Now They Run From Valen Greer

This is from another writing challenge I threw on my first blog site.  The winners got to pick any topic for me to write about.  First came Norse Gods at Starbucks.  Then came this one.  This story has since changed completely and been submitted and rejected a couple of times.  But this is the first roughdraft version I did in answer to the challenge.  It did get me a new critique partner–so all is not lost. <g>

 ________

Here tis. Normally, when I write a short story, I let it simmer a bit on the back shelf then polish and rewrite. You guys are getting a first draft here because it has already taken me so long to answer Rachel’s ( Rachel Vincent )
challenge.  

Kids and conference– ready excuse. (g) (The last topic winner piece is here The Write Snark: Norse Gods at Starbucks )

So, my new CP’s challenge topic was: Write about someone finding a way to track down serial porn spammers and exacting revenge.


My twisted mind went to work. Hope you like…
—————————-

Thousands of living streams lined the screens. Blues, reds and golds. They turned and twisted, tangling together in jetting surges like nests of Earth snakes. Valen kept one eye on them, watching for that perfect link while she continued preparations. One was all she needed.

She worked the controls with precision. Five years on this sorry excuse of a barren planet. Five years of hiding… of planning.

All of it culminating in this one act.

She’d spent the afternoon checking supplies. Jero knew to reattach himself to the charger at eighteen hour intervals. He would replace the bags that fed her, watch the power and environment. She’d built the Biotadome herself and the years of testing had proved it had few problems, if any. It sustained all life. It would sustain hers.

One of the screens kicked on. “Are you still going through with this?”

She didn’t want to see him. “You have to ask?”

“I can hope.”

Something in his voice made her look. Jennings hadn’t changed much. His gaze straight, intense – it was the first thing that had once attracted her to him. Intelligence and iron control burned in those dark eyes. He didn’t have a handsome face but Val had never been one for conventional good looks. All craggy lines and sharp angles, his features were a little too intense for most women. Until they got to know him anyway.

“The last time you rang, Bracklin had picked up my trail. Can’t move this time, so I’m hoping you have other news. Surely he’s given up by now.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have sliced his finger off.”

She snarled. “Maybe he should have kept it out of my face.”

“You told him it was his job to go after the Killer Porno Mafia. Killer Porno Mafia, Val? Really.”

“They believe me now.”

He nodded. “Yeah, they do. It’s the only reason he hasn’t come after you with a legion of hit men.”

“It would take a legion to break through my security. Plus, you’re the only one who knows where I am. You gonna tell em?”

“You know I won’t.” He ran a hand over his hair and leaned close to the screen. She saw that new lines had formed across his forehead. “Listen. I don’t want you to do this.”

She narrowed her eyes at her former co-pilot. “I don’t have time for this.”

“It’s been five years! What’s a few minutes more?”

She moved her face inches from the monitor. “You think anything you say can change my mind? We had sex, Jennings, that’s it.”

“It was more than sex and you know it.” He let out a deep breath. “Val, listen to me. Have you ever stopped to think that Luce would have been the last person to want this?”

“What would you know?”

“You forget. I watched the vids. All nine years of them.”

She froze.

“Val, you need help.”

“You have no right – you had no –“

“The hell I didn’t,” he said through clenched teeth. “I was her father.”

“You had nothing to do with her. I carried her. I gave birth.”

“And then you went in and used that genius, technological mind of yours to save her. To make her a real little girl with a real chance at life.”

“So she was mine.”

“Yeah. “ Jennings nodded his head slowly. “But she would have been mine, too, if I’d known about her.”

Val looked away. Guilt began its sleazy, digging crawl into her head. Surprised it had gotten past five years of blind fury, she shoved it aside. Reaching out to turn off the screen, she didn’t know what made her hesitate. She met his eyes again. “I’m sorry. You would have loved her.”

“Yes, I would have. I love her mother.”

Val switched off the screen.

Taking a deep breath of the stale, mechanical air, she stared at the trembling in her fingers. Luce had had her fingers. Smaller, lifeless replicas of her own hands. Val had meticulously moved the tiny muscles, keeping them loose… alive.

It wasn’t the only attribute of Val’s Luce had inherited. They’d both had long, black curls. Val ran an agitated hand over her now smooth scalp before slamming the Motile Helmet on. Her invention, the precious invention, that had allowed her little girl, a physical vegetable, to have a real, virtual world. The invention that had allowed her, Val, to be a part of that world.

The memory sliced into her head, burning the backs of her eyes.

She caught the flash of a madwoman’s frantic stare in the screen to her right. She didn’t recognize the pale, rigid face. All hints of feminine softness had fled, unable to sustain a life fed by vengeance. She eyed the helmet. It barely resembled the one of old now. It was more streamlined, more efficient. It wouldn’t leave tiny blisters on a little girl’s ear.

Breathing heavily, Val checked the monitoring system then hooked herself up, the old-fashioned way, to an IV. Jero would insert the feeding tube later.

The alarm sounded.

She was out of time. She watched as her other invention, one Bracklin and his men would slice off many fingers to have , latched onto that perfect stream. She’d known all it would take was one over-confident spammer. There was always one who didn’t believe he could be tracked. They forgot that there were still good old, regular hackers left in the worlds.

All they cared about was getting more subscribers and now, like at all times, they sent nasty viruses zinging through the atmospheres. Nearly untraceable, the viruses entered through home VR systems, imbedded into the brains of subscribers and planted an addiction that scraped the gut raw.

Eventually, one would hook into a prone. One of the thousands using the original version of the Motile Helmet that Val had invented for them. The helpless prone whose brains reacted to that virus in ways she could never have predicted.

Red hazed her vision and the trembling in her hands increased to violent jerking movements as she held another needle over her arm. She had to calm down– didn’t want to miss. Jero came to stand silently behind her, the stream of sunlight, just enough to sustain the tiniest bit of life on this planet, glinted off his metal exterior. She hadn’t bothered to make him look real. Not for what she needed. He was a long working powerhouse of a bot and he’d make sure her body was well cared for.

“It’s now or never, Jero.” She slid the needle into her vein.

The serum worked fast. Within seconds she was in the virtual world she’d created for Luce. She hadn’t changed a thing. Her home with Luce sat still and silent while birds chirped and ocean waves crashed against the shore. The only thing she had changed were the connections to other prones. Those people had been Luce’s only connection to other people outside of her mother.

This world smelled empty.

All the vids were there, especially that last one. She’d never let Jennings watch that one. Val stood next to them and waited for the prick of the second needle. She barely had time to feel it when ice quickly turned her blood solid.

Just before grabbing onto the tail end of that perfect stream, she tapped into one of her screens and stared at her still body.

She was now one of the prone.

Like Luce.

She didn’t say goodbye, just turned and fled through the lines and it was like flying again. For the few seconds it took to get to the first spammer, she felt a euphoria she hadn’t experienced since that first flight, before Jennings, before the military discovered her talents and stuck her in a lab… before Luce.

She ran her memories of her daughter like a film reel through her mind as she sailed after her first target. When she followed to the beginning, she didn’t hesitate as years of black, rotting hatred took over. She slammed Luce’s last vid full force into his mind.

Val had thought she’d laugh when his screams began.

She was too busy screaming herself.

***

“I can’t believe you wanted to marry that crazy chick.”

Jennings didn’t look at the medic who stood behind him. His heart was too busy racing, his palms sweating. Agony buzzed low in his stomach and sent spots across his vision. “She wasn’t always like that.”

The guy chuckled. “She’s a skinny, bald freak with scary eyes.”

Jennings shoved out of his seat and grabbed the stupid kid by the throat. “Shut the hell up. You have no idea! Valen Greer was something special. Not only a genius but at one time the most loving, wonderful person. She was like no one else.”

The kid struggled and Jennings let him go.

“Okay! Hey, I’m sorry. It’s just hard to see that. Did you see all the metal hooked into her body? She looked like a machine.”

Jennings closed his eyes. “She is. It’s the only way she survived. She wasn’t joking with that silly name – Killer Porno Mafia. A little porn is one thing.. no big deal. It’s when they realized the possible rewards after adding one small detail that it got out of hand. They are huge, deadly and have more money than all the wealthiest worlders combined. Those viruses sink into brains and take root.”  

“Except in the prone.” Jennings nodded. Everyone knew what they did to the prone now. That’s why the spammers stayed on the move. They ran from the Federation Law.Now they would run from Valen Greer.

Feeling the combined memories from the vids of his daughter clump in his throat, he stared at a screen shot he’d taken and framed. “If they get into a prone, especially a young innocent like Luce, they cause a psychotic breakdown like nothing you can imagine. Luce died from hers.”

The kid’s expression softened. “Oh, I see.”

 

He gritted his teeth. “No, you don’t. No one can. Not even me. Val’s been hooked into those machines a long time. Long before Luce died. She created and built the world where the prones gathered. She lived in it herself most of the time. She was hooked into Luce’s VR world when it happened. She was hooked into her daughter.”

 

Horror darkened the medic’s eyes. “How the hell did she survive that?”

 

“Sheer fury. Madness. She stayed alive to exact revenge. She found a way to absorb her mind into the system.”

 

 

“But that’s only theory. So far, no one who’s tried it has been able to come back to their bodies…”  

Jennings turned back to his screen and flipped on the one he kept for Val alone. He stared at her still body, at the bags upon bags of supplies refrigerated behind her. Years of food and medical attention inside a dome that would create everything she needed. Years to spend chasing down the bad guys one after another.

 

“She never planned to come back.”

4 Responses to Now They Run From Valen Greer

  1. Pingback: Blog Traffic and Kalli’s Beautiful Pipes « The Write Snark

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  3. relliott4 says:

    Comments from original blog.
    27 comments:
    Dana Pollard said…
    I may be off the wall here, but this a great start to a story. Seriously. I can’t see anything but what you’ve written, but this is good.

    10:51 AM
    Useless Man said…
    This Porn you talk of. Is it on the internet?

    12:05 PM
    Rinda Elliott said…
    Not really. I had a small challenge on this blog and had two winners. Told them I’d write about any topic they gave me. The first is under “Norse God at Starbucks.” This was a short fiction piece I wrote “for fun” just for the readers here.

    They are very creative with these topics. Rachel had to shut down her guestbook because it was crashing under the weight of serial porn spammers so she asked me to write about someone tracking them down and taking out revenge.

    This “killer” porn, heh heh, doesn’t exist. Good thing, eh?

    BTW folks, I have no problems with porn, not when it’s of the “consenting adults and no one is getting hurt kind”… but I’m not fond of the spammers.

    Thanks Dana. I went dark with this one. (g)

    12:17 PM
    NYC TAXI SHOTS said…
    i would like to see some of your t shirts

    1:30 PM
    Rinda Elliott said…
    Ah, that’s easy, choose the link to the right that says The write snark online store.

    I’m currently redigning the place but everything you see is still available.

    1:33 PM
    Rinda Elliott said…
    Wow NYC taxi shots. I followed you back. I could write hundreds of stories from your photos!

    Most of my fiction comes from portraits. You have some great ones.

    1:36 PM
    Laura said…
    I want to know what happens to Val.

    2:38 PM
    X. Dell said…
    Gritty. Really gritty.

    Useless man, you know good and darn well such porn doesn’t exist.

    But wait a few years.

    2:48 PM
    X. Dell said…
    BTW, the story’s emotionally provocative, and it kinda lingers.

    Damn you.

    Excellent job.

    2:50 PM
    Rinda Elliott said…
    Hope gritty is good. (g)

    Laura, I did my job then.

    I read over it and saw booboos. Must stop.

    I’m a serial editor.

    2:52 PM
    Dana Pollard said…
    Rinda, you do dark well. And I mean that in a good way. 🙂

    4:11 PM
    Heather Dawn Harper said…
    Sci-Fi Punk, this rocks. 😉

    8:57 PM
    Rayke said…
    Wow. Excellent.

    You know one of those “what the hell?” sighs that you give out while opening your eyes really wide and blinking a bunch of times, usually following something compelling that kind of blew your mind at the end?

    I just gave one of those.

    What? Just me?

    You should do a follow-up.

    Also, I like porn.

    12:47 AM
    Rinda Elliott said…
    Thanks Heather,Rayke and Dana. 🙂

    7:17 AM
    Betty S said…
    Damn. My heart is pounding. You have got to finish that story. It’s a book, baby. A GD movie of the week. Holy Cow.

    7:40 AM
    Rachel Vincent said…
    Holy crap, Rinda! I’ve been away from the computer most of this week and didn’t realize you’d posted until you told me. This is awesome!

    At first I thought it’d make a great first chapter to a novel but at the end I realized it should stay as a short story. It would lose some of the impact of her self-sacrifice if you followed her around for a while more, at least in my opinion.

    But you should submit this. A lot. And RIGHT NOW. Let me know if you need any help polishing. But most importantly, do NOT let this sit around and grow mold in your basement. Get it out there.

    I could totally see this as a prologue to a story about someone else who has to go into that virtual world and Val winds up helping her. Or something. You could sell this to a magazine, then write a novel in the same world, and people would already be familiar with it.

    Sorry. I got all excited. You have a fantastic imagination! Finish your WIP and run out and grab an agent, so I can start paying for your work!

    9:42 AM
    Rinda Elliott said…
    I’m not sure it’s something to submit since I already published it here. I just did this one for you guys. 🙂

    I’m not rereading it because I’m usually funny about waiting a good month and then polishing. Didn’t take the time with this one, so I know it needs work.

    But, I am working on the book and will go out and find an agent. I may even submit to yours. (g) My book isn’t as gritty as this, but I’m thinking that’s the problem with it. Will think on that one.

    I’m with you– it’s a short story. Just leaves a person with this image of her spending the rest of her life searching down the people responsible for her daughter’s death. You don’t know if her body will live long without her mind or if she’ll find a way back or she’s too crazy anyway.

    I love writing this kind of thing.

    10:27 AM
    Rachel Vincent said…
    I can see why you like it. You’re good at it.

    The only personalized rejection I got from an agent told me that my story wasn’t fast-paced or gritty enough. I rewrote the first chapter and a month later I had Miriam. I guess the problem was just with that first 15 pages. But Stray still isn’t as gritty as this.

    I would read a collection of this type of short stories from you. Keep this. After you’re better known you might be able to put it in a collection. I’d hate for this not to be avaliable to the public.

    10:58 AM
    Kelli McBride said…
    Lord Rinda! What an outstanding story. Just enough tech to be believable, and just enough info to give us an understanding of what’s happening, but it leaves us with plenty to occupy our imagination, letting us fill in the blanks with our own interpretation of what may have happened to Luce.

    And the whole helmets and VR idea – fantastic!!

    I agree with everyone else – you have to keep working on this. As a book, it might be a “find Val” series where the stories focus on different people trying to find out what happened to Val, with her popping up maybe occasionally to help or add a twist.

    You are so talented!!

    3:57 AM
    Rinda Elliott said…
    Okay, before I get the big head (g), I must admit that it’s more of a learned thing than talent. It’s taken me many, many years to find my voice. So many, it was starting to get embarrassing.

    But, thanks so much. With polishing, there will be a tad more tech and probably more angst. I do so like that angst.

    8:50 AM
    Lyn Cash said…
    excellent, sweetie – excellent!

    Happy Mother’s Day. *smooch*

    11:08 PM
    Sara said…
    I read your short story on Friday but was so caught up in my wedding cakes that I didn’t have time to comment.

    Val and Jenning’s story is utterly heart wrenching. He loves her, would forgive her anything, even the loss of never having met his own child. Her grief and rage is so immence that the reader can’t help but share it with her. Rinda, how did you do that in 1864 words? Pull the reader in so deep.

    That’s why I love romance. Crave it. Because in spite of the obstacles, in the end they have each other. So I’ll just pretend that this is chapter one of the world’s greatest romance.

    It may have taken you a while to find your voice, but woman, it’s coming through sweet and clear now. Like Yo-Yo Ma’s cello. And it’s addictive.

    Have a Happy Mother’s Day.

    6:59 AM
    Heather Dawn Harper said…
    I read it for the third time today. I can’t wait to read the polished version.

    2:14 PM
    doc-t said…
    wow…. that caught be by surprise… I was expecting something completely silly and off the wall…

    good story!

    6:47 AM
    Rinda Elliott said…
    Sara, this wasn’t supposed to have a secondary love plot– Jennings wasn’t in the original crazy notes for this thing. He popped up when I was typing in the draft.

    I didn’t even think of this as a romance, but a dark story of self-sacrifice…

    Cool.

    Doc– one reason I’ve had such trouble settling on a genre is that I like to write both funny and dark. It’s not easy to mix the two.

    Heather, you’re more brave than I am. I reread and saw editing issues fast… I don’t want to edit it here. This is original. The polished version will probably change it quite a bit.

    8:25 AM
    Anonymous said…
    This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
    3:19 PM
    ringgold said…
    Interesting Blog. Thanks.

    Sincerely,

    Pat

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