[Video feed starts. Kate leans back from turning on the camera, revealing that she is in the wardroom of a small interstellar spacecraft.
She is fit, attractive woman with pale red-blond hair and rather pale skin, although her face is somewhat flushed as if by exertion and embarrassment. She looks like a Scandinavian or perhaps a fair-skinned English, but her eyes are green. She is wearing a brown military uniform jacket with gold master warrant officer's insignia on the collar. Although she appears to be in mid-20s, she must be considerably older because her uniform's ribbon rack is huge.]
Kate: Archie! We're starting!
[Archie sits down next to her. He is in his mid 30's, much taller than she is, tanned, dark-haired and blue-eyed. His dark, wavy hair has a little gray at the temples. He wears civilian clothes that are vaguely navy-looking, and very neat. He is handsome and so manicured and well-groomed that at first impression he strikes you as gay.]
Archie: Just a second, Kate.
[Archie uses the camera to check the part in his hair.]
Archie: Just a second, we want to make a good first impression.
[Archie adjust the collar of his suit.]
Archie: You should have worn your uniform cap. It looks adorable on you.
Kate: Forget it! I wore the damn jacket and that's it!
[Archie studies his face in the camera and checks his smile. Kate crosses one arm over her chest and shades her eyes with the other as she looks down. He finds a piece of spinach in his teeth and digs it out with his fingernail. He then pops it in his mouth and swallows.]
Archie: There, Kate. All ready. Now turn that thing on.
Kate: Archie, it's *been* on since before you sat down.
Archie: Why didn't you tell me?
Kate [gesturing to camera]: Didn't you see the monitor light on the camera?
Archie: Is that what that thing is? I always wondered.
Kate: Archie, how the hell did you ever get through twelve years in the navy? You must have had a chief standing by in the head in case you needed him to wipe your arse.
Archie: Pretty much. It was great! You'd better introduce us.
Kate [sighing]: I'm Scout Captain Katherine MacClaine, although I usually go by 'Kate'. We tend to be informal in the scouts. I'm speaking to you from the wardroom of the REV C9A966, a reserve scout ship of the basic survey vessel design. It has a gross tonnage, that's a measure of payload capacity, of about 3000. That's tiny for a jump capable ship but this is a proven and extremely versatile design. It may be small for a jump ship, but it is enormous for a manned vessel with planetfall and aerodynamic flight capability. When configured for use in the regular navy this basic hull type carries as many as eight guns, four topside and four below. This vessel is configured for planetary exploration and carries only two guns, and OF COURSE they're spiked, as you could see by the stickers on the turrets.
Archie: Kate, why are you telling them about the hardware instead of yourself? You're not even telling them the interesting things about the hardware, like that it has staterooms for over twenty crew, but that *you* piloted this thing solo for ten years. They'll want to know about you. For instance how you got that golden meteor medal. That ribbon goes in the top row, by the way. You didn't even tell them about us.
[Kate's extremely fair skin is now quite red.]
Archie: Go ahead, Kate. Tell them about yourself.
Kate: Er... I spent my teenage years on the Keystone Loop and my parents signed the papers so I could join the navy at sixteen. After a year of training I did a four year tour. Then I kicked around for a year taking classes and what-not. I had a pretty good civvy job for the navy as a ship inspector. Then I joined up with the scouts for ten years and transferred to the reserves a few weeks ago. When I got my bonus ship, Archie pulled some strings to get me my old ship, which I didn't ask him to but I'm glad, because I've put a lot of work into her. I've upgraded her machine shop and electronics, and made major improvements to just about every system onboard, particularly the drivers, which put out twenty percent over spec, and the aerodynamic controls. These ships are not easy to control in the atmosphere because they're flying wings/lifting bodies and you have limited control surfaces to work with. In addition to the control system improvements, I've found several minor hull surface additions that extend the flight envelope...
[Archie crosses one arm over his chest, and shades his eyes with the other hand as he looks down.]
Archie: Maybe this would work better if we took questions.
[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited August 19, 2011).]
A monitor blinks to the face of a clear-eyed, square-shouldered man in his 20s. The bottom of the screen reads: Sinji Hyata, Discreet Client Services Group.
"Hyata from DCSG. We have a copy of your spec sheet in front of us, and we're duly impressed. Its part of why we're interested. We need to know a little more about you before we make our decision, however. Could you tell us, please, how did you two first meet? What is unique about the dynamic of this crew. Perhaps you could tell us the story of the tightest spot you've ever been in as a team; how did you handle it? What is it that gives you the upper-hand, time and again, over the competition."
Archie: Hyata? Would you perhaps be related to a Captain Shin Hiyata, from the Science Patrol on Daikaiju III?
Kate: Archie, we'll never get anywhere if we try figure out who might be related to one of the approximately billion people you count as your dearest friends. To answer the question of how we met, I was seventeen and on my first assignment, to the navy base attached to the port on Talixar. I was ordered to ferry some dignitary dirtside, but I was shocked when it was a lieutenant only a couple years older than me. Apart from the knighthood ribbons and officer's sword, he was obviously an aristo. We'd just cleared port when he came forward into the pilot's cabin like belonged there and started chatting me up. I thought he was a masher.
Archie: I was a masher, but you know I'd have done that with anyone. I was going to my new post in Admiral Shabaz's intelligence group. With her looks and her frontier accent Kate was obviously a Keystoner. She's always looked young for her age, so I thought she was sixteen or so -- I had to ask. I think she was offended, so the bold minx aborts our standard de-orbit and sets the launch right down on her tail in a direct landing.
Kate: I had a first class pilot's rating.
Archie: I didn't know that. My heart was in my throat, in more ways than one. Well, what's the use of being in intelligence if you can't find things out? I had her last name and pretty soon knew all about her.
Kate: You abused your position of influence to stalk me.
Archie: That's right. I'll never forget our first date. I thought you stood me up -- I'd been half expecting that. The shuttle we'd agreed to meet at came and went. I was alone in the lounge, sitting dejected in my best civilian suit when you showed up, late, and in black mechanics' coveralls. If you knew Kate I wouldn't have to tell you that they were spotless and neat, but she'd cinched them at the waist with this belt she'd contrived from webbing and some brass rings -- the webbing was red-gold to match her hair. And she'd tied her hair up with frapping tape of all things.
Kate: You knew what that was?
Archie: Kate, even back then I wasn't a total lubber. We use frapping tape to wrap up stuff that has to be absolutely black. It looks like velvet ribbon. Obviously she'd seen the other girls going on liberty in all their fancy rigging, so she'd raced down to the bosun's locker to improvise some of her own. And the hair bow wasn't sloppy, either; she'd managed to tie quite a decorative knot, even though it was behind her head. All evening my eyes were drawn to it. It was the most clever and handsome bit of marlinespike spacemanship I'd ever seen. It still is. That was it for me, I was done for.
Kate: Well, we were inexperienced and foolish.
Archie [sighs]: Well, inexperienced I'll grant you. But they don't want to hear about that kind of stuff. They're looking for something a little more adventurous. Why don't you tell them about the two mooks who jumped you in my hotel last week? How did you get out of that?
Kate: They clamped a knockout hankie over my mouth and nose and as soon as I felt the evaporation I stopped breathing, then kept a slight positive pressure in my airway. It's a survival reflex.
Archie: Nobody has a reflex like that.
Kate: Spacers do. Anyhow they thought I was out and got sloppy. I took out the first mook with his own knockout cloth.
Archie: Well, there you have it. Our edge is that Kate's a scout, and a scout is always a spacer's spacer. And Kate's a scout's scout: she's the best of the best of the best.
Kate [snickers]: Where do you get that bilge?
Archie [ignoring her]: Tell us how you killed the second mook.
Kate: A sloppy foreman killed him. The man tripped over the rubber bumpers on the loading dock. They should have been installed flush. I complained to the management of course.
Archie: That had to be the most dangerous moment of your career.
Archie: Name one that was worse.
Kate: The time I was alone in my ship and pirates shot out her propulsion truss and boarded. She'd lost atmosphere on the top deck too.
Archie: You never told me about that! How did you get out of it?
Kate: Shot out the observation port in my own chart room then EVA'd around the outside of my ship as they were boarding her from the cargo deck. While they were looking for me I hijacked their boat and left them stranded. Then there was the time the revolutionary committee on New Yuggothar confiscated my ANU so I couldn't jump.
Archie: You told me you got a new one.
Kate: I didn't say how. I machined a crude astronavigation model using some reference books I had on board as a guide. Then when I had a correction vector calculated I transferred the figures to the jump engine transmission rods using a spanner and a vernier depth gauge.
Archie: Were you nuts?
Kate: Not enough trust that rig for more than one jump. After I'd given the revolutionaries the slip, I made my way back to base bumming course corrections from passing ships. Oh, there's the time I surveyed the Spencer Cut -- I named that after you, you know -- and I took a primitive's arrow right through my thigh. It missed the lateral circumfrential artery by millimeters. That was probably my closest call ever. After that extracting the thing, applying the field dressing, then getting back to my ship all while taking hostile fire comes in a close second.
Archie: You never told me about that!
Kate: I sent you a postcard.
Archie: All you said was that it rained a lot and the gravity was a bit on the high side!
Kate: Well, you'd have made a fuss. You were my ex-husband, not my mother.
Archie: Speaking of which, did you ever tell your mother any of this?
Kate: No. She'd have told you, then you'd have used your influence to get me posted to some stupid, boring job, like feeding you grapes by the fleshpots of Tellumonar.
Archie: God, I wish I'd thought of that.
Kate: As for our crew, they're a bunch of greenhorns. They're all Archie's friends. Like Tom the box and pallet salesman.
Archie: Tom's a good man. Next to you he's the smartest person I know too. You'll be glad we brought him aboard, mark my words.
Kate: I am glad. Don't get me wrong, I love him to bits. Just like I love Shaw the barber.
Archie: He's my orderly, and a highly trained navy man. He'll be useful. And exactly in what way do you love Shaw?
Kate: As a comrade, of course. Julie says he has "manly beauty", but he can't help that, just as I can't help having a normal, healthy response to it, not that it's any of your business. But speaking of beauty, what about Diana PahMEEENtuh?
Kate: Exactly what use have do you have in mind for Lady PahMEEENtuh, might I ask? Or is what you're picturing not fit for polite company?
Archie: Leave her out of this.
[Kate and Archie are now looking in different directions, backs slightly turned to each other.]
[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited August 20, 2011).]
[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited August 20, 2011).]
Sinji has been busily tapping through options on his tablet. He gives a wide-eyed, exaggerated shrug to someone off-camera as if to say: I don't even known what to do with them. He reestablishes his professional mask, "ahem. Mr. and Mrs. McClaine. As you may know, our clients are looking for services which do not attract a lot of attention to their enterprises."
Just off-camera someone says something that sounds like: interstellar incidence waiting to happen.
"We may not have something suitable to your unique skill set at this time. Perhaps it would help if you told us exactly what kind of work you are hoping for?"
(Out of character aside. Every novice writer in my experience tends to produce a particular story element readily. Some people are natural describers. Some are natural plotters. I'm a natural dialog writer. When I write a scene, it automatically comes out in dialog unless I consciously work to produce something else.
Dialog set-pieces like what I've written above come out almost as quickly as I can type them. If dialog was all you needed to make a publishable work, I'd be churning out one 'My Dinner with Andre' piece after another.
What gave me the idea for this piece was watching the old movie 'His Girl Friday'. It's one of those "Re-marriage comedies" of the 30's and 40's that has a very simple formula: there's a divorced or divorcing couple who obviously belong with each other but just can't figure out how to make it work. And one of them is going to marry a square, a nasty mundane piece of work who represents the path of least resistance.
So I'm watching this old movie, and I realize, "Hey! This re-marriage genre is all about snappy dialog! It's practically tailor-made for me."
So I start writing some test scenes and darn if they don't turn out like this: Kate is a tough spacer dame who needs a favor from her suave ex-husband Archie. She's late for their meeting because she has to take out a couple of assassins along the way. Word of her adventure precedes her, and heedless of his new fiancée looking on a relieved Archie sweeps Kate into his arms. Then Kate says,"Will you lay off with the squeezing? Or if you can't keep your hands off me, at least buy me a drink to get me through the ordeal."
I looked at that line, scratched my head and asked, "Did I just write that?" It sounded like a line Rosalind Russell would have spoken.)
[Kate and Archie are facing in opposite directions with frosty expressions on their faces, but upon hearing Sinji's question, Kate doubles over with laugher.]
Kate: I think "Mrs. MacClaine" means you, Archie. Want to handle this one?
Archie: Kate, it's a natural mistake to make, and Sinji wouldn't have made it if you'd introduced us properly like you were supposed to. Sinji, my name is 'Archie Spencer', and Kate goes by her, er, maiden name of 'Katherine MacClaine'.
Kate: "Maiden" name? Huh. So that's what that business of a woman taking a man's name when they get married is supposed to mean. We don't do that back home on the Keystone. So, Archie, is Lady PuhMEENtuh going to keep *her* "maiden" name when she marries you?
Archie [stonily]: No.
Kate: Really? I'd have thought that was a moot point with her a long time ago.
Archie [winces, but ignores her]: Captain MacClaine is adverse to publicity as anyone could wish, but as you can probably guess publicity is not in the least adverse to her.
Kate: What bilge! Nobody's ever heard of me.
Archie: Plenty of people have, Kate, you just move on too quickly to witness the stupefied public aftermath.
Kate: Name one person I don't know who's ever heard of me.
Archie: I'll do better than that. I'll name a million: the Royal Marines. Why don't you tell them about how you got your meteor, Kate?
Kate [winces]: Leave that out of this. Anyhow, you're one to talk. Every time you scratch your arse it's splashed in nauseating detail over the society pages.
Archie: I can't help it if the public is fascinated by the nauseating details of a peer scratching his arse. Anyhow, we haven't answered Sinji's question. Why don't we make this a little game. Why don't *you* tell them the kind of work I'd look for, and I'll do the same for you. Then we'll see who does the better job.
Kate [laughing]: That's easy. Archie would want work where he meets interesting people who need something one of the other interesting people he knows can provide.
Archie: Touché moi, Kate, but I still get my turn. Kate wants work that that takes her places nobody's gone before, that demands of her things of her nobody's done before, preferably things nobody's even tried. There's plenty of people who'd pay Kate a top money for her skills. She could get rich that way if she wanted to, but she knows those jobs are a waste of her talent. So where she was headed, before I stepped in, was eking out a living kicking the can down the road doing any old thing, hauling cargo even. Anything, just so long as it doesn't tie her down for long. She probably wouldn't admit it even to herself, but what she'd be doing is keeping the decks clear for that special job, the one that really taxes her creativity, skill and character to the utmost. There's a saying that in a crisis a spacer always does the right thing, but a scout often does the right thing nobody ever thought to do before. And ask any of her colleagues; Kate's the scout's scout. So it's not a question of her being qualified for the job; it's a question of the job being worthy of her. How'd I do, Kate?
Kate [looking down, jaw clenched tight]: What a load of bilge.
[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited August 21, 2011).]
(OOC: I loved My Diner with Andre! Have you seen Paris Je T'aime? Its 14 five minute love stories set in 14 Parisian neighborhoods, by 14 different directors with 14 different castes. Each story is delightful (except one which is beautifully heartbreaking). One of them is a take on this divorcee comedy thing that you're talking about (which I never realized was its own genre, until you just mentioned it))
Sinji leans forward, listening, brow slightly furrowed as if he's trying to figure out a strange new spectator sport. "Yes of course." He puffs out his cheeks as he exhales. "Unfortunately interesting people and situations are our bread and butter. So let me just ask this plainly. Pride is pride, and we certainly understand that. Before we go any further, however, we need to know how far you'd go to make your client happy. What rules can be bent, and how far?"
(OOC: Paris Je T'aime? I'll have to rent it.)
Kate: Bend the rules? I guess it depends on what you mean.
Archie: Better let me field this one, Kate. As for people in my class, we're not too keen on people bending rules because we tend to make and un-make the rules to suit ourselves. Insofar as other peoples' rules go, they don't apply to us except to the degree they can force those rules on us. But Kate's different. She's a spacer, and you have to understand what that means.
Kate: Oh, I suppose you consider yourself qualified to explain.
Archie: Actually, Kate, I am. In fact, I'm more qualified to define exactly what a spacer is than you, because it's not really a spacefaring question, it's a people skills question. But why don't I go on, and you just stop me when I go wrong.
Kate: Fine, go ahead and we'll see how far you get.
Archie: Now Kate, are you or are you not a spacer?
Kate [warily]: Some people say I am.
Archie: Ah, but that's what matters, isn't it? Not just anyone's opinion, of course. It's the opinion of other spacers that matters, right?
Kate: Go on.
Archie: There's maybe several thousand billion people in civilization, and spacefaring is a very common occupation. There's maybe a billion or two able spacehands in total. Now Kate, what makes an able spacehand?
Kate: Knows his way around a ship, unless it's exotic. He can perform basic duties and can understand instructions and follow through. Probably he's picked up a couple of useful technical specialties, and is trainable. Your basic swabbie. Navy's full of able spacehands. A lot of them are good men.
Archie: Why thank you Kate, I'll take that as a compliment.
Kate: I didn't say _all_ of them.
Archie: So I noticed, but I'm taking it anyway. Maybe one out of two hundred or so able spacehands are spacers. They're the most experienced ones, the ones who've been through the wringer, probably several times.
Kate: Not exactly.
Archie: Well, I'm getting there, but let's just accept for the moment that spacers are the most experienced spacehands and that they're pretty rare, no more than a half a percent of all spacehands. One of the things that sets a spacer apart is that he doesn't just know the 'what' and 'how' of spacefaring, he knows the 'why'. That's why when you've got a tough problem, or a crisis onboard, the spacer on the crew is the guy you turn to. That is, if you're lucky enough to have one. Spacers are the ones who always know the right thing to do.
Kate: Fair enough.
Archie: But knowing the right thing to do can be a burden, can't it? An ordinary spacehand who fails in his duty can often be excused by ignorance. But a spacer _knows_ the right thing to do. That means he's got no excuse. And if he fails to do anything less than his duty, the other spacers will know, and they will not be charitable.
Kate [warily]: Go on.
Archie: Now when spacers get together, what they do is talk.
Kate: That's true.
Archie: They talk and they talk and they talk. And what they talk about is situations that have happened in space. Things that happened, almost happened, might have happened to them, to people they know, or people they've heard about. And they take those situations apart in mind-numbing detail, weighing and debating the options actually chosen against the ones that might have been. Is that right?
Kate: I suppose it's boring to outsiders.
Archie: That, by the way, is how you get into the club. You do something spacers think is worth discussing, and if they can't figure out anything better that you might have tried, you're in. You're a spacer.
Kate: Stop right there. It's not a club, Archie.
Archie: I know it's not. That was just a metaphor, Kate. And what's happened over the centuries is that all those debates, all those criticisms, all those decisions have been distilled and handed down from generation to generation...
Kate [throws her hands up in the air]: Oh, no! Not all that 'code of the spacers' bilge!
Archie: Scoff if you like, but the only reason you spacers don't see it is that you're too close to it. It's perfectly obvious to everyone else. Over the years all that accumulated knowledge has evolved into an ironclad and unforgiving standard of honor, a code of spacefaring chivalry if you will.
Kate [scoffing]: Oh? And I suppose that makes spacers the knights of galactic civilization, and _scouts_ would be the knights errant?
Archie: You know, I never thought of it that way, but that's a remarkably appropriate analogy.
Kate: Archie, that's so stupid it's not even wrong.
Archie: Well, at least it gets us back to the question. Spacers follow other peoples' rules when it's convenient, but what really matters to them is their reputation with other spacers, am I right?
Kate: Well, what's wrong with that? Whose opinion should matter more than the people who are in a position to actually know the difference between right and wrong?
Archie: I never said there was anything wrong with it. Now Kate here is a scout...
Kate [interrupting]: That doesn't make me a better space man than any other spacer.
Archie: No it doesn't. There's no higher honor in spacefaring than being considered a spacer. But maybe one spacer in a thousand has what it takes to be a scout. It's takes something over and above extraordinary spacefaring ability, a certain special quality.
Kate [scornfully]: Oh, and what is that quality?
Archie: It's a kind of epic pig-headedness.
Kate [momentarily dumbstruck]: Well alright.
Archie: That's why those mooks who jumped you failed. You can't kill a scout that way. To kill a scout like Kate you've got to drive a stake through her heart, cut off her head, then have a coroner on hand to fill out the death certificate because she'll be too stubborn to admit she's dead until she sees it in writing.
Kate [getting up]: That's it, I'm leaving.
Archie [watching her go]: Don't worry, she'll be back. She won't trust me to handle this on my own. Anyhow, there's your answer. Kate wouldn't care if something you wanted to do were illegal, if you could convince her it made sense, which won't be easy. But if you want her to do something that goes against what she sees as her duty as a spacer, forget it. And that scouter stubbornness of hers means you'd better be careful what you say around her. Don't be deceived by appearances. Sure she looks like a girl, but if that girl decides it's her duty to take you down, she'll be coming for you and she won't let up until you go down. I couldn't possibly tell you how she'd do it because she wouldn't know herself, but she'll find a way because that's what scouts do, they find a way where others can't see one. And they can do that because they're too damned stubborn to give up.
[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited August 21, 2011).]
(OOC: Kathleen, about OSC and dialog I hadn't noticed, I'm going to have to go back and look.
I wouldn't be surprised if he relies heavily on dialog, because he writes characters that are so vivid. As humans we're so attuned to the nuances of dialog. Imagine writing a sword fight in a world where every reader is bound to be what we'd consider a master of fencing. That's a pale shadow of writing dialog for real world readers, where even a pretty bad conversationalist among them is likely to be a heck of a lot better at it than most writers can achieve in fiction.
What I love about dialog is how complex and revealing it can be. Things commonly happen on more than one level in dialog. While I suppose it's _sometimes_ true with other kinds of action, dialog is the most basic tool (other than exposition) for revealing a character's inner conflicts or establishing the significance of his external conflicts.
Even in the contrived info-dump dialogs above, you can get a sense that these characters are not only in conflict with each other but in conflict with themselves. Kate the tomboy obviously has got a serious case of sour grapes when it comes to Archie getting remarried. She thinks of herself as self-sufficient but at the same time she can't resist showing off a little to attract his admiration. Archie can't resist courting Kate by showering her with extravagant compliments. As the more perceptive of the two, he also knows why Kate is attracted to him (Kate is totally in the dark about what Archie sees in her) and exploits his insight by giving her little reminders of why she'll miss him when he's married and gone. He also doesn't take Kate's rude treatment lying down. He's patronizing, and doesn't neglect to get a few barbs of his own in to remind her he's not just her whipping boy.
I'm not sure how you would do all that in pantomime. You need dialog. Of course dialog has its limitations too, as I well know.)
(OOC: Well, Dr. Bob, one of the ideas I'm pursuing is to plot the story roughly like a screenplay, although I'm finding that a bit restrictive. Writing is just once facet of a movie, albeit a critical one, and all the other facets have to fit together with it.
Anyhow, you wanted more, so here it is.)
[The picture flips a few times, and now Archie is gone. In his place is a young woman with dark skin and long, frizzy brown-red hair tied back. She is about seventeen years old and looks to be of mixed Asian-African descent. She is powerfully built. She's wearing a set of old black mechanic's coveralls but they're tight on her and the sleeves have been removed, displaying very muscular arms, like a bodybuilder. She is neither pretty nor ugly, but her looks are healthy and pleasing. She projects a commanding, confident presence.]
Julie: Hi, I'm Julie. I was listening and thought I'd stick my oar in. Uncle Archie doesn't know it, but I've patched him through to the Dr. Zekster -- he's this quack video call-in sex therapist on the planet we're orbiting. He claims to be able to guess what anyone's deviance is in twenty questions. Don't worry that you're missing it, it's sure to be all over the news. As you can probably guess I'm a little put out with Uncle Archie right now; it's because of the whole Diana thing. But he'll survive. You almost can't embarrass that man; no matter what you do he pops back up like one of those punching toys.
I'll spill the beans about anyone on-board, but you're probably most interested in Archie and Kate. I'll start with them.
You know how really brilliant people tend to be a little crazy, or maybe dumb about certain things? Those both apply to Archie and Kate, in spades. Next to either of them, even Archie's friend Tom the Mad Box Guru seems normal. They're a classic case of the rocks in his head fitting the holes in hers.
Archie probably came off like a moron at first; he always does. It makes him more approachable, I think. He's a total ass when it comes to anything mechanical, and sometimes comes across as a bit slow, but he's a genius at big picture thinking. He's a people person. He comes from a rich but overpopulated planet, loves crowds and tends to know everyone in them and who they know or are related to.
Archie got a leg up in the navy because of his family connections, and spent most of his career dirtside with intelligence. He wasn't a cloak-and-dagger spook, he was an analyst. If the Yuggotharan agricultural commissar shook hands with the Earl of Alsakanar in a reception line instead of snubbing him, Archie'd know that Alsakanites were stirring up trouble by supplying the Yuggotharans restricted tech or something like that. But his career couldn't advance without a space command, so they gave him a light cruiser. Everyone expected he'd crash and burn because he had no idea what he was doing, but he turned out to be brilliant. He didn't need to know what he was doing because he picked great people, had a knack for knowing the right person to listen to, and could get everyone pulling in the same direction. He played the "father to his men" thing to the hilt.
When Archie insisted on Kate for this little jaunt we're doing, I was skeptical because I knew those two had a history and I thought there'd be tensions. Boy, was I ever right. But if you've got a guy who's a genius at picking people and he insists that somebody is the only person for a job, you'd be a fool not to listen, even if that person is his ex.
Archie is a slow, big picture thinker but Kate is detail oriented and quick, quick, quick. She's always getting frustrated with people because they're too slow and they're too sloppy. Archie looks very neat and manicured -- in fact before Diana most people thought he was gay, because of Shaw -- but otherwise he's a slob who needs a team follow him around to pick up after him. Kate dresses in mechanic's coveralls all the time but is crazy fastidious. Everything has to be neat and orderly so she can put her hand on it just when she needs it. She's even got this cabinet full of keys that are all neatly sorted and labeled. I couldn't believe it because she can't ever be bothered with running back to get a key. It's too slow. She always pick any locks she runs across with her multi-tool. And then she _un_-picks them because it would drive her nuts to leave anything different from the way it's supposed to be. I should mention she's something of a mechanical genius.
Kate's parents spent fifteen years on a ship that was lost after a bad jump. Kate was born five years into that cruise, and spent the first ten years of her life on a ship that was falling apart. The only people she knew all that time were her parents, and the odd atavist tribesman.
That explains a lot about Kate. That's how she qualified for the scouts at 22. When her parents got back Kate was ten years old and already a seasoned spacer, part of a team that had broken dozens of spacefaring records. Most Keystoners don't like crowds, but Kate gets panicky in groups of more than twenty or so. She doesn't even like people looking at her or noticing her, except for Archie. If she could walk around with a bag over her head, she would. She has trouble even looking at herself in the mirror, which is too bad because she's missing a treat. Other things I have no idea where they came from, like the germ thing or her weird sex hang-ups. I think some of that comes from a bad experience she had as a kid on one of those atavist planets her family charted, but she won't talk about it.
But I don't want you to get this wrong. One on one Kate's a warm and generous and kind and terrifying person.
So the skinny on those two is that they're perfect for each other, except there's no way they could ever live together.
Hmm, sorry to break out of the flow, it has been interesting and well written and I can see fun. In fact when I was here a day or so ago I thought about joining in with a couple of questions. One or two have been answered however but there is still one that has my curiosity going. I could have missed something, there is a lot of words there and I'm trying to read it fast but I see they were once married. That partially answers my first question, What is their relationship? Officially anyway. I think by the type of story it is that will change. I see there is some lengthy explanation in the last two posts by leo but I still couldn't find a definite statement.
And I see she has a crew, which surprised me, so does that mean all of those staterooms are filled or can they still take passengers?
[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited August 28, 2011).]
Interesting idea, while in a boring situation today I thought of my own idea taken from yours. Solo pilot with an scoutship he uses as a freighter but the scoutship has some extras normal scouts do not have. It was found adrift in a barely charted area of space, without crew except for one body.
He picks up a female stowaway, figured out why she stowawayed and his reaction which I won't bore you with, and he finds the AI that had been turned off.
That's about all I got to before my situation was over. It would make an interesting novel.
Julie: As to Kate and Archie's "official relationship", I'll let you in on a little secret. Kate doesn't know it yet, but she and Archie are technically still married. I'll tell you how it happened.
Kate's weird upbringing left her with phobia about crowds. She get panicky if there's a hundred people or so around. If she ever went to a big outdoor concert she'd end up in the medic's tent, catatonic. But Archie getting married was a state event back on Tellumonar. I mean weeks of blanket media coverage, photographers trying to break into her hotel, souvenir china plates... the works.
They had to move her to the navy base and keep her in seclusion. Then they bring her down to a secret location and she rides to the abbey in a curtained groundcar so she won't see the crowds lining the streets. The press flunkies put out a cover story that all this privacy stuff is a tradition where Kate's from, but that only whips everyone into a fever of curiosity about her.
Kate's parents were over a year's journey away so Archie's father, the old baron, walked her up the aisle. I've seen the video -- she's got her eyes nailed to the aisle about a meter ahead as she walks. They make it through the ceremony and exchange rings, then turn to receive the acclamation of the crowd.
Now Kate doesn't like people looking at her. She even has trouble looking at herself in the mirror. And suddenly there's two thousand people in the abbey, a billion or so over the video, and they're all feasting their eyes on this girl that until now they've only seen on china knick-knacks. Archie has this uniform on that would make a hardened cabaret rat's eyes bleed, but he's just background scenery. He might as well be invisible because he's standing next to the bride, and she is gorgeous.
Now there's three things you've got to know about Kate to understand what happens next. The first is that she's crazy quick. The day I met her she broke into our suite, even though she had an invitation. She happened to find herself out back and Kate always takes the shortest route. Defeating all the hotel's security measures took her less time than walking around the long way. The second is that she's crazy decisive. Stubborn really. Once she sets her mind on doing something you can't turn her aside. The third is she's got this amazing pocket multi-tool -- she must have paid a fortune for it -- that can do everything from pick locks to lop down small trees. Put those things together and she's unstoppable.
So Kate, with a billion people watching her, pulls the multi-tool out of her bouquet and lops her train off. Then she sprints into the vestry and slams the door. The orchestra starts playing the recessional, and about three seconds later everyone realizes what just happened. Everyone in the sanctuary sets off in hot pursuit. Archie gets to the vestry door first, but the doorknob won't turn. Kate's locked it with her multi-tool. Of course nobody has the key, why would they? The key to the vestry is IN the vestry.
They all spend about a minute banging on the door until some bright lad remembers the cathedral has about a dozen other exits, but by then Kate has commandeered the getaway car and is on her way. It's got A1 traffic priority so she drives right to the getaway space launch. She's about five hours early but she tells the pilot it's an emergency and to take her to the navy base immediately. He's thinking that Archie's been assassinated or something. He's got A1 airspace priority and they're already diverting traffic around him, so he takes off without bothering to get clearance. There's no official record of the launch until he returns to the spacefield, and even then he has trouble landing because there's people swarming all over it now.
When Kate gets to the base she marches right into the scout offices -- still in her wedding dress -- to sign up for a five year tour. This was where she was headed before Archie talked her into getting married, so she's already passed all her qualifying tests. She's all set to go, and they hand her her papers and pay advance.
Now here's where she catches a lucky break. There's a transport to the sector HQ already awaiting departure clearance and she manages to talk her way onto it. Around this time the folks dirtside figure out she's gone to the Tellumonar navy base, but they have no idea what she's up to. Security starts scouring the base, but Kate's already on the transport. By the time they figure out she's signed up for the scouts the transport's almost to the jump point. By the time they figure out she was on that transport, it's gone for good.
That was the last those two saw of each other for ten years.
Now Archie's a gentleman, so he goes to the Archbishop and obtains a religious annulment, then he forwards the documentation to Kate care of the Scout Service. But he never files for a dissolution of the civil union. Normally people do, unless a man is downgrading his wife to a concubine or something like that. Nobody notices he hasn't obtained a civil divorce, certainly not Kate, who has no idea that you have to dissolve both unions. But *I* checked, because I'm a suspicious person.
By dissolving the religious union their civil marriage becomes morganitic. If they had any subsequent offspring they wouldn't be in line for his titles unless he marries her again. I'm sure he didn't file for civil divorce to ensure that if anything ever happened to him she'd get everything not entailed in his titles -- and that's a bundle.
As far as crew is concerned, it's just me and a few of Archie's entourage, so there's plenty of room left on the old '66. But pretty soon Kate's going to get a crew.
One of the reasons Kate was so shocked to find out Archie had a new fiancée is that she assumed he showed up at the spaceport to talk her into marrying him again. He was actually there to *draft* her to lead a special mission. When Kate climbed into the penthouse roof garden the back way she ran into Diana and me, so he didn't get a chance to break all this to her piece by piece. After the shock of discovering Diana, Archie didn't have the heart, or the guts to tell her she was drafted.
To tell you the truth we're all a little terrified of what'll happen when she finds out. Kate's like this giant saw blade that's spinning at a hundred thousand RPM. Then you realize it's not bolted to the arbor and any second now it's going take off and chop everything in its path to bits.
Okay I think I got that except for two things. I might be confused but didn't she run before the ceremony actually started? So how are they married?
Second so Archie is still civilly(Of course she won't be civil if she finds out) married to Kate but is engaged to someone else? Is that normal where he comes from? By normal I didn't mean it has to happen a lot but that it's okay.
But you still haven't stated what their relationship is now. Just partners? Or is she working for him? By their dialogue I would suspect something a lot closer than boss and employee (Or is that the idea) Is the fiance on the ship? Is Archie going out with Kate?
Do you know the engineer on the Serenity? I know a lot of ships out there but she kinda reminds me of you
[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited August 29, 2011).]
(OOC: LDWriter, I don't watch TV, so I have no idea about Serenity. As a satirist, it sometimes gives me an ulcer that I'm not up to speed on TV, that great generators of pop culture tropes. I never know when I'm serving up a character who's been done straight on some TV show.)
Julie: They exchanged rings first, and after the ceremony was complete they turned for the recessional and Kate saw all the people and video cameras with the billion people watching.
The civil marriage/religious marriage business is an aristocratic thing, but it's common among middle class people who ape aristocrats and that's almost everyone. They don't do it on the Keystone, because they're hicks. They don't do it in on New Yuggothar because there they throw married men into jail for being slavers.
Aristocratic society is all about the men, unless the royal family is involved. Everybody is under somebody else's feudal authority. Civil marriage places a woman under the authority of her husband's family instead of her birth family. That's why women can't get civilly married twice, because they can't owe allegiance to two different clans. Men can take as many civil wives as they want because there's no conflict.
Religious marriage doesn't involve transferring people between clans, but baronial titles are only passed down to the issue of a religious union. Having more than one religious marriage at once would create trouble, so you're only allowed to be in one at a time, even if you're a man. And there's no automatic dissolution, again because of the title thing.
Anyhow, religious and civil unions are usually contracted and dissolved at the same time, but there are exceptions.
What most folks would assume if they heard that Kate is has only got a civil marriage with Archie would be that Archie is keeping her as his concubine. That'd be a very common arrangement for rich guys like him. A gentleman who keeps concubines is expected to offer them civil marriage; it protects her interests and those of her offspring.
Keystoners are the most modest people in the galaxy, so you can imagine Kate's reaction if she ever learns what Archie has done.
As for their business relationship, technically Kate is Archie's employee. She's signed articles agreeing to provide her ship and services as captain and leader of an expedition Archie is organizing. That leaves them in an ambiguous position relative to each other.
As the expedition organizer, Archie can set or change goals, but Kate's captain and on her ship that makes her practically the viceroy of God. Where the safety of the ship, its crew or passengers are concerned Kate's powers are nearly absolute. For example she could have Archie flogged, bound and gagged, then throw him into the brig. Archie's social status complicates things a bit, but if she had even a shred of justification there's not a court of admiralty in the galaxy that would convict her of anything.
And don't ever say anything in front of those two which suggests they're an item. It's a sensitive subject with Diana on board. Diana's got hold of Archie where men are most vulnerable, if you catch my drift. She wouldn't stand a chance of Kate would throw him a bone, but Kate will never do it because she's got some stupid idea into her head that Archie would be happier with Diana. Not sticking her oar in's become a point of honor with Kate.
I'm not an engineer myself, but I'm learning loads from Kate. I'm only seventeen, but I've been spending the last year kicking around the galaxy with Uncle Archie.