As you may have noticed, we’ve got another fifth Friday this month. Which means…it’s time for our second installment of “Fifth Week Fiction”!
Since we’re spending the summer studying dynamic introductions, I thought I’d show some of my own practice in the art. I typically feel confident with character development, but I seem to lack the skill for punchy scenes.
So here’s me having a little fun while (hopefully) practicing what I preach. For this exercise, I present these two characters:
The boy you already met in my previous Fifth Week Fiction. Here he is meeting the girl:
“Important Person,” a voice monotoned nearby.
Tainock looked up from his book. There was no one on the walkway near enough to speak with him, but Amadeus had also lifted his head and perked his ears like he’d heard something.
Tainock warily lowered his eyes back to the book. He read an intro concerning the establishment of tachs, the law force instigated by Guardian Bemdin when –
“Important Person, if I could please have a word with you.”
Tainock heard Amadeus rumble. There was still no one around.
“Ye-es?” he mumbled.
The short tree next to him shivered, and Tainock caught a glint of shiny green between the waxy leaves. He heard a branch snap, and whatever was in the tree tumbled into the bushes underneath. Amadeus leaped up and snarled, which began to draw the attention of people nearby.
Tainock put a hand on Amadeus’s neck, hoping to subdue him before too many started staring. He peered into the brush and watched, amazed, as a metallic reptile wriggled on its back, swinging stubby claw feet to right itself. As soon as it had rolled over and turned to face Tainock it continued as though nothing had happened:
“Important Person, I wish to make you aware of a pressing matter – ”
“You’re an iguana,” Tainock interrupted.
“Correct. That is my build. Now, if you give me a moment – ”
“But you’re mechanical,” Tainock said.
“Please, Important Person, focus on the matter at hand. I must caution you on the interaction you will have with a cohort of mine.”
“Matter at hand?” Tainock said. “Cohort?”
Passers-by were definitely gawking now, none being close enough to see the little robot iguana.
“You will meet her shortly. She has a question to ask that is of great importance to her. But I want to clarify matters on two points. One: her question has no validity whatsoever. Two: she has poor social skills.”
“Poor social skills,” Tainock repeated. “What, do you mean she’s shy?”
“Shy?” said the iguana. “I wish that was her problem.”
Tainock heard something like metal striking metal up above, but didn’t have a chance to look up before torrential water gushed over him, knocking him onto the walkway. Water flooded everywhere, even pushing Amadeus back.
Tainock was aware of a cut on his cheek and the sting in his palms and wrists when he’d tried to break his fall. The passers-by who had been gawking he now heard shrieking as they fled the disaster.
Over where he’d been sitting the water had slowed to a spray as emergency shut-off valves began to kick in. And in the mess of flood-flattened and uprooted plants there crouched a girl – dark-skinned with darker freckles, orange hair shaved close on one side and braided down to her waist on the other. She steadied herself by clutching the bench with an odd, bright metal hand.
She grinned at Tainock.
“You have to be the Guardian, with that star pinned to your chest. But I didn’t expect you to look so much like a Dawnian.”
The robotic iguana sidled up onto the girl’s shoulder and studied Tainock from that perch.
“I apologize, Important Person,” he said. “The warning never comes soon enough.”
Tainock, stunned speechless, had the sense to command a hackled Amadeus down and check to see if anyone else would be in harm’s way should this girl be volatile. A hundred lessons on crisis mitigation scrambled through his head.
What had Uncle taught him? Find the reason before taking action (not that they’d ever applied it in their own interactions). The iguana had said the girl had a question. Maybe in answering it he’d get a chance to hold her in custody –
“You’re quiet,” the girl said. “You think I’m strange. I know. But I hear it’s hard to get your attention, so I had to be drastic.”
Tainock ventured, “The…uh…robot on your shoulder said you had a question.” Oh, yes, THAT sounded authoritative. He tried again: “I’ll give you permission to ask, but then you must come with me for the damage you’ve caused here.”
The girl let free a catastrophic laugh.
“No, that’s not the way it works. If you answer my question, you have to come with me.”
Tainock fumbled. “I…what?” he said. This discussion wasn’t going like the lessons said it should.
“Where’s my family?” the girl asked.
“Family?” Tainock could hear how stupid he sounded. “That’s it? That’s your question?”
“Yes. Where’s my family?” the girl repeated, like suddenly Tainock would understand.
“Wh – Look, I don’t even know who you are.” Tainock’s eyes went from her face to her metal arm. Both arms were metal, he realized. And her feet and legs. “I can’t be expected to tell you where your family is.”
The girl tilted her head, as though resigned. “Huh. Yeah, I was told you wouldn’t let me know. But that’s not going to work on me!”
And then she sprang and threw Tainock to the ground.