NaNoWriMo has now come to an end. I got about half-way through, then day-job hours turned into their usual holiday self. I did get a lot further than I normally do though, so I am happy about that, and I am far enough, that I do plan to try finishing it before the year ends (but holiday hours will hit again this month, so it will be challenging).
Oddly, I’m actually glad that the hours hit when they did though, it allowed me to have chance to stop and think about what I was writing (even if you’re really not supposed to do much of that in NaNo). Basically, I started writing a chapter in the story, and it just flat out stopped flowing correctly… I actually had flow issues through a bit of the story to begin with, but this was just flat out… nothing coming together at all. But I tried to tell myself it was just my self-doubt telling me this and I should just push forward… well, I kept trying to push, and the more I pushed the more this block of bad-flow pushed back. I was thinking about the thing for almost two weeks straight trying to figure it out with nothing but bits and pieces working their way through. But then, finally, last night while working, it hit me what the problem was: I was introducing certain elements of the story in the completely wrong order… I ended completely separated my main character from my supporting characters, and then suddenly there was nothing pushing anything along… it was just there for the hell of it. So, now, I have to go back, inject at least a few new chapters, then re-write the crap out of the last chapters I had, then start moving forward again with actual direction this time.
The month is over; it’s back to work as usual. That means people need to vote on ‘Natural Selection: Part 13” so I can write 14 (I have a tie, get to work), I will be write a bit for the reviews (I have a generalized review that’s been running through my head as a bit of a rant—covers all three mediums even). After Thanksgiving came and went, I have decided that I’m going to tack on a recipe section on here… cooking is my zen, and is commonly one of the things I do to clear my head for writing, so there for it fits my main subject matter. This will all be coming with in the next couple days when I have time to actually write something out.
And, as promised, a fragment from my NaNoWriMo 2012—This is a chapter that I kinda like, and I’m pretty sure it’s about the only one safe from changes… maybe. The story has a working title of “Stiym” (I have play on word titles running through my head, such as “Full Stiym”, or “Self Es Stiym,” but that will be worked out some other time) Remember, this is unedited:
So, we started our morning rounds like we had been doing since we arrived in Baile. However, I couldn’t help but notice along the usual route, that Jan was looking considerably unsettled about something, “What’s the matter, the Lieutenant hurt your feelings?”
He just gave me a narrow-eyed side-glance; I’m guessing I hit a nerve, but before I had a chance to apologize—I swear I was going to—he said in a tone that suggested his mind was still processing while he spoke, “Something about the manner that the Lieutenant address things didn’t seem right… I’m not quite placing why. I don’t know, but when we went to him, I assumed he should have at least known something about it already. These attacks have been going on for over a year now, I couldn’t possibly have been the first person to have noticed such a clear pattern.”
I just shrugged, and said, “Well, you know what they say about ‘military intelligence,’ it’s—“
Before I could conclude the oldest joke in military history, we were interrupted by a scream coming from a building just down the road. We both glanced at each other and with a synchronization that couldn’t have been more perfect if we actually practiced it—and I actually think we were supposed to—we un-slung our condensed-pressure rifles and charged with full force towards the source of the disturbance.
When we got to the front of the building, the sign above the door read “Joe’s Bar & Grill.” I would have been disturbed by that coincidence if I wasn’t already completely aware of how extremely small this town was. We barged through the door with our rifles at the ready, searching frantically for our target or targets, not sure if we should be seeing a metal beast sitting in the middle of the room, or a thief holding up the place. We were greeted with only the stares of a rather baffled barkeep stopped in mid-wipe of a pint-glass, and a young raven-haired girl standing on a stage at the back end.
“Can… I help you gentlemen…?” The barkeep asked with a confusion that matched our own.
“Screaming…” Jan blurted out through his noticeably still pumping adrenaline, “We heard screaming…”
The barkeep’s baffled expression broke into an amused smile, “Oh, that…” He chuckled, “That was nothing to concern over, that was just the young, Miss Alice Ceol, here—“
“I’m so sorry,” the young raven-haired girl interrupted coming down from the stage, “I didn’t realize I was loud enough to be heard outside. I was just screaming to give my voice a bit of a raspiness, I like the way it makes the song I was about to rehearse sound. You’re not going to fine me for public disturbance, are you?”
“Um… you weren’t… I mean… we’re not police…” Jan stammered in response.
I allowed myself to relax my guard and re-slung my rifle with Jan follow the same, “No, ma’am, we were just making sure nothing was wrong. Sorry for the intrusion, we’ll just be on our way now.”
“You stormed in here believing I needed saving?” the girl said putting her fingers to her lips, “I am so sorry—can I at least try to make it up to you two? How about a song and a meal, on me?”
I was at a bit of a loss, and almost found myself stammering like Jan, “Um, no, miss, that’s ok. We were just doing our job, you don’t—“
“Nonsense, I insist.” She looked over to the barkeep, “Joe, could you set them up with something to eat on my tab while I go prepare?”
“Sure thing, Alice,” Joe responded, heading immediately to the range-stove, placing strips of bacon and cracking a couple eggs over it.
“Now you boys just sit right down here and wait for Joe to serve you up something, and I’ll be right back out,” she said while dragging us by the arm to a table with Jan glancing at me looking as unsure of what to do as I was. “And by the way,” she continued while walking back to the stage, “my name’s Alice, what’s yours?”
“My friend here is Private Jan Leighis, and I’m Private Stiym Waalv,” I responded.
She stopped and looked at me for a second, “Really?” I was almost about to give my usual grunt of frustration in reaction to most people’s response to my name until she said, “That’s such a wonderful name. It has a very ‘old country’ sound to it,” a smile perked across her face that just left me stunned for a moment before she disappeared behind the stage curtain.
“We’re supposed to be patrolling,” Jan whispered to me, as if I didn’t already realize that.
I just put my hands up helplessly, “We’re actually supposed to be taking a break for breakfast soon anyway. And if we’re gonna hear singing while we eat, I’d rather it be from an attractive young lady here, than from Trodaire in the dining tent—he seems to only know the key of yelling.” I couldn’t say how much he really agreed with my line of reason, but he surrendered to it all the same.
Shortly after, Joe came out from behind the bar carrying two plates loaded with mounds of crisp bacon and extremely fluffy scrambled eggs, and slices of dark rye toast smeared with a red, chunky fruit preserved jam that all gave off an aroma so tantalizing that I almost passed-out from the overwhelming stimulation. He then put a couple of pint-glasses in front of us filled with a slightly beige colored, sparkling liquid.
“What’s this?” I asked examining the beverage and putting it up to my nose, taking in a sweet fragrance.
“I haven’t given it an official name yet, but it’s something I created almost entirely by accident,” Joe responded with a rather proud look on his face, “basically, it’s excess yeast gas from the beer still, combined with regular ol’ water, plus I added in a bit of sugar and gingerroot extract for flavor. The kids around here seem to like it, and I figured since you two boys probably shouldn’t be consuming alcohol while on duty, you might want to give it a try.”
I first watched Jan take a brave swig and responded with a pleased grin before I did the same with mine. The sparkles popped, and tickled my nose, and the taste of sweetened gingered went in. I’ve had ginger tea a few times before back in Cathrach, and that’s about what I was expecting this to be like, but I was surprised to discover that something as simple as adding bubbles would almost completely change the way the tastes would hit my tongue. Yeast gas and ginger water—quite possibly the most ingenious accident a person could come across.
Not too long after we began digging into our meals with blissful satisfaction, Alice came out onto the stage. She had changed out of the town’s typical female attire of a blandly colored skirt and blouse—that she was actually making look rather attractive on her—to a black dress covered in sparkles that glimmered against every little speck of light in the room as she moved. The bottom came down to just above her ankles with about two-feet of a slit up the left side; while the sleeveless top outlined around her B-sized cleavage coming down in a long V shape that went to just above her stomach, revealing a teasing eyeful of her perfectly smooth, ashen skin.
It wasn’t until I received an elbow to the side from Jan that I realized I was staring gape-mouthed, with pieces of half-chewed egg dribbling down my chin.
Alice stepped a little forward, bowed her head with closed eyes, and lifted her cupped hands to her chest for a moment. Then, slowly, she raised her head and her eyes in time with the first notes, moving her hands with sorrowed expression. She sang with a jazz-styled rasp, while harmoniously combined with a calm soothing melody. Even with her singing in entirely a cappella, she managed to fill the place with more sound than a full orchestra could have pulled off.
The song was not one I had ever heard before, but it told a story of a land far away, where young boys went off to become soldiers to fight for the country, and left their families behind to morn with pride for their bravery in going, and sorrow for them never returning.
I took the song in and let the images it cast float through my mind, and I couldn’t help but feel myself being filled with a painful bitterness as I was forced to realize how little I could relate. I was a soldier that left with an ultimatum, not for my country; and I had no one at home who would ever morn for me, with pride or otherwise.
I glanced at Jan, and felt jealousy for his militant ancestry and litter of sisters at home. Realizing that his father probably looked at him with obvious shows of pride as his only son gave in to their family’s tradition of joining the service, where as my father kicked me out the door, with me dodging shards of flying glass from the bottle of spirits he chucked at me on my way out. And Jan’s mother, she probably still cried for him now, even after all this time of him being away, where as mine simply lay rotting beneath a crudely carved headstone after she was taken by a sudden and violent fever a couple years before.
The remainder of my breakfast was getting as cold as I felt as I sat lost in the melody and my self-pity. If I wasn’t so busy feeling sorry for myself, I might have heard the high-pitched squealing of heavy machinery moving outside before the wall to our right suddenly came smashing down.
Jan and I just barely had time to react and dodge the falling debris, as Alice’s song turned to terrified screaming—a clear difference from the screams before—and a large metal leviathan came crashing through. My mind could barely process what I was seeing, but it was huge, just barely short enough to make it into the building through the newly form hole in the wall without its head tearing completely into the roof along the way. It had tracked wheels running below it, completely destroying the tables and chairs in its path like they were made of saw-dust and tape. And from the plates covering its tracks, to its cylinder head above its bulbous body, it was complete covered in a bronze-colored metal. And on either side of its body, it was equipped with two large cannons, mounted like arms.
With barely a thought, I grabbed my rifle, and shifted its pressure switch active, giving it a slight fluctuation in weight. I pointed the barrel directly between what would have been eyes on a man, and fired. The rifled jolted back as a bolt went flying faster than a person’s ability to see, and clanged with a slight spark against the metal skin, making home in the wooden floor below, leaving the beast un-phased, without even a scratch.
The machine rolled forward towards Alice. She tried to get away, but the heels she was wearing didn’t seem to agree with the idea, and sent her stumbling to the ground, helplessly looking up at the metal monstrosity lurching closer.
Joe began throwing glasses and bottles, and whatever else he could get his hands on, with them flying and smashing into its body, dripping the expelled contents from it, “Get away from her, you hideous freak!”
For every bit of bravery Joe was mustering, it was quickly drained out of his face as soon as the Tom slightly turned its body, redirecting one its cannon-arms towards him. Steam spewed out a hidden exhaust, and the huge barrel let lose a giant iron ball, hurdling at high speed. Joe ducked behind the bar just barely in time for the blast to miss his and exit through the opposite wall, and continuing on into the next building over, only to assume it eventually stopped.
I raised my rifle again, glancing at its pressure-gage reading “ready,” and began looking for a soft-spot to call my target when Jan grabbed my shoulder, “Stiym, no, we’re under orders not to engage!” He yelled over the sounds of screams and machinery, and his eyes turned to compassion as he looked at my wrath charged face. He then said with as calm as a voice as he could get through the rest of the commotion, “We can only observe and report…”
Just then, the bronze abomination’s belly began to open like two split doors, and a large wire-coiled claw extended out from an inner compartment towards Alice.
I looked back at Jan with furry filling my eyes, “You go report, Jan, I’m gonna have my blade do some observing,” trust me, you say that line next time your brain is over flowing with adrenaline, and it will sound completely clever at the time to you, too. With that, I shrugged Jan’s hand away with him looking vividly torn about what to do, and I drew my sword.
The Tom’s claw stretched down and grabbed Alice around the waist. Futilely, she struggled and banged at it with fists that looked like children’s hands against it. All the while she continued to scream for it to let her go, and shouting curses that would shock members of the Defense Force Naval Division, and then a giant needle began to extend out from the claw’s side. Slowly rising, it suddenly stuck her bare back like a scorpion’s tale. Almost instantly, she went from flailing and fighting, to falling limp.
And just like the day at the bar that set me to this path, my brain was flooded with only anger and reaction. All other sounds and images were blotted out as muffled thumping and hazed frames of red, as I charged at the Tom. I dodged beneath a cannon-arm and lunged myself to find footing on top of its plated tracks. I grabbed the arm of the claw with one hand, as it began trying to retract back in to consume Alice in its chamber, and I brought my blade down across it with my other.
The blade my about and inch deep gash, that required me to pry it out raise it back up for another strike. Just as I was bout to bring the sword back down, the wire coils running up the arm quickly hummed, and shot a jolt of electrical charge through my gripped hand. My muscles tensed helplessly until the surge ceased and I fell to the floor in front of the machine in a tingling daze. My whole body felt suddenly exhausted and drained as I forced myself back to my feet.
Searching for my fallen sword, I looked up just in time to see the Tom take Alice inside it and close its chest around her. Its track began to rev themselves in reverse to exit through the hole where it came in. And just as quickly as it came, the Tom was gone.
I stood there for a minute that felt like hours as my mind raced around what just happened and what I should be doing next when I was pull from my trance by Jan who seemed to be suddenly next to me, “But, that doesn’t make any sense…”
I looked at him completely lost about what he was talking about, “What?”
“She wasn’t even blonde, why did it take her?”
It was like he was speaking a foreign language that my brain only barely understood, but I eventually remembered his theory about the abduction patterns, “Well, maybe this Tom’s colorblind…” I said flippantly.
He shook his head, “But colorblind can see the difference between black and white—“
“You know, you’re right,” I interrupted, not really wanting to hear anymore of his attempts to wrap logic around things, “how ‘bout we go ask it what the hell its problem is.”
I charged out the hole in the wall and began following the clear trail of track lines left in the ground, only half noticing Jan behind me trying to keep up. Even though part of me knew I should let him catch up, the anger over-ruled for only the set mission of hunting down the Tom and tearing it apart until nothing was left, but an unharmed Alice.
The Tom was moving with impressive speed, for in the short lead that it had, it already managed to get far enough that it took me running down a couple of long streets, and around buildings that had civilians poking their heads out of with fear-filled faces that told me I was definitely going in the right direction. And with the sound of machine squealing ahead and a last turn around another building, I finally locked eyes on my prey again.
I brought my rifle up from dangling around my shoulder, and took quick aim at the base of the thing’s neck, and fired. With no effect, I ran a few steps forward and the pressure-gage reset, and I took aim at the joint of a cannon-arm—again, with no effect. I repeated the jog forward and took aim again at the seam between the left track and its body. Just before I squeezed the trigger back, I was slightly jolted from my frenzied-stupor by the sound of barking, that my brain for some reason considered familiar and important.
“Private, just what the hell are you doing engaging a Tom in a clear disobedience of my direct and lawful order? Stand down now, Private, and you might stand a chance that I do not have you court-martialed!”
Trodaire’s voice echoed all around me, and conflicting instincts fought like rabid beasts. One side insisting I follow my military training and comply with commands, the other simply screamed in my head like rumbling thunder, roaring on until I destroyed the thing that created it.
“I’m just eating breakfast, sir.” Did I mention that my brain was shut down right now, and making sense was pretty much minimal, at best?
Still holding my target, I took a few steps forward to compensate for the distance lost in the brief discussion. I commanded the rifle to its magic and let the bolt fly from it. It was most likely entirely in my mind, but I thought I could actually see the projectile as it jettisoned from the barrel, and cut a swirled line through the air until it reached contact with the Tom’s joint, and somehow, managed to tear through the seam and into the track.
It stumbled and tripped over its damaged track a few more feet before coming to a halt. My blood still thumping in my ears, I just barely heard the Lieutenant announce his surprise with expletives that I would probably have joined in with equal, if not greater demonstration, if my mind had slowed down enough yet to fully realize what I just did. Instead, without chance for any other thoughts, I charged on towards the Tom with the Lieutenant changing his expressions of surprise back to orders of immediately standing down.
I was stopped in my pursuit as the Tom suddenly began turning a full 180-degrees at its base, and was now facing directly at me. I stood there for a moment at a loss for why it just did that, and then the part of my brain that stored the detail about “cannon-arms” started screaming, and I yelled an expletive of my own before ducking and rolling to the side of the street. Both cannons exploded towards me, and as I moved, I could feel the gust of the flying iron blow past me, tearing into whatever stood in their path. And it shifted again, with the cannons themselves slightly re-angling at the joint. With only the street at one side of me, and a building walling me in at the other, I had little option left. So, just as the steam shot from the cannons’ exhaust, I launched myself through the glass window of the building, with the giant bolts going through, and destroying the rest of the wall.
The occupants of the shambled building came in from another room with alarmed looks on their faces.
“Don’t worry, folks, all just part of the show,” I uttered out before finding a position at the remaindered of the decimated window frame.
I took aim at the Tom’s opposite track this time, in the same spot as the other, and squeezed the round out. The damage was less impressive this time, but it still at least began the cut through. So I let another shot loose, and another, until I saw the track flap freely beneath the bronze shielding that was itself now nearly separated from the Tom.
And then I charged in, unsheathing my sword and launching myself at it. I climbed without stopping to it meet its eyes with my own. Looking in behind black grates I saw wires, coils, and bulbs, and things I couldn’t quite recognized, but was certain if I stabbed a blade into them, would stop this thing from working. I drew my sword back as far as I had room to do so, and thrust it through the mechanical pupil.
The Tom jolted and flailed in reaction to the surgical intrusion, and had me clinging to whatever I could find to grip on to with the very edges of my finger-tips just to keep from being flung off. The death-thralls finally ended, with the Tom letting out a building-sized tea-kettle of a squeal while leting out a last burst of steam from all over.
I drew my sword out from its eye socket and slid down to its chest door. I thrust the tip of my blade between the bronze gates, and began trying to pry it open.
“Private, can you hear me? Say something; do you know where you are?” I heard Trodaire yelling behind me.
A bit confused, as my adrenaline was just beginning to slowly come down, I looked over and was about to respond with, “I’m pretty sure I’m still in Baile,” when what I saw caught my words in my throat like a jagged stone.
Trodaire was frantically hunched over a body wearing a Defense Force uniform. I just saw him lying unmoving in the dirt road; a stream of blood ran from him, pooling and mixing with the dirt into a caked, red mud, “Jan…”
I ran to him, completely uncertain of what I was about to see. Kneeling over him on his opposite side from Trodaire, I yelled with my voice cracking, “Jan, are you ok?” I looked at him as he continued to lay limp, covered in blood, back at Trodaire who was checking for vital signs—something I’m pretty sure I was supposed to have learned back at basic training—there was something about black-boots being shiny, or something—anyway, I heard myself yelling at the Lieutenant, “What happened? How did this—“
“Medic…” Jan suddenly coughed out.
I looked down and saw his eyes slit open, as I was flooded with relief that he was still alive, “Don’t worry, a medic should be on its way—just hang on, you’re gonna be ok…”
He shook his head with exhaustion, “Not for me, stupid, for you—what the hell happened to you?”
“Good-lord, Private, did you just jump through a damn window?” Trodaire’s voice rang while I suddenly started noticing that I was almost completely covered with shards of glass and streams of blood. And now that I noticed it, my adrenaline levels also decided this would be a good time to start letting all the pain through at once, “What the hell were you thinking?”
I fell to the ground writhing in sharp agony, trying to pry out the few pieces that I could grab, “Mostly avoiding the flying ball of death, sir—I think that’s about as far as thought got.”
As I was pulling out a rather unrealistic sized shard from my leg, and wondering if it reached bone a loud banging rang from behind. Trodaire instantly rose to his feet while simultaneously drawing his condensed-pressure pistol from his side holster and directed aim towards the battered Tom.
It banged, and thumped while it sat motionless. That thing can’t possibly still be function—Oh, crap, “Alice!”
I stumbled to my feet, cringing as shards poked, and jostled in excruciating and unpleasant ways. Running back to the Tom where my blade was still wedged between the slats in its chest, I began prying with every bit of energy I had left in me. I could feel the world swirl around me, as my body was clingy to fight against the overwhelming pain. Then the pressure through my sword gave way, and I felt myself simply fall forward with a sensation of floating rushing over me.
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