Trouble Will Do
Dr. Clark Gabrin shook out his newspaper to read the headline better. He adjusted his glasses for the upteemth time and furrowed his bushy brows as he read. Things were not doing well with the HAC-Elysium negotiations. Elysia had been on the outs with the Council for a while now, and the situation had deteriorated from bad to worse.
His large, rough hand reached out from behind the paper to tap on the tabletop in front of him uncertainly until he finally bumped with a clatter into the miniscule saucer he had placed there to hold his equally miniscule teacup, which held his daily draught of energizing tea, an intensely concentrated, drink-at-your-own-risk concoction only Clark was brave enough to try.
Stephanie hands off the disc in its solid state before she returns to her own ship and Tyreke. She did what she came to do: found Evan, got the disc from him, and gave it to the militancy. Now she can take a moment to breathe because she is Talon, and the Darkstation sensors have decided their Alliance ship is hers. The joys of being one thing by career and another by blood, she thinks darkly.
Tyreke stares at her injured knee, and all Stephanie can find the strength to do is glower back. Doesn't stop her from wanting to vent though. She warned their captain not to send them. Viciously, "Sergio is a—"
Designing a new cover is fraught with false starts, preconceptions, and the reality of the stock photography you can afford. I decided I wanted to riff off the theme begun with the original flash fiction piece, but that the old cover was not going to cut it for a new fleshed-out serial.
The Class-I speeder is typical Elysium: all dark glass and a heartbeat from the vastness of the cosmos, but it is still an I. More like manned guided missile than spaceship, it houses little more than Seara and a couple of engines.
She does not need more. She is a spacer and space is the one place she feels genuinely at home. The militancy is sending her to the heart of the space stations of the Talons and the Medes, but they are hybrids with their planet-born interests, squabbling over planetary resources and living in stable orbit on what might as well be moons or planets. She has lived on space ships her entire life. Flying is like breathing to her, the hull like her second skin.
Gnell is the diminutive secret weapon of the militancy station on Sellus, Motac's nearest, dinghy little grey moon, where to step outside is death by suffocation from the dust. Of course, one of the primary reasons Gnell is a secret is that she would never make such a mistake as to step outside into the thin, inadequate protection of the terraformed atmosphere. No, she stays holed up in her room, bent over her work with an enormous mug of chicory brew in one hand and a keenly intelligent gleam in her eye.
The room is small, to fit her, with no windows on the joyless view. The walls are dark blue panels, the furniture dark blue panels filled with array upon array of buttons and monitors and widgets and communication devices. One of the red lights is flashing now, a priority one signal from a priority one alert on a priority one planet about a situation she's already aware of.
"Distress call from Talon Mede. Origin: Keystation. Target: Darkstation," Analik repeats. Again. "Attack on the Medes at Darkstation."
Stephanie Forrester scowls. She has heard about the alert twice now, and if all is in order, so has her captain, Sergio Haus. She should be telling him, warning him not to go into that sordid, sorry mess of a planet with its orbiting stations. She's a Talon and a part of that sorry mess of an ethnic war. Perhaps the Human Alliance Council underestimated that fact when they assigned her as pilot to the class-H—minimum crew military spaceship with a personality—Analik. Perhaps they forgot a spacer was a spacer was a spacer, and there she is, gritting her teeth again against that d— alert blaring on her panel.
"Is something wrong?" the navigator, Rayanne, asks quietly, tilting her head in that calm appraisal that's always so d— right.
Stephanie launches herself out of the pilot station and heads back toward captain's quarters. "Always is," she mutters and nearly bumps into Sergio coming out.
KEYSTATION shimmers brightly over the gas giant of Talon Mede. The space station is all glass and dark metal glimmering under the brilliance of the star system's near sun.
Night side faces the planet, and a young girl, perhaps in her early twenties, stands near the glass about at dusk, where she can look out toward the other stations, shy fingers nearly touching the glass. She is tall with dark hair and fair skin, as that of most spacers. She is a Mede. From here, she can just glimpse the sweeping curve of emerald brilliance that is Talon Mede. More, her gaze catches the sharp edge of Darkstation.
They know. It is the only possible conclusion to draw.
So the idea of a piece of serial fiction has been bouncing around in this head for a while now, but I was always convinced I lacked the strength to discipline myself and convinced I lacked the commitment and the ability to write linear without going back to edit, and then, this quote rammed me upside the head and a good look at my profile full of serial fanfiction clinched the deal.
My characters are beverage drinkers. From Clark Gabrin with his "fine decantation of valuable stimulants and nutrients" designed to taste like an Earl Grey to the national Vardin beverage, sluscheta; to Shelley Huntington's addiction to all things coffee, tea and coffee seems to show up all over in my fiction.
Myself, I am a bit of a tea connoisseur. The family cupboard has always been stuffed to the brim with assorted teas, mostly supplemental or Celestial Seasonings, and my father's pantry contained even more exotic varieties, including coffee alternatives, such as Roma and Pero. When I opened up shop in my own pantry, I included hefty doses of tea for both healing and flavor. An introduction to a local tea room owner led me to fall in love with rooibos as well. So, when my characters began showing personality through their choice of beverage, not only did it not really take me by surprise, but it made for a delightful round table of who likes what and what that says about them.
So I finally understand what folks say about knowing what the character wants. I've got plenty of characters that never really bother to share that with me and it doesn't bother me writing their stories that they didn't. But when you've got some flash fic that doesn't really want to get fleshed out, there comes a point when you need to know what's going to make it flesh out anyway. Salvation came from my biggest troublemaker of all: Hayley Lamar.
She knows what she wants.
This is a girl that's a troublemaker, has lousy citizenship and academic grades, and has some serious social interaction issues. She doesn't care what a single person thinks about her and she skated into Kailin on a scholarship because she had aptitude. Much desired aptitude. She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it, and that's just a little bit scary.
Hayley surprised me quite a bit from the time I've started writing her because, frankly, she's adapted. She started out as a fanfic character in a fandom world, but when I plugged the stories into the Alliance universe instead, I hit a bit of a shock as the characters started changing on me. Now, I've had a character warp on me and become a flavor that could only exist within the premise they appear in, but I've never had a character simply change into someone else altogether. Hayley's doing that and it's awesome to behold.
As I see her starting to take over a story (starting by taking over Jack's favorite haven and turning it into her own personal platform into the most exclusive program in the school), I felt a light little tapping on my shoulder and turned around to find a former bubbly, over-the-top personality now christened Jena Kee wanting to politely inform me that I had her wrong. She's precise, very precise; ridiculously polite with her elders and superiors, but doesn't take an ounce of guff from anyone else. She's an explosive weapons expert and notices everything. Got it?
I kind of stare at my characters and wonder to myself: how in the world did I create such pushy people?
"I'm not at all pushy," Jena protests politely. "I just want my story."