It felt too much like taking all of the worst traits of these characters and amplifying them into a sordid and depressing story. I very much didn’t want to do that.
But the idea has been niggling at me for months. It won’t leave me alone.
I’ve caved. Fine. I’m writing it.
But this is a very sordid and depressing story.
Master sergeant Hartmann wasn’t certain when he had first begun to notice the cleaning lady. Two years prior, more for the sake of politics than anything else, the General had declared that they were going to improve national security by limiting the soldiers’ access to the Suit, and a civilian was picked out of the Base’s janitorial staff to be the designated caretaker of the military’s top asset. It turned out to be a plain, mousy woman, who quietly devoted herself to the job then faded into the background as another functioning cog, and business moved on as usual.
Hartmann was by far the best at piloting the Suit. Although it was obviously alien technology, he had an intuitive understanding of how to operate it, and was consequently given all of the important missions. He had already been considered something of a hero due to his ‘bravery’ and ‘leadership’ beforehand, but the Suit had skyrocketed him to the status of a superstar. He was worshiped by those below his rank, and greatly respected by those above. It was unspoken, but everyone pinned their hopes of winning the war on his abilities, and he was more than willing to accept the mantle.
Yet, somehow, the moments he had spent basking in the adulation of a job well done melted away as the cleaning lady took up more and more of his awareness.
There were moments when it was comical to watch her, a slim 5’4” woman standing on a stepladder with a soapy sponge, contrasted against the 12-foot mecha that she rigorously scrubbed. However, when she worked on detailing the interior, it stung to realize that she was more intimately familiar with the Suit than he was. He felt like the interloper, good for a wild ride before the Suit returned home to its loving family. He never had the liberty to simply touch and examine the Suit, no matter how much time he spent inside.
To make it worse, the cleaning lady was completely unaware of him. Hartmann was attractive and muscular, with sandy blonde hair and sharp eyes, and took it for granted that women would preen and flirt as they competed for his attention. The cleaning lady, however, never smiled or brushed her hair behind her ear; her eyes slid over him as if he was any other uniform in a sea of soldiers. He had even bumped into her deliberately to see her reaction, but she had tersely apologized then skirted around him, never quite managing to raise her eyes to his face during the entire exchange. The other soldiers had snickered, and someone had said, “I guess you aren’t her type,” as Hartmann stared after her, his face hard.
That was two strikes against her.
In between missions, he kept an apartment off Base, and he liked to amuse himself by taking out a few of his buddies to pick up women at bars and clubs. The thrill of simply bedding them had vanished years ago, but he still got his kicks out of playing with them. He had developed a good eye for finding the ones that were attractive enough to be worthwhile, but still had the shadow of desperation that spoke of a willingness to do anything. That night, he imagined that he had the cleaning lady in his clutches, and pushed the woman to a level of filthy that he had never gone to before. Unsatisfied with how easy it had been to control and degrade her, he sent her away from his apartment with one of his friends, and from the way she giggled he knew that she was up for another round of debauchery.
Alone, he knew the folly of his fantasy. The cleaning lady was the sort who spent her evenings curled up with a book and a glass of wine – she would never be under his power.
So he watched her. He watched her clean his Suit, watched her love what should have been his, all the while knowing that she was untouchable. The cleaning lady was ranked above him, the master sergeant.
For my cheerful, light-hearted, postpartum reading, I decided on The Shining by Stephen King.
As my husband and I like to joke with each other, compared to the existential horrors we now call reality, nothing is scary anymore. LOL
In fact, the weird part is how open and honest the characters are about their dysfunctions, and no one calls social services on them or prescribes anti-psychotics. WTF?
This is the second Stephen King novel I’ve ever read (the other being Misery, which is also set in snowy Colorado), and I have to say that he knows how to suck the reader in; I don’t have to force myself to pick up the book. On top of that, he uses enough run-on sentences, interrupted paragraphs, and other random grammatical weirdness that I don’t find myself spacing out and skimming over the words without really understanding them.
The dialogue is corny at times, but since the book was written in the 1970’s, I think it’s more a reflection on that particular decade than anything else. It also annoys me that none of the characters seem to have any sense of self-preservation. It’s hard to feel bad for them when they were very much asking for it.
I know enough about violence that the climax is too unrealistic to be remotely scary.
Because of those existential horrors we now call reality.
I’ve given up on reading Outlander for the time being.
The novel was getting to be genuinely nauseating for me — it was like a super concentrated form of Boomerisms, to the point that I was starting to expect the book to tell me to “just get a job” during a massive economic crash with skyrocketing unemployment rates.
And by the way, I didn’t understand when I became a parent. Quite the opposite.
Aside from the blatant Mary-Sue main character and the woobie-love-interest, the whole story has been thus far told with rampant hubris and condemnation. I’ve read other highland romance books that didn’t treat the period or the culture with so much disdain, and I honestly wasn’t expecting it. Why write a historical book when you hate absolutely everything about the past?
At one point the reader is informed that the Laird’s wife is cheating on him with every **** she can get her hands on, as if we’re expected to believe that all the clansmen are eagerly insulting their Laird’s honor and authority while simultaneously respecting him. Yeah. Sure. If you’re a Boomer.
And we mustn’t forget the bit about pennyroyal being regularly used to induce miscarriages. While it technically can be done, the amount necessary is darn close to being lethal, and it comes with nasty side effects — it’s not something that any sane woman would gamble with unless she was desperate enough to die. It wasn’t the historic form of The Pill.
What makes the author so certain that all women hate the idea of being mothers? Oh. Right. Boomers.
I just can’t keep reading that book anymore. Like I said, it’s actually getting nauseating.
Aurora was still alone when she awoke, but the door to the bedroom was open. She pulled the sheet off of the bed, wrapped it around herself, then tiptoed out into the main room. CR1515 was sitting in a chair in front of a giant screen, and although his face was completely expressionless, his body language was that of someone who was thoroughly bored of his desk job. Her clothes were still scattered across the floor, so she moved as quietly as she could to gather them up, praying that he wouldn’t notice her.
“You slept for nine hours,” he said, still focused on the screen. “Brain scans indicated that it was prudent to not wake you.”
“Thank you,” she murmured, blushing as she turned away, conscious of the fact that she was still nude underneath the sheet, and the soreness between her legs that attested to the reality of what had happened. “Is there a bathroom?”
“You may attend to all your needs in there.” He pointed back towards the bedroom. “When I am finished I will require sustenance, and you will eat then.”
She hesitated, then asked, “What are you doing?”
Aurora couldn’t stop her curiosity, so she turned to study the screen. “That looks like our underground base.”
“I maintain the security grid,” he replied. “One of the exterior cameras malfunctioned, so I ran a diagnostic and am now programming the instructions for the repair drones. I do this for all of your cities and bases.”
“Really?” Aurora’s fingers touched her lips with surprise. “I thought that was all automated.”
“As I am classified as a machine, it is.” CR1515 turned to look at her. “What are you doing?”
Aurora found herself shrinking back when he stood and approached her, and he took the bundle of clothing out of her arms then pulled the bed sheet away from her. All she could do was wrap her arms around herself and shiver as she looked down at the floor.
“I did not tell you to cover yourself.” He returned to the screen and sat down, then continued typing.
“I can’t always be naked!” Aurora protested. “Do you really intend to keep me as a sex slave?”
“But …” A painful lump formed in her throat. “It’s not fair to do that to someone.”
“Is it fair to enslave someone for your protection then? To mock and ridicule them even as you demand their loyalty?” CR1515 tilted his head to one side and rested it against a fingertip. “From my perspective, taking a single human woman after decades of service is a small price to ask.”
Aurora squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to hold back the tears, and asked weakly, “Why me?”
“Because you sought me.”
She was silent, hugging herself as her mind tried to make sense of it all. Then, vehemently, she demanded, “If it had been Talon at the Gate instead of me, would you have done the same with him? Would he have been standing here naked now, instead of me? Was it really that arbitrary?”
“No.” CR1515 was either finished programming, or had come to the conclusion that she required his full attention, because he stood and approached her again, laying his metal hand against the side of her face. “If a man had come to the Gate, I would not have answered it.”
“Then why me?” Aurora couldn’t stop herself from collapsing against his hard chest, feeling too weak to stand under her own power anymore.
“You may wear clothing when we are not engaged in sexual activity,” he murmured, then as if he was attempting to provide comfort, he retrieved the sheet and wrapped it around her shoulders. “Dress, and we will have our meal.”
Aurora nodded and slowly moved towards the bedroom with her bundle of clothing held tightly against her chest, feeling ready to sleep for another nine hours. She didn’t know how to cope with abruptly losing everything in her life, especially when she had been on the verge of finalizing her engagement with Talon. He was definitely worried about her by then, and she didn’t have a way to send word of what had happened.
CR1515 shut the door to the main room, then walked across the bedroom to open another door. “You inquired about the facilities earlier,” he said, indicating toward the shower and toilet. “This one leads to the kitchen and dining area,” he continued, moving to another door. “As I implied before, all of your needs will be met.”
“Thank you,” Aurora whispered, then slipped into the bathroom and shut the door. It was comfortingly ordinary, down to the roll of paper next to the toilet, and she let out a heavy sigh of relief as she opened the shower door and turned the water on.
At the very least, he wasn’t callous towards her. Painfully blunt and unyielding, but … Aurora shook her head then upturned her face under the water, wondering if it would wash away the thoughts that she didn’t want. Perhaps Talon had been correct in wanting to finalize their relationship contract before engaging in intercourse with her, after how quickly she had thrown away her loyalty to him …
Not that CR1515 had given her a real choice.
He had revealed himself to her, then pressed his hands and mouth against her before promising to never take her for granted, after she had uttered a single, “Yes,” when he had asked if she would be his. She liked the simplicity and straightforwardness of it.
But that wasn’t what had really happened, Aurora chastised herself. CR1515 had been more than willing to let the artifacts fail and the mecha return to life if she had refused him. If she ever found herself back with Talon, she would tearfully explain that she had been blackmailed and raped, and he would be rightfully furious. He wouldn’t think that she had deliberately betrayed him.
Even though she was already wondering when she would have sex with CR1515 again.
“I’m such a mess,” Aurora whispered to herself, then turned the shower off.
She dressed after towel drying, then tiptoed out to search for CR1515. He was in the kitchen, once again out of his metal suit, with two meal trays waiting. She blushed and looked away as best she could until she was seated, but she couldn’t stop herself from sneaking in a glance at his golden skin that flawlessly covered his thick muscles, and heat twinged inside her.
They ate in silence, but Aurora’s appetite was small enough to disappear after only a few bites. She put her fork down, then stared intently at the table as she slowly asked, “You fought the mecha, right?”
“Yes,” CR1515 replied.
“Did you see Talon?”
He stared at her, and she couldn’t read his expression.
“I just thought that my betrothed should know that I’m …” her voice faded away.
“I wouldn’t know if I saw him.” CR1515 tilted his head to the side. “Why do you say betrothed instead of fiance?”
“We haven’t reached that point yet. After we agree on a finalized contract, we then set a date for our marriage, and that’s when we’re officially engaged.” Aurora squirmed under the look that CR1515 gave her, so she added, “That’s how it’s done.”
“You know … we work out how many children we want, and when we want to have them. There’s also the financial agreements, how to manage the household, as well as what grounds the marriage may be dissolved …”
“You were planning out how to end your relationship before it even officially began?” CR1515 asked incredulously.
“Things don’t always work out.” Aurora felt small and ridiculous as she tried to explain, “Sometimes you grow to dislike each other and start arguing too much. It’s important to know how to proceed if that happens.”
“Hmph.” CR1515 folded his arms. “If you try to argue with me, I will teach you better.” He studied her for a moment from across the table, then continued, “I would gather that this contract of yours goes much deeper than the possibility of merely not getting along. Your attractiveness, age, and status as a virgin were all bargaining points for you, were they not?”
Aurora’s face began to burn as she nodded, and quietly said, “My mother wanted me to marry well, and the men who can afford to be picky …”
“Had I been satisfied with stripping you of your virginity and sent you back home, it would have hurt negotiations with this betrothed of yours, correct?”
“Talon loves me. He would have …” Aurora faltered. “He probably would have changed some of the terms to be more to his advantage,” she admitted.
“It appears to me that I have rescued you from the undesirable fate of having your every move dictated out beforehand.” CR1515 scowled, then motioned for her to come over and sit on his lap. Aurora obeyed shyly, all too aware of the fact that he didn’t feel the same need for clothing that she did. He pulled her firmly against his chest and touched his lips to her hair as he murmured, “My terms are simple: you belong to me.”
“But I have no grounds to assert myself on; nothing to protect me from your whims,” Aurora began to protest, then stopped when she saw the devilish grin spread across CR1515’s face, and his hand pushed up her skirt to rest against her thigh.
“No, you don’t.”
When they were finished, Aurora stayed slumped against him with her arms around his neck, and she couldn’t help but ask, “Did you really mean it when you said that you wanted to love? As in, love love, and not just …” she trailed off.
“Yes,” he whispered.
“Will you love me even if I hate you?”
She didn’t wait for his answer, but instead buried her face in the crook of his neck, and breathed heavily as his hand stroked silently along the length of her back.
I wrote this a few months ago as part of The Scion Suit, but I’ve decided that I won’t be using this scene in the final version after all.
Hartmann sat at the bar, his hand lax around an untouched glass of scotch. A woman sat next to him, chittering nonstop, although he wasn’t listening to a word that she was saying. He was staring at her lips, studying the neatly applied red lipstick with a crisp outline and a perfect cupid’s bow, and his gaze had the woman giddy.
Carol’s lips had been pale and dry. She had been too shocked to react the moment his mouth touched hers, but he had expected that – Carol was the sort who hadn’t kissed anyone in years … if she had ever kissed anyone at all. He had taken his time and moved slowly to keep from overwhelming her, feeling the change in her breath as her eyes had closed and her chin lifted up.
Afterwards, Hartmann had told himself to stop pursuing Carol, before she damaged his ability to touch another woman. He had rounded up a couple of his guys to head out for a night of fun, but now that he was there, he found that he couldn’t engage. He couldn’t stop thinking of Carol.
Her lips had been vulnerable and responsive. Somehow, with very little movement, they had begged him not to stop, and he knew that Carol hadn’t been internally counting down the seconds till she could move on to the next step. He had felt wanted.
The woman sitting next to him, with the perfect lipstick and low-cut top didn’t want him. To her, he was no different from any other man, and if he didn’t pick her up, then someone else would. The cheap, meaningless pleasure that she offered held no appeal in contrast to what he had tasted with Carol.
She stopped talking and leaned close to him with her eyes half closed, and Hartmann couldn’t stop himself from jerking back with a disgusted look on his face. The woman snatched up her purse as she cussed at him, then stormed away, and he finally took a gulp of his drink.
Sergeant Brown sat down next to him in the woman’s empty spot, ordered two more drinks, then studied Hartmann for a moment before asking, “What’s up man? I’ve never seen you so far out of the game.”
Hartmann remained silent, but finished his scotch and set the glass back on the bar, where he traced the circle of the rim with his fingertip, remaining deep within his thoughts.
“If you keep bombing this badly, I’m gonna start thinking that you’re hung up on some bitch,” Brown added after a moment.
Hartmann didn’t really want to talk about it, but the idea of Carol being referred to as ‘some bitch’ galled him – a lot more than he’d expected it to. He glanced over at Brown with a scowl, then back at his glass. “She’s not a bitch,” he muttered quietly. “That’s the problem.”
“Oh come on, man,” Brown snorted derisively. “That just means you’re the one getting played.”
“Nah. She’s way too pathetic for that.” Hartmann couldn’t stop the small smile that twitched at the corners of his mouth. Despite his choice of words, he didn’t intend it as an insult – it was something about Carol that made her irresistibly endearing to him. In the moments when he wondered how she had managed to survive on her own in her former life, he also deeply wanted to be there for her in the future.
“Hell, I don’t believe you.” Brown waved his hand dismissively. “Women only care about themselves, money, and orgasms.”
That made Hartmann laugh. “This one is different, and now I’ve got to prove that I’m not full of shit.”
Brown drained his glass and set it down as he asked, “To me, or to you?”
“Both,” Hartmann replied, then signaled the bartender over for a refill.
Somehow I’ve managed to write over 10,000 words for CR1515, despite feeling tired and busy with the gazillion things that always happen at once, and I still haven’t found the proper flow for the story. Not 100% settled in to it yet.
I can’t help but wonder if I should dial back on the philosophical ranting and put in the effort to submarine it more, but it probably doesn’t matter. People can be shockingly oblivious to what’s right underneath their noses, so I might as well slap a fancy border on it and proudly display it.
The fun part about the Aurora/CR1515 pairing is that they argue A LOT more than any of my other main couples. The fireworks are a blast to write (har har), which is probably how I’ve managed to do as much as I have, despite being excessively busy/tired with a gazillion things. We have stubborn pride going up against unyielding stances, in a scrumptiously confined space. What’s not to love?