Church of the Mech (fourth down)

Martin found the encompassing feeling of the abandoned mech hanger remarkable. The lofty girders above and the open bay doors along the perimeter reminded him of a church he attended as a boy before he stopped praying.

“Thanks.” The occasional single-syllable acknowledgement was all that remained of Martin’s belief.

:Roger that, Commander.: Lieutenant Abilene Guerrera’s voice spoke in Martin’s earpiece. She drove the mech guarding above him. He smiled and pretended it was Goddess responding instead. He then tried to think of what he’d say to the Lieutenant’s inevitable query. :…uh, ‘Thanks’ for what, sir?:

:[something profound and direct]:

:Of course, sir,: Guerrera replied after a delay. Her brief protocol made Martin smile and almost laugh. He imagined her turning wide-eyed and questioning to her ensign co-pilot and him, cringing, unable to offer an explanation for their boss’s sudden melancholy. They’d chew on that shit for days, he thought.

xxx words on day 788

A Small Circle

God climbed the hill to our village. Then he stayed.

My grandfather taught me this.

Xander Farmer sketched out a circle in pencil on a sheet of paper—it was near perfect. “Johanna, look. Any…three…points,” he dotted pips along the circumference of that circle with each syllable, “can be used to define a circle. But that could be random. Easily. Now that we’ve discovered—uncovered really—a fourth mechanical it’s no longer random.” Farmer drew in the fourth pip and repeatedly circled the circle. “Can’t be.”

Xander suddenly called to mind the undergraduates he taught math to during his Masters. These were high school students who entered university under probation until they passed Xander’s class. Except Johanna Sherman-Meyer wasn’t dumb or one of his students. She was his ex—mostly ex.

Johanna stacked folders on top of folders and papers on top of those; she pulled open her desk’s top drawer then, not finding what she hunted, shut it again. “Listen, Xander. I can’t do this anymore. I agree with you. They are facinating historical objects and, as such, V-CIM is happy to continue to fund the research and preservation of the three we know about…”

Xander inhaled to speak. She shifted to her credenza and squated to open the cabinet door. She spoke into the furniture, “…four we know about, but we aren’t going to fund your little adventure mission to circumnavigate the globe looking for more.”

“Technically it’s a Small Circle, not circum…”

She stood again. “Spare me the Geometry lesson, huh? You’ve got your money for the three mechanicals. Spend it on the fourth if you like. You’re not getting more than you’ve got. V-CIM’s making no money off this and the goodwill accounting just isn’t there anymore.”

298 words on day 550

See Spot Run

Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Armburster paused to sip water from a fountain then grasped a doorknob at 07:59:58 allowing two seconds to breach that threshold and enter the hanger bay. A mixture of civilian contractors in blue button-downs and khakis and Marines awaited him politely or at attention.

Lieutenant Colonel Denise Armburster, test pilot, dropped her chin to her chest to sip the last of the water from a tube. Today or tomorrow would bring her death; she wanted to be hydrated for the coming fight.

Doctor Calvert’s near final words to her continued repeating in her head. They chanted like monks on a hilltop: incessant and oblivious. At times those words were as unnoticeable as her breathing at others as unignorable as her panting. Always involuntary. For several hours yesterday or the day before—sleep loss made her unsure—she intoned the words aloud just to hear someone speak. Even though she mouthed the words, Armburster heard Calvert’s voice in them. He had said, “Arm, I know what you’re thinking. It’s what I thought too. Suit up and be wrong for the first time.” But two words burst out of that string like a police siren in a crowd simultaneously drawing her attention yet warning her away: be wrong. Be wrong. Be Wrong. BE WRONG.

The progression of this story over the past few days evolved more than I wold have expected at the onset. This is good because at the end of this week I finally have a place ot start and a place to end. I just need to firm up the vaporous middle.

What I find most interesting is how parts I added to resolve initial problems ended up neutralizing those problems and requiring me to insert new ones to better meet the challenge. I’m not pleased that the none of the motivating scene I wrote back in December—the one that got me writing this story first of all the ones I selected—will be used in the final draft, but I am happy I’ve got something writable.

One funny thing I’d like to capture here if no where else is that my initial thinking put this at a much longer story than I was prepared to write. Explaining and setting up the motivations of the antagonist bloated the plot. Mostly, I think, because I wanted to be classier than, “Hey Reader! Here’s a bone. Go get it Boy.” I realized keeping the story short nessecitated motivation simplicity. So, still a bone to chase, but hopefully I’ll be able to include a zig if not a zag along the way.

Day 413

Armburster: Light Plotting

I’m supposed to be writing already having completed my plotting on Tuesday.  Since I didn’t complete that I’m not writing today.  I’m tempted to put fingers to keys to see where the story goes, but I won’t.  Instead I’ll do the work.

For those of you not privy to my brain or office my first week will revive a brief mech motivated entry from December 2007:

I keep coming back to making the character of “Doc” be the mysterious antagonist.  Which I then resist in various ways.  Then counter.  I’m starting to realize how much I prefer situations, events, or formless monsters to be the baddies than primary characters.

It makes sense in a 1000 word piece that the bad guy would be there all along.  All the motivations I come up with are thinner than I’d like to use.  I don’t want accidental or coerced badness.  I want dead-on purposeful seeking your death or destruction badness.

Regardless of the badness vector I’ve arrived at an event path that goes something like this: Armburster tests the XO and is surprisingly impressed and visibly enthusiastic about the results; they tuck it away for the night and return to testing the following day, early in that testing a virus locks up the XO’s controls and takes over to a great degree (Arm has some control but very little).  I need to determine what happens next.  Comic book style structural rampage to highlight the XO’s capabilities?  Specific target seeking quest? A vendetta or a robbery?

What’s the ending?  Does The Antag relent and power down the virus?  Is Arm forced to sacrifice the XO and himself for the greater good?  Maybe Arm is able to re-take the XO and stop the Antag?

Let’s say there is no virus.  The Antag takes a hostage and coerces Arm to do bad things with the XO.  Thus Arm is using his skills to protect one person at the disperse expense of others.  None of these really attacks his self-concept unless I change that concept a bit.  Maybe he is aloof and less caring more selfish?  Nah.  I think I’ll stick with a straight hero and just work a better angle.

Testing occurs on a specific planet consisting of the proper gravity or terrain.  Arm is the lead tester but soon other pilots will be on planet and in danger.  Or able to suit up themselves.  Arm’s brought a daughter or son or a wife or hooked up with a civilian contractor taken hostage.  So we’re on a remote planet.  What could The Antag want to accomplish?  Straight robbery?  Capture of a highly placed local political figure?  If it’s Doc then it would be knowledge of some sort.

Day 412

Fanning the Embers

Tweaked yesterday’s writing till I hit the 9 o’clock mark.  Still not finished.

Morning wind kept the smoke from their abandonned campfires low to the ground.  Generations ago we hunters may have worried about upwinding prey or having been detected before arrival, not so now.  Thermals peppered my semlam one signature for each for the small trees, pairs for the larger trunks.

I brushed away the semlam’s meta regarding radial poz-prox and again the mean trunk diameters for both groups.  Those data aid targeting but they don’t assist me…much.  Since position and proximity calculations are easy and relevant to our suits’ general elimination directive they complete and appear first.  Once those two lamina cleared, bio meta faded in.  These I could use.  These better describe the character and readiness of the encountered aboriginals.  Each enco’s heart rate percolated onto the semlam and hovered above their thermals.


:Where’s our cake?: crawled across the bottom of my semlam.

Moore, Leathers, and Hisey’s me2s chased off Foster’s question.  Heart rates weren’t high enough on average to indicate fear as much as readiness.  We’d caught the encos off guard, no question of that, so it couldn’t be an ambush.  Surprised or not, these enco’s were more or less waiting on us.

“Place your bets.”  Four win-place-show thermal rankings appeared on my semlam.  As ‘gram leader—having first access to our computer’s results—I abstained.  When I released the meta I knew Leathers had a shit-eating grin and Moore was pissed.  Moore contributed most of the logic used to determine the likely ranking of encountered aboriginals—who to shoot first and who to ask questions of afterward.

Day 375

Low-level Smoke

Morning wind kept the smoke from their abandoned campfires low to the ground.  Generations ago hunters may have worried about upwinding prey or having been detected before arrival, not so now.  Thermals peppered my semlam one signature for each for the small trees, pairs for the larger trunks.

I brushed away the semlam’s meta regarding radial poz-prox and again with mean trunk diameters for both groups.  Those data aid targeting but they don’t assist me…much.  Since calculating position and proximity are easy and relevant to our suits’ general elimination directive they appear first.  Bio meta faded in.  These I could use.  These meta describe the character of the encountered aboriginals.  This encounter was supposed to be cake but I now knew it wouldn’t be.

Day 374

An Unanticipated Krunk

Jekkasantyle goofy-footed the runner of the cargo hover as it contoured the snow-melt wet mountain plain.  Resting on the support of her taut safety line she reached less of the flora than she’d like.  But at the easy pace the pilot set for the convoy she expected to set a colorful centerpiece of snatched wildflowers on her table at mess.

Snow still clung to the shadows and where the shadows had been, but the warm sun steamed the moisture up from the lumps of black rock spattered along their path.  Tendrils of this ground fog mixed with the microthermals she could feel on her face as they dipped in and out of the cooler zones.  Occasionally she’d turn to look into the hold where the rest of her squad hunched.  Aubrelia smiled at her each time, but more than once patted her weapon and then pointed Jekkasantyle’s attention back to her perch on the mini-gun.  Jekkasantyle checked her gun was safed and then glanced at her line to make sure it was secure.  She returned to her high speed gardening unconcerned.

Some more stuff to set a peaceful mood.  Maybe even dialogue to convey they are on their way back from battle or that all is well.

Jekkasantyle thought she heard something.  Then she did.


Four, maybe five, hovers–at least half a mile–ahead the smooth regular flow of the convoy churned.  A Whale cart wheeled into chunks of earth, metal, and flesh.  Jekkasantyle’s hover wheeled starboard and she wrapped over the top of her mini so fast face collided with it before she could get a hand up.