Identity is the theme for today’s Discover Challenge, and I think it’s a great prompt, falling neatly into line with the rest of the challenges that have been pushing this cyberstory about Neeka forward.
The prompt says, in part:
Consider this bit from an older post from author Alexander Chee on being “Asian American”:
I just wanted to write stories as complicated as the people I knew, who were pretty complicated. I wanted, when I started all of this, to write books like the ones I found in the library when I was a child in Maine who was made to feel out of place everywhere he went for being neither of one culture nor the other. That is the only thing I ever wanted to do. I didn’t want to be a senator from the state of Half Asian or Korean American.
As a white American woman, I know my experience growing up with a “city” mother and a “country” father and so two sets of vastly different cousins can’t begin to compare with growing up caught between two cultures. But as a writer, I can certainly relate to wanting to write stories “as complicated as the people I knew, … [stories] like the ones I found in the library when I was a child ….” It’s why I enjoy these prompts, which allow me to practice and to stretch my writing muscles as I apply them to my characters.
We — and I do mean both you as readers, and me as the author, since as I’ve talked about before, I’m writing this all on the fly with no idea where it’s going to take me — we’ve already learned quite a bit in these few scenes about Neeka Delgado herself. But who is this guy who just showed up at the end of the big race? I decided to try to find out.
I’ve reposted a bit of the ending of the last scene (with a few edits), and the new stuff is after the stars. Enjoy!
But while she pushed her quad to its limits, the actual finish line loomed large ahead of them, and to her deep dismay, the other quadcopter crossed it first, just before she caught up.
Now it was her turn to swear, but she bit her lip to keep from speaking aloud while she flew her quad at a less breakneck pace back to the starting line. She moved over toward the wall for some privacy.
As she landed the quad on the ground in front of her her, she blinked off her virtual monitors and knelt in silence to start disassembling it to fit in her carrying case. The announcer was gushing over the winner, and the final crystal obstacle, and the entire race, and the racers who hadn’t flown their quads back to the start were heading out to pick up the pieces.
A shadow fell across her gear as someone stepped in front of her, and Neeka looked up in annoyance. It was a winner-take-all race, so she had no reason to stick around for a consolation prize; she just wanted to take her bruised ego back to her neighborhood dive bar and get a couple consolation drinks in before she had to sleep, and then drag her butt to work in the morning.
“Nice race,” he said, extending his hand to shake hers.
+ + + +
She looked up at the interloper, automatically running a cursory scan with her cybernetic eye while she took in the details of the man standing before her. He was human, Asian descent, black hair with green tips, cybernetic left arm to the shoulder, about her age. Her scan revealed a heartbeat that was just beginning to slow in the same way Neeka knew her own heart was, now that the adrenaline was leaving her system.
Neeka shook her head as she continued to pack her things. “Not as nice as I would have liked,” she said coolly. She made no move to shake his hand as she finished and stood, sliding the strap of the briefcase-sized pack over her head to wear across her body.
“I hear ya. I’m Tolo. And you are…?” he ventured again, smiling, and Neeka glanced around, trying to gauge how quick an exit the crowd was expected to make. This was an illegal race at a functioning, albeit closed for the evening, shopping mall, and even if their security had been paid off, she doubted the Corp patrol in this sector had.
“Leaving,” she said dismissively, looking to slip out with the spectators heading out a side entrance. “Shouldn’t you go get your shrap?” she asked, referring to the ‘shrapnel’ that his quad must be in out on the racetrack, since he was obviously a racer but was here bothering her instead of packing up a functioning UAV.
Now he grinned and walked alongside her toward the exit. “Oh, naw, my buddy’s packing her up over there,” he said, nodding his head over toward the broadcast area where a small group had gathered to gawk at an elven guy packing up a quad Neeka recognized, and not just from the gaudy ribbon now pinned to a rotor.
That made her stop in her tracks, while Tolo kept grinning at her and stopped beside her. “You’re…”
“CrashHavok, but my friends call me Tolo, yeah,” he said, extending his hand again. “And you’re Drac0Fyre.” She narrowed her eyes at him, and he snickered. “Hey, I recognized your quad too. I was following it most of the race. You’re an amazing pilot.”
She was annoyed at him for having won the race out from under her, and then for pestering her while he had the advantage of knowing who she was while she was in the dark. But she had to admit, she was curious about this guy. “Thanks,” she finally said, meeting Tolo’s gaze again. He had impressively bright green eyes, enhanced to match his hair, she thought.
“You’re not bad yourself,” she continued, glancing back to the table where his friend had finished packing up and was looking expectantly over at them. “And you’ve got a roadie?” she asked, arching an eyebrow at him.
“Nah, wingman,” he smirked, a quirk of his lips that easily melted back into a genuine smile. “So, one more time… I’m Tolo, and you’re…?”
“Neeka,” she said, finally extending her hand to shake his. “Nice to meet you. And congratulations,” she remembered to say, trying to convince herself that she meant it. The prize money he’d won away from her would have paid for some nice upgrades for her quad.
“Thanks. So now that that’s out of the way, the next hard part — do you want to grab a drink with me? My treat, of course.”
Neeka had been irritated at his presumption earlier, but his slight bravado and forthrightness was beginning to charm her, she found herself thinking. She decided to try some of her own. “Without that reverse at the end, I would have beaten you, I think,” she said, watching him carefully.
“I don’t think, I know,” Tolo replied easily. “You’ll have to show me how you’re reducing the drag on your front rotors — I really didn’t think I was going to catch you. But then you gave me a split-second warning about the reverse, and I nearly fried my motor trying to keep ahead of you.”
It was refreshing to talk to another racer, and not only that, but one who wasn’t an arrogant jerk about winning, so Neeka made up her mind. “All right. I can stay out a little while longer. Where’d you have in mind?”
Tolo smiled at her again, turned back to his friend and gave him a quick thumbs-up that he didn’t even try to hide from her, and then faced her again. Neeka saw the elven guy roll his eyes even from this distance, but then he headed off into the crowd that was leaving through the west gate, carrying Tolo’s equipment.
“I’m up for anything,” he said. “Where would you like to go?”
Continue the tale in the next chapter, Tuesday Discover Challenge: Obstacles…
This post is copyright © Jamie Lyn Weigt. All rights reserved. Please do not share without credit and a direct link back to this post and my site, writingdragonsblog.com.