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!).
Linea was a middle-aged grad student who needed the step-stool Tace had borrowed and stacked books on. Tace remembered that as a fact and not as an experience. Lin had needed the stool to reach an enormously thick book about Branwen Flogyston. She glanced from the book to Tace after she returned the stool, though Tace didn’t put her own thick books back on it.
“You know, it just occurred to me that I’m researching your family and you’re, like, in the building as I do it. That’s a little weird.”
Tace squinted at the book. “If it helps, I have no idea who that is.”
“Oh–well, he was pretty boring, in the pantheon of Flogystons. No grisly murders or anything. He set up the banking systems. Had an affair and published a book about it. Tame.”
“We only had the one grisly murderer,” Tace said with a grin. “Or are you counting Haemesh?”
“Well, that’s the question, isn’t it–did he actually think he had declared war, or was he trying to cover his … um …” She stopped, flustered; her face had been lit up and excited, though, as they’d talked, and Tace was a little sad to see the light dim. She hadn’t reached out to touch her, then, unsure how touch would be received. But she felt the want of it in her fingertips.
“I don’t think anyone ever knew,” she said, trying to bring the smile back instead. “Unless it’s one of the Secrets you only find out when you take the title.”
“Which you can’t actually tell me about in any more detail than that, right?” The light came back, and with it a sly grin.
“No.” Tace had smiled her own sly grin back, asked her name, got to touch Linea when they shook hands.
Her father sends her articles to read that are lengthy and dense and show her the limits of her current literacy and concentration. He invites her to have lunch with him and asks her questions about the War, about stories he’s read in the press, many of which she can’t answer because her rank and security clearance in the Corps were a good sight lower than what she has as a member of the Royal Family of Harekaanen.
Her heart thuds in her throat. “Father, every royal family sends–I’m not the only one, you know?”
He’s unimpressed, she can tell. Thuuiss is a planet among planets, Harekannan its preeminent city, and the Flogystons are peerless among even royalty, why was she even wounded when she should have been the best pilot in the Corps–half her duty had been to excel, and the thing her father had most prized about her was that she would be a soldier, where he–eldest of his siblings and Cisare–could not.
“How is your knee?” he asks her. “How’s your head?” She tries not to limp when she knows he’s looking, is relieved when she can put the cane away sometimes, tries to stand straight and look tall without it.
She thinks each night about messaging Lin and Javi.
It seems insurmountable, in her head. Like building a bridge by hand. It seems like too much, as she is buffeted by occupational therapy, physical therapy, her parents’ questions about how she thinks Trini is doing, does this photo look familiar at all, what she wants at the party–and they don’t ask who she wants at the party, do they?
She stares at her messaging app, but doesn’t open it.
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.