On March 15, I had the great honour of being one of the guest authors at the award-nominated and wonderful ephemera reading series. I was sick as heck (but hey, when am I not) and still had a blast!
I am the first author to read, but I strongly encourage you to watch the entire thing. The other guest authors are Eric Choi and Jae Waller! And there’s a cool performance by Cristianna and Josh Formeller.
It’s my first-ever public reading of Season One: Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space, and I chose an excerpt from “Episode 5: Beachfront Learns a Thing.” It stars junior security officer Lieutenant Marq Bronwryck. He comes from wealth and privilege and considers himself above everyone and everything—even chief of security Lieutenant Commander Leanna Lartha (hard to imagine that because she’s freaking awesome). He might also think he’s above needing protective equipment when a mysterious mist invades the shuttle he’s in with Lieutenant Sasha. But hey, who needs a mask, right? Not like they’ve ever been important…cough.
Hope you enjoy it! There are closed captions, but auto-generated captions misspell stuff, unfortunately. I included the excerpt of my story below the embedded video.
Transcript of my reading (Episode 5, Beachfront Learns a Thing, by Cait Gordon, advanced copy courtesy of Renaissance)
Content note for ableist attitude, and characters experiencing pain, discomfort, and/or anxiety
After being released from Medical, Marq Bronwryck was fortunately not sent back there by Lartha, but was threatened with a dishonourable discharge—through an empty weapons bay. It had been made abundantly clear to him that because of some admiral’s impending arrival, Security Chief Lartha had no time or resources to dedicate to Bronwryck’s dismissal. This discourse had even been done remotely through a comm because she had been so busy. However, she would have no problem bringing up a discharge plea to the captain once the soon-arriving admiral had been escorted to their destination.
So, his only option was to smarten up. He definitely couldn’t face his family after a dishonourable discharge. What would everyone say at the club? The shame upon him and his family would render them social outcasts.
Bronwryck wandered about random corridors since he would only be on duty in an hour. He moped inwardly, blaming everyone but himself for this current situation. Sasha, for veering into that weird nebula-turned-swarm thing; Rivers and Rennick, for overreacting and keeping him in sick bay; and Lartha, for being such a grouch all the time.
He shuffled around a corner and without warning, collapsed to the floor, clenching his thighs. The air fled his lungs and when he looked up, he saw his superior officer chatting into her arm band, a short distance away. Her back was to him.
“Yeah, we’re gonna have to step it up when the admiral comes on board. We’ll be a flagship when they arrive, and I want no sloppiness, Reez.” Lartha rubbed her thighs with an almost imperceptible wince. “Absolutely. Let’s get on that for sure.” She limped over to a reddish-orange horizontal stripe that spanned the corridor wall, one of many that were ubiquitous on the ship. She placed her right palm on it and said, “Chair.”
“What type?” said the AI.
A hover-chair materialized in front of her. Lartha sat down and continued her conversation with Lieutenant Reez as she zipped away.
The pain in Bronwryck’s legs vanished. What in the worlds? He stood up and leaned against a wall, watching her.
Down the far end of the corridor, a woman with a walking stick exhaled with a whistle, then tapped her cane in a certain pattern. The corridor’s Accessible Tech stripe illuminated by her. She signed, “Chair.”
Text appeared on the stripe. “What kind?”
A motorized wheelchair appeared before the woman, and she sat in it, just as Lartha approached her. The security chief signed her greeting, and they high-fived each other with a laugh as their chairs passed.
When the woman neared Bronwryck, she greeted him, and he signed back. But as soon as her chair got closer, a sensation overtook him at once that felt like searing vibrating rods had been impaled in his hips, knees, and ankles.
The other officer didn’t notice as she had stopped to text into her armband. Then she rapidly turned the corner.
Bronwryck’s cheeks streamed with tears. And suddenly, again, the pain disappeared. Did I work out too hard this morning? I’ve never had muscle and joint stuff that just came and went, though.
“Good morning, Lieutenant Bronwryck,” said Iris.
He yelped, not expecting her to be there, turned to face her, then immediately clutched his head.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
Bronwryck closed his eyes and opened them. “Ahh!” He blinked a few times and tried again. “Okay, what is this? What’s going on with me today???”
Iris took his arm gently. “Whatever it is, I’m here! What can I do to help?”
“First pain, like lots of it. Then none. And now, everything’s like, hyper-clear, my vision I mean. It’s making me really dizzy!”
“Right, I’m calling Medical.” Iris pressed her palm against the AT-stripe and said, “Transport chair.”
Once again, a chair appeared.
“I got a transport one because I’d like to take you there myself,” Iris explained.
“Help me! I don’t want to open my eyes ’cause I can’t focus without wanting to barf!”
“Don’t worry,” said Iris, then spoke into her forearm band. “Urgent Care, this is Lieutenant Iris.”
“Receiving, Lieutenant Iris. What is the nature of your urgency?”
“I’m bringing in Lieutenant Marq Bronwryck. He’s experiencing severe dizziness from what appears to be sudden onset visual hyper-acuity.”
“Copy that. We’ll be ready for him.”
“Thank you. Iris out.”
Bronwryck trembled. Iris patted his shoulder.
“Don’t be alarmed,” she said. “We’ll figure this out.”
“I’m not scared,” he lied. “I will beat this!”
Iris made a face. “Or you’ll adapt. I did.”
“Lieutenant Iris, report to the command deck. Lieutenant Iris, report to the command deck.”
“You’re not going to leave me, are you?” cried Bronwryck.
“Um, just hold on a second.” Iris peered from side to side, then smiled with relief as she spotted Davan down the corridor. She called out to get his attention.
He smiled with his eyes, then switched to an expression of surprise, noticing Bronwryck in the transport hover-chair. “What is going on?” he signed while running toward them.
Bronwryck tried to respond but found he couldn’t create audible words with his mouth. His eyes fired out his alarm.
“I can’t speak, I can’t speak,” he signed.
Davan titled his head, perplexed. “No, you’re doing just fine. I can understand you completely.”
“No, no,” Bronwryck signed. “I can’t form words with my vocal cords!”
Iris frowned and held her chin for a moment before signing, “Davan, I have to go to the bridge. Will you please escort Bronwryck to Medical? And better update them. It started as pain, then his vision, and now his oral communication is affected.”
“Sure. I can take him,” signed Davan.
“Good, thanks!” she signed. “Okay, Lieutenant, you’re safe as houses with Commander Davan. You’ll get answers soon enough, I’m sure of it,” she said.
“Thank you,” he signed miserably.
Iris and Davan exchanged a glance, then she darted off to the nearest lift.
As soon as she left, Bronwryck’s vision returned to how he’d always experienced it. He sighed with relief. He tried telling Davan, but his vocal cords would still not obey. He reached out to touch Davan’s arm.
Davan stopped guiding the transport chair and stood in front of Bronwryck.
“You want to tell me something?” the commander signed.
“My vision is okay,” signed Bronwryck.
“I’m not sure what that means.”
“My vision is normal.”
“Uhhh…” Davan spelled.
“I still can’t talk out loud, though. I can only sign. This sucks.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Wow, you’re really a winner, aren’t you?”
Bronwryck jolted in his chair. “Who said that?” he signed. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” signed Davan.
“I didn’t hear anything. Is your thought-receiver activated?”
Bronwryck checked. “No. But it felt like it was.”
“Let’s get you to Medical.”
“Can you please explain to me what you’re experiencing?” asked the triage nurse.
“Well, I had this weird nerve thing in my legs, but then it disappeared. Next, my vision made me feel I could see through time, but then it got back to usual. And now I can’t communicate,” Bronwryck signed.
“You’re communicating fine,” she signed back.
“No, I mean out loud.”
“Can you show me what happens when you try to speak orally?”
Bronwryck opened his mouth. “Right, I… hey! I can talk! What the gleek? Why is everything stopping and restarting for me?”
“I can’t say for sure,” said the nurse, “but we’ll keep you here for observation. I know Doctor Rivers will want to perform some tests and give you a full examination.”
“But I had one when Sasha and I got quarantined. No virus or anything. Can’t I just return for duty now?”
“Sit tight,” said the nurse. “I’ll get the doctor.”
“Fine,” he said and folded his arms yet again in a right sulk.
“Caught on yet, genius?”
Bronwryck yelped and glanced around the room. He removed his pocket scanner and searched for life signs. It seemed like it was just him in the room. Then he remembered that Engineering had tweaked the capabilities of Security’s scanners, under the new configuration Lieutenant Commander Herbert had designed. Bronwryck modified his settings to allow for the fullest detection of organic sentient life.
Instead of one reading, his own, there were now two.
“Hello, you razor-sharp thing, you!”
The junior security officer leapt off his chair.
“HELP, HELP ME!” he screamed.
The voice inside his head merely groaned.
“Well, this is peculiar,” Doctor Rivers muttered while studying the readings in his examination room. Holographic, floating touch-displays eased the pressure on his finger joints and could be brought to whatever position he was at, whether sitting or standing. And this afternoon, the equipment had been modified with the parameters gleaned from Herb’s upgrades of Security’s handheld scanner.
Bronwryck lay very still on the cot. He was afraid to move.
“I still can’t make out anything,” said Rivers. “Are you sure you got two readings?”
“Of course I’m sure!”
“No need to shout. It’s just that I’m not picking up a secondary life form.”
Rivers jerked his head. “Ah, there we go!”
“And did you hear the voice?” asked Bronwryck.
“Voice? No. But I can make out a blip on your anterior insular cortex. In your brain configuration, it plays a strong role in helping you process things like compassion, empathy…”
“Should I explain what those are? Because it’s like a void in here.”
“Hey!” said Bronwryck. “That’s not very nice.”
“What did I say?” said Rivers. “This is actually the location on your brain scan.”
“No, not you. I was talking to the thing.”
“The thing? Now who’s not being nice?!”
Bronwryck clutched his head. “You’re sure you can’t hear it, Doctor Rivers?”
“I am not an ‘it.’”
“Sorry. What’s your pronouns?”
“He/him,” said Rivers.
Rivers gestured like he was about to give up on the conversation. “What is going on? Who are you addressing?”
“We refer to ourselves as ‘I’, or ‘we’ as a group, but we never refer to other individuals of our species with a pronoun. Only by our name. You may call me Maddox.”
“Lieutenant Bronwryck?” asked Rivers.
The security officer took a deep breath and slowly let it out. He raised his head to face the doctor. “Yeah, okay, so I’m talking to Maddox.”
“The blip on my brain scan.”
“Of all the beings to cohabitate in symbiosis for life, this is the brain-meat I end up with .”
Excerpt from Season One: Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space! © 2023 Cait Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. This is a work of fiction from the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. For more information, contact Cait Gordon.
Cait Gordon is an autistic, disabled, and queer Canadian writer of speculative fiction that celebrates diversity. She is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, The Stealth Lovers, and the forthcoming Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space (2023). Cait also founded the Spoonie Authors Network and joined Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the multi-genre disability fiction anthologies Nothing Without Us and Nothing Without Us Too.
Featured photo is the S.S. SpoonZ, drawn by Cait Gordon
2 thoughts on “Mini-excerpt Monday: Episode 5 of Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space—read by me at Ephemera!”
THAT was amazing Cait! Well written, well acted, well read! You have a wonderful imagination…thanks for this entertaining and anxiety-producing reading…and that’s meant as a good comment…having a voice in the head was really well written!
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Thanks, Sue! Maddox is a fun character and does help Marq learn a thing!