Tankborn Deleted Scenes - Flood

My main goal in the Flood Scene was to give Kayla another opportunity to see Devak before her Assignment. This scene also explored the dynamics of the Jewels and Warriors again, and showed Kayla's extraordinary strength. It gave a sense of Loka's climate, the fact that inundating rainstorms were an ordinary occurrence. Finally, it showcased the lowborns right across the Chadi River from Kayla and how their lives differed from the GENs' lives. As a bonus, I was able to sneak in an appearance of the lowborn toddler, Shan.

With this scene deleted, I ended up mentioning Lokan flooding only in passing in the final manuscript. Kayla does see Shan when she's on her way to her Assignment. Since the Jewels and Warriors went entirely by the wayside, there was no need for them to make another appearance. In the final book, I only hint at the social stratification amongst GENs.

The Flood Scene came after the Joining Scene, shortly before Kayla leaves on Assignment.

The Deleted Scene

A spring deluge dumped itself on Chadi sector during Kayla's last week before Assignment, sending all able-bodied GENs to the river to sandbag against the flood. The warehouses had been built a safe distance from the cresting Chadi, but a foot of brown water lapped against the Doctrine classroom buildings and swamped the adjoining play yard.

Of course, Kayla was top on the list of volunteers. She could shovel triple the crushed permacrete than the strongest men and easily tote two filled fifty kilogram plasscine bags. As short as she was, though, the water was nearly knee-deep. It was an effort to slog through it and she shuddered to think what might be floating around in those murky depths.

Pech and the other Warrior boys did the work grudgingly, industrious when their nurture parents were looking their way, loafing when they weren't being watched. Jewels like Palacia kept their dainty selves out of the wet, spending their time in the Doctrine gymnasium doling out hot cups of kelfa.

Beela, holding the sandbags open for Pech to fill, would glance Kayla's way once in a while. But most of the time, she was batting her eyes at the Warrior boy as if he was the Infinite Himself come to earth.

Miva held open a plasscine bag for Kayla, her straight dark hair plastered to her face by the rain. Miva still managed to look cute, her light brown face only a little paler from the cold. Kayla, on the other hand, with her wet hair a scraggly mess and her worn tunic clinging to her skinny frame, would probably frighten the second-years if they'd been allowed out in the drizzle.

"Would you ever forgive her?" Miva asked, tipping her head toward Beela. "Want her as your friend again?"

Kayla glanced over at Beela, saw her radiant smile flashing up at Pech. The Warrior boy preened down at Beela.

She went back to counting shovel loads. Thirty-nine, forty, forty-one. Forty-six filled the bag.

Better to feel the ache in her shoulders than think about Beela. "Why bother forgiving? I'll be gone soon enough."

Miva touched Kayla's arm. "But you'll come back on your Restdays."

"Sure, Miva." If she wasn't thousands of kilometers away.

Kayla dumped number forty-six into the bag, then waited for Miva to twist the top and set the seal. Crouching to lever the bags up on her shoulders, Kayla assessed where they could best be used. Tonk waved her over to the back of the Doctrine building where they were adding another row of bags. Kayla trudged across the play yard mud.

She slung the two bags onto the stack, then stepped back out of the way of the next in line. Moving along the outside of the plasscine fence surrounding the play yard, she rolled her tired shoulders. She stepped up onto a fence support above the water line then propped herself against the fence. Memories rushed back—her and Mishalla staring across the Chadi into trueborn Foresthill, enthralled by the lowborn shantytown directly across from them.

Everything about the lowborns had fascinated them—the wild colors of the women's dresses and the men's shirts, their fights and screams of laughter, the noise of all those packed in people. Even now with the adults fighting the flood on their side, frantically filling sandbags, the children ran half-naked from one shanty to another, shouting, grinning, happier than they ought to be, poor as the lowborns were.

But why not be happy, when they were free? They might not have the status of a trueborn, but they were natural-born. They weren't tattooed, weren't Assigned, weren't monitored on the Grid like a GEN was. They could never be reset or realigned. They picked their own jobs and earned triple the dhans a GEN would for the same work, even when they worked right alongside GENs.

And they were human. Their homes might be rundown and piecemeal, pushed to the far fringes of trueborn territory, but they were born from a mother instead of a tank and no trueborn could change their humanity.

As she watched, a toddler, maybe eighteen months old, clambered up onto the piled sandbags and screamed with joy. He stomped his feet and danced on the sandbags, risking a fall into the muddy water. But before he could lose his balance and topple in, a dark-haired woman snatched the boy from his perch, scolding him as she carried him off toward one of the shanties.

As Kayla's idle gaze followed the woman's path, she saw two trueborn men approach the shanty, a dozen GENs following in their wake. Too caught up in the oddity of trueborns leading GENs into a lowborn shanty, she didn't recognize the younger one right off. Then it felt as if a couple hundred kilograms of sandbags had fallen on her head.

It was Devak. Dressed fancier than he'd been that day at the river, with a gold-trimmed purple shirt and cape edged with pela fur. But she had that easy stride memorized, never mind she'd only seen him those scant few minutes. Her fantasies hadn't exaggerated him one bit—he really was as gorgeous as those daydreams had made him out to be.

And here she was in plain view, leaning against the play yard fence. Bad enough he'd seen her coated in river mud. No way would she let him see her looking like a drowned rat-snake.

Keeping her shoulders hunched and her face turned away, she walked quickly along the fence toward the nearest gate. Just as she started back across the mucky play yard, she risked a glance back. The older man with him was talking to one of the lowborn men, but Devak was scanning the shore of the GEN side.

Great Infinite, he couldn't be searching for her, could he? Of course not. What interest could a trueborn like him have in a GEN like her?

She walked faster, slipping once in the mud, but keeping to her feet. She ignored Pech's guffaw, tried to tell herself that it wasn't Beela she heard laughing.

When she finally reached Miva, she could barely breathe. "That's him," she gasped. "In the lowborn shanty."

"Who?" Miva asked.

"The trueborn from that day at the river." She turned just enough toward the shantytown to gesture toward Devak. "Thank the Infinite—I don't think he saw me."

Miva giggled. "He's the best-looking trueborn boy I've ever seen."

"He's just about the only trueborn boy you've ever seen, other than the enforcers. And anyone in a Brigade uniform is just plain ugly."

"He's waving at you, Kayla."

"No!" She spun on her heel to look. His hand was still at his side, but his fingers flicked in her direction. She turned away again. "That wasn't for me."

"He was looking right at you."

She shook her head to repel the image. But it was stuck there now, just like the daydreams. If she thought it was bad before fantasizing about him, now it would be even worse.

She grabbed up a bag and stuffed it into Miva's hands. "Hold this," she growled, then picked up her shovel.

One. Two. Three...

Joining Scene

Flood Scene

Coffee House Scene

Zul's Journal