Friday, June 28, 2013

Hot Chips and Sand 196-200 Draft Comparison

Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved

Vickie returned from lunch irritable. She tried to work, but couldn’t keep her mind on the simplest task. So she got up and went to the gym.


            ItWhich reminded her of Cliff, but at least it wasn’t the men’s locker room. That would have been intolerable.  She hadShe’d brought some old baggy sweats from her apartment, and climbed onto the stair machine. She was slogging away on her second climb when John entered.

“Thought I might find you here.”

“Why?” she puffed.

“Cliff does the same thing when he gets worked up. He works out. Hey, you’re doing that wrong, you know.”

She threw him a look that, if she had been any less tired, would have wilted him. “Really? I didn’t think you could do this wrong.”

“Oh, sure. You have to stand straight, otherwise you’re not getting the maximum benefit out of it.”

She straightened her posture, found herself worn out in five minutes, and stopped.

John, who had been warming up on the cycle, came over. “Great. Now, what weights do you do?”

She shrugged. “Oh, you know, the manly ones. Two hundred pound bar‑bellsbarbells, and the like.”

“Okay, since this is your first time, let’s start over here at the machines. Free weights are more effective, but you need to have some strength built up first, or you might hurt yourself.”

“Thanks, Arnold. What else?”

“Hey, I built Cliff’s body, I can do yours.”

“I don’t want a body like Cliff’s.” Yes, I do, said her libido. She shushed the traitorous thing.

“What was that?” John looked over his shoulder.

“I said, what is that thing there?”

“This is the first machine I want you to try. We’ll start with twenty pounds. It’s for your back muscles, this set here, feel them? . Okay, now pull smoothly, and don’t let the weights fall on the way back. Good.”

While she worked out, John kept up a steady stream of conversation. Tess had sicced him on her, to distract her from the painCliff, Vickie thought acidly. But, turnabout was fair play, so as long as he was talking, she asked him casually about he and Tess.


            “So I understandheard you and Tess dined at Deliano’s had a romantic dinner last night. Did they burn the crust at Deliano’s again?”

John just grinned. “I wouldn’t have noticed.”


She started pushing the weights savagely.

“Hey, take it easy. You don’t build strength that way, you tear muscles.”

John took her through machines for her biceps, triceps, pectorals, gluteus maximus and muscles she couldn’t even find, much less remember the names of. When John finally called it quits, she felt like a colander full of spaghetti, she was trembling so hard.

“I’ll remember.”  Every time I sitshe sat down I’llshe’d remember. Or try to stand. Or lift something. Or do anything.


            She was sore, but felt But her mood lightenhad lightened for the first time since Cliff had gone.  Though just a short while ago, it felt like years.  She laughed, a little rusty, but mirth nonetheless.  A sudden twinge made . The next day, when her grimace.  With John training her, her body would make it feel like years, too.


            The same thing happened the next day.  Finally her irritation led herblack mood hit she went faster to the gym, where she hit the stair machine, did a . A mile running, and lay a whilefew minutes in the sauna.  Refreshed, she was able refreshed her enough to finish her day’s work.


            The day after that, when Three days later, John told her she gave in to her mood a little faster, John was waiting for her in the gym.  He coached her through the weights, which were somewhat easier this time.  Except then he expected her to do them all again.  Thus she was unhappily introduced to the concept of sets as it applied to physical training.


            Two days later it was the same thing.  It was a little harder today because she hadn’t slept well the night before.  But she made it through with John’s help, and sleptwas doing better that night.  The next day she did over one hundred flights of stairs on the machine, and ran another half mile.  The day after that she did three rounds of weights.  John smiled, pleased.


            “You’re coming along well, Vickie.  . “Your stamina has improved significantly. . That means your cardiovascular system is stronger.”


            “Then why is it my arms hurt?” “I’m even getting muscles.” She flexed one biceps, rather proud she’d gotten rid of the small knot there.  At least it wasn’t flab.


            “All your muscles are getting a work out.  But your body is responding well.  You should be seeing some real results next week.”


            “Great.  I’m looking forward to decking you.”


            He ignored her.  “The only person I’ve had respond faster is Cliff.”  HeJohn wiped his hands on a towel.


            “Wonderful.  He seems to beat“Yeah, he beats me in everything. No, wait. There is one thing. I probably have more hair on my chest.”

A week later, Vickie was finally packing the HCC300 prototype, all its software loaded up, for beta testing in Middle Yemen. The chip factory there should bewas almost done, and ready for. When everything was set, the HCC300 would go into mass production of the HCC300.  The computers would then be shipped back here for software bundling and sales.

Vickie hated her own part in it, but at least she wasn’t involved in hadn’t worked on Fahrrad’s national defense net.  Cliff had taken the reins on that when he got to Middle YemenThat was all Cliff.


            All communications were handled through John.  She hadn’t talked to Cliff, nor had he asked for her.  Although she knew he was aware she hadn’t left.  She saw many hardware and defense net requisitions and specifications coming through the office, but nothing on the HCC300 general software or development.  She didn’t think he’d just forgotten it.  John must have told Yet she could only seem to remember him she was still there.

            In a way, that was more painful than if he had yanked the project away from her.  He still trusted her with his company, his people.  Or he didn’t care.  Or he was so certain of his charisma, he knew she would do her best job.  Why was it so easy to find less flattering reasons?  And why did the most hopeful reason occur to her first?


            She avoided her thoughts most of the time, but on some days, she couldn’t help it.  Like today, when the HCC300 prototype and all its software loaded up was packaged and ready for shipping to Middle Yemen.  No matter how often she flogged herself with her own gullibility, with Ron, with Fahrrad, Cliff rose in her memory the way he had been at the park, and the zoo. Just a little boy, who had found a friend at last.[M3] 

Vickie sighed. If she kept this up, she wouldshe’d not only be here when he came back, but she wouldshe’d be apologizing to him. She had finished all but some very small details, which Tess and John had promised they’d take care of. Tess, of course, was staying. Vickie was packing up this weekend. She didn’t have to be back at workFitzwater until Wednesday, but she was planning on taking a few days off when she got home to relax.  Two days ‘til Saturday,’ she thought.  ‘Then. I’ll pack up and go home, and Sir Humphrey Hawkesclyffe in all his radiant glory will fade from my mind like a bad dream. Sure he will.’would.

 She okayed the shipment and watched as the special couriers carefully lifted the large freight box and carried it away. She turned from them before they could see her eyes glistening. Even if she managed to rout Cliff from her mind, every day she wouldshe’d still see reminders of him.  every day. The company appeared daily in the stock columnmarket columns of the news, the man himself was often quoted in the trades. With the arrival of the new computer and DALE chip on the market, she was sure, the exposure would only increase. Maybe she should find a new profession. Like stunt pilot.  Or maybe the armedArmed forces. ? She laughed ruefully. The way John had trained her, they’d snap her right up.

She’d been standing there too long. Some of the employees walking past were staring at her strangely. Well, she felt like a stranger now, too. She shook her head, remembering it was less than three months ago, her first month here, when she felt like she was home at last. Ironic.

Vickie walked slowly to the gym for a workout. There was really nothing much more for her to do. She avoided John and Tess, feeling like a wet blanket around them. She couldn’t even face a sundae any more. After she worked out, she returned to her office and buried herself in detail. She worked until 9:00, went home, slept poorly, and did it all over again the next day.

Finally it was Friday. She said good‑bye to all her people, then all of his. Tess and John were cleaning up some detail off‑siteoffsite, so she was spared the hardest good byes of all.  And she wouldBesides, she’d see John and Tess off and on, after all.  Butthem around—though it would never be the same.

She dragged herself home.  ‘No, my…no, to her apartment, she corrected herself.  My. Her flat iswas her home.  She started packing, but found herself too tired. As she got ready for bed, an abbreviated version of her normal routine, she promised herself she would get up early tomorrow to do it. Tomorrow she would pack. Tomorrow she would go home. Good‑bye, Tess. Good‑bye, John. Good‑bye, Cliff.




            * * * * *

The man at the desk waited tensely. If the phone did not ring today, he would have to call some of his most highly‑placed contacts.

It just wasn’t usualwas highly unusual not to hear at least something. The man knew the other’s disposition had been sour when he hadhe’d gone, but now he wondered just how muchsour.

At eleven p.m.., worried, he packed his things up to go home.  He was very worried.  He hesitated, just a little while longer. Maybe the phone would still ring.

It did. The man grabbed it immediately.

“Where the hell have you been?  What isWhat’s going on over there?”

There was static from the line. Then the other man’s voice came, flat and weary. “The old system is gone. I had to install the new one.”

The man’s tirade died immediately. “Then it’s hopeless. Why did you do that?”

“He was paranoid enough to pick. He picked up some traces fromof  my hacking with the old system. . But there’s still a chance.”


“I only connected the local system. And I know how to break it.”

The man was even more concerned. “You said you’d get out as soon as everything was ready.”

Crackling obscured part of the reply. “…finish this myself.” Then the line went dead.


            Oh, God.  I hopeThe man stared at the handset. He hoped it isn’twasn’t as bad as I think it ishe thought.


 [M1]The idea of the humor was here but it didn't click. I took most of it out.
 [M2]I left the first training session in but the rest made it into a fitness book. Research and knowledge are good, but it's a novel. The emphasis is on character, motivation and conflict, not their workout routine.
 [M3]This is a great example of how event hopping can get confusing. She's reflecting on two weeks from now, then two weeks ago, then she IS two weeks from now...I cleaned out considerable clutter. Which will make it easier to see dust and damage in the next edit pass.

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