Today's teaser is from MIRRORPASS, draft 2, chapter 2.
Cut in draft 3.
* * *
Something blipped. A lab tech looked up from the program he’d been running, and scanned the computer banks that lined the walls. The sound came from a radar screen. On it, a yellow arm swept over a tiny red dot, and it blipped again.
The tech crossed the room. His eyes reflected the screen’s green glow as he stood, staring hard, waiting a few beats. Then he hurried over to a mic.
“This is Observation Room 3, we have activity on the radar screen. Please respond.”
He waited. A voice came crackling back across the mic.
“Which radar screen, Observation 3? What kind of activity?”
He keyed the mic. “Don’t bite my head off, Leisha. It’s screen 23. We’ve got something about the size of a small meteor entering the thermosphere from the exosphere. It’s probably nothing, but you know I have to call it in.”
He depressed the button and glanced back. The dot was moving slowly down the screen. At some point this meteor was going to burn up, and the yellow arm would sweep around without making a peep. It irked him that he had to jump up and report every shooting star that appeared on the scanner. And Leisha was taking a long time answering. He thought about the meteor shower they’d had a month ago, wondering why it hadn’t appeared on the scanners. Maybe it didn’t pick them up after all. But if not, what was this?
He tapped the mic. “Leisha, you there? This is Observation 3. What’s taking so long?”
As he said it, he felt the air pressure shift, and the mechanical doors swished open across the room. He spun in surprise. It wasn’t Leisha. It wasn’t one of the other techs who came in and checked on calls. It was his boss.
Actually, both his bosses; and for a moment, he was worried. He didn’t see his bosses often. They disliked each other for one, Dr. Eschler the Canadian, Dr. Votti the American. They were smart and underpaid and disagreed on how to run the station. Each preferred to manipulate things from a distance, using puppet officers so that they avoided ever truly speaking to each other.
But here they were, on his watch. Had something gone wrong?
The two men made way for another man who looked vaguely familiar, the way a political candidate or newsperson is familiar. He made a beeline for the screen.
The lab tech stood. “Did you come about the radar?—”
But the newcomer cut him off, speaking over him, like he wasn’t even there. “Thank you for notifying me about this, gentlemen.”
He had an American accent. So of course, it was Votti who answered, clearing his throat and approaching the screen.
“Of course, General Clevland. As per your request, we always flag such incidences for you. It was good coincidence that you were here today.”
The tech stood frozen in place, realizing that these words were not for his ears, and that they meant something big, something beyond his understanding. General Cleveland peered at the screen as if deciding something. He stood back with a sudden resolve. “No need to transfer this incidence to NASA,” he said. “The Defense Department will handle it.”
Suddenly he looked up at the tech. The General’s face was shadowed in strange ways by the green glow of the radar; the tech couldn’t read his expression.
“You’re dismissed,” the General said.
The tech blinked. “I just started my shift.”
The man straightened. The tech did see his expression now. It was dark, eyebrows bent, eyes bitingly intelligent.
“You are dismissed.”
The tech looked at Dr. Eschler and Dr. Votti. He looked back at the screen, and the tiny dot slipping closer to the earth.
Flagging the incidences? What did the Defense Department care about meteors?
Nothing. No one cared about meteors.
* * *
What made this a darling:
First, mini rant. I have always hated how most other books and movies portray the government in first-contact scenarios, and from the beginning of writing MIRRORPASS, I wanted to to portray the government in a much more realistic light. Which, for me, meant exploring it on a human level. So MIRRORPASS has a scattering of supporting characters who reinvent that role. The tech really embodied that.
Mini rant over, I loved the tech. He had voice. This one scene I'd intended to write bubbled into two more lengthy scenes. He was my ordinary Joe working a lonely government job at NORAD, but he still managed to maintain his humor and morality. He gave readers an insight into the government, and when things get fishy, he has the courage to investigate. What I really loved was his role in the climax when--well, let's just say, Aria's failure/success effects all humanity, and we got to see the tech's reaction.
Why it got murdered:Most of my beta readers didn't really get the tech. They disliked Leisha. The tech was yet another POV taking up wordcount, and although we learn interesting things from him, it turns out they weren't necessary things. Plus, other characters could get the necessary info across, but better. Plus, he was an adult, and MIRRORPASS is YA. Plus, keeping his role meant doing serious research into how NORAD works. Plus...
I hung onto him for quite a while. But in the end, the wordcount issue won out, and the tech got cut.
MIRRORPASS is a YA SF novel currently undergoing revisions. To learn more, check out the WIP page.
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Truly and always,