FROM THE ARCHIVES:
There are a few deleted scenes from WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM (which I’ve shared on blog posts here and there over the years and I thought this week would be a good time to dust them off for you again, since the 14th is the 110th anniversary of the Titanic (on which my scifi romance novel is loosely based) striking the iceberg and sinking.
It was always rumored that men had died during the construction of Titanic and that perhaps one unfortunate soul was actually entombed within the hull, thus cursing the ship and all who sailed upon her. You can visit the Snopes urban legend website to read more about this and other similar stories.
In WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM the heroine tells the hero at one point that there were rumors the spaceship had been jinxed by an accident during construction.
Originally I’d written a short prolog for the novel, showing the reason the ship was jinxed, but I deleted the scene. Here it is now, taking place in the massive outer space shipbuilding yard. I have shared the scene once before, on my own website:
“Come on, Frazet, you’re gonna cost the whole team its bonus, man.”
The foreman stood over him, mercilessly berating his decision. “You don’t finish installing that damn upper engine interlock adapter this morning, they can’t keep schedule for installing the engine itself either. Then the whole thing goes to hell, we get fired – you’re critical path, man, don’t you get it?”
Methodically, Frazet continued fastening the closures on his zero grav construction safety suit. He didn’t look up. “Can’t install no damn adapter if I ain’t got one that works, Jonzile, now can I?”
Throwing his hands up in the air, the foreman glanced around at the rest of the crew for support. Mostly the men avoided his eye. Lowering his voice and leaning closer, Jonzile asked, “How much out of tolerance is the adapter? I know the backup was a piece of shitty scrap but what about the main unit?”
Frazet considered. “It barely passed acceptance testing.”
“But it did pass?” The foreman was eager.
“Once. Out of three times I checked it,” Frazet said, reaching for his helmet.
Jonzile put out a hand, holding the helmet down on the locker shelf. “But it did pass, you’ll admit that?” His tone changed, became friendlier again. “Don’t you want the bonus? Don’t you need those extra credits, like the rest of us? Heard your wife was gonna have another baby. That makes four kids, right? On your wages, her not working, that’s a tight orbit.”
Frazet sighed. Jonzile’s right, things are tight. And just yesterday the company doc said there might be complications with this baby. The bonus would sure come in handy. And after all, as Jonzile kept saying, the part was within tolerance. Just over the line into the green. But that was all the manual called for, so why am I holding up the entire crew on this job? Sure, I can sign it off in good conscience.
Decision made, Frazet yanked his battered helmet away from the foreman and stood up. “Quit your complaining, would ya? We’ll make schedule today.”
Patting his shoulder, Jonzile nodded. “Good man.”
The immense spaceyards of Baktanir & Fox hummed with activity. Construction was ongoing for several military jobs as well as the Nebula Dream, designed to be the biggest, most advanced spaceliner ever. Dik Frazet was just one of thousands of sentients on the payroll that month, a skilled worker at all the trades involved in engine installation; experienced, careful, good safety record. Right after the midshift break, he finished the last connection holding the adapter device in place, where the new Yeatter hyperdrive engines developed especially for the Dream would fit.
Dik stowed his tools, moving gracefully and economically in the absence of gravity. Powering up his suit’s maneuvering nozzles, he transmitted the sign off for completion of the install, preparing to cross the yard back to the lockers. He needed some fresh supplies before switching to the next job on the new battleship across the yard.
Halfway to his goal, Dik couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that he’d overlooked something, forgotten some detail, back in the half finished engine nacelle on the civilian liner. He finally swung around and returned to the site of his previous task. Taking out his field test kit, he ran a few checks on the troublesome adapter. It failed the first time, passed the second, was borderline on the third. Swearing to himself, Frazet made the decision to yank it out.
Critical path be damned, I’m not going to sign off on the install of an intermittently malfunctioning part and just hope for the best. Hell, my family might travel on this ship someday.
“Shoulda done this in the first place,” he muttered, working to undo the adapter from its fasteners. “Damn supplier must be on the take, substandard parts half the time, don’t work right.”
He knew he’d better report this decision to the foreman first and hunker down while the man went interstellar over the delay. Preoccupied with worrying over the loss of the bonus, maybe even the job, if the team couldn’t make up the schedule, Dik Frazet never saw the massive engine swinging in above him, moving into its tightly fitted place in the nacelle, right on schedule.
The Company arranged a very nice funeral. Mr. Baruc Baktanir the 12th attended and personally gave Frazet’s wife a generous amount of credits to make sure she could return to her home world, far across the Sectors. Jonzile and the rest of his crew received their bonus, tripled, before being reassigned to other shipyards.
The accident was treated by the Sector’s media as routine, mundane, a common enough event in the perilous world of spacecraft construction. Basically a nonevent in a week when there were enemy incursions in the neighboring Sector and a major vid star was caught in bed with highly outlawed feelgoods and an underage co-star.
The Company was satisfied that the Customer, never heard about the incident. The impression was carefully cultivated that poor Frazet had been crushed by drifting debris in the middle of the spaceyard, nowhere near the hull of the Nebula Dream, much less inside the hull. Foreman Jonzile had been only too happy to sign off on the safety report, exonerating him completely in the loss of life on his crew.
But the rumors spread anyway, in the bars where the spaceworkers gathered after long shifts.
It was said the Nebula Dream was cursed….
So there you have it….Nick, the hero of the novel, isn’t wrong about his uneasy feeling early in the voyage that something or someone may be haunting the Nebula Dream. Of course, I’m not saying that’s the only reason for all the things that go wrong, leading up to the disaster!
VS: This is a scene from the heroine Mara’s POV, before I decided to go ahead and make the entire novel from the hero’s POV because…reasons. Some minor plot elements mentioned here also changed slightly in the final version of the book.
Here’s the deleted scene:
Three days on the luxury space liner Nebula Dream and all Mara Lyrae had seen so far was her own stateroom. Typical when I travel. All space ships and most planets are pretty much the same to me. Life is a series of meetings, business dinners and strange beds, slept in alone.
She stretched, staring around at the beautiful stateroom, now cluttered with her three personal AI’s, files, notes and the other detritus of work. She was constantly working. Being the Sector Vice President for the giant Loxton Galactic Trading was a highly responsible job. LTG paid extremely well but she was always on duty for them.
“On to the next crisis,” she said out loud, getting out of her chair and walking to pour herself some tea. She wrapped the blue silk robe more closely and leaned on the dainty vanity, back to the mirror, surveying the messy room. “Might as well be in my damn office.” She pushed her thick hair off her face with one hand.
Mara turned around to look in the mirror. She had circles under her eyes. She was too thin. A person could only exist on nervous energy for so long. LTG paid her extremely well for what she did but lately Mara was starting to feel the rewards were not worth the life’s blood she poured into it. The name on the business was always going to be Loxton. A person could only go so far without being one or marrying one. Yes, the company wanted her to step into the vice president slot. Yes, Brin Loxton had made it clear he had more than a professional interest in her. She wasn’t sure of her own emotions but he was pushing.
But do I want to be Brin Loxton’s trophy wife? Is that all there is? I’ve accomplished most of my goals and it hasn’t turned out the way I expected.
“Passenger Lyrae, you have messages.” The Ship’s AI spoke softly. It had a pleasant male baritone voice, at least in her quarters.
“I always have messages.” I’m rebellious today. She took another sip of the lukewarm tea, preparing to go back to work. Not for her the festivities and glamour of the Nebula Dream’s maiden voyage. She might as well be on a freighter for all it mattered. The speed of the voyage was her only concern and the brand new Nebula Dream was being touted to smash the record for this particular run.
“You have 87 messages in the queue since the last update fifteen minutes ago.”
“Show me.” Mara set the tea cup on the table and squared her shoulders to dive into the endless work demanded of her.
The AI projected the messages in the cabin, scrolling through the holographic list at a fairly rapid clip.
One message caught her eye. “Wait, wait, go back. What was the last one?”
The subject and the name of the sender had been unexpected, as well as the shipboard point of origin.
“From Consolidated Star Guard Captain Nicholas Jameson, presently on board.” The Ship’s recitation of the tag was a bit odd, not as neutral as Mara was used to hearing. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the AI sounds enthusiastic. “Shall I play it?”
“Sure, go ahead.” Mara remembered the soldier from the shuttle. It was unusual to see a military man aboard a luxury liner. He had to be traveling under orders, not for his own pleasure. He couldn’t afford the Dream, not on a captain’s salary. “Play visual as well as audio.”
The holo message opened. The holo was high quality, no wavering, no distortion.
Oh yes, now I know why I remembered him. Mara scrunched her bare toes on the plush carpet and sat a bit straighter. The guy was impressive, standing well over six feet, hard body packed with muscles, an honest, good looking face, square jaw, sandy blond hair a bit longer than military regulation. “A regular recruiting poster,” she said. He’d stood out in the crowd at the spaceport. He gave the air of being ready for action at a second’s notice. Totally calm and self confident in any situation. A man you could lean on.
Although since she preferred to rely on herself at all times, why she cared if he was reliable was a mystery.
His eyes were hazel green, his gaze direct and serious. There was a small dimple in his chin.
Captain Jameson’s voice matched the rest of the package – deep and appealing. “I didn’t get a chance to thank you for giving me your extra seat on the shuttle the other day so I could make the Dream’s departure, Miss Lyrae.”
Right, because I did my usual thing and went right back to work. Can’t waste a minute. Don’t want to give anyone a chance to intrude on me. Because I can fire fifty people without blinking an eye but I hate social situations. Besides it was my assistant’s seat and he wasn’t using it. So why not help a guy in a jam out? Mara sipped her tea, grimacing at how cold it was.
The captain’s image was continuing to talk. “I was hoping you’d give me a chance to pay you back. Meet me for drinks at the Casino tonight?”
Mara shook her head. Oh no, no time. Nice try, soldier. She opened her mouth to tell the Ship to send back a polite refusal but the AI spoke a fraction of a second faster.
“Captain Jameson has his hopes quite high about your acceptance of his offer. He said you have beautiful blue eyes. Such an unusual vivid blue, he said.”
She could not believe her ears. Was the Ship’s AI trying to get her to go out with the guy?
The AI kept talking. “He said you were gorgeous and you’d probably never agree to dinner but maybe he could get you to have a drink with him.”
“Ship, it’s highly improper of you to repeat another passenger’s private remarks to me.” She kept her voice pleasant. She’d already learned how young the AI on this Ship was. Surprisingly unsophisticated for a high class luxury vessel. Mara tried to avoid hurting another sentient being’s feelings whenever possible so she didn’t make her rebuke too harsh.
“I’m sorry, Passenger Lyrae. I did not mean to offend.” The AI sounded worried.
“I’m not offended.” I can’t believe I’m engaging in conversation with an AI. She glanced at the captain’s image, frozen in the center of the stateroom. He filled out his uniform for sure. She was only going to be on this ship for another week and then she’d never see him again. No entanglements. A girl deserved some fun after making hundreds of millions of credits for her employer, didn’t she?
He definitely looked like fun.
“You now have one hundred thirty two messages in the queue. Shall I go back to the start of the scroll? Fifty four are marked urgent.”
Mara shut her eyes and shook her head. She rubbed her forehead for a minute. LGT’s stream of business issues never stopped. Assistants usually sorted through the message stream for her and did triage, handing her only the highest priority issues. It had been years since she had dealt with them all herself. “What time did the captain want to meet?”
“Seven o’clock, at the roulette wheel.”
She could manage, if she took a quick shower. “Ship, what do you have in the way of evening dresses?”
The Ship projected a miniature fashion show in every corner of her stateroom, little images whirling and twirling. “Captain Jameson plays chess with me.”
“Chess?” She tilted her head, glancing more closely at one or two of the dresses, flicking the others into invisibility with a gesture.
“It is an archaic game of strategy – “
“Yes, I know what chess is.” Mara was impatient. “You have to stop making these personal comments, Ship.”
“I like you. I like talking to you. I like the captain.”
“Do you talk to everyone on board like this?”
There was a brief silence. “No.” The voice was small.
Mara patted the bulkhead, as if the Ship was a pet or a child. “It’s all right. You can talk to me. And I’m sure if Captain Jameson plays chess with you, he doesn’t mind some chatter. But most people who travel on a ship like this don’t want to hear anything from you except for business.”
“I know. I’ve been reprimanded by the AI Officer twice. Which dress do you prefer?”
“The one on the left, in dark blue. Get rid of the sequins, except around the hem.”
“I will debit your account. Shall I tell the captain you will be there at seven PM?”
“Please.” Mara headed for the lavish bathroom. A major dress like the one she had selected was going to call for some elaborate hair and makeup. And her best perfume, the expensive one from Terra.
This third scene fragment comes after the group of passengers makes their escape from the doomed ship and may contain SPOILERS!!!
(We do know there’ll be an HEA for Wreck of the Nebula Dream, right? so this isn’t a spoiler…)
This scene takes place on the Sectors battleship Andromeda, after Nick has given his formal report to the Admiral and has been released to seek medical attention. He goes to sickbay but refuses treatment until he’s seen Mara.
She lay sound asleep on the hospital bed, hair tousled on the pillow, silken strands drying after a recent shampooing. He felt three times as grimy and in need of a shower as he had before, standing here with her. She slept easily, her face calm, peaceful, which he was relieved to see.I’m going to have enough nightmares for both of us, at least I’ve been trained for dealing with the horrors we saw. She’s pretty tough though.
Standing beside the bed, he murmured her name, not wanting to wake her, but hoping she would know on some subconscious level that he’d come as promised, as soon as possible.
Stirring just a little at the sound of his quiet voice, Mara didn’t open her eyes.
Bending over, he kissed her cheek, acutely conscious that he was going to be interrupted any second by the impatient doctor.
Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.
All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara (and Khevan), Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.
But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?
VS: I wrote two sequels to the novel, following what happened to various survivors after the wreck. I did a lot of research on survivors of the actual Titanic disaster and how their lives went on.
The survivors of a terrible wreck meet again—but this time only one can survive.
The long-awaited sequel to The Wreck of the Nebula Dream…
They survived an iconic spaceship wreck together. She never expected to see him again … especially not armed to kill her.
Twilka Zabour is an interstellar celebrity. She built on her notoriety as a carefree Socialite who survived the terrible wreck of the Nebula Dream, and launched a successful design house. But now the man who gave meaning to her life, then left her, is back–this time for the worst of reasons. Will he kill her … or help her survive?
D’nvannae Brother Khevan survived the Nebula Dream in the company of a lovely, warm woman, only to be pulled away from her, back into his solitary life in the service of the Red Lady. Now Twilka’s within his reach again–for all the wrong reasons. Khevan will do everything within his power to discover why Twilka has been targeted for assassination, and to save her.
But Khevan is not Twilka’s only pursuer. Will allies Nick and Mara Jameson arrive in time to aid the couple, or will Khevan and Twilka’s ingenuity be all that stands between them and death?