Yes, that’s right, I’ve signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo this April and set myself up massive failure–I mean, set my target for 30k. Instead of starting a new novel I’m taking the time to write up as much as I can for 518, which has been on my mind a lot over the past week. I finally got all the chapters together in one place, so I am able to say I have written 25k of it before this month started, meaning that hopefully, by the end of the month, I’ll have 55k done.
So far I am decidedly not keeping up with my target, as I only wrote 845 words yesterday, but I thought I’d share those words with you now so you could see a bit of what 518 has to offer. We pick up in media res, as our main character undergoes a procedure to make sure he hasn’t been taken over by giant sentient viruses called ‘Blight’
And before I could decide which was more important—Hyde or the Blight Check—a screen lit up in the centre of the room between Leo and Theo. Theo stalked around the side to stand behind Leo as the person who’d wanted to communicate was illuminated.
“Captain Leo,” said the voice.
“Chief Inspector Hyde,” Leo greeted. “Thank you for having us.”
Hyde was mostly off screen; only his head visible. Said head was almost deer-like in shape, with long ears and thick, feathery whiskers like an eel’s. It was marbled, black and bright yellow, the yellow marking Hyde out as the third kind of what my evil eye translated as ‘gender’, yet probably wouldn’t have been called that by a human. I knew Wykens had up to seven ‘genders’; and that usually an individual belonged to either one of the first two—red or blue.
“Blight Check in thirty seconds, Captain. Do you accept?”
As I should have expected on meeting a new species, I didn’t recognise any Wyken expressions when he spoke. Therefore I couldn’t determine anything about Hyde’s mood, and wouldn’t be able to for a while yet. It made my pulse quicken uncomfortably.
“We do,” said Leo. Theo cringed a little.
“Very well,” Hyde replied. “Inspector Rorschach and I will board once the check is done and meet you in the Fourth Room on your ship for an updated brief.”
I’d forgotten that Hyde’s presence meant Rorschach would be there too.
“All time for the Timeless Empire,” said Leo; a standard but somewhat archaic phrase that didn’t translate well.
The screen darkened. For a moment I wondered if ‘yeah, that’ instead of, ‘all our years an era’ as the traditional reply was, was something that could gain me insight into what kind of person Hyde was, but then the door opened and the drones flew in.
Each roughly the size of a Chihuahua, moved by propeller and topped with a flexible spike, the drones searched us each out individually, their long metal arms reaching for our bodies. My breath caught in my throat and my fists clenched. I knew what the procedure entailed, of course, but given that the only sectors of space I’d been in up ’til now had been nowhere near Pertentia front lines this was the first actual Check I’d had.
And I suppose that meant I was the first Human to have one done at all, so this was a historic moment. A creepy, creepy, historic moment.
The first drones went for Leo and his entourage, and several dozen more flooded past us and out of the door to the rest of the ship. When the little robots finally came for us cadets, they went for the Selena first, then the Saraketeisians. Hugs was skipped over entirely due to his immunity, and Freddie and I were last.
I shut my eyes tightly when the drone landed on my head; arms clamping around my face and neck, ready to inject a poison if I failed the test. That wasn’t a worry as I knew I wasn’t Blight, but the tail was something else.
Because the drones had been designed to attach to heads much bigger than mine, the body of the one on me slumped down my back a little, and took a while to adjust its grip as I shivered, flinching under the cold metal that crept against my skin. Eventually the body and arms stilled, and the spike fumbled for my arm for a moment then stuck me.
Curious, I opened my eyes a fraction to look at the long silver tail in my arm. It didn’t hurt any worse than a regular shot, and the experience had a kind of horror movie appeal that made me want and not want to look at the same time. I could see the blood it was drawing from me run up the spike, a touch of nausea working its way behind my eyes.
Then the drone on top of Leo’s head said, “Thirteen,” and released him.
“Thirteen,” also, was the verdict on Theo.
Choruses of “Thirteen,” started around the room, and I still smiled to think that ‘thirteen’ had been the number of the Selena Empire, because talk about an unhappy coincidence!
It was a while before the drones on us examinees were done; by that point I’d shut my eyes again and was breathing heavily, but soon enough I heard eight more ‘Thirteen’s from right behind me.
“Ninety-eight,” said the one on Nate’s head, and released him. That was expected; it was the Saraketeisian number. The one we were all hoping not to hear was anything from two hundred and twelve to two hundred and fifteen, but Dan and Ruby were both declared “Ninety-eight,” as well.
“Five hundred and seven,” said the drone right next to me, which then detached itself from a very annoyed Freddie, whose head-blades tapped against each other in quick succession, backwards and forwards to show how pissed he was, enough so that I shifted away from him a little.
At long last, the one on my head pronounced me “Five hundred and eighteen,” and let go. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
In other news, ‘Rooks’ may be temporarily unavailable, as I am attempting to correct the error of it not having any page numbers. Fun times.