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Friday, December 27, 2019

Deleted Scenes from Shark Station

Warning! This blog post will contain spoilers for anyone who hasn’t finished reading Shark Station yet. Skip this post if you haven’t finished reading the story.
Like with Allie’s Return, there were several chapter rewrites and extensions added on to different scenes to enhance the story in Shark Station. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing only one of them, but it is an entire chapter. I hope you enjoy!

Originally, chapter 14 was the first chapter to introduce Shark Station and it was much shorter than the one in the final version. I wanted the exploration of the station to be more gradual than it was, so I added several additional pages to chapter 14. Here was the original chapter 14:

Chapter 14
The stationed loomed ahead—all four floors of it. A mild light shone from the myriad of windows on each level. Circular, most of it jutted out from the trench wall. It appeared as if part of the wall of the trench had been carved into to anchor the station and the rest of it bulged out from it. It reminded me of a house on a hill, where some of the house resided inside the hill and the rest of it hung over it.
“Wow, that place looks amazing.”
“Let’s see how well it has stood up the pressure all this time. We won’t know what we’ll find when we get in there.”
I knew that voice. It was Dr. Avraham. Why was she here? Shouldn’t she be in the control room guiding the ship in?
As if to answer my question, she explained, “The ship will do the docking automatically from here. According to Mayor Cho, an access code is necessary to open the docking bay. I’ve entered it into the system, so we should be good to go.”
“Where is the docking bay?” wondered Samantha. Maybe she’d forgiven Dr. Avraham, but I hadn’t. I’m one to hold a grudge.
“On the bottom level of the station facing directly toward us. We should be docking in a matter of minutes.” Her voice diminished as I heard her walking away. “Best to get your stuff ready so we can go. I don’t think any of us want to be on this ship anymore.”
Or with her, I thought but didn’t say anything.
The crowd around the window broke up and the majority of us went to the sleeping quarters to gather the rest of our things.
Being eager for this day for a while, I had already packed most of my stuff earlier today. Only a few things remained outside my bag, so I quickly stuffed them inside and returned to the kitchen viewport.
By now, we’d arrived so close to the station that it took up the entire viewport. The doors of the docking bay started to slide aside. Compared to the docking bay doors of Oceania, these were tiny. I began to wonder if the Spirit of the Sea would even fit. Glad for the computer systems guiding the ship in instead of one of us, I watched as the interior of the docking bay became visible.
Just as in Oceania, a blue light lit the interior of the space. Five seacrafts already were inside. Two seamobiles, two exploration vessels that could seat two, and one mid-sized vessel. Still, there was plenty of room to dock the Spirit of the Sea on the right side of the bay where it was empty. 
A sound a whoosh pushed us forward as the docking bay doors closed. A blaringly loud sound erupted from somewhere and the blue lights began flashing red.
“Is something wrong?” I wondered aloud.
“I don’t know. It’s hard cause none of us have been here before.” Dylan came and stood beside me, his bag slung over his shoulder.
The two of us watched as the water was removed and then the lights stopped flashing and turned from red to white.
“I guess they designed things a little differently here than they did in Oceania.” Dylan shrugged and spun around. “Come on, let’s get off this ship.
Agreeing wholeheartedly, I grabbed my bag from the floor and went to the staircase. At the bottom, Dr. Gomez was already there pressing the button to open the hatch to the docking bay. With a hiss, the door released and a whirr emitted from the floor as a stairway came down from under the floor of the bottom deck.
Waiting until the stairs reached the bottom of the docking bay, we stood behind Dr. Gomez.
“I better go outside first. There’s no telling what condition the robots of the station are in. If they’ve malfunctioned, I want to be able to attend to them. You two stay behind me.” Dr. Gomez began descending down the steps.
Dylan and I followed, staying a few steps behind Dr. Gomez. When we reached the floor, I noticed it was still a little wet.
Odd, that was different than Oceania. Most of the water was always drained out. It could be described as a little damp, but wet—never.
“We should have been greeted by the robots upon entrance.” Dr. Gomez’s brown eyes searched the area, not moving a muscle. “This is weird.”
Another hiss emanated across the way to our right. All three of our heads spun towards it.
“Hello, welcome to Shark Station.”
I released the breath I hadn’t realized was stuck in my chest. An older style robot, gleaming metallic silver had come into the docking bay. He was a hover bot, meaning that he had no legs, only a torso, arms, and a head. His body appeared to be made of a bunch of different circles. His head, joints, torso, arms, and everything but his hands were made up of circular pieces of metal.
“How may I assist you? My name is Zoid.”
“Hello, Zoid. I’m Antoine, the chief engineer on this mission.”
“Hello, Antoine, nice to meet you. Who are your other mission mates.”
“This is Dylan Baker and Allie Baker. There are seven more in the ship. They could use some assistance unpacking all of our belongings. Are you the only functioning bot here?”
“Oh no, there are four of us in all. Myself, Xeta, Yeta, and Weta are all fully functional and capable of helping you along with your mission here. Should I call the others to come to help you unpack?”
“Yes, that would be helpful.”
“Very well. It is complete. They will be here momentarily.”
“Thank you, Zoid.”
“You are welcome.” Zoid headed up the stairs and inside to help.
“What should we do?” wondered Dylan.
“You two can help me check out the station and see what condition it's in.” Dr. Gomez slung his bag over his arm, holding it in place as he spoke.
“What about Max?”
“He can catch up later. If I find anything wrong, I’ll ask him to help me fix it. Now, come on.” Dr. Gomez took off in the direction from which the robot had appeared.
Following him, we jogged to keep pace. When we reached the door, it opened automatically for us and we found ourselves in a corridor wide enough for four people to stand abreast.
“Which way now?” I wondered, wishing we had the blueprints or at least a map of the station downloaded on our c-coms.
“Let’s try every door on the corridor and see where it leads.” Starting with the door across from the docking bay, Dr. Gomez peeked his head inside. “That’s the moon pool room. Let’s go inside.”
This moon pool room made the one on the Spirit of the Sea look like a child’s playroom. This one was massive. A hole probably the size of half an Olympic-sized swimming pool took up the center. The cover was on it, so there was no telling what was underneath. Hanging from the ceiling were cranes and other equipment I didn’t recognize. On the right-hand side was a set of closets, hooks, and what I assumed was a changing area. A pod that resembled a submersible was off to the side of the pool. Clad in all yellow, it was hard to miss. Two ROVs rested against the wall.
“This room looks fine, let’s check the next one.”
Dr. Gomez led the way out and we followed him around the corner to a dead end with one door to the left. It led to a storage room, so we moved on from there, deciding to check it out at another time. Turning around, we weaved back to find a wet lab and the maintenance room before finding the stairs and going up them.
The second level reminded me of a space ship. It was cool. There was one corridor that appeared to wrap around the entire station. Large viewports were cut into the outside wall giving us a big black view of nothing. Still, if there was something to look at, we’d see it.
Not far from the stairs was a doorway that led into a room that took up the entire rest of the level. At the moment, it was mostly empty except for a few plants growing in small trays near the center of the room.
“This must be the Hydroponics Room,” surmised Dylan.
“Yeah, I think you’re right,” assured Dr. Gomez, walking inside and inspecting the trays. “We’ll leave the assessment of this room up to Dr. Avraham. It looks like we need to get this up and running soon so we can support ourselves.”
Dylan walked around the room and I did too, but it wasn’t long before Dr. Gomez beckoned us up to the next level. It was similar to the second level, except the central area was split into rooms. There was still a wraparound corridor that had viewports all along the corridor walls. We found the Med Bay, Kitchen, Exercise Room, Sleeping Quarters, and even an Entertainment Room on this level.
Finally, we made our way to the top level—level 4. This level reminded me of the Spirit of the Sea.  At the top, there was one large area with a wraparound window so that they could see into the corridor and the ocean through the various viewports beyond. It was mostly empty, but there were a few chairs scattered about. On the opposite side of that was the Engineering Lab and robot charging stations.
Dr. Gomez swung his bag off his arm onto the floor and stretched. “Well, I guess that’s it.”
“This place is amazing!” I said, walking forward to touch the durapane or glass or whatever the windows were made of.
“I know. It’s huge. We won’t get so sick of each other here, that’s for sure,” said Dylan, admiring the place.
“True, but we should probably get back down below. The rest are probably wondering where we went off to.”
“Do not worry about that, Zoid has told your team members of your intention to search the station,” came a voice from behind me.
This time I did squeal and spun around to see where the voice had come from.
“Hi, I’m Xeta. I’m the main cleaning robot around here. I was charging when you arrived and just finished, so I got Zoid’s message.”
“Good, thank you, Xeta. If you could send a message to Zoid to tell him to let the others know we’re coming back down, that’d be great.” Dr. Gomez picked up his bag off the floor.
“I will certainly do that. I will see you all later.”
Returning to the docking bay, we found the others were already gone. Zoid told us that they had taken their belongings to find room in the Sleeping Quarters. So the three of us ascended the stairs again, still lugging our bags with us.
Before, we’d just peaked into the sleeping quarters and not really examined it. This time, when we walked inside, I realized just how large it was. It was spread out with a corridor wrapping around, but unlike the outer corridor, it divided and branched off into two smaller ones. The bathrooms were in the center of the area with additional rooms flanking either side. Men and women had separate bathrooms unlike on the Spirit of the Sea, but at each corner was another smaller bathroom.
“Hey, Allie! Over here, you can have the bedroom next to mine.” Samantha beckoned be to her from the other side of the corridor. We took a right and went down to the rooms only a door away from the bathroom.
“The one next to the bathroom smells funny, so I chose the next one. I’m in room 17, you can be in room 16.”
“We can each have our own room?”
“Yeah, there’s plenty enough room so we don’t have to share. They’re tiny rooms, but still. It’s better than sharing bunks with nine other people.
Samantha did have a point there.
Opening the door to room 16, I noticed a twin-size bed to the left and only about one pace to the right was a small desk and chair. A shelf on the top held space for some belongings and a closest a tad larger than me was in the corner behind the door.
“I know they’re small, but you could just call it cozy.”
“True, but to have our own space to get away.”
“Yeah, it’s nice isn’t it.”
“You bet.”
“All crew members, please find your way to the corridor outside the sleeping quarters. A meeting is necessary.”
Oh, just great. Here we go again.
I threw my stuff onto the bed and left the room, not bothering to lock it. It’s not like anyone was going to steal my stuff or anything.
Samantha and I weaved our way through the corridors and out to the outer corridor by the viewport. Almost everyone else was already there.
“Hello everyone. Now that we are in Shark Station, I will be in command here. Things are going to be very different from the way that they were on the Spirit of the Sea. Now, I understand that everyone is tired and they just want to get settled in so we’ll eat some of the food from off the ship and we’ll decide what to do from there,” explained Mrs. Baker. “Now, we’ve been lucky that one of the robots has prepared a meal for us out of the remaining food, so let's go eat now and then we can talk.”
My grumbling stomach could agree with that.

I hope you enjoyed the final blog post for Shark Station. In the Oceania: The Underwater Series Boxset, there is an additional deleted scene for Shark Station you can only read there. So, if you haven’t picked up a copy and would like to, just visit my website elizataye.com. If you ever want to reach out to me, you can email me at elizataye@gmail.com. I love hearing from my readers, even if it is just casual conversation. 😊

The next blog posts will be for the next novel in the Oceania: The Underwater City series. If you want to stay updated on the book's release, cover reveals, and the title reveal, visit my website at  https://elizataye.com/news/ and subscribe to the news blog to be the first to hear about it.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Reality vs. Fiction: Animals at Depth

It is often said that we know more about space than we do our own oceans. I find that statement to be so true every time I do research for the Oceania novels. The gaps in current knowledge of marine science are vast but are being filled with every new dive to the deep. In Shark Station, I took more liberties than I had with the previous Oceania novels due to these gaps in knowledge. I’ve discussed some of the reasons before in the author’s note of the novel and in previous blog posts. However, I want to highlight the differences between reality and fiction in Shark Station for animals at depth in this post.

For Shark Station, it is true that I wanted to feature more sharks than in previous novels and to do that, I took advantage of the lack of knowledge of the sea creatures in the Sirena Deep. Unlike Challenger Deep, there’s less known about the Sirena Deep and if you want, you can read more about it from my research blog post for this novel (click here to read it). In Shark Station, you read about shortfin makos, blue sharks, great white sharks, goblin sharks, and frilled sharks. Only the shortfin mako, blue sharks, and great white sharks are featured at depths already documented by science in the book. The goblin shark and frilled shark that Allie encounters are both featured at depths far deeper than they have so far been documented. Frilled sharks only dive to 1,570m (5,150.9ft), which is almost half the depth they are featured at in Shark Station. The goblin shark has been found as deep as 1,300m (4,265.1ft), which is nearly a fourth of the depth I placed them at. Both of these sharks are still mostly a mystery to science and it is possible that in the future they may be observed at lower depths than once thought possible.

Physeter macrocephalus, or more commonly known as the sperm whale, was encountered by Allie and her station mates at a much lower depth than they have ever been recorded. If you reference my earlier blog post—SeaCreatures Part 1 – Sunlit Marine Life—from Allie’s Return, you’ll know that sperm whales typically dive down about 1,000m (3,280ft). In Shark Station, they observe it at almost twice that depth.

Allie and her friends see a Dumbo octopus when on the seafloor of the Sirena Deep. However, Dumbo octopuses have been known to only dive to 7,000m (22,965.9 ft). Snailfish, too, have not been observed lower than 8,000m (26,246.7ft). Each of these animals were described at over 2,800m (9,186ft) their currently known depth.

Deep-sea coral has not been found as deep as the Sirena Deep before, but with an area as vast as the Mariana Trench is, who knows what could be down there. Typically, deep-sea coral live in depths of up to 6,000m (20,000ft)(1). In Shark Station, the deep-sea coral they find at the bottom of the Sirena Deep were at over 10,800m (35,400ft).

Overall, my reasons for using the gaps in knowledge was to provide the reader with an awe-inspiring experience of Allie and her friends’ time in Shark Station. I considered whether or not it could even be a possibility that these animals could live in the Sirena Deep. To answer my own question, I would say yes. All of the creatures I featured at depths lower than they typically dive have the physiological adaptations to live at lower depths. The only limiting factors would be the difference in pressure exerted on the body for each species and food availability. As far as location, each of the species described in the trench have been known to inhabit those waters, so with that, I did not take any liberties.

  *As I was doing research for this post, I discovered that the Sirena Deep is NOT the second deepest part of the ocean, the Horizon Deep is. This was confirmed almost seven months after the publication of Shark Station. But the Sirena Deep is still the second deepest part of the Mariana Trench (that we know of). This is a perfect example of how we’re still learning about the ocean every dive and new knowledge is obtained all the time. If you want to read about the first manned dive to the Horizon Deep, you can click here.

I hope you have a greater understanding of the differences between reality and fiction in Shark Station. Perhaps, one day, with further knowledge of the undersea world, we’ll discover that the animal behaviors in Shark Station are in fact, more reality than fiction.

You’ve reached the end of the blog post for this week. In two weeks will be the last blog post for Shark Station and no more blog posts will be posted until after the next novel is released. Be sure to subscribe so you’ll be notified when the blog posts for the next book begin. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at elizataye@gmail.com. As always, I love hearing from my readers.