I switched up my days for posting this because yesterday the Writing Thoughts post just had to be written and wouldn’t leave me alone, so I hope you forgive me. This week’s Discover Challenge theme is, appropriately, Apology:
Apologies — giving them, receiving them, accepting them, withholding them — are powerful …. They’re moments of vulnerability, of profound connection with another person of the sort that doesn’t happen every day, of transformation. There’s risk, and hopefully reward (although not always!). In short, apologies have the kind of drama and catharsis that make for great posts.
I agree with this assessment of how powerful an apology can be in a work of fiction, but unfortunately, after much thought on the direction I’m moving in this story, there isn’t much need for a big apology scene right now.
However, as the last scene ended, Neeka and the ork merc were heading into her apartment to chat, and it might be cheating, but I do open with a quick “sorry,” although not quite in the apologetic sense the WordPress people were getting at above. It’s super quick and not even really relevant to the plot, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers, right? I’m just glad I was able to complete this chapter and move the story forward!
Because I’m posting these somewhat haphazardly and out of order, here’s a quick recap of what’s happened so far with links to read the story “in order” as best as you can, for a first draft that’s being worked out as I go…
- There are some vignettes from Neeka’s childhood and early adulthood that give you some backstory on her character.
- Neeka attended a UAV race at a huge mall that was closed for the night, and came in second.
- She met the guy who came in first, they had a chat, and then they decided to go walkabout.
- They ended up in a closed hotel water park and chatted some more. (Here’s the beginning of this scene written in a weird Screenplay format I was trying for a “risk.”)
- (Apparently, they turned on one of the slides and took a joy ride, but this scene hasn’t been written yet, it’s being very stubborn.)
- The next day, Neeka goes into work as usual, but gets stopped at the security gate by a new minder. Her friend Arlyn harassed her with one of the security drones they pilot as a joke.
- (There’s going to be some scene of them at work, also not written yet.)
- After work, Neeka jumps on a bus home, excited about another race being held tonight that she heard about on the web, barely noticing a big ork with cyberware among all the other passengers. She gets a weird feeling though, and gets off her bus a stop early to walk the rest of the way.
- The weird feeling sticks with Neeka for awhile as she walks, and when she gets to her apartment, the big ork with the cyberware is waiting at her door. She gets spooked and pretends she doesn’t live there, but the ork reacts as she passes him and has a scuffle with the “invisible guy” that actually had been following Neeka. Bad guy gets away, though, and now here we are…
Neeka led the way into her small apartment, and the large orkish man had to turn his broad shoulders slightly to fit through the door. “Ah, excuse the mess, I wasn’t expecting company,” Neeka said, hastily closing the door to the tiny bathroom directly to the right of the entrance and then stepping into the living room area to the left, grabbing a few glasses from the low coffee table, some empty, some half full of a dark amber liquid, all days old, and all hers.
The coffee table was against the far wall below an impressionist print by some long-dead artist, and sat between a cheap futon couch on the wall shared with the hallway and a secondhand armchair backed up against some metal shelving that cut the room in two. The chair faced a small vidscreen hanging on the wall above the futon, and Neeka threw a silent ‘thanks’ to the universe that the ork hadn’t decided to beat the guy following her against her wall in the hallway. The screen wasn’t hooked to the wall very well and it probably would have fallen, and after losing last night’s race, she didn’t have the money to replace it.
“Sorry, I didn’t get your name…” Neeka said, carrying the glasses across the small space to the kitchenette and placing them in the sink. She glanced back to see the ork looking around her studio apartment with interest, and she chided herself for never hanging the sheets she’d always meant to on the metal shelving units she’d set up to shield the “public” space out here with her bedroom and workspace in the back.
The four shelves, two on the left and two on the right, left a doorway-spaced walkway between and divided the back half of the apartment from the front half. Each was five shelves high and almost reached the low ceiling, and every shelf was strewn with electronics, spare parts, tools, little boxes full of random pieces, half-built UAVs, spools of wire, and all sorts of other bits and bobs that called Neeka out as a serious pilot rather than a hobbiest.
“O’leary,” the ork said thoughtfully, not even bothering to be subtle about his examination of Neeka’s life. Through the clutter on the shelves, Neeka knew he could see right into her bedroom. It was just a full-sized matress on a raised frame, halfheartedly covered with a faded quilt, and next to the bed a battered nightstand displayed a cheap digitech alarm clock and a beautiful glass lamp, one of Neeka’s prized posessions.
A rack hung with clothes stood in front of the only window in the apartment, directly opposite the front door, and the space across from Neeka’s sleeping area was set up as her workshop. A large rectangular folding table was pushed against the wall opposite her bed, and a nice desk chair, obviously something Neeka had spent money on, waiting in front of it. The workspace was even more cluttered with tools and UAV parts than the shelving units themselves, while the walls were hung with schematics and diagrams. It looked like the most lived-in area of the apartment by far.
Fed up with his blatent snooping, Neeka stepped in front of the ork and caught his gaze. “Okay, O’leary. Got a first name? Or better yet, an explanation of why you were at my door today?” He met her eyes and Neeka grimaced, looking away. “I mean, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, you helped me out, thanks, but…”
The large man blinked at her as she met his eyes again. “Oh, yeah. Don’t mention it. Glad to help.” He glanced over at her living room furniture again, obviously not made to hold ork-sized people, and then back at her. “Asher,” he said next, and it was Neeka’s turn to blink. “First name’s Asher,” he clarified, trying to look comfortable while standing awkwardly in the middle of the room.
“I’m a private detective,” he continued, reaching into the pocket of his leather vest and drawing out a business card that had seen better days. “Asher O’leary. I can help,” he said, quoting the tagline on the creased card.
“Who hired you?” Neeka asked as she examined the card, her mind racing through the implications. “Are you investigating me?” She stepped back from Asher, trying to quell the panic rising in her and frantically wondering if she’d let her own doom in by the front door. Not every UAV part on her shelves had been bought legally, or even bought, for that matter…
“I’m not at liberty to say, ma’am, and to be honest, I don’t know if I’m investigating you or not,” Asher replied, his voice taking on a bit of the gravelly tone of the native ork tongue. “But first things first — you’re Neeka Delgado, right? You live here at…” Asher pulled the crumpled piece of paper from the hallway out of his pocket again and squinted at the writing. “816 Roman Avenue?”
Neeka glanced quickly at the shelf beside her, wondering if any of her electronics tools could be used as a weapon against a giant ork, but then looked back at Asher. “Yeah– Yes. How did you get my name? My address?”
“I’m invesigating allegations into cheating at the race you flew last night,” Asher answered. “It wasn’t terribly difficult to get your name from the race organizers, since you’ve won multiple times before.” He reached into his pants pocket and took out a large personal vidscreen before Neeka could worry what else he was drawing. “They told me they were surpised you didn’t win last night too, in fact.”
Neeka’s thoughts flew to Tolo and how he’d barely managed to outmanuver her during the race. “Well,” she started, trying to choose her words with care. “I expected to win too. Just because I didn’t, doesn’t mean anyone cheated.”
Asher looked up at her from the vidscreen he was fiddling with and then held it out for her to take. She had to take a step towards him in order to reach it, but while he was a big intimidating ork, she didn’t sense any bad motives from him. She took the screen, then furrowed her brow as she examined the code in front of her. “What is this?” she asked him.
“This,” he said, “is malicous code someone dug out of the remains of one of the crashed drones last night,” Asher said. “The racer swears they’ve never seen it, and also that they couldn’t control their drone through an easy turn last night.”
“Weird…” Neeka said, taking a closer look line-by-line of the unnecessary lines of code that, yes, she concluded, would have caused a critical loss of communication between the UAV and the control panel.
“I thought that, as a professional racer and coder, you might have some insight into this,” Asher said evenly, and Neeka was distantly aware that he was watching her closely. But the code was really dynamic and complex, and she was following its twists and turns, watching it throw the control matrix off that way, and weave the routing systems this way… it was elegant, something she’d have been proud to have coded herself, had she ever thought to or wanted to disrupt a race like this.
Suddenly, Neeka’s eyes somehow skipped over one line of code, and she only realized it when a phrase in the next line didn’t connect as smoothly as it should have done in code so refined. She shifted the vidscreen in her hands and read back a few lines, and realized what she’d missed — and then a chill swept across her neck and ran down her spine, as she forced herself to reread the line twice, and then three times again, just to be sure.
But it was right there, in stark grey and black in front of her on Asher’s vidscreen. The same signature she’d seen just the night before, while participating in ridiculous teenage shenannigans in an empty hotel water park in the middle of the night.
Tolo’s coding signature stood out among the rest of the elegant phrases, part of a code that was designed to infiltrate another racer’s UAV and disable it, a code that had crashed another person’s possibly most valuable possession… a code that suddenly made her second-place victory seem hollow, not to mention the rest of her evening a complete lie.
Neeka stood there, stunned for a moment, until Asher carefully took the vidscreen from her hands. “So,” he began gently, “When I ask you if that means anything to you, you’re not going to say something stupid like, ‘no,’ right?”
(To be continued…)
Continue the story with the next chapter, Neeka’s Story: Discover Challenge – Learning…
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.
Today’s dragon artwork is simply called Tribal Dragon Tattoo. This black and white image can be found all over the web uncredited, but I was able to trace the original designer back to deviantart through this photo of someone who was getting this as their own tattoo.
This poster credited the artist as Leahriel, and that same Leahriel responded in a comment too, but sadly, it looks like Leahriel has deleted their deviantart account, and I wasn’t able to trace them any further than that. I really like this image though, and I hope you do as well!