Friday, January 25, 2013

Hot Chips and Sand 86-90 Second Draft Comparison

Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
The secretary had been the one to break it to her then, too. HeRon hadn’t even had the decency to handle it himself.  HerOr did she mean Cliff? She blinked again as her eyes burned and her chest started to heave of its own volition. Then John’s voice came again.
“He left you a message, though. I guess he didn’t want to disturb your getting introduced to everyone. Do you want me to read the message[MH1] ? it? It’s short.”

            “Of “Y…yes. Yes, of course.” The corporate mask came up automatically now, and her voice sounded quite normal. She owed that to Ron.
“It says, `Develop system for banking network, not defense.’ Does that make any sense to you? Oh, he left all the project docs and his itinerary with me. We can go over them tomorrow.”

            Vickie sighed.  He hadA weight lifted. “Develop for banking.” He’d heard her, then. He was telling her he’d [MH2] decided on the banking system, not Fahrrad’s defense network.  She didn’t know whether to cry or be grateful.  Apparently he had some heart after all.
Maybe he cared after all. Maybe Mel was wrong.

            It turnedAfter that first day, Vickie put Cliff out thatof her mind. Mostly. She had too much to do and even though she came up to speed quickly, there was always more to learn.
Fortunately John had beenwas actually Cliff’s personal assistant, and knew far more about the business than anyone else there. In the first several weeks, she leaned on him heavily for just about everything, except jellinggelling the team, which, sure.
Sure enough, she seemed to be a natural at.

             that. John said as much when he brought in the morning mail.

            June[MH3] Belva told me you can stay here as long as you want. That’s a great compliment, coming from her. Oh, by the way, there’s a letter in there from Cliff.”
“Finally.” She had written him several times, trying to keep her tone as impersonal as possible. “Did he answer all my questions?”
“Ah, no. Actually, he probably hasn’t gotten your letters yet.”
“Didn’t he answer any of them, then?” Vickie tapped her foot impatiently. “I didn’t think overseas mail was that slow.”
“Not usually. But you saw his itinerary. I’d imagine the letters just missed him and will now have to follow him around the world.”
“Oh, come on, John. He was supposed to be in Greece for five days last week. Any mail would have caught up to him there.” She pulled out Cliff’s letter and started to read it. “Dear Vickie:  I just remembered you need to follow up with Ray about the compiler designs before the end of the month, dah‑dah, dah‑dah[MH4] blah‑blah-blah…John, this letter’s dated only two days ago! Overseas mail delivery’s not slow at all. What’s going on here?”
John grinned and shrugged his shoulders slightly. “Sometimes Cliff doesn’t like to be interrupted.”
“By a letter? Maybe incessant phone calls would break his concentration, but a few letters…”—”[MH5] 
“Now Vickie. Maybe you should contact Ray about the compilers before you forget…”.”
“Don’t digress[MH6] try to sidetrack me, John.” She paced the room, tapping the note angrily with her hand. one agitated finger[MH7] . “The least he could do is answer thosemy [MH8] questions. Doesn’t he even care what’s going on in his own company? I thought this project was important. I thought…”  I thought I was important, at least to dofor the job. Boy, was I wrong.
“Now, Vickie,” John began again.  said.
Vickie could recognizerecognized [MH9] the placating tone of voice, designed to calm hysterical mothers and overheated project heads. She gritted her teeth.  The next thingAs soon as she left he would do was call Cliff and let him know he’d chosen the wrong person to run this project. Shoving theher anger deep inside, she put on her best corporate face. “You’re right John.  ,” she said, so sweetly she gave herself a honey high. “I’m running this show, after all. . I don’t really need Cliff to make my decisions. Now, let’s see what else came in this morning’s mail.”


            * * * * *
The phone rang late that night. He answered it in one ring. “Hello?”  His voice was private, muted.
“It’s me.  Send the second shipment.”
“All right.” A pause.
“You have somethinga problem?”
“Maybe. I think she suspects something.”
There was a soft curse from the other end of the line. It echoed eerily on the weak connection. Then the other man spoke again. “It can’t be helped. Do what you can to throw her off.”
“I will.”
“I’ll take care of it when I get back.”
“Of course.”
He hung up quietly, and sat back in his chair, thoughtful. Throw her off. Hmmm. Won’t be as easy as it might look.
Then he got up and went home.


            * * * * *
After another week ofwith no more communications from Cliff, Vickie started to worry. Did he even remember she was here? Since she didn’t want to be obvious about her interest, and to be honest, she wasn’t even sure if her interest was business or personal, she asked John to go out to dinner with her, there to pump him as casually as possible.
“So, how long have you worked with Cliff?” she asked him in a suitably casual tone.
John laughed, and winked gently at her. “I thought that might be it.”
Vickie blushed.  ‘I’m busted.’  “What are you talking about? I just invited you to dinner to celebrate one month of good business, and to thank you for your help. No other reason.”
“C’mon, Vickie, I’ve worked closely with you for almost seven weeks now. I worked for Cliff for seven years before that. I know how attractive he can be to women. In fact, that’s one of my unofficial jobs,  to side‑tracksidetrack women’s affections before they can interfere with business. You’re different, though. I’m not sure anything can side‑tracksidetrack you.”

            She gritted her teeth. Oh, stars above. Interfere with business. She’d cut her own heart out before she’d let ither stupid emotions do that. Especially before she’d let Cliff see it.   “Nowthem. “Really, John,. I only think it’s natural to be curious about the man who’s given me such a greatbusinessopportunity. You seem to know him fairly well. I just thought it might make a goodbusinesstopic for dinner.”
John grinned, not fooled at all.  “Yeah, sure[MH10] .. “Naturally. Well, I met Cliff in England during that crisis in the islands ten years ago.  (*Find a more recent crisis*).[MH11]  I was a U.S. soldier on duty in London, and they pulled me as Chief of Staff to the British naval commander. I was a great administrative assistant even then.”
His grin faded and he became more thoughtful. “Cliff had dual citizenship. His dad, before he died, had been in the U.S. armed forces, stationed in England. His mom, or mum as he called her, was a blue‑blooded English lady. Only daughter of a baron, I think.
“At any rate, Cliff was an electronics wunderkind even then.from the get-go. He invented  thea nano-black bugging device the Brits used to spy on the islands’ invadersenemy and underminestopped their invasion without a single drop of blood being shed.”
Vickie gasped. blinked. “I remember reading about that. It was a marvel of the time, far ahead of anything Britain had, or the United States for that matter. Precursor to invisibility metamaterial[MH12] . You mean Cliff madeinvented that?”
“Cliff, who has always had a sense of responsibility the size of a Big Ten marching band, felt he had to personally get the thing working[MH13] .” Vickie’s eyes went wide.
Vickie’s eyes went wide. “You mean he went to the islands to fix it?”
John nodded.  “Well, maybe“Maybe he was the only one who could. But never mind that he was as scrawny as a bean‑pole then, or that he had never done anything more active than lifting a physics text. He spent the next two weeks working out and learning self‑defense techniques and training with the best undercover agents in England, and darned if he didn’t pull it off. Earned himself a KBE for that. That’s Knight of the British Empire.”

            ‘This isThat was not the Cliff Ishe’d talked with on the way up here.  I wonder whereWhere had that idealism went?’ gone?

 [MH1]Echo. Message is already used on this page (worse, in the same paragraph).
 [MH2]This actually is cutting showing for telling. But a sigh can mean many things and I wanted the reader to experience that weight lifting where the spine lifts and decompresses.
 [MH3]This name comes without explanation and could be a month. Changed to something that's obviously a name. Might consider adding some description before this of who Belva is in the future (short meet when Vickie does her initial tour).
 [MH4]dah-dah has been replaced by blah-blah
 [MH5]again, interrupted speech is signified by an em dash.
 [MH6]Digress is the correct word here but it's wrong in that it sound unnatural.
 [MH7]angrily tells. Agitated finger shows.
 [MH8]makes more immediate and personal, those questions vs. my questions.
 [MH9]Almost all fiction can be made cleaner simply by getting rid of modals.
 [MH10]The dreaded POV blunder. John's grin is something Vickie can see. John's "not fooled at all" is only something John can experience.
 [MH11]A note to myself. I need to update this reference or make up a conflict for the final cut. Either will involve research.
 [MH12]Naturally the science wonk in me had time to research and update this :)
 [MH13]This is correct--both paragraphs are John, as indicated by no close quote after "crapped out". But readers on small escreens might miss it, so I'll probably join this up for the final cut.

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