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Assignment: Rebirth 1.2

by Tuckster


"With pleasure." A cocky grin spread across Darien's face, and he stepped towards Skylar and held out his fist for a fist bump. "Bring it, Sky."

"Just try to keep the fight close," Skylar teased him, knowing that the insult would get under his skin.

She was right. Skylar could see a muscle in his jaw pop, and he // withdrew his fist and stepped into a fighting stance. "If you can keep up."

Myra vaulted over the ropes surrounding the arena and settled on one, balancing her weight carefully as she let her legs dangle. "Ready, set, fight!" she called out, and immediately Skylar and Darien jumped into action, moving closer to each other and circling each other in a mesmerizing, dance-like rhythm, each waiting for an opportunity, a small gap in the other's defenses.

Finally, Skylar found one. She launched herself towards Darien, swinging at his side, his face, his ribs, his chin. He deflected each one but stumbled backwards, and Skylar delivered a crushing kick to his side. He staggered two steps to the side but then transformed his momentum into a counterattack, swinging so quickly that his hands were a blur as he attacked from every angle until Skylar slowed down and missed an open-handed hook from the left that connected on her cheek with an audible slap

Myra flinched at the sound and squirmed where she sat, a smile spreading across her face. "You guys are even," she called out, knowing that would motivate them to pick up the pace.

They exchanged a couple more blows, neatly swinging and parrying, jabbing and blocking, continuing until Darien grew impatient and swung too hard towards Skylar's head, a perfect-form hook that Skylar dodged. She retaliated with a brutal uppercut that connected perfectly and then kicked Darien firmly in the chest, knocking him onto his back. She was on top of him in a split second, pinning his arms to the ground with her legs and holding a mock knife to his throat.

"Surrender." She smirked as Darien squirmed, and eventually Darien rolled his eyes.

"Fine. You win this one." Darien grunted, and Skylar stood up and offered him a hand, which he accepted.

He rubbed his cheek, which was already starting to turn black-and-blue in splotches. "I'm going to feel that one tomorrow."

"In my defense, you did take a knockout swing at my head a few moments before I gave you that." Skylar vaulted over the ropes around the boxing ring and walked back over to where Myra was. "What else is on the agenda for training today?"

"Arm strength training." Myra was already powdering her hands and preparing to deadlift. "Nothing super heavy today, you're supposed to train at 80% of your personal best." Myra slid two 10-pound weights onto either side of the deadlift and then squatted down, gripping it with both hands and staring straight ahead. Skylar folded her arms across her chest and watched as Myra grunted and straightened, lifting the weight to waist-height and then standing there for a few seconds before dropping it and stepping back.

"Your turn, Skylar."

Skylar added two 5-pound weights to either side and then did the same thing, squatting down low and staring straight ahead. She curled her hands around the cold metal bar, which weighed 40 pounds by itself, and then stood straight up. She held the weight at her waist and counted aloud until her arms started to tremble, and then dropped it as she stepped back.

"5 seconds, Darien. Beat that," Skylar said with a wink.

"Easy." Darien had taken it a step further and wrapped his hands like he did for boxing, then slid a ten-pound weight onto the bar. He squatted down, the muscles in his legs popping, and then gripped the bar so hard his knuckles turned white. He stood straight up and Skylar counted for him, deliberately making the syllables slower so that he dropped it on the count of four.

"That's cheating! You totally counted faster for me," Darien complained as he unwrapped his hands.

Skylar smirked. "Yeah, you're right." She noticed the look on Darien's face and quickly added, "Sorry, I was just trying to be funny."

"Whatever." Darien's brown eyes were stormy, and he brushed past Skylar and Myra towards the door.

Skylar and Myra exchanged a glance. "Should I go talk to him?" Skylar asked after a few moments of silence.

Myra shook her head. "Let him cool off for a few minutes, and then apologize again later tonight. He just needs space."

"Should we go check on Rae?" Skylar asked, changing the subject.

Myra nodded. "I don't get why she's exempt from these practices," she said as they walked out of the training room and down the hall towards Rae's dorm.

"Probably because they need her to work on her specialized skill area. She still has to do some exercise so she can hold her own, but it's not her position on the team. She's a badass coder. I couldn't do a tenth of the things she can do with a computer."

"I guess. I just feel like they treat her like she's some special asset and the rest of us are just typical grunts."

"That's not how it is, Myra. We all have our skill sets, and that's why we make such a great team."

"I know, I know. I just want to feel like I'm doing something special and that I'm irreplacable because I'm so tired of feeling like I'm not doing anything meaningful. That's why I'm doing this in the first place, anyway, and I wish that they did a better job of recognizing that."

"For sure, dude." They rounded the corner and reached Rae's door. It was painted silver, and a bronze placard hanging on the door read "Rae Beckett, Team 406 Coder". Skylar knocked a few times, the knock ringing out through the hallway, and then the door swung inwards to reveal Rae standing there, her multicolored hair pulled up in a bun.

"How was training?" she asked, crossing the room and sitting down at her desk, where the familiar black coding terminal was pulled up, covered in lines of text that matched her multicolored hair.


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Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:27 pm
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Querencia wrote a review...



Hiya Tuckster!

I've been busy for a few days, but I'm excited to catch up on these last two chapter parts you've posted. :D

he // withdrew his fist

Typo??

Myra flinched at the sound and squirmed where she sat, a smile spreading across her face.

This imagery felt kind of weird to me? Mostly because she's squirming (presumably with discomfort at the sound) and at the same time she's smiling. I feel as if it would be one reaction or the other, or maybe she flinches but then smiles because she realizes that they're evenly matched?

"That's cheating! You totally counted faster for me,"

Did you mean slower?

Darien complained as he unwrapped his hands.

Skylar smirked. "Yeah, you're right." She noticed the look on Darien's face and quickly added, "Sorry, I was just trying to be funny."

"Whatever." Darien's brown eyes were stormy, and he brushed past Skylar and Myra towards the door.

I have to agree with Stellar Jay below me--it does seem a little bit of an overreaction. I feel like he'd perhaps be content to gloat, knowing that he lasted longer than Skylar however she counted it. He's complaining here, but that seems like sort of a "heyyy, friend, that wasn't very nice" but then you just get over it. Unless there's something else going on? But for a reaction of that size I feel like we need something else, like his first words about Skylar cheating should be a little more combative, or he drops the weights unnecessarily hard, so that we get a sense that he's already angry (either with himself or Skylar). Then stalking out of the room doesn't feel as uncalled for.

They rounded the corner and reached Rae's door. It was painted silver, and a bronze placard hanging on the door read "Rae Beckett, Team 406 Coder".

I feel like you could take this opportunity to give us a little more of a glimpse into their building! Maybe the placard looks just like the one on Skylar's door. Maybe Rae gets one because she's special. Also, I'm not even sure what kind of hallway or building to be imagining yet! Are there windows, or are they maybe underground? Lots of intersecting hallways and doors? Dark or light? It's not all relevant information, but I'm anxious to get a sense of the mood in this organization as a whole, building and all.

I think as some other reviews below me mentioned, this was a little light on action and could've been a little more exciting. Also, in the last chapter, Skylar had some sort of crazy motivation around her that felt really palpable. Here, it just seems a little more like she's trying to show off, and there's less of that inner core determination--and I'd like to see that coming back again!

But I do think it was interesting to read about Skylar's fight with Darien compared to her fight with Myra! Also, now we have a development with Darien and with Rae, so I'm interested to see where this will all go. :) Nice job on this! Keep it up!!

-Q




Tuckster says...


Thanks so much for the review! I really appreciate your thoroughness :)



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Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:55 pm
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Stellar Jay wrote a review...



This was a really nice story! I liked how the fighting scene was pretty graphic and how smooth it went. But at the weightlifting part Darien's reaction was an overreaction. He didn't have that much to feed off of, if you know what I mean. I think if you make Skylar tease him a little harder or make Darien's reaction a little less overblown that could work! But that's all that I found!




Tuckster says...


Thanks for the review! I%u2019ll be sure to take it into consideration :)



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Wed Oct 09, 2019 2:57 pm
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Panikos wrote a review...



Hiya, Tuck! I thought I'd drop in for a quick review. I've read the first part of this chapter even if I haven't reviewed it, so I'm up to speed.

Small Comments

an open-handed hook from the left that connected on her cheek with an audible slap


I can't help but feel that 'audible' doesn't offer much here. I don't think you should delete it entirely, because 'slap' wouldn't have enough weight by itself. Maybe try and find another adjective that describes the nature of the sound a bit more specifically. Or centre it more around Skylar's perspective - a slap that made her head ring, a slap that burned, a slap that knocked her teeth together, etc. Make sure you ground fight scenes in the character's POV, otherwise they start to feel a bit clinical.

a brutal uppercut that connected perfectly


This would be an example of somewhat clinical description. 'Connected perfectly' describes how it looks from the outside, but how does it feel for Skylar? Does it hurt her hand? Where did she hit him exactly?

I don't get why she's exempt from these practices," she said as they walked out of the training room and down the hall towards Rae's dorm.

"Probably because they need her to work on her specialized skill area. She still has to do some exercise so she can hold her own, but it's not her position on the team. She's a badass coder. I couldn't do a tenth of the things she can do with a computer."

"I guess. I just feel like they treat her like she's some special asset and the rest of us are just typical grunts."

"That's not how it is, Myra. We all have our skill sets, and that's why we make such a great team."

"I know, I know. I just want to feel like I'm doing something special and that I'm irreplacable because I'm so tired of feeling like I'm not doing anything meaningful. That's why I'm doing this in the first place, anyway, and I wish that they did a better job of recognizing that."


This whole exchange was a bit too obviously expository. Because Myra and Skylar already know most of this stuff, it seems like a conversation they'd have already had at some point, repeated for my benefit. I think you should trim it down and make it a little more subtle. Maybe rather than saying outright that Rae is a 'badass coder' and that's why she doesn't join them for training sessions, Skylar could make an offhand comment, for example, about how Rae has been coding something for the last few days - some kind of assignment. Then we'd get a hint that she's probably a computer whizz. Just try and be a bit less...informative in your dialogue. I don't want to feel like the characters are only talking about things so I can overhear them.

Overall Thoughts

On the whole, I think you do a good job building up the characters and their different personalities. I've read a few bits and pieces from various drafts of this novel, so I that vague memories of Darien and Skylar, but they come across more strongly to me in this opening than in the other one I read. They seem close, but competitive, and as stubborn and driven as each other. Darien's perhaps a little more sensitive, but maybe that's only because he has to cope with being second best. Myra seems to be the mediator, a little quirkier and more sensitive than the other two. She doesn't do a whole lot in this chapter but I'd like to know more about her.

In terms of improvements, I do question why the story has started here, specifically. I feel bad for pulling you up on this, because I'm sure when I reviewed the first chapter of your other story with Skylar, I think I criticised you for starting with too much action. This time, there's not quite enough. This scene is great for character building and showing how they all interact in their regular environment...but it feels like business as usual, and there's no obvious hook so far. I don't necessarily think you have to uproot and change the whole scene, because I think we need to get to know the characters and the world before we can start caring about high stakes. But an opening chapter still needs tension. If we got more of a sense that they were training in anticipation of a specific event, or something interrupted their training halfway through, I think this whole opening chapter would be much more intriguing. Otherwise this is just the rebel-cadet equivalent of starting a story with waking up, going to work, and having a pretty normal day. :P

Nevertheless, this holds a lot of promise overall. Your characters feel more real and organic than they did in the last draft(?) I read, and I'm glad you're taking time to develop their relationships before throwing them into too much danger. If you can tweak some of the exposition and also try to work in more of a sense of danger, tension, and/or anticipation, I think this opening will be right on the money.

Tag me when you post the next bit!

Keep writing! :D
~Pan




Tuckster says...


Thanks so much for the review, all your comments were incredibly helpful. The hook is coming next chapter, so I%u2019m excited to see what you think of it and its placement in the story :D



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Wed Oct 09, 2019 12:28 pm
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JabberHut wrote a review...



Okay, I am SO excited. There's a coder here. I love computer nerds and master hackers and crazy coders and I' m just SO EXCITED THIS IS A THING ??

Firstly, I want to say that I love how the three of them add on more and more weights to the thing. This definitely shows the progression of strength among the three of them, particularly Darien. For some reason, I have eyes for Darien in this one, and I think that's because he obviously is the reigning champ in this exercise if it wasn't for Skylar's snarky counting! (Not that weight training is a competition.)

Of course, it also surprised me that Darien huffed and stormed out the way he did. I didn't really expect that at all! I wonder if this triggered something?! Perhaps there's more competition between him and Skylar than we know yet.

Poor Myra. This is totally something I was worried about, but! I have faith that she'll have her strength somewhere. Maybe she's sneakier than the others and a master at stealth work! Or perhaps she's more of a strategist! ...Or maybe she's a red shirt! WE WILL FIND OUT SOON, MYRA! Just don't be jealous of Rae. D: Rae could be jealous of you!!

I like this introduction to Rae! Myra's jealousy is an interesting trait to reveal, and I look forward to seeing how this affects their relationship within the team. Rae is definitely viewed as a unique anomaly on their team, though. She has the tech skills that the others do not, so she's going to prove to be a valuable asset. Plus, her unique hair color is such a fun way to express Rae's potential personality. I really can't wait to meet more of her and aM SO UPSET IT ENDED RIGHT HERE. //SOB




Tuckster says...


haha I%u2019m so glad you liked it! Thanks for the review :)




If I seem to wander, if I seem to stray, remember that true stories seldom take the straightest way.
— Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind