Renna felt as lifeless as Sen’s cold body on the bed next to her. She packed her possessions in her travel bag with careful precision. They were few enough. Everything else belonged to the ship, or the crewkin as a whole, so reverted to Markham Company. Renna didn’t care. She needed no reminders. The vision of the bodies of her kin, removed one after another from this hospital room promised memory enough.
“You can't survive.” The doctor echoed Sen's last warning.
A glance showed the doctor, leaning against the door, watching her, waiting. She didn’t know his name. He never identified himself. Another anonymous Markham employee, dressed in a Markham medical uniform, as foreign to her as everyone else.
Years of ingrained prohibitions prevented the response screaming inside. She controlled her voice. “You recommend I join Sen, join my crew?” Like you and your staff encouraged her? Helped her? A final joining? Bastard. Renna closed her bag.
Truth struck her. I don’t want to. I’m afraid of dying. Coward. She couldn’t look at Sen, loyally joined with her dead kin.
“Where will you go? You are genetically unfit to live planet-side and mentally unprepared to interact with another ship's crew. Crewkin are longhaulers, not shortrunners. We recommend a final joining because we know you won't fit in.”
Renna looked around the windowless, beige room, now mostly empty, with her kin and their hospital beds removed. Only Sen’s and her beds remained. Sleeping alone in a bed had seemed so strange. Perhaps another unspoken means to encourage her kin to their final joining? Although her eyes burned, she held no more tears.
“My problem, doctor.” Me, mine, my, such strange pronouns after we, ours, and us—now unimportant, like everything else.
Renna snapped the closures on her bag and turned to the door. He remained, relaxed against the doorframe.
“The staff understands your pain, no matter what you think. I've seen kin like you before. You’re conditioned to survive within your own society. Believe me, we only want to provide for your needs, for your comfort.”
Renna looked away, escaping his gaze. No. Not me. Her kin, her future, her known existence ended with Markham3’s failure, yet she refused the doctor’s cure. In the awkward silence, she left. He didn’t move as she passed. She sidled around him to prevent any touch. He huffed, shaking his head in unvoiced comment on her defiance.
Hospital staff and other Markham employees watched her. They stared as she made her way through headquarters. She felt their gazes follow her departure, ushered by a wave of quiet crashing behind her in hushed exchanges. The skin of her neck itched, expecting Dom Dukan’s disapproval. His reprimand already rang through her mind. “The Dom represents Markham3 Crew. To attract attention to Renna defiles our kin. We are preeminent among ships; we strive to excel, anything else is unprofessional. Seeking recognition belonging to the whole kin makes you less. More like unreliable shortrunners.”
Renna swallowed the painful gasp swelling in her throat, ignoring those regarding her exit. Good kin performed joining before committing the heresy of desertion, so Markham taught. Their notice made her exit a judgment.
Renna stopped before the massive plasmetal hatch disguised as elaborate carved doors defining the Markham Company boundary. Through a transparent section of the gate, Renna watched the norms crowding the space station’s causeway. A memory of walking with her kin out of this portal flashed before her. They had left as a group. All dressed in their neat tan utility suits. All heads bore the same short blond hair, except for her. Dom Dukan demanded her head remain shaved to eliminate her unkin colored hair. She swiped her scalp, felt the prickle of growth and swore to never again cut whatever grew. He could do nothing about her dom-matching height, or her colorless eyes. Markham Company had deemed his request to change her eye color frivolous.
The automatic portal to the astroport opened, closed, and opened again while she hesitated. Her kin had found leaving the Markham3 difficult; leaving Markham territory terrified them. Safe among her kin, Renna remembered her excitement for the chance to explore the space station alive with so much noise, so much color. Stepping through the doors, she remembered, how upon returning, Dom Dukan refused to leave Markham property again. She quashed the memory, refusing to look back. She would never return, no matter what.
Now everything looked gray. The resonance in the port swallowed individual sounds forming a cacophony of white noise, which created an odd noise construction of silence. Unfamiliar smells permeated the air, mixing into a repugnant strange atmosphere. The difference divorced her from any response as effectively as the hatch closing behind her severed her from her past life.
With steady steps she headed for the station’s main concourse.
She focused on the people. Some stood, turning their head to read signage looking for their direction. Others talked in small groups. Often a jagged burst of laughter erupted around them. Still others rushed, carrying, pulling or pushing packages, crates, or luggage.
People…strangers...norms, no matter what you called them...they crowded, jostled, and shouted in fast flung sounds she didn’t understand. Each one appeared different in shape, size, color, and clothing. Their smell curled within her nose. Each seemed at once both self-absorbed and attentive, threading through one another’s journey with little interest in other travelers. So different.
Alongside the concourse, trams stopped or left with accompanying tumult. Station communications broadcasted throughout the station from multiple AV ports. Shock and fear hit her anew, alone among so many. She froze in place, closed her eyes, and ignored her inner turmoil. You’re a Speaker; dealing with norms is your special domain, your duty. Another perverse inner voice shouted, Not like this! She clamped down on her panic and took a deep breath. You can do this. Don’t react. Don’t feel.
You just read an excerpt from:
Rhobin L. Courtright
BUY Link: MuseItUp Publishing
Today, we’re here with published author, Rhobin L. Courtright.
Rhobin:I always write under the first name Rhobin no matter whether followed by L. Courtright or Lee Courtright, so you can always identify my books. At least that's true so far. I've always said the h was in Rhobin for the hell of it, but it has turned out to be very useful.
Kage: What happened to the first book you ever wrote?
Rhobin: I threw it away a long time ago. Authors have to learn how to pitch a book, and sometimes the best pitch is the the trash can.
Kage:What’s your backlist and coming soon bookshelf look like?
Rhobin: I have three books in a fantasy romance series published, three books in a scifi series, two stand-alone scifi books, and one romantic suspense. Readers can find the titles on either my web page rhobinlee.com or my blog at rhobinsrambles.blogspot.com.
I always have many works in various stages of production. Usually I start with titles and work out themes until the characters start interacting, then I can write their story.
Kage: So, what story are we going to talk about today?
Rhobin: Crewkin will be released in February from MuseItUp Publishing. It is one of the stand-alone scifi stories mentioned previously. There are only eight characters for most of the story line.
Renna is crewkin, part of a ship crew raised and conditioned from birth to live in closed societies on what are known as long-haul ships. They haul cargo from asteroid mines on the fringes of the galaxy. The setting takes place in space before faster-than-light travel, so these crews spend their lives on these long journeys. The cargo companies have come to see the crews as dispensable tools. When her ship is damaged, Reanna is supposed to suicide with the rest of her crew. Instead, she chooses to live, ending by chance on a small family owned short-haul cargo carrier where she tries to fit in. Unknown to her or her new crew, the cargo they carry destroyed Renna's ship and crewkin.
Rhobin L. Courtright
Born and bred to be crewkin, Renna is devastated by the death of her ship and her kin. When her company’s medical department advises the few remaining survivors to commit suicide and join their kin in death, Renna refuses. Knowing she can never join another crewkin, she seeks a berth on one of the short-haul shippers running cargo hauls between the planets. Integration into ‘norm’ crew seems impossible until she joins the crew of the Vagrant Spirit. Her captain seems as desperate for any capable crewman as Renna is for a ship’s position. This job, this journey will propel her into a new world.
There is nothing so true as change is inevitable. Rumours of a new engine capable of thrusting a ship greater distances in a fraction of the time a crewkin ship takes, threatens Markham Company’s business. There is only one thing left to do—get rid of the evidence, the last survivor, and anyone else who threatens discovery.
Kage: What would the story be rated if it were a movie?
Rhobin: Probably PG-13. There are sex scenes, but nothing graphic, unless you find the word nipple graphic. It's hard to tell what rating to apply when I see what is on TV and in the movies today. Wow! (editorial comment.).
Kage: If you HAD to fit this story into a cliché, which one would it be?
Rhobin: Lost in Space or 2001. Somewhere I read where there are only three, or seven or ten plot lines... That may be or may not true, but I read all the time and I always find it's about the characters and how they change the familiar plot lines that makes the story come alive.
Kage:Okay, now that we have a general idea which class to fit Crewkin under, what makes this book so unique from every other book out there?
Rhobin: Crewkin takes in some of the realities of space travel, and tries to put a new twist on a few old scifi clichés.
Kage:What was the easiest part to write?
Rhobin: The first four chapters were very easy to write because they dealt with the characters and setting. After that is was very hard. I'm not sure why, except the cause-effect relationships, the science and logical outcomes in the rest of the story became increasingly difficult.
Kage:What do you like most about the main character(s) and what do you like least? Did you learn anything from them?
Rhobin: What I like best, I think, is I tried to make a crew who grows into their humanity. Renna, of course, has a lifetime of brainwashing and conditioning to overcome, but she is not the only crewman with problems.
Kage:Rhobin, Thank you so much for stopping by today and gracing us with your presence. Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to say to wrap things up?
Rhobin: Thanks for letting me visit your blog, Linda. I hope your readers will find Crewkin interesting--and if they like scifi/fantasy with strong female leads that they might like some of my previous stories.
If you're still curious about Rhobin, here are other places to find her on the web:
Facebook: Rhobin Lee Courtright
MySpace: Rhobin L. Courtright
Goodreads: Rhobin Lee Courtright
Publisher’s Author Page: MuseItUp Publishing