DX Novel Excerpt

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DX Novel Excerpt

Postby Hanover Fist » Mon Jun 03, 19 8:29 am

They touched down on a wide clearing of cut lawn between several groomed topiaries, apparently maintained by bot mowers. The courtyard was dark but lights were on all around the Du Clare estate and in the Chateau itself.

Jock lifted off quickly to circle the perimeter under the cloak of night. It was eerily quiet, yet the abandoned property looked charming, even inviting, lit up and glowing like an opal, alone for miles in the middle the of unlit rural countryside.

Nicolette stood gazing up at the Chateau. JC looked at her for a moment, still dressed in the dark gothic leather outfit she wore in the club, standing resolute in the cold night air not even shivering, the ghostly pallor of the makeup on her face shimmering silver in the moonlight.

She snapped out of it when he approached, turning to face him. "I had not wanted to see this place again." She said plainly yet painfully.

"Why not?"

"I was afraid it would be like this." She gestured around her, stepping onto the cobbled pathway. "Not a stone out of place."

"You'd rather Majestic 12 had burned it down?" He asked, following her. She stopped ahead and turned around, cautiously keeping her distance from him.

"I would rather..." She sighed as if suddenly annoyed with herself. "No," she said weerily. "Only in novels do old places crumble to dust... when their spirit is lost."

"Your mother?" JC asked. But she went quiet as she stood before the enormous mansion, gazing up toward the large windows lit high in the distance, her intelligent eyes roving them absently in thought.

Then she turned back to him suddenly, her expression cold & focused once again. "Lead the way." She said. "I no longer have a key. We must find my mother's room, and possibly a secret room where she did all her work... a place she kept hidden even from me."

They walked along the courtyard, passing the large oak doors in the front entrance, doubtlessly locked. She looked around the lit walkway, following him but still keeping her distance. JC had the distinct impression she was carrying a concealed knife or a small gun on her. Walking slightly aside to keep her in view, he kept himself prepared to draw his pistol.

They passed under old willow trees groaning in the soft night breeze. She laughed to herself as they walked along the side of the Chateau.

"Crazy," she said, nostalgic. "I lost my virginity out here. I believe Mom was out conspiring to get me into La Sorbonne at the time."

He ignored her, looking for an entrance, a side door or maintenence passage if they had a groundskeeper or automated help. They came to the back of the villa, where a giant stone maze stretched for half an acre away from the house. Facing it was an old wooden door that led into the back of the Chateau.

"Mom hated this maze." Nicolette said presently. "The only one who spent time in there was the gardner. Mom and Everett used to sit out here on the patio sipping martinis and plotting to take over the world." She shook her head, smiling. "That's how we got in this mess."

JC shined his eyelights on the door, which was slightly collapsed, boarded up with lumber across the top and bottom.

He withdrew the gilded hilt of the dragon's tooth. It zapped out, the glowing tungston burning dark blue around a white hot center of the vaporous, perfect blade. Slicing up through the center of the wooden door, it collapsed in two and he kicked the remaining splintered wood aside.

"Oh lord!" Nicolette cried as the door came crashing down into the rear entryway of her childhood home. He stepped inside first, as she stood looking in sourly at the mess. The blade reduced to a rod and the rod receded into the hilt and he holstered the charger sheath once more into his belt.

TONG TRANSMISSION
"Pulling up the floorplan." Tong said, wheezing slightly again. "This is an old Victorian summer home built during the Third Republic."

JC received the file containing the blueprint. He wondered if receiving this would trigger another trace response from Icarus.

He superimposed a scaled 3D layout of the original model of the estate over his eyeview, center to his HUD GPS, in order to make transparent lines through the doors and walls around him until they fit into a perfect grid at each doorway and bend. He could see the whole house in gridded outline as he walked through it. The compass kept everything perfectly centered, even if he moved his head fast enough, he only noticed a slight jump in the grid as it compensated for the lag of reorienting the center position of the projection live.

Nicolette stepped inside behind him as he entered the grand foyer; a wide room with crystal lanters on the artesian walls above large tapestries, paintings & portraits. They noticed several conspicuously dusty blank spots on the wall where something had been taken down, likely looted.

"A good place to start would be my mother's bedroom upstairs." Said Nicolette, repacking her cigpipe. Together they moved through the Chateau; he gaping around in silent awe, she familiar with everything, yet still patiently following him and puffing multicolored scented smoke from her compact cigpipe. She would remember things aloud to him as he explored. Her voice reverberated richly around the empty halls, as if it still belonged there.

"My mother decided to move to the country for her work and for privacy...."

The first room JC entered was a cozy den with large Afghan throw rugs. Along the walls on both sides were tall hickory bookshelves lined with hundreds of out of print hard copy volumes. Priceless artifacts alone. On the other end was an escritoir with a personal desktop terminal. JC walked over to it and switched on the holographic laserscreens. It was a new model, with touch response.

From behind him Nicolette said. "I don't know if this helps, but I used to use the computer during the holiday visits. The login is Nicolette and the password is Chad."

JC almost looked back at her, but didn't, typing the login. He went to her email but only two messages were there. One showed a conversation between her and her mother. And another, more recent message from Chad Dumier. The very same revolutionary he had met in the catacombs. He read that message first.

[]

Next he read the other convo.

[]

He saved the emails to his datavault log and shutdown the terminal. He turned to her, still saying nothing, and walked out the other door to the next room. She went on reminiscing aloud.

Suddenly a loud synthesized voice broke into his cochlear microphone.
"WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? YOU WILL FIND NO ONE TO HELP YOU HERE. THE BODY OF BETH DUCLARE HAS BEEN VIVISECTED AND PLACED IN CRYOGENIC STORAGE." It had been an almost overpowering roar in his ear. JC stopped in the middle of the dining room at one end of a long supper table next to a bricklaid hearth fireplace. He reached for a weapon, waiting.

"It sure is quiet." Nicolette said finally, when she finished talking and noticed the echo of her own voice was the only other sound. JC, still slightly shaken, finally spoke since entering the Chateau.

"So you left this place before it happened?" He asked delicately.

She blew out purple smoke as she sighed. "My mother and I were no longer speaking at the time of her death."

They stood alone in the giant room, pausing in their search. He waited for her to continue, listening for other sounds, to see if it was a trap.

"She and her Illuminatus cronies were always pushing me into things!" She went on heatedly. "Like how I was a rotten student, but that didn't stop her from enrolling me at La Sorbonne. I suppose I was a stand-in for the world they never got to create."

She sat down on an intricately designed bench with a rose colored cushion against the fireside mantle. She looked down at it and smiled ironically as she crossed her legs. "My mother had this couch flown in from Portugal. She spent a fortune. The exact same thing she could have got at La Samaritane except that this one was grazed by the bottoms of a royal family."

When nothing happened JC turned away from her and stepped through the swinging door to the kitchen. Nicolette followed after him and went on talking.

"The maid always did the cooking." She said, swiping dust off the stove. "But my mother always picked the wine. She was the only one with a key to the cellar." Flicking dust off her fingers she pointed toward a latched door at the bottom of stone steps leading under the house from the kitchen.

(Note: she wore fingerless nylon fishnet gloves & black tipped nail polish)

He passed over it, aware he was being directed subtly. Then he noticed a contraption on the far end of the kitchen, a clothed wicker basket inside a steel lift shaft with an automated pulley. She noticed it too.

"When I was a little girl..." she said, smirking into her hand bashfully. "I used to play in the dumbwaiter. It led to my mother's room. It's a miracle I didn't break my neck." She walked over to a small switch on the wall beside it. It went up swiftly as she pressed it. She faced him and shrugged.

"Think you can still fit in there?" He asked.

She frowned. "I... think my mother used to leave a spare copy of her room key around. Let's look upstairs."

They made their way to the mahogany steps and went upstairs. The upstairs had an oak finish with matching wooden flooring. She walked over to a table on a balustrade overlooking the front entryway and switched on a lamp. "I think my mother kept the spare key up here inside a small vace." She lifted one of the ceramic pots with flowery designs and turned it over. A soft-key chip dropped out of it onto the table. She picked it up and took out her nanokeyring, placing the chip inside the slot to save a copy of the indented combo. It ejected, she pocketed the chip then set the nanoreader on her keyring to reproduce the exact keyshape, closing the flipkey then opening it again when the light turned green.

Then she lead him down the hall over to her mother's room, unlocking the door with her nanokey. As the door flung open she gasped and went in. He followed her inside, seeing the great master bedroom still furnished and looking fresh, as if the servants had kept it clean even after their master's death, as if to honor her.

"Oh! My mother's room! It's been years since I've been in here! It's exactly as I remember! And - OH! - Look!" She pointed toward a giant picture low on the wall above a small nook with cosmetic supplies and personal mirrors arranged there. "That was my mother's favorite painting! OH the hours she would spend looking up at her priceless treasure. I can't believe the assassins didn't take it!"

He felt as though he were being given a tour of history. More of a museum than a chapter out of her life. He became aware of how much younger she was. Only by three years, yet in that time so much more life she recalled in precious memories. He wondered if the few tragic images he remembered were even real memories at all. Or just artificial implants, like those shaping his body, turning his hair light brown and his eyes bright blue. A predetermined set of contrivances like the brushstrokes in the painting.

He went over to it. It was a Renoir, an original, perfectly preserved. So rare it was rumored to no longer exist except among the most exclusive of private collections. It was Day In The Park, painted in the 17th century and curated in Dutch and French galleries through nine European royal ancestries.

As he examined the canvas, he noticed the bottom of the frame levitating half a centimeter off the wall. He placed his hand under it and gently glided the picture upward on a track, revealing a small hidden compartment behind it. Nicolette gasped again. Among the jewelry & heirlooms kept in there, rare trinkets, Graziella figurines & porcelain lladdro models, he found a handheld electronic notepad. He picked it up and turned it on. It needed no password. Apparently no one had found it, this stash had been another of Beth's carefully guarded secrets.




(CONCERNING THE INFO BETH LEFT BEHIND THE PAINTING & BEHIND THE BED & WHEN NICOLETTE SAYS "IM GOING TO STAY TO GO THRU MY MOTHERS THINGS" SHE FINDS THE MATERIALS SHE NEEDS TO TAKE OVER AS THE HEIR TO THE SECT)
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DX Novel Excerpt

Postby LenFANI » Thu Aug 29, 19 8:57 pm

BTW, did anyone who read the excerpt get the "in" joke relating to another famous or infamous fictional pirate also brought to life by Disney?

-Ann C. Crispin
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Re: DX Novel Excerpt

Postby JoshuaM » Mon Sep 16, 19 3:30 pm

That went completely over my head. I'm not even 100% sure what joke you're referring to. haha
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