Below is an excerpt from Day 10K, my science fiction manuscript. Kendrick and Mannheim have been forced down after a missile hit their landing craft. Kendrick is not sure if the colonists approaching them are part of the group that shot them down. Their captain, from their ship in orbit, is addressing them over video.
The captain faced them on the screen. “The psych says their body language indicates no deception—just varying amounts of fear and nervousness. Their hand gestures mean they come in peace. You are authorized to make contact with these Vallannans at your discretion. If you do so, have Mannheim cover you, in case of snipers on the hills behind them. Put your headsets on.”
Kendrick complied, knowing his every word and every step would be monitored. Mannheim had also heard, and he clambered down with goggles on his head, flipped up, so his eyes could be seen. He had a sidearm at his side, which could be slaved to whatever the goggles focused on, for accurate targeting. Another one was in his hand, and he made the gesture of hefting it.
Kendrick shook his head. Then the captain’s voice sounded in his earpiece. “Ensign, take the sidearm.”
He placed the holster on his left side.
The voice sounded again. “Remember their culture. Under-wimples on women denote modesty.”
Another look at the monitor showed the Vallannans with their arms at their sides, slightly bent at the elbows with palms open, facing the coracle. Except for the girl in the white under-wimple, who still held the bowl. He slid open the inner hatch door, then entered the narrow space that served as an airlock. Mannheim braced himself against one side, ready to fire. Before he flipped his goggles down, his eyes showed steady, with no undue excitement.
Kendrick gripped the mechanism for the outer hatch door.
Shushan concentrated on the bowl in her hands. She remembered Elder John’s lessons, that courage was not so much a matter of bravery; it was a lack of fear. Fear was a result of concentrating on oneself, on one’s own safety. She had to concentrate on the task before her: To keep an open and friendly look on her face, to make no move that seemed aggressive or suspicious, to offer the bowl of chuppa. If she believed the task was important enough, she would not have time to think about herself, would know no fear. She walked forward slowly, deliberately. She only wished she could check her under-wimple again.
The ship was opening.
Gasps came from the families behind her. It was mysterious, the way it opened up like that. Shushan did feel fear at that moment. And then the stranger came out.