Of Earth and Ice – Episode 6

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial

by Jeremy C Kester

Edited by: Beth Townsend-Smith

6: The Run

Gerald arrived to find Evie standing perfectly still on her one leg.  It was quiet.  Only the hum of the generators made any sound, though both women had tuned them out for the moment.

Most of the colony was asleep, except for a crew of slushers out on evening waste removal and the guards who patrolled the corridors.  Gerald discovered this was an ideal time to visit Evie each night, foregoing her own rest.  Few were around to stop or acknowledge her existence, and even fewer would dare question her motives if they had.

“How long have you been at it today?”

Evie’s eyes opened as Gerald moved into the room and sat on the same chair she always sat in.

“Does it matter?”  Evie snidely replied.  She squatted down and pushed herself off the ground trying to jump.  Once she landed, she slipped onto the ground with a loud thud.  “Damn it!”  She pounded her fist on the floor.

Gerald ran over to Evie with a look of concern. She worried that Evie was trying too hard and may hurt herself even more.  She worried there was a chance Evie would still fail.

“Don’t help me up,” Evie said, trying to brush Gerald away.

Ignoring her, Gerald gripped Evie’s arm and supported her as she got back up.  “You need to take it easy.  You are going to make it worse.”  Her voice, though always authoritative, betrayed her dismay.  “What were you even trying to do?”

“I need to be able to jump without both my legs,” Evie answered matter-of-factly.

“You don’t need to do that,” Gerald shot back as she helped Evie hop over to her cot.

Evie now roomed in a standard officer’s quarters. The walls were more robustly insulated and were actually painted a less-dull hue of white making the room a little brighter. The furnishings, though, matched her caste and were a dull grey and brown, torn, and in general disrepair. It was a fair balance, Evie had thought.  She felt lucky enough just to have her own room, rather than have to share space with a few dozen others from her caste.

It hadn’t taken long it to be determine that the room inside the medical sector was too valuable to be taken up by her.  She was given the prosthesis, instructed on what supplies she would need, shown how to change her dressings, and been sent on her way.  Gerald had lobbied as much as she believed she could to extend Evie’s stay there, but social norms and practices had won out.

What Evie did manage to keep was far more than any caste below the first four would have been allowed.

Evie looked earnestly at Gerald.  “I told you, I need to be able to work without that leg.  It’s only a matter of time before they take that, too.” She looked at the fake leg sitting in the corner. It was dramatically more clean than it had been when it was first given to her. The activity had taken her days of scraping as there was no water allowed to her to soften any of the grime that had been left on it.

“They won’t take it.  I won’t let them.”

“Just because you’re the Commander doesn’t mean they’ll excuse your support for me.  If they found out about us, I’d be sent out to freeze and you would be exiled.”

Gerald remained still, contemplative.  Though she had once executed others for that kind of infraction, she had never considered what that meant in relation to her own actions.  She felt immediately hypocritical.  Falling in love with Evie was the last thing she’d expected when they met.  At the time, Evie wouldn’t even talk to Gerald, due to her caste.  Their initial discussions about becoming an officer had been done through a mediary, as was the standard.  Now, Gerald felt a deepening rift between her principles and her heart.

“I won’t let that happen,” she finally said, dismissing her sudden worries.  The statement sounded as unsure as her feelings.

Evie shook her head as she pulled herself away from Gerald. She leaned over to reach the prosthesis.  Gerald saw it for the first time since Evie has been dismissed from the medical sector.  It had been heavily modified since then.  Nothing was truly recognizable from the original.

Gerald watched Evie adjust the straps.  Where Evie had gotten any of the components to do what she had done to it was a mystery to Gerald.  She’d never had to forage for anything.  Being in the highest caste made it easy to get anything she wanted.  And as Colonial Commander, Gerald had far more privilege than any of her counterparts.

Once secured, Evie stood up and took steps towards the door.  Aside from the hint of a limp, Gerald saw a woman who had fully relearned how to walk.

“Where are you going?” Gerald asked.

“I’m going for a run.”

“A run?  Now?”

“Yes.”

Gerald looked perturbed.  “Are you avoiding me?”

Evie turned, realizing what she meant.  She smiled as she looked at her lover.  Walking over, she reached out and gently touched Gerald’s chin, lifting it just enough to give her a soft kiss on the lips.  Gerald smiled back, closing her eyes.  “I will never avoid you.  It’s just easier to run with the halls empty.”

“I can’t argue with a kiss like that,” Gerald smirked.  “I’ll just let myself out and see you tomorrow then.”

Evie grinned and turned to leave.

The brisk air of the hallway greeted her sharply as she walked out the door.  The common areas were not kept nearly as warm as any of the personal quarters, even for those of her caste.  It was an effort to conserve as much energy as possible.  Envigorated by the cold, she began a short jog, stumbling a little with each step.  Though she was proficient in walking with her new leg, running was still a challenge, and she needed to be even faster than she was before if she was going to be personally satisfied with her recovery.

It didn’t take long before she had left the officer’s sector and entered the markets. It was a small zone where all trading was permitted, outside of the rationing distribution centers.

The whole colony was once the underbelly of Chicago. Now they were nearly 1,000 feet under the ice that had moved through the area, decimating the statuesque skyline that preceded them. It looked nothing like it once had, having evolved into the honeycomb system that it was now.

The colony was divided into multiple sectors, two of which circumscribed the rest. The outermost ring was occupied by the Iradiles, with general militia and defense systems the next circle in.

Inside these two rings, the remaining 5 castes were organized, interspersed with common areas.  The council quarters and council chambers were the most insulated, being at the core, and surrounded by the officers stations, which provided another layer of defense.  Directly outside the officer’s chambers were several stations, manned each night to monitor the traffic going in and out of all sectors.

Evie passed through with ease, as they were now used to her new nightly ritual.  She typically left for her runs after she and Gerald parted ways, but tonight was different in that she felt even more eager to master her abilities.

The sounds of her off-balance steps echoed in the empty corridors as she jogged lightly.  Each time that her replacement limb hit the pavement, she felt as though she were going to topple over.  Her heart leapt forward each time until she settled into the rhythm.  It was the same each night: she would begin her run unsure and unbalanced, but eventually find her stride.

She passed the markets and the trading zones.  Each place was empty, save for those of her caste moving waste from the area.  They made no contact, thinking that she had abandoned them.  She didn’t blame them.  She could only hope that her actions, that her success would one day drive change.  It was why she always pushed forward.  Maybe in proving her own value, the value of others could be more easily discovered.

As she turned down a long hallway that led to the first living zone, she was surprised by an abrupt, heavy hit to the back of the head.  Her body fell forward, propelled by her prosthetic leg.

The attacker was dressed all in black, their face covered by a mask.  It was an eerie mask, reminiscent of a rabid dog guise some child might wear during those old harvest celebrations.  Evie yelped as she hit the floor.

The suddenness of the attack threw her off her guard, but despite the hit she was able to spin around to grab the attacker.

The masked individual was fast and strong.  Using what once was her dominant leg, she tried unsuccessfully to kick the attacker off.

A knife slashed back and forth.  Evie fought furiously to parry each swipe, only to end up with a slice across her forearm and shoulder.  She screamed, pulling one hand around to punch the attacker in the side of the head. The attacker grunted before rolling off to the side clutching their ear, the knife fell and skid away out of reach. Amateur, Evie found herself briefly thinking seeing the attacker lose their weapon. She focused though trying not to let her ego get in the way. Evie saw blood trickle from the between the person’s fingers.  Earrings, Evie thought as she tried to stand.  In the moment, her mind went immediately into patterns of training and instinct instead of considering her injury, and she lost her balance, falling down again.

The attacker saw this as an opportunity and lunged forward once more, pulling out the small club that was used to begin the attack, and swung a direct hit.

As she lost consciousness, Evie heard the attacker hiss, “If you don’t stop, you pathetic pissant, next time we’ll kill you.”

Previous Episode: 5 – A Casual Meeting

Next Episode due May 18, 2015

Weekly Update – 04.12.2015

The General Update

What the hell have I been doing with my time? There have been VERY few (zero) updates on this site since the 19th of March… meaning that I am very much behind on things. Of course it is partially intentional.

I had a wickedly productive 11 days that ended last weekend. I was able to produce over 22,000 words on one of my WIPs keeping up with a 2K/day writing pace that I had never done before. I occasionally peeked over the 2K mark in a day’s worth of writing, but such events are sporadic and rare. This last push gave me light into a lot of what I was doing wrong and what I need to do it again.

These last 7 days were a bit of an anomaly in my life having quite a few larger events converge at once. Birthdays, parties, new people at work (normally I’d write on breaks, but couldn’t this week), pre-vacation planning, visitors at home, and a few other things kept me from hauling ass on my writing through this past week. I wrote a little here and there, but going over 500 words only happened once. Of course with the dramatic turn in word count, I tried to remind myself that life will get in the way and as long as I do not let that stress me out, everything will be fine. The last thing that I want to do to myself is to allow my stress to compound and choke out my creative energy so that as I get time, I end too overwhelmed to write effectively.

But now that those events have passed by, it is time to jump back onto the horse and start writing. Although writing on a horse isn’t very sensible…

 

Music of the week

Well… I am late to the game on this one, but this week I finally heard Jessie J’s ‘Domino’ and I took a liking to it. I love pop songs as much as I love the hardcore and obscure weird stuff. Domino has been on my playlist this week. It is a fun tune and she has a great voice.


 

My Fitness Week

Missed 1 day of workouts due to the craziness of this week. Next week I am taking a break while on vacation (for other reasons which I will not be posting anywhere).

(image links to source)
(image links to source)

On that though, my deadlifts, squats, and core have made pretty good gains. I am just shy of going over 300 lbs for sets of deadlifts (I do not have a full idea on what I would be capable of on a single lift). Squats are pushing towards 350 and my core is proving strong as hell (though still somewhat hidden, but I am not all that concerned). I’ve actually taken to a once/week/part of the body with the exception of my core, which is 4 out of the 6 days I lift.

It will be interesting to see whether I hold where I am at or whether I step back a bit after this next week.

In either case, I took a look back over the last 8 months since starting this particular journey and have seen enormous gains. I’ll put a post up later this month about it, so for 1 week I am not overly concerned.

WIP it

As mentioned above, my WIP roared ahead with a 22K word addition. I am not far away from being able to wrap up the first draft of The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle. In fact, I should wrap it before the end of this month. The goal was May 31st. One month early is perfect. After that, my plan is to finish two short stories that I have in the works. If I keep pace, they should be each done in less than a week. Once the first drafts are done, I will let them sit for a little bit while I look for some alpha readers for the pieces. Next will be to blaze through the next two major pieces “Antlers” and book 4 of my saga “Gravity.” Revisions should get underway by that time, so my expected word counts will drop some during revisions. On the revision lists will be the following:

  • The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle – Novel – part 1 of a planned 5 book series.
  • The Movement of Pawns (Gravity book 3) – Novella – it’s been 2 years since book 2 was out… too long.
  • Good Teacher – Novel – wrote this over 10 years ago. I want one last read-through before sending this out into the world.
  • XY – short story – about a genetic advancement that changes the lives of two men.
  • Tunnel Rats – short story – a bit of erotic fantasy adventure with a little comedy mixed in. testing my writing skills on this one.
  • Demon Whispers – Novel – about a demonic possession. Never read through this after writing it over 10 years ago. Should prove interesting.

Currently Reading

(image links to source)
(image links to source)

I was reading book 5 of the Codex Alera series, but I put it down in favor of using what time I had to writing. I will pick it up once more, but before I go back my plans are to finish “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing” to give me a little boost in my editing. Also planned are a few graphic novels and getting back to Codex Alera.

 

Motivational Message

If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things. – Albert Einstein

 

Of Earth and Ice – Ep5

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial

by Jeremy C Kester

5: A Casual Meeting

“I am concerned that your pursuit of this matter is compromising your judgement.” Chairwoman Urbina sipped a warm cup of tea as she sat across from Gerald. A few hours after the council meeting, Urbina had summoned the Colonial Commander to voice her own concerns privately.

Her office was located near the center of the colony just a few dozen feet from the central council chamber. Like much of the area surrounding them it was ornate, clean, and well maintained. A small computer that looked new by the colony’s standards sat upon the desk and a wall of monitors was too the side. Some flickered with graphs depicting the conditions both inside and outside the colony, energy usage in the different zones, as well as other data that interested the councilwoman. The amount of data was dizzying to Gerald as she looked at it, in part as she had never the stomach to review data at nauseum.

Gerald quietly contemplated her response before saying, “nothing in my actions are for anything other than for the benefit of the colony.”

“That’s the response that I was expecting that you’d tender,” Urbina said as though it were a long exasperated sigh. She paused for a moment and drummed her fingers on her desk. Her eyebrows raised as she asked “do you understand why we have six castes?”

“I’ve never bothered to study the specifics, councilwoman,” Gerald answered honestly. Despite the education afforded to her in the colony, it never included much on the history of why the caste system was set up other than mild allusions to there being a need for segregation to organize the colony based on skill sets. Such information never fit much into her logic, but she ignored those thoughts and never questioned it. Responsibility dictated that she never questioned the reasons offered.

“That’s a shame that you were never given more than whatever nonsense we fill everyone’s head with,” the councilwoman stated. “I would have assumed that your position should warrant such entitlements.” Urbina’s tone was turning almost playful in its exercise of words.

The admission though worried Gerald. Was there something that she wasn’t aware of? What else were they hiding from her?

She opted to reply as unknowing as possible without admitting that she read further into the statement than was intended. “Unfortunately our education is fairly propagandist in that vein, councilwoman.”

Urbina lifted her cup and looked at it disappointingly at it’s lack of liquid. Gerald was sure that the woman wanted to task her with refilling it but thought better of it.

“Very true,” Urbina stated as she walked over to a small container off to the side of the office. She gently picked up the container as though it were a precious, fragile child. She brought the container over to her desk where a small cup sat. The cup was a faint pink with hues of blue that resembled what one might assume to have once been flowers. The cup looked old and worn. Urbina slowly opened a spout from the container and poured a hot liquid from the container before reversing her movements to put the container back onto the shelf on the side of the room.

When the woman sat back down, she inspected her cup by placing both hands around the cylinder and breathing the vapors deeply.

“It is quite a shame that we guard these things so much,” she continued, “but one cannot truly say too much about the true reasons for our excessive layering else we might find ourselves in a predicament.”

“Go on,” Gerald said impatiently. Her eyes narrowed at the woman sitting in the room.

“Well the reason that we placed so many layers was something of a distraction to the other castes. Each group only focuses on the one directly above and the one directly below. We in the Ariledite caste can easily cause discourse among the others with simple actions such as letting an Iradile become an officer.”

Gerald forced herself not to react. She knew that she had to remain as numb as possible to what the councilwoman had just implicated. Did this mean that Evie was simply being used to create discourse within the colony? The scenarios ran through Gerald’s mind in an instant and she knew that it was true.

The desire to leap across the desk and strangle Urbina was overwhelming. How could she put Evie in danger like that? Gerald struggled to remain relaxed. Any display of tension could inadvertently expose Gerald’s feelings for the young girl. Such admissions would wreck her career and likely end her life. She struggled to remain calm. Quakes of struggle rumbled through her body as she fought against it.

But she remained stoic. “I understand the council’s reasons for placing her into that position, but my choice in doing so was as a reward for her duties and a result of displayed attributes. I cannot run the militia in the same manner as the colony. Thusly I need those of skill in certain positions regardless of their standing in our social strata. This is how I choose to separate these two worlds.”

“Wise words,” Urbina said, her eyes narrowing just enough for Gerald to take note. She was searching for anything from the commander, but ultimately found nothing. Urbina placed the cup on the table and leaned back on her chair. “But we cannot separate them as you appear to be able to, and our ability to bank on this scenario is beginning to falter. We are losing support across the Ariledites, Geraldine. This iradile’s predicament has compromised her standing.and eroded the support she once had.” There was a brief pause as the woman sat contemplatively chewing over her words. She licked her lips once and it reminded Gerald of a stray cat enjoying it’s meal.

Urbina continued with an almost gleeful change to her tone’s inflection. “I was going to ask you to discontinue your support for the young lady to save your career and to save the face of the council, but I think it might prove an even better spot for us were you to throw your full weight into it.”

Gerald while continuing to avoid any other posture narrowed her eyes inquisitively. “I am not sure that I am following any longer.”

“What do you think would happen if we were successful in allowing her to retain her rank?”

Gerald knew what the answer was. Having a disabled officer who was an Iradile would undoubtedly cause even further dissent within the castes. Evie would become a target undoubtedly being murdered for being nothing more than a capable young lady. The murder would allow for the Urbina and the council to force further restrictions on the rest of the colony as a result.

It meant placing Evie into danger.

Gerald cursed herself that she hadn’t seen it before. Had she not defended Evie in the first place and solely recommended some honorable discharge as recognition for her service, none of this would be in play. Evie would have become a neutral component of the colony, no longer a threat to anyone involved. Now, no matter what scenario would come to fruition, Evie was going to suffer.

Gerald focused on her breath trying to expel any urge to react to the assumption. But she needed to get control of the conversation. Though she answered to the council as a whole, she was supposed to be the single most powerful political figure in the colony. The realization was that she needed to appear that she was in control.

And that this was her own plan all along.

The words almost spill out of her effortlessly. “The unrest will deepen. They won’t focus on a soldier having earned her position. They will see a crippled Iradile who had been given a rank she shouldn’t have. She’ll become the target, the scapegoat for the other castes’ lack of power. It’ll leave them vulnerable to our own plans.”

Watching Urbina she allowed a small smirk to show on her face. It was a lie, but the effect is what fed it. “And that’s what my intention was, Councilwoman,” she said letting the bitter taste of her words flow like sweet sugar. “It’s what I’ve been planning for.”

Now more than ever she had to convince Evie to quit.

 

Previous Episode: 4 – Decision

Next Episode: 6 – The Run

Weekly Update: 03.08.2015

The General Update

It has been another week balancing between being utterly unproductive and overly productive. Trying not to read into the missteps too much, I have only resolved to keep moving ahead rather than risk losing momentum. As with trying to change any habit, it takes time and high resolve. I am working to wedge each forward progression to keep from backsliding. And the comic from Zen Pencils I put down in the Motivational Message further ummm… illustrates the value of determination.

Music of the week

I like Ariana Grande.

And this cool, campy sci-fi style video:

 

WIP it (status of work in progress)

I assigned myself a deadline to get the first draft of “The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle.” I am aiming for roughly 80,000 words which should cover part 1 of the story. The aim is 5 total books, and after book 2 is written, it will be more apparent as to why I am looking at 5. The main plot through the 5 books is written, it’s all of the subplots and details I need to work on.

As far as the deadline, I’d rather not say quite yet when that is.

Next, chapter 2, part 4 of my noir serial “The Vigil” was posted earlier this week. For my other web serial, the sci-fi dystopic saga “Of Earth and Ice,” I am rewriting, errrr… adding a new part 5. The old parts 5, 6, 7, etc were just pushed back. The reason for this is that I felt a small piece needed to be written in between the parts I had already completed. It is mainly to give a little more detail behind the caste system as well as the intentions of the colony’s leaders.

Currently Reading

2903736I completed “Captain’s Fury” and am now moving onto “Princeps’ Fury” by Jim Butcher. I have been flat out loving the Codex Alera series. I would suggest anyone reading it. Once I finish that, I will be moving onto the last chapter: “First Lord’s Fury.”

And once I finish that… I don’t know what I am going to go after.

My Fitness Week

Two things negatively impacted me this week in regards to my fitness: weather and sleep.

Tuesday, we had a surprise snowstorm (a surprise to me in that I didn’t know it was happening) and as my car does not handle the snow well, I opted to go straight to work rather than risk the trip to the gym.

Friday and Saturday my lack of sleep caught up to me and I overslept both days. Though Saturday I could have made time, I opted to relax instead and take the hint my body was giving me.

Besides this, I have been struggling with me eating. Frankly, I need nearly 4000 calories a day with the workout intensity, my size, and my general activity level. I maybe hit 3000 a day. Some might think, “Oh that should help you lose a lot of weight!” No. It doesn’t. What it does do is not sufficiently fuel my muscle growth while promoting my body to hold onto fat… because I am not grossly overweight. I am not really overweight at all and really am trying to build mass. So I need better planning on my meals to help with this. It will take time.

Motivational Message

Determination is key.

2012-04-24-coolidge

The Vigil: 02.04

The Vigil

Chapter 2 part 4

The Straining Sounds of Silence

As the echo of the gunshot abated, I was left alone in the silence.  Before me was the limp, partially dismembered body of Shakes.  Blood, piss, and shit was everywhere.  Not only was I surprised that he lived as long as he did, but it just bothers the shit out of me that he didn’t say anything.

He never said a goddamn thing.

I sat down and smoked a cigarette trying to calm my nerves.  It was covered in blood. Blood stained cigarettes seemed to be a favorite of mine anymore. The smoking barely took any edge off though.

I never liked torture.  They always speak so quickly once they realize it won’t be just punching. The few times I cut off anything they immediately spilled the information I was after. If I smashed their fingers, they gave up everything. Pain loosened their tongues. Everyone had a point where it worked. Shakes just took it all and never said a fucking thing.

That scared me almost as much as what I found myself capable of.

I was shaking.  The ashes from the cigarette shook off easily.  I tried to picture my child.  The images didn’t help.  Everything was foggy.  It wasn’t even close to the same.  I threw up as the stress was overwhelming and I began to tremble and cry.

I fell asleep crying and vomiting.  It was for at least a few hours.

It wasn’t until Daria arrived back and woke me up.

“Jesus Christ you look like shit,” she said angrily.  “You are going to fuck everything up for yourself. Why didn’t you wait for me?”

“He never said anything,” I explained ignoring her question. The fact was that I couldn’t trust her, but she couldn’t know that. “Not a goddamn thing.” My voice felt like it was torn up with razor wire and tasted like stale vomit.  Rather than deal with it, I stood. My legs wobbled as though I were a toddler as I walked over to the partial bottles of booze. I poured myself a small glass and downed it.  It stung worse, but the numbness would take over soon enough.  Right after, I lit another cigarette. My hands were shaking still.

“I know how much you don’t handle our little exercises very well.  I can tell by the puddle of vomit too far from Shakes to be his that this was no different.”

“So what do you suggest now?” I said as I ignored a glass and poured the rest of the bottle down my throat.  There wasn’t enough left even to fill a small glass, but at least it was a couple of shots’ worth.

“You’ll need to bury him,” Daria said plainly. “We can’t have evidence of the body ever having been here.”

“Obviously,” I replied.

“Did he talk?”

“Didn’t you listen?” I said sharply. “Not a word.  I was hoping that he would speak before I even got into it, but he stayed quiet the entire time.”  I paused.  “Except for the screams of course.”

Daria turned to me slightly.  She had a look of concern.  “Are you OK?”

“I’ll be fine,” I waved dismissively. It was a blatant lie and I am sure that she knew that it was.

Daria had brought me a cup of coffee and some food.  She was holding it and I hadn’t even noticed. I thanked her for it. Truthfully I was more hungry than I had realized.  The booze was only doing so much for me.  I needed something to help keep it down.

“He was scared about something more than he was scared about the pain,” I admitted as I bit down on the hoagie.  It didn’t have peppers.  I fucking hated that.  Daria would refuse to allow me to eat the peppers as she said that she suffered the most while we drove to our various leads and crime scenes.  “There was something that he knows but he was refusing to tell me.”

Daria leaned against the table still looking at the pile of flesh, bone, and blood before us.  I could tell that she was getting nauseated looking at it.  “Are you sure that he just didn’t know anything, John?  Can you believe that this is all some elaborate scheme that you’ve dreamed up in your own head?”

Looking at her knowingly, I retorted, “have you ever known any suspect that we’ve done this to ever not say anything?”  She shook her head slowly as she was processing that information.  “No one ever stays quiet.  There’s always begging for mercy and then the bastards always start to talk.  Even if it’s a fucking lie, they talk.  Anything to stop the pain.”

Daria remained quiet.  It was the only way that I knew for sure that she say what I was saying.

“So now what?” I asked aloud.

“You bury the body and we see if there’s anything we can find on his dealings.” I am glad she at least said we on the second part. Wish she’d help me with the grunt work though.

Previous episode (02.03)| Next episode (02.05) – Coming April 3rd 2015

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