Below is the next bit of my novella, Dropping Slow, which I am posting serially during the month of June, as part of the Every Single Day Challenge to raise money for Sharon the Light. If you’re enjoying the story, please feel free to donate via my Crowdrise page ($10 minimum donation) or directly, at this link (no minimum donation). Everyone who donates will receive an ebook copy of Dropping Slow, once it’s all posted (if you donate directly, please leave a comment to let me know!).
Trini messages her: Do you think I could get away with putting our father in The Blockhouse?
What has he done now? It still seems odd to get messages from Trini like this. Friendly. Sisterly. Maybe trying too much. But she still likes it.
I am loosening the mandatory sentencing for illegal stim use if the convicted are willing to go into treatment, and he disapproves. AND HE WILL NOT SHUT UP ABOUT IT.
Their father regretted transferring his power when he did, but the laws of succession were clear and he had reached the mandatory age.
The Blockhouse is a museum, now, so I don’t think you can, she sends back, smiling down at the response because it’s not bad in its wit.
We need to build a new medieval prison for inconvenient relatives, then, Trini sent back.
Just not in Camwenne, please.
Tace hears them in the morning; Lin had crept softly into her room and kissed her hand, trying not to wake her up. Tace had kept her eyes shut, unmoving, willing her adrenaline back down. It was a pilot trait to wake up at once but without stirring, helpful in case of capture. Now she’s calm and aware, but not willing to get out of bed quite yet. Her room is decorated in green with splashes of yellow, now, and she likes the depth and brightness of it in the buttery morning sunshine.
“She just isn’t talking to me, Javi.” Their voices aren’t loud. They must be in the living room.
“To be fair, the two of you are not always about talking.”
“That isn’t my point.” Footsteps. Festival week is over, and Lin is going back to work today. Javi has … something. A meeting? A morning of driving? She knows he told them–they were both so cautious, telling her she’d be alone for the day, offering to stay home, but she’s not under 24-hour care anymore aside from security keeping an eye on them, and all of their appliances shut off automatically except for the oven, which is fine because she hates cooking for herself, anyway and would rather make a sandwich for lunch–but she can’t remember what it was. “She talked to you.”
“Yeah, she did.” Javi sounds distracted. Maybe he’s putting his bag together or doctoring his coffee.
“I thought when she came home I wouldn’t have to miss her anymore,” Lin says. Her voice sounds thick. “Maybe we should have gone to Holtzdorrne House when she got back. Or I could have messaged her first–”
“Linea. You could start a conversation, you know. You’re a grown woman. Ask a question.” There’s a pause, then Javi adds, “I know she’s super hot after all the military training, but try to resist the carnal urges.”
Linea laughs. “Shut up, you’re, like, twelve, you don’t get to be all logical and smart and shit.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too, jackass.”
They leave shortly after that, and Tace gets up to figure out how she’ll spend her day. She’s not sure she remembers how she used to spend her days, but she’s pretty sure they started with coffee.
In the end she putters around the house doing very little of anything beyond annoying herself and chewing on what she overheard.
It wasn’t all sex with Linea, she knows that. It was a lot sex, especially at first, but it matured into something more than that. Lin’s right, though: they aren’t talking yet. Yet. Tace holds yet in her head like a talisman. The things she could talk about, could tell about, are monolithic; she sees them like a massive ship or a planet made of steel and cable. The accident, rehab, how it felt to have lost all her words, how it felt to drag them back. The itch and squirm of nanites under her skin, no less frightening for being phantoms. The way everything shook, not just her hands, as her sister walked her up the steps to Holtzdorrne House while vid and holo recorders hummed and reporters called out to her and her words vanished like scared animals into burrows. Did they see it, here on their screen, together on the couch and wondering when or if she’d come back to them?
Tace thinks that she will grope her way to telling Linea about these things. Javi, too. The nebula is one small piece pulled out of the engines of the ship in her head, and she will eventually pull more off and hand them to her lovers, see what they can make of them.
But first she needs to put words to images, and that’s slow.
So she finds her handheld on the side table next to the couch, turns it on, and downloads the old, now eye-bleeding newsfeeder. Her account, like most of her ‘net footprint, is gone, cleared out by the Corps when she enlisted, so she makes a new account. Another monolith, but this seems easier. Fuck context, she decides, chooses a Thuuis-focused feed, narrows it to Harekaanan, adjusts the font and text size, and wades in.
She messages Trini after an hour or so. You are not very popular. Closes her eyes, waits, ignores the memory of her father’s considering gaze from down the dinner table and attempts to fight back the headache that’s starting behind her eyes.
Trini responds with, Quit reading op-eds. I have the people on my side. Roeschists love me. So does the Corps.
Tace has the sort of headache that involves lights flashing along the edges of her vision, but she sends back, What about our father?
Our father seems to think this is a puppet government, and he is displeased with the fact that it is not. He has a choice to make, and I admit I am eager to see what it is.
Tace shuts her eyes, lets the headache take over as she stretches flat on the couch. She knows that formal tone. She’ll need to save that message for future historians.
She waits until they’re all at home and her headache is gone, aside from a dull throb now and then and a rubbery sensation in her face, and then asks, “So what did I do to earn my keep around here?” She’s pleased with herself, because she’d practiced the line all day in her head and it came out sounding casual and light, as she’d hoped.
“Well, you bought the townhouse,” Javi says, just a trace of a frown on his face; she can’t tell if it’s because he’s looking over edits or because of what she asked.
Lin looks away from their vid screen and says, “Housework, mostly. You kept our calendars organized. Household accounts, bills paid, that sort of thing. You didn’t see the point of working if you were just going to leave for the Corps, anyway.” She’s definitely frowning, and Tace tries to remember if this was something Linea disapproved of–maybe she thought Tace was lazy? Unmotivated?
It takes her some time to pull her brain away from worrying that idea over, and then to consider what she’s been told. “Well, I’m probably not good for household accounts,” she finally says. Trini is taking care of her money because she just can’t. Yet. She hopes yet. “We’re not a particularly messy family, though, so I can probably manage housework.”
“You don’t have to do anything,” Lin says quickly. “Javi and I have a pretty good system going.”
Javi shoots Lin a look as Tace says, “I don’t–I just would like to be useful … ?”
Now Lin’s flustered. “No, I didn’t mean–I don’t want you to feel stressed or anything. I mean, if you want to, then of course–”
“Okay,” Tace says, and smiles, and Lin smiles back, crookedly. They leave the subject there and settle in to watch Trail Diaries, and none of them really talk for the rest of the night.
Copyright 2017 by Laura E. Price. Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.