Friday, September 04, 2009

GIANT COMBINING ROBOT SCRATCHINGS (NANOWRIMO PRACTICE): Just thinking about, what would it be like to pilot vehicle Voltron's left kneecap? And an hour of brain pooping was done. Well--an hour ten, and only 1100 words again. Of course when you're doing something from scratch it's different from doing something with a proper outline and so forth. Anyway--scratchings do follow.

“Now you know we have an opening in left kneecap,” said Masterston, smiling, and baring a little of his perfectly white teeth. “I think you'd be perfect for that.”
Kasmeier sighed, looked away for a moment, but there was nothing else to fixate on; Masterston's office was dark and lit primarily by pulsing readouts, and was of course windowless. “That's not my kind of assignment,” he said. “You know that.”
“I don't see why not,” said Masterston, still grinning. “You have the requisite credentials.”
“I have an engineering degree,” said Kasmeier. “That's it. Fin. I've never piloted anything that wasn't a personal conveyance in my life.” And even with those, he thought, I was hardly an accomplished specimen. “I can barely park a car.”
Masterston sat back in his seat, chuckling lightly. “Now you know the job title is pilot, but it's really sort of a poor descriptor, right?” he asked. “It's just the job class. It hardly describes the nature of the work at this point.”
“Look, I'll be encased in a great big piece of machinery and be responsible for its movements from point a to point b, and all points inbetween,” he protested. “That sounds like piloting to me.”
“Come now, a combiner module doesn't have those kind of controls,” he said. “Once the join order is given, your job basically turns to monitoring: fuel pressure, nanotech linkup protocols, venous coolant flows, that sort of thing.”
“There's a steering panel smack in front of my chair,” said Kasmeier. “I know the schematics. But you're telling me—what--I won't be needing it at all?”
“Not for the crucial combining step,” said Masterston, who was beginning to lose his smile. “Every part knows where it has to go. It's predetermined. You will not have to manually fly the left kneecap onto the femur and fibula—they all connect themselves.” Like that old nursery song, thought Masterston. Knee bone connecting to the—beat--leg bone. Leg bone connected to the—beat--hip bone. And so on and so forth.
“And that's another thing,” said Kasmeier. “Isn't that fairly dangerous, working in a kneecap?” He swore he could remember news footage of a combiner robot doing a running kneelift on an attacking being. It looked painful for the latter party, certainly, but now Kasmeier found himself more concerned with the robot's well-being. Or with whoever was inside its knee at the time. What they felt as they were—for a brief moment—at the forefront of Earth's defense.
“The knee is a crucial area, which makes the kneecap a vital defense point—this is true,” Masterston acknowledged. “But there are few combiner modules more and better armored than the kneecap. Believe me, you'll be quite safe in there.”
Kasmeier sighed again, feeling increasingly trapped. How had it come to this, he wondered, that Earth's defense be maintained in such a preposterous fashion? By giant, human-piloted robots, each composed of tens to even hundreds (in the bigger versions) of human-piloted craft? “There's got to be a better way,” he said after a moment. “We used to fight with planes and ships, and tanks.” We certainly did not strap people into mechanical facsimiles of the human patella—he was damn sure of that.
“Come on, Menlo,” sighed Masterston. “You know the rationale. A ridiculous enemy requires a ridiculous response. If the aliens are going to send one hundred, two hundred foot tall creatures at us—well we have to respond. Respond in kind.” This was EarthGov's position, and his own personal belief, thought Masterston. It was the best way to continue humanity's survival.
“There have to be alternatives,” said Kasmeier. Alternatives to me getting into that module.
“Alternatives? The Combiner Corps is the best we have,” said Masterston. “Let me lay something else on you—something you have heard of as a rumor.”
“What's that?” said Kasmeier, uncertain. What had he heard about the Corps? Extra perks? Or a bit of hazard pay. But why, he thought mockingly, Masterston's already assured me the left kneecap is the absolute safest place to be.
“You heard of joiner's bliss?” said Masterston, leaning forward, voice low (though every word he said was being perfectly represented to a multi-dimensional recording device, for training and further quality control of the Third Human Resources Army, Combiner Corps Subunit Two.) “It's true. You're not just sitting back there in the left kneecap waiting for your robot to gore some giant alien squid. You're part of something a little more. The euphoria is breathtaking. In retrospect I mean—that's when you start to appreciate it.” Sometimes even now I wish I was back in my right radius-ulna, he thought. Chopping monsters in the back of the head. “You're your little part of the enterprise but you're the rest too. It's individuality and collectivity all at once.”
“I'm not exactly susceptible to bliss,” Kasmeier protested.
“As you join you become as fine as human can become,” Masterston went on. “Working for your own good and for the good of your team. Hell, your team is a new entity at that point. Humanity in miniature—our ideal state. That's why we're going to win, you understand? Because we're at our best as a species when we fight them.” Our finest selves, thought Masterston. He knew that to be true from personal experience. Never had he felt finer than when combining to form Fortressman Omega, defender of the moons of Jupiter. “You'll be at your finest too, Menlo. You just don't know it yet.”
This is going poorly, thought Kasmeier. “I don't want to be a part of this right now,” he said. “Send me to a monitoring station somewhere.”
“Well, that's the real kicker,” said Masterston, snapping out of his bliss-fueled nostalgia. “You've already been reassigned to patellacraft 2, Quantumtron Q.”
“Don't I have a right of refusal?” he asked. I've done enough for the service already, he thought. I know I have.
“Ordinarily, yes,” said Masterston. “But times are tough. We've had staffing issues.”
For an extremely safe position. “No choice, huh?” sighed Kasmeier.
“No choice,” said Masterston. “But you will enjoy yourself—take it from me personally.”
Kasmeier smiled, grimly. There was no argument left to be made.

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