Thursday, October 24, 2013

Friday Fiction for October 25, 2013

            Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Sara, over at her imaginative blog, Fiction Fusion. Don’t miss her story this week, or the other wonderful submissions.

            My plans for this year’s NaNoWriMo is a story titled, “Draconian Responses.” This will be a follow-on story to 2009’s NaNo story, “Empty Threats.” In preparation, I’ve been going over that story, refreshing the characters and situations in my mind as I plan on the events that will follow what happened. One of the things that happens in that story, is that the Empty in charge of caring for the Rover Hall decides to run away from her position, and goes to Epsilon Eridanus (“Qi’le”) with the main character. Because she was never programmed for life outside the Rover Hall, she has a difficult time adjusting, even though she is secured employ helping to care for an Inn. This changes when she experiences the Qi’le phenomenon called “B’sela,” which is the joining of two minds, believed by the people of Qi’le as God specifically bringing two people together in marriage. In the original draft, the Empty (who by then has decided to call herself Emily) has been presented to Musi for the B’sela, and he has consented. I skipped ahead to their Affirmation in the Temple, but began to think this week that it would be interesting to explore how Emily’s former life as an Empty might come into play in their early relationship. The result is this new chapter.

            Next week, I hope to have the first excerpt from “Draconian Responses.”

Chapter 26
Empty Memories

            The couple walked slowly along the edge of the forest, around the perimeter of the meadow surrounding Pisces. Emily held to Musi’s hand, trying to assimilate all the memories she could from his mind. Every aspect of his life was a new concept to her, and a painful reminder of all that had been denied to her because she was an Empty.
            One of the older students from the priestess school followed perhaps a dozen or so meters behind them, providing a sufficient chaperone that all proprieties were maintained. The girl’s presence was subtle, and not sufficient to inhibit free conversation, though for most of the walk so far, they had both been silent.
            Musi plucked a leaf from a low hanging branch and crushed it between his fingers. A pleasant scent wafted through the air, and he rubbed the fragrant greenery across his forehead and his neck. “I know your former home was at another star, but will your mother be offended if you do not present me to her for approval before our Affirmation?”
            A panicked feeling ran through her, and she released his hand. She stood still and closed her eyes, struggling with whether to release the memories, or suppress them.
            He sought her hand again, and took it gently. “I can sense you in my mind, exploring all that I am, as a child eagerly explores the forest for the first time, yet, you have a door to your mind that you have not opened to me yet. The priestess Se’Ana warned me of this, Emily, and I still accepted the B’sela. There cannot be anything in your mind that could break the bond we now share.”
            She opened her eyes and blinked away the tears before meeting his gaze. “I don’t have a mother to present you to for approval.” With the B’sela, she could understand his Qi’le speech and even respond a little in kind already, but English was still easier for her.
            “She has passed through the final dream, then?”
            “Did she abandon you as a child?”
            “No, Musi. You don’t understand. I never had a mother.”
            He gave her a puzzled look. “No, I do not understand this. You are here, therefore, you must have had a mother at some time.”
            She shook her head. “No. No mother, and no father, either.”
            “What you are saying is not possible.”
            Her hand slipped from his again, and she lowered her face. With a soft sob, she reached both hands up and placed them on either side of his face, with all fingers touching his skin.
            “Emily, this is not proper - ”
            Before he could finish the correction, she allowed the memories to flood through.
            Her eyes opened for the first time in a sterile room. She sat up in a container, flanked on all sides by similar containers. Some were empty, and some contained other sleeping people, all younger than her. A woman walked over and consulted a device in her hand, before handing her a simple garment. She had never seen such a thing before, but somehow, knew what she was supposed to do with it. She stood up, and draped herself in the plain cloth.
            “This way,” the woman said, and even though she had never heard speech before, she understood what she was expected to do and followed.
            She was led to a doorway. “Open Empty Holding,” the woman said, and the door opened. “Go inside, and commence conditioning routine one.”
            There were others in the room, dressed just as she was, and machines that she suddenly knew what to do with. On one, she would walk for a certain interval every day. On another, she would lift a bar in a prescribed pattern. Each machine had a different function, and each day, she would follow the others in the room through the routine.
            She had no way of knowing or caring how long she spent in this room. Each day was the same as before – awaken, eat, exercise, take care of personal hygiene, eat again, and then sleep. She never spoke with any of the other residents in the room, and none ever spoke to her.
            The next distinct memory was of another woman coming to her in the room. “You have been requisitioned,” the woman said. “Come with me.”
            She was taken to another room. “Open Empty Programming,” the woman said, and the door opened. They entered, and the woman pointed to a cylindrical bed. “Remove your clothing, and lie down there.”
            She did, and the bed glowed blue, and she fell asleep. When she awoke, she was handed a different kind of clothing, and taken to a different room. A man waited there, and he looked her over before nodding.
            When he had walked around her several times, he stopped in front of her. “What would you like to do?” he asked.
            “I would like to take care of the Rover Hall,” she replied.
            “How will you do that?”
            “I will clean the hall, see to it that the facilities are maintained, the linens changed between occupants and at regular intervals besides, and arrange for whatever needs or desires the Rovers express, in keeping with local laws and their ability to pay.”
            The man led her outside to a transport, and took her to the Rover Hall in Eldorado. He did not even go inside with her – she already knew everything she needed to know about the building and the operation.
            Emily wept softly against Musi’s shoulder, aware through the B’sela that tears ran down his cheeks as well.
            “You have no memories of a childhood?”
            She shook her head without lifting it. “My childhood was spent asleep in a chamber. I was created, grown, and maintained by a machine until I was an adult, and ready to be requisitioned.”
            “They called you ‘Empties,’” he whispered. His voice sounded flat in the Terran tongue.
            She nodded. “My mind was filled only enough to perform the tasks I was requisitioned for, until that moment you touched me.”
            “How can they do such a thing?”
            “I don’t know. I was never programmed to understand the technology.”
            He reverted to Qi’le. “They will answer to God someday for what they have done. I am just a man, and may not understand the Scriptures very well, but this must be one of the worst forms of blasphemy.”
            “I was nothing, Musi. I was property. When the day came that I was no longer useful for my requisition, I would have been disposed of like trash.”
            He brought his hands up and placed the ring and middle fingers of both hands on her cheeks. “They may have thought of you as nothing, but they did not see you as I see you. You are the B’sela I have prayed for my whole life. You are the gift that God has led to me from across the stars, and the completion of who I am.” His melody changed to the formal dialect used for the liturgy. “Truly God has joined us as one mind. We shall be one heart, and when we have been affirmed, we shall be one body.”
            She listened to his words and to his mind, and leaned back to look at his face. “I was supposed to say that last phrase to you when you gave your touch consenting to the B’sela.”
            He smiled at her. “God had a different way for you to say it.”
            “I don’t know what kind of wife I’ll be.”
            “I do not know what kind of husband I will be, but we will learn together, and if the Most Blessed Mother of All grants that I place children at your breasts, we will learn together how to give them full memories.”

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Fiction for October 18, 2013

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Vonnie over on her “My Back Door” blog. Be sure to visit and enjoy her fun turkey story this week, as well as the other submissions for FF.

Since Friday Fiction was on something of a hiatus last November, I missed posting chapters of my NaNoWriMo novel while it was in process. As I mentioned before, I took the short story, “Reef, Her Madness,” and used that as the basic outline for a novel-length retelling of the same events, and then some. What this allowed me to do was expand the story to include scenes that were brushed over in the short story, and to add additional POVs. One of the pivotal scenes in the original story was the night swim along the reef, with dive lights rented from the resort Dive Center. In the rewrite, I decided it would be fun to see the Dive Center through the female main character’s perspective, and to use the scene to set up subsequent scenes in the book.

By the way – many dive shops do offer something very similar to the Explore Scuba course mentioned in this chapter, offering it for very inexpensive or even free. Often, it is done in the dive shop’s training pool, but in some locations, it is actually done in the ocean. If you have ever been curious about scuba, look up your local scuba shops with training facilities, and inquire about a Discover Scuba or similar course (I fictionalized the name for the story).

Chapter 14
From Chasing The Sharks

            Theresa entered the resort Dive Center, and wondered how she’d managed to have never been in one before. She could not remember a time when she hadn’t loved the water, and scuba would be a natural extension of that love.
            Large color prints of reef life decorated the walls, and a big screen monitor played an ongoing slide show and video montage of the area’s diving. It was all just so beautiful and enticing, and she imagined what it would be like to be one of the people in the video, gliding over the seabed.
            She took a mask from its hook on a wall display, and held it over her face. The skirt was much softer and conformed so much better to her shape than the inexpensive mask she’d bought from a department store. If she wasn’t already stretching her budget just being on this trip, she would have considered buying it. Turning her attention to the display of snorkels, she ran a quick currency conversion in her head, and realized the cheapest snorkel they had, cost more than her entire set of fins, mask, and snorkel.
            A young woman came from a back room. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t hear you come in. How may I help you?”
            Theresa pulled the mask from her face, and quickly replaced it on the display.
            “Are you looking for a new mask?” the employee asked. “The one you just had on is one of our best sellers. It’s very comfortable, and offers excellent peripheral vision.”
            “It is nice,” Theresa agreed. “But it’s not in my budget right now. I just came in to rent a couple of dive lights.”
            “Ah, very good,” she said, pulling out the rental form. “Are you going out on our dive boat tonight?”
            Theresa shook her head. “No, I’m not a scuba diver. A friend and I are going to do a little night snorkeling in the lagoon.”
            “I see. Are you experienced snorkelers?”
            “Yes, and I assure you, we’re both quite comfortable in the water.”
            The employee walked to a closet, and removed a pair of large, yellow plastic lights from a shelf. She brought them back to the counter, and switched each on to check their functionality. “These are a bit bulky, but we have found them to be quite reliable and to have excellent battery life. We do require a credit card deposit on them, or else charge the rental back to your bungalow, so that your card on file with the resort provides the deposit. How would you like to proceed?”
            “My friend should have already made arrangements to have them billed to his bungalow. He’s in number twenty-three.”
            She checked her computer. “Yes, it’s here – bungalow twenty-three, Mr. Timothy Billings.” She pulled back the rental form. “I won’t need this. Mr. Billings completed it online, so you should be all set.” Smiling, she handed the lights to Theresa. “If you and Mr. Billings are comfortable snorkeling, have you ever considered trying scuba? Many divers started out snorkeling, and it’s an easy transition for them to learn scuba.”
            “I hadn’t really thought about it before, but looking at your videos, it just looks so incredibly wonderful and peaceful.”
            “It is,” she said. “When I am underwater, it seems that all the other cares of the world just disappear.” She pulled a brochure from a display at the side of the counter. “If you would like to try it during your visit, we offer an Explore Scuba course. We give you a brief classroom introduction to scuba, and then a basic instruction on the use of the scuba gear in the shallow water just off the beach here. Once you have the hang of it, the instructor will take you on a short guided tour underwater, and you can decide if you like the experience enough to pursue certification. The cost is minimal, and includes the rental of all the gear you will need. All you have to bring is your bathing suits.”
            Theresa looked over the brochure. “It does sound nice, but I’ll need to think about it.”
            “Of course. Talk it over with your friend, and if you decide to do it, just call us here at the Dive Center, and we’ll schedule the time at your convenience.”
            “I will, thank you.” She lifted the lights just a bit. “I’ll have these back tomorrow.”
            “Thank you,” the employee said. “Enjoy your stay at Caruso Lagoon.”
            Theresa retreated from the shop before the temptations within could get any more persuasive. The Explore course sounded good, and the cost did seem reasonable, but she needed to check what she’d spent so far and make sure her limited vacation budget could handle it.
            The most amusing thought, though, was that Timothy would show up without a bathing suit. The only thing he was required to bring, and if they did the course, he wouldn’t bring it. She smiled, and then laughed when she realized that she had spent the last two days swimming with someone who had been skinny-dipping the whole time. Oh, if I tell Daddy about this, he may never let me out of his sight again.
            Even Jenny’s silent treatment that morning couldn’t dampen her mood.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Friday Fiction for October 11, 2013

Welcome to Friday Fiction, which I have the privilege of hosting this week. Look for the Linky tool after this intro.

I had to miss last week, as I was on an out-of-town trip to a location that was completely disconnected from phone, internet, and pretty much any other form of electronic communication, but I’m back this week, and with a new story.

I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo 2013, and at this time, I’m planning a story to follow on with my 2009 NaNoWriMo story, “Empty Threats.” I’ve thought a lot about what might happen after the closing events of that story, and I find the story potential strong. Towards the end of the first story, the main characters must deal with a growing uprising on the colony world of Alsafi, where lab-grown humans are available as “made to order” servants, programmed at the time of their requisition for whatever tasks the buyer requests. In essence, these are treated as biological robots, and not as true humans. The Empties play a part in the first story, and the technology will have a strong influence in the second. This scene will not appear in this year’s NaNoWriMo book, but it does establish certain parameters that will play into the story.

Previous appearances of this concept on this blog were in the stories, “TheRequisition,” “Exiled With a Fool,” and in the excerpts from “Empty Threats” in November 2009.

Empty Promises
By Rick Higginson

            Eldorado was in turmoil, and the Ruling Council Chambers sealed against the threat of the mobs outside. He approached a small side door, which was opened for him by a security agent inside.
            The guard crossed his wrists, palms facing out, beneath his chin. “Esteemed sir, the Council is waiting inside.”
            He nodded to the man, and strode down the corridor towards the secured meeting room. The fortified door swung open for him just as he reached it, and another guard inside repeated the greeting and the gesture. Without a word, he went to the chair at the head of the table, and took a seat.
            The Council Member at the far end of the table stood up. “Who are you, and how did you get in here? We were expecting the Adon.”
            He studied the man for a few moments, and then leaned forward to rest folded hands on the table. “Sit down, Beretti.”
            The man returned a shocked look. “I beg your pardon. I am a member of the Ruling Council, and I do not take orders from the likes of you.”
            “No, Beretti. You take your orders from your Corporate Benefactors and the Colonial Council. That will no longer be the case. I am the new Adon, and you will take orders from the likes of me.”
            Another Council Member spoke up. “Preposterous! If something has happened to the Adon, then the new Adon is chosen by this Council.”
            “That may have been how it was once done, Grenwald, but by appointment of the Revolutionary Council, I am the new Adon. Your choice now is to pledge your loyalty to me and work with the Revolutionary Council for the smooth transition of power, or to find yourselves arrested as enemies of Alsafi.”
            Beretti looked like he was ready to have an aneurism. “This is against the Archipelago Charter. When the Colonial Council hears of this-”
            “I have severed our bonds to the Archipelago. Alsafi is now an independent, autonomous world, free of the imposition of the Colonial Council and their oppressive Charter.”
            “You can’t do that!”
            “I already have, and as I have already said, your choice is to side with me, or to join the deposed Adon as an enemy of Alsafi. Might I suggest that any of you that wishes to remain loyal to the old Adon, stand up now. Any of you ready to accept the new ruling order, take a seat.”
            Better than half of the Council stood up, most with angry expressions. Those that remained seated appeared confused and uncertain.
            “Thank you for clarifying your positions. Those of you standing should step back against the wall, and wait to be taken into custody.”
            Beretti laughed at him. “It’s you who should wait to be taken into custody. We have the majority opinion of the Ruling Council standing up, and the Alsafi Security Forces obey the Ruling Council.” He looked at the guard by the door. “You there – arrest this usurper.”
            The guard came and stood next to him. “Esteemed sir?”
            He waved his hand in resignation. “Show Beretti to the wall.”
            “Yes, Esteemed Sir.” The guard moved swiftly to the other end of the table, and seized Beretti by the arms. The man gave a cry of outrage and protest, before he was flung face-first into the wall. Beretti collapsed to the floor, with blood streaming from his nose.
            “Now, does anyone else need any help finding the wall?”
            Grenwald folded his arms. “You have one guard in the room. We have our assistants. You can’t overpower us all.”
            He smiled. “Your assistants, yes. I should remind you that each one of your assistants is an Empty, programmed before they were delivered to you.”
            “And your point - ?”
            “I promise you that you do not want to rely on them for your safety.”
            “But I should rely on you to be truthful?” Grenwald pointed a finger at him. “I’d say you were behind this entire uprising. You were the one breaking into the media servers and encouraging sedition.”
            He stood and bowed. “Guilty as charged, but your realization is too late to do you any good.” He looked to the young man that stood behind Grenwald. “You may act on Administrative Resolution Fifteen.”
            “You can’t give my assistant orders-”
            Before Grenwald finished speaking, his assistant delivered a kick to the side of his knee, dropping him to the floor. As Grenwald tried to get back up, the young man took hold of his head in both hands and gave a sudden twist, and then let the Council Member’s body slump to the floor.
            With expressions of shock and fear, the remaining standing Council Members hurried to the wall.
            “The Alsafi Security Forces obey me now. Your Empties will obey me. The population of Alsafi will soon hail me as their liberator, so if any of you sitting here are harboring any thoughts of subversive actions, forget them now. Have I made myself understood?”
            The voices were weak, but there was a chorus of, “Yes, Esteemed Sir” from the Council Members that had remained seated.
            “Good. Assistants, take your former masters to join the former Adon. The guards outside will direct you where to go. Two of you others, help Grenwald’s assistant to remove him from these chambers.” He waited until they were all gone, and then looked around at the remaining faces. “Now, before we get down to the business of a smooth transition of power, are there any questions?”
            A woman to his left raised her hand slightly. “Where is the former Adon?”
            He smiled. “I will indulge that as the one and only question I will allow about him.” He spun his chair to face the large display mounted on the wall. “System, display feed from Provisional Corrections circuit six.”
            The display illuminated to show a long gallows, where two bodies dangled from ropes.

            “Welcome to the new order of Alsafi. I promise you that dissent will not be tolerated.”