Chuck Wendig’s Newest Challenge: First 1,000 Words

Forced Labor Mid SizedChuck Wendig posted his most impossible challenge of all:

Grab 1000 words of your NaNoWriMo work-in-progress (or, really, even if you’re not participating, any WIP of yours), and slap those 1000 words online for all to see.

Eeek. I mean, I’m just not ready to do that. It’s still working, foaming in the vat of writerly inspiration, not quite ready for public inspection. Instead I give you the first thousand words of Forced Labor, which I’m happy with.

I don’t know though. My twenty-eight year old middle son read the first four hundred words and thought it was pretty cool. (I didn’t know he picked up a copy.) But he has been too busy to read the rest of it. How do you get too busy to read your mother’s work? There is no good excuse. Ahem.

Forced Labor (2/3’s of First Chapter)

Arekan sat on his narrow bunk in the bowels of the aging space vessel stitching his forearm. It was a nasty gash, but nothing unusual for him. It would be just one more scar in the litany of scars that scored his body. He winced as he threaded the needle into his flesh, wishing he had liquor in him before he did this. To take his mind off the pinch and burn of the needle, Arekan concentrated on a section of peeling paint on the bulkhead as he poked the needle through his skin and drew the thread through. With a sigh, he looked back as he tied the knot for stitch before moving to the next. Actually, stitching his arm wasn’t as painful as scraping off the bleeding scab that had formed while he had waited for his captain to bail him out of jail. The ship’s master, a dour, short, round man was not pleased to get the summons to pick up his errant crewman. He was even less pleased about the hefty fine he paid to free Arekan of the charges. He did not speak to Arekan on the walk back to the merchant ship.

“Sted!” At the hatchway of the crew quarters first mate called the name, but Arekan didn’t pay attention.

“Sted Rynin!” The man move to Arekan’s bunk.

In mid stitch Arekan glanced up, remembering that this name was his latest alias.

The first mate frowned and threw an envelope on the bunk.

“Here’s your pay. Get your gear and go.”

Arekan stared at him.

“Nothing personal. I’ve never seen anyone better in a fight, boy, but you stir up trouble in every port we call. You were warned the last incident. Time to leave. I’ll see you off.”

Arekan sighed, stood, and with his good arm punched the first mate’s jaw. The man fell against the bunk on the opposite wall.

“Yeah, well, nothing personal. Thanks for everything,” said Arekan to the unconscious man. He took one of his shipmate’s clean undershirts and tied it around his bleeding arm. He jammed his pay in his pants pocket. With sharp movements he stripped his bunk, stuffing the sheets, blanket and pillow and his sword in his duffel. Then he left the ship without a single word to any of his crew mates.


He gripped the strap that hung his duffel from his shoulder, descended the gangplank, and hit the plascrete tarmac. The Romlin claimed planet of Teros had two spaceports, but unfortunately for Arekan this was the smaller one. There were no convenient automatic gangways that linked a ship to the terminal. No, cargo was offloaded the old fashioned way, by men’s muscles onto moto-trucks. And if the captain wanted to save money, which any ship’s master did, the ship’s crew would offload the moto-truck too. This lack of convenience reflected this spaceport’s unimportance in the Romlin scheme of things even if it serviced a sizable city on this planet.

Night was just falling and the light of the city outside the spaceport blocked out the stars. It was humid here on Teros, but not hot, and in the surrounding woods insects sang their serenade. Chucka-chucka, chucka-chucka they chirped with fervor. Arekan wended his way past the dark-hulking shapes of the spacecraft lined up on the tarmac. The ships in this port regardless of size were classed as jetters because of their reliance on ramjets to propel them through the atmosphere. There were a couple huge ships that spanned the length of two ball fields, commercial craft. This size ship was as big as this small port received. Captains of larger ships disdained the high fuel costs of landing and take-off. No, those ships, the ones with big cargos and big crews, offloaded on nice, clean Romlin space stations. Arekan served on a ship like that once, enjoying the freedom to move without worrying about banging his head on a low bulkhead. But that didn’t last long. His quarrelsome nature saw to that.

This jetter, the one from which he disembarked, was a demotion from his previous berth, the only thing he could find when he was booted off the larger commercial hauler. It was cramped, and not as well kept, but the captain, if not personable, was reasonably fair.

Until now.

He continued past the two bigger ships with their sleek aerodynamic design, wings folded up and back in graceful lines. He rounded the stern of a smaller jetter though small was a relative term. This ship rose up on its landing gear fifty feet into the air and five times as long. Its wings were fully attached to the body and swept in wedges from its prow to the tail that stood straight to the stars. Arekan walked the length of it under the wing, a spacer’s superstition. To “walk the wings” invoked whatever higher force the spacer believed to provide safe harbor. He needed that now.

A misplaced footfall on the plascrete put Arekan on alert. He leaned his duffel against a landing wheel and silently drew his sword. Arekan thought ruefully he should have known better than to walk without his weapon handy. Maybe he was being too paranoid, but crew with pay envelopes were prey for spaceport pickpockets. This is why he clocked the first mate unconscious and left his now former ship without telling a soul. Thieves paid commissions for intel on who were “carrying.” Arekan ran across plenty of first and second mates that supplemented their income by providing information. It was illegal and would earn those mates, if discovered, demerits in their International Trader Union jackets. But money incited risks.
The lights in the spaceport alley only illuminated the prows of the ships, and Arekan could not see a movement to match the footfall. All was silent, even the chucka-chucka of insects was absent. Arekan gripped the hilt of his blade listening intently.

“Who’s that there,” growled a man. Arekan drew his sword, but realizing where the noise came from, craned his head and looked up. He saw a huge beast of crewman wearing watch colors leaning out of the hatch above. With the man’s booming voice reaching into the night, footfalls dissolved in the darkness. The insects started singing again.

“Jack Star here,” called Arekan using the ancient slang for a spacer, “walking the wings.”

“Aye,” the guard grunted. “Just move along before I have to do something about ‘ya.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice.”

He walked away not sure if the watchman was the only one tracking his movements.


P. S. to readers~ should you like a free review copy drop me a line at

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