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Vesta-Ceres Novel

Welcome to Craig Stevenson’s Vesta-Ceres novel page.

In style and content, I intend for Vesta-Ceres to be about half-way between E.T. and Alien.

Chapter 6 was posted on February 9, 2011.  If you would like to download the PDF, click here:

VC Chapter 6

Or you can read Chapter 6 below.

If you’d like to download a PDF of all the chapters, click here:

VC Chapter 1-6

Chapters were posted on the following dates:

Chapter 1 – June 12, 2010.

Chapter 2 – July 9, 2010

Chapter 3 – August 26, 2010

Chapter 4 – December 11, 2010

Chapter 5 – December 16, 2010

Chapter 6 – February 9, 2011

VESTA-CERES – CHAPTER 6

MARK’S EMOTIONS, instinct and intellect wrestled to understand what he was witnessing.  The movements in the cabin atomized into frozen images of surreal clarity.

A leg swung into the aisle.  The knee was higher than the thigh, coming to a point, as if a man-sized spider was about to lift itself up.  Another smooth appendage, similar to the one on the forearm, wrapped around the side of the leg and connected at the ankle.  The foot, covered in the same thick gray skin, did not flatten to the ground.  It was a webbed tripod that reminded Mark of the buttressed trunks beneath south Pacific fig trees.

Its head entered the doorway.  A rounded snout jutted forward, a thin mouth slitting the center, almost apish.  A smooth, nose-like ridge divided the top of the snout and swept back to a shallow forehead.  A deep eye socket cut an oblong cavity beside the ridge.  Its squid eye peered at Mark from the depths of the socket.  The forehead smoothly continued its slope to the back of the skull, where a small overhang, a rear visor, flared straight out.  Its head was hairless, as far as Liú could tell.  The same mottled-gray skin was everywhere, smooth at the top of the head, pebbled over the face and thick and craggy on the snout and neck.

Its torso leaned out and balanced over the leg.  It was as tall as the doorway, standing over two meters.  The gray pachydermal skin covered the body.  Its torso had a lighter, cream-colored section making a rounded “T” shape in its center that puffed out from its body.  There was no clothing covering any part of it—unprotected hide in zero atmosphere.

Turning its head to face Mark, its eyes shifted—rather, the eye sockets shifted.  They pressed forward at the outside edges, filling in some of the deep cavity.  Where its view had been  on either side of the skull, like an earthly herbivore, both eyes could now focused on Mark—like a predator.

The alien’s frame swung with the second leg, turning into the aisle.  It filled the doorway, casting itself in shadows from the gleaming lunar surface.  The eerie outline striped the floor.

Mark stood still, numb and dumbfounded.  He couldn’t deny it to himself any more—no excuses or theories could explain it all away—he was looking at an alien.  A living, breathing—was it breathing?—alien.  It was at once a tree, an elephant, an insect, an ape, a man, a squid—and nothing he had ever seen.

The torso and arms abruptly moved.  Its snout was mouthing something as well.  The oddly-shaped hand made a stroking motion diagonally across its stomach area.  Then it pointed its left arm toward Mark and made an arching gesture down toward the floor.

Mark was distracted by the belly gesture.  Does it want to eat me?

He reached his right hand to activate his headset.  He couldn’t believe he hadn’t gotten any help by now.

The alien lurched toward him, its mouth moving quickly.  Mark put both hands back on the Taser and leveled it toward the alien’s upper torso.

“Stay where you are!” Mark said instinctively, still forgetting he wouldn’t be heard … or understood.

It squatted down, as if to pounce.  With more light, Mark saw its mouth hanging open and a nearly circular throat inside.  His ears rang with silence.

I guess this isn’t a cordial introduction where you’re from. The menacing, squat form put Mark on edge.  He focused on the gun-barrel and aligned his sights.  The creature shifted forward again, still ready to spring.  No communication.  No understanding.  A threat of force.

He fired.

The cartridge bounced uselessly off the alien’s torso.  Gray hands grabbed the counters on either side of the aisle—it lunged at him.

Mark fired again, higher this time.  The alien was moving too quickly, the second cartridge ricocheted off its shoulder.

Mark squatted down to throw the charging beast over his head.  But the strange appendages flipped forward and caught him unprepared.  One smacked the Taser out of his hands.  The other clanged his helmet into the side of the countertop.  Mark and the alien fell slowly in the lunar gravity.  Its forearm landed on his thighs and trapped him on the floor.  Its other arm was on his chest.  His helmet rang in his ears when it hit the metal decking.

He could see its eyes in the approaching skull.  They didn’t seem like the eyes of an intelligent being.  They were impassive—like an animal—a snake, a lion.  It climbed over him up to his helmet.  The end of its snout deformed and discolored as it met his glass visor.  Its body pressed on his chest.  Mark could feel a smooth ridge running the length of the forearm appendage.  It arched its head back and the mouth opened wide in a silent howl.

It nodded its forehead downward and thrust it up again.  Two fangs, or tusks, thrust out from openings under its lower jaw.  Clean at the tips, stained at the base, the arched sabers straddled Mark’s helmet—like a wild boar in the forest.

Liú stared at the tusks, spellbound by the awesome presence of the creature.  He had time to be afraid again.  This time he was.

Don’t scream.

It reared back.  Mark tensed his stomach, sure that he was about to be disemboweled.  He felt the forearm push against his ribs.  Then the weight lifted.  The alien had stood up.  It pulled its tusks back under its jaw.  Mark yanked up his knees to crawl backwards.  The alien patted his knee.  Then it turned back to the cockpit.

What the hell?

Liú sat up and checked his suit as the creature sauntered away.  Not surprisingly, he had a leak.  The suit had some ability to close off air channels to minimize leaks.  He tore a piece of tape from the roll attached to his belt and patched the small opening he found under his left elbow.

Mark leaned back on his arms, still panting for air.  He scanned the cockpit again.  The alien was in the driver’s seat, trying to start the truck.  It didn’t know to grab the keys in the center of the console.

Mark pushed himself up with some effort.  His legs gave a little underneath him.  He laughed.  He was lucky to be alive—and he knew it.

Where the hell is that Taser? He didn’t care if it was useless.  It had a few more cartridges and he felt naked without it.

Mark started toward the back of the truck to search.  He felt the floor bouncing beneath him.  Shadows jumped on the cabinets.  He glanced over his shoulder.  It was rushing him again.

Dammit!

Mark made a leap for the rear of the truck, but with little traction, he slipped.  Alien limbs grabbed him around his upper arms and chest.  Not its hands, but its boney appendages.  They clamped on him securely and dragged him back toward the cockpit.

Is this some kind of game?

They passed the storage bins and entered the cockpit.  Mark didn’t struggle to get free.  If he tore his suit badly enough, he’d be as dead as if the alien impaled him with a tusk in his back.  In the midst of a second terror, Mark disjointedly made a connection.  The strange appendages that gripped his body reminded him of the tibia on a mantis.  It was not a consoling thought.

Inside the cockpit, the arms lifted Mark up.  His feet touched the driver’s seat; he was facing sideways, the steering wheel to his right.  The alien stood in the space between the cockpit chairs.

The side window of the truck rushed toward him.  Mark’s visor made a hollow thunk against the glass.  The alien’s torso pressed his body forward, the inflexible helmet bent his head and neck backwards.  He faced left so his spine could stretch backward further.

Mark pressed his eyes shut and clenched his teeth.  I’m a dead man.

Don’t scream.

Even in the most removed of circumstances, he still heard Coach Palea yelling in his ear.  “No screaming!  I’m not coaching the girls’ wrestling team!”  Mark was always surprised how well not screaming had served him over the years.  It wasn’t just an outward facade.  He thought it made him braver on the inside too.

But this was it.  He felt the alien’s left tibia shifting its grip.  The tusks were coming.  He knew it.  And he couldn’t do anything about it.

A tapping sound intruded on Liú’s personal last rights.  It vibrated into his helmet from the glass.  He opened his left eye, his right still pinched closed, ready for execution.

The alien finger was drumming on the glass.  Its hand was still free to move atop the complex intersections at its wrist.  The shifting bones under the stretched gray skin revolted Mark.

What does that mean?

Mark squinted both eyes and peered outside, straining his neck to improve his angle.  The visor had tinted itself, but view was still bright.  The last vertical water tank stood immediately to his left.  Beyond was the moon’s horizon—the undulating rim of the Gay-Lussac A crater.  Large boulders thrown out of the crater eons ago littered the ground.

Mark spotted it.

Another alien.  It was leaning its back against a boulder, maybe thirty meters away.  It wasn’t wearing a spacesuit either.  It held a tubular object—as thick as its arm, as long as its torso.  Mark could only assume it was a weapon.  It was watching the warehouse.

Another movement.  Another alien.  This one was a few meters closer, its head and weapon poking out from behind a bolder.

It wants me to see more aliens? Mark wondered.

He pieced together what little he knew.  Its ship crashed.  It was injured.  Maybe it was pursued?  And shot down?  Maybe it wants to get away from these guys?

And it wants my help.

Mark knew he was guessing.  He slapped the cockpit glass with his right palm.

The arms jerked him away from the window so they could face each other.  Mark pointed with his free hand toward the other aliens and nodded his head “yes” to say he understood.

The alien tipped its head from side to side.

Great.  Now we’re communicating.

The arms let go completely and Mark fell into the chair, still standing, and caught himself on the steering wheel.  The alien was pointing again at the glass with its hand up-turned, wagging its last long finger.  Its mouth was moving.  Mark peered out the window.

One of the aliens outside was pointing at the truck.

“They’ve spotted us,” Mark said to his helmet.

He grabbed the keys out of the console, shoved the fob into the ignition and pressed the start button.  It occurred to him that he hadn’t ever driven one of these maintenance trucks.  He dropped his left knee into the chair and his right foot onto the floor, still leaning over the large steering wheel.  The alien loomed overhead, ready to push Mark out of the way and drive.

Mark glanced to his left; the alien outside was aiming its weapon at the truck.

He pulled the gear shift on the dashboard and stomped his right foot on the gas.  The truck jolted—backwards.  It veered left.  The cabin bucked to a stop when the back end hit the tank platform.

“Shit!”


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