Monday, January 11, 2016

In Transit Monsters 31 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?

Lhyst (H Day +1)
My BrainSys gabled static woke me up.  Again, it wasn't working properly.  The alarm work just give me static, and that was the most I could get the implant to do.

I let out an annoyed moan.  "Stupid BrainSys."

I turned over in my pallet of blankets and other detritus I'd gather for my bed.  I'd rather sleep than have to deal with Mars.  Again.

A wet, sloppy dog tongue slammed against my cheek.  Stupid dog.  I should've eaten him a month ago when I first found him.  "Damn it Red."


"Yeah, so?"  I sat up.  I felt around for him.  My fingers found his fur.  After giving him a bit of a scratch, I let him help me up.  "Ever consider giving the blind lady a break, dog?"

Red shook his fur.  I knew he didn't understand me.  But finding the mutt had kept me alive.  He gave me a reason not to put a bullet in my brainpan.

I got up.  Red barked.  I grimaced as I felt around for my gear.

"Hold on.  Let me get dressed first, mutt."  I'd also would make sure Red was outfitted too.  Mars lacked the atmospheric pressure either of us was used to.  We could survive out in the open.  Maybe for a few minutes.  Then we'd hemorrhage and die.

Or whatever it was the pressure difference did.  That part of training I never paid much attention to.  I figured I'd be dead by then.

Us drafted girls with severe depression are like that.  They tried as hard as they could to make me battle-hardened.  I still did what you are supposed to do when you see strange, horrible alien cthulu things the size of cities.  I ran the hell away.

It'd been months since I'd managed to survive the idiocy that is Zeus protocol.  I guessed I must've gotten some sort of radiation poisoning.  I hadn't hacked up any blood.  Or whatever radiation poisoning does, other than making you blinder than a bat.  I'd ask my BrainSys, but that's been fried ever since Zeus Protocol.

I'm not the brightest, I know that much.  But who thinks nukes fix anything?

"You ready now?"  I asked Red.  I heard him bark from inside his suit.  Both of our breathers weren't pretty.  They'd do the fancy trick of keeping us alive though.  Both breather-suits would keep pressure against our bodies.

But I only had what my fingers could feel on that.  None of the AI in the suits worked.  Not that I wanted a way for anything to follow me.

If the suits didn't have enough pressure, we'd pass out and die.  If I couldn't hear a leak, that'd would kill us.  If the breathers couldn't process enough oxygen for us to breath, we'd both die from that too.  I hoped we'd find places like my hideout, where conditions could keep us alive to explore.

But Red and I might have to go exploring outside our comfort zones.

"Well, at least our options are limited."  I told Red.  "Imagine how horrible it'd be if we had to think of something to do?"

We needed more food.  I hoped to find something that might restart or fix my busted BrainSys.  Our water processor still trickled in the back of my little bolthole.  I remember my fathers back home.  Maybe the UN had lied to them and my Fathers thought me dead.

"Let's go, Red."

Yes, I don't know what color the dog is.  You feel better now?

Red and I walked out of my bolthole into the ruins of the Fontana City Mall proper.  Fontana had been one of the largest cities on Mars.  Its mall had been as big as the ones back in the Midwest US or Canada.  The big ones, meant for people who have to be indoors for most of their year.

Mars is like that.  One big red, sandy winter alright.

A good part of the mall had survived the nukes intact.  Red and I did our usual patrol of it.  We'd been looting and stripping pieces of it clean as we'd went.  I couldn't met any other survivors.  I didn't want to.  Not anymore.

The last three people I'd met had been around only for a day or two.  A mother and her two sons.  She been nice.  Kind to me.  Her named had been Ariah.  Her voice sounded like golden wheat swaying in the wind.

"I can fix your BrainSys, Lhyst."  Ariah told me.  "I think we just have to do a cold reboot.  Mine's still working."

She'd been working at the mall, at some implantation store.  Ariah told me stories of dealing with customers.  I almost told her I'd deserted rather than fight.  Her skin had been soft.  Warm.

The three of them didn't make it through that night.

Tentacles.  I could hear them slithering.  I did what I always did.  I hid.  The Enemy never came for me.  It came for others.  Slime would cover them.  The screams were the worst.  They would wail, louder and louder for help.  Then bam.  No more screaming.

"No more others."  I told Red.  "Just you and me.  No more screaming in the night."

Red didn't reply.  Then again, he's a dog.  He prolly didn't understand.  Ariah had been nice to me.  Like Belle had back home.

"Nice people die around me, Red.  You know that right?"

No response again.

We continued on our scavenging.  I'd crawl through piles.  Every once and awhile, the dog would sniff at something.  Or drag something to me.  Our little system of digging around like rats in a maze.  Sometimes we found something worth it.  Most of the time though, stuff we'd been through already.

It happened when we were in the food court.  The two of us were behind the counter of the old SuperMickeyD when it happened.  The automated bots there didn't respond to my commands.  We'd already raided the refrigeration unit before.

I flipped through the pieces of tech behind the counter.  Dead things that didn't respond to my fingers.  I tossed them aside.

Then a cold, flat piece of glass started to beep at me.

"Wait a sec."  After a minute of listening, my hands picked up the alarming tablet.  "Ok.  This is working."

I tapped my fingers on it.  The beeping changed to a chime.  I couldn't see it.  I hoped whoever owned hadn't locked it down too much.  I tried using its voice recognition.

Ten minutes later, I resorted to banging the thing like a rock.  "Great."

My fucking eyes.  Again.  All it would take was something, anything, that didn't need my fucking eyes to work.  Without even a BrainSys to interface with tech, I couldn't do a thing.  The tablet could've been on the other side of the galaxy for all it mattered.

...Network found.  Connect?

"Wait."  I tried to confirm with my BrainSys.  Had it started working again?  How?  Did that tablet turn something on?

Unknown error.  Rebooting system.

@Charlie: This one is responding over there.  I think it might be an AI or something.

I furiously tried to get my BrainSys to stop.  Texting?  Who could be texting me out here?

Red started to bark at something.

"You see anybody?"  I asked the dog.

I lifted a hand over to him.  He pulled me off in a direction.  We came to the window the food court had that overlooked Fontana.  I felt cracks in it as I pressed my fingers to it.

"Red, I can't..."  I paused.  My hands felt something vibrate the glass.  They shook.  They shook in a regular pattern.

"Footsteps."  I shook my head.  First texts, now something had to be coming toward the Mall.  From the outside.

"They can't be footsteps."  I told myself.  "Nukes?  No... not big enough..."

Did Mars have quakes?  Frustration made me want to scream.  I had no idea.  Instead I grabbed Red.

"Home.  We need to get back to the hole, Red."

The dog gave a knowing bark back to me.  We went back to our bolthole.  I hoped whoever it was, that I wouldn't have to listen to tentacles take them away in the night.

Aftermath 31
New character!  Lhyst the Deserter, as maddening as that sounds.  I'm still clinging to this "tell it from the first person POV each time" thing too.

Reinstituting a draft against something like the aliens in In Transit Monsters I think is one of those big demoralizing effects.  Part of the problem is something Sun Tzu points out in his requirements for victory over your enemy: one must have the mandate of heaven.  The moral high ground.

It's part of the just war theory.  Although I think Sun Tzu is thinking in practical terms.  A army has trouble fighting if its soldiers disagree with the cause on some level.  The Nazis, their soldiers believed in the cause to an extent.  Same with the Soviets.  And the Americans.

That's where the real horror of war comes from.

In the American Civil War, the Union struggled to find a certainty in its moral ground during the war.  Even after the war, there is a nostalgic attraction in the mainstream to Robert E Lee and the southerners.  Until Gettysburg, even Lincoln had trouble securing an exact moral certainty.  The mandate of heaven.

In Transit Monsters has humanity fighting something that none of its tech can comprehend.  Tactics seem to fail against them.  Humanity wins small battles.  But it loses the big ones.  Over and over.  Instituting something like the draft again, although necessary for human survival, carries a burden with it.  The question is, does that burden ensure human defeat? 

I also wanted to show there were unaccounted for humans on worlds abandoned by the UN security council.  The nuclear option used may not be 100% successful, depending on who you think Zeus Protocol is trying to ruin.  

That's one of those things I ponder sometimes.  The mandate of heaven is a serious cost of war.  It's one of the reasons why American interference in the Middle East doesn't end well for us.  We lack a definite enough moral mandate to keep ourselves and our allies certain we're doing the right thing.  If the people don't like the cause, how long can the war go?  Or will the lack of a mandate ensure the war can't end?