Friday, November 30, 2007

14,023 -- 210,575 NaNo words

That's my desk at the end of NaNo.

There. I'm done with NaNo for the year. Not a bad count, by the end. There were more times this year that I thought just to give up on it than I've ever have before. But I finished four stories -- Reflections, Storm, Working for the Guild and Gift. The last came in short, but since I'm well over the minimum 50k to win, I don't think it will matter much at all. I'm glad to have a working draft done, at least.

I was depressed when I got done and Russ wasn't here to celebrate with. He's always been great about doing stuff like that, and making me think it was important. He's only been gone a week. It's going to be a very long year.

And it looks like we're going to have a nasty storm tomorrow -- rain, sleet, freezing rain, snow. I am just so looking forward to this, and having to shovel snow for two houses. Russ always did it before. I'm sure I didn't appreciate it nearly enough.

Now I have to go do a bunch of stuff for FM and get things ready for December. Then, I think, I'm going to play with DAZ Studio for a while. And start work on the new newsletter, since I need to get to that pretty soon, too.

So. . . . Still busy. Time to get to work, I guess.

Last snippet -- from Gifts:

Keshrin silenced him with a shake of his head, and then bent to lift the hilt of the sword that still lay on the stone road at their feet. "Peri, what is this?"

"A sword."

"What kind of sword? Why did Civilis use it against you?"

"Because it is a Holy Sword," Peri said and tried not to look at the broken blade and the little bit of blood there.

"It is a broken Holy Sword. Why did it break?"


Keshrin picked up the other piece and held it as well. Peri looked down at it confused. He wasn't up to playing these kinds of word games right now.

"Peri," Keshrin said looking into his face again. "Who broke the sword? You?"


"No," Keshrin agreed. He looked into Peri's face. "I believe it was the work of the gods, Perseus. I believe it no less than anyone else here. And if the gods stand by you, how can I not?"

Peri looked at him, blinking several times. Miracle. He had not really put the entire scene together in his mind. Gods, this was going to take some getting used to.

"I cannot -- this can't be --"

"We'll stay with you," Tomas said and grinned. "Have faith, mage."

Perseus groaned at the joke, and Quintus looked as though he was quite appalled to find them jesting over what had happened.

"Will there be any more trouble from Civilis?" Stephan asked, looking in the direction the man had fled.

"No," Quintus said. He shrugged. "I ordered him into protective custody and escorted back to Kolti as quickly as possible. After all, he was in serious danger from the crowd that had witnessed this miracle."

Peri winced at the word. He feared he would have to get used to it.

"I don’t know what will happen when he gets back to the capital," Quintus said. "My men will get there first, but that still doesn't mean anything good. I am yours, at least for now, King Keshrin. I suggest we move quickly against the Tasali."

Keshrin nodded, relief spreading all through the group. "Come with us, if you would. There is a place we can go to talk. It's a long walk, but one I think important -- I want the people to see we are allies, General Quintus."

"I would be honored," he said.
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9599 (4264 Gift, 5353 Guild, 196,552 total)

Only one day left. I think I'll make the 200k at least. That is if I can wake up tomorrow and get to work. Or maybe I should just stay up tonight. No. I'm tired.

Sleep. Sleep is good. I can do another few thousand words tomorrow and make my goal. And then what will I do?

I have some other things to get caught up on. And I would like to play with the DAZ studio stuff again. I have an idea I'd like to try, but I haven't had time to do more than think about it.

Okay, tonight's scene is toward the end of Working for the Guild -- which did cross 50k today. I might add a little more to the opening. I had ideas. Or I might not. It depends on how the writing goes tomorrow and if I get fired up for it. I often do on the last day!


He hadn't been called to see Commander Vaddon in several months. That suited them both, he realized. They were not comfortable with one another -- not even in the distant sort of way they had been before. The few times he had come to this office, he always remembered his old battle with Starlin. How petty that seemed now.

No one bothered him anymore.

The woman at the desk merely nodded and he went into the office. Vaddon looked up from his desk -- and for a moment he had one of those uncomfortable flashbacks where it was Claudian who looked up. He grimaced and knew that Commander Vaddon had caught it. He looked uncomfortable, too.

"Sit down."

He gave a quick bow of his head and did so, watching as Commander Vaddon sat back in his chair. He frowned and then nodded as though he had come to some decision.

"The IWC are starting a task force to work on the mercenary problem," he said. "They want to work with the Guild. You are the one who will be working with them."

"Me?" he said, surprised -- truly surprised -- that Vaddon would trust him that much.

"Yes, you. You cannot stay here -- you spread your attitude like a disease, Zerod. I'm sorry, because you were a good assassin, but I cannot in good conscious send you out on an assignment that requires that kind of finesse and judgment. And you cannot stay here. You have lost your controls."

"No," he said, looking up into the man's face. "I lost my trust."

They were words Vaddon had not expected, but he knew the truth of it and he seemed to take it like a blow. Had that part not occurred to him? Maybe the problem was that Assassins closed themselves off so much from others emotions and controlled their own so well, that they no longer could make reasonable judgments on why a person might act the way he did."

"Pack your belongings. Take all your chits on the research you've done. You'll still have access to the computers, for whatever good they can do you. I think you've realized by now that these people have left no visible trails."

"Yes sir."

"There is an IWC ship at the station now, waiting for our representative. They will not leave without one. I will not allow them to come to the Guild House. I do not want to test how much they will take my answer of no. I don't want the IWC here. So be quick."

It was, he thought, as close to a joke as Commander Vaddon was going to make. He almost smiled and saw the corner of Commander Vaddon's lips almost curl up.

He stood, one hand on the chair to help him -- he still had problems, after all. "Thank you, sir."

He nodded. "It's the best we can do, I think," he admitted. "You've done all the research you can here. Far more than the people I have put on this matter. But I think, now, the answers are going to have to come from somewhere else. Set this right, Zerod Argentine. Help us reclaim our name and dignity."

He bowed his head, turned and walked to the door and then turned back. "Be careful, sir."

He nodded again. The door opened and Zerod walked out. He suspected he would not be coming back to this office again. It was, he suspected, a relief for all of them.

Working with the IWC. There was something unique in the annals of Assassin Guild history. Yet another odd thing to add to his own history within the guild.

He went back to his room -- grey, windowless walls, the simple bed and computer stand. He'd be glad to leave it behind. It had used to feel like a comfort, to be here in the place, safe and hidden away. But in the last few months he had printed out pictures of trees and put them on the walls. He knew it a sign of his troubled mind. He took them down now and packed them away -- to put on the walls of rooms in ships, which would be no better than this. He had no idea where he would be tomorrow or next week. Maybe he'd go all the way to the Inner Worlds Council.

Odd thought.

No one came to see him off. He boarded the shuttle and sat down and watched while the huge grey building disappeared into the distance. Gone, and he couldn't say he regretted it at all.
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Thursday, November 29, 2007

That's Zaphod, asleep behind me on the chair. It was hard to get the camera pointed at him without moving so much that I woke him up. Is that cute or what?

I finally -- finally -- got into the swing of writing tonight. That's good, because other wise I wasn't going to get done with the work. I think I'm still going to write some more before I go to bed.

I'm barely going to make 200k, though, from the looks of it. I’m running out of story. I don't think Gift will be more than 40k -- and I really don't care. The other three are 50k -- or at least they will be. I still have to write a couple thousand more for Guild.

This was not my favorite NaNo, but it wasn't NaNo's fault. It was just not a good month. Oh, and I had a power outage today during a wind storm. That was really helpful. And the odd problem that came up with the newsletter. I spent several hours trying to track that one down since it had to go out today.

I wish I could say that December is going to be better, but for many reasons it will not. Still hoping Russ will be home for Christmas though.

Okay, it's a bit after 3 am. I'm going to do a little more writing and then sleep for a while.

Here is today's small snippet:

"He's always like that," Brisen said. "If there weren't the rest of us to take care of him, he'd kill himself on some fool gesture to protect his friends."

"Survived to get here," Peri said, trying to make light of the situation.

"Be still, mage," Brisen unexpectedly ordered. "And I think you only survived this long because you had no friends to protect."

That silenced him with realization that the man was right. It stunned him.

"Peri?" Brisan said, concerned.

"Just -- hadn't thought about that before. They were on even ground, and it was easier. "Never had friends before I washed up on the Kalia shore."


"I was -- am -- a half breed mage."

"Childhood friends?" Brisen asked, perhaps distracting himself with the conversation. He looked like he was starting to falter with exhaustion, and Cattalus couldn't be much stronger, though perhaps more used to this kin of hardship.

"I was the son of a Kolti soldier, living in Tassan," Perseus said. "Children can be every bit as bigoted as adults, and often twice as cruel."

"I'm sorry, Perseus. "Brisen looked over his shoulder and then back down at him. "I didn't mean --"

"No matter." Peri's hand fluttered in a weak dismissal. "What I was then doesn't matter any more. Since I came here, things have been different. I like it here."

"Only because you've been delirious through most of it," Stephan replied. "Let me take him for a while, Brisen."

"No, your grace. I have him and we haven't far to go."

"Call me Stephan."

"I'm sorry. I forgot. I suppose it would be safer not to point out any of you as men of rank."

"Besides, Stephan is my name and all my friends call me that."
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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Day 27: 8133 (17544 book, 178202 total)

Only three days left. I'm glad. I don't think I could take much more of a month like this.

I started with an injured wrist, which worried me. Oddly, it didn't bother me nearly as much as I expected. Well, not until I jammed my arm against something yesterday, and now it's been hurting like hell again. Gah. I still got quite a bit of writing done, so it's not nearly as bad as it was in October. But it is still annoying.

Of course, everything is annoying right now. I can't say I've enjoyed this NaNo nearly as much as I have the ones in the past, but I don't think it was the fault of NaNo or even the books I've worked on. For obvious reasons, I've not been in a good mood. I don't know if it's going to improve much or not, but I think having NaNo done will be a help. I'm going to finish Guild, and I likely will reach the 200k mark, but I'm not certain I'll have Gift done. Probably close, though. I'll be spending most of the last days doing nothing but writing. Hmmm. . . . maybe that doesn't sound so bad after all.

We're supposed to have a wind storm and snow tomorrow. With my luck, we'll lose power. It's been that kind of month, you know.

I'm tired tonight. I think I'm going to be going to bed before dawn for a change. Sounds like a good plan to me!

Snippet of Gift:

He crossed to the table and pulled out a chair -- and pushed Peri down into it before he took the chair to the right. The Lords and servants were looking increasingly distressed, but it was the look of worry on Keshrin's face that drew all of Peri's attention. The others had found their seats and a silence fell across the room.

"Is there trouble, Your Highness?" Valerian asked, leaning forward to see the king.

"All kinds of trouble," he said, and ran a hand over his hair -- a nervous gesture not lost on anyone else here. "We have word from the border. Toru has gathered another Tasali army, and he's invaded the north of Kalia again. Words is that this is no small landing force, either."

"Heading south," Valerian said and won a nod from Keshrin. "Are the Kalians putting up much of a fight?"

"All that they can -- but it's not enough."

"Kalia was already devastated when the army went through there last winter," Brisen said. "So there can't be much at all standing between the Tasali and the Avanti border."


"Still, you have an excellent army, King Keshrin," Valerian said. "The Tasali are truly barbarians, and I don't think they have any idea of strategy beyond running headlong into battle. Toru has some military experience, but nothing to match your own General Roald."

"I suspect you are right," Keshrin said. "What do you know about a General named . Romanus?"

"The Kolti General?" Valerian's eyes went wide as he sat back. "One of the best generals in the army and a good leader. Gods all, tell me he's not leading the Tasali!"

"No, no, of course not," Keshrin replied.

"Praise the Gods for that," Valerian said. "I thought the world had gone mad."

"He's leading the Kolti army that's coming at us from the East."

Silence fell everywhere, and it seemed to Peri that no one breathed for a dozen heartbeats as they all stared, stunned by the news.

"The Kolti are marching against Avanti?" Antonius finally said, shaking his head in disbelief still. "Why? Why now?"

"They say because we are the cause of the infractions last winter," Keshrin replied. He put both hand son the table and looked up and down the group. "They say we crossed into Kalia to test our ability to take the borderlands, and that we're keeping a Kalian Lord hostage to use in our plain of taking the lands that have been set aside as a buffer between Tasal, Kotli and Avanti."

"Of all the stupid, ridiculous Kolti ideas I have ever heard --" Valerian began, his voice gathering strength and momentum as he spoke. "What the hell do they think the Tasali were doing all the way to the border, for the love of the Gods! What do they think Shaman was doing here!"

"They say that we fabricated the story of the Tasali and Shaman to cover our real plans -- because, plainly, no army could have invaded Kalia from the north in winter."

"Gods!" Valerian snarled.

"Fabri. . . ?" Robyn asked.

"Made up the story. Pretend," Keshrin explained. "Hadad?"

"Yes." He looked back at Tain, both of them plainly unsettled by the news, which meant they understood well enough.

"We have one other problem," Stephan added, looking down the table at Peri and the priests who had sat near him. "The Most Holy High Priest of Kolti has given his approval to this war. He has made it a Holy war, a Crusade and his chosen man with the army, who is coming specifically for Tomas, Antoni and me."

"And what have we done?" Tomas asked, his face gone paler now.

"Can't you guess?" Perseus asked, his own voice hard with anger. "You've stood with me."

"Not just because of you, Peri," Stephan said. "I sent the Most holy a report on all that happened with Shaman. He denies Shaman existed, Peri. He says we've created the lies to win gold and fame in the world of men. You were only added glitter to his excommunications."

"Gods," Tomas said. "Excommunicated. All three of us?"

"Yes." Stephan looked to Antoni and back to Tomas. "Forgive me, but this is of no real importance right now. We fought Shaman. We know he was real. We know that the Gods were with us, and we know we saved Avanti, if not all the world, from a very great evil. I respect the Most High Holy and I love the temple, but I shall not take this to heart. If I did, that would mean I must regret what we did. Do you regret, Tomas?"

"No, of course not." His voice steadied and he sat up straighter again. "It was only the shock."

"I understand. I had to sit down when the messenger handed me the note."

"We all know where we stand then," Keshrin said. "Now, I would be honored if you would all try to help me figure out what we should do next." There were nods from his friends, but the Lords seemed unsure still. Keshrin looked at them, his head tilted this time. "Unless the five of you want to tell me that Shaman never existed, and that these friends of mine are really our enemies, I suggest you join in the conversation. I will not have any more of this stupid court rivalry and jealousy. I don’t' have time to be subtle, and I don't have time to play diplomat now. Either you are with us against the true enemy, or you are not. Make your decision now."

Peri saw the changes that came to their faces -- the moment when they went from looking at him to looking at the real trouble. Good. He hadn't been certain they could work past their own bigotry.

"Well, Peri, it seems you are going to be with us for a while yet," Keshrin said. "Though, perhaps, you would be wise to get out before the Kolti invade."

"I would not leave under these circumstances," he said, bowing his head to the inevitable. "Though, Gods forgive me, I could have used a slightly less powerful omen to tell me I shouldn't go."

The candles flared all around the room.

"Fine," he said with a sigh. "That's sign enough."
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Late. It keeps getting later every night, I think. It's coming up on 4 am. I'm tired.
I'm cropping in the opening to the last book I'm working on. I'm not sure I'm going to get it done during NaNo, but I'm doing alright with it. The other one -- Working for the Guild -- is still moving, but so slowly that I'd have a hard time getting a good snippet it out of it. I just hope it makes 50k or I'm going to be very unhappy with it.
So here is the opening from Gift:
The night came, a cold black Tasal night in the depths of the endless winter, where the sun slept beyond the edge of the world, and never showed himself. The icy winter remained without relief, and the snows blew through days that were lost in the darkness of time. Here only the cold white of snow and the darkness of eternal death reigned, and few survived. Only the strong came out of the north of Tasal.

So they sat and waited, the five men. They huddled in the cave and watched the far peak across the snowfield, where the red fires of the God Abaddon burned bright. The vigil of the endless day and night was their sacred duty and they came here to live by their wits, far from the protection of the tribes and villages. They were the Chosen, whom even a chieftain would not defy, and they lived like animals in the cave, fighting with the wolf for the kill.

There had been unease in the world. They waited now for a sign to show victory or loss.

The sign came finally. Loss. The red fires of Abaddon flared and died -- and in all the eons of Tasali Legends, the Power of Abaddon had never failed here in the heartland of his believers. For a breathless moment the five watched the darkness with a mixture of awe and fear -- though none of them would have admitted to the last.

The fire flickered again; less now, but not dead. A cold wind blew with the moan of a thousand dead, and somewhere too close to the cave, the wolves howled in dismay.

For a dozen heartbeats all had been lost and Tasal had been without Shaman, Power and God. But the light had returned, so that the God was not defeated beyond redemption. Beyond any doubt, Shaman had died, though, and the new alter in Kalia destroyed, along with the promise of victory over the decadent southlands beyond the strait.

However, the ancient seat of power shined again with the promise of support that had always kept the Tasali fighting all within their reach. Abaddon stood with them, and such a blood-thirsty and dangerous God was not match for the soft whispering Gods of plenty from the south.

Something suddenly shined brighter above the mountain, the light nearly overpowering the blood red glare of their God's power.

The sign was not their sign. The light flared and remained in the sky, an affront to their God and them.

Standing at the opening to the cave, four men glared. The fifth stepped back one pace and drew his dagger. He killed the strongest of his companion's first and a second before the first even fell. He took a cut across the arm from the third as he jabbed the man through his heart. By then the power of the God was strong with him, and he grabbed the last and ripped his throat out. He threw the bodies down the hillside for the wolves to feast upon and then he gathered his scant supplies and prepared for his journey up the mountain to the Altar of Abaddon.

He was Shaman now and the war was his to fight. The affront of the Southerners and their Gods would be avenged. He swore so upon the holiness of his new station in life.
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 25: 5490 (Guild 42448, Gift 5490 -- 165023 Total)

This has been a long week.

I did, finally, get somewhat into the swing of things today. I wrote 5k, and even got the DAZ newsletter finished. Finding the right pattern to doing things so that it fills up time is difficult. But here it is at 2 am, and I am finally getting the last of the work done and preparing to upload things for the night and go to bed.

Writing the Working for the Guild book is taking odd turns. I have a nice little outline still, but I keep thinking of things that I should write about farther back in the novel. I'm not doing it, though. I want to get this one to 50k and let it sit for a while, because I can see that there is a lot of interesting side material to explore. Instead, I'm just tacking all these notes on to the end of the work.

The other book, Gift, has been very helpful. I can write on it and feel like I'm making some progress. It's a light little story, unlike Guild, and easy to push ahead. I need that right now.

So here is a little snippet:

Cailin stepped forward and put a hand on the woman's shoulder, steadying her. Kenzie couldn't speak. Her body trembled.

She looked up again, this time at Zerod. "I couldn't think straight. I couldn't do anything but move along with the others, fearing that they'd learn it was my fault. And then you arrived, and I thought you were just another one of the group. They were still contacting me, demanding payment. I couldn't. I couldn't give them anything before, and less so now. I wanted them to kill me. I wanted it over with. Instead, they said they would make an example of Felisa Corporation so that the others would know better than to try and back out on them."

She reached into her pocket and held out a small chit. Her hand trembled so much that Cailin had to catch hold of it to take the chit, and she held on afterwards, when it was apparent that Kenzie was slipping faster toward collapse.

"That-- that's a copy of the chit I gave to the IWC woman. It's everything. I've even added the last few conversations that came. . . . afterwards. I just -- I --"

Cailin grabbed hold of her as she collapsed. Collins had arrived and obviously heard enough to understand what was going on. He had an injector in hand and pressed it to her neck. She seemed to relax a little.

"Come with me Kenzie," Collin said softly. "Come with me and you can rest for a while."

"Rest," she repeated. The word was dull, lacking all sign of emotion. Zerod didn't think it came from the drug either. "Yes, rest."

He took her arm and led her away, back through the door. Outside, some of the people still in the compound looked on with obvious shock to see Kenzie in this state. Zerod thought her condition even brought a little more panic to them; it was as if their last pillar of strength had given way. He'd never considered how Kenzie's ability to look strong in the midst of this disaster had helped others to survive.

"Damn," Royce whispered looking toward the door where she had gone. "I never thought it would be anything like this. What do we do now?"

"Broadcast whatever she has on the chit," Zerod said. He hadn't thought he could shock them now, but all three looked at him with a mixture of disbelief and distrust. "She was trying to do the right thing and get the news out to someone else. We haven't the (something) to try and do it quietly. Send the information on the chit to Vidline News."
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Day 24: 2852 (41279 Guild, 1652 Gift, 160016 total)

A long day. I suspect they all will be for the indefinite future. I have talked to no one but the cats. I wonder how many days I'll go before I actually talk to another human. It might be an interesting experiment.

I couldn't get going on Working for the Guild. It wasn't like I didn't know what would come next or anything like that. I just didn't care -- but that's obviously a personal attitude and has nothing to do with the story. It was the same for everything I did today.

I did end up doing something odd with writing though. I sorted through some old stuff and found a very old story that I decided to rewrite from scratch. This story is so faded I can hardly make out some of the writing, so it's kind of interesting. I read a page or two and then I got to work typing up the story in a new version. It's like having a very complex outline to work with.

What was odd, though, was that after I'd written about 1000 words on Gift, I was suddenly able to go back and work on the other book again, and it moved along quite nicely. I probably shouldn't count it for NaNo, though at this point (160k), it hardly matters either way, I suppose. As long as Guild makes it to 50K to be counted as a completed NaNo work, that's all that matters. And it's close, so I'm not worried.


They went to Claudian's office. The door stood open, Royce just inside, watching for them. He looked grim. Claudian was standing by the window -- not safe, but then none of it was, so Zerod said nothing at all. Kenzie sat in a chair by the desk, looking pale and haggard. They should have gotten her out before now.

He could see the smoke from what must have been a downed aircar off beyond the perimeter of the compound, and the movement of people down below. Their people, he knew -- but it still made him nervous.

And there, in the ruins from the first bombing, the robos still worked at sifting through the debris and stacking it to be taken away. It was an odd sight.

"I don't understand," Claudian said, finally looking away from the window. He looked toward the three of them standing by the door. "I don't understand why this is happening. We've never done anything to make enemies as implacable as this. Felisa Corporation has always done it's utmost to stay above board in all its dealings. I just don't understand --"

"I didn't know what they were when I hired them."

The words sent a chill through Zerod as he turned to look at Kenzie. She leaned forward, her head bowed, obviously unable to face any of the others.

"Kenzie?" Claudian said, his voice remarkably soft.

"I didn't know. Over a year ago -- there was a piece of land on Nuevo Colorado that I had found held enough minerals to make a tidy little increase in our income." Her breath caught and she pressed her hands together, fingers linked. She still didn't look up. "There were settlers, though, and they didn't want to go. I just wanted them moved. I didn't know --"

She looked up, her face devoid of all color and her eyes staring at anything but them. Royce was already talking softly on his commlink -- calling Collins to come there immediately.

"I didn't know until they sent me the vids of what they'd done -- killed the people, destroyed their homes. A hundred or more settlers. Not even enough to make the news here. I never took the land. I couldn't. That blood. The children." She took a shuddering breath and looked, finally, at Claudian. "They demanded that I pay them. I refused and they threatened me, but I didn't care. I contacted the IWC to get someone to stop them."

"Why not go to the Fringe Council?" Claudian asked.

"They were former assassins. The Guild was under the jurisdiction of the Fringe Council, and for all I knew, they were behind it."
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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Day 23: 2084 (40,079 Book, 157,164 total)

Russ left this morning about six. He's already in New York.


It's going to be a long month before I see him again. I've already found myself at the front door, checking to see if the car was in the driveway and he was next door. And even when he comes home, it will only be for a day or two, and then he'll be gone again.

I really hate this. And I don't want to go to bed tonight.

But the day went quickly anyway. If the rest go like this, I'll manage all right. If I can focus again on writing, it will help. That didn't happen today, but it might. I got most of my words today by writing out an infodump of information that I should have considered before now -- how the Assassin's Guild came into place, a bit of the history, etc. It was the most enjoyment I've had in writing in a few days, so that was good. I also worked again on the picture above. I've been toying at this one for a while. That's my current 'vision' of Zerod.

I have the DAZ newsletter to do this weekend. I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to write about for it. Lucky for me, it only takes a few hundred words, otherwise, I might not have the ability to do it at all.


Once out of the sight of the others, Zerod shoved the scanner away and moved based on what he felt. There were not many traces of his quarry, but he didn't have time to linger along the way and try to feel out more.

He found the first trap and quickly disarmed the almost paper thin sheet on the floor that would have set off a bomb in the wall. The next one was not much farther along the way.

He knelt to work on this one -- and then rolled and fired.

He caught the man in the arm. He hissed in pain and retreated so quickly, Zerod could hardly mark which way on the cross hall that he'd gone.

"There's a trap down the main corridor, nearly to the stairs. I'll leave a shoe by it. It's clear that far. Be careful."

"Let's hope you don’t find too many traps," Royce said. "You don't have that many pieces of clothing."

"Oh, now that could be interesting," Cailin added.

And it made him smile, even now. He slipped off his shoes and left one there and carrying the other one to mark the next trap. He didn't have time to waste.

This was not going to go well. He had to think in ways the other assassin was not. He had to move quickly, and he was already breathless.

He had to stop, finally, catch his breath -- he had not really been running, but the pain in his lung felt like a knife, jabbing again and again.

He saw a shadow move, and brought up his laser -- not quite quick enough, though he did move at the same time, and saved himself from being killed.
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Friday, November 23, 2007

Russ leaves in a few hours. Sigh. So, no, I don't have much to say. I wrote a little today. Not much.
I hope this next month goes fast.

Today's Snippet:

Sunset was not long away. He could see the colors changing in the sky already. When had he gotten used to that sort of marker for time? He hadn't been on this world for very long, and yet -- oddly -- he felt as though he had started adapting to it. He'd never done that before.

Cailin. That was the reason. They spent the nights together, and he had started, perhaps, to feel too much of her attachment to the world. He could see it even now in her eyes as he carefully climbed into the aircar and settled into the seat beside her. He was grateful to stop moving again.

Collins started to climb in. Royce stopped him.

"Not with the three of us."

"Royce --" he began.

"No. It's not safe and we all know it."

"Then why are the three of you going in the same aircar?"

"Because better to have one aircar shot down with only us in it, then three shot down," Zerod answered him. "Find another way. We'll see you at the Compound."

Royce swung the door closed before the medtech could say anything more. He didn't look happy, but he stepped away. Cailin, at the controls took them up and locked them into the grid. She did not, Zerod was glad to see, lock them straight to the Compound. That would have been far too obvious.

"You gave us a hell of a scare, Zerod," Cailin said.

"We came through it. Now we have to decide what to do next."

"We don't know how many more there are. We don't know what they plan now that we've taken out some of their forces," Royce said, leaning forward from behind the two -- at least as far as the belt would allow. "But we did take down their numbers and we did lessen their weapons piles. We have to believe that will help."

"I want to know where the assassin is," Zerod said. He stared out, as though he could see find him, just looking at the city.
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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Day 21: 1232 (36974 Book, 154059 total)

We have heat in the house. This is good. It was a very cold day. We'll be billed for it later. The part cost $400 -- which we don't have, of course. But we will.

Russ leaves on Friday. This is a traumatic, depressing and somewhat frightening idea. He won't be back until Christmas, if he can get home then. After the furnace was fixed, we spent the time going to the store and trying to make sure I had enough supplies to get by for a month.

I know it will go pretty fast, really. It's just that it's only the first month. There are so many after that, stretching off into who knows how long.

We've been together for thirty years. It's not going to be easy.

Little snippet, because I'm not writing much. Or writing well, for that matter:

Cailin and Zerod didn't waste time. The only hope they had was that they had arrived unseen, and wasting that until someone spotted them was useless.

Zerod had never been part of a straight forward attack before. He had never planned to be. He was reminded again that his work, while deadly enough and dangerous, didn't include running straight at people with weapons. He kept close to Cailin, though only partly to protect her. She had her sensor set to read the hot points of laser weapons, and by that he could pick out all the weapons in the area and see where the enemy was.

They ran in -- it was unnatural and it was frightening -- and if he hadn't known a friend was in danger on the other side, he might have been slower to rush in.

And the concept of friend seemed odd all on its own.

He was quick to pick his targets -- to choose the ones the others might have more trouble hitting. He was good at his work, and as long as he kept his head now, he did all right.

Do his work.

And his work sense screamed that this was wrong. The moment the enemy began to retreat, he felt an even stronger sense of trouble than he had before. Something wrong --

Royce was working his way out of the alley, ready for trouble still as well. He looked relieved as Zerod and Cailin worked their way closer. It had been a close call.

Not right!

He was only a yard from Royce when he thought to pull is sensor and check --

Hot spot on the wall of the building to the right. Not a weapon -- a person.

He looked up in time to see the assassin throw his dagger.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day 20: 1442 (35742 book, 152,827 total)

When I got up, the house was cold. I thought at first, that the weather must have taken a really drastic turn for the worse.

The cats were not happy.

And neither was I when I realized the reason it was so cold is one of the electric heaters had stopped working. Great. No furnace and now the heaters are giving out. I finally had to take the one from my office and put it out in the living room because it was just far too cold.

So now it's really cold in my office. We tried to move me out there, but we can't find either the long cable or the wireless card we had for the computer.

I am really starting to get annoyed.

I didn't write a lot today. It's not only because of this. I also remembered that I needed to do the Sangre story update in Zette's Storybook Blog. There were 60 plus pages of story to edit and code to go up, so that took awhile. But it was fun and the story made me laugh.

So here is a bit of a snippet.

He rode with Cailin, feeling an uncomfortable surge of worry. He wasn't used to battles. He didn't like the feel of going in with all the others, with so many lives on the line at one time.

He hadn't much liked this case from the start, now that he thought about it. He had come looking for an enemy, or at worst, a small group of people, who were responsible for what happened.

Now he faced another assassin and a group of mercenaries.

"Almost there," Cailin said. She had been talking into the commlink and he really hadn't listened. Maybe he should have paid more attention and know what was going on.

He didn't think it would help. This was not his kind of battle.

He could see the hotels ahead, a line like gap-toothed teeth against a line of blue lake. It looked like a wonderful place for a vacation, but not the location where he wanted to fight a battle.

If he told Cailin this wasn't a good idea, he had no doubt she would pull back. It wasn't a good idea. He knew it -- and yet, he knew that it wasn't going to get better.

"Zerod?" she asked, looking into his face. "Go or not?"

"Go," he said. He regretted it immediately, even knowing the necessity. "Go. We won't have a second chance."

"Aircar lifting ahead," the pilot said, glancing back at them. "Someone has the ability to counter the computer lock down, just like you said."

She nodded and went to work, ordering her people. Three aircars forced the first of the enemy cars down, but by then two more were in the air.

Cailin's people knew exactly what to do. They forced the aircars back down, one after another, into the square before the hotels.

"I've got a prelim count of fourteen in those cars," Cailin said. "I think that's the largest of the groups. That's where we're heading."


"Going after the group at the other hotel. They were slower to get to their aircars, and they went straight down to the street level. I have two groups going in through the roofs of the hotels. We're going to have to hope everyone takes the warning and stays out of the way. I can't get you to the lobby and the computer."

He nodded. She had drawn her laser. He did the same and then took a deep breath that returned a little calm to his thoughts. He was ready when they landed.

They had some cover. Laser fire already sent streaks of lightning through the air, leaving scorch marks across the wall where he and Cailin scrambled to get out of the way. Cailin was busy sending orders, and Zerod took it as his personal job to keep her covered. It helped; he had something specific to do, and he took the work seriously. When the first wave of mercenaries nearly broke through, he was the one who stood and took three out in quick succession, though that won him a very painful burn across this left arm.

Cailin grabbed him and pulled him back down.

"Are you crazy?" she demanded, pulling him back a full yard before she finally let go.

"I didn't want them any closer," he said. "How is it going out there?"

"We're about to get help," she said. "They're coming through the hotel and down to ground level. I suspect our friends out there have picked up on it, and that's why they're suddenly so keen on getting to us."
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day 19: 2034 (34300 book, 151,385 total)

Well, we have a decision today. It's not the one I would like, but it is one. Russ leaves for New York on Friday. He'll be flying out (he already has a ticket). He won't be back until around Christmas, if he can make it then.

I will be staying in this house. The furnace doesn't work, but I have electric heaters and the water boiling on the stove helps quite a bit (though everything is starting to get damp!).

So there we have it.

My writing has not exactly been inspired the last couple days, but at least I got some done.


The Aquarium was a larger building than he had expected. Inside was a gate where a person used a credchit to pay the way in, but that would have too easily been traced. Royce signaled the guard over, who let them in through the private door.

"The Chief Magistrate is waiting for you in Room A, sirs," she said and nodded down a hall. She looked nervous, and Zerod had the 'feeling' she knew how dangerous it was for the three of them to be meeting here.

They walked down a hall lined with glass, behind which was water and things moving. Some were exotically colored -- far brighter and prettier than Zerod had expected, but it still gave him an odd chill to have all those alien eyes watching him as he passed.

The door to Room A stood open and Cailin had settled herself in a chair where she could see it. She nodded a greeting to them, looking worried and excited at the same time.

"I think I have them," Cailin said after Royce had closed the door and before they had settled in the chairs near by.

There was a glass wall to the right as well -- and more of the fish. Zerod could not put his back to them, so he settled across the table from Royce. Cailin was handing over her pocketcomp to her brother, but she turned to Zerod and nodded.

"I think they're out in a group of hotels out along the edge of town, up by the lake. It was hard to track, but I found that two of them have fake IDs and after that, it was a matter of trying to track their movements. They're cagey bastards, though. They never got together, and never used public communications, but I saw that messengers passed from one group to another."

"Good work," Zerod said, taking the computer from Royce and checking over the data as well -- faces and information slid over the screen in quick displays as he scanned from one to the next. "You're right -- it looks likely to be them. I can't tell if one of them is the assassin or not. None of the faces look familiar."

He ran through the scans from the IDs a second time, hoping for something-- but he knew none of them. She had picked up on twenty-five people she tagged as part of the mercenary group.

There could be more, of course. There was likely at least one more.

Zerod took a little more time to look over the layout to the hotels and checkout the rooms to which the men had been assigned. They were spread between two hotels and had rooms close to each other on two different floors of each hotel. The rooms commanded a good view of the grounds below, and were close to the rooftop landing pad.

Zerod pushed the pocket comp away and looked up at his two companions, trying to get the plans in his hand to coalesce into something coherent.

"The way they are split up, we can't take them all at once," Zerod said with a shake of his head.

"We have to split up our own forces," Royce replied. "Cailin and her people to take one hotel, while I use Felisa Corporation Guards to go into the other one."

"That's illegal for you to use the guards in the city," Cailin pointed out.

"Fine me afterwards. Or let someone bring it to court --"

"No, no. I'll just make you all City Guards for the duration," she said. "Someone will likely protest anyway, but right now, I think we need to worry about other things. I think if we can get enough to outnumber them two to one. I know that's not good odds, since these are trained mercenaries, but it's the best we're going to get."

Royce nodded agreement, looking distant for a moment as though he was calling up all the data he could on his own people.

"They are bound to be heavily armed," Zerod said. "Remember that we have an assassin working with them -- someone who can easily manipulate even the most secure computers, and slip at least small shipments in. I can't say what they will have, but it's bound to be dangerous."
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Day 18: 1933 (32266 Book, 149,351 Total)

Decisions? We don't need no stinkin' Decisions.

After all, we still have three more days, right?

(Pounds head on the wall for a while.)

I think I am staying in this house. I have no idea where Russ will be.

Yes, of course this is affecting my writing. I can't remain concentrating on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. And in the greater picture, that really doesn't matter all that much. So I'm not writing a lot. I'm sure we'll all survive it.

I also had to get the DAZ newsletter done today. That took a bit of work and I'm not convinced I got it right.

But I am done with everything for right now. It's time to go get some sleep! Maybe by tomorrow, I'll have thought out an ending to this story, too.

Oh and the picture? That's taken over my shoulder. It's Zaphod where he likes to sleep on my chair behind me while I work. Silly cat.


"Your rooms," Royce said, waving a hand toward the door. He seemed in a hurry to get away. "I'll see you about eight in the morning."

He nodded and put his hand to the palm lock, having no doubt it was already keyed to him. The lights were already on inside, and he could see a large sitting room. The door to the bedroom was open.


He reached for his laser -- and stopped. He knew who it was before she came fully into view.


"Zerod?" she stepped out of the room, her own pistol in hand. "I didn't expect to see you here."

"I could say the same," he said. "But I should have expected it."

"Royce," she said with a shake of her head. "He asked me to stay at the compound and he'd set me up in a suite."

"And he said the same to me." Zerod noted, finally, that Cailin wore only a light robe. "Should we be angry with him?"

"I don't know. Maybe we should. . . . discuss it."

He followed her into the bedroom.

She took him into her arms and pulled him down to the bed, even before he could slip out of his own clothing. He let her do part of the work, enjoying the exquisite torture of her fingers brushing against his skin.

Her hands felt like magic, and he thought his must feel the same when he brushed his fingers along the side of her neck and down her left breast.

She pressed her mouth to his ear, whispering something -- he wasn't even aware what the words might be, the passion swept through him so quickly.

And for awhile he forgot about bombs, work -- and even that he was an assassin. He only knew the joy of being with her.

The night passed gently, wrapped in each other's arms, content with the night. For a few hours they didn't speak of assassins and bombs.

But the morning came, and they dressed and went to work, neither trying to stop the other from what they had to do, though Zerod could see as much regret in her eyes as he felt.


Royce did not mention it, and it seemed rather crude to thank him for sending his sister to Zerod's bed. Instead, they had a quick breakfast and went back to work, sifting through reports of anything that happened the night before -- just a safety precaution. It brought nothing to light.
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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Day 17: 2163 (30,333 book, 147,418 total)

Nothing is decided. Don't know if Russ will take the New York job or the Omaha job. Don't know if I will be in this house or the other house. Don't know if we will have heat in either house.

Have to have a decision and everything settled by Thursday.

Can you say stress?

And yes, it began to take it's toll on my writing the last few days. Today, I could not get moving for anything. I finally did something I probably should have done a few days ago. I started working on outline notes and writing them at the end of what I'd already written. As I write the full story, those sections will be replaced, so it's really not going to affect my word count in the end.

I actually made progress on the story that way, and I think tomorrow I can get true writing done on the story. Or maybe I'll work a little bit more on the outline and see if I can get it all the way to the end.

So you get to see how it works for me. My snippet is the last two (boring) paragraphs I'd written, and where I just coulnd't go on. After that, you'll find 8 outline sections. I had no idea I was going to write any of this until I got to it. I'm looking forward to actually writing the scenes now. I actually have 36 sections written out now. I haven't quite seen the ending yet. (Although, just as I wrote that, another piece fell into place.)

How many words will these be when I actually write them? I don't know yet. This story has to be at least 50k, so I need (taking the length without the outline) about 23k more. Say 25k to be safe, and I think that means each section would have to be close to 700 words. Since I will have more sections, that count would go down. If I want the story to be more than 50k, the count will go up. Right now, I'm just looking at 50k because my brain will not last through anything more stressful right now. So.... if I add another 14 sections (not a huge amount!) then each section has to generate 500 words of story. Some can be more, some less, but that's not really too bad when you take in dialogue, action, a few descriptions.

This might work.


Royce nodded as they headed toward the elevator. Zerod was glad to have him go along, if for no other reason than to have a second pair of eyes to watch.

He had not looked closely at the ruins since he had almost been buried beneath it. It looked no better for having shifted -- and no smaller or less terrifying. He keyed off the barrier and stepped inside the perimeter of the garden, but he was not going to go within the debris. He wasn't suicidal.

1. Still can't figure out second bomb. Feels that it is some important clue to what's going on.

2. Royce suggests that he stay at Felisa Corp compound now. Zerod agrees since he can't use is own usual methods for staying safe. Royce nods and steps aside to get his suite set up.

3. They work for the rest of the afternoon and late into the night. Bits and pieces that make more sense now. Just don't know why.

4. Finally retires. Shocked to find Cailin in his room. She says Royce told her it would be wise if she stayed at the compound for a few days and set her up in this suite. Both grateful to him.

5. Gentle night. Calming night. They are both better for it, and neither tries to stop the other from going to work.


6. Working through information. One day and nothing. Two days and nothing. By third day, tension everywhere, which Zerod can feel. Makes it more difficult to work. Can't find a reason to go back to the hotel and risk others just so he can get out.

7. Cailin calls, invites he and Royce to an early lunch. Royce asks if she would like to come there. No, need to stay close to office. Meet me at fish place we loved.

8. Zerod thinks they may be taking too much of a chance, meeting like that. Someone bound to be monitoring the calls. Royce says he knows. Truth is, he and Cailin both hate fish. If someone tries to find the fish place, they're going to searching a long time. But he knows she's really talking about the Aquarium.
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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Day 16: 2050 (28170 book, 145,255 total)

Glad they can rest through NaNo!

We are still uncertain what is going to happen next. Really. They made Russ and offer in Omaha, but it's for only 20 hours a week. They think there will be more hours soon -- but for now, that's it. Can we make it on that much plus the few hundred I bring in each month? Probably not. There are some other part time freelance things that Russ might do as well. . . . but it looks as though all it would get us is in more trouble. We're already too far over as it is.


So, at the moment, Russ leaves for New York, probably on Thanksgiving.

And what about me? I'm here in a house with no heat and winter is setting in.

We talked about it a long time tonight, and the plan -- if he goes to New York -- is to move me into the second house. We considered trying to rent it out, but that was too scary, to be honest. The house across the street rented for years, and the people who came and went were not good sometimes. Besides, we don't think it would be enough to make the payment on it. We would try to sell it, but the market here (along with the job market) sucks. It's one of those markets where you can tell the agent what color house, what side of the street and how many bedrooms, and the agent could find it for you. Besides, the house is not fully ours to sell. We are buying it on contract and we only have five more years of payments.

The house I am in now has a broken furnace, little or no insulation, and some other really serious problems that have worried us -- but with Russ here, it was no problem if something went wrong. The other house has central heating and air, a basement (helpful when those tornado warnings go off in the summer). It has a nice porch on the front and a cute little deck on the back, and a fully fenced yard. It's smaller than this house, but we use most of this house to just stack things in boxes anyway.

The good thing is that I won't need to move much to get settled in there -- computer, desk, bed, food, some clothing and cats. The rest can stay here (next door) and I can get what I need in pieces. I would miss my lovely little office, but there is another part of me that thinks changing location would be kind of nice, too.

If Russ goes to New York.

This is no easy decision. Russ isn't thrilled about going out and living in some one room apartment either, of course. Since the job is 70% on the road, he thinks it won't be too horrible. If he takes the job in Omaha, the work days have to be at least three in a row -- and he'll get a place down there to save on gas and to keep from having to drive home when the weather turns really bad. But he'll only be an hour and a half from home as opposed to a full day (if flying) from home.

Right now, the gas is not turned on in the other house and there may be some trouble paying any outstanding bills before they do it. We'd have to get all that done in the next few days. Thursday is a holiday. Russ will leave that day or the next.


As you can imagine, this is just driving me nuts. And that's why the word count is dropping. Once it's settled. . . . I don't know. I'll be depressed if Russ moves away. On the other hand, I won't have much else to do, and writing has always been my retreat from troubled times.

It is all, truly, insane. I'll go crazy before the end of next week. The only good thing I can say is that we're stocking up on cans of soup and rice dishes -- things that won't go bad so I can have food in the house, no matter which one I end up in.

Snippet. Let's just get to the snippet and I can go pound my head against the wall for a while.


They went back to Royce's office. Kenzie, he was glad to see, was no where around. For the next several hours they worked at going over vids and records, both from the Compound and the hotel. He hoped to find anything that might match up.

Cailin sent them reports through the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. Zerod found himself feeling relief every time they got something from her, if only because he knew that meant she was still all right. It was a difficult new feeling for him to experience, and though he would not actually admit that he'd fallen in love, he did know that this was a bad time for anything of that sort.

There would never be a good time for him. He would do this job and go back to his windowless suite in the Guild House. At least he wouldn't be reminded of Cailin every time he saw a tree.


The medtech brought them food and ordered them both to eat. Zerod started to argue and changed his mind again. He hadn't eaten much since he came to this world, and going much longer wasn't wise.

And sitting aside the work for a few minutes was also wise. He needed time to let his mind digest what he'd seen.

"There are a couple glitches in the vids that I suspect cover what our man did," he said between bites of superb potato soup. The Felisa's ate well. "They are both well within the time frame for here and at the hotel."

"And both during the middle of the day, though," Royce said with a shake of his head. "I don't get that part. Why risk being seen? Why not late at night when we're mostly closed down?"

"Because someone moving around at that time is bound to draw attention. Someone during the day does not."

He nodded. "Good point. We have the glitches at the point where he went to work. If he was wandering around, the other vidcams should have picked him up. I'll have people start going over them."

"Good plan. If we chance upon a face, we have a better hope of catching him."

Royce nodded agreement. He ate a few more bites of soup and then some of the sandwich -- and then tilted his head when he looked at Zerod again.

"Yes?" Zerod said.

"We should invite Cailin for lunch. She tends to forget meals, too, when she's working."

He looked up and met Royce's eyes. "Yes, that would be nice."

He nodded, keyed a call into her, and asked her to come over. Zerod thought she agreed a little too quickly. And Royce was looking at him again.

"I like Cailin," he said. "But I will be leaving when this job is done. I have no choice, Royce. I'm a Guild Assassin."

He nodded, but he didn't look happy. He did order in more food.
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Friday, November 16, 2007

Day 15: 5014 (26120 book, 143,205 total)

We are running out of time here. Unless something drastically changes, Russ will be leaving for New York next Friday. I don't know when he'll be able to come back. It's just not a good situation. There is a faint, little whisper of a hope that he might be offered a job tomorrow in Omaha. It has to be enough of a job to make this work, or else he has to take the job in New York. We are out of options.

This, of course, affects every part of life. NaNo really doesn't mean much when you're faced with someone you've lived with for thirty years moving away. We're not even sure how we're going to manage that, since I will need things here. My last check (the only one I'll have until the middle of next month again) just went to keep things covered for a while longer. It did not cover the bills due now or buying food. We hope for a small check tomorrow. And we hope for a little miracle so that we can actually stay together. No matter what, we can't both go.

So, it's a miserable time. We'll get through it, but it's not easy.

Writing, as always, helps takes my mind off the troubling stuff, so that's why I'm still doing any work on NaNo at all. I don't know if I'll go on through the end of the month. We'll see what happens, and how things settle.

But here's the snippet for the day. Oddly, this particular book seems to be going very well. I even have several notes for tomorrow's work as well.

"Thank God you're all right," he said, and seemed to mean it. He'd keyed on the pause again. "Thank God both of you are. You gave us one hell of a scare."

"My fault, sir. I knew that we were in a situation where the person behind all this had far too easy access to us. It was the best I could do to ensure we did get out alive."

"I'm glad of it," he said.

"I think I know a little bit more now about how the original bombing was done," Zerod said. He had the man's attention. "It was much the same as what happened below the hotel. A robo -- probably a normal service type -- was already rigged with a trigger. Our person only had to aim it at a door he'd already set with explosives as well. The two combined created the explosion. I think it was likely timed. And I think, sir, that the man would not have trusted that one robo would be free at the time. I want to check the rest."

"Others set to explode, too?" Claudian said. He looked worried.

"We checked them already," Royce said, but he frowned. "But we were looking for explosives. If it's only half the answer, then maybe we missed it. I'm willing to go over them again. They've all been pulled off anyway. We didn't trust anything after the explosion."

"Wise." Zerod said.

"Let me know what you learn," Claudian said, his hand over the computer again. "And be careful."

They stepped back out of the office and into a hall where there were more people working now. It seemed more normal, and that worried Zerod, who still wasn't certain where the enemy might strike next.

"I'm going back to my people," Cailin said. "I have work to do."

She patted his arm -- and he worried about her going out there alone. But hell, it wasn't like she'd been safe with him. He gave her a nod and thought he saw a little worry in her eyes as well.

"I'll see you later," she said and then turned to Royce, who had one eyebrow raised and was, plainly, trying not to smirk. "Don't say it," she warned.

"I wouldn't dare," Royce replied, and seemed to mean it. "Be careful."

She nodded and left, walking past Kenzie who was heading their way. She looked back at the elevator and shook her head and grinned, obviously showing how glad she was to get out before Kenzie had arrived.

One of the officer workers noted it, and Zerod felt a definite hint of amusement there. It was all he could do to keep from smiling. Kenzie was not a person you smiled at when you met her, and especially not the mood she was in. He could feel her anger from a dozen steps away.

But beneath that, he felt growing panic -- so strong an undercurrent that it was all she could do not to run and hide. It was chilling.

"Why have you not found any answers?" she demanded, looking straight at him. She plainly expected nothing from her brother. "Why are you here, when you should be --"

"We are headed to check something now, Kenzie," Royce said.

"That's not good enough. People are in danger," she said, looking from her brother and back to him.

"I am well aware of the danger," Zerod said, keeping his voice neutral, though that was not going to help her anger. "I am also aware that discussing it with you will not get us any farther."

Her eyes went wide and panic surged up so quickly that even Royce could see it this time. Was she that worried about something she couldn't control? He'd known people like her before, though none quite so fixated on themselves.

"We have work to do," Royce said. He started away, and Zerod followed with the odd feeling that they had barely gotten away from a dangerous situation. It was an odd feeling. He wasn't usually bothered by people in power, but for some reason, Kenzie radiated a dangerous combination of power and someone on the edge of losing control.

He looked back at her when they reached the elevator. She was talking to someone from the staff, her back straight and her face stern. But it was a mask and he knew it.

He and Royce slipped into the elevator and Royce quickly keyed in the destination, which was a couple floors below ground level. Between elevators and basements, he thought maybe he wouldn't mind a walk in the woods so much after all.

They stepped out into a narrow, cement walled hall. The lights, at least were bright down here.

"So," Royce said as they started away. "You actually like my sister, huh?"

The question took him so much by surprised that he actually sputtered. "Why in Gods name would you think I like --"

And stopped. Not Kenzie. They were not talking about Kenzie.

"You mean Cailin. Cailin is your sister."

"Yes, of course." He looked sideways at Zerod, his brows drawn down -- and then they rose again as he laughed. "God. You thought I meant Kenzie. No wonder that bothered you so much!"

"I didn't know Cailin was your sister."

"Half sister. You didn't study the family history?"

"Not that deeply," he admitted. "I was more interested in business troubles."
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 14: 8110 (21,106 Book, 138,191 total)

I have a headache. I have the kind of headache where I can't even see right. I have just finished up other work (mostly). I am going to bed.

Here is a short excerpt.


"Do you think we're going to find anything?" Cailin asked.

"Here? I don't know. Eventually, yes. Because I will not give up."

"You are far too devoted to your work, Zerod Argentine."

"And you think that's why I don't give up?" he asked, glancing her way. They had little light, and that only from the robo's panel.

She gave him a quick look and then bowed her head. "My apologies. I keep thinking of you as something different than what you are. Assassin is a bad term, you know."

"It's a good term. It relays to people that I will do what I need to, and that I am mandated by the Fringe Council to do so. People do take me seriously for it."

"Yes, they do that," she agreed. "But it's still not what you are."

"It is part of what I am. But we long ago gave up the work of being nothing but hired killers. There was not much work for that business -- or at least not the work we wanted to take on."

"I hadn't considered it that way. I always supposed there was someone who wanted another dead."

"Always. But, because we accepted a mandate from the Fringe Council, we agreed to limit what we did to work where it would have been impossible for anyone else to catch the person. And we have to prove, beyond any doubt, that the person needed to be killed. It limits what we do."

"Ah. And makes you far more human."

"I imagine so." He looked ahead, frowning. The tunnel was opening a little. He hurried a little more, glad to see they would at least be out of the confines of the tunnel. There would be a different access from upstairs, and he might find some information along that path if he found nothing here.

They stepped into a large area filled with crates of some sort -- supplies or back ups, he couldn't be certain. He saw the robo going for the door to the central core --


Stupid mistake.

He grabbed Cailin and threw her down behind the nearest crate as the door exploded.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Day 13: 3595, (!2996 book, 130,081 total)

As you can tell, not a great day of writing. Far too much going on, and it's going to get far worse before it gets better. The only good thing I can say is that I turned in a chapter for a nonfiction book tonight, so that's done. I have other things dropping in on me though, and I honestly can't keep up.

I have been enjoying the new novel, though. There's not enough sf to it, but it's an interesting character study so far. I have finally figured out part of what's going on. I'm having fun telling the story. I'll probably, at best, do about 5k a day from here on out. I still hope to have it done by the end of the month.

Today's snippet:

He kept the sound down, and when the funeral ended, he closed down the link and got ready. He knew Cailin wouldn't be long in arriving.

And he was right. He'd barely brushed his hair back and strapped on the dagger -- good to have it back -- when the door buzzed. He went over, cautious as ever, and checked.

Royce Felisa stood outside, looking worn and a little impatient. He was not the person Zerod had expected, or even wanted, to see. However, he could find no reason to say no, and finally keyed it open.

"Took you a moment there to decide, did it?" Royce asked as he stepped in.

"I'm always slow to let in people I do not expect," he answered and limped back to the bed to get his jacket. "Can I help you with anything?"

"You were a hard man to find. Luckily, having Felisa connections actually works on occasion." He walked over and looked out, staring in silence for a moment. "It doesn't matter how often I see it, I still can't get myself to believe this has happened. I can't figure out why."

"I wish I had an answer of some sort for you."

Royce looked back, frowning -- and then nodded. "You mean that. It's not just words to you."

"Yes, I do. And not just because it's my job."

He nodded again. "My father officially put me in charge of the Felisa Corporation Guards, at least for the time being. He doesn't particularly think you're going to find an answer, and he wants me to work on this as well. My thoughts, however, run to believing that if we work together, dividing up the jobs, we're more likely to come across something sooner. I want the answer to this, Zerod Argentine. I want it quickly before we lose any more people."

He nodded. "I'd be glad to work with you, but I have to say that my techniques are set in such a way that I do not work well side-by-side with people. However, this is a wide-open case, and there are things that could be easier checked by you, then by me trying to go through channels or tracking down people one-by-one."

"Yes, I thought as much," he said and then gave a little start with the door buzzed again. "Are you expecting someone?"

"Yes. Cailin. I assume that we work with her as well?" he said as he crossed the room.

"Oh yes, without a doubt." He nodded to her when she came in. "I didn't expect to see you here. And you knew where to find him?"

"I brought him here last night," she said, then looked at Zerod with a quick smile. "And we really shouldn't talk about him as though he's not here."

Royce gave a bow of apology and then turned back to Cailin. "I don't know if you heard, but father finally put me in charge of the guards."

"About damned time. If I'd had to go through Miss Bitch again, I'd have not bothered to report at all."

Zerod had picked up his case and looked from one to the other. "Miss Bitch?"

"Kenzie," Royce said with a little curl of his lip. Not his favorite sister, from what Zerod could tell. "She's taking this as a personal affront."

Cailin made a sound of disgust, and then looked contrite. "I shouldn't be that way. She's always been self-absorbed. But there are times when I wish she'd come out of that egotistical shell and look around at the rest of us."

"I know. Ready to go? Where are we going?"

"Back to the compound," Zerod said. He'd rather have listened to the two talked for a little while longer. They were open with each other, and it helped him to get a feel for things.

His head ached, but he ignored it and headed out the door. The two walked out of the room with him, and he stepped aside to let them go first. Cailin looked back at him, frowning again, and he gave her a little nod.

"In my profession, we learn early not to let anyone walk behind us."

"And that's supposed to make us feel better about you walking behind us?" she asked, stopping by the elevators.

"No, but it makes me feel better."

"I would think it would be very hard to have a social life with an attitude like that," Royce said as he keyed up the elevator. He looked at Zerod, perhaps waiting for an answer. "No social life?"


The answer obviously imparted enough information. He didn't ask more, and they slipped into the elevator in blessed silence. If they could get to work soon, it would be better. He was never good with small talk.

The elevator started down. He thought ahead to the things he wanted to get done today, and how he could get the other two to help --

The elevator came to a quick, bone-jarring stop. The lights went out.

"That's bad," Cailin said. She pulled out her pocket comp and used it as a light. Royce had his commlink out and was already talking to someone.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 12: 6065 (9401 book/126,486 total)

The count is good enough considering what a lousy day it was other wise. Chances are good that I'll drop out of NaNo by the end of next week. Real life is going to take a drastic change about then, and I really don't see how I'll have the push to do something fun like NaNo. We'll see.

Here is today's stuff:

Zerod took the first path that headed toward the compound. It did not go straight, unfortunately, and he found himself in the dark depths of some overgrown garden. Catrina Park, the sign had said, dedicated to the woman who had been the founder of the first colony, and for whom the entire world had been named. She had not been a Felisa, but she married one when he arrived a few years later. They'd done well. The world had not looked to be so promising, so they built their empire outward from it, and made Catrina the hub of activity. Most of the first generation they'd mined the lesser worlds nearby and built up supplies of minerals and metals that new settlements needed.

Profitable and wise.

Other companies had come later to the fringe. It was wide enough that for five generations they didn't do more than barb at each other on Newsline, or try to out maneuver the other in some deal. It was only in the last twenty years that things had gotten darker, and the new generation of owners was greedier than the previous groups.

Soulless, Zerod thought, trudging down the path, trying to ignore the ache in his hip and how he couldn’t clearly see where he was going. He stayed to the path. He could feel how people traveled along here every day, none of them worried about the huge trees that stood over them.

Sounds came from those trees. Birds and things, he supposed. The world was earth-like enough that they probably imported a number of such creatures. People tended to like them. He didn't know why. He'd even seen some on occasional domed colonies. Maybe it was just that primal instinct to have something from the Mother World that tied them back to her.

He didn't know. He didn't feel it.

The trees parted and he was within a few steps of the compound. The guards were on duty. He had no more trouble getting past them this time than he had the first time. He had the pass, and even if they looked at him oddly, they didn't question it.

He hiked up the hill, cursing silently. He wanted to get back to the ruins. He wanted to see if he could pick up anything of whoever had tried to kill him. It might be a quick end to this case. And then he could get on a ship and go back to Desmona Prime, stay in his apartment and read, and hope not to have another case for a year or more.

There was already someone up by the ruins. She stood by the barrier controls, slightly illuminated by the rest of the building that curved in a slight circle around them.

He could tell Cailin wasn't pleased to see him before he even got close enough to feel it.

"Are you stupid?" she said.

"That's not something I can judge."

"Well then, let me tell you -- you are an idiot. You shouldn't even be out of the hospital. When the gate guards said you were walking up here, I thought they were crazy."

"Crazy was not the question. Stupid was."

"Excellent point. I'll add crazy. What the hell are you doing here?"

"I want answers," he said. He looked into her face and saw just a slight softening of her anger. "I want to know who did this, and why. I can't learn that in the hospital. Besides, it's not wise to stay there, knowing someone is trying to kill me. You should contact your guards and tell them to go home."

She started to say something, and then stopped and grabbed out her commlink, glaring at him again -- though that passed to something closer to humor.
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Monday, November 12, 2007

Day 10: 8,038 (3336 Book 3/120,421 Total)

Today's picture is a blue jay!

Welcome to book 3. It is science fiction and at the moment it's called Working for The Guild, but that will likely change later.

The western is 51,703 words long. I had trouble with it -- not a surprise. About the final 8,000 words is a 'One Year Later' story that really just has the same characters and more trouble. I'll have to wait and see what I think of the entire thing in a few months.

This book started out good. I have ideas for it, and I think I just figured something out about the antagonist. I'm looking forward to working on it.

Tomorrow. Tonight I'm gong to get this posted, post some thing for work, send a couple work-related emails -- and get some sleep!

Here is the opening to the new book:

Zerod frowned as he looked out through the spider web pattern across the permaglass window. It had taken a bad hit, but at least nothing had come through this far. Through the pattern of the glass he could see far worse. In the wing of the building that stretched out a hundred yards away, the metal stood in twisted piles, even the permaglass shattered or melted. No one in that part of the building had survived.

He'd read the report on the way in from Desmona Prime. He'd seen holos of the scene. It did not live up to the real thing.

Someone hated the Felisa Family.

That wasn't a real revelation. No group of people got as powerful as the Felisas without making enemies of all sorts. They were, after all, a company family, with their hands in far too much of the business in the (something) Fringe. Some said the fringe never would have survived without the Families who had come in and invested their fortunes -- and made fortunes in return.

Zerod liked to think that they would have managed anyway. Humans were industrious little animals. They figured out ways to survive against the odds. Granted, it would not have been quite as comfortable without the Four Families, but he wasn't sure comfort was worth the price sometimes.

But even for all that -- the Felisa Family was the least troublesome of the families. They did well, they didn't push for more, and they didn't act as though they ruled, either here on Catrina or on any of their other holdings.

Zerod had worked on company-owned worlds. He knew the difference.

Someone came up to the doorway behind him. Zerod had already put his hand on his belt as he turned, and was greeted by a face he knew, though only from reports. He hadn't expected to see Royce Felisa, but only because the younger of the Felisa sons was not supposed to be on-world. He had a bag in hand. Obviously he'd just come in with the shuttle -- the same one Zerod had taken, but Royce would not have been in the common room.

"You must be one of the new guards hired," Royce said, his eyes narrowing as he looked Zerod over.

"No," he said. Best to get this out of the way. He removed his hand from the dagger at his belt and saw Royce's eyes blink in surprise. "I am the new assassin."

"You can't be," Royce said with an emphatic shake of his head. "My father would never hire --"

He stopped at those words, reconsidered the situation, and the frown grew. Zerod had expected it. People from his Guild were not welcome anywhere, even when they were most needed.

"My grandfather hired you," Royce said, anger hardly concealed under his thin veneer of manners.
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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day 10: 10,302 (47,001 book/ 112,383 total)

For those who wondered about the bright red bird two days ago -- that's a Northern Cardinal. We get a lot of them in this area. This is the female, which we don't see nearly as often -- partly because they tend to blend into the background more than the males do. Today I got several shots of this one -- probably more shots of a female than I'd taken in all the rest of my life. I also got some great shots of a blue jay today. You can see one on my picture a day blog

I had a much better day of writing than I expected. Things fell together this afternoon, and it really helped. I'm nearly done with story #2 and already thinking about story #3. Another 3k and I'll be at the minimum number of words for the story. I might just keep writing tonight (after at least one 'real world' job) and see how close I can get to finishing.Here's another short snippet. I know these aren't the most interesting things I've written, but that's all right. I've been experimenting with NaNo, and even if it isn't the best writing, I'm learning something about how I figure out characters. It's been fun.

And I have to say, after looking at one woman's blogged story snippets, I feel far better about mine. She knows how to write -- but her vocabulary is limited, and she uses 'shit or fuck' at least once in practically every sentence (blog and story, for that matter). And the scenes are so incredibly boring anyway, that the language is about the only thing interesting -- and that gets old real fast. She seems to think she's a genius. If that's so, I guess I'll just be happy to be a good writer -- even when I'm not writing the best I ever have. (grin)

Oh yeah. The snippet. Who knows -- by tomorrow night I might well be into another story entirely!

It was going to be another night camp and then tomorrow they'd be to the pass and by noon -- if they got past that obstacle -- they'd be to Santa Maria. Another half a day to the ranch. Tomorrow night at this time he'd know if they were too late or not.

There was one attack -- quickly repelled before he and Storm could even get into it. Just as well. He'd already had enough of fighting. He remembered why he had gotten out of the army early; march and fight, and eat bad food, and then start it all over again.. The enemy left a lot of dead on the road, and only the few with horses got away. They were pursued, but Kent had told them not to go up into the mountains where they could have set up an ambush.

It was a long day on the trail. They could see the enemy off in the distance sometimes, probably trying to draw them out, break the group up, and make it easier to fight them. It didn't work. Storm spent most of his time riding ahead or checking the arroyo, just to make certain no one tried that trick on them. He caught a group once. They didn't try it again.

And by the time the sun was going down, Kitt was out of sorts with everyone. He did his best to keep it to himself, and he spent a lot of time walking around while the others made a quick camp and set up the guard. By the time he made it back to General Kent's tent where he threw himself into a chair -- and regretted it when he bumped his arm.

"You should have that looked at," Kent said, looking across at him. "And then you should get some sleep while you can, because we're breaking camp at midnight and marching on."

He looked up, surprised by the revelation and feeling a little bit of a lifting of his spirit again. He nodded. "Thank you, sir."

"Thought that might cheer you up, though you're a fool for it, you know. A good night's sleep would do wonders for us all."

"I know. But -- We need to get back."

He nodded. "Food is on the way. Where's Storm?"

"Out looking for trouble, I suppose," he said and tried not to fret at the question. "He'll be coming in soon."

Kent nodded and then grinned. "He makes you nervous, too."

"Of course he does."
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