I think my favourite part of writing fiction is starting at the beginning. For that reason, I have a lot of tenth-started stories sitting around, some of which I think have some potential, others of which definitely don’t.
I hate letting good words go to waste, so from time to time if I find an old false start that I think has some value, I’ll post it in the Writer’s Journal. Here’s the first, from a sci-fi concept I was toying with that was going to explore a world of human enhancement:
—So, old Gizmo finally kicked, did he? And the cops think he was done in by someone in the lab? Well what in the hell gave them that idea? He was ninety-four for chrissakes, and halfway full of circuitry. Besides, they all love him. Even the labrats treated him like a god. It’s not like there was a bullet in his head – you said they just found him face down in that godawful slop he eats every morning. So why all this buzz about murder?
—Well, for one thing, because that godawful slop was keeping him healthier than a lot of men half his age. But more importantly: his power was out.
—So? That’s what I figured from the start. Between the pacemaker, the kidneys, the hippocampal stimulator, all those shunts on his spine – something had to give eventually, no matter how good the old man was with machines.
—But that’s just it, Dayne. They were all out. Not one electronic system was running in his body when they found him, and we both know he should have been twitching for hours as all those backups tried to get him moving again. Hell, I wouldn’t have been surprised if his corpse walked itself to a hospital – but it looks like he just shut down all at once.
—Okay fine, that’s a little odd. But isn’t it still more likely that it was some kind of centralized failure?
—You don’t really believe that do you? There was nothing centralized about Gizmo’s systems and you know it. I bet there’s a copy of Distributed Methods of Mining Cellular Energy in that case of yours right now.
—Every single system was down?
—That’s what I said. And there was one other thing. When the cops went into his lab they found something new he was working on, something he had almost finished but hadn’t told anyone about…
—Now you’re just being dramatic. The old man was always working on something new, and he never liked talking about his experiments until he was sure they were going to work.
—But this was something big. Really big.
—What was it?
—I don’t know. The cops deny they found anything important. But they didn’t know half the techs were wearing Gizmo’s Ears and could hear them from just about anywhere, and apparently the only thing they talked about the whole time they bagged evidence was “securing the device”. At one point the sergeant ordered them to “scatter some of this other shit on his worktable instead”.
—This is getting harder to swallow.
—Harder or just more painful? You know I’m not lying to you Dayne. And don’t tell me it’s crazy – Gizzy did work both officially and privately for half of the most powerful people in the world, and those are just the ones we know about. The man had secrets Dayne, no matter how well we think we knew him.
—So then what, you think the cops are in on it?
—Maybe. Or maybe whatever experiment got him killed was so obviously important that even the cops could tell it shouldn’t be left lying around. Either way we have to find out what it was.
—We do, do we?
—Okay yes fine, I suppose we do.