After not doing anything all yesterday for my story for NaNo, I did a bunch of work at lunchtime. I’m at 10,000 words. Suddenly, the goal doesn’t seem so unreachable. I just need to keep up with it. I’ve included one of the recent scenes from the story for you. If you’ve read some of my story treatments here before, the characters should sound familiar to you.
Amarit Square, one of Carter district’s prime market areas, was a favorite place for citizens to congregate. Ellie Kalas leaned against a privacy box, waiting for the arrival of her colleague Erik at the pod station. Privacy boxes, used for making private phone calls, were a favorite for Ellie to prop against. The surfaces weren’t rough like concrete or cold like metal, becoming cozy lean-tos. She had been standing there for what she guessed to be half an hour at this point, waiting for Erik to show up.
After some more waiting, the next set of pods arrive, and one opens up to reveal the tall, gray and blonde form of Erik Lundgren. He stepped out of the car and saw Ellie standing in her usual spot against the privacy box. The duo noticed each other and walked in the same direction to meet up.
“Hey, Elle. Any news for me?” he said. Ellie smiled and turned, ready to walk somewhere.
“Nothing that that you don’t already know about,” she replied. The two walked down Von Braun street together, with no place in particular to go. Even though Erik had just arrived, she felt very parched and tired from her antics at the Garden earlier in the day. Maybe it was time for her to recharge her batteries.
“Let’s take a quick break. I could really use a coffee,” said Ellie. Erik nodded in agreement.
“I could use a pick-me-up, too. Get our heads back in gear,” Erik said. There was no want for coffee shops in Gerod, as one could find one on most street corners. Right at the end of this particular street was a Chanko’s Coffee and Crullers. Not Ellie’s favorite, but it would do. They usually had patio seating, and they could enjoy the fairly decent weather outside. Sounds like a plan to her.
“There’s a Chanko’s over there. Let’s head over and sit down for a bit,” said Ellie.
“Fair enough. After you,” he replied. Ellie and Erik crossed the street and walked up to the bar at the Chanko’s patio. They were friendly enough to bring your order to you after the fact, so they could sit down and chat while they waited. “Just order my usual, and I’ll get us a table,” offered Erik, and he walked off to find a free table for the duo to sit at. Sounds fair. Ellie walked up to the bar, finding a decently dressed young man ready to take their order. Many places still had human services, which was a friendly change of pace from most shops. Actually servicing customers was a lost art to most businesses, but the restaurant business was a mostly conservative lot and many places that weren’t bottom of the barrel still provided a human touch.
“Welcome to Chanko’s, what can we make for you today?” asked the young man, who appeared not to be beaten down just yet by the droll nature of his job. Ellie briefly looked at the menu board, but she knew what she wanted.
“One medium caramel coffee with one cream and sugar, with one of those little butter bread… things. I can never remember the real name.”
“Yeah, that’s it. And a medium hot chocolate too, with whipped cream.” Ellie handed him her bank card, which he dutifully swiped in exchange for the order.
“Your order is 128, here you go,” he said as he handed her a small transmitter key. “Thanks for stopping at Chanko’s.”
“Thank you,” Ellie replied cheerfully and turned around to look for Erik. Where was he? After scanning for a few moments, she saw him sitting at a table near the edge of the patio. Ellie walked over and pulled out a chair to join her partner, who had set his small package on the ground.
“Welcome back,” said Erik.
“Thanks. We’re 128,” she replied as she set the transponder on the table. Now all there was to do was wait for their order. An opportune moment for some business talk.
“You came up snake eyes this morning at the Garden,” Erik said. Ellie shrugged her shoulders in response.
“I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for, to be honest. I was lucky that I got out of there without having my knees broken. Somebody really doesn’t want me to find out what exactly is going on,” explained Ellie as she arranged herself in the seat.
Erik leaned on the table a bit, rubbing his clean-shaven chin in thought. “The police were hoping that press coverage would start getting more people aware of this, so hopefully we’ll have something to air and get the word out soon.”
“Yeah, but we have to know exactly what to warn people about. Otherwise, they won’t listen,” remarked Ellie while she looked around for their order. They’d already been waiting a few minutes, and it had not arrived. “With our leads drying up, I’m not sure where else we can look.”
“If Sergeant Huffman can get some of the perps in for questioning, I think that would help out. Maybe we can look at what happened to them versus you,” remarked Erik. He was interrupted by the arrival of the server, who brought them their beverages and snack. Ellie started sipping from her coffee cup, enjoying the aroma of the brew. It always opened up her senses a little bit just to have that aroma kick around in her nose.
After taking a sip, Ellie noticed something out of the corner of her eye. A very familiar looking one-piece shirtsuit streaked by in her periphery. That better not be who she thought it was. She turned her head an saw a tall, beautiful back of a woman standing in front of the order counter. The order boy seemed very enthused to see her, far more than when Ellie had ordered – like he was taking an order from a somebody. Oh, God no. Not her. Anyone but her. The woman turned and her fear was confirmed – it was Suna, and she saw Ellie and Erik sitting together at the table. Suna’s face lit up, as if seeing an old friend, and walked over waving her hand, making sure that they noticed her.
“Ugh, don’t look now, Erik, here comes the queen bee,” mused Ellie as she wished over and over again to disappear. Erik sat silently, waiting as Suna approached them with her coffee in hand.
“Well, hey, it’s Ellie Kalas! How’ve you been?” asked Suna with plenty of enthusiasm. Not particularly wanting to answer, Ellie fidgeted a bit in her seat.
“Just fine, thank you. Been busy on assignment,” she replied. Suna smiled a little bit, happy to talk business with a contemporary.
“Oh really?” Suna asked with a small bit of inquisitiveness. Telling her too much would be a mistake, so Ellie kept it vague.
“Yeah, exposing corruption, malfeasance, making the world a better place. You know, the usual,” Ellie said curtly. Suna seemed oblivious to the contempt that Ellie was sending her way.
“That sounds great! I missed you at the awards ceremony last month, I thought you’d be there to congratulate me,” Suna replied with a tinge of disappointment in Ellie.
“I would have been, but I was busy out of the city. News doesn’t sleep just for ceremonies.” Suna wasn’t really happy with the response, as it felt like a brush-off, but she ignored the feeling and continued on.
“That’s too bad, we had a pretty bitchin’ party afterwards. It would have been like old times, before you were fired and all.” Ellie winced at Suna’s comment. That was a low blow. Was she just oblivious, or fully aware and simply had no tact?
“I wasn’t fired, I quit,” Ellie shot back.
“Oh? That’s not what they told me. Either way, it’s too bad. I’m sure you’d be pulling in way more bank working for a major.”
“I’d rather take a pay cut than work for those…” Ellie was interrupted by Suna’s flashing armband. She was being called, or paged, or something; Ellie wasn’t quite sure what that thing did.
“Well, as they say, duty calls. Don’t be a stranger, Ellie. Maybe we can meet up at the next ceremony, catch up a bit? See you then,” said Suna as she turned her back from Ellie to walk away. Ellie’s face was red with embarrassment and rage at being shown up by this… tart! Where did she get off acting that way?
There was no way Suna was getting the final word in on that. Ellie jumped out of her chair, ready to run at Suna with all her rage-induced adrenaline, but she felt a sharp jerk on her wrist before she was really able to move forward. She turned around and found Erik’s imposing Scandinavian form towering over her. He showed no real emotion on his face, and his eyes were tough to read from the glare reflecting off his glasses. The wave of adrenaline crashed away, and Ellie realized what she almost did.
“Whoa, there, Elle… cool your jets,” said Erik as he held on to her arm with what felt like a steel grip. “I’ve known you for a long time, and every time we run across her, you go off the handle. Something you haven’t told me?” Ellie furrowed her brow, searching for some words to explain her frustration.
“Don’t you have that one person that just totally sets you off? That no matter what they do, it just gets on your nerves? That’s her. I can’t explain it,” she stuttered, clearly flustered. Erik pulled her back to give her some air from the other people around them.
“I know you don’t like her, but you were going to strangle her if I hadn’t stopped you. It’s not professional to assault a competitor,” he admonished. Ellie sighed, knowing that his cooler head was right.
“I’m sorry. I just… I don’t know. I can take a lot from a lot of people, but… gah!” Ellie sat back down and slumped into the chair, no longer interested in the coffee and snack they were just working on. Erik kept looking at her, not letting up with his iron gaze.
“Have you talked to anybody about this?”
Ellie shook her head quietly. “…No.”
“Maybe you should. I don’t like a bunch of people either, but I’m not going to let them get under my skin so much that I rage out. You’re still pretty young, Elle. There’s going to be a lot of people that get on your nerves as time goes on. Today it’s Suna. Tomorrow it could be someone else at another place. If you rage out at everyone you dislike, you’ll be a very lonely girl. You just need to deal with it,” advised Erik. Ellie grumbled a bit, folded her arms and breathed deeply to calm herself down.
“I know you’re right, Erik. I can’t let her get to me. It’s just… hard.” Erik cracked a small smile for a moment at his partner’s frustration. She just needed some more experience and a push in the right direction.
“Hey, if everything was easy, where would the fun be?” Erik asked. Ellie rolled her eyes a bit in response.
“Your idea of fun is spending weeks at a time in the frozen wilderness of Sweden. I’m not sure if I can trust you on that,” said Ellie. Erik chuckled a bit in his usual muted way.
“Well, one of these days you’ll come along with me,” he remarked while sitting back down at the table. He took a few more sips of his hot chocolate, watching Ellie pensively. She was trying to calm herself down, still noticeably flustered but less in a rage. He had not been with Ellie when she had her short stint with the post-merger Janus. Erik was stationed on Mars at the time, and the Mars division was cut almost immediately after the merger, resulting in him moving on to Genesis pretty quickly to join Oscar and company. Ellie had talked about her short stint at Janus, but never in much detail.
“You know, I don’t think you really hate Suna so much as you hate her employer for the things they did to you… to us.” Ellie looked away, arms still folded across her chest. A deep, guttural rant was brewing within her, and after a few seconds of silence, she manged to speak with some semblance of control of her emotions.
“She embodies everything that is bad and wrong about this business. She has no shame, no scruples, no principles, no nothing! She’s content to draw her damn paycheck for sitting in a cushy studio in front of a camera while we’re out doing the real hard work. I don’t think she’s ever broken a story of her own volition before. If someone smashed her teleprompter, she’d be a babbling buffoon. I have no patience for people like her, and it pisses me off that she is rewarded for doing jack squat,” said Ellie with a tinge of jealousy and rage. Erik raised an eyebrow a tad, but was still mostly undisturbed.
“So it’s about your bruised ego then,” remarked Erik. Ellie’s face turned a little red, and tried her best to keep from looking Erik in the eyes. “You couldn’t have what you really wanted, and now that you’re doing something else, it’s pissing you off that she can just waltz on in. You feel like it cheapens what you do, and you can’t have that.” Ellie kept looking away, still searching for things to say in response.
“No, it’s not about me. She gives those of us that work hard a bad rep,” said Ellie as she tried to grasp for some words. This, of course, didn’t faze Erik, as he finally saw through Ellie’s anger.
“You still haven’t gotten over what happened to Bruce when Janus bought us out. Yeah, Suna’s not perfect, but she’s a person too. She has her own reasons for doing what she does; who are you to begrudge her for something she wasn’t a part of?” said Erik. These were tough words for Ellie to hear, but he thought that she just needed some perspective. Ellie was flabbergasted at this. Erik was supposed to support her on these things. After all, he lost Bruce too.
“I can’t believe you. Why are you taking her side on this?” she asked, incredulously. Erik shrugged quietly, not bothered by his partner’s questioning of his thoughts.
“I’m not taking anybody’s side, Elle. I just think you have to look a little deeper at yourself and why you feel that way,” he replied. Erik stood up from the chair, ready to leave. “I’m done for the day. Got to get back to Jayna. She’s been waiting all day for me to bring this,” he said as he pointed to a box on the ground next to his chair. “If you want to talk, you know where to find me.”
Ellie slumped a little bit into her own chair as Erik walked away. She knew she disliked Suna for what she did. Suna just repulsed her in a way she couldn’t completely understand. Suna wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes at the Assembly in Bruce’s day. At best, she’d be one of those “entertainment” people. Suna could never cut it doing what Ellie did. Never.
She sat at the table, amidst the waves of people walking about the patio, feeling contempt at the world around her, and for the first time in a long time, loneliness.