I have lost count of the days since the break-in. I have been travelling for most of them, constantly moving and constantly just a little behind the thief.

Think about how you would feel. You wake up and find the room where you sleep has been violated in the most crude of manners. Things you cared about have been brutalised, or are simply gone. How would you feel? I had thought I might feel shocked, or outraged. Instead I feel cold, and numb, and the terrible need to have back what has been taken.

It wasn’t hard to find him. It wasn’t hard to set off after him, to decide to catch him myself and make him give up the things he had taken. The difficult part was always the travelling.

I got close a couple of times. I was delayed in London after some locals misunderstood my purpose and attempted to defend the criminal. I remember being in Southampton, watching his ship leave port, waiting to be swept away with fury and instead feeling nothing but the chill of the wind across the dockside.

We crossed paths again in Los Angeles. He was having money troubles, unable to sell what he stole and unwilling to simply part with it. I came within minutes of getting my hands on him then. Mere minutes.

I’m closer now. Close enough to feel his presence. He knows I’m here because he’s been running. He hid. In a desert. Assuming that my lack of local knowledge might slow me down or somehow buy him time. I can hear his ragged, desperate breath now. I must be almost on top of him. He must be almost derranged with fear to have climbed to the edge of a cliff, he must know there’s no escape now. All I can think about is how much I want to express how much his actions hurt me.

I shove aside some foliage, and there he is. His clothing is tattered and battered. He looks like he has not slept in days, perhaps longer, and he’s clutching…can it be?

The shock of it makes me pause. I reach for him, imploring. He kicks out at my hand, shrieking and unhinged, flailing until one of his hands meets the empty space behind him.

“Take it, then, you monster!” he shouts, his voice high and tearing at the air. He throws his bundle, which I lunge to catch. And there is the fury, and the joy, and the awful sorrow flooding into me as I cradle the golden canopic jar which holds my heart.


“Passengers” DVD Extras #2 – Moira and Dr. Curtis

After comments from Donald Uitvlugt on Twitter, I wanted to explain some of the harder choices I made in the writing of Passengers.

Moira and Dr. Curtis were originally one person – Moira Curtis, groundbreaking surgeon and experimenter.  I wanted to have a female character for Shaun to bounce off and to talk with so we could see some of his personality, but immediately I had a problem.

Doctor Curtis was always going to die.  Shaun kills Dr. Curtis to prevent her undoing the surgery that has restored his mobility and I was uncomfortable having a female character who was slated for death.  It was bad enough that Shaun is going to assault her to demonstrate that he’s no longer able to prevent himself transgressing some social boundaries.  So something had to change.

Luckily, realism came to my aid.  Surgeons are almost never involved in patient recovery outside the occasional consultation or brief consultation.  Rebuilding a body is one thing, teaching it to walk again requires a whole different set of skills.

So along came Moira, the physiotherapist.  I wanted to keep a joke that cropped up when I asked Scrivener for a Scottish name and it blithely suggested “Akira”, and working that in as a personal revelation gave me the chance to create an informal relationship for Shaun to explore.  It needed to be less formal than the relationship with Dr. Curtis because no matter how friendly Curtis seems, this is a character with a certain remove and detachment.  It wouldn’t be believable for Shaun to grope Dr. Curtis’s boob.  At least not to me.  Shaun defers to Dr. Curtis, and it made sense to keep that deference.  It’s also important that Shaun have a level of fear about Dr. Curtis.  After all, he’s got to be aware that the good doctor could probably turn him off.

I was pretty uncomfortable writing a female character who existed for the sole purpose of having her breast groped, so it was important that the situation be written the right way.  I ran my thought process past GeekGirlCo, who was really helpful in helping me handle an awkward situation appropriately.

Moira was important because I needed to show the escalation of Shaun’s condition and the cost it’s having on him.  In losing Moira, he loses a friend and confidant.  It pulls Shaun further away from our sympathies, because as nice as Shaun’s frontal lobes might be he’s got baser instincts lurking in his mind somewhere.  I think most people have those less civilised thoughts, whether we want to call them primal urges or by a more clinical name, and the difference is that most of us know when it’s OK to act on them.  Shaun doesn’t have that luxury, but it has to cost him or he can excuse it and ignore it.  In short, assaulting Moira is a step that takes him closer to calling Dr. Curtis.

And yes, having a woman in a nurturing and healing role while a man gets to be a decision maker is a sexist position.  It’s a trope I walked right into, but hopefully it doesn’t play out too badly.

“Passengers” DVD Extras #1 – Deleted Scenes.

The following is the alternate ending I wrote because the original was too abrupt.  It was cut back because of word count, and because I eventually decided that a stark ending with no looking back was better.  I wanted the suggestion that Shaun no longer had a conscience, and that we’d been a shut out of his head as he’d been.  As it turns out, a third re-write should have been made to fix the ending I used.  Hindsight.

Shaun shook his head.

“No. There has to be something else we can do.”

“Shaun, eventually you’re going to hurt someone. Do you want that on your conscience?”

Shaun was back in the chair, staring resolutely at the floor.

“I don’t want to believe you,” he said “but I can’t ignore what you’re saying. Get the sedative. Get the consent form. Do it now.”

Dr. Curtis stepped back into the room to find Shaun gone.  The plastic chair, legs in the air, was against the wall.  Dr. Curtis experienced a moment of panic and forced himself to breathe slowly and think.  Shaun couldn’t have more than a minute or two’s head start.  He could still be caught.

The reception desk at the main door confirmed that Shaun had passed that way and Dr.Curtis took a moment to pat his jacket pocket.  The syringe was safe.  He stepped out into the evening and went where the lights and people were, reasoning that Shaun would try to lose himself in a crowd.

He caught up with Shaun at an intersection.  Dr.  Curtis had caught sight of him minutes earlier, watching with a kind of detached horror as the man shuffled and twitched along.  If you knew nothing of his condition, you would have seen in Shaun a man clearly struggling with himself.  His mouth was locked in a rictus, lips pulled back, and his eyes were wide and wild.  Dr. Curtis watched for a moment as Shaun teetered on the edge of the kerb and then put his hand on Shaun’s shoulder.  The contact seemed to defuse something.

“Help?” said Shaun, shying away from the doctor’s hand “it’s hard to talk.  Did you bring the shot?  Please?”

“It’s going to be OK, Shaun,” said Dr. Curtis, pulling as much warmth and reassurance into his voice as he could muster.  He rolled Shaun’s sleeve, aware that the man was weeping.

“sorrysorrysorrysorry” said Shaun.

Dr. Curtis patted Shaun’s arm and then found himself moving.  He lost all sense of place for a moment and then found himself standing several feet from Shaun, facing him.

“Oh god” thought Dr. Curtis “I’m in traffic”.  Something loud happened beside him.  He turned to look.  There was a sudden feeling of pressure, a sound like an explosion.

From the safety of the kerb, Shaun watched the drivers brake and swerve.  He watched the rag doll body roll and roll and come to a stop.  He listened to the shocked cries and shouting.  He smiled, he turned and he walked away.