Hello again, all!
Nope, you haven’t gone back in time (yet). I’m filling in for Mindy this week so she can bring us something awesome on the 17th (Stay tuned – Your patience will be rewarded).
I’d like to take you all back to the beginning of June at this year’s Roaring Writers retreat. For most of that week, I was shoulder deep in revision – and the occasional Cards Against Humanity game.
One night, I discovered a broken chapter. It was all right, structurally, but it didn’t fit. I’d eased off on the pressure, which I shouldn’t have done and, in her notes, my agent pointed that out – and rightly so.
So I rewrote it. The rewrite broke the following chapter, and the one after that.
And the one after that…
Sometimes that happens and the only way out is through. I could see where I could rejoin my story and, believe me, when I got there, I stopped for the night (it was around 1:00 am by that time) and took a few minutes to enjoy a beer.
Not only did I keep the pressure on my characters, I turned it up and my story is so much better for it.
I’d like to share a bit of it below. I won’t share everything that hit the page that night because, spoilers, but I can share this.
I hope you enjoy it.
The roar of landing thrusters snagged Deanna’s attention. Dust billowed up the ramp. They were coming back.
“Damn it,” Deanna said. She stuffed the log recorder back in the crate and tried to replace the lid. The nails wouldn’t fit.
“Leave that,” Laruah said. She limped up the stairs. “There’s no time. Follow me.”
Deanna glanced at the ramp, then followed.
Laruah led them to the engine room. Deanna glanced around. Dingy lights in the ceiling shed a sickly, yellow light. The room smelled of old lubricant. Bootfalls and voices followed them down the corridor.
“Grab that floor puller.” Laruah pointed to a shelf. She reached into her pocket and wrapped her handkerchief around her hand.
Deanna tossed her a squat, arching, handle with two palm-sized disks attached to each end.
Outside, the voices were getting closer.
Laruah checked the charge in the puller. She took a limping step back, then lurched forward, leaping off the floor with a muffled exhalation of pain. She reached up with one arm, pushed the disks against the wall of the main power core, and turned on the puller. With a quiet clang, the disks adhered to the metal. Laruah hung there for a moment, braced her feet on the wall, and leaped up, reaching with her kerchief-bound hand to grab a pipe.
Swinging her legs up, Laruah disappeared on top of the main power unit. She reappeared a moment later, extending an arm down to Deanna.
“Bring the puller with you,” Laruah said.
Deanna jumped up and grabbed the handle, bracing her feet like Laruah had. She pushed off with her legs, pulling with one arm, while reaching for Laruah with the other.
Their hands caught and Laruah pulled Deanna up.
The top of the power core was covered with a thick layer of grime, dust, and the corpses of insects from across the system.
“It’s hot.” Deanna braced her weight on her jacketed forearms.
“It’s a piece of chogh, but it still needs to generate power.”
Deanna lay on her chest. She tried to shift away from the brown and yellow husk of a spider-like creature, the size of her hand. The sound of boots on the floor stopped her.
She held her breath, turning her head to the side, trying to make herself smaller. Her cheek brushed against something that crunched quietly in her ear.
The footsteps spread out far enough for Deanna to identify three different people.
“Anything?” A voice from the door said.
“Clear.” Another voice said from Deanna’s right. A moment later, a third voice echoed the second, this time from the left. They slid aside panels, opened cabinets. Deanna heard the hum of an automatic screwdriver, then a thin bong as a panel hit the floor.
Deanna waited, feeling the heat through her clothes grow from uncomfortable to painful.
“Report,” the voice from the door said.
“Bridge checks out.” The voice came through a speaker. “There was someone up here, though.”
Deanna tried to keep her breathing slow and even. Dust swirled through her teeth.
“Whoever they were, they’re gone now,” The voice by the door said. “Scavengers.” A spitting noise echoed through the room. “Lock it down.”
“Yes, sir.” The speaker cut out with a staticky crackle.
The boots faded into the distance.
Deanna’s neck ached. She turned her head and looked at Laruah. She was sweating. Her jaw was clenched and her eyes were closed. Grime partially obscured the tattoo on her cheek.
The sounds of movement within the ship, sometimes intense, persisted for a short lifetime. Eventually, they faded and the lights went out. The empty boom of the loading ramp closing rolled through the dark.
“Laruah?” Deanna’s voice sounded loud in her ears.
“I’m ok.” There was a pause. Deanna heard Laruah shift, heard a hiss of pain.
“Here,” Laruah said.
Something tapped Deanna on the arm. She grabbed a thin, cylindrical object. She fumbled with it in the dark before finding the switch.
Piercing blue-white light split the dark, lighting up the spider corpse. Deanna flinched.
“Let’s get down from here.”
Deanna wriggled to the side of the power core and shone the light down to the floor. It seemed farther away than she remembered, but she kept the light aimed at the floor and slid off the edge.
The floor panels rattled when she landed, the impact jarring up her legs.
“Laruah?” She swept the light up and away from where her friend would be.
Laruah’s head appeared ghostly in the darkness. “That’s a long way down.”
“I’m here. Come on down.”
“Be there in a second, Boss.” Laruah reached down and attached the puller to the wall. She swung herself down, her legs banging into the wall of the core. She gasped, her shadow danced crazily on the ceiling. Laruah hung there for a moment, then deactivated the puller and dropped to the floor.
She landed and her leg buckled. Laruah let out a strangled noise, and she’d have fallen if Deanna hadn’t caught her.
“Easy,” Deanna said. “I’ve got you.” She straightened, supporting Laruah’s weight. Laruah draped her arm over Deanna’s shoulder without complaint.
Deanna felt a vibration through her feet. It grew steadily until she could hear a mechanical shifting beneath them. There was a heavy, muffled clunk and the Fortune shook. They’d land locked the ship.
“Come on,” Deanna said. “Let’s take care of your leg.”
Case Lauter’s well-stocked—and dubiously legal—infirmary had some pretty potent stuff when it came to killing pain and Deanna had given Laruah plenty of it.
She wrapped her friend in a blanket, took her to the bridge, and settled her into the copilot’s seat.
Deanna looked out the view pane. The setting sun glinted off fliers as they passed. On the ground, crawlers edged their way through the evening masses. Here, folk looked dirty and hard-ridden. Spaceport workers, loaders, folk looking for a quick deal, a good time, or just wanting to get home.
Deanna watched, feeling disconnected from it all, isolated. They couldn’t stay here forever. They needed food, water, and fuel if they were going to catch up with Navero but, before she could come up with any plan, she needed to take stock of what she had to work with.
She glanced at Laruah, made sure her sleeping friend wouldn’t fall out of the chair, and went off into the dark interior of the Outrageous Fortune.
Time: 11:23 am-ish
Music: Within Temptation – In the Middle of the Night