Coming back from Burnout for Thanksgiving

The thing about burnout is you don’t really get how bad it is until you start to recover, even if you know you’re burned out. It’s one of those things that’s harder to see from the inside.

I’m realizing now that I was seriously, severely burned out, and now that I’ve had a smidge over two weeks doing only what I absolutely had to do, I’m starting to get myself back. Of course, me being me this means I also got a story shell, a character, and a crapload of backstory dumped on me and now it’s making me write it. It’s… different. (Who am I kidding? I’m chronically incapable of doing anything that isn’t different).

I knew I was burned out, of course. I could see that. What I didn’t realize was how bad it was – I’d thought I’d come back after a few days of doing nothing. The few days turned into a week, then two. Then the story itch started up and I did some cleaning that wasn’t strictly necessary. (Yes, the two are related). If nothing gets in the way I might even managed to get the much delayed house organization somewhere further on than it is now as well as making some writing progress.

I wouldn’t recommend anyone hold their breath though – this stage of recovery is fragile and can easily crash back.
In any case, I have plenty to be thankful for this turkey holiday – I have a new job to go to, which, despite the hellacious commute (the drive is an hour in regular traffic, and I’m reliably informed the road becomes a glorified parking lot in peak time) looks like a much closer fit to my skills and interests than the old one. I’ll have a better paycheck, and not all of the difference will go to taxes and fuel/train fares.  By driving to the train and taking the train in, I’ll give myself about 90 minutes each day to read, relax or whatever as part of the commute. The 17.5 year old fluffball cat (she’s part persian, part siamese, and part who the hell knows) just spent a while reminding me that I should be thankful for the matchless joy of her company. Since all she has to do is flash her big blue eyes at me and I melt, she doesn’t have too much trouble keeping me in line.
Whether I should be thankful for this is another matter:

I thought the worst day of my life was the day I learned my parents had been killed running a Mantzi blockade: I was wrong.

Waking up on Skillar’s flyer docks with the kind of headache you only get after someone’s been using something blunt on your head, and the smell of rancid magic strong enough that I nearly heaved right then wasn’t a good start. Realizing that at least three of Fat Mikay’s boys were arguing over which one got first rights to me put the day at worst-ever right there.

I risked opening my eyes a little.

I didn’t recognize the goons, but Fat Mikay ran the flyer docks on Skillar and the only laborers here were his ‘boys’. Paid thugs who might, if you greased their callused palms enough, get your cargo moved without pilferage or breakage. Mostly what they did was extortion.

They had their backs to me, which was a start. I couldn’t hear anyone else around, and I didn’t expect to. You don’t disturb Mikay’s boys when they’re bickering over the spoils.

Unless you happen to be the spoils.

I climbed to my feet, slowly. My head pounded, but at least I wasn’t quite so nauseous with my nose a bit further from the magic-soaked wood of the docks. Damn thing glowed an unhealthy green at night, there was so much spoiled magic here, and with the Mantzi prohibition on active magic use, hiring a wizard to clean it up wasn’t going to happen.

Not that the Mantzi officially possessed Skillar, but you didn’t want to be caught doing anything they banned – just about everything – if they happened to be patrolling. The other powers arguing over this useless backwater Realm were more reasonable about things. The other powers were mostly run by people.

Mikay’s boys looked like they were about to lay into each other with their shovels – must have drawn a livestock transport, although the edges on those things would cut anything soft – so I figured I’d give them a little help. The state I was in, I wasn’t going to be able to run away, which meant taking the thugs down before they could start amusing themselves.

There are times when being a scrawny little female is a disadvantage.

Whoever waylaid me hadn’t bothered to search me. I guess the motherless spawn of a Mantzi figured I’d be out until one of Mikay’s boys had me safely trussed up somewhere. Lucky I’ve got a hard head. I still had my knives, too.

With a bit of luck, I might get out of here intact enough to figure out who’d come after me and why.

I drew my knives and crept towards the nearest of the thugs. Pity I didn’t dare try to move fast in case I tripped over my own feet. My pounding head and unhappy gut meant balance was a bit on the shaky side.

One of the thugs got a solid hit on his partner with the flat of his shovel. Partner folded to the ground without a word.

Good. That made it two on one. Still ugly but better than three on one.

The air around me crackled with magic, twisting my perceptions inside out and sideways for a moment. I had to stop and catch my breath. I hate Mantzi force suppressors.

A voice, cool, uninflected. “All units surrender or be terminated.”

Crap. Thing just got worse. Mantzi.

I let my knives slide back into their sheathes and slowly raised my hands. With Mantzi, it was probably ‘surrender and be terminated’, but alive with maybe a chance beat definitely dead.

Mikay’s boys didn’t agree. The damn fools attacked. Two thugs with shovels against what my blurry vision told me was a full Mantzi troop: twenty five drones and at least one elite. The drones didn’t speak. They didn’t have mouths.

They did have force suppressors and flamesticks. It was over for Mikay’s boys in a flare of screams and fire.

I had to clench my teeth to keep from losing my stomach. Burning thug is not a smell I want to remember.

The sound of metal-clad boots on wood, and a blurred shape stood in front of me. Cold metal hands gripped my face, tilting my head up, presumably so my captor could scan it properly.

I was glad I couldn’t see clearly. Those dead, all-black eyes in the silvery metal face are beyond creepy.

“This is the one.”

What?

“Prepare the unit for containment.”

I was in it deep, that was for sure. What did the Mantzian Puppet-Master want with me?

The force suppressor bolt was turned stronger this time. Reality twisted around me, and turned into pain, then, mercifully, everything faded out.

Happy Thanksgiving to all American readers and happy whatever takes your fancy to everyone else.

8 comments

  1. Ooh, I LIKE that!

    Happy Thanksgiving right back, and I’m glad there’s a new job and it’s looking good. 🙂

    1. Thank you. This piece hit me and decided I had to write it – which usually means I’m in recovery.

    1. Thank you. It’s always a good feeling when someone likes the start of a new piece. Tells me I’m not completely insane for needing to write it.

  2. As a beginning, I’m caught. Space docks and magic and… stuff. And a hint of things going wrong on a larger scale as well as the personal one. Sounds like the sort of adventure happening to someone else that I love to read about. 😉

    1. Thanks! The “someone else” part matters a lot – my poor main character is in such deep doo-doo and she has no idea why.

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