I’m starting a new blog series of Sarah and Vinnet vignettes that take place between Rights of Use and Laws Among Friends. [SPOILERS AHEAD.] There’s been a book there that has almost happened many times, but the episodic events have so far defied a good, consistent plot. Nonetheless, I’ve been accumulating material and ideas for it since I first started writing Vinnet in 2003.
This incarnation came about from a Twitter conversation:
A small volume of “Vinnet’s Vignettes”, as told by older Sarah?— Darren Radford (@InkyD) January 31, 2020
A lot of friends (new and old) who’ve read Rights of Use have expressed some consternation about the ending and intense curiosity about this between-time I wasn’t planning to write about in the main series. I know there’s interest in what happens in Sarah’s life back on Earth. And there’s plenty of conflict, too, as Megan points out:
How do you go from high risk action and espionage to enduring the banality of high school/mundane world growing up?— Megan (@NotAnotherRed) January 31, 2020
Writing these side stories helps me manage my motivation for my primary project, so I’m happy to share them. Let me know what you think on Twitter or my Facebook page (where the Russian bot spam takes less time to sort)!
I hope y’all enjoy!
SPOILERS AHEAD: RIGHTS OF USE
Vinnet Vignettes #1: Memory Vandalism
Sarah Anderson, 2002
Everyone thinks that going on adventures is some grand thing. At least, that’s what it looks like in books and movies. Luke Skywalker leaves Tatooine for the Rebellion and never thinks back on Uncle Owen or Aunt Beru. Kirk leaves Earth and never looks back. Paul Atreides… Nevermind.
It wasn’t like that for me.
Then again, I was kidnapped. It wasn’t supposed to be an adventure. It took a lot of nightmares and painful silences before l started to miss the excitement and the simplicity. More accurately, Vinnet started missing being an adult and an insurgent more than she was happy about being on Earth.
Don’t get me wrong. I was happy to go home. I felt like I was going to get my life back.
Until I was back in my room.
My parents closed the door, and suddenly, everything was just as it had been when they came. Late afternoon sunlight slanted through my blinds, across the desk and past the closet door, still open from when they’d found my hiding spot. Stuffed animals had spilled out with me and been kicked across the room in the struggle.
Shaking, I listened for footsteps, and even though I heard my parents and the dog, I was sure I’d hear Banebdjedet’s raiding party, too.
Except I wasn’t alone. Vinnet was there with me, following my thoughts.
She broke into the downward spiral. I’m sorry the Kemtewet vandalized your home with your own memories. Other fragments of thought came with that one: that I didn’t deserve it, that no one did, that this had to stop. Surely, we can go somewhere you’re more comfortable.
This is my room.
Then let’s reclaim it. She started picturing all the things reminding me of what happened: the mess, the open door, the light.
I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t stop shaking. It could all happen again.
Black Book is monitoring kaxan activity more actively now. They will intercept future raids faster.
It’d been hours before the Air Force had shown up. Faster didn’t mean the raids wouldn’t take people—wouldn’t take me—again.
You have me. If it ever happened again, we would fight and win.
What more could I have done?
Vinnet pictured three different techniques for fighting free, plus how easy it would be for her to take control the kaxan I’d been left alone in.
They’d left me alone in a getaway vehicle.
All I’d had to do was log in, undock, and fly home. It was a handful of button presses. Vinnet and I had done exactly that later on, which made Banebdjedet’s raiding party kind of inept. Which was great, except they’d still bested me.
You’ve learned and changed since then, Vinnet insisted. May I help with your room?
Yeah. As she took control, I thought about it. She was right. I’d never be the same.
With control of my body, she picked up the stuffed animals and settled them back into their pile on the floor of the closet. She closed the door reverently, as if locking up both the bad and good memories for a later time when I could untangle them. The next time you encounter agents acting for the Kemtewet, you’ll be equipped to defend both yourself and others, as you defended Maggie on Sais.
I had talked Vinnet out of killing her, but… If you hadn’t killed her, we’d still be there, working on taking out the whole Kemtewet Empire.
That started to sink in.
We’d been right there, among the queens and kings. Vinnet was supposed to get one alone and replaced them with a Gertewet. One by one, the leaders of the Kemtewet Empire would secretly become Gertewet until the Gertewet had control of everything. It could have worked.
If I hadn’t gotten Vinnet to save Maggie.
Vinnet angled my blinds backwards and turned on every light in the room, making it look more like it did when I worked on homework in the evenings. Then she lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling. She frowned, and a glimmer of a critical thought flitted by, too abstract for me to understand. She closed her eyes, focusing. Saving Maggie was a right thing to do.
But not the right thing.
She folded her hands on her stomach. Every decision refines who we are. Choosing Maggie was a decision of compassion for an individual.
And killing her would have ended the war and saved a bunch of other lives.
Maybe. She took a slow, deep breath and blew it out. Anjedet’s spares had already recognized that I wasn’t her. Even without Maggie, we may not have survived long enough to strengthen the Gertewet foothold. These situations are fraught with uncertainty.
I’d forgotten about the doppelgänger and her suspicious glances.
But not about my hands killing her.
Vinnet rushed to continue, You argued for me to have compassion for an individual over the slim possibility that our mission would have succeeded. Looking up, she framed the center of the ceiling with her fingers. The first Gertewet, Mute, believed that personal contact is what changes society for the better, even more than grandiose strategies. My progenitor didn’t. I’d rather be like Mute.
It was going to take a lot more conversations before I understood what she was talking about, but that was the first I’d heard Vinnet describe the kind of person she wanted to be. Gertewet aren’t like humans. They don’t get asked what they want to be when they grow up. They’re born kind of knowing what they’re supposed to do, and they grow up learning how to do it. It’s presumed they’re going to be an insurgent like everyone else and the queen who bore them and the queen before her.
Vinnet got to dream on Earth.
Anyway, there we were, lying on my bed, studiously ignoring the corner of the room where Banebdjedet’s guards had dragged me away, Vinnet framing the ceiling with my fingers.
What are you doing? I asked. (Deep thoughts there. I know.)
Sighing, she lowered her hands and started giving me back control. Tewet décor has ceiling art. We’re aquatic creatures, originally. We’re used to operating in three dimensions. Your ceiling is very plain, especially compared to your walls.
It was true. Every square foot of my walls was covered in posters, letters, postcards, and cutouts of packaging I liked.
On impulse, I reached out to brush my fingers against the pieces closest to the head of the bed, some of my favorites, like letters from friends back South. I had control. I tried out my voice, trying to change the sound of the room, too. “You’re staying here. Why don’t you take the ceiling?”
But she made me clear some of the wall space in exchange. Something about clutter being bad for the mind? Most of it moved straight onto the closet door.
We talked like that a lot: me aloud, her thinking back. I was home. We were safe. There wasn’t anything to be afraid of, she said.
Until Mom started asking who I was talking to.
Previously in Vinnet Vignettes: Reflections on Becoming a Host