EX/WHI :: Part Five

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Everything hurts, everywhere, and this is not good.

Moving from lying to sitting is an effort, but Chris is awake, desperately trying to piece together what happened to induce unconsciousness. He’s lying on the floor of the coffee shop, last piece of Apple Danish where it was dropped, before the entire World literally shifted around them –

Where’s Ami?

He’d felt heartbeat racing, body shuddering and watched as she passed out in his arms, shortly before he had done the same… except it hadn’t been via concussion or physical intervention. They’d been starved of oxygen, that he’s convinced of, but what happened before…? Staring at her prone, lifeless body, everything comes back in a rush, followed by an immediate need to check his partner’s alive. Her body should be in the recovery position at least: as hand reaches down an incredibly muscular leg comes up, forced into chest as body is launched into the air and back onto a table, which summarily disintegrates under both weight and impact.

I woke up and panicked, she’s awake thinking I was the enemy. One of us is not phased by what just happened: I need to get my shit together, because she really is very good.

‘Oh fuck I’m so, sorry, I assumed -’

‘I was a bad guy. It’s okay, at least there’s no worry you’re still incapacitated.’

‘I dunno about that, why does everything suddenly hurt so much?’

‘Well, that was my next question. You’re not alone.’

Picking himself up from the shattered wooden remains, Chris comes to help Ami to her feet. Physically she looks no different, but believable reality is not as concrete as it was when he woke up for the first time today. Turning to survey the damage they’ve just caused, air around them both moves, breeze that is anything but normal, somehow prompting the table to instantly and unnervingly reconstruct itself back to pre-impact state. Chris’ SIG is no longer in the holster either, giving nothing to point at this sorcery as reassurance, so staring will have to suffice as logic stops operating, giving brain the finger before leaving his body with disgust.

‘I have no weapon, and am officially out of my depth.’

‘Neither do I: on reflection, nothing from this point forward is likely to conform to our idea of normal. I’m happy to think for us both for a while, it’s okay.’

‘You go right ahead. I didn’t imagine the room upside down either, did I?’

‘Not if furniture’s putting itself back together, you didn’t, Mr Chambers. At least they stopped running the movie outside what I’m now thinking is probably a prison.’

There’s obvious daylight coming into the cafe, but Chambers isn’t looking out at London any more: instead an odd, white space radiates the illusion of… well, space. He needs to sit down where he stands right now, because all of this has just staggered beyond too much to cope with. Ami doesn’t stop him: instead she goes to the large, glass double doors and stares for a moment, before pulling keys to the car out of her pocket. Taking a step back, the bunch is thrown towards what used to be an exit but at the moment of impact they are flung back, over her head before landing near the toilets.

Suddenly, he’s very grateful somebody else has voluntarily offered to be a grown-up until he’s back in the game. Watching the walk back, picking up keys, standing and assessing: mentally thinking through their joint predicament is absolutely what Ami is doing, with a calmness which is immediately reassuring. Meeting his gaze without fear, there’s a decision made that is both logical and fair.

‘Yup, this is definitely a prison, and we need to know why.’



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EX/WHI :: Part Three

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Neither of them trust the car any more, so it is abandoned. Walking into the City, weather is impossibly muggy, precursor to storms moving from Europe northwards, breaking an unopposed two week’s worth of sunshine and shirtsleeves. Chris would dearly like to lose the jacket but remained unwilling in the underground parking area to remove his weapon, a feeling Ami completely agreed with. Both have spent decades understanding that when stuff went wrong, there was always a reason: today’s court appearance may now be anything but routine, so alert is their plan.

Neither is nearly awake enough either, so this unscheduled coffee stop serves several purposes. This is an extremely passable Apple Danish, Chambers decides, almost perfect combination of sweet and soft to make taste-buds forgive him for the handful of peanuts and instant coffee in the hotel room, that pretended to be acceptable as most important meal of the day. As he drinks, his MI6 counterpart’s facial expressions give the impression she’s internally debating something that needs to be shared.

‘I’m concerned about the person who wrote my CIA file.’

‘They’re a moron, without doubt. Don’t stress about it.’

‘It is enough of a fight normally to get taken seriously on my own manor, let alone worrying about what you Yanks are thinking.’

Her broad accent is East London, Chris knows, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what ‘manor’ means in this context. She’s ex-Metropolitan Police, learning the ropes on these streets as he did in Hoboken with the New Jersey PD. They’d both been too smart to stay tied to policing, recruited in circumstances that aren’t really close enough to be considered as co-incidental, but someone probably decided would be a decent way of making him feel at home. Her face finally resolves into a smile, and reminds Chambers not to be a dick because she’s earned the right to be attractive without him flirting at the acknowledgement.

‘How many people have you killed, Mr Chambers?’

‘Twelve. Thirteen if you count the guy I blew up by accident.’

‘So, really unlucky for him, then.’

‘In fairness, it was his own bomb I inadvertently detonated, so we’re not talking about an innocent conscience to stick on the scorecard.’

‘I remember that story from your file: Jihad motivations to martyrdom have always been impossible to understand. Maybe it’s ‘cause there’s too much left I’d like to do first.’

‘That guy was dangerous before the brain-washers got him. Do you keep a card for your losses?’

‘I have a box at home. There’s six pictures in it, all taken on the mortuary slabs. The Department’s Psychiatrist isn’t sure this is a smart way of keeping me focussed on the human cost of protecting Her Majesty and her loyal citizens, but it works for me.’

‘You don’t fit the profiles, that’s why nobody can do a decent review of you. The rest of the World relies far too much on labels and containers. Those of us who prefer to live in the cracks never get a fair deal.’

‘You really want to keep cultivating that maverick persona, Mr Chambers? Your ex-wife wouldn’t take kindly to hearing that.’

‘I don’t give a flying fuck what my ex-wife thinks.’

‘That really won’t help you see your son more than once a month.’

‘I thought about this long and hard on the flight over: maybe it would be best for everybody concerned if my son never sees me again, and we all just move on.’



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EX/WHI :: Part Two

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It will soon be insufferably hot in this confined, concrete space: Agent Bishop’s forced to find a CD of Oakenfold dance tracks as entertainment, because there’s no DAB signal in the car park. Radio and TV have both been on the blink for days anyway: something about sunspots and abnormal atmospheric conditions that she’d half grasped over a hurried bowl of breakfast cereal. Escaping to the songs of her youth is perhaps not that wise, because it will just remind again of the mistakes made that can now never be corrected. Except the soothing, rhythmic beat is what is required as relaxation. Nerves are suddenly, worryingly heightened.

He’ll be on borrowed time because of his bravado, Ami decides, wondering if Special Agent Chambers is going to turn up for his lift to the Royal Courts of Justice early or late. The American’s personal life remains enough of a disaster area to suggest that, like her, job matters more than what transpires after hours, so he could be worth getting to know. As with all of these things, it is going to depend on what parts of her file get highlighted in his assessment, just as has been the case in her research of him. If he looks past bisexual, that’ll be a start. Explaining that has become a depressing part of introductions since coming out last year. Maybe, if more people could take her as just human, that would be better.

There’s an odd smell in the car: reminding of photocopiers, bad air conditioning… except hers is not on, driver’s side window open. Turning off the engine, keys pocketed, Ami gets out of the car; senses alert to something that is most definitely amiss. Then movement happens behind: the Walther shifts from holster to hand in a heartbeat, spinning to point at man who’s a lot taller than his file suggests, but whose reaction times are without question.

‘Glad I’m not the only one who’s spooked. You like Bishop or Amelia?’

‘Good friends call me Ami, and if you can react that fast, Mr Chambers, I suspect we’ll get on famously.’

‘I approve of the formal use of my name, that’s way cooler than it sounds from my boss. You can keep that. So, what’s making you nervous?’

‘The smell, a bulletproof sixth sense… it’s been like this since about 3.15 am.’

‘I was upchucking dinner over the Atlantic at 3.15 in a storm that appeared outta nowhere. Everything’s been weird since. That’s just a massive co-incidence, right?’

‘Everything in this job is related. Maybe that extends to our ability to research each other and make an immediate connection.’

Both guns are re-holstered: Chambers’ handshake is solid, reassuring, and there was no need to worry about this guy’s credentials. He’s got the looks and body of a film star, but beard makes him feel more human, flawed. Good guys need to be clean-cut and scar-free, yet he has both in abundance, which allows him a more relaxed, believable air. He’s also staring at Ami with clear discomfort.

‘You know that thing that happens when you’ve read about someone in a file or had a briefing in a room somewhere and then that person turns out to be nothing like you’d expected -’

‘Is it better than you thought or worse?’

‘I’d like to apologise, in advance, for anything dumb or stupid I say or do based on my understanding of you, because whichever fuckwit in my organisation who wrote your file was blind, stupid and utterly ignorant.’

‘What were you expecting?’

‘Someone far less capable and far more angry. Your dress sense is phenomenal, this car is absolutely not what the file version of you would pick from the available pool, and if you have ‘Southern Sun’ playing on the stereo, I’ll forgive you a very great deal.’

Ami feels for the keys in her pocket, only now aware the CD is still playing, fairly convinced this model didn’t allow that to happen… and then music suddenly stops, before the vehicle’s engine unexpectedly starts. Weapons are re-drawn, pair scanning surroundings before a horribly loud, piercing alarm springs into life, lights frantically flashing a completely redundant and utterly impossible warning.



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Honesty

Yesterday’s estimate of novel editing completion was, unsurprisingly, somewhat generous. However, there’s a Bank Holiday Weekend coming up with lots of free time on the table, so it is not beyond the bounds of possibility to be done by Sunday night. That means giving some thought to the next project: it’s already percolating around my head, and there’s a Spotify Playlist to create as a result. Most importantly of all, there’s a cover.

Delayed Exposure.png

I’ve always envisaged a very simple cover for this story because my protagonist is incredibly black and white. As a result, this works on multiple levels. There’ll be some time next week spent building dedicated pages for my first Novel and this one here, so that not only can the process of writing be shared but also some insights into story and inspiration. It also forces me to start creating pitches for them both (a short synopsis of the plot) which will be needed going forward if I’m attempting to get someone to publish.

There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement at present for this part of my life going forward. There’s also a very real grasp of the potential disappointment and effort that will be needed to maintain positive and optimistic in the face of a very robust and competitive marketplace. I have no pretensions about any of this and am well aware of what will need to be done in order to succeed. The foundations are in place, and now it is time to start building.

I Have a Dream

Tomorrow, all things being equal, will be the last day of editing the Novel. After that, I’ll be creating a PDF of the whole damn thing and sending it off to people to read. If only it were that simple to get published, but sadly not. Once it’s done, and other people are seeing if it is enjoyable or not, there’ll be a chance to read this massive book to my right that tells me how to get it published, after which all hope of doing so will summarily vanish.

There’s a dream however that maybe, just maybe, it could all go to plan.

fingertheworld

If the desire to finger the World can be suppressed, albeit briefly, there is that chance. Confidence, which used to be the biggest stumbling block to progress, no longer worries. This is GOOD WORK, and there is genuine pride in what has been produced. Editing skills are light years better than was once the case. All in all, this is the best everything has ever been in terms of capability. Now it is time to capitalise.

There is also thought about what happens next.

I’ve picked the manuscript, will make a ‘new’ cover for it tomorrow, and after that, it’s all systems go. It’s another NaNoWriMo effort too, one that isn’t nearly as bad as previously recalled.

The second novel is already set to go.

Right Now

For Short Story Month, I’m writing three separate pieces with a single theme. It is time to admit we’re moving into a science fiction phase: I’ve always been a bit of an alternate history girl, when all is said and done. This triumvirate of stories all offer divergent timelines to the one you’ll be used to, with the possible consequences of women meddling in the affairs of nature:

All these stories have female protagonists. They could be written as men if I chose, but I’d like to believe that it is not just them sending this Planet to destruction. Everybody has their culpability in a massive ecological and sociological mess to shoulder. The subjects of the stories are, in order of the images shown: alien invasion, genetic manipulation and time travel. Occam’s Taser is the result of a conversation had several years ago with my friend Steve (who’s a morning US Television producer) about Vienna in 1913… and that’s all I’m prepared to offer.

The plan initially was to use one of these stories to enter in a Short Story Contest later in the year but instead, the project’s a platform to get my word count and writing style refined, before I work on two separate pieces for entry. This is being handled in tandem with editing my novel, which is finally in what could be considered a complete state. Today, that will be read completely and edited as that happens. I hope to have the first of these short stories available to read by this time next week, with them all finished by the end of the month.

Finally

At 5.30pm on Friday, March 30th, I was confident enough to make this claim:

When I stopped this afternoon, after removing everybody else from the house so I could concentrate, this is where things stand:

The last 40 pages are rough, but the narrative is complete. I’m going to spend Saturday night going through this to fill in the gaps and create a more consistent foundation. Then, it’s being left well alone until next week, where I’ll go back to the start and do a full edit pass. After THAT it’ll get sent to those people who’ve expressed an interest in reading it. So, if you happen to be reading this and haven’t made noises yet about wanting to help me out, shove a message in the comments.

Once other people have passed some initial comments, we can start thinking about how the damn thing gets published.

know_nothing

I have zero idea how to formally approach a publisher: there’s no point in lying, and I totally understand just what a ridiculously cutthroat market I’m about to enter into. I am nobody, and this concept has to sell itself. Part of me is tempted to blog the process for the hell of it because I suspect it might make interesting reading. For now, however, this needs to be the best thing it can be before any form of selling takes place. I’ve got some books to read, and people on my feed I can ask. It’s not like I’m COMPLETELY dumb.

YAY_arms

Mostly, I am happy it’s done. It isn’t hyperbole: I have files with timestamps which date the original manuscript to 2001. It’s lasted longer than nearly half a dozen PCs and Macintoshes. My daughter’s been born, grown up, and is now at Secondary School in the time this has taken to complete. I’ve had major surgery. Friends have passed away.

Considering the narrative has time at its base, this all seems rather appropriate.