Monthly Archives: November 2006

NaNoWriMo 2006- Day Nineteen

I’m seeing the end of the 50,000 word tunnel, although the story will be far from complete. I’ll have reached the target tomorrow, unless something happens. Shouldn’t put the cart before the horse (or, as we say in French, the plough before the oxen).

Here’s another unedited excerpt to either feast your eyes on or take a red pen to:

“How much would it cost, in dollars, to buy a Phoenix?”

Jacqueline frowned. “Sales of Phoenixes are prohibited on Earth, due to humans’ overwhelming lack of knowledge of other species. Owning such a species as the Phoenix could change the balance of knowledge and accelerate humanity’s—”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard the speech before. Next you’ll tell me my brain is too small to understand all of it. How much?”

“Hold, please, while I convert funds.” She disappeared again. I glanced at Eve. She looked sad, almost ready to cry. “I’m not thinking of buying you,” I said, my voice grumpy even to my ears. That did it. Her face scrunched like a dried-up apple, then she launched a wail that made the windows tremble. Shit.

What did I do, now? Every time that happened at Terry’s, Betty intervened, whisked the child away, and, after whatever she did or said, the cries stopped. Problem was, I never was privy to what she did or said, so I had no idea how to deal with Eve.

“What did you do to her?” Isabel asked behind me.

I turned, relieved beyond belief. “I didn’t hear you come in, I said above Eve’s cries. And I didn’t do anything. Really.”

Isabel threw me a pitying glance and walked over to Eve. “At least you could’ve picked her up.” She did just that. “Come here, sweetie, come here. Why so sad?”

Isabel sat in the chair, Eve on her lap, and rocked back and forth. Eve calmed down to silent tears and hiccups. “Jack mean,” she said.

Isabel looked at me, startled. “She talks?”

“Yeah. Phoenix didn’t, but Eve does.”

“Eve.”

“I had to call her something. Anyway, I’m not being mean, I’m trying to figure out what’s going on.”

“Where did you get that gizmo on the table?”

“Winston sent it. He had to leave unexpectedly on a mission, but he didn’t leave me completely in the lurch.”

“I have the data,” Jacqueline said as she appeared on the screen.

Isabel’s eyebrows rose. “Jacqueline?”

I grimaced. “Winston’s little joke. So, what would it cost me?”

“Again, I must emphasize—”

“Cut it, sister. I asked you a question.”

“Very well. The twelve-hour model is between two hundred and five hundred thousand, depending on where you order it from. The twenty-four hour model would run between one million five to two million, again depending the source factory.”

I whistled. That was no chump change. I could easily afford the half-hour model; the twenty-four one would be a bit of a stretch, but, with equal payments… I blinked.

Wait a minute, here, I thought. What was going on? All of a sudden, I wanted to buy a Phoenix? I stared at the bag, which was sitting right beside the communication station on the coffee table.

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NaNoWriMo 2006- Day Seventeen

I’ve passed the 40K mark, and it’s downhill from now. The story is going well, I’m actually pleased with it. It’s pure Jack, and so far, he’s coping. Kids have a way to put a hitch in his stride. If I sound like Jack, Terry, Claire, Isabel are real to me, it’s ’cause they are. I know them more intimately than myself. And, really, sometimes they’re more fun to be with than “real” people.

Here’s another unedited excerpt. Feel free to send feedback if you wish. Comments are open.

Eve opened her eyes, smiled sweetly. “Hi, Jack,” she said. “Eve went beddy-bye.”

Ice cold water in the face would’ve been less shocking. Not only was Eve talking, but she knew the name I’d given her. I hadn’t called her by her name once. How did she know it? For that matter, where did “beddy-bye” come from? Okay, maybe Isabel had said it to her and she remembered it. That still didn’t explain her knowing the name I gave her. Nowhere in the information I’d read did it indicate that Phoenixes were telepathic or mind readers. According to the data, their intelligence level was borderline retarded. Although that wasn’t the impression I had from Eve.

From his place beside her, Fred looked at me. Blinked. Began to wash.

“You’re a great help,” I muttered.

Then I remembered the diaper bag. And Claire’s theory that, somehow, I was deflected from exploring it fully. Three times, now, I’d opened the first zipper, found diapers and formula and food, but as soon as I thought of opening another, something happened to make me forget what I’d been about to do.

I’d already seen a lot of weird things in the past year, so the thought that some kind of charm or magic compelling me to forget the bag. Maybe that was a bit too much and I was beginning to get cabin fever.

I’d seen Isabel take the bag into the guest bedroom. “Stay,” I told Eve. She nodded, her eyes serious. Sure enough, the bag sat at the foot of the bed, the bright yellow and pink jarring with the muted colors of the walls and bedspread. I picked it up and brought it to the coffee table. Eve’s eyes lit up. She clapped her hands. I remembered the power bar. “The kid must be hungry,” I muttered to myself.

“Hungry. Yes!” She laughed. Here eyes changed color, the blue deeper, the gold brighter.
I unzipped the middle zipper, dug for the bar, tore the foil wrapper, and gave the bar to her. “Thank you,” she said very politely after a second, looking up at me. Then she dug in. I suddenly remembered my mother asking, “And what do you say?” after she’d given me something.

That’s when I knew it for certain. There was someone in the apartment with me.

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NaNoWriMo 2006- Day Fifteen

Had to take a break yesterday. The brain went on strike. Still I managed to write thirteen hundred words, but I had to leave Jack in the middle of a battle, his saber poised to strike a really ugly alien. His arm must be getting tired by now.

It’s midmonth and I’m more than halfway there (for NaNo, anyway), but I want to pick the pace back up. Meantime, here’s another undedited excerpt:

I gaped. I’d assumed that I’d get a similar experience with Eve as with Phoenix. It looked like she was developing fast but more normally; I remembered Terry’s little Evie doing exactly what Eve was doing. Eve, Evie. Was it a coincidence I’d chosen such a similar name? They didn’t look the same at all. Evie was dark-haired and had been slender, even as a baby. Eve was light-haired and pudgy. Both of them, though, had beautiful eyes, even if Eve’s were weird-looking.

While I was being amazed, the case on the table had expanded. The two sides had revolved and lay flat. On the left side, a flat screen with a keyboard, on the other side, some kind of communications device that resembled what Neola was using. I felt a twinge thinking of Neola. I knew she was dead, along with my other self, and I knew she’d used me but I did miss her anyway. I missed her quirky mind, her sense of humour, her guts.

I looked for a switch to turn the screen on but couldn’t find one. More out of no knowing what to do than anything else, I touched the screen; it lit up without even a sputter. I hoped I didn’t have to give more blood to be able to operate it.

It was well and good to have equipment, but I had no idea what to do with it. The screen narrowed to a pinpoint, then lit up again. A gorgeous, bosomy blonde appeared. “Mr. Meter, I’m Jacqueline, your avatar.”

“Funny, Winston, very funny.”

Jacqueline smiled. “I’m here to help and guide you through the AGES database and to contact the people you might want to talk to. How can I help?”

Using the database was going to be easier than I thought. “Give me everything you have on a species called Phoenix.”

“One moment please.”

It was only one moment, and data blinked onto the screen. Jacqueline, reduced to a small window in the left corner, smiled. “Did you want me to read the data to you, Mr. Meter? I can also summarize the salient points.”

“I’ll read some first, see how’s that going for me. If it’s too difficult to understand, I’ll ask you to interpret.”

“Just say my name, and I’ll be there.”

Jacqueline blinked out. I began to read.

The more I read, the more appalled I was. The Phoenix species was not a natural species but a fabricated one. It took on the external appearance of the owner it was attached to but, internally, it stayed the same. I wondered how that would work for my alien friends the Thrittene, who were many and one at the same time.

Initially, the Phoenix had been bred as a pet, or a piece of interesting, renewable furniture. Their intelligence was very low, maybe that of a bird –hence the name Phoenix, that the humans who knew about them had given them—plus the fact that they did die and renew themselves every morning. The individuals didn’t die, they wore out. When that happened, they could be given a form of poison that stopped their renewal.

They had been originally fabricated on a small planet in Alpha Centauri –the closest galaxy to ours, I knew—but there were now several factories across other galaxies. There were two models: a twenty-four hour and a twelve-hour model, the longer-lasting model being more expensive, of course.

I wondered if whoever was doing this had given me two cheap models or one of each. Would Eve last a whole twenty-four hours, or would she evaporated in eight hours? I glanced at her. She’d fallen asleep, her face leaned against her little pudgy hand, her curls longer and darker. Her clothes seemed to be a lot tighter. Cute kid. My heart twinged. Damnit to hell.

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NaNoWriMo 2006- Day Twelve

Two relatively good days, although I would’ve liked to write a bit more yesterday, but in total for the two days I wrote over 5,600 words. Energy flagging yesterday morning, due to a nice Stone Crab legs dinner with a crisp white wine and great company.

Here’s another excerpt (non-edited):

“I have to call Winston again. Can you get those clothes for me?”

“Sure. I’ll be back.”

I gave Isabel the key to the apartment so she wouldn’t have to ring the bell, checked that the baby girl hadn’t crawled somewhere, then called Winston at home, since he wasn’t likely to be at work yet. I swore when I got his machine. “You know the routine. If it’s you, Jack, I sent you an email. Read it.”

Damn. Where’s the expert when you need one? I fired up my computer, got another cup of coffee and brought it to my desk. The baby gurgled. That stopped me. After the initial infant crying, Phoenix had made no sounds, except for the time when he jumped me when I stopped the music. I craned my neck. Fred sat in front of her, staring. The baby also sat, a broad smile on her face, her small pudgy arms moving up and down. Actually, she was kind of cute.
I heard the door open and close and a “It’s me.” I logged into my email and, sure enough, there was Winston’s message. Isabel appeared around the corner, a plastic bag in hand. She stopped in front of the baby.

“Come on, sweetie, let’s get some clothes on.” She picked up the girl –‘my, you’re getting heavy’—and went into the guest bedroom. Fred followed them. Definitely a ladies’ cat.

I swore again when I learned from Winston’s email that Charlie had needed help with the mission and AGES were sending him to assist. He had no idea when he’d be back. The second part was slightly more encouraging; he given me access to the AGES database. The appropriate equipment would be delivered in the morning. The doorbell rang just as I finished reading the message. This place was coming to resemble a train station. Either that or I was spending entirely too much time at home.

The peephole revealed a uniformed man from the brown delivery company. Had Winston timed it that way? If so, I was becoming entirely too predictable.

“Jack Meter?” the uniform said.

“That’s me.”

“I need ID.”

I dug my wallet from my coat behind the door, showed him my driver’s and PI licenses. Both had unflattering pictures of my face.

The man took a small metal box, slightly longer than my hand. He opened it. “I’ll need some blood for typing and DNA match.”

By that time, being the sharp PI I was, I deduced that this man was only disguised as a delivery man. He pointed to my left hand. When I raised it, he snapped the box closed on my index finger. Something zapped it. The pain was intense.

“Jesus,” I said. “You could’ve warned me.”

The man grinned. “Why? That’s the only fun part of this fucking boring job.”

He checked his watch. “You’re who you claim to be. He leaned down, picked up a hard-shelled suitcase and handed it to me. Agent Winston sends his regrets and wishes you luck.”

Isabel came out of the bedroom, a little girl in navy pants and red sweater walking beside her. She held Isabel’s hand and Fred trotted on her other side.

“Delivery from Winston,” I said. “She’s growing faster than Phoenix, I think.”

“Are you going to name her, as well?”

“You don’t seem to like the idea.”

“It seems ghoulish, somehow.”

“Maybe, but it’s easier to give her a name than to call her the kid or the woman.”

“I know. I need to go out, get some things done, like grocery shopping. Are you going to be all right?”

“As long as you come back in a couple of hours with some new clothes for her.”

“I will.”

Isabel led the girl to one of the living room chairs and placed her there, then she bent down and kissed the little girl’s head. “Bye, sweetie. I’ll be back soon.” Fred jumped on the chair and curled up against her, his eyes fixed on me as if he needed to keep watch.

I decided to call the little girl Eve, after the first woman. It suited her somehow. Uncomfortable with leaving her all alone in the living room, I brought Winston’s gift to the coffee table and sat on the couch. As soon as I touched the edges of the case, I felt something like an electric current in my fingers and the case snapped open.

It began to buzz and beep and whistle, to Eve’s great delight. She clapped and laughed. When she smiled, a dimple appeared on her right cheek. Her eyes changed from light blue to dark. Despite myself, I was charmed. I smiled back.

“Jack,” she said, and pointed at me. “Fred.” And she patted the cat lightly. “Isabel, bye-bye.”

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NaNoWriMo 2006- Day Ten

Friday. End of week. Phew. The writing is becoming sluggish, but I refuse to type words just for the word count. I find, though, that the Nanowidget at the left that I move up with every post is a real motivator. If I don’t write at least my minimum word count, the line become red. Aaagh.

Here’s another excerpt (there are some passages snipped in between the excerpts, but you’re still at the beginning of the story, at chapter 4):

Another day, another baby. All my fears were confirmed. It was a girl. What was the feminine equivalent of Phoenix?

At first I didn’t know it was a girl, and I wasn’t about to check myself. Maybe if it had been my own kid, it would’ve been different. Maybe. But I decided to be a pig and let a woman take care of the diaper-changing, gender-checking chores.

It was only seven in the morning but I figured Claire had already gone to work and, Isabel, despite her jet-lag, probably had breakfast with Claire. Like me, Isabel ate breakfast, and she’d joked that she’d have Claire join our ranks soon. I didn’t know Claire’s breakfast habits, and I really didn’t care about them. The fact that all three of us would, one day, go down to the Moulin de Provence for espresso and bagels made me shudder. Okay, maybe we had a civilized conversation the night before, but Claire was a tight-ass at the best of times and her tongue spewed too much vinegar for my taste.

I picked up the phone and speed-dialed Isabel’s number. To my surprise, Claire’s sleepy voice answered.

“I don’t believe it,” I said, “it’s seven in the morning and you’re not at work.”

“What? Seven?” she said, sounding a lot more awake. “Oh, my God, I’m late.”

“Wait! Don’t hang up. Since you’re not gone, you can come and help me with my little problem.”

At that moment, the baby started to wail. Claire paused at the other end of the line. “Is it a girl?”

“That’s what I want you to come and check.”

“What makes you think I know anything about babies?”

“You’re a woman, aren’t you?”

“You are such a jerk.” She slammed the phone in my ear.

“Ouch.” No help from that quarter. I was debating what to do next —call Betty, or Mrs. P— when the doorbell rang. Isabel stood on the other side. I opened the door, pulled her inside. She had on a robe over a long nightgown and slippers. She yawned.

“You’re a life saver,” I said. “I’ll make coffee.”

“Diapers?”

I lifted the bag that I’d taken from the coffee table in expectation of help. “Did Claire tell you about this baby?”

“She told me about the one yesterday. It’s kind of hard to believe.”

“No shit.” I dragged her into my bedroom, where the baby was still crying. As far as I could tell, it looked exactly like the other one. “If you give it formula, it should grow several inches. Please don’t be scared, okay?”

“You’re staying with me, right?”

“Ah… coffee. I’ll go make coffee. I got bagels.”

Isabel shook her head and pushed me out the door. “Wimp.”

“You bet.”

A couple of minutes later, the crying stopped. I could hear Isabel cooing and laughing. Obviously a woman thing, because neither Terry or I had made the ridiculous sounds. Then there was no sound.

I left off dividing a bagel and went back to the bedroom. Isabel sat on the bed, her face pale, holding a much bigger baby in her arms. “It’s true.” She raised stunned eyes to mine. “After the affair with the Fates, I understood the world was weirder than I knew. But when Claire explained about the baby, I didn’t believe it. But it’s true.”

“Unfortunately.”

“You mean she’ll be gone by tonight?”

“Phoenix was gone in about seven hours.”

“How?”

“I don’t know. I fell asleep.” Or maybe someone had put me to sleep. I felt off-kilter, as if I had one foot on a balance beam and the other in the air. “He was a man by then. Listening to music. He loved music, especially opera.”

Isabel frowned. “That’s a little weird.”

“I thought that, too.” I went into the bathroom, came back with a towel. “Come on, I’ll put her on the floor near the breakfast bar. We can have breakfast.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Then you can watch me eat while you drink your coffee.”

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