Guess what I got my brother for his birthday!? I printed out all of Abandonment Party for him! Ha,ha,ha, who needs publishers, right? All I needed was a printer and two hundred pages of paper with holes pre-punched in the margins. Don’t worry–I got him REAL presents, too. It’s just that he said he won’t read my book in digital form. It hurts his eyes or something and he’s been begging me for a physical copy.
Which reminds me: I should put up the first book on the side margin over there. It seems that people I know are STILL too lazy to download it from Leanpub. For FREE. I even talked about it with my Grandma Smith and Aunt last week. They didn’t even want to read it! They wanted to wait for the movie! Can you believe that? Or have it read to them out loud. Guys! Words are beautiful! And punctuation, too. This is a work of art meant to be experienced in its written form!
But hey, let’s switch it around, huh? How about a film? Why watch Alien on a screen when we can just read the screenplay instead! Let’s try it:
"A L I E N" FADE IN SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE: INT. ENGINE ROOM Empty, cavernous. INT. ENGINE CUBICLE Circular, jammed with instruments. All of them idle. Console chairs for two. Empty. INT. OILY CORRIDOR - "C" LEVEL Long, dark. Empty. Turbos throbbing. No other movement. INT. CORRIDOR - "A" LEVEL Long, empty.
Wow, it must be so dull to be a screenplay writer. “Sometime in the future?” I guess you’re not allowed to add detail to your work when you can just get hundreds of special effects guys, sound effects crews, and actors to do it all for you. Hm, let’s see what the sequel looks like:
ALIENS FADE IN SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE - SPACE 1 Silent and endless. The stars shine like the love of God...cold and remote. Against them drifts a tiny chip of technology. CLOSER SHOT It is the NARCISSUS, lifeboat of the ill-fated star-freighter Nostromo. Without interior or running lights it seems devoid of life. The PING of a RANGING RADAR grows louder, closer. A shadow engulfs the Narcissus. Searchlights flash on, playing over the tiny ship, as a MASSIVE DARK HULL descends toward it.
Hey, that one’s a little better! And it even has some theological commentary. What a bonus. Maybe I was a bit too harsh on my grandma; perhaps works of art CAN be enjoyed in mediums other than the one that the artist intended. Alright, it’s settled! If I’m offered thousands of dollars to make a film I WILL think about it.
4 – Freedom
Mean, in her pink ‘King’s Fair’ T-shirt, sat on the floor of her room. It was tiny and the carpet was worn. Her bed was extended from a gap in the wall and it ran beneath a bright window. A wide planter was attached to the sill, and a tangle of crooked stalks stretched out to the sun. Several steel struts could be seen criss-crossing into the side of a sheer cliff. The woman with the circle strapped to her eye went over and sat on the bed.
“Look at all this,” she said down at Mean. “Your father paid for all this. That’s nice. That’s nice of him to do.” She flattened out a wrinkle on the leopard-print sheets. “Of course you just threw it all back in his face, didn’t you?”
Mean turned away from her and stared at the other wall. A poster of Lord Ley Tecker hung there. He was shaking hands with Lord Ley Vail, with stars and a planet as the backdrop.
“Right, you left for my world,” Shirka said. She stood up, leaving flecks of rust on the bed. “Dear Hatchel must have been so lonely; first his wife dies and then you leave him here by himself.”
“Shut up,” Mean said. “He’s fine with it.” Shirka paced beside her.
“I don’t think you believe that. I know you don’t; I wouldn’t be able to see it if you didn’t feel guilt. Oh, he can deal with death, sure: After all, dying wasn’t really her choice. But you? You make a decision to leave him behind. ‘See ya! Here, you can take care of these plants!’ I’m glad I can’t have a daughter like you.”
Mean sniffled. She got up.
“Well if I’m so rotten how about you just let me go?”
Shirka pulled her wide-brimmed hat down over one side of her face. “But this is your room.”
“No!” Mean said. “It’s a lie!” She kicked one foot and it swished through the bed.
“Ah, no, no, no,” Shirka laughed. “I don’t think you want to see what things look like without my illusions.”
“Try me,” Mean shot back. “Because I’d rather be anywhere else.”
Shirka turned away from her, smiling beneath the brim of her hat. “Alright,” she hummed. “If you say so.”
The poster with Tecker and Vail split apart; the wall opened as a door. Mean looked out at the starry sky and the weeping, red sun. The clouds flowed beneath the glass floor. The factory with the colored smokestacks stood small on its spot on the plain.
“What? That isn’t real,” Mean said.
“Go on out and see,” Shirka told her. “Kick it all you want. This is where we were left.”
Mean inched over to the hole in the wall. There was a wooden porch outside, but the rest of the ground was a twisting whirl of colored smoke.
“You remember it, right?” Shirka asked. “You saw it when I tried to bring you though. Before you broke my avatar.” Mean stepped out onto the porch. The wood squeaked against her shoes. She looked back at Shirka and the bright window behind her.
“No, go on, I won’t stop you,” she said. “There’s nothing for you to do out there anyway. It’s just endless space–no water, food, or anything else. My siblings are out there too, of course. You remember them from the jail? I suppose I should warn you: they’re allowed to keep anyone they find wandering around.” She took off her hat and set it against her chest. “I don’t think I have explain what that means.”
Mean scanned the horizon, seeing other isolated buildings far off.
“This nightmare is my home,” Shirka said. “Go give it a whirl if you want. But I know you’ll come back here. You’ll come back to me.”
Mean kicked off from the porch and flew away.
The bed and the window vanished; the carpet and the details of the room flattened out into a bland, blue surface. A door labeled “SUIT EXTRACTION” shut tight, shutting out the night outside. Shirka turned away from the viewing port in the ceiling.
“Calm, has the ship docked?”
She spoke to a woman with thin legs and dirty pads on her knees. Her hair was wound into a bun on top of her head. Decorative loops were pierced into her brow and ears, and they held a transparent veil against her face.
“Yep,” she said.
“Where is everyone?” Shirka asked.
A loose chain hung at Calm’s shorts. She took one end and held it out. Images appeared at the round links in the chain: three men and two women.
“Cougo’s on his ship,” Clam said. “Clance is heading back to his angle.” She swayed as she talked, and the chain swayed with her. “Dashia is still on your world. The rest are all in their angles.” She dropped the chain and it swished past her kneepad, clanging.
Shirka tapped her fingers on the edge of the viewing port. “Good. Go to the Nameless. Make absolutely sure that Elder stayed behind!”
“Got it,” Calm said.
Dark fingered the hem of his triangular poncho. “Where did I get this?” he asked.
“How did we even get in this room!?” Jelk cried. He still sat in the captain’s chair of the Nameless command center. The wrap-around monitor was blank. Darrow was sniffing up the blood dripping down his nose. Tenny knelt down to take a look.
With a sudden whir a cylindrical lift rose into the room from the floor. Cougo was inside and he rushed out at once.
“Oh, there you are!” he called out to Dark. “Well, how did it go? Where you able to find a way out?”
Dark let the fabric of the poncho slip from his hand. He looked up at him. “Ah, I’m sorry? I don’t know–”
Cougo gasped, showing off his flat teeth. “It happened, didn’t it? Cougo got you.”
“Cougo?” Tenny repeated. Cougo nodded, letting his hand slip off his mouth after a moment.
“He’s the one that runs this place. I’m Captain Zack. We met up on the crew quarters.”
“Well, Zack,” Dark began, “I don’t think any of us know what’s going on.”
Cougo frowned. “I knew we shouldn’t have split up. Cougo is a psychic: he can do terrible things to the mind. None of you really remember anything, do you?”
“I don’t remember meeting anyone,” Tenny said. “Are you captain of this ship? Are you the one that attacked our world with it?”
“I’m sorry!” Cougo pleaded, keeping his distance. “He forced us to! We didn’t even know we were doing it! But then–!” He smiled at Dark. “I met you guys! Dark, you got me out of that cell. I agreed to pay you back by helping you save your friend Mean.”
“What!?” Dark said. “Mean? Do you know where she is?”
Cougo held up a finger. “I think I might.”
“Wait,” Tenny said. “Dark, we don’t know this guy. He attacked the pyramid! He could have kidnapped her in the first place!”
“So he might really know where she is,” Dark said. “And I sure don’t know where to look.”
Jelk squirmed in the captain’s chair. Darrow wiped some dried blood from his lip.
“But first we need to get out of here,” Cougo said. “He keeps the door leading out sealed.” With a raised eyebrow, he tipped forward a bit. “If you could tell me how you got on in the first place, it might give us a way back out.”
Darrow cleared his throat. “We got in through a hole one of those bombs made.”
Cougo frowned again. “You did? Those are supposed to seal themselves. How did you get up in time?” He pulled at the collar of his turtleneck with his finger. As he did so, Tenny spied something on the back of his jacket sleeve: several spatters of blood.
“Darrow, don’t tell him anything else; he’s the one that hit you!” Tenny said.
“What?” Cougo gasped. Tenny pointed at the sleeve of his patched-up jacket.
“There’s blood on your sleeve and it’s fresh,” Tenny announced. “You hit him! You’re probably Cougo!”
Dark muttered and Darrow shrunk back. Jelk stayed in his seat, watching.
“I didn’t notice,” Cougo said, twisting him arm around to have a look. The blood was splashed right below a plaid patch. “Well, I guess I won’t hit him next time.”
“So you are Cougo?” Dark asked. Cougo clapped his large hands together.
“Yes! Congrats! You figured it out!” he bellowed. “And can you tell me why that doesn’t matter? Hm?” He looked over at Dark. “It’s usually you that gets it. It’s because–“ He hung on the words, towering over Dark. “Because I’m the one–?”
“You’re Hellzoo!” Darrow spat out.
“No! What?” Cougo said. “You see? You see why I hit you? Every time you say the stupidest things! Every time you’re like ‘Oh man. Did I miss something?’ You’re such a moron.”
“He’s the one from the fair,” Dark said. “He’s the one that took Vornis’ memories during the fight.”
“And you always try to sound so serious and smart,” Cougo told Dark. “But all I have to do is mention that woman and you’re ready to lap up anything I come up with.”
Darrow opened his mouth to say something but Cougo hushed him. “Please. Please just stop. I’ve heard everything you’re all going to say. ‘He took our memories! That’s why we can’t remember!’ We’ve been through this like a million times.” He began to shimmy out of his jacket. “Now I’m just going to hide this so you don’t see the blood, and then we’ll start over. You’ll be wondering how you got here and I’ll come in and make up some more crap for you to swallow.” He swept off his jacket, folding it across his arm. “Or do you want to save me some time? Tell me how you got on the ship? Darrow, want to spit something out? No?”
Tenny bounded at Cougo; Cougo took a wary step back. Tenny halted, his shoes skidding.
“What? How did I get here?” he asked. He looked up at Cougo. He turned back to Dark and Darrow.
“You’re the only one that tries to attack me,” Cougo chuckled. “But without motive you’re quite passive. Try it again and I’ll take so much you won’t even remember who you are.”
“Tenny, get away from him,” Dark said. “We’re in trouble.”
Tenny obeyed, keeping an eye on the tall man.
“And how about you, Jelk?” Cougo asked. “You always sit in that chair. Even after you find out what I’ve done you don’t make any move to help the others. What would it take, hm?” He winked at him and Jelk saw a towering pillar in his mind. Wires and fat cables carried fuel and power into it. A crowd was gathered at its base. A man in a uniform and hat with four points stood on a stage. He spoke to the mass of people, swinging his arm up at the cylinder: the name FREEDOM painted across the curved surface.
“They were going to use that ship to attack me,” Cougo began. “They wanted to take their world back. Start a rebellion. But I knew about it; I let them finish. Now look! Now look what I have! It’s all mine!” He tapped his shoe on the floor. “Now those idiots all work for me; they don’t even remember what planet they’re from. I fill them with wonderful memories and they get up every morning, happy to be my slaves.”
“They worked on that for years!” Jelk said. He clapped his hands on the armrests and yanked himself up. “They built all of this and you took all the credit! I should–!” Jelk swished his arm, swished it back, then dropped it. “Eh, why was I saying that? What’s going on?”
Cougo giggled, holding his jacket over his mouth. Tenny advanced upon him again, stumbling as the confused expression crossed his face. Cougo fell backward, laughing as he landed on his rear.
“Whoa, what is going on here?” Tenny asked with a raised eyebrow. Cougo paused, glanced at his puzzled eyes, and resumed his guffawing.
The lift sticking out of the floor lowered back down. “Stay right there,” Cougo told them, regaining his composure and standing again. The lift rose again and there stood a woman with thin legs, arms, and a veil at her face. She looked from Tenny on over to Darrow, swiveling her head in a repetitive motion.
“Some people got on the ship,” Calm stated. “Elder won’t like that.”
“I know; I’m handling it,” Cougo told her. He strode to the back of the room, leaning against the lift with his arm. “Why don’t you go play with Slaberdashia’s mutts? She isn’t here to chase you off this time.”
Calm smiled and closed her eyes. She tipped her face up to him. “I wanted to come see you.”
As they talked Dark stepped over to the captain’s chair. He stood next to Jelk, putting the high chair back between him and Cougo. He beckoned Darrow and Tenny over.
“We need to figure out something fast. Jelk, what’s in your backpack?”
“What’s going on?” Tenny asked again.
“Cougo, that guy, he’s the one from the fair that was shifting memories between people. We don’t remember how we got here. You were about to punch him but he stole your memory again.”
“Looks like we have some paper, some cloth, some food, and some ink markers.” Jelk said. “Apparently we swiped some little kid’s art supplies.” He dug deeper into the bag, hit something, nodded, and lifted out a sphere with wires attached to a watch. “Aaand it looks like I finished that bomb I was going to make.”
“Oh, there’s my watch,” Darrow said.
“You’ve had a bomb this whole time?” Dark asked. “Is it armed?”
“I don’t think so,” Jelk said. The face was digital, and there were small buttons labeled from zero to nine. He handed it to Darrow and kept fishing through the pack. “I’d probably set it with a four-digit code. Type one in and see what happens.”
Darrow took the bomb. He tapped in some numbers as Dark made a groan of protest.
“It says set time,” Darrow said. Jelk smiled to himself.
“Set it to thirty minutes or something,” Jelk suggested with a smirk. “We’ll teach this guy to mess with us.”
“We can’t go setting off bombs!” Dark said. “We need a plan! We have to outsmart him!” He reached for the backpack and pulled out one of the markers. “I’m going to write a message on my arm.”
He lifted his left arm out from beneath his poncho and pulled off the marker cap. Tenny took out a marker and wrote on his hand. Darrow set the bomb for thirty minutes. Jelk took a bite out of a cracker.
“What are those morons doing now?” Cougo asked. “Did they get the bomb out?” He hissed through his flat teeth and stepped into the lift with Calm. “Come on, let’s reset.”
They dipped beneath the command center and the roof of the lift drew flush with the floor, hiding them from sight. Cougo watched a small panel monitor that had Dark, Darrow, Jelk, and Tenny on display. He tossed his jacket off the lift and into a basket. Darrow coughed and the bomb slipped. Cougo gripped the rail, bracing himself.
“Oh man, did I miss something?” Darrow said, retaining his hold on the sphere.
“And why am I writing on my hand?” Tenny asked. Jelk sputtered, choking on the cracker.
“Where’d this poncho come from?” Dark wondered. He lifted his arm. “And what’s COOGOISTHEO?”
“That’s a bomb!” Jelk finally got out.
Calm watched the four panic. “Will you let them explode?” she asked.
“Sain had a fit when just the outside got damaged; I can’t let them destroy the main bridge!” Cougo said. “I just need to see what code that idiot used.” He closed his eyes. “Okay, he took the bomb and he pressed four numbers. And those numbers are–“
He snapped his eyes open. “I don’t know what they are! How can I not know what numbers he used!?”
“You took his memory, right?” Calm asked.
“Of course I did; he just now set it!” Cougo spat out. “I see him taking the bomb! He punches in something! But–!” Cougo grit his teeth. “I just don’t see it! What did he do, forget what numbers he used two seconds after he did it!? How can anyone’s memory be that bad!?”
Calm stepped out of the lift, bowing. “I think I will go play with the doggies,” she said.
SUPER-QUICK FIRST DRAFT NOTES:
– My parade of terrible chapter titles continues! I just threw the word “freedom” up there because hey––why not? Later, I needed a name for the ship that Cougo stole from his world. POW! “Freedom!” Kind of like that corny “HOPE” that Bulma writes on the side of Trunks’ time machine.
Now I’m almost sure that I’m the first one to ever think of naming a ship “Freedom,” but let me check Wikipedia just to be sure. Uh, it’s telling me that there is a ship called the USS Freedom, of the Freedom class combat ships. Crap.
– The fantasy illusion of Mean’s room and the guilt she feels toward her father is probably something that I have in common with her. Don’t worry, though! I’m sure my dad will read this story someday and come to realize the dilemma I faced. Why state your feelings in person when you can just project them into a story, right? Happy Father’s Day!
– The girl with the veil was in the epilogue of book two, but I just now thought of a name for her. Of course I’ve already managed to misspell her name as “Clam” at least five times.
– This scene with Cougo erasing everyone’s memories over and over has been in my mind for a long time now. And of course EVERYTHING about it changed as soon as I sat down to write it. It still needs a lot of work. For instance, at no point did I explain that Dark or whoever needs to consciously bring up a memory before Cougo can mess with it. If he could just take any memory in their head then he wouldn’t need to ask how they got on the ship. But I didn’t tell you that and this is first draft, so pffff. Go watch the Star Trek episode “Clues” if you want a memory loss story with zero loopholes.
Here, have a fan-made trailer for the episode blaring with overly-dramatic music:
“Who gave you that order?”
“YOU DID, SIR.”