About the author: I’m 33, been married for 12 yrs and have two kids. I’ve loved writing my entire life, but really haven’t developed it like I should have. Currently, I am going to school to get a History degree and my teaching certification. I’m mainly interested in sci-fi and fantasy works, and a huge fan of comics.
What I am trying to write: I am trying to write an adventure/fantasy type novel. The plot revolves around a young atheist that becomes the “Champion of Heaven”. He fights the forces using Earth as a hunting ground, while trying to deal with the incongruities of is life.
Target Audience: I’m thinking 18-30 male.
Criticism: I’m open to any and all constructive criticism.
Here are the first few pages, which I originally did as a short story before deciding to expand the idea into a novel.
Paladin looked over the dark cityscape he was supposed to be protecting. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary so far and he began to hope he could make an early night out of it. This job takes way too much of my time, he mused to himself. I could be snuggling with Kira or finally getting that overdue paper done for Professor Tompkins, but NOOOOO I have to be freezing my balls off waiting for evil to happen. Why can’t it be like in the comics, they never seem to freeze or suffer serious shrinkage when patrolling, and trouble usually finds them instead of making them wait around.
“Ya know lad,” the thick Scottish brogue belonging to Rory cut through Paladin’s wandering thoughts, ya could do somthin’ different for a change and actually patrol. Ya jus’ might stay warm and find that trouble you’re lookin’ for.”
Paladin sighed the sigh of the long suffering and pondered whether to answer back. The problem being if he did an argument would invariably break out, and if he didn’t the others would start chiming in with their unwanted two cents any second. Carrying around the souls of the six previous Champions of Heaven on Earth, while sounding cool, was more often than not a pain in the ass of epic proportions.
What the hell, he decided. It’ll give me something to do. As he geared up for the mental fight to begin a scream rang out.
“About damn time,” Paladin muttered, as he took off running at a speed that would make NASCAR drivers envious.
Thank goodness for Akagi’s speed and reflexes, without ‘em I’d be dead and stuck in the sword with the others, and wouldn’t that be a wonderful experience for eternity.
“We heard that,” all of them said together.
“Good,” Paladin replied, “Now shut up and let me concentrate.”
Paladin paused for a second and called up Rory’s senses. Extending his hearing out, he filtered out the normal night sounds of big city life and found what he was looking for, the sound of a girl crying and begging for her mother.
Three blocks east, time to call up Akagi’s speed again.
Letting go of Rory and filling himself with Akagi’s ability Paladin took off like a shot and reached the area in 45 seconds.
“Careful lad, time to slow down and approach with caution. We have no idea what we’re going to meet,” came the warning from inside his mind.
“M’butu, who’s the Paladin here? Let me do my damn job and just be ready when I call on you. Sheesh, my own mother disowns me and now I find myself with six old hens instead.”
Paladin took off the cross he always wore pinned to his breast and called forth his sword. Suddenly the surrounding buildings and alleys surrounding him became bathed in a bright silver glow coming from the sword in Paladin’s hand. Three feet long with a beautiful jewel inlaid cross hilt, the real spectacle was the blade itself. Made entirely of the Silver Flame of Heaven, this holy sword was the bane of evil in any form. Paladin barely knew what all of sword’s powers were, but was glad he had it. With it he could banish demons, wound the souls of the evil, heal the good, and generally kick ass on anything in between. Of course it also held the souls of its six previous uptight, self-righteous wielders, but that was a minor price to pay.
In the glow Paladin spotted the source of the crying. A little girl, no more than twelve, was scooting backward on her behind as if trying to get away from something in the alleyway.
Great, an invisible one, he thought.
He steeled himself, took a deep breath and shouted, “REVEAL”, while pointing the Silver Flame toward the general direction the child was facing. What popped into view made him wish he hadn’t done that. Fully twelve feet tall, with a savage wolf-head, protruding fangs, clawed hands and feet, burning red eyes, and a huge axe, this thing wasn’t going to be easy.
Then again, if it were easy I wouldn’t be needed, Paladin mused.
Paladin started to pull up M’butu’s strength, but at the last second changed his mind.
“Giovonni, time to play wizard,” he called out mentally.
Feeling the mystical power flow through him he called up a solid invisible wall, cutting off the Narwolf from the girl. Now calling on M’butu, Paladin crouched and leaped to the top of the building on the right side of the alley. The Narwolf howled and Paladin felt his entire being go weak for a moment.
“Nice fear effect, asshole, but not really the best thing to throw at me,” Paladin called. Then his eyes widened and he scrambled for cover yelling, “Shit”, as a ball of fire headed towards him. Instinctively he held out his sword and it drank in the raging inferno around Paladin and converted it into healing energy.
Mental note, don’t taunt the big scary wolf thing, Paladin thought as he called up Giovanni and fired off his own magic salvo. Lightning streaked from his hand and caught the Narwolf, blasting him back against the opposite wall of the alley.
“That should do it.”
Paladin called up Chang and floated down off the roof thinking, If only those guys that make wuxia films knew they’re closer than anyone to the truth about what people are capable of.
“With God’s help, Paladin,” Chang’s voice chided.
“Yeah, yeah, all glory to God and whatever. Let’s just check on the girl shall we?”
Paladin dispelled the forcewall he had created and started towards the girl, who was staring at him apparently dumbfounded at being rescued.
“It’s alright honey, I won’t hurt you,” Paladin assured the girl as he got his first good look at her. She was one of those tall, thin, gawky girls with dirty blonde hair and blue eyes.
Here’s another one who’ll be made fun of or ignored, that is until she matures and I bet the boys will beat a path to her then.
“What’s your name, kiddo,” he asked.
She just shook her head, and then her eyes widened and Paladin noticed a hint of red showing. As he went on his guard, he heard a growl from behind him. He whirled and brought Silver Flame up just in time to parry a cut that would have cleaved him two.
Mental note two, make sure big scary wolf thing is dead before I look to victims.
“Time for the show Lance,” Paladin thought.
Suddenly the Narwolf seemed as if in slow motion as Lance filled Paladin with his skill. Paladin fell into the battle and within three strokes saw his opening.
Paladin cried out, “I send thee back to hell, demon,” as he swung the Silver Flame in a horizontal arc and severed the Narwolf’s head sending a spray of greenish blood flying.
Panting from exertion and shaking with adrenaline Paladin turned back to the girl only to find she was gone. Snorting with indignation he muttered, “Your welcome,” to the empty air.
“Let’s get back, if I’m lucky Kira’s still up and if I’m really lucky her parents aren’t,” Paladin told the others.
“We should find the girl and investigate this!” Rory exclaimed.
“What’s to investigate, girl gets scared and runs away as I kill demon, case closed. Hell, at least she had the good sense to run from trouble.” Paladin shot back.
“What about her eyes boyo, ya saw the red.”
“I saw a reflection of the Narwolf’s eyes in hers, that’s all and that’s it. It’s time to go.”
As he was about to leave he noticed a piece of metal lying on the ground. Curiosity got the better of him and he took a look. Squatting down he picked it up and found it to be an old, broken iron pipe. It had some type of viscous fluid covering the sharp edges. Holding it up to the light Paladin saw the fluid was gray with dark swirls rippling through it.
Screw it, probably from the Narwolf.
Dismissing it from his mind, he called on Akagi and raced to Kira’s house.
Racing through the city at a speed that left him a blur to normal people, Paladin soon reached the university campus where both he and Kira lived.
“Unfortunately not together, but at least I don’t have far to run if her parents catch me.”
“Sinful,” came Akagi’s voice.
shocked silence “Well, I never…”
Paladin cut her off, “You should, might loosen that stick up your ass. I don’t need lectures on sin, thanks. I’ve committed and had committed on me more than enough sin to damn me to Hell a hundred times over, so I may as well get what fun I can out of what life I have left. You chose me, not the other way around. Don’t like it, tough, ’cause I’m in charge. Anything else?”
Silence greeted his tirade and Paladin took that as a sign of assent or disbelieving anger. Either way they were quiet and that’s all that mattered. He stopped outside a modest two-story house that Kira lived in with her parents. Kira had received numerous academic scholarship offers from various prestigious schools, but with her mother ailing she chose to go where her father was a faculty member so she could help him take care of things around the house. Paladin really had no idea what she saw in him, if anybody in the world was too good for him it was her. Still there must be something; she had been with him for two years.
Stepping behind a large oak just outside of her window Paladin looked for signs she was awake. Extending Rory’s senses he heard the faint sounds of that pop garbage she liked to dance to.
“Good, she’s still awake and if I’m extremely fortunate she’s dancing. Dancing always gets her in the mood.”
Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly and a faint silver shimmer flowed over him changing his clothes, cleaning off any grime and blood, and turning him back into just plain Jay Morgan. Taking his glasses out of his pocket, Jay couldn’t help but think, “If it’s good enough for Superman its good enough for me.”, as he put them on.
Stepping closer to the tree Jay started climbing and quickly reached her window and knocked softly. The curtains whooshed back as Kira gave him that smile she reserved just for him, the one that made him think of marrying her every time. She opened the window and Jay started to say, “Am I too late…”, when she grabbed him and kissed him, pulling him in at the same time.
Long moments later they finally broke apart and Jay asked her, “Should we move this to the bed?”
Kira grinned and replied, “Only if you have that paper for my father’s class done.”
“If I promise to get it done right after, can we move this to the bed?”
Holding her arms around his neck she kissed him quickly and said, “Get your lazy, but cute, ass over to my computer and get done. I’d rather not be cold while you work afterwards.”
“Fine,” Jay sighed, as he gave her his best suffering look. “If I go crazy and jump you I can’t be held responsible.”
“It shouldn’t take you that long, besides its better when you have to wait for it.”
“Somebody’s been feeding you a pack of lies.”
Kira giggled and said, “Come on, get busy and I’ll make you some coffee.”
Kira looked at him and said, “Did you really just say groovy?”
“Nobody says groovy.”
“Well I can think of three, me, Austin Powers, and Shaggy.”
Jay tried to do his best Shaggy voice, “Like groovy, man.”
Kira laughed, telling him, “Your Scooby is much better.”
“If I do Scooby, can I see your Shaggy?” he asked hopefully.
“Keep your mind on your paper, perv, you’ll get done faster.” she said while rolling her eyes and giving him a playful slap on the shoulder.
She turned to go, but turned back put her arms around him and whispered in his ear, “If you hurry, you’ll find I’m not Shaggy at all.”
A few hours later Jay found himself lying in bed with Kira, holding her while she slept. He had finished his paper in record time, maybe not his best work, but he got it done. Kira was true to her word and it was great, but something kept nagging at him. Normally he would be fast asleep by now; still he lay there wide-awake and thinking about the earlier encounter with the Narwolf. Jay thought about waking up the Rory to talk, but decided against it. After his earlier explosion he doubted they would be talking to him for a couple of days. Well, it was fine with him. He could use the peace and quiet.
“Why do I keep thinking about that piece of pipe I found? And that girl, who was she, and what was she doing in that neighborhood at that time?”
Suddenly it came to him and he breathed out, “Shit!”
Easing himself out of bed so he wouldn’t wake Kira, he went to her computer and pulled up information on dark fey.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, how could I have been so blind? Dark fey find iron painful, poisonous even. They can summon a demon for protection while they take the form of the person they decide to go after. Damn it all, she wasn’t afraid of the Narwolf, it was her guardian. She wasn’t crying for her mother, but praying to the Fey Mother for help. Goddamnit, how could I be so stupid?”
He knew why as he turned in the chair to look at Kira sleeping.
“I need to find out whose form she was wearing.”
Turning back to the computer he started going through school websites, hoping he could get lucky and find her. He started with the schools closest to the area he first encountered them. He struck pay dirt on the third website. The school had posted its yearbook online and he found her in it. Quickly finding an address corresponding with the school district, and writing a short note for Kira, Jay dressed and headed out the window quietly.
“I’m coming Lucy Gramerling, I just hope I’m not too late.”
Once down the tree and a few houses down, Jay stopped and called upon the energies that made him the Paladin. Doing this woke the souls and Rory asked him what was going on. Paladin quickly briefed him and the rest on what he had learned.
“You were right Rory, I should have stayed and investigated or found the girl or, or…,” the thought choked off as he realized what he had probably done.
“No time for that lad, what’s done is done. We need to move fast.” Calling upon Akagi the Paladin took off. He reached the Gramerling’s building a short time later. Using skills he had picked up in his past, Paladin quickly got the security door open.
Racing to the apartment Paladin felt a strong sense of foreboding. Stopping at their door, Paladin extended Rory’s senses and smelled a scent he had become too familiar with.
“Blood,” he muttered, “We’re too late.”
M’butu’s voice came forward in his mind, “You don’t know that! These people may need our help still.”
Closing his eyes, he bowed his head and then reached for the door handle. It was unlocked so he stepped inside and was greeted by a sight that would haunt him the rest of his days.
Lucy Gramerling’s parents had been pinned to the wall with great swathes of skin peeled away, leaving muscle and viscera exposed. The muscles had bite marks that showed they had been gnawed upon, and the expressions on their faces meant they were kept alive, and awake, during the whole ordeal.
Paladin didn’t know whether to cry, vomit, or collapse so he did all three at the same time. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, he managed to get a grip on his emotions.
“We need to find the girl,” Rory said more quietly than he had ever said anything before.
Paladin stood up, nodded his head, and consciously averting his gaze from the poor souls on the wall, walked towards the bedroom area.
Opening the door, knowing what he would find, Paladin saw the real Lucy Gramerling lying in her bed perfectly still, the kind of stillness that only comes from death. Walking over beside her, he looked her over, but couldn’t find any marks on her.
“She stole her soul,” Lance’s voice somberly informed him.
Paladin leaned close and ran a hand gently over her hair.
“I failed you, Lucy, and your family. Through my own selfishness, anger, and arrogance I failed you. I can’t promise you that something like this won’t happen again, but I can promise it won’t be because I didn’t try. I will avenge you and find a way to set your soul free. I am so sorry.”
“We’ll find the bastard that did this, boyo, and then we’ll send her back to hell!” Rory vowed.
“There’s something I have to do first.”
The Paladin made his way back to Kira’s house slowly. When he finally reached it he made his way inside through the kitchen door. Kira and her father were in there making breakfast, and looked up in alarm at this strange man walking through the door. Paladin smiled sadly and walked on without saying anything, heading to Kira’s mother, Anna.
Professor Tompkins started to say something, but Kira stopped him by saying, “Jay?”
Paladin nodded briefly, and then activated the Silver Flame. Professor Tompkins surged forward, but was restrained by Kira. Paladin positioned his sword over Anna’s cancer-ridden body and did something he had never done before. He prayed. In response the Silver Flame spit silvery sparks that sought out the cancer in Anna’s body and eliminated it.
Anna, who had been sleeping, awoke and sat up with a look of wonderment on her face.
“The pain, it’s gone, oh thank you God, the pain’s gone. Paul, Kira it’s gone!”
Paul and Kira raced to her side, hugging her in a way that had been impossible for so long. All three wept with joy and happiness. Paladin just stood back looking on stoically, he knew what he had to do. Finally Kira pulled herself away from her mother, ran towards Paladin and hugged him.
“Jay, how did you… Will it last? Why do you look so different?” she stammered out.
“Kira, my name is Paladin and I am the current Champion of Heaven on Earth. I healed your mother as my way of saying thank you for taking me into your life. Before you I had never known any type of love from family to friends. I can never repay you for what you’ve done for me.”
“I’m sorry Kira, but I have to leave. I wanted so bad to have a life with you that I allowed my desire to cause others to lose their lives. What happened isn’t your fault, but I can never let it happen again. I hope you understand.”
With that he disengaged himself from Kira and turned to walk out the door.
Crying, Kira screamed out, “Don’t go please, I LOVE YOU!!! Please come back. Please.”
Paladin stopped at the door. He turned his head slightly rearward in her direction and said in a shaky voice, “I love you too, Kira. That’s why I won’t bring you into this life, but if you should ever truly need me, pray and say my name.” With that, Paladin walked out the door, out of her life, and into his new one.
Holliequ, it ties in with the background info found out later on in the book. But I’ll let you in: It gets revealed that Earth has been a battleground for two extra-dimensional forces for eons. Each side has abilities and powers beyond what humanity knows and they work under a pact. Each side cannot directly conquer Earth, but they may try to influence it to one side or another. Each can also choose a champion to represent them. The influences of each side is the reason humanity has religions. Although I might need to put a prelude in letting people know that, so they know going in what to expect and can follow the main character on his journey to the truth.
Hi everyone. I would like anyone’s opinion on this. It is a short story I did for my science-fiction English class. Any critique would be appreciated and also let me know if it is something worth expanding. The premise is that alien abductions are real. Those that claim to be abducted have usually been mindwiped, so the general population of Earth doesn’t know/believe in aliens. A few humans experimented on are kept on, usually enhanced in some way and serve in a combat capacity of some sort. A Galactic Council of Nobles rules this section of the galaxy and has just finished fighting a war. To respond to all the criminal acts and enterprises that spring up during wartime they created a police force to enforce the laws against piracy, inter-planetary slave trade, drug-running, etc. Please let me know. Thanks.
Lt. Jared Mason stalked down the brightly lit corridor, scowling deeply. Sub-Commander Felis had just reprimanded him, in front of a Councilor to boot. He wasn’t upset at the reprimand; he got those all the time. No, it was the reason the Councilor had been in the office in the first place that had him burning. The words echoed in his mind as he headed to his ship-tether. We feel that your…erratic behavior of late can be explained by your isolation. Since we would like to avoid the problems your predecessors experienced, we have decided to give you a new partner. One of your kind…
Jared snorted and shook his head to clear it. “Erratic behavior”, like blowing up a few drug-lords’ houses and burning their fields was that big a deal. Councilor Goreann could go dance with a black hole. He hadn’t done anything to anyone that hadn’t deserved exactly what they got. Now he had to wet-nurse a new rookie. Not only a rookie, but a human…a human. What had they been thinking? Sordani, some of the greatest warriors in this galaxy, would have trouble keeping up with him. A human, no matter what enhancements they got from the standard Uplift Process, didn’t stand a chance. He didn’t know why they kept punishing rookies by assigning them to him anyway; they had a sickening habit of dying off.
He turned the corner and stopped abruptly, biting his lip to keep from groaning out loud. His sharp eyesight had picked up the latest sacrifice offered up to the gods of bureaucracy, and it was distinctly feminine. His hands clenched into fists, and he resisted the urge to punch the metallic walls of the station. Visions of a cat-skinned rug made of Felis’ hide and some snakeskin leather boots made of Goreann’s danced through his head. He took several deep breaths and pushed those thoughts away as unproductive. He schooled his features into a mask of cold disdain and sauntered casually down the hall, frowning when he saw her notice him and stiffen to attention.
He stopped in front of her and she snapped off a salute. Jared ignored it and took a moment to look her over more carefully. She was 5’7, which put her a good eight inches shorter than him. Straight brown hair done up in a shoulder-length ponytail. Features a bit sharp, but the warmth in her brown eyes softened the sharpness into a pretty picture. A big toothy smile. She had a slender athletic build, sidearm on the right, so she was right-handed. The Uplift Process worked best on those still going through puberty, so she was in her mid-teens, probably a year or two older than he was when he was Uplifted. She wore the same type of black bodysuit with black jacket and heavy boots that he did as a uniform. The single silver stripe on her sleeve indicated her rank as a probationary officer, while the badge prominently displayed on the breast declared she worked for the Galactic Council Organized Policing Service. Maybe I can end this fiasco before it starts. He stared at her coldly. “What the hell are you doing?”
Her smile faltered. “I-I don’t understand the quest-”
Jared gestured at the hand to her brow. “That. This isn’t Earth and this isn’t the army. Put your damn hand down!” he snapped.
She swiftly brought her hand to her side and stiffened even more. “You can relax that pose, as well,” he said disgustedly. “You look ridiculous, and with your knees locked like that you’ll probably pass out.”
She visibly relaxed, but seemed unsure of what to do with herself. Jared’s eyes narrowed as he noticed a minor twitch in her right hand. Great, she’s just out of Uplift and they send her right over. He decided not to comment on it; it would resolve itself or it wouldn’t. Instead, he just held out his hand with an air of impatience.
The relief shone in her eyes and she started to reach out her hand to shake his. “Hello, sir. My name is…”
Jared cut her off. “Give me your datafile, kid. I don’t care who you think you are,” he said, real impatience creeping into his voice.
This seemed to deflate her even more, and she meekly handed over the hand-sized computer tablet. He snatched it from her hand and pulled out a hair-thin wire from a pouch on his sidearm-belt. He inserted one end into the tablet and the other he put into a port located behind his right ear. Data started pouring onto his retinal display: Name: Misty Peregrine. Age: 16. Place of origin: Earth nation-Canada. Societal Participation: Student (mid-range), athlete (human sport: football (see: soccer)), time given at various charitable instit-
Jared cut off the datafeed, his anger flaring again. Of all the stupid decisions I’ve seen in my life, this one has to rank in the top three. They send me an average girl from a nation that probably has the nicest people per capita on Earth, and she’s a bleeding-heart. What are they hoping, that we’ll become some interstellar Adam and Eve? If they even know that stupid story. They just killed this girl, those stupid, thickheaded…
His thoughts turned darker and darker. His face took on a stormy countenance, and his body locked rigid. He noticed the girl back away from him, her hand inching down to the blaster at her side. The action mollified his anger…somewhat. Maybe she won’t be a total loss–if she survives. He took several deep breaths and schooled his features back into a neutral expression. “Don’t cower, kid. It’s undignified, and if you can’t take a little anger from me, you don’t need to be here. Understood?”
“And cut the ‘sir’ crap, little girl. It’s either Lieutenant, L-T, or if your feeling particularly brave, and suicidal, Jared. Let’s stick with one of the first two. That way, when you die, I won’t feel as bad.” He stepped over to the station viewport and motioned for her to stand beside him. He pointed to outside the station. “Tell me what you see.”
She eyed him warily. “Are you going to interru-”
“Only if you annoy me with useless words, so you might as well get used to it. Tell me what you see.”
Misty’s lips tightened hard, turning them white, but she dutifully turned her attention outside the viewport. She assumed the pedantic tone of someone reciting dry facts. “I see the Barex C-model inter-system Police Interdi-”
He cut her off with a wave of his hand. “I didn’t ask about what they downloaded into your memory or about my own damn ship. I told you to tell me what you see.”
She began again, an undercurrent of anger tightening her voice. “I see a Vilac Fortune class freighter com-”
Jared sighed. “Not what I want and you kn-”
“I see an arrogant, overbearing, bastard who feeds his ego by picking on subord-”
Jared gave her his first real smile of the day. “Not bad, kid. But you stating the obvious isn’t what I’m looking for. I know about me too. Better, in fact, than you think you do.” He shrugged. “Maybe I should recommend you be mind-wiped and shipped back home. You might be looked at as crazy, like the others that didn’t cut it out here, but I get the feeling I’d be doing you a favor.”
His right arm flashed up in a blur of movement to catch her fist coming at him. He didn’t blink as she gave out a short bark of pain from the contact. He let go of her fist and waited for the inevitable question as she tried to shake out the pain. “What the…Do you have a metal ha-”
“An entire arm actually,” he said. “My shoulder, arm, even the pectoral muscle covering my heart, has been replaced with duranium, the metal they use in starships. It’s really just a sheath covering my cybernetic replacements.” He gave her a grin and waited for the follow-up questions about how he got them.
She didn’t oblige. Instead, she just said, “I get the feeling this is a routine you’ve done before.”
Jared’s grin widened. “Congratulations. That’s the first non-useless sentence you’ve said so far. Keep going with that thought.”
Before she could, an alarm sounded across the station. A whooshing sound signaled the ship-tether portal closing, and Jared yanked his rookie out of the way of the blast shields coming down to cover the viewports. The entire station closed down; no one in and no one out. A harsh voice growled and barked over the station speakers, and Jared held up a hand to quiet his rookie’s yelping protests at being manhandled. The alien language filtered through his cerebral translator as: Armed intruders on Primary Civilian Access Deck. Station Security to PCAD. Gal-Cops on Station maintain position.
“Why don’t they want our help?” Misty wondered.
Jared ignored her and touched his badge to activate the communicator built in. “Felis, sit-rep!” he said.
A reply came back immediately. “Ten Valusians armed with pulse-rifles came in blasting away. Looks like they’re after the Councilor. His bodyguard detail engaged, and station security has joined the fight. Heavy casualties among the civilians on deck are reported. Downloading station specs to your rookie’s data-tablet now, since you don’t carry one,” he said, the reproach in his voice clear even when translated.
Jared waved off Misty as she offered her tablet to him. “Is Arnie working?”
“Yes,” Felis replied cautiously. “Why, if I might ask?”
“Send him here through the maintenance hatch.”
“You are not going through-”
“Mason, out,” Jared said while touching his communicator to turn it off. He glanced at a flustered looking Misty, who now had Felis yelling through her communicator, and raised an amused eyebrow. “If you’re planning on coming along, I suggest you lose the badge.”
He turned and strode off down the corridor, bypassing the now lock-downed lifts, and heading straight for a circular piece of metal that interrupted the otherwise smooth profile of the walls. He heard the sound of something small and metallic clatter on the floor and the sound of feet hurrying to catch up to him. He waited until he heard breathing right behind him and said, “This is the maintenance hatch.” He pointed to a small electronic pad right next to the maintenance entrance. “This is the lock that opens the door. However, since I’m not maintenance, or Felis, I don’t have the code to open it. Which is stupid when you think about it, but, then again, so is the Director of Security.” A meter long blade slid from the forearm sheath hidden in his artificial arm. “So, I get to do this the hard way.” He reared his arm back, preparing to thrust the blade in to pry the door open. A firm pressure on his shoulder made him pause.
“Let me try before you go destroying the station,” Misty said. Jared gave her a hard look, but moved out of the way. She knelt down in front of the pad and closed her eyes. Within a few seconds the maintenance hatch opened. She turned to him with a wide grin, which quickly faded as she noticed the look on his face.
“So, you’re wireless capable. And what you’re telling me with that little display of hacking, is that you’re one of those closet ‘geniuses’ that are too undisciplined to do well in school because you’re not ‘challenged’ enough,” he said. He shook his head and started to say something else, but a face popped up in the hatchway distracting him. It had eight small black orbs for eyes, two pincers that framed a small mouth, and was covered in short black hair.
Jared nodded and smiled at the face, ignoring a startled and scrambling Misty. “Arndolavetura, good to see you. Please, ignore the rookie doing a credible imitation of prey being stalked. You startled her.” He turned toward Misty. “Get up and quit making a fool of yourself. This is Arndolavetura, Arnie for short. He’s our way down.”
Arnie chittered something briefly. “Yes, I’m serious,” Jared replied. “One line down three decks.” Arnie chittered again, this time sounding angry. “If the Security Director tries to run you off the station for this he’ll have to go through me. Stop wasting time and do it,” Jared said.
Arnie made a sound that came suspiciously close to being a sigh. However, his body shot up to the top of the opening, giving a brief view of a 1.2-meter tall, segmented body, with six arms and two legs that didn’t quite hide the spinneret behind them. Arnie again flashed past, but this time he was free-falling and trailing a thin silky strand behind him. Jared ducked his head into the maintenance shaft, watching the arachnoform fall away. A soft chitter reached his ears and he motioned for Misty to come over. “You’re point. Get down there and open the hatch up,” he said.
“Why can’t Arnie d-”
“Because he’s not maintenance either. He’s the janitor for HQ. It’s the only kind of work his species is deemed suitable for, even though they’re natural engineers.” Jared worked to keep his temper in check. “Look, I’d love to explain speciesism to you right now, especially since we’re technically lower on the totem pole than Arnie, but people are dying. Move out!”
Misty’s lips tightened as she leaned into the shaft and grabbed onto the line left by Arnie. It felt a little bit tacky to her gloved hands as she wrapped them around. As soon as she started climbing down, Jared grabbed on and started down at a quicker pace, forcing her to move faster or eat his boots. He gave a quick commentary on the shaft whose only features were regularly spaced hatchways and access tunnels meant for engineers. “Normally, the maintenance shafts are zero-g and the engineers use grav-lock boots to hold themselves in place. That’s why there are no handholds or ladders. During a lockdown, gravity is turned on so no one can use them, at least theoretically. Luckily for us, Arnie can just about stick to any surface and his webbing is about as strong as high-tensile steel.”
They quickly descended to the desired hatch with Arnie clinging to the wall beside it, and Misty pulled the same hacking trick she had used before. Arnie skittered to the lip of the portal and held out a pair of hands to Misty. She reached out and found Arnie was much stronger than his size indicated, stronger than even her enhanced muscles. He easily pulled her through, dumping her unceremoniously on the steel floor. She scrambled out of the way just in time as Jared came through the portal, somersaulting forward to a standing position with his blaster drawn.
They found themselves in a dedicated maintenance room, filled with tools, wiring, and other devices better left in the hands of engineers. Shouts, screams, and the sharp tang of ozone mixed with burnt flesh, permeated the room.
Jared ghosted past all the clutter, quickly reaching the doorway. He caught Misty’s eye and jerked his head toward the pad by the door, holding his thumb and index finger slightly apart. Obediently, the door opened a fraction and he peered out to the main deck and into his nightmares. The main deck for civilians on the station was lined with shops and restaurants, along with “street” vendors, to create the illusion of an on-planet open-air market. It had holographic signs all over, advertising everything from religion to “exotic companions”, giving the deck a bright technicolor glow. Usually, the press of bodies filling the deck made it difficult to maneuver. Not today.
Today, bodies littered the ground: some obviously dead, others groaning in pain or fear. The glow from the advertising was drowned out by deadly beams of coherent light criss-crossing the deck, creating a maze of death for any fool that dared try to find his way through. Jared could make out the Valusian’s positions to his right. They looked like smaller versions of Terran sasquatches, with flat ape-like faces and fur ranging in color from reddish-brown to bright orange. Ritual scarring that removed the fur in intricate designs marked them as pirates that followed the Avarice sect, a religious sect bent on accumulating wealth through means fair or foul. Jared could make out three pirates dead. However, many more security personnel than pirates littered the ground, attesting to their skill. Oddly, none of Councilor Goreann’s bodyguards seemed to have been wounded or killed.
Jared was formulating the best approach to end this stand-off efficiently when Arnie’s soft chitter caught his attention. He motioned Misty over to keep look-out and made his way back to Arnie, who was busy building something out of the parts in the room, all six hands working swiftly and in sync with each other. Arnie asked a question in his language without looking up from what he was doing, to which Jared replied, “Stalemate right now, but we need to end this fast. Sooner or later, someone in the crossfire is going to make a run for it and get burned down.”
Arnie nodded and his hands started moving faster, becoming a near blur. He finished and proudly held up a blinking oblong device of some sort. He started a long explanation of what he had done, but Jared quickly cut him off. “What is it, Arnie?” Arnie chittered again, and Jared said, “You made a Flashing Screamer out of spare maintenance parts? You are so my hero right now.” He took the device, but before he could integrate it into his plan, he heard Misty breathe out, “No”, and she rushed out the door.
Jared ran to the door and watched Misty jump, twist, spin, and dodge all the blaster fire now directed at her, returning fire as she could toward the Valusians to keep their heads down. He saw why she ran out: a small Raptrix child couldn’t take it anymore and she had jumped up to try and run to her mother, who was frantically screeching at her daughter to stay down. Jared added his own suppression fire, hoping to draw some of the Valusian fire toward him.
Unfortunately, the Valusians weren’t the only ones firing at Misty. When she slowed down for that infinitesimal eternal second to grab the child, a bolt of light hit her left shoulder. She gave an involuntary shout of pain, but kept the presence of mind to hold on to the girl and drop down to the floor, shielding the Raptrix with her own body as pulsing laser fire streaked above them.
Jared quickly gave Arnie a series of hand signals. I’ve got far side, you take near. Paralyze the leader, the rest…no mercy. Arnie nodded, eight eyes glittering coldly. Jared stepped out of the door, quickly threw the Flashing Screamer in the midst of the Valusian line, and just as quickly stepped back. Alternating visible light and heat flashes to spoil normal and thermographic vision pulsed out, along with an ultra-sonic squeal that Jared couldn’t hear, but had the pirates clutching their ears in pain.
Jared burst from the maintenance room, his enhanced musculature allowing him to cover the nearly fifteen meters in a blur of movement, firing as he ran. He took down two pirates who had exposed themselves during the chaos of the Screamer with quick headshots. He leaped over an overturned vendor cart that concealed another pirate, switching his blaster to his left hand and extending his arm-blade as he made the jump. He landed behind the pirate, spun around, and skewered him through the throat.
A scream from Arnie’s designated area told him that the leader had been paralyzed by Arnie’s venomous bite. Several quick pulse-rifle blasts, and Arnie’s derogatory chittering about the pirate’s ancestry, let him know those pirates were out of the picture. The security forces had stopped firing and an eerie silence filled the station deck. Suddenly, a roar and the sound of one last laser blast echoed through the halls.
Jared turned and assumed a crouching position; right arm up to take any attacks, left pointing his blaster. He saw one last Valusian that had apparently lost his rifle with his arms raised; poised to drive a vibro-bladed dagger into his back. A scorch mark along his side marked the perfectly placed shot that had penetrated his chest cavity and fried his heart. The dead pirate slumped to the ground, dagger clattering to the floor. Jared followed the angle of the shot down the deck to see Misty standing, blaster in hand. He walked over to her, and as he neared he could see her shaking. She still hadn’t put the blaster down when he reached her, so he softly put his hand on hers. “It’s over, Misty,” he said gently while pushing her hand down.
She woodenly obeyed as he led her over to a “sidewalk” bench. He knelt in front of her, and saw her eyes become watery. Her lips trembled, but she refused to break down and cry. “Breathe, Misty,” Jared told her. She took several deep, ragged, breaths and started to calm down. Arnie bounded over, clutching a pulse-rifle, and stood protectively beside them.
When she had calmed enough to speak again, she asked, “Does that ever get any easier?”
Jared gave her a sad smile. “Before I answer your question, I want you to answer mine. Look out over the scene and tell me what you see.”
She looked out at the dead bodies littering the hallway, the emergency medical personnel that now flooded the deck seeing to the wounded, at the little Raptrix girl she had saved who’s mother was softly stroking her child’s down, and at the sentient being she had just killed. She shuddered at the sight. “I see the people we’re supposed to protect and even die for. And I see those that we have to protect them from,” she said softly.
“Never lose sight of that,” Jared replied, equally soft. “To answer your question: Unfortunately, yes.” He suddenly straightened up, every inch the commanding officer, and eyed the approaching security forces. “For some, it becomes too easy,” he said coldly.
A 2.2-meter hulking Saurian stomped toward them, pointing at Arnie and bellowing with disdain, “Who let that thing have a weapon?”
Jared ignored the triceratops-descended Security Director and said to Arnie, “Take her to the Medical Bay. After that, make sure she reports to Felis’ office.” Then in a louder voice, “And if any of these security jokes tries to mess with you, feel free to kick their wannabe asses.” Arnie chittered a gleeful assent and held out his top pair of hands for Misty to hold on to, cradling the pulse-rifle with his middle pair.
The Saurian security guards took one look at Misty, who had her hand on her blaster, and the obviously eager to fight Arnie, and parted to make way for them. As Arnie led Misty to the now operational lifts, they could hear the Director bellowing, “You humans don’t belong among a civilized people! None of you should be anymore than sl-”
The smack of a metallic fist against leathery flesh and the thud of something big and heavy falling told Arnie and Misty all they needed to know. As the lift doors closed, Misty grinned as she heard Jared say, “Now, which one of you salad-eaters shot my partner?” Three hours later
Misty stood in front of Sub-Commander Felis, resisting the urge to scratch at her itchy healed flesh. To take her mind off of it, she studied her commanding officer while he read some reports. He stood about 1.85 meters, with a cat-like face covered in golden fur and replete with whiskers. He’d look almost cuddly if it weren’t for his habit of snapping and retracting dangerous looking claws and the two extended maxillary canines that jutted from his mouth. He caught her frank gaze and gave her a grin. At least, she thought it was a grin. “I’m sure you have questions”, he said.
“Have a seat and ask then,” he ordered.
As she sat, Misty asked, “Why can’t I understand Arnie?”
Felis sighed. “He was never given a translator. While yours has some pre-programmed languages, his isn’t one of them. He would need a translator of his own to sync with yours for you to understand him.”
“How can Lt. Mason understand him?”
“He, and I for that matter, learned his language when we served together during the war as part of the same banneret. Arnie was our engineer and explosives expert.”
Misty’s eyes widened. “They both served under you during a war?”
Felis gave a low chuckle. “No, no, no. I served under them. Jared was a Knight’s Squire 1st rank and Arnie was the master sergeant-at-arms. I was just a lowly page rank and they held my hand enough to get me home alive.”
Misty’s face screwed up into a confused look. “Then why are you-”
“Commanding them instead of the other way around?” Felis laughed. “Now I know why Jared does that interrupting routine; it’s quite fun. Unfortunately, the reasons behind my command are not. Humans and arachnoforms are looked upon as inferior by the general galactic society. When the war ended and they formed this police force a couple of years ago, well, I had to fight to get Jared hired. I couldn’t even do that much for poor Arnie, although saving a Councilor today has changed things. The only reason I got you was as an experiment to try and control Jared’s…excesses.”
Misty’s mouth opened and closed several times, her face outraged. Felis waved her down. “Enough questions for now. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Jared was also your evaluator. He’s given me his report.” He placed a small holo-projector on his desk, and a miniature figure of Jared appeared, saying: Probationary Officer Misty Peregrine Evaluation: She is rash, undisciplined, and needs constant challenge to perform at her peak. She is also brave to the point of stupidity. If you don’t keep her, send her to the Knights. They always need brave idiots for cannon fodder. On the plus side, she took a swing at me faster than any other rookie has ever done, showed an…innovative approach to ingress and egress problems, protected civilians, Uplift has given her agility that supersedes my own, and she displayed insightful knowledge into what we do. Faster than you ever did, I might add. The bad I can fix, but I can’t teach the positives. I will resign if you give me another rookie partner who isn’t Arnie. Status: Approved for full duty.
Felis went back to reading reports. “Welcome to your new life, Officer Peregrine. Pick up Arnie on your way out and meet Lt. Mason at his ship-tether. Dismissed.”
–I like the opening sentence, although “with a deep scowl” might be a bit more rhythmic than “scowling deeply.” The sentence suggests conflict and helps establish the setting and protagonist.
–What does “Status: Unknown” mean?
–”Sub-Commander Felis had just reprimanded him, in front of a Councilor to boot.” Rather than starting with this as backstory, which I think is a bit harder to get into, what would you think about just starting the story with Felis reprimanding him?
–”He wasn’t upset at the reprimand; he got those all the time. No, it was the reason the Councilor had been in the office in the first place that had him burning” — I think this could be shown more effectively. For example, you could show through dialogue that the Councilor has a terribly obnoxious reason for being there.
–”Since we would like to avoid the problems your predecessors experienced, we have decided to give you a new partner. One of your kind…” I’d like this to be more condescending. Help us feel his anger. (“One of your kind” is a good start). Maybe he could voice his objections in the conversation. (He doesn’t seem like the sort of person to keep his mouth shut ).
–It could probably be clearer that we’re looking at a space cop and not just a futuristic narc. For example, when he gets berated by his boss, you could emphasize that the boss is not (even close to) human.
“Not only a rookie, but a human…a human” This is interesting. He’s been with aliens so much he holds his own species in contempt. I like that.
“He didn’t know why they kept punishing rookies by assigning them to him anyway; they had a sickening habit of dying off.” If they’ve assigned many partners to him in the past, you could hint at that when the Councilor is talking to him. Then maybe Jared could dish out a line like “If you gave me somebody that would survive, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
“He didn’t know why they kept punishing rookies by assigning them to him anyway; they had a sickening habit of dying off.” I like the second line here, especially the word “sickening” to suggest contempt. (Much more interesting than something like “tragic”). The first one could maybe be more visceral if it focused more on the rookies than on Jared. (For example, maybe the unit holds a grim sort of last-rites ceremony as a preemptive funeral for the rookie assigned to be Jared’s partner).
“Visions of a cat-skinned rug made of Felis’ hide and some snakeskin leather boots made of Goreann’s danced through his head. He took several deep breaths and pushed those thoughts away as unproductive.” Stylish!
“His sharp eyesight had picked up the latest sacrifice offered up to the gods of bureaucracy, and it was distinctly feminine.” I don’t quite understand what he means by “the latest sacrifice offered up to the gods of bureaucracy,” but “it was distinctly feminine” helps create conflict and show us his utter contempt for his new partner.
“Maybe I can end this fiasco before it starts.” Rather than shift to first-person here, I think it’d help to keep this in the third person. “Jared hoped he could end this fiasco before she got killed.”
“Data started pouring…” I would recommend starting a new paragraph with this sentence. By the way: football (see: soccer) is both funny and feels believable based on the Wikipedia-like products I’ve used.
“They send me an average girl from a nation that probably has the nicest people per capita on Earth, and she’s a bleeding-heart.” This could be shown.
“if your feeling particularly brave, and suicidal, Jared.” Three things. First, I like the line. Second, your should be you’re. Third, I think this could be shortened to “if you’re feeling particularly suicidal, Jared.”
She eyed him warily. “Are you going to interru-”
“Only if you annoy me with useless words, so you might as well get used to it. Tell me what you see.” I like this.
“I see an arrogant, overbearing, bastard who feeds his ego by picking on subord-” YES! (I think the comma after overbearing can be removed, though).
“but I get the feeling I’d be doing you a favor.” This could be shortened to “but I get the feeling it’d be a favor.”
Jared’s grin widened. “Congratulations. That’s the first non-useless sentence you’ve said so far. Keep going with that thought.” This relationship strikes me as very interesting. I feel that both characters are well-developed and surprisingly likable.
“Is Arnie working?” This could probably be clearer. It sounds like he’s asking whether a machine named Arnie is functioning at the moment. I’d recommend something like “Is Arnie doing janitor duty tonight?”
“If you’re planning on coming along, I suggest you lose the badge.” I think this would be a bit more badass if he had some reason for this besides just style. “You know Valusians can read the signals emitted by our badges, right?”
“He pointed to a small electronic pad right next to the maintenance entrance. “This is the lock that opens the door. However, since I’m not maintenance, or Felis, I don’t have the code to open it. Which is stupid when you think about it, but, then again, so is the Director of Security.” A meter long blade slid from the forearm sheath hidden in his artificial arm. “So, I get to do this the hard way.” I think this could probably be shortened. Does he really need to spend that many words explaining why he has to cut through the door? “His security clearance wouldn’t open the grate. A meter-long blade slid from the sheath hidden in his artifical arm and he prepared to get down to business.”
“Look, I’d love to explain speciesism to you right now, especially since we’re technically lower on the totem pole than Arnie, but people are dying. Move out!” Haha– I think the Arnie > humans specieism is pretty awesome.
“Misty’s lips tightened as she leaned into the shaft and grabbed onto the line left by Arnie. It felt a little bit tacky to her gloved hands as she wrapped them around.” Perspective problems, I think. The narrator is putting us in her mind, even though Jared has been the point-of-view until this point.
“Luckily for us, Arnie can just about stick to any surface and his webbing is about as strong as high-tensile steel.” I don’t think this is necessary. We can sort of intuit how a freak spider thing might be useful in a maintenance tunnel situation. By the way, that’s a clever way to explain how he surprises them.
I’ve never seen “ghost” used as a verb before. Are we talking about a supernatural ability or just him being stealthy?
“he peered out to the main deck and into his nightmares”–I like this. It’s more flowery than most of the action scenes I’ve read, but I think it helps put a human face on the damage. (Also, it puts a human face on him. He’s not just a super-unfeeling juggernaut, unlike a prototypical space cop or, even more so, a space marine).
“The main deck for civilians on the station was lined with shops and restaurants, along with “street” vendors, to create the illusion of an on-planet open-air market. It had holographic signs all over, advertising everything from religion to “exotic companions”, giving the deck a bright technicolor glow. Usually, the press of bodies filling the deck made it difficult to maneuver. Not today.” I think this could be shortened. Cut to the bodies!
“Oddly, none of Councilor Goreann’s bodyguards seemed to have been wounded or killed.” I’d recommend rephrasing this. It’s not that he knows they haven’t been wounded or killed, just that their bodies aren’t here. (Unless he somehow knows that they’re okay?)
“Jared was formulating the best approach to end this stand-off efficiently.” A standoff between Jared and the pirates, or between the pirates and Goreann’s security? (It’s not clear where Goreann and his security are, so far).
I’m sort of wondering what his hand-signal is for “no mercy.” (Especially if the spider doesn’t understand a throat-slitting gesture). I think that describing that hand signal might be cool. Also, as long as we’re dealing with deeply unusual aliens like we seem to have here, you might have the spider ask for clarification on one of the signals, unless they’ve rehearsed this sort of thing before.
When she had calmed enough to speak again, she asked, “Does that ever get any easier?” Jared gave her a sad smile. “Before I answer your question, I want you to answer mine. Look out over the scene and tell me what you see.”” I would recommend shortening this to “When she had calmed enough to speak again, she asked, “Does it ever get any easier?”” Jared gave her a sad smile and gestured at the scene. “Tell me what you see.”
I think her response to “…and tell me what you see” is a bit bland. ““I see the people we’re supposed to protect and even die for. And I see those that we have to protect them from,” she said softly.” I’d like something a bit less obvious, maybe something that suggests something unusual about her personality and/or what she’s learning from this experience.
“[he] eyed the approaching security forces. “For some, it becomes too easy,” he said coldly. This line is awesome. I’d like her observation above to be this distinctive. (For one thing, it develops the story going forward, foreshadowing a conflict with the security team).
““Who let that thing have a weapon?”” It might be smoother if the triceratops confronts Arnie here. Then Jared can interject on Arnie’s behalf. (Maybe something like “You’ll address your policing concerns to me“).
This is an American thing, but I don’t know how high a meter is. “A 2.2-meter hulking Saurian stomped toward them.” I think describing him as a hulking Saurian is sufficient. How much taller is 2.2 meters than a typical human?
When Jared punches out the security director, are there going to be any consequences? (IE: Jared being fired or arrested or at least transferred somewhere else?) If not, I would recommend limiting that to something like a shouting match or otherwise establishing why Jared is so untouchable that they don’t even punish him for punching a superior officer.
If you want to explain how Jared (but not Misty) understands Arnie, I’d recommend just having Misty ask Jared as he’s communicating with Arnie. (Right before they attack the pirates, probably).
“Humans and arachnoforms are looked upon as inferior by the general galactic society.” Show this. Maybe something like “It’d be hard enough for a human to get promoted even without a habit of punching superior officers.”
“When the war ended and they formed this police force a couple of years ago, well, I had to fight to get Jared hired.” Maybe something like “When they formed this police force a few years back, I practically had to blackmail [somebody] to get him a job.”
“She is also brave to the point of stupidity.” –> “She is also stupidly brave.”
“On the plus side, she took a swing at me faster than any other rookie has ever done” I think you could show that he regards this as a positive without explicitly saying “on the plus side.” “She displays sound judgment and swung at me faster than any rookie has ever done.”
This is quite good. I’d recommend going over the first page or so, so that it’s more accessible to prospective readers that are new to the story, but on the whole the story is highly effective. I definitely think it’d be worth expanding.
Thanks, BMac! I did plan on opening up the beginning in a different place, but with a limited number of pages I had to cut. I had the idea of opening with him writing the report on the drug lords situation and alternating between the official report and what actually happened, then getting hauled into the Felis office for the meeting.
For some reason, most sci-fi stuff I’ve read uses the metric system. Maybe to broaden the appeal?
Status: Unknown is the title, indicating a little bit that someone’s status is up in the air. I had to come up with something that tied everything together in some way. That’s why I had the evaluation scene at the end. It also kind of references the idea that humans are rare out in space, and that Misty really has no idea about where she stands in regards to that. In the larger story, her and Jared are experiments that the Galactic Council runs every so often to judge humanity’s suitability for being brought in to the galactic society, at the lowest level mostly. In my mind I have it that Jared knows this and that is why he acts the way he does. He doesn’t want humanity brought in on their terms, which would mean a lower-class status for the entire species. He also can’t go to far or the Council may decide that humans are too dangerous to allow to have space-flight and destroy them.
Ghost as a verb does mean stealthy. I don’t remember where I’ve seen it before, but most likely in a military action book.
Thank you for looking at it, and the comments. It really helps. I’ll develop the opening and add a little bit to this and post it, now that I’m not swamped with summer class work:)
“For some reason, most sci-fi stuff I’ve read uses the metric system. Maybe to broaden the appeal?” Hmm. I agree that U.S. measurements can put off Commonwealth readers. However, I think the same is true for the metric system vis-a-vis Americans.
If you’re looking at U.S. publishers initially, I’d be careful. (If you publish in a Commonwealth country first and then republish in the U.S., I don’t think it’ll be an issue because the editors will probably just put in U.S. measurements for the U.S. version. The U.S. has at least twice as many native English speakers as the 130 million inhabitants of the U.K., Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand, so publishers can afford to do some “translation” to accommodate the median American reader).
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