Nov 07 2010

Sean’s Review Forum

Published by at 9:28 am under Review Forums

The Misadventures of Mugsy and Charlie: The Fall of Atlon follows a couple of space pirates as they get sucked into a conspiracy by the largest intergalactic corporation, Atlon and a civil war caused by Atlon’s CEO. It’s an ironic look at capitalism and ethics where the pirates seem to be more ethically grounded than a corporate CEO.

35 responses so far

35 Responses to “Sean’s Review Forum”

  1. Sean Higginson 12 Nov 2010 at 4:42 pm

    So here we are! First page (before Chapter One) – Let me know what you think, would this make you turn the page?

    So, you want to know how I met Charlie. Sit down, it’s actually a pretty interesting story. It starts about the same as any of my stories worth telling. It starts with a bar…

  2. B. Macon 13 Nov 2010 at 9:33 am

    I think those four lines could be condensed to “Like any story worth telling, this starts in a [modifier] bar.”

    One concern I’d have about starting with “So, you want to know how I met Charlie” is that it hinges on us caring about Charlie. I don’t think that most readers will find him interesting before they’ve encountered him.

  3. Sean Higginson 23 Nov 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Thanks for the feed back – I was planning on keeping it as a recurring theme (assuming this ever sells well enough to form a series). Going to post the first few pages here. Please comment and judge as much or as little as necessary. This is a (very) rough draft, and I possibly have some editting issues.

    Be as harsh as is necessary (but please also be willing to offer helpful advice on how to fix it).

  4. Sean Higginson 23 Nov 2010 at 6:56 pm

    CHAPTER 1: LORBO’S, REKOP, AND STARSHIPS

    LorBo’s Tavern was exactly the sort of low-life hole-in-the-wall joint that I had been spending most of my time lately. The bar, while small, was immensely popular with the locals of Largus 13. The reasons for the bar’s popularity varied, depending on whom you asked. It was partially due to the fact that Largus 13 lacks anything better to do. Also, LorBo’s carried a wide variety of entertainment. On any given evening at LorBo’s, you could listen to a live band, sing some karaoke, or play a high stakes game of rekop. Finally, LorBo’s was popular for the excitement provided. On nights when violence didn’t break out over a rekop table, you could often watch as some drunken drummer attempted to impale a karaoke singer with a drumstick for throwing off his rhythm.

    Tonight, I had found myself in LorBo’s at the rekop table. I, Mugsy McAllister, was in a bar playing cards. Yes, it shocked me too. Now some people will tell you that cards and alcohol mix wonderfully. If you are still capable of paying attention, you’ll usually notice those people sit down across from you halfway through the game with nothing stronger than a glass of water and proceed to take all your credits. Of course, alcohol, while it did have many negative effects, also had the positive effect of making just about anything enjoyable. Besides, this evening, with seven empty glasses sitting in front of me, I still seemed to be playing well, as my stack of credits was at least three times larger than it had been when I started the game.

    What can I say; I am a spectacular card player. Despite the high volumes of alcohol that my life required, card games (and gambling in general) have always been one of the things that I am exceptionally good at. However, as I looked from my cards to the empty glasses, I was beginning to realize that my life was requiring a substantial increase in the amount of alcohol. The past three years had gone by too slowly, and I was still finding myself in the same place I had started. Well, not precisely the same place because exactly three years ago, I believe I was sitting at a different chair on this rekop table. But that was beside the point. The point was that I had been in the same star system, running freight for the same ship, doing the same damn thing.

    For the last three years I had been the co-pilot on the freighter starship the Century Pigeon. Same ship, same position, same damn assignment. She was a fast ship; didn’t look like much but she had it where it counted. I could’ve easily handled the ship by myself, and honestly, I did. The Pigeon’s only other crewmember was my esteemed Captain Daeh Tyhs. The man, I’m positive, wasn’t aware of even how to start the Pigeon’s primary subspace engines. Captain Tyhs let me pilot the ship, handle navigations, operate engineering, pick up and load cargo. As far as I could tell, Captain Tyhs’s duties were taking credits from the company for whom we were contracted, the Atlon Corporation.

    Obviously you know about Atlon: arguably the largest shipping corporation in the Galaxy. For three years, the Century Pigeon has been supplying weapons to the Largus System. Deeply immersed in civil war, the Largus System had been split into two factions and to insure constant profits, Atlon had been providing weapons to both sides. Atlon would continue to supply weaponry until the entire Largus System was annihilated, or one side simply ran out of the funds to pay. So for three years, I’d been piloting the Pigeon through a war zone, dropping freight to the warlords, and picking up more freight to do it again. In between, I stopped at a neutral bar and did my best to forget about my life until I had to return to it.

    Bottom line was I was getting bored. I was not usually one to seek out excitement, but it was still becoming too comfortable. So, as my mind began to wander back to life, I decided I better stop it. I placed a bluffed raise on a low card and ordered another drink. The bluff worked like a charm and by the time I received my new drink, I’d folded out everybody else on the table and raked in a new pile of credits. The door to the bar opened. My back was turned to the door and I didn’t care. Something in my mind’s eye cringed. I was sitting with my back to the door and it didn’t bother me at all.

    Suddenly the thought hit me. It was something I was missing. I don’t know why but at that precise moment I found myself longing for a life that required I sit with my back to the wall and look up every time a door opened. Why anyone should long for that sort of suspicion in their lives, I couldn’t answer. But in spite of myself I turned and looked at the door. The smiling face that met me waved and started walking toward me.

  5. B. Macon 23 Nov 2010 at 9:01 pm

    If you’re going to start the story with Lorbo’s Tavern, I think it would really help to give us some spectacular detail to make it memorable right off the bat. For example, maybe he sees the char marks on the wall where an energy weapon of some sort marked a previous customer. Or maybe he makes sure to wear boots because it’d be too disgusting to wear anything else with those mysterious fluids pooling on the floor. (For example, check out this description of the Linebacker tavern a mile from Notre Dame).

    “The reasons for the bar’s popularity varied… It was partially due to the fact that Largus 13 lacks anything better to do.” Show this. Give us a detail suggesting how drop-dead boring Largus 13 is.

    “Lorbo’s carried a wide variety of excitement. On any given evening at LorBo’s, you could listen to a live band, sing some karaoke, or play a high stakes game of rekop. Finally, LorBo’s was popular for the excitement provided. On nights when violence didn’t break out over a rekop table, you could often watch as some drunken drummer attempted to impale a karaoke singer with a drumstick for throwing off his rhythm.” This last sentence is very good. This is the sort of unusual detail that will make this setting come alive. (Minor rephrasing suggestion: “Even if violence didn’t break out over a rekop hand gone bad, it wouldn’t have been the first time a drunken drummer tried impaling a karaoke singer with a drumstick for throwing off his rhythm”).

    “Tonight, I had found myself in Lorbo’s at the rekop table.” Is this passive voice necessary? It sounds like a sort of slow way to phrase something that could be exciting (him slamming down drinks as he’s cleaning up at the table).

    “I am a spectacular card player.” Show this. Get us in his head. What sort of details does he notice that other people miss? What are some aspects about his game that are unusually impressive? (Balls of steel that let him call a bluff with nothing but an ace high? The incredible ability to pick up a bluff? Cheating/sleight of hand? Math/game theory?)

    When someone is talking about something he’s really good at, usually he doesn’t need to tell us he’s good. It should be obvious from the way he looks at the game, right?

    “Card games (and gambling in general) have always been one of the things that I am exceptionally good at.” This is probably redundant with him telling us he’s a spectacular card player. One of the ways you could develop this idea is to bring in something else he’s really good at and maybe implying a connection between the two. (For example, in games like these, being an expert marksman is a big advantage because it helps you notice little details as well as give you options if the cards don’t go your way).

    I don’t think his narration is as lively as it could be. I’d recommend playing up his narratorial voice.

    “The man, I’m positive, wasn’t aware of even how to start the Pigeon’s primary subspace engines. Captain Tyhs let me pilot the ship, handle navigations, operate engineering, pick up and load cargo. As far as I could tell, Captain Tyhs’s duties were taking credits from the company for whom we were contracted, the Atlon Corporation.” Could be “I doubt he even knew how to start the subspace engines. As far as I could tell, his duties were collecting the paychecks from the Atlon Corporation.”

    “Obviously you know about Atlon: arguably the largest shipping corporation in the Galaxy.” This break of the fourth wall seems a bit awkward to me. You could imply its size by mentioning that the Pigeon was just one of hundreds of ships running weapons into the system for Atlon. (That would also help imply how screwed up this system is).

    Minor word usage issue. “to insure constant profits…” Should be “ensure” here.

    “The smiling face that met me waved and started walking toward me.” I think it might help to do a more distinctive verb phrase here than “started walking toward me.” Depending on the distinctive trait of the character, something like “swaggered” or “marched” might be more memorable.

  6. Sean Higginson 24 Nov 2010 at 8:20 am

    Thanks for the in depth review (and other’s please offer whatever other thoughts and concerns you have). I was planning on saving these for when I finished the first draft but looking at it now, might urge me to push forward andd finish the story. Should I post my changes as I go and update it on here, or should I just go forward with the next few pages?

  7. B. Macon 24 Nov 2010 at 10:55 am

    Good question. I’d highly recommend going forward with the next few pages. Otherwise we’ll get trapped in a cycle of rewrites. Generally, I would recommend saving major rewrites until the first draft is complete or if you’re so stuck that you can’t go on.

  8. Sean Higginson 25 Nov 2010 at 11:24 pm

    (Next several pages of Chapter One) –

    As quickly as the desire had risen in me I hated it. How stupid it had been of me to think someone might come into this bar looking for me, at least, not with a taste of malice on their tongues. Captain Daeh Tyhs had come looking for me, because as much as I avoided the man, I was the closest thing he had found in this world to a friend. Even friend should have been too strong of a word. Tyhs, while an utter fool, would know that I didn’t see him as a friend. Perhaps it was simply the thought that for three years in the changes of space, I had been a constant. We were hardly friends. But to Captain Tyhs, I was a companion, which in a life like his was just about as close as he would get.

    I turned back to my cards trying with my best strength of will to make him ignore me, to go over to the bar, sit alone, and get himself a drink. Captain Tyhs had no such thought, and my strength of will was apparently appallingly weak. He walked over and stood behind me at my left shoulder looking down at the rekop table. I breathed a sigh of relief that the table was full. Ten chairs filled with nine husky looking Largwanians (with varying skin colors but obviously of the same supposedly humanoid species), and myself.

    Thys did his best to make sure I knew he was standing behind me. He moved in close and leaned over me, casting a shadow over my cards in the already dim light. As I continued to ignore him I can only assume that the captain got anxious for me to acknowledge him. His open mouthed breathing became steadily louder in my ear. The effect of this latest attempt to be noticed was that I no longer wondered why I’d never seen the captain with a woman. He was more than merely inept with all things regarding his chosen profession; he lacked any sort of people skills.
    His presence became a distraction as I played my cards. I had every intention of keeping every seat at the table filled so that Thys would eventually become bored and find someone else to annoy. However, concentrating on keeping every player in the game until I was ready to go home, ignoring the man standing behind me, and the closeted excitement I held as I looked at my now, almost perfect rekop hand turned out to be too much.

    I made a bet, small enough to draw the other players in, but large enough that I couldn’t be completely bluffing. Calls all around the table, save the seat directly across from me. I’d bet on this. The yellow-brown skinned Largwanian female was overzealous and would shoot for the moon with a low pair. When the betting came back to me, I pushed my bet just a little higher again keeping everyone in the game. What I hadn’t expected was for the overzealous one to put all her available credits on the table. I looked at her and she smiled at me, a wide toothy grin with jagged yellow teeth. I’d have placed a rather decent size bet that she was either new to the game, or playing with someone else’s money that she wanted to piss off.

    Largwanians are huge creatures, with leathery skin and mostly humanoid features; two arms, two legs, the usual. Skin color varied between families. They stood anywhere between six and eight feet tall and their bodies were usually thick with muscle. Not the type creatures that you made a long life of getting on their bad sides. This female’s eyes flashed at me a hard green that contrasted with her skin tone. She was ready to lose all her credits but she thought she could win.

    I couldn’t walk away. The pile of credits that had built itself on the table and eight other nervous looking Largwanians were staring at it. As I called the female’s bet I knew that even if any of the others decided to stay with the game, they didn’t have a chance at winning. When my credits had hit the center of the table, I felt a movement behind me. I cursed under my breath. Captain Daeh Tyhs, incompetent fool who sought my ‘companionship’ was waiting for a seat at the table. I was suddenly hoping that the yellow-brown skinned Largwanian across from me had an unbeatable hand, though I knew I’d sweep the pot. The credits would be mine and it would be incredibly bad taste on my part to leave the table after winning that many credits. I needed to at least give the pretence of allowing the other players a chance at earning their funds back. If I didn’t I risked taking a fatal laser blast to the back as I walked away with the money. Hell, I risked that just for winning.

    The yellow-brown skinned female set her cards face up on the table, her smile never fading. As I looked at her pair of deuces and the other players groaned, I had a sneaking suspicion that she was simply another pawn in the game that the Galaxy was playing against me. I showed my cards and her smile twitched. She seriously thought that she had beaten me. She stood up and walked to the bar, opening a seat for Captain Tyhs and I found myself wondering how long I’d actually be required to sit and play before I could risk walking away.

    Captain Tyhs sat down at the now empty seat. He looked around the rekop table, at the harsh faces of Largwanians. He winked at me and I suddenly felt my legs go to jelly. If walking away now was a bad idea, sitting here while the other players were under the impression that the captain and I were getting ready to cheat them out of the rest of their credits was, at the very least, just as bad. Then he did something that is practically unheard of in the game of rekop, he introduced himself. “I’m Captain Daeh Tyhs of the Century Pigeon.” I found myself wondering if he’d ever played this game before.

    The other players simply glared at him and I suddenly felt myself feeling a slight bit of compassion for the man. Was it really his fault that he knew nothing about the way the Galaxy operated? A voice in the back of my head answered with an affirmative. I told that voice to shut up. As I looked at him across the table, dressed in his captain’s uniform, which for some unknown reason he was immensely proud of, I thought of him as a child in a world of angry adults.

    Twenty minutes later I’d slipped right back into my feelings of loathing and disgust. I was having a silent conversation with the voice in the back of my head suggesting the best ways to leave him in the Largus System and just disappear with the ship. I had decided that he had most definitely played rekop before. He had a skill level that was so bad it could only come from years of practice, and he still managed to win a monumental hand every now and then. The effect of this varying skill level as the night went on, was that players were getting forced from the table and my own stack of credits was beginning to dwindle.

  9. Sean Higginson 27 Nov 2010 at 9:02 am

    I’ve fallen out of the list with a wash of other comments…can someone please take a look at these last few pages and lemme know your thoughts (even if only to throw rotten tomatoes).

  10. B. Macon 27 Nov 2010 at 11:59 pm

    “As quickly as the desire had risen in me I hated it. How stupid it had been of me to think someone might come into this bar looking for me, at least, not with a taste of malice on their tongues.” –> “I hated the desire as quickly as it had risen. No one would come into a bar looking for me, at least nobody I would want to meet.

    “Captain Daeh Tyhs had come looking for me”–careful, this may suggest that Captain Tyhs is the person that just came in the bar. Might be clearer to say something like “Captain Tyhs had once come for me, [insert inane detail about what he was looking for].”

    “Tyhs, while an utter fool, would know that I didn’t see him as a friend. Perhaps it was simply the thought that for three years in the changes of space, I had been a constant.” Possible revision: “Even an utter fool would know that he wasn’t my friend. But I was a constant. After three years of gun-running, that was as good as it got.”

    “I turned back to my cards trying with my best strength of will to make him ignore me, to go over to the bar, sit alone, and get himself a drink. Captain Tyhs had no such thought, and my strength of will was apparently appallingly weak. He walked over and stood behind me at my left shoulder looking down at the rekop table.” The sentence starting with “Captain Tyhs…” is probably unnecessary.

    –“He moved in close and leaned over me, casting a shadow over my cards in the already dim light.” Could probably be shortened to “He leaned over me, casting a shadow…” If he’s leaning over him close enough to cast a shadow, I think we can infer that he’s moved in really close. Good detail, by the way.

    –“As I continued to ignore him I can only assume that the captain got anxious for me to acknowledge him.” How confident is this narrator? If he’s confident (a gambler!), I think you can cut out some of the qualifiers like “I can only assume that”.

    –“I no longer wondered why I’d never seen the captain with a woman.He was more than merely inept with all things regarding his chosen profession; he lacked any sort of people skills.” One way to show this lack of people skills in a potentially humorous way would be to describe one particularly ill-fated encounter between him and a woman. (For example, “He’s so chilly not even prostitutes would want to touch him. They have to draw the line somewhere”).

    –“His presence became a distraction…” I think this could be shown. One way would be to mix in lines showing the captain’s presence, preferably in an intrusive way, into a paragraph that’s otherwise about his attempts to play the game.

    –“The yellow-brown skinned Largwanian female was overzealous and would shoot for the moon with a low pair.” I think there may be something more distinctive/interesting about her than the color of her skin. Maybe something that makes her look overzealous, like her wild eyes or (conversely) the utter calmness that shows on her face even though she’s making unhinged, suicidal plays. Alternately, the details you introduce about Largwanians’ appearance a few paragraphs later are pretty interesting. You could introduce 1-2 of those details, particularly the ones that foreshadow danger.

    “What I hadn’t expected was for the overzealous one to put all her available credits on the table.” Is this unexpected? He knew she was a bit of a loose cannon…

    “I’d have placed a rather decent size bet that she was either new to the game, or playing with someone else’s money that she wanted to piss off.” What would you think about “She was either new to the game or playing with the money of a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend.”

    “She was ready to lose all her credits but she thought she could win.” I feel like this is a pretty passive way to describe gambling’s equivalent of a suicide bomber.

    It’s an unusual predicament where he’s suddenly dreading the prospect of sweeping the pot. Hah, I like that.

    “I needed to at least give the pretence of allowing the other players a chance at earning their funds back. If I didn’t I risked taking a fatal laser blast to the back as I walked away with the money. Hell, I risked that just for winning.” Could maybe be rephrased as “It wouldn’t be the first time someone got shot for leaving a table without giving the other players a chance to win their money back.”


    “I found myself wondering if he’d ever played this game before.” I think this is implied by him introducing himself. May be unnecessary. (On the other hand, he later decides that the captain HAS played before, so it might be useful to show how the main character’s take on the situation is evolving).

    “The other players simply glared at him…” I think this is a good opportunity for more distinct language. Glaring strikes me as something someone might do at an office or in a friendly dispute. This is a seedy dive-bar in a war-zone, so maybe their reactions would be a bit more over-the-top. There may be signs of danger that the Captain misses, like someone reaching into a jacket or something (i.e. getting ready for a shootout if it comes to that).

    “Was it really his fault that he knew nothing about the way the Galaxy operated?” Could maybe be shortened to “Was it really his fault that he was absolutely useless at life?”

    “He had a skill level that was so bad it could only come from years of practice.” Haha, this is an interesting contrast. One thing that’s intriguing me is that I’m torn between two extremely opposite perceptions of the character: 1) he’s basically the most incompetent guy at everything, ever and 2) he’s actually a mastermind putting on a cunning display of incompetence to lull everyone so that he can win all their money.

    The scene ends right here, so I”m not sure how you plan on continuing it, but one option would be showing a blurb from a showdown between the two. Maybe the Captain wins a hand with preposterous luck (like the equivalent of beating three of a kind by making an inside straight draw) and then adds insult to injury by offering some ludicrously stupid advice to the main character. Or a gloat.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the next pages!

  11. Sean Higginson 28 Nov 2010 at 8:11 am

    Ok, I appreciate the advice, and am really looking forward to the rewrite. (I knew I needed work, but wasn’t sure exactly where to start). Next few pages are coming momentarily.

  12. Sean Higginson 28 Nov 2010 at 8:15 am

    Eventually, it came down to three players. As it does on occasion as nights roll on in a bar like this and it gets closer to the point when everyone really should be getting off to the place that it is there are going to sleep, or do whatever, that night, new players stop joining the game and it becomes more interesting to watch. As I was fully aware that the amount of credits I had now was somewhere near the size it had been when I’d began the game tonight, I was of the mind that I’d have rather been watching this game for the past few hours. The cards were dealt to myself, Captain Tyhs, and a particularly angry looking Largwanian with crimson colored skin, a long black top knot, and dirty yellow eyes.

    I left my cards face down and kept a careful eye on both of my other players. Tyhs looked disappointed and the angry Largwanian looked angry. One of the most difficult parts of cross species card games was reading facial expressions. I’d been playing with Largwanians for three years now and I’d like to say I’d become a master at reading them. This Largwanian had simply looked angry the entire night. It was making me nervous. Well, that and the rather large weapon that was strapped to his side that the stubby fingers of his right hand seemed to caress at least once every ten minutes.

    I looked at my own cards and wasn’t too pleased but tried to keep any expression off of my face. The first round of betting started and it was pretty much straight forward. There was a small raise from Captain Tyhs that was matched by myself and the Largwanian. I received my next card and made a low pair. The Largwanian looked angry. Tyhs face still had a disappointed look to it. But again when betting came to him, he raised. I looked at him inquisitively and called him, certain that he hadn’t learned to pull this convincing of a bluff just now. His stack of credits was getting dangerously low and if he couldn’t match a bet made by myself or the Largwanian he’d be forced to fold out of the game. It was bad for to force a player out like that, but the thought was making me smile.

    Another card and I’d turned my low pair into three of a kind. Not an amazing hand but I was a little more comfortable playing the game. The Largwanian continued to look angry as he glared at his cards, and Tyhs still looked disappointed and then he gave me a wink and a smile. I read his face carefully. He knew he didn’t have anything, but he was going to try to force the Largwanian to walk away, earning back some of the credits that I’d lost since I started to play the game. I was fully aware at this time that he wanted me to fold out, because the idea of companionship in his mind said that he should not try to take my money with a bad bluff.

    I lacked any of his idea of companionship and when he pushed the rest of his stack of credits into the center of the rekop table, I called him without a hint of guilt, knowing full well, that I at least had a better hand than he did. Tyhs looked at me and the smile faded from his face. I had gleeful thoughts of walking out with all the money I’d won earlier, and all the money that he’d come in with. Movement to my left snapped me back to reality. The angry Largwanian, silent as ever, but now with a devilish grin plastered to his leathery skinned, dark red face, pushed a stack of credits about the same size of mine into the middle of the table.

    Captain Tyhs jaw dropped, and mine did slightly too. The Largwanian had us both beat. I knew it. I was going to lose to a creature who, by appearances couldn’t count higher than the eight digits he had on his hands. There was silence for several moments from the opposite end of the table. He was staring mournfully at his cards. I was beginning to think I was wrong. His disappointed looks as he’d picked up his cards had been a ploy, because as I read his face now, I knew that he didn’t want to leave this hand. He thought he could win.

    He reached into a side pocket of his captain’s uniform and pulled out a small device, a short silver piece of cylindrical metal with a printing of a small grey bird. He looked at the command key for the Century Pigeon, and again I put my strength of will to work. I stared at him. I glared across the table with all my might trying to make him put the key back into his pocket. If he lost the ship, I would be stuck on this planet until I could get enough funds together to catch a ride. He turned the key over in his hands and as he reached his hand over the pile of credits I knew my strength of will had failed me again. The key dropped from his hands and knocked over the carefully set stacks of chips that were used in place of actual credits (which weren’t physical currency, but a form of electronic currency that was kept in small palm sized keypads). The key slid down the pile of credits and the Largwanian looked at it intently.

    “What is it?” The first words I’d heard him speak in a common tongue. His speech was rough. The Largwanian language consists of mostly throaty syllables and grunts that I would never fully understand and the Largwanian tongue wasn’t designed to speak in the common language of most of the Galaxy.

    “It’s the command key to my ship, the Century Pigeon,” Tyhs explained.

    The Largwanian grunted and his face twisted into what must have been deep thought. I’d forgotten about this part. If a player tried to match a bet with anything besides credits, the person who made the bet had to accept the offer, before betting could continue. I knew if the Largwanian had the winning hand. I was positive. But I still had a chance he wouldn’t accept the ship as payment from Captain Tyhs. “She’s just a freighter,” I said quickly. “Old model with a lot of wear and tear.” I was desperate. Of all the places I could be stranded, the Largus System would be very near the bottom of the list.

    “But she’s fast,” Captain Tyhs didn’t understand what I was doing. He really thought he could win, and he was attempting to risk my happiness for it. “And her hyper drive unit is nearly new.”

    “Agreed,” the Largwanian grunted and my head sunk. I was going to be stuck on this planet, peddling for a ride and enough to by me a beer.

    I didn’t want to look up. I didn’t want to see what was going to happen next. “Your bet Mugsy.” I lifted my head and Captain Tyhs and the Largwanian were looking at me expectantly. I looked at my chips, and suddenly I had one thought that might get me out of here. The ship was on the table. It couldn’t be taken back. But there was still the possibility that the Largwanian could be beaten. I knew my hand wouldn’t beat his and I was positive that the same could be said for Captain Tyhs’s. But the Largwanian didn’t know that. I pushed all of my credits into the center of the table.

    Captain Tyhs looked like I’d shot him. I knew he didn’t have anything with him to match the bet, but I didn’t care. If this plan worked, not only would I not be stranded on this planet, but I would own the Pigeon. All the thoughts in the back of my head of leaving Daeh Tyhs behind could be reality. All I needed was for the Largwanian to fall for my bluff. I needed him to fold, and walk away. I looked at him, trying my best to give the huge, intimidating creature, a dagger-eyed glare. He looked back at me, and I melted into my seat. He pushed another stack of credits to the center of the table. “Call,” he said, in almost a laugh.

    Tyhs still look hurt, like I’d broken him. He hung his head and slid his cards to the center of the table, unable to match the bet. The Largwanian turned over his cards. I looked down at them, four deuces, and a pair of sixes. I had three fours and didn’t come anywhere close to beating him. He pulled the credits toward him, along with the command key for the Century Pigeon. I watched as my freedom went into the hands of the crimson colored beast and looked up. The former Captain Tyhs was still staring at me. His hands had picked his cards back up off the table, turned them over.

    I knew exactly what the gesture meant without looking down. I was thinking about going outside and finding a falling building to walk under. I looked down and counted. Two, three, four, five, six, seven, all green. Straight flush. He had the game. He would’ve won. He wasn’t trying to bluff. He was trying to get me to fold out so that he wouldn’t take what credits I had left.

  13. B. Macon 28 Nov 2010 at 6:57 pm

    “As it does on occasion as nights roll on in a bar like this and it gets closer to the point when everyone really should be getting off to the place that it is there are going to sleep, or do whatever, that night, new players stop joining the game and it becomes more interesting to watch.” Is this sentence necessary?

    “dirty yellow eyes”–I like that detail. It’s unexpected and helps create an impression.

    –“seemed to caress at least once every ten minutes.” For a minor rephrase, what would you think about “seemed to caress at least once every other hand.”?

    –I feel like this character’s narration of this game could be more gripping. Right now it seems like he’s a disinterested observer. It might help to check out a few poker stories to see how they put readers in the scene and convey the excitement. I’d recommend Telling Lies and Getting Paid: More Gambling Stories and maybe Positively Fifth Street.

    “One of the most difficult parts of cross species card games was reading facial expressions. I’d been playing with Largwanians for three years now and I’d like to say I’d become a master at reading them. This Largwanian had simply looked angry the entire night.” This is an interesting concept, seeing how having many species would affect gambling, but I think it could be more distinctive. For example, “I had played Largwanians for three years and I was as good as reading them as any human could be. The teeth gnashing might have been frustration at bad cards. More likely, it was one of their deathmatch challenges. The ‘Shudrath,’ I think. It’s hard to keep track of them.”

    “certain that he hadn’t learned to pull this convincing of a bluff just now.” Could be “certain that he hadn’t learned to bluff this slick just now.”

    “I was going to lose to a creature who, by appearances couldn’t count higher than the eight digits he had on his hands.” Could be “I was going to lose to a creature that couldn’t count to nine without pulling his boots off.”

    “Captain Tyhs jaw dropped” –> there should be an apostrophe after Tyhs. Tyhs’ jaw dropped.

    I think there’s a bit of redundancy in the description of the command key. “He reached into a side pocket of his captain’s uniform and pulled out a small device, a short silver piece of cylindrical metal with a printing of a small grey bird. He looked at the command key for the Century Pigeon, and again I put my strength of will to work… “What is it?”
    “It’s the command key to my ship, the Century Pigeon,” Tyhs explained.” One possible area for shortening: Maybe the alien already knows what a command key looks like? (If he cares enough about ships that he’d willingly accept one as stakes in a poker game, I assume he would, anyway).

    –Century Pigeon doesn’t have quite the same ring that Millennium Falcon did. I’m guessing that’s intentional. 😉

    –In (Earth) poker, when betting between players continues after someone goes all in, the extra bets are usually gathered in a side-pot so that the guy that’s already all-in doesn’t have to fold. (Otherwise, the Largwanian could just win the hand by putting in more money than either one of them could match, right?)

  14. Sean Higginson 28 Nov 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I am aware of the rules to Earth poker. I enjoy Texas Hold’em, though I am far from an expert of the game. I realized the betting rules for Rekop were a little off kilter, but I needed a way for Tyhs to lose with a winning hand and for it to be Mugsy’s fault. Any suggestions would be highly appreciated.

  15. B. Macon 28 Nov 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Hmm… one possibility would be that Tyhs has a great hand, but the alien has the best hand. Then Mugsy’s mistake is that he drives the betting too wild, so that instead of what would have been a minor loss, they lose EVERYTHING to the alien.

    So, in the final round of betting, the antagonist would check, followed by a check by the captain, and then Mugsy (instead of checking politely) raises. Unfortunately, raising gives the antagonist an opportunity to reraise, forcing the captain to put the ship on the lines.

    Alternately, perhaps Tyhs has a hand that’s pretty good (like, say, three of a kind), but a dangerous flop. For example, if there are three hearts on the flop, you’re extremely vulnerable to a fourth heart, so you’d want to play it slow in case someone else is one heart away from the flush. The alien checks and the captain checks, but Mugsy raises and allows the alien to reraise. Mugsy and the Captain lose a ton on a fourth heart or something similar. If Mugsy had waited until all the cards were down, the Captain would have folded without losing much.

  16. Sean Higginson 29 Nov 2010 at 7:47 am

    Thanks for the ideas, though I’m no sure any will work for the flow of the story. I think this is something I’ll have to come back to at a later point.

  17. Sean Higginson 29 Nov 2010 at 1:18 pm

    (Last bit of the first chapter – )

    The Largwanian had stood up, actually laughing now. It sounded disgustingly like he was regurgitating all the food he’d eaten that day. “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you boys. Kindly point me in the direction of me new ship.”

    Tyhs looked up. The Largwanian towered over him. Sheepishly, Tyhs stood up. It didn’t help bridge the distance too much. “It’s in dock outside. But, well, I need to collect the cargo before you take her.” I hadn’t thought about this. We’d just accepted a shipment from Atlon worth several thousand credits, and they would be none to pleased if we let it fly away without receiving payment.

    “Cargo goes with the ship.” The Largwanian glared down at Tyhs. “You’re planning something funny.”

    “Never,” Tyhs stuttered, “but my employer needs to have the cargo back.”

    There was a flash of green light and Tyhs was thrown back. The laser gun at the Largwanians waist had been at equal height with Tyhs’s chest. A large hole had burned through the chest of Tyhs’s uniform, and a large patch of charred muscle was visible. He stopped breathing, lying motionless ten feet from where he’d been standing and the crowd gasped, but still drew in closer. The crimson red Largwanian turned to me. “No funny business.”

    My eyes were locked on his hand, still caressing the gun at his waist. I stood up simply because the thought of the gun pointing at my chest was better than the idea of it pointing at my head. This was a really big Largwanian. “Definitely no funny business,” I responded holding both my hands up in front of me. I started backing away, slowly.

    The Largwanian started laughing again. I felt like I was going to be sick. I ran. The crowd spread out to let me through to the door which slid open for me. I’d forgotten about the steps coming up to LorBo’s. I fell out the door and my face hit very hard ground. The taste of blood passed over my tongue. I could hear my heart like thunder in my head. But I was alive.

    I was nearly broke. I had no ship. But I was alive.

  18. Sean Higginson 03 Dec 2010 at 8:52 am

    I’d really appreciate if I could get a few of you to take a look at the first chapter above and let me know what you think.

  19. Sean Higginson 06 Dec 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Going to take this to mean that the end of the last chapter was perfect. I’m going to post the first few pages of chapter two below.

    CHAPTER 2: THE NOKE, ATLON, AND CHARLIE

    I stayed motionless, lying flat on the hard walkway leading up to LorBo’s Tavern, for what seemed like hours. I was scared to move, to even spit out the blood that was collecting in my mouth. I was afraid of what would happen if I did anything to draw attention to myself.

    When I finally managed to pull myself to my feet, the ringing in my ears had quieted slightly. I spit blood to the side of the walkway. I had no clue what I was going to do. I’d had nearly every credit there was to my name in that rekop game. Everything I owned was in my cabin on the Century Pigeon.

    I was suddenly regretting my recent alcohol intake. Between what I was certain was on setting panic and what I would usually consider a comfortable drunken state, I couldn’t think straight. I needed to sleep off the alcohol, I needed to get myself cleaned up, and I needed to get off of this rock.

    Largus 13 was a small planet. I’d been here enough in the past three years that I should’ve known my way around pretty well. But as I walked down the street of what I could only assume was an average city on Largus 13, I realized that I hadn’t seen much at all of the planet.

    Upon arrival, I always docked the Century Pigeon at the lot connected to LorBo’s Tavern. I ate, drank, and entertained myself at LorBo’s, while I had always slept in my personal cabin on the Pigeon. I’ve lived a closed life and now I was worried it was going to be a crucial part of my undoing. I needed to find a cheap place to sleep on this empty street. There wasn’t a Largwanian in sight that I could ask for directions, not that I would in my current state.

    Thankfully, after a few minutes of walking a glowing red sign came into view. The sign was written in the common tongue (Largwanians had never mastered the concepts of written language). The sign was old, nearly half the letters were burnt out, but it appeared that ‘The Noke’ had vacancy. Judging by the sign, I’d be able to afford at least one night in this place.

    Compared to the buildings surrounding it, the Noke differed in two ways: one, it was bigger; two, it was much more run down. The Largwanian body structure didn’t accept the idea of multi-level buildings, so most of the buildings in the Largus System were only one level high. This building, which according to the sign was a “Galactically Acclaimed Hotel,” was six stories high. The metal platesthat formed the building’s exterior matched those on either side if you ignored the stains caused by the planet’s numerous airborne creatures. The Noke could have looked like a real classy place after a good scrubbing. In its current state, by exterior appearances alone, I should’ve been able to afford a week’s stay in this place.

    I walked to the building’s main entrance and the doors opened for me with a groan. The lobby was huge and I could hear the roar of music from a bar down the hall. Behind the counter stood a rather thin looking Largwanian. He was yellow-skinned, and appeared about as pleasant as a Largwanian could. He had a closed mouthed grin, hiding his jagged teeth, apparently the result of careful cross-species customer service training. He was dressed in a bright red vest that had a flashy golden pin at the left breast that read, “Fred.” I highly doubted that any self respecting Largwanian mother would name their child something as common as Fred. His actual name was probably impossible for the human tongue to properly pronounce.

    “Good evening sir, and welcome to the Noke. My name is Fred. How can I be of assistance?” His perfect speech caught me off guard. Fred (if that was his real name) had obviously had extensive training in dealing with other species. This in itself struck me as odd. The hotel obviously didn’t get much use. Beside that, I simply couldn’t imagine Largus 13 being a high traffic tourist locale.

    “Yeah,” I responded, hoping I’d still be able to afford a room, after the overhead that the Noke obviously needed to cover in training. “What’s the rate for a room?”

    Fred’s smile widened. His friendly demeanor was getting slightly uncomforting. I’d not seen a Largwanian in my three years in this system that didn’t get excited at the thought of violence and I felt that Fred was drawing me in for some unspeakable event that involved spilling a large portion of my blood. Perhaps it was the mixture of the night’s events and the strong buzz I was feeling but I was being rather paranoid.

    “Current rates stand at seventy-five credits per evening’s stay. We also offer special rates for extended visits and military personnel.” I was suddenly struck with a twinge of regret that I’d never joined the Fleet Marines. It was passing. I had enough credits for three nights. At the moment I only needed one.

    “Just one night,” I said, wearily pulling out my credit pad. I paid for the room and Fred thanked me, giving me another one of his carefully trained closed mouthed smiles. He handed me my room key which looked nothing like the command key to the Century Pigeon, but still was a dreadful reminder of the situation I was currently in.

    I took a lift up to my room, unlocked the door, and stepped inside. The door slid closed and locked itself behind me. It was your average hotel room: bed, lamp, view screen, and various religious pamphlets. I walked straight to the bed and fell down flat. I was ready to sleep and hopefully wake up to find that this night had all been a bad dream, or better yet, the past three years.

    Ten minutes later I was leaning over the toilet as my stomach tried to escape my body by way of my throat.

  20. B. Macon 06 Dec 2010 at 9:38 pm

    On the last bit of the first chapter:

    Some minor word usage/punctuation issues. “None to pleased” -> none too pleased.

    “I need to collect the cargo before you take her” -> “I need to collect the cargo first”?

    “gun at the Largwanians waist” -> “gun at the Largwanian’s waist”

    The repetition of “But I was alive” strikes me as a bit unsubtle.

    I’ll look at the new pages now…

  21. B. Macon 06 Dec 2010 at 10:06 pm

    “Everything I owned was in my cabin on the Century Pigeon.”—anything in particular he misses?

    –He sounds very introspective. “I’ve lived a closed life and now I was worried it was going to be a crucial part of my undoing” would be an unusual line from someone who’s drunk and in trouble.

    “Compared to the buildings surrounding it, the Noke differed in two ways: one, it was bigger; two, it was much more run down.” Possible alternative: “The Noke was the tallest building on the block, and easily the seediest, [insert run-down detail].”

    “platesthat” -> “plates that”

    “thin looking Largwanian” -> the word “looking” here is probably unnecessary.

    “He… appeared about as pleasant as a Largwanian could.” Haha.
    “His actual name was probably impossible for the human tongue to properly pronounce. “ Could be more distinct. “His actual name probably translated into ‘Face Ripper.’”

    “I simply couldn’t imagine Largus 13 being a high traffic tourist locale”—a detail could be inserted here to remind us why it’s not a tourist locale. For example, “I couldn’t imagine Largus 13 being a tourist destination, what with the gang massacres.”

    “I was suddenly struck with a twinge of regret that I’d never joined the Fleet Marines. It was passing.” “It was passing” could be rephrased more actively as “It passed,” I think.

    “Ten minutes I was leaning over the toilet as my stomach tried to escape my body by way of my throat.” I would recommend ending the chapter with a sentence that foreshadows more.

  22. Sean Higginson 06 Dec 2010 at 10:50 pm

    This isn’t the Chapter end, merely a break prior to passing out.

  23. B. Macon 07 Dec 2010 at 6:52 am

    Ah, okay.

  24. Sean Higginson 08 Dec 2010 at 10:55 pm

    (Middle portion of Chapter Two below. I have a feeling I’m going to need to shorten my chapters which will make me change one of the recurring jokes…)

    I woke with a start, visions of angry Largwanians dancing on my head a fleeing memory. My head was throbbing as I sat up slowly in a tangle of sheets. I had the taste of blood and vomit in my mouth and I decided that I was far too hung over to remember as much as I did about the previous night.

    Light flooded in from the windows, apparently set to open when the room’s occupant woke up. I clutched my temple cursing modern technology. “I’m never drinking again,” I muttered, thankful no one was round to hear this statement. Someone might try to hold me to it.

    Eventually, I stumbled into the bath room, splashed cold water on my face. The jolt woke me up a little more but did nothing for my hangover. I looked myself over in the mirror. My black hair was sticking in wild directions, my face was covered with a heavy amount of stubble, and my eyes were black dots in a sea of red veins. I looked just about as good as I felt.

    I started wondering what I was going to do about the situation I was in. Ignoring the need for food (and alcohol), I estimated that I had enough money to last for another two days here at the Noke. I couldn’t think of a way to earn enough money to get out of the Largus System. There was always rekop, but with less than two hundred credits to my name, I would be lucky to make it at a table. I needed a ride of this rock, and I couldn’t pay anybody to shuttle me out.

    Then it hit me. There was someone in the Largus System who had need for my services, and they’d been paying me decent wages the past three years, Atlon. The Atlon Corporation would be in the Largus System until the war had died out, which I doubted would be anytime soon. But faithful service to Atlon might very well be my ticket out. I’d served under contract for three years. I could offer to work on another ship just to earn enough to get out on my own. I just needed to contact someone at the Atlon Corporation and I was certain they’d come get me.

    The only thing was I’d never had to make contact with them before. Captain Tyhs had always been in charge of that sort of thing. It involved money. I looked around my room and managed to find a keypad on the bed stand, next to which was printed the rates for long distance communication. I looked at the sheet and felt myself get a little queasy. This had to work, because if it didn’t I wasn’t going to be able to afford to stay another night in this joint.

    I hit a couple of buttons on the keypad and a communication screen came down over the bed. I had a brief moment to play in my mind why anyone would need a long distance view screen on a hotel room bed and then I had a long moment trying to forget my ideas. I pushed two more buttons on the communicator keypad and pulled up a directory. Scrolling through the list I found several listings for Atlon and selected the first, reading “Atlon Shipping Corporation: Alien Resources.”

    The screen went to static for a moment and then the Atlon logo appeared, a blue and red drawing of a man holding a globe over his head. The communications line played some soft tone music, and a very calm and inviting voice spoke. “Thank you for calling the Atlon Shipping Corporation’s Alien Resources Department. Atlon is an equal opportunity employer. To listen to this menu in Common, please select option one now.”

    I pressed the corresponding button on the keypad and the voice continued. “Please listen to the complete message as our menu has changed. The Atlon Shipping Corporation is pleased with your interest in our company. If you would like information about how to join the largest shipping corporation in the Galaxy, select option one. If you would like information on our competitive benefits program, select option two. If you are a current employee-”

    I didn’t let the message continue. I hit the appropriate button for option three and a new message played. I began to wonder if Atlon’s complaint department had a similar automated system. “Alton appreciates your continued excellence in everything you do to make us the largest shipping corporation in the Galaxy.” I couldn’t take it any longer, I slammed my entire palm over the keypad and just hoped that I somehow managed to hit the right button.

    The screen went black for a moment, and then the Atlon logo returned. “Someone will be right with you,” the recorded message said. Again the screen went to static for a moment and when the static cleared I was looking up at a furry alien with beady golden eyes and a short snout that reminded me of an extremely hairy pig. The resource officer hardly gave me a look before it turned back to its computer monitor off the side of his desk.

    “I’m showing you calling from the Largus System. We have a lot of ships out there. Which one are you on human?” Its voice was quick and well trained, almost mechanical. The furry alien had a job to do, and it appeared as though he would do it the same way even if his desk was in flames.

    I stuttered a bit as I responded, “The, uh, Century Pigeon.”

    The alien read from his monitor. “Captain Daeh Tyhs and first mate Mugsy McAllister. You don’t look like a captain.” He spared me a momentary glare with his little beady eyes before going back to the information on his monitor. “Three heavy ion cannons, twenty-four thermo-radiation long-range warheads, one hundred pounds of grade seven dilex explosive, and seventeen crates of type IV blaster rifles, scheduled for delivery on Largus Six, in 6 hours.” He looked at me again, “What can I do for you Mister McAllister?”

    “Captain Tyhs is dead,” I responded, which was surely the most important piece of information I had at this time.

    The alien began typing with short hairy claws on the keypad in front of him. “I’ll promote you to Captain of the Century Pigeon Mister McAllister. Report to outpost R-6-7 after your scheduled delivery for assignment of a new first mate.”

    I was slightly taken aback by the lack of any sort of emotion in the alien’s voice as he made his statement in a matter of fact sort of tone. I also began to grow a little bit more worried for the situation I’d found myself in. “The Century Pigeon was lost,” I added what I assumed would be the next most important bit of bad news that I had to give to Atlon at this time.

    “Very well, we will send,” he paused for a moment searching his own monitor for some detail, “the Green Porpoise to collect you and your shipment. I will inform the buyer of expected delays between three and six hours. In the future please make your requests to our Fleet Control Department, thank you.”

    Again, the alien had missed the gravity of the situation, but on the plus side I was going to be picked up. “Could you go ahead and send a replacement shipment to the customer?” I asked.

    The little furry alien stopped typing and turned his snouted face back to look at me. I saw a lot of emotion bubbling into his beady yellow eyes, and suddenly I felt almost sick to my stomach. I was almost certain it had nothing to do with the hangover. “A replacement shipment?” the alien asked, his voice betraying a lot of anger and maybe even a little bit of fear. I suddenly wondered what he had to report to his superiors.

    “Well,” I was stuttering again and I didn’t know how to stop it, “uh, Captain Tyhs lost the ship in a, uh, game. We, uh, were unable to collect the, uh, shipment from the ship prior to, uh, the Captain’s death. So, uh, if the customer still, uh, wants his supplies, Atlon will, uh, need to send out more.”

    “You do understand, Mister McAllister, that those supplies cost upwards of ten million credits,” I didn’t know this but I nodded anyway. I did not enjoy the way this conversation was going. “Per contracts with Atlon, any shipments lost while in the care of a member of the fleet, are the responsibility of that member of the fleet.” Again I nodded.

    “Of course,” I said, “I’ll work it off. Send the Green Dolphin here to pick me up, and I’ll work it off. As long as it takes, just please don’t leave me here.” It sounded like whining, even to me.

    “Unfortunately, Mister McAllister,” the alien began in entirely too formal a tone, the kind that long distance communications service people get when they deliver news that will undoubtedly upset the customer but the representative just can’t wait to give it. “My superiors believe that that form of payment will take far too long. However, it is in your personal record, Mister McAllister that you have incurred several bounties on your head, nearly six dozen that we have on record.” There is a feeling you get in the pit of your stomach at that precise moment in your life when you realize, in no uncertain terms, that you are worth more dead than alive. “Total amount to be collected is estimated at thirty-six million credits.”

    “So what are you implying?” I asked, a lot more calm than I thought I would be at this point.

    “That Atlon collect on the high cost any previous life you did have prior to your employment has earned you,” the aliens reply came with the closest thing his face was capable of making to a smile.

    “That is what I thought.”

    “Please remain on Largus 13. Members of the Atlon Shipping Fleet will be available shortly to collect you. Thank you for your continued service to the Atlon Shipping Corporation, Mister McAllister.” A laugh, and then the screen went blank.

    I stared at the blank monitor for a few minutes, letting the news sink in. Before taking my place on the Century Pigeon, I’d been young and stupid. It was easy to look back and admit that now. But I’d been good at it. It took a lot to earn a total bounty on your own head of thirty-six million credits. Somewhere, there was some poster of the top ten bounties available in the Galaxy. I was willing to bet that my name was somewhere near the bottom of the list. I’d lived a fun life prior to joining Captain Tyhs when I decided I ought to quit screwing around and actually grow up. Amazing how actually trying to make a respectable life for myself was going to get me killed for all the things I’d done before.

    I looked about the room, coming to terms with the fact that probably before the end of the day, I was going to die. I thought about it. I had lost nearly all my money the night before in a game of rekop. I’d lost all my personal possessions onboard the Century Pigeon. I was on probably one of the most boring and disgusting planet’s I could remember. And hell, I was hung over. I was going to die broke, on Largus 13, with a hangover.

    This was far from the way I’d ever wanted to go out. The windows were open, light from the systems single star was flowing in. I thought about distances traveled, extermination orders that needed to be signed. I had at least a couple of hours. I decided as I left my room at the Noke that if I was going to die broke, in the Largus System, I was at least going to die drunk.

  25. B. Macon 09 Dec 2010 at 1:51 am

    ““I’m never drinking again,” I muttered, thankful no one was round to hear this statement. Someone might try to hold me to it.” Haha, I liked this.

    “I started wondering what I was going to do about the situation I was in. Ignoring the need for food (and alcohol), I estimated that I had enough money to last for another two days here at the Noke.” Could probably be shortened to “I had enough money to stay another two days here, assuming I gave up my habit of eating.”

    “There was always rekop, but with less than two hundred credits to my name, I would be lucky to make it at a table.” Could be rephrased more actively? “Not even a [stylish phrase for a desperately poor person] would play rekop for two hundred credits.”

    “I needed a ride of this rock”—off this rock.

    “This had to work, because if it didn’t I wasn’t going to be able to afford to stay another night in this joint.” Could be shortened to “This had to work, because otherwise I couldn’t afford to stay another night in this joint.”

    I think the paragraph beginning “then it hit me” could be shortened or maybe developed in a new direction. Right now, it seems to be mostly information we already knew. (Also, “The Atlon Corporation would be in the Largus System until the war had died out, which I doubted would be anytime soon” is probably extraneous).

    I feel like the Atlon message system could be more distinct. For example, instead of just “If you would like information on our competitive benefits program,” it might say more about the company and its work if it were something like “If you would like information on our competitive benefits program, including our industry-leading life insurance packages…”

    “I’ll promote you to Captain of the Century Pigeon Mister McAllister” could maybe be more active as “I’ve promoted you to Captain of the Century Pigeon, Mister McAllister.”

    The discrepancy between McAllister’s handling of the death (which was rather shocking to him) and the bureaucrat (who’s handling this without any emotion) might be starker if he describes the Captain’s death in more emotional language.

    I think that the underlying conflict between McA and the alien is interesting, but I think the conflict would come across more powerfully if McA showed his emotions more and told us less. For example, “I saw a lot of emotion bubbling into his beady yellow eyes, and suddenly I felt almost sick to my stomach.”

    “We, uh, were unable to collect the, uh, shipment from the ship prior to, uh, the Captain’s death.” Might be more humorous to replace “the Captain’s death” with more graphic language. Maybe “the Captain’s death by plasma.”


    If Atlon’s plan is to turn him into the authorities, it might be more interesting (and sensible) if the Atlon guy started lying to him to get him to come back to Atlon, so that it can grab him easily. Instead of having Atlon directly tell him it plans on turning him in for the bounty, McA can figure out something is amiss because the alien suddenly decides that the missing shipment isn’t a problem. (“We’ll cover the cost in other ways… We have ‘insurance policies’ for such a contingency”). McA could go to the scheduled meeting but discover it’s a trap (with the police there).

    (Alternately, you could have McA discover the ruse in some other characteristic way. For example, if he’s technically savvy, maybe he discovers that they’re putting out an alert to the police about collecting his bounty). Having Atlon TELL him, though, makes him more a passive beneficiary of good luck.

    “disgusting planet’s” –> “disgusting planets.” For the most part, apostrophes are only used in contractions and possessives.

    “I decided as I left my room at the Noke that if I was going to die broke, in the Largus System, I was at least going to die drunk.” Could be shortened to “If I was going to die broke in the Largus System, I was at least going to die drunk.”

  26. Sean Higginson 09 Dec 2010 at 7:48 am

    Thanks for the advice as always B. Mac. Trying to get ahead of schedule on the website so I can get the novel finished without worrying about my other deadlines. I’ll post the rest of this chapter this evening. If anyone else has ideas, thoughts, or comments – please share.

  27. Sean Higginson 09 Dec 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I took a lift back down to the lobby. A female Largwanian was standing in Fred’s place with a similar name tag over her left breast that read “Sara”. I ignored her closed-mouth smile and preceded in the direction of the loud twang of music that I assumed was a bar.

    The song coming from a jukebox in the corner was talking about hard times and tear stains and prison and high speed freighters. There was a line about the singer’s mother, and one about how he’d gotten drunk to forget about it all. I decided I liked the song and walked over to the bar. The room was low lit, and empty except for the bartend wiping out a glass mug and a man sitting on a stool staring at his own mug of amber-colored liquid. I sat on the stool next to the other patron and the bartender simply stared at me. I ordered a mug of Largwanian ale and the he set the mug he was wiping down in front of me and reached for a new one to wipe.

    And that is how I set off on my task. I drank, the bartender wiped and refilled. With every empty mug my headache eased. Hangovers are peculiar things. I never quite understood if addition of alcohol to a hangover actually cured the headache, or if it just made you forget about it. After about an hour I was no longer worried about the pain in my head. Of course I did have plenty of other things to worry about at that moment.

    The bartender still stared at me. I thought later that it was a strange coincidence that on Largus 13, I’d walked into a bar where the only other two people in the bar were also human. The bartender seemed like he’d spent too much time among the planet’s native species and had begun to pick up some of their less pleasant traits, like the smell. But here we were, three humans, probably all light years from any place we’d called home. I felt like I was among kindred spirits and I began to talk.

    “Amazing,” I said, “that you can travel across the Galaxy.”

    It wasn’t really the end of my thought, but I’d paused for long enough that the bartender decided that he needed to respond, “Not really.” He turned his back to me and continued to wipe his mugs.

    “Well not just that,” I began again. “But it is amazing that you can go across the Galaxy and still see people. You know like people, people. Humans. Not Largwanians, not androids, not tiny furry creatures, but humans. Not that I mind being around everyone else, but it’s just nice sometimes seeing someone like you. Let’s you know you aren’t alone out there.” The bartender apparently decided that this required another response so he grunted.

    I continued, “And I think I’ll miss it. I’ll miss people. Hell, I think I might even miss Largwanians.” I thought about this statement for a while and decided that if I could actually say it, I was getting drunk. But still I was coherent enough to regret the fact that I’d said it so I ordered another drink.

    “Life is short. It is. One day, the biggest worry on your mind is being stuck on a planet with a whole bunch of Arg-lanians. The next day, you’re waiting for someone to come kill you. Did you ever have that happen to you?” The bartender had apparently had enough, and decided to ignore me all together. I turned to the man on the stool next to me. “Ever happen to you?”

    The man sitting next to me looked up from his own mug. He looked at me, or rather turned in my direction. Shaggy brown hair covered his eyes. His face was thick with shaggy beard that would never compete with the one that I could grow in a week but still looked like something to be proud of, if you could be proud of such things. He smiled at me and brushed the hair out of his face. “Never happened to me.” He smiled some more. The effect was unnerving, but in a pleasant sort of way.

    “Well that’s where I am then, alone. I’m the only one who knows he’s going to be dead by the end of the day.” I felt defeated, but still, looking at the man sitting next to me I felt like it could be worse.

    “You know, it’s a big Galaxy,” said the man smiling at me. He was dressed in a thick leather jacket. It was pretty warm in the bar and probably pretty warm outside. He looked like he was wearing the jacket because he thought it made him look cool, and that was all that mattered. I got the impression that he’d wear the jacket through the fires of hell because he wouldn’t want to have the Dark Lord seeing him at anything less than his best.

    “Well of course it’s a big Galaxy,” I answered, waiving my mug and slopping a bit of ale on the floor. I took a drink.

    “Thing is,” he said, “it’s a really big Galaxy. Like really big. And if whoever’s coming to kill you is going to be looking for you here, seems to me that there are a lot of other places you could be hiding.” He smiled again. It was pretty good logic but I guess he hadn’t heard the rest of my story.

    “Well yeah,” I took another drink. “But how am I supposed to get there. I’ve got no ship. I’m stuck!”

    “I’ve got a ship,” he said, smiling. I felt like he was playing some cruel trick on me but in my drunken state I couldn’t figure out what it was.

    “But I’ve got no money.” At this point the bartender turned around, took away my mug and asked that I pay my tab. I transferred the last few credits out of my credit pad and turned back to the shaggy, smiling man sitting next to me.

    “No problem,” he said, standing up and collecting a carry sack sitting next to his bar stool. I stared at him, still drunk and still trying to work out the cruel joke. “Come on.”

    “But you’re drunk, I’m not getting into a starship with a drunken pilot,” I said, proud of myself. Safety first, I thought to myself carefully.

    “Alright,” said the smiling man, hosting the carry bag onto his shoulder. “Think of it this way. First, I’m not nearly as drunk as you.” I nodded, staring at him very hard. “Second, I figure if you fly off the planet with me, who would like to see to it that you don’t die, you have at least as much chance of surviving than if you wait here for the people who want to kill you.”

    I nodded again. “But, you don’t even know who I am, why do you want to keep me alive.”

    “I have a feeling you’ll be useful. My name’s Charlie, Charlie Corbin.” He said it like it was supposed to mean something to me. I stared at him. “The mercenary?” he said still hoping I’d recognize him.

    “Okay,” I said.

    “You haven’t heard of me?”

    “Nope,” I replied.

    “One can dream.” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.

    “I’m Mugsy McAllister,” I said, and we left the Noke to go collect Charlie’s ship.

  28. B. Macon 09 Dec 2010 at 6:41 pm

    “hard times and tear stains and prison and high speed freighters”–I think this could be more distinct. For example, maybe the title is something like “You Only Live Once (And It’s Always Messy).” Also, it might be more amusing if he DIDN’T like the song, because it reminds him too much of what he’s going through. (He’s going through hard times because his freighter got jacked, and now he’s maybe looking at a long stay in prison for things he did many years ago).

    “And that is how I set off on my task. I drank, the bartender wiped and refilled. With every empty mug my headache eased. Hangovers are peculiar things. I never quite understood if addition of alcohol to a hangover actually cured the headache, or if it just made you forget about it. After about an hour I was no longer worried about the pain in my head. Of course I did have plenty of other things to worry about at that moment.” Could maybe be phrased more stylishly. Maybe something like “It was the first time I encountered the First Rule of Booze: Whether you’re drunk or sober, the solution is more alcohol.”

    “I felt like I was among kindred spirits and I began to talk.” This could probably be shown.

    “Never happened to me” could be more interesting, I think. Maybe “Never happened to me. Not yet, anyway” or “Never happened to me. I’m good.”

    I feel like Charlie’s smiling is getting a bit redundant. If the smiling is supposed to be significant, I’d make it more notable and maybe spend more description on the smiles to create a more lasting impression.

    It’s funny that the bartender turns on him as soon as he admits he has no money. “At this point the bartender turned around, took away my mug and asked that I pay my tab.” Could maybe be shortened to “At that point the bartender took away my mug and made me pay my tab.”

    Why does Charlie take him along? I feel like this is a really important scene, so maybe Charlie sees some spark of something that he wants to be a part of. (Or maybe it’s just pity, but I don’t get that impression).

    I’ve been thinking about Mugsy’s massive criminal record. So… he really, really doesn’t strike me as the criminal type. In some ways, he shows some signs of wussiness (he refuses to get in a shuttle piloted by a drunk man, like he has any better options at this point). It might be amusing if it turns out he has a massive bounty doing something unexpectedly un-badass like insider trading or embezzling. (Or, since he has a gambling streak, maybe he was a bookie for a gambler or got busted by casinos for counting cards or something).

    I feel that it might help to distinguish Charlie’s voice more from Mugsy’s. Right now, they both sound very white-collar. For example, “one can dream” strikes me as more idle and passive than I would associate with a bounty hunter. Below, I’ve suggested a slight change to the sequence where Charlie dreams about being famous so that he’s more determined and forceful. What do you think?

    TWEAK:
    Charlie: You haven’t heard of me?
    McA: Keep dreaming.
    Charlie: Always.

    What’s Charlie’s ship’s name? If this is the end of the chapter, I think giving it a name that sound really distinct (with an air of reckless danger and/or death, perhaps) would help foreshadow how being with Charlie will be different/more exciting/dangerous/etc.

    I’m looking forward to the next part.

  29. Sean Higginson 09 Dec 2010 at 7:31 pm

    (I really appreciate all the assistance and can’t wait to hit up the rewrite – as I said, I’m a little more than halfway done with the novel at this point, and I think I did a better job with Charlie (and Mugsy too) as time went on. Start of the next chapter follows.)

    CHAPTER 3: DOCK 17, THE NEON STAR, AND THE BLOCKADE

    Charlie led the way down the side of the street to Dock 17. It wasn’t a far way off so we didn’t have much time to talk as we went. I did notice as we went on that he didn’t stumble half as much as I did. For this I was grateful because I’d been shown the videos of what can happen to you if you are foolish enough to fly with a drunken pilot.

    I was beginning to feel better about my situation. It bothered me that my light at the end of the tunnel appeared in the form of a shaggy man who I doubted was much more than a year my elder. I was by know means a child, but I was still young enough to be of the thought that anyone in a position to help me must have been born at least a decade earlier than myself. This was, in retrospect, a better outlook than I’d had only a few years earlier that I could do everything on my own.

    Dock 17 was a huge black metal building with huge hangar bay doors spread across the front of it, and a pedestrian entrance on the side. The hangar bay doors had a landing strip spread out from it. The dock could hold over twelve dozen ships and charged rates comparable to the average hotel. Quantity and demand. Everyone needed to park their ship at one point and it was difficult to find a space on most planets.

    We walked together through the pedestrian entrance. No guards or security personal were present. Unless you were docked in a military base, most of the security was automated. Best you could usually do was lock your ship. I looked around, curious which of these ships I was going to be flown out of the system on. Charlie looked around as though he were lost.

    “Did you forget where you parked?” I asked him, suddenly biting back the first twinge of doubt in the back of my mind.

    “No,” he replied. Charlie didn’t look back at me. It was like I wasn’t even there. He looked like a kid in candy store. As much as I complained about it, I’d liked the Century Pigeon. Hard to work on, live on, and fly a ship for three years and not get attached. As I watched Charlie, I began to believe that he was one of the types that admired all ships. That believed that a ship was more than just a tool for getting from point “A” to point “B” at speeds faster than light. He believed that each and every ship was a living breathing vessel, and from the look on his face as I circled him, he worshiped them.

    He looked around himself again, practically drooling. I decided that it would be up to me to break him from his trance. “So, which of these is yours?” I asked him. Visibly, he shook himself and began walking through the bay.

    “It’s down here a ways,” he answered vaguely. As he moved he looked very carefully at each ship, studying them. All types of ships were docked here, small two person fighters, huge cruisers, freight ships, transporters. I realized I knew nothing of the ship that would be flying me to freedom.

    “So what kind of ship is it?” I asked, almost timidly. I found that I was breathing very carefully. As he walked amongst his idles, I felt like I didn’t want to disturb his concentration.

    Even with my careful tone, he seemed a little startled by this question. “Oh,” he said thinking, “a big one.”

    I wondered if he was trying to build up some suspense. I didn’t need it. I was beginning to get worried again. “So,” I said, trying not to let my voice betray my worry, “it’s a big ship.”

    Charlie still didn’t look at me. “Yes,” he responded. I was beginning to think Charlie wasn’t very big into details. “Big and fast.”

    I decided at this point that I wasn’t going to get much more out of him, so I followed him in silence, looking around at the ships as we passed. I was beginning to understand how someone could fall in love with these things even as an adult. I ran flat into Charlie’s back as he’d apparently stopped short. I muttered an apology but Charlie didn’t seem to hear me. He didn’t even seem affected by the fact that I’d run into him. I’d heard about alcohol dulling your senses but this was uncanny. I walked around Charlie to find him staring up at something above him.

    Momentarily, I fought the urge to wave my hand in front of his eyes. Instead, I followed his gaze up to the great white beast that was docked in front of us. The ship was huge, the size of a small frigate but designed like a cruiser. Charlie was staring at the ship, awestruck. The paint job alone was mesmerizing, and as I stared at the ship, I was beginning to feel a sense of what Charlie was feeling.

    The lights shining down from the ceiling reflected brightly from the ship’s shimmering white surface. The ship was nearly flat, maybe two interior levels. The nose of the ship was pointed and it widened from there. About halfway back the ship was over one hundred feet wide and about forty feet tall. Mounted above and below the ship’s hull were a total of eight Cappisen 38 Subspace Engines, top of the line. This ship would be able to out run all but the fastest fighters.

    “This is it,” Charlie said beside me. I turned and stared at him, dumbfounded, as he jumped up the thirty foot dock steps. While this ship certainly did fit Charlie’s previous description of big and fast, I’d have gambled my left arm that he’d never seen this ship before. I was getting to be okay with the idea of going to space with a drunken pilot. However, I was still positive that I’d have some moral qualms with the idea of going to space with a drunken pilot in a stolen ship.

    After a moment of contemplation, I decided that Charlie had simply forgotten what his ship looked like as an effect of the alcohol. It was a horrible excuse on my part, but it was enough to heal my conscience. I followed him up the stairs. He stared at the hatch for a couple of moments. I looked at the hatch and noticed the only visible color painted on the hull, a five-point star painted in three thin lines of blue, white, and red. The words “Neon Star” were painted in black around the star.

  30. B. Macon 09 Dec 2010 at 10:18 pm

    –The chapter title could be more interesting.

    –“I did notice as we went on that he didn’t stumble half as much as I did.” Could be shortened to “He didn’t stumble as much as I did.” Since he describes it, the phrase “I did notice as we went on…” is implied. (If the character were not the POV, then it might be helpful).

    –The use of training videos gives me the impression that Mugsy is sort of a neophyte pilot. If that is not intentional, I’d recommend moving this into Mugsy’s personal experience (or at least rumors he’s heard). For example, maybe there was one time he nearly missed a shipment because they had to clean a landing pad where a drunken pilot had confused “altitude” with “velocity” and forgotten which one had to reach zero first.

    “I was by know means a child” -> “…no means…”

    “It bothered me that my light at the end of the tunnel appeared in the form of a shaggy man who I doubted was much more than a year my elder.” Could be implied. “He was hardly a year older than I was, if that.” I think this implies that he’s bothered by being helped by someone who’s barely older than he is. This could also be developed by a detail showing that Charlie is very much NOT the paragon of a Wise Elder figure. He’s a drunken mercenary with, as of yet, no clear motive for helping Mugsy. (One thing that might be in the back of Mugsy’s mind: Is he trying to help me to collect my bounties?)

    “Dock 17 was a huge black metal building with huge hangar bay doors spread across the front of it, and a pedestrian entrance on the side. The hangar bay doors had a landing strip spread out from it.” I would recommend selecting visual details that create a clearer impression and/or emotional impact. Is there anything in particular that stands out about this dock? If not, I would cut the details. (On the other hand, I feel like you did a pretty good job creating a visual impression with the description of their ship).

    “The dock could hold over twelve dozen ships and charged rates comparable to the average hotel. Quantity and demand. Everyone needed to park their ship at one point and it was difficult to find a space on most planets.” Do these details matter? Could they be removed?

    “I was beginning to think Charlie wasn’t very big into details.” This seems pretty self-explanatory, so I think it could be removed. Alternately, if the character tells us what we can probably figure out on our own, I’d recommend doing it more stylishly.

    “This ship would be able to out run all but the fastest fighters.” Could be “Only the fastest fighters could catch this ship.”

    “Charlie had simply forgotten what his ship looked like as an effect of the alcohol” –> Could be “Charlie had simply forgotten what his ship looked like in his drunken stupor” [or “alcohol haze” for a more subtle effect]

  31. Sean Higginson 10 Dec 2010 at 6:31 pm

    (Chapter 3 continued) [Yes, I am aware of several typos, I noticed them while I was highling text to copy, it was quite annoying, sorry if I missed any.]

    By the time I’d registered the name of the ship, Charlie was fidgeting with the keypad set on the hatch. He reached inside his jacket and retrieved a flat thin piece of metal. I watched, wide eyed, as he slid the tool behind the keypad. With a minor twist, he pulled the tool back out and returned it to its place hidden within his jacket as the ship’s hatch began to open slowly. He stepped through the portal carefully and all I could do was stare.

    When I didn’t follow, he turned and looked at me. I suddenly wondered how he could see anything from behind the hair over his eyes. “You coming?” he asked in an expectant tone.

    “I’m not going to help you steal this ship,” I said, feeling somewhat helpless. My options were running awfully thin at this point. Charlie’s head cocked to the side, like a dog that doesn’t quite understand what you are saying to it. My buzz was beginning to wear off and I was slowly coming to terms with how messed up my life was turning out. I knew that I could either leave the Largus System with Charlie, or I could die here. Still, I’d never broken a law that I agreed with, and stealing starships fell into that category.

    “I’m not stealing the ship,” Charlie said, matter-of-factly. “The keypad is a security precaution, if you try to enter a passcode, it delivers a nasty shock that would have you lying unconscious next to the hatchway for a few hours.” He smiled at me, watching me as I glanced down at what I’d mistaken for a harmless keypad. “You need a physical key to open the hatch. Now what kind of thief do you take me for?”

    “Oh, I’m sorry,” I stuttered, suddenly feeling bad that I’;d made such a heavy accusation to this guy who was just trying to help me out.

    “Don’t worry about it,” Charlie said, turning his back on me and walking deeper into the ship. I could tell that my words had really hurt him. Timidly, I stepped through the portal and followed him through the ship. The ship’s interior, while large, shared few similarities with the outside. The walls were sheets of dull, grey metal. We moved through dim hallways with only a single strip of lighting coil inserted about halfway up on both walls. Huge doorways extended off the hallway at random intervals.

    From the size of the doors, I could tell that this ship hadn’t been designed with humans in mind. I could only assume that Charlie had picked it up here in the Largus System. Charlie led me to the ships cockpit where I saw the first two pieces of furniture onboard the Neon Star: two large black pilot chairs.

    Charlie settled himself into the chair on the right. It was far to big for him, but it looked comfortable. He motioned to the second chair without saying a word. I sat down beside him and looked at the control panel. I’d flown several ships in my lifetime and never once seen a ship with a color coded control panel. I felt at this point that my suspicions had been confirmed that this was a Largwanian vessel. How hard could it be for a species to develop a written language?

    Charlie began to hit buttons and flip switches on the control console, muttering quietly to himself. “We are really going to need to get these switches labeled.” He pushed a small button and I could feel the ship’s docking gear retracting. The ship settled onto a pocket of air. Two large panels slid open above the control console, giving us a view of the docking bay.

    Charlie’s nimble fingers flipped two rows of four switches. I could feel the subspace engines powering up behind me. Panicked, I turned my chair to look at Charlie. “You aren’t really going to dock out at full power, are you?” I could hear the terror in my voice.

    He didn’t turn to look at me. Instead, he removed both of his hands from the control console and carefully parted the hair from in front of his eyes. His eyes were green and startlingly clear. They were opened wide as his gaze stared out the forward viewer. He spoke calmly as his hands returned to the controls, “You’re going to want to strap in.”

    Before I could move, the ship rocketed forward and I was thrown back against my chair by several hundred pounds of force. A childlike grin had spread across Charlie’s face as he leaned over the controls. I felt the alcohol in my stomach threatening to climb up my throat. A recorded voice, pleasantly female, echoed from some invisible speaker throughout the cockpit. “Please reduce your ship’s speed and wait for dock out clearance.” The recording paused momentarily and was then followed by some guttural sounds that I could only assume was the message being repeated in the Largwanian tongue.

    The Neon Star banked hard to starboard and I could feel myself swallowing a mouthful of regurgitated alcohol. I am always surprised how much worse alcohol tastes when it makes its second appearance. “Charlie?” I questioned weakly.

    The ship straightened out and I risked a glance out the forward viewer that I regretted almost immediately. Charlie was piloting the ship at what I assumed was full speed above dozens of docked starships. My stomach did a summersault and I turned my eyes back to my trembling knees. The recorded voice again echoed through the cockpit, “Docking bay doors will not be opened until you receive dock out clearance. Reduce your velocity immediately.” This message was followed by some angry grunting.

    “Charlie?” I said again a little louder, looking again through the ship’s forward viewer. He had maneuvered the ship to be pointed straight at the closed hangar doors. He’d slowed the ship, but his hand was resting on the throttle and I knew that he was planning to ram the door at full speed with the same instinct that informed me that I was about to die. He slammed the throttle forward and I only had a nanosecond to give into panic. “Charlie!” I screamed. I ducked a moment before we had collided with the hangar doors, throwing both of my hands over my head in a feeble attempt to protect myself from my impending doom.

    A loud blast echoed through the cockpit. I looked up to find that I’d thrown myself to the cockpit floor. Charlie’s hand released from a stick trigger that I assumed was connected to the ship’s forward weapon systems. He still had a broad grin plastered to his face and he glanced down at me, his hair falling back over his eyes just as he gave me a wink, “Clearance is for pussies.”

    Anger is a powerful cure for the effects of alcohol and I was sobering up faster than I ever had before. As the ship climbed steadily out of the planet’s atmosphere, the force of the ship’s velocity eased on my body. I stood with near ease and glared at Charlie. It was hard for me to put all of my anger into my eyes with Charlie smiling widely at me, his own eyes hidden. “You could have gotten us both killed!”

    “Yes,” I swear his smile got wider as he answered me calmly, “but I didn’t.”

    “And,” I stuttered, anger making it difficult to form the words, “you stole this ship!” I stopped there, with him simply staring at me, the grin still plastered on his face. I realized in my sobered state that I’d been aware of this fact from the moment we stepped onto the ship. Possibly even before that. I’d known that he was stealing this ship. I’d known that I was joining him in stealing this ship. I was an accessory and somewhere, miles below us, there was an extremely angry Largwanian.

    “I have never stolen a ship,” Charlie said calmly. He turned from me and looked out the forward view screen. “The word is commandeered.”

  32. B. Macon 10 Dec 2010 at 8:30 pm

    “By the time I’d registered the name of the ship…” What does this mean? If “registered” is a synonym for something like “gotten” or “learned,” I think this could be removed. If he’s registering the ship’s name in some other way (like in an online database or something), I’d recommend making it clearer.

    “He stepped through the portal carefully”—I’d usually recommend keeping the adverb as close to the verb as possible. What would you think about ‘He carefully stepped…” or “He stepped carefully…” ?

    “You coming?” he asked in an expectant tone. I think “he asked in an expectant tone” could be removed. I think it’s implied by what he’s asking.

    “like a dog that doesn’t quite understand what you are saying to it” – could maybe be shortened to “like a dog that doesn’t quite understand what you’re saying.”

    “Still, I’d never broken a law that I agreed with, and stealing starships fell into that category.” Which laws did he break before? Also, one possibility that reconciles the apparent discrepancy between his criminal past and his unwillingness to break this law now is that he’s given up on crime.

    “I could tell that my words had really hurt him.” Show this?

    What are you trying to show us by telling us that the walls are dull, grey metal and that the lighting is dim? It seems to undermine the description of the ship’s outside.

    “ships cockpit” -> “ship’s cockpit,” because the cockpit is possessed by the ship.


    “From the size of the doors, I could tell that this ship hadn’t been designed with humans in mind.” I like this detail. It’s observant.

    “two large black pilot chairs”—how large?

    –“far to big”-> “far too big”

    –“ I’d flown several ships in my lifetime and never once seen a ship with a color coded control panel. I felt at this point that my suspicions had been confirmed that this was a Largwanian vessel. How hard could it be for a species to develop a written language?” What would you think about “None of the ships I had ever flown had color-coded control panels. It could only have been a Largwanian vessel. In retrospect, perhaps it was fortunate that Charlie and I were drunk. You’d have to be to fly a spacecraft designed by aliens too dumb to figure out a written language.”

    “You could have gotten us both killed!” “Yes, but I didn’t.” Maybe Charlie could challenge him more forcefully here. Maybe something like “Wanna head back?”

  33. Sean Higginson 13 Dec 2010 at 8:33 pm

    (Chapter 3 continued [again])

    I think my jaw dropped. He had just stolen a ship with blasters blazing and was arguing with me over terminology. I stared at him sitting calmly in the command chair resisting the air of calmness that was rising from him. He’d just done something extremely dangerous, not to mention illegal, and it didn’t seem to faze him in the slightest. I realized as I stared down at him, that I envied that quality about him. Not only did it seem that Charlie knew the face of adventure, the danger didn’t affect him. He was still the calm, smiling man I’d met in the bar at the Noke. I wanted to live his life. And I found my anger fleeting.

    I wanted to hit something, but it wasn’t out of anger. Well, not exactly. I was realizing at that point that I had a lot of pent up stress that I didn’t know how to deal with. I started pacing behind the pilot chairs, trying to work things out in my mind while Charlie skillfully brought the ship out of the Largus 13 atmosphere. I didn’t pay much attention to his piloting. The Neon Star handled like a dream. I didn’t feel any of the gravitational pressure as we pulled out of the planet’s gravitational field, and artificial gravity kicked in. So I just thought.

    This was my opportunity. It was my chance to not only escape from the monotony I’d found myself in but also live a life that would be a little bit more adventurous. I could go forward, no longer drinking alcohol as a necessity to get through my daily tasks, but simply as an enjoyable pastime. I could live on the edge, ignoring the laws that I didn’t believe applied to me. And I could just forget that Atlon wanted me dead. There was that. Atlon did want me dead. Something in my head told me I’d have a really difficult time getting away from the Galaxy’s largest corporation.

    As if on cue, Charlie beckoned me. “Hey, Mugsy?” I looked at him carefully. He’d swiveled his pilot chair around and again he’d brushed the hair out of his eyes to look me dead in the face.

    “Yeah,” I answered, not entirely happy with the serious look in his eyes. It seemed that he was worried about something. This was more what I was used to feeling. Scared, panicked. I found it hard to believe that Charlie was capable of stealing this starship without being the least bit worried about the consequences. I’d begun to doubt his humanity, and now I felt a sense of relief in seeing a hint of fear on his face. However, it concerned me, what could shake him.

    “So,” Charlie continued, his voice wavering slightly, “who did you say it was that wanted to kill you?”

    The realization hit me that I’d never once mentioned the word Atlon to Charlie, even in my drunken stupor. I’d told him that I had people coming to cash in on a bounty on my life, but I hadn’t mentioned that those people were members of the largest corporation in the Galaxy, that they were present throughout most of the civilized universe. I tried to remain calm, hoping that when I gave him the answer that he sought, he wouldn’t turn the ship around and drop me right back off at the Noke to await my impending doom. “The Atlon Corporation,” I answered.

    He smiled and nodded swiveling his chair back toward the ship’s controls. “Okay,” I heard him say calmly.

    I felt myself grow a little tense. He’d asked the question, but now that he had received his answer it seemed like it didn’t matter. “Why do you ask?” I asked slowly walking to the other chair.

    He didn’t look at me as I sat down. The fingers on his left hand glided over the ship’s controls as his right palm rested gently on the throttle. “Just wanted to make sure this blockade was for your benefit before I gave them the slip.” He spoke so calmly that my mind failed to comprehend what he meant for a few moments.

    When it sunk in my eyes jumped to look up at the view screen. How I could have missed what had to be hundreds of ships nearly blotting out the stars in front of us was beyond me. “Seems a little bit like overkill if you ask me,” Charlie said, still as calm as ever beside me. “All of this just to make sure you don’t leave the planet before they turn you into a corpse.”

    It did see a bit over the top. From what I could tell, Atlon had moved an entire fleet of ships to form a blockade around a small planet in the Largus System. They undoubtedly had the resources available to them and certainly the ships were close at hand with all the business dealings they had with the local war. But all this, just for me. It was the way Atlon did things. Thorough. Seems they meant to make an example of me, and wanted to make sure it got handled right.

    The ships stayed motionless, forming a sort of net. Hundreds upon hundreds of ships: freighters, fighters, frigates cruisers, and transports. I was getting queasy, my breath coming in slow gasps. And Charlie just kept creeping the ship forward. “Would you look at that?” He said staring out the view screen in admiration. “That’s a 448-V. I didn’t even know those had hit market yet. Supposed to have enough fire power to put a hole through a small moon.”

    I felt a bit of vomit jump to the back of my throat, and swallowed it back down. Nauseous wasn’t the word. We should be running right now but Charlie just kept moving the ship closer and closer to the blockade. “What are you doing?” I asked. We were only about ten minutes from being nose to nose with the blockade at our current speed.

    “I’m getting in closer,” he said gleefully, sparing me a quick glance. “When we’re right on them, I’m gonna throw the hammer down and hopefully catch them completely off guard.”

    “And you just expect them to let you get much closer?”

    “It’s either that, or they’ll start shooting at us. In which case, I think we’re fucked.” Charlie’s voice was almost joyous as he talked about us being fried by whatever firepower the 448-V. I suddenly began wondering if he was suicidal.

    “Why would they start shooting, I mean they can’t possibly know I’m onboard this ship can they?” I was trying my best not to break into hysterics. I had the impression that I was doing a halfway decent job. The Atlon logo was now visible on the hull of the ships in our view screen. Charlie just kept the ship moving slowly forward, his hand still resting on the throttle bar.

    “Well they’ll have already scanned us by now,” Charlie said, smiling. “They’ll know the ship is caring two human life-forms. It shouldn’t take them much to put two and two together.”

    I looked at him. “You couldn’t just lie to me?”

    “That wouldn’t be very moral,” he said. I felt a flush of anger rise into my cheeks. Morality hadn’t been an issue when he stole the ship, but in helping me keep my own head in this situation he couldn’t tell me a lie.

    The shipboard communicator powered on and the cockpit was filled with the sound of a distinguished male voice, speaking in the common tongue. “Unidentified Largwanian Cruiser, please bring your ship to a halt and prepare to be boarded. We are searching for an individual whom we believe to be onboard your vessel.”

    Charlie pulled the throttle back slightly and signaled for me to be quiet. He flipped a switch on the command console, engaging outgoing communications, and then grunted three times before flipping the switch back off again. He looked at me smiling, “Let’s just hope they don’t speak Largwanian.”

    The ship continued to move toward the blockade, now with about minute before we were right on top of them. The male voice of the Atlon officer echoed again through the cockpit. “If you do not stop your vessel immediately, we will be forced to fire a warning shot.” All this played into galactic procedures. Corporations had the right to govern their own laws outside of a planet’s atmosphere, but it was required that you fired a warning shot prior to destroying another vessel.

  34. B. Macon 14 Dec 2010 at 12:13 am

    “I think my jaw dropped. He had just stolen a ship with blasters blazing and was arguing with me over terminology.” I think readers will pick up this discrepancy without the narrator explicitly pointing it out. However, if you’d like to make sure that readers pick it up, you could imply it more subtly by working in what he’s doing in the background (i.e. using the weapons systems) as he’s focused on something utterly trivial (the semantic distinction between “commandeer” and “steal”).

    “He’d just done something extremely dangerous, not to mention illegal, and it didn’t seem to faze him in the slightest.” “it didn’t seem to faze him in the slightest” could be shown, perhaps with a comparison. “He’d just committed at least three capital crimes like I’d ask for a clean beer glass.”

    “I realized as I stared down at him, that I envied that quality about him.” The envy might come across more starkly if his own shortcomings were more obvious. For example, is the main character liable to go to pieces in a crisis? I haven’t really gotten that impression yet (although he was maybe less useful when the Captain got shot than most action heroes would be).

    “I wanted to hit something, but it wasn’t out of anger. Well, not exactly. I was realizing at that point that I had a lot of pent up stress that I didn’t know how to deal with.” This sounds so introspective I don’t know if it feels realistic.

    “It was my chance to not only escape from the monotony I’d found myself in but also live a life that would be a little bit more adventurous. I could go forward, no longer drinking alcohol as a necessity to get through my daily tasks, but simply as an enjoyable pastime.” I think this would work more effectively if the previous chapters had shown that his life had been boring/tedious. He SAID that Largus was boring, but if anything it seemed like it was too exciting for him. His captain got shot, the ship got grabbed in a high-stakes game of poker/rekop (“poker” backwards?), he was a gun-runner in a war-zone, and the main species on the planet is highly dangerous. I think you’d need to really work to show that he’s been longing to get away from the boredom. (For example, one scene that might work is him doing paperwork for Atlon, or spending ANOTHER Saturday night unloading cargo, or whatever).

    “I could live on the edge, ignoring the laws that I didn’t believe applied to me.” This feels like a sudden transformation from the guy who was upset that the ship was stolen. Also, I think this is muddled a bit by his original transformation from major criminal to law-abiding citizen—when he explained that, it was because he grew up. What does he think about that now?

    “The realization hit me that I’d never once mentioned the word Atlon to Charlie, even in my drunken stupor.” I think this is implied by the question “Who did you say it was that wanted to kill you?”

    “The Atlon Corporation” could be shortened to just “Atlon” in conversation. If it’s the largest company in the galaxy, that’d probably feel more natural. (Sort of like the difference between “Harvard University” and just “Harvard”).

    After seeing the blockade, Charlie might idly wonder what it was that Mugsy had done to Atlon. Not in a worried way like “you’re not a killer, are you?” but maybe more like curiosity or one criminal swapping stories with another.

    Mugsy feels so unbadass to me that I’m having trouble thinking of him as a guy with a major criminal past. Unless there’s a reason for the discrepancy (it was for something wussy like insider trading), it might help to cut the criminal background and have Atlon place a bounty on him for losing the cargo.

    Okay, I get that they’re thorough, but using hundreds of ships might be a bit hyperbolic. It may help to start off a bit smaller and then have Atlon gradually escalate as Mugsy + Charles become more of a problem.

    “to make sure you don’t leave the planet before they turn you into a corpse.” –> “to make sure you don’t get out alive.”

    “It did see” -> “It did seem”

    “They undoubtedly had the resources available to them and certainly the ships were close at hand with all the business dealings they had with the local war. But all this, just for me. It was the way Atlon did things. Thorough. Seems they meant to make an example of me, and wanted to make sure it got handled right.” Could be shortened to something like “You know Atlon. Thorough.”

    “I didn’t even know those had hit market yet.” I like this line a lot. It suggests a lot both about the caliber of the competition as well as Charlie’s familiarity with the latest news in space-based destruction.

    “Charlie’s voice was almost joyous as he talked about us being fried by whatever firepower the 448-V.” I think a word is missing here. Also, I would recommend replacing “by whatever power the 448-V [has]” with a phrase that fits Charlie’s air of admiration. Maybe something like “six of the finest plasma batteries, lovingly sculpted from only the most lethal terracium.”

    “the ship is caring two human life-forms.” -> carrying instead of caring.

    “They’ll know the ship is caring two human life-forms. It shouldn’t take them much to put two and two together.” I don’t get this. If they’re looking for Mugsy and know the captain is dead, why would they be looking for two humans rather than one? (Alternate possibility: there are so few humans in this system that they’re looking for any humans leaving the planet on non-Atlon business).

    ORIGINAL: “That wouldn’t be very moral,” he said. I felt a flush of anger rise into my cheeks. Morality hadn’t been an issue when he stole the ship, but in helping me keep my own head in this situation he couldn’t tell me a lie.
    SUGGESTION: “That wouldn’t the right thing to do,” the pirate said.”

  35. Sean Higginson 14 Dec 2010 at 7:17 am

    B. Mac – You are really amazing. I appreciate all the help.

    Mugsy’s criminal past is a case of mistaken identities (that he is unaware of). He commited a minor (social activist) type of crime similar to freeing the animals from the science lab at the same time that a major crime was commited. Mugsy was caught on tape and blamed for the major crime, and though he’s missed out on that piece of information, he believes that freeing the animals was so important that it actually does warrant the high bounty.

    I will go back and update Mugsy’s boredom in the rewrite. I think Mugsy has been so close to the action for so long (but living outside of it) that he longs to be an action hero. Of course, he doesn’t know what to do when he does get involved.

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