Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Combat Robot Tale

Playing a computer game in which you can perform upgrades on space military hardware and fight other space empires with them--Galactic Civilizations, quite an old game--inspired a new story idea for me.

Imagine an old robot, designed for combat, intelligent, assigned the inglorious task of guarding the home planet--which feeling resonates with how I felt during Desert Storm, when I was an enlisted military medical technician in a hospital unit that essentially got held in reserve and did only a little to contribute to the war effort.  This imaginary robot would feel like I did, burning with a desire to contribute to the war, eager to show his worth.

The robot gets his chance when his model is discontinued.  Since spare parts will no longer kept for him...er, it...this robot will no longer be maintained for guard duty and instead is sent to the front lines to make room for newer models, with the expectation that even though this robot is too obsolete to contribute much, sending it to the front will be of somewhat more help in an ongoing interstellar war than the scrap heap would be.  Though the expectation of military command is that this decision basically amounts to the same thing as junking the robot...

But our protagonist finds something unique and unexpected about itself that allows it to thrive under horrible circumstances.  The robot is so successful, in fact, that its design type is reinstated and it goes on to win the satisfaction of a job well done and the approval of its fellow robots and its human designer.

This idea strikes me as potentially resonating with spiritual realities of redemption and worth, depending on how it would be approached.  The story concept specifically reminds me of Psalm 118:22-23 (KJV):  "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes."

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

A New Kind of Vampire

This post will get a little gruesome.  If reading about anatomical details in the context of a vampire consuming human beings makes you sick, please stop reading.

Today in my pre-deployment training, in a class called "Combat Lifesaver's Course," our medic instructor mentioned in his medical training that cerebrospinal fluid is sweet.  He wondered out loud why he had been told that in training, as he were going to taste it--something he'd never do.

And at that moment launched in me an idea for story vampires that perhaps constitutes something altogether new.  Imagine a vampire that has no interest in sucking blood, but longs for cerebrospinal fluid.

Cerebrospinal fluid (a.k.a. CSF) is, by the way, the clear or slightly greenish fluid that bathes the brain and spinal column, providing protection and nourishment.  When it leaks from the ears or nose, it's an indicator of a serious skull fracture, which is why we were discussing it our class.

If CSF really is  sweet, it's possible that a garden-variety vampire would like to have it for desert after feasting on blood.  Or might simply like the taste.  But the idea that passed through my mind was a whole new kind of vampire, with massive jaws with sharply incised teeth like a rat, the teeth containing a hollow tube within them, making a sort of drinking straw inside, in this way like conventional vampire fangs.  This creature would pinch a human head in its inhumanly wide jaws and compress with enough force to puncture a hole in the skull (it need not necessarily be a big hole).  Then, of course, it would suck out the CSF.

Not the sort of creature you'd see featured in Eclipse  for certain, but not necessarily a creature any more sinister than the way vampires are typically portrayed nowadays.  Though I do think this idea would naturally tend to bring back the original idea of a vampire, which was that of a terrifying creature that no sane human would want to have any dealings with.

I realized after I started writing this that you could do something similar with any human bodily fluid, though this could get quite bizarre.  I mean, wouldn't a lymphatic-fluid-sucking-vampire be anything but  scary?  Though the thought of a bone marrow sucker gives me a chill.  As would a bile drinker.

These variations on vampirism could still be called vampires, I suppose.  Or they could be given entirely different names.  Any proposals?

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Alien Prison Tale

I'm at Fort Dix, New Jersey, preparing for yet another deployment with the Army Reserve.  Fort Dix has a Federal Penitentiary on its grounds and in the process of moving from one point to another on my first day here, I found I had accidentally wandered up a service road for the prison.

I was surrounded by barracks buildings much like the rest of Fort Dix but encircled by tall fences topped by concertina wire.  A voice blared over a loudspeaker in a rumble of words I could barely understand, but eventually said something about "Last call for chow line."  I realized with a shock that I wasn't near  the prison as I first thought, but actually on  the grounds of the penitentiary (please note that tall fences and concertina wire is all it seemed to take to transform Army barracks into prison barracks).  With further horror, I realized the people I'd seen working out in a ball field I'd passed, who wore gray uniforms I first had thought must be some kind of new military uniform, were wearing prison  uniforms.

I propelled myself out of that area at a fast walk, briefly seized not only by the shock of realization but also by the unreasonable fear that I'd be thrown in the Federal pen for transgressing its grounds.  At most, of course, I would have been chewed out for being someplace I wasn't supposed to be.

But as I walked, my mind generated a science fiction story out of the experience.  I imagined a human military liaison officer appointed to an alien world, a world where he does not speak the dominant language, who decides to stroll on his own to perhaps a park in the alien capital.  Finding he failed to correctly read the map-made-by-non-human-hands in front of him, he realizes with horror he has wandered onto the grounds of an alien prison.  And unlike me, when the guards see him, they grab him and throw him inside.

As the story progresses, the only human in the prison manages to survive and gradually learns to do better than bare survival, finding a fellow prisoner with whom he shares a language in common...but also, one of the guards shows signs of understanding him, though never openly saying so.  He eventually comes to understand his capture was no accident, but part of a nefarious plot to imprison the Earth ambassador, a plot he has to escape from prison to undo...

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