Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Hurry up and wait


It’s beautiful. She turns it in her hands, gazing in awe as the harsh light fails to pick out a single flaw in the manufacture or design. She has seen similar before, but always flawed, always ill-conceived. Always with a point of weakness that she can isolate and target.
This however, is perfect.
Around her the laboratory whirls as she slips into a trance like focus state, assessing what she knows, analysing the device against the criteria she can draw up on their systems and seeking, ever seeking for appoint of weakness to be exploited.
Time after time she tests it. Days fly by as she works with her whole being focussed around this one inanimate object. Bullets cannot penetrate, no missile, however big or strong can provide enough force to beat through the shielding. And yet she can hold it in her bare hands without harm.
For months the two armies have been battling on the hostile terrain of the moons around the 12th planet of the system. Humanity, seeking ever to expand had long since left earth, settled in the far reaches of the galaxy and, when every barely inhabitable planet was overrun, they had moved on. Ever reproducing, ever infecting, a plague across the universe. Now they were in a new galaxy and out of resources. No supplies would ever come in and the initial planets they had colonised, while suitable in terms of air and water, lacked severely in metals. Aluminium, iron and the other building blocks of their civilisation could only be garnered from recycling the crafts they had landed in. It had quickly become a race. Large crafts were repurposed into a fleet of smaller ships and, initially working as a team, the first who had happened upon these mineral rich moons had realised the bargaining power they now held and the mining rights had triggered war.
Now the materials that were mined were immediately thrown into the arms race. Designers and technicians on both sides had worked with their limited resources to create ever more fabulous shielding devices, and then counter measures, back and forth in an endless cycle until this.
It seemed unbeatable, the perfect armour.
The wearer was perfectly safe, but anyone outside who tried to hit them would upon impact receive a massive jolt. It was sufficient to repel bullets, axes, lasers even. Nothing could penetrate that barrier, except for a hand reaching out to grasp and manipulate it.
This was the only one they had been able to recover. A freak accident had caused one of the soldiers wearing it to have a heart attack and their own people had got to him first. He was receiving first aid in a hospital near her, while she was supposedly testing it to destruction. In reality she had not yet made a single mark. She couldn’t even begin to take it apart to analyse how it worked let alone devise a means of defeating it.
Frustrated, she recalled her tester for the day to put the armour back on so they could try a few things.
He fitted himself carefully into the armour, then, following her instructions, threw on a set of civilian clothes. They were going, she said, to test it in an exposure zone. As these were all on the opposite side of the facility he needed to cover-up. However, she didn’t want the kit in its usual shielded carry case, because it was a possibility that the kit would be unlocked in some way after being worn in certain environments.
The two walked together through the halls. As they passed a communal room, he nearly bumped into one of his friends who admonished him to look where he was going and punched him playfully on the shoulder, before yelping and waving his had in the air, comically accusing the wearer of being staticy.
Mostly oblivious to this point the woman’s head shot up when she heard the word static. She stared at the two men and as the newcomer was about to head off she instructed him sharply to come with them. Not bothering to ascertain whether he did, she curtly insisted they hurry and charged to the testing zone.
Slamming down a lever which caused both men to whiten slightly, she instructed the newcomer to gently take his friend by the elbow. He did and there was no reaction from the armour. Now, punch him lightly, as you did in the hall. A very small spark appeared between his fingers and the armour as his hand entered the last millimetre or two before the polished surface.
Slap him, she commanded. Don’t be shy.
The flat of his hand moving faster, the spark was bigger and leaped further.  Gazing at a monitor nearby the woman seems satisfied. Now, she said, hit him as hard as you can. The armed man closed his eyes in sympathy, while his friend visibly gritted his teeth, before swinging a fast powerful roundhouse. His fist was still a foot away when it happened.
A bolt of lightning erupted from the armour and flung the aggressor several feet across the room. The lever she had pushed had summoned first aid teams, prepared for treating the outcomes of life threatening testing and they now sprang into action, seizing him and treating him for a massive electric shock.
She took the arm plate off her tester and eyed it closely, stroking and pressing over the device looking for a point that responded to gentle pressure. Suddenly, it popped open and she smiled in triumph.
2 days later she was ready to take her outlandish proposal to the generals.
“This armour has sensors which identify incoming missiles. Objects are assessed by mass and momentum. Any object which is very large but moving slowly will trigger a distributed shield, so a ram for instance will cause the shield to rise, but if it cannot repel the attack, the wearer will instead be flung back. Smaller missiles at higher speeds will cause the shield to rise in focussed areas, to absorb the force of the projectile before impact.”
Behind her, as she spoke, her tester, clad in the armour was undergoing attack from various items to illustrate her point.
“At first glance it would seem there is little we can do without unduly exposing our own people. However, I am delighted to say we have been able to recreate this armour, meaning we will be able to at least protect our people.”
Another individual, wearing similar armour, walked onto the stage.
“Furthermore,” she declared, “we have isolated a single weakness in the armour which can be exploited when both sides have the protection it affords.” The generals, until now morose and only slightly relieved by the news they could create their own armour, perked up a little. The two men on stage moved into a combat stance.
“The suits will work against each other. Should either man attack, both suits will perceive an incoming threat and repel the other. However, in order for them to be wearable the suits first have several unprotected areas – designed to save resources and allow flexibility on the assumption that nothing will pass the shield. Second, human mass is required to be combined with an effective assault speed before it will trigger the shielding. Therefore, by restricting their movements to a slow, controlled action, both men can engage in martial combat with blades and bare fists, which will, if they move slowly enough, pass through the shielding zone and can penetrate an exposed area, enabling the severing of life support systems.”
Behind her, the two men engaged in low speed knife fight, revolved gracefully around the stage. Occasionally one would move too fast and be repelled by the shielding on the other’s suit, but they learned quickly and finally one manipulated an opening and, blade gliding gently through the air he severed the seam of his opponent’s space suit. In the demonstration room this had no impact, but out in the fields, this single breach would mean instant death.
Delighted, the generals provided clearance for mass production of the suits and instant training requirements for all combat personnel to be fully versed in hand to hand combat and, in response to her advice, the ancient art of T’ai Chi.
She, meanwhile, returned to her quarters with a reflective smile on her lips. She hoped he would appreciate the elegance of her solution as she admired the beauty of his designs. It would be a long few weeks until she was able to see his response, but she knew when she received the call that a new weapon had appeared, she would eagerly analyse every iota of data she was offered to play the next level in this increasingly challenging game.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Mills and Boon synopsi

Crappy, raunchy romance novella plot forthcoming:

Mid thirties professional woman, broken up with her boyfriend of three years is taken to Vegas by her friends. After a night of gambling, drinking and all you can eat buffet, her friends take her to a strip club. She is quite uncomfortable and slips out of a side door while they aren't looking.

In the alley, she catches her breath and starts thinking about her ex. After a while she realises that actually, she feels a little bit relieved that they split up and she is shocked, mentally clinging to the pretense that she's still broken hearted.

While she is dealing with her inner conflict, a door in the wall opposite opens and a man strolls out, calling something over his shoulder to whoever is behind him. He is striding purposefully down the alley when he suddenly notices her. He seems very annoyed and is a little aggressive when he asks her what she is doing there. Tipsy enough to be full of bravado, and with a decade of experience facing down aggressive men at work, she told him off for being so disrespectful and informed him succinctly that he needn't fear for his virtue as there was a building full of professionally sexy men behind her.

He looked briefly stymied then laughed, slightly embarrassedly and apologised. She accepts graciously, then unbends far enough to admit that actually hairless and oily men aren't that sexy and if the alley was well lit, she would probably have to admit he was attractive. (or something) Basically, she says something that boosts his ego and references strippers. He then questions her about it and they talk for ten minutes about her holiday. Then he gives her his number and suggests they meet for coffee the next morning as he thinks her friends will be comatose until mid afternoon. He warns her not to loiter in unlit alleys as it isn't safe, then heads off in the direction he was originally going.

She returns to the groups they party, she doesn't really get into it. The next day she wakes up and she's still thinking about ex, but also about the other guy she met. Bored of waiting for her friends to wake up, she texts the guy and suggests he meets her at some Vegas landmark. He finds her, he's wearing t-shirt, jeans and a ratty hat with a wide brim. They hang out for a few hours, very flirty and they don't quite kiss when she goes back to her friends.

That night she wins big on the tables and she decides to extend her holiday. Her friends all have to go back to work, so she is alone and gets back in touch with the guy. They still don't go past flirting and she tells him all about her ex and how much she is still attached to him. All their time together has been during the day until now because he works in the theatre she first met him outside. Finally he has a night off and they make arrangements to go see a show. He comes to her hotel to pick her up, things escalate and they stay there for 36 hours.

At the end of this time she wakes up and realises he is gone. She also has a voicemail from her ex who is interested in getting back with her.

She gets the plane straight home and spends the majority of it wondering why the new guy didn't say goodbye. When she gets back and meets up with her ex she realises she is completely uninterested in him. As they are talking and she is trying to find a way out of the conversation she sees a page of a magazine with her new guy's photo in it. Surprised, she makes a mental note to check it out, but reverts back to the conversation when she realises that her ex keeps alluding to her wealth and how without the stresses of having to earn a living, the two of them would be so much better off together.

Blithely, she apologises and tells him it's all gone. He's gobsmacked; she concocts a story about a two day party binge with several bad bets at a roulette table and excuses herself.

On her way home she buys a copy of the magazine and finds the story about her new friend. It turns out he's an actor, with a pretty big role in a successful show. It further turns out that he is engaged. Only reading half of the story, she throws the magazine in the bin and spends some time trying to come to terms with the fact that she's now potentially broken some other woman's relationship.

Over the next few weeks she completely avoids all celebrity magazines because she doesn't want to deal with seeing his face. One day she gets a text from him saying he's in her city and can they meet up. She initially decides to refuse but eventually agrees so she can yell at him and get a bit of closure. When they meet, she immediately explains her reasons for seeing him and doesn't give him much chance to defend himself. Eventually he manages to convince her he's broken up with his ex, because of the time the two of them shared. She is furious at him for (as she sees it) shifting the blame onto her.

Now, at this point he tries to suggest the two of them get together, but then he sees her ex, who has heard back from her friends that she hasn't lost all her money and he is still trying to hook up with her. New guy misunderstands the ex's behaviour to imply that the two got back together and congratulates her and goes away.

She finally gets rid of the ex and convinces him they have no chance. Over the next few days she gradually becomes more depressed - she has worked out all the issues that she had had with the new guy and without her anger to sustain her, all she could think was that she had lost a great opportunity to be with a really cool guy.

She continues working, but becomes more detatched from the role. Without the urgency of paying bills to drive her and without any real enthusiasm in life she finds it very difficult to get out of bed. Talking with her friends in the bar one night they convince her to quit her job and try doing something she had always loved. She buys in a bunch of craft kits and becomes absorbed with creating jewellery. Setting up an Etsy shop she quickly builds her business to become independent and finds  a lot of pleasure in making beautiful things for people to enjoy. One day she uses her jewellers techniques to make a bigger piece and ends up with a large sculpture. In the absence of anywhere else to put it, she takes it to a local gallery and asks if they can sell it.

Two days later they call to tell her it's been sold and the buyer is commissioning a partner for the piece. Something different, but along the same lines. She works on it for a few weeks and calls the gallery when its done. They arrange for her to meet the buyer there. It turns out to be her new guy, he is as surprised as she is - he hadn't looked at the artist's details and simply liked the piece. He also likes the new one and talks her into going out to dinner to celebrate. She agrees, as friends.

They go to dinner, they have a good time, they relax, he escorts her home, they once again spend the night together. The next morning she woke up and he was lying next to her, awake and watching her. She is a bit embarrassed but he insists they talk things over. Last time, he says, he'd heard her exes message and didn't want to get in the way of that. Also, knowing he had to sort out his own situation he'd thought it was best just to leave. Now, he had no barriers to the two of them being totally honest with each other.

She explains her ex was a douche and she was never really that into him in the first place. However, she is very upset that he would cheat on his own girlfriend and she doesn't feel that she could trust him.

Haven't yet figured out how, but as it's a M&B, they obviously work it out and are happy forever and have 3 kids and two dogs and she is a super successful artist and he carries on being successful and famous.

Alicia

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Sing me a song

It is 3:00 pm, a perfect time to lie in a meadow in summer, with the fingers of one hand dangling into a swift moving stream. The icy cold is such a relief from the unpleasant sticky sweatiness I feel generally. I see blue sky above me and hear birdsong and plant life rustling.

I have a lover nearby who talks intermittently. I smile, laugh and occasionally gaze adoringly in his general direction. I know he doesn't need me when he's talking. He could be talking to anyone. But he wouldn't be silent with anyone else. That's my time. That's our thing.

He finishes telling me about the guy who made his sub and the bond they had formed, ever so briefly, over a band they hand both seen in the last week. I recommend they make a date for the next gig and he grins before lapsing into silence. He pulls on the grass and plucks a single stalk which he gradually shreds; first de-seeding, then unpeeling the leaves one by one. I don't need to watch, I've seen it a thousand times. I don't need to listen. The sound of his breathing will remain unchanged. As I relax, my breathing slows and deepens, but he always has such control that it stays constant.

Instead I feel. I feel the heat of the sun above me, the prickly earth below. The chilly waters endlessly flowing and leaching the heat from my fingers feels icy cold. I feel a warm breeze, barely disturbing my skin. I feel the light cotton of my skirt on my legs, acting as a shield from the sun. The portion of my legs that lies exposed feels slightly tighter and dryer than the portion protected by the skirt.

I feel his hand. It rests on my belly. He must have finished with his grass. It is gentle and soft, yet I know its size and strength intimately. Every detail is burned into my mind of the crisp curling hairs over the back of his hand, the callus on his palm and the scar on one finger where he was marked as a child by a falling knife he'd tried to catch. Each of his fingers is lightly dusted with hair and his nails are short and squared. The hand I have been resting in the grass until now reaches up to join his almost of its own volition. My fingers wrap around his wrist and caress his hand, before intertwining with his own fingers.

I feel his blood pumping through his hand and the pulse jumping lightly in his wrist. There is no need for me to see his face to know his eyes are watching our fingers. In his mind he is meticulously logging each visual and audible moment; probably without even realising it in the same way I record every sensation to cherish on a cold, lonely day.

He lifts his hand pulling mine to his lips and kisses it lightly before returning it to my midriff, and begins to croon a soft lullaby.

My breathing slows and deepens. My heartbeat is steady. I smile slightly and close my eyes as the song washes over me.

Alicia

Monday, 2 June 2014

They go to the wind

She sat in the cool grass of a beautifully manicured lawn, resting her back against the trunk of a tree which, these days, seemed to be the only thing thicker than her own midriff.

Sighing, she tilted her head back and gazed at the canopy of leaves above her. From her vantage point the leaves were yellowy and the light filtered through in scattered patterns. She frowned and turned away; gazing across the lawn to a flowerbed. A bird clung to a fine upright branch, performing acrobatic feats to nibble on the insects infesting the bush to one side of him.

Here, she felt she was alone. The tree to her back cut out half of the world and in front of her various plant beds featured large bushes which effectively cut out the world ahead of her. Discontented with her lot she frowned out into the garden; disapproving of the flora and fauna alike.

As she sat alone, her negativity graduated into genuine sorrow. The last time she had been here had been as a child; between 8 and 10 years old, she had walked here with her father and he had pointed out that the tree she was currently sat beneath was covered in cherry blossom. He'd talked about how the cherries would follow the flowers later in the year, how things change and grow and are endlessly renewed.

Two years ago he had died. An unsuspected high blood pressure had caused a massive stroke from which he had never woken.

She had refused to think of him since. He had always promised her forever and she couldn't forgive him for reneging. Sitting in this place now, the loneliness and sorrow could no longer be suppressed. Her eyes began to burn and her throat tightened.

As her head drooped in a prelude to a storm of sobbing, she felt an unexpected caress on the side of her neck.

She brushed her hand over the exposed area and, slightly startled, turned to see what had caused it. A leaf fell from her shoulder. Sighing, she felt the moroseness returning to the fore but the wind picked up again and a light breeze enveloped her. It was warm and soft and felt briefly like it caught hold of her and did not want to let her go.

Wishful thinking, she told herself. and looked out into the garden once again. A brief ripple passed through the plants opposite her and, moments later, she felt another embrace from the wind. She watched the activity in the garden again - the bird clung and bobbed as it remained focussed on its dinner; the flower heads swung under the pressure of the breeze and the few loose leaves were only fractionally disturbed as the breeze was far too gentle to lift them.

Anticipating the next breeze, she reached out her hand to see if she could feel it. In her mind, she pictured the breeze slipping around her outstretched fingers. In reality thee was no physical sensation, but once again, when the breeze hit her face and neck, she felt the impact. This time she smiled as she nestled into the brief moment where the wind caught her in its embrace.

Now she was not alone. Now the wind was with her and within it she could hear the voice of her father telling her about renewal and rebirth. Nothing, he had told her, was ever truly destroyed. Now, alone in the garden thinking of him, she believed it. She found a measure of relief in this certainty she suddenly held: when her father was buried the priest had declared he was being returned to the earth and she had seen the 6 foot barrier of dirt laying between them. She believed she had lost him forever, but now she knew he was with her, wherever she went.

Her father was not laying in the cold earth; he had gone to the wind.

Alicia