Thursday, May 27, 2010

REPETITIVE PATTERNS

My writer buddy Timothy P. Remp (@Tim_Remp_writer if you want to follow him) and I once wrote a story together titled "Claims" which was included in Absent Willow Review's Best of 2009 anthology (thank you very much).

Tim is writing episodes for a Pluto story, which when finished will probably become his first novella.  He tied it to Mars, the setting for "Claims". A week ago (like a fool) I suggested that we both write separate flashes, but relate them to Mars.  He was enthusiastic (manic!) about the idea and talked Mars with me all week. (Check out the "Prelude" episodes at The Event Horizon which he also writes in conjunction with 3WW and #fridayflash). 

Well, I couldn't not write a story based on "Claims", but apparently, I couldn't write a flash either (1800 words and not finished yet).  My offering will be serialized, if you will, over the next three, maybe four weeks.  We'll all be surprised by the ending ;).  Here's part 1:

REPETITIVE PATTERNS


Keith felt a feather's touch on his shoulder.

"You awake?" she whispered. Keith kept still. Her name began with an "S"? Sasha, Sarah... something like that. She kissed his shoulder again. "Keith?" It escaped him. He used his stand-by. "Hey Baby."

"The dust devils are scary," she said. She snuggled against his chest.

"They're just part of Mars. Sandstorms and iron grit and dust devils. I thought you said you've been here a while?"

She sat up and pointed out his window. Keith watched a couple cabs whiz past on Perimeter road. Tourists. They always opted for the scenic route. Insiders chose direct interior routes to get around Venture. Most structures had at least one view toward the dome and the Martian landscape, but that first dome view elicited awe.

Keith barely noted the looming silhouettes of Ascreaus Mons, Pavonis Mons and Arsia Mons below the twin moons. A red desert stretched between the domed city limits and the lesser volcanoes. Several dust devils battered the side of the dome.

"See what I mean?" she asked.

Sandy? Keith wondered. "Sandy" on Mars; Keith stifled his chuckle. Might as well name her Desert. Sierra! That was her name.

"Why are you smirking? I've never seen dust devils act like that," Sierra said. She got out of bed and searched for her clothing. Keith remembered more than her name. Yeah, he thought, I could do that again.

"Sierra, don't go. I've never seen dust devils form a pattern—" The pattern was familiar.

"I know! Watch." Sierra pulled her shirt over her head and walked to his window. He found his pants and joined her. The rust-colored sand gradually swirled into cones, aligned into precise rays—a sunburst pattern—and then en masse surged forward, ramming and collapsing against the dome. Transfixed, Keith watched several repetitions of this phenomena. Sunburst patterns niggled his memory. Where had he seen that happen before?

Sierra's voice interrupted his thoughts. "I've never seen dust devils together. They're supposed to be solitary. And random. This is bizarre." She leaned against the window to peer left, then right. "They're only doing it here. In this section."

The last time he'd seen so many dust devils was with the claims investigator. The insurance company that hired her also hired his company, K.F. Salvage Services to take her out onto the Arcadian Plains to locate Norman Solemn's lost labor bots and the Boyar master-mind. The labor bots had unloaded supplies into that pattern.

They had found pieces of those bots. He had kept the pieces for his salvage business and was able to get top dollar for parts. Settling the planet required almost an army of labor bots, and the grit did a number on them. He could have made a killing off the Boyar brain, even if it was fried, but he held onto the head and torso. I couldn't sell him—IT. I couldn't sell IT.

Keith remembered watching the event module with the investigator. The iron grit or something affected the Boyar. Instead of supervising construction, the Boyar abandoned the project after watching meteor showers. It had led the bots on a hike to a geyser. The retrieved holographic diary showed the Boyar frozen in terror as a wall of sand buried it alive.

"I've got to go." Sierra finished dressing. "Call me?"

"Sure, sure," Keith said. "Um, what's your last name?"

"Jenkins."

"Floyd."

"I know. We wouldn't have done it if I didn't know your name." She stood on tip-toe and kissed the scar above his eyebrow. A couple hours ago, she'd licked it, told him it was sexy. He didn't tell her he got the scar falling on his beer bottle.

Keith returned to the window after she departed. He counted twelve separate dust devils. There had been twelve lost bots. He ran his fingers through his shaggy blond hair. Before he could convince himself twelve was a coincidence, he heard muffled thumps and scrapes.

Keith followed the sounds to his storage annex, swiped his uni-card. The door-panel slid up.

The Boyar placed its fists on the threshold, then lifted and swung its torso forward, propelling itself gorilla-style through the open doorway. The Boyar's eyes shone with green lights. "All accounted for Norman. Ready for our next assignment."

24 comments:

John Wiswell said...

Cuddling on Mars is such a cute idea. I liked these two, and loved the conflation of dust devils with iron sandstorms. It's my favorite detail because of how it mixes earthly and otherworldly mundane features. My kind of magic, even if it's technically Scifi.

You've asked for critical feedback before. I could only give you two things on this piece, if you wanted them:

1) The story opens with an unusual amount of descriptors, which break tone and weigh it down. I say "unusual" because this doesn't happen again in the rest of the story. Putting asterisks around descriptors, look at: "--Keith felt a *feather's* touch followed by a *warm* breath on his *bare* shoulder. "You awake?" she asked in a *soft* whisper.--"

2) The "Keith remembered. The claims investigator." is an exposition bomb, and the "___ remembered" tool is a pretty well-worn one. If you could sublimate that information into the story, it would flow better, which is important to me because the story has a really nice pace up until then, even with its info-distrubtion.

Bukowski's Basement said...

Totally dig the idea of this... I'd love to see where else this is headed.

pegjet said...

Thank you John! Fixed and you are right, as usual. Love your keen eyes and sense of rhythm.

bluepapercranes said...

i am absolutely loving the scifi stories this week on 3WW. i cant wait to read what happens next.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Great job, Peggy. It's the opening scene to a gritty sc-fi novel. I'm totally drawn in.

Michael Solender said...

very mysterious and moody..great beginnings here

Linda said...

Like these two, and intrigued to see where the story goes. Peace...

Jen Brubacher said...

This is intriguing. I'll be happy to read more.

Jay Thurston said...

Sets the stage for much to come between these two. Keith not sharing the source of his scar was a nice touch of his character. Some things are better off left to the imagination, especially if it makes him more macho in her eyes.

Timothy P. Remp said...

The depth and breadth of your characters always astonishes me. You make your characters real and draw the reader to them, care for them and what they do. Mars and Venture is becoming quite the place to be.

Very well done Peg. Very well done.

-Tim

Eric J. Krause said...

Good beginning. Looking forward to see where this goes. I'm guessing the 12 dust devils and 12 lost robots are not a coincidence.

Gracie said...

Very intriguing, Peg. Looking forward to what comes next.

Well done.

Tony Noland said...

Terrific detail, and I loved all the hints at so much more.

a.m.harte said...

I really enjoyed this! Besides the setting, I loved the details, and the characterisation of Keith. He made me giggle, especially at this part: 'He used his stand-by. "Hey Baby." '

Very well written.

PJ said...

Peg - This is great - I look forward to what comes next. I love the active style of writing and i also like the combination of common but otherworldly details. Too often, sci fi leaves me cold because it is a bit too "out there" but this piece is very grounded.

ganymeder said...

This is a great intro to a larger story. I'd love to read more.

Well done!

Jodi MacArthur said...

sunburst patterns of rust colored sand - dust devils. Love that, Peggy. Gives such atmosphere and mystery. I like these two characters and look forward to their adventure.

David Masters said...

I loved, "He used his stand-by" - brilliant scene setting.

Accidental said...

I was not ready for this story to end. Looking forward to more.

Cathy Olliffe said...

I am with PJ on sci-fi usually leaving me cold (too many gadgets). But your way of mixing today's common terms with the Mars stuff is just plain interesting. Characters are awesome. Like the others, I really think this is the tip of an iceberg. I, too, see a paperback in this one and look forward to next week.

one more believer said...

it was good to feel the story pull the reader in as interest in the characters takes root...

Dee Martin said...

wasn't able to do more than give 3ww a passing glance this week. I'm glad I stopped and read here. I'm hooked and kind of wishing I had seen the original before you "fixed" it. I'll be watching for the next installment!

Matt Merritt said...

I love how Sierra's character developed. He didn't know her name at first, which made her a sort of afterthought. But a few lines of dialog, finishing with her not caring that he didn't know her last name, turned her into an independent character. Really sharp stuff. Thanks.

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