Well, April is here again, and with it–Camp NaNo.
Last year I added 30k to ‘518’, and this year… I plan to add 30k to ‘518’. Again. Even though I still haven’t finished writing DUELS; but the thing with DUELS is I reached a point where I wanted to put in a reference to ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, which means I’m going to have to read ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, and while I don’t think it’s a door-stopper or anything, I now work more regular hours, so between work and procrastination, it’s getting difficult to find time for my literary pursuits.
Truly; mine is a life of untold suffering!
Anyway, here’s a small excerpt from ‘518’, the story where aliens have taken over Earth, and the protagonist helped them do it. At this rate, I predict the title will refer to the number of weeks it will take me to finish it. Enjoy!
When Art and I arrived, the service bots had already got there and were removing the panelling in the floor. They didn’t have the ability to set the mines—their core programming didn’t let them touch real weaponry even in emergencies—and as Art had completed the advanced course in explosive devices I let him do the actual programming while I affixed the mines to the underside of the floor.
“You adjusted the minimum pressure requirements, right?” I asked him.
“Humans are usually over forty-nine kilograms, aren’t they?”
“Yeah.” I stilled. “Wait, Hadringar are a lot lighter than that. Better make it twenty-one.”
“I’d thought of that,” Art told me, handing me the first mine. “But if we set the pressure sensor too sensitive then we risk the mines going off any time the station gets hit. Unlikely, maybe, but I think it would be better if we risked a Hadringar getting through, they’re not as physically formidable as your species.”
I snorted. “Thanks.”
Art turned his attention back to the second mine; or I thought he did anyway, because the next thing he said was, “You’re shaking. Is that normal?”
“I’m fucking terrified,” I admitted, with as much good humour as I could muster.
“Is that what Humans do when they’re terrified? It seems counter-productive.”
With a deep breath I pressed the activation switch on the mine. “Now that you mention it,” I agreed. “I don’t know why we do it. I guess I’ll look it up later if we don’t all die horribly.”
“We might just as easily die well and you wouldn’t get the chance.”
I don’t know if that was supposed to be a joke or not, but it made me laugh all the same. “Ah, I could have been on a shuttle back to the fuelling station by now,” I mused, sitting back on the floor as crouching was beginning to get painful.
“Why aren’t you?”
There was a million dollar question.
“Well, I said I’d stay. It’d just be bad form to go to pieces now, coward that I am.”
For a short moment, Art paused. “I don’t think you’re particularly cowardly. As you say, you are still here.”
“Only for those idiots,” I said, jerking my head back towards the med lab. “It’s not real bravery or anything.”
“It is bravery,” Art countered. “The idea of your friends being ashamed of you is a strong motivation to be brave.”
“I’m not ashamed,” I told him. “If I wasn’t shitting my pants over this whole thing I’d think I was a god damned idiot. No, I just didn’t want to hurt Leo’s feelings.”
“Well, perhaps that counts as bravery for a Human.”
“Nah,” I said. “If I was brave, I might have stuck it out with my own people.”
Art handed me the second mine. “There’s a difference between bravery and insanity,” he said.
“Does that mean you think my species are all insane?” I asked him.
I was careful when I fixed the second mine, as careful as I had been with the first, but at the same time I was curious to know his answer. I’d meant it to be a light question; how it sounded to him…
Well, he hesitated before replying.
“As I understand it, they didn’t have the opportunity to understand their situation the way you did.”
“Oh, they had the opportunity,” I said, and if my voice could still express my emotions it would have been said darkly. “They just refused to take it. No, my species is pretty crazy—as a whole and as individuals. Not in all cases, but then that’s always been part of the problem, or that’s how Theo describes it. Inconsistency. He thinks it’s ’cause we have weird brains.”
With the mine fixed I flicked the activation switch. Art had already started putting a bonding agent on the edges of the section of floor.
“You’re not alone in that respect,” he said.