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The Lair Of Gary James

Archive for November, 2009

The Primordial Stew Of Imagination, Part 2

Posted by BigWords on November 30, 2009

When To Add, And When To Take Away

In the previous post I ran through the precedents of the story, but sticking all of those ideas together higgledy-piggledy would be a mess. Simply adding ideas without knowing who, what, where, how, why and when is madness of the highest order. The bag of tricks is filling, but to pull out objects in the right order we need to go back to basics and ask whom the characters are. This is where I normally throw away the rulebook and look to television for a bit of help. There are lots of threads at AW which have various people urging against the use of televisual techniques in writing, but one in particular is acceptable. If you go back to the beginnings of my story you should see where I drew from Star Trek.

Yes, the cold, analytical mind on one side of the focus character, the hearty life and soul on t’other. It isn’t, you will discover, a particularly original idea. There are examples you could pull from very popular books of the last few years that contain the same set-up, though I’m sure J.K. Rowling wouldn’t admit to borrowing the make-up of the central trio from an old SF show. I also allowed myself the luxury of hand-waving the living situation of the characters at that point in the story, mostly to let the narrative move quickly on to other things rather than worrying about how they could get their hands on regular money.

There is very little in the above taken from the previous post. This is important. When the story requires any of those elements to be brought in they are already bubbling away under the surface, there to be brought onto the stage when they will have the best possible effect then quickly ushered from the limelight to concentrate on character and plot. It may seem counter-intuitive to plan deeply and yet present a thin slice, but reversing the levels would turn the novel in to a comedy, or unbalance the flow so severely as to make it unreadable. I think I have gotten away with most of the descriptions in the first draft, but they will be refined and pruned, edited and clarified as needed.

None of what has come before actually answer where the ideas come from, but I’m getting there…

I skipped any explanation of where my hovs came from in the last post. This is where I show how I stitch together the different ideas that others have come up with, throw in some new thinking, make major (and fundamental) changes to the transport system of the future. There isn’t enough space in a single post to list every instance of flying cars ever seen in fiction, but you should know the basics anyways.

  • The use of petrol in the future strikes me as dumb, mainly because the stresses would make it uneconomical to use. A fuel cell of some sort seems more believable. This would eliminate a lot of engine noise (handy if it was ever filmed :D), and provide a logical reason for bigger explosions than you would see than with an ordinary car crash. Hollywood Rule 1 is The bigger the explosion, the better.
  • A HUD rather than a conventional dashboard would be a logical step forward, with adaptive and customizable software to make each vehicle perfectly suited to its’ owner. There are already steps towards this kind of use, but we are still a way from having a completely digital representation rather than dials. I never completely bought into the fact that dials and switches in spacecraft for this reason.
  • Your now thinking “how do you stop fender benders?” right? Well, sensors on the sides, top, bottom, and on each of the corners would keep a minimum safe distance between the vehicle and all those around it. The screen could then flash red if an accident was imminent.

None of that is radical. This is:

  • Every action, every movement even, would be recorded and fed into a main computer system so that safety could be assured by insurers. The police would have full access to this system.
  • Roads incline up to the next vertical level anti-clockwise around buildings, descending clockwise. This wasn’t a big deal in my story, but I had it worked out before I started.
  • Hacked cars can be made invisible to the constant recording.
  • The cars need to be at least four feet above a solid surface to operate safely, save for military-grade vehicles. A plot point about the DCU vehicles travelling freely in a vertical manner never came across clearly, but it was what I had intended.

The rest of my uses of the technology rested on the fact that it wouldn’t be clich√©.

I have to admit that I was reminded of an old First Comics’ series called Zero Tolerance when I got into any sequence where the flying cars came to prominence, though that is obscure – even for me. Umm… Maybe if I just pretend I was thinking of Fray, nobody will shake their head and sigh at my geekishness slipping to the fore.

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The Primordial Stew Of Imagination, Part 1

Posted by BigWords on November 29, 2009

The old “where do ideas come from” question keeps resurfacing, and – even though I already covered this – there are writers asking this question now. I really don’t know how to explain the process that goes with the formation of story, character, concept and (shudder) Big Ideas, but I’ll give it a fair whack… The least I can do is dissect the piecework of thematically linked elements I used for my NaNo, since November is technically still with us. It won’t be pretty and it won’t be entry-level, but if you’ve come this far then you might as well see the “behind the scenes” extras.

The Scalpel Cuts Thin And True

There are, I am reliably informed, no new ideas. That’s fine. That’s groovy. I’ll play along with the notion that no matter how far I push things I’m never gonna create an entirely new genre, or open up hitherto unknown elements of the craft, or be able to transform the written word in ways which would make Shakespeare spin in his grave. None of that really matters. If originality is over-emphasised by a lot of writers, it is merely due to an abundance of fear. We’re all in the same boat – you, me, Stevie King too – when it comes to new ideas, mostly because the printed word has existed for so long. There are a lot of books, and writers, between the creation of the Gutenberg bible and this moment in time.

Which is why we have to take the scalpel to the world around us, and cut off slices of cool and interesting stuff. There’s big differences between the writing methodologies which have been given prominence over the last decade or so, but the generation of material is still the responsibility of each and every writer. You want my own examples?

  • Robots on the rampage featured in the lacklustre I, Robot adaptation. If you can ignore a woefully miscast Will Smith, and the not-so-subtle allusions to Apple being the OS of the future, you will find a couple of salvageable ideas in that mess of a film.
  • A robot rebellion (where the artificials gained some semblance of sentience) also makes a mark in the superior Michael Crichton novel Westworld. The films are recommended, though the television series is somewhat less impressive.
  • An agency dealing with cybercrime and robotic crime is the focus of the Ghost In The Shell manga and anime. It contains the best depiction of a future society where robots and people co-exist. The multitude of robot forms is more realistic than I, Robot‘s conceit that one company runs the entire industry.
  • My plans for Charlie were directly influenced by The Godfather, Part II (though it is kinda difficult to get close to that kind of character study, never mind surpass it).
  • The idea of the Turing collar came directly from an article in New Scientist which pondered the possibilities we might face once robots gain the level of intelligence we have.
  • The small pink rabbit/cat joke characters I used was (in part) a joke at Tenchi Muyo‘s expense. I never did like the annoying pet.
  • Robot dinosaurs are common in many SF works. I did, however, base my views primarily on old comic-books of the sixties and seventies, wherein they were treated with more seriousness than in some novels.
  • The notion of a robot framing a human for a series of murders really caught my attention. I’m not sure if I lifted the idea, or if it was a reaction to I, Robot. Maybe a little from column A, a little from column B.
  • The comm’s used throughout my story are direct lifts from Doom 3, which was the first game to make me like the PDA as a game device. It had, of course, been an SF staple for decades, but if I wanted one it would be the make and model seen in Doom 3 I would get.
  • Plastiglass is a more complicated notion than glass reinforced plastic, but the idea is in use today. The technology I describe at one point where the glass can be made to turn opaque is also not a strictly SF idea.
  • The concept of a city being built vertically goes back to Metropolis, and has seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to Judge Dredd and its’ spin-offs.
  • Flying cars… Well… Um… Moving swiftly on-

I would also add stories from The Outer Limits, the legendary RUR, and bits and pieces of non-fiction as having some bearing on the way I fixed my ideas up. See… There really are no new ideas – it is all in the handling. That accounts for the nuts and bolts, but the actual writing will bring out other elements of any idea that can be conjured. There are a few things which haven’t been covered here, but they aren’t pushed to the forefront.

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The “Ten Things I Am Thankful For” Meme

Posted by BigWords on November 27, 2009

Corrine Jackson has a Thanksgiving meme up on her blog, which was suggested by a post by Kate at My Sphere Of Domesticity, which in turn was prompted by a meme post conceived by Amy Bai. There are other instances of it cropping up but… I could spend all day pointing you in the direction of the use of the particular meme, but it is only gonna be annoying, ‘kay? Go see what everyone else has to say, then come back here and keep reading. I had to participate…
Yes, I know there are people who have said they are writing one in the comments of those posts, but there are only so many hours in the day, right? Anyone who wants to be added to the list of participants of this particular meme can add a comment at the end of this post.

Thanksgiving. It’s a very American holiday, so what the Hell does a Brit care? I shouldn’t, but the idea of the holiday is one which is very appealing. I’m reminded mainly of the scene in Addams Family Values where Wednesday explains the concept of the holiday, but an Ambrose Bierce quote also comes to mind…

HATCHET, n.  A young axe, known among Indians as a Thomashawk.
  "O bury the hatchet, irascible Red,
  For peace is a blessing," the White Man said.
      The Savage concurred, and that weapon interred,
  With imposing rites, in the White Man's head.

There are other tangents I could go off on, but I’ll stick to the plan.

  1. I’m thankful for the existence of the local Chinese takeaway, without which my Saturday evenings would be all the poorer. A lame thing to be so joyous about, but it has become a tradition to get a takeaway every week, even if I really should be trying to cut down on my spending.
  2. I’m thankful that I’m allowed to ask any dumb writing question which crops up at the Absolute Write forums, and not feel like I’m missing a few brain cells. It really is an important refuge from the endless slew of problems-not-problems which I create for myself, and the folks there really know what they are doing. If you haven’t read through Uncle Jim’s amazing thread on the basics of writing you don’t know what you are missing…
  3. I’m thankful that I don’t have to put up with the woeful quality of MP3′s thanks to Ogg Vodis. For someone who values quality audio it is a format that can never be too highly praised.
  4. I’m thankful for the existence of published books by Stephenie Meyer and D*n Br*wn, which means that if (or, more hopefully, when) I get published, I won’t be plumbing a new depth of shallow and obnoxious writing.
  5. I’m thankful that nobody has posted photographs of me at that party on their blogs or on image sharing sites. The rumors of a spare room, a bottle of cheap wine and an attractive exchange student are completely untrue. I didn’t do anything, and as long as the evidence doesn’t show up – which it hopefully won’t – nobody can prove a damn thing.
  6. I’m thankful for the existence of so many libraries close to me. Even though there are plenty of online resources, nothing can compare to holding a reference book in my hands. Which is where I should bring up how important Project Gutenberg is for the online stuff, but y’all know that already, right?
  7. I’m thankful for the releases of so many old and apparently obscure films on DVD. There have been major holes in my collection slowly filled thanks to both Criterion and the BFI bods. Maybe one day someone will turn up a copy of Vampire Over London so I can be proven correct that it does still exist somewhere… (seriously, if the wedding episode of Dark Shadows could be located, anything is possible)
  8. I’m thankful for the existence of spellcheck on so many programs. Without the easy ability to check that I haven’t committed a grammatical error I would be lost most of the time. Now, if only the feature could be added to Photoshop I would be able to confidently release some of my comic-book pages without the worry that there are numerous errors sprinkled throughout the text.
  9. I’m thankful for the pause button. Without the feature I would have missed the amusing vanity cards at the end of each episode of The Big Bang Theory, which shows that some television creators still value creativity. There was also a show back in the nineties which had pages of information shown frame by frame after each episode – GamesMaster? The idea was cool nonetheless.
  10. I’m thankful for being able to write freely without persecution for my writing. I don’t live in Manchester, so the racist, homophobic, sexist and religiously intolerant police force can’t censor my works as they did David Britton. The freedoms we take for granted are still under threat by the morons currently in government, but they are too busy stealing money from the electorate to care about what writers are up to…

So, there ya have it. Join in (if you haven’t already), or post a link to your own interpretation of the meme below.

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Oops, I Didn’t Mean To Use So Much…

Posted by BigWords on November 26, 2009

The recent kerfuckle regarding my web ‘n’ walk stick seems to have been a warning about my usage, as a nice message appeared on-screen rather than the ‘Add New Post’ screen. Turns out I have used all my allocated bandwidth for the month. Yes, three whole gigabytes of information in twenty-six days. Less, actually, as I paid on the eighth. Which means that in eighteen days I have used the web more than most folks. These days three gigabytes don’t go far, what with all of the internet’s wonderful distractions. Not to mention all of the wonderful web browser games…

I normally watch what I’m using, but this month I had torrents running in the background while I was busy writing. The damn things still haven’t downloaded completely, and I guess I really shouldn’t have them running again until next month, but I’m living dangerously and hoping the connection doesn’t go screwy again.¬† There’s a lot of other service providers out there, so it won’t be much of an issue if they do decide to come down on me for continued abuse of their broken, incomprehensible and overpriced lack of service.

Yes, I really do suck at trying to be nice to the companies I rely on.

The penalty for going over their abitrary level is surprisingly unimaginative, but for T-Mobile I guess it is the best they can manage. Between four in the afternoon and midnight they will be choking the connection. Wow. Such forward thinking ideas are the reason they aren’t the UK’s leading mobile service provider.

I’ll be back online after midnight, as if anyone cares…

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The Obligatory Image Post

Posted by BigWords on November 26, 2009

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NaNoWriMo Word Count Verification Blues

Posted by BigWords on November 25, 2009

If you head over to my NaNo user page you will notice that I have uploaded my novel for word verification already. There is a massive back story to such a simple act as uploading the novel, so I thought I’d treat you to a missive on how things which seem easy can turn out to be a massive nightmare of complications, alterations and attempts at tricking my web ‘n’ walk stick into letting me perform such a relatively straightforward action. I figure that this might come in useful for anyone else having difficulties uploading their material, so I’ll share my method of getting around the problem of constricted web activity.

This is not a rant, before you start up on me… This is merely me venting some frustration. There is a difference.

So… three o’clock in the morning, and I’m thinking that I really ought to make sure I remember to verify, because it would be a fucking disaster if I went through all this and neglected to actually put my novel through the NaNo word counter. Fine, I think, no time like the present to be getting the paperwork out of the way. The bit on the ‘My NaNoWriMo‘ page is easy to find, so there is one hurdle down. I stitch all of the pieces together in OpenOffice and save the completed material as an RTF file. I open the file up in Wordpad and copy the text into the box on the webpage and hit the button to send.

And I wait. And I wait. And I wait.

And the fucking useless web stick dies on me. I hit the refresh button and wait once more. Same thing happens again. My heart is pounding in my chest, the li’l vein on my forehead pounding away, a thousand profanities pouring forth from my lips as I try to work out what the hell is going on. The stick, it turns out, is using too much bandwidth… Or something. It cuts out after about half the material is sent, meaning that I get a white page which has failed to load in Firefox. Fine, I try to get the information down to a manageable level.

This means going through the text and taking out every… single… blank… line. It takes forever, but I finish up, save the document, copy it into the wordbox and try again.

And I wait. And I wait. And I wait.

And guess what? Same shit, same problem. The web stick doesn’t like me this morning, so I have to find a way to get the material down even further. This is where I get creative, and start using Find & Replace to squeeze every single word down. I change every use of “Talos” to “Tal”, “robot” becomes “bot” and “the” is squeezed to “t” in an effort to minimize size. I go through the text, quickly swapping out every word longer than five characters long for something smaller. It ain’t pretty, but at least it’s gonna go through to NaNoWriMo.

But it doesn’t. At this point I open the RTF and save it as a TXT, hoping to shrink the information by way of magic and belief in the digital gods. It’s right about this point that I’m wishing I had some grass in the house so I could chill myself out a little, the nerves and fear of failure pounding at my brain like a demented midget from hell. Again I try uploading the material, fingers crossed for the trickery to work on the damnable stick.

And I wait. And I wait. And I wait.

The familiar white screen pops up on Firefox again. This is the point I really lost my cool, and the thoughts running through my head really, honestly don’t need o be spelled out here. I get myself in enough trouble without threatening the health and safety of whatever moron was in charge of coding the Bytemobile Optimization Client in the toolbar, which turns red at the slightest provocation. With little option, I switch off the web ‘n’ walk screen, run Crap Cleaner, defrag, clear my internet cache and bring the web n’ walk back up again.

By this time the text is all but unreadable anyway, so I figure I may as well add to my chance of success by pruning a few thousand words from the end of the document to get it even further down to a “reasonable” size. I save the file, copy its’ contents, close Notepad (which has taken over from Wordpad in my haste to shrink size) and paste it in the wordbox at NaNo.

Take a stab in the dark here. What do you think happened?

Damnable, fucking useless piece of outdated shit, pretending to be a bloody internet connector…The pile of cigarette stubs next to me has grown by a count of ten in the three hours I have been messing around with the document, and I still had more pruning to do before it accepted the text, but I did it. I got my winners page up on screen. I also have a rasping sore throat, a headache and a temper that would make even Old Nick himself think twice before fucking with me, but I managed to get everything working.

The wordcount (on NaNoWriMo) stands at 135,750.
The wordcount (unbutchered) stands at 196,942.

I haven’t hit my goal of 250,000, but – considering the obstacles the universe likes throwing in my direction – I’m lucky to have gotten this far.

There ya go. The best advert for getting broadband access you’ll ever read.

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A Brief Hiatus From Writing, Where I Delete Some Words And Add Others

Posted by BigWords on November 23, 2009

Rules are meant to be broken, so… I started editing. I know that NaNoWriMo lasts the entire month, but I wanted my copy, which extends a ways either side of what I have posted, to be a bit easier to manage. There are a few bits and pieces which were glaringly obvious as I tried to quickly beat it into shape, and I wanted to have something more malleable for the real editing work which is coming up. I also noted where strands tail off, pieces simply don’t fit and – the biggest irk – things that are referred to once and never mentioned again.

I’ll post revisions of the material later, mostly because watching the hundred minute differences between each draft is tedious and I don’t want to spoil surprises, but this update will point out some of the things which I have discovered abut the world I have created for NaNo.

Just Because It’s Cool, Doesn’t Mean It’ll Work

The beginning of the story has bugged me for the better part of a week. I like opening fast, but the random nature of the attack seems a bit too contrived, though I still haven’t worked out the best way to work myself into that scene. Three pages of dialogue didn’t work, a flash-forward to some place near the robot war later on felt too choppy, and I can’t even begin to explain how dull my attempt at injecting asymmetrical game theory into the opening managed to be.

Then I thought about how difficult it was to sell the notion of a homeless brat rising to the top of a major criminal organization in the space of a few years. Despite surrounding him with a bunch of characters who have ties to the Kings it still feels as if the shift is too quick and too unbelievable. I like the notion, but cutting out his story leaves me with a second headache that ties directly into an issue that presented itself later on. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

My political piece was an anti-robot, anti-cyborg manifesto presented by the Senator soon-to-be Vice President Leukman. His thread was basically to build up the DCU as an independent agency outside the normal channels of command. If they acted under specific orders then I would have had to manage hierarchy and their position in the wider policing status of the nameless city (which has gone through a couple of lame names), which would have handcuffed me at the penultimate big event.

Add to the fudging, there is also the issue of “the only sane man” going off the deep end into major insanity too quickly. Selling that plot point with a nanotech-gone-wrong monster just isn’t enough, though I’m not sure what else I could do to drive him insane whilst still being a viable candidate for such a large political role during his death scene. Which is tied in to the issues I was having with Charlie in the later sections.

Chronologically, the next piece of the puzzle which is really annoying me is the five / ten year jump between Charlie being crowned boss of bosses and the introduction of the de facto main character. There are examples of this having worked well, but there aren’t that many connections between the two stories. Talos can’t be moved into the position of the main character, because he really doesn’t do much for large tracts of the story.

The Message Is In The Messages… Honestly…

My attempt to position Charlie into the Kings crime syndicate was for one reason, and one reason alone. He absolutely had to be killed by Adway to bring Talos’ machinations into the open. Talos, as I had sketched out, was sending the detective the texts to get rid of Charlie, riffing off a mentor trope.

Talos deactivated his comm interface, satisfied that Adway would take the necessary steps to remove the increasing problem which Charlie had become.

Clumsy writing, I know…

The content of the messages always bothered me. I can’t have them come out and say that Charlie is behind the meme murders or it’ll look like a set-up, but too obscure and they look like McGuffins. I’m not sure if it can be fixed to any degree of clarity while remaining vague. A puzzler.

I’ve had a couple of comments about Adam’s part in the larger story, and I always intended him to blow himself up, much like the artificial in the blimp segment, but it never quite managed to sit right on the page, and always seems to come up as a sudden turn. I’ve tried a few ways to merge him into the story, first with conversations held between him and Talos via cyberspace, then with him escaping – none of the ideas seem to make his actions more cohesive…

Even when I’m editing in brief spurts – fixing tense, smoothing dialogue, easing in plot points, and slipping in the odd joke – there is the temptation to pull everything apart and do major reconstructive surgery to the novel. I’m trying to avoid heavy editing, but it is really, really difficult…

I’ll write without editing anything tomorrow, I swear. :D

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NaNoWriMo: The Plan

Posted by BigWords on November 22, 2009

Pope Joan took the ID cards and spread them across the table in a fan shape. “Do you have any idea how long it has been since I saw so many of these. Mmm… Brings back old memories.” She lifted a card and sniffed it. “There are still traces of cocaine on this one. God, I miss the old days.”
“You told me that they contained information.”
“That they do. Now, young Charlie… You brought me cards with Charlie…” She paused, “I find that ironic. Anyways, the information on the cards is directly related to the importance of the individuals who were issued with them.” She picked a card from the table and inspected it. “The serial number that rests along the bottom of the plastic indicates the location of issue…
APC 05
“The person who issued the card…
158-392-602
“The status of the card holder…
D8
“And-” Joan broke off from her train of thought, noticing another card on the table. “Where did you get this one?” She held the card which belonged to the enforcer Talos had killed so many years earlier.
“It was from a friend. He killed a guy with a funky eye. I took the card.”
“You might be in luck. This would have been issued before the cards were keyed to specific locks. You can get into buildings which the Kings haven’t upgraded yet. Saying that, those delightful fools rarely spend money on physically protecting their belongings because they have enough rep to do what they want.”
“That’s good to know.” Charlie pondered.
“Do you know where the strongholds are located?”
“No, but I can find out.”
“Ah, the power of self-belief. Give me your hand.”
“I’ve told you often enough – We’re not going there.”
“Please, give me your hand.”
Charlie cautiously offered his hand. Joan produced a small tool from her purse and pressed it against Charlie’s hand.
“What is this supposed to do?”
Joan pressed a button on the device, eliciting a howl of pain from Charlie.
“Now you have an embedded chip in your hand you won’t show up on the Kings security systems.”
“Y’know, I’m getting really fed up of people setting me up for shit without advance warnings.”

####

Charlie banged on the door of the pawnbroker, eyeing the street for movement while he waited. The street was too dark to be completely sure, but it felt as if as if there were people moving around in the shadows.
“Yeah, whaddayawant.”
Charlie held the card up to the cam. “I need a word.”
The pawnbroker beeped the door open. “Come on in.”
Charlie swung the door open, the strong smell of old wood, freshly cleaned metal and blood hitting him as soon as he entered. “I’m here to talk about the last shipment.”
“It was sent out, just like all the rest.”
“Well it didn’t turn up, and you were named as the last person to see it. Care to comment before I am forced to do something I don’t want to do.”
The pawnbroker paled at the thought of his name being sent to the Kings’ enforcers. “I’ll take a look at my records. No need to act rashly here, ‘kay.”
As the old man disappeared to the back room Charlie took a look at the display of items stolen from across the city. Some of the objects still retained the blood of their previous owners, and it was surprising how much of the worthless junk had been priced at high prices.
“I have the paperwork here. It was sent to the lock-up on the fourth roadway at the side-entrance to DigiMax. Frankie the Nail took it up a couple of days ago.”
“Let me have all the paperwork you have. The bosses are taking inventory, and anything out-of-place will be accounted for.”
The pawnbroker handed over the file in his hand. “You want everything?”
“Every last piece of paper. Every digital file. Everything.”

Outside, Charlie held the box of information close. He stifled the urge to grin like a fool, moving hastily to his hov. Things were improving at a rate of knots, and soon he would be ready to show the Kings how business could be done.

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NaNoWriMo: Evacuation

Posted by BigWords on November 22, 2009

The robots swarmed the DCU building with unstoppable force, swiping aside the DCU agents as if they weren’t even there. Five thousand artificials with a single objective – clear the agency of all occupants. As the robots flooded the lower levels with increasing numbers, The General watched events from his office. Flashes of gunfire flared on some of the monitors, others were obscured by streaks of blood, and more were failing every minute the situation continued. Even a best case scenario would result in the loss of unacceptable casualties, the kind which brings congressional hearings down on government agencies.
“This is The General to all staff. Evacuate to the Black River Complex immediately. I repeat… Evacuate the building immediately.” The words didn’t come any easier with the knowledge that the action was the right choice to take under the circumstances. “Computer… Activate security ptotocol Alpha Black Five.” A three dimensional map appeared on his screen, displaying the immense hollow at the centre of the building.
A password box appeared in the middle of the screen, flashing spaces for the twelve digits required to complete the activation sequence. He paused a moment before commiting to the procedure, the knowledge that it could not be revoked weighing heavily upon him, but with time in short demand he forced himself to input the alphanumeric code. The screen turned red as the protocol was activated.
‘Thermo-nuclear detonation in one hour,’ appeared overlaid on the previous screen, all commands from the console finally and irrevocably locked out.
Closing down the lid of his command console, The General grabbed his comm and headed out for the upper hov deck. A siren blared through the halls, indicating that the self-destruct had been initiated. Over the alarm, the sound of twisting metal carried up the floors of the building, but he pushed on, determined to resolve the occupancy of his department by aggressive forces by any means at his disposal. The infected, whose occupancy of the basement could never be revealed, would hopefully be obliterated in the blast. No trace of the horrible secret could leave the DCU, no matter what else occurred.

####

Connell sighed as the DCU building came into view. “Say little guy, would ya mind if I had a moment tuh sit-down. All a’ this walking is making me feel like I’m gonna be sick.”
“You are ill?”
“I’m an overweight drunk.” Connell admitted, “I’m not made for all a’ this walking.”
“We will remain here for three minutes and thirty seconds, during which time you can recharge.”
“I ain’t promising anything, but I’ll take what I can get,” Connell said as he flopped to the ground.
From his vantage point, Connell could see the a fleet of hovs departing from near the top of the building at some considerable speed.
“There must be a sale on donuts somewhere.”

####

I didn’t post yesterday as I was out all day. And I didn’t – technically – write anything either. A dozen words typed into my phone don’t really count…

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NaNoWriMo: Slow Gray Nano Death

Posted by BigWords on November 20, 2009

Leukman checked the 3D map of the DCU building against the blueprints in front of him three times before reaching for his comm. There were too many rooms in the digital layout of the complex, more than had ever been disclosed to the oversight committee in the meetings which had presaged the construction of the building. One sub-level more than stated, an extra hov bay, three extensions that connected to the upper roadways, some modifications to the roof, and a sealed compartment which extended through five floors in the core of the building. It didn’t make sense for so many differences to have been made on the fly, meaning that oversight had been presented with false information. For the DCU to risk federal charges was amazing.
“Zoom in. Expand map. Show sub-level five.”
The computer reacted instantly to the first two orders, stalling on the third.
“Computer, show me the schematics of sub-level five.”
The screen flashed an error message as the map spun slowly.
Tapping one finger on the desk, he decided that a visual inspection of the level would be more efficient than leaving such details to a belligerent computer designed by the DCU. There would be time enough for answers later, but he needed to see what was so important that the design was presented fraudulently to oversight.
Pressing his comm, Leukman requested his aide. “Dray, come in to my office.”

####

The elevator slowed as it reached the first floor, then accelerated as it continued below ground level. Deep under the complex, the elevator slowed once more as it came to rest on sub-level five. Bright red lights flared in the elevator as the doors opened, two guards stepping out to block access to the corridor, weapons raised at the occupants of the elevator.
“I am the official head of the DCU. Step aside.”
The guards remained stationary in their defense positions.
“The Senator can come through if he really wants to see what is happening. Do you, Senator?”
“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t concerned about the activities of this organization. Let me through.”
“Very well.” The guards stepped aside, their weapons lowered.
“I am Lt. White, and this… This is The Hold.”
“The Hold?” Leukman parrotted, “As in a jail?”
“The occupants of this facility are considered an extreme danger to the city. We can’t allow you access to the cells, but you can feel free to look around the open parts of the facility.”
“What crimes have they committed?
“Information on subjects held here are classified.”
“When did they receive a hearing?”
“Information on subjects held here are classified.” White repeated.
“Can you tell me anything about the people you are… Storing.”
White struggled with the questions, “I can’t answer you, sir, as much as I want to.”
“Can you at least tell me if the people held here are being taken care of adequately?”
“The people contained within this facility are given the utmost care.”
“No waterboarding?”
“Absolutely not, sir.”
“And I’m meant to take your word for that?”
“Sir, I…”
“I want to see the prisoners.”
“They aren’t exactly prisoners.”
“Then what are they? Guests?”

Dray peered into the window of the nearest cell. “I don’t see anyone, sir.” Dray turned to White, “Don’t you have lighting in there?” He strained against the gloom. “Is this your idea of utmost care?”
“Open the door,” Leukman demanded. “Now.”
White frowned. “Sir, you don’t understand-”
“No. You don’t seem to understand. I said open the door. Now.”
The guards stepped forward, aiming their weapons at the door as White keyed in the code to release the clamps holding the door sealed. “This is highly unwise, sir.”
“I will decide what is wise and what is unwise.”
The door hissed as the locks released. Dray stepped forward, “I still don’t see-”
Someone shifted at the back of the cell, then appeared almost instantly at the door, a mess of gray. The blob which once was once a man twisted and reformed as the guards opened fire on it, mostly to little effect. The former man still advancing, Dray and Leukman retreated backwards, too shocked to think clearly.
“What the fuck is that?” Leukman babbled, “What is it? What is it?” He grabbed Dray and pushed the aide in front of him. “Get rid of that thing. Get it out of my sight.”

####

“Those cells,” White explained, “Are test subjects whose reaction to nanomeds were… Less than successful. There are over two thousand people being detained in sub-level five to protect people from the infection. We don’t know how to stop the replication of the nanobots in their system, and as you saw…”
“Yes, yes… I saw. I know now. You people… You play god, and when your creations turn on you, you lock them up even though they have done nothing wrong.” Leukman spoke calmly and evenly thanks to several stiff drinks in his system. “I knew this place was a danger. I saw it when I looked over the plans earlier today. I saw it in your handling of the disastrous assignment earlier this week. There will be reforms. I guarantee that you will see massive changes around here.”

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