Friday, June 29, 2018

Writing Resources: The Headspace App

We've made it to another Friday, dear Writing Desk Readers!

Today, I'd like to share a Writing (and life, in general) resource that I've been utilizing for about a week now: The Headspace App.

(Credit: https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app)

Lately, between pursuing my writing goals, working full-time, and trying to wade through the cesspool of news stories popping up each day, I've found myself (like many others) growing pretty overwhelmed. Some of you may remember, I even took a digital detox week at the beginning of the year just to clear my mind out a little bit.

Then, a friend suggested I try Headspace. I've always enjoyed meditation, and wished I'd take the time to practice it more often. In its most basic form, the Headspace app helps you set aside 10 minutes per day to go through a guided meditation. There are three "Basics" levels to start out, each with ten sessions, that teach you how to meditate. The narrator also guides you through recognizing how you feel before and after each session.

From there, you have access to several mini-sessions, a few minutes long each, as well as a line of single sessions tailored to more specific concerns: Anxiety, grief, stress, trouble sleeping, and much more.

The Goals character!
(Credit: Headspace App)
I've also discovered, for all my fellow writers out there, a session geared towards creative writing and
learning to "Get in touch with your natural sense of creativity by allowing distractions to come and go". I will definitely be listening to that one this weekend!

There's a wealth of meditative sessions available in the initial free download, and of course, once you finish those you have the option to subscribe to a paid plan. The app also keeps track of your progress and notifies you when you've reached a new goal.

Has anyone else tried the Headspace app? If so, what was your opinion of the app and how it's set up? So far, I've enjoyed taking this time each day to just step away from my desk and bring myself to a calmer place. I know I don't talk about my personal experience with my anxiety much here on the blog, because I'm really trying to keep it focused on writing, on book reviews, and on publishing industry news. But, since this was a new tool that I think is going to help me in both my writing and personal life, I thought I'd share it with you.

Have a great weekend, everyone!
   

Monday, June 25, 2018

QUARTERLY GOALS: 2018-Q1/Q2 Review & 2018-Q3 New Goals

Since we're drawing to the end of another quarter, I thought I'd get a head start on my goals for Q3! If you've been following along with my Quarterly Goals progress this year, you'll know that things have been a little rocky. With that in mind, I'm determined to get a better handle on things for the third quarter. 

Let's go!



2018-Q1/Q2 Goals:

1) Publish the first installment of my YA sci-fi novella, Grave Diggers, in March 2018. I'm so excited to share this story with everyone, and I'd love your feedback on if you'd like to see it turned into a full-length novel!  
- DONE! Not only did I publish the first chapter, I planned out the publication schedule for the entire novella. (See: Goal #2)

2) Finalize a set update schedule for Grave Diggers. Should it be weekly? Bi-weekly? Whatever the decision, I'll be posting the schedule here on the blog, so readers can know what dates to expect new installments. 
- DONE! I reviewed (and in a couple of cases, rewrote) and published all ten chapters of Grave Diggers over as many weeks.

3) Resume work on Book Project #1 (I'm horrible at titles, so that's what we're going to continue calling it for now) and complete the first draft by mid-Q2. I'm giving myself a little cushion here, mostly because I want to go back through the outline and re-work a few things.  
- This was, unfortunately, not done. Based on the experience I've had this year with trying to make the word count I set for myself, I've decided to try a new approach. We'll go over that more in the Q3 goals.

4) Find at least one writing/book convention or retreat to attend this year. Suggestions are welcome! 
- I'd say this is half-done. I've researched a few options, but I'm still deciding which to attend. 

5) Continue to pre-plan weekly posts for The Writing Desk Blog. This includes the monthly author/writing industry interviews.  
- This is an ongoing goal, but I'm counting it as DONE for Q1 and Q2.

3.5 goals out of 5! How did everyone else do with their Q2 goals?


2018-Q3 Goals:

1) For my new writing approach, I'm taking (yet another) page out of author Jenna Moreci's book. She lays out her writing goals in page numbers, versus word count. I've decided to give this a try and compare it to the word count goal method I was using before. 

2) Make a decision on writing/book conference or retreat, and book it on the calendar.

3) Schedule remaining monthly author/writing professional interviews for the rest of the year. 

4) Sort through my recent short story ideas, finish at least one, and submit to publications. 

5) Continue to pre-plan weekly posts for The Writing Desk Blog. Particularly, including a What Am I Reading Wednesday post at least every other week. Along with this goal, I'd like to continue holding one giveaway per month!   


What are your goals for this upcoming quarter? How do you plan to stay on track? Let me know!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What Am I Reading Wednesday (6/20/2018)

It's been a while since we've had a proper What Am I Reading Wednesday. This is the type of post I really want to get back to, now that the final installment of Grave Diggers has been published on the blog.

I actually received my copy of Patriot Games last Christmas, and finished reading back in January. Let's have a chat about it!

Title: Patriot Games

Author: Tom Clancy

First Reading: Yes

Initial Impression: Very glad to start reading the Jack Ryan series! It's been on the TBR for years.

Final Thoughts:  There are some serious differences between Clancy's novel and the film made in 1992. Although this happens more often than not with book-to-film adaptions, I was surprised by some of the scenes they chose to leave out of the movie.


Older edition cover.

I was first drawn to Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series by my eternal love of Harrison Ford, who starred in two movies based on Clancy's work (Patriot Games in 1992 and A Clear and Present Danger in 1994). There have been a few different actors who played the role in other movies, but for me Ford was the perfect choice for this character.

Clancy's writing style is a key part of the quintessential political/military/spy thriller genre that, from what I can tell from my own modest research, saw a significant resurgence in the '80s and '90s. Think of authors like as other examples. (There's a lot of "J" names out there. Possibly a contributing factor to their popularity?) Even if you've never read their novels, I guarantee you've seen one of the movies based on these series.

If anyone has access to a more concrete timeline of the rise and fall of popularity for this genre, I'd be very interested to see it!

My only pet peeve with Patriot Games, while maintaining our strict No Spoilers policy here on the blog, was the characters' corresponding thoughts and actions seemed repetitive at times. For example, a character would say or do something, then turn around and think the same thing they just said or did a couple of paragraphs ago as if it were a new idea. (Or vice versa.) Then again, this was one of Clancy's earlier novels. Maybe as I continue the series this particular writing choice won't happen as often, and if it does I guess I'll just have to get over it, won't I? 

Again, without giving anything away, I was pretty surprised by a few of the scenes that were left out of the movie. I wonder how much time it took to pick and choose from the book, just so the movie didn't end up being four hours long? Though, now that Amazon has announced the upcoming premier of a new series based on Clancy's Jack Ryan novels (August 2018), I'm hoping it will provide the opportunity to include some parts of the stories that didn't make it into the films.

Plus, John Krasinski is starring in the new series, so that's a reason to watch all by itself. Will he be able to take Harrison Ford's place as Jack Ryan in my heart? Doubtful. But I'm willing to give him a chance!

*****

About the Author:

Thirty years ago Tom Clancy was a Maryland insurance broker with a passion for naval history. Years before, he had been an English major at Baltimore's Loyola College and had always dreamed of writing a novel. His first effort, The Hunt for Red October, sold briskly as a result of rave reviews, then catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list after President Reagan pronounced it "the perfect yarn." From that day forward, Clancy established himself as an undisputed master at blending exceptional realism and authenticity, intricate plotting, and razor-sharp suspense. He passed away in October 2013.*




*Official bio provided by www.TomClancy.com

Friday, June 15, 2018

Blog Publication Follow-Up: Was This What I Expected?

If you've been following along with me these past few months, I made the decision this year to serialize and publish a YA science-fiction novella that I'd written for a previous competition, Grave Diggers. Since the novella didn't win the contest, and the word count is a bit too long for most short story publications, The Writing Desk Blog seemed like the perfect place to share some of my work and send Grave Diggers out into the world.


With the final chapter posted last week, I finally felt some of the worry over how it was being received lift. The entire story is out there. Some readers may like it, and for others it might not be their cup of tea. But the point is, I set a goal for myself and I (mostly) stuck to the publication schedule I created. It's a good feeling!  

I honestly wasn't sure what kind of feedback I'd receive. Despite the fact that I wrote this novella over three years ago, it does happen to touch on some current hot-button issues in the media. But overall, the response has been positive and I'm so grateful to my fellow writers and readers on Instagram and Twitter for supporting me as I've prepared and published each chapter!

We'll see what happens as feedback continues to trickle in, and now I'd like to know what everyone else thinks. Have you ever published a short story or novella online for public critique? What platform did you use and what sort of response did you get from readers? Do you feel it was beneficial to you as a writer?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

*****

Did you miss any chapter of Grave Diggers? Fear not! I've linked them all below for you:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX
Part X

© Courtney Carter, http://writingdeskblog.blogspot.com, 2018

Monday, June 4, 2018

GRAVE DIGGERS - Part X (Finale)

I can't even begin to explain the chain of events that prevented me from making this post over the weekend.

The biggest obstacle, though, was the simple fact that after I re-read the original ending...I didn't like it. At all. I did remind myself that it's been three years since I first wrote Grave Diggers, and my writing style has grown and changed since then. It makes perfect sense that the ending doesn't make as much sense as it did before. So, I took the time to re-write Part X, and I'm much happier with it. 

If any of the wonderful people who beta-read this novella for me have been following it's progress here on the blog, they'll notice that the key elements of the ending are still the same. It's how everything ties together that needed to be changed.

Despite all the delays, I hope everyone has enjoyed reading Grave Diggers! Fun fact: I actually have a sequel outlined and ready to be written, but I put it on the back burner in order to focus on my story published in Carolina Crimes, and Book Project #1 (Tom's Story). Keeping that in mind, if there is any interest in seeing the story continue here on the blog (for free!), please let me know!  

*Please note, this final chapter of Grave Diggers does contain some violence.*    

Thank you again, to everyone who has tuned in these last ten weeks as I've shared this story!

*****

GRAVE DIGGERS

Part X:


Desi:

Puck and Desi were led down a short hallway and through another door. The office they entered was massive, with a ceiling that extended high up into the next level of the building. The same utilitarian polymer tiles that made up the interior of The Titan lined the floor, and all of the windows were shuttered by thick metal shades. A screen dominated the opposite wall, with the most advanced computer panel Desi had ever seen installed at its base. The panels themselves were mounted onto a raised platform that also housed a metal desk and wide-backed chair.
Sitting at the desk was a well-dressed man. His silver-fox hair was swept back from a face that would have been handsome if it wasn't dominated by razor-like cheekbones and narrow hazel eyes. They were Puck’s own eyes set into a different face. 
“That will be all.” The man’s cool voice sent the guard away. He stood, moving fluidly around the desk and down the short set of steps attached to the platform. “Miss Desdemona, thank you for coming on such short notice. I am Councilman Hilliard.” Puck’s father nodded at her before cutting his gaze over to his son. “Puck. It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it?”
“Hilliard.” Puck nodded stiffly. Desi shifted closer to him. “Why are we here?”
“No dancing around the question?” Hilliard’s lips twitched. “Perhaps these years in the military did you some good after all.”
Puck kept silent. Desi reached out and wrapped her hand around his. 
The Councilman turned and climbed the short distance back onto his platform. “You are here, because I received some rather disturbing information, which I hope the two of you can help explain.” He tapped button on the console, bringing it to life, then pulled up a series of audio files. They were all time and date-stamped from the previous week. Hilliard selected a file and pressed a series of keys on the panel.
A thin, static-filled voice reverberated against the high ceiling: “…if anyone can hear me, my name is Desdemona…I’m reaching out from the capital city of the Nation…If anyone in one of the post-Quake nations can hear me, please respond…”
The recording cut off. Desi looked up at Puck. He kept his eyes on Hilliard, but his grip on her hand tightened.  
“Imagine my shock, my disappointment.” Hilliard continued, gazing at the screen. “To know that one of my own people would attempt such a treasonous act. Thankfully, our own communications personnel were able to intercept the transmission before it could reach the outside.”
“Treason?” Puck hissed. He moved to shield Desi. “How can that possibly be considered treason?”
Hilliard whipped around. “It is treason because I say it is treason! The Council has declared any attempts to communicate with peoples outside of the Nation to be a danger to us all.” He sneered, his upper lip twisting disdainfully to one side. “For all we know, your young Intell friend could have been trying to stir up an attack against us. Or inciting a rebellion.”
“No!” Puck shouted, “You don’t have the right to –”
“The Council Decides and Provides!” Hilliard bellowed from his place above them.
Desi gripped the back of Puck’s jacket, but stood her ground as the Councilman paced back and forth along the platform.
“If the Council has decided that Miss Desdemona and her ilk are a threat to our way of life, then we shall provide a solution. Our great Nation is going to see many changes in the years to come, and now is the time to dispose of what we no longer need. The Intells have worn out their usefulness, and will all be arrested as enemies of the Nation with this recording as proof of their underlying, motives.”
“You can’t!” Desi lurched forward.
Puck grabbed her arm, stopping her from going any closer.
“What about the work we’ve done? All the research that helped rebuild the Nation after the Quake? Does that mean nothing?”
“Of course not.” Hilliard gave her his twitch of a smile. “The Intells’ work has benefited us more than you can possibly know. We are, without a doubt, the most advanced of any civilization left after the Great Quake, and now is the time to show our superiority to the rest of the world.”
Something deep inside Desi's brain clicked. She stared in disbelief at Puck's father. Puck glanced down at her, and when their eyes met Desi knew he'd reached the same conclusion. 
“Is that why the military is building a naval base in the south, to attack these other people?" Puck asked. "If all you needed was land, why do the squads only target graves and old religious sites? Why not tear down other ruins if all we were doing was making space for you to start a war?”  
The Grave Diggers weren’t reclaiming land for the expansion of the Nation. They were honing their abilities to destroy what was left of the other civilizations, taking out any evidence of the pre-Quake peoples’ belief systems while they were at it. A good squad could demolish a target site in minutes, what kind of damage could they bring to an underdeveloped city? 
“The Great Quake proved one thing above all.” Hilliard pressed a key and the entire screen filled with a map of the world as it was before the Quake. Great, sprawling expanses of land, seven continents in all with countless islands in between. “Left to their own devices, humans will cling to their imaginary beliefs over the solid and reliable abilities of their leaders.”
Another set of keys were tapped and the map shifted. Wide chunks of land dropped away into the metallic blue representing the oceans until the five present, much smaller continents of the world were left. Much like the map Sergeant Abalos kept, there were wide patches of color marking different areas of the Nation. The site of the future naval base was marked in red. Hilliard used a touch pad to press onto the red and spread it out towards the remaining portions of land that existed east of their own continent. Like a spider’s web, the red color expanded to wrap around the other land masses, cutting them off from one another.
“This is what we have been working towards.” Hilliard’s voice filled with reverence for the plan displayed above them. “The Intells’ findings allowed us to grow leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the world, no other nation has had such a devoted researchers. They were permitted to continue ‘preserving our culture’ in case any new technologies were stumbled upon in the process, but now…” He swept the map aside, fingers flying across the keys on the panel.
Thousands of files popped up, filling the screen. Records and lists and photographs stacked on top of one another.
Desi gasped. “That’s our work. All of it.” She whispered to Puck.
The Councilman pressed a button at the top of the keyboard and a new window opened, its message warning that once these files were deleted they could not be recovered.
“No, no, no!” Desi struggled against the grip Puck still had on her. “He’s going to destroy it!”
“Father! Don't!” Puck shoved Desi back and raced to the platform. He made it halfway up the stairs before his father turned.
“Father? I believe that’s the first time you’ve ever called me that. You have been spending too much time with the Intells, haven’t you?” Hilliard had a handgun pointed at his son.
Puck stopped. “There aren’t supposed to be any guns left…”
“There are certain privileges to being in the Council, my son. Privileges you would have obtained before now, had you not been so thoughtless. I assumed five years spent toiling as a Grave Digger would show you  the error of your ways. Now, I see a more direct method is requited.”
An ear-splitting crack bounced off the office walls.
Desi clapped her hands over her ears and screamed.
Puck’s body seemed suspended mid-climb on the platform steps before he collapsed like a marionette suddenly without its strings. The momentum sent him backwards onto the floor. Shocked hazel eyes gazed unblinking at the ceiling.
Desi knelt beside him, her ears still ringing from the gunshot. She saw the hole ripped through the layers of material on the right side of his chest. The soldiers never wore bullet-proof vests, because they'd never had to worry about the threat before. 
Puck’s sudden intake of breath sent a wave of crimson blood pouring out of the wound. His pupils contracted, tried to focus on the anxious face hovering above him. Desi tore off her woolen jacket and pressed it against the wound. She was vaguely aware of the Councilman, still on his platform, observing them with a critical eye.
“Puck stay awake, please!” Desi choked back the rush of tears that burned behind her eyes. She grabbed his hand and pressed it beneath hers on the jacket. Blood was soaking into the material, making it harder to press it tightly against his chest.
“There is no need for panic.” Hilliard’s tone was entirely unsympathetic, almost bored. “I didn’t aim to kill him, and he will be treated soon enough.” He turned back to the screen. “First, we must finish what we've started.”
“Stop!” Desi scrambled up the platform. Hilliard closed the distance between them and drove his free fist into Desi’s stomach. She dropped to the floor with a choked cry.
“Enough.” The Councilman straightened his tie and replaced the gun in a holster beneath his suit jacket. His steps clicked sharply on the polished tiles as he walked back to the panel. “Your obsession with ancient history has become more than a mere annoyance.” 
He clicked the highlighted confirmation square waiting at the bottom of the screen.
Desi curled into herself in horror and pain. Flashes of light flitted across the screen. The computer sought out and obliterated nearly a hundred years’ worth of data gathered by the Intells.
 Her life’s work gone in a matter of minutes.
 Sucking air into her lungs, she heaved onto her hands and knees and crawled awkwardly down the steps to where Puck lay. His blood had soaked through her jacket and was dripping down to pool on the floor.
“You can’t do this.” She gulped, trying to press down on Puck’s wound again.
The Councilman watched the last of the data fade away. “It is really for the best. No one wants a world where the people are confused about who to believe. Better to tell them where to place their faith, instead of descending into anarchy again.”
Desi wheezed around the pain in her stomach. Her abdominal muscles clenched and protested the re-expansion required to stammer out words.
“The other Council members…”
“What other Council members? I have been given absolute authority by the Council, it was their only choice unless they wanted to end up in the Prison on treason charges of their own.”
Desi straightened onto her knees, one hand still pressed down on Puck’s chest.
“I don’t understand,” She said
“I know you don’t understand right now.” Hilliard’s face was ghoulish in the glow of the screen behind him. “But you will.” He flipped a switch mounted under the rim of his desk.
Desi heard the office door open. The guards were back.
She looked at Puck. There was no hope of moving him even if the soldiers weren’t blocking their way out. Puck was still breathing, but his eyes were unfocused. His face had gone waxy pale and his forehead shined with sweat. The tears finally came when Desi clasped their slippery, blood-soaked hands together. She leaned down as the guards drew closer, pressed her lips close to Puck’s ear.
“I’m so sorry, Puck. I should never have brought you into this.” A pair of hands grabbed her shoulders while another guard pulled Puck’s body away from her. “Please, don’t forget me.” 
There was a sharp, stinging pinch on the side of her neck. Desi had just enough time to recognize that she’d been drugged before the darkness swam in and claimed her.

*****

    Desi woke several hours later with a bitter taste in her mouth and a thumping headache. A wave of nausea hit and her stomach rolled. She groaned and pressed her face into the cold floor until it passed.
“Desdemona?” Artemis’s soft voice reached her through the fog. “Don’t worry, Dearest. We’re here.” A familiar hand rubbed her back until the queasiness ended.
When she was able to sit up, Desi found herself in a small windowless room with Artemis, Edmund, and a dozen other Intells. The others were all asleep, huddled together in the opposite corner.
We’re in a cell…’ She thought fuzzily.
Desi's breath steamed in the cold chamber. She couldn’t remember a time in her entire life when she’d ever been this cold. Where could they possibly be?
Artemis put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. Desi smiled weakly up at her father, and saw a yellowish bruise blooming its way across his jaw. Twisting her head around, she realized all of the people sitting in the cell looked more than a little worse for wear. Edmund especially so. His shirt was ripped across the front, several of his braids had come undone, and he was sporting an impressive black eye.
“What happened?” Desi asked.
“The military swarmed the Village.” Edmund muttered, drawing his long legs up to rest his elbows on his knees. “We’ve all been arrested as enemies of the Nation.”
“Councilman Hilliard!” Desi bolted upright, only to fall back against her father when a fresh bout of nausea made her choke. She gritted her teeth. “He did this! I was there in his office, he…Puck!” Her eyes swiveled wildly to Artemis. “He shot him, he shot his own son! Did they bring Puck here too?”
“I’m sorry.” Artemis shook his head. “They brought you alone.”
Desi stared down at her hands resting in her lap. They were still painted red with Puck’s blood. The front of her skirt was coated in it. Scarlet strips cracked and peeled off as it dried.
“What’s going to happen to us?” She asked.
“We know they won’t kill us.” Edmund snorted. “They’ll send us up to the Prison.” He shrugged at the sour face his uncle gave him. “Rather, they won’t kill us right away.” 
“I’m so sorry.” Desi sniffed. “I didn’t mean for of this to happen.”
“It’s not your fault.” Artemis stroked her disheveled braids. “The elders have known for some time this was a possibility. The signs were there and they’ve been preparing. That’s why the Council was only able to capture so few of us.” He swept a hand out to include the other Intells sharing the cell with them.
“Everyone else escaped? Why didn’t the two of you leave?” Desi’s brain circled around the thought that her father and cousin could have gotten away.
“We weren’t going to leave you.” Edmund squinted at her through his un-swollen eye and tugged gently on one of her braids. “How much did they drug you, anyway?”
Desi glared weakly before gripping Edmund's hand. She looked back to Artemis. “What are we going to do, father?”
Artemis’ mouth settled into a grim line. “Whatever we have to do.” He took Desi’s other hand, joining them into a small chain. “The others are out there. We have to have faith they’ll come for us when the time is right.”
Desi leaned back against the icy cell wall. "Faith. Right."  

*****

Puck:
Puck was a creature of pure sensation. He felt the softness of the bed beneath him, smelled the sharp tang of antiseptic. He could even hear snippets of the conversations being held around him in calm, hushed tones. Though the words themselves weren’t always clear.
Everything Puck had been taught to believe about the Council’s purpose, about his position as a Grave Digger, about his entire world, was now all twisted and ugly. It was so clear, and yet, right now he couldn't find the will to care. He floated like this for a while, weightless and unconcerned with anything other than the immediate stimuli around him. It was like one long, blissful train ride. 
There was one moment during Puck’s stay in limbo, when a voice broke through the haze. It had taken great effort to lift his eyelids and gaze up into hazel eyes that matched his own.
“Hello, Puck.” His father had fixed him with a taciturn stare – a scientist observing a test subject that had reacted differently than predicted. “How are you feeling?”
Puck had tried to respond, but all of his energy was concentrated on keeping his eyes open. He’d blinked slowly, his ability to focus quickly slipping.
Hilliard had examined the IV bag hanging next to the bed, produced a syringe of milky liquid and injected it into the tube connecting the bag to a vein in Puck’s arm. As the solution blended with the IV fluid, Puck felt that amazing weightless sensation returning. It had been such a relief to close his eyes again, he’d barely caught his father’s last words before drifting off.  
“Don’t worry, Puck.” Hilliard had said as he emptied the last of the syringe’s contents. “You’ll feel much better soon.”  
           
*****

Puck was released from the infirmary three weeks later.
He’d spent the first few days of his recovery drifting in and out of consciousness, floating along on some powerful pain killers the army physician had prescribed. The warped bullet they'd removed from his chest sat in a little glass jar on the bedside table.
For some reason he couldn’t name yet, Puck felt a strong desire to keep it.
Beth had visited daily. Hilliard came when he could be spared from Council matters. A few of the men in Puck's squad had stopped by as well, until Puck kicked them out for horsing around with the medical equipment.
It had been nice to get some rest after nearly five years of Grave Digger work, especially with the new mission in the south due to begin soon. Puck stowed his belongings Beth had brought tohim in the infirmary back in his quarters and went to find his squad.
Adjusting the sling that kept his right arm elevated, Puck pushed open the door to the commissary. Out trickled a wave of laughter, no doubt brought on by a soldier’s current performance on one of the games.
“I’ll be damned!” Caius spotted him first. “Our fearless leader!”
The large soldier lurched to his side and slapped Puck none-too-gently on the back.
“Good to see you too, Caius.” Puck grunted.
They walked together to a table that had been commandeered by several of his squad members. He was greeted warmly all around. One of the men retrieved Puck a ration of ale, and it wasn’t long before they were begging for details of the heroic exploits that had landed him in the infirmary in the first place.
“I told you already/” Puck shook his head. “I don’t remember much, the doctors said my body went into shock after I was shot.”
“Even so!” A dark-eyed Scanner across the table pressed. “Can you believe it about those Intells? Plotting against the Nation and hiding illegal weapons this whole time! Lucky you were there when they tried to assassinate your father.”
“Too bad they didn’t catch many of ‘em.” Caius cracked his knuckles. “Should have known the rats would have a hole to escape through.”
Another Burner chimed in: “Enemies of the Nation.”
“Outlaws.” The Scanner across from Puck added.
“That reminds me,” Caius shook his head. “You remember my cousin Antoine, the one assigned to the Council guard?”  
Puck nodded, arranging his arm into a more comfortable position in the sling.
“He was assigned to help load the Intells onto the Prison train, and he said one of those freaks had blue eyes!” He knocked back his own glass of ale.
“What?” Puck frowned.
Caius’ block head bobbed up and down. “Some girl. He said when they were shutting the train doors, she looks at him and through all those braids they wear, and he sees she’s got these big blue eyes. Can you believe that? I told him he was full of shit but he swears he saw them.”
Puck felt a buzz, a tickle of something in the back of his mind. Some lone synapse in his brain tried to conjure up a pair of cerulean eyes framed by dark lashes. Eyes so blue, the rest of their owner’s face was made hazy by comparison.
Please, don’t forget me… 
Caius thumped his fist on the table. “Hey Puck, you in there?”
Puck snorted, the fleeting image evaporated before he could grasp it. He turned to Caius and smirked.
“You and your cousin are out of your damn minds, you know that?” Puck raised his glass in a toast with his good hand. “There aren’t any people with blue eyes anymore.” 

THE END


© Courtney Carter, http://writingdeskblog.blogspot.com, 2018. This is a work of fiction.