Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NANOWRIMO: STILL PRACTICING: Just not posting about it. Word count has been going down, though. I'm a little worried.

(Plus a bit of laziness, a sudden need to finish Saints Row, and a little disagreement my right hand had with my beloved cat Tiny. Tiny was having a bad day, due to a guest cat in the house, and let my right hand know all about it. With teeth and claws I mean--he didn't vomit on it, or worse.)

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.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

SOME SOULCALIBUR: BROKEN DESTINY COMMEMORATIVE SCRATCHINGS (NANOWRIMO PRACTICE): This is some nonsense about an idea I was having about fighting game characters gaining sentience combined with how a fighting game would actually look as a narrative (multiple winners and losers, with the same characters winning and losing in the same story.) More importantly--wrote it in an hour and ten minutes, and it's about 1100 words. Gotta get that word count up. Writing after work--I can tell already--is going to be a little tiresome. But that's what practicing is for! And knocking off a few pages on the weekdays is going to make the weekends go much easier, I believe.

Need to arm myself with an outline going into November, though. Can't do this without some idea of where things are going--I've been realizing that as I do these little on-the-spot exercises. Scratchings follow.

She had that feeling that day, like she was a supporting character in someone else's drama. And it was her turn to lose. She didn't like to lose, as a general principle. But she recognized its inevitability. Sometimes she would not be up for a victory—her strikes would not be precisely timed, or she would lose focus and stand there and take hit after hit until she fell. Other times her parries flew like water, her counter strikes were bold and varied. Those were the days it felt good to fight.
Today was not one of those days. She raised her bo staff (covered in ornate metal designs that both reinforced and added heft to the wood) anyway.
“Let' s make this quick,” she said, eyes gleaming, voice sharp, none of her countenance betraying the fact that she was going to lose this battle.
“Egotistical fool,” said her opponent. “You dare challenge me?” He was Zanzeroff, the Russian woodsman, with his golden jewel-encrusted axe and shield with his personal dragon sigil.
No, she thought, not today. Today I will not be a challenge. She drew back her weapon and rained down blows upon him. A mid strike to distract him, then two strikes to the head. Disoriented, he fell back.
Zanzeroff, she thought. You have opposed me before. Was it—countless times? No, that was not quite right. The potential, though, was there. But she could remember a time when she wasn't fighting. There was an origin point to her ordeals.
The woodsman's axe belted her at her side; the force of the blow drove her into the ground. The impact sucked the breath from her lungs. Always I fall, she thought. But never for long. My pains are always temporary. So too, she realized, were her victories.
When have I defeated him? she wondered. It was during those stretches when I defeated them all: Zanzeroff, the Valkyrie Elhundra, with her enchanted sword; Boscov, the rogue circus strongman with his dual hammers; Athenae, who claimed to have a shield and sword blessed by the entire Greek pantheon; X'ian Minh, with her cruel whip; Red Richard, who fought with mace and shield; Satsuko, who wore a dagger on every finger. There was even a creature who called itself Wendigo, and fought with a wooden spear as thick as a log. It claimed to come from a land far away. A land, she thought, she might like to see some day. If only she could cross the Wendigo's path again....
She raised her bo staff, trying to ward off the Russian's blows. It was futile, she realized; she was stuck. She had method of counterattack. A kick at his shins somehow exposed her head to the flat of his blade, and with a final strike she was knocked to the ground, crying in anguish as she fell. It was my time to lose, she thought. There is no shame here, exactly.
“Such is the fate of all who oppose Zanzeroff,” said the Russian. He posed, briefly, with his axe, resting with his weight on it like it was a cane. Then he bounded off. Off to fight again, she knew. Victory means you keep fighting. Those were the rules of their games. Until you fought that one person who possessed humanity's most powerful artifact: the God-Scythe. The thing that was so powerful it could not be allowed to fall into the hands of her enemies (or her family's enemies; she had inherited their assets and their liabilities, as it turned out.) Why did Zanzeroff want it? Was it an act of vengeance? Something like that, she dimly recalled. The Mongol called Qengke had done something terrible with it, to his native village or his wife, and was threatening more his homeland with it.
Which was it—his village or his wife? she wondered. I should really know that, it was so important to poor Zanzeroff. So much of his motivation was tied to that initial wrong. Unless he was just a vindictive person in the first place—it wouldn't matter in that case what the wrong was, exactly; Zanzeroff would find some reason to take revenge. And the God-Scythe would be his at the end.
She sat up and stuck her legs out, then drew them in to her chest. It was a beautiful day for a fight, she thought. For winning or losing. The grass and earth beneath her smelled rich and fine. A light breeze stirred the leaves in the trees. It was curious, she thought, the way the leaves moved. The sameness of their motion—it was the same every time she took the time to look at the world around her, which wasn't terribly often (when she had a contemplative moment, sometimes after a loss such as this, sometimes during the flow of a battle when time seemed to slow a bit, and she would notice the smallest things, like the way the leaves were moved by the wind.) If she stared at the leaves long enough they would take on an unreal quality. Like they were composed of glops of paint. Tiny glops, stitched together. If she stared long enough, she though, she could see each glop individually, and then the spaces inbetween them. The sights of my world, she thought, like dots of ink on paper.
She stood up, stretched. A loss didn't end everything, she knew. Neither did a win—a win simply felt better. Someday she would possess the God-Scythe. She had held it in the past! It had whispered virtuous thoughts to her, how she would clear her homeland of its occupiers now that she had the world's finest weapon. Her journey had come to an end and she was content. Maybe that was how, she realized, she lost the weapon to another combatant. To the fighting nun Evangeline, who wanted the God-Scythe buried under tons of rock.
Preposterous, she thought. That sword was her people's last best hope. And yet if it was that important—would she have lost it so quickly? Or wouldn't she have at least started to cast out the invaders before she lost it? I have failed, she thought. Failed my people and my ancestry.
I'll get it back, she told herself. The weapon will be mine again.
But the doubts were still there. The knowledge that even if the God-Scythe were in her hands very little would change. She would fight to keep it and then fight to get it back.
There would always be one more fight, she realized. That was the one true constant of her existence. The chain of combat—at least I'll have that.
It was some comfort to her. Checking the sun's position in the sky, she picked a direction, knowing it was a path she had followed before.