I’ve been bound up with editing The Perihelix this week, and can’t even think of other topics for writing. I spent two days reading the latest draft out loud (and recording it, although I don’t know that I need to listen back). It does make a difference, reading aloud – and it also helps me spot things which I’ve already edited where there’s something small wrong, like a comma not changed to a full stop when I took out ‘he said’ afterwards. So here is an excerpt for you, one that happens after all the excerpts you’ve seen before (whether originally flash fiction or otherwise). Maggie, Aramintha, and Dolores have been left in charge of Pete & the Swede’s ship when they went off in a Federation vessel, and the girls decided to follow them. Aramintha asked how hard could it be to drive the spacecraft, and so she and Dolores have been finding out! Zito is the bar owner and general fixer back in the Viridian System. I’ve given it a title, just for form’s sake, and it’s just under 1000 words.
(from The Perihelix, forthcoming)
Maggie returned with three bottles of brew, which they thanked her for and sucked daintily.
“What was that idea you had, Dolores, or did you sort it out while I was gone?” Maggie said.
“No, we were checking the star chart. What I wondered was, how about contacting Zito and getting him to authorise the fuel purchase?”
“How would he do that?”
“I don’t know, Maggie, but if it means getting us three back, he might, mightn’t he?”
“Hm,” Aramintha said, “he might at that. If we don’t get back to him, well, we’re not that important, but we might be worth a little trouble to him.”
“He’d do it for the guys,” Maggie said. “Those guys are worth tons of money to him — and to the exchange as well, I reckon. Do we know how to transmit a message? In a code or something?”
“We can scramble it. The scrambler works with the person’s address code. I think we can do it. What to say, though?”
“How long a message do we have?” Dolores asked.
“I think most messages are no more than a pulse. We’ll have to check to see how much we can say in that.”
“Well, let’s start listing what we want to say, and chop it down into a short, informative, persuasive message, then.” Maggie the organiser was on the case.
Zito sat at the desk in his back office staring at the unscrambled message he’d retrieved from his digitape.
“Boys kidnapped from spacecraft. We are following but cannot access account to refuel. Urgent access to funds needed. Please help. Pringle, Doughnut and ArtyFarty.”
Clever, he thought. And brave. Or just resourceful, as these girls were, and that was why the boys liked them. One of the reasons, he corrected himself. To use his pet names for them was a stroke of genius, since it not only verified who they were but didn’t tell anyone else should the message go astray. Maggie had probably thought of it, since her name appeared first. He wondered who was flying it. As far as he knew, none of these girls had any space experience except as passengers.
He sat back. Why should he bother?
He went out to the bar and got himself a shot of amber liquid, and went over to stand at the doorway, looking out on the dusty street. It was hot, and it was siesta time. He was on his own; he napped when the first night shift came on. He could let the girls sort themselves out, but then again, they were talented escorts, obviously with more talents than they’d admitted. He could put their charges up if he could hire them out as space chauffeuses as well. That would give a few potential customers an extra kick. Valuable merchandise.
The boys had been kidnapped. Big Pete and the Swede. Quiet, unassuming, successful. Great customers. Some would even say the perfect customers. Never asked the impossible more than once a week, and that was only in their vacation time. He’d better check that their villa was secure while they were absent. He totted up the amount he earned from them most vacations. He had a lot of credits riding on those boys.
His eyes strayed across to the exchange. Who was their contact there? He’d be making a mint from them too. He drained his glass and sauntered out into the glare of the Viridian sun, crossing to the exchange and stepping into the shadow of the archway before the porter realised he was there.
“H-hmm,” Zito cleared his throat as the porter came to.
“We’re closed. It is siesta time.”
“Mr Garelli will see me, I’m sure.”
“Mr Garelli is resting.”
“Why not check?”
“Mr Garelli is resting,” the porter had a one track mind.
“Shall I check, then you can rest, and I’ll still serve you when you come off duty tonight,” Zito smiled pleasantly at the porter, knowing his favourite drink and that he wasn‘t supposed to drink at all in the employment of the exchange.
“Mr Garelli may not be resting at present.” The porter let him in and gestured to the stairs that led up to a gallery. Zito climbed them and admired the view of the cubicles below. Anyone up here would have an excellent view of all the ‘private’ transactions. He wondered whether the asteroid miners knew that.
Garelli came out of a side office to intercept him. “This is a surprise, Zito. A business or pleasure surprise?”
“Hopefully both, my friend.” Zito followed him into the office and took a seat. The marble floor, even upstairs, was beautifully cool. The opulent overhang of the building’s architecture shaded the arched windows. Although the exchange building looked like a millionaire’s anachronism, it was superbly designed for its situation.
“I received an interesting message,” he opened.
“Interesting for you or for me?”
“For us both, I believe.” Zito outlined the problem, and the general idea he had for its solution.
Garelli was intrigued. These customers, Mr Garcia and Mr Nilsson, were so much more fun than any other client.
© J M Pett 2016
(cover pic is an early draft)