In order to provide more regular content for my blog, I’m going to take some advice from Tracy Vincent, the editor of Dryden House and a fellow author in Rise of the Europan. So, it’s Work-In-Progress Wednesdays. Obviously, I didn’t invent this practice; plenty of other authors have been doing this kind of thing on their blogs for a while. If you’re not familiar with concept, though, it’s pretty basic. I’ll talk about one of my current stories or writing projects every week, giving updates and samples from various stages of the process.
A majority of my posts on the blog here lately have dealt with my stories for The Dryden Experiment. However, I’m still working on my solo projects, including a handful of stories for The Aldirnföld Cycle.
One of those stories is titled “New Jobs,” and it’s a first look at some of the other characters, whose stories are set in an entirely different world than the one introduced in “Specimen 25” and “Catch and Release.” The action takes place in a world where science and technology have grown beyond what is logical and into the realm of fantasy: humans there have discovered the existence of other universes, they harness insane amounts of energy to fuel their latest experiments, and they’ve learned to create fully-autonomous AI that regulate their daily life in high-tech supercities. There’s one nation that refuses to grow in regards to its culture and social structure, living under a hybridized form of oligarchy in which powerful ruling families act as the representatives for entire populations. The rule of law is enforced by these generational constructs, with the oldest families having more influence throughout the land. Enemies abroad have kept the worst of their internal rivalries to a minimum, but secret alliances and shadow wars are routine.
When we meet the new faces in this story, it’s not immediately clear how their lives and their universe share a connection to what’s happening with Carter and Imaðir, or to the series’ eponymous locale, Aldirnföld. There’s a twist at about, eh, the halfway point, that makes those connections a little clearer.
The premise: Stearn is a former assassin and trusted adviser to Harmen Trunk, an accomplished investor, CEO, and leader of an international organized crime family. When Harmen invites him to a meeting at one of his private warehouses and tells him there’s a new assignment waiting, Stearn is excited for an opportunity to increase his payday–he’s got two kids that are almost ready to start their specialized schooling. He’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that his children don’t have to live the same violent lifestyle he did.
Even though I’m still writing the first draft, I thought I’d share some of the rough text with you. Consider this a window into my raw story material, and be aware that any and all of it might be cut from the final story. This is part of a scene early in the story, just after Stearn has arrived at the warehouse.
Read on below, let me know what you think. Comments and criticism are welcome!
“Let me try that again,” I said. “What does the portal have to do with me?”
“Ah, a much easier question. You’ll be using it to get to your destination. Part of that new job I mentioned to you.”
I was afraid he’d say that. “Somehow, I knew you were gonna say that.”
“This won’t be a problem, will it?’ he said, as if my having a problem with it would matter one bit.
“Have you tested it?”
Harmen nodded at me. “It’s safe. You’ll come out the other side feeling just fine.”
I glanced up at the tendrils of electricity running across the portal’s face. Standing so close to it, I found it difficult to focus on anything else—I’m pretty sure the thrumming sound it produced was causing my teeth to vibrate some.
“Feeling fine?” I said. “Or actually fine?”
“You might get a headache, but that’s about it.”
I grunted in reply. I got worse than headaches just from taking a day off and staying at home with my wife. “It won’t be a problem, then.”
“Good,” he said. “Do you remember the first one I built? You and I took a little trip to that world where we got lost in a park and had to ask the pigeon-lady for directions?”
“How could I forget?” I’d wanted to smack him that night. Dragging me over to some foreign universe, without even knowing what we’d find on the other side. “That’s where this one goes, right?”
Why did he always insist on making me drag information out of him? Nothing short of pseudo-interrogation would produce the answers I needed to get.
“So, what am I doing over there?” I said. “Will I need to bring any of my gear?”
By gear, I meant weapons. I was never the type to carry around a hundred gadgets. If you couldn’t get the job done with a pistol or a pair of fists, I probably wasn’t the right guy to call.
“You’ll be making deliveries to the other side,” Harmen said. “No need to bring your weapons, unless you’d prefer to.”
“What am I dropping off? Drugs?”
Harmen smiled at me. “You’re so subtle, Stearn. It’s something I’ve always admired you for. Yes, it’s drugs. What else do you want to know?”
“Why did the portal need to be so goddam big?”
He laughed and turned away from the portal. “Follow me, my friend. I’ll show you why I made it so goddam big.”
Harmen led me over to a different part of the warehouse, where he stopped in front of a large object covered by a thick black sheet. “What’s that?” I said.
“Have a look for yourself.”
I pulled the sheet away, sending a thin cloud of dust up, and revealed a gleaming set of wheels hiding underneath. The make and model came from another time, but the parts were all new. I took a step back and examined it. “Is this what I think it is?” I said. “It’s a—”
“A box with wheels,” Harmen said. A huge grin erupted on his face, a rare but true expression of delight from a man not known for his smiles.
He surprised a big laugh out of me: that was an old joke between us. One night, maybe ten years prior, Harmen had asked me what the most important piece of equipment I’d need for a job was, aside from a weapon.
I need a box with wheels, I’d said to him, that gets me where I’m going and back.