The following short story was not cut from The Fundamentals, but it is missing. This is Keith’s and Erin’s first meeting told from Keith’s point of view. When editing the final version of The Fundamentals I found that I had a few chapters told from minor character viewpoints. That was important for me to understand the story; I had to get inside their heads, but it was not important to telling the story. The result was that below scene was altered to Erin’s viewpoint. This is an interesting look into story development. Reading it two years after it was written, I am surprised how well the scene survived my final edits.

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Evacuate!

The Living Fire, Orahi in space

A fire consumed the ship. A fire that burned like fire on Earth. It billowed black and white smoke that stretched up, or at least away, from the ship. Tongues of orange and black flame whipped around as if caught in a strong wind, but when they stretched away from the ship they didn’t extinguish from lack of atmosphere, they bent in, clawed downward like hands to grab the Santa Maria’s hull. It looked as though the fire was eating the Santa Maria like a snake swallowing a kill.

Robert Lanigan didn’t have time for another emergency. As the Santa Maria’s Cost Engineer for the Economic Comptroller, his responsibility was to tag and track every component in the Santa Maria’s blockchain, and she had suffered enough damage. The First Expedition Crossing was supposed to be mankind's greatest accomplishment, instead it had become one long disaster.

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Mother’s Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Other cultures have harvest celebrations, but the tone of an American Thanksgiving is unique to history. I drafted this essay after the September 11 terrorist attack, while the Iraq war was still young, and the Afghanistan conflict had failed to capture or kill the 911 masterminds. I meant to publish it once, on my blog, then took it down when the theme felt tired.

I have edited this work for exposition, tone, and theme annually hoping I would capture the mood of our nation as we endure this extended weekend. I rejected my work every year till this. The result is that the angst I felt over the undoing of civility the 911 attack ushered in is gone. Missing is a paragraph lamenting the loss American, Afghanistan, and Iraqi mothers must feel at wars fought over theological ideals that lack humanity. Some angst of separation is still here, hints that modern connected society lacks connection. Cleared of those old notions, the result is short, simple, and heartwarming.

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Special Correspondents Lottery Ticket

When he found his dead parents, he had wished that he had been there earlier. He wished that he would have skipped school that day, would have come home earlier, not spent that extra five minutes flirting with the girls in homeroom. Ever since that day, he felt like he was just missing out, just a minute late, just a second too slow to make a difference.

Now he wished that he had missed it all. He folded the plastic bag between his fingers, so it formed a rigid edge, then used the bag to gather the red and white space dust into a pile. Making the lines were part of the ritual. His face grew flush. He shouldn’t do this.

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Ryan Jameson's The Terra Channel Logo

Emily smacked her lips, fresh lipstick, an invitation to something that had to wait. Ryan groaned. They shouldn’t have done that, but at that moment he was glad they did. He thought that Emily would leave Kitty and she would come back to Austin. Now, he knew otherwise.

He snatched the bag of space dust from the pillow, opened it. Part of Rainbows charm was the fragrance, sweet, like candy. Emily smelled the same He poured the contents of the bag onto the nightstand. The red and white powder sparkled against the dark wood. It reminded him of the parking lot where they met Marcus.

Marcus's fire engine red minivan was two parking spaces away. He leaned against the van, brushing his horseshoe mustache. “Bomboncita,” he lifted Emily and spun her. She kissed his cheeks until he put her down.

“What is this?” Emily said, looking in the windows of the minivan.

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If he had missed that train, he wouldn’t have seen Kitty again, wouldn’t have hooked-up with Emily, wouldn’t have witnessed a man cut in two with a laser scalpel. If he had missed that train, he wouldn’t have been there to carry Emily away from the carnage at the lottery, and The Viking wouldn’t be trying to frame him for that carnage.

He should have missed the train, should have been excluded from the lottery because he was late to Earth Channel One’s tower. But once through the security line, a woman in a skintight white jumpsuit asked if he needed help finding his party.

“I am here for the Special Correspondents Lottery,” he said, showing her his ticket.

“They are boarding a train to the spaceport. If you hurry, you should catch it,” she said, pointing to the far end of the tower.

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Ryan Jameson's The Terra Channel Logo

The Terra Channel’s office was in Education Corporation’s downtown Austin campus. The campus had a short running trail looping its perimeter. Most mornings Ryan lapped the other joggers on the trail, his tall frame and long legs gave him the edge. At one in the morning the trail was empty. The space dust dealer worked the trail near the interchange. He turned off the running trail for a sidewalk that cut through the heart of the empty campus. Best to avoid temptation.

Not so easy when a bag of Rainbows is lying in front of you like a mint on a hotel’s pillow. The Viking knew he was a junkie. But how? He didn’t have a record. He limited his public profile to the work he did at TTC. But, here was a bag of Rainbows.

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Special Correspondents Lottery Ticket

What you can’t imagine is worse than the imagining. Ryan Jameson couldn’t have imagined the events of the past day, that they would lead him to this cabin in the New Mexico spaceport to face his demon. Yet here he was, staring at the red glittery substance that was his downfall, Rainbows, his favorite mix of space dust.

One line and he would unsee everything he had seen in the past four hours, two and he would forget the pain, three and he would be a junkie again. Being a junkie was easy. Running an affiliate of the Public News Network was hard. He liked easy.

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