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(LMSVI) The Ruptured Shadow, Chapter 1.1

by HarryHardy


Chapter One

A Chaotic Job Interview

(Safiana)

Safiana Vialena needed a minute. This day was going a mile a minute, and not in the fun way when supersonic transport was involved.

Who could possibly have thought that a job interview at one of the better-known secret agencies in the world could actually be anything but normal? Well Safi to name one. Her thoughts were so, so far from the truth. In her defense, they had sort of told her she’d gotten the job before she’d been told there was an interview. Okay, that wasn’t really the truth but that was the explanation that she was planning on going with once she miserably failed at whatever the agency was going to throw at her.

On that wonderfully optimistic note, Safi made her way towards the room she’d been told to head inside of. At least it had been easy to find. The door was a little hard to miss. Amidst the shiny white tiles that adorned the walls, it stuck out like a sore thumb. A sturdy piece of oak, with the words “New Recruits” burned right onto the surface.

She’d seen doors with plaques, even doors with names engraved onto them, but this was a new level of permanence when it came to labels. She couldn’t help but think it was an ironical choice designed to hint at how not permanent of a fixture the people who walked in there tended to be.

She reached for the handle. The metal was cool to the touch. Before she could appreciate it or turn the handle, the feeling of a thousand little needles being driven into her skin overloaded her senses. Safi jumped back, releasing the handle,  just about managing to stop herself from screaming. What in the world? An electrocuting handle?

Her eyes widened. Was this the first test? Was she failing already? Was this somehow not the door she was supposed to go through?

She was broken out of her thoughts by a voice from behind her.

“Safiana Vialena, as I live and breathe.”

She whirled around immediately to come face to face, well that was a generous statement, the woman behind her was a solid foot taller so really it was face to neck. Safi looked up to find a face that seemed vaguely familiar.

“Serafina?” asked Safi, curiosity now lacing her voice. Well, this just got interesting. She’d been told of the chances of running into people in her batch of course. While graduating agents from the same group of classes tended to be split up among different branches of the agency, this year had contained enough of them that a couple of branches would be getting multiple recruits.

“The one and the only,” replied the woman, with a small smile. “So… guess we’re both in this branch huh?”

Safi nodded. “That seems to be what’s happening here, yes.”

“So do we just go in? That dude at the reception was a little vague,” said Serafina.

“He was. I probably should’ve realized that,” said Safi, nodding. Well, that made a lot of sense now. Figuring out how to get into the room was a test. That meant Safi was in fact failing before this had even really started.

“So, I take it the door didn’t exactly open?”

“That would be an accurate assumption,” said Safi, with a little sigh, “Well not from the handle at least, I would not recommend that unless your power happens to have something to do with electricity or you enjoy being struck by lightning.”

“So, I’m going to be avoiding that handle,” said Serafina, with a nod. “Thanks for the heads up.”

“Of course.”

“So, any alternate plan for getting into the room?” asked Serafina.

“Truth be told, I didn’t think too far beyond the door and the handle.” Safi flushed. Wow she was doing badly. How could she be this bad at going inside a room? She was better than this. There had to be some way to get inside, and it was probably going to be something very simple and very stupid that she’d just missed because she’d never bothered to really look.

“Window?” suggested Serafina, breaking her out of her mini spiral.

Safi blinked a couple of times as she returned back to the world around. She gave the place a cursory glance. There wasn’t a window she could see. It was simply the white tiles everywhere, the only other standout being the smell of old parchment and vanilla that seemed to be everywhere in the agency and the quiet drone of what Safi assumed must be some sort of air conditioning unit.

Safi just shrugged.

“Yeah, stupid question, the only option is some alternate way to get that door open, well either that or one of these tiles has gotta be some kind of secret entrance or something, although I get the feeling tapping all of these tiles to see if one of them opens up a secret entrance will not look good on us.”

“The tiles are like the sanest option we have at the moment,” said Safi. She wasn’t wrong. “I’m very tempted to just commit, but we should probably exhaust all the avenues on the door first.”

Serafina nodded. She sized up the door as Safi stepped aside to give her a better view.

She pointed at the fire etched letters. “That’s odd. Do you think that could be some sort of clue?”

“Well, it’s a wooden door. I’m sure with the right equipment we’d have absolutely no trouble busting out way through with plenty of fire, but I don’t know. That seems a little extreme, even for this lot.”

“Remember the first rule of being a secret agent?”

“If the answer to something is needlessly complicated or dramatic, there’s a good chance you’re on the right track.” Safi rattled it off before she even realized what she was doing. That statement along with several others were engraved far too deep into her memory.

“So… do you have some perfume on you, I have a lighter.”

“Wait you’re not suggesting we actually...?”

Serafina shrugged. “What have we got to lose? Besides no one said we couldn't."

Safi dipped into her handbag and pulled out her emergency perfume bottle. “Nothing like a bit of arson to make a good first impression on your employer.”


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Fri Oct 07, 2022 2:30 pm
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi there Harry! Lim again with a review.

First Impressions
I think the thing that stands out the most to me in this chapter and gets me the most curious is the secret agency and the setting. To Safiana, it’s “one of the better-known secret agencies in the world“, which makes me think ‘wow, this setting must have a lot of not-so-secret secret agencies’. I wonder what they’re all for! The story has a kind of genre-savvy jokey feel to it at points, for example:

“If the answer to something is needlessly complicated or dramatic, there’s a good chance you’re on the right track.” Safi rattled it off before she even realized what she was doing.

This sounds to me like a self-aware comment about secret agencies in books! I like the perfume bottle strategy at the end – that’s quite clever and I hadn’t expected it.

Characters
I like how strongly Safiana’s personality comes in through the narration. I thought you crafted a consistent and distinct voice for her in comparison to the narration of the prologue. Even though it’s still taking some time for me to make sense of what the secret agency is and how this world works, I can still gather Safiana’s insecure feeling from the first few paragraphs, which I think is a sign of a distinct character voice.
Her interactions with Serafina are also entertaining to read. I get the sense that they are different from each other – Serafina seems more confident. I also like the description “the woman behind her was a solid foot taller so really it was face to neck” because that helps me visualise both their character designs and relate them to one another without having to do any feet to meter conversions :D It’s also a nice physical descriptor that reflects their differences in personality, I think – Serafina feels ‘bigger’ in energy and she is also physically taller.

Setting
There’s a lot about the setting that seems super interesting, for example:
Amidst the shiny white tiles that adorned the walls, it stuck out like a sore thumb. A sturdy piece of oak, with the words “New Recruits” burned right onto the surface.

This description made me widen my eyes immediately because – wow, that’s an unusual way to mark a door! It made me wonder if there was some significance to it, or if it’s an indicator that someone who runs this facility has fire powers.
I do find myself wishing I had a bit more context as to exactly what the secret agency does. I get that there needs to be mystery, but if Safiana applied for the job, it seems to me she must have some idea (whether mistaken or not) of what they do there, and I’d like to know what that is because it would make me more invested in her getting this job.

Dialogue
I thought the dialogue in this scene helped bring it to life! On a second read, I did notice that a lot of the dialogue lines begin with “so” (but only on a second read, which goes to show how smooth the rest of it felt). Is that a quirk of Serafina’s speech? I’m beginning to wonder that, since Safiana doesn’t seem to do the same thing.
“Safiana Vialena, as I live and breathe.”

^I thought this was a really dramatic opener and gives a strong impression of Serafina. The little interjection with “Window?” was also neat, even though it didn’t lead them to a solution. It just felt like very natural speech to me and felt consistent with the way she was talking overall.
The last line also made me chuckle, and is a nice way to show Safiana’s sassier side.

Overall
This chapter definitely leaves me wanting to read on and see what they do with that door. I suspect there’ll also be a connection between this secret agency and the mysterious trio from the prologue. Serafina and Safiana seem like a fun duo of protagonists, though their similar-sounding names get my typing hands confused sometimes ^^’

Hope some of this helps, and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim




HarryHardy says...


This is super late but thank youu for the review!!



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Wed Sep 21, 2022 8:31 pm
Horisun wrote a review...



Hello! I hope you're having a good day or night!
Alright, straight off the bat, I loved this! It was such a fun and exciting start to the story that had me hooked right away. You told the readers just enough to understand who Safi was and what her surroundings were for us to get swept up in the action. To top it off, I have a dozen different questions already! What is this agency and its goals? Where precisely does Safi fit into their schemes? Are they a wicked corporation, or a benevolent organization? (Literally, I don't know how you did it, but you managed to strike the exact right number of questions to get me invested, holy cow!)
I did have one or two nitpicks I'd like to point out. This one is so minor, and it might be a me thing, but it bothered me a bit that you have two characters named "Safiana" and "Serafina" respectively. They both start with S, have an F towards the middle, and end with "A"
To be fair, you do mostly refer to the POV character as "Safi" which helps with some of the confusion, but it definitely threw me off a bit while I was reading.
Another thing to note, you open this story with-

Safiana Vialena needed a minute. This day was going a mile a minute, and not in the fun way when supersonic transport was involved.

Which felt just a tad repetitive. I like the idea behind it, the execution was just a tad iffy.
Aside from that, my favorite thing about this chapter was the final bit, where they burn down the door! In fact, you could say they are coming in hot! Or, if not that, you could maybe say they got a handle on the situation! Honestly, I hope they're employer doesn't fire them before they even begin!
(This is the part where most people would see themselves out, but, unfortunately, I feel no shame)
All in all, this is a very solid start to your Last Man Standing novel! I enjoyed every bit and had a whole ton of fun reviewing it! Best of luck in this endeavor, happy review month, yada-yada, have an amazing day/night! :D





There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.
— Arthur C. Clarke