This is a bit of writing based on my character in PlanetFall. It’s basically what he was dreaming while in a coma from being drugged. I thought it was a fun way to retcon and flesh out his back story a bit while adding in dream elements. I wrote a large part of this while stuck in traffic for over an hour on the beltway. So sit back and enjoy a tale of futuristic life on the Roland, a spaceship in a far flung future setting.
* * *
Somebody Mixed My Medicine
Phillip Brooks tilted back the cup and felt cool water slide down his throat. Sometimes the laser welding got too hot and a break was just necessary. He had ducked out of the shop and sat down on a bench in the relative quiet of the corridor. Out of the corner of his eye he swore he saw something really, really shiny. Something big. He turned to look ut it was gone.
There was a beautiful woman standing there. Calling her beautiful was an understatement and even saying she was drop dead gorgeous was not enough. She wore a scarlet red dress which matched her red hair and Phil’s eyes were drawn to her shiny red lips. He blinked and she was gone. He was sure he had seen her before somewhere before.
He rubbed his eyes and turned around and Jensen was sitting next to him.
“Fucking XN-1s, huh? Always a pain in the ass to repair the manifold.” Jensen grinned a crooked grin at Phil.
Phil shrugged and found himself smiling. “I don’t know about that. It’s only hard if you’re lazy.” Jensen was not the kind of friend that Phil had imagined he would have but they were friends despite their differences. While Phil tried to work hard and be a good guy, Jensen was always looking for the shortcut to having fun.
“Fuck you. You gonna chase her?”
Phil blinked. “Chase who?”
“That girl. In red.”
Without warning, her image flooded his brain except she was closer than she had ever been before. Those bright red lips looked so full. He shook the image out of his head with considrable effort.
“I don’t know. Something tells me I shouldn’t.”
“Then do you want to go out after work? Come to the bar with the gang?”
“Thanks but I have to go home. Maybe next time.”
“You always say that. It’s always next time and it’s never next time. I know that you’re tight with your family. Is it because of your folks… because they died when…?”
Images of their parents splayed out on the floor of the living room. Each had adhesive patches stuck on each arm. He had turned to prevent Sarah from seeing but he was too late and she saw anyway. He remembered them laid out as the burial rights were performed. He shook his head hard before looking back at Jensen.
“When they overdosed on Tinnies. Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up.” Phil stood up and
walked back toward the shop. “I have to get back to work.”
“Sorry, man. I didn’t…” But Phil was already gone.
Sarah turned from the food processor, obviously annoyed. She looked more and more like their mom every day. It was both heartbreaking and inspiring to see. Long chestnut brown hair and soft brown eyes that went hard when the situation called for it. Currently, they had gone hard.
“I asked if you had a chance to ask your boss for a raise yet.” She said, hands on her hips.
“Yes I did. He said no.” Phil responded, looking down at the table as if it were suddenly interesting.
He could still see the regret and sympathy on his boss’ face. In that moment, Phil knew that his boss pittied him and there was no money for the raise. That had been a dead end.
“What are we going to do then, Phil? What is little Abigail supposed to do?”
Again, Phil saw something silvery shiny out of the corner of his eyes but again it was gone when he looked. “I don’t know, sis. I’ll think of something. I promise.”
“We had better think of something or we’ll end up like mom and dad.” Sarah said in a heart rending tone that made Phil look up. He saw their mother’s face superimposed over Sarah’s and he shuddered.
“Fight to Survive”
“You could earn the extra money at the fights.” Jensen said. He had caught Phil after work as they changed their clothes to go home.
“Gambling? I don’t know, Jensen.” Phil said, pulling a shirt over his head.
“If you’re too straightedge to gamble then why don’t you fight? There’s nothing wrong with a little athletic competition, right?”
“I guess not. What would I have to do?” Phil found himself curious but of course he was nervous. After all, this was illegal activities they were discussing. However, the Brooks family was in a desperate situation.
“All you have to do is beat the other guy which should be easy for a guy like you. You gotta be, what, two point one and 120 kilos?” *
“More like 125 but your pretty dead on with my height. I always said you were good at measuring on the fly. I don’t care who said what, you’re actually a good engineer.” Phil smiled.
Jensen grinned in return and rolled his eyes. “You’re going to wreck shop at your size especially with me as your manager. Trust me.”
Sarah looked at him from across the kitchen table. “This may be our only option. We’re barely scraping by and he’s right. He’s right. You are so big and strong just like Dad was.”
“I’d have to go by a different name. I don’t want to endanger the family. This is still illegal.”
Sarah thought. “I don’t know, maybe something like Rowan Daniels?”
“Rowan Daniels? Where’d you get that?” Phil asked, liking the way the name sounded when he said it.
“I don’t know, our great grandfather’s name was Daniel. Rowan was mom’s maiden name. It kind of popped into my head.”
He saw his parents in front of him and behind them all the members of the Brooks clan and the Rowan clan. They stood there staring straight ahead as if they saw something that Phil could never see. All of them were dead or lost in the shuffle somewhere. Maybe there were some of them on other ships but looking for them seemed liked a waste of time. They were so utterly alone, the three of them.
“Rowan Daniels?” Jensen asked, a look of confusion and amusement passing over his face.
For a second, Phil was sure that he could see a flash of silver over Jensen’s shoulder and then it was gone. “Rowan Daniels. Are we going to do this thing or not?”
“Yeah. Meet me at my place tonight after dinner and we’ll go and train. Time to turn you into a killing machine.”
“I don’t kill, Jensen.” Phil said, calmly. However there was a flamethrower intensity to each syllable. He could feel the heat rising in his core slightly. He didn’t have an anger problem and maybe if he repeated that over and over it would be true. Control was important.
Jensen grinned easily and shrugged. “Come on, Daniels. It’s just an expression.”
Eyes of a Child
“But you said that it’s never good to fight, Uncle Phil.” Abigail said, clutching a pretty run down doll.
Phil sighed and regretted the fact that children are little tape recorders and seem to remember everything you say at the worst moments. Abigail was such a good girl and her tough life had given her every reason to go bad.
“Sometimes you have to fight, Abby. You may want to fight sometimes when you’re mad but that’s not when you fight.”
“When do you fight then?” He flashed back to every moment that she looked up at him with those wide eyes and asked him a question. He had to get this right. Besides, she was asking the question he had asked himself again and again.
“When it matters. When it’s for the people that matter. I hope you never have to fight.”
Feel the Fire, He’s Entering the Ring.
Jensen swatted the back of his head. “Stop whining, ‘Rowan’. It’s almost fight time. Don’t screw it up, I have money on you winning.”
“I’ll do my best.” Phil stripped his shirt off and clipped the Sign of Morrison to his belt for all he good it would do in this place. Jensen gave him a look but said nothing. Though they were friends, religion was one of the many things they agreed to disagree about.
“She’s in the audience.”
Phil’s heart wrenched as he snapped to attention. “Who?”
“The lady in red.” Jensen grinned.
Mentioning her conly conjured her image. So beautiful. So tempting.
“I don’t think she’s a lady. I wish you’d stop mentioning her.” Phil said, his face darkening.
“Alright, alright. I just thought Rowan Daniels might be interested.”
Phil looked up at that. “Well, he’s not.” It felt weird referring to his alter ego in the third person.
“Anyway, I have a suprise for you since you insist on going incognito.” He pulled out an old datapad and typed a few things into it and there was a sudden tingling sensation all over Phil’s back and arms. He looked down and there were lines and shapes drawn all over his skin. “I hacked your nanites to generate some old school tattoos. Don’t worry, I can erase them after the fight. What do you think?”
“I think it doesn’t look like Phillip Brooks is anywhere near this fight.”
“Almost.” Jensen grabbed a bottle of water and dumped it over Phillip’s head, his longish hair now literally had a wet look. Combined with the tattoos, the hair made him look completely different like a beast waiting to be unleashed. The two of them walked out to the ring together.
“He who makes a beast out of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man.”
The crowd cheered as Phil approached the ring, he focused on acting tough which is not very hard when you are big and strong. The crowd’s cheering did make him feel good for a little bit. He had always been a background player on the Roland and when they cheered he felt like a star. He could see his opponent, a grim-looking man with platinum blond hair. It was time to focus.
The fight began and his opponent was all punches and kicks. He was a lot faster than Rowan Daniels was and he could feel the genesis of new bruises all over his body. With each hit his opponent landed, he could feel his own frustration rising. Finally, with a growl, Rowan swatted a punch aside and drove his forearm into his oponent’s face as hard as he can. There was a loud crunching sound and then red dripped everywhere. Red crept in from the edges of his vision.
Then he was standing over his opponent and a pool of blood and the man wasn’t moving. Nobody was moving. Rowan could feel the stillness of the room around him before he turned on his heel and walked from the ring slowly. Behind him, the crowd erupted into cheers and applause but his heart was beating too fast to take it all in.
“I want to be a good man. I want to see God.”
The fights had happened almost every night. Phil could see every opponent in his mind’s eye like a slideshow of pain. One after another. A winning record was difficult to maintain.
“You’re doing really good, Phil. We finally have enough money to survive. We can even be a little comfortable. Thank you. I know how hard it is on you.” Sarah said, those hard eyes went soft whenever she looked at him now. It was not hard to figure out why with all of Phil’s cuts and bruises. It had been a hard year of fighting.
“You’re facing a big guy tonight.” Jensen said in the dim light of what passed for a dressing room.
“Great. Just what I need, a long fight.”
“Not this time. You’re taking a dive.”
“A dive?” A dark cloud seemed to roll out overhead and Phil’s spirits sank.
“You lose on purpose. Karl Leonid’s orders” Jensen said. He didn’t look happy about it. Neither of them did.
Rowan stepped out into the ring to near deafening cheers. He looked into the eyes of his opponent. As usual, he did not want to know the man’s name. It somehow made the guilt easier the next day. The crowd reached a fever pitch. In the next moments, the match would begin. Phil didn’t know if Rowan Daniels could throw a match. He had always focused on winning.
The two of them charged each other. There was a sudden high-pitched whine and then the world filled with white light. After that, everything went black.
In the darkness, there was suddenly sensation. Phillip suddenly felt restrained and weightless. Whatever was happening, it was not good.
Heaven Knows, We Belong Way Down Below
* We’re in Canada, Bitches. Phil is 6′ 9″ and 275 pounds give or take.