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Resurrecting Renoir

by stephanieE 

Posted: 21 August 2003
Word Count: 865
Summary: This is either a short, short story, or it's the opening to a novel (I have some idea of how the novel develops, but it's not yet substantial enough). Be interested in any feedback

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Ro B'Hearn paused before the eighth airlock, fingers poised over the entry keypad, head cocked slightly to one side as though listening for some tiny recognisable sound. Ro was disturbed by the noise. Or, to be more accurate, Ro was disturbed by the absence of noise. Accustomed to the perpetual hum of an inhabited city, electricity coursing through its veins at 50Hz; the Commnet vibrating with its multitude of messages; humans, machines and essums living together in a strangely harmonious cacophony, the only sound here was the faintest of murmurs, right on the threshold of hearing. Ro had decided that it was caused by the seepage of air out of the ancient ventgrilles. The only movement in the corridor was the slight swaying of the sleek matt tools that hung in intricate profusion from the black webbing waistband. The other seven airlocks had posed few problems, but now Ro stopped, arrested in the very act of disabling this, the last barrier, and reaching the enticing and elusive mystery that lay concealed beyond.

Could this be a trap? A frown drew the dark brows together. No, there was too much convincing evidence to suggest that this place had lain undisturbed for years, for centuries maybe. The very straightness of the corridor, its direction unswerving and unbroken by any feature or curve, was reminiscent of an older architecture, its surfaces smooth but slightly rough to the touch. The floor was grainy underfoot causing a bizarre sensation of floating down the passage, rolling across the gathered dust of passed generations. The air that trickled in through the antiquated linear vents was dry and faintly stale not the staleness of things old, but the staleness of things ancient, things that had rotted so long ago, that even the stench of decay was nothing but a remembered weight in the recycled atmosphere. And the first two airlocks had been positively archaic it had been almost too simple to overcome the crude security mechanisms. The next four had been electronic, but still old-fashioned, and had caused no more than a brief interruption to forward progress. The last one though, had been more of a challenge, with its palm reader. Basic, to be sure, but nevertheless, surprisingly difficult to override. And now the final one, if the instruments were to be believed. Ro turned once more to the task in hand, spending several minutes using sensitive fingertips to explore the delicacies of the keypad, before succumbing to a tight smile, and precisely applying a finger laser to the vulnerable spot. A little more deft work with the fingers, and the lock began to open with a crackle of broken seals, as it finally began to yield its secrets.

The space revealed was a large hemispherical chamber, although its vaulted height and receding perimeter were mere impressions in the dim light cast from a single source towards the centre of the space. Cautiously Ro moved forward, identifying the light as glowing figures on a simple medscreen. A dark mass sat solidly beneath the medscreen, a curved black slab, maybe two meters long, with a dull sheen in the eerie half-light, and the ominous appearance of a tomb. Unexpectedly, the screen began to animate, lights flickering as they ignited, bringing the unmistakable odour of scorched dust, and a series of electronic tones indicated that something, at least, was being brought to life. The black mass began to move, and Ro froze, superstitious dread momentarily overcoming natural curiosity. The black casing was shed, revealing an ice-encased figure of human proportions, linked by a series of tubes and cables to a gently steaming unit that, on inspection, proved to be a basic cryogenic module. Clicks and buzzes continued to emanate from the various electronic boxes, as the scene unfolded with a majestic inevitability. The indicator on the medscreen rose reluctantly, reading a slowly rising body temperature, and the cryounit continued to hiss and tick as the nitrogenous ice melted into vapour.

Ro circled the figure once, warily, determining that the thawing body was indeed the sole occupant of the chamber. Puzzled by the lack of artefacts, by the lack of any clues as to the identity of the sleeping form, Ro settled down to wait, hand loosely resting on the knurled head of a laser scalpel.

Perhaps ten minutes passed.

Eventually, the figure was freed of its refrigerating sheath and could be seen to be an adult male, with a solid torso and thick dark hair that appeared starkly black against the pale veined skin. Ro stretched to catch sight of the face: a face that had seen something of life, etched with lines from both laughter and sorrow. The mass of tubes shrivelled and withdrew with a final slithering hiss, leaving the perfect body still and silent. The medscreen bleeped an instruction in a dull, mechanical tone. "Apply passkey"

Ro was puzzled. Apply passkey? What passkey? The screen bleeped again, insistent.

"Apply passkey."

A story was echoing in Ro's subconscious, some deeply buried memory, or perhaps just an atavistic sense of purpose, of correctness, and, driven by a sense as old as human folklore, she leant forward, and gently kissed the colourless lips.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 13:15 on 21 August 2003  Report this post
Hi Steph,

This is a departure! Hooked staight away on the delicious mystery of what was going on - no you can't end it there. Enjoyed the following description ...the staleness of things ancient, things that had rotted so long ago, that even the stench of decay was nothing but a remembered weight in the recycled atmosphere. and others too.

I did think you could have kept us waiting just a little longer for this: The black casing was shed, revealing an ice-encased figure of human proportions, but I loved the surprise of Ro being female at the end - I'd assumed she was a guy. (Slap that woman.)

Have you read Anne Mc Caffrey's Dragonflight? It begins a 'little like this (I think, unless I'm remembering all wrong.)

Keep writing and post more soon.

Best, Nell.


And if this is Renoir Ro is resurrecting you've really got my attention!

Becca at 15:22 on 21 August 2003  Report this post
Steph, a teasing place to stop! I too thought you could give the moments before the kiss a bit more build up, if that's what Nell meant?
Was he naked, was he wearing something, did she have to peer into the cryounit, or was it an upright thing like a mummy might be standing in. In my mind I had it standing, but when she kissed him I had him in a coffin-like object.
Maybe I'm rushing ahead, but was Ro an engineer? Why didn't she seem too surprised at this, maybe she was an archiologist? Am I being plain boring? Could you post more?

stephanieE at 18:09 on 21 August 2003  Report this post
Becca/Nell, Thanks for getting there so quickly. There's a whole bunch of background that it's intended to reveal gradually through the novel - I think this acts as a Prologue really. Yes, it was supposed to be a surprise that Ro was female (do you have any idea how hard that is to do?) but I take your point about a little more tension in the build-up, a little more description (I wrote what I saw in my head, but forget that not everyone else can see that...).

And Ro was once a surgeon, but has resorted to archaeological theft following... well, I'll have to get around to writing it won't I?

Thanks - looking forward to 3pm Saturday (might be a little late - trains permitting...)

Becca at 18:36 on 21 August 2003  Report this post
Steph, thanks for the correct spelling of archi-whatnot. Check trains, I think I remember you said you were coming from Bath? I checked tonight and the 'bloke' said there were straight thro trains from Bath, not knowing that meant not a thing to me, but when we sorted it out, it seems trains from your side will be fine. Worth a check though.

roger at 19:05 on 21 August 2003  Report this post
Your problem. Steph, is that we read your stuff for the sex, and straight away I hear Becca say, 'was he naked?' - you women! Actually, of course, that's not true, we read it because it's exceptionally good...the rude bits are just a bonus. And with this, you've proved that you don't actually need the rude bits...except, I suspect, that it probably gets rude post end. As Nell said, this is a departure, and a very effective one. I thought, this is a bit like opening the first pyramid at the end of the 19th century, but with a furistic slant. And the futuristic aspects were very effective. I'm rambling, aren't I; suffice to say that I thought it was an excellent story (or part thereof) told incredibly well, as usual.

Becca at 19:22 on 21 August 2003  Report this post
Laughed out loud. As I wrote 'was he naked' Roger. I thought exactly what you've written above! I thought shall I delete it, but I didn't because of the Frankenstein effect if you see what I mean and decided to trust that you'd all see the whole thing as coincidence.
I'm rather disturbed by the word 'post end' by the way. IS THERE NEVER AN END TO THIS THING?

roger at 19:39 on 21 August 2003  Report this post
Now look, Becca, this is Steph's place for sensible comment on her work and I am not going to get into a prolonged discussion about sizes and names relating to naughty bits. I meant 'after the end of this section of the story', as you well know! And anyway, you're just making excuses...you were all fired up for a bit of saucy reading, weren't you? Go on, admit it, girl! Why else would you immediately think of naked men?

Becca at 21:00 on 21 August 2003  Report this post
Oh God, I don't know really, instinct I suppose-ish.

roger at 21:05 on 21 August 2003  Report this post
Exactly; the instinct generated when you anticipate reading something rude! Now come on, admit it and let's put an end to this nonsense.

tweed at 21:42 on 21 August 2003  Report this post
I thought this was great Steph. What I loved was the sense of rythmn. The feel of the piece. It moved along so well, like music, heightening the tension as it went. I happen to think that, that's what writing is about.That's the incredient X. Pace, a sense of movement. Nothing to do with vocab, people with huge vocabs I usually find cannot resist the urge to show-off and instead of holding back let go with words that are no-longer in general use and nobody has ever heard off, they become verbose and lose the audience. Great and not a knob, penis, c*** or wim-wom anywhere to be seen (yet).

stephanieE at 09:19 on 22 August 2003  Report this post
Thanks ROger and Tweed... I know you were all expecting naughty bits, but I can do non-XXX rated writing you know! (OK, I have to confess, that the first draft had the figure revealed to be a well-developed male - snigger - and I decided that a little more discretion was needed at this stage. Mind you, it's a possibility - is there such a genre as sci-fi erotica?)

Thanks for your positive feedback on pace, Ian - I was happy with the way it read, but it's a little obscure on its own probably.

stephanieE at 09:22 on 22 August 2003  Report this post
So... er... did you want more of the XXX-rated novel then? Or is it now past its prime? Interest flagging? Excitement dissipating like... er... like a flaccid... um... you know...

Wadda ya think?

roger at 09:27 on 22 August 2003  Report this post
Well, Steph, if there isn't an erotic si-fi genre, you're the one to make it happen. And yes, I know we all want to see more 'rude', if only to learn a few more naughty words!

Ralph at 18:12 on 25 August 2003  Report this post
Steph, this is incredible, intelligent prose with an enthralling pace and plot. You had the hairs on the back of my neck bristling with "the gathered dust of passed generations", and I loved the image of "the electricity coursing through [the city's] veins at 50Hz". This is something the reader hears, smells and feels as well as reading.
And, me being me, the bit that really got me was the gender reversal - active female passive male... yes yes yes! Found the comments about describing him really interesting in this respect. I reckon Ro's got a right to linger if she wants to, and if you're into the gender reversal game then perhaps a little taster of objectifying the male body would be an interesting development. Then again, the story doesn't need it - so it's just as good without... (helpful aren't I!) Wherever you're going with this, I'm really looking forward to reading more.

stephanieE at 10:26 on 26 August 2003  Report this post
Blimey, thanks Ralph, coming from an accomplished writer like yourself, I take those as huge compliments.

I'd like to do some more work on this, I've a number of isolated scenes written, but it's the hard work of tying them all together that I haven't tackled yet... perhaps this should be my aim before I have to go back to work.

Cheers everyone for your useful comments

matheson at 21:10 on 26 August 2003  Report this post

really liked the pace ...it read like a corridor drawing me on (an interesting corridor, with puzzles and subtle sensations!). The screen firing up and the thawing man were nicely worked, the staleness/ opening a sci-fi tomb set up suspense and the sleeping beauty twist was clever and absolutely NOT corny...a neat trick to pull off. I don't want you to stop this here (but assumed we'd get naughty bit so maybe both my head and ...er..heart are talking here :-).

BUT...the real reason I need more...what's an essum and is she one?

All the best


stephanieE at 12:52 on 27 August 2003  Report this post
John... an essum is a 'sentient machine' or S.M. for short which has been bastardised to essum. Somewhere between robot and human, something like Philip K Dick's androids in 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep'... and no, she isn't...

kmerignac at 17:28 on 02 September 2003  Report this post
I really enjoyed this, and loved the way the fact that Ro is a girl seemed to jump out at you. I remember trying to do something like that once and it's really hard to do without sounding contrived, and this most certainly doesn't sound contrived. It's a clever mix of future and past too, which is very well done (our future, Ro's past), and a style a really liked. It has to be a beginning of much longer, doesn't it?
Yours, Kate.

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