Simon Falls
(Icarus Down Passes 75,000 Words)


The picture above is entitled Crack of Dawn by Graeme Bird. It is used in accordance with his Creative Commons license.

Icarus Down Scorecard
Word Count: 75,978
Increase Since Last Report: 8869 (Apr 21)

I’m pleased to say that I have been on a bit of a roll with Icarus Down. I finished the second act of the story and have moved on to the third and final part. There’s two chapters still to do, although those could be broken apart if the narrative makes them grow too much. I have a fairly good idea what happens in the climax, now, and am still hopeful of having the first draft finished by Victoria Day. I need to remind myself, though, that this self-imposed deadline is only thirteen days away.

A common question authors get is, how do you write your stories? And some how-to books on writing talk about drafting outlines, doing character sketches, plotting out everything to the minute detail before rolling up your sleeves and getting down to writing. If that works for you, more power to you, but it’s not a way that feels natural to me. For me, one of the best things about writing a new book is the sense of discovery that’s rather akin to reading a good book. When I start writing a story, I’m confronted with isolated scenes and the rudimentary beginnings of characters, and I often discover the twists in the plot, and the nuances of those characters as I write them.

A recent example came during a trip the girls and I took to Chicago. I’d been wrestling with the development of an important secondary character. Though I knew where Icarus Down was going, I felt that something was missing from the climax, and I realized that the emotional arc of the secondary character was unfinished. She needed a scene that brought her arc to a close.

Note that the earliest writings that became Icarus Down are on a file with a created-on date of December 31, 2008. Note that it’s now May 2010, and I’m days away from finishing a first draft. And I’ve just discovered something important about an important character. It’s a wonderful rush, that I hope that readers share when they finally get to that scene, and feel some of what I felt in creating it.

Anyway, as I said, I’m working on act three at the moment; here’s a snippet from near the end of act one. It carries on from this scene here, where Rachel and Simon were climbing towards the anchor in order to try and stop an act of sabotage there, only to get caught by the perpetrators. Let’s see what happens next…

As we climbed, I heard Nathaniel’s voice as he spoke into a communications tube. “Attention, attention,” he said, calmly. “Grounder terrorists are attacking the anchor. Repeat, terrorists are attacking the anchor. Initiate solar emergency defences.” Next to him, guards stood at the top of our ladder, waiting for us.

A rattle of gears and machinery made me look behind me. Across the dome of Iapyx, sheets of reflective mylar rose up on thin cables, blocking the view of the silhouetted cliff-face. There were six of them. They’d keep the sunlight off the anchor for several minutes, but wouldn’t last long before they caught fire and disintegrated. They were the last line of defence in case the anchor was compromised. Why in the heavens would Nathaniel call for them to be raised? What was he doing to the anchor?

Rachel and I climbed the final few rungs onto the platform. A guard reached down to help Rachel up, but she slapped the hand away. “Don’t touch me, you murderer!” Another guard lunged at her, and she struck him, but the two guards moved in, grabbed her, and hauled her onto the anchor, pinning her to the floor.

As I reached the anchor, another guard reached down for me. I held out my hand and he grabbed my wrist, pulling me up, before taking a firm grip of my arm and pinning it behind me. A fourth guard grabbed my other arm and held tight. The first two guards hauled Rachel to her feet. She struggled and kicked. “Murderers!” ” Whatever it is you’re planning, Nathaniel,” I said, “it won’t work. You won’t be able to hide the truth!”

Nathaniel put the speaking tube back in its holster and turned to me. He gave me a sympathetic smile. “I think you’ll be disappointed, Mr. Daud. I’m my brother’s chief of security, after all. My brother’s office controls the town criers. And once people hear what almost happened here today, they won’t be in the mood for a long explanation. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s one more thing I have to do here. We’ll talk later, but I’ll say here that if you’ll be so kind as to sign the confession we present to you later, the mayor will be lenient. Life as a battery boy isn’t as bad as all that. Certainly, it’s a longer life than the life your friend chose.” He nodded over the edge, at where Aaron had fallen. He turned towards two more guards, who were unfolding a sheet between them. Light reflected off of its surface, making me blink.

“Why are you doing this?” I shouted. “What have any of us ever done to you?”

Nathaniel paused, then turned back. He looked at me a long moment and, for an instant, I thought he was going to answer. But then he sighed and said, “You won’t understand, Simon. But believe me when I say that there are some things the public isn’t ready to know. Ever. Please excuse me.” He turned away.

The guards pulled me towards the cliff face. I saw tools strewn cross the anchor, including a pipe wrench and a hammer. Other chrome boxes were open, revealing harnesses and escape suits, all of which had been left inside. The two guards in the middle of the anchor laid out their sheet over the surface of the anchor — a sheet of mylar, I realized, as I winced at the reflection of the sky that shone in my eyes. This was a good thing; extra protection against the rising sun — very sensible. But, why—

Then Rachel hollered, and a guard yelled. I looked over and saw one of the guards who had been holding Rachel was now clutching his shin while she struggled against the other one. She pulled free and ran at Nathaniel, but the first guard leapt after her, grabbing at her. She turned and gave him a shove as the other guards tackled her to the platform.

The guard that Rachel shoved stumbled back, tripped on a fold in the sheet, fell hard and rolled. His eyes were wide with terror as his distance to the edge shortened rapidly. Desperately, he grabbed at anything, and caught the sheet of mylar, but it was no use. He pitched into open air. The mylar ripped, and slithered with him, making a zipping sound like canvas as it slipped over the edge.

For a moment, there was stunned silence. The guards looked horrified. But they weren’t looking at where their comrade had fallen — was still falling. They were looking at the anchor. Suddenly, the guards who’d been holding me let me go, knocking me down as they ran for the ladder and clambered down for the safety of Iapyx.

“Stop!” Nathaniel shouted. “Come back here!”

On my hands and knees, I looked at the anchor beneath me, and my throat closed.

They’d painted the anchor black. They’d painted it black! I picked up my hand and it came away black. They’d used the same anti-reflective light-absorbing coating that covered the semaphore, but the anchor wasn’t made of external shield material.

And now they’d been trying to cover over the anchor with the reflective mylar that was now vanishing into the mist below. Why had they been trying to do that?!

That was when it hit me. This had all been about discrediting the Grounders. Nathaniel wasn’t trying to destroy the city; he’d been trying to implicate the Grounders in a plot to destroy the city. A failed plot that we’d happened to stop before it had actually failed.

I heard a whoosh from across the chasm as the first of the mylar barriers caught fire.

Oh, Creator, what had we done?

Nathaniel ran to the chrome box by the ladder, pulled out the speaking tube, and blew into it. “The anchor is compromised,” he yelled. “Repeat, the anchor is compromised. Evacuate the city immediately.”

Then he pulled a pistol from his jacket and aimed it down the metal cage housing the ladder leading back to Iapyx. He fired two shots. The fleeing guards fell from their rungs, rolled thumping down the ladder, before limbs caught in the metal and dragged them to a stop. They lay limp.

“Sir!” shouted one of the guards on the anchor. “What did you d—”

Nathaniel turned, gun in hand, and fired point blank into the guard’s chest. The other three guards rushed forward, and Nathaniel picked them off, one by one. They hadn’t even been armed.

I shoved myself to my feet and ran at him, but before I reached him, he turned on me, the barrel of his gun poking me in the chest. I froze. I stared at the gun, and then at him.

He gave me a smile. It was almost apologetic. “No witnesses,” he said, and pulled the trigger.

The gun clicked.

We looked at the barrel a moment. Then he shrugged. “Oh, well,” he said, and he grabbed me by the shoulders and hauled me to the edge.

Behind him, Rachel rushed up, swinging the pipe wrench. Before I could say anything, it cracked against the back of his skull with a sickening sound. He grunted, stumbled, then fell into me. I pitched back, knocking my arm against the emergency panel, smacking against the harnesses. My feet stepped onto nothing.

I fell into open air.

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