Monday, November 11, 2013

Talynn Lynn: Rev 1: The ClockWork Bounty Hunter

Name: Talynn Lynn
Genre: YA Contemporary SteamPunk Fantasy
Title: The ClockWork Bounty Hunter

The clockwork dragon detonated in a barrage of fire and metal.
I yanked my sword back and shoved the shield in front of my body, but it was too late. The acid laced fire already started to melt the silver blade. I growled and flung the weapon away from my body. It settled in a muddy bog and slid beneath the surface. The dragon hissed and disappeared, transmitted back to its creator, though it left most of it’s working parts scattered around the battleground.
“Echo!” I yelled over the explosion of noise. “It’s over. You can come out now.”
My twin sister had been standing behind me a few minutes earlier, tucked away in safety, but now I fought alone in the damp muskeg. I scrunched up my nose. The acrid remnants of dragon stench burned when I breathed. I glanced around me. It wasn’t easy to concentrate on the battle when Echo wasn’t in sight. Nothing but dark shadows, where the bog mixed with cypress tress and deep caves in the distance. All I could make out was rocky crags with dark circles that looked like black eyes keeping watch over the swamp. Creepy, even for me. Echo wouldn’t have run in there. With one last look around, I walked back toward base camp, betting my cards she’s run home to the safe house.
Lopsided wooden depositories spread out toward the bog on my left and the ghetto was cramped with half rotted shanties down by the river, off to my right. The worn path was slick with drizzling rain.
 I picked through the pieces of downed airships, armor, and weapons looking for the injured. I was the only one fool enough to chase the dragon away from the safety of the city. What seemed like an invasion only minutes before turned out to be nothing more than a show of power.
Searching the sides of the road, I brushed my arm across my forehead. Black ash smeared my skin and my hand burned from the fiery exhaust left from the dragon’s spew. A wire poked out of my skin, too, and the cutaneous markings on my arm had been burned off. I needed a cybernetic artist, preferably from Chantal’s office. Her fees were the cheapest in town.
First, though, I needed to find my family and check to make sure they were okay. I stopped at the safe house that bordered the city gate and tapped the call button on the iron door and lowered my mouth to the speaker.
“Check in for Bridges 2-6-0.”
Static answered me before the posted watchman returned my inquiry.
“Number and name.”
“2-6-3 Sterling Bridges.”
Silence, followed by a beep.
One down, and three to go. I pushed through the gate and turned left, toward the terraced area. Shuttered windows and reinforced doors opened here and there. I shouted down skinny alleys as I passed by, “Echo Bridges! Are you here?”
A quiet reply came from the second alley way. “Sterling? Is that you? I’m here. Follow the brick path to the end.”
Her voice came from the opening of the mechanical depository. The faintest beam of light glowed in the dusty window. Echo emerged from the shadows. Her tousled hair didn’t distract from her dainty features. The only clue evidenced to her heritage was her steel gray eyes.
Black stains soiled her lace-trimmed bodice, and her elbow length white gloves were covered in oil and streaks of blood.
My arms tensed. “Shisters. What happened? Are you hurt?”
“Just a tiny puncture. I’m fine. But he’s not.” Echo nodded behind her.
I squinted past her into the dark shadows. Hidden partially beneath a low shelf filled with parts, rested a crumpled body. His white lab coat was covered in blood.
“A genetic transient?”
“Yes, a cute one, too. Looks like he’s about our age.”
I slammed my fist into the doorframe. How did he get past the guards?
“I bet he brought the dragon with him.”
Echo frowned. “I don’t think so. He was inside the depository when I ran in here. And, he was already wounded.”
That didn’t surprise me. Echo couldn’t hurt a fly.
“Do you think he was killed in here, or dragged in here from the alley?” I looked around the floor for evidence of a body getting dragged through the door.
“He’s not dead, Sterling.”
I stopped in my tracks. Every hair on my body stood on end. Never in my life had I enjoyed taking the life of someone else. Not even the enemy. My eyes shut tight, I breathed in through my nose and exhaled, nice, long, slow, through my mouth while I reached for my dagger inside my boot. As I took a step in the direction of the wounded transient, Echo grabbed my arm.
“Please don’t kill him.”
Her gloved hand was damp with oil. “You’re leaking too much. I thought you said it was only a small puncture?”
She smiled her innocent, girly smile. “It is, but it’s in my main artery. I’ll need repairs soon.”
“I can see that.” I glanced at the still figure across the room. He moaned softly and I squeezed the handle of my dagger tighter. “Why don’t you want me to kill him?”
Echo reached in the pocket of her apron. “I found this in his jeans pocket.”
She held out a bronze bracteates, smudged gray and red from the oil and bloody mix. I rubbed it on the smooth material of my pants leg until an etched symbol could be seen. A simple arrow shot at a lightning bolt.
“A demurrage? From the Genetics Realm.”
“What did he come here to buy?” Echo looked over her shoulder at the moaning transient.
“Obvious what he was looking for. He was in the mechanical depository. I’d say he was looking for body parts.” I started toward the shelves and Echo followed close on my heels.
“Are you going to kill him?”
I bent on my knees beside the transient. His eyes flashed open. “Oh God. Don’t kill me.”
I held the dagger at his throat. “Give me one good reason why?” Why were all transients so weak?
He glanced at me burned arm and over at Echo’s gloved hand, which was saturated by now, ebbing up her arm toward her elbow.
“I can fix that leak and I know how to repair your burned cutaneous area.”
Echo leaned close to my ear. “Do we have enough savings?”
The transient smiled. “I’ll do it for free, in exchange for you sparing my life.”
I couldn’t pass up his opportunity. We had enough in saving for one repair, not two. I pressed the dagger deeper into his skin.
“If you lie to me, trap me, betray me, or hurt my sister in any way, form, or fashion, you are dead. Any questions?”
He shook his head. “I understand. My name is Zavati Cleon. Perhaps you’ve heard of me, or my family?”
Our city’s fiercest enemy had shoved us to the edge of the world. They lived on the other side of the bog, in the neighboring realm, yet they wouldn’t be happy until we were all extinct and they owned all the land, including the worthless swamp we now called home. And this guy wanted my pity?
 “I could care less about your kind, including your family. Now, lets go, before my sister hemorrhages to death. Where do we go?”
Zavati struggled to sit. He compressed his hand over a gaping hole in his upper thigh. “I need a stitch or two before I can walk. Care to help me with that?”
I stood and searched the shelf for a bottle of healing glue. His wound sealed, leaving the tiniest ridge similar to that of a seamstress stitch. Too bad it only worked on human flesh. Echo wound dripped eerily to the floor “Let’s go,” I said as I hooked my hand around his elbow. “Where to?”
The transient stood. “I have a realm jumper. It seats four.”
I rolled my eyes. “This must be our lucky day.”
The last bit of sun slipped behind the trees lining the bog. One look at Echo told me time was of the essence. Her face paled and eyes dilated. I walked with an impatient speed.
Echo limped beside me. “I have a good feeling about him. He could have killed me.”
“Or he could be the kind that bootlegs illegal parts and dabbles in cyborg or genetic magic, striving to be the world’s next mad scientist.”
Zavati chuckled. “One thing I’m not is the one who ends up torn from limb to limb in the Clock Work Guild or is some godforsaken cyborg cell.”


  1. First line: The fire-breathing bucket of bolts detonated in a conflagration of flames and scrap metal.
    (use a bit more colorful language . . . you don’t need to take what I suggest . . . but write something descriptive about the dragon and later reveal that the thing the protagonist is facing is a mechanical dragon)
    Shorten lines such as . . .
    The acid laced fire melted the silver blade.
    . . . flung the weapon away. (from his body is implied)
    Other notes . . .
    I think you need more than “hissed and disappeared, transmitted back to its creator.” But more to the point if the dragon is detonated—blown up, it is no more which makes the sequence when he hisses and disappears into the abyss not logical. So this next point might be moot. What part of the mechanical dragon hisses? How does it disappear? In a flash? If the dragon is somehow miraculous still around after it exploded, you may want to describe it a little more.
    . . . explosion of noise . . . (seems like the battle is over and there is nothing to yell over)
    CUT “a few minutes earlier”
    . . . but now I fought alone . . . (again the battle is over)
    I would definitely like to see more of the Steampunk universe in this piece. Right now there is a light overlay. What are the characters wearing, describe the dragon, etc.
    CUT “me” in I glanced around
    You may also want to open the piece a few minutes before the dragon explodes. For example what does Sterling do to cause the dragon to detonate. It just blows up and I really don’t know how.
    Not sure what you mean by “depositories”, depositories of what
    When did it start raining. We get this several paragraphs down.
    If ash burned the protagonists hand why wasn’t it burning his forehead before he wiped it off.
    If there was a battle involving several people, there is no sense of this in the beginning. Were they fighting someone else other than the dragon?

  2. Not sure about the entrance – static implies electricity – unless you are implying that there is electricity other than coal and steam in this universe.
    As the story continues, I am not sure how other people are dressed which would signal a time and partly a place. Is this a fictional world or a fictionalization of the real word. Does it take places in the swamps of Louisiana, for example.
    You could round out the world with more details of place and time.
    We finally get some clothing detail with . . .
    Black stains soiled her lace-trimmed bodice, and her elbow length white gloves were covered in oil and streaks of blood.
    But I don’t know why someone would wear a lace-trim bodice to a battle
    What is a genetic transient? You don’t have to give the full explanation but you don’t give the reader anything. For all I know, they could have antennae coming out of their heads and big bug eyes.
    I also don’t know if Sterling and Echo are human since she is leaking oil. If they are not human, what are they?
    The beef is also unclear between the genetic transients and whoever Sterling and Echo are.
    It’s also unclear about the encampment that they live in. It seems there are other persons living there. How would this genetic transient get through without anyone else doing something about it?
    Why would Echo and the protagonist have healing glue close at hand if it is something they don’t need?
    I think there is a lot thrown into the mix here and things need to be simplified. There are mechanical dragons or clorkwork dragons. I am unsure whether the protagonist and Echo are humans or robots. They seem to act human but leak oil and are sensitive to heat. Then we have the genetic transient and this demurrage object. I don’t know who exactly is the enemy and why. So a lot of gaps need to be filled.
    This piece has pretty solid pace. There are a lot of exciting things in this short bit but I think more time could be spent fleshing things out.
    I also didn’t get that Sterling was a girl in this rewrite.

  3. I liked the changes you added to this piece, and I agree with Paco Madden that you need to ground this story to the setting, so we know exactly where it takes place. You identified the enemy well at the end. But in the beginning when you mention city, I'm wondering what city?

    Lopsided wooden depositories spread out toward the bog on my left and the ghetto was cramped with half rotted shanties down by the river, off to my right. The worn path was slick with drizzling rain. WHEN I GOT TO THIS PASSAGE I REALISED THAT THE BEGINNING OF THE NOVEL DIDN'T INDICATE THAT THERE WERE MORE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE WAR, IT WAS QUITE STARTLING TO SEE THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE INJURED AND SHE'S THE ONLY ONE LESS INJURED. COULD YOU SHOW INVOLVEMENT OR INTERACTION OF THE OTHERS SO WE GET THE SENSE OF WAR.

    Other than that, I still love this piece, and the voice and the protective sister. Goodluck

  4. Your edits have made the piece much stronger! Just a couple things: It was unclear to me whether Sterling was fighting in the swamp alone--she says she was the only one "fool enough to leave the city," yet Echo followed her, and she checks the bog for survivors.

    Also, Echo's comment about the genetic transient being cute seems a little out of place considering the seriousness of the situation.

    The last sentence needs a little editing. Zavati says, "One thing I'm not..." and then lists two things. Both the "Clock Work Guild" and "godforsaken cyborg cell" sound intriguing, but it might be best to introduce one of these at a time, to give readers a chance to digest each of these possibilities.

    Looking forward to seeing the last revision!