I just wanted to announce here that I’ll be moderating a panel on March 24th at Mrs. Dalloway’s in Berkeley! The featured authors will be Susan Adrian, author of the excellent TUNNEL VISION (I blurbed it!), Whitney Miller, author of THE VIOLET HOUR and THE CRIMSON GATE, and Stacey Lee, author of UNDER A PAINTED SKY. More information here! Come see us!
That said, I was going through some files on my computer yesterday and found a bunch of cut scenes from VORTEX and CATALYST. Here, I thought I’d share something for your reading pleasure– a cut scene from VORTEX between Tom and Blackburn.
The context: Heather already knows what Tom can do. She’s trying to manipulate him. In this version, Yuri is not yet stricken. They have a mock duel that ends awkwardly.
Followed by this:
Tom just goggled at her. He’d seen them. He’d just seen…
“Sir,” Heather said, straightening suddenly.
Tom gave a start, realizing Blackburn was in there, having walked up unnoticed during their duel.
“I need someone smaller than me to climb into a repair shaft,” Blackburn said.
Heather flushed a bit. So did Tom, because every inch of him was painfully aware of the boobs he’d just seen. The glorious, wonderful pair of boobs.
“I was going to order Raines, but now, Akron, I think you can do it. Instructions are in your processor.” Blackburn tapped at his forearm keyboard.
“But sir!” Heather objected. “What if there’s a Russo-Chinese attack and I’m needed?”
“I’ll take the risk.”
“General Marsh won’t like it,” she threatened.
Blackburn’s smile was dangerous. “You’re eighteen, Ms. Akron. Raines is fifteen. I think, rather than bother General Marsh over this minor request, you’ll go and do what I’m asking you to do.”
Heather’s face grew glacially cold. She nodded stiffly, then stalked past him.
Blackburn turned to regard him, then said, “Come with me.”
Tom didn’t move. “Why? Sir?”
“Just follow me.”
Minutes later, they settled across from each other in Blackburn’s office. Tom sat there, wondering what he’d done wrong. Blackburn was tapping his fingers on his desk, and seemed to be looking anywhere but at him.
“Mr. Raines,” he said, “we’ve had our differences.”
“That’s what you call trying to rip my mind apart? Having our differences?”
“Exactly,” Blackburn said flatly. “But the fact remains, I’ve seen enough memories of your childhood to know a few things about your upbringing, and I just walked in on… that. I have to ask you an awkward question now.”
“No, you really don’t.”
“The Spire is a highly politically charged environment,” Blackburn said, his voice tense. “Congressmen debate your curriculum on the House floor. In short: there’s no sex ed here. Did your father or any concerned adult ever educate you about women?”
Tom felt heat flood his face. “I didn’t do that. Her shirt just popped open and out they came. It was like a force of nature. Two forces of nature. And… and that means I don’t need to hear it.” He felt like he was in anguish, he was so desperate for this conversation to end. “I know all about the girl stuff, okay? I’ve got the internet.”
Blackburn made a pained face. He pinched the bridge of his nose. “I was afraid you’d say that. Listen, if you don’t want to hear it from me, you can hear it from Ms. Ossare. Want me to call her? “
Tom sat there, mortified. He couldn’t speak.
“I’ll send you down to her–”
“No!” God, that would be awkward, a woman telling him about… about all that stuff. “Isn’t there a pamphlet or something?”
“Shut up, Raines. This will be quick. Let’s start with some basic human biology. Human beings have cycles, you see, but the female cycle is the one most relevant to our discussion…”
* * *
It was the most horrifying twenty minutes of Tom’s life. He sat there, frozen in place, a hostage, waiting for Blackburn to conclude. At least he seemed as awkward with this as Tom felt.
“And that,” Blackburn concluded, “Is how a fun night out becomes a lifetime of child support and drug-resistant syphilis.”