Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #22

TITLE: The Awakening of Minna Gray
GENRE: YA Futuristic Fantasy

She’d seen one before - years ago, with Cameron, by the seaside. Its little round body flitted between palm fronds like a tiny jeweled fairy. They were supposed to turn it in. But they hadn’t. They’d watched it all afternoon, until it leapt into the sky and flew away over the Outer Wall. Their secret.

This one seemed even more out of place, amidst the asphalt and early evening glow of the podcar lines. For a second, she thought she was imagining it. But then Ethan saw it too.

“What is it?” he asked, gaze transfixed on the emerald blot making its way across the dull bronze shine of the hood.

“A beetle.”

His brown eyes widened. “A real one?”

Minna nodded. “Don’t touch it.” But she was mesmerized too.

“It doesn’t beep.” He frowned, waving his PestDetector wand over it.

“Maybe it’s not infected.” Yet.

They watched its twiggy, spindle-legged progression from latch to windshield.

“I don’t want anyone to kill it,” Ethan whispered as he backed away.

Technically it was a vector. Technically they were supposed to destroy it. But it was so small and round and innocent. Suddenly, it lifted off. Humming, it vanished into the flurry of the nearby jasmine. Minna exhaled the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding.

“Probably escaped from a DomeZoo.” Ethan said with a shaky laugh.

“Probably, but you still need to disinfect.” Minna puffed her emergency spray, enveloping themselves in shivering white mist. Silently they counted out the seconds: eight, nine, ten. Safe.


  1. Mentioning that the beetle was a vector made me both curious about the world this takes place in and how much the author knows about biology / how much biology's going to come into play. I wonder just because when I studied parasitology in college, I don't remember beetles ever being a vector. Not saying it isn't possible in a fantasy world (or even the real world), it just makes me curious about how that aspect will be handled.

    Also, it felt a little bit of an "aha, gotcha" on the author's part when the narrator is talking about a beetle in the opening paragraph, and even though they knew what it was called, still didn't call it a beetle for the reader's benefit until a couple paragraphs later. I don't think anything (suspense wise) would be missed by saying it's a beetle upfront.

  2. I enjoyed the suspense of not knowing it was a beetle. It was interesting and I wanted to keep reading to find out. Great job!

  3. I really enjoyed the surprise when the thing turned out to be a beetle. It als intrigued me because now I wonder what else do you carry around the spray for. What other living things are bad. I would read more definitely.

  4. Your 250 words ends at the perfect spot to me, because I completely love that last line. Everything hints at the world clearly not being safe (they rarely see beetles and have to destroy them because of some disease and have to constantly disinfect--clearly not safe), so I loved the irony of claiming safety.

    I also want to say that I actually liked that you didn't tell us right away that they were so enthralled by a beetle. To me, it emphasized just how special and rare the moment was.

    Great work! :)

  5. I liked this. The scene flowed pretty well, and I was engaged the whole time. Retrospectively, I'm slightly confused about the difference between the responses to the beetle--the expectation to "turn it in" the first time, but to "kill it" the second time. What are they really supposed to do with a beetle?

    Ironically, the consistency of the actual responses also threw me a little. Beetles = bad, but years ago, the response was to just watch it and not interfere with it. Now, even with a different person, the response is to not interfere with it. That leads me to believe that most people would let it go and the common reaction is to now want to kill it or turn it in. Is that the case? If not, the boy's reaction would help illustrate what society at large thinks.


    I love how clearly you show this sterilized future. I love the details, and I love how I already get the emergency spray and everything else.

    Are you looking for a beta reader? (Contact me if you are...)

  7. I like how the future setting elements are woven in naturally. This has a great mix of setting, dialogue, and showing something happening that lets us in on the world.

  8. My only complaint would be "Minna exhaled the breath she hadn't realized she was holding" This is a personal cliche pet hate. Either come up with something more original, or take it out altogether.

    Other than that - I'm completely hooked.

  9. I like the voice, and I am curious to find out what happened, and more about this future world. I think you have a very nice start.