Last night I had one of those revelations about a story which sent me scrambling out of bed to take notes. I’ve been working on a difficult rewrite section of the Andrews Ranch novella, and what I figured out was another major missing piece of the Netwalk Sequence backstory and the Gizmo arc. It explains why the Landreth Technologies weapons were so exclusive, so prized, and why Will was so instrumental in the development of Netwalk. And why Bess is the way she is.
This has been one of the most difficult stories of the whole Sequence to write. I started it years ago, even before I knew I was writing the Sequence, and even then it was missing something. This was the missing piece, and it takes the story beyond being just the backstory for Will and Diana’s relationship and why the ranch became what it was.
But the idea’s only twelve hours old, and it needs more fleshing out. Nonetheless, I’m grateful to the backbrain for coming up with it just in time for the crucial scene. I didn’t quite get there today (have to go back and lay the breadcrumbs to make the scene work).
Anyway, have a taste of what’s about to happen…
As she spun uphill, a buzzer sounded in her ears.
HUMAN. FRIEND OR FOE?
God, she didn’t know this cue!
The heat signature was by a rock. She couldn’t see the person. Diana tried to whistle, but only soft air passed through her lips. She licked them and tried again, pursing her lips more tightly. A very faint note leaked out. She crouched low, lower than she already had to do to scramble up the steep, rocky slope.
Where the hell is Red? Surely she hadn’t gotten through this brush faster than he had?
She tried a single, soft cluck to zoom in on the rock, even as she heard a faint whistle in response. The rock suddenly popped out in stark detail. No rock, but a cleverly designed shelter of some sort. And the human using it was focused uphill, most likely on Will–
Then, faster than she could have anticipated, the human gathered itself up and launched toward Diana.
Repulsors! She scrambled and slid backward, but not fast enough as the man tackled her. They rolled downhill, over rocks. Diana wrestled with her captor, yelling inarticulately as she tried to break free from his grasp. They slid to a stop at the edge of a cliff, only the jagged points of a knee-high rocky outcrop keeping them from pitching over the edge.
She kicked and yelled as he pinioned her wrists, doing her best to break free as he tried to restrain her arms, slamming his armored hands futilely against the rocks. She heard the tell-tale click-click of Red’s weapon, and then Will yanked the man off of her.
“You son-of-a-bitch!” Will bellowed.
The other man attacked Will. They wrestled with each other, Will with a silent fury she’d not seen him express before. He viciously kneed the other man in the gut, going for deep body blows rather than wasting his time on the other man’s helmeted head. The other man went down and Will followed him, grabbing the man’s helmet and slamming it hard against the rocks, growling and cursing. Diana froze, unable to move, staring. He’s going to kill that man because he attacked me.
“Will! Stop! Will! Enough!” Red yelled. “Diana, help!”
She unfroze. “Left right red!” she gabbled as she dove to restrain Will.
“Get Will off of him! I’ll take care of the controller!”
Diana tried to wrestle Will away from the man. Strong as she was, despite her greater height and strength, it took every ounce of determination she could summon up to wrench Will away from the other man and push him uphill, away from the controller. Will fought her blindly, trying to squirm free. It wasn’t until she had him almost all the way to the controller’s blind that he finally stopped fighting her, breathing hard, hyperventilating and exhaling deep, sobbing breaths. Her heart pounded and she thought she heard a low, malevolent humming in her ears.
Will kept staring at the man. “Lakely, you mother-fucking goddamn child-raping son-of-a-bitch,” he gulped, his voice somewhere between tears and anger. “You mother fucking son of a bitch!” He lunged forward to attack again, but Diana grabbed Will and spun him around so that he faced away from the man. It took all of her own willpower to shut down the waves of cold fear and dread that made her want to sink into a fetal curl. Lakely. Albert Lakely. Oh God, is this him?
“Will,” she said firmly. She couldn’t give into her own emotions. She had to be solid for Will. She had to get his attention back and off of Lakely, for their own good, so they could defuse the machine. “Will. Will!”
The sinister hum grew stronger.
The controller chuckled. “Landreth, you sure made my job one hell of a lot easier by bringing your wife along.”
The hum escalated into a whine. Yellow lights started flashing. Will startled.
“Oh my God. Diana! The damn thing’s activating!” He darted past her, scrabbling uphill fast.
Yellow changed into red on her overlays as she struggled up the hill behind her husband.