Gotta start planning my next novel…
So… guess what the toughest part of writing a novel is? Go on, guess. And no looking at the title of the post. That would be cheating… anndddd you cheated. But, yeah, contrary to how it might seem, planning is probably the toughest part of this process. It’s also annoying.
When I began writing my first novel, The Dragons’ Breath, I had almost no plan at all. Though, about half way through the book, I finally mapped out a plan for how the book would end (and didn’t follow it, I might add), it was too late. The book was already lost. I could have started the book all over again, but who wants to do that? Not me.
This time I’m not going to make that mistake. Uh uh. I’m totally going to plan this novel out before I begin. I’ve been working on it on and off for…
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Sorry this is a little late. You’ll notice it’s supersized–I had a ton of story to fit into this last chapter, and I could have written more. I might consider adding an epilogue. Anyway, kick back and relax. Enjoy the concluding chapter of my novella, Lorelei. *grins*
In the midst of the battle, Avalon enacts a reckless plan. Many people die.
“Take us in,” Hadren commanded from the bridge of the Angel. The ship powered forward, charging into the battle with hundreds of other ships next to them. “Aim for that carrier,” he said.
The ominous arrow-head shaped ship had been logged in the Angel’s targeting banks from when Jayk had been captured. Vedari Intelligence had verified that Jayk’s lifesigns were still on board that vessel. His specific DNA pattern had been easy to detect. The trick is actually getting onto the carrier, Hadren thought.
Lasers flashed around the cloaked hull of the Angel. Most likely, any Duun ship that wished could take efforts to detect them, but Hadren was hoping that they would be ignored for long enough to complete their mission.
“Targeting the cargo bay,” a voice said over the speakers. Nuts, the Angel’s chief gunner, spoke in grim tones.
“We also successfully installed some specialized shield buffers to keep us from getting fried again,” Ryo added. He had personally overseen that operation, having missed his old job as mechanic.
“Good. Everything should be going according to plan then. Stay the course and I’ll be back.” Hadren rose from the captain’s chair, looking introspectively around the bridge. It was quite possible that this would be his last time on the Angel. Trying to push morbid thoughts to the back of his mind, Hadren strode down the corridors of the ship with a grim determination. Ryo walked silently behind him, moving like a specter down the hallway. They met Nuts at a juncture and headed to the main airlock together. Waiting for them were fifteen other crew members, outfitted with boarding party gear.
“Ready when you are, Yithril,” Hadren said into his communicator.
“Roger that, boss. Contact in five, four—”
Laser beams from the Angel sliced open the carrier’s shields, leaving the cargo bay exposed.
There was a deep thrum that vibrated through the ship, which signified two penetrator-class missiles being launched.
The sound of explosions filled the air as the missiles exploded and the Angel crashed into the carrier’s cargo bay doors a half-second later. Designed to release their ordnance forward, the penetrator missiles left the Angel undamaged as it careened into the Duun vessel.
Clutching tightly to a support bar, Hadren opened his eyes. They had made it. They were inside the Duun carrier.
Jayk and Avalon stood together in the situation room of the Quiet Darkness. Every screen displayed scenes of destruction and terror, caused by Avalon’s deadly tactics and Jayk’s crippling information. The Duun were slicing up the Vedari Fleet, which had long since dissolved into a chaotic mess trying to keep the attackers from landing on the planet. Little did they know that the Duun never intended to land.
Avalon watched on a personally-calibrated scanner as the Angel broke away from the action, heading directly for the Quiet Darkness. Looks like my calculations were correct. Let’s hope they hold true. “Jayk, I’m going to have to leave. I promise you I will return, but I need you to stay here and manage the fleet. There’s something I need to do.” She looked at him and gazed into his eyes. They were cold and dark, filled with shadowy visions. A taint of darkness had corrupted him, changing him from the man she had once known. He looked longingly at her, but simply nodded. I know I’m the only thing keeping him together, Avalon thought as she left the situation room, but if I don’t leave, the universe will be doomed.
Jogging now, Avalon sped through the corridors of the Duun vessel, her green jacket trailing behind her. She rested her hand on her gun, taking comfort in its familiar grip. The soft, worn leather felt snug in her hand, like it was an extension of her arm. Avalon hoped she wouldn’t have to use it.
Eventually, she reached a longer, wider hallway that was only dimly lit. Dozens of hatches lay embedded within the left wall, while the right wall was made up of storage lockers. There were benches on that side as well, but Avalon didn’t stop long. She yanked open the first locker she came to and pulled out a flight suit, changing into it rapidly. Once fully geared up, she grabbed a helmet and sprinted over to one of the hatches on the wall. With a breath, she placed the helmet on her head, making sure the seal locked. I can do this, Avalon said. All the calculations say I can.
Without further hesitation, she opened the hatch and slid inside. It was a slender tube that carried her downwards at a semi-steep angle before depositing her in the cockpit of a starfighter. The ship’s systems powered up as they registered a human presence behind the wheel. Avalon disengaged the ship from the docking tube, sealing the cockpit simultaneously. After being carried through the bowels of the vessel by robotic arms, the starfighter was finally jettisoned into space at a high velocity so that she didn’t have to start burning fuel soon.
Avalon was struck by the vastness of space. Inside the tiny cockpit of the fighter, she gazed out of the glass canopy at the enormous emptiness around her, broken up by a mix of battleships. Unfortunately, her introspection was cut short as the computer began to beep. Avalon pulled on the controls, narrowly missing death as two beams of light soared around her. Another warning light beeped and her face paled. Someone had locked on to her fighter, which meant an extreme likelihood that they would pursue her no matter where she went. “This was not in my mission parameters,” Avalon growled as she plugged an evasive pattern into the computer.
“Let’s move it people! The clock is ticking!” Hadren yelled as he burst out of the Angel’s airlock. He landed on the floor of the Duun cargo bay with wreckage crunching beneath his boots. The cargo bay doors had been demolished, but an automatic forcefield system had sprung up in their place.
Behind Hadren, a company of seventeen soldiers followed, each bearing some sort of weapon. Most favored conventional firearms, but at least three of the boarding party were carrying around large laser cannons that were designed to be fired from the hip. Their computerized targeting system made them the most accurate guns, along with the most powerful.
With the concentrated power of the three cannons, the strike team blew open the doors leading into the heart of the ship. Hadren led his team through the smoking barrier and into the depths of the supercarrier fearlessly. He never paused as he directed them through forks and intersections, having memorized the ship’s interior by heart. There were few officers around—most were at their battle stations—, but when Hadren’s team came across them, they were instantly blasted by one of his many sharpshooters.
There was a sinking feeling in Hadren’s stomach as he looked at a small combat computer he had carried with him. Jayk’s life-signs were inside the situation room. “This way,” he ordered as he moved towards the nexus of the ship.
The doors to the command center of the entire Duun fleet were not impressive. They matched every other pair of automatic doors on the ship, except for some red markings which identified the security clearance necessary to enter. The three cannoneers were ready to blast them to smithereens when the doors opened by themselves. Jayk stood alone on the other side, with a pistol pointed directly at Hadren.
“Hello, old friend.” He said.
“You are under fire,” Avalon’s ship computer said.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Avalon muttered in response. “This guy just had to target the single most important leader in the entirety of Duun-Vedari history.” She flipped the fighter around so that the guns were facing her attacker. Due to the vacuum of space, the ship kept going in the same direction and speed, so she had enough time to fire a few shots before flipping back around to maneuver.
“You missed,” the computer said simply.
“Whoever designed the AI for these fighters has a nasty sense of humor.”
Avalon’s mind raced. I need to take this guy down—but how? She glanced at the many battleships firing round after round of lasers and missiles. What if I timed it right? I could fly past a turret at just the right time so that he would be blown to bits! She paused for a second. Her face twisted into something between a smirk and a sneer. “Forget that.” Avalon punched an access code into the fighter’s computer and sent a coded transmission to central command. It would be processed as one of her orders and given out to all Duun starfighters. Within seconds, two interceptors soared in behind Avalon and blasted her pursuer to so much scrap metal. I love being a general, she thought.
With a smile on her face, she programmed the navigational computer to head towards a nondescript battleship hanging on the fringes of the battle. This was their coup de grâce—a hidden superweapon capable of razing a planet. The technology had been easy to create; a planet was easy to destroy, but hard to capture or keep. Disliking biological warfare, Avalon had chosen to use an extremely destructive laser for the project.
Sliding open soundlessly in the vacuum of space, the bay doors of the battleship opened to receive Avalon’s starfighter. Her escort turned back to the battle raging outside with just a nod from one of the pilots. Time to get to work, Avalon mused.
Everyone in the situation room was struck with a measure of surprise, except for Jayk, who seemed amused. The humor in his eyes was not the good, lighthearted humor that had once fueled Jayk. Hadren saw a bleaker outlook in his friend’s eyes and was almost numbed by the change in the man he had once known.
Fortunately, one of the cannoneers didn’t lose his wits. He addressed Jayk in a gruff voice, saying, “Drop your gun or I’ll blow you to kingdom come.”
Without pausing, Jayk lashed out, grabbing Hadren roughly by the neck and pulled him close like a full-body shield. “I suggest you run away quietly.” He nodded to the other officers in the situation room, adding, “You too. I want a private audience with this man.”
Fear and obedience in their eyes, the Duun crew filed out of the room with a measure of eagerness that everyone noticed. The Vedari strike team left with more reluctance, but they didn’t dare disobey with Hadren inches from death. Both Ryo and Nuts gazed at Jayk and Hadren one last time before hitting the control panel and sealing the two of them in.
Hadren felt the course fabric of a Duun uniform against his neck and the metal of Jayk’s pistol against his skin. They were both cold—a chilled, dead version of a presence he had once known. Slowly, the grip released and Hadren moved away from Jayk, who still held his gun threateningly. “It’s been a long time,” Jayk said.
“Why did you do it?” Hadren’s jaw clenched. “Why did you join them?”
“What makes the Vedari better than the Duun?” Jayk snarled in reply. In a quieter voice, he said, “I joined them because of my love.”
“The girl—the one from the Nightingale—she’s the cause of this?” Hadren narrowed his eyebrows. “Who is she?”
“You’ve surely seen her in the videos we sent out. Her name is Avalon, and she’s the world to me.”
Hadren made the connection. “The girl from the video,” he said in a shaky voice.
Wilting somewhat inside, Hadren said, “Her name isn’t Avalon.”
“What? How do you—”
“Her name is Lorelei. And I know because she—however indirectly—killed my brother and his wife.”
“It was a Vedari soldier that went mad and killed your brother. And Tanya deserved what she got—she was going back to war.”
“Is that what you really believe? I can’t get over how much they’ve twisted you! Lorelei sent a Duun assassin to break Tanya’s spirit—by killing her husband. She needed to deliver one last blow to her former opponent, to totally crush her soul. It even worked for a while. There was no crazed soldier, Jayk. Lorelei has been pulling the strings since this whole thing started.”
“It’s Avalon, and I don’t believe you. She wouldn’t. She fought for her country—nothing more.”
“Jayk, you could never see the war from either side’s perspective. That’s why you mess everything up. That’s why you should never have promised Tanya. It was only a matter of time before you broke the promise, and if you hadn’t, you might not have caused this much damage.”
“I will bring peace to the galaxy!” Jayk roared. “The Duun Fleet will see to that.”
“These are the lies she has told you. You are only causing more destruction. Can’t you see?” Hadren pointed at the many screens. They depicted violence—so much violence. Thousands of vessels locked in combat and millions of humans trying to kill one another. Death, terror, and mayhem were spread by the hands of both armies.
Jayk looked at the scenes and something deep inside of him snapped. He held up his gun once more, and prepared to fire.
The lack of any human presence aboard the battleship was disconcerting. Avalon crept through the dark passageways with a measure of anxiety. The plan—the original plan—had been to fire the weapon remotely. However, given her new improvisation, she doubted that a remote-fire would be possible.
“Why aren’t there any people on this ship again?” Avalon asked to no one in particular. She vaguely remembered a report from the logistics division saying that the crew of the battleship would be better deployed elsewhere. That’s the Duun for you—streamlining all the time. Why keep a crew nice and safe when you can use them? Even so, it was fortunate that Avalon didn’t have to deal with any confrontations. Her plan was risky enough as it was.
Finally, she pulled herself up onto the level containing the controls to fire the ship’s superweapon. Like the rest of the ship, it was deserted; the room was lit by several consoles. A quick study showed Avalon that the laser was fully charged and ready to fire. I’m only going to get one shot with this, Avalon thought. Briefly, she pondered the consequences of her plan. Death and destruction. Pain—so much pain. Despite these mental warnings, Avalon felt no remorse. She had been a general for far too long. Or did I simply start out psychotic? Avalon giggled. Punching in several commands, she felt the ship lurch as it moved, turning in space.
Once the ship was properly aligned to the target, Avalon hit one last button. The capacitors in the ship released their charge, and it surged through the ship’s circuits like a tidal wave, flooding the laser emitter with raw energy. A breath escaped Avalon. The deed was done, and no one could reverse it now.
The laser was a wave pulsating out from the battleship. It soared through space like an eagle in the night sky, illuminating the ships in a pale green glow. Those with the fastest reflexes swerved to avoid it, but it moved faster than any human.
Jayk watched in horror as he saw the blast—it was not heading for Vedari; someone had changed its trajectory. The laser was heading directly for the Duun fleet.
Without slowing down it sliced through cruiser after cruiser, the majority of them lined up in a perfect formation. Jayk barely had time to grab Hadren and hit the deck. When the laser struck the Quiet Darkness, Jayk felt the interior supports snap in half. The supercarrier split into two pieces. At best, forcefields had sprung up to stop further damage, and only those directly in the laser’s path were killed. At worst, everything in the ship was going to be sucked into the vacuum and the reactor was going to explode. As usual, something in between the two extremes happened: in the midst of the Duun fleet being carved up by their own laser, multiple engine cores exploded. It was impossible to tell if the Quiet Darkness’s reactor had been included; the good part was that the ship seemed to hold together regardless, due to its forcefield technology.
Jayk was just starting to feel safe when the bulkhead shattered. The situation room was at the center of the Quiet Darkness, but a blast had gouged out enough of a portion to barely breach one of the walls. Responding to the vacuum of space, the atmosphere in the room rushed outside. Oxygen was the least of their concerns as Hadren flipped backwards to the opening, snared at the last minute by Jayk’s hand.
Why aren’t the forcefields kicking in? Jayk thought. Slowly, a darker muse entered his mind. I could just let go of Hadren right now.
As if sensing the thought, Hadren yelled over the gusts of wind. “Don’t let me go Jayk!”
“You are my enemy!” Jayk bellowed.
“I wasn’t always your enemy! Once upon a time, you made a promise to fight for the Vedari! Once upon a time your word meant something to you!”
At this statement, Jayk howled and Hadren realized that he was being pulled up. Jayk managed to bring Hadren to the point where he could hold on to the steel table that Jayk was hanging onto. “There’s only one way for this to end, old friend. Goodbye,” Jayk said, as he let go of the table.
“48.25%,” Avalon muttered to herself. “48.25%” She spoke this statistic over and over as if it were some sort of charm. “48.25% chance that Jayk is still alive.” Her fighter was in the process of re-docking with the Quiet Darkness. Many hangers had sustained damage, but the bay controls were apparently functional, saving her a great deal of trouble. Once fully parked, a hatch underneath the starfighter opened and Avalon dropped down to an exit chamber where she found machines that would take care of her flight suit. She changed quickly and sprinted for the nearest access ladder, climbing upwards like a monkey on caffeine.
Her heart sank when she finally reached the situation room. There was a warning light on the exterior control panel signifying a hull breach. Avalon saw that the emergency forcefield auxiliary system had been damaged, and she felt her worst fears confirmed. With her mind numb with shock, she ripped off the control panel and manually wired the system back together. The light turned green and she opened the door, rushing inside.
Jayk was slumped against the forcefield that sealed the gash in the room. Avalon had saved him nanoseconds before he would have been blown out of the hole in the wall. Hadren was on the floor, gripping the leg of a table bolted down. He looked up when Avalon came in with an expression of rage. “You!” he cried, “You’re Lorelei.”
“I haven’t gone by that name in a long time,” Avalon snapped as she rushed over to Jayk. “That was my name back when Tanya was in the war.” Jayk was unconscious, but otherwise intact. The forcefield’s shock combined with the lack of oxygen had knocked him out. With new air in the room, he awoke.
“Both of you should just kill me now,” he muttered.
“Why would we do that when you’ve brought an end to the war between our peoples?” Avalon asked with a mad gleam in her eyes.
“What in the ‘verse are you talking about?” Hadren asked roughly as he stood up.
“The beam. That was me,” Avalon replied.
“You killed—our ships,” Jayk realized.
“I brought balance to the galaxy.”
“You’re a psychopath,” Hadren snarled. “What kind of person would do that?”
“I may be a psychopath,” Avalon shot back, “but I didn’t kill senselessly. I defected.”
“You’re a Vedari now?” Jayk asked, struggling to wrap his mind around the new paradigm.
“No—you misunderstand. I defected to a third faction,” Avalon said triumphantly.
Both Jayk and Hadren stared at her blankly. “What faction?” they asked together.
“A new one. One made up of the remnants of the Vedari and the Duun.” Avalon grinned and walked over to an intact computer. “Watch this,” she said as she set up an open broadcast that would be received by all the ships included in the battle. “Cease fire!” she shouted. “A surrender is in progress. I repeat, do not attack.”
Outside, both factions stopped fighting, convinced that it was the other side who had surrendered. “A surrender? Who’s surrendering to whom?” Hadren asked, confused.
“I need a name guys—quick and make it good. A name for a government.” Avalon said, snapping her fingers.
Jayk’s immediately thought, Midnight Burrito—no wait that sounds like a band name. He blinked a couple of times. Where did that come from? It had been so long since he had been able to think like that; his old humor was coming back. But why? He guessed it was because suddenly he didn’t have to choose between his oaths and his love. That’s it! He suddenly realized. Avalon is creating a new government for everyone, made up of all past governments. That’s how this all works out—the sum of Vedari and Duun. “Call it Veduun,” Jayk said finally.
Hadren smiled slightly, beginning to understand. He commented, “Crude, but effective.”
“Ok good. I’m in a conference with some important people over here. You guys should say ‘hi.’” Avalon said. Two holographic figures were floating on one of the desks, both of them dressed in official-looking uniforms. “These are the heads of the Vedari and Duun governments.” The two men looked uncomfortable.
“This is highly irregular,” one of them said.
“Indeed,” the other agreed.
“Shut up,” Avalon said with finality. “You two are going to surrender to this man,” she said as she pulled Jayk into the camera. He waved awkwardly and Avalon rolled her eyes.
“Who is he?” asked one.
“Why should we surrender?” asked the second.
“His name is Jayk and he’s the elected emperor of the soon-to-be-made Veduun Empire. If you don’t surrender to him, then things are going to get messy around here and when we come out on top, we’ll come after you.”
Hadren decided to cut in before Avalon made the situation any worse. “What she means is—wouldn’t you rather stop the fighting? People have died enough on both sides. This war has gone on long enough. We are offering you a chance to end it; right here, right now, you can make that choice. Are you going to step up and be the leaders your people need? Or are you going to let your pride dictate the lives of thousands more?”
The two leaders seemed moved by Hadren’s words. Quietly, they transmitted their seals of authority to Avalon, seemingly convinced of the possibility of a better future or persuaded by the depressing status reports they had no doubt just received from various fleet members. After they disconnected, Avalon, Hadren, and Jayk were left staring at one another.
“We did it,” Avalon finally said triumphantly.
“What exactly did we do?” Hadren asked.
“We’ve created a new world order. We’ve just established an empire from the ashes of both peoples and put Jayk in the lead. With both of us to back him up, how bad could that be?”
They nodded, as if it were no more important than the daily weather. “We’ll need a capitol,” Jayk said. “Somewhere to set up a government.”
“You pick—you’re the emperor. But avoid either faction’s individual capitol so we don’t look like we’re picking favorites.”
“I’ve got an idea,” Jayk said. “A little out-of-the-way planet called Dustball.”
This week, I bring to you the opening and closing lines to ten novels. I feel that they represent the ten novels that I would most like my writing to imitate. Admittedly, I do include my own novel, Dissension, so pardon the narcissism, but I wanted to have a list of ten.
“I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.”
He looked a long time.
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone:
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
“They don’t know we’re not allowed to use magic at home. I’m going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer….”
The Hunger Games:
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.
I take his hand, holding on tightly, preparing for the cameras, and dreading the moment when I will finally have to let go.
I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the tea has long since leached into the frozen air.
“Katniss, there is no District Twelve.”
I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather.
But there are much worse games to play.
The Lightning Thief:
Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.
I asked Argus to take me down to cabin three, so I could pack my bags for home.
Shakespeare moved swiftly down the sidewalks of New York.
Never before had he been so lucky as to surround himself with each and every one of his most trusted friends on the voyage of a lifetime.
“Halt, foul dragon!”
“Maybe I’m not too tired after all.”
How does one describe Artemis Fowl?
Details are 94% accurate, 6% unavoidable extrapolation.
“Are ye sure ye won’t ride all the way into the city?”
Let us first analyze my favorite: the opening and closing lines to Mockingjay. Mockingjay is the third book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. I feel that its intro and conclusion are especially apt–and the epitome of all I want my stories to be. By the time the characters of the Hunger Games Trilogy reach the beginning of this book, they are crushed. All that they know has been reduced to ashes in a vicious and cruel war. I believe that the very best stories reach this point–a point where the characters have nothing to lose. When this happens, characters become so open and raw that they captivate the audience, as if a dark glass has been removed from sight. This is when you can stop working against your characters and start working for them. Suzanne Collins concludes her trilogy beautifully by returning the world to a state of peace. She does not completely heal the wounds of the past, but she gives hope to her characters and the possibility of a future.
DragonSpell is the first book in one of my favorite series. I remember with great nostalgia how I brought my life to a crashing halt as I focused only on reading through the first four books. The first book is a shining example of a hero’s journey. In the beginning, the main character–Kale Allerion–is inexperienced and frightened of going all the way into the capitol of her country. By the end, however, she realizes a sense of adventure. This moving character development partially inspired the writer inside of me, sparking several attempted novels.
Now that I think about it, I could analyze each of these novels and come up with a similar conclusion: novels are about transition. For me, I like to focus on inner transition–the development of characters over time. I believe readers want to see people metamorph into something greater; this gives them the hope that they too can become something greater than they are.
So I know it’s a Thursday and you’re all excited for Lorelei and like:
But I feel the need to say: this chapter was a pain to write. I think it was a good one to write, but I prefer to write through dialogue and internal description. Chapter 9 focused more on external action, so I was treading in strange waters for most of it. I guess I just need more practice though… Anyway. This is the second-to-last chapter, so you may now start panicing and hoping I don’t kill everyone.
With Jayk now working for the Duun, his comrades are left abandoned and plot to save their captain. Armed with Jayk’s extensive knowledge of Vedari weaknesses, Avalon and the Duun military launch an aggressive campaign to win the war. These forces come head to head in one momentous battle…
Silence filled the command deck of the Vedari outpost as the scientists worked. Their metallic home hovered gently above the system’s solitary star as they studied it, hoping to gain new insight into the jewels of the night sky. The only audible sounds were the gentle beeps coming from the computer as it steadily registered data.
Seemingly frozen in twilight, the atmosphere of the station was tranquil; long shadows cast by the star draped over every surface. No one noticed as the ships approached from a distance.
The fleet soared majestically through the night, shimmering green and gold in the starlight. Looking like wolves, they gently glided towards the outpost in a graceful display of finesse. There was no alarm to warn the scientists; poor security measures meant that they only noticed when the first laser volley struck. Plasma slammed into the space station, burning away at the thin armor.
A state of panic erupted on the research outpost as scientists scrambled for the best cover they could find. Finally, the leader—a man named Kyril—took charge of the situation. “Call our support fleet!” he ordered. “We need backup now!”
“They’re already on their way but it will take them about fifteen minutes to reach us.” A communication officer responded.
“Why are they so blasted far away?”
“Resources are tight. They’re patrolling for several of the border outposts while the other ships are being deployed in the war.”
“Well the war is right here, so we had better get some ships soon.” Kyril muttered to himself.
The attackers, a gang of seven ships, orbited the station at various radii and directions. This maneuver prevented the station’s solitary turret from being able to lock on to any single ship.
“What are they waiting for?” Kyril asked no one in particular.
As if in response, one of the ships hailed the outpost.
“Receiving transmission, sir!” the communications officer shouted.
“Good. Maybe I can stall them.”
“Sir—I should inform you: they’re not calling us. It looks like they’re simply sending us a file.”
“A file? What kind of file?”
“It looks like a short recording.”
“Put it on the screen then—it must be important. I doubt the Duun navy has attacked us just to send us a cat video.”
With his fingers moving swiftly over the console, the communications officer finished downloading the file and opened it on the large viewscreen. At first, the screen was black, except for a white time-stamp in the lower right corner. Then, an image appeared—a man and a woman stood on the bridge of a Duun vessel. The man began to speak. “Vedari facility: I offer you a simple choice. Surrender or run. Submit, and you will live. Flee, and you will die.”
The camera zoomed in on the man’s face. He concluded the message saying, “My name is Jayk. Remember my face, for I am the end of the Vedari State.” The communication ended.
Kyril stared at the Duun ship as it sailed around the space station. “Something is changing,” he muttered to himself. “Something new is going on and I’m not sure what. I don’t know who this man is, but shame on me if I don’t knock some sense into him. These ships would not destroy an innocent space station. That I am sure of.” The words he spoke were meant to be reassuring, but Kyril still felt a twinge of doubt inside. Nevertheless, he knew what he had to do.
“Let them eat static. We will not surrender. Not now—not ever.” Kyril commanded. “We’re Vedari, independent until the end.”
Thus Commander Kyril Syanacil spoke his last words.
Jayk stood in the situation room of the Quiet Darkness, Avalon’s supercarrier. He held hands with her—his beloved; for the past few days he had grown closer than ever to her. She felt like a part of him now, a piece of his soul. Together, they directed the war on the Vedari State with more ferocity and cunning than either of them had thought possible. With their combined energy and intellect, they made an unstoppable fighting team.
Around them was a wall of computer screens displaying images from the entire Duun fleet. Across the universe, their ships were attacking various Vedari border outposts. Jayk had provided invaluable insight into the Vedari navy, identifying the weak spots in their defense. Since he had joined the navy, every available warship had been sent on a coordinated assault on the Vedari with him and Avalon in command.
The Duun intelligence branch had also decided to make Jayk the poster boy of the navy in an effort to cripple the will of Vedari soldiers. They had recorded a brief video of him giving an ultimatum to distribute to each battleship. It was only by the strength of Avalon that he hadn’t fallen apart yet.
Still, he couldn’t complain. He was genuinely happy with his life for the first time in what seemed like millennia. Avalon brightened his world in every way. Jayk gripped her hand gently, feeling a surge of energy run through himself. “Have you thought about what I suggested?” He spoke to her in soft tones.
“It’s aggressive,” Avalon replied with a note of humor in her voice, “To say the least.”
“A strategy worthy of you.”
“Who me? You think I’m aggressive?” Sarcasm dripped from Avalon’s words.
“Why don’t you just kiss me already?”
Avalon chuckled silently and planted a kiss on Jayk’s cheek. “Follow me,” she said. “I’ve had some ideas.”
Jayk trailed behind her, walking into a smaller room designed for conferences. There was a single screen on one wall, but it was otherwise lacking the vast technological presence the larger situation room possessed. Sinking into a plush chair, he crossed his arms and awaited Avalon’s ideas. He could tell that she was subtly excited. “Ok, what do you have?” he asked.
“It was your idea to attack Vedari Prime,” Avalon began. “It makes sense—attacking the capitol. You’ve even suggested attacking earlier rather than later, to cut off the head of the snake. I think we need to do more than that. Instead of just cutting off the head, I think we need to pack it with C4 and detonate the head. Ya know what I mean?”
Blinking, Jayk said slowly, “You want to blow up Vedari Prime?”
“All of it?” There was doubt in his voice.
“I told you I was ruthless.”
“I believed you. It’s why I love you. So tell me, darling, how do you intend to destroy the planet of our enemies?”
Hadren picked himself up from the floor and wiped some blood from his face. He wasn’t sure where the blood was coming from, but he didn’t much care. There were more important things to worry about. “Did somebody get the number of the ship that hit us?”
He heard manic laughter coming from the comm channel—the sound of Nuts. “Ship as in singular? Boy I’d give my left arm for that.”
“Thank you for your commentary Mr. Nuts, but it is not required.” Hadren grimaced inwardly. He checked the console and saw a green light indicating that the targeting officer had managed to track down the Duun ship that had fired first. There were three of them, smaller frigates which wouldn’t have been a problem for the Angel alone—but were a threat together. The Duun ships swirled around the Angel in a vortex of firepower, sending missiles rippling into the hull of the ship.
Nuts and the rest of the gunners were putting up a fight, but they were nonetheless outgunned. “Just once,” the chief gunner muttered, “I’d like to have superior firepower in a fight.”
“Corgan! How goes the work on the cloak? Can we use it yet?” Hadren asked over the comm system, trying to keep the feeling of nervousness out of his voice.
“Not unless you want to die from radiation poisoning!” Corgan replied with a plasma converter in his mouth.
Hadren sighed, mumbling Vedari curses under his breath. He felt helpless. The fate of the ship was in the hands of the helmsman—a man named Yithlan—, who was doing an excellent job of keeping the Angel out of the enemy fire. Yithlan suddenly turned the ship in a new direction.
“I’m going to try and use their numbers against them and lose them in the belt.”
“Good, good,” Hadren mumbled. Their chances of survival were dwindling slowly, but he was holding out for a hope. When they had initially been attacked, the Angel had called for backup. It was a matter of chance whether or not the signal had gotten out before the comm array had been damaged.
Weaving through the asteroid belt like a fish through a stream, the Angel shuddered as lasers and small rocks hit its hull. Behind them, the three Duun frigates followed, firing at every clear shot. Things were starting to look up as Yithlan managed to lose them in the belt—until a tracking missile slammed into their port engine. The ship started to drift out of control, slamming into asteroids.
With their port engine gone and their cloak disabled, the Angel was a sitting duck. The three Duun frigates swarmed the covert ops vessel, peppering it with fire. Suddenly, the entire ship went black. Hadren glanced around in the darkness—not a single light was on. All of the consoles had simultaneously powered off.
“I think the main power went out, sir” an officer said in the darkness.
“You don’t say?” Hadren replied with sarcasm. He could still feel each impact from the Duun attackers. They pounded out a steady beat as they drummed into the ship’s armor. There was no way to contact Corgan, to find out whether or not he was alive or if there was a chance of getting power back. This is the end, Hadren thought. This is where I die. I will see my brother today.
Suddenly, the beats stopped.
Hadren’s eyebrows dipped. Something’s happening out there. It was possible that Nuts’ guns still worked, and that he had disabled the three Duun ships. Possible, but not likely, Hadren thought. There was a beep, and the power came flooding back into the ship. “Find out what’s going on! I want to know—” he was cutoff in mid-speech.
“Captain Hadren, you’ll be pleased to know that the Duun ships are scrap metal now.” A voice came over the comm channel and Hadren glanced at his computer. There was a Vedari cruiser holding position a few kilometers away with its laser turrets still sizzling red.
“I see. Well thanks for the rescue.” Relief seeped into Hadren’s voice, despite how embarrassing it was to have to be rescued.
“You’ll get a chance to pay us back. We’re here to escort you to Vedari Prime.”
“Why? Doesn’t command still want us to patrol borders?”
“The only border that matters now is home. We’ve got intel that suggests the Duun are going to attack Vedari Prime.”
“Intel? Have you had contact with Jayk?”
There was a sigh on the other end of the comm channel. “No, as far as we know, Jayk is still working with the Duun.”
“He wouldn’t do that. I know he wouldn’t. He’s probably trying to help us.”
“You’ve seen the recording, same as me.”
“Thank you for your assistance, captain.” Hadren spoke dispassionately before shutting off the communication. Brooding a moment, he turned to Ryo, who had been promoted to first officer in Hadren’s place. “Come with me, Ryo. I want to hear every idea you have on how to get Jayk back.”
Pacing along the bridge of the Quiet Darkness, Jayk tried to calm his nerves—unsuccessfully. The entire assembled fleet of Duun battleships, the culmination of all Duun technology, floated silently in front of Vedari Prime. It was a majestic sight, thousands of green and gold ships in perfect formation.
This day will see the destruction of Vedari, Jayk thought.
Avalon stood in the center of the bridge, watching her beloved walk. She could feel his anxiety emanating like poison in his soul. Despite what he said, he still cared for Vedari.
This day will see the destruction of Jayk’s spirit, Avalon thought.
Sitting in his captain’s chair, Hadren stared ominously out of the front viewscreen. The Angel hovered gently amid the remaining Vedari fleet, which had been summoned back to Vedari Prime for a final stand. The fate of the universe hinged on this battle for power. Hadren felt a deep apathy inside of him. All he cared about was seeing his captain returned safe.
This day will see Jayk in command of the Angel once more, Hadren thought.
The last Duun ship signaled that it was ready, and Avalon gave the order to open fire. Every ship in the Duun navy simultaneously charged its weapons, releasing them in one massive blast. Following only a half-second behind, the Vedari ships responded in kind. Lasers, plasma, and missiles streaked across the battlefield, leaving colorful trails in the sky. Some ships suffered direct hits and exploded, but neither side noticed, because they were concentrating on more important matters. The smaller ships were released from the carriers, sent to wreak havoc among the enemy. The battle would be decided by them—the fighter pilots, the frigate commanders. It was by the efforts of single pilots that capital ships were brought down. Unfortunately, all the tactics in the universe could not save the pilot who moved too slowly or fired a little too quickly.
Sometimes I wonder if my characters are insane. The answer:
For this week’s sandbox, we’re going to be doing a bit of an interview to get in touch with some of the spirit of Lorelei. Knowing my characters as well as I do, things may get a little crazy. For our purposes, we’ve hired an imaginary interviewer to talk to me and the cast of Lorelei. We call him Zed.
Zed: So, Mr. Shift, supposing Lorelei were to be made into a movie–what would the film score be?
Shift: I believe that the soundtrack to a film captures much of its spirit, and it’s incredibly hard to pin down the soul of Lorelei. That being said, Lorelei is a very much a story of longing and desire, filled with internal conflicts. I imagine the score to be deeply moving, along the lines of various goth-influenced symphonic bands, such as Evanescence or Nightwish. These artists use orchestral instruments particularly well to invoke the feelings that I see playing through Lorelei.
Avalon [frowning at Shift]: Well that’s cheery. Can’t we have something a little more upbeat? We’re not so sad as half of that.
Shift [with a half-smile]: Have you been inside Jayk’s mind? It’s a mess in there!
Jayk [glaring]: Hey! I’m not that bad!
Shift [quoting]: ‘Everything reminds me of her; there’s no relief. Every little action, every scent or smell is connected to her. I see perfectly normal objects and suddenly I’m thinking of her again. Every part of her is ingrained in my mind…’
Avalon [smiling]: You really thought that Jayk? That’s sweet, in a creepy sort of way.
Jayk [mumbling, trying not to blush]: Thanks…
Zed [clearing his throat]: Moving on! This next question is directed to the characters of Lorelei: What is your favorite book?
Avalon [obviously overwhelmed]: You’re kidding me right? Pick one book?!
Jayk [decisively]: A Tale of Two Cities.
Avalon [aghast]: Why in the ‘verse would you pick that?
Jayk [casually]: I enjoy classics! There’s something about them that feels intriguing Maybe it’s the style of an older generation, but they feel more sophisticated than today’s books.
Avalon [annoyed]: Well I’d pick Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows if I was forced to choose. As much as I like Coda and The Mysterious Adventures of Captain Dirk Drake, Harry Potter was my first real fandom. I’ll always be a Potterhead at heart.
Hadren [speaking up]: My favorite will always be Lord of the Rings.
Avalon [snarky]: Hadren, that’s a series not a book.
Hadren [smirking]: Tolkien wrote it as a single book with multiple parts.
Avalon [eye-rolling]: Whatever. What about you, Ryo?
Ryo: You’ve probably never heard of it, but my favorite is a book called Ender’s Game. It’s not well-known, but it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Jayk: I remember you telling me about that. I still need to get around to reading it.
Avalon [insistent]: Not until you’ve read through all the books you promised me you’d read.
Jayk [vague sarcasm]: Of course, Avalon. Wouldn’t think of it.
Zed [trying to keep the interview on track]: The next question is similar–what is your favorite TV show?
Avalon, Jayk, and Hadren [in unison]: Firefly!
Ryo [mumbling]: I’ve never seen Firefly…but I do like Castle.
Avalon [glaring]: You need to go watch Firefly. Like, right now. I’m not joking here.
Ryo [protesting]: But–
Avalon [quasi-disgusted]: You call yourself a spacer and you haven’t even seen Firefly?!
Zed [deciding it’s a lost cause]: That’s all folks!