And a good Monday to you, my friend. May it be a productive one, and over quickly.
I have a couple of things this morning, but I don’t have a lot of time to write much… because I am writing. I broke the long dry spell of three months (that’s a long spell for me!) and wrote 3,000 words Saturday, then 7,500 words on Sunday. Why yes, it is a new novel. One completely unconnected to anything else I am or have been writing. Sigh. My muse takes these fancies, you see, and suddenly its write or die.
However, if you are interested in such things, you might enjoy reading this author interview I did recently! And if you click through, take a gander at the gracious gentleman’s blog, I think you’ll find interesting reading material there!
As for me, well, I have to work. I’m going to slog at this book – the story is shouting in my ear, so I need to get it out. I’ll be trying to do the dictation thing, with gritted teeth. I need that to work, but it’s a pain in my posterior. I can’t really afford to invest in the nice cardioid microphone I need to eliminate the road noise and spending a few hours training Dragon while my First Reader drove helped a little, but not enough. Augh. I don’t know… break down and do manual transcription every night, I guess.
Or I could just chase my tail like I’m doing.
In the meantime, have a snippet! The working title for this one is Death Planet, but that’s probably not going to be the final. Seems… I dunno. I don’t mind pulpy, or cheesy. What do you think?
In the end, they relented and gave me the Death Planet. Oh, not the whole planet. I didn’t have that kind of cred. In theory, there’s going to be colonization by other humans. In reality? I had the whole damn place to myself.
I got to work making my wishlist. I hadn’t dared do it earlier. Too much riding on their decision, and I had no control over it. So as not to jinx it, all I had done was weave castles in my mind.
“You realize, MacGowan, that this is a one-and-done drop.” He’d looked at me over the top of those absurd half-moon glasses. If he could take a mod… He couldn’t, of course. Those of us who could, had been drafted into the wars: man, woman and child.
“I know it.” I had kept my thoughts to myself.
He’d looked back down at the sheet he held in both hands, like he couldn’t quite believe what it said and had to confirm. “You have an extraordinary allotment.”
I did. I didn’t say that out loud. I couldn’t. My throat was too tight with what it meant. We’d left it all to each other, you see. Buying the farm isn’t just a saying, in Confed space. If you make it to retirement, it’s a promise. And you can leave it in your will to your heir. What it meant… I was the last woman standing out of a band of brothers knit by the strands of battle, held stronger than kinship.
“This mass allowance…?” He looked to one side. Whoever – whatever – lurked in the shadows said nothing. “All right, then.” The man looked back at me. He’d given no name when I’d entered the room, merely sat there with his glasses signalling his privilege to be a bureaucrat always safe behind the lines my kind held against the ravening darkness. “Sign here, MacGowan.”
He pushed the flimsy sheet across the tabletop, flat. I leaned down, to read it. Then I signed. It didn’t matter what it said, I’d have to agree to it. There was no negotiating with the Board.
Finally, he pushed a chit over to me. A flat rectangle of platinum with an embedded circuit gleaming gold at one end. My whole life, that had been, and would be. I picked it up with suddenly cold fingers.
“Dismissed.” He had taken off the glasses. The brown eyes behind them were warm, curious maybe. I just nodded and left the room, though. I didn’t want to try to explain.
“You want what, now?” The cargomaster looked at the tablet in his hand, then back up at me with angry, stormy grey eyes.
“I don’t want it. I need it.” I kept my voice as even as I could manage. “It’s all on there. The space is correct, and if not, then?” I jerked up a shoulder in a sort of apologetic half shrug. “Something doesn’t come with me. We can cross that bridge when we get to it.”
“This is…” He scrolled down the list. “You’ve got it organized.”
“Yes. First on is most important. That way if something doesn’t fit, it’ll hurt less to leave it.” I knew all too well that I might be owed mass transport by the Board, but that didn’t mean I’d be able to collect it all.
“Where the hell…” He tapped at the screen. “That’s practically all our cargo space. What about room for other people, huh? Didja think of that?”
“No.” I didn’t bite on his lame attempt to shame me. “I really don’t think there’s anyone else going where I’m headed. Have you checked my destination, sir?”
“Nah. I leave that to the purser.” He checked, though. I’d managed to find his curiosity button.
I bit back a smile and slid, as unobtrusively as possible, into a rest position while his eyes were fixed on the screen.
“Huh. I don’t recognize that one. Planet 34XA78? Wait. You are headed for an XA planet?”
He looked up at me, those grey eyes narrowed now. I just nodded, once, sharply. He held my eyes for a long, silent second, and then his shoulders dropped.
“Damn. Ok. You will need all the space. Lemme see your chit.” He held out his hand, shoving the tablet into his cargo pocket on his thigh with the other in a practised motion.
He didn’t need to see it. As he’d said, that was the province of the purser. But I understood him. I’d recognized what he’d been as soon as I had been able to observe him. The way he moved spoke of a purposeful man trained in familiar ways. Which was why I’d approached him to talk to him, rather than having him presented with an objectionable load-out by the purser.
I handed the platinum chit over, still warm from my body. I’d been carrying it in a small silk pouch around my neck, hanging down over my sternum under the blouse and undershirt I was still wearing. I didn’t care that my clothes marked me, even stripped of insignia. I didn’t want to bother with a new wardrobe. They were tough stuff, and where I was going that mattered far more than what I looked like.
He turned the chit over in his palm a couple of times, like he was working a deck of cards, then handed it back to me, abruptly.
“You know what you’re doing.”
It wasn’t a question. I nodded, once more, afraid that to speak would be to betray myself.
“Checked in with the purser, yet?” he demanded, dropping the topic and moving to another.
“No, I just arrived on station.” I hadn’t even been sure I’d charter this ship, until I saw him.