CRASHLAND deleted scene
Here, to celebrate the international release of Crashland, is a scene that sadly ended up on the cutting room floor, featuring Clair and new characters Devin and Trevin Bartelme on the seastead Athene.
Prize giants appear elsewhere in the climax of Hollowgirl, and in the related short story “The Tyranny of Distance”.
Clair had lost track of where she was walking while she talked. After a while the corridors and chambers had all started to look the same. What was it about institutional architecture, she wondered. Why was individuality one of the first things stamped out when people gathered in large groups, even today? That was one question her history classes had never answered to her satisfaction. Fabbers should have freed everyone to be individuals, and yet people still wore uniforms and clustered in their endless, unchanging hives. More like ants sometimes, she thought, than people . . .
Am I an ant, and if so, what kind? A terrorist ant or a peacekeeper ant? Or a soldier ant, now?
And why are the corridors on this seastead so damned huge?
“Turn right up here,” Devin said. “That big green door there. It’s locked. Give me a second and I’ll code it open.”
“You think this is a good idea, D?” asked Trevin unexpectedly over the open chat.
“I think it’s an idea, T,” said Devin. “She’ll find out eventually, so what does it matter?”
“Uh, guys, I don’t want to be part of your twin thing, okay?” she said. “And please remember that I have a name.”
The door hissed open, revealing yet another big, metal-clad room. If it had been built in any other age, it would have been an insane waste of resources, but she supposed it didn’t matter as long as it stayed afloat.
She walked inside, noting the presence of several industrial booths in a line along one wall. There were doorways leading deeper into an area of the seastead she hadn’t visited it before. It didn’t show on the interface either. Clair was in a blank area that she had assumed was engines or something like that.
Something thudded in the distance. She looked toward the source of the sound and saw a fifteen foot-high mecha coming into view around corner. The suit was massively solid, heavy and gray as gunmetal, but its movements were surprisingly lithe. She couldn’t glimpse the pilot through its helmet visor. Maybe they were safely hidden in the machine’s barrel like trunk, tucked away in a metal womb while the suit’s artificial limbs did the work by remote.
“Where’d you get the pattern for that antique?” she said, noting a second one following closely behind the first. “And are you seriously sending some poor schmuck inside it to get roasted by the first
“Who’re you calling a schmuck?” asked Devin.
“I’m more worried about antique,” said Trevin as the two mechas thumped into the room and walked right up to her, stopping only to loom impressively and pose with their limbs impressively flexed, heads dipping low to her height.
“No one’s seen anything like this before.”
That was when Clair got a glimpse through the visors. She didn’t see instruments, or the head of a pilot nestled deep in the mechas’ protective shells.
From each helmet stared a pair of giant, identical eyes, each as wide across as her open hand.
“PKs using resurrection could win this war,” said Devin, “but so could we. I call it even.”
He was the giant on the left, and his voice was so deep it made Clair’s breast bone vibrate.
“Even?” said Trevin, the giant on the left. “We’re going to squash them like bugs. What do you think, Clair?
Clair stared up at them with her mouth open, but nothing remotely resembling words came out of it.
The twins showed her how their new bodies worked, without any outward sign of embarrassment or modesty. When the helmets came off, they were recognizable each other, just bigger: they still had red hair and their Adam’s apples, and they were still as pale as marble. But they talked about themselves as though their bodies weren’t theirs, calling them “prize giants” rather than mechas, since there was nothing mechanical about them at all.
Clair had heard that term before. Prize giants were outlawed and had been ever since d-mat was invented, but people still put them in dramas just like everything else that was supposed to be impossible. People made them in private networks, the stories went, to fight in secret tournaments. There were rumors of enormous bodies found dumped or chopped into pieces, because the fighter had died from complications before getting back into a booth and turning themselves back. There was even a terrible old movie about a prize fighter that went insane and killed a bunch of people, called “Big Boxers Need Big Boxers”.
These prize giants, the twins declared, were the result of years of research. They had multiple bones in each leg to carry the weight, and two spines for extra support as well as to provide a back-up nervous system. They could heal faster, digest food more efficiently, and experience pain in different ways, so the person inside wouldn’t be distracted when they needed to concentrate. They had three hearts and thick skulls to protect the brain–which, incredibly, was exactly the same size as normal.
“It takes a bit of getting used to,” said Devin, flexing one massive, thick-fingered hand, “but the mind remaps the body amazingly fast. Even the first time, I felt like me within an hour or so.”
“Does it freak you out, Clair?” asked Trevin. “I know you had that thing for the natural sports boy–no prosthetics, no drugs, all that. If that’s what you’re into . . .”
He was talking about Zep, perhaps to provoke her.
“Well, I wouldn’t do it myself . . .”
“Are you sure?” he pressed her. “It takes a while to extrapolate your own version, but we have templates anyone can ride.”
“No thanks,” said Clair firmly. “You boys keep playing with your toys. I’m happy the way I am, thanks.”
“What do you mean, ‘boys’?” said Trevin. “I’m intersex and Devin here is legally a girl. That’s why he likes you so much. He thinks you’re going to have sleepovers and braid each other’s hair. It’s kind of sweet, actually.”
Devin blushed, which was an impressive sight on his new, giant face.
“Uh, that’s not what I think at all,” he said.
“Sorry,” Clair said, feeling stupid herself. “I didn’t realize . . . I mean, I didn’t look at your profiles or I would’ve known.”
“You had no reason to,” Devin said. “And we didn’t tell you. It’s not that we’re shy about it or anything. Just . . . pronouns, you know? English is still a bit hopeless that way.”
“You can keep thinking of me as ‘he’, if that helps,” said Trevin.
Clair made a mental note to use ‘she’ for Devin in future.
“Why don’t you use . . .” She gestured at their new bodies. “. . . this to fully transition?”
“This is for fun,” said Devin. “I’ll change back later and no one will ever know. If I change who I am to be the way I want to be, I’ll never want to change back, and that will be hard to explain. The world isn’t ready.”
“I think she’s not ready,” said Trevin, nudging his brother–sister–with one mountainous elbow. “But that’s okay. There’s no hurry. We’ve got the rest of our lives to work out who we are.”
“If we survive today,” said Devin with an expression that might have been a grin. It was hard to tell sometimes, on a face as big as a suitcase.
“You think it’ll be that soon?” she asked, stuck on today.
“The dupes will move as soon as they get your message,” Trevin said. “We’ll leak your location at the same time, so they’ll know exactly where you are.”
“And who you’re with,” Devin added.
“The PKs are coming through now,” said Trevin. “Once they’re ready, there’s no real reason to hold back, is there?”
She nodded. It made sense, for all that her gut quailed at the thought.
War. Over her.
“We’ll change back in a moment,” Devin said. “Please don’t tell anyone, Clair. It’s our secret to reveal.”
She nodded again, aware that their trust was as much a gesture as it was a real thing. Everyone would know about the prize giants soon enough. She was being given an opportunity to return the gesture.
“Of course,” she said. “As long as you promise not step on me when the fighting starts.”
Four rows of broad teeth showed in identical smiles.
“In the heat of battle,” drawled Trevin, “I ain’t promising nothing.”