Critique Group – Mercury’s Wings

Yep. Show, don’t tell.

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Mercury’s Wings – by Megan

At least scrounging around for spaceship parts and crawling around underground was kind of enjoyable. It made you feel like you were really doing something for the Resistance. But memorizing Romeo and Juliet? Dar grunted—then had to duck as he walked to keep from knocking his head against the jagged ceiling of the tunnel.

“Y’know, Biff,” he said, “I’d give anything to be in a different department. Mechanics, chemists, thieves—anything but Shakespeare.”

Biff  laughed. “I don’t blame ya, kid.” He rounded a sharp curve, and Dar followed. “Just wait until you see Mercury’s Wings. You won’t be grumbling then.”

Dar smiled. “Easy for you to say. You’re not stuck playing Romeo.” It’d been torturous today—even more than usual—to be stuck in a cramped and leaky room gushing love poetry while, rooms away, the final tests were being conducted on Mercury’s Wings. They’d been counting down the days to the installation of the invisibility shield for months, and in the end he had to miss it for rehearsal. Of all things.

But that hardly mattered. He didn’t have to see her turn invisible the first time. He would see it now. After months and months of grueling, painstaking work, she was finished.

“So how’s she look, Biff?” The nonchalant attitude he’d planned on assuming really wasn’t coming out. He sounded like a spoiled palace kid again. He sounded like—like he had when he and Alphonse had gotten their own streetfliers. And that had been the greed of two childish aristocrats, not the enthusiasm of a patriot.

“Better ask how doesn’t she look.” Biff’s voice rang with pride. “The shield works like a charm. Everyone cheered—even Cap.”

They had cheered, loudly enough to pierce two of the thick tunnel walls and drift into where Dar was lamenting Juliet. He gave a wry smile. “I heard you. I’m surprised the police didn’t show up.” At a pang of jealousy, he slapped his thigh. “Blast, I wish I’d been there!”

“Don’t worry, kid; you’ll see more of Mercury’s Wings than anyone.” Biff’s tone sobered. “You’re not the only one wishing for a different department. Every man in the Resistance would switch places with you in a heartbeat, you know.”

Dar nodded. Biff and the rest of the Resistance Boys their age might get the more entertaining jobs. But he had the most important one.

All the same, he wished it had been anyone but him. And not just because he hated Shakespeare.

The tunnel opened out into a crude room with several tunnels branching from it. “All ready for tomorrow?” asked Biff, never slacking his stride.

Dar shrugged. “I’m not afraid of goofing up on Romeo, if that’s what you mean.” He frowned.  Should he tell Biff what he was afraid of? Or would he sound like a wimp? It had to be done. Alphonse was the face of the aristocracy. This job wasn’t anything personal. But still, that didn’t change the fact that—

Biff halted and held up a hand. “Hear that?”

Somewhere in the tunnel pattered hurrying feet. A moment later, Crispin came running from one of the passages, sweat running down his flushed little face and his red hair even messier than usual. Renna followed, her eyes wide and her hair wild. Crispin staggered to a halt in front of Dar with his hands on his knees, panting. Renna flew into Biff’s arms and clung to him. Her winded breaths morphed into soft sobs.

Dar glanced from Renna to Crispin. “What happened?”

“Police,” gasped Crispin. He pressed a hand to his throat. “Ran all the—all the way.”

“Police?” Dar looked at Biff, knitting his brows. Biff returned the look, distractedly rubbing Renna’s shoulder with one thumb. Whatever these two had been up to, it had to have been something serious to make Renna cry. Dar turned back to Crispin. “They chased you?”

Crispin shrugged, still panting. “Yeah. I mean, I don’t know. I mean, they chased us, but we got away.”

“Well what the heck did you do?” A sudden suspicion put a pit in Dar’s stomach. His voice dropped. “Did they catch you with a message?”

Crispin shook his ragged red head. “No.” His breathing began to steady.

“Well, why’d they chase you?”

“I threw a rock.” He jerked his chin up, his eyes glinting. “And broke the Commissioner’s window.”

Dar’s jaw slackened. He crossed his arms. Then he gave a low whistle. “Why, you little anarchist.” He glanced at Biff again and shook his head. Then, leaning over so he could look Crispin in the face, he said, “Crispin, we all hate the police, but you can’t just throw rocks at their windows. When your brother finds out—”

“It wasn’t like that!” Crispin’s little fists clamped with an unmistakable family resemblance to Cap. “They were being rough with Renna!”

Biff grabbed Renna’s shoulders and stared her in the face, his eyes wide with horror. “Are you all right?”

Renna nodded. “Crispin stopped it before—before it got bad.” Her voice shook. Biff bit his lip and pulled her close.

Dar swallowed. They all knew what the police’s “being rough” meant. The idea of Renna in the hands of those aristocrat pigs— He clenched his jaw until it hurt. Lucky for the police they weren’t here. Biff would’ve pounded them to jelly.

Pushing down his anger, Dar clapped Crispin on the back. “You’re a little hero, Crispin.” He forced brightness into his voice. “We won’t tell Cap if we can help it.” He glanced at Biff, who was trembling with protective rage. Their eyes locked over Renna’s golden-brown head. This had got to stop. Aristocrat lawmen couldn’t bully poor girls in the street. Not Biff’s girl. Not anybody’s girl.

It was Crispin who broke the brooding silence. “Dar.” He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a grimy envelope. “I’ve got something from Clem.” He handed it to Dar, who tore it open.




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3 replies

  1. Wooaaaaahhhhh!!!!!!!!! I had NOT expected to look on my e-mail this morning and find one of your lovely little novels, Megan! 😀 Quite the pleasant surprise, I assure you! 😉 Oh, dear, I’m getting distracted from critique. Ahem.
    “Crispin’s little fists clamped with an unmistakable family resemblance to Cap.”
    Up to this point, you have not mentioned either Crispin being related to Cap, or Cap’s personal tendency to clamp his fists, so this felt a little unusual in its placement.
    Other than that, I’m afraid I have very little time – and I’m sorry!
    Lovely story, and I hope *wink wink* to read the whole thing soon! 😉

  2. Megan,

    This is very good. You have done so many things right—showing over telling, great descriptions, excellent pacing, and many other details. I don’t have many critiques at all.

    You began building your story world quite well while slowly revealing more and more, the invisibility invention adds a lot of intrigue, and the smaller kids getting into trouble adds a strong emotional connection. Very nice.

    One issue I think you should work on is an immediate goal. I couldn’t get a handle on what Dar and Biff were trying to do when the scene opens. Yes, they were scrounging for spaceship parts, but for what purpose? I could see that they were helping the Resistance, but it might help if we knew the specific item they were hunting for and what it might do to help their cause. Also, where were they scrounging? Through piles of parts? Parts on shelves? As it stands, I can’t mentally draw a scene.

    I also couldn’t figure out why Shakespeare was mentioned so often. Why was Dar playing Romeo? It didn’t seem to fit the underground, resistance setting. I realize that you plan to reveal the reason later, but I think a clue to the connection would be a good idea, something vague that lets readers know that the connection is logical. Maybe something like – At least the Romeo scheme had a purpose beyond the performance. The plan was brilliant but dangerous.

    A few details:

    “And that had been the greed of two childish aristocrats, not the enthusiasm of a patriot.”

    I couldn’t figure out what “that” referred to. What is the antecedent?

    “You’re a little hero, Crispin.”

    I would take out “little.” First, it would be a better praise. Second, you mention “little” twice earlier when describing him.

    This had got to stop.

    I would delete “got.”

    It was Crispin who broke the brooding silence.

    I would make this simpler – Crispin broke the brooding silence.

    Megan, your writing is strong … very strong. This is going to be a great story.

  3. Oh, sci-fi. I like sci-fi, so the opening line caught me.

    “The Resistance” seems to be what quite a few groups in sci-fi call themselves, so changing the name might be wise.
    Another thing that’s feeling a bit strange to me is that there’s mention of sci-fi things, such as space ships, but then the main character seems to be in school. It kind of threw me off a little because part of it felt so much like 2017, but another part felt like a hundred years in the future. It seems kind of strange these characters are involved in the Resistance, but afraid to play hooky.
    I’m also a bit confused about Renna and Crispen’s age. Crispen seems more mature and less frightened than Renna, which feels a tad off to me if he’s ten and she’s fifteen.

    You’ve got very strong writing.


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