FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/20/18: Jake remembers what he remembered from that one horrible night when he and Jill were teens

I’d just like to give a mild trigger warning here.  There’s no graphically described violence in today’s post but as someone who has been through some heavy things in his life, I know that just the suggestion of one of those events can inspire anxiety in me.  So, if you ever went through something even lightly traumatic, know that I think you can handle this, but I wanted to give you a heads-up, regardless.  Like I said, it’s not graphic, but there is something horrible that happened to a major character in FIRE ESCAPE.
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Over the next couple of days, I just couldn’t get those flashes of memory out of my head.  I felt like if I kept focusing on them, I could remember more.  Several times I would sneak off to the bathroom or my bedroom for a break from prepping for our reconnaissance mission and try to push myself into those memories.  

As it turned out, it worked–and what I remembered was not pleasant.  
It was our last summer in Washington Heights and our last summer working for Uncle Julio and in The Trade.  Early on, I stumbled across a journal, or a diary, I guess.  I just assumed it was Jills and being the annoying little brother I was, I opened it.  It was not Jill’s handwriting but it contained all of these notes and amazing drawings.  This wasn’t a comic book but more like Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketchbook or something. Sketches of devices, vehicles, phenomena, circuitry, schematics, math equations, it was incredible and way over my 14 year-old head.  When Jill came into her room (OK, so I stumbled across it while sneaking in her room), she yelled at me for 1) being in her room and 2) looking at “Jenny’s book.”

“Who’s Jenny?” I demanded.

“Nobody you would care about now get outta my room!”  I didn’t do as I was told and she physically shoved me toward her bedroom door and kept shoving me until I was out of her room.  She quickly slammed the door.  “Jill!! COME ON!!”

I pounded on the door.  I wanted to know more about this Jenny person.  She seemed fascinating.  I wasn’t going to let it go.  “Damn it, Jill!  Who is Jenny?!  Her book is amazing!”

I waited for some kind of reply and then added: “I just want to know who she is!  She reminds me of you!”

After a moment, her door opened and I could see her walking back to her desk.  I stood in the doorway as she grabbed Jenny’s Book and leapt onto her bed and then began to fan through the pages.  She stopped and looked up.  “So, come in!”

She patted the bed next to her.  I ran over and joined her, looking at the book.  She began to tell me about this amazing woman–Jennifer Ellsworth.  She was a scientist and doctor who lived back in the 1940s and had invented a great many things and concepts but she had been almost completely ignored by other scientists of her time because she was a woman.  

“What happened to her?” I asked.

“Nobody knows. I mean, I don’t know.  There’s nothing in her book that says.  The notes just stop a few pages before the end.” She showed me the last few blank pages.

“Where did you get it?”

“I found it in some stuff we bought from those creepy old white guys in the black suits.”

“Wow. I wonder where they got it!”

“I don’t know.  But…”

“But…?”

“But I think I’ve seen her.”

“You whaa–aaat?” I said, my voice cracking. We laughed.

“No, I’m serious,  I think I’ve seen her like her ghost or something.”

“No way!”

“Yes way!  I know it’s her because the ghost wears yellow!”

“So?”

“So, Jenny’s favorite color was yellow–she says so in her book!”

“That’s weird.  Are there really ghosts?”

“I don’t know… but maybe.”

“Maybe it’s something else.”

“Maybe.  But she visits me.  Well, she shows up and then runs away and I can’t catch up to her.  But sometimes I get close.  But I’m just glad she visits me.”

“When?”

“At night.  When I’m in bed.”

“Jill!  You’re stupid!  Those are dreams.”

“Noooo, you’re stupid.  I know the difference between dreams and ghosts.”

“Really?”

“Yes and one day I’m going to catch her and talk to her.”

“When you do will you tell me?”

“Of course!  You know how awesome she is too, now.”

“Yes!!”

We talked more that night but I conked out on her bed.  When I woke up, it was very late.  

The middle of the night.  All of the lights were out except for the light coming from Jill’s cellphone, which I could see as she was using it to light her way out, to the living room where the nearest fire escape was.  I immediately climbed out of bed and followed her.  I hid behind the couch Dad had passed out on as she climbed through the window and closed it behind her.  I saw smoke rising from dad’s cigarette, still in his hand, so I grabbed it and stubbed it out in the ashtray on the coffee table.  Then, I made my way to the window.  I climbed out onto the fire escape and looked up to see Jill climbing upward.  I followed.

When I got to the roof, I saw something glowing by the access door to the stairway down.  Jill was standing in front of it.  I peered around Jill and saw only the lower left leg, partially covered by a yellow light.  That’s when the bright glow faded to nothing.  Jill turned around and in the lights from the the street below could see me.  At first she looked angry but then she looked worried.

“JACOB!” She yelled as I heard a dull thud and then saw nothing.

When I woke, my eyes opened to see Jill’s face badly bruised and bloody.  Her tank top was torn and stretched out of shape and her sweat pants were dirty. The blood on her cheeks had streaks from tears cut through them.  “J-J-Jacob!  P-p-please… I need help!”

As I remembered that, I was shocked. As an adult, I only then could understand what had happened to her when I just barely had a clue back when I was 14.  My head was throbbing but I asked her if we could call for help.  Like 911, or something.

“No!  N-n-no… I only want help f-f-from you.”

I was dumb but her words made me feel like I could do it–I could help her–take care of her.  I stood up and after a moment, I felt well enough to move.  I helped her get to the fire escape since we couldn’t use the stairwell because then we’d have to wake Dad and explain what we were doing outside.  Jill wanted to keep all of this to herself.  I didn’t know if that was the best thing or not, but she was my older sister, so I was going to do what she wanted.

We got back into our apartment with no trouble. I helped clean up her wounds and got some ice for her bruised face.  We even threw away her torn tank top and sweat pants because we couldn’t get the blood out.

She never talked about that night again and neither did I.  Mainly because I’d forgotten all about it.  Not by choice–it was the Conveniencer that the Grona guy had used on me after I’d ‘adapted.’  The more I thought about it, the more I realized what had happened back then. The Grona’s Conveniencer didn’t just turn me normal again, it locked away all the memories from around that time–not just what the Firerai educational machine had downloaded into my brain but a lot of other things.  When Wise unlocked those memories so that I could once again access my adaptability abilities and survive on that asteroid, it gave me access to everything else from that time period that I had lost.  He wasn’t reprogramming my DNA–somehow Wise knew what the Grona’s Conveniencer had done to me and he knew I needed that power again.  But how did he know what that Grona did to me? Somehow, that Grona warrior was Wise. Or he knew Wise or something, I’m not sure.

‪End of day 2 progress shot on The #LegoRollerCoaster @SierraRein & I are building. My half is on the left. While I was building up, she got to build the complex gear system that powers the chain lift (so jealous). I’d say we’ve got 1 more day on this #Lego #RollerCoaster build.

‪End of day 2 progress shot on The #LegoRollerCoaster @SierraRein & I are building. My half is on the left. While I was building up, she got to build the complex gear system that powers the chain lift (so jealous). I’d say we’ve got 1 more day on this #Lego #RollerCoaster build.

from my Instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BlfD-7gDPWd/

Aaaand here comes the first of many #timelapse videos of @SierraRein and I building the #LegoRollerCoaster. This was about 3-4 hours. The instructions literally come in 2 volumes. Best #Lego set ever! Especially as a fan of #RollerCoasters! With music by me!

Aaaand here comes the first of many #timelapse videos of @SierraRein and I building the #LegoRollerCoaster. This was about 3-4 hours. The instructions literally come in 2 volumes. Best #Lego set ever! Especially as a fan of #RollerCoasters! With music by me!

from my Instagram.
via IFTTT

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/19/18: The Lady in Yellow and the Flashes of Memory

Big long post coming tomorrow!  Watch for it!  It was a pretty intense little chapter that I wrote in one sitting because I didn’t want to stop or interrupt the flow in any way.  

Just a quick reminder: pretty much everything you’re going to read on this blog or its PDFs is an absolute first draft.  In most cases, you’re reading these pages before even I do as I write them and post them without even checking for typos.  The whole point is to write every day and worry about editing later.  If you want to read something from me that has been proofread and edited (WOW!), please check out manfromzero.com and buy my most recent novel.  It’s good and takes place in the same story universe as Fire Escape–just way in the futrure.  In the meantime, if you want to make it easier for me to write, why not support me on Patreon? Just go here: patreon.com/petenicholls. Don’t want to commit to Patreon?  Then buy me a cup of coffee!  Or hay, just let me know that you like my stuff.  That means so much, too. Find me on TwitterIG, or FB.
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After that, the tension was, for the most part, pretty defused.  Or diffused. Whichever.  When we left Jill took my arm by the elbow and hugged as we walked out to our ride share and again, when we got in the car.  I had a flashback of when we were kids and she would do this.  I couldn’t remember why she did it but the feelings of love and stability passing through me were pretty wonderful.  I knew those feelings, along with her physical affections, would not last for long. By the time we got to the CCTV camera dead zone, and got out of the car, she was back to her normal, cold self.  Her mind always miles away, possibly dimensional rifts away, she once again came across as though she had a thousand things on her mind, all of them more important than you.

But hey, I was used to the status quo. However, she did have one more surprise up her sleeve. As we walked from the ride share to the dead zone, Jill said to me without looking at me: “Do you remember the Lady in Yellow?”

Once again, I felt the pull of my past but this wasn’t a full-on flash backward to my teenage years.  Instead, it was just a few fleeting flashes of memories, incomplete but still clear enough to get a flavor of the full moments they were part of. The first flash was of Jill running away from me in the tank top and sweat pants she’d wear to bed.  The second was me looking at her as we sat on a fire escape–an actual fire escape– outside of our NYC apartment hanging our legs off the side.  We had done this a lot whenever there was a fire escape for us to escape to.  The third was of me climbing a fire escape, looking up, I could see I was following Jill. The final flash was barely a glimpse of a woman in a yellow dress.  Or really, not even the woman but just her lower left leg and the lower right corner yellow dress as she ran out of view.  Then, I remember darkness.  

“Yeah, I think I do remember her.  Why?”

Jill sighed and shrugged.  “Ask me again some time.  I don’t think I’m up to telling you that store today.”

OK,” I said smiling.  As I held out the Accessory, something did seem a little different.  Jill seemed a little bit more relaxed–just a little bit, though.  I think only I could notice the difference.  And who knows? It could have been me that had changed from visiting our mom that day.  I really hoped it was her, too, though.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/18/18: Finally something good from visiting home! (Seriously!)

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“So where are you going, Mom?” I asked.

“I don’t know if you remember Sally from when I went back to get my masters at Hunter?”

“Oh you mean when you tried to go back to Hunter for your masters?” Jill said with contempt in her voice.

“You’re not even trying, are you?!?” I yelled at her. “Come on! Just be positive! Why is this so hard for us?”

Jill barely took a breath, replying immediately with: “Maybe it’s because we all hate each other?! Maybe its because Mom and Dad never taught us what love looks like? Maybe it’s because Dad hated us so much he smoked and died just so he could get out of this family! What kind of Puerto Rican parents name their firstborn daughter ‘Jill’ anyway?”

Her outburst was so unexpected I swear it was like a white hot flash of angry light overtook my vision. In hindsight, I’m glad/lucky that wasn’t a sign I was morphing into Super Alien DNA Jacob.

I was just coming back to reality when my instincts kicked in and I spoke. “This is not at all how I wanted this to go. So, I’m just going to say this.”

I glanced over to Jill and then back to Mom. “Mom, Jill and I are involved in something big with the government.”

Mom’s face changed from stone to an expression of worry as I continued. “We are trying help stop something big and bad and dangerous from happening and I wanted us all to meet one last time before what ever happens next might… might, I don’t know… maybe the worst will happen.”

“You two might die?”

“Yes, Mom, yes. We’re doing incredibly important work that may save thousands, maybe m-m-millions of lives,” Jill said.

Several emotions flowed across Mom’s face.  At first she looked like she didn’t believe Jill’s words, but that quickly changed to a look that, to me, suggested she was experiencing the urge to believe we were serious.  Then she looked terrified.  Next, she looked proud.  Finally she looked resigned with a bit of sad mixed in.

“Thank you for visiting me.  I’m… I’m sorry I haven’t treated you better.”

I smiled softly at her.  “It’s ok, Mom. We just showed up out of the blue–that really put you on the spot.”

“No, I mean for everything.  Your dad and I we just… we did not…  I’d like to blame my parents and your dad’s parents, but it’s us who did this to you.  I have no idea if I can believe what you are saying,” Mom said, hesitating as Jill’s face looked like it was on fire.  

“Jill!” I said, putting my hand up, palm facing her. I nodded to Mom to continue.

“But it’s clear that you believe it.  And you believe the danger is real.  I can see it in your eyes and hear it in your voices. I know you both. You’re my babies.” She began to tear up.  

“So, you go do what you need to do.”

I stood up and hugged her, whispering in her ear “Thanks, Mom!  Now, go hug Jill!”
Mom pulled away from me, and sat down next to Jill. They sat there for a moment and Mom spoke. “You know, it’s OK if you want to hate me forever.  Just so long as you keep loving me.”

I covered my mouth trying to fight back tears as they stared at each other awkwardly finally, they both moved to hug each other at the same time.

It was the most beautiful hug I’d ever seen.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/17/18: Oh you CAN go home again…

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“It’s good that you came, randomly,” Mom said.

“Why?” Jill asked.

“Because…” I said pointing to the boxes lining the two hallways leading from either side of the living room we were now standing in. It was then that I noticed that there was nothing on the walls while they had several bad paintings hung on them when I was here for Dad’s funeral. These were the kind of paintings you’d expect to see in cheap motels. 

“You’re moving,” Jill said.

“You finally decided?” I asked.

“The only reason we stayed here as long as we did was because he was suffering. And as soon as that was all over I just wanted to go.”

“But why? This seems like a nice—a p-p-perfect house for you.”

“I hate it!” she said sitting down in one of two easy chairs facing the TV. The other chair was Dad’s. “Everything I see reminds me of him.”

“But don’t you want to remember Dad?”

“No!” she said with a level of bitterness in her voice that surprised me.

“Mom,” I said.  

“Not the way he was for the last three-four years he was alive. I… saw him in a way that no loved one should ever see him. He died slowly and it really was not pleasant to watch.  I was in denial until it hit me like a ton of bricks that he wasn’t going to make it. And you two?  You two were off doing your own things.  I didn’t want to bother you.”

“Mom, bother us with Dad dying?  Why didn’t you ask for help?” I asked–shocked and scared she went through all of that alone without us really knowing what was going on.

“Because I didn’t want to share my suffering with you. Or his.  It was really not good, not good.”

I sat down on the love seat facing the fire place. I remember Mom telling me when they first moved in to that house that they’d bought that love seat so they could cuddle and smooch. At the time I just didn’t believe her because I have very few memories of them ever seeming in love with each other. I was hopeful at the time because I wanted to believe my parents were actually happy together but they were not.  I looked at the loveseat and it still looked brand new. I imagined that if I gave one of the cushions a good swat I’d send up a cloud of 4 years of dust.

“So selfish, you two.  So selfish.”

“We, or at least, I thought you were OK.  You both had this house, it had the extras to help Dad and you with his issues.  Everything seemed fine when I would visit.”

“He was dying of cancer.  Did you really need an invitation?”

“But I came.  I just didn’t want to force myself on you. I know how you both like to do things your own ways.”

“We do, or we did, it’s true.  But you still should have helped. I’m sorry but that’s true, too.”

“No, you’re right,” I said softly, wiping tears from my eyes.

“It’s a real shame, too, because we loved this house—three bedrooms so you and Jill could visit any time you wanted and even bring your husbands.” She said “husbands” while looking at me, making me feel like I was supposed to be please she accepted me as me.

The sad thing?  I was.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/16/18: Meeting Mom

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So, Mom could see us through the window in the door, so, I was a little bummed she wasn’t immediately smiling as she opened the front door to the small, three bedroom house she and dad had lived in for the last four years.

“Is the world ending?” she said smiling softly. 

I awkwardly cleared my throat as Jill made a noise that was one-half scoff and one-half giggle.

“What else could get both of you to come see me?”

Jill smirked at me and I rolled my eyes. “Mom, Jill and I got back in touch and I thought you would want to know.  I thought you’d be happy to know.”

“You couldn’t just call or email or text? Isn’t that always what you want me to do rather than have a real interaction with you? AFK, I believe you two say?”

Away From Keyboard. This was like a punch to the gut. Here we were reaching out, trying to have an “AFK” relationship but she has to be negative.

“That’s what I say, Mom. Not Jake. He has a life AFK. He has friends, a non tech job and sees the sun on a regular basis.”

“Can we come in, Mom?” I finally blurted out. She backed in, leaving the door open for us.  As I waved Jill past me, letting her go in first, she muttered, “Like I s-s-said–she’s always with the n-negative!”

As I entered I made a declaration. “I have a new rule for you, Mom.  You need to follow it for as long as you can.  Only make positive, encouraging comments.  No negativity about my own, or Jill’s choices in life, OK?”

“What?  I’m never negative!  You two don’t know me very well!”

“B-b-buzzzzz, you lose, Mrs. Rivera. Thanks for playing.” Jill said smiling through a smirk.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I love you both and had no problem when you decided to be gay, Jacob, or you, Jill, when you decided to run off with your technology.  I suppose I should be happy you didn’t meet some terrible man who forced himself on you and got you pregnant.”

That felt like a punch to my gut–I can only guess how it felt to Jill.

“OK, this game was clearly not a game for us to bother with,” I said.  “Mom, can we just have a pleasant visit, please?”

Mom looked to me and her face cracked a warm smile. “Of course.”

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/15/18: How can you go home again if you can’t agree what “home” is?

Just a quick reminder: pretty much everything you’re going to read on this blog or its PDFs is an absolute first draft.  In most cases, you’re reading these pages before even I do as I write them and post them without even checking for typos.  The whole point is to write every day and worry about editing later.  If you want to read something from me that has been proofread and edited (WOW!), please check out manfromzero.com and buy my most recent novel.  It’s good and takes place in the same story universe as Fire Escape–just way in the futrure.  In the meantime, if you want to make it easier for me to write, why not support me on Patreon? Just go here: patreon.com/petenicholls. Don’t want to commit to Patreon?  Then buy me a cup of coffee!  Or hay, just let me know that you like my stuff.  That means so much, too. Find me on TwitterIG, or FB.
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“We’re going home, Jill—you’re not cat going to the vet to be put down,” I said in the back seat of the ride share.

“Home? That place is hardly my home, Jacob. C-c-come on.”

“It’s where our mother lives. It’s close enough.”

“Jacob, when was ‘where our mother lived’ EVER a home? In fact, any place our mother and father were was pretty much invariably a horrible place I’d never want to call home.”

“Yeah, well, dad’s gone now, so you’ve got 50% less of an excuse to not want to go to Mom’s house.”

Jill was silent. 

“I… I just thought we should see Mom one more time before things might get nuts. We’ve almost died several times over the past couple, uh, weeks is it? I’ve lost track of time.”
Jill shrugged.

“Don’t you love Mom?”

“Of course—that’s why I wanted you to have the other Accessory. So you and she could hide from this invasion.”

“Then what’s the big deal in seeing her now?”

“Don’t you get it? I never wanted to see Mom or Dad again!”

“Well, you got your wish with Dad.”

Jill let out a big sigh and we just sat there silently for a while.

“You think I’m happy to feel this way?”

“I don’t know. Don’t you still love Mom and Dad?”

“I don’t love what they did to us. We had the opposite of a stable home. We barely stayed in one place long enough for us to make friends and when we did we moved. Then the fights! We never got any attention from them! It was like we were all just roommates, man—it was absurd! And then, when we do get attention it was only when we did something wrong! They didn’t care about anything we did that was good.”

This was good. I was glad she was letting all this out. I was hoping she’d off load enough over her anger to uncover her feelings of love for our mom at some point.

“You know what? Screw this. Driver? Pull over! I don’t need this today!”
Obviously, I was going to have to help her dig more.

“Hey! No, come on, Jill! Driver, don’t stop!”

“Jake! Come on! Why you gotta make me feel all this right now?”

“Because—we’re gonna be doing some dangerous things—don’t you want to see Mom one more time, give her one last hug?”

“If I’m honest, not really.”

She hadn’t stuttered in an hour so I knew she was sure of what she was saying. I decided to put all my cards on the table.

“Then please, Jill, keep venting! Let it out so maybe you’ll be able to find some place in your heart that still loves the woman who gave birth to you!”

Once again she was silent. After a long moment, I spoke. “So, are you ok with this then?”

“I stopped talking didn’t I?”

“Alright. No news is good news.”

We were silent for the rest of the trip out to Mom and Dad’s place. 

By the time we pulled into Mom’s driveway, I had pulled out the Accessory and was viewing the AR map of all of the Fire Escapes. There were none in the neighborhood.  No surprise—this was the heart of suburbia. Nothing interesting happens in the heart of suburbia.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/14/18: But What if They’re NOT Going to Invade?

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“Hold up–we don’t know that,” Kate said. “I mean, it looks like they’re gearing up for something but can we really assume it’s us?”

“Well, it matches up with what everyone at M has believed for years now,” Julio said.

“She’s right to q-q-question, though,” Jill said. “Just because Department M believes this is going to happen, doesn’t mean it’s going to.  P-p-plus, there are Double-Oes who are interested in peace.  The HNT proves that.  This isn’t going to be that simple.”

“Sounds like you’re wanting to have hard evidence or even proof that the invasion is coming, kid,” Dot said, adding: “What’s that even gonna look like?”

“We go, we record video of these barracks filled with Double-O soldiers.  We take photos of the surroundings and approach Mary Manchester and her two remaining colleagues on the HNT.”

“What I know of Conva, they are smart and difficult,” Green said. “In end, they just like every sovereign beings. Happiness, steady ground, and family are most to them.”

“And that’s why we need to see the army b-b-before we do anything.”

“Trying to find peace at this point, it’s not advisable, I think,” Julio said.

“Why do you say that, Hu?” Jill asked.

“Tedesco is dead and he was one of them.  Now everyone on the HNT, they’ve all clammed up–how else can we take this than a move against anyone official who wants peace?”

“So, that means we let them have their way? Play right into their hands?” I asked.

“I don’t look at it like that.  But I’m also not in charge.  I’ll do whatever you say, but I won’t stay silent.  No chance of that happening.”

“I wouldn’t want you to, Hu,” Jill said. She turned to Jim, “Can we 3-D print the required equipment and the clothing for three people?”

“Sure.  It will take a few days to get the designs ready and to print everything, but we can do it.”

“Good.  Let’s do it,” Jill said.

Since we had three days to kill, I decided to do something that I had been thinking about doing for a while.  A few hours later, I found Jill in the kitchen, about to make a sandwich.  

“Before you start eating, I just want to talk to you for a sec.”

Jill eyed me awkwardly. “Why?”

“Because, there are a couple things I think we need to do.  Together.”

“Oh, you’re not going to hug me, are you?”

I smiled, “Would that be so horrible?”

“Yes.”

“Well, maybe I can change your mind.  Get something to eat and we’re going to head to the Tri for a short vacation.”

“Okaaaay,” Jill said, sounding very suspicious and she had good reason to be.