Clear Objectives

This weekend, I had a simple, clear objective: have a relaxing vacation.
Who knew relaxation would hurt this much?

On the bright and shiny side, the museum my husband wanted to see was amazing enough that I lingered over the oral histories and the displays long enough that I really, really should have taken a cane for all that standing and walking on concrete. And the past few days I’ve walked more than I normally do in a week…every single day.

On the down side, the love of my life does not find the idea of visiting Old Tunnel State Park at dusk to watch 3 million bats (4 species!) leave their daily roost and come pouring out into the gloaming to be an utterly fascinating spectacle! You think you know a guy, and then it turns out that he has wildly different ideas of must-see sights on vacation…

Yep. The simple, clear objective suddenly turns into an interesting running series of objections, alternatives, setbacks, triumphs… That’s not just stories, that’s real life, too.

Stories can also be completely backwards, just like life. I’m still grumbling at a character who just revealed while he’s still developing the situation, no matter what the author had in mind, his objective is clear.

(warning: raw first draft ahead)

Without sun, or moons, or even slate to tell the time, Mika couldn’t say how long she’d been hurrying through the underground ruins. It seemed like an eternity, and she knew it had to be hours, but the only reliable guide was that her feet hurt and the ringing in her ears had faded enough she could hear the others talking. The actual words were hard to understand since she couldn’t see their faces as they hurried on ahead and behind her, and they kept their voices down as low as the sound of their feet on the native and the living stone.

It was the cruelest irony that there was no time to stop and stare. The absence of exposure to sun or weather created an amazing state of preservation – suit lights revealed brilliant colours, rooms that still held furniture and pottery, open areas with what looked like sculptures, bridges and tunnels, massive steps in a corridor sized for something that would make her team seem like ants, and stairs that seemed more like a ramp of puddled slag. They passed walls that looked like stone lace grown in place instead of carved, even a string of what she’d bet were stores with bits of things still lining the walls and gathering dust on the counters…

Everything was priceless, everything was amazing, everything was the find of a lifetime, and all she could think about was how much her head and her feet hurt. She hoped the suit cameras would capture more than a blur of sweeping lights, quick movements, hand gestures, and murmured short phrases. If they did, this would be the sort of footage xenoarchaeologists would spend years going frame by frame and decrying that the soldiers hadn’t focused three inches to the left. If they didn’t… Who would believe them?

The team came to a square with sort-of benches around a now-dry fountain in the middle, and she’d had enough. There were four major exits – five, if she counted the way they’d entered – and the men stopped to let Erkki send the drones ahead to scout. Mika seized the opportunity, and plopped down on a bench with a heartfelt groan.

The others followed her example, except for Gustaf who started poking through the buildings off the square. Arkady stood next to Erkki as the pilot peeled back his suit, and handed something over. She looked up as Arkady came over, and settled down next to her with a sigh more felt than heard. He held out a hand, and she realized there was a case nestled in his open palm. When she looked up at him in confusion, he toggled back his helmet, and turned so she could clearly see his lips as he spoke. “I promise, it’s not a ring. Take it.”

9 comments

  1. Thor: “Merriment can sometimes be as great a burden as battle.”
    Heimdall: “Then you are doing one of them incorrectly.”

  2. It’s always fun when the hero doesn’t know what is going in, or how to improve matters

  3. Clan Red had a bad bat night when we were there. The bats slept in. [mutters something unkind about Nature ignoring the whims and wishes of tourists]

  4. How could anyone *not* want to see millions of bats come pouring out of a cave?

  5. You’re pretty close to Austin, and the bats are probably coming out from under the Congress Avenue bridge there (even if it’s only an estimated two million, and one species). It’s pretty impressive.

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