I’m posting what I wrote this evening. I was going to do one chapter, but it ended up being two . . . hopefully, people won’t mind.
Again, not edited, but I did have a quick runthrough, and I’m setting it to go live in the morning.
Here’s my progress so far:
I wrote 2,608 words this evening (about two hours and a bit), for a total of 5,074 words (per Scrivener; MS Word might give a slightly different total, but as I plan to go over, I’m not worried about it right now). Yes, I upped yesterday’s count a bit after some corrections.
As I mentioned before, the rest of the writing will be behind a password-protected post. I plan on sending passwords people I know are going to be interested, and I’ve received a couple of new requests.
If interested, leave a message or e-mail me, and you’ll receive the password via e-mail.
One thing . . . it would help if I knew you, or of you, and you maybe had some interaction with the blog. Last year I received a few requests from people I did not know who then never read a word of the novel, and had zero interactions on the blog. I aim to be a bit more selective, but don’t worry . . . if you are new to my blog, unless you are selling something, you’ll get a password.
. . . and now, without further delay, here are chapters 2 and 3 of my second untitled novel.
NaNoWriMo Second Year (NaNoWriMo2)
Copyright E. J. D’Alise – 2014
The hand stopped millimeters from my throat. She seemed surprised.
“I could have sworn you were Mech. Or mostly Mech.”
“Why do you think so?”
“You did not know I was going to be here. You requested the information on that sheet as we were speaking, hence an implant.”
“I too did a search. There is nothing on you beyond the short Gov-Bio. Mech Data Central has a file on you, but it’s sealed. There are files on other humans, but yours is the only one I’ve ever seen sealed.”
“I’ve never met a human that showed a complete lack of reaction to the presence of a Mech. There are always subtle clues, involuntary clues. Lack of them indicates a high Mech content; high enough to control what are normally subconsciously controlled human systems.”
“Did you threaten me to see my reaction?”
“And . . .”
“. . . and I don’t know any more than I did before.” She lowered her arm.
“Mr. Wolf, you were . . .”
“Remo,” I said, interrupting her.
“. . . Remo, you were right about my job situation. I do want this job, but on some conditions.”
“Go ahead, Raven, I’m listening.”
“I won’t kill anyone, I will not be a part of anything resulting in someone getting killed, I will not do anything illegal, I will not be a part of anything illegal, and I will walk the moment any of those conditions are breeched.”
“Sometimes we work in the gray areas.”
“Gray? How gray?”
“Raven, you are relatively young, wisdom wise. One can certainly speak absolutes. Doctors swear to ‘do no harm’, yet they operate on people, they cause pain, they sometimes make tough decisions that may not always turn out the way they hoped.”
I turned away from her, heading back to my chair. I sat, and rotated back to where she was standing.
“I can promise you this: my intentions will always be honorable, and the best that I can work out at the time. Sometimes I kill people, sometimes I kill Mechs. I can admire your absolute desire not to kill, but what if you have no choice?”
“There is always a choice.” She sounded as sure as a teenage boy explaining to his parents how simple life was, and how he had it all worked out, and showing some disdain toward them not having figured it out yet, despite their age. I knew something about that.
“You come upon a man who abducts people, tortures them, kills them. What do you do?”
“I call the authorities.”
“You have no proof.”
“I get the proof.”
“What about in the meantime? Do you let him go about his life?”
She looked at me. Mech’s brains are organic, so I could only imagine wheels turning instead of actually turning. I spared her the exercise of working out a moral dilemma. She was, after all, only about five or six years old.
“Raven, you are thinking of your military assignments, missions, engagements with other beings, humans or Mechs, also under orders. Each have defined parameters, usually with a military objective. You’re used to dealing with individuals operating autonomously, but still under a narrow set of guidelines and purposes.”
I softened my tone.
“People are messier. Sometimes their motivations are unfathomable. Humanity has tried for ages to make sense of why people do what they do, but the truth is that other than your own, and sometimes not even then, you can never know the ‘why’ of anyone’s actions.”
She seemed skeptical.
“Let’s leave this alone for now. You have to live by your own standards, and it’s not my place to challenge them. I’m just asking you keep an open mind.”
She looked around, unsure.
“So, now what? Do I sign anything, do anything?” She paused momentarily before asking, “do we have a case?”
I grabbed my notepad and wrote my conduit node number and a temporary passkey. I put the pen down, and offered her the paper.
“That passkey is good for exactly one minute. If you can’t make the decision right now, go home and think about it. I’ll have another passkey for you tomorrow.”
“It’s my conduit node,” I said as she reached for the paper. Her hand stopped.
Conduit nodes were a big deal to Mechs. They were the way owners programmed and overwrote programs, making Mech do and think whatever they wanted.
The major point of contention in the various legal battles leading up to the Mech Emancipation had been the conduits. Mech insisted they should be totally private, and under the control of the Mech themselves. Handing those out was tantamount to a human giving access to the conscious part of one’s brain.
Still holding out the paper, I continued.
“The information transfer is limited, both ways, but when within range, you’ll know what I am thinking. There is some leakage, of course . . . You will also “know me”. Well, most of me, but not all. My conduit is open ended, but will only receive what you choose to send, and I can’t pull any information without you being aware and consenting to it.”
Raven’s eyes were fixed on the paper.
She looked up.
“Was your last assistant a Mech?”
I turned and fed the paper into the liquefier.
“I had fifteen seconds left,” she protested.
I did not answer her. I opened the drawer of my desk and pulled out my revolver.
Raven’s reaction was automatic. She was fast. One hand shot out to grab my wrist, the other to grab my elbow, probably to minimize the amount of leverage I could use to break her grip.
I had little choice; I moved to intercept, evading her attempt to grip my arm, and continuing with a strike to the stomach.
Mechs don’t use air to speak; they have speakers synchronized to the movement of the lips; Raven did not make a sound like a human might, but she was still knocked back.
In the split second before she recovered, I had my gun leveled at her, hammer back, finger on the trigger. She froze.
“Watch,” I said. I would not have shot her; I had no need to, but she did not know that.
I used my left hand to slowly raise my shirt. I then pointed the gun vertical, letting the hammer down slowly, and keeping it away from her direction I slowly put the gun in my inside-the-belt holster. I then let the shirt fall over it.
She straightened from her half-crouch.
We looked at each other. I raised my hand as she started to speak.
“You need to think about the conduit sharing,” I said, “but keep in mind that you would not have worried about me taking my gun out had we been linked.”
“How did you do that?”
“You moved a lot faster than I’ve seen people move. Even Mechs.”
“Not that much faster, but fast enough. Again, if we linked, you’d know.”
“I’m ready to link now,” she stepped closer.
“No. Tomorrow. Today you are an observer. I’m going to deliver an invoice, if you care to tag along.”
I did not wait for an answer. I opened the door and headed for the suite door, also going through it without looking back. I did hear both doors closing softly, and felt the change in air pressure as she caught up with me.
“You need a gun to deliver an invoice?”
“No. But I don’t go anywhere without a gun.”
“I see. Anything I need to know about where we are going?”
“Don’t do anything. I’ll make sure you are safe and not involved. If anyone makes a move toward you, I’ll take care of them.”
“I can take care of myself.” Her voice had that proud hint to it again. She really did not like letting go of control, of being dependent on others.
Understandable, given her history, but that too was something that she needed to control.
“Never said you could not. But not this time. This time you do what I say, or we can part company here, and we’ll meet tomorrow.”
“Is this what you mean by assistant? Nothing more than arm candy?”
I looked at her; she was looking straight ahead, but there was a hint of a smile on her face.
“You’ve done more research than I thought. That’s an idiom from a time gone by.” I pointed to my transport, an old time electric car, pre-Mech and pre-override controls.
Once we were inside the car, as I was speeding away from the curb, I answered her.
“No; assistant means you have my back and I have your. Observer means you don’t get involved, and I have your back.”
We rode in silence, using the nearly empty manual control lanes. That was one of the reasons for my choice of cars. I could avoid much of the traffic jams; the manual lanes saw few users. Automated lanes were supposed to have done away with jams, but the world still functioned on certain schedules, hence, traffic jams.
It was a perk I might lose soon as pressure to alleviate traffic was mounting, and various organizations were pressuring the city government to re-purpose the lanes for commercial traffic. I enjoyed them while I still could.
“What’s kind of car is this?”
“It’s vintage, named for a long-ago electricity pioneer. It has some pep, it was cheap to get, and I did some mods, mostly to have it as disconnected as possible from outside systems.”
She was silent for a number of minutes before repeating the previous question.
“Was your last assistant a Mech?”
“No, but my future ones will be.”
“More than one?” she asked.
“Only one assistant at any one time,” I replied.
My peripheral vision is better than most. I did not have to look at her to know she was looking at me.
“Do you think I’ll quit?”
“You already gave a number of reasons why you might, but that’s not the reason.”
She was smart enough to know the reason. We rode the rest of the way in silence, broken only when I stopped and turned off the car.
“A warehouse?” She looked around as she spoke. “Looks pretty desolate. Also, I noticed the guards we passed; not exactly standard security forces.”
“Thugs. Lightweight. They are more of an early warning system, fodder if you will, for the people inside.”
We exited the car, and stepped up to the door. It opened before we got there, and two armed guards stepped out.
“Who’s the bucket of bolts?” one asked.
My palm caught his chin, snapping his head back as I liberated the short-barrel rifle from his hands, and planted it in the other guy’s solar plexus.
Unlike Raven, the guy made a satisfactory grunt as the wind was knocked out of him. He dropped the gun. I dropped the one was holding.
There was a sound of a couple of safeties switching off from the darkness of the door.
“No guns, or someone is getting hurt.” I stayed where I was, partially shielding Raven from the door.
Someone gave an order in one of the made-up languages gangs used to communicate between each other, and then a woman in a tailored suit stepped through the door.
“Mr. Wolf. Men have been killed for less.”
“Funny, I was just about to tell you the same thing, Joy.”
Her eyebrow raised a fraction, but that was about it as far as a reaction to me knowing her name.
“You may come in, but the buc . . . The Mech remains outside.”
I did not say anything. I turned around and motioned for Raven to follow me as I walked back to the car.
I stopped, as did Raven. I turned toward Joy.
“You walk away, and you forfeit your fee.” Joy’s voice registered a slight hesitation. She was on unsure ground.
I walked back to her, stopping a couple of feet in front of her. The guards on the floor were just then trying to get up. Two quick jabs, and they were down again.
“Tell your boss she’ll owe me.”
I did not have to move before her hand went to the earpiece she wore; I waited.
“I . . . Please,” she said, motioning with her hand as she stepped aside, “you can both enter.”
Side by side, we were lead down an aisle surrounded by tall shipping containers. There was no writing on them.
“What was that all about?” Raven whispered.
As a Mech, she could whisper below the hearing of most humans, but not mine. I did not have her control, but tried to answer as softly as possible.
“They insulted you.”
“No, I meant the thing about the boss owing you.”
“Oh, that; it seems I’ve acquired a reputation as someone one should not be indebted to.”
“Hmm; I see.”
She didn’t, but this was not the place to discuss it.
We were lead into a large room. At one point it must have been some type of equipment storage, but was now obviously a safe room. All wi-fi and radio signals were cut off as steel reinforced doors closed behind us. The walls had steel plates bolted to them in overlapping layers. A set of stairs in the corner led to a lower level, presumably even safer.
The woman behind the desk was impressive. I’d only read about her, and the photos I’d seen did not do her justice. Then again, she had retired from public life a number of years ago.
She rose, and stepped around the desk. She was as tall as Raven, but her mode of dress was a lot less modest. This woman was proud of her assets, and did not mind people knowing it.
Stopping in front of me, she extended her hand.
“Mr. Wolf, I’ve heard a lot about you. A pleasure to finally meet you.”
The words did not exactly match her tone.
“I see you have a new assistant.” Her voice lost whatever trace of warmth and cordiality it might have had as she looked at Raven.
“Not yet. Raven is here only to observe. Call it an in-situ interview of sorts.”
“Yes, I heard you had to, ah, terminate your previous assistant.” She turned, giving me a good view as she walked back to her desk. Raven’s movements were more fluid, but not by much.
“It’s an odd place to conduct an interview. Is she supposed to handle our business while you evaluate how she does?”
“You don’t understand; she is interviewing me. If I make a good impression she might decide to work for me.”
“Ms. Dewar, I’m here for my fee,” I continued, reaching into my jacket and pulling out an envelope.
I noticed the goons along the wall start to reach for their guns, but a short vocalization by a man standing behind Dewar stopped them. I acted as if I did not notice.
I stepped forward, dropping the envelope far enough from her so that she would have to reach for it.
“I added some additional expenses, for the time and the effort I have put in to replace my assistant.”
Dewar did not reach for the envelope; the man behind her stepped forward, retrieved the envelope, opened it, removed the contents, and handed them to Dewar.
She unfolded the papers and glanced at the numbers.
“This is substantially higher than we had agreed on,” she said, tossing the papers on the desk and leaning back on her chair.
“Still much less than the bribe you paid my assistant.”
“That is a strong accusation. Can you prove it? Or are you fishing for information? Besides, you did not deliver the girl.”
“Well, here’s the funny thing; I don’t have to prove it. I am not a court of law. Were it up to me, you and your little gang here would already be history, but it seems the girl’s father wants to have this end in a lasting truce. He paid handsomely to have me deliver the message, but your fee is a matter of personal honor to me.”
I looked around the room; seven men, and possibly more in the lower level.
I looked back at Dewar. “I don’t like being made to look the fool.”
This time the men were more deliberate reaching for their weapons, and I noticed Raven shift her weight.
I turned to her, and just looked at her. She nodded, and relaxed. Almost, but good enough.
I looked back at Dewar. “I figure the fee will smooth out my ruffled feathers, and as long as everyone agrees, this ends here.”
I then looked around as I continued. “Come to think of it, either way it ends here, and sooner than later if they keep going for their weapons.”
The room was silent, and no one moved.
Dewar stared at me for a few seconds, and then seemed to make up her mind. She laughed. Her men hesitated, but after a few seconds dropped their arms to their sides.
“Mr. Wolf, you are everything I have heard, and more. I notice you have your transfer account on the invoice. The money will be there by the end of the day; you have my word on it.”
She stood, making a deliberate effort of bending forward, giving me an ample view of ample things. She walked around the desk again, and motioned to the men by the door before extending her hand.
“It was a pleasure, a real pleasure meeting you,” she said, completely ignoring Raven.
“Tell me, how do you think it would have gone?”
“I don’t speculate. I know.” I smiled a teeth-only smile, and shook her outstretched hand.
With that I turned and walked toward the door.
I hear it before Raven vocalized the warning. The man who had stood behind Dewar moved. I heard the movement of fabric, and heard the unmistakable sound of a weapon being drawn from a composite holster.
My gun was out and leveled at the man before his gun cleared the holster. He froze.
“Stop!” Dewar yelled.
Again, everyone froze where they stood.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Wolf. I wanted to see for myself. Hybrid Mech, right? Military prototype, discontinued after the negotiated agreement of ‘75. Apparently, the last one before the agreement was made. The others were destroyed. It’s unclear to me why you were allowed to live, especially a full twenty years before the Emancipation.”
Dewar spat out the word ‘Emancipation’ as if it disgusted her, which I knew for a fact it did.
She stepped in front of my gun as she gave her little speech.
I fired, the bullet clipping some of her hair, and continuing on to shatter the right shoulder of the man who had drawn on me.
“Don’t test me again,” I said, “I’m notoriously bad at tests, and positively detest anyone who draws on me.”
I holstered my gun, and turned, stepping through the doorway, Raven at my heels.
The door closed behind us, but not before I hear swearing and Dewar yelling for a doctor.
We exited the building, got in the car, and left, all without any more trouble.
Raven sat a bit angled, looking at me.
“I thought you were a rumor,” she said.
I did not answer. Dewar had way more information than she had any right to have.
To be continued
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.