Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Revisions and Cut Text – Part 4 of 5

I have about 7 to 10,000 words of cut text that I removed from Redwing’s Gambit during the revisions process. Once I erased Dan Daget’s character, I restructured the flow of the different perspectives and ensured that they read correctly. The biggest reason for the revisions, however, was to reduce any extraneous worldbuilding or plot hooks to keep the pace strong. With this being a novella, that meant minimizing certain aspects and also changing the strength of the relationship between Violet and the security chief to one of hidden, but mutual, feelings for one another. This first bit was altered because the spying robots was less important than Xax or Edna’s kidnapping.

After pressing him for more information, Edna learned Talus’s collection of robots were wired to do all sorts of things. Not only could they clean the ship and make dinner, but they were also excellent spies. Edna was dying to know what Talus was charging for information, but so far he kept that a secret. This may be her first mission, but it was clear someone was paying him a lot of money to keep tabs on the rest of the ship. Mind you, she didn’t care what he did.

Dan, oh Dan, the character that had to be slaughtered on page. *sniffle* This is one of the chapters that was hacked to pieces. The kidnapping required a change of pacing to keep the momentum going through to the end. That meant some of the mystery and explanation had to be reduced in order to keep the suspense happening and the world/character building downplayed. It also dives more into the nanites and the original plot. Yes, I was going to create a fake love triangle, but the challenge with doing that, is that Xax’s life is in danger. I sped up the kidnapping and had her snatched right away in order to escalate that feeling of doom.

Here, for your enjoyment, is a draft of a lost chapter.

A Lost Chapter from Redwing’s Gambit

The medical wing on the Haldis was situated halfway between Cass’s quarters and Talus’s domain in Engineering. Dan didn’t think Violet needed an entire section of the ship to herself, but he wasn’t about to argue with a former high-ranking officer of the Arsubaran military. She was the only crew member he really respected and the only other Arsubaran on board he’d consider mating with. ‘Course, he would never mix business with pleasure. Not to mention, Violet would never let romance get in the way of her research, either. She was married–to her data.

Compared to Cass’s exotic appearance, Violet was a plain, sturdy woman, the kind he imagined growing old with. Her earthy hues closely matched the tone of his brown skin. While his hair was black, hers was as white as Mount Talaana back home. He enjoyed talking to her, but he suspected she didn’t. He always felt like he was interrupting her research. Come to think of it, Dan couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t working: something they had in common.

“Violet? You around?” The waiting room was filled with piles of crates and unmarked boxes. Curious, he opened one of them, but he never had the chance to see what was inside.

“Looking for a boost?” Violet grabbed the box out of his hands. “Didn’t think you were the type.”

Dan stood his ground. He wished she wasn’t all business, but there was nothing he could do or say to convince her to lighten up. As far as he could tell, the doctor hated him. “I’m not. Here for Cass.”

A puzzled look crossed the doctor’s stern features. He tried not to smile; he almost always found Violet more attractive when she was confused. “Probably because it didn’t happen very often,” he scolded himself. Violet didn’t just like to have the answers, she obsessed over them. Naturally, it drove her nuts when she didn’t know what was going on. “She usually comes down here herself. Anything wrong?”

“Our conversation about Syllis gave her a nasty headache.”

“Ah,” Violet nodded grimly. “Follow me. Her medicine’s in the back.”

The pair wandered through a maze of cartons until they reached a leafy green structure; the small enclosure was so high it touched the ceiling, yet sturdy enough that it didn’t collapse. Dan wondered if it had something to do with her research; he suspected the portable lab was military-grade.

Violet’s slender fingers pressed a series of codes into a control panel. The front of the box dissolved as if it was made of thin air.

“Like my lab? Cass has been complaining about headaches for weeks, so I’ve been developing a new vaccine. Tough to spot symptoms of space sickness out here, but headaches are definitely one of the warning signs.” It was obvious Violet preferred her own company to that of the crew. The way she expressed her loyalty to them wasn’t through idle chatter, it was through her work. And he loved her for it. “Get in.”

“Sounds good to me.” Dan couldn’t help but grin. Alone with Doctor Violet Dunn in a little box? Cozy.

Once inside, Violet tapped the side of the box and the door rematerialized. Curious, he examined the expensive equipment; they were trapped together in a highly sophisticated biohazard lab.

“Hey, Doc. Where did you—“

“Shut up, Dan.” Violet’s blue lips were pressed into a thin line and her body was rigid. If he didn’t know any better, she was pissed at him. What in oblivion did he do? “You have no idea why I’m angry, do you?”

“Does it look like I do?” Women. At this point the only thing he could do was keep his mouth shut until she figured out whatever bug crawled up her ass. Dan wasn’t the type to back down from a fight, but he’d rather let Violet have the upper hand. She was his doctor and a former high-ranking member of the Arsubaran military. There was no telling what she’d do to him on her own turf. Was he being a little jumpy? Probably, but the thought did occur to him that he was drugged earlier. He wasn’t the type to take a hit and go down that easily.

After a few minutes, she finally stopped glaring at him. “You want to fill me in, Doc?”

“No need, I guess.” Violet relaxed her stance and leaned against a long table. “I’d like to try something else now. Dan, how would you feel if my life was threatened?”

“That’s easy. I—“

Violet wagged her finger. “No need for words. Just concentrate on your feelings, okay?”

Between the two of them, Dan didn’t know who was acting weirder: Cass or her. Still, he was dying to know what they were keeping from him. Did one of them prank him? “Fine.”

“Let’s try this again. How would you feel if I was dying?”

The thought of her body lying broken and bleeding on the ground made him feel… uncomfortable. He was able to keep most of his emotions in check, but it was difficult to mask the deep ache in his chest.

“Good.” Violet craned her neck and gave him a peck on the cheek. “Now, how would you feel if I kissed you?”

That reaction was a little harder to control. What was she up to anyway? This was not the time to be screwing around.

“I’m not playing at anything, Dan. What I’m doing, is the job you have been.”

Shit. Was she reading his thoughts? By the gods, there weren’t supposed to telepaths on board. Cass would be furious. What could do this? Some kind of new drug? If Violet could read his thoughts, then she knew how he felt. How he really felt. About all of them.

Dan chose his words carefully. Violet may be able to read his mind, but she couldn’t control what came out of his mouth. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you developed one hell of a drug. Nice trick.”

“Oh, it’s no trick. They’re nanites. Illegal, but necessary in this case.”

Dan grimaced. “When’d you start using those things?”

“Right after Twist got on board.”

By Dan’s calculations, that meant she had been reading the crew’s thoughts for weeks. The implications were severe. Violet had a bone to pick with their client, a Ken Reeg who preferred to be called “Vinnie.” Vincent Twist was the new High Saldralla, and it was their job to transport him safely to his new home on Illia. While the Union of the Saldralla had an open government any alien race could hold office in, the Ken Reeg weren’t exactly known for their valor or their political prowess. As far as Dan was concerned, they were an Arsubaran sub-species, born traitors, pirates and thieves.

“Why didn’t you come to me sooner?” Dan asked. “Everyone suspects Twist has some other angle going on here. An elected office on some backwater planet? Please.”

Violet shrugged. “Cass had her reasons. Besides, this lab is a lot more secure than your quarters.”

The news pissed him off. His employer knew there was a security risk and placed her faith in a doctor over the chief of security. Neither one of them had any right to cross that line. It was his responsibility to keep his crew safe and his alone. Why the hell weren’t they letting him do his job? “Hey Doc, my pride’s bruised. Got something that’ll fix that?”

That got to her. On the surface, she wasn’t as emotional as Cass, but he knew Violet was a lot more sensitive that she wanted to be. “No, Dan. There isn’t.”

“Then let’s get on with it,” he said. Maybe they wouldn’t be in this mess if they included him from the beginning. “Who else knows about the nanites?”

“Cass and I are the only ones who’ve taken them. So far, my ruse has worked. Everyone else thinks I’m working on a vaccine, so they don’t suspect we have nanites on board. We’d like to keep it that way.”

“Good idea,” Dan nodded. “What kind of trouble are we in? Personal or professional?”

“Both, probably.”

“Explain, please.” Dan crossed his arms. “You know, for your chief of security.”

Violet punched up a data file on her computer. “Right after we picked up Mr. Twist, Cass received this message. Take a look.”

A bizarre set of yellow characters blazed across the holoscreen. Either it was written in a language Dan wasn’t familiar with or it was encrypted. “What does it say?”

She pressed another button. “Look again.”

The letters shifted to form phrases written in Standard Galactic, the galaxy’s most common language. Untangled, the message read: Curse the Haldis and its crew. You’ll never make it to Illia alive.

“Well,” Dan said thoughtfully. “We’ve gotten threats before. What’s so special about this one?”

“I traced its point-of-origin. The message came from somewhere on board this ship. Ever since Cass got it, things haven’t been quite right. Small things like a frayed wire here, a missing sock there. Pranks, too. At first it was nothing, but then the hyperdrive broke–“

Dan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “We can’t jump to hyperspace and you couldn’t be bothered to tell me? What’s wrong with you?”

Violet slapped him hard across the face. “Don’t you dare, Dan Daget. You may be chief of security, but you are not in charge here. Cass is. She knows how you feel about her, so she ordered me to clear your name before we asked for your help. Besides, from what I hear, you’ve had your own problems to deal with.”

“Am I the only one on this ship who doesn’t have any secrets left?” Dan didn’t bother to rub his jaw. He refused to let her know just how much she hurt him.

Violet ignored him and continued like nothing ever happened. “As I was saying, Cass believes someone has been sabotaging our mission, and she thinks they’re on this ship. It could be one of the crew, or it could be a stow-a-way.”

For a split second, Dan wondered if Cass was giving into her paranoia, but then he realized she had good cause. The Haldis had a fair amount of artillery and could maneuver well enough, but it wasn’t equipped for a fight, which was one of the reasons why Redwing Securities claimed they rented it in the first place. To the powers that be, the Haldis was the only way their crew could safely transport the High Saldralla without drawing attention to the newly-elected politician. Well, that and the fact they were flying in a low trafficked part of the disc-shaped galaxy. With their hyperdrive broken, it’d be several days before they’d reach an outpost or a populated area.

“I wish Cass would let me deal with this. All this running around behind everyone’s back,” Dan said, shaking his head. “I don’t like it.”

“Do you remember the last time she did?” Violet snickered. “We lost half our crew, damaged our ship and lost the cargo. Your little escapade cost Redwing Securities a fortune. Why do you think our route was pre-approved this time?”

True to protocol, Red Wing Securities pre-programmed a safe route and flew a couple of decoys just to be on the safe side. Dan was still not convinced headquarters was capable of dealing with the dangers out in the blackest reaches of space. Most of their navigators were math geeks obsessed with calculations. If the numbers added up, then their flight trajectories were approved.

“That was not my fault. How was I supposed to know we crashed a Ryjyllian ceremony?”

The doctor waved him off. “That’s all in the past now, but it is part of the reason why Cass decided to take matters into her own hands. This job requires a little more finesse, especially now that we’ve lost contact with headquarters.”

For whatever reason, the Haldis stopped receiving messages from Base not too long ago. Their pilots, Splish and Oogle, reassured them communications would be back up and running in no time. Splish explained that an asteroid belt was interfering with their communication, one that Redwing Securities didn’t account for.

Dan grunted. “Why now? Why this mission?” If he could find out what the attacker’s motives were, he might be able to set a trap for them. Right now, there were too many angles to explore. “You think these mechanical failures and my pranks are connected?”

“That’s a good possibility, but it’s hard to say.” The doctor shrugged. “Other than you, me and Cass, the rest of the crew is still pretty green. They don’t have the same history together we do, so it’s hard to tell. And Twist? The message doesn’t even mention him by name. That’s odd, don’t you think? There’s no ransom note, no demands, no nothing.”

“Oogle and Splish were both recommended by Redwing Securities, so it can’t be either one of them. They may not look like much, but those two Tetsuashans could fly this piece of crap through a Devalkamanchan mine field. Talus? He may be an arrogant Dolom, but he wouldn’t do anything rash. He’s got way too much pride for that.”

Violet shook her snowy head. “What concerns me is not the mechanical stuff. It’s the other kind of sabotage, Dan. The ugly kind. The one that can’t be fixed.”

“Come again?” As far as Dan was concerned, the only way to deal with a saboteur was to kill them before they murdered you. “You’re ex-military and, if the rumors are right, you served in that war against the Urseminites, too. A couple of cracked seals and this ship–this civilian ship–could spin off into the black, never to be heard from again.”

“What about broken trust? Is that in your tactics manual?” Dan could feel the anger coming off of her in waves. Locks of her shoulder-length hair were starting to curl, too, a sign Violet was losing her calm. “You sit in your quarters and do your little push-ups and your crunches, but you have no idea what’s been going on outside your quarters.”

Dan slammed his fist on the table and inched his body closer to hers. “You like what you see, don’t you?”

Violet grabbed the back of his neck and hissed in his ear. “Someone is sabotaging this crew, Mr. Daget. Whoever it is knows us intimately. They know all our weaknesses, our strengths: what we want, what we don’t.” Pulling him close, the doctor revealed her worst fear. “Don’t you see? Our enemy is trying to crack this crew apart, bit by bloody bit. We’ll never make it to Illia if we can’t trust each other to work our way through this.”

“Doc, I don’t buy that. Do you? That’s kind of extreme.”

“Just look what they’ve done already. A couple of pranks and you fly off the handle so fast you’ve alienated everyone else on board. Me? I can’t even talk to my assistant let alone ask her to help me with my research. That doesn’t even cover half of what’s happened to Cass or Oogle.”

An uncomfortable thought wormed its way into Dan’s mind. Maybe that’s why someone was playing pranks on him. To get him to come unglued, so he’d snap on somebody else, like Cass or…Violet. “I’m sorry, Doc. I…I didn’t think…”

“No, you didn’t.” Violet ruffled his hair and let him go. “Just like every other security chief I’ve ever met. But I don’t think I can blame you this time. This client of ours has everyone stressed out beyond belief. He’s been constantly badgering Cass with questions and complaints. The jerk can’t even be bothered to talk to her in person, he’s using his robot as a personal courier. I’ll be happy to get rid of him.”

Dan rubbed his jaw. “I need to think things over. Figure out what to do.”

Violet placed a hand on his shoulder. “Not this time, Dan. Like I said, you don’t have enough experience to deal with something like this on your own.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

She shot him a stern look. “We have to work closely on this one. You, me, and Cass.”

He grimaced. The rest of the crew would probably be even more suspicious if they spent too much time together. “Why can’t we just use those nanite things? They did a number on me.”

“Unfortunately, the nanites don’t work like that. You have to build them up in your system, otherwise your body convinces itself you’ve got a nasty virus and it attacks them. The ones I took already wore off. Cass is really the only patient I’ve had who can use them effectively.”

Dan decided to let that one go. He wanted to point out Cass wasn’t all blood and guts, but changed his mind. “What about that assistant of yours? Estra?”

“Edna. From what I can tell, she’s way too prudish to insert herself into our relationship. Besides, she’s a little preoccupied right now.”

“Relationship?” Dan rolled his eyes. “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Honestly, it was Cass’s idea and it’s not a bad one. Long trip? Deep space? To the rest of the crew, it’ll sound perfectly normal for three good-looking, lonely Arsubarans like ourselves to have our own thing going on. Soon as the dust settles, we have a big nasty break up, and no one’s the wiser.”

“Let me get this straight, Doc. You’re saying we use ourselves as bait?”

“Why not?” Violet folded her arms across her chest. “Gives us an excuse to compare notes and we can pretend to have a little fun while we figure things out. How’s that sound?”

It took every ounce of self-discipline Dan had not to tell her the truth. While both Arsubarans knew what was in his heart, he wasn’t sure he had tight control over his emotions.

No one else on board knew his true feelings for Cass–or Violet–for that matter, so on the surface the plan was sound. He also had to give both of them credit. When they read his thoughts, they handled the truth pretty well, like a professional should. Any other boss might have fired him where he stood, but not Cass. Maybe one day he’d explain to both of them why he was afraid of cyborgs, but now was not the time.

“If it’ll get the job done, then I’m happy to oblige. Only…”

“Yes, Mr. Daget?” Her eyes fluttered.

“When this is all over, I want a raise. I don’t think sleeping with my boss was covered in the employee manual.”

Violet threw her head back and laughed. Her white, frazzled hair was finally starting to straighten out. “Don’t tell Cass that. I think you’re the only one who hasn’t slept with her.”

“Great,” Dan said without a trace of humor in his voice. “I’ll try not to disappoint her.”

After pressing a few buttons, a door appeared toward the front of the lab. Dan spun Violet around and kissed her softly on the hand, just in case anyone might be spying on them. At least, that’s what he told himself.

“Cass’s medicine?”

“I almost forgot,” Violet said, plucking a few vials out of a nearby drawer. “One shot of this and she’ll be skipping down to dinner. Just be sure to tell her I’m keeping her on the low dosage.”

“I will.” Dan pocketed the nanites. At some point they were going to have a nice, little chat about what lengths the doctor went to get them. Even though Cass claimed to need them, they were a security risk. Besides, there was no way he was going to put thousands of little robots in his system unless it was absolutely necessary–especially since he had no idea where they came from.

‘Course, if Dan couldn’t figure out who the hell was playing pranks on him, he just might. Opening the door, he gave her a wink. “Guess I’ll see you at dinner, Doc?”

Violet poked her head out of the door and smiled at him. His heart fluttered.

“It’s a date.”

Other Parts to this Series

About Redwing’s Gambit: Redwing’s Gambit, the first novella for the Bulldogs! RPG, debuted on Monday, March 26th in digital. This story was written by Monica Valentinelli and will be published by Galileo Games, creator of the Bulldogs! RPG. This RPG was originally published with a d20 system in 2005. It has since been updated and released in a new edition which employs the Fate mechanic in 2011.

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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