Okay! I finally got the first book up on the site. It’s over there on that list to the right on the main page. Now people won’t have to go through the hassle of clicking through the LeanPub site, downloading it, and setting it up on whatever eReader they use. I didn’t anticipate that it would even BE a hassle, but now I realize that everyone may not have the technological know-how to drag a file into iTunes.
So there it is! All eighty-one thousand words in one browser page! You’re welcome and Happy Independence Day! I am blessed to live in a land where people are free to write novels and put them up on their sites for a handful of people to read!
6 – Who Knows
Dark, Cougo, Tenny, Darrow, and Jelk stood on the command center of the Nameless.
“Here’s what we’re going to do:” Cougo began, “You’ll give me the bomb, then I’ll ride down the elevator and take it outside. I’ll let you all go after that.”
“But you could just steal our memories again once you’ve left,” Dark said. “We’ll all go down together.”
Cougo tapped his shoe on the ground. “Oh no–I’m not getting in there with him.” He jabbed his finger three times at Tenny. “I know what he can do. He always tries to rush me; I need space!”
Dark sighed. “And you probably won’t let us go down without you, correct?”
“Guys, it’s down to ten minutes!” Darrow pointed out. Cougo pulled at his turtleneck collar.
“Tenny will wait up here;” Cougo said, “we’ll go down and send the elevator back up.”
“That’s fine with me,” Tenny said. Cougo nodded and he, Dark, Darrow, and Jelk walked over to the elevator platform. They all stepped in and rode it down. They slid through a glass passageway where a large, spherical hold could be seen. Webbed nets were stretched along the curved walls. The material was marred with fur and wet stains. A man in a containment suit was hovering amidst the nets; his head encased in a clear dome filled with red gas. He glance over: his eyes and facial features alight with a blue glow.
He was gone as the lift descended to the bottom of the hold and past the floor. It came to a halt outside: at the long plain with the swirling clouds beneath glass. The bottom of the massive sphere was above, with the long shadow of the ship being cast opposite the sun. Cougo stepped out and the rest followed. The elevator zipped upward again, vanishing into the ship.
“Alright, hurry and get it away from here!” Cougo barked.
Darrow was raising his unibrow at the transparent ground he now stood on. Dark took the bomb from his hands.
“I’d like to play a game first,” he said. The bomb was around the four minute mark. “Cocoa, you ready?” He walked with the bomb away from the ship. The others followed a good distance behind him.
“What are you doing?” Cougo asked.
“Yeah, man! Don’t get too far away!” Jelk cried. “He’ll just let us explode with the bomb!”
“No, I don’t think he will,” Dark stated. “He just said that there were rules that he had to follow. One of them is not being allowed to kill us.” He gave the bomb a toss. It shot directly upward, along the vertical side of the ship. As it reached the ankle of the male statue it fell back down again. Cougo ducked and the others gasped. It settled into Dark’s hands again.
“I play ‘fetch’ with Cocoa sometimes,” Dark told them. “It’s different than with a dog, though: he likes to be the one to send things flying both away and back.” He looked over at Cougo. “So here’s what’s going to happen: I’ll tell Cocoa to send this bomb straight up again. If it starts to fall I’ll tell him to send it up some more. And we’ll all be running away from here while that happens.”
“Why are you sending it up?” Cougo asked. “Just send it out that way!” He swept his arm at the empty horizon behind the tall ship. “There’s nothing out there to hit!”
“Cougo,” Dark hummed. “If I do that you could just wipe our memories again. You and your ship would be safe and we’d be none the wiser. But if I send it up, well–“
“He couldn’t make us forget again!” Tenny said. “If he did then you wouldn’t know to tell Cocoa to keep sending the bomb away!”
“And then it would fall back down and kill us!” Jelk finished, slapping his hand in his palm. “Wait, this plan sucks.”
Dark heaved the bomb into the air. “Run!” he shouted.
Darrow, Jelk, and Tenny sprinted off. Dark spun sideways, his feet leaving the ground as he flew across the glassy surface. He kept his eyes in the air, on the bomb as it rocketed higher.
“Oh, you little–“ Cougo called after them. He stretched out his arm, lowered it, then twirled to dash back under the ship.
“You aren’t worth the trouble anyway!” Cougo said. He reached the elevator as it came back down for him. “Go on and run back to that primitive world of yours! It will be even worse once Clance and Elder are done with it!” He raked his sweaty, blond hair back into place as he boarded the lift with a scowl.
Mean walked onto the marble tiling of the main foyer, checking behind the entry doors.
“Hello? Anyone here?” she asked. The inside was lit by wall sconces that were carved from a translucent material. They were formed in the images of cats, bears, and celestial bodies. Two hallways branched off from the main room, and a stairway ascended to a higher landing. Mean noticed a tapestry that bore a message.
“Ring the gong,” Mean said out loud. She walked over to a gong suspended in a wooden frame. The frame was carved to resemble two bears touching paws. Mean picked up a mallet from the floor, testing its weight in her hands. She saw a round spot at the center of the gong and tapped it. There came a low bong followed by a metallic rumble. Mean put her free hand at her chest.
“Oh, that feels weird,” she said as the gong reverberated.
“Someone’s ringin’ my gong!” a voice called from upstairs. A woman strolled out from a room onto the landing. She wore sweat pants and a loose shirt dotted with brown. Tipping her head down at Mean, she touched the rim of her cowboy hat.
“You’re not–“ she gasped. “Hey! You’re new!” She ran to the top of the stairway and hopped on the polished, brass railing. Yanking the hat from her head, she swung it in the air as she slid down to the bottom. With a whoop she planted her thick legs on the floor.
“I’m Diva Beebee!” she sang over at Mean.
“Uh, wow,” Mean said with raised brows. “I’m, um–Mean Lavir!” she called out, putting false drama into her voice.
Beebee laughed on her way over to the gong. “Our names have the same sounds!” she said. When she was arm’s reach from Mean she took the cowboy hat off her head, flipped it around, and lowered it onto Mean’s head. The rim fell over her eyes. She tipped it up.
“Thanks? This is like a million times too big for me, though.”
“Sorry,” Beebee said. “So where did you come from? Those clothes aren’t from my world. You didn’t come from Shirka’s place, did you?”
“Shirka?” Mean repeated. “That’s her real name? We just call her Hellzoo.”
Beebee frowned. “Yeah.” Her voice lowered to a whisper. “She isn’t always a nice person.”
“I didn’t enjoy reliving every horrible thing I’ve done in my life, no,” Mean growled. Beebee’s frown deepened even more.
“Let’s get you some cookies or something,” she said.
“Alright,” Mean affirmed. “But I really need to get back. There was someone else that was kidnapped, too. Have you seen a guy in a prison uniform?”
“I’ve been in my world for the past night,” Beebee said. She returned to the stairway, beckoning Mean up after her. “If he’s been caught by one of the others they probably won’t want to give him back.” She bounded up the stairs, shaking her hips to an unknown beat as she went.
Mean followed her up to the landing. A there was open, leading into a room that smelled of cinnamon rolls. There were mannequins standing at the corners, all garbed in dresses with frills and bright colors. There was a wide, wooden dressing table near an open balcony. The other walls of the castle rose beyond it, pointing up at the black sky with conical towers and staggered parapets.
“Why won’t they give him back?” Mean asked. She took off the cowboy hat and placed it on one of the mannequin’s heads. It had sharp features carved into its face. “Are you going to keep me here, too?”
Beebee sat on a love seat facing a short table. A pan lined with cinnamon rolls sat upon it. There was also a plate with a half-eaten one. “I don’t do things like they do,” she said. “You can sit down and have something to eat–then you can leave or do whatever you want.” She picked up the roll and took a large bite.
“If you say so,” Mean said. “I was told that everyone here would try to mistreat me, though.” She went and sat on a chair on the other side of the table.
“Shirka was just trying to scare you,” Beebee sighed. “She’s been through a lot, though. Everyone here has.”
“Uh huh,” Mean uttered. She reached over and worked out a roll with her small fingers. A fork and sharp knife were resting on an empty space in the pan. Mean looked at the dressing table behind Beebee: more carved heads were there, all topped with varying styles of cowboy hats. Makeup and jewelry boxes sat scattered across the surface, along with a few adjustable mirrors. Mean held the roll up, focusing past it to spy at one of the dresser drawers. With a thought it began to slide outward.
“Oh, you should be able to eat these,” Beebee offered. “And they’re not poisoned or anything. See–? I’m eating them too.”
Mean lowered her gaze; she couldn’t see what was in the open drawer from her position. She took a bite from the roll.
“Mfph, it’s good,” she said between bites.
“Thanks!” Beebee said. She rocked in her seat, smiling. “It’s one of the only things I can say I’m proud of!”
Mean chuckled and nodded. As Beebee reached down to cut more pieces from her roll, Mean watched one of the mirrors on the dresser behind her. Its angle displayed a clear view of the back of Beebee’s head. Her brown hair had been styled and curled from the ears down, leaving the hair above that pressed flat to her head. Mean gave the mirror a gentle push with her magic and the reflection tilted to reveal the back of the loveseat and part of the floor. She pushed it again. It swiveled to face the drawer and the pointed knives set inside it. The handles were fat and the blades were triangular and sharp. Mean shuddered, glancing off at the balcony.
“Is everything all right?” Beebee asked.
A loud bang struck the room; Beebee twirled in her seat; Mean flinched, tossing the pan of rolls at her. Beebee yelped as the metal smacked her cheek.
Mean bolted out of her chair and zipped out the balcony door, leaving Beebee to cry out “Ow! Ow!”
There was a chessboard with carved game pieces that Mean brushed past on her way out; the chiseled pawns, knights, and bishops scattered. She hovered over the courtyard, rising to get a look past the walls. A blob of smoke was lit in the black sky, far above a tall object in the distance.
“Gracious, what is Cougo doing over there?” a man near the factory asked. He was reclined at the back of an inflatable raft that hovered above the glass plain. His face beamed with a teal glow. He had orange, horizontal stripes for eyebrows and more stripes of the same color streaking across the dome of his head. “Fetch me the spyglass, please.”
A woman in a containment suit reached into a chest with her thick gloves. A red vapor filled the clear bubble that encompassed her head, and her features glowed through the mist. “Here you go, Pladomir, sir,” she said.
“Thank you much,” Pladomir told her. He retrieved a compact telescope from her, unfolded it, and put it to his bright, yellow eye. Through it he witnessed the fading cloud hanging over the Nameless.
“Are they firing munitions?” he wondered aloud. As he said it an alarm blared from the factory. The coloring on the smokestacks twirled. “And now someone on the property.”
He arched his orange brow and scanned the horizon with the spyglass, passing over Shirka’s small house and Beebee’s castle. At last he settled on Mean’s small figure: her legs dangling beneath her as she floated with the roll in her mouth. She had her eyes on the distant cloud of smoke.
“Unbelievable,” Pladomir said. “I would have thought that Shirka could go one hour before losing someone. Nevertheless, she had made the mistake. Let us retrieve her, post haste.”
Super Quick Draft Notes:
– Did you notice that after Tenny was left behind in the control room he suddenly appeared with the group when everyone got down to the bottom? First draft shenanigans at their best!
See, I had no idea how Dark and the others were going to escape. First I just thought I could have Cougo get so annoyed with them that he would kick them out. But that felt so disappointing, even for a first draft. Then I was trying to come up with some kind of puzzle, like the goat, wolf, and cabbages story. What, you haven’t heard that story? Well sit back and enjoy!
A man is trying to cross a river with his cargo: a wolf, a goat, and some cabbages. His rowboat only has enough room for him and one other thing. If he tries to take the cabbages across first, then the wolf will eat the goat when he leaves them behind. If he tries to take the wolf across, then the goat will eat the cabbages. As you can see, this scenario is obviously too thrilling to waste on book three. Look forward to it in the grand finale of book four.
So after I changed my mind a THIRD time I came up with the idea of playing fetch with the bomb. I like the idea of having “insurance” against Cougo’s memory-stealing ability; this is probably what I’m going to go with. Besides, having a giant explosion that other characters can see from far away will help tie the narrative together. (Explosions are almost always good for the story.)
– “Beebee” is yet another name I assigned five seconds before I had to write it down. I’ve used that name for my troll hunter in World of Warcraft. Come to think of it, I always loved the way the admiral’s hat looked on my troll. Maybe I’ll put it in the story, too.
– Matt, you suggested I use the name “Pladomir” and here it is! Nice job, you rascal!
– Oh, you wanted to know the answer to the puzzle? Better hang on to your butts:
The goat is taken across first since the wolf won’t eat the cabbages. The goat is left on the other shore while the farmer goes back. He picks up the wolf and takes it across to the goat. BUT–! He picks up the goat again, leaving the wolf. Then he crosses back and leaves the goat on the first shore while picking up the cabbages. He takes them to the shore with the wolf and leaves the two there. Then he goes and brings the goat over a second time to unite them all again! Wasn’t that exciting?