Monday, July 28, 2008

Bad Company Preview #2: Chapter 1

Last entry, I posted the opening scene of Bad Company as a preview. I hope I opened it with a bang. Now here's the first part of Chapter 1, introducing one of the two main characters: Charlie Thomas (a woman), a troubled pop singer who can no longer sing. The other main character is her sister Desiree, who runs away from their tyrannical mother, cult guru and fascist stage mother Drusilla Becket. Now what does all this have to do with Dictel Corporation? Drusilla herself is the direct connection at first, as she's the youngest of the nine Becket siblings who own the company. She has no role in the actual running of the company — it's the three oldest brothers who actually run the company, and especially the eldest, Colonel Tom Becket — but as a channeller and cult guru, she is the spiritual leader of the clan.

So here's the opening to Chapter 1 of Bad Company, still unfinished in the second draft. (Bad Company excerpt © Dennis Jernberg)

Bad Company Preview:
Chapter 1: The First Cut Is the Deepest

I'm lowering the razor blade to my wrist so I can cut it open again when the notification sounds on my laptop. I throw the blade down into the bathroom sink and run to the living room coffee table, hoping Bob left something in my inbox. But Bob is dead. The email came from Scope, his camera operator. I sigh in despair. I manipulate the cursor to the subject "Working" and click.
Subject: Working

Back up before u unzip. Then kill this.

What we were working on:

Attachment: 1.vgz
Attachment: 2.vgz
Attachment: 3.vgz

So you know.
Scope usually writes longer, so this must be urgent. I rush to the end table with the antique brass lamp on it, throw open the top drawer, and flip through Ruby's stash of memory cards and thumb drives. There's got to be an unmarked card here: if she hasn't marked it, it should be empty. There! Found one. SD, 1-gig. Back to the computer. I take the card out of its case, then fumble around the card slot on the side and pray I'm not ruining the contacts. After a few failed attempts, I finally get it into the slot. Whew! Now download all attachments. It takes only a few seconds to get them onto the card. Click "Delete" to move the email to the Trash, then click "Empty Trash" and "Yes". When Bob mailed me his video clips, he insisted I not only back them up but then disconnect my Internet connection so no government or criminal snoops will catch me playing them and get us in trouble. So I do. Then I call up a terminal window, cd to the card directory, and type gunzip *.vgz so the videos will be playable. .vgz is our custom shorthand for .flv.gz (YouTube format, gzipped). Finally, I call up the media player and load all three videos to play them in order. I click the "play" button and switch to full screen. I see a massacre the media are silent on. Then I watch Bob die—just like in my nightmares.

Next thing I remember, Ruby's splashing cold water in my face to wake me up after I fainted. I shriek at the shock of the sensation. "Calm down, Charlie!" she says as she holds me next to the sink. She turns off the faucet now that I've come to. Then I collapse into her; she catches me, and I cry.

"How could he let himself get killed like that?" is the first thing that comes out of my mouth. "How could he leave me all alone like this?"

She tries to comfort me. "Hey, kid. You're here with your big sister."

I snap at her. "But he's dead!"

"Hey! They're not hunting you down!" She marches me back to the couch and sits me down. "Now, you gotta consider that Bob's been hounding the company for the last four years, since the war began. He knew the risks and was willing to take 'em."

I say nothing and mope. She goes back to the kitchen. I stare at the laptop screen and say nothing. I start to feel the side effects from last night's drinking binge.

When Ruby comes back, she reaches over from the back of her living room couch and waves a cup of her most potent coffee underneath my nose. If I were normal, the aroma would be irresistible. But in my hung-over state, it only makes me want to vomit. "C'mon, Charlie. Drink it down. It'll wake you up real good."

Just talking takes way too much effort. "I don't wanna wake up, Ruby," I weakly moan. "I just wanna go to sleep forever."

Ruby reaches to put the coffee mug on the table next to the computer. Then she glomps me from behind and razzes me on the side of the neck, making me shriek. "But you always have such bad dreams! If you sleep forever, you'll just have one great big long nightmare." She gives me a big kiss on the cheek.

I sigh and give up. "You're right, as usual." I hate it when she's right. But I need her to be right whenever I'm wrong. And right now everything about me is so wrong.

And that concludes the previews for Bad Company. I hope you like it and want to read more. I intend to finish it this year, whatever it takes.

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