Friday, July 26, 2013

Hot Chips and Sand 216-220 Draft Comparison

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

Chapter 14Fourteen


            The car pulled up a block away from the hotel, according to John’s plan[M1] .  The officer went into a nearby building to phone for reinforcements [M2] dropped Vickie, John and Tess around the corner from the hotel. They leaped out and while Cliff’s three friends used his last quarter hour to attempt a rescue. John took a quick survey of their surroundings[M3] , Vickie turbaned the black T‑shirt around her tell‑tale hair. John nodded and Vickie led the othersher friends to a building across the alley from the hotel, one with a fire escape. John leaped, caught the bottom of the escape, and scrambled up onto it. He lowered the ladder so Vickie and Tess could climb up.

“I wish we had one of Cliff’s ropes,” Vickie said when they got to[M4] .” On the roof, eyeingVickie eyed the distance between buildings. “Somehow it looks a lot farther away during the day.”

John simply grinned. “I think I can jump it. You two go back down. I’ll go over and subdue the nativesFahrrad’s goons, then let you guys in to disconnect the computer.”


            Vickie felt her “All alone?” Vickie’s spine stiffen. stiffened. “No. Cliff might need me. I’ll jump, too.”

“Well I’m not.”  jumping.” Tess spoke firmly. “John is in prime condition, and Vickie, he’s made you into another muscle maniac. But I can’t.”


            “It’s okay, Tess.  I understand.”  And she did.  There washear [M5] you. There’s no way she’dI’d attempt this jump if Cliff’s life weren’t in grave danger. ,” Vickie said. “Meet us at the front. You know the signal.”

“Good luck.” Tess ran back down the fire escape as John contemplatedeyed the distance. Then he backed up, ran a few steps and flew across the narrow alley, hitting the roof of the hotel.

Vickie compressed her fear down into her body, where \the roiling sensation gavemaking her the extra strength she needed. legs feel like springs. She didn’t pause, just ran, hit the edge and jumped.

Her legs were more powerful than she remembered. She sailed across the open space, not looking down, not thinking of anything but the man she hadn’t trusted enough.  Then she was landing on the other side and She hit the roof hard, pain jarring her bones and making her stumble.[M6] John grabbed her shoulders. “Good going! Let’s find Cliff.”

John grabbed her shoulders. “Good going! Let’s find Cliff.”

Vickie shook off her pain and followed.

They found the hatch to the fourth floor, removed it and dropped into the dimly‑lit corridor. Vickie had seen run terrified down these corridors over and over in her worst nightmares, but. But always at the end, strong arms had plucked her from them.

No strong arms but her own this time. She banishedpushed the thought. acid sting of fear away[M7] . Time enough for fearthat later.

John and Vickie ran, leapfrogging from door to door, listening.  As John expected, this floor was Empty. Empty. All empty.  John had explainedNot unexpected but not to their advantage. It meant that the whole hotel had probably been taken over by Fahrrad and his personal guard, which the ambassadors had John estimated to be a couple dozen strong.  In fact,It was possible this had probably been Fahrrad’s retreat all along, athe hotel just as a cover. Fahrrad would notmust be expecting anyone to crack his hide‑out, as pretty ballsy to use it again after Vickie’s escape, but he didmight not know about Cliff’s previous visit.

John checked his watch, held up both hands, then nodded toward the stairwell door. Ten minutes to go.

            They wentVickie followed John cautiously down the first flight of stairs. She realized this  Ten minutes to go.  This was the floor Cliff’s room had been on.  Stick to the  and nearly bolted out of the stairwell to check the room. But they had a plan, Vickie.  and she roped in her surge of adrenalin. They went down another two flights, to the ground floor, pausing at every turn of the stairs to listen for Fahrrad’s men. Nothing. Vickie felt her stomach sink.  What if she was wrong? the farther they went from Cliff’s old room.

What if it her gut feeling was right? What if she was doing the wrong thing, ignoring it? They had so little time. Once the explosion went off Fahrrad would have no reason to keep Cliff alive.

The stairway doorknob rattled. Vickie jumped. John yanked her under the stairs. The door slammed open, followed by a. A long, loud string of Arabic curses.  accompanied feet tramping up the stairs. Vickie and John pressed themselves into the shadow of the stairs.  shadows.

Then a voice spoke in English, one Vickie remembered well. “Once the palace is rubble, kill him.”

Vickie froze. It was Fahrrad, confirming her worst fears.


            One of Fahrrad’s men started up the stairs.  One The feet went up one flight, then another.  Then came the shuttered sound of a door opening and closing.  Five minutes to go.  Third floor—she had , while one set of tread went up another. Fahrrad and his guard going to their command center on the second floor no doubt, while Cliff’s guard—his executioner—went to the third. She’d been right.  Oh, whenWhen would she learn to trust her instincts? [M8] 


            The deposed colonel and his guard went upstairs,John held up one hand. Five minutes to the second floor.  go.

When would she learn to trust her instincts? Now.

Vickie wheeled out onto the stairs and started after them,up. John hissed and grabbed for her.

But her gut was screaming at her hand, to stop her.  Irrationally, she evaded him and so loudly it even drowned out her heart whooshing in her ears. She ignored John and ran lightly up the stairs. After hundreds of flights on the stair machine, it was easy.

She got to the second floor landing and sawas just the door just swinging swung shut.  Now John called softly after her, but she ran for all she was worth up the remaining Men tramped down the corridor, Fahrrad’s big hat prominent among them. The sight goosed her around the turn and into the next flight.  And after hundreds of flights on the stair machine, she was worth quite a bit.


            She When she reached the third floor before John even started, her heart pounding. pounded but with anticipation, not strain. She paused. Which room? She listened carefully, but could hear nothing.  no noises, shouts or even quiet swearing gave anything away.

How long now? Did she have time to try every yellowed knob down the ratty corridor?

Did she have a choice? She turned to the left, her hand pausing over the glass knob.  No.

Her gut wrenched her away. It had been right before. She followed it and swung to the right,room he’d occupied before. She grabbed the yellowed doorknob knob, twisted and slammed the old wood door open.  She heard a groan as she caught the guard on the arm.   in one motion.

Vickie rushed into the room and stopped abruptly.

The last time she had seen him here heCliff had commanded the room. Now he lay in the corner, blindfolded, gagged and trussed up tighter than Houdini.

The guard lay on the bed, smoking a cigarette and reading a magazine. He rolled to his feet the moment he saw her, flinging magazine and stub away.

Vickie’s horror causedfroze her to wait too long. The guard had recovered and was coming atreached for her. She stared at him, unable to move.


            Then her overwhelming anger came to her rescue.  Her powerful, wonderful man, the oneman she loved, lay helpless on the floor. How dare they?  She took one Fahrrad’s face floated over the guard’s and she took a swing at the bastard, seeing Fahrrad’s face, —and connected, and slammed him to the floor. The blow rang [M9] up her arm bones. She yelped. The guard wavered on his feet, eyes glazing.

John ran in just then, , wound up, and took the guy down with a quick look, and smiled, shaking hisroundhouse to the head.  “He’s out cold,” he whispered. He raised and eyebrow at Vickie. “Maybe you train faster than Cliff.”


            Vickie checked her watch.  “We have two She gave him a quick grin. “How long?”

“Two minutes, John.”


            “Right. . I’ll take care of Cliff, you try to find the console and stop the destruct sequence.”  He found. Wait.” John grabbed a pistol ongun off the terrorist’sguard’s body and was about to giveheld it out to her when she

She waved her hand no. “I’ve only used a rifle once, a handgun never. Look, there’s no time to be elegant about this.  GoI’ll take care of Cliff. You go find the console and smash it. Hopefully it will stop the explosion—but if not, the palace has been evacuated.  I’ll look after Cliff.”  John nodded and left..”

“Right.” John nodded and left.

Vickie walked overskidded [M10] to the prone man in the corner.  She tried to untie the blindfold, but her knees next to Cliff. She wrenched her fingers got caught inon the blindfold’s knot.  This was no good.  She searchedtossed a glance around the room quickly for abut no knife or scissors, but found nothing.  She even looked in Cliff’s  stood out. She turned back to Cliff and delicately searched his waistband, blushing.  Still nothing.  One her blush automatic. Time was ticking. There couldn’t be more than a minute to go.  She wondered how long it would take  and Fahrrad’s goons were on the floor below. Now would be a good time for the Mounties to show up, or whatever Kulinahr’s reinforcements to arrive.  Once the minute was up, Fahrrad would almost certainly come to see if Cliff’s sentence had been carried outwere called.


            “Cliff.  Then she realized Cliff hadn’t made a sound or movement beyond breathing. She might have a bigger problem.

 [M1]This is backwards. Cause (John's plan) should come before effect (parking a block from the hotel). I also had to change the rest of the paragraph so I cut it.
 [M2]Cell phones have significantly changed the way we do things.
 [M3]Very apparent in this chapter that I've changed as a writer. I've chopped swathes of description for short snappy action.
 [M4]It's very rare that both the "said" tag and the action tag aren't redundant.
 [M5]The only way this would make sense would be if Vickie were an unreliable narrator, which she's not. If she says it, she means it.
 [M6]Again, the difference between "telling" what's going on and showing it. Bonus, it reminded me that a jump that far will have an impact. Much more real.
 [M7]Told. Now shows.
 [M8]I've been editing this over the better part of a year and frankly, I don't remember if I set the character up with an inability to trust her instincts. But I like it :) So I expanded on it here and left myself a note to add it in the beginning if it doesn't exist (and if it works with the story overall).
 [M9]The impact here is Vickie's reaction to seeing Cliff trussed and helpless. That's romance. But the rest of the scene has a sort of haze over it. Where's the guard? Where is Cliff? Not every detail needs to be painted but the important ones definitely need to be clear.
 [M10]Huge example of how the right strong verb is so much better.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hot Chips and Sand 211-215 Draft Comparison

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

Any T‑shirts?”

Another uniformed man was dispatched, and quickly came back with several of the familiar big black T‑shirts Cliff favored. Vickie took them one at a time, feeling the hidden inner pockets. Empty. Empty. Jackpot!

She practically ripped the shirt pulling the hard, flat square from its hiding place. She held it up with a grin.

“What is it?” the ambassador asked.  She smiled to herself.  “It’s the

“The HCC300 prototype for the HCC300 chip.” She waved it at the lead computer expert.  “We should be able to install it in one of theHave any HCC boxes [M1] already built.  There are a few been produced, aren’t there?” yet? We can install this in one.”

The man indicatedwaved at an HCC300 computer sitting in the corner of the room.  “That was one“One of the first things I tried.   was booting that thing. But there’s no software on it, not even an operating system.”


            “Maybe not on the factory box. But Cliff might have leftput something in the chip prototype’s memory. If we can install it in that box, maybe we can access it. I can download the operating system from the palacesecure virtual private network if I have to.  I can break in that farat the Hawkesclyffe home offices.”


            “You can break intoThey opened the operating system?” Tess exclaimed.  “Then why can’t you stopbox, popped off the explosion?”


            “I can readfactory-fresh chip from the operating system, not change it.”


            The government expert spoke as he worked at installingmotherboard and fitted the chip.  “If you can readprototype chip in  its place. Vicky nodded and the palace security operating system, then maybe you can trace it back to where Fahrrad is holing up.”


            “I only wish.  But one ofexpert hit the Hawkesclyffe hardware gurus designed the device hookups specifically so you wouldn’t have to worry about location.  I do know, however, that they’re not using a modem to dial in, and they’re not on the premises.”button.


            “How do you know that?”


            As it booted, Vickie pulled the keyboard of the HCC300 over.  “Because I can see their ID on the system, and it’s not one of the modem connections, and it’s not on the local network.  Now let’sonto her lap. “Let’s see if we can get this chip to speak to us.”

She worked tensely for about ten minutes, then shook her head and offered the keyboard to the government expert. He tried a few commands, then returned the keyboard to her and pried the back off the box. After switching a few connections, they tried again.

Still nothing. Vickie said something to the expert, and began downloading the HCC operating system from the palace network. home office. Vickie glanced at her phone. An hour and a half left.

The expert reconnected the chip. Now the terminal flared to life, and Vickie hacked away at it for half an hour. Then she turned, brushed a drop of moisture from her temple and shook her head.

The ambassador’s face fell, and he lifted the receiver of a red phone in the room. “Your highness. I’m sorry we have nothing for you here. How goes the search?”


            Vickie anxiously watched the ambassador’s face, but found no comfort.  Kulinahr had sent soldiers to sweep every corner of the country, but. Vickie’s fingers rose to her throat and she searched the ambassador’s face, but the man’s tightly drawn lips were no comfort. She clenched her fist against her chest, small though itMiddle Yemen wa[M2] s, it would be impossible to find Cliff in the short time they had left. Not without some clue.  Fahrrad and his guard knew the area well; they could be anywhere.


            There wasAnd with less than one hour left, barely enough it was time to evacuate the palace. The computer expert extracted the DALE chip prototype and gave it to Vickie.  And those awfulShe stared at it in her palm, wondering where to put it. Just tuck it back where it had been? She switched her gaze to the pile of rumpled black. Those black T‑shirts. She picked one up and hugged it to her, fighting the tears.  She doubted Cliff would be allowed to live once he was no longer needed.Less than one hour. Fahrrad would kill himCliff after the palace was rubble.

The uniformed men ushered everyone out. Vickie’s feet felt like they were coated in molasses. John had to pull her the final steps. How could she leave Cliff…before the end?

“He’d want you to be safe,” John said.

She came then. She had not cried.

            One of Kulinahr’s people droveTears would come later.

A black military limo carried John, Tess and Vickie back to the airport.  Vickie had wanted to stay to the end, but John had pulled her away.  “He wouldn’t want you to be here.  He’d want you at least to be safe.”  She had not cried.  The bitter tears would come later.


            The Middle Yemeni officer who drove them to the airportit had taken driver’s ed from someone in Hades, but Vickie didn’t even pay attention. In the back seat, she turned the chip prototype over idly in her hands.

She wasn’t really looking at it, but something about it …a flash in the wrong place or a slight irregularity in the feel…something caught her eye.  So that’s why it hadn’t worked, she thought. attention.

She looked closer. Someone had defaced itone side of the chip, putting several long scratches in it. So that was why it hadn’t worked. Probably Fahrrad, she thought.  Maybebecause Cliff had lefttried to leave a clue in the memory, so Fahrrad had tried to destroy the chip.  They would. They’d never know, now.

She gazed blankly at the chip, her mind a thousand miles away. Cliff.  He had been behindhelping Kulinahr all along, only wanting her to trust him.  What a fool she was.  SheHer throat thickened and her heart beat a heavy recrimination. She’d had had it allhappiness, and had thrown it away.


            And if she hadIf she’d come with him to Middle Yemen, who knows if he  with him, would he have been captured?  No, he wouldn’t Without the distraction of her rejection, could he have been distracted. escaped Fahrrad’s machinations? Well, of course he could. She remembered the ease with which he had escaped with her that night over four months ago.  He wouldHe’d be free right now, laughing with her about some shared joke.


            Oh, great.  All she needed now was to feel guilty about his death.


            The word shocked her out of her reverie.  Death?  No, he couldn’t Instead of about to die.  Not

How could he die? Why now, not when they’d had so little time together.  She must stop the car, she must run out and find him before it was too late.  And she had only a half an hour.?

She stared at the chip again. If only Fahrrad hadn’t defaced it. If only…she looked closer at the scratches. They weren’t on the circuit side.

They weren’t on the circuit side. So whoever had made them had either not known much about chips, or had intentionally made them on the side where they wouldn’t do any damage.  And that, coupled with where it was found, might mean Cliff was attempting to leave a message.


            But what?  A message from Cliff?

She brought the chip to her nose and examined the scratches. Three of them, look ing kind of like arranged in a weird triangle.  Now, where had she that she’d seen that symbolsomewhere before. But where?

She couldn’t remember. She slapped the chip onto her thigh and stared out the window, trying to beat the answer out of her brain.

The triangle was the mathematical symbol for change. Was he trying to indicate they were changing locales constantly? No, besides making no sense, Kulinahr’s air units would have tracked them, then.

Triangle.  Warped triangle.  It looked familiar. Warped triangle.

And then it clicked. The bizarre sculpture in the hotel where she’d been held prisoner.  She yelled out in her excitement.

Hot damn.” She turned to Tess.

“It’s okay, Vickie,” Tess saw the wild‑eyed look in her friend’s face,grabbed her flailing hands and squeezed. “We understand. Go ahead and let it all out.”

“No!” She practically shouted. “Stop the car!  You must. We have to go back to the city!”

“Vickie,” John started patiently. “We’ve been over this already. We can’t do any more good here, and Cliff…”—”


            “…“—is being held in the same building I was four months ago! when I was abducted. Look at this chip John,” she.” She shoved it under his nose. “See the scratches? They form a sortthe shape of curled‑up triangle.  Ex actly the same as a sculpture in the lobby of the hotel where I was held.  It’s unforgettable because itIt sticks out like a sore thumb in that squalid decor. . Cliff stayed at the same hotel; he wouldhe’d have seen it too, and known it was memorable.”


            “But where is that hotel?”

            “He couldn’t have done this, Vickie suddenly deflated. .” John spoke gently. “He couldn’t have known where they were taking him before they actually abducted him..”

“Sure he could have. He’d know their hideouts. He might have heard where they were taking him and either had enough warning or escaped long enough to scratch a quick message. Oh, John, it doesn’t matter if I’m wrong. This is our only chance!”

“But Vickie,” Tess said. “Where is the hotel?”[M3] 

It hit her like a spear shaft to the heart. She had no idea.  Cliff might know, no, obviously did know, but sheShe hadn’t seen her arrival or her departure route.

Then the Middle Yemeni officer spoke up. “I know the hotel.”  His English was obviously limited but that was all they needed to hear.  All three urged him to drive immediately to the location.   you’re speaking of.”

Vickie wanted to hug him. “Then let’s go!”

The officer wanted to callwait for reinforcements, but Vickie quickly vetoed that.  “There’s nosaid, “No time.  We have lessLess than a half hour to get there, break in, find Cliff and the computer and unlock the destruct sequence. Go now!”

The officer drove even more maniacally now. Vickie held onto the door, narrowly avoiding getting crushed in a particularly quick turn.  ‘Well, If they didn’t get to Cliff, if we can’t find you in time, it won’twouldn’t be for this guy’s lack of enthusiasm.  

   John broke into her thoughts.  “We’llheld grimly to the door handle. “We need to havemake a plan before we get there. . There’s no time to look the place over first. Tell me about the hotel, Vickie.”

She told him as much as she could remember, including how Cliff had rescued her, skipping only the kiss that had started it all.

“Okay,” he said, slamming.” His body slammed into the door on another tight turn. As they bumped their way down the main drag, dodging cars and people and animals, John explained what they needed to do.

 [M1]I'll have to revisit this. I updated much of the technology but it could stand some more. Boxes are going away. We're in the tablet and smartphone age.
 [M2]Again, it's important to not just show the action, but the POV character's reaction to high points.
 [M3]Plot holes are much easier to see from the vantage point of time away from the story :)