Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Caiaphas, ch 3

When a woman like that tells you to run, you don't argue with her.  Without as much as a by your leave, no matter how civil of a conversation we had been having, i broke into a sprint from a standstill and was panting for air and gaining speed soon afterwards.
Senide.  Senide.  Dripping blood and asking to make my aquaintance.  I had survived an encounter that few other people in the known universe had made it out of alive, including more than a few of the other inhabitants of Carron, prisoner and guard alike.  She had no scruples, no morals to speak of.  Inuman and deadly.  and I had survived.  my heart was beating too hard, hurting, and still I ran, my passage loud and probably gathering the attention of anyone or anything that happened to be listening.
sleeping alone on the darkened floor was no longer an option.  it would not be a safe haven, and i doubted that i would ever again feel completely safe while i was alone.  Senide had killed hundreds, with her bare hands, her cold reptilian morality giving her powers i could only dream of.  there was a pull to her, too.  i hadn't felt it until i had been right on top of her, but there was a pull.  but not to join, to serve... it was to succumb.
I was only lucky that she was full.  that she had warned me.  because that pull... it was deep.  the call of the void, and if i had stood there any longer i just might have taken the plunge.
Finally, I had to stop.  Not because i was tired - i would have run until utter exhaustion if i had to.  I had run out of ship.  ahead of me, looming in the semi-darkness, was a pit.  and i could see, barely, the edges of what could only be the hole continuing to the floors above me.  there were voices, dim and far away, and the pull which I had felt since entering the ship was much stronger here.
I walked forward, aware that the light was much stronger here and staying out of it.  the hole was large - thirty feet across, at least.  I crept as close as I could to the edge, looking up for enemy eyes and seeing none, and saw at the bottom of the hole a dark, open space.  the ship was wider than i had given it credit for.  what small fraction of the place had I seen in my explorations?
then I crept back, out of sight.  there were other hallways - i could see chunks of them that hadn't been destroyed to make way for the hole through the ship.  there was a hallway right next to me, with an easily traversable part of the floor still intact.  But how to get there from where I was without being seen?  the walls were thick, and the closest point of entry was close to six or seven feet away, but even from where I was i could see holes in the side of the pit, like footholds.
Then I decided that it didn't matter if i was seen or not.  it's not like any of them could do anything about it, not this early in the game.  they were probably looking for the same thing i was.
No one hailed me as I walked to the edge, and i passed unremarked as i hoisted myself over the edge and found the indentations with my toes.  i didn't allow myself to look down.  i had already met Senide, and something in my gut told me that others like her would slowly be moving down.  if i fell, i would put myself squarely in their grasp.
I didn't fall.
I made it to the other hallway, and started to walk.  This one was also well lit, with cells on either side, empty and lifeless.  I checked each one as I passed, just to be sure.  I had been surprised once, and that was more than enough.  They were all empty.
There was a doorway at the end of this hall, just as I knew there would be.  Stairs went up and down, and this time I chose to go up.  I didn't care to meet anyone else who wanted to kill me on sight.
I skipped two floors, meeting no one, the quiet comforting.  Then I opened the third floor, the one above the one I had first been on, and closed the door again quickly.  A hallway.  Cells.  Not what I was looking for.  I knew there was something else, something bigger.  Somewhere i belonged more than in the dark hallways that now stood empty.
The next door was locked, and i made a mental note to look and see what was going on the next time I was close to the pit.  The next door held what i was looking for.
I cracked the door open, pressing my eye to the gap and hearing voices.  I did not delude myself that i was the only person who yet knew about the stairways, but i had yet to see another living person on them and the fewer people who knew that they existed the better.  but how else were people traveling between floors?  what was i missing?
there were two men, standing in front of a door that was mere feet away from where i was crouching.  too obviously guards.  their hands were empty, but what else could you expect?  we had no weapons.  Even had i wanted to storm the place, it was two against one.
they were still talking, and I quieted my breathing to listen to what they were saying.
"... just leaving us here like this.  What are we supposed to do if someone comes and tries to take it from us?  claw them to death?"
"'s prolly what he expects.  I'm not going to die for him, are you?"
"Hell no.  Not for him, not for no one.  But..."
"Yeah, I hear you.  Not like we really have much of a choice."
The speakers were two men, one tall and gangly and the other of average height and decidedly ugly features.  they could be anyone, wearing those uniforms.  the same prison blues that i still wore, that we were all issued and that constituted the entirety of our worldly posessions.  i didn't recognize either, but the man furthest from me had that bland look afforded only to the incredibly boring - one of those faces.
what would it possibly be worth to guard, but with only two men who seemed only barely competent?  i was unarmed, but so were they.  and i had just heard them saying that they weren't too thrilled with the idea of dying for whatever boss they had attached to.  there was only one way to get the answers i wanted, and that meant to break out of this secretive, skulking persona i was still considering adopting.
I opened the door fully, noting and appreciating that it opened silently, without a squeak.  The two continued to bicker, and only after I had completely walked into the hallway and stood mere feet from them did they seem to notice my presence.
"Oh, fuck!"
"The fuck did you come from?"
I looked at the wall, but the door had already closed and there was no visible sign of it from this side.  Another thing to keep in mind.
"What's behind that door?" I asked.
Both adopted carefully blank looks.  The tall one was better at it.
"Listen to me, you punks," I said.  "I know you're unarmed, and I'm a lot meaner than you.  What were you in, Cottonwood?  I can tell.  I know you think this boss of yours is the meanest boss you've ever had, but he's peanuts compared to what some of these guys'll do to you.  are you sure, really sure, that this is the one you want to die for?  Because I'd give it some more thought."
The shorter one glared at me and spat on the floor.  "I haven't seen anything better."
"Why anything at all?  Don't have to serve no boss.  Especially not these ones."
The taller one eyed me with those sharp eyes of his.  "Why do you say that?"
I shrugged.  "It just feels like there's a lot of power in one place, is all.  Like we're all going to get torn up in it.  I say we let them fight their own battles.  Why kill each other?  Let the psychos do that!"
"Yeah, but that's all talk," the ugly one said, sullen.  "I'd like to see you try and keep out of it.  I don't know how they do it."
"It doesn't matter how they do it.  What does matter is that you're your own man, and you don't have to listen to a crazy bully.  Tell me what you're guarding."
The smaller one looked like he was about to argue again, but the taller one stopped him.  "Dunno.  Crates.  Boss looked real excited when he found it, and is probably on his way back here right now with some more men.  He found this room and wants to hold it.  Me, personally?  I think it's a food cache.  Probably dozens of them, all over the ship."
"What are you doing?" the other man hissed.  "He's coming right back!"
"Yes, and I'm not going to be here.  He's right.  I've only been here for a few hours, and I don't have any ties to nobody.  Screw him, he can guard the door himself if he wants something."
"Yeah, but..."  He looked around nervously.  "Aren't you going to take anything with you?"
The tall man laughed.  "I may be disloyal, but I ain't stupid.  There's no fucking way I'm going to be here when he comes back.  I advise you to do the same."  He looked at me.  "And I advise you to do the same.  Sure, he doesn't have any weapons, but he sure is... scary."
"All right, quit your teasing!  Who is he?  Who are you working for?"
"Vaughn," he said.
My breath caught.  "Which one?" I whispered.
I could breathe again.  Charlie was ruthless, but at least he acted like a beast.  His brother, on the other hand, was even more inhuman, and didn't even have the good grace to lack civility.
"I'll hurry, then."
"Yes, I believe that would be best."  The man dipped his head and walked briskly away, following his friend who had not waited for him, and the moment he had turned his head his features were dim and blurry in my memory.  He didn't feel any different, at least not like one of them.  And yet there was something about him, including the feeling that I might have met him somewhere before.  I was always so good about faces.
But that was a thought for another time.  If Charlie Vaughn was on his way here, now, I wanted to be out and away before he got anywhere near here.  That meant getting in and out five minutes ago.
The door that the two men had been standing in front of seemed simple enough, and the round door slid easily when I grabbed the handle.  I slipped inside and closed it behind me.  The room was filled with boxes, and it was unlikely that I could have enough forewarning to make a quick getaway - so hiding it would have to be.
If it came down to it.
The room was large but not enormous, which made me agree with the theory put down by the skinny man.  There would have to be more storerooms.  I would have to keep an eye out for them.
Slipping behind the front row of boxes was easy enough, and when i crouched down i was all but hidden from the door.  My knees started to shake a bit earlier than i had hoped for, damn them. I knew i wasn't getting any younger, but this wasn't the time for the whole thing to just give up.
The boxes were vaguely labeled, and were too large for me to take one with me.  they were all sealed with clear tape, and even if i wanted to open one it would have to be louder than I wanted.  I glanced at the door, but it was hidden by a stack of boxes.  quickly, then.  Quickly!
The closest box to me was wooden, spraypainted green.  cheap.  not the kind of box that would keep anything from spoiling, which told me that the food inside was going to be of even lesser quality than i had enjoyed in actual prison.  nothing fresh, for two years?  sure, maybe we had all killed a few people.  Maybe we all did deserve to die, but not like THIS.  Right?  There was some faded picture on the side of the box, yellow and black.  Nothing informative - they could have even been letters in a language i didn't recognize.  not that it mattered now.
One quick slam with the palm of my hand to the side of the box yeilded results.  the wood splintered and a couple of handheld packages spilled out on to the floor.  I immediately reached down and tore one open.  It didn't matter what it was - I was starving.  and it was a good thing, because it tasted disgusting.
i frantically gnawed the object, making some small progress with my back teeth as I scooped as many as i could into the pockets of my pants, in my arms.  i couldn't help but make a sign of my forced entry, but with any luck charlie would blame the vanished guards.
i would have felt some small amount of guilt if it didn't work out so perfectly in my favor.
I left a trail of bars behind me, clattering to the ground as they slipped against each other and out of my grasp.  It didn't matter.  I still had so many that I should be set for days - more than a lot of other people had, i would tell you that.  after a couple of days without finding a boss to take care of you, a lot of these folks would be getting real hungry.  and i wasn't above buying a few alliances.
Food, food, glorius food.  i hummed happily into the processed meal I was holding between my teeth, already feeling the nutrients working their way into my system.  I felt great, and now that i knew that to look for I should have a fantastic advantage in my struggle for my life.
It was all going so well, too well, that I should have known that something was wrong as soon as I opened the door.  But i didn't.  Still humming, having learned that the food was much easier to ingest if you first covered it in lots of saliva, I walked into that hallway like i didn't have a care in the world.
That's when I realized that I wasn't alone in the hallway.
"That's him," said a familiar voice.  To my left were two people, backed by more guards than I could count at first sight.  my right looked much the same, except just the mooks.
I recognized both men. One was the taller of the two I had just told to shove off so I could raid their supplies.  The other was charlie vaughn.
"Hey, stranger," charlie said, grinning a little.  "You seem to match a description of a man who tried to fool a couple of my guards.  There wouldn't be any truth to that, would there?"


I know I'm doing book reviews at the same time I'm posting chapters of my own book, so I wanted to make a little note.

I'm doing this for me.  I'm scared shitless of sharing my work, and I figure this is the best way for me to do it.  I'm not nice about the work of other authors, and I don't want anyone else to be nice to me.  If you think I'm being unfair, I've given you plenty of ammunition to fire back at me, and I welcome your doing so.  Teach me something.  I realize that I don't often capitalize in these chapters, and that there are quite a few misspellings.  I have left them there on purpose.  They are raw words, and they're here to illustrate my belief that even my frenzied rough drafts are better writing than the crap I've been reading lately.  "I can do better than this" is the reason I became a writer in the first place.

Anyway.  Here's chapter three.

Book Review - The Beauty Bride

I read this a couple of days ago and I didn't make any notes while reading, which I now regret.  Oh well.  Sorry!

I remember enough of it anyway.  This book (THE BEAUTY BRIDE - by Claire Delacroix) wasn't nearly as outwardly ludicrous as the one previous, the title and main characters of whom I've already forgotten.  It was so formulaic that you probably needn't bother reading much past the first few chapters, where all of the characters are introduced, but I did anyway.

Sure, it was entertaining.  I read the whole book, didn't I?  But I'm blessed with fast reading speed, and I believe I read the whole thing in one or two sittings.  Even with the entertainment factor, the book was uninspired and the writing tepid, at best.

The narrative follows Madeline and Rhys, one either Irish or Scottish and the other Welsh.  I never could figure out exactly what she was supposed to be, but it didn't really matter too much.  Her hand is auctioned off by her brother, who needs the money for something, and this... Welshman?  Is that a word?  Well, he buys it.  We have an escape from her terrible fate, a near rape, a fairy, her old beloved betrothed coming back, some lies and deception, a near death, a journey by sea, and even a daring rescue from a dungeon.

Thrown in with all of this rollicking adventure are some incredible cliches and plain bad writing.  This woman must have taken an English class sometime in the past, what ever happened to that old rule of using 'said'?  What's wrong with a good old 'said'?  On pages where more then two characters were speaking I was pulled out of the story with all of the instances where a word was used (asked, suggested, queried, etc) that would have been invisible as 'said'.  Another of my largest pet peeves was the usage of the word 'spouse' where she must have meant 'husband', or 'wife', or another other romantic word.  Because honestly, I never refer to my husband as my spouse.  How formal that sounds!  I would write it that way on government forms, not in a romance novel.  She does it so often that it feels stiff and unnatural.

But even if I didn't have these (petty, to be sure, but I am a writer myself so I notice these things) complaints my largest disappointment would have been the plot.  The old betrothed, the one that Madeline remembers so fondly (James), is portrayed in the worst light possible.  Lazy, uncaring, and not even good at his chosen profession.  This is because the new husband (Rhys) really has no chance against any serious competition... he's a traitor, a liar, a coward (running away from her family!  To what end?), almost kills her and even tells her flat out that he'll cheat on her if she can't give him sons (which never really gets resolved, except for her fervent desire to have sons).  I kept expecting each of these revelations to be much more serious than they ended up being.  Relationship ending, huge arguments.  But they both just kinda roll with it, James is dispatched without even a last scene to cushion the blow (he is simply banished from the plot), they dispatch the final bad guy, who is thrown in without warning in the last chapter, and live happily ever after.

Was it worth it?  I would have to say no.  It was confusing, nonsensical, and poorly executed.  Sorry, Claire.  You get good reviews anyway, somehow.

The next book I'm reviewing is going to be... huh.  Well I guess the top selling free book on Amazon right now is a boxed set.  The Sloane Monroe Series Boxed Set, by Cheryl Bradshaw.  Mysteries!  Hardened female investigator!  Join me next Sunday when I'll at least have a review of the first book, BLACK DIAMOND DEATH, by Cheryl Bradshaw.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Caiaphas, ch 2

Like any animal, I had few real desires.  Food, would be the first.  A hole to crawl in and to feel safe in.  A woman, if it was possible.  But unlike any other animal, I had one more need that would be unfulfilled by the puny anmal brain that drove me now.  I needed information.  There were things going on that I didn't know, and that needed to be rectified.  Imminently.
The doors opened with a low rattling, all at once, my cellmates and I freed simultaneously and without a guard over our shoulders for the first time in years.
Most of the men I had served time with on C. had been respectable men.  Liars cheats and theives, sure.  But still men.  The rest of them... weren't really what I would even call men anymore.  Blood did something to you.  I would be the last person in the world to tell you otherwise.  And for some... well, let me just say that I wasn't too anxious to go into that hallway first and find out who some of my cellmates had been.
But I had to.  certain death if I stayed - I knew that, didn't I know that?
So I moved.  My legs screamed at the movement but their protest couldn't hold a flame to my desire to get the hell out of there.  Outside the cell was a hallway, mostly empty but quickly filling with men, and I looked left, right, trying to figure out where to run, where would be the best way for me to discover safety.  where would the food be?
Right.  Every instinct told me to turn right.  The place I hadn't been, the unknown.  My muscles started to twicth as my brain told them to move my body in that direction, but then I felt it.  A pull.  Incredibly strong.  Of course!  I was near the front of the line... everyone who was anybody was behind me.  I needed to avoid the center of the ship at all costs until things settled themselves.  I wasn't about to be pulled into a war that had nothing to do with me.
More and more bodies were piling into the hallway, some standing there stunned, some moving lazily in the direction of the pull.  All of them were in my way.
"Move!" I shouted, and to my surprise the stunned faces registered recogniton.  I started to move, pushing through still bodies, until they began to move away from me.  I felt trapped, claustrophobic.  But no one stopped me, no one challenged me.
I'm sure, that from their point of view, I was the crazy one.  Going back toward where they had put us in, like they had maybe left the door unlocked.
That worked for me.  I added a maniacal grin for emphasis and pushed harder.  "Move, I said!"
They moved.
Once they had parted I could run, and I did so.  Running against the pull.  Running for some reason I had forgotten.  To get away from the masses, to find a hole somewhere.  No one would explore here, because there should be nothing here to see.  But I needed to know for certain.
Soon i had passed them all, and my heavy footsteps sounded heavily against the gleaming walls and the burnished silver floor.  If I really needed to, if I had found nothing else, I could hide myself in one of the empty cells close to the airlock.  I'd rather pry off a plate on the bulkhead with my bare hands to hide behind, first, but I would take what could get in these all too short hours.
Then the cells stopped.  I stopped, too, slowing to a walk.  I had only been running for ahout a minute, not long enough to have covered any real distance, but the pull was less, here, and I heard no sound from those I had just left behind.  It felt almost safe, for the time being.  Almost.
After the cells there was nothing.  The walls of the hallway were unblemished and shining just as brightly as the floors, and I feared that my diversion had been quite useless.  I could easily have made it the other way, I could have!  I would just have had to be careful, that was all.  But now it was too late.  Were they already forming, the factions, the rivalries?  were allegiances being pledged?  it made me sick, all of this posturing.  I knew my place, and I intended to keep it as far away from theirs as possible.
I walked slowly, looking at the walls, the ceiling.  Looking for things hidden.  Things that they could have put right in plain view, knowing that we would be too blinded to see any of it.
At the end of the hallway, where I could see the dead end of a circle cut into the bulkhead, where you could barely see that there was an airlock on the other side, there was an indentation to the left.  An entrance.  I walked toward it as if i was in a dream.
There was no door.  it was just an open doorway, a space that showed a dimly lit staircase, the stairs going both up and down.
My heart pounded in my chest so hard that it was some time before I realized that the ship had long since ceased her convulsions.  I only stared at the steps leading away into darkness, and then looked back the way I had just come.  No one followed me.  No one would be coming this way for some time.  They had felt the pull just as I had, even though they might not have had the sense to avoid it.
There were stairs both up and down.  That could mean anything - where was the storage most likely to be held?  My gut told me down, so down I went.  The moment of my first footfall upon the top stair ignited a light that had been set into the wall, and as I moved slowly downwards the ones ahead of me shone and the ones behind me dimmed.  and it wasn't even hidden!
The next landing had a door that was locked, and no amout of coersion could open it.  I could have used more force, but didn't know what was on the other side.  the last thing i wanted to do was attract attention.  let the Vaughns do that.  Cenide.  The ones that had done those terrible, terrible things that were the only reasons we all knew their names.  There were darker names, too.  The ones I was too afraid even to think, in this darkness.  we were all guilty, here.  there was not an innocent man to be found, not on this ship.  not on the caiaphas.  but some regretted their crimes, and others... others embraced them.  once the factions had begun to form, i might be afraid to walk these dark places of the ship alone.
the next landing opened, but when i stepped into the hallway no lights came on to welcome me.  I could have done it, but i decided to wait.  if i had explored all other options and still hadn't found what i was looking for, i would return.  i knew, rationally, that the floor was probably empty, and it would be a safe place to hide until everything blew over.  if i was afraid to enter it, so should be any person who entered after me.
but there were things on this ship who weren't afraid of the dark.
I closed the door quietly behind me and shuddered.
The next floor, however, was both silent and well lit.  I left the door open a crack and started walking the hallway, this one with no mark on the wall at the end of the hallway.  Just seamless silver wall.  There were no other doorways in the immediate vicinity, so after a few minutes of walking I stopped paying so much attention.  just wall, wall, more wall, cells, nothing.  nothing in the cells, same as the one i had been chained in.  i rubbed my wrists at the thought, feeling their rawness under my fingers.  wasn't it enough that i was still inside of a cell?  why did they have to chain me to the wall?
i would never know.
i knew that there were at least a thousand of us, on this ship.  that had to mean that either the ship was long enough that they only had to use one floor of cells to hold that many prisoners or that the men that had been in these cells were already gone.  i doubted the second - the whole floor had this feeling of emptiness, of disuse, like no living being had inhabited this place lately.  and the first meant that there would be so much space that there would be little need for exploration after the food and the women had been found.  i should be able to find a hiding place easier than i had expected.

it took me a full hour to reach the other side of the ship.  i walked the whole thing, knowing already what i would find and knowing myself unable to resist the call of certain knowlege.  when push came to shove, and the factions had been created and were meeting each other in these very hallways, i wanted to know everything around me.  i would not trust my life to chance, even if there was monotony in making sure.  it took me an hour, but at the end of that time i knew that there was only a staircase on one side of the ship.  the other was a clean metal wall, nothing that could help me in any way.  just cells.
The whole thing was fishy.  i still felt the pull as strongly as I had when I had been in my cell.  I was getting very hungry, and i hadn't seen another human being since i pushed through that wall of humanity to find the staircase.  someone was here, somewhere.  the food would be somewhere.  just nothing was making any amount of sense.  
so i started to walk back.  i'd probably go down another level, just to see what was happening, and then go back up to the level where I had been deposited.  see what was going on and where we were in terms of destroying each other.
walking through the hallway was eerie, by myself.  but i preferred being alone to any other option.  and just as the thought occured, it happened.  the only noise i had heard for hours were my own solitary footsteps and the abnormally loud sound of my breathing, so the instant there was another noise i was on full alert.  breathing, soft but intense.  coming from nearby.  very close.
i slowed, but continued forward.  another person, by themself, could be promising.  a kindred spirit, perhaps, seeking to escape the carnage of adjacent floors.  i wondered if my decision to leave had been the prudent one - i hoped so.
the figure was in one of the cells, to my left.  on the ground, kneeling over, everything obscured except their back and cleanly shaved head, just like my own.  the figure was slender, almost effeminate, and i felt myself respond just in thinking that this person could be a woman.  it had been a long time.  too long, but that didn't give me an excuse to turn my brain off whenever i thought about getting lucky.
i didn't say a word, but i didn't have to.  i wasn't fooling anyone about sneaking around - i was too careless.  the figure was breathing so quietly, so controlled, that my own breathing sounded like i was gasping for air in comparison.  then she stood up.
for once in my life, and certainly since my incarceration, the confirmation that it was a female that i was dealing with came secondary.  the first thing i noticed was that the entire front of her prison uniform, the only thing we would ever own in our two years on the ship, was drenched in blood.  it was dripping off of her, onto the floor, making a dark puddle that reeked of copper and death.  what i had seen as slender looked more like emaciation from this angle, and her eyes were fever bright from the darkness into which they had sunk.  her cheekbones popped out of her face like billboards and her lips and face were dark with drying blood.
she looked at me and my body responded like it had been electrocuted.  i was frozen - if she had desired my death in that moment it would have been hers.  but instead she only looked at me, interested, curious.
"All the way down in the depths by yourself?" she asked me, and my veins filled with ice.
"I was looking..."
"For?" she prompted politely, smiling.
"For food," i said.
she laughed, a pleasant, tinkling sound that would have been enjoyable if it wasn't filled with madness.  "I see!  I just ate."
More blood dripped from her clothes, the droplets landing on the metal with the repititive sound of water on tin.  she seemed to enjoy it.
"I'm... ah, still looking."  I knew her.  I knew her, and i was going to die.
She didn't answer.  the look in her eyes was openly appraising, and my skin crawled where her gaze touched it.
"You're Senide," I blurted, and her eyes crawled lazily back to mine.
"You have the advantage, then."  it could have been a civil introduction, but for the incredible surreality of it all.  should i put out my hand, or would she bite it off if i tried?
"Jack," i said.
she nodded slowly, savoring the information i had just given her.  "Well then, Jack," she said, and her voice caressed my name, "I think you had better run."

Book Review - Prize of my Heart

Okay, so maybe when I said Sunday I meant Tuesday.  Oh well.  But!  I did actually force myself to sit down and read the book (PRIZE OF MY HEART, by Lisa Norato).  What follows is a brief sampling of my thoughts for the first four or so chapters, when I got tired of nitpicking and started to relax into the writing a bit more.

First thoughts: oh, this is a Christian book.  Or at least, the author is.  Not that it's a bad thing, not at all, it's just not my thing.  Anyways.
This man, the main character, is an emotional rollercoaster bordering on the schizophrenic.  He's tortured, he's annoyed, he's admiring and captivated, all within the first few pages.  A completely unreasonable assumption is made that the mysterious maiden in the shipyard is working for the man who's been revealed to be the kidnapper of his only son (Drama!  Intrigue! Soap opera!) and off we go.
She's a pious girl, no surprises there.  I have a long way to go, so I'll spare you the details, but the next chapter ends with the words "like Elijah fleeing the wrath of Queen Jezebel".  The kid has been renamed Drew because it has a D in it, just like David.  Had enough religious references shoved down your throat yet?  I have.
Pistachio Waistcoat.  Just keep that one in mind.  Okay, this actually made laugh out loud - they've been talking about this George character the whole bok up to this point.  No last name, just George.  And then we just got this line, from the male else's POV, "He did not know this George, though the name did ring familiar ".  Really?  Something strikes you familiar about George?  And later, when he wonders if that George is the same one as the man his lady was talking about.  Oh, that George?  You know, I get them all so confused.
The first half of the next section was about the dining room, and the food, and it's all very delicious sounding . Then we are without warning thrust into the point of view of the five year old who speaks about himself in the third person.

I managed to read the whole thing, I really did.  It's not that it's a bad book, really it isn't.  It's formulaic, sure, but what book that I'm going to find at the top spot on Amazon isn't going to be?  It's entertaining.  Too preachy, and I'm not even going to pretend that I read the majority of the last chapter (the one right after the male lead and female lead realize that they want to be together forever) because it was all about the main male character reaffirming his relationship with God.  And like I said, I'm not really into that.
So.  Lame?  Yeah, it was.  Easy to read?  You betcha.  It was kinda like meditation.  Just move your eyes and try not to think too much.  Can I remember the names of the main characters, two days later?  Not in the slightest.  Brody?  Lauren?  Something like that.  Sounds like a success to me.  I read it, didn't I?  If I had paid money for it I would be exceptionally disappointed.  But, I didn't.  So I'm only marginally disappointed.  It just wasn't that good.  It wasn't awful, but why would I give points for being only slightly better than crap?

All right, enough of this nonsense.  The next book I'm reading seems to be...  The Beauty Bride, by Claire Delacroix.  We'll see how that one goes next week, I guess.

Also, next chapter of my own book in progress, coming atcha right after I post this.  Calling it The Caiaphas for now, work in progress.  Blah blah blah, see you some other time that isn't right now.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Caiaphas Chapter One

The first hours are vital.  I know that, everyone knows that.  Everything after these first short hours, I will either live or die based off the decisions made now.  And I am not planning on dying, not now and not anytime soon.  I'm smart, smarter than anyone else here.  I can think on my feet, sound more clever than I am and ingratiate myself to the coldest bastards that ever flew.  I'm going to live.
The cuffs on my wrists drag me down.  My ankles are shackled, and the whole corridor rings with the sound of many chained men.  The Cassius, the damned hellhole that's been my home for these past six years, whose walls are more familiar to me than my childhood shack, bids me farewell in a hallway I've never seen before.  Someone sighs, and the sound rings for a moment within the cold walls.
I'm near the front of the line, thank God, and we stop at yet another bulkhead, the masses shambling to a stop behind me.  When they open this one the sudden light blinds me.  I stop dead, my hands outstretched and feeling nothing.  Someone beside me tells me to move, you idiot, and I stumble forward with my eyes frozen shut, knowing that this is designed to put me off my guard and powerless to stop it.  I barely have time to let the heat sink into the skin of my upturned face when more cold darkness swallows me whole.
I open my eyes, knowing that it's already too late.  We're in the Caiaphas, and precious moments of my first few hours are slipping through my fingers while I frantically try to blink the neon streaks from my vision.
To see the sun after so long, and with no time to enjoy it or even realize what was happening until it was too late…  it was a torture.  An exquisite one.  I resolved to myself that I would try and remember it later, when I have time to worry about something other then my life.
My vision slowly returned to me, revealing silver walls and mottled fleurescents.  No time to wonder what I had missed, what signs had been on the doors we had passed.  What now?  What could I see?
A corridor.  Then a door, coming up ahead, and beyond it a large space.  A giant room, one of many.  Not the cells, not yet, not so soon!  I didn't know where we were, or what part of the ship we were on.  Nothing vital at all!
I quieted my disappointment immediately.  The Caiaphas had been a prison ship for centuries - of course they wouldn't lead us past anything important, and I had been a fool to hope for something that obvious.  Patience and calm would win me the day, as they always had in the past.  Ha, they thought this ship would kill me?  I searched my mouth for enough moisture to darken the metal upon which we walked, but held it as a guard walked by me.
"Don't do anything you'll regret, Jack," he said, and I spat a grin at him instead.
Damn fool.  The place was ours, soon.  Could they stop me then from defacing her?  Why try and assert authority now, when I was so ready to be free again?  They were asking for an open revolt.
The tension in the air was thick.  We outnumbered them, and we all knew that this moment was the last that seperated us from the homewold right outside and a life sentence.  But no one dared to make the first move.  The Caiaphas had been away now for ten years, and many of us had been waiting for her return for much of that time - we were old hands at prison.  We were alive now, still, because we were cautious.
I watched my fellows being unchained and led to their cells, single rooms with transparent doors, where they were rechained and locked in.  I waited my turn, and until the last possible second, to wait if anything broke out.  But there wasn't a sound, not a single whisper of rebellion.  So I was locked in, the door closed behind me, and the line continued to move forward.
The chains on my wrists held strongly when I tested them, so I relaxed.  No point now but to wait, and think, and plan.  No one had ever gotten to this point and come back to tell others, except for the guards, and they told us nothing.  Never would.  There wasn't a hint of corruption on the Caiaphas, and there never had been.  This time, when I went to spit there was no one to stop me.  The liquid landed on the metal floor, and I hated myself for my lack of restraint.  When I would I get water again?  What a waste.
Prisoners shuffled past me, excruciatingly slowly as they were walked one by one into cells.  My arms tired from being held up, and my feet ached from standing.  I became aware of thirst, and of hunger, and of the slow passage of time.  When did the line end?  How far were the cells that men were entering now?  A hundred yards away, a mile?  The ship was huge, but I had never been aboard a thing that had the sheer numbers of this one.  Anything I thought I knew about her was suspect.
Hours passed this way.  Black thirst crawled at my throat, and hunger clawed my belly.  It became readily apparent that, with their only weapon being time itself, they had subdued us.  Rebellion?  Ha!  All I wanted now was for this foul loading to be done with.
I had hoped to know more.  I had hoped to have a plan.  Hell - it's not over yet.  What's stopping me?  My lack of knowledge?  Of course, but that's never stopped me before.  The layout of the ship was ancient.  Three hundred years, before commercial space travel, before the dissolution of the SSA.  What did I know about ships back in that era?  Close to nothing.  But she was meant to be a prison ship, so she must have been built as a prison.  Except this one would be in space, and by the time she got back to Earth everyone on board would be dead.  That didn't help me either.
If I came in one way, where would the food stores be?  Where were we in relation to the bridge, the engines?  There would be rations for us, enough for all hands aboard for ten years.  But they wouldn't help me at all unless I was one of those to get to them first.  Did I have an advantage, here closer to the hull of the ship?  Or was I a casuality, simply because I happened to be one of the first in line?
I knew what would happen, the moment we got underway.  These cells, with their chains and their clear doors, would open, and we would be released.  Those first few hours, after being released, while we were free to run through the ship, would see the formation of gangs.  Dynasties would be formed and toppled and formed again, until equalibrium was found.  Whoever found the food would have the power.  Whoever found the women would gain followers, power, and prestige.
And probably lose their souls in the process.  If any of us still had any to speak of.
The line kept shambling forward, until finally out of sight.  That's when the screams started.  Cries, impotent rage and suffering.  The cells were impertinent but eternal.  The doors would open after launch but we were still prisoners and always would be.  Oh, why find't these fools find this courage before they were locked up?  My arms ache like theirs, but I spend my time deep in thought, not hollering and howling like a beast.
if I could join them... I would.  If I could just, let go like that.  But I can't.  Stay focused, stay strong.  Stay strong, stay alive!
the sounds of chained feet had either ended or were beyond my hearing, and I waited, restless.. Finally, after what felt like years of waiting, an alarm sounded.. It was low and ominous, and ended after three long bursts of sound.  I felt nothing - no movement, no power, nothing being turned off or on.  Since the caravan had moved past us, no-one had walked past a second time.  Maybe they had just gotten to the end?  The last prisoner had been strapped in, and the alarm sounding an all clear?
no.  What a fool I was!  There was a door on the other side.  Two access points!  At least, into ship!  We were alone in the ship, I was sure of that now.  That meant that in a matter of minutes, moments, perhaps already, the course had been plotted.  The ship would take off, assume orbit, and at a predetermined time the Catalans would rocket off, and her randomized course would be set for the next ten years.
That was the extent of the briefing that they had given us.  The pattern was random, so that nobody alive knew where she was at any given moment.  You couldn't be rescued, or saved, because even if someone did care to look for you you were on a loop that was going to take ten years to return to the point of origin.  And in a ship like the Caiaphas... you were never going to find her.  Ever.  You are lost.
Someone started to scream, and I almost followed suit.  An alarm started, insistent, loud, piercing.  Something was happening.  But what?  The bulkhead under my feet began to rumble, slightly, so slightly I wasn't sure if it was really happening or if i was imagining it, and my mind went blank.  I thought I would have a plan by now.  I thought that I would know something.
Think, Jack!  Think!
The food, first.  I would need to find the food.  To know where it was, and to make sure that I carved out a stake of my own before bosses were created from nothing, and the rest of us nothings again.
Then the women.  But we had no idea of where they were, not a whisper.  We were sure they were on board, but where in a massive place like this could they hide a few dozen women?  Anywhere.  If they wanted to stay hidden, and I had a good feeling that the women would want to stay hidden, they would have infinite places to hide.  I could accept that, but only for now.  Just knowing that there existed not one but many females on the same boat stirred my loins, but I knew I needed to quash that particular desire until it didn't interfere directly with my immediate survival.
The food, then feel the air.  Make myself useful.  Find a boss, work for him a while until I got myself a good position.  An honored seat.  Worked inside, should work here too.  I just didn't know who was here yet.
And that threw a spanner in the works, didn't it!  More to my invisible right and left started to scream in tandem with the rolling pitch of the warming engines, but I began to laugh.  I didn't know who was here, but I could guess pretty well.  Only the most vicious criminals ever to roam the galaxy, at least for the past ten years or so.  Only the worst got Caiaphas.  Only because for some, unknown reason, she always came back missing all hands.
Caiaphas was a killer.  Went into deep space with a full complement of the most ruthless scum to captain a tugboat and they always came back dead.  They'd deemed her humane, gave us plenty of food, and water, and even mixing us with women again, like we were decent men, but even so, they wanted us dead by the time she came back around.  The women, too.  All of us, to the last man.
There were three main prisons on Homeworld, Etrention, Corren, and Danovar, and each was separated into precincts.  A man might be in the same prison as a renowned capture but never catch a glimpse of him.  I had been in Corren, myself.  The worst of the three.  But out of the five precincts that the prison had I had only been in the second of five.  I thus knew only a few names of who else I could expect on this voyage, and I doubted that those around me could tell me much more.
 Charles Vaughn, was one.  His brother would be on the ship somewhere, then.  Hugh.  They hadn't been in the same prison, thank the Christ... but there was nothing holding them back, here.  I hoped not too many would get between them and revenge this time around.  Or maybe we all would.  Who else?  Names, nothing but names.  Toofer One, Senide, a man named Vaillant who I had seen only once but whose image had chilled me to the very bone... legends in their own rights.  Too many legends, on such a ship.  I expected nothing more and nothing less than complete and utter chaos.
I could feel them even now.  The weight of them, all of those to whom the rest of us were mere mortals.  But I couldn't entrust my fate to another man to matter who that man was or what kind of legends he bore behind him.
The metal against my wrists clicked once, lightly, and I dropped down to the ground, my dead legs almost completely failing to hold me.  I stood up only by sheer effort, looking across from me and seeing my cellmate writhing on the ground, and I grinned.  It would take more than that to dissuade me.  I knew my course - let me follow it!
With one last, metallic squeal and what felt like the hand of God himself shaking the ship apart, the doors opened.  We were free.

What year is it?

Hey, so...

I'm back.

If there's one thing I've learned in my months away, it's that the 40-hour workweek stifles creativity like nothing else I've ever known.  I've also learned that as a writer I have many more trials ahead of me until I finally write something that I think is any good.  In an attempt to curtail this fear a little bit, I'm going to release chapters of my newest project online, here.  No update schedule, no pressure.  Just putting them online, so I don't have to worry about them.  I'm also looking into local writing groups, which I think will be much more helpful than putting something I've written online, but hey.

Also, in some pretty big news, I've been accepted to Western Oregon University.  I'm really happy that I've done the non-traditional, pave my own way path, but now I want to take the path where I get a degree at the end of it.  Certification is more powerful than I gave it credit for, and I can't learn any more at the comminity college level.  I'm not really being challenged enough.  We'll see how this place is... I know that it's not a big name, not a big university.  Who cares?  WUE, baby!  Hopefully.

Anyway, here's the first chapter of my new book.  I call it The Caiaphas, and it should get pretty interesting, if I can manage to do this thing right.