70,000 words…write them down, drag them around, 70,000 words in the file…and yes, I’m a bit silly this evening. Not only do I have a book file with 70,000 words in it, but I escaped a computer disaster this week, escaped certain injury and possible death on the highway this afternoon when a truck with a utility trailer swerved into my lane without warning or sufficient clearance and I had to swerve at high speed not to be hit, mailed the page proofs back to Production, and…the Plot Daemon laid one on me I did not expect even though (looking back after I typed as fast as I could to get it down) I had laid the front hook for it without even noticing it.
In other words, a great week, all things considered. I’m alive, the book is alive, and the book has a nice fresh plot bomb ready to explode into action right there at the end.
And for that, you guys get a Waystation Huygens Interlude, complete with new actors/characters who are not entirely pleased with how things are going in the production. Here goes:
……… It was Space and Time night at Universes, with the popular band You Said What? midway through the first set, deep in the intricacies of Mellenbruch’s Celtic-Conjunto fusion piece “Coyotes Playing Hurley”, still plenty of room at the tables but by no means sparse, when the woman in uniform–stripes on her sleeve up to the shoulder, it looked like–came in with two women wearing white coats and chose a booth off on the right side. Not a single fur tunic, sword, hooded robe with a wizard staff was in the place. Wrong night, wrong bar; that crowd was all down at Fantasy Thyme, where the booths sometimes sprout leaves and the fireplace breaks all laws about space stations by burning real wood. Or reburning it, because the same logs have been on the fire for at least five thousand years. But you can smell woodsmoke.
Anyway, this is Universes, and those three settled in, ordered, and looked around. “I don’t want to complain,” said one of the vets to the Sergeant Major, “but I’m not in the military now and I did not volunteer for this. You tell that Author–”
“Nobody can tell that Author anything. She’s stubborn as rock.”
“She blames the Plot Daemon, but you know Glencannon’s a sweet old boy. And he says she’s as bad as Captain Whatsisface.”
“I wouldn’t exactly call Glencannon sweet,” the other vet said. “Not when he’s been drinking, anyway. And you know how he likes to fight.”
“I know he’s retired–as a character–and Author dragged him out and made him play Plot Daemon. And we’re the ones in danger.”
“And she’s reneged on that promise to take two days off a week.” The Sergeant Major looked up as a man of moderate height, also in uniform, paused in the entrance to Universes. She watched as the maitre d’ approached him, and then waved the man toward them.
“Who is that?” asked the first vet. “Introducing another major character this late?”
“That’s the Utility Character,” the Sergeant Major said with some smugness. “Corporal M. You’d better not know his full name yet. ”
“A bearer of knowledge, Doctor,” said Corporal M. as he reached their table. “My role, which should have been simple, is being complexified…complex–”
“Complicated,” said the Sergeant Major. “I don’t think it will be too bad…”
“What knowledge is it you bear?” asked the second vet.
“I can’t tell you. But I can tell you it’s on the wrong form.”
“There’s the Admiral,” said the first vet, warning them.
In the entrance now was a striking group of Primaries. The Admiral, not tall, dressed not in uniform but in casual civilian clothes, nonetheless radiated pure charisma. Her cousin radiated annoyance–the contrast of the short, dark, intense Admiral and the tall, light, beautiful cousin was perhaps enhanced for drama’s sake. They both had the shiny quality of recent Authorial attention. The others were, for the moment, somewhat eclipsed. They were ushered to the Primary Table, always held open for them, and quite close to the first group.
“I am so glad to get out off that set. It is ridiculous that I have to stay there that long–”
“Now, Ky, you know it’s a good way to build suspense–”
“It’s building a solid desire to kick somebody.” The Admiral appeared to notice the Sergeant Major for the first time. “Oh–hi, Sunny. Didn’t know you were here. How’s it going for you?”
“Well enough. The set I’m on is very different from the usual. And you?”
“Static scene,” the Admiral said. “There’s not much they can do with downloading visual files from an implant, hour after hour. I don’t know why Author can’t work that out herself, without dragging us through it. Twelve hours in that chair, filling two-hour external drives. Blech.”
“And she can’t go to sleep while they’re doing it,” said one of the others. Her fiance, the Sergeant Major recalled. Hardly taller than the Admiral, but capable of playing many roles.
“Look like you’re remembering things, the director said.” The Admiral rolled her eyes. “More expression–no, don’t overdo it–just maybe the occasional quirk of your lip, that thing you do. No, not that often. And so on.”
You Said What? came to the discordant end of the last piece in the set, Faldajee’s Anti-All. Everyone clapped; some stomped.
“Let’s eat,” the Admiral said. “I’m starved.” And they did.