NaNoFeed: Ship’s Heart excerpt (major life changes, plus hair)


This year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge is “Finish All The Things.” My 2015 flagship project is Ship’s Heart, the first book of the trilogy whose middle act I wrote in 2013 (Inside the Jump).


Yasmin remembered the day they announced the draft to the Academy. It was the day her mother Sita transferred to the power crew. That was the first announcement.

Well, the way it really happened:

Yasmin came in from her shift on power-systems to find Sita in the family commons, unwinding the wire ornaments from her hair, and the shining beads. She laid them out in their usual order, but rather than taking down her braids to re-make or oil them, she took up scissors and razor.

Yasmin watched, in fascination, as the opulent coiffure she had both envied and emulated fell, braid by braid, tuft by tuft, onto the work-table.

Her mother brought out the water-ration, and the soap, and soaped up the remains, and took the razor to it.

Yasmin sat down, because there wasn’t really anything to do but watch in fascination as Sita’s face emerged from the operation, naked in the beauty of its bones.

“I’ve transferred to power-systems,” she said at length. “Now that Mavra tells me you’ve passed your rites.”
Yasmin sat quietly, with her hands folded in her lap, for the rest of the explanation.

“I wasn’t going to do it while you were still a child,” she said. “But now that you’re grown, I can take risks.” She unwound the last of the ornaments from the braids on the work-table, and smiled at Yasmin. “You’ve wanted these, ever since you were a baby.”

Yasmin accepted the treasures: shining amber beads, some randomly flashing sensors that would blink through the spectrum when you attached them to certain points on the scalp, wire-work to keep the whole amazing coiffure of braids in place. Yasmin was blessed with hair as thick and wiry as Sita’s, which could be twisted and braided and piled into amazing structures.

“It isn’t formal yet,” Sita said, “but I’m really proud of you.”

“What?” Yasmin said. “Mavra already told you …”

“But there’s what else. It just came through on comms this morning.”
Yasmin had just begun to twist the wires through her hair, and would remember forever that one of the amber beads was hanging in her field of vision when Sita said, “You’ve been selected for the Academy at Karis.”

Yasmin’s mouth opened and her fingers froze where they were. The bead trembled and swung on its swag, bumped her nose, until she remembered what she was doing and finished the operation.

“Not just me.”

“No, not just you. Jehen and Ferenc, as well.”

“Oh. Do they know yet?”

“They will when they come off shift. They’ll be announcing it at change of shift tonight. It’ll be Vlada Ship’s-Heart coming to fetch you away. Mavra’s gene-brother of fourth degree is the Ship’s Doctor. It’ll be a nice reunion, I think.”

“Oh,” Yasmin said, again. She propped up a mirror to work, which as usual was one of the photo-meters, set reversed. Her own face, as it really was (not as it showed in shiny surfaces). With the ornaments in her hair, she looked like a very young Sita. The family resemblance had always been there, but now her coiffure had the shape she’d always admired in her mother’s, and her mother —

Her mother looked like an entirely different person. Younger, not exactly carefree, but the mirror of her own sense that a great task was finished. They had both stepped through the gateway to a new life.
Her mother could indulge her yen to work power-systems, which was too risky for a parent. Her mother would always be her mother, but now that she was an adult …

“You look splendid,” Sita said, kissing Yasmin on the forehead, and then embracing her. Yasmin wriggled, involunarily; it just felt so awkward, as it had when she was a child, but even more so, because now she could feel some of the meaning of that: fear and love and the desire to hold the moment that even now was racing into the future.

She would see the Road of the Stars. That prospect dazzled. She would see the True Ocean of Karis, the amazing horizon-wide stretch of water…

She drank her ration of water from the sipping-cup, thinking about a whole planet full of the stuff.

She was going to the Academy.


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