Well, I cut a big chunk out. Just under 4000 words. The story will survive without it but it still hurt.
The wordcount dipped quite a bit for a while but it now has grown back to over 98,000 words. It ended with 371 pages and is now 365. So, not too bad but there’s still time for me to kill it.
My goal is to finish the edits at no less than 95K. And to finish it soon. I’m pushing myself to get this done and submitted.
Not sure if I will be seeking beta readers or not.
Here’s some of what I cut. I may still use it, not sure.
The horticulture center used a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture to grow the plants. Basically this meant the plants were not in soil but in water. This water was filtered by live fish in a huge tank. Their water, containing all sorts of nutrients in the form of fish poop and a substance the fish produced from several glands located behind their gills, was sent to the plants. Basically. Julie could explain it much better but I was just in awe of the live fish. They were the size of an adult trout, but all similarities stopped there. Their scales were not flat against their bodies but protruded out and acted like cilia by assisting in propelling them through the water. They had fins that were as close to arms and hands as a fish could get, I suppose.
I knew Malons were vegans so I knew the fish were not eaten. However, Frankie didn’t know this or had forgotten. “What do they taste like?”
The horticulture specialist looked like Frankie had just asked her what her child tasted like. I started to explain but a voice came out over a speaker near the tank. “Friend, we are not consumable.”
We all just froze still in place. “Did that fish just speak?”
“No, I did.” One of them, the largest, swam to the end of the tank where we stood. The others arranged themselves behind him. Her. Whatever. “We are a sentient species and it is considered quite rude to consume a fellow explorer.”
“I apologize greatly for my error.” Frankie got down on her knees so she was even with the fish.
“Apology accepted. Put your hand in our water so that we may know you.”
Frankie, with only slight hesitation, stood on her tiptoes and put her hand in the water. The big fish and several others came up and, I guess, sniffed her hand. The others swam away but the big one suddenly bit Frankie’s pinkie finger. A large amount of blood could be seen in the water. Frankie grimaced but did not remove her hand.
“You are in us now. You are, in our ways, one of us.”
The horticulture specialist was again shocked but she had the presence of mind to have Frankie remove her hand and wrap it in a cloth. Mona tapped something on her device. “Interesting. They injected you with a numbing compound to help with the pain. I have instructed the nanites to regrow the tip of your finger. You will not feel it at all.”
Frankie’s eyes got real big. I don’t think she knew how much the fish had bitten. I think it was Mona’s calm that kept her from cussing up a blue streak. Instead, she started grinning and turned back to the tank. “So, how do I taste?”
If fish could laugh, these fish would have been rolling on the rocks. “To use a human phrase, you taste like chicken.” Once we stopped laughing, the fish invited us to come to the larger tank and swim with them. They promised to not bite anyone else. I think Frankie was going to take them up on the offer. The rest of us were not interested that much.