Monday 1 July 2013

Redlined: the Machinery of Mars

Welcome to the third Xeroversary. A slightly different, quieter, more introspective affair this year. Every day this week I'll post an extract from one of my works in progress. A little something to whet your appetite for the future, I hope.

Redlined is a working title, for a novel originally titled the Machinery of Mars. I'm still not sure which title I prefer. The story takes place on Mars, during an era of dissent and dissatisfaction. It's currently stalled at 30,000 words and already needs some significant reworking in places.

One of the main characters, Amelia, is the daughter of the head of Mars' biggest weapons manufacturer, Brigh Munitions. Early in the story she survives an assassination attempt. The next day, she is kidnapped and wakes up the following morning in an unfamiliar room...


Amelia heard the quiet bleeping of the keypad and turned as the door slid open. A man stepped in, his face illuminated by the weak light of the rising sun.
She blinked, but there was no mistaking him. His proud nose and intense eyes, the deep cleft of his chin. The hint of dark stubble at the edges of his bald pate where the last vestiges of hair held out. He looked at her from across the room, studying her.
"Father!" Something kept her from going to him. "What's going on?"
"You look so much like your mother, you know."
She didn't know. She didn't remember her mother, had been too young when she died, had only seen pictures.
Something was wrong, and more than just the bare bones of the situation. Then it clicked. He was too short, only average height. She should have noticed it straight away, but the surprise of seeing his face had thrown her.
"You're not my father."
A cruel half-smile played across his lips, very unlike her father.
"Very quick, Amelia. I'm impressed."
"Who are you?"
"That is a very good question, my dear. One I have often asked myself."
His accent was a close approximation, but he lacked the decisiveness and strength that was in every syllable her father spoke. Her father's words were every bit as powerful as the weapons his factories churned out. This imposter's voice was more languorous, and Amelia had the distinct impression he was toying with her.
"Michael Brigh took what was mine from me. He forced me to reinvent myself, over and over again. He destroyed me, and now I shall return the favour."
"You won't get anywhere near my father."
He grinned, then a ripple washed through the skin of his face, smoothing his features, wiping her father's image clean. It was as if a flesh coloured sheet had been draped over his face, pulled back from the barest hint of a nose, wrinkle and personality free, with the weakest contours of cheek bones and chin. Beady eyes glinted from shallow pits.
Her stomach clenched with nausea.
Dark hair sprouted from the top of his head and new features shifted into place on his face. She recognised him now as one of the Tarling guards from their apartment security.
"I can get anywhere I want, my dear. But I'd be more worried for your own skin if I were you."
"If you were going to kill me I would already be dead."
He laughed. "You really are so clever, and yet ridiculously naive. I failed to have you killed once before, don't think I won't go through with it next time, if it happens to suit my plans."
Amelia paled at the memory of the bullets punching into the cracking, shattering glass.
He went on. "You were lucky last time. Your burglar boy saved you, and spoilt my plans. So," He clapped his hands together, "I need new plans. I might trade you. Or I might kill you. I haven't decided yet."
"Why tell me this?"
"Sentimentality, I suppose. Not something I usually subject myself to."
His face shifted again, the flesh tightening and lifting into finer features. The dark hair receded back like water down a plughole and blonde hair swelled in its place, curling down past his face and spilling across his shoulders.
For a moment Amelia thought his face was becoming hers, but it was subtly different, older, more poised. It was the face she saw beside her father's in the wall frames. Something inside her sank and stole her breath, held her heart.
It was her mother.
No. It wasn't. Anger rose.
"What are you?"
"I am what your father made me."


  1. Old grudges, a clever girl, and the red planet. Good choices! Personally, I like the Machinery of Mars title, it has old-school SF glamour, but Redlined is taut, and this seems like it will be a thriller. Good luck going forward!

    1. I know, I like both titles. I may even drift towards the title: subtitle combo.

      Redline is an emerging music scene in the local Martian slums, by the way. And both the slums and the music have their parts to play.

      Thanks, Becky. =)