“Dear Beth,” Cole read, “Today’s raid went pretty well. I came back with four Lessingers and a belt of Colby-style grenades, though I think Sanderson’s starting to get a feel for my tricks. I’ll have to surprise him next time. When—”
“Wait a minute,” Sauers interrupted. “What was the date on that?”
[etc. etc., keep on reading bits and pieces of Dear Beth letters, laughing at each other over some of the stuff he says. Why didn’t he ever send them? Maybe she’s dead, maybe she dumped him, maybe the postal service doesn’t get out this far, maybe…etc.]
“Oh, no, here we go,” Jessop said, getting to the bottom of one letter. “She left him.” He started back towards the central room, reading as he walked. “’Dear Beth, The ammunition went for about…’ okay, blah blah blah, there’s a bunch of stuff in here about his trade with Card’s people, and then: ’I wish you had told me you were unhappy. I probably wouldn’t have been able to change your mind, but at least I could’ve tried.’”
He looked up, grinning, as he finished, and was greeted with the sight of Cole, Sauers, and Hartman kneeling on the ground, gags in their mouths and hands zip-tied behind them. They were frantically trying to get him to look behind him with their eyes, but Jessop could already feel the muzzle of what he guessed was a P-180 rifle on the back of his head. He closed his eyes and sighed.
“Dear Beth,” Barnaby said. “Today I captured three Balustan soldiers. It would’ve been four, but the fourth tried to run away and I shot him in the back of both knees. He bled out on the floor.”
Jessop tried to turn and look at him but Barnaby used the gun to keep his head facing forwards. “You wouldn’t,” he said, in a voice that meant he was kind of afraid that he would.
“Look on the bright side,” Barnaby said. “If you don’t bleed out, I’ve crippled you and you go home as a war hero. On your knees.”
From “The Last of the Pellosian Imperials.” This isn’t what I was working on today (some fussing with my old work, plus a couple of paragraphs on something I’ve very tentatively titled “The Stay Behind/i.e. the one with mental illness and alien takeovers”), but this chunk works to a certain extent as a full piece. Or at least a fuller one–ignoring those [brackets], which indicate any scene progression I’m skipping past for the moment. I’ll get back on track with my writing tomorrow, but this will do for now.
[And as a random aside, for those who spot them: the names of my relatives occasionally make it into my stories, as one of my uncles has undoubtedly discovered with another in-progress project. This one borrows from someone else. I used to try and keep the names of people I knew out of my stories, but then I realized that the more people I met the more annoying it got, so I just gave it up and went whole-hog–straight to the family names. Call them homages, tributes, or just an inside wink-and-a-nod, but know they’re never representative. And that there will always exist the chance that the rest of you will quietly show up over the years, uncredited. And occasionally evil.]
But what about Slick?
“Hench’s theory was by far the least interesting and in turn most probably correct. Chances were, Bridges had been traveling through the northern half of America and seen the ‘Slick Bridges’ warnings up for the icy winters, and thought it was cool. Standish normally granted more creativity to his villainous colleagues, but even he had to admit that Slick looked like the kind of guy who’d get his name off a road sign.”