I talked a little bit about Lucky Charm last year. Just a mention of a project that I was working on with a group of authors. We're sharing a science fiction world based around the belief that humans are lucky to aliens. The series name of the collaboration is Have Human Will Travel. Our stories are due in June of this year. I hate working on a deadline so I'm working on the story now.
I don't have a blurb to go along with this. The direction of the story has changed a couple of times so I won't attempt one until after I've completed the story. I've decided to post what I have on Chapter One over two days, since it's so long. It hasn't been edited so please excuse the issues. I also thought it would be cool to put up the part of the Lucky Charm playlist that corresponds with the chapter. Enjoy!
Copyright © 2017 Lexi Ander
The Jurgal planet of Estheon one year ago.
In all his years, Navinder Japo had never felt such overwhelming pain. As one of his people's saint-soldiers, he was no stranger to physical suffering, but this agony covered his entire body, every nerve screaming and obliterating his ability to think clearly. Pinned to his chair like he was, all he could do was feel. He fought the need to open his mouth and release the wail building at the back of his throat. If he freed the scream he might not be able to stop or the action would alleviate some of the pain threatening to drag him into the dark. A small voice warned he wouldn't be coming back if he allowed the black to claim him.
With great effort he worked to control his ragged breathing, gradually pushing back the angry static that kept him from thinking about anything but the pain. He was so very tired, but he was a master Khalsayla, the chosen of the Golden Temple, he reminded himself. A whole planet depended on him to keep them safe.
He swiped at his face to better clear his sight, moving aside a heavy wet garment. The dangling overhead light burned his eyes and he snapped them closed again. Knowing not to look straight up again, Navinder peeked at his surroundings, this time casting around to get a picture of where he was. Flight chairs and instrument panels lay jumbled about the compartment.
Carefully, he internally took inventory of his body. The cockpit's control panel pinned him at the waist below his diaphragm. He couldn't sense his limbs below that point. He pushed down the silent panic that arose when he briefly considered why. Thankfully, he could move his arms but they felt weighted down by lead weights.
He and his podmates recently became the chosen of the people. They had toured the globe after winning the tourney. People gathered in large crowds to greet them at every stop, craning their necks to look upon those awarded the honor the quest for the Seed of Life. Then they toured the two moons, meeting with and listening to the people, sharing langar with them before they returned to the capital on Estheon. They were supposed to study with Guru Saga for one year before they began their journey. But something happened to the shuttle midflight. Navinder wasn't sure what.
Before he thought about the consequences, Navinder stupidly pushed at the console holding him down. Bellowing in pain, he blinked at the black spots filling his vision. He had no choice but to wait. He would need help to get out. Where were his pod mates? He remembered the violent shaking that had woken from sleep. He had been slumbering with his family and had to crawl out from underneath Mahi, Atam, and Mond. When he had stumbled onto the bridge the Captain yelled at him to sit down and strap in. He'd barely snapped the buckle when the warning sirens screeched. Thinking about his pod mates not in their safety seats had his heart hammering with barely contained fear. He'd thought to return to their quarters to wake them but the pilot cursed, the shuttle lurched, and the ceramic cup the copilot had been drinking from flew across the space and smacked Navinder in the temple.
Dazed, he didn't recall much after that. The pilot sent out a mayday. People screamed. The loud screech of metal had deafened him, followed by a bone-jarring hit that Navinder thought was the landing. Unconsciousness had swallowed him and he did not know how long he'd been out. Now he smelled the pungent odor of the coolant leak and heard the steady drip of fluid. He prayed to the Immortal One it wasn't anything that would catch the shuttle on fire.
He rubbed his face again belatedly realizing the purple skin of his fingers was covered in his blood. He was not surprised to feel the raised ridges along his forehead and brow. His race, the Jugals, had a physical manifestation when experiencing high emotions such as lust, stress, or anger. The smooth plains of their faces developed ridges that pushed the skin up, giving them a fierce countenance. As a saint-soldier, this bodily reaction was one of the first things about himself that he learned to control at will. He would be ashamed later over his loss of control. At the moment, he needed to get to his podmates and ensure that they were well. They had to be. He could not live without them. But first he needed to free himself from the panel. The sound of distant voices gave him hope. Had the pilots escaped, bringing back help?
Heartened by the sounds, Navinder listened hard for the voices of his lovers and only heard that of strangers. Why weren't Mani or Atam calling for him. Where was sweet, tender-hearted Mond? If they weren’t causing a ruckus, then they had to be severely injured. Navinder squeezed his eyes shut, trying to beat back another wave of panic. He needed his pod like he needed to breathe. They'd grown up together among the hundreds raised in their clutch, bonded together as first friends, then later as lovers, family. Winning the tourney, being award the honor as seed bearers for the Sacred Tree had been tempered by their loss of their podmate, Saga. He'd been chosen to be Guru Granneth Saeb, becoming the spiritual leader of all Jurgals. Giving up Saga meant Saga would make all Jurgals his pod. Navinder didn't think he could bear losing another podmate. Jurgals need their pods, and to be without one doomed the solitary to die a slow agonizing death. A thought suddenly came to Navinder. Perhaps the static that seemed to go hand in hand with his physical pain was caused by metaphysical damage to the bond to his pod.
"Mahi!" Navinder called weakly, unable to go another moment without hearing their voices. "Atam! Mond! Answer me!" He choked when he attempted to call out louder, his lungs straining to draw in more air.
The only sound answering him were the renewed shouts or rescue workers making their way to him. He craned his head toward the corridor leading back to their temporary quarters. Wall panels were wedged into the opening, bright light slicing through the gaps. He closed his eyes against the wave of dizziness and swallowed against the accompanying nausea. A warm breeze brushed his skin. How had he not known the hull had been breached? Or had he passed out and that was the hole the rescuers had cut to retrieve him?
Navinder drifted, listening for the voices of his loved ones.
"Navinder?" Warm hands cupped his cheeks and he dragged his heavy eyelids open, startled to see Saga bending over him. When he went to ask how Saga came to be there, his former podmate shushed him. "Don't speak. Save your energy."
He drank in the sight of his beautiful Saga. It had only been a few months since his pod had lost Saga during The Choosing but the pod had keenly felt Saga's absence.
Saga's amaranthine skin was covered in dirt, dark streaks smudged his forehead as if he kept rubbing there. The thick follicles of his red hair had been released from the Khalsahla bindings to be swept up into the wide jeweled band atop his head, proclaiming to all he was a holy man. Instead of laughing blue eyes, Saga's gaze only held worry and fear. Navinder wasn't the only one who'd lost control over his ridges. Saga's prominently expressed his stress even as he murmured softly to Navinder.
"You need to lie still. We have to initiate a stasis field as soon as the panel is lifted. At the moment, it is the only thing keep you from bleeding out." Saga clasped Navinder's hand, his palm so warm against Navinder's cold one. "I'm not going to lie, it will hurt, but I need you to stay conscious. Concentrate on me." Males worked around Saga as he spoke, clearing a wider path to the hull breach. Though Navinder wanted to believe all would turn out right, that Saga would take care of everything, there was a small part of him that whispered he'd been stuck in the wreckage for far too long if Saga was by his side.
"No, Navinder." He glanced back to Saga, surprised at the silver tears that glistened in Saga's gaze. "Keep your attention on me." He nodded, squeezing Saga's hand weakly.
Saga called something over his shoulder and a team of medical personnel swarmed in. Navinder didn't attempt to follow the conversation, only held Saga's gaze. They didn't demand that Saga move but worked around him as if he weren't in the way. Navinder gave a small grin. Just because he'd sorely missed Saga didn't mean he hadn't been proud Saga had been chosen to become guru. Seeing the respect the people now gave him, only caused Navinder's heart to swell more.
Too caught up in his thoughts, Navinder didn't register something pressed into his jugular until he was hit by the sharp discomfort. Almost immediately, the pained he'd been fighting lessened, but as if on cue, the others lifted the panel and Navinder lost his breath with the immediate thunderous return of agony.
"Stay with me," Saga pleaded. Navinder was trying but the black spots returned. The med-tech placed a heavy metal disc on Navinder's chest and a current of energy zipped across his exposed skin as the containment field snapped into place. The barrier between Navinder and Saga shimmered, fluxing icy green to blue like faint stained glass Navinder could easily see through.
"Your hand is caught," Navinder observed.
Saga choked on a sob. "You aren't ridding yourself of me, mighty chosen."
"Didn't want you to go in the first place," Navinder rasped, alarmingly short of breath.
Tears spilled from Saga's eyes as he glanced down Navinder's body. From his expression, Navinder didn't need Saga to say what was left of Navinder wasn't good. Other than the sharp pain in his midsection when the panel was removed, Navinder felt nothing below the waist. A sick sort of curiosity nudged him and Navinder weakly raised his head to see the damage for himself.
Saga's grip on his hand tightened and he hissed vehemently at Navinder. "I said keep your eyes on me!" When Navinder returned his gaze to Saga, his crimson lips trembled though his eyes held a fierce almost maniacal light.
Navinder swallowed thickly, terribly thirsty but unable to quench it. "Promise me you will ensure Mahi, Atam, and Mond will… they will need you when I'm gone."
The planes of Saga's face hardened. The line of his ridges had been faint before, but now they thrust out in sharp relief, reminding all that before Saga became guru he'd been Khalsayla—a fierce and deadly saint-soldier. "Enough of this talk. I will not lose you, too." Saga snarled. "You will survive if I have to hold your light to your body myself. You have no other choice but to fight to live. You are Chosen, the strongest, the most unmovable force among Jugals. You will tap that core of strength and use it."
Navinder grinned wanly. How he'd missed his fiery, bossy podmate. Of all of them, he'd thought Mond, sweet gentle Mond, would've been appointed guru. Battle hardened Saga was the last person Navinder thought the Scared Tree would chose as the Jugal's spiritual guide.
"Stay with me." Saga's plea had a hard bite. Navinder blinked at the bright sunshine overhead, gladdened to be under open sky. When had they moved him from the wreckage?
Saga jogged next to the stretcher that carried Navinder, his hand still trapped by the stasis field. Navinder noticed the deepening red line in Saga's skin, small rivulets of blood running down the field. He was worried about the state of Saga's arm but relieved he had Saga's hand to hold when he glanced back to the shuttle… or what was left of it. Debris was scattered everywhere, the twisted shell of the cockpit the only section not pulverized and strewn across a field of orange flowers.
"Saga?" Navinder's voice warbled. "Where are our podmates? They were in the sleeping quarters." When he turned to look at Saga, panic welled at Saga's grim remorseful expression. "Are they—" Navinder didn't know if he could finish the question, or if he even wanted the answer.
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