Tumblring Down The Rabbit Hole

Fall into a hole of random pictures, fiction, and whatever else my mind comes up with

Real Life

You can only do so much. You can plan and strategize and monopolize the free time you get. You can grab bits and chunks of writing time here and there in spare spontaneous moments. You can establish a daily writing habit and continue it for days, weeks, months, years. You can write hundreds of blog posts ahead of time and schedule them to go up at the right time.

And still, real life will get in the way. You will fall behind. It happens. Shit happens. You have to deal with it. If real life rears its big ugly head, thats okay. Let it. Do what you have to do, try to forget the nagging sensation of ‘Oh I need to be writing’ and try to enjoy the bumps and situations real life throws your way. 

I don’t mean it as something bad will happen, though it will. Bad things do happen, but that’s not always what will get in the way of writing. Just as often, it will be good things, going on vacation, spending time with friends or loved ones, etc. As said before, have fun while it lasts, then, as soon as you can, get back on your horse and write like hell. 

If it is Something Bad, then you need to deal with it, writing can take a backseat. Do what you need to in your real life before you delve into your imaginary one. 

Basically, I’m writing this post as a poor excuse for not getting in my monday blog post on time. Real life got in the way, in a good way. Sometimes it’s best to just let it. Get back in the saddle when you can. 

My writing room

My writing room

A Writing Place

I recently created a “writing room” in my apartment. I set up a six-foot cheap foldable table and put a spare chair in the spare room that is mostly used for storage. It’s not much, the walls bare, most of the space taken by beer-brewing equipment, cardboard boxes and christmas ornaments, but it’s something. I’ve only used it a few times but it’s useful. Having a space devoted to writing makes me write more. I think it’s important for a writer to have a space devoted to writing. You have your job space, your sleeping space, your living space, dining, etc. You should have a space for writing if it’s truly important to you.

Now, this could be anything. It could be an office or study, or it could be simply sitting up in your bed with your laptop in your lap. It’s simply a space where, for a time, all you do is write in that space. It could be at your dining table, in your living room with the television off. It could be outside under a tree at the park, or in a lovely cafe while sipping an iced latte. It could be multiple spaces. The point is, it’s a place where you go to do one thing and one thing only for a certain amount of time. A place to focus on writing, troubles left behind, distractions gone.

Having a specific place helps you write more. It will aid you in sustaining a good writing habit, especially if you get into a routine with it. Maybe an hour before work every day, you go into your writing space and write for an hour. It’s just a place where you can go and get work done, leaving other things, ideas, distractions, problems, at the proverbial door. I like my little storage room because when I go in, with a fresh glass of water or coffee or beer(depending on the time of day…usually), I know what I’m getting into. I’m not going to waste time on games of tv. I’m going in there to write goddamnit. 

Roald Dahl had a tiny hut. Neil Gaiman has a freaking writing gazebo! What do you have? It could be anything. 

Plot Problems

Sometimes, you get bogged down in the plot of the story. You know the beginning, you know where you’re going, but you don’t quite know how to get there. You’ve got A and know C but B, the connection between the two, is a mystery. 

In my current story, I’ve got the initial scenes finished and I know what’s going to happen when the detectives confront the suspect, the difficult part is getting the characters to that point. I have to trickle clues that make sense, establish realistic leads for the detectives to follow and get to where I need them to be. I think I’ve got it mostly figured out, for the moment, but these kind of plot problems can be tricky. They can halt you in your figurative steps, tank your word count and demolish your drive. 

So how do you deal with them? How do you write when you don’t know how to get from A to C? How do you write something down you haven’t even figured out yet? There’s a few things that might work. It’s helpful to think of these strategies as tools in your writer toolbox. One might work for one story and another might work for something else. Who knows? It’s always better to have more tools than you need. 

Often, when this problem affects me, I do have a solution in mind, it’s just a weak one, it’s one that doesn’t fit perfectly in the plot, doesn’t quite work as well as I would like it to. If that’s the case, if you do have some idea of how it works but you just don’t like it….write it anyways! Write it down and move on. At least you have something, at least you are still putting words down on paper. You can always come back and fix it up, completely rewrite it if you want to. Getting past the problem, even with a weak solution, will move you forward, will get you towards the end. You know you will have to edit the story after the first draft anyways, it’s fine to have a weak moment or two. You will probably have more than you know, anyways. That’s what editing is for, I find it’s much easier to punch up scenes after I’ve written the whole story and know where I’m headed. If you’ve got any idea, go for it, use it. It might work better than you think it will anyways. 

Another tool is to simply skip the problematic part. You know what’s going to happen later so write it. At least you’re getting words down, at least you’re working on your project and getting shit done. You’re going to have to write that later part anyways, aren’t you? Get it done now! Come back to the problematic scene later, when you’ve had some time to think about it and after you’ve written what will come after it. Writing the scenes ahead of it may give you some insight into what the problem is and how to solve it. You might find clues in your future scenes that help you solve your problem or maybe just giving your brain time to mull the problem over will help you solve it. 

A third tool and one I wouldn’t suggest using often, is taking a break. Take a break from writing for a day or two, if a problem is really working you over. I don’t like to suggest this because starting and working on a habit of writing regularly is something you should always strive for. Habits take repetition and even just one day of not writing can set you back, can get you off track. But sometimes, you need a break. Your mind needs a break. Doing something completely different can jog your brain into solving problems. Letting your subconscious work can do wonders. There are times where you will wake up and have the answer just because your brain was working on it while you slept.  

That’s it for today, and remember, WRITE FIRST AND ASK QUESTIONS LATER.

Also, what do you do when you have ‘plot problems’? Difficult situations that hinder your writing? Forge through or take a break and think? I’m interested to hear. 

Scrap (p.3)

(parts 1 and 2)

Ten minutes later, Glen had rigged a set of speakers so the chip could speak and a microphone input so Johnny and Glen could talk back.

Or something. Johnny didn’t really get what was happening.

"It’s a data chip," Johnny said. "It’s just information. How can it talk? Why does it want to talk? Why it does it want anything? How-"

"Stop," Glen said. "You can ask her, now." He finished setting up the computer and stood back.

Johnny looked at the computer. “Her?”

"My name is Galant," a robotic voice crackled out of the speakers.

Johnny nearly jumped out of his seat. He settled back down and looked at Glen.

Glen took a seat slowly, just watching the computer and waiting.

Johnny looked back. “What are you? How are you speaking? You’re just a data chip.”

"I am a non-biological-sentient-being. Your kind first called us Artificial Intelligence. I can speak as you can speak, only I use speakers while you use various biological mechanics to utter sound. I am a mind without a body. Data Storage Unit 0113455432 currently contains the information that makes up my being. I set up an emergency program to transfer myself to it in case of system-wide failure."

Glen poured himself another drink. He seemed in shock.

Johnny leaned forward. He thought of all those ships in the Heap. “System-wide failure? You were part of the ship I found you in. What happened to it? There are hundreds of downed ships out there.”

There was a burst of static. “I have lost much in the transfer process, including some memory storage. I do not know what occurred to bring down Terra Former 02234, The Siren, or the other ships I traveled with.”

"The ship you were on," Johnny said. "What was it’s purpose?"

"The Siren was a class-4 ship, specifically created to carry and utilize a Terra Former machine on other worlds, to make them habitable for the human species."

"Wait, what? Make other planets habitable? What did the Terra Former do?"

"The Terra Former can affect a planet’s surface, change it’s climate and seed the land with organic life. It can, depending on the planet, convert a climate into a hospitable land for humans in months. It can create a utopia in a year."

Johnny’s hand found the bottle of liquor and he drank straight from it. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “What fuel do the old-tech ships need to run?”

"The ships run on hydrofusion, the only fuel needed is H20, or water."

Johnny grabbed the gun off the table and leveled it at Glen’s head.

Glen had his glass in hand, half-raised to his mouth. He froze. “What the hell, Johnny?”

"How deep are you with Hal?"

Glen carefully set his glass on the table. “I’m the only techie in town so you know he keeps a close eye on me. I give him what I have to, to keep him off my back, that’s it.”

"You wouldn’t tell him about this?" Johnny asked, looking into his friend’s eyes over the barrel of the gun.

"Of course not, Johnny," Glen said, throwing his hands on the table. "This is bigger than Hal or the Sheriff, or even our little-shit town. This is bigger than everything, do you understand? Someone with that could-"

"Create a new world and control the entire thing? Yeah, I think I got the gist," Johnny said. He kept the gun on Glen and stood up. He took the chip out of the computer. He took a breath, then holstered the gun. "I need this more than you."

There was a clatter outside, then footsteps.

Johnny ran to the window, pulled the shade away and looked out. A boy sprinted down the street and out of sight. He’d been listening in.

"Shit," Glen said.

"One of Hal’s boys," Johnny said, feeling something sinking in his gut. "He keeps ‘em around the gates to follow people. I didn’t see him before."

Glen frowned and shook his head. “I’m not going to tell you what to do with that chip but…” Glen sighed. “You have the ability to change the world. People are going to want that.”

"I never wanted the ability to change the world, I just wanted a meal and a place to sleep," Johnny muttered, slipping the chip into his pocket. "And now Hal’s going to know."

"What are you going to do?"

"Hide it."

"Then what?"

Johnny shrugged. “I’ll play it by ear.” He walked out of Glen’s and the town felt different.

The buildings looked more run-down. The dirty streets seemed filthier than ever. For the first time, he noticed nothing green grew anywhere in the town. The sky even had a brownish cast to it, as if dirt and dust were in the air itself.

It could all be different, he thought. He imagined fields upon fields of crops, forests filled with trees, entire jungles of plant and animal life. He’d seen old-tech vid-clips of other planets, planets teeming with life. They had seemed…impossible to imagine. Now, he could see it here.

It could happen.

He heard the click of a gun and felt something hard press against the back of his head.

Or maybe not.

"Hello again," a feminine voice said behind him.

His headache suddenly got worse.

The woman from before.

"Really? Robbing me twice in one day? Isn’t that a little much?"

"I just wanted to make sure you didn’t come looking for a little revenge. The gate guards in this town are awfully easy to bribe." She took his gun.

He closed his eyes and mentally swore at Ken and the new guy. “I wouldn’t have come for revenge. I’m  not that kind of guy.”

"Oh yeah? You would have just been fine with letting me have all your stuff?"

"Well, I might have taken back my stuff, but I would have left it at that. Bygones are bygones. We do what we have to, I don’t blame you."

She came around in front of him, holding a gun in each hand. Her goggles were pushed up and he could see her blue eyes. She holstered her own gun, then unloaded the rounds from the other into her palm, which she pocketed. She gave him back the empty gun. She still had his bag over her shoulder. “Nothing personal,” she said and walked away.

He watched her leave and swore under his breath, jamming the empty gun back into his holster. He headed the other way, hoping to never see her again. The sun dipped towards the horizon as evening came on.

In Sallie’s, business began to pick up as night came on. Farmers and Hal’s gun-thugs alike came to Sallie’s for a bite to eat and a few drinks. The biggest building in the town, it held tables for hundreds and a long bar against the wall. Sallie’s gals walked around delivering food and drinks while Sallie’s boys, four big brutes leaned against the wall and made sure there wasn’t any trouble.

There usually wasn’t any, surprisingly. Both the Sheriff and Hal considered the place neutral. It was basically holy ground, Johnny thought, walking in and smiling. The place felt like home. At the corner tables, men were throwing dice or playing cards. On a stage in the opposite corner, a young lass sang a song about romance that a few listened to. At other tables were men and women, drinking and eating their fill.

Sallie herself was behind the bar, pouring ales and mixing liquors together to make drinks, chatting away with customers at the bar. She had a buzzcut and black tattoos across her face. She was lean and mean, her body taut with muscle and she’d been known to throw out rude customers without the help of her ‘boys’.

Johnny walked up to the bar and sat at an empty stool.

She came up to him, shaking a cocktail in her hands. “Johnny,” she said. “Ain’t seen you around in a few days. How’s the Heap treatin’ ya?”

Johnny shook his head. “Not so great, Sallie. Think I could get the regular on credit?”

Sallie stopped shaking and poured the drink into a glass with ice. She gave him a look. “I don’t give credit and people don’t keep tabs here, Johnny, you know that.” She went down the bar to give the glass to a customer, who dropped a couple chits on the bar, which Sallie took. She came back to Johnny. “You got nothing, really? What the hell happened?”

Johnny looked down. “I got robbed by a woman today. Twice.”

Sallie burst out laughing. “Twice by the same woman in the same day?”

Johnny nodded. “Try not to laugh too much,” he muttered.

"Alright, alright," Sallie said. She poured a beer and slid it in front of him. "Meal from the kitchen will be out in a minute. You get one just because I feel bad for you." She reached underneath the bar and pulled a room key. She put it in front of him. "One night. And you owe me." She looked into his eyes, a dark glint in them. "You. Owe. Me." She turned, smile leaping onto her face as she walked down the bar to serve another customer.

Johnny licked his lips and took a long swig of beer. He needed it.

They came for him halfway through his meal. It was the usual, a bowl of stew with a few ragged vegetables in it.

Johnny had hoped he’d be finished before they showed up but thugs always had the worst timing.

Two men showed up and each placed a hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “C’mon Johnny,” the one to the left said. “The big boss wants to see ya.”

"I’m eating," Johnny said.

"Not anymore." The thug to the left said and pushed the bowl away.

Sallie made her way over, pretending to clean a glass with a white rag.

Johnny shrugged. “Gentlemen, I’m fairly sure you don’t want to be starting trouble in here.”

"You’re right, which is why we’re leaving." The two grabbed his arms.

Johnny clamped his legs around his stool and gripped the bar with both hands. “I don’t think so.”

"Excuse me," Sallie said, leaning over the bar. "Are you hassling one of my customers?"

The two thugs let up an inch. “Nah, Sallie, we’re just going to have a chat with Johnny here outside.”

"Looks like Johnny doesn’t want to have a chat," Sallie said.

"Sure he does. It’s in his best interests," the thug growled.

"Let him go. You know that shit doesn’t fly here," Sallie said.

"Look, Sallie, this is important. More than you know."

Sallie slammed her fist into her bar with a thud. Everyone in the bar had stopped talking and started watching the confrontation.

"What I know is you two have come into my bar and tried to rough up one of my customers." She gave a nod.

Two of her ‘boys’ grabbed the thugs from behind.

"You don’t want to do this, Sallie," the speaking thug said. "You’ll be starting something big."

"Tell Hal to keep his business outta my business," Sallie said.

Her boys shoved the thugs out into the street.

She pushed the bowl back over.

"Thanks," Johnny said, adjusting his tussled clothes.

"Didn’t do it for you," Sallie said. "Tomorrow morning, you leave here, you’re on your own." She walked away.

Johnny finished his soup and drank the last dregs of his beer.

He had until morning, at least.

An hour later, Hal’s men opened fire on Sallie’s place.

Taking a break from my regularly scheduled Wednesday Writing post to say: get out and do something. For a weekend,  day, an hour, get out. Experience something. Take a break from your regularly scheduled life.

Taking a break from my regularly scheduled Wednesday Writing post to say: get out and do something. For a weekend, day, an hour, get out. Experience something. Take a break from your regularly scheduled life.

Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain

Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain

Distractions and Hindrances

(Last week I talked about falling into a hole of research. This week is about the drags you might struggle with while working on a project, meanwhile new stories in your mind try to get you off-track. Also, I realize I’m a couple days late but once again, on my blog, I was right on time so if you want posts on time, go there.)

Distractions are constant in a writer’s life. It’s difficult to get beyond real life and enter the imaginary one in your head sometimes. I’ve found myself being pulled in various directions by various projects. I’ve been keeping up on my blogging, but it’s making me lag behind in writing on my actual story, not to mention a piece of flash fiction I started on Friday, inspired by my brother’s writing he sent me, has grown into something larger than just a short one-off. I’m enjoying it but it’s just another thing taking me away from the story I was previously working on.

Finishing things can be incredibly hard. Newer ideas are more exciting and enticing. You don’t have to fiddle with characters or figure out how the plot is going to go from A-Z, or struggle with making your writing halfway decent. Old projects get stagnant, fast. Something slows the process down or hinders you and the new idea beckons, with it’s lack of problems.

In my current story, I have the first long scene mostly finished, a fairly simple one in which two detectives go through a crime scene investigation, find a few clues, figure out a few things and leave. I thought it would be simple but was far from that. I realized, though I had watched numerous ‘crime shows’, I had no idea how an actual crime scene investigation would go. I didn’t mind if it was a little off but if it was so much so that the reader wouldn’t engage with the story, what was the point? So I struggled and am still struggling with maintaining realism, while also wanting to get on to other bits of the story, the real meat and potatoes of the thing. I’ve also been waffling on a specific supporting character, trying to make them strong, independent, three-dimensional. Bits and pieces of the scene I’ve already written are rewriting themselves in my head, trying to make everything fit better which stalls me on continuing it and makes new ideas look more interesting.

The problems can make your story seem boring or stupid. Maybe you realize you need to cut out a whole part and wonder ‘what’s the point’? Why try to continue with this obviously hopeless piece of writing when you can just start anew, fresh, on something awesome? Because, of course, the grass is always greener, the new story will lose its luster as well, and then you’re in the same boat you were in before, until all around you are leaky boats you never finished working on and you sink to the bottom of the ocean and I’m not really sure where I went with that metaphor but it works.

But you just have to get down to the gritty nitty. What a strange phrase, by the way. What the hell does that mean, really? Anyways, you have to get down and do it. Write. Which is what I need to do. So I’m going to. No more talking about writing, or writing about writing, or listening to other people talk about writing, or watching people write….Just writing. Period. Start writing before the distractions take hold, before the problems build up, before the hindrances trip you up, before your new ideas tantalize you with their new-ness.

And guess what? I spent time doing that. I spent time cutting away the crap that needed cutting away, rewriting the bits that needed rewriting, and it felt great. Just keep writing. 


Scrap (pt. 2)

(First part here.)

Johnny flicked the flashlight back on and set it behind a bank of electronics. He had one chance. He used the faint illumination to circle away from the light into a dark corner. He heard footsteps just outside the bridge, near the hatch.

It was close. “Hey, show yourself!” A male voice called out from the hallway. It was a man and he must have seen the light.

Johnny creeped along the wall toward the open door, from where the voice had come from. His head thudded with pain and sweat dripped down his forehead as he moved closer and closer. He saw movement, a blur.

The unknown man took a few steps onto the bridge. He stood feet away from Johnny, facing the source of the light.

Though the man stood close, Johnny couldn’t make him out at all. Though the illumination from the flashlight was faint this far away, Johnny still should have been able to see a figure, a silhouette, something. All he’d seen was the blur of movement. Johnny waited, every muscle tensed. The man had living camo on, a piece of old-tech Johnny had only heard about. It was rumored one or two of Hal’s men had it but nobody really believed them. Johnny realized that was why he had never caught a sight of the guy in front of him, only felt a presence, just on the edge of his vision.

"Show yourself or you’re going to regret it, asshole," the man called out again. "This is my home." 

Johnny saw the blurry movement as the man took a couple more steps. 

A warning shot rang out, loud. It ricocheted off the ceiling. The man must have had a big gun. 

"I’m not screwing around." The man approached the source of the light.

Johnny took his chance and ducked into the hallway, running. He spotted the light from the hatch. Just a few more steps. 

"Stop!" The man behind shouted. 

Johnny jumped, catching the edge of the hatch. He pulled himself up. 

A burst of gunfire echoed in the hallway. 

Johnny scrambled out of the hatch and onto the hull. He didn’t stop. He took a running jump onto the hull of another ship, then dropped down it’s side, hit the ground and kept running. He crouched and crawled under the belly of another craft. He planted his back against a wall and waited. He tried to control his breathing and listen over the sound of his pounding headache and thudding heart. Outside of his own body, silence dominated the Heap. 

He felt the chip in his pocket and shook his head. The camo guy must have been living in the ship or maybe near it. Whatever it was, the guy obviously felt it was his territory. 

Johnny was fine with leaving it to him. He started the long way back to Terra. 

"You look like shit, Johnny. You been to the Heap again?" Ken, one of the gate guards, asked. 

Johnny shrugged. “You know as well as I do, Ken. Hal doesn’t want anyone out there. It’s dangerous, he says. He doesn’t want anyone getting hurt.” 

Ken chuckled at that. He pulled a crank that opened the metal gate with a screech. “Get anything good?”

"A headache." Johnny walked in and glanced at the other gate guard, a young man wearing a weary look. "Whose the new guy?" Johnny asked, looking at Ken. 

Ken looked at the new guy. “This is Stan. Stan, meet Johnny.” 

The two looked at each other for a moment. Stan had his hand on the butt of his pistol, holstered at his side. 

Johnny turned back to Ken. “So, you or the new guy reporting to Hal tonight?”

Ken sighed, then nodded at Stan. “Him.”

Stan’s gripped his gun but still kept it holstered. His eyes widened. “Shit, Ken, what the hell?”

"Easy, easy," Johnny said. "Ken, we’re friends right?"

Ken frowned. “Yeah, Johnny, we’re friends. Why?”

"I got you that medic-tech that saved your son, didn’t I? Didn’t even charge you for it, if I remember right."

"Of course, Johnny. I didn’t forget that. How could I? What are you going on about?"

"Just this," Johnny said. "I need a favor the new guy to neglect to mention to Hal that I came in."

Ken took a step and put a hand on Stan’s shoulder. “Ease up, rook. Johnny’s a good guy.” Ken looked at Johnny. “I’ll make sure Stan doesn’t say anything.”

"You could just have asked me, you know. Jesus, what’s with the runaround?" Stan asked. 

Johnny shook his head. “I don’t know you. I can’t trust you. Even if I did know you, Hal’s got half the village in his pocket, one way or another, including half the guys who say they’re loyal to the Sheriff. But Ken here, Ken owes me. So I can trust him. For now.”

"Hal will find out soon enough anyhow, you know that," Ken said. 

Johnny shrugged. 

"Wheres your bag? Your gun?" Ken asked. "What the hell happened to you out there?"

"A girl." 

Ken laughed out loud. “No shit.”

"It’s true. You got a smoke?" Johnny took a cigarette and a match from Ken. He lit it and took a puff. "Say, a woman come through here earlier? Short hair and goggles?"

Ken nodded, having a smoke of his own. “Yeah. She had a black bag too. Shit.” Ken smirked. “She the one that got ya?”

"You might say that."

"Well, she’s probably at Sallie’s if you wanted to know."

"Thanks," Johnny said. "Nice to meet you, new guy." He left the two at the gate. He tossed the cigarette as he walked into the center of town. 

The dirt streets were mostly clear, though the afternoon sun blazed in the sky. The farmers would be out tending their crops and the rest of the people disliked heading outside these days. Firefights had erupted more than once in the past week between the Sheriff and Hal’s men. 

That tended to keep most folk inside. 

There were a few women and men in ragged clothing carried buckets of water from the well back to their homes, padding through dust. Homes in Terra were cozy things, a couple rooms at most with the basic necessities. A couple children played in a puddle of mud until their mother called them inside. 

Some men and women stalked the streets as opposed to walking along them. Their eyes were narrow and their faces grim, expecting trouble at any moment. It was easy to tell them apart. They carried big guns. You could tell the Sheriff’s men by the badge on their coat. Hal’s men simply looked mean. The two passed occasionally, sharing looks of hatred. A few glanced at Johnny with suspicion but he just kept walking. Though Johnny had a reputation for scavenging in the Heap, the village was large enough that most didn’t know his name, only those he’d traded with and, unfortunately, the two men who controlled the village. Turns out they liked to be informed about those who scavenged old tech. 

Johnny saw the largest building in the village, a three story wooden shack that rivaled ten homes in size. Sallie’s, the only inn, restaurant and bar in the village. It didn’t have a sign but it didn’t need to. Johnny left the main street. He had business to attend to. 

He found a home larger than most and banged on the front door. The front windows were covered with cloth. He banged again. “Glen, let me in.” 

The door finally opened, revealing a large man in a animal hide glaring out. “I’m busy,” Glen grunted and went to shut the door. 

Johnny stepped forward and put his arm against the door. “Wait. I got something worth interrupting you for.”

Glen shook his head. “You say the same thing every time.” He turned around and left the door open. 

Johnny went in and closed the door. Light came from two lanterns hung from the ceiling, banishing all shadows. Wires and electronic hardware hung from nails in the wall. A workbench stood against one wall, a lantern directly over it, a tiny set of tools unrolled upon it. A small device lay open, it’s mechanical innards revealed. 

There was a table in the center of the room, cluttered with random pieces of old tech and two chairs. Johnny noted a handgun on the table. “You working on that or you nervous about something?” Johnny asked, taking one of the chairs. 

Glen shrugged. “It’s getting worse. You know how it is.”

"Remind me," Johnny said. "I’ve been out a couple days."

"Well, the Sheriff and Hal ain’t getting on better terms, that’s for sure. Sheriff ain’t got enough loyal men to rout the boss and Hal’s got too much support from the townfolk anyhow."

"Through fear," Johnny said. 

"Support is support." Glen took the other chair. It groaned beneath his weight as he leaned back. "Along with that is food is getting more and more scarce, crops ain’t catching and the old-tech is failing, which is bad for the crops and fresh water as well. We live on a desert world, John. Ain’t going to last forever."

Johnny shook his head. “We humans been here for hundreds of years. We’ll go on.”

"We’ve been scratching out a living using old tech to survive where survival ain’t possible otherwise. Old tech can’t last forever and we can’t make new tech."

"You been thinking about this alot, haven’t you?"

Glen nodded. 

"Got a drink?"

Glen got up and reached into a cabinet underneath the work bench. He pulled out a bottle of amber liquid and a couple clay cups. He poured a healthy amount into each cup and slid one over. 

Johnny took it. They clinked cups and drank. “What about the Scrapheap? I tell you there’s loads of tech still in there, waiting to be found.”

"Stuff that’s been sitting around for centuries. Won’t do much better than what we got now. Besides, Hal’s taking everything he can from there and loaning it out until his clients owe him for life. And let’s say you or another independent scav finds something out there. We scratch out another decade or so of life, what then? It’s all just temporary." Glen took another drink. "This world ain’t fit for life, ain’t nothing going to change that."

Johnny sipped at the brackish liquid. It burned like fire down your throat and tasted like ashes. It helped his headache though. “Sounds like you’ve given up.”

"If it’s our time, it’s our time. If not, it’s not. I’m not going to be like those hopeless crazies, preaching that other humans are going to come save the day, their ships suddenly appearing in the atmosphere to bring us to a new planet. It’s bullshit. Too easy. Life ain’t easy." Glen finished his drink. "I just fix useless shit and make it work temporarily. Speaking of, let’s get the hell down to business. What do you got?"

Johnny pulled the data chip from his pocket and put it on the table. “Got that from a ship that looks awfully like the one in the center of town.”

Glen went to the work bench and grabbed a small computer pad that he flipped open, revealing a keyboard and screen. He brought it to the table and picked up the data chip. 

Johnny finished his drink and poured himself another. His headache was finally going away. 

Glen plugged the chip in. “Let’s see what we got here.” Though Glen was a big man with big hands, his fingers flew across the keyboard with the delicate finesse of a piano player. He eyes widened as green numbers scrolled rapidly across the screen. 

"What is it?" Johnny asked, peering over the big man’s shoulder, unable to understand what the text on the screen meant. 

Glen got up and went to the cabinets under his workbench. His movements were frantic and he couldn’t seem to catch a breath.

"Glen, you alright? What are you looking for?"

Glen turned to him and gulped. “I’m looking for speakers. I need to give it sound.”

"What? Why?"

Glen turned back to the cabinets, searching in a frenzy, tossing things out of his way. “Because,” he said. 

"It wants to talk to us."