We try, when we give our students a writing challenge on the course I teach, to have one of the tutors take it up too. This time, it’s my turn again. The task: to write a 500 word or less science fiction story, with each new sentence starting with a consecutive letter of the alphabet – 26 sentences in all. You can start anywhere in the alphabet, as long as the final sentence brings you back to the beginning. Below is my effort.

Green and red lights flashed on the XL764’s instrument panel, and Rodisch didn’t have a clue what they signified, or how to fix whatever the problem was. His head thumped from the sound of the klaxon alarm - he couldn’t concentrate, and it looked like his legendary luck had finally deserted him. If only he’d listened when Andest warned him that the ship wasn’t tested for interstellar flight!

“Just give me three cycles to complete the tests, and ensure I have the Telestri residuals under control, Rodisch,” he’d begged.

“Korm won’t wait, Andest. Looseki is already on his way there - if we don’t get the claim-marker set there won’t be an asteroid left worth harvesting. Mining’s a cut-throat business, pal. No room in this industry for wimps or cowards.”

“Oh, do whatever you want - just don’t blame me when it all turns to trash! Prototypes are unpredictable, you know that.”

“Quit bellyaching and give me the ignition sequence, okay?”

Rodisch won, and before the end of the diurnal he was racing headlong to the resource-rich asteroid-belts of Korm. So NOW, several billion klicks from home, with his destination – and his rival - in sight, something had to go wrong. The residuals meter was off the scale – wasn’t it just like Andest to be right?

Under the klaxon’s howling Rodisch could make out the croak of Looseki’s laughter taunting him through his com-unit. Viciously, he hauled the sound cables out of their sockets, cutting off both laughter and alarm. Wild noise gave way to sudden silence, and Rodisch lifted his eyes from the instruments to his rear viewscreen, gasping at the iridescent, whirling beauty of the wormhole the Telestri residuals had opened up behind his helpless ship. Xenon, Kirlanium and Litrinium particles sparkled in the reflected light of Korm’s star as the XL764 was drawn toward the vortex that would hurl it into the unknown reaches of the universe, and in a whimsical moment the miner thought that if you could capture those dancing lights no woman would ever yearn for jewels again.

Yellow light seared his eyes, then, and turbulence tossed the little ship, robbing Rodisch of consciousness.

“Zip chance of ever getting home now,” was his first thought when he woke to find the ship drifting silently in a milky sky. Alone, lost in a way that nobody who hasn’t travelled from the inner spiral arm to the outer nebulae of a galaxy can imagine, he floated, wondering if these were his final moments, this his death.

But no. Clear and plain on the viewscreen he saw not some unfamiliar star pattern, but the purplish surface of Korm, its asteroid belt glittering, and Looseki’s ship… gone. Disbelief gave way to exultation when he realised that his luck had held - the wormhole had swallowed his rival, not him. Every movement was leisurely as he shot the claim-marker into orbit, then swung the XL764 round. Firing the ignition and trailing Telsetri residuals like confetti, Rodisch headed for home.

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