Chapter One – Arrival (Draft)
Chapter One: Gliese 581 Solar System – 2132
Far below the rolling swell of the Monterey Bay where the endless trawl of current hooked along the ocean floor, a giant kelp began to lose its grip on the weakened shale, each surge tearing away at the finger-like tendrils holding it in place, each tear drawing out the Garibaldi hidden among the kaleidoscope of shadows around it. With a final surge the kelp ripped free, igniting a flare of bright orange flashing through the dapple of sunlight, the Garibaldi’s powerful beaks snatching the limpets which rained down through the cloud of trailing silt, their brittle shells snapped in half.
Nori had been diving nearby when she heard these sharp clicks radiating around her, a trigger that it was time to rise. She exhaled through her artificial gills she followed the stream of bubbles rising and crawling along the cave ceiling, ushering her out into the open water and toward the neon light from above. Nearing the surface her gills began to sputter and her breathing became labored as if drawing air through a straw. Low oxygen and high carbon dioxide levels in her bloodstream appeared on her oculars, a dangerous mix she knew her body would never feel and where blacking out could happen without notice.
Kicking and clawing her way upwards, she broke through the surface and pulled the regulator from her mouth, gagging on its chase of tendrils that slipped greasily from her throat.
After thirty years aboard the starship Hoshi Akari, Nori Matsui was the first of her crew to be awakened by a custom dream applet. She sat patiently until her breathing settled, taking caution not to scratch her pupils with her carbon-tipped fingernails as she peeled away the paraffin from her eyes. Unclothed and suspended above a bath of orange cryoGel she could only see the starbursts of neon blue that lined her bay; beyond the neon was blackness.
The Correlation Engine and Intelligence Lab aboard the Hoshi Akari, known as CEIL, brought the ship’s lighting up to a golden hue to simulate the surface lighting on Dykazza, the planet they were orbiting, where the red dwarf sun cast a permanent twilight over the surface.