Monday's are always a little sucky, and today was no different. The writing was easy enough, but when it was all said and done I'd finished far less than I thought I would. I think it's just getting up to speed after the weekend. My nightmare schedule would be writing every other day, going fallow in between. I don't think I could work that way. As it is I don't write for weeks or months at a time, outline like crazy, and then write at a white-hot intensity for a short amount of time. I'm on day one of week eight of this project, and just crested 150K. That makes this novel not only the longest thing I've ever written, but nearly as long as my last two projects combined. And it's almost done. I swear!
I'm coming down to the finish line on this one. I've got all the pieces on the board and have been knocking them over, one at a time. Today I got Stillman and Alice into the Glasshouse, and I'm about to lay all the cards on the table. It looks like it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume I'll finish by Wednesday or Thursday at this rate. A handful of short scenes interspersed with a few long
ones, and that'll be that.
It was late afternoon, Monday. The Corvette SS was safely back in the inconspicuous garage above, and Stillman and Alice were down in the derelict Underground station, digging through antique electronics that hadn’t been cutting edge since before Alice was born. And this was what Stillman wanted to use to help them break into Iain Temple’s Glasshouse.
Stillman hooked up a computer the size of a car motor to an electrical outlet, and then balanced an ancient monitor on top, the white plastic of the casing gone sickly yellow with age. Fishing a loop of phone cabling from a filing cabinet drawer, he plugged one end into a modem the size of a typewriter, and spliced the other into a thick bunch of cabling that snaked along the wall.
There was more than just antique electronics in the storage tunnel. While Stillman swore beneath his breath, trying to bring the ancient computer back to life, Alice picked around through the confusion of odds and ends piled haphazardly all around, idly.
There was what looked like a rifle, but at the end of the barrel was a kind of dish, like a satellite receiver, and from the stock hung a cord connected to a bulky metal box, with straps so it could be worn like a backpack.
“Enfield Sonica,” Stillman said, when Alice held it up for inspection. “Sound weapon. Fires concentrated bursts of sonic vibration.”
Alice returned the contraption to the pile. The next thing she picked up looked like a flare gun, a bit bulky pistol, but had rammed into the barrel what looked to be a miniature collapsed umbrella with its fabric missing.
“Ah, harpoon pistol.” Stillman nodded. “Fix a line and it can be used for grappling. Hand on to that, will you, love? Might come in handy.”
Alice shrugged, and tucked it into the pocket of her leather jacket, handle first. Next she picked up a silver disc. It was about two feet in diameter, a couple of inches thick, and surprisingly lightweight. It shone like silver, untarnished and unmarred. On the back was a loop of the same material, evidently a handle of some kind, though a bit wide for Alice to hold comfortably.
“Don’t know what that one is, actually,” Stillman said, mopping beads of sweat from his brow. “Back in ’67, they were rebuilding Mark Lane station—they called it Tower Hill by then—and put about that they’d destroyed the last remains of the old Tower of London station. Which, as you can see”—he waved his arm, indicating the tunnel—“wasn’t exactly the case. More like the old station was more heavily fortified, and wired up to the new communications grids.” He bashed the thick bunch of cables on the wall with a wrench. “Anyway, when they were doing the tunneling, they dug up some old bits of Roman pottery, some stuff that dated back to the time of Boudica, and that disc you’re holding. The MI8 boffins never were able to work out who’d made it or when, out of what materials, or for what purpose. Couldn’t be cut by diamond or laser. Odd that, mmm?”
Alice shrugged, and tossed the disc over her shoulder, to land clattering on the pile behind her. “You about finished with this stuff, yet, or what?”
Stillman grinned. “As a matter of fact...”
He stabbed a rocker switch on the front of the monitor, and the screen buzzed noisily to life, green letters dimly visible on the grey-black background.
“Now,” Stillman said, cracking his knuckles like a concert pianist. “Let’s see what we can find out about this Glasshouse, shall we?”