Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Teaching By Example
I have mentioned before, dear readers, the "other" novel. Behold, then, the shining example of what not to do when writing a story. What follows is the embodiment of everything one can do wrong.
Lead by example?
Show don't tell?
"Ugh," sighed Spokane, letting his head fall to the table with a soft thud.
"Yes," agreed Spud as he sat staring blankly into the cup before him. Steam curled lazily up from the tea within, disturbed only slightly by his slowly exhaled breath. Slumping further into his chair, Morgan closed his eyes and immediately fell asleep. Spokane was fast approaching dreamland himself when he heard a voice. A rather unusually close and strange sounding voice.
"Would any of you know where I could find the captain of the USS Fred?" asked the tremulous tenor voice. Spokane wrapped both arms over his head with a small groan, for it seemed to him as if the voice were right next to his ear.
Without raising his head, he answered in an aggrevated voice, "He's dead."
"Dead?" replied the voice in surprise. "But...he can't be. He just filled a mission report about ten minutes ago."
Spokane thought briefly about just ignoring the voice and going to sleep anyway, but a soft "uh-hum" canceled the idea. He came to the realization that the owner of the voice wasn't going to be satisfied with anything less than an actual response. Raising up slowly, he let his arms fall to his side, until he was vertical again - or nearly so. His eyes fell upon the owner of the nagging voiceas the pre-sleep fuzz faded away from his eyes.
He was a small man, only about 1.5 meters tall. He had a roundish sort of face with skin the pallor of old leather. Long, thin moustaches dangled from his upper lip, reaching down past his shoulders. The black hair atop his head, if it was hair, lay flat against his scalp coming to a point just above the bridge of his nose. It had more the texture of very fine fur, rather than typical humanoid hair. Spokane suddenly found himself grimacing involuntarily at the sight of the stranger, as thoughts of mutant fish ran through his mind.
Spokane twisted his grimace into a look of neutrality as best he could before asking, "What do you want?"
"Are you the captain of the Fred?" returned the little man. The ends of his moustaches twitched as he spoke.
"No, I'm not," he answered while passing a hand over his face. "I'm Spokane - Chief Science Officer, owner, and pilot of the USS Fred."
The little man's brow furrowed in confusion, drawing Spokane's attention to the fact that he had no eyebrows. The stranger rerached up with one hand and began playing with the end of one of his moustaches. "But," he said after a moments consideration. "The reports were filed by a T. Kirkoff. They were signed by him as captain of the Fred."
"He is the captain," replied Spokane through a yawn. He clasped his hands behind his head stretching dramatically. His breath exhaled explosively as his hands fell to the table with a thump. He then turned to the stranger. "Kirkoff is the captain," he continued. "But I own the ship."
Spokane leaned forward to look directly at the little man. The stranger stared back at him in silence. He heard Spud begin to chuckle when the stranger's look of perplexity turned to o k of total confusion. A wry smile crept across Spokane's lips. He crossed his arms across his waist and sat back in his chair.
"That's not legal." said the little stranger in a flat tone.
Spokane raised an eyebrow in surprise. He looked over to Spud wondering if he had been paying any attention to the previous conversation. It was obvious that he had been for he began to laugh out loud. Spokane's smile grew wider as he felt himself beginning to laugh. He shook his head, turning back to the man he said, "No, it's not. However, I don't care. Let him deal with the politics and bureaucracy that gets shoveled at us. I haven't got the time or the patience to deal with it." He finished with a disgusted wave of his hand toward nothing in particular.
The stranger said nothing. He simply stood where he was, staring at Spokane. Spokane shifted his eyes to get a sidewise glimpse of the man and caught his stare. The stranger's dark grey eyes held Spokane's gaze steadfastly. His smile slowly faded as the nagging thought that he had just done something extremely stupid suddenly burgeoned in his mind. He turned slowly to face the man, all the while reexamining the his feature's trying to identify him. Only then did he notice the insignia on his otherwise plain uniform. It was a military symbol, but not the kind worn by most high ranking officers. This one was much smaller and infinitely less tacky, being only a tenth the normal size and made only of polished crystal. It was not a thing that would be visible at first glance, which was totally contrary to the officer belief system as he knew it. This fact alone made him nervous.
"What can I do for you, Admiral?" asked Spokane, finally. His eyes moved slowly from the encircled star of a Vice-Admiral to eyes of the man who wore the insignia.
The Admiral smiled slightly, still returning the gaze unflinchingly. Spokane saw Spud reach over and shake Morgan awake with his free hand while raising his mug to his lips with the other. He heard Morgan come awake with a grunt of annoyance, which was quickly silenced by a low warning hiss from Spud. The Admiral's smile grew wider, which made Spokane even more uneasy.
There was no screaming, no rhetoric, no meaningless commands being barked out in an over used voice, no reminders of rank (or lack thereof) and station. All these things were traits he had come to recognize from the officer class at large when caught unawares. This officer, however, had not exhibited any of these characteristics or any others that were particularly offensive. Spokane found himself at a loss on what to do next. A fact which made him even more nervous.
"Clever," mused the Admiral, finally breaking the silence. "Very clever, indeed Mr. Spokane. I may call you Spokane?"
"Sure. Why not." he answered, cautiously.
The Admiral gave a short barking laugh, then reached out to grasp Spokane's hand. He returned the handshake after a brief hesitation. "I am Vice-Admiral Channel," he said in a functional tone. "I've just recently been given the office of Director of Operations for the Seventh Fleet."
Spokane heard a low whistle come from one of his crew. He could not see which one. His eyes were still locked with those of Admiral Channel. He sat staring at the Admiral not wanting to say anything else. He had dug himself in deeper than he could have feared. A verbal reaming was what he expected to happen next, but Channel had so far proven himself to be unexpected.
Straightening in his chair, Spokane raised an eyebrow at the Admiral motioning with one hand for him to take the vacant seat to his left. Channel held his gaze for a moment longer, then crossed to the chair. As he seated himself, he hefted a briefcase onto the table. It was proportionally small, black, with an intricate electronic lock near the handle.
All three of the crew watched as Admiral Channel centered the briefcase in front of him, then carefully placed two of his four fingers on the lock. Small lights flickered rapidly on either side of his fingers, then abruptly stopped. After a nano second pause, they began to flash in unison. The tiny lights flashed five times before going dark. A loud 'snick' followed immediately after as the lock released. Channel raised the lid quickly with his right hand while reaching in with his left. His hand went directly to a pocket which held a small iridescent red disk. He deftly slipped the disk out and palced it on the table beside the briefcase.
It was a simple data tab with no visible label. There was nothing on it to indicate that it was anything of major import or even of mild interest. All in all, it was very unremarkable. Simple things bothered Spokane.
Admiral Channel shut his briefcase, and then slid the disk to him with his right hand. Spokane's eyes never left the disk. He watched as Channel's hand pushed it towards him letting it come to rest centimeters form the edge of the table. He considered the disk a moment longer, before looking back at the Admiral. Spokane knew he was in unfamiliar waters. Nothing about the little man before him conformed to any of the stereotypes he had developed for the ranking entities in the Service. He found himself uncomfortably unguarded.
"It's not a viper," said Channel with a widening grin. "It's just your next assignment."
He nearly cringed at the word "assignment". An accenting groan came from both Morgan and Spud. He reached out and pushed the disk back to the Admiral.
"Sorry Admiral," he said quietly. "Not this time."
Admiral Channel cocked his head fingering the end of one his mustaches again as he regarded him.
Channel straightened in his chair saying in a neutral voice, "Why do you refuse?"
Spokane shook his head realizing that things were beginning to deteriorate rapidly. "My crew and I," he replied with a resigned sigh. "We cannot take another mission."
"He's right," stated Morgan breaking into the conversation. "We've been on 41 missions in the last month. We're three months overdue for leave as it is. Another mission is out of the question."
Spud nodded his head in agreement. "We can't help it if the bloody union is on strike."
Admiral Channel turned to each one of them as they spoke, then returned to Spokane. Spokane still did not want to meet his eyes. He continued to stare down at the table. He knew there was no use in belaboring the point, so he said nothing further.
"Yet, you don't even know what the assignment is," said Channel.
Spokane shook his head again replying, "It doesn't matter, really."
The silence that followed was immeasurable. Spokane was certain that the heart of the deepest, darkest black hole held more sound than the area around the four of them. It was if the sounds of the patrons that milled about the room had been sucked away leaving him and the Admiral in an ultimate void.
Spokane's mind always had a flair for the dramatic.
Given this fact, it came as a surprise when the Admiral began to laugh. It was a sort of short, barked out laughter that was harsh on his ears. Spokane's eyes widened as he slowly leaned away from Channel. He looked over to his crew to see an equally concerned/surprised look on their faces. Abruptly, the laughter ended. Spokane's eyes darted back to the Admiral, while the small voice deep inside his mind was screaming "Run away!".
"You're right Spokane," said the Admiral in a very calm voice. "It doesn't matter."
Suddenly, he was back on familiar territory. He could almost feel something solidify within him. What that particular part was, he did not care to guess. He did, however, feel just a bit more confident with the situation.
Admiral Channel continued on before he had a chance to say anything. "You will be going to Zone 9," he stated in a resolute voice. "You will be monitoring sections 7,9, and 12 for the next fifteen standard days."
Spokane waited for him to say something further, but the Admiral appeared to be finished. It was easy for him to surmise from the silence that there would be no discussion on the matter. Spokane thought briefly on his options finding quickly that he had none. Well, it was possible that he could take the disk and weld it to the Admiral's forehead with Spud's plasma torch, but that had too many possible negative consequences. There was really nothing for him to do but to accept the assignment.
He slowly reached up and pulled the disk to him. Admiral Channel smiled, stood up, and said, "The details are all on that disk. You leave in two hours." He stood then pushed his chair back to the table. He slid the briefcase off the table, then turned disappearing quickly into the crowd of people congregated around the entrance to the bar.