he could not go fast, and he feared that he would not be able to reach the palace in time. At last he fell against a lame man. The lame man could only creep a step or two at a time. The lame man was also trying to get to the palace to share in the good king’s gifts. So the blind man said to the lame one, “If you will climb on to my back, you can tell me which way to walk, because you can see, and I can walk fast, so that we may both be in time after all.” And so they did. The king was so pleased when he heard how they had come, that he gave each of them twice as much as he gave to anyone else.
Yesterday afternoon, I sat down to write my three paragraphs. I knew right away I would be turning it into a science fiction story. (Shocker, I know.) I didn’t expect to pound out over 3,000 words.
Now that I have, I’m glad I did. This is a universe that I’ve only just started sketching out, but I like it, and I think I may want to revisit it in a longer story. Until then, I hope you enjoy my 3rd-grade writing assignment: Rendezvous With the King’s Ransom.
The announcement had gone out fleet-wide. The King’s Ransom – the capital ship that served as the central governing body and manufacturing center for the flotilla – was offering supplemental provisions to those ships with the greatest demonstrable need. For the past year, the 334 ships of the Earth Memorial Federation had been flying through space occupied by a race known as the Senfari, who made up for what they lacked in technological sophistication with numbers and sheer brutality.
The resource ships that perpetually probed for usable materials had been able to land only sporadically, and then only on moons and planets so barren as to offer little of substance. Everything worth exploring already hosted Senfari colonies and bases, and they had proven fiercely territorial. Consequently, many of the ships in the fleet were running dangerously low on critical supplies. Without the necessary maintenance on their environmental recyclers, and low on the basic protein substrate that could be printed into rations, many smaller ship crews faced imminent starvation or life support failure. With resources so limited, the offer of emergency supplies could not have been an easy one for the Federation leadership, but it was, quite literally, a lifesaver.
The Lightfoot was a small, corvette-class cruiser with a crew of seven. Lightly armed and armored, it had been badly damaged during the most recent battle with the Senfari. A direct hit from railgun fire had punctured the hull through-and-through. Though the hull breaches were patched with emergency nano-sealant before all the atmosphere had escaped, the penetrating round had bored through and completely destroyed the ship’s navigational computer. Astrogation had become impossible. Both short and long-range sensors, including proximity detectors, were out. Autopilot wasn’t even an option. In a word, Lightfoot was flying blind.
In Lightfoot’s current condition, it was far too dangerous to fly in close proximity to the other ships of the fleet. Any drift or piloting error could prove fatal, and the exterior cameras gave an incomplete view of the immediate vicinity, providing very little sense of perspective for piloting. Left with no other choice, the Lightfoot hung back behind the rest of the pack, whoever was at the conn forced to make visual course corrections through the use of the viewscreen just to keep the ship from being separated from the larger group. In this region of space, the consequences of falling too far behind had become clear. The Senfari had the mentality of pack animals, always looking for the weakest in the herd.
Captain Taphorn – known by his crew as Tap – knew that no ship in the flotilla was more in need of the promised supplies than the Lightfoot. But there was simply no safe way to navigate to The King’s Ransom, let alone dock with her. The odds of a collision flying on visual only were just too great. He was considering making a request for an escort – something he wasn’t sure the Ransom would be able to provide – when his comm panel chimed. He touched the screen and listened as the speaker flared to life.
“Attention all ships, attention all ships. This is Captain McFadden of the Faraday, requesting emergency assistance. We took some point defense fire to our engines during that last skirmish. We’ve been nursing them along, but the whole system just decided to give up the ghost. We are dead in the water. I repeat, dead in the water. Our inertial drift is wonky, and we won’t be able to stay with the fleet for long.”
As he listened, Tap couldn’t believe his luck. He quickly pressed the transmit button on his communication panel and waited for the “clear line” tone. Then he spoke.