This excerpt is from a work in progress that doesn’t actually have a name! I should get on that. The planet Jaqaja has just set down upon does have a name, however. The human settlers call it "Tenai", which means “yonder” in Lithuanian.
Tenai is a colonized planet, far from Earth. It was settled in the year 2150 by an individual exiled from Earth for dabbling in prohibited forms of embryonic genetic manipulation. Seven hundred years later, Tenai is home to a population of millions, many of whom exhibit talents that make them more than human.
Jaq doesn’t know it, but she has more in common with these advanced humans than she could possibly guess.
THE TWO MOONS appeared to insect one another, though Jaqaja knew the overlap was a vast shadow. From the planet surface, the haze of atmosphere added to the illusion, and if she let her underlids close it seemed one moon prepared to absorb the other. She wondered if such tales were told their children—if the inhabitants of W-78-KGB2 spun stories about omnivorous, celestial bodies. All sentient species told tales, did they not? Even if only to share history with their young.
Jaq turned away from the sky and adjusted the visor of her helmet to let in more light. The reflected glow of the dual moons rendered the planet surface grey. Light and shadow were starkly defined. Pinpoints of color flashed dully in the periphery of her vision: sidelined readouts and warnings. Jaq pulled one forward.
“Two hours,” she muttered before nudging the digits back to the side with a flick of her eyes. In two hours, her body chemistry would have adjusted to the planet’s atmosphere. Until then, she would remain suited.
Though eager to dispense with her armoured skin, Jaq tended to be cautious—a trait admired by the Xoupian. Caution, consideration, forethought, analysis. New phenomena could be examined quickly when required, but only if the correct thought formula existed. Until then, life was a process of sampling and testing. Jaq would spend two local years in the supposedly remote wilderness of W-78-KGB2 creating new formulas, ones that could not be learned at home. The experience would prepare her for adulthood, serve as her contribution to the Archive.
“Kay-Gee,” she murmured, testing out names for the planet that could be spoken aloud. W-78-KGB2 as a thought accessed all available data, but Jaq liked to speak—at trait not so admired by the Xoupian. Why make unnecessary sound?
“Bee-Two.” Another murmur of quiet defiance.
To her ears, the words were utterly foreign. She spoke the tongue of the planet’s inhabitants. The humans. They were noisy beings, always speaking, yelling and singing. Jaq looked forward to observing the range of sound. The patterns of thought she recorded from those observations, from anything related to the humans, would not be part of her contribution. Keeping them separate would be another test, one she hoped to pass.
But first she had to establish a base.
Jaq turned back to the small, snub nosed vessel behind her. The hatch opened at a thought and ramp extruded from the lowest edge, down to the pebbly shore of the lake she had chosen as a landing site. Had the angle been more acute, the metal slats would turn to form steps rather than a smooth path. She could feel the clank of her boots as she ascended, and the slight give of the flexible surface. Another adjustment to her helmet allowed ambient sound. A roar filled ears more used to the quiet hum of the interior of her craft, her own movement and quiet mutters.
She dropped to her knees and turned a slow circle, the articulated joints of her suit allowing smooth movement. Around her, water rippled and sparkled. Ashore, the trees swayed in violent motions. Long, slender trunks stretched toward the violet sky. The far off canopy rustled and she recognized the movement of distant leaves as a part of the roar. Then she figured it out, the sound. It was wind. A movement of air.
The air on this planet roared like nothing she had ever heard before.
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Until then, you can visit her website at http://kellyjensenwrites.com or find her on Twitter at @kmkjensen where she’ll most likely be tweeting about the upcoming release of Skip Trace, the third book of Chaos Station, a male/male science fiction romance series she co-authors with her best friend and writing partner, Jenn Burke.
Skip Trace is coming October 5!