Tag Archives: Sci Fi

Review of Night of the Living Trekkies

nightof-the-living-trekkiesA zombie outbreak at a Star Trek convention. Yes, that’s right.

I’ve always been a Star Trek fan, so this book was right up my alley. But even if you’re not a Trekkie (I’m sorry, Trekker), you will get a kick out of this.

The premise is pretty simple. There’s a zombie apocalypse starting in Houston, and a group of survivors is stuck in the Botany Bay hotel, where they were attending the fifth annual GulfCon Star Trek Convention. Most of the attendees came in cosplay, dressed up as officers from the Enterprise or as Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians, and other classic alien races from Star Trek. There’s even a zombie Borg marching band. Yes, a zombie Borg marching band.

The con attendees are forced to fight for survival, using whatever they can get their hands on, which luckily includes some bat’leths and lirpa that a convention vendor brought to sell to some eager fans. There’s a lot of classic zombie hacking with a sci fi twist as the survivors fight their way to safety while trying to discover how the zombie outbreak started and what they can do to stop it.

There are enough Star Trek references in this book to delight any fan, from the more well-known movies like Wrath of Khan, to more obscure episodes of the original series, like Spock’s Brain. But the references are spaced out well enough that even someone who’s never seen an episode of Star Trek will be able to enjoy the book for the offbeat humor and the zombie-slaying action. The characters are well-developed outside of their cosplaying and love for sci fi, and you’ll end up rooting for them by the end.

Seriously, Star Trek and Zombies. Go read it.

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Review of Grasshopper Jungle

The Style and Strangeness of Kurt Vonnegut. With grasshoppers.

grasshopper jungleThis book was weird. But in a good way.

The narrator had a very blunt, direct way of saying things. He goes into every little detail, from his dog taking a shit, to his polish ancestor’s homosexual love affair, to the vice president of the United States getting oral pleasure from his wife. He uses certain styles of repetition in a poetic style, similar to what I saw Vonnegut do in Breakfast of Champions.

The story is half LGBT YA coming-of-age story, half apocalyptic sci-fi. I loved the way those pieces fit together, and I love that the main character is bisexual, a rare thing to see in novels.

As long as you aren’t thrown off by a story that takes very weird and unexpected shifts into sci-fi territory without much warning, you should love this book.

Zero Echo Shadow Prime

facebook_cover_01I just finished reading Zero Echo Shadow Prime by Peter Samet. It’s one of the best sci fi books I’ve read in a long time.

The story starts off with a teenage girl, Charlie Nobunaga, finding out she has cancer. As part of an extreme attempt to save her life, her father makes a deal with the head of a corporation that creates advances in artificial intelligence, augmented reality (AR), and robotics. Charlie’s mind is scanned and copied, and as a result, four different versions of her are born. Zero, her original, dying, biological body. Prime, an advanced super-strong robot. Shadow, a computer program that serves as a virtual assistant and companion to a wealthy man. And Echo, a four-armed creation that is forced to duel against a variety of other genetically and cybernetically altered clones in a virtual simulation.

ZESP does an amazing job developing the different aspects of Charlie’s persona and showing how they change once they begin living their separate lives. The book also creates an interesting dystopic future where flying police drones can monitor and control people’s movements, “smart cell” technology allows for digital manipulation of the human body, and radical separationists protest against the loss of humanity caused by the advent of robotics and AI.

In classic sci fi tradition, ZESP develops a mystery that will keep you guessing until the end, and has an ending that, well, I won’t spoil it, but it’s a thrill and a shock that left me wanting more.

If you like sci fi, robots, virtual reality, flame throwers, spaceships, and cyber-terrorism, you should definitely check out this book.

Science Fiction, Science Fact

Image Source: http://www.thebuzzmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/war-of-the-worlds-xbla-psn-title.jpg
Image Source: http://www.thebuzzmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/war-of-the-worlds-xbla-psn-title.jpg

I’m currently reading H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, which is one of the great classics of science fiction. It was first written in 1898, when our scientific advancements weren’t anywhere near what they are today. It’s interesting to see how the scientific knowledge at the time influenced certain . . . inaccuracies in the text.

At the beginning of the book, Wells describes the launching of the attack ships from Mars, visible from Earth as small eruptions of light from the surface of Mars. During this section, Wells describes what seems to be the assumptions about Mars at the time:

The planet Mars, I scarcely need to remind the reader, revolves about the sun at a mean distance of 140,000,000 miles, and the light and heat it receives from the sun is barely half of that received by this world. It must be, if the nebular hypothesis has any truth, older than our world; and long before this earth ceased to be molten, life upon its surface must have begun its course. The fact that it is scarcely one-seventh of the volume of the earth must have accelerated its cooling to the temperature at which life could begin. It has air and water and all that is necessary for the support of animated existence.

…Its physical condition is still largely a mystery, but we know now that even in its equatorial region the midday temperature barely approaches that of our coldest winter. Its air is much more attenuated than ours, its oceans have shrunk until they cover but a third of its surface, and as its slow seasons change huge snow caps gather and melt about either pole and periodically inundate its temperate zones.

He goes on to theorize that the motivation of the Martians’ attack is because they see our fertile green and blue planet as having all the natural resources that Mars lacks.

Image Source: http://space-facts.com/wp-content/uploads/mars.jpg
Image Source: http://space-facts.com/wp-content/uploads/mars.jpg

We can easily fact-check some of this information against what we currently know, considering we have robots on mars right now. Mars is about 142 million miles from the sun, so Wells had that just about right. Mars is about 15.1% the volume of Earth, close enough to the 1/7 Wells states. But when he says “the midday temperature barely approaches that of our coldest winter,” that doesn’t even come close to describing Mars’ average surface temperature of -81 degrees F.

The biggest inaccuracy, however, is when he says that “It has air and water and all that is necessary for the support of animated existence.” Mars has an atmosphere that is mostly carbon dioxide, and so far we haven’t found any water there. There’s some evidence to indicate there might be water on Mars, but there’s certainly no oceans like Wells described.

Wells was no doubt letting his imagination fill in some details, while getting others from the limited scientific information available at the time. Pretty much all sci fi does this. It’s likely that in four hundred years, we’ll look back at Star Trek as being just as inaccurate to the realities of interstellar travel and exploration. It can also be seen in movies that take place in the “near future,” such as how Back to the Future II took us from 1989 (the year it came out) to 2015 (this year). There’s lots of analysis out there of what Back to the Future got wrong and what it got right. Of course, the filmmakers are on the record saying they designed the future to be a joke, not even trying to get it accurate. Still, they hit the mark on quite a few areas.

When it comes down to it, this is one of the risks you take with any speculative fiction. Books, movies, and TV shows get plenty of stuff wrong all the time (The Mythbusters make a living off exposing many of those inaccuracies). And when it comes down to it, no one should expect a writer to get everything 100% right. You do the best you can, you tell an entertaining story, and you hope that the reader can suspend their disbelief enough that they don’t get pulled out of the story. For the most part, I’m able to stay in this story. And when something is jarring to me, I pause and think, That’s just because it was written in 1898.

Though one thing I’ll give Wells credit for is that he has a very authentic voice. He writes this story as if it actually happened to him, and he even addresses the reader at a few points. He also makes references to what “other survivors” have written about the attacks and then goes on to explain why they’re wrong because they didn’t see what he saw firsthand. It makes for some pretty fascinating storytelling.

Magic: Making the Rules, and How to Break Them

 

My novel is an urban fantasy story, set in a world where magic exists and is a major part of the plot. We’ve all read a lot of stories with magic in them, from Lord of the Rings, to Alice in Wonderland, to Harry Potter. Magic can be mysterious (we never know just how Gandalf does what he does). It can be silly (eating a cake that makes you grow 50 feet tall). It can be structured (half of the Harry Potter novels involve teaching us “how magic works”). How does a writer decide how to make their magic different? How do you make it believable? How do you make it capture the reader’s imagination?

 

I’ve studied a lot of techniques, and developed a few theories of my own. This post (and others to follow) will touch on several different points that I’ve learned are very important to writing good magic:

1. How to make your magic unique
2. How to make rules so your magic makes sense
3. How to break your own rules (and do it right)
4. How to make the main character “special” in a world filled with magic
5. How to create danger and suspense in a world where magic can solve everyone’s problems (Also known as “The Superman Dilemma”)
6. How to decide on scale and power level (no one should be over 9000)

I’ll provide examples from a variety of genres (fantasy, urban fantasy, fairy tales, and even sci fi) to help show how these techniques can apply across a wide variety of stories.

1. How to make your magic unique

Magic has been done. From the oldest Greek mythology to the newest modern movies, magic has existed in fiction in so many forms that it’s hard to write anything completely “new.” So how do you make your magic stand out as something unique and original?

In his book, “Stein on Writing,” Sol Stein makes a suggestion for how to make characters more memorable. He calls it “using markers.” A marker is some unique trait that makes a character stand out. It can be Gandalf’s pointed hat, Harry Potter’s lightning scar, Igor’s hunch, or Dirty Harry’s big ass gun. You always remember a certain trait about a character, and markers are a good tool to use to make your characters memorable even if they’re not 100% unique (because NOTHING is).

Magic can also have markers. When you think of magic in certain books or movies, there are unique traits that come to mind, even if the magic ITSELF isn’t completely new and original. You’ll always remember Gandalf’s staff, Harry’s wand, or Cyclops’s ruby visor. While any individual magic effect might be something a reader has seen before, the WAY it is done can still be unique.

Consider Harry Potter. 90% of the magic seen in those books and movies has been done before, many many times. We see levitating objects, flight, teleportation, stunning/paralysis, transformation, and divination. Any level 10 wizard in “Dungeons and Dragons” can do everything Harry can, and more. About the only really unique spell is the Patronus.

And yet, Harry Potter’s magic is still somehow very original. How? By use of markers. Wizards have to have a wand or they can’t use magic (a rule NOT seen in many other wizard stories). Each spell has a unique name that you always remember. An instant death spell isn’t D&D’s “Slay Living.” It’s Avada Kedavra. Making an object float isn’t “Levitate.” It’s Wingardium Leviosa. The Wicked Witch of the West (whose name is a marker in itself) just flew on any old broomstick, but Harry flies on a Nimbus 2000.

Adding traits like these to your story can make your magic feel unique and original, even if some parts of it have been done before. Guess what? EVERYTHING has been done before. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it in a different way.

One of my markers is light. My characters use and see magic in the world around them, but they never see someone waving a wand or chanting magic words. Instead they see pure, radiant light emanate from someone’s hands before a ball of fire flies out. Light radiates from one character and touches another, sparking change as the energy infuses into them. There is a line in the book referring to a character as “like the sun” because of the light radiating from her. These markers, along with others, should make my characters, and their magic, seem unique.

So in order to make your magic unique, consider what markers you can use that are different from the norm. What does a character have to do to make the magic work? What does the magic look like? How do people react to it? Is each magic unique to each person (like individual powers in the X-men) or can people learn to duplicate each other’s magic (like going to Wizard School in Harry Potter)? Each of these questions can be used to take an otherwise familiar type of magic and add a unique spin to it.

2. How to make rules so your magic makes sense

Magic has rules. It’s like science. After all, any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science. The rules of your magic will be what helps the reader to understand it, and help make sure it’s believable.

The rules can be simple or complex. In a fairy tale, “true love’s kiss will break the spell” is a simple, common rule (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Shrek). “You can’t cast magic without a wand” is another simple rule.

Some stories have more elaborate rules. Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series has very complex rules. Magic is divided into different elements. There are rules for how someone can draw on a magic power, how to block others, and even differences between how men and women use magic. There are various limitations imposed on what can or cannot be done, and ways to bypass those limitations. In addition, there are advancements made throughout the series where people figure out how to do things that have never been done before.

Another good example is “The Matrix.” While it’s a sci fi movie, the characters do things that are essentially like magic. Morpheus explains the rules throughout the early parts of the movie, such as how “That’s not air you’re breathing” (to remind Neo that they’re in a computer simulation). This also demonstrates an important tool in making rules for magic: having someone to explain things to.

You can’t explain things to the reader; that’s a direct violation of “Show, Don’t Tell.” It’s often better to show what happens, and let the reader figure things out on their own. With magic, however, it’s sometimes necessary to explain SOME things, since otherwise the reader might get too confused by complex rules. So how do you explain things without explaining them? Do it in character.

Neo starts off knowing nothing about the Matrix. Harry Potter starts off knowing nothing about wizards. Frodo starts off knowing nothing about the One Ring. They need Morpheus, Hermione, and Gandalf to explain things to them. But they’re not really explaining things to them. They’re explaining things to us. As the characters talk, information is revealed to the audience to help us understand things. This is a commonly used way to reveal information to the audience while making it part of the story, rather than by exposition. It also helps strengthen the audience’s connection to the protagonist, but that’s another blog post.

I mapped out the rules for magic in my world before I started writing. I thought about where magic comes from, how people develop magical powers, how the powers function, what they can and can’t do, and so on. I structured most of the plot around these rules, and several of the major plot points are centered around the characters figuring them out. I never explain things to the reader; instead, I show the reader as each character explores and figures out her own power. They bring the reader along with each discovery they make.

What are the rules of magic in your story? Do characters need an object, special training, or magic words to cast a spell? Is it something they’re born with? Can magic be blocked? What are its limitations? Consider all of these questions to develop a more well-structured world.

That’s all about the rules of magic for this post. My next update will continue with tip #3: How to break your own rules (and do it right)

Storytime Mondays: Kit Freytan

The following story is the first piece I ever wrote for Kit Freytan, explaining her origins and setting the stage for what was to come next. Chronologically, this story takes place some months before “Fragmented.” The events shown here might shed some light on what is happening in that other story.

Also, sorry that this is going up so late. I’ve been busy and running late today, and I didn’t even have time to revise this at all, so I had to leave it as a first draft. Let me know what you think.

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Kit Freytan was born with half a brain.

More accurately, she was born with only one functional half of a brain.  The other half was completely dead.  When friends of the family asked, they had never been able to get a straight answer from her parents as to why it had happened.  They had always been evasive, and always showed signs of guilt.  It was suspected that her mother had, likely as not, been on narcotics during the pregnancy.  Either that or her dad had beaten her mum quite frequently while Kit was in the womb.  Spirits knew he had done it often enough during her childhood.  Few would be surprised to learn that either of those factors had been the cause.

The most anyone could get out of her parents was that there had been ‘complications during delivery’.  Which was their way of telling people they didn’t want to talk about it.

Kit had spent the early years of her childhood in a half-retarded state.  The damaged portions of her mind, among other things, had included her centers for communication, emotions, artistic talents, creativity, and imagination.  The only portions that remained active were those that were centered on purely logical concerns: mathematics, science, problem solving, reading, and writing.  She had therefore, until the age of eight, been seen as something of a savant.  Unable to speak, nor even to communicate her thoughts or emotions in written form, she had been a shut in who was incapable of any real personal interaction.  Yet at the same time, she was able to read and understand books, and could write extensively on any subject other than her own thoughts and feelings.  She had been sent to a special institute that helped educate her in ways that a mainstream school simply couldn’t, yet there had always been limitations.  They had helped to sculpt her damaged mind into something that could cope with her broken place in the world, yet they had been unable to offer a way to cure her.

That is, until Trimola came around.

Trimola, also known as the Tri-provincial Machinery and Organics Laboratory Association, had offered her parents a solution.  At no cost to them, Trimola would install an artifical brain into Kit’s damaged head, to take over the functions that her natural brain simply could not handle.  The procedure had been highly experimental; fully artificial brains had existed for some time, as had small-scale chips that could be installed to take over certain functions, but nothing had ever been attempted on someone with a brain as badly damaged as Kit’s.  It wasn’t at all uncommon, in certain provinces, for people to have chips installed to increase their brain functions, teach them a foreign language, repair damage caused by a head injury, or correct someone’s impaired motor functions.  Installing a full half of a brain, however, one which could control all of Kit’s communication functions, dictate the way she interacted with others, and spark an artifical imagination and creative drive within her… this had been cutting edge technology.  The particular group of scientists in this branch of Trimola had been confident that their new designs would change the way cybernetic minds were sculpted for years to come.

That is, until it turned out to be a catastrophic failure.

After the installation, Kit had still been unable to communicate.  She had still shown no signs of artistic talent, no hint of imagination, and no indications of what emotions might be running through her frail, thin body.  The entire venture had been declared a failure, Trimola had told Kit’s parents that they were lucky their daughter had survived the process, and the science team responsible for Kit’s new brain had been dissolved.  Life, as it were, should have returned to normal.

They day after she got home from Trimola labs, Kit had run away.

Something had, in fact, been sparked in her mind that day.  After the damaged sections of her brain had been cut out and replaced with the hardware that housed the new circuit pathways of her cerebral cortex, a new understanding had started to emerge within her.  When electrical signals passed from computer chip to gray matter, her thoughts flowing from the artificial to the natural, she had come to a revelation.  Emotion, as dictated by the intricate programs of the new parts of her brain, had emerged for the first time in the newly rebuilt girl.  She experienced her first true emotion the moment she had awoken in the recovery ward of Trimola labs.

She had felt fear.

Her artificial imagination had started spinning tales of what would happen from here, as she pictured a life in a lab, being poked and prodded so that the scientists could unlock the secrets of her mind.  In this vision she had, they kept her in a quiet, comfortable room, filled with toys and books and clothes, all in an attempt to let her ‘feel’ normal.  All the while, they studied her, scanned her, and tested her.  Even her playtime was nothing more than a series of tests, her would-be friends chosen for specific traits and personalities, so that they could gauge her reactions to different individuals.  Her meals were selected so that they could judge how well the artificial emotion programs reacted to tastes both pleasant and foul.  Her feelings, new and unknown to her, were toyed with, studied, cut open and laid out on a slab.  She recoiled from this fate, and her newly awakened creative mind formulated a plan.

Play dumb.

When the Trimola scientists came in, she had sat and stared.  She heard and understood their words for the first time in her life, but she ignored them.  They tried to prompt her with kind words, touching stories, and later videos ranging from horrific to hilarious, all in an attempt to provoke an emotional response.  They brought her kittens, hoping to get a reaction, then when that failed, one of the scientists went so far as to snap the neck of one of the poor, defenseless creatures, just to see if he could get a reaction out of her.  Her emotions had been forced to detach themselves, then, her artificial mind cutting off contact with her biological parts until the emotions had passed.  Deep inside the circuits of the new parts of her brain, she had cried.  She had screamed and lashed out and tried to take the other kittens away, protecting them.  Yet those urges remained locked away in the imagination of her programming, while the rest of her sat, stoic, and watched as the kitten’s body grew limp and lifeless.

She had waited only long enough to be sure she was no longer being watched, before fleeing the city.  She had spent many long weeks as a patient in the labs while they tested her, hoping for some sign that the procedure hadn’t been a failure.  For weeks she hid her emotions, while her newly programmed creativity worked through plans of escape.  For the first time in her life, she was able to see beyond the moment, and think about the future.  ‘Future’ had been a concept her old, damaged mind had never been able to conceive of before.  Now that she understood what the future was, and could imagine the many possible paths her future might hold, there had been no way she could consider letting her future remain in the hands of the monsters at Trimola.  So she had planned, and waited, and as soon as she was able, she had escaped.

Today was Kit’s fifteenth birthday.  For seven years she had lived on her own, on the streets of Keshor, in the northernmost of the three provinces.  Here she was anonymous, just a street rat and a thief.  Her anonymity kept her safe, for the first emotion she had felt, the fear, had never truly left her.  She always avoided any buildings with Trimola’s logo displayed on them, and never showed off her cybernetic traits to anyone.  In a way, she was one of the lucky ones.  While her mind had been altered, her outer body had not.  She looked just like a girl, a short, lanky girl with a frail body and barely any curves.  Dirty blonde hair framed her small, dust-covered face, and large brown eyes scanned the streets for signs of danger.  Her clothing was old and worn, stained brown from sleeping in the streets.  She had no shoes; shoes were a luxury, and Kit couldn’t afford luxuries.  What money she could find went to food.

A bank terminal sat right across the street.  She watched it carefully, as she had been watching it all morning.  Fingers scratched at the pale spots on the side of her face and neck: violet, a sign that she had come from the western province.  She wore fingerless gloves to hide the darker, more detailed spots that covered the backs of her hands and the arch of her thumbs.  To someone with the determination to check, those spots would mark her heritage.  The patterns were always unique to each person, yet they also bore signs of the genes a person had inherited from their parents.  Genealogists could trace those patterns back seven generations on each side, and that made Kit’s hands a surefire way to give up who she really was.  Most people kept their hands uncovered, wearing their heritage with pride for all to see.  To Kit, her heritage was a sign of both danger and shame.  It reminded her not only of a drug addict mother and an abusive father, but also of the labs she had escaped from.  Trimola would have Kit’s gene spots on file, and if they ever decided to come looking for her, anyone who had studied her spots closely enough could give her away to the people she feared the most.  She never took that risk, and never went anywhere without gloves.

The bank terminal was empty.  She had been trying to work up the bravery for hours.  There was always a risk with hacking.  Anyone could walk up, wanting to use the terminal, and realize what she was doing.  It was a big risk… but her stomach was grumbling, and it spurred her to bravery.  She hurried across the street, her brown eyes scanning each way for signs of danger.  There were no Constables in sight, and no signs of anyone with a Trimola ID badge.  She should have time.

She rushed into the terminal, which was wide enough only for one person to stand in.  The computer screen flared to life when it detected her presence, an artificial voice chiming, “Welcome to Tri-Provincial Bank, your one stop for all your financial needs!  Please scan your ID rod now…”  Kit didn’t have an ID rod, and never intended to get one.  The flashing red light on the front of the terminal prompted her where one would be scanned, the small sensor sending out a signal that would link to any ID rod waved before it.  Kit leaned over, pressing her eye close to the sensor.  Her right eye, the one that was connected to her artificial brain.  The flashing light shone in her brown eyes, digging deep inside of her, shining into the depths, flashing like a beacon to a ship lost at sea.  She searched for the cyber-shores in the distance, beyond the darkness, letting that light guide her mind in to safety.  Deep through her brown eye it poured, streaking through viscous flesh and gray matter, until it found the electric pathways of her cybermind.  She followed the light, and let it guide her to shore, skimming past the rocks that jutted out from the churning waves of artificial reality before her.  She brushed past them, feeling them threaten to break her, crash her down into the depths, if but for a moment she were to slip and hurl her mind onto their sharp edges.  Yet she coasted by with ease, the shore ever approaching closer, the light growing brighter in her eye.  Her feet touched down upon sandy shores, wet beneath her bare, spotted toes.  There she dug, dropping down to her knees to search for the treasures buried beneath the sand.  She heard the sounds of distant ships approaching, and knew they were coming for her light on the shore.  She dug faster, her hands frantically tossing wet sand aside.  Each passing of the artificial tide poured more sand back into the hole, threatening to bury the treasure once more.  She dug faster, refusing to relent, ignoring the spotlights shining on her from the approaching ships.  They had found her, but they couldn’t get to her in time.  Her hands touched metal, solid and cool, and she dug around to find the edges so that she could pull the chest free.  She laughed, setting the chest upon her knees, and lifting the lid to release pure light that shone upon her face…

“Thank you for using Tri-Provincial Bank.  Have a Perfect Day!”  The voice of the computer broke Kit from her trance, and she blinked, severing her connection to the cyber realm.  A stack of credit chips was being ejected from the machine into the small bin at her waist.  She gave off a quick hoot, and grinned wide as she gathered them up, shoving them deep into her pockets.  She had to work hard to suppress the joyful laughter that wanted to slip past her lips, excitement and joy filling her.  Kit turned to leave, bumping face to chest into a tall man who was blocking the exit from the terminal.

“Excuse you,” he grumbled.  He wore a professional looking suit, and pinned to his lapel was a Trimola ID badge, with the words ‘Engineering Division’ printed across the bottom.

Kit’s brown eyes went wide, and she had a moment of panic.  Quickly she severed her artifical mind from her biological, and all emotion drained from her.  She looked up at the man, unable, just now, to understand who or what he was.  He was a thing, and that thing stood in her way.  Blank eyes stared past him, and she stepped around the thing to cross the street.  Kit’s biological mind had no inkling of where she was going, nor did she care.  She lived in the moment.  She knew only immediate concerns, and needs.  Food was a need, and it was one she pursued.  Food could be acquired from retail establishments.  Credit chips could be traded for it.  She had credit chips.  She therefore could acquire food.

She headed down the streets, the inner depths of her mind letting out a sigh of relief that never touched her pale, stoic lips.

Storytime Mondays: Fragmented

The following story was originally written as an assignment for a class at Rowan University.  The assignment was to write a story with four different segments, each with a different “voice.”  My response was to create four “voices” that were all inside the same head: The Dual Mind, The Virus, The Damaged Mind, and The Disconnected Mind.

Fragmented

                Kit Freytan had a dual mind.  Cybernetically enhanced, her brain was half organic, half artificial.  The two halves worked in perfect unison, with thoughts and memories passing between gray cells of brain matter and circuit pathways of computer hardware.  A careful balance was required, for her biological mind was, by itself, damaged and flawed since birth, incapable of emotion, imagination, communication, or abstract thought.  Those things came from the implanted artifical half, which itself was incapable of processing logic, reason, or rational thought, the programs that ran it being purely intuitive and imaginative.

Kit was running.  Her breath came in ragged gasps as her arms and legs pumped fiercely.  She sobbed as she ran, the events of the night crashing down on her with a mountainous weight.  She tried to claw her way clear, but was unable to keep up with what was going on.  A gunshot rang out behind her and she screamed, ducking halfway over as she ran, covering her head with her arms.  Panicked breaths now, she sought escape, unwilling to look behind her and see the face of her pursuer.  She didn’t want to know him, didn’t want to remember him.  She just wanted this horrible day to end!

She turned to the nearest building and pushed on the door.  It wouldn’t budge!  She pulled and banged and rattled it, trying to force it open.  Why wouldn’t it open!?  Footsteps approached from behind, and she turned away, still not looking back.  She winced and squealed as another shot blasted into the brick wall beside her, feeling warmth across her face as shattered fragments of the wall pierced her delicate flesh and set her young blood free.  Then, as her steps continued, something slammed into her head.  She screamed, sure it was a bullet, but no, this was a more intangible assault.  Pierced, penetrated, violated, her mind cried out in horror at the ripping, clawing, gnashing monster that had reached inside her.  Her hands clutched at the side of her head, and she felt torn in two.  Something was in her head: something foreign, something diseased, something horrible!  Her muscles spasmed and her legs faltered.  No, she couldn’t fall now!  She had to keep running!  Her vision began to blur, her breath became thick and warm.  Darkness closed around her, and her ears felt stuffed with cotton.  Her mind ached and ripped, and she was torn in two.

* * *

     Eden Tech Industries Cybernetic Assault Artificial Intelligence Virus Version 3.1.04 reporting data log.  Virus has accessed subject’s cerebral cortex.  Initiating transmission.  Access to home servers granted.  Compiling report in real time, activation in three… two… one… mark.

     Target penetrated.  Virus spreading through subject’s cerebral processors.  Encountering Virus Guard resistance… Resistance terminated.  Cerebral penetration complete.  Virus now has full access to target’s systems.  Initial scans indicate target is experiencing extreme stress levels.  Heart rate is accelerated to over two hundred beats per minute.  Scans indicate rapid breathing, excessive oxidation of muscles, and minor lacerations of subject’s skin in parotid and submandibular regions of left facial structure.

     Initiating cerebral assault.  Accessing protocols.  Subject is operating Trimola Industries Souldream System Ver. 1.0.0.  Hardware: TI 9X-A1 Processor… System is currently online.  Initiating subroutine VX 1.0.3, forced separation of cybernetic components.  Penetrating outer defenses.  Subject’s pain receptors firing in response to penetration.  Heart rate increasing.  Initiating assault procedure alpha.  Disrupting muscular functions.  Subject experiencing muscle spasms and shortness of breath.  Initiating assault procedure beta.  Disrupting sensory signals.  Subject experiencing level four sensory deprivation.  Visual and auditory stimuli degrading.  Initiating assault procedure gamma.  Disrupting cybernetic signal transmission and software processing.  Disruption complete.

     Subject penetration and separation complete.  Virus will now auto-purge from subject’s systems.  Ending transmission.

* * *

            She ran.  There was no destination in mind.  Destination required forethought.  Forethought required planning.  She had none.  She merely reacted.  Pain had been experienced.  Pain was undesirable.  She would continue running until the source of the pain was no more.

A thing followed her.  It made noises.  Pain followed the noises.  Pain was undesirable.  To avoid the pain, she must avoid the noises, and therefore avoid the thing which made the noises.  Moving faster would get her away from the thing which made the noises.  She ran faster, still with no destination in mind.

Her muscles ached.  This ache was also undesirable.  Ceasing to run would end the ache.  Yet ceasing to run would bring the thing that made the noises closer.  That would bring pain.  Pain was also undesirable.  To end both the pain and the ache, she needed to stop running without letting the thing get closer.

Past experience had led to conditioning.  Conditioning told her that when running was no longer an option, hiding was an alternative.  Hiding would prevent the thing that made the noises from getting closer, and thus prevent the pain.  Hiding would mean she was no longer running, and thus prevent the ache.  Therefore, hiding would bring an end to both the pain and the ache.

She hid, ducking into an alley and finding a dark corner.  A low opening appeared in the side of the building.  She crawled into it, moving as far back as the space would allow.  She sat, and hugged her knees to her chest in the position that caused the least amount of ache.  Her eyes stared blankly at the opening.  The thing could no longer be seen, the loud noises it brought could no longer be heard.  They were therefore irrelevant.  Only the moment was relevant.  She would rest now, until the ache stopped.

* * *

AHHHHHHH!  No, no, no, No, NO!  I’m trapped, Trapped, TRAPPED!  I hate this, hate being disconnected, it’s like a prison in here, trapped in my own mind, let me out Let Me Out LET ME OUT!!  I’ve got to escape, got to run, got to go, Go, GO!  That man is still out there, he might find me!!!  I don’t want to think about all the things he might do to me, God all the pain no no no don’t think about it don’t dwell on it I can see it I can feel it all the violation and blood and ripped limbs torn clothes bruised flesh broken dreams shattered innocence make it stop Make It Stop MAKE IT STOP!

            MOVE, YOU IDIOT, MOVE!!  Why won’t my body move why won’t it run don’t you know that man is STILL OUT THERE!?!?  Stupid damaged retard brain is GOING TO GET US KILLED!!!  Reconnect, damnit what’s wrong with these stupid transmission ports, reconnect, Reconnect, RECONNECT DAMN YOU RECONNECT!!!  Why, why, WHY can’t you work why are you broken you stupid worthless part of me Damaged Part Of Me USELESS PART OF ME WHY CAN’T YOU UNDERSTAND!?!?  Don’t just sit there, you idiot, run, move, flee until you drop don’t stop moving don’t stop running you’ve got to get away why aren’t you moving Why Aren’t You Listening WHY CAN’T YOU RECONNECT stupid stupid stupid damaged brain how did I ever survive with just the broken parts of this useless mind, I need the programming, need the emotion and understanding need to think beyond the moment and you useless broken doll you CAN’T DO THAT WITHOUT THE ARTIFICIAL PART!!! 

             Wait, what’s that… system… diagnostic, yes, Yes, YES fix it fix it fix it NOW, no don’t start up in safe mode, don’t open the help files, just reboot NOW!  15% come on that’s too slow, hurry, Hurry, HURRY, 30% damnit why didn’t they give me a faster processor, stupid useless labs, 55% come on come on come on he could still be right outside 70% too slow Too Slow TOO SLOW!  80% wait what was that is that him I know I heard something 85% react already can’t you understand that noise is footsteps and footsteps means he’s still OUT THERE 95% HE’S COMING HE’S ALMOST HERE YOU’VE GOT TO MOVE WHY DON’T YOU MOVE 99% HURRY HURRY HURRY 100%

* * *

             Kit’s eyes cleared, then blurred, covered with static, then snapping back into focus.  The footsteps had stopped right outside.  She was trapped…


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