Saturday, June 06, 2009

When a story doesn't work part three

This is chapter two of my proposal. I was fascinated with the thought of a mech hero so here was my chance to have one. Dax as a human was something of an artist, he played the guitar, he was just a genuinely nice guy, trying to get by, who had the good fortune to have an exceptional woman fall in love with him. If you watch American Idol imagine him as Kris Allen. So then this horrible thing happens to him. On his wedding day he's captured, blown apart, tortured and forced into this life that he does not what. I feel like I really put the screws to this guy in this chapter. The response I got from two editors was we just could not empathize with the characters. What? I write strong characters that people love. So maybe it was just my delivery. I was trying to suck the reader into the story. I'll explain more on that process later on. So here's Dax and chapter two.

The Real

Dax slumped between the two mechs that held him by the arms. They seemed frozen in place but there was nothing he could do about it and it didn’t last long enough for him to react, even if it could. They were still one moment and moving the next. A med-tech that emerged from the waiting transport attached an ion ring to his thigh. His leg was gone. He didn’t care about the leg other than the fact that it kept him from running after the thopter that held Merritt captive inside.


Why? Why did they take her? Where were they taking her? What would they do to her? He watched the thopter disappear into the darkness then saw it again when it rose over the treetops and headed towards the dome. How would he ever find her in there?

Merritt…He knew why they took her. There was something about her. Something that could not be defined but he had always known it was there. Every since she came to them in the real there was something about her that made her different from the rest of them.

Dax closed the fist of his left hand to secure the ring she had slipped on his finger not more than an hour before. It was their wedding day. A day that he had longed for since he first met her. Now she was gone. He jumped as he felt a sting in his neck. The med-tech stepped away.

The pain in his thigh stopped as the ion ring took hold. He was still helpless. Still at the mercy of the mechs. Dax looked up at the mech who stood before him. “Where is he taking her?” he asked. He felt weak. Exhausted. Beaten.

The mech looked over his shoulder at the thopter that with the distance looked no larger than a bat before the full moon. He turned back and cocked his head to the side. Dax heard a strange chirp and then the mech spoke. “There is no her,” he said. “Accepted.”

“No her?” Dax exploded but it was an empty rage. His arms were stretched out and firmly held, he was propped on one knee and the numbness from the prick to his neck spread into his arms from his spine. “You saw her,” he gasped as the numb feeling seemed to press against his lunges. “You….saw…her…”

“Accepted,” he heard as the world went black.

The Dome

The light from above burned through his eyes. He wanted to close them but found that simple task impossible. Dax felt strange and disconnected from his body. He was aware of everything but could feel nothing physical. Yet there was pain. Pain in his heart and soul. Pain that throbbed and burned with an unyielding agony.


He remembered what happened. He remembered waking up this morning, was it this morning? He remembered thinking it was the happiest day of his life. He remembered talking to his father. He remembered his sister’s gentle teasing. He remembered how beautiful Merritt looked as she walked to him in the dress that had been his mother’s and her mother’s before and so on through more generations that he could count. He remembered exchanging vows with her. He remembered the terror when they realized that the mech’s from the dome were attacking and how they scattered in several directions. He remembered that he never let go of Merritt’s hand as they ran and tried to hide because there were no weapons. Who brought weapons to a wedding? He remembered that they took her away. The memory of it tore at his insides with a pain so intense that he wanted to scream in frustration, yet he could not move, he could not make a sound; he could not even close his eyes.

Dax knew that he was strapped down on a steel table and he was naked. He felt the straps over his chest, his upper arms, his hips, his thighs, his one ankle and his wrists. He felt the cold metal against his shoulders and buttocks. He felt cold air blow over his skin and goosebumps popped up. He needed to shiver, yet his body was not responding to even the most basic and simple commands. Shivering should just happen, or it would have before his world had been turned upside down.
If only he could turn his head away from the light that felt as if it would burn into his brain.


He heard voices, chatting and laughing, as if nothing was wrong. Everything was wrong. He had to get away, yet how could he? His leg was gone. And he’d give the other one to get Merritt back.

If only he knew where she was. If she was unharmed. If she was frightened. If only he could go back to the hours before and stop it. If only he had done a better job of protecting her.

“Oh, he’s a nice one,” a feminine voice said. “The ones from outside are always so much bigger.”

“They’re nothing more than savages,” a male voice said. “And don’t get distracted. You’re here to learn, not play.”

The light suddenly was gone and Dax realized that it was a body blocking it. He couldn’t blink to refocus but he thought it was the woman. A musky scent drifted over him. She wore perfume, something meant to entice the opposite sex. It seemed strangely out of place among the sterile smells of the room.

“Should his eyes be open?” The woman asked. “I feel like he’s looking at me.”
She looked down at him. “I wish I had lashes like that.” Her face was inches from his. Dax was able to make out a sharp nose on an ordinary face. But all faces were ordinary compared to Merritt’s.

“He’s not looking at you,” the man’s voice said. Dax felt a sharp prick on the bottom of his foot. “He’s unresponsive.”

I can feel everything…The realization hit him….He was paralyzed but not numbed. And he was strapped down to a table. A table with a bright light over it. What were they planning to do to him? He looked in earnest at the woman, trying to make her see, to realize, that he was conscious of everything that was happening around him.
Her hand trailed down his chest. Her nails scraped his skin.

Oh God…

He was so vulnerable. Exposed.

Her fingertips grazed his groin and then moved between his legs and grasped his sac. She enclosed it in her hand and gave a slight squeeze. “Looks like he’s responsive to me,” she said.

“Hmmm,” the man said. “Must be purely reactive.”

“Did you ever consider that maybe I’m that good?”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” the man said. “Even I could do that.”

“You want too don’t you?” the woman teased. “I’ve heard that about you.”

“Are you here to learn or are you here to play?” the man asked impatiently.

“They also said you were no fun at all,” the woman said in a pouting tone. She removed her hand from between his legs. If he could have sighed in relief he would have. He felt strangely tense even though he knew his body, except for one significant part, was only lying there. If he could will his muscles to do anything he would.

“He’s wearing a ring,” the woman said as she picked up his left hand.

“Really?” the man replied. “They should have stripped him.”

“Well obviously they missed it,” she said. “Can I?”

“I don’t see why not,” the man said. “It’s not as if he’s going to need it.”

NO! He willed his hand to close, his fist to clench, anything to keep the ring on. Instead it slipped off his finger easily.

“Ohhh,” she said. “It’s very pretty. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Its mine…I made it…them…for us…He could see the pattern, silver and gold twisted together in an unending circle. No beginning, no end, just together, forever, the way he and Merritt were meant to be. One for him, one for her…not for this woman’s thieving hand.

“Lucky you,” the man said. “Consider it a bonus.”

“Oh look, it fits,” she said. “On my thumb,” she added.

I will cut all your fingers off to get it back…

“Quit playing around,” the man said. “We have to take off the other leg.”

“Why?” the woman asked.


“He’ll be unbalanced,” the man replied. Dax heard the sounds. The clink of instruments. The movement of a table. The hum of sonics. “The admanium enhancements will be stronger than his normal leg.”

So if we just gave him one he’d constantly walk in circles?” the woman joked.

The man let out a barking laugh. “Something like that,” he said.
God…they’re making jokes…

“We best have him prepped before the Doc shows up or he’ll be taking off our legs,” the man said. “Put an ion ring on his thigh,” he instructed.

He felt her hands on his thigh, felt the ring go around, felt the pads of her fingers as she fumbled with the catch.

“Here?” she asked.

“Yes, like the other,” the man said. “The Ionizer will keep everything fluid so the admanium can meld.”

“The legs are ready made?” she asked.

“Yes, although it takes a while for the connections to format. Usually a week or so. We use that time for the reprogramming.” The man rattled the table and Dax heard the hum of a sonic saw.

Reprogramming? What did that mean?

The mechs…The mechs raided the Real. They took the men they captured. They were never heard from again after they disappeared into the Dome. Were they reprogrammed? Would reprogramming mean he would not be himself anymore? The mech’s certainly acted like machines, even though they were men. Or were they?
What were they doing?

“The Ionizer will also help cut down on the blood loss,” the man said.

Dax knew what was coming. If only they knew he could still feel. How could they not know? Or maybe they just didn’t care. He wanted to scream, kick, yell, anything to get their attention. He couldn’t even grit his teeth against the coming pain. Nausea rolled through his stomach and it occurred to him that he would probably puke and then choke on it.
hat would be better. Better to be dead than reprogrammed.

But dead meant leaving Merritt…He must find Merritt.

Pain more agonizing than he could imagine tore through his leg. The sonic blade connected with the tissue and it cut through, slowly, severing blood vessels, muscle, and bone. The hum grew louder as it descended into the bone.
God…I’m dying… There was nothing he could do. His body screamed with every molecule yet he was silent and unmoving. Dax felt his eyes well and then tears tracked down his face. Merritt…

How could they not know?

The noise from the sonic blade died away but the pain remained.

“Turn on the ion ring,” the man said. The woman must have complied because the pain suddenly faded away.

He could not even swallow back the bile that threatened to rise in his throat.

“What will you do with his leg?” the woman asked.

“Throw it in the incinerator,” the man replied. “It’s of no use to anyone now.”

He was nothing to them. A project. A learning experience. Dax wanted to see their faces. He wanted to remember them, before he was “reprogrammed”. He wanted to know his torturers because knowledge would fuel his hatred, hatred that gathered in the pit of his stomach and fed off the acid of his pain.

He heard the woosh of a door opening, heard a thump, and realized that it was his leg, gone to vapor, just like the other one. Another door opened.

“Has the subject been prepped?” another man’s voice said.

“Yes sir,” the first man replied. “His legs are ready. I left the rest for you.”

“Who is this?” the man asked.

“I’m Coral sir,” the woman said.

“Nice to meet you Coral,” the second man replied is a voice that implied something more than work.

If he could have rolled his eyes he would have. He was nothing to them. Nothing but a slab on a table to be talked over while whoever was in charge tried to connect with the woman who was probably more than willing. And the other guy watched.
He heard a table move and shadows moved between the light and his eyes. Dax tried to focus. He wanted to remember them.

“Now let’s try not to get these one backwards,” the second man said and the other two laughed. Dax felt heat on his thighs as the second man talked. “This softens the structure,” the man explained,” and enables the bonding. A tingling moved up his nerve endings into his spine. “Complete melding of the tissue, vessels, and nerves,” the man went on. “Amazing. It still astounds me, every time I see it. Of course it takes a while for it to sustain the density of the bone. It even takes on the genetic code so he’ll be the same height as before.”

“Can that be changed Doctor Everts?” the woman asked. So he was a Doctor. Did that justify what he was doing?

“There was some testing done with that some years back,” Everts replied. “But it was all destroyed in the great fire. All lost.”

“I remember that,” the first man said. “It was a great tragedy. Didn’t the head scientist die in that fire?”

“Yes,” Everts said. “Simskin please.”
Dax heard a sound like paper being torn.

“He didn’t back up his work. He was paranoid that way,” Everts continued as Dax felt a pinching around his thigh. “So not only was he lost, but all his work. No one has been able to replicate it.”

“What a shame,” the woman said. “That’s amazing. It looks so real.”

“Unfortunately it’s unable to grow hair,” Everts said.

“It’s not as if he needs it,” the first man said.

“True,” Everts said. “But it makes it unpractical for youth enhancement as if it’s almost too perfect. There’s no color change or glow that would be natural on a face.”

“As in no one wants anyone to know they had work done,” the woman said.

“Exactly,” Everts agreed. Dax felt the pinching again on his other thigh. “The sim skin will meld over the admanium and in a weeks time he’ll be good as new.” Dax heard the clatter of instruments. “Now for the reprogramming.”
The light disappeared again as the Doctor’s head came between Dax and the light. “What the hell?”

“What’s wrong?” the woman asked.

“Where you two idiots not aware that he is conscious?” A face hovered over his, close enough that they were almost nose to nose.

Remember this…Remember…

“I did a reaction test,” the first man said.

“There’s a difference you moron,” Everts exclaimed. “Look at his eyes.”
Another face appeared before Dax. He gathered in the details as best he could, square jaw, light brown hair cut extremely short. Small brown eyes, thin lips and an upturned nose.

Remember him…

“Unconscious men don’t cry,” Everts said. “Those are tears. The med techs paralyzed him for transport. It was up to you to put him out.”

“Do you mean he felt everything?” the woman asked.

“He felt everything and he heard everything,” Everts said angrily. “Poor bastard,” he added.

Thank you so much, Dax said silently. I’ll remember that when I kill all of you.
Dax heard the noise of a drill.

“Will somebody put this guy out of his misery?” Everts said impatiently. Dax felt a sting in his arm and the light began to fade.

It still was not black when he felt the drill go into his temple.


“*blip* 14:29/09/09/2202 Dallas Five-five on line. Acknowledge. *blip*” The symbols trailed across the plastigrid that covered his eyes. Pain shot through his temples and he gave his head a quick shake as he tried to focus on the words.
“*blip* Acknowledge. *blip*” the voice repeated.

“Accepted,” he replied.

“Five-five respond to my command,” the man before him said.

He turned his head to look at the voice. It belonged to a man in uniform who stood before a table containing a holi-vid and keyboard. A simkey was inserted in the man’s temple and it glowed with a green light. His scanner moved and the identity moved across his screen. Baker. Techno. Dallas Squadron. “Acknowledge,” he said.

“Stand,” Baker said.

“Accepted,” he said and stood.

“Walk to me,” Baker said.

He looked down at his legs. He was conscious of the fact that he was nude except for the visor that went across his eyes and was somehow connected to his head at the temples. He wanted to reach up and touch his head. He felt a strange pressure around his skull He moved his hands and stared down at them. He turned them over, palms up.

There was something missing.

“*blip* Acknowledge walk to me. *blip*

His head snapped up. “Accepted,” he said and walked to Baker.

“I’m guessing your momma thought you were stubborn Five-five,” Baker said. “We’ll have to make a few adjustments to your programming.”

Five-five stared at Baker. He needed a definition of the word “momma” but none was forthcoming so he waited.

A pain shot through his temple but he made no move in response to it. He was incapable of it.

“That should do it,” Baker said. “Get dressed Five-five.”

“Accepted,” he said and walked to the clothing that lay on a table.

Just a side note. I loved the *blips* Will have to find a way to use them someday.

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