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New Soldier (1400 words)

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New Soldier (1400 words)

Postby LoganC. » Sat Mar 23, 2013 2:34 pm

Hello everyone, and welsome to my short story. I intend to submit this to a few SciFi magazines. I'd love thoughts, impressions and critiques. Thank you so much.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

New Soldier





As the brilliant white glare faded from his eyes, Paul immediately began to survey his surroundings. This must be what the inside of the enemy’s mainframe looks like, he thought. Smiling, he felt a glowing sense of pride. He was the first of a new class of soldier, better, more useful, and more importantly smarter. He noticed the swirling patterns of light that floated all around him; they looked almost like tiny galaxies. The background, the sky for lack of a better term, was not the pitch black nothingness he was expecting. In fact, it sizzled with brilliant blue arcs of light, as if the sky itself was channeling lightning in all directions. The ground at Paul’s feet was a lighter shade of blue, stretching off to a brilliant white wall some distance away. There were several glowing walls he could see along many paths that branched out from the one upon which he stood. Each wall had a burst of the blue energy in the sky above, shooting out in all directions.

In the wars of the past, only the physically fit and able served, even those whose specialty was advanced weaponry needed a certain amount of training and physical endurance for their deployment. No longer. On the Outside, Paul was a scrawny, pale, computer technician. Inside, with his intellect interacting directly with the world around him, no frail, slow and clumsy body to get in the way, he excelled. While he had always thought his swift and analytical mind more than made up for any lack of his physical condition, others never seemed to agree. Excepting of course his own mother, but that hardly counted. He remembered being rejected for the Armed Services just five years ago, on his eighteenth birthday. It wasn’t so much the rejection itself that had hurt so bad, it was the look the recruiter had given him when he walked in. He didn’t get as much as a physical exam, he was instead told up front that they would not be interested in him. Luckily his persistence had paid off, after searching for hours on the Net he found what he had hoped for, a possible exception. DARPA had an experimental program for those who, for reasons of health or disability, could not enter the Military. They were more interested in the mental and emotional makeup of their ‘soldiers’, and the tests that had evaluated them reflected that. In such a setting Paul had flourished, and quickly became a frontrunner in the program.

As Paul came upon the first wall in his path, the first obstacle, he smiled; a simple Fibonacci sequence. As he neared the wall he felt a distinctly uncomfortable prickling sensation, like the air right before a lightning strike. Around the wall a flock of numbers buzzed about, swirling and dipping, making it hard to tell which number was which, let alone to try and touch the appropriate answer. Yet another benefit of this new warfare, rather than have to possess the physical reaction time and hand/eye coordination a similar device would require on the outside, he needed only mental quickness and agility. He touched the appropriate number, and the prickling sensation vanished with suddenness of a popped bubble. The wall became transparent and the path appeared on the other side. Paul smiled at his ease in passing the obstacle and moved on through the Gate. The first defense of the enemy’s computer system had just failed.

Striding with a confidence he previously lacked, Paul navigated toward the next Gate. Not only was his intellect a vastly superior weapon here, the technological leap forward promised a new era of war. Instead of throwing brave men and women into the meat grinder, trying to gain no more than control of a particular patch of earth, now Techs like him need only go into a medically induced coma while plugged into the Nation’s military computers. Rather than being forced to drop bombs to disable hostile facilities, a quick download and a Tech could be inside the enemy’s control center. Instead of fear, fear of pain and fear of death, there was confidence. There was no pain, for it was an artificial world, and his mind merely housed in an artificial construct to interact with it. Of course, no death, again he wasn’t really here. His body lay in a state of the art hospital, only his consciousness was here, in this world. Besides, an instant save and transfer protocol was in place if his mind ever showed any signs of danger. Worst case scenario he would be shunted into a holding computer in the hospital until his mind could be reintegrated with his body.

Paul came upon another obstacle; this one needed only a simple observation. Touching the correct geometric shape described by the glowing equation, he passed through the Gate on which it was emblazoned. He had never felt so useful. He was literally waging a war, and single handedly turning the tide of this battle. He stopped, awed by the sight in front of him. This Gate, as usual, had the possible keys dancing back and forth around the entrance, but this time the path shifted as well. The path here was broken into tiles that were abruptly switching places, fading, or disappearing altogether. Deep purple, almost ultraviolet lasers swept the path, some at shoulder height, some nearer the knees. Taking a deep breath he settled down to observe. That was always the first step: observation. Followed by deliberation, and finally action. The lasers swept by in a seemingly random pattern, but he knew there had to be some answer. No, not randomly timed blasts. It was Pi. He laughed, 3 seconds, blast. 1 second, blast. 4 seconds, blast. 1 second, blast. 5 seconds, blast. Easy enough, now for the shifting tiles. After a few minutes of concentration, Paul felt he had the pattern of the pathway down. Nothing is truly random when it comes to computers, he thought.

Confident in his solutions he started out onto the path, jumping, ducking and moving with the platforms as necessary. He loved his country, not only was it a bastion of freedom and democracy that seemed so rare in the world, it had helped him be more than he ever thought he could be. Sure there may be politicians who were corrupt, and many seemed to put the acquisition of money above all else but----

Paul’s thoughts were interrupted by his sudden collapse. He screamed as pain tore through his legs. He looked down he saw his legs were gone just below the knees and small square particles were floating up from the ends, reminding him of smoke from a snuffed candle. What happened to the pain free environment? Maybe it was all in his head, he expected pain so there was pain. Unfortunately it continued to grow in intensity, either he hadn’t convinced himself he shouldn’t be in pain, or the scientists and doctors were wrong. Paul looked down again and saw his wounds were travelling up his body. Paul panicked, he tried to squeeze his thighs, as if trying to stem the tide of blood. However, this was not his physical body and there was no blood flow to stop. Damnations, there must have been a virus he didn’t notice. It was dissolving the construct his consciousness used to interact with the cyber world.



Ah! Why was there so much pain? He’d been promised. The save and transfer protocol, when did that kick in? It was supposed to sense distress and cut in. The pain continued to increase; he was having a difficult time keeping his thought coherent. He’d been lied to, it was the only explanation. Why did he sign up? He should have… he should have. Why was he in so much pain? He couldn’t think, must have been in an accident. Waves of pain accompanied by the sting of betrayal. Why? why?

“Why?” was his last thought as the world slowly dissolved into a blazing white glare.



* * *


As the brilliant white glare faded from his eyes, Paul immediately began to survey his surroundings. This must be what the inside of the enemy’s mainframe looks like, he thought. Smiling, he felt a glowing sense of pride. He was the first of a new class of soldier, better, more useful, and more importantly smarter.



Well, that's it guys. Let me know what you think, and thanks for your time.
~Logan
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Re: New Soldier (1400 words)

Postby Bmat » Sat Mar 23, 2013 6:53 pm

I like it. It catches the reader's attention. It moves well, and it comes to an exciting conclusion and a surprise ending.
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Re: New Soldier (1400 words)

Postby LoganC. » Sat Mar 23, 2013 10:32 pm

Thanks Bmat. If you have any criticisms, or questions I'd love to hear them, but I must admit getting positive feedback is more fun, if not as functional. I appreciate you taking time to read it for me, and letting me know what you thought.
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Re: New Soldier (1400 words)

Postby Bmat » Sun Mar 24, 2013 7:20 am

Something that did make me stop and look was "and more importantly smarter"
I think there should be a comma there or some way of setting the word apart.

"Excepting of course his mother..." This does read well, but I wonder if it should be attached to the previous sentence- but this may be author's style.

"He looked down he saw" This doesn't seem grammatically correct.

In other words, perhaps I'd recommend a good proof-reading after letting it rest for maybe a week and coming back to it to see how it reads when you are not so involved in it. But as far as the story, as I said, I like it.
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Re: New Soldier (1400 words)

Postby Bmat » Sun Mar 24, 2013 7:23 am

I just have to ask, what is going on? I enjoyed conjecturing, but since you invited questions, was he just not told about the pain? He was reset as a computer invader. Will he be able to return to his former life?
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Re: New Soldier (1400 words)

Postby LoganC. » Sun Mar 24, 2013 12:57 pm

Thank you again!

As for the story, basically everything he was told was true as far as the doctors knew. I played with having a scene before and after the main story, featuring the doctors. Paul going under, with the doctors counting down, three, two... then they plug him in. The main story starts and continues how it is and ends the same. Followed by going back out to the room the doctors are in, the doctor saying ...one. Then they ask how long they should keep him in etc. I was intending to get across that it wasn't so much that they lied to him, as the process unexpectedly sped up his senses to the point that he went through all those obstacles, defeated them, got caught and died, all in that fraction of a second that they plugged him in. The program did not have any instructions about what to do if he died inside, as the transfer protocol should get him out before then, so it basically crashed and rebooted, starting him at the beginning.

The reason I ended up leaving it out, was i really liked the chilling quality of having him die and relive that false confidence he had in the first couple of sentences.

I'm still tinkering and trying to make it better, so that one day I may get payed for it. :)

I appreciate all your feedback!

~Logan
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Re: New Soldier (1400 words)

Postby Bmat » Mon Mar 25, 2013 6:09 am

I like having it all from his point of view. The idea of having the doctors still saying "one" is enticing. I suppose it would be too arcane to have the title of the story "One..."
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Re: New Soldier (1400 words)

Postby Tony » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:58 am

Hi Logan
I'm with Bmat. I have some edits / proof reading that might be useful. Most simplify what you've written. There yours to use if you want them:

>He was the first of a new class of soldier, better, more useful, and more importantly smarter.
Maybe: He was the first of a new class of soldier, better, more useful, and more, importantly, smarter.


>There were several glowing walls he could see along many paths that branched out from the one upon which he stood.
Do the paths terminate at a wall or are the walls bordering the paths. If the latter then maybe: There were glowing walls bordering the many paths he could see branching out from the one upon which he stood.

>Each wall had a burst of the blue energy in the sky above, shooting out in all directions.
Maybe: Each wall had a burst of the blue energy shooting into the sky above, spreading out in all directions above his head.

>It wasn’t so much the rejection itself that had hurt so bad,
Maybe: It wasn’t so much the rejection itself that hurt,


>Striding with a confidence he previously lacked, Paul navigated toward the next Gate.
Maybe it should be “towards”

>This Gate, as usual, had the possible keys dancing back and forth around the . . .
Do you mean the next gate as he has just gone through a gate, which he passed through easily?

>He looked down he saw his legs were gone just below the knees and . . .
Maybe: Looking down he saw his legs were gone just below the knees and . . .


>Damnations, there must have been a virus he didn’t notice.
Maybe: Damnation, there must have been a virus he didn’t notice.


* * *


>He was the first of a new class of soldier, better, more useful, and more importantly smarter.
Maybe: He was the first of a new class of soldier, better, more useful, and more, importantly, smarter.
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Re: New Soldier (1400 words)

Postby Alex F » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:05 pm

Hello Logan

I like this, its a good story and kept my interest...

I would just comment though and please bear in mind this is only my opinion...

The second paragraph seems to me a little redundant in places... You start off beautifully, intriguing description of this environment he's now in and then we get info dumped a bit...

In the wars of the past, only the physically fit and able served, even those whose specialty was advanced weaponry needed a certain amount of training and physical endurance for their deployment. No longer. On the Outside, Paul was a scrawny, pale, computer technician. Inside, with his intellect interacting directly with the world around him, no frail, slow and clumsy body to get in the way, he excelled. While he had always thought his swift and analytical mind more than made up for any lack of his physical condition, others never seemed to agree. Excepting of course his own mother, but that hardly counted. He remembered being rejected for the Armed Services just five years ago, on his eighteenth birthday. It wasn’t so much the rejection itself that had hurt so bad, it was the look the recruiter had given him when he walked in. He didn’t get as much as a physical exam, he was instead told up front that they would not be interested in him. Luckily his persistence had paid off, after searching for hours on the Net he found what he had hoped for, a possible exception. DARPA had an experimental program for those who, for reasons of health or disability, could not enter the Military. They were more interested in the mental and emotional makeup of their ‘soldiers’, and the tests that had evaluated them reflected that. In such a setting Paul had flourished, and quickly became a frontrunner in the program.

Okay with this paragraph... I don't think you need the bits in bold, especially not the 'mother' observation. In a short story like this you really need to get to the point of it as quickly as you can... was there a word limit you have to work with?

Anyway, the interest in this paragraph seems to me to be not so much that he was rejected from the standard military and his feelings about it, more that he joined DARPA.

As a reader I want to know about that, how did it happen, how did he become a frontrunner, what happened to him in the years leading up to this revolutionary new form of warfare that he is pioneering?

Why him? Tell us about the 'swift and analytical mind'... this would be more appropriate I think.

You seem to spend all this paragraph telling us what he couldn't do and the fact that because of what he couldn't do, he couldn't join the standard military when really that is not of interest, we get that he's not physically fit for army service, you did a brilliant job of describing him in that sense, I can see it clearly in my head the kind of person we're dealing with...

We don't need, in my opinion, the sentences on his emotions on the subject or the drill sergeant stuff, we want to know how and why he was considered good in his field and his story in joining and rising to greatness in DARPA because this backs up why he is there and the 'confidence' you describe him having later in the piece, which you might think, entering an artificial reality might be intimidating, yet clearly it is not to him. I want to know why, what's the story there and this is something that you could talk about in his back story of coming into DARPA.

As Paul came upon the first wall in his path, the first obstacle, he smiled; a simple Fibonacci sequence. As he neared the wall he felt a distinctly uncomfortable prickling sensation, like the air right before a lightning strike.

Love it! Really evokes the senses and is intriguing in the context of 'feeling' within a computer based reality...

As a side note, perhaps a description of what he looks like in cyber reality would be interesting as well because you described what the world looks like but don't seem to have mentioned his physical appearance until the end when you talk about his legs disappearing and as a reader I want to know that straight away, especially as you made such a point to explain that he was physically weak in the real world, one instantly wants to know how he appears in this artificial one because clearly it's not going to be 'normal' in such and environment... and if it is normal it needs to be stated I think, because physical appearance cannot be taken for granted in a story like this.

I would point out the fact that you've used 'first' twice in the same sentence... a wall is in itself an obstacle so personally I would say that he came to a wall, the first obstacle in his path, rather than repeating the word 'first.'

Instead of fear, fear of pain and fear of death, there was confidence. I think this sentence is redundant...

We already know he is confident in this world, and you then go on to tell us:

There was no pain, for it was an artificial world, and his mind merely housed in an artificial construct to interact with it. Of course, no death, again he wasn’t really here. His body lay in a state of the art hospital, only his consciousness was here, in this world. Besides, an instant save and transfer protocol was in place if his mind ever showed any signs of danger. Worst case scenario he would be shunted into a holding computer in the hospital until his mind could be reintegrated with his body.

This is good and very constructive

The rest is really good, you keep tightly focused on the notions of cyber warfare, brilliant descriptions of how things look, how he feels in cyber reality and how it works.

Personally I want to know more, I think this could be expanded out a lot if you wanted to make it a longer piece, let us know more about this new form of warfare, and let us know more about Paul as a person... Let us know about the tests he took to get here, build us a picture of a personality for him beyond his confidence and his intellect. Focusing on the mechanics and the history is all well and good but don't forget about Paul... to me right now he could be a John, or a Daniel or a Peter or a Reginald... he's not really distinctive in my mind as an individual beyond his name and his mental state...


Again, only my opinions... good stuff, and enjoyable read! :)
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Re: New Soldier (1400 words)

Postby Achilles » Mon Dec 16, 2013 12:49 am

The first drops of spring

The tally ho was wet with spit, and the flat sigh from the man was restful. He went forward with his over Zealous rain making and then went and snoozed up to the flower pot in hibernation. Where for art though sleeping, restful one. We need to grace the bitterness of the great flower. When do you want to rest in recline of sentiments?
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