In a post on Live Journal, “The Long, Strange Voyage of a Novella from Pitch to Publication, Part II: It’s a Book…Maybe”, I mentioned cutting a scene while revising the opening of my Star Trek: Myriad Universes novella Honor in the Night . . . at least eventually. The inimitable Bill Leisner had given me some great notes on the manuscript when I first completed it, and I incorporated all of them except for his comments on the opening. There were two reasons: my contracted due date was rushing at me, and I liked one of the scenes he was suggesting I cut.
Flash forward past all the delays to when the book started moving into production again. I’d had a long time to get some distance from it, so since I had one more chance to review and revise, I took a close look at the opening scene. Yep, it had to go.
I’d had a reason for the scene. Since this is an alternate time line, I wanted to craft a bit of the context for readers before plunging them into the changed universe. I came up with a little character bit between McCoy and a chauffeur. I liked McCoy’s dialogue, I liked the description of Nice, I liked the details about the car (tip of the hat to one of my oldest friends and diehard car guy, Jeff Ford of AutoRestoMod for some great feedback on that and the rest of the manuscript as well) . . . but, come on, it was still mostly a guy riding in a car. Not very gripping. I chopped it out, decided what tidbits needed to be in the story, and sprinkled those back in after starting the story where it needed to start, with McCoy at the side of his friend’s deathbed.
I’m so glad I made this cut. You just have to do this, no matter what sort of fondness you may have developed for something you’ve written. If it’s not serving the story, out it goes.
So, for those of you who always look for deleted scenes when you pick up a new DVD, I’m going to share this clip from the cutting room floor. Like a lot of deleted scenes, it’s got some nice stuff in it, but it deserved to get the scissors.
Nice, France, 2366
“Parlez-vous anglais?” Leonard McCoy said to his chauffeur, a talkative young woman with short blond hair and an easy smile. She had kept up a steady stream of French ever since McCoy had climbed into the back of her replicated 1934 Citroën Traction Avant. He spoke very little of the language and, according to tradition, there was no translator technology present. Stumbling on the words with his Southern accent, he added, “Je ne comprends pas.”
She just laughed brightly and continued in French. She may have been giving him a recipe, a historical lecture, or telling him stories about her cats for all he knew, but it passed the time. Soon they were driving along the increasingly winding roads of the hillside neighborhood in Nice where his old friend Nilz Baris had lived for over forty years since retiring from the ambassadorship.
The invitation McCoy had received that morning from Baris had been brusque, as usual, simply telling McCoy to arrive at Baris’s chateau that afternoon and to pack for a three-day visit. It had not mentioned Tonia one way or another, which McCoy understood from decades of experience to mean that she was not invited this time. As much as McCoy hated being apart from her these days, it had been too long since he had seen Baris—and at 140 years old, give or take (McCoy did not put much energy into being precise these days) you just didn’t want to go too long without seeing someone.
The thought made McCoy frown. It had been just over five years since Sima, Baris’s wife of nearly ninety years, had died. After losing Sima, Baris rarely had guests or went out of the house anymore, a stark contrast to how active the couple had remained after “retiring” to Nice. While continuing to serve as an advisor to the Federation on all matters Klingon, he and Sima had frequently entertained. There always seemed to be some famous guest at their house—McCoy had met actors, politicians, authors, and musicians from across two quadrants while visiting them. But after Sima’s death Baris had become obsessed with the Bajorans, even going so far as to travel to the system for what he called “a goodwill visit.” When he failed to resolve their situation, he had returned to Earth and started his life as a recluse in earnest. He still had his devoted staff, but he kept them at a professional distance. Although McCoy continued visiting him, the time between visits increased, which seemed to be what Baris wanted. Compared to his earlier life, it was a modest and solitary existence.
So McCoy, upon reading the invitation, had said a quick goodbye to Tonia, packed an old Starfleet duffel, taken a shuttle from Atlanta to Nice, and then hired ground transportation from the shuttleport to Baris’s chateau. The ride in the Citroën was pleasant, passing through the French countryside north of the city with the sun peeking through the trees and glinting on the well-polished long, black hood of the automobile. Except for the modern fuel cell under that hood, the vehicle was essentially indistinguishable from its twentieth-century inspiration.
They were almost there now, and McCoy glanced around at the familiar neighborhood. The houses and other buildings, mostly stucco, some brick or stone, had muted tones, off-whites and soft corals from yellow to pink, and clay tile roofs. Low walls topped with shrubs surrounded yards dotted with palm trees. As the Citroën turned down the Alée du Palais, the little street Baris lived on, McCoy thought it would have been a tight fit back in the day when parked ground cars would have lined the road.
After they stopped in front of Baris’s home, which was salmon colored and had a turret in the front right corner, the chauffeur helped McCoy to the doorstep. Before he could ring the doorbell, a Vulcan man with surprisingly light-colored hair opened the door and took the duffel from the driver, who dashed off with a quick, “Au revoir.”
“Good afternoon, Admiral McCoy. Mr. Baris has been looking forward to your arrival.”
McCoy had met the Vulcan before, but never remembered his name, only his light brown hair. “Please, I’ve told you before, I’m just an old—a very old—country doctor. None of that admiral talk.”
“Yes, sir.” The Vulcan gestured for McCoy to enter.
McCoy led the way inside. “Is he out back?” There was a small pool in the backyard, and Baris was usually sitting beside it in a lounge chair reading old Western novels.
“No, sir . He’s in the master bedroom.”
McCoy adjusted his course for the stairway, preparing to haul his creaking joints up to the second floor. As he got to the top of the stairs, he could hear Baris talking, but there was only silence during the pauses. McCoy guessed Baris was talking to himself. Moving down the hallway, McCoy got his first glimpse of Baris through the open door, silhouetted by the bedroom’s west windows glowing with the orange light of the setting sun.
As McCoy’s eyes adjusted to the light, he saw that age had caught up with Baris in the several months since he had last visited. Baris’s face was pale, and he had lost weight. Baris sat in bed, surrounded by a mound of pillows, his brow furrowed over whatever it was he was debating. Instead of maintaining his usual ramrod straight posture, he slumped forward. McCoy entered the bedroom, still blinking his eyes.
“Is it still too soon?” Baris was saying. He didn’t notice McCoy edging toward the bed. “There could be serious ramifications, even after all these years.”
“Is what too soon?” McCoy said, deciding to let Baris know he was there and had heard.
“Oh, hello!” Baris looked startled for a moment, but then put a smile on his thin face and sat up straighter. “You caught me thinking out loud. Forget about that for now.” He waved McCoy to a chair by the bed. “It’s good to see you. How is Tonia?”
“More than I deserve, as always.” McCoy slowly lowered himself into the chair, keeping a close eye on Baris. He was certain that Baris’s medications needing adjusting, but wasn’t sure how to bring it up.
“You’ll get no argument from me.”
“There’s a first time for everything.”
Baris chuckled at the cantankerous old doctor. “I believe even Spock would label that a case of the pot calling the kettle black.”
McCoy shrugged. “Well, Tonia has a heart big enough for two cranky old men. She sends her love.”
They lapsed into a companionable silence, both turning to the windows to watch the golden afternoon light shimmering on the rolling waves of the Mediterranean. Neither of them broke the silence until a member of the staff entered the room, his approach given away by the mouth-watering smells that preceded him.
A wheeled tray of delicious-looking food explained the aromas filling the room. The young man pushing the tray, his long black hair in a ponytail, parked the tray and bowed slightly toward McCoy. “Bonsoir, monsieur. I am Gaspard.”
“Bonsoir, Gaspard,” McCoy said.
“Come now.” Baris eased his legs to the floor and stood unsteadily. McCoy watched him with concern, but Baris ignored it. “We’ll dine in the turret.” They moved into the turret through an open doorway at the left front of the bedroom, settling into comfortable chairs at a small table beneath a window with a perfect view of the sea.