Tuesday, June 26, 2007


The Day's Progress

Another short day, with the morning lost to a grocery store forage and phone calls to our lawyer (long story, ask me over drinks and I'll tell you all about, if you're interested), but managed to hit quota by the skin of my teeth. By my count I'm about a day's work away from the end of Act I, with a third of the novel done. Well on track to finish the novel by the end of July (which is good, since that's when I'm contracted to hand it in!).

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
26,758 / 90,000

Nearly all of today's writing was taken up by Chapter Thirteen, which introduces the microgravity weaponry the team will be using later in the book (a low-mass/high-velocity fletchette pistol and a carbine that fires rocket-propelled ammunition, to be exact). There was a bit of show-and-tell as a walk-on character presents the guns and explains their uses and limitations. Then everybody gets a turn on the firing range, and we learn a little something about one of the soldiers, who to this point had been something of a cypher.
Of the six, Yao was surprised to discover that he was not the most skilled marksman. He’d seen Bannerman Dea’s shooting scores in his military records, back in Fanchuan Garrison, but had assumed that there had been some exaggeration on the part of the training officers, since marksmanship of that high caliber was a rare quality indeed.

By the time Dea had emptied the fletcher’s clip of needles, Yao was satisfied that the training officers had not exaggerated. If anything, they might have understated the case.

Still, despite his almost unerring ability to put a shot dead-center in the target, time after time, there was something comical about the way that Dea handled the firearms. For one thing, when shooting the flechette pistol, he insisted that he begin each time with the fletcher in a holster at his side, and when Hughes called the order to fire Dea would draw the pistol in a fluid, lightning-fast movement and then fan his free hand over the pistol’s reset lever, an unnecessary motion since simply squeezing and holding the trigger would result in an uninterrupted burst of automatic fire. Then, when he’d finished, he would raise the pistol to his lips and blow across the end of the barrel, smiling self-indulgently.

He acted, for all the world, like a character in a cheap drama, or in the pages of a tenth-tael terrible, a cartoonish figure of a gunman stepping straight out of lurid tales of the Tejas frontier. It was somewhat unnerving, seeing someone with that kind of well-honed ability playacting at being a Vinlander gunslinger.

Even so, cartoonish or no, it was clear that Dea knew his way around firearms. Despite himself, Yao couldn’t help but feel that their mission’s chances of success had just raised in his own estimation, if only fractionally.
In case you made it that far into the sample, yes, a "tenth-tael terrible" is the Celestial Empire equivalent of a penny dreadful or dime novel, lurid stories printed on cheap paper. The name derives from their price, a tenth of a silver tael.

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