I've made a lot of progress on my novel since last we discussed how it was slow going. The chapters are averaging out to about 25 pages, but some have been a lot longer. Turns out I have a lot to say on this topic.
Kaya has been through a lot by this point, and while its definitely unfair to drop all of this on you context-free, I think I need to share a little bit of my work so I know its not just me doing this all on my lonesome, and that it'll be worth it. I figure I'm probably about to hit the 2/3rds marker and head into what my film school teachers called "the third act" (although I have no actors, so I may be misusing the term). But this IS a bit about character development, and as we were so plot heavy last time, I wanted to give some hints as to Kaya's past, and give the reader a chance to see a pensive Kaya in a thinking, emotional moment.
So, without further ado... (oh, this is about 6 pages into Chapter 41).
Oh, and, yeah, there may be some spoilers.
The screaming outside the reinforced steel doors was immeasurably loud, but nowhere near as loud as the voice in Kaya's head reminding her that this was nothing compared to the heartache she felt knowing Drumicus was out there, too. She fought herself, wanting to run to the big, red button beside the door marked "OPEN", but if she did, these old women and children didn't stand a chance. She might, but not these little ones who had not yet been hardened by the world, and certainly not trained, hour after hour. Not like herself.
Her mind flashed to the cool mountain green valley and the pond that gurgled and burped outside the rice paper doors of the dojo, and the silly cat that lived on the grounds watching her, year after year, transforming her body from that of a girl to that of a living weapon. There had been endless days and nights of sparring, learning forms and movement, but that was necessary if one were to become Samurai. Yes, she was a prodigy, and Sensei Atoki always said she was the finest student he'd ever seen.
But she never finished the training, did she? No. She had a weakness then. A weakness she would not give in to again.
The old women watched her in silence, no doubt remembering when their own stomachs might have been as taught and trim, showing between a leather sports bra and the gun-belt that rode her hips. And the children... some of them could have been her own siblings (twins!, she recalled), looking up at her just as desperately now over the frustrated shrieks of the Vamps outside as her brother and sister had once looked upon her.
Dammit! Not again! This time, they were all leaving. All together. Vampires or not. Something she had not been able to do for Krista and Kyle, so long, long ago.
"What are we going to do?" Bryan asked decisively.
"Well," she shook her head. "I don't know. We have to get these kids out of here. And the old women. This door only opens to the outside, and we know what's out there. I've got about eight charges left in my Faze-Pistol, and the Katana of Dancing Dragons is thirsty enough for Vamp throats, but I'm still just one. I'd make it, and maybe you, but not all these old women and kids."
Bryan nodded his head mournfully, the long locks at the back of his head tied back now in the warrior's ponytail, like some amazing lost medieval warrior. "Still, its weird how much these vamps want these particular kids and old women."
"They're just hungry," Kaya shrugged it off.
So much loss! she pondered, considering Elvis's strewn remains left behind. How much more can we endure?
Sure, he's been made of steel and wires and cogs, but, dammit, he'd been her friend.
"Lady." Kaya turned, feeling small hands pull on the fringed edges of her leather shorts, just above the smooth, tanned length of her leg.
"We should take the hatch. Then we can leave."
"The what?" she asked.
Bryan lifted an eyebrow. "What damned fool thing is this?"
"Shush, Bryan," Kaya quieted him. "Now," she dropped to a knee and took the child's hands in her own and looked her straight in the eye. "What is your name?"
"Starflinger," the girl said sweetly, large grey eyes batting. "And I can show you the hatch."
"Starflinger! No!" and old woman said. "I am Starflinger's Gran. And she's talking foolishness."
"Gran," Kaya said. "Foolishness or not, we don't have many choices. There's a thousand Vamps out there ready for blood, two of us and a whole mess of you kids and old women who can't fight. If there's a secret hatch, we should take it. Now!"
The old woman nodded resignedly. "Okay," she said.
Starflinger leaped for joy. "It's over here!" she said, moving some boxes that seemed not to have moved in a million years.
Bryan and Kaya moved the old women out of the way, not wanting to injure their frail, calcium depleted bones and began hurling the boxes away, not noting a bit as each box smashed open as it flung behind them.
The hatch was there, all right. A doorway big enough that even Bryan and all his amazing, coiled muscles could fit through.
"Where does it go?" Kaya asked Starflinger, the young girl eagerly watching every one of Kaya's moves.
"To the shiny stones room."
"Better than nothing!" Bryan retorted, and with an unlatching, slid the door open.
Bryan and Starflinger led the way, Bryan with a flashlight in one hand and the sledgehammer draped in the other. Kaya watched her friend and former lover disappear into the darkness ahead, and made a silent wish the child were not leading them astray right into a trap or danger. The old women and children followed, disappearing into the darkness.
Kaya stood alone in the hall, staring at the steel doors, listening to the ongoing shrieks and howling, continuing unabated, and bid Drumicus a safe journey. She kissed the tip of her blade, slid it back into the sheath, and closed the hatch behind her.
For a long time she walked in darkness, her eyes adjusting and ready for night-fighting thanks to the training. "Enemies do not wait for you to finish breakfast!" Sensei Atoki said and laughed. They had all been ready for night attacks, especially thanks to the vampires.
At last she walked past the old women and children lined up on benches along a thin corridor, and then found herself in strange room with a semi-circle of glass on the far end, and a table full of glowing rises coming from the surface, all different colors.
"Its a cockpit!" she whispered.
"It sure is," Bryan nodded. And I think I know why your Vamp friends were so hot to get at these old women and children."
"Look at the writing on the dashboard," Bryan pointed out.
There it was, the answer to so many puzzles. She couldn't read it fluently, not like Japanese or Russian or Nu-Swiss. But she knew it when she saw it, with those crazy, scrawled characters.
"Oh my God," she said to Bryan. "They're 'Thropes!"
"Yeah. And the ship explains a lot."
Kaya turned back, looking at the old women and children, looked down at Starflinger's little face and saw the glow in her grey eyes. Starwolves. The space faring were-people she'd only believed were rumors and stories.
"We might just have a chance," she said.