Between laundry and football, I didn’t get quite as much done today as I hoped, but I’m pretty pleased overall. It helped to sketch out notes by hand off and on throughout the day, so that when it was time to sit down and write, I had the direction. I continued to work in Deathright today, but first thing tomorrow, I’m switching to Victor.
NaNoWriMo Total: 3,733
Snippet: I’ll post the opening section of Deathright, but the rest of the snippets will be much shorter, even once I switch to Victor. This first part has been at least cleaned up a little — but today’s words haven’t been, and I don’t think I’ll have time to clean them up any time soon!
The most pressing difficulty with living on a remote planet dedicated to the study of alien species was, quite simply, the aliens.
Catriona Lizbonne, Lady Araknae, watched with barely veiled distaste as the mechs deposited the unruly alien specimen opposite her. Bio-enhanced robotics possessed more than twice of most any living creature’s strength, yet it took three mechs to secure the restraints on the big Razari. Hissing and snapping treacherously fanged teeth at the armored limbs locking him into place proved ineffectual, and at last, the Razari ceased his struggles and turned slitted green eyes on her.
For a remarkably ugly alien, he had the most brilliant emerald eyes she’d ever beheld.
“My lady.” The highest-ranking mech sketched a bow to her, his body mostly living tissue with only minor technical enhancements. “If you need anything, simply ring for assistance.”
Catriona inclined her head, trying to be as cold and regal as her mother, the Duchess of Araknae and ruler of this forsaken rock on the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Her mother’s title provided great prestige and assured at least the polite cooperation of every mech currently deployed by the Military Intelligence & Galaxy Sciences, known simply as MIGS. On the other hand, the General and his cadre of brilliant scientists were an entirely different story.
If they discover my plans, I’ll be silenced before I’m even aware that the Game is afoot. A mech in my sleep, poison in my replicated food, an innocent anomaly in my vaccinations, nothing else will matter, for I’ll be dead.
The mechs clattered out of the room and the door swished shut.
She picked up the datapad and pretended to read the alien’s file—which she’d already read so many times she’d memorized every detail—until she managed to calm her mind. Beneath the table, she slipped her left hand into her reticule and wrapped her fingers around a small silver tube. To the untrained eye, it was a simple stick of rouge to be applied to either the lips or cheeks. Cosmetics were all the rage at Court, or so the Duchess of Araknae had prattled on and on about at dinner last evening.
If the tube were scanned, however, one would find a tiny modulator hidden inside that would disrupt the listening and recording devices hidden in every room and hallway of the MIGS Headquarters.
The Razari’s breath hissed in the silence, his rage and hatred a discernible vibration on the air. He stared at her, grim in his ferocity, but silent. He’d had enough contact with the Empire and MIGS to expect the worst.
The scientist in her couldn’t help but take note of their species’ differences. He was humanoid, yes, but so very exotic and large in appearance as to be considered monstrous. He strained against the wrist cuffs they’d locked in place about his massive forearms until tendons and veins stood out in stark relief against his brownish skin. Dark iridescent green markings ringed his wrists and disappeared up beneath the short sleeves of his standard black uniform. More emerald markings mottled his throat, a striking compliment to the greenish-black fronds of hair which waterfalled down his shoulders and back. Around his neck, he wore a dull black chain from which hung six glassy crystals, each as long as her thumb.
Despite her extensive education in the sciences, she still felt a moment of surprise that he wore clothing and jewelry, for which she immediately suffered a pang of shamed regret. Such privileged thinking had excused the destruction of species after species in the name of Britannia. Entire civilizations had been lost in the name of protecting—or expanding—the Empire. That Britannia’s noble Houses’ pockets had expanded at a comparable rate was merely an insignificant observation made by the subjugated species which now bordered on extinction.
If this male…man…walked into the Royal Court in Londonium, the Queen’s Guards would surely obliterate him on the spot. Then Her Majesty would send an entire legion against Razar itself to ensure no one dared oppose her.
Catriona ran through everything she knew about the Razari, which was dreadfully insufficient for such a monumental decision. Can I trust him? With my life?
The alien leaned forward, pinning her with his eerie eyes. His crystals clanked on the table. “My papers are in order. You have no right to hold me.”
“These papers?” She pulled out a heavy vellum document bearing a seal stamped in black wax, which embedded the nanochip for easy scanning—and, more importantly, tracking. Spreading it open, she read aloud: “Zang of Razar, indentured Captain of the ship, Skog, conscripted into service of the Military Intelligence & Galaxy Sciences on this day…”
“Zane-guh,” the alien said, lips pulled back in a snarl. “I serve as Captain and am unavailable for your experiments. It says so clearly in my contract. The Matriarch was very explicit in her agreements with your Queen. Never again will a Razari be subjected to biotech!”
His Matriarch had indeed been very clever and careful in her desperate negotiations to save as many of her people as possible after the Empire had unleashed the latest bio-engineered weapon on her planet. Despite the atrocities of genetic mutation and widespread death she knew had coccurred on Razar in a bloody, horrible war frightfully not unique in the Empire’s long history, Catriona forced out a trilling laugh in case anyone happened to be monitoring this room. However, she couldn’t hide the faint tremble of her fingers tracing the black seal of the eight-legged spider that had made this planet infamous. “If you know anything at all about MIGS, then you know she’s not my Queen.”
“I have served my contract with honor. In three more years, my debt will be paid in full and I will be free.”
She allowed a grimace to twist her mouth. “Free. As long as you avoid Her Majesty’s Sublime Space. Free as long as you stay off her Silk Roads. Because if any Imperial ship spots your little cruiser, you’ll be blasted out of the sky.”
“Free.” The alien arched his neck and upper back into a hunch, lowering his head in a fierce glare, his eyes glittering like fiery jewels. “The deathright is mine, bought and paid for in the blood of my people. I shall die with honor and none can take that freedom from me.”
She’d noted the strange reference to deathright in his contract but had no idea to what it referred. Thumbing the slim canister to activate the disruption, she leaned forward and lowered her voice. “What if I purchase the remaining years of your indenture? You could be free in months rather than years.”
His tongue flicked out—thankfully not forked or she likely would have shuddered—but it was black and strange enough that she unconsciously pulled back to a safer distance.
Cocking his head, he studied her, his eyes flashing oddly. “That would be a very great sum, my lady.” She heard the sneer in his voice, even if his lips didn’t curl with disdain. “My ship in particular has a reputation of slipping in and out of nearly any Imperial port without detection. MIGS shall not price the Skog or her captain as a bargain.”
“Price is not your concern.”
He lowered his head even more, straining against his bonds to reach further across the table to flick that odd tongue at her. During their research before the assimilation of Razar, Imperial scientists had speculated that a Razari’s sensitive tongue could be used to convey information such as emotions and intent by tracking pulse, temperature and even scent. Steeling herself, she leaned forward, too, refusing to show any fear or hesitation. If he were trying to judge her honesty, she would at least make it easy for him, no matter her revulsion.
A mere hand span separated their noses. His tongue flicked out again, close enough she felt the wind of its passing, but she didn’t flinch. “And what, my lady, do you require in return?”
At least the disdain had been replaced with a grudging admiration. She harbored no illusions that any non-Razari had ever allowed him this close. She refused to think about how sharp his teeth must be. “I want passage to a planet far from Sublime Space. Can you recommend a safe haven for an expatriate?”
“I can indeed. But before I agree, I shall need to examine my passenger and her cargo in excruciating detail.”
Catriona swallowed. She had no idea what the alien might require of her, but she’d do it. Failure was not an option.
Gripping the disruptor tightly in her left palm like a holy relic, she prayed her sweat wouldn’t compromise it. She rose slowly, leaning closer to the alien with her right hand braced on the table to keep her balance. His scent was not unpleasant but strange, ripe with the odor of green growing things and brackish water. She brushed her cheek against his.
The damp heat of his tongue tapped gently along her jawline to the pulse throbbing in her neck. There, he planted his tongue firmer, as though scanning the very blood in her veins for some biological signals she couldn’t even begin to fathom.
At last, he withdrew. Calmly, she straightened and slipped the disruptor back into her reticule. She met his gaze and found his eyes sparkling, whirling green and gold glimmers that made her dizzy. “Well, then, Captain Zang. Do we have a bargain?”