It Feels as Though

I OWE THE HOUSE an update. Here it is mid-December and the novel anticipated for spring, then summer, then “later this year” still is not forthcoming. So… what?

Well. The obvious point is that I haven’t really been working on it all that assiduously. After all, I wrote the entire Apocrypha (14 stories, over a million words), in 6 months. I’d expect to be able to turn a 120,000-word novel (for all it’s more sophisticated) in more time.

But, NOOOOoooo!

The latest excuse is the shed for the back yard at Casa d’Alger, coupled with the move of the Patch Factory. Well, the PF move is pretty much complete and I have four more days on the job remaining this year. I’ll be on staycation from Friday on to the Fourth of the New Year. It is my earnest hope to finish three or more of my outstanding projects, the novel included in that period. Of course, I have 16 days, which implies something like 5,000 words a day required. That makes me doubt that I’ll actually finish, but I suspect I can get within striking distance.

Meantime, here’s the next snippet.

Discovery, Rev 3, Ch4, Scenes 5 &6

Da Doll Mounts Up

The Gabrielle Dolly

The dolly double-timed it from the BOQ to her unit’s barracks, where she rummaged in the slops chest until she found a CADPAT camo rucksack, which she took back to her rack in the empty barracks room and loaded it with what she thought she’d need. On the way out, she encountered Little Low again.

“You’re up to something,” the Lance Corporal said.

“Yup,” the dolly replied. “And I’m in a hurry, too. Your point is…?”

“What? What are you about, here, recruit?”

“None of your business, Lance,” the dolly said, perhaps intemperately, albeit still not breaking discipline.

“Consider yourself on report,” Little Low said, rather weakly, as well as exceeding her authority. And, it seemed, she knew she was, for she danced from foot-to-foot in the doorway, not taking any action to block the dolly’s exit from the barracks building.

The dolly pushed by her nominal superior and clomped down the wooden stairs.

“I don’t care for your insubordinate attitude,” Little Low called after her.

“Really?” the dolly said, rounding on the striper. “That’s the best you got?”

“Stop!” Little Low shouted. Just then, a frekun ang corporal came running down the stairs from the second floor.

“What’s going on, here?” he asked. Technically, he outranked Li’h Loah, but neither woman was in his chain of command, so — just as technically — he had no authority in the situation.

“If I’m gonna break discipline,” the dolly was saying, unawares the larger noncom had entered the dispute. “Do you think I’m gonna… what…?” Realizing what was going on, the dolly took off running across the yard toward the BOQ parking lot.

As she ran, she heard the frekun ang corporal berating Little Low. “Isn’t that recruit in your platoon?” he demanded. “Here, you! Stop!”

Little Low told him succinctly, “Family issues. Fuck off.”

“Wow!” the corporal said, stunned. Trolls didn’t usually use obscenity, profanity, or blasphemy. “There’s a unit headed for disaster!” He said, stating what, for him, was the obvious. He stalked off, clearly washing his hands of the matter. The dolly heard the thudding of following footsteps and quickened her pace to a dead run. A quick glance behind over her shoulder showed her that Little Low was following her and gaining on her.

“Baby Troll!” the little billilaalu called after her. “Gabrielle! Stop! Think what you’re doing!”

“Done thinking!” the dolly shouted. “Doing, now!”

She came to the parking lot and did a pretty slick hurdle-jump over the low hedge that framed the lot and ran up to the parked Harley. She fumbled the keys out of her pocket, got a grip on the correct one and, struggling to keep her hand steady enough, stuck it in the ignition lock. Behind her, there was a loud rustling, as though Little Low, rather than jump the hedge, had elected to bushwhack her way though it. Which had to slow her down.

The dolly took the handlebars in hand and swung her leg over the seat. She turned the key (her heart rate settled down as the engine whirred to life and settled into a husky purr) and rocked the bike off the kickstand as she toed it into gear and twisted the throttle. Little Low came up behind/beside her and clutched at her shoulder. “Gabrielle!” she pleaded.

The dolly gave it gas and took off down the lot in first, the engine screaming. She made the bike slew through the S to get out of the lot and onto the street. She shifted to second and took off down the straight in front of the BOQ. Pete was just coming down the front steps, a determined look on her face, as the dolly whizzed by. In seconds, bike and rider were out of the area and headed for the main road.

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Petra Alexandra Troll

Pete stopped at the curb in front of the BOQ and waited until Little Low thudded to a stop beside her.

“Is that who I think…?”

Little Low nodded and said, “Mm hm,” at the same time, then gasped for breath. “Bitch stole my motorcycle.”

“Yeah. Thought she was pretty slick when she snaffled the keys in my quarters.”

“Speaking of which,” Little Low said, turning to face Pete. “How is it that a bike that was in the maintenance garage when its owner — to wit, me — left campus is now a good two hundred miles south?”

“Yeah,” Pete said quietly. “About that. I wanted to talk to you, but didn’t get the chance before…” She stopped when she realized that Little Low was crying.

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Pete Can Has Geas

Petra Alexandra

Pete let go a long-suffering sigh and snugged Little Low against her side, under her right arm. She patted the other’s outside shoulder with a distracted there-there air while the little billilaalu sniffled her hurt at the dolly’s betrayal. Neither one acknowledged how un-military their behavior was. “How long before she’s UA?” Pete asked.

“Monday morning reveille,” Little Low sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her gloved hand.

“The whole weekend? When I was your age…”

“Two feet of snow, barefoot, uphill both ways. I know, I know. The unit’s on liberty until then. There was the birthday party, which command figured to be of some significance. That was supposed to be a surprise.”

“I saw the flyers. She probably could have used the morale boost if somebody had broken Op Sec to her on that.”

“And she could have acted surprised if somebody did dump the feline out the burlap. Yeah. I get that… Now.”

After standing quietly for a moment, staring off into the distance after the dolly on her stolen motorcycle, the two of them turned and ambled toward the BOQ.

“So,” said Pete. “Last December, when I went back north, I told you…”

“To be a good friend to her,” Little Low finished for the Lieutenant as they started up the short flight of the front steps and stopped on the porch.

“And were you?” Pete asked as she yanked the door open and held it for her companion.

“Not so much. She’s hard…” Little Low passed through the door and stopped in the BOQ’s foyer. She let her voice trailed off.

“To get to know,” Pete said as she joined the other. “I get that.”

“No,” said Little Low. “That’s not it at all. She’s pretty much an open book. Not just her life story, what she wants from this world. Her massive crush on that Man of hers. No, she’s hard to be a friend to. I suspect that, when she gets around to it, she’s not going to have a lot of friends. But the ones she will have will be mortar forking strong. The kind who, when you show up at their door with a body to hide, won’t ask questions, but will just grab their hat and a shovel and follow you out to the car.”

Pete nodded and made a crooked grin acknowledging the truth of that. She punched the elevator button with a stiff forefinger and they waited for the car to come to that floor. They got in. Pete pushed the button for her floor. The car went up. They got out and walked down the hall to her room.

The door was ajar.

Little Low fell still and silent and threw Pete a look. Neither one of them was armed, but they both were sudden death with hands, feet, and other striking surfaces of the hominid body. But Pete was relaxed, as though she’d expected this and wasn’t worried there’d be an ambush the other side. She pushed the door wide and brushed Little Low back to enter the room.

“It’s okay,” she said. “Come on in. Have a seat. No food or drink in quarters, sorry. I’d offer, but… You understand.”

“It’s okay, Ell-Tee. I really shouldn’t be imposing on you like this.”

“No imposition, Lance. I have a sort of an obligation, where Baby Troll is concerned, myself. Hephaestus sort of laid a geas on me to protect her and, now I think on it, hasn’t relieved me of it, even though I haven’t seen her in months.”

“Hephaestus,” Little Low said archly.

“Okay. Well… Terry Britten. But she was acting under H’s orders. I suppose I’m going to have to go after her. Baby Troll, I mean.”

“Are you really? Well. I know some folks in the motor pool. You want a motorcycle, too? That Harley’s gonna be hard to catch with anything less frisky.”

“No. Thanks. I don’t need speed so much as craft. I’m not going to catch her in a stern chase, so I’ll have to go to where I know she’s gonna be and catch her that way. Speedy vehicle’s not going to get the job done. No, I’m going to have to get there the old fashioned way.”

“You’re gonna earn it? How? ‘What’s a nice girl like you…?'”

Pete laughed. “No. No. Nothing like that. I’m gonna hitch hike.”

“From where? Right outside the main gate? That’s discreet.”

“No. Good point. That won’t work. I’ll have to get a start. So I guess one of the patrol three wheelers would be the best. Care to be my driver?”

“Would I!”

“Drop me off somewhere near Winchester on 64?”

“Twist my arm!”

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