"I'm afraid that you lost me at the point where the cyborg travels back in time to the present."
"Science fiction isn't really my cup of tea, but the general rules of writing still apply."
Bob was ready to swear at the platinum blonde sitting opposite. Instead he bit down on his lip, drawing a faint line of blood. After, all the stupid woman was only doing her job.
"What exactly's bothering you?" At a pinch Bob could do polite. It didn't help that the woman was dressed in some shapeless outfit that none of his girlfriends would be seen dead in. Typical editor, he thought, probably the only thing she could write all by herself was a grocery list.
"The cyborg calls your scientist by the name McConnell just before he attacks him."
"So? That's what his name is at the start."
"Granted, but later on McConnell discovers the truth about his father and starts using his mother's maiden name, Taggert. By the time he fuses the cybernetic interface onto the dead soldier, more than two decades have passed. So by then no one would have known him as McConnell. The killer cyborg would simply have called him Taggert."
Bob was sorely tempted to let slip a "Duh." Instead he exhaled slowly before replying, "I get that. I'm not thick. But if the cyborg refers to him as Taggert, no one will understand what's going on. They only know him as McConnell. If I do it your way, everyone will be confused."
Sandra was tempted to mention that she had found the entire novel confusing. But Bob wouldn't stand for such impertinence, especially not from a woman. He was a successful rap artist who fancied himself as an author. The fact was that his fans would probably buy his book by the bucketful.
"I liked the way you described the reanimation technology. I'm no expert but it had an authentic sounding feel to it. What was your source? MIT? Cambridge, maybe?
"Nah, I just made it up. Couldn't be bothered looking on the Internet. Pinched the idea from Universal Soldier. You know, that action flick with Jean-Claude van Damme. It's not as if anyone is that bothered about accuracy."
Sandra reckoned that her smile was as about as plastic as van Damme's acting. This was the perennial problem with being an editor. It was great collaborating with a talented author. But every so often you got saddled with the thankless task of turning some lacklustre rubbish into gold.
"Some people might opine that your novel is remarkably similar to the Terminator franchise. How would you respond to that?"
"No way," Bob guffawed, spewing half-masticated biscuit crumbs across the table. "Everyone I know says that my story's far better. Besides, Arnie played an android whereas my villain's a cyborg. Technologically, the two couldn't be more different."
"Pardon my ignorance." Sandra's smile broadened until she felt that she must look like a robotic mannequin in some dreadful sci-fi romp. "Could you elucidate?"
"What's the difference?"
"Oh, right. An android is a robot that looks like a human. A cyborg is a human who has mechanical parts added to his body to give him robotic abilities. Like in that old TV series, the Bionic Woman. That Lindsay Wagner was one hot babe, but she was no 'droid. You follow?"
Sandra didn't but she couldn't face admitting her ignorance of inane television and film. "I do have another plot concern," she said. "In the second time travel sequence in chapter 17, you have the now penitent cyborg meeting his earlier version and implanting a bomb in his chest. But once the killer cyborg is dead, surely that means that the later version of him has also been destroyed. So how then could he travel back in time to plant the bomb?"
"Yeah, great innit? It's what they call a paradox."
"So was Taggert really murdered by the cyborg or not?"
Bob raised a triumphant hand in the air. "That's exactly the question everyone will be asking. I'm keeping the answer tightly under wraps for the sequel."
Sandra sighed, took off her glasses and rested her aching head in her hands. If only she could borrow Bob's marvellous time travel device. Then she could travel two years into the future and purchase a copy of Bob's bestseller, one that actually made sense. That would save her having to spend the next six months knocking this drivel into shape. If only real life were so easy...
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