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This is chapter 3 of Cliffton book 1. The first section is a reworked version of chapter 2, section 1 in the previous rewrite. The second is totally new. This didn't turn out the way I expected. I need money for every time I say that. As always, concrit is much appreciated. Rip me to shreds. I don't mind. Warning for language because, um, Devin.

If you're reading Cliffton for the first time, here are the previous chapters so you can catch up:
Prologue | 1 | 2

Untroubled Minds
(Devin -- two days before the bomb)

Wes starts babbling about the fucking Reaping Festival before I've even had my SynthBrew. Not that I'm listening. I just grunt at the appropriate places and again when he hands me a steaming mug. Doesn't stop him from talking, though. Nothing ever does. It's not until after I'm showered and semi-awake that his words start to register.

"And there's a carnival with rocket racing and rides! We can get FunCakes, too. I love FunCakes!" Wes chatters away like a warrior bat on StimTabs. Four years living on this side of the fence, and he's never once mentioned the Festival.

Why now?

"Carnivals are fucking crowded," I grumble. "Don't like crowds." Don't know why I'm bothering to argue -- just gonna end up giving in. Once Wes gets an idea in his head, it's all but impossible to talk him out of it.

Wes just stands there. Staring at me, face all shining black eyes and perfect teeth. Everything about him screams excitement. Bleached-blonde hair, sticking straight up like he's touched a live wire. Like he's the fucking live wire. Skinny body always in motion, vibrating like a current's running through it. Can see it, fucking feel it --

"Devin." His grin's so huge I wish I felt like smiling back. "They have blue MegaSlushes."

Well, that settles it. Blue MegaSlushes are my fucking favorite.

"Fine. We'll go." Try to sound enthusiastic, but there's too much on my mind. "It'll be fucking epic."

"Devin, dude." Wes leans in close, wraps his arms around me. Warm and firm. "Whatever you're worried about -- "

"Not fucking worried," I mutter. Think about pulling away. Don't even like hugs -- don't like being touched at all. Cheers me up a little anyway. Wes's my best friend. Always knows what I need, even when I don't want to admit it.

"Y'know what you need?" He lets go, looks me straight in the eyes. "Pancakes. They make everything better!"

He's already scurrying off toward the kitchen. Can't help smiling as he goes, just a tiny bit.

Feel even better when he comes back, joyful as ever and carrying enough food for three of me. "I made your favorite kind -- speckleberry!" He hands me the plate. "Dude! I can't wait for tomorrow. It's gonna be so much fun!"

Festival's tomorrow? I set my fork down with a clatter. Not fucking hungry now. "Uh, Wes? Kalen's coming over tomorrow. Wanted me to help him with some circuitry. Said it was important." Not gonna think about what else he said.

"Oh, yeah." Wes bites his lip, looks so deflated I can't fucking stand it. "I forgot."

"Maybe we'll finish up early?" I offer. "We could go after."

"Maybe." He looks away -- fucking knows it won't happen. Knows Kalen and I never finish up early.

"Know what?" I say. "I'll call Kalen. See if he can come over today instead." Was gonna get some shit done today -- bills don't pay themselves. Guess that doesn't matter now. Just want to take that sad look off his face.

Fucking works, too. Wes squeals with delight and flings himself at me, almost knocking my plate out of my hands. Squeezes me so hard I feel my internal organs shifting. "You're gonna love it! We'll have so much fun! We can ride all the rides and get our pictures taken and you can win me prizes on the midway and we'll fly the bumper planes and -- "

He's talking a mile a minute. Don't know how he hasn't passed out from lack of air. Think I might soon.

Whatever. Breathing's fucking overrated.

* * * * *

Kalen's late -- said he'd be here 20 minutes ago, but no sign of him yet.

Said a bunch of other shit, too. Asked a lot of questions I don't want to think about. Pace the floor instead. Back and forth like an animal in a cage, like the people back "home". Wish I'd never told Kalen, never drawn that smooth fucking curve on his map. He's obsessed with it now -- who put the fence there, why'd they do it, blah blah blah.

Been there, done that, didn't buy the T-shirt. Couldn't have afforded it anyway.

All those nights, back before Wes and I moved here. Before Multiversity. All those nights I walked that fence. Tried to get my head straight, put my life back together. Did my best to forget --

Don't fucking remember anymore. Don't think I want to.

Saved by the fucking bell. Or the beep. Perimeter alert's going off -- guess Kalen finally decided to show up. I check the camera, disarm the alarms. Unbolt the door to let him in. Dude's a mess -- clothes all dusty, eyes too bright. Looks like he hasn't slept in days, even though his hair's all rumpled like he just got out of bed.

Wonder if my hair's okay. Better check it. Seems fine -- still tied back tight, no bumps or weird ridges. No stray pieces to fall in my face. Fucking hate the way it tickles when that --

"Devin?" Kalen's still standing there on the steps. "Can I come in now? It's hot out here."

I back away, watch as he carries Wes's RoboCart inside. Snatch it out of his hands before he can put it down. It's messed up even worse than Kalen, caked in sand and grime. Don't want that shit all over my floor. "The fuck happened to it?"

"Uh, I think I broke it." Kalen looks at the floor. "I'm sorry -- I don't think it was designed for a trek across the desert. I meant to try and fix it when I got home, but you wanted me to come over early and -- "

"Whatever. We talking or working?" I turn away before he can answer. "Be right back. Need some tools."

I drag the cart up to my lab, shove it in a dark corner. Grab all the stuff I need, all but fly down the stairs. Just want to get this shit over with. Pretty sure I fucking know what Kalen wants. Knew after we talked yesterday. Even sent Wes off to make some kind of silly Festival hats for tomorrow. Don't want him involved in this -- not if I can help it.

Probably fucking can't.

Kalen's sitting at the table when I get back, reading some kind of book. "You'd be interested in this."

He looks up, slides the book across the table. I set my bag of parts and wires on one of the chairs. Put my tools down, arrange them in the order I'm gonna need them. Take my sweet time. Can't stall anymore, so I sit down. Cross my arms over my chest and glare at the pages. Fucking books. Haven't seen one since I moved here.

Didn't miss them, either -- kinda remind me of Final School. Wasn't a fucking fan.

"None of the books say who built the fence." Kalen runs his hands through his hair, tugs at it. "None of them."

Doesn't matter who did -- his side or mine. Fuckers probably did it just to start trouble.

Don't think telling Kalen that's gonna help, though. Kinda feel bad for him, even though I want no part of this. Don't have a choice, do I? Kalen's smart, supposed to be a genius like me. But he's just a kid, still thinks he can change things -- gonna get himself killed without my help. Doesn't know shit unless the military taught it to him. Unless I did.

I know all kinds of things -- doesn't mean I ever planned to use them. Fucking have to now.

"That why you want to build a bomb?" My voice is soft, kinda gentle.

His eyes get all big. "You knew?"

"Doesn't take a fucking genius." Probably shouldn't be laughing as hard at that as I am. Kalen isn't -- dude's wound way too tight to appreciate my highly developed sense of humor. I clear my throat, get it together. Remind myself this is serious fucking business. "This because you're gonna be deployed soon?"

Can't say I blame him if it is. Know Kalen doesn't want to fight. Doesn't want to kill.

Dude's got recruiters crawling all over him like death slugs, though. He might as well be designed for fighting. Looks just like the troops from the scare spots -- clips they play in the vidhouses before the real feature starts. Used to have fucking nightmares about those marching fiends and their glowing blue eyes. Think I still do sometimes.

"It's not just about that anymore." His eyes still have that sick fucking shine. "We've been lied to."

We have? Fucking shocking. Over a thousand years of fighting, and no one can tell us why. Back in Multiversity, the Instructors said everything on this side of the fence was anarchy. Lived here four years, haven't seen any anarchy yet. Haven't seen any fighting either, except on neurovision. For all I know it doesn't even exist.

"Did you learn about Majeria in school?" Kalen asks.

"The fuck is Majeria?" Never heard of it -- must've skipped that class.

"It's us, Devin." Kalen's voice is high, insistent. "All of us. Or it was. We used to be one country, and the reasons we're not anymore? They're not even good ones -- just stuff about agriculture and who could get married."

"Why'd anyone fight about marriage?" Don't even get why anyone'd want to get married at all. It's just ownership, obligation. Don't want to "own" anyone. Sure as fuck don't need another person to protect. Already got Wes.

"I didn't really understand it. Something about marriages between my people and yours," Kalen reaches for the book, turns its pages. Can't stand the creepy fucking sound it makes -- like something with too many legs, skittering away in the dark. I shake my head, repress a shudder. Try to focus on what Kalen's saying. " -- called it 'pollution of the genetic stream.'"

Good to know people were assholes back then, too. A thousand years and nothing's changed. Remember the names the other kids used to call me, just because I didn't have a pa. Because I'm kinda pale. Doesn't make me any less --

The fuck? When'd I sort all my tools by color?

Not gonna be very efficient that way, is it? Put them back in the right order. When I'm done, Kalen's not talking anymore. I study his face, can't tell if he noticed I wasn't listening. Dude looks pretty fucking out of it.

"So, this bomb," I say. "Don't suppose you're gonna tell me what you plan to do with it."

"You don't want to know." He stares at the table, runs his finger along the top.

I kinda don't. "Gonna have to know some things -- how big you want the blast to be, how much flash and how much noise. The range you want to cover, who gets hurt and who doesn't." I'm already pulling things out of the bag, piecing them together. Active hands and all that shit. Almost start laughing again. Mind's definitely untroubled right now.

"I don't really want anyone to get hurt," Kalen whispers, watches my fingers as they twist the wires.

Neither do I, but someone always fucking does anyway.

(Next chapter is here)

Date: 2013-04-14 12:39 am (UTC)
ext_224364: (Johnlock <3)
From: [identity profile] x-disturbed-x.livejournal.com
I really like how you added the conversation with Kalen in. It turned out really well! I think it added more to the chapter then was there before.

The last line was especially Devin.

Date: 2013-04-14 11:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thanks! It was a little tough getting Devin to stay on track long enough to create anything approaching plot-relevance. I hope I'm not going to have to do that all the way through the book. :D

That last line kinda killed me. Poor Devin.

first scene

Date: 2013-04-14 06:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
LOVE LOVE LOVE how you reworked it. It was great how you jumped right into the discussion of the Reaping Festival and even get in there the thing about Devin needing his coffee first thing in the morning. Excellent.

This is where I take back a piece of criticism before. I love Devin's voice. I got a few paragraphs in and was grinning at his lack of sentence subjects. The first time I read his POV it was a little off putting. Sounded wrong to my ears. But after reading it for awhile it's really settled in. I think after a few Devin POV chapters the readers will stop noticing the difference and instantly recognize Devin's voice. Which is why I've mentioned before to keep those kind of sentences to a minimum with other characters. That way it keeps Devin special.

See, I knew Devin could sneak in some observations about Wes' appearance so the reader will know what he looks like. Great job.

nitpick: Skinny body always in motion, jiggling like a current's running through it.
"Jiggling" just doesn't seem to fit the image in my head. Jiggling makes me think of jello or someone who is fat. Something like twitching might work better.


I love how Devin is willing to completely change his plans for Wes.

The first time Wes hugs Devin it comes off very couply right off the bat. Devin doesn't seem quite as uncomfortable as in scenes from the previous draft. Right away my mind went to them being in a relationship of some kind (and that wasn't just because I know there is something between them).

And I want to mention again about the combo names for things--SynthBrew, StimTabs, FunCakes. They crack me up and every chapter I wait to see if you introduce any new ones. They are so perfect.

I think I'll do scene 2 in the morning. It's almost midnight here and I'm getting sleepy so it's getting harder and harder to put my thoughts into coherent sentences.

I really liked this, though (the whole thing). You got so much information and detail in without any info dumping. Terrific job.

Re: first scene

Date: 2013-04-14 11:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yayyyy. I had a hard time with the first section because I kept most of it but then when I wrote the second section, they didn't seem to fit together. The cuddling from the original chapter was originally going to go here, too. Or so I thought, but the second section felt like a chapter end.

(Maybe I can work that cuddling scene in somewhere else later because I kinda love it.)

Anyway, I ended up having to go back to the first section and rework it because I realized that Devin wasn't supposed to be all happy (for him, lol) like in the original version. So I'm glad it worked for you. :D

YAY on Devin's voice. I think it's one of the only things I absolutely couldn't ever change. Well, I can unfucken him, which I keep trying to make myself do before I call a chapter done. But I can't change it beyond that very much. It's just how it is.

OMG, you have no idea how hard it was to get Devin to be at all plot-relevant. Like I could hear his thinky thoughts but not much of what Kalen was saying to prompt them (because I finally figured out he was only sort of listening).

I can't wait to see your comments on the second part when you get the time. :D

Oh, and thanks for the feedback on the physical description. It ended up being easy once I tried to do it. It's actually been harder for me to write Wes describing Devin in the next chapter because Wes is like a teenage girl and his rhapsodizing about how pretty Devin is just feels romance-novel-y and grating.

I changed "jiggling" to "vibrating". :D
Edited Date: 2013-04-14 11:44 pm (UTC)

Re: first scene

Date: 2013-04-14 11:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I changed "jiggling" to "vibrating".
Excellent choice.

I was totally going to do scene 2 this morning but I got sidetracked with something stupid online and then I decided to try and work on my novel. I've been just kind of going along with it and writing some scenes that come to mind but I have no direction.

I've been inspired by how much you are rewriting. You are making everything so much better and I want to do that with mine. I'm not getting very far, though. I've got your chapter in two tabs, though. One to read and one set on the comment box so I can easily go from one to the other. It's all ready to go. Just need to get focused.

Re: first scene

Date: 2013-04-15 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
I think Devin describes Wes as "vibrating" somewhere else in my previous version anyway, ha. And probably still will because that's many chapters later.

I totally understand! I stayed up late and slept like crap and then wasted hours of my morning trying to force my mind to switch from Devin mode to Wes mode. Devin was way too comfortable in there, apparently. I finally did write about 700-800 words for the next chapter, but they will definitely need some tweaking in the morning.

Awww, I'm really glad this rewrite has been inspiring for you! My word counts have been super pathetic a lot of days, and it's been a lot of work. But so far, I'm happy with how it's going. :D

Date: 2013-04-14 11:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theun4givables.livejournal.com
I'm still laughing that you had put down your mood as "coercing Devin to be plot relevant is hard." Because it's so, so true, lolol. But I loved this chapter even if you struggled like all hell with it the last few days. He really needs to start cooperating with you a whole lot more.

I love Wes's physical description. Or well, how Devin described him, really. It's just so very Devin, it's great. What's also so very Devin is the last fucking line of this whole chapter. He already knows how bad of an idea this is and is completely apprehensive of it. Poor guy has no idea just how much that bomb is going to screw with his and Wes's life.

I also love the tiny little things throughout this chapter that hint towards things I know that a regular reader wouldn't. I didn't realize just HOW MANY of them there are, but wow, dude. I don't think the reader will pick up on any of them. At least, not right away.

Date: 2013-04-14 11:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Lolol I'm sad I had to change it. It made the page look weird to me. Not that I'm compulsive or anything, but I think my brain was still in Devin mode.

You know, the sad thing is, it wasn't even that he wasn't cooperating. I think he was, as much as he's capable of doing. He was telling me what I wanted to know as he perceived it.

It's just when you write fic or something totally character-based you can let him go wherever he wants with it. If I'm trying to fit his thoughts into any kind of plot framework I have to translate into something a reader is going to understand. That's freaking hard to do when I barely understand it at times.

Devin really can't keep a secret, can he? Well, he can, but it's so all or nothing. He either keeps All The Secrets or spills everything.
Edited Date: 2013-04-14 11:42 pm (UTC)

scene 2

Date: 2013-04-17 05:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Pace the floor instead. Back and forth like an animal in a cage, like the people back "home".

I'm not sure this makes enough sense. The people back home pace like caged animals? Huh? What? Why? Every read through I've done I've stumbled over this sentence and gone back to try and figure out exactly what was meant. Is it just Devin that felt caged back home? Or did everyone feel that way? Maybe they were literally caged? See what I'm saying. Maybe just a few more words added could make it clearer--"like I always felt back 'home.'" Something like that.

I love the idea that Devin drew the fence on the map and got Kalen wrapped up in things. And the little backstory on Devin as a kid, walking the fence.

I think the memories thing could be clearer. He was doing his best to forget then the next line is he doesn't remember which, I don't know, sounds weird. He remembers trying to forget but doesn't remember what he was trying to forget... right?

Maybe say, "must have worked, don't fucking remember..."

Good job getting the perimeter alarm in there. Also good description of Kalen. I can totally picture him all dusty and a mess.

Is Kalen always that submissive to Devin? Just wondering because he sounded like a little kid waiting to be scolded. But that could totally be in character for Kalen. Just like Devin sounded weird freaking out over his hair but I know that's in character so I didn't say anything.

Kalen isn't -- dude's wound way too tight to appreciate my highly developed sense of humor. I
This sounds awkward. It took me a couple read throughs before I figured out what you meant. I think you should just put a period after "Kalen isn't" so we know it's the laughing he isn't doing.

Also there shouldn't be spaces around your em dashes. Should be, "Kalen isn't--dude's wound way too tight..." In Scrivener and most word processors (I know open/libre office does it) the program will convert a double dash without spaces around it into an actual em dash.

Love how Devin asks him about being deployed. He's going back and forth from being soft to jerk but that line just shows how much he cares. Nice. And I just love how he says it.

Glowing blue eyes? Is that literal or metaphorical or what? It sounds weird without explanation of why they glowed. Is it because they are in some kind of suit?

This chapter was definitely better than the previous one introducing Wes and Devin. All the details really build the scene without overwhelming it. And I agree with the others--the last line is perfect and so Devin. If only he knew how right he was.

Re: scene 2

Date: 2013-04-17 06:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
The people back home are caged like animals, because the fence basically pens them in. It totally surrounds them except where their land borders the sea, although most people probably don't know that (Kalen and Calla didn't until the previous chapter).

What would be the best way to make that clearer?

I agree with you about the memories thing -- your way sounds clearer. And gah, there aren't supposed to be spaces around the dashes? I have the biggest mental block about dashes and can never get them right. Thank you for pointing it out. :D

Kalen isn't always that submissive to Devin, but pre-bomb he probably is a lot of the time. He looks up to him, though. There's the scene in my old chapter 5 (which is still going to more or less exist in this version) where Devin screams at him when he brings all the people over to his house. Kalen's not submissive there, but that's more an instinctive reaction to a level of rage he associates with Brendan. I'm not sure he's ever had an occasion to see that side of Devin before then.

The way he treats Devin after that is different. I think some of it is because he's butthurt about being yelled and also on some level he feels like he followed Devin into this (because Kalen was very young when they first met and I think Devin is a little bit opinionated about the War).

Plus there's the whole leader thing. Kalen ends up being mad at Brendan, Calla and Devin for that, but Devin's really the only one of the three of them who can't kick his ass so he picks on him. Or tries to. They don't get along so well for a while after that point and I'm still trying to completely understand it.

The blue eyes are glowing because it's a propaganda video designed to make the enemy look terrifying and maniacal. In real life, Kalen's people don't have glowing eyes. Is there a good way to make that clearer? Also, Devin has an issue with things that glow, specifically blue ones.

Thanks for all the feedback and I'm really glad the chapter overall worked for you. I was trying to get the jerk/caring balance right with Devin which is always hard because it changes greatly depending on his general mood and who he's around.
Edited Date: 2013-04-17 06:11 pm (UTC)

Re: scene 2

Date: 2013-04-17 06:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I'm not sure how to make the caged thing clearer. The sentence makes sense now that I know the information. You could just eliminate it for clarity.

Okay, that makes sense now. You might want to mention that the videos are from the other side. I'm not really sure how to clarify it without getting wordy. My brain is not functioning. Should probably go eat lunch or something. I've been cleaning the house off and on while responding to comments and making writerverse posts. And dealing with Jack.

I'm in the living room, too, so I have no access to my files because my laptop is in the other room, lol. But it's freezing in here so I might go back in my room.

Wish I was more helpful.

Re: scene 2

Date: 2013-04-17 07:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Hmm, I guess I thought it was clear because that information was explained in the previous chapter? I will have to put some thought into how to make it clearer.

I'm glad you told me it wasn't clear the scare spots were from Devin's original side/not Kalen's side. I'll just try to fix that when I edit.

Whatever, you're being totally helpful. Thanks for taking the time. :D


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