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RVA: The Red Vixen at Sea, Part Six

And now we're finally into the brand new material.

* * *

Before allowing herself to go to sleep, Melanie attached sensor pads to Rolas’ forehead and chest, syncing them with the first aid kit’s monitors. If he would have suffered a seizure or stroke in the night, the alarm would have awakened her and the medical band she wrapped around his upper arm would have injected an anti-coagulant automatically.

Once she was finally assured of his safety, she allowed herself to lay down on the bed beside him, her exhaustion overwhelming her to the point that she never remembered laying her head on the pillow.

When Melanie awakened the sun was already shining brightly through the portholes. She blinked muzzily, focusing on the clock first, which said it was late morning already. She rolled over, to find Rolas’ side of the bed empty, the medical band and monitor pads lying in a pile on a nearby shelf.

Issues, Rolas haz emCollapse )

State of the Royce

Health: Saw the sleep specialist yesterday, and after some confusion over which was the latest at home study he'd looked at, agreed that I have at least mild sleep apnea and should get fitted for a mask and a CPAP machine. It'll be be a couple of weeks before I can get back there for a fitting.

House: Heat pump still running. Which I'm grateful for since it'll be in the triple digits counting humidity this weekend. We're already on an Orange air alert in Baltimore today.

Writing: Still grinding slowly on The Red Vixen at Sea. I'm hoping to post and all new excerpt in a couple of days. Between the heat pump and other stresses my sleep has been shot to hell recently, and I've only just begun to recover my energy.

Apollo Day

Forty-seven years ago on this day mankind set foot upon another world for the first time in history. A feat not repeated in the last 44 years, since the landing of Apollo 17.

Sigh. I know probes are safer, and can provide much the same data, and are much less expensive, but still...
July 5th: Come home from work early because of a doctor's appointment. House's inside temperature 76 degrees. No big deal, we turn the a/c up during the day to save money.

Later that evening, note that the temperature is up to 78, when it should have been going down. Worse, the fan stops turning on the heat pump. Call AHS to arrange for repair.

July 6th: Repair guy comes out and pokes around. Figures out we need a new compressor. Cost of the new compressor and labor is covered by $75 service charge. Cost of the coolant for the compressor is going to be $585 for seven pounds of the stuff.

July 10th: After a couple of miserable nights we spend Sunday in a hotel room.

July 11th: Compressor arrives at repair shop. Schedule installation for Wednesday.

July 13th: Guy comes to install compressor. Figures out that our fourteen year old heat pump isn't compatible with a 2016 compressor. Guy apologizes and promises to come over tomorrow afternoon with copper piping and a pipe bending tool to fit it in. With the weather only getting hotter we retreat to a hotel again.

July 14th: Guy's boss calls to say he's had a family emergency and can't over today but will be over promptly at 7am. We stay in a hotel room again.

July 15th: "7am" works out to more like 10:20am. But after four hours work the compressor is installed and we finally start cooling the house down.

Today: Wake up and come downstairs to find the heat pump off and the inside temperature at 74 degrees. We usually set it to 70 for overnight. I check outside and find the compressor running but the fan isn't, so I flip the breakers so the compressor doesn't burn out.

I also start crying. Ten days of this and we're back to square one. Call AHS to complain, they call the contractor, who of course isn't available on the weekend. Argh.

After a bit I get the little window A/c unit we'd tried to use in the kid's bedroom and set it up in the living room. [1] This time around I make sure to have a pan underneath it so it doesn't soak the floor. It's a dinky 5000 BTU unit so it doesn't do more than maintain the room at about 80 degrees going flat out.

Around 2:15pm I'm talking to my on the phone about the situation, warning her we may have to come over and sleep at her place to survive. While I'm talking to her just to test things I flip the breaker back on for the heat pump.

Bastard turns on like it never had any problems.

It took about six hours but we're finally down to 72 degrees in here. I'm leaving it at that for the night. Still want to have a tech look it over to try and explain what happened in the first place, but for now I'm just happy our house is livable.

[1] Our homeowners association doesn't allow window a/c units, so we cheated and just shoved it against the screen with the body of the thing inside the house. Which gave us a very wet rug as it started condensing as it cooled the air. After two days of this we had to turn it off.


Note: The is the last of the old material, suitably altered for the change in location. I'm still on the fence about the amnesia subplot. It's probably one of the sillier Romance cliches out there, and medically unlikely, but I'm also rather fond of the possibilities it allows.

* * *

Exhaustion overcame her grief and fear, and eventually Melanie fell asleep, rocking in the bunk like a cub in the Mother Goddess’ arms. That meant when the Windskimmer slammed itself onto the beach of the island she’d been aiming for, she was thrown out of bed and onto the cabin’s deck, still wet from water sloshed into it from the storm. Sputtering and cursing, Melanie got unsteadily to her feet, hauling herself topside.

The sailboat had beached itself on a wide, sandy shore, a nasty grinding sound coming aft as the propellers dug themselves into the white sand. Melanie slapped the shutdown button the console, stopping the motors and the awful sound. Above her head, the sail snapped in the wind, now reduced to much more sensible five kilometers an hour, while the rain had abated to a steady drizzle. In front of the bow, some ten meters up the beach, stood a thick forest of trees with fan shaped leaves.

Going by the computer map, the island was perhaps three kilometers long and two wide, rising to an elevation of fifty meters at its highest point. A notation in the system didn’t even give it a name, just a numeric navigation designation and a note with its place on the list of places requiring ground exploration.

Melanie shook herself, flinging wet, salty droplets from her fur. Then she headed up to the bow, releasing the anchor winch and hauling both anchor and chain up the beach, until she could wrap the chain around the thickest tree she could find and jamming the anchor into the sandy ground, securing the boat firmly. By the time she had finished and made her way back to the Windskimmer, the storm had ended, the wind and rain dying down completely.

She hauled herself back up onto the boat, her gait ironically unsteady and swaying now that the deck was still. Plopping herself down on the bench, Melanie considered her options. A sailboat carrying the Governor General’s brother and sister-in-law disappears in a storm, she thought. They’ll be searching for us. But how soon?

They had only been three days into their fortnight trip, with no specific destination planned. She hadn’t seen Rolas checking in with anyone on the com the entire time they’d been out. Would the search be delayed until the week was up? Longer even? She mentally added another two days to allow for worry to build up in Salli’s mind. Then she added another week to allow for Rolas’ youthful habit of remaining at sea for a month or more at a time. Then she started thinking about Rolas’ body sinking beneath raging waves and began sobbing again.

Damage ControlCollapse )
Note: Again, no major changes in this section. Just correcting some grammar and awkward wording.

* * *

The painkillers Melanie had taken were finally starting to kick in as she finished pulling the last knot tight on the ropes now binding Rolas to the mast. At this point she wasn't too proud to admit she enjoyed hearing his grunt of discomfort as she knotted it off. Her left eye was swollen and her head was still pounding terribly from the blow that had knocked her to the deck. The only good thing was that the sky had gone grey in the past fifteen minutes, sparing her from squinting against the sun.

Her husband's paws were crossed and bound behind the pole, as were his ankles, forcing his knees wide apart. Just for the hell of it she'd wrapped more around his waist and bare chest, and few turns around his neck, not tight enough to restrict breathing but enough to force his chin up. Rolas was refusing to look at her though, his eyes staring out over the deck to the sea beyond.

“Better?” she asked, sitting cross legged in front of him. Rolas stretched and tugged, pulling at the ropes, testing for give and finding none. I may hate sailing, but I do know a thing or two about tying knots, Melanie thought with satisfaction.

Now if she could just remember the Safe part of Safe, Sane and Consensual.Collapse )
Note: Not too many changes here, just some minor corrections and adding details from Shadow of Doubt.

* * *

“Do you want that anti-nausea patch now?” Rolas asked a few minutes later, as Melanie pushed herself up off the catamaran’s railing, wiping her muzzle clean with a wet washcloth.

“I’ll be fine,” she grumbled. Nevertheless she took the sealed packet from him, reading the warnings on the back carefully, before ripping it open and pressing it to the inside of her left ear. It was the most convenient spot if she didn’t want to shave a patch of fur off her pelt.

“As much time as you’ve spent in zero-g, I’m surprised that the ocean is bothering you so much,” Rolas said, helping her over to a padded bench at the fore of the catamaran.

“You don’t sway in zero-g,” Melanie replied. She looked out over the water, as the drugs settled her stomach. The catamaran was slicing west through the small chop at what Rolas assured her was a relatively quick ten kilometers an hour. The sun had set a half hour before, dropping below the horizon with a suddenness that had startled her. It had reminded her painfully of orbital sunsets she’d viewed from the bridge of the old Scarlet Claw.

“That’s a point,” he agreed. “I didn’t enjoy learning to spacewalk when I was doing my Service tour. The suits we had to wear always felt terribly claustrophobic, even with the 360 cam projections inside the helmets.”

“I never learned to handle zero-g. I spent my Service years with a forest mothering team,” Melanie said. “We got a lot of exercise picking up deadfalls during the spring, to lessen the chances of a forest fire.” She glanced sidelong at him. Rolas was sitting beside her, but keeping a slight distance from her side of the bench, his stance not encouraging a private cuddle at the moment. Now probably wasn’t the best time to ask the questions in her mind, but his mention of his Service years was the only opening she’d had since they had left dock. “Speaking of the Service, how did you ever meet that remarkable fellow, Cannonloader?”

“I don’t wish to discuss that,” Rolas said, his tone brooking little argument.

Among other thingsCollapse )
Rolas’ “vacation” turned out to be a boat. Worse, it wasn’t even a boat on a different planet.

“That’s a boat, Rolas,” Melanie said, careful to keep a smile on her face. Rolas had actually gone to the trouble of blindfolding her after he’d thrown their bags into the skimmer. They’d flown what seemed like two hours, landing at a cluster of cheap looking pre-fab buildings on the western coast, set on a beach near a small dock that normally serviced the fleet of survey submersibles taking stock of Greenholme’s oceans. Evidentially he’d been eager to keep things a surprise. Because otherwise I would have been telling him exactly where to stick this idea.

That wouldn"t be the worst thing to happen on this tripCollapse )

Review: Penric and the Shaman

Summary: Four years after the events of Penric’s Demon, Penric, Temple Sorcerer of the Bastard, has grown from a somewhat directionless youth to a dedicated servant of the White God. With aid of his demon, Desdemona, he’s advanced in his studies and has settled into a comfortable existence serving the Princess-Archdevine of Martensbridge. This grows slightly less comfortable when he’s assigned to aid Senior Locator Oswyl, agent of the Father of Winter, who is on the hunt for a man who is both a suspected murderer, and a shaman, dedicated to the old ways of magic that existed in the world before the Five Gods became ascendant.

Review: It’s a measure of Bujold’s considerable talent at writing characters that a story so dedicated to people listening to each other can still be compelling. Penric appears amiable, but he’s got a mind sharp as a tack. Oswyl starts as a somewhat harried investigator, but he takes pains to point out that he’s searching for a suspected murderer. He’s on the hunt, but not blind to the truth.

Meanwhile, Inglis, the suspect in question, is less a desperate murderer than just plain desperate, appalled at his own actions and searching for solution. He’s a shaman, but as much a scholar as Penric, previously using his abilities to try and rediscover ancient shamanistic methods of healing, in order to record and reproduce them (a lovely nod to scientific investigation, typical of Bujold even in her fantasy series)

When they all finally come together, the solution to the conundrum presented relies not on violence but on listening, something which Penric excels at, and on Inglis regaining his shaman’s balance.

Readers of the previous Penric novella might be disappointed that there isn’t more interaction between Pen and Des this time around, but on the other hand the narrative opens up to multiple viewpoints, allowing readers to get an “outside” view of Penric from Oswyl and Inglis, which I found more satisfying.

As always, Bujold delivers a lovely story with characters you’d like to spend an evening with. Here’s hoping this won’t be the last Pen and Des tale in the Five Gods universe.

Highly Recommended.
Restarting this story, since after further thinking I realized it really had to be set on Greenholme with its unexplored frontiers, not Foxen Prime.

PG-13 for a couple of F-bombs, domestic drama, and discussion of character sexualities.

Youthful mistakes behind the cutCollapse )

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