Into the Hands of a Stranger

Editing-Marks

It feels alien to take your work and place it into the hands of a stranger to read through, correct edit, rip apart and scribble in red.

You think you can go it alone, you think you have the word power to edit and correct your own work. You think you know best as to what your story needs… Think again! You get word blind, you cant see the scene for the descriptive narrative.

You get to a stage where you just cant get that picture out of your mind and into hieroglyphics onto a page in such a sequence that anyone translating your random ramblings can picture the same scene in their mind.

That’s why people will say, ‘The book was better’ because what they see in their mind (when reading) is different from how the movie maker translated the story.

However, I was foolishly proud of my crap Sci-Fi, I wanted to submit it as an assignment piece, but I was getting so frustrated with my inability to create perfection I decided to approach a real life, proper human editor!

I honestly cant describe my fear and anxiety as I handed over my wordbaby to a total stranger to examine. Though at this point on the course, I really wanted to get published and felt this experience would help me in my future career as a blockbuster top shelf famous author. I’m not quite so delusional now…

The result from a professional, I am prepared to share with you here: Nex … Notes and Edits (with names/email addresses removed to be polite).

How did this change the adventure with Nex and his companions? This too I am prepared to share as a before/after editing experiment, for I have already posted my unedited version earlier today. So this is how it looks once a writer pays attention to all those red scribbling symbols…

Anne Harrison. 03.12.15

 

Beyond the walls of the metropolis, in the waste lands…

The brooding soldier stalked from room to room of the deserted apartment block. His face static his finger easily at rest on a trigger which only required the slightest pressure to extinguish life, Before him leading the way, a woman, clad in a worn combat jumpsuit. Occasionally she would stop…

He held up his hand to halt the progress of the troops who followed in their wake. She paused and focused on a point of the wall by a door.

‘There.’ Her mental voice was picked up through the ear piece only the Commander wore.

Nex trusted his medium without question and upon her directions he opened fire at the wall. His men followed suit, their sonic shots tearing through the plaster and masonry with an eerie silence. Dust erupted into the air as bricks crumbled under the sonic assault. Destroying the partition with ease and exploding the minds of those foolish enough to think they could safely hide within the wall cavity.

Fifteen bodies were pulled out of the cramped hideout, their eyes melted and the dark remains of their liquidised brains running from their ears. The troops collected citizen ID implants from the corpses, as well as anything else they considered of use or value, an added bonus to subsidise their haphazard pay. By dusk they had collected nearly a hundred ID chips and left behind a dead town.

He stood alone, watching the sun set slowly over the ruined buildings, the stench of decay rancid as the shadows started to lengthen. Various scavengers and vermin started to crawl out from their dens to feast on the deceased.

‘Do you enjoy this?’ The medium’s words resounded in his mind, drawing his attention away from the carnage. He turned to regard her.

‘There hasn’t been a single case of the virus in years,’ she added.

Nex glanced back at the destruction and the blood-red sky, then spat on the ground, hoisted his rifle across his shoulders and slowly turned to follow the rest of the mercenaries.

He left the medium’s question unanswered.’

They had made camp by the time he caught up with them, a few miles away from the remains of the town in a cove of skeletal trees on a slight hill rise. A good defendable position. Sentries were already posted and everyone else fell into their roles.

“So Commander you finally decided to join us!”

A tall uniformed half-breed with long dreads greeted him as he finally approached the encampment. He paused to regard the unusual soldier, whose warm smile exposed two hog-like tusks protruding upwards from his bottom jaw.

“Still brooding, Sir?” His question was more of an observation. “The men won’t take orders from an absent leader!” He still smiled though; his words were not said in malice. “Just get your act together or I will have to kick your ass!”

The last comment drew a mild chuckle from the Commander and he finally spoke, ending his own uneasy silence.

“I’d like to see you try Boland!” The half-breed had a point though.

He spat on the ground and gathered his troops together to receive their next orders. The orders came through each day at the same time from Control, giving the soldiers co-ordinates for their location, any buildings to destroy, any primary individual targets, any information to gather, any evidence of the virus…

Today was no different with the exception of a footnote for the Commander’s eyes only. That was curious… He spat on the ground and took himself off, away from his men, to receive the private message. Already Boland was putting plans together for their next wave of destruction and as he walked away his men were consulting location grids for the best route to their target city.

“Yeah? I’m alone, watcha want?” He spoke quietly, abruptly, hardly looking at the screen.

“Dadda?”

His heart froze. He focused on the screen. An image of a child was smiling back at him.

“Letz?”

“Hi Dadda!” she beamed, pig-tails bobbing.

“Letz, are you safe?” Nex dared to ask, his parental instinct overwhelming his soldier’s training, even though the transmission would be monitored.

“Uh-huh!”

The image on the screen suddenly changed to that of a stern mature woman with cropped grey hair and cyber eyes, which glowed violet. Violet – the colour of mental intrusions. He tried to keep his thoughts empty, but the image of his daughter had blinded his mind with rage and panic.

“Relax Commander Sagan, your charming little girl is our guest here at Control.”

Bile rose in his throat, she lied!

“What are your instructions, Ma’am?” He asked, struggling to remain impassive

She smiled – too sweetly. “Your work is commendable, Commander Sagan, your patrol has one of the highest ratings for citizen ID chips retrieved. Control approves of your hard work and…”

“… And what?”

“You are being recalled back to Control after this mission.”

He frowned.

“You will be on your way home this time tomorrow, Commander Sagan.” Her smile was so false.

“Why?”

“Don’t you want to see your daughter?”

He nodded

*End Transmission*

He spat on the ground.

***

The medium stood in his path upon his way back to the main camp. Her violet eyes regarded his stern expression.

“Boland has concerns.” She physically spoke to him.

“I can understand why.” She stepped closer, running her tongue over her lips, her eyes flashing to meet his gaze from under long lashes.

He spat on the ground. “Tairrie, I don’t want to talk about it. Not now, eh?” He forced a smile. “Maybe sometime tomorrow.”

***

Just before dawn, as the mercenaries broke camp and readied themselves for the slaughter ahead, Nex took Tairrie and Boland to one side.

“What weapons do we have?”

Boland regarded the odd question with curiosity. “Mainly sonic rifles, Sir, and a few older weapons that we’ve collected. Let’s see… micro-missile launchers, two-shot capacitor lasers, umm… Blitzkrieg arc-thrower… that’s a beauty! Ah… Now there are flash-bombs, gas jets, flame-throwers, grenade launchers.” He paused, rubbing his chin. “Tri-dart launcher …”

“Yeah, that should do.” Nex smiled.

“Sir?”

“Listen very carefully, Boland, you are my best sniper; I know you can hit a moving target at precisely the correct mark to disable them for collection. I have every trust in your skills and I need you to bring down one man during the fighting today. I need you to take him out the battle, seriously enough to have to call a medi-team, but not fatally. I need this man to be incapacitated for a few days, to get taken away from the team, to Control medi-base.”

Boland frowned. “You know I can do that, Sir; we’ve done so before when capturing targets for Control. But I would usually use a Tazer-grip for such a task, not a tri-dart launcher.” He paused as his Commander’s words sunk in. “You’re not talking about a target, are you, Sir? You want one of our men disabled and made to look like he was hit by a citizen.”

Boland blinked rapidly, a habit he had when thinking things through. Nex just nodded.

“Who?” Tairrie asked curiously.

“Me!”

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