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The Rising Star - Chapter 2: Work

by Alexshaw 

Posted: 08 February 2006
Word Count: 2701
Summary: Second chapter of "The Bright Ones: The Rising Star" (revised)
Related Works: The Rising Star - Chapter 3: Hades • 

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Sire's first port of call was Hermes Interplanetary's Perseus office, a vast, brightly lit building with taupe wallpaper, slogans everywhere and the kind of corporate art that cost more than Sire's apartment. He touched down in one of the parking docks and hopped to the ground. As he straightened up a hand landed on his shoulder. He sighed inwardly but did not turn around.

Steiner was standing immediately behind him. A tall, angular young man, with greased and backcombed blond hair, he was the senior delivery boy in Sire's department.

"Alright, you miserable bugger?" Steiner grinned, marching around beside Sire and making a playful jab at his stomach. Sire smiled tightly and clenched his whole body.

"I'm fine," he replied. "But I'm late." He stalked off towards the huge doorway leading into the head offices. To his annoyance Steiner followed.

"I've been here since six," the young man said proudly. "Made three deliveries already, and I haven't even had breakfast."

"Good lord, what an achievement," Sire muttered. "You'll make employee of the month again, no problem."

"That's the plan," Steiner crowed. Sire scooted to an elevator as the doors were just closing, and crammed in with the eight other occupants. Steiner squeezed in behind and somehow managed to take up the remaining three inches of space. Sire felt nothing except weight, pressing in on him from all sides. He counted the seconds until the journey would be over and stared politely into space with everybody else. Steiner licked his finger and crammed it in Sire's ear. Sire gritted his teeth so hard, that the little muscle in his jaw popped.

"I hate being in elevators," Steiner said loudly. "I always think they're going to break down." The elevator stopped and the lighting switched from regular to emergency.

I'm dreaming, thought Sire. I'm still asleep and this is all a bloody nightmare.

Steiner guffawed. "How weird is that?" Sire ignored him as best he could and tried to ignore the steel walls and ceiling pressing in around him. He breathed deeply and counted to five, panic spreading out through his body as he shuddered and pushed it down through the floor. He could probably cope with this better if he were alone, but the people around him and especially Steiner made his head buzz and intensified his claustrophobia until he was ready to scream.

“Don’t worry people. I’ll call the engineers,” Steiner piped up, pressing his thumb and activating his phone hand. “I know those guys, they’ll get us out of here in five minutes. Hello Millsey?” he enquired as a male voice answered. “No? Well is Millsey there? Ok, do you know when he’ll be back? Right. No I’ll call back in a while.” Steiner hung up and stood looking a little embarrassed. There was a long pause and several people in the elevator stared at him, waiting for an explanation. Steiner shrugged, “He went to get some chips.”


Even later than usual and with shaking legs Sire finally walked through the doors of his department with Steiner in tow, making for the one ray of sunshine in his day. Behind her desk, looking as lovely as ever, sat Celina. She was Sire's age, blonde, delicate and luminous. Sire was still hyperventilating a little from the elevator episode so he could barely smile at her without his face cracking into a grimace as Steiner stepped in front of him and sat on her desk.

"Hullo again," said Steiner, smiling broadly at her.

"Hi," said Celina, looking only at Sire.

"We were just caught in an elevator that broke down," continued Steiner. Celina's face creased into pity and her perfect eyebrows arched in sympathy.

"I know, I’m so sorry," she said. "We've had the engineers over three times this week. It should have been sorted out by now."

"Well, if you need an extra hand I've always got my toolkit on me," said Steiner, opening his jacket and revealing a fairly expensive looking pouch of portable tools. "I can do pretty much anything with these."

"Really?" said Celina, her expression and tone betraying little fascination. She still hadn't taken her eyes off Sire.

"Yeah. Any problems, call me first," said Steiner.

"Will do."

"Is John around?" asked Sire, finding his voice at last. Celina nodded and her expression changed to one of mock fear, indicating the boss was none too pleased at the moment. Sire nodded.

"Then can you give me my first assignment so he can tell me off for being late later?"

"Actually, I have time for that now," said a voice, both pitiless and devoid of mirth. John Dickens marched out of his office and stood with his arms folded glaring at everybody in the room. He was smartly dressed to the point of discomfort with a shining black comb-over, and a face the colour of an under-ripe plum. His white shirt was thin enough to reveal a little too much of his chest underneath. Steiner stood to attention, Celina busied herself with checking orders and Sire looked down at his feet. "Twenty two minutes late, Firebrand. Do you mind telling me what we're paying you for?"

"Yeah. I’m very sorry, John," Sire said. There was silence. Clearly Mr Dickens wanted more. "My bike wouldn't start and I nearly died in a free-fall, then I got stuck in traffic so I had to take a short cut and finally the lift broke down," Sire said, quite truthfully.

"There's always a reason, isn't there?" snapped Dickens. Sire nodded gravely. Clearly what the man had wanted was abject humility and solemn promise never to be late for anything again, ever. "Next time you're getting a written warning," Dickens snarled.

"If it helps, I live close to him - I can pick him up in my car when I come in to work early," piped up Steiner. Dickens ignored him.

"The next time is dismissal," he growled. "And I don't think a boy with your limited options can afford to be out of work for too long." Sire remained totally calm and nodded dumbly. Inside, he was screaming. "Oh, and by the way, Steiner's dropped tonight's shift so you're on for a double. If it's not a problem." It wasn't a question. Sire opened his mouth and tried to think desperately of a good excuse not to. "Good," Dickens cut in. He stalked off into his office to lie in wait for any other late arrivals. Sire turned back to Celina, his dignity in tatters.

"Never mind," she said kindly.

"Yeah, think of the money,” Steiner piped up. They both ignored him. Sire thought of the paltry sum he would get in exchange for his evening. It was true he needed it, but his work was becoming so spirit-crushing that he was finding it difficult to do his home study coursework. Maybe it would be better if he didn't work at all. Then he could seek his fortune in the gutter. He looked back at Celina and his heart fluttered. She was probably the only reason he still worked here. Both because he stayed on the off chance they might someday hit it off and because she had covered for him expertly when he was in trouble on many occasions.

"Hey, me and a few friends are going to Dionysus 12 tonight," Celina said brightly. "Would you - I mean, do you want to come along after you finish up?"

This threw Sire. He had been drumming up the courage to ask her out on a date for months and now suddenly she had taken the initiative and asked him instead. All of the apprehension, fear and excitement suddenly drained out of Sire, the office faded away and he was left alone with this girl who quite clearly liked him. Then he remembered the last time he had gone to a club after giving in to Steiner’s bullish entreaties: a restless, sweaty darkness enfolding him and strangling his senses. People crammed in like sardines, crushing him. A relentless pounding as the bass line throbbed through the floor, jarring through his entire body and escaping into the smoke-filled air. He couldn't see, he couldn't hear and he couldn't breathe. Speech was reduced to shouting, and his movement was restricted to standing between the gigantic vibrating speakers, holding a lukewarm orange juice and wishing more than anything that he could be elsewhere. The world closed in iris-like, reducing him to a pinprick of light, the music faded to silence and he was utterly alone, surrounded by people who didn't care if he existed. In short, it was not his scene.

He snapped back to reality as Celina prodded him with her holo-pen. "Hey," she said softly. "I'd really like you to be there."

"Uh, I might," was all he could mumble. Why couldn't he just ask her to dinner? A fist dug into his ribs on the right hand side. Steiner was standing about five inches too close yet again.

"I've been trying for ages to get him to come out clubbing," he smirked at Celina. Sire's face twitched. "Ask him again." His voice was mocking.

"Come out with us tonight, please," she asked sweetly, still not looking at Steiner, who wrapped an arm around Sire's neck and held him close.

"Come on mate, you need a drink or two to loosen you up." His forehead touched Sire’s.

"I don't drink," Sire muttered, his flesh crawling. Steiner crushed him a little tighter.

"So you say," he grinned. "But I take that as a challenge."

"Take it how you like, I'm still not drinking," Sire said. He untangled himself from Steiner and moved towards Celina, looking deep into her eyes. They were wide as she studied his face. He noticed her pupils were dilated and a thrill shot down his spine as the notion that this girl genuinely liked him began to sink in. Maybe he didn’t have to be so alone after all. Maybe all he needed was one person he could make as happy as possible. He regained his composure, straightened up and smiled, though his tone became businesslike. "Celina, can I get my first delivery?"

What the hell was that? She was asking him to come out with her and he was talking about work. Somewhere inside, Sire punched himself in the head.

"Why don't you drink, then?" Steiner demanded.

"Sure,” said Celina, a little taken aback at Sire avoiding her proposition.

"Where's it headed?" (You’re losing her, you fool)

"Why don’t you drink?"

"Over to the Odysseus district."

"Hey, why don't you drink?" said Steiner, a little too loudly. Everybody in the office paused and looked at Sire. The blinds in John Dickens' office window fluttered. Sire glanced about at this audience he had suddenly gathered.

"I do drink, just not very often,” said Sire absently, and looked down at the box which had been placed before him. Many forces were in play here and this package suddenly had Sire’s full attention.

"You really have to get out more," said Steiner. "We'll get you off your face tonight, mate, I promise." He moved to slap Sire's forehead, but Sire batted his hand away and picked up the package tentatively.

There was something wrong with this box. Sire stared at it intently. His instinct told him not to open it, but that it was incredibly important nonetheless. Instinct was very important to Sire. It had served him well time and again, and even saved his life in the past. He took these feelings very seriously. He snapped out of his trance and looked calmly up at the bewildered secretary.

"What time does it have to be there?" he asked. Something had changed about him already. His eyes were focused and his jaw was set.

"Ten o' clock," she murmured. Sire nodded and began to march out of the office. He was almost at the door when Steiner called after him.

"You coming out tonight then, or what?"

Sire paused and turned back. "No, I can't make this evening. You want to go eat at Java the Hut's tomorrow night Celina?"

"Okay," she gushed and a smile and indeed a blush appeared on her face. Sire smiled back, and then ignoring Steiner, he turned on his heel with the package under his arm and walked out forever.


Sire rocketed through the cityscape. He reached the Odysseus district in record time and all around him, giant floating billboards assailed his vision with the products he should be buying. Flashy silver cars, frosty bottles of beer, designer sunglasses, cellular-phones the size of an actual cell, and a thousand upgrades for Templenet hardware - all the things he didn't want and even if he did, certainly couldn't afford.

He sailed past huge grinning faces promising a perfect life if he would only buy the relevant product. Little flocks of advertising bugs spattered against his windscreen. He heard snatches of jaunty, mediocre music as the bugs shot past, playing recordings of the latest hits from new teen quartet, 'Neat'. These little devices were a godsend for the advertising industry; they snuck in wherever Templenet popup could not. A particularly tenacious bug flew very close to Sire's ear, playing the new single from 'Mandy', the virginal pop sensation of the past five minutes. Her melodious tones bleated in his ear for a few seconds as the bug teased out a few bars of her number one hit, Baby, I love you the most. Sire slapped the bug against his shoulder with a heavy thwack of his gloved hand and the noise mercifully ceased.

Sire's thoughts were set only on two things: his delivery time limit and his job. He had had enough. He was sick of his boss and the few bad workmates who made his day worse. He was tired of the long hours and crummy pay and had put off throwing in the towel for far too long. When he got back, he would hand in his notice. But first there was this package, and the awful feelings it was causing him.

The Odysseus sector GeneWash Building sped towards Sire. He brought his bike about and landed just above the lawn. Slowly he swung his leg over the bike and strode up the path towards the building. He was halfway to the doors when he froze. Maybe he wasn't supposed to deliver this one. The problem with gut instincts was they were easy to detect but very difficult to define. He knew opening any of his deliveries was punishable by immediate dismissal, along with possible massive fines. He pictured a cartoon bomb with a lit fuse and shuddered. If he opened it now and it was a bomb it was highly likely to detonate.

However, his instincts had earned his trust and everything inside him screamed for action. He looked at his watch. It was 09.59 and ten seconds. He was very late for delivery, and was likely to get into trouble no matter what. The thought of all the people inside the GeneWash building pricked at his conscience. He weighed the odds. So what if he got fired? He was quitting anyway and it had to be worth the risk.

Sire ran back to the bike and leapt on. He gunned the engine and looped upwards, then down into a steep dive over the edge of the kerb, hurtling towards the planet's surface. He hurled the package full force and watched it tumble down towards the insipid brown swamp festering beneath the lowest point of the city floor; the mire on the surface of Zeus surrounding the city's deep foundations. The box disappeared from view and Sire turned his bike around and headed back up towards the street.

The explosion propelled him further than he had expected. His heart leapt into his throat once more as he hurtled through the air. His body went limp with shock.

He had been right.

The blast wave thrust him high over the edge, his bike spinning out of control, throwing him twenty feet to the ground. He fell with a thud onto the lawn with a ringing in his ears and a serious case of deja-vu.

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Comments by other Members

Nelly at 19:53 on 09 February 2006  Report this post
Hello Alexshaw,

This is an interesting second chapter with a literally explosive ending. Sire seems to be riding along with the story at first until his decision to discard the bomb at the end. We have a romantic lead and there are plenty of hooks to keep me going.

You might want to watch the use of the word ‘surprise’; I noticed a number creeping into your writing. Also you need to cut back on your sentences. Condense your meaning to achieve better clarity.

For example,

'The explosion that occurred behind him propelled him further than he had expected.'

Could be changed to something like, 'The explosion propelled him further than he had expected.'


paul53 [for I am he] at 13:29 on 10 February 2006  Report this post
I must confess I was doing all right until Sire's instinct about the box. Maybe he's psychic, maybe he trusts his instinct implicitly due to past experiences. The trouble is, the reader doesn't know which it is, or why his inner alarm bells are sounding. Have they done so before in the past? Was he correct? Sure, his instinct proved true, but how did he know and what made him act upon it? I know "instinct" is a hard thing to describe, but we need to know more about WHY he felt uneasy.

Alexshaw at 19:02 on 11 February 2006  Report this post

That's a fine point. Read on and much (but not all, it's a trilogy after all) will be revealed.

Thank you Nelly. I totally agree about condensing my word structures. Each time I post a chapter I will wait with the final edit until it has been reviewed by you people.

When I edit I will extricate the word 'surprise' almost entirely. Thanks for that one too.

toshi at 17:54 on 21 February 2006  Report this post
Hi Alexshaw

Enjoying what I have read so far. You have some interesting characters and things are moving on at a pace, so I'll look forward to your next upload. I especially liked the description of Sire's feelings about nightclubs which sounded all too real to me!

Best wishes

PS When you upload can you put a notice on the general noticeboard as I almost completely lost this upload and thought we were still on chapter 1? There was no change in the title next to your name.

Patsy at 02:22 on 25 February 2006  Report this post

I liked this chapter even better, you get to know more about Sire, and hint at some really neat mystery elements.

Things to consider:

Sire ignored him as best he could and tried to keep his acute claustrophobia in check.
Show us this, don't just tell us about it. Are the walls closing in? Is Steiner sucking up all the air?
I bet you have a really neat reason for his claustrophobia -- It shall be interesting to find out!

I can pick him up when I come (into) work early,"
...come (in to) work?

"Take it how you like, I'm still not drinking...
..."Over to the Odysseus district."

Try beefing up this section just a bit with some description, or action to better show how rotten Steiner is being. Describe him getting in Sire's face, or the tone of his voice, is his tone mocking, or is it a whine?

...all the things he didn't want and couldn't afford (even if he did.) ?

The last bit is great with the explosion, and the "power" that Sire has to know about the package and bomb. Great, can't wait to see what happenes ;)


Alexshaw at 03:20 on 27 February 2006  Report this post
I've worked hard on this one to make Steiner even more repellant and Sire a bit more sympathetic. The key to a great hero is either cool (Han Solo) or compassion (Frodo). While Sire won't be cool for a while (Maybe never) I tried to emphasise that he does care about other people, specifically in this chapter; Celine.

I also added a bit to the elevator scene to illustrate Sire's claustrophobia show what a complete prat Steiner is.


(I missed out the word 'and' there)

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