Thursday, June 14, 2007


The Day's Progress

A decent day, distracted only somewhat by some annoying nonsense with my webhosting company. (More on this later, probably.) Still, managed to get to the end of the third chapter, as planned.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
8,289 / 90,000

These are the first three paragraphs of chapter two, which introduces the other main protagonist of the book. Sitting in a chair, thinking about silence and bodily functions. Non! Stop! Action!
Bannerman Yao Guanzhong sits on a metal bench, his legs in shackles, his hands resting on the table before him. Opposite the bench are two chairs, unusually ornate for so austere a chamber, which to all appearance are actually constructed of carved wood. Not formed plastics with imitation grain, but real sticks of dead vegetable matter worked into shape by knife, plane, and awl. On Fire Star plants are a prized commodity, carefully cultivated in greenhouses, cherished for their ability to transmute carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen, and no one would dream of chopping down a full-grown tree to make something as frivolous as a wooden chair. This pair must have been shipped from Earth, carefully packed in a cargo hold, a small luxury brought to this barren world.

The chairs are empty. Yao has been waiting for some time, but he is patient. He knows what is coming for him, and is in no mood to speed its arrival. It is quiet here, in this interrogation chamber in the heart of Fanchuan Garrison, deep in the Tianfei Valley, and Yao closes his eyes, for the moment reveling in the unexpected solace and stillness. Eleven terrestrial years Yao has been on Fire Star, fighting the forces of the Mexic Dominion on land, in the air, and in the vacuum, and silence is as precious a commodity to him as all the plants and trees in all the greenhouses in all of Fire Star. Out on the surface Yao is never without his surface suit, its elastic constriction countering the lower atmospheric pressure of the red planet, his chest encased in a hard-shell carapace, a helmet over his head. And even if sound travels poorly in the thin Fire Star air, the sounds of Yao’s own body are never far from his ears, the rhythm of his breath and the pounding of his heart rattling around his helmet. And in the vacuum above Fire Star it is even worse, enclosed in bulky pressure suits, an island of noisy bodily function, the silence of the void always just beyond his reach.

Fanchuan Garrison is pressurized, close to Earth-normal, and the circulated air heated to comfortable temperatures. The walls are constructed of a concrete formed from the reddish-orange sands of Fire Star itself, and have a vaguely pinkish tint to them. But they are thick enough to block most any noise from passing through, either that from within passing in, or within passing out, and it seems to Yao almost like being struck deaf, as the sound of his own steady breathing is swallowed by the empty space around him. In time, he begins to hear a high pitched whine, and for a brief moment worries that it signals some incoming attack, like the whistle of incoming mortars that he grew to know so well in his days patrolling the border with the Mexic Dominion in the Vinland province of Tejas. Then Yao forces himself to relax when he remembers that this whine is what silence sounds like, the hum of an empty room. It has been too long since last he heard it.

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