Category Archives: Writing

NaNoWriMo Update

If you’ve been following along with my NaNoWriMo posts you’ll know a lot has happened. I still plan on writing today yet may not post until later tonight or tomorrow so I thought I’d do a quick synopsis and let people get caught up who may enjoy Science Fiction/Dystopian stories.

Here’s links to each chapter followed by a short synopsis.
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

–          President Hope took office over 9 years ago and through some clever law enactments was able to seize control of America in the name of Homeland Security.

–          Nelson is a War Routine/Router in charge of a brigade of more than 1000 troops. He’s from a rural part of Arkansas which is where he has been assigned to clear out any runners who may be defecting from the government or have refused to give up their guns for the new laws that were enacted. His troops recently raided a large camp of runners around a lake and learned they were looking for a man named Jonah who was leading this group of dissidents.

–          Sarah is a Medical Routine and is stuck in the same small town Nelson was from. She, and some locals, respond to the raid at the lake and find 2 children alive. One of them is a 12 year old boy named Jonah that doesn’t speak and has a routine implant that is said to have been made before the technology even existed.

–          Kimberly is the daughter of Echo Corp CEO Kendrick Keys, whose company first created Routines. She was the first ever routine to be created by the company but has moved away since the government take over. She lives in a neighborhood full of other private citizen routines who tell her they have heard of a group in Oklahoma City who is building an army to fight back against the government. They need her help to get into Echo Corp to speak with Mortimer, the original designer/programmer of routine implants and friend of Kimberly.

So there we have it. Some good questions so far, I think.

–          What more does the president have in store for his new America?

–          It’s hinted that Nelson is headed in the direction of Oklahoma, will he find the underground resistance?

–          Is this boy Jonah that Sarah found the same Jonah that Nelson is looking for?

–          Will an entire neighborhood up and leave without raising suspicion?

These are questions I’m asking and I’m the WRITER! It’s an exciting adventure and any comments are welcome. Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Are you reading along? Are you just glad it’s Friday.

Me too… Happy Friday everyone.

NaNoWriMo: Routine Wars – Chapter 4

Kimberly stood in line to get through the security checkpoint. They weren’t typically slow however it was Friday night and the bars downtown had just closed. While she was against what the government was doing she had never felt safer traveling alone at night in any part of the city. Downtown alleys could still be bad with homeless people who had nothing to lose, but there were even less of them than before.

She scanned her ID Badge at the gate and a guard waved her through. On a little screen opposite of her another guard watched her picture, finger prints, social security number, and current job pop up. She pushed her thumb on another pad past the gate and the screen confirmed her finger prints matched.

Three gates away a screen flashed red indicating finger prints of the person trying to get through didn’t match the ID he flashed. Instantly and quietly six guards appeared from a little shack and escorted the man away.

Kimberly just glanced his way and then continued towards her home. She lived in a suburb that was mostly filled with routines. Most were pregov, civilian routines implanted before the government buy out. And all of them knew Kim, she was THE daughter. She was THE routine. She was routine zero.

Her implant was the most crude of the lot. Despite all the advances upgrades were still difficult and a change in implant was untested because no one knew what would happen to the brain if it all of a sudden stopped receiving the flow of information provided.

Her spinal implant ran all the way down her spine and connected into her body between every vertebra. It was essentially an exo-spine and only a handful of routines had one. The implant in her stomach was even worse. While other routines had a small device inside their body, her control unit was too big to fit inside. Where the appendix would be covered by flesh, there was a small glowing sphere protruding out with a metal ring surrounding it and connecting to her stomach to keep the unit in place. It was bigger because they weren’t originally sure how much power would be needed to supply the information to the brain. They knew how much power it took to send one piece of information but they could only guess at how many times it might actually be accessed in a given second.

So besides the kinetic recharging system and micro battery pack, it had an additional battery pack that could be removed and recharged if needed. It had not been needed which is when they scaled the design down. They would have been able to upgrade her to a newer unit and graft skin back over but she chose to keep it for the other reason it was bigger.

Her unit, with its larger size in back and front, had one distinct advantage over every other routine implant; it could hold more than one program at a time.

Despite the small devices’ ability to hold two terabytes of information, over eighty percent of that is the program that simply tells the device how to actually communicate to the brain. The base communication program itself covers half of that amount while the rest is allotted to error handling. With so many things the brain can do, Kendrick and the designers felt that taking every possible outcome and providing a way to avoid it would avoid any unforeseen errors.

“You know what every Microsoft Windows release is like? We want to avoid that because we only get one shot at it,” Kendrick had quipped on a talk show.

Also, because she had ready access to her control unit, she could switch out programming as she needed. She left the main program and her initial routine running while she uploaded and downloaded other information. She was the closest they had seen to what removing an implant would look like, and it was scary.

The first time she changed her programming she forgot her name. The second time she forgot her family. The third time, she started having recurring acute memory loss. She could be fine for a month and then forget what she had done the entire day.

“Ever walked into a room and forgot why you went in there?” She once asked her friend, “It’s like that except I don’t remember even going to the house the room is in.”

So she had made it a rule to avoid doing it anymore, but she enjoyed having the option if she needed.

Her original routine was in numbers and calculations. She was the worlds’ fastest calculator and more. She could solve equations before you could ask her to. She could remember numbers she heard years before. She was a casinos worst nightmare. And she couldn’t care less.

She had always been good at math and that was what she excelled at when her dad asked her to get an implant but she didn’t feel she should be defined by numbers. That was when she started adding and changing out secondary and tertiary programs. The first one was on flying. Unfortunately she’d never flown before so despite knowing all the technical aspects she still panicked and downed Echo Corps company chopper.

The second one was in martial arts which she actually did have some experience, when she was five years old. It didn’t translate into expertise, however, and she sprained a leg because her body wasn’t used to moving in the way she knew it should.

The latest was her favorite, however, which was an engineering and design program. She had always tinkered around in the garage with her dad so she had a basis. While she couldn’t build the ten story building she was able to envision in her head, she could build and fix small electronics. Tinkering was not just her hobby, it was her.

Being the daughter of one of the richest men in the world means you don’t have to try too hard to get the necessities in life. He had always given her everything she’d ever wanted and after making her routine zero he felt even guiltier and basically put her on the payroll to do nothing. She had everything she needed but nothing she wanted.

Friends were hard to come by as well. Real friends were anyway. Sure she had plenty of girls and guys who would hang around so they could get a piece of the free pie, but few that actually wanted to stay around her. Guys wouldn’t get too close because of the glowing belly and clanking metallic back. And she would hear the girls laughing about what she looked like when she went to buy drinks.

Routines, however, at least had a genuine interest in something other than money. She could help them fix pieces on older units as long as they were still running and they enjoyed picking her brain about what it was like at Echo Corp when ideas started flowing. Echo was known for hiring people and then letting them come up with anything they wanted. It was that kind of freedom that led to the routine revolution. And she actually enjoyed recalling the story.

“Each month, my dad would gather everyone together in this large meeting hall. You didn’t have to come unless you had an idea and it didn’t matter how small or dumb the idea might be, he wanted to hear it.

“Well he’d hired this young hotshot programmer who had never gone to school but taught himself everything called Mortimer, though he went by Morty. Morty had not been there but that first month, he’d never even seen one of these meetings, when he got up there on that microphone and started trying to tell his idea.

“He was shaking and obviously never been in such a position. And Morty is a big guy but he looked so small on that stage. People were still murmuring about some idea from the guy who’d just gone up about a toaster for frozen pizza. No really, you take a frozen pizza and slide it in vertically and hit the button and then a minute later you have a pizza. The idea was actually pretty good if you take out the vertical part.

“Anyway my dad realizes someone is up there already and trying to speak so he sits back forward and gives his look like, ‘I’m listening.’ Normally when a CEO gives that look it’s just B.S. but my dad always meant it. So people keep murmuring while Morty is trying to speak because no one else seems to realize he is up there either so my dad clears his throat a few times before I stand up, turn around, and yell “SHUT UP, MINIONS!”

“So Morty and my dad start chuckling at this while everyone else just kind of goes to a stunned quiet. My dad finally asks him, ‘what’s your idea, Mortimer?’ Daddy always had a knack for remembering names. So Morty clears his throat and says ‘Brain enhancements.

“Seeing the quizzical look on my dad’s face he went on to say if a brain uses electrical impulses to speak to the spinal cord and computers can use electrical signals to send information back and forth, why couldn’t we build a computer that could supply information to a brain.

“So my dad cocks his head to the side and looks at Mortimer and says, ‘son, you are either the craziest person in this room,’ and some people chuckle behind us, ‘or the smartest. Why do you think we could ever communicate with the brain. Have you ever studied the brain and how it works?’

“’No sir.’ He kind of stuttered realizing what it’s like to face my dad who is sharp and on top of things, he always knows a good question. ‘Then what makes you think you could do this?’

“’Because no one has ever proven it can’t be done.’ Morty, through all his self-education, had one advantage over every college graduate in that room. No one ever told him what he could and couldn’t do. He simply thought of something and tried it. And that was what he wanted to do now. My dad told him to meet him in his office and after the mice test, he was made vice-president. He was in the right place at the right time.”

Kim had spent many hours with Morty even before she had a real implant during the programming phases. They would hook a series of wires that would flash small electrical pulses through her skin to her spinal cord. It was not as precise as actually connecting turned out to be but it allowed him and the other programmers to perfect everything.

During testing he proved that he could control involuntary movement by making her smack herself at which point she voluntarily smacked him and that they could not recreate muscle memory like playing the piano. A test in her trying to play a piece by Mozart caused him to quip that that had certainly not worked and Mozart was lucky to be dead so he didn’t have to hear it at which point she voluntarily slapped him again.

He got slapped a lot.

But she had not been back to Echo Corp in over two years. Things were different after the government buy out. Her father rarely came to the brainstorming meetings and people were generally less thrilled to be working than before. The company still made innovative products and created more routine implants for the lessening number of people who wanted one but the joy of doing so was gone since they got blamed for creating routines in the first place. All the life had seemed to leave the building.

She moved away from Houston to Chicago so that she could avoid most of that. She inadvertently formed this community of routines who just wanted to live in peace and she was content. Content was better than a lot of people were doing.

As she walked up to her apartment and opened the door someone rushed in behind her and closed the door. There were no lights on for her to see and she couldn’t scream as the intruder had quickly covered her mouth and pinned her against the wall.

“SHHHH. Don’t scream Kim, it’s me.” She relaxed a bit.

“Alex?”

“Yeah, look I don’t have much time but there’s something you have to know.”

Alex was a neighbor of hers and a fellow routine. He was missing an eye that he lost when he’d tried to resist. He’d done it before the education camps were built so he felt pretty lucky to have just lost an eye. He moved back and the glow from her implant shone through her shirt. “What are you doing here? I’ll see you tomorrow at the party.”

“No, you won’t. You won’t see a lot of us but we will want to see you.”

“Alex, WHAT are you talking about?”

“It’s happening Kim. A bunch of us are going to fight back.”

“That’s crazy, how could anyone win against tens of thousands of military? What would you fight for? What would it even prove?”

“Look, it’s all a little crazy if you take the time to rationalize it but that’s life, life isn’t rational. We hear that there is a group of routines building an army under the governments’ radar. They even have weapons they just need more numbers.”

“That doesn’t even sound possible.”

“But what if it is?” Kim considered this for a second before Alex went on. “Look, we’re leaving tomorrow and heading to Oklahoma City. No one wanted to tell you at first because leaving as a big group will raise a little suspicion but nothing really works without you. You’re the key.”

“How am I the key?”

“You can get us into Echo.”

“Echo? What does that have to do with anything? Alex, really if you all want to go off getting killed then…”

“There’s not enough time to explain it but I know you’ll understand when I say Morty can help.”

“You’ve talked to Mortimer? Is he ok?”

“No, we haven’t. We only know what you’ve told us which is plenty to know we need him. We need you! Come with us.”

“I just don’t know.” But Alex was already heading out the door. She stood there questioning everything he’d just said. She agreed Morty was required for any chance to take down government routines, but numbers were needed as well. That was when she knew she would be leaving, she had to see the army that would overthrow the government.

 

NaNoWriMo: Routine Wars – Chapter 3

When Charles Hope was elected into office there were no routines in the White House. That was just over 9 years ago and at that time there was only one routine in the entire world and that was Kimberly Keys, daughter of Echo Corp CEO Kendrick Keys.

When he was a senator, he saw the government folding. There was no bi-partisanship and the republicans argued with the democrats on every issue. The president, the house, and the senate all butted heads constantly while America fell into a recession and faith in democracy hit an all-time low.

He ran a campaign with the slogan “Don’t just hope for change, change your vote to Hope,” and several variations. It was clunky and he didn’t come from a rich background, however he did know what people wanted, and that was an overhaul of the system. And that’s what he did.

It took more than just him of course; in fact it took a perfect alignment of political stars to make all the changes he saw lining out before him. His party had to regain control of the house and senate and he needed them all to be on his side. He also needed people who could spin his proposals into bigger, people friendly proposals. The old trick of putting gun legislature in with school reform was nothing compared to giving more power to Washington while taking other freedoms away as a diversion.

His initial intentions were just a simple change in the ways things were done but coming into power he was told a few key things that skewed his view even more. When any president comes into office they are given a briefing on various things that most people don’t know about. What’s really in Area 51, who has nuclear weapons pointed at us, and what exactly is going on in the war overseas are just a few things that he might hear in his first few weeks. The job itself is enough to feel overwhelming but add onto it information you weren’t even ready for and it can get stressful.

The report that stuck with him though was the list of suspected terrorists living in America at that time. It was basically everyone over the age of 8 and showed how more weapons led to more shootings which led to more security measures in private homes which led to more guns which led to more shootings. It was a circle that they were unsure how to deal with as they all liked their guns a lot, but a circle that President Hope saw an end to. Hope and his friends in the Senate realized that because there were so many guns anyone could have more than one and anyone could have a semi-automatic rifle, great for when you’re deer hunting more than ten deer at once.

He understood that limiting the number of guns in America meant people giving up guns they already owned and that would cause a lot of uproar. And everyone who objected would not only be upset, but armed as well.

He also knew that a large change in gun laws was the only way his future plans would be able to occur. It had been long decided that four years in office is barely enough time to get anything done. Even if you get bills out and laws started a disgruntled congress could hold things up until you were out and someone else would come in and veto everything you’d fought for. Were you lucky enough to get a second four years you had better make something of it because that was the last chance you’d have. Or was it?

“But why do we accept a system that seems created to keep everything at a standstill?” he had asked when running for office. This had resonated well with citizens who didn’t realize it meant he wanted to be in office for more than 8 years.

He pushed the gun law through in his third year and his approval rating tanked. People in rural areas refused to give up any guns that had since been banned and fought back against anyone who approached them. Crime started to drop but gun lovers didn’t care and just wanted less Hope.

Around this time, routines were becoming more prevalent. Sarah would have had her implant for just over two years and in the last year they went from just under three thousand sold to over seventy-five thousand. Hope saw the power in such technology and started convincing his influence circle in congress as to the authority they could provide a military as well as the need for such power.

The deal was shady and it forced Echo Corp to turn over all patents and technology, as well as over half of their staff. They could keep making routines for the private sector, however if anyone showed an interest in being in the military they had to send them to the government firm that started creating the next big thing in war tech. And it all happened the day before Hope lost his re-election. And that was his day to shine. As the would-be future president took to the podium to thank everyone for voting for him, the major news networks suddenly cut-in and said the President was making an announcement.

It was unprecedented to address the country while your successor was giving a speech and the whole world listened close to see what could be so important.

“Good evening. I would like to start by congratulating my opponent on a great campaign run. When I took office I promised you all change would come and while I have delivered on that promise you have chosen to go yet another way. I tell you the truth when I say that nothing good will ever come from flip-flopping from one candidate to another every 4 to 8 years and constantly bickering about the same issues. The problem is these candidates simply want the power and money and influence that comes with the office of presidency and they don’t care nor even have an idea what it is like to be a working middle-class drone in America.

But there is no need to worry about this mistake as I have had the foresight to fix it before you even made it. A new law, recently enacted, allows a sitting president to remain in office if the U.S. is in a state of disillusion and disrepair. I am enacting this ordinance now and stating that I will remain in office until I feel that America is once again strong and united, and we are again the powerful nation the world once saw us as.

My apologies to Candidate Williams, I know he was looking forward to taking office and had lots of ideas even I hadn’t considered. I will be extending to him an offer to be a top advisor at the White House and I hope to work closely with him, so that when I leave office he can step in and take over without any hiccups.

Changes will soon be coming to the nation, because we can’t fix the world unless we ourselves are not broken. Stand with me, work with me, build a better tomorrow so that today won’t be in vein.”

There was a great backlash at this announcement from most groups. While plenty of people took this as more political shenanigans others felt they had been duped by an already controlling power. The policy allowing Hope to stay in office had been added by him to the Gun Control bill. It was buried deep and used only enough words to make it iron clad while still vague enough to give him more power than any president since the founding fathers.

Under the Emergency Executive Proclamation or E.E.P., the president could enact any law temporarily even if it went against the Constitution, only to be released at his resignation. It also stated that a Constitutional right or amendment could be removed, changed, or overridden permanently if the majority of Congress agreed to it.

There was no voting by the people, there was no debate, there was only presidential power, and Hope now had it.

Hope had withdrawn all troops from foreign soil 2 years prior and they were now deployed to major cities to avoid as many riots as possible but this was only a small band-aid for a gaping wound. His plan had been to do this at the end of his second term but he had to move it ahead before he lost all chances entirely. He immediately charged his new firm with making war routines. The major programming had to remove emotions and political opinions while increasing knowledge of weapons, their usage, and tactical warfare in all environments.

His office started recruiting new military personnel by the thousands. Offering financial incentives and free food for family members of military they started building their routine army and then filling them with steroids to make them as strong as they were smart. Within 6 months, large groups of routines were sent out to every state capital city to start patrolling.

By the end of the year, a large education camp was opened in the middle of the Mojave Desert to help citizens understand how great President Hope was. The first students to attend were non-routine military who had originally been charged with maintaining the streets they grew up in yet instead started and led riots themselves.

By the end of year two, life was basically back to normal. People went to work and paid taxes. They went to grocery stores and movies. They traveled from city to city and could even leave the country, though getting back in was more difficult than ever. People speculated what exactly went on in the education camps and stories would pop up on social websites about family members that had never returned, though these were often taken down and replaced by notes that apologized for overreacting and their family members had contacted them and were doing fine.

And news media continued commenting on news stories including what was going on in Washington. They would break stories of freedoms being removed or people disappearing yet since they had always overreacted and overstated or misstated facts in the past, none of this really seemed to matter to anyone.

The truth was America was numb to drastic and devastating occurrences. Whether it was a natural disaster, a bombing, or political scandal they saw so much negativity spewed through all sorts of media outlets on a near constant basis that they didn’t really pay much attention to what was going on in Washington. There were extremists holed up in rural areas screaming that this was the end of the world and our rights were gone but they had been doing that all along as well. The only difference was there were more of them but no one noticed because they WERE in rural areas.

And the routines were effective. There was less crime in New York City than ever before and no one could really argue with those results, not that people didn’t try. But the routines had a flaw.

The problem with an army of thousands in a small area is getting consistent and concise orders out to the right people in a timely manner. One person couldn’t relay information back and forth with more than a handful at a time. They played the telephone game with information up the chain until it was distorted and useless. But Hope had been working on this problem as well.

He had the acquired scientists and programmers working on a way for a single routine to be able to instantaneously communicate with other routines. What he got was even better, as they created routers who could not only instantly communicate, but do it without using a radio and be able to see what they see as well.

They called them routers, filtering information to and from routines as needed, and they were an upgrade to the existing programming. Communications could happen from across the lands thanks to the infrastructure already being full of cell phone towers, which bounced information around perfectly. They started finding the people who would make good leaders with a large need for the ability to multitask and oversee large battle areas. To their chagrin America had been training such people for years so they started putting a requirement on applications that you would have had to play hundreds of hours of strategy and war video games to be considered.  Applications flooded in.

And so he had his army to squash any negativity to his rule in no time at all. He became a router himself to be able to receive information from all the other routers around the U.S. He was powerful, full of diplomatic information with an army at his complete control, and a nation practically getting out of his way so he could rule it.

Now just 5 years after taking total control of the U.S. he had one thing on his mind, which city would he bomb first?

 

Routine Wars – Chapter 2

Not far away, in the town Nelson was from on top of the valley hills, another routine was going about a far different day. Sarah had known Nelson as everyone in that town had known everyone, yet she did not know him as he was now. She was not aware he too had become a routine though for vastly different reasons, and she had no clue that he was less than ten miles away and would be responsible for the throng of gunshots she would hear later that day.

She was not a military routine at all and would not have the connection to him that his troops had. She had become a routine before the government bought out companies and patents and workers to create their enormous army in the name of ‘homeland security.’ She bought her routine from the privatized company that had created the concept, prototypes, and all the hype to go along with it, Echo Corp.

Being from such a small town she had been ridiculed the first few months she came back and continued to have trouble connecting with some of the elder residents. They would avoid going to the doctor if she was on duty, which was half the time since there were only two doctors in town anyway. Despite the fact that her routine made her one of the most talented and knowledgeable medical professionals in the world some people still thought altering your body in such a drastic way was a disgrace and abomination to what God had given you.

The truth was Sarah had struggled with the decision herself. Having been raised in the church and taught all the strictest moral values a small town church has to offer she knew her mother would have disowned her, were her mother still alive when she did it, and her dad constantly reminded her of the biblical implications of such actions. He was the pastor at the church she had grown up in and, while he avoided saying it directly, she knew he was disgraced to have her sitting in the pews at the scrutiny of the congregation.

But she had weighed all the options and considered all the angles. She had saved all the extra money she made as a CNA while finishing medical school and having done so at the top of her class was offered a large discount on the procedure.

On top of that she was one of the first 500 routines and compared to what people were paying just a year later she paid a small fraction to their small fortune. Echo Corp had struggled to get people to agree to the procedure early on and ridicule to those who did was widespread. Sarah took the time to research everything they were doing and realized not only how beneficial it could be but how much sense it made.

She only had one regret in that she had needed to be one of the early adopters financially speaking because after the 10,000th routine was created they released a new version that was less apparent to the outside world.

The biggest difference between her routine implant and the newer ones was the spinal graft piece at the base of the neck and top of the back. The new implants were only visible below the neckline by a small piece that was too large to fit inside the body where the pieces connecting it to the brain stem and spinal cord were now microscopic, hair-like wires inside the skin. Sarah’s implant was connected with larger wires and a control unit that, while thin and flexible, was long and covered the bottom of the neck.

Both implants were controlled by a unit that was located in the body where the appendix once lay. This unit provided a small amount of power needed as well as the programming itself, technically known as the routine.

Sarah chose a medical implant, a routine designed to make her the most knowledgeable doctor in the world. There were others now, but she had dedicated herself to be the best because that is what it took to get the implant in the beginning.

And she fought hard to get it, too. She sat through all the lectures, trainings, updates, fill-ins, and safety required speeches. Some told her the risks of the surgery itself. Others told her how to care for the implant. Another one told her what to do if the implant stopped working while another said what to do if it started working in a way it wasn’t supposed to.

“In the event that your left arm starts waving at people uncontrollably,” this was the one she remembered most but that was because she started laughing so loud that the instructor stopped to let her finish.

And the longest one went very thoroughly through what the implant COULD do; give you knowledge, and every last thing it could not do. “A person could memorize every piece of orchestral music known to man but if he had never played a piano, what good would he be?” Sarah understood the first time she’d read it in the brochure and again when the salesman told her and yet again when the doctor who evaluated her told her.

She had already been studying to be the best; this just gave her reason to try even harder.

“Why do you want an implant that would make you top of your field in a questionable manner?”

This question was asked of her only once, by the CEO of Echo Corp, Kendrick Keys. He personally interviewed the first one thousand participants and gave final approval. He asked it with a monotone voice without looking up from his computer. She was ready for the question in the sense that she’d thought about it for hours and yet it still gave her pause.

She wanted to know everything and had a sponge-like thirst for knowledge. She wanted to work for the best hospitals and programs and studies and find cures for things that once seemed incurable. She wanted to help people in third world countries and give free advice to those who couldn’t otherwise afford it. She wanted to bring babies into the world and keep the elderly from dying. She wanted…

“I want to save people like my mom,” She finally replied weak and soft, “so that other children don’t go through what I did.” Kendrick looked up from his computer but he didn’t say anything. He had lost a parent when he was young and the feelings came rushing back. There was an awkward pause as he stumbled to find his voice to ask the next question but Sarah never noticed. She was too surprised by her last answer.

Of course, she didn’t get to do any of that.

She finished college before getting the implants being urged by Echo Corp to wait otherwise the school might not let her graduate citing cheating as reason for expulsion. What she hadn’t counted on was the fact that no hospital would hire her for fear of scaring the patients.

After a few months she attempted to cover it up and not tell the people interviewing her about it but she had been on the news for a story about the procedure so, of course, she was well known in the medical community just not in the way she had wanted.

She could have gone overseas where routines were seen as the future of technology rather than the abomination that the US, its creators, would have you believe but she didn’t have any money. She’d spent everything she had on the procedure and now had school debts she would have to start paying.

She had come home to try and figure out what her next steps would be and hoped an answer would come soon considering her dad told her, in no uncertain terms, that this was Gods punishment for defiling her body. She didn’t believe it. She still believed in God and prayed more than she had in her whole life but she believed that what she had been given was good and it was a gift from God.

Still her dad enjoyed having her around again and tried to keep his opinions on this matter mostly to himself. They had never gotten along very well after her mother had died, or before for that matter. Her mom was the glue in the family and her and her father simply co-existed. She’d seen her dad cry once, and that was the day her mother had died.

They didn’t even talk for the first month after they lost her. They ate and watched TV and would grunt approvingly or disapprovingly at various things but they just didn’t have anything to say. The first thing she remembered being spoken between them after the funeral was her dad asking if she would like some almond milk to which she informed him that mom was the one who liked almond milk. After a few moments of silence she eased the tension by requesting strawberry milk instead.

The truth was they had never spoken about how her mother had died or what it meant to either of them or about her at all. She spoke to her friends and her dad spoke to God.

When she had ran out of options of real hospitals she went to see Doctor Lions at the clinic in town. Doctor Lions had been the doctor in town when she was born and there had never been another one or an assistant. If the Doctor wasn’t in, the doctor was most assuredly out.

She expected the same cold shoulder from him as from everyone else but to her surprise he was excited to have her help and asked lots of questions about her implant. He even spent over an hour quizzing her on random medical facts and procedures to see if the implant did what it was supposed to do. He felt quite happy with himself when he stumbled upon an old medical procedure that she was not aware of. A procedure which, while replaced by modern medicine and technologies, was still practiced in a lot of the world. Something the designers of her implant apparently had not realized.

“There’s always something new we can learn,” he chuckled, “Even for you implant.” Implant was the widely used derogatory name for routines at the time, though it eventually got replaced with routine American or simply, routine, most ‘routines’ complained that even this was derogatory because they were still just Human Americans. And worse yet the name ‘implant’ was still being used anywhere discrimination could be found. Sarah never minded Doctor Lions calling her implant, however, and she wasn’t sure why. Did he say it differently? Not really, she later concluded, though he did seem to say it with an air of sarcasm. He never minded being around her and enjoyed picking her technologically enhanced brain.

“I’m getting too old to stick people with needles and tell them what kind of medicines to take,” he confided in her when they were wrapping up the quiz. “These people may not like you, but they don’t have much of a choice because, believe it or not, no medical students are beating down my door to come work for me. We’ll split the shifts for a while to get you acclimated to what this town is like and then I’ll start taking more time off. It’d be nice to see my grandkids before they give me great grandkids.”

“I know people will have trouble accepting me as a doctor but I need to prove that I’m no different than anyone else and nothing to be afraid of.”

“But you are different. You are reminding everyone in this town that they are way behind the times. We only got our own cell tower a year ago, and here you are connected up like a computer. But you’re also reminding people that they could be doing more with themselves, whether artificially or not, and that is what they are truly afraid of.”

Talking with Doctor Lions that day she realized how much she could have learned from the people around her when she was younger had she only not been so stubborn. She took every opportunity she could from that day on to pick his brain and learn little nuggets of wisdom because, as she was told another time by Doctor Lions, someone can implant your brain with all the right answers, but it doesn’t mean you know squat about the world.

On this day she was in the clinic all alone and had been all week. While the nearest hospital was over 20 miles away people had still been choosing to drive that far instead of come see her. She had at first been offended but since the government had created routines for the purpose of Marshall Law she understood now, more than ever, there would be issues.

Earlier that day a few routine troops had swept through the town verifying everyones credentials and making sure there were no runners in the area, which had caught Sarah off guard as she had not seen another routine since she came back home. These routines were different than the ones she had friended when going through her own transformation though.

Her routine, and all private citizens’ implants, left everything intact and simply enhanced the brains ability to memorize and recall information and added a world of information on one subject. Military routines, on the other hand, had given up their rights to emotion and constitutional freedom in exchange for a small fortune in credits and the glory of securing America. This was the new American and a new constitution was being written for all, these routine drones were just the beginning.

She tried to get a look at the implants on the soldiers but they were quick and robotic and not looking to answer questions or expose themselves. They knew that exposing their implant could open them up to attack on the one place that would weaken them as a whole. They knew this because they were programmed to know it, Sarah knew it for a different reason.

When Sarah got her implant she was asked if she would like the medical knowledge of how the implants work and interact with the body. Since she was the first doctor to get one they were eager to have a routine who could do routine maintenance. She agreed but soon realized that they preferred their own doctors do all work and she was not called upon. Had she lived in a bigger city she would have been able to do work on citizens who may not otherwise be able to get help at hospitals for non-implant problems but here there were none.

Still, she had knowledge that no other routine outside of Echo Corp or the government agency creating a routine army had, and she believed she knew more than she was supposed to. She had knowledge of actual programming codes that doctors wouldn’t know. She didn’t understand what it all meant but she had figured out what it was. Someone had mistakenly given her the basic program that transmitted information from the core, in the appendix area, through the stem connected on the spinal column and into the brain itself.

Not understanding or ever having studied programming this really meant nothing to her even if she understood how important and valuable the information was. She had wondered if this part of the program, the piece that actually sense information to and from the brain, was modified and the cause of the soldiers changes in thinking and behavior. She had wondered if this was how the government was controlling people.

But they weren’t actually controlling the mass population yet. They were controlling soldiers, yes, but the soldiers had joined willingly. They had yet to turn any runners into soldiers. And while they were gathering people who seemed to be defecting and putting them in education camps, they weren’t actually asking anything specific of the general public. There were no curfews, no night watch, not even a change in freedom of speech. President Hope had simply said, “In the interest of true homeland security, we are going to dispatch military every square inch of our nation.”

He had refused to answer questions about this and simply stepped down while an aide repeatedly said ‘this is not marshal law.’ Congress moved quickly and did approve several new laws that took away freedom of information. No one could get any answers on what exactly was in the education camps or what they were doing and anyone who showed defiance to the government could be taken into said camps. They said anyone defying the government has a high probability of being a terrorist, ‘which is what we get for giving them near unlimited power in securing our nations’ borders,’ Sarah had thought when she watched the broadcast.

But she didn’t think it was that bad and that was the general consensus in the smaller communities. It’s easy to deny that freedoms are being taken away when you don’t leave your 50 square mile bubble of community and comfort. And since that’s all the government seemed to want anyway, why not abide by it.

The sweep had come through their town twice now and no one had been hauled off or sent away. There was no need for panic and no big conspiracy. They felt safe knowing there were military personnel ready to defend their nearly insignificant community at a moment’s notice.

But all that was before gun shots filled the valley, and the largest airbus they’d seen passed overhead, turning day into night for a few seconds as it passed under the sun. The government siege had found them.

 

NaNoWriMo: Routine Wars – Chapter 1

Nelson looked out over the valley that stretched north, to his right, and south while on the side opposite him became a tall mountain in the Ozarks. He had grown up around here and always loved the great camping spots it had to offer. Just in front of him, and below, was the lake where he’d caught a 10 pound catfish. Well, it was a 10 pound catfish when he got it home and told the story the first time. The second time it was 12 pounds and just a year ago it had been a vast beast that must have been the love child of a blue whale and the Lochness Monster.

And just a few miles behind him, at the top of the hill and looking down on the valley was his childhood home. It sat at the edge of a tiny town in the middle of nowhere that wasn’t big enough to have a McDonalds or a Wal-Mart which was the thing that eventually made him move away. He enjoyed the camping and fishing convenience, but that wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Also, he knew everyone in town on a first AND last name basis and, frankly, he would always tell his ‘new’ friends, he simply didn’t like them that much.

But none of this entered his mind as he scanned up and down the tree lines. He did not get a sense of peace from the orange and yellow covered branches that covered the hills. And he got no enjoyment out of hiking the various trails that snaked their way down. He was assigned the area on purpose and gravitated towards this valley purely on instinct and that happening was no accident.

He had talked about the valley and his home openly and didn’t realize what consequences that would hold later. He hadn’t even realized it was a part of the interview but rather just thought a group of people were chatting while waiting for their superior. He didn’t know that as soon as you show interest in becoming a routine for the government, they start learning everything they can about you, just in case. And in his case, that paid off since, while routines are barely anything more than mindless drones in the war, routers, of which Nelson was, were far more important and valuable.

Routers were active officers in charge of variously sized routine brigades. Despite Nelson being assigned to a low population area he was in charge of just over one thousand routine soldiers due to the size of open area they had to secure on a regular basis.

To his left he saw a shack that you might wonder how it were still standing. He knew, or used to know, the shack well as it belonged to his uncle. He thought for a second and decided five soldiers could easily search and secure the building. Without words being spoken, four men and one woman from behind him quietly ran over and surrounded the shack, busted in, and quickly signaled back to him that it was secure. He was told, though wordlessly again, that an old man was found inside. He gave them orders to take him to camp.

At the same time he was giving them follow-up orders on where to take the uncle he once knew, he scanned the lake. There were hundreds of tents surrounding it. He considered the weather, rainy and cold, and the fact that it was a Tuesday, and knew these were runners. These were the defectors that needed to be secured, confined, and educated on how great it was and how lucky they were to be living in America during the great cleansing. And these were the most dangerous of all the defectors.

If you have a runner in the city, he or she might find other runners and they might find an old building to stay in. They might have a gun or two and definitely some knives, but a small brigade can easily take them over in a matter of moments. But anyone who heads out into the wilderness and gathers a large group of people to form a community living completely off the grid will have the equivalent of a small army with automatic weapons, possibly some explosives, and the upbringing to know how to use them properly.

This was why he had come here. He had not needed orders to be told there were people here. This was exactly why routers were assigned to the places they were most familiar. Once they were in the area their instinct would take over and the general orders of ‘cleanse all defectors’ would quickly translate into areas the router had grown up that would make sense to hide.

Nelson wouldn’t know anything about where runners might hide in New York City and the mission would be nowhere near as successful. And likewise, someone who had been raised in Manhattan wouldn’t have thought there would be anyone in this remote area or understand the need to sweep through the trees thoroughly.

Thinking about what it might take to overtake such a large encampment of armed runners was all it took for wave after wave of routine soldiers to start passing by him. It was a fury of feet crunching dried leaves on the ground fading to silence as he watched them get closer. It didn’t take long before he could see a ring of his men, hundreds upon hundreds surrounding the lake as he called for them to hold as he processed the incoming information.

Four soldiers surrounded a tent on the north side of the lake and from the bushes they hid behind could see two armed men. They could see them clearly because they were only a few yards away, Nelson could see them clearly because his soldiers saw them clearly. Nelson also heard their conversation and listened for a few seconds before disregarding it, a topical conversation on how many routines each had killed to get to the lake, as useless information. He then saw a group of eight tents surrounded by thirty soldiers. He saw the group of tents from all thirty perspectives and listened in. The alpha male in this group was worried they were being watched and thought there should be more uniformity between all the people who had come to the lake.

A few females told him he was being paranoid while another male agreed that they should be more proactive in securing the valley. Another female spoke up in defense of someone named Jonah who was apparently in charge of the area and confirmed that his sources had said no routine forces would be sent to the valley.

This was, of course, very good information and Nelson immediately relayed the name Jonah to all his troops around the lake. They immediately knew to specifically listen for all references of a Jonah and to identify him. He scanned the lake from the view of the hundreds of men around it and stopped on a clearing that had over 50 tents in it. He listened from all angles available and while he heard more mentions of Jonah, he did not actually see him.

He thought Jonah should be taken alive and immediately all soldiers understood.

Actually, every runner was supposed to be taken alive however there was an unspoken rule that if anyone showed great resistance they could be immediately cleansed. And since no one up the chain of command cared about ninety-nine percent of the people who did run there was no one counting or checking names of those killed. There was also a large grey area on what ‘great resistance’ even meant. Was someone refusing to go quietly by saying ‘no I won’t go’ the same as someone who physically resisted or even opened fire on soldiers? The answer was often yes, depending on who you talked to, a benefit of removing most emotions and memories from the military troops that were sent out.

Nelson scanned all the views of the lake one more time before silently thinking, ‘we should attack now’ at which point the giant group under his command silently moved forward and then started overtaking each individual campsite at the same time.

There was no chaos as they allowed no time for chaos to begin. There were shots fired on both sides but it all happened so quickly that the echoing ‘pops’ that rang throughout the valley sounded like popcorn, growing in frequency before quickly dying back down to 1 or 2 per second. In just under 5 minutes every one of the runners were chained up and being hauled off, except for those who had already been cleansed.

Nelson counted up and tallied those who had been killed during the quick battle. There were four males and two females, all holding weapons, and two children, a boy and a girl both who looked to be about twelve years old. Neither of the children had been holding weapons and it wasn’t immediately apparent what had happened, so Nelson dismissed it and moved on. There were no casualties to any of his routines which meant the mission was a 100% success. No casualty of war papers needed to be filed, which had more to do with the cost of creating and maintaining a routine than it did who the routine used to be as a person.

He thought about what would best be suitable for transporting these defectors to the education camps and decided on an airbus. He was immediately notified that his squadron was in line for airbus 4273-A and ETA was about 10 minutes. They requested confirmation on an appropriate landing area at which he looked just east of the lake below and spotted a large open field. He thought that would work fine and this time two things happened simultaneously. He was first notified that they had confirmed his choice for landing area and second, all soldiers holding camp students, which is what they were called once they were no longer fugitives, immediately turned and started walking in the direction of the open field.

In just under 25 minutes his group had arrived, assessed the situation, devised a plan, followed out his instructions, and airlifted over 500 runners to the nearest education camp. Since there had been no casualties he was notified that as a reward for his good efforts, 400 bonus credits had been added to his account and premium rations were en route for his brigades’ dinner that night.

He smiled, if a router could smile, alerted his men of the good eats they were to enjoy before spending his credits to order a new toy that would be delivered with dinner, before continuing to have his men cleanse the valley.

Nelson Connor had had a good day.