Monday, September 8, 2008

Deleted Scene: Scrornuck can fix anything!

I wrote this scene to establish that Scrornuck could fix just about anything, and that his fibersword was more than simply a sharp weapon. It also shows a side of Scrornuck that I really envy. He wouldn't know an ultra-dense quantum-state integrated circuit if it jumped up his kilt and bit him on the ass; he just goes by the feel and the sense of harmony in the way the device operates. Many of the truly great racing tuners worked this way, throwing out the book and the theory and just tweaking the timing, carburetion, port shape, cam timing, etc., until the engine "felt right." I could never do this--with my training and experience as an engineer, I could never fix anything without first mapping out exactly how it worked.

This was a fun scene to write, as it reflected a compliment my daughter gave me after I'd done the McGyver thing and repaired our thirty-year-old boat with nothing more than a two dollar switch (the dealer had said the boat required a hundred-dollar part that wasn't available anyway). But, even though I moved it around and rewrote it several times, it always seemed a bit of a speed-bump in the narrative, and in the end, it just seemed unnecessary--Scrornuck fixed enough other things in ways that actually did move the story forward. So, as much as I liked it, the scene came out. I'm still pretty proud about fixing the boat, though. We got another five years out of the old clunker before it finally gave up the ghost.

The scene is set in the luxury suite in Taupeaquaah's Guest Quarter, as the trio returns from breakfast and Jape attempts to pick up the morning's messages.

Jape checked the softscroll for new information--or tried to. "Damn thing's acting up again," he muttered, pushing the scroll across the table to Scrornuck. Indeed it was acting up--its entire surface crawled with constantly shifting streaks of light and darkness.

Scrornuck stared at the screen for the better part of a minute, entranced by the constant interplay of light, dark and color on the screen. "Ah, we've seen this before," he said as he refocused his attention on the problem at hand and spread the softscroll flat across the tabletop. "I think I can fix it." He pulled out Ol' Red.

Nalia shot Jape a puzzled look. "He's going to fix it with a sword?" she whispered. Jape simply nodded and put his finger to his lips, signaling for silence.

As Nalia stared, Scrornuck extended the blade, just a couple inches and so thin that it was practically transparent, and gently pressed it up against the scroll's edge. As he worked the blade around, unconsciously holding his breath, the scroll slowly separated into two layers. Letting his breath out in a soft sigh, he gently peeled the layers apart to expose a network of impossibly fine gold and silver lines, little dots and shapes in various bright colors, all against a grass-green background. "There," he said, "getting this thing open is always the tricky part."

He shifted his grip on Ol' Red, and the sword's blade became a series of impossibly fine strands that walked along the golden lines of the softscroll's interior. Closing his eyes tightly and concentrating on the subtle messages coming back through the sword's grip, he searched for the problem. Not that he understood how the softscroll worked--he searched instead for things that just didn't feel quite the way they should be.

There. These two voices weren't singing in harmony anymore. He could feel the dissonance buzzing through his fingers. It was easy enough to fix--he'd seen this problem and fixed it many times before. A little energy here, open up that worn pathway there, and the uncomfortable vibration disappeared. He smiled, then opened his eyes as the threads snapped back into Ol' Red's grip. "Terminary vestibulator came unsynched again," he said as he set down the sword and delicately pressed the two pieces of the softscroll back together.

"Terminary vestibulator came unsynched?" Nalia asked. "What the heck does that mean?"

"Beats me," Scrornuck replied, "it just sounds right."

"Sometimes," Jape said, "I think he just makes up words to describe what he fixed."

"Would I do something like that?" Scrornuck handed Jape the scroll. "Try it now," he said. "I think I patched it up, at least for a while longer."

Jape tapped the scroll. Its surface remained blank. He looked helplessly at Scrornuck.

"Hmm." Scrornuck pulled out the sword again, narrowed it to a needle-point, and worked that point into the scroll's edge. Suddenly the display lit up, showing the familiar collection of buttons and message windows. "Just needed a hard reset." He sighed. "Thing's getting on in years, you know."

"Yeah, seventeen years is a long time for one of these things to keep working."

"Why don't you get a new one?" Nalia wondered.

"Can't," Jape replied. "Lucky for me I have a Protector who's able to fix anything."


"Just about," Scrornuck confirmed. "Except the weather, bad romances, and well-done steaks."

Note that Scrornuck's last line is a standard restaurant disclaimer, so it's possible he read it on the menu. I've never asked him about that. Also note the phrase "terminary vestibulator," which I think is an evolution of "vestabbitator," which may in turn be a corruption of "veeblefetzer," a term used by Mad magazine for some kind of inexplicable gadget back in the early '60s. Or maybe a variation on the "Turbo Encabulator," one of the great pieces of gobbledegook. Check out this classic "instructional film" on YouTube.

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