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  1. #1
    Robert MacDermant

    Operator critique

    I just finished a manuscript science fiction novel called operator... I wondered if anyone could give me any opinions on the first chapter


    If one were to travel to the outer edge of the galaxy in the year 2483 AD they would eventually arrive at an interesting little star system in the Orion Arm called Sol by its natives. This system is made up of eight planets, two hundred forty moons, three dwarf planets, two asteroid belts and some two hundred billion human souls.
    Sol is ruled by a loose coalition of six international confederations called the United Nations. These six confederacies referred to as Omnipowers each hold a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The Security Council is the theoretically impartial arbiter of disputes between the six great coalitions, who make no secret of the fact that they are in reality bitter enemies. The six omni powers be they the libertarians of the Organization of American States, the populists of the European Union, the globalists of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the exclusionists of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperate, the militants of the League of Arab States, or the pacifists of the African Union each preach a different political ideology. These opposing philosophies strain relations between them, and hold them eternally on the edge of war.
    Unfortunately it was the very United Nations that was inadvertently responsible for the omni powers original dispute to begin with. When the member states of the United Nations first began to spread across Sol using sub light drives they established the colonies to harvest the resources required to terraform Mars. The UN proclaimed that weapons, armies and even the concept of national borders would be legal only on the human home world of Terra. This was intended to open the colonies only to peaceful exploration, eliminating the need and ability to wage interplanetary wars. In practice however it only served to place all extraterrestrial weapons in the hands of criminals who had no qualms about violating the law, and to forbid lawful colonists to have representation in their own governments. This lack of foresight on the part of the UN led to a lawless barbarian frontier beyond the main asteroid belt. With the UN charter in obvious need of updating its members became divided along political lines and evolved into the 6 great omnipowers.
    Now the UN is left an indecisive and hopelessly corrupt paper tiger. More and more outer colonies are forced to fair for themselves to avoid the coming war and throw off the inept iron heel of the UN. After three hundred years of globally peaceful, democratic and prosperous cooperation between the nations of terra the six omnipowers find themselves at the brink of war and their inner colonies (particularly Mars) at the brink of open rebellion.
    Never a nation to leave its freedom to the whims of fate the United States begins designing a new weapon on mars. This weapon is rumored to be so powerful and revolutionary that it could shift the balance of power, end the cold war and restore world peace…


    2nd Sol of Bora, 105 After Civilization (AC) on the Martian calendar: Virgin Galactic space liner fleet holding high orbit over mars.

    First Lieutenant Scott Baker approached the bridge of the space liner Liberty, which had been his home for 3 months now. He’d long left the spinning grav deck that housed most of the crew quarters as well as the ships hospital, mess hall and gym. Now he climbed along the ladder that led to the bridges cylindrical hatchway to reach his destination in the null-gravity environment.
    “Captain Gerard? I hope you don’t mind me coming up here I wondered if I could get a look at mars in the view port.” Scott asked the man standing in front of him, who like the rest of the ships crew wore a Virgin Galactic uniform. It contrasted greatly with Scott’s green United States Army uniform. The ships transporting Scott and the other army troops to mars were private property contracted by the government to transport its military assets.
    “Not at all, Lieutenant.” answered Captain Gerard gesturing towards mars in the view port. “It’s just came into view.”
    “Thank you.” replied Scott staring out past the fleet of civilian transport ships and into the bright red orange crescent below him. He noticed a few puffs of white clouds; the beginnings of what would one day be a breathable atmosphere, wrought about by the terraforming efforts of the human race. In the northern half of the planet he could see a vast blue area; the start of an ocean in the planets’ northern lowlands. Just at the foot of the ocean around the flat equator he could make out a flood of twinkling lights; the homes of the 30 billion or so Martian colonists. “It’s sublime.” he marveled. The actual terra forming processes was a colossal undertaking. It required resources from across Sol. Water from the ice worlds of: Pluto, Triton, Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon, Titan, Enceladus, Dionne, Rhea, Hyperion and Iaptus; oxygen from Ganymede; methane and hydrogen from Titan; Iron from Mercury and the volcano moon of Io. Transporting these resources also required a chain of farming, supply and trade stations between Mars and the rest of Sol. An entire systemwide economy had grown up around the terraforming project, and it involved most of the human race. It had led to something of a Neo-Gaia theory: the idea that all planets connected by a trade route were in essence a super organism to care for and cultivate.
    Looking up he noticed the stars were beautiful as always, but static and untwinkling. “You know I’ve always wondered why the stars don’t twinkle out here.” he asked taking them in.
    “Well stars don’t actually twinkle.” Captain Gerard answered. “The only reason they seem to twinkle back on terra is because of the temperature difference between the upper and lower atmosphere.”
    “I see. Everything is so different out here… so alien. It’s not just space. I don’t know anything about life on mars.” answered Scott.
    “You know…” said the captain “We’re probably close enough to get an internet link from the satellites around the planet, why not go and check it out?”
    “Really?” asked Scott “I think I will. God knows I’m sick of waiting two hours to link up with the Terran sat-net.” with that Scott gave a parting wave and swam away from the bridge, eager to connect to the Martian satellite network. He grabbed hold of one of the bars of a near by electric ladder. It was essentially a ladder attached to a conveyor belt. Scott simply had to grab onto a bar with two hands, give a verbal command to start and the ladder would. The walls were still lined with regular ladders of course, but those were only for in emergencies. As the ladder came to a stop he grabbed the handle tightly so his continuing inertia didn’t send him flying. Then letting go he continued swimming on his way.
    After passing through a few circular halls Scott came to the docking tube that allowed one to travel between the spinning outer hull and the weightless stationary halls. Through the other end of the hollow cylindrical sixteen foot diameter tube he could see the grav deck spinning rapidly. He’d take quite a fall without the docking tube. Strapping himself into a chair Scott hit the activation lever sending the tube spinning; slowly at first, then faster until he was spinning at the same speed as the grav deck. From there he found that gravity was holding him in the chair rather than the straps, so he stood up, stepped forward onto the grav deck and shut the docking tube off.
    Now alone having passed through the docking tube he took a moment to sweep back his blue hair which had floated out of place. He had never died his hair of course. He was born with it blue; well not so much born as grown. Scott had had wealthy parents; wealthy enough to have him genetically engineered and artificially gestated, a “GEAG” he was called, a designer baby. He wasn’t a complete product of science of course. The Gene tailors designed him by recombining DNA from his mother and father, editing out anything that was less than perfect, and adding a few tailor designed genes to make him smarter, faster, stronger and healthier. He was then grown in an artificial womb. The result was a being that was flawless both mentally and physically but was still its parent’s child.
    His traits had given him the ability and drive to out perform any normal human. This added ambition was particularly important of course. Scott had been good at everything he tried. He was the high school track star (often dreaming of running the hoplite event in the Olympics), a straight “A” student, he’d gone to West Point and been made a 1st Lieutenant in the United States army by 24. Everything had come easy to him and like all GEAG’s he’d never really been challenged. He there for never learned to buckle down or work at anything. He would have been quite lazy were it not for his enhanced ambition.
    That’s why Scott joined the army: the ambition to be a hero. From the day he’d floored a bully that was picking on a smaller student in middle school he was hooked. Scott loved the feeling of pride he got from defending the innocent and restraining the wicked. It was his heroine and he had no desire to kick the habit.
    Most children had at least some gene therapy preformed while in their mother’s womb these days though (excepting for the occasional religious wacko). Such children weren’t like Scott however. They were only devoid of genetic disorders like metal retardation, IDS, and homosexuality (the later of which being at the center of a heated debate over where one should draw the line between a genetic disorder and free thought). Scott was superior to them in everyway (he was even modest about it). He was perfect and that made some people jealous. They’d call him things like tank or rich boy and snub him socially. Scott learned not to let things like that get to him though. He just kept on excelling at what ever he tried. There was nothing about himself he wasn’t grateful for…except his blue hair. He once asked his parents why he had blue hair. They only answered that “It was in style at the time… honey”. He would have to ask the gene tailors to reengineer him with black hair one day…just in case he was killed in combat and had to be resurrected in a clone body. He didn’t like the idea of having blue hair for eternity (and between gene therapy, nano medical science, and in worst case scenario brain transplants that’s how long he expected to live).
    Scott walked back towards his quarters, taking the elevator down to his floor. He walked to his room and ran his thumb through the Biometrics reader. The door automatically opened and he strolled in. Like all disciplined soldiers kept his room neat and tidy. Even though he was only using this room while in transit to mars he made every effort to keep it clean. Come to think of it though Scott still didn’t know why he was being sent to mars. All he had been told was that he was going to complete testing on a new piece of military hardware. The Steel Titan project they called it. He imagined it was a vehicle of some kind though. The officer that offered him the job had told him he was the best suited for it, because of his background piloting tanks and VTOLs. He had also mentioned that it was something totally new. Something no one had ever piloted before, so Scott would have to learn how it works from its designers. He hadn’t even been told where he was being sent except that it was somewhere around the territory of Red Sands in the equatorial Arabia Terra region of Mars.
    Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by the public address system sparking to life. A young woman’s voice broke the static. “This is the bridge to all military personnel, we are now holding orbit over mars and will begin landing in 2 hours. All personnel being transported to the surface please report to your designated shuttle by that time. Thank you and have a nice day.” Scott heard the broadcast and immediately sat up. He would finish watching the program later. He gathered the only bag he’d been allowed to bring and began walking towards the shuttle bay.
    Before he left however Scott put on a pair of shades. He reached over to his refrigerator and pulled out a zero G drink box of Diet Coke, he could never stand Pepsi...went flat too fast. Scott sipped it through its built in straw and began poking at the air systematically as he walked. It would have looked strange to anyone who didn’t realize he was accessing his augmented reality display. His glasses generated the illusion of a three dimensional object in front of him. They had motion sensors imbedded in the bridge to trace his hand movements allowing him to manipulate his computer. Tiny microphones in the ear pieces sent sound vibrating through his temple. All this was connected via a wireless personal area network or PAN to his computer card. His comp card, a tiny but powerful credit card sized computer was now nestled in his wallet. It stored his driver’s license, credit history, medical records, and acted as a cell phone and personal computer to boot. “Find Martian AV networks.” he ordered the glasses. The computer instantly responded displaying a video window in front of him. He pointed to the Microsoft Martian Video Programming Network. These days everyone downloaded audiovisual programs directly onto their computers to watch at their leisure, usually on a live stream connection. Even the modern big screen TV’s worked on a data system. “Suggest a program.” he asked the computer. It responded by displaying a number of programs whose description matched that of other shows he’d watched regularly. Most of them were either history or news. One that caught his eye was called “Lance Cronin’s M-factor.” produced by fox news and categorized as a political commentary show.
    He quickly minimized the display to see where he was going and clicked on the preview option to get a trailer of the show. The computer began to show random clips of an older man arguing with a host of bizarre left wing extremists of one kind or another. To his credit he did occasionally tell off a right wing radical too. All the while the familiar throaty and deep voice that every announcer in Sol seemed to have began to narrate “When there’s an issue that matters to Mars he’ll be on top of it! When he finds a spin doctor he won’t let them get away with it!” Then the older man chimed in with a powerful sounding voice. “I’m Lance Cronin and you won’t find any political spin on my show. I will bring you the issues that matter to Mars, as they are, honest and fair, so that you can make an informed decision.” With that it continued to show more clips of him arguing back and forth. Scott wasn’t sure whether Lance was in fact unbiased, but then he didn’t claim to be unbiased just fair. he did appear to be fair regardless of his views. To his credit he occasionally told off. Scott didn’t know much about Martian politics so he decided to watch an episode or two. With something else he might have downloaded the entire series or season to watch the episodes in order but with a news show that just meant viewing a lot of out dated reports. If he wanted to learn about Martian current events he should start with the latest episode.
    The network offered to let him watch it without commercial precedence for a dollar, so he pulled a five dollar bill out of his wallet and scanned it with his glasses. The electronic paper instantly changed the image to a four and Scott returned it to his wallet. He pulled the corner of the AR window with his hands to enlarge the image, hit play and leaned back in his chair.
    It opened with the camera zooming in to Lance Cronin as “The M Factor” logo took up the window for a moment. “Greetings, I’m Lance Cronin and you’re watching the M-factor.” said Mr. Cronin.
    “Joining us tonight is Professor of political science Maria Stevenson who is the author of the new book The Rise Omni Power; The End of the Golden age. In which she discusses the increasing irrelevance of the super power in the face of the omni powers that arose following the sundering of the old alliances that established the new world order. She compares it to the aftermath of world war two that led to the rise of the omni power: very interesting stuff.
    Maria was right of course and Scott knew it. The world was spiraling out of control. The more he thought about it the more he realized things had changed. The world Scott had known as a child was not the one he knew now. It was different some how. There was a certain dread hanging in the air that he just couldn’t put his finger on, like something truly terrible were about to happen. Scott remembered playing Nintendo games constantly as a boy, and now they were illegal because of an embargo between The OAS and APEC. It seemed like everyone had been such good friends 15 years ago. Things were perfect, but now there was talk of disbanding NATO and here he was being sent to mars to test a new weapon, and traveling there with an army of American peace keepers. He never thought he’d be invading his own country. How could things have changed so quickly?
    Later on we’re going to meet Roger Dietrich of amnesty international who says that the united states’ deployment of peacekeeping troops to its Martian territories is… get this: a violation of international law…
    “Hey that’s us they’re talking about!” realized Scott excitedly as he stoped his day dream.
    He again moved through the grav docking tube as he continued on his way. This time set for him to exit the grave deck rather then enter. He took an electric ladder to the Shuttle bay where he saw hundreds of men climbing into the docking rings that led to the shuttles scattered along the outside of the ship, the same shuttles that would carry them to the surface of the red planet. The shuttles were also privately owned but flown out from the local space stations. No freighters carried their own shuttles, it was far cheaper and more efficient to dock with a local station and unload cargo, rather than lugging around a set of shuttles across the vast gulf of space. Of course there were too many ships to dock so the shuttles had to fly out to meet them. Most of the men were infantry as this was expected to be a matter of combating small terrorist cells. On the larger drop ships a few tanks and other vehicles were being loaded as well. If there was an uprising on mars The United States Army would be ready.
    Scott hurried to the equipment locker where he donned his Light combat armor. He wasn’t going into combat now, but the armor was a full environment suit and doubled as a space suit. It was a lighter version of the heavier turtle shell Armor worn by the infantry. Normally Foot soldiers would never wear something as bulky as the turtle shell into combat, but since Mars was still mostly airless desert they needed such suits just to stay alive, never mind fight. The Turtle Shell suit had ways of compensating for its bulk of course. It was actually very light weight and comfortable, made from fibers that would tense under stress effectively granting the wearer increased strength whenever he exerted pressure on them. Many layers of spider silk (taken from the milk of genetically engineered goats) had long replaced the Kevlar fabric of old suits. Metal plates made it stab resistant too. The armor was covered with a coating containing microscopic cameras and monitors that would record the landscape around the armor and display it on its surface using computerized landscape painting techniques. The result was a color changing armor that would put a chameleon to shame. They called it reactive camouflage. The suit even masked heat and its own electronic signatures so the only ways to find a soldier while this stealth mode was engaged were with motion sensors or an electro magnetic pulse grenade (which would shut down the suit’s electronics). Inside each suit was an advanced computer network relay that connected the soldier wearing it to the other members of his squad. They could access one another’s helmet cameras, send messages and find their positions using helmet mounted GPS systems. The Helmets of course also had zoom, thermal and night vision options making binoculars obsolete.
    The armor didn’t just connect a soldier with his squad. It connected him with his weapon. Using the helmet computer a soldier could have information collected by a weapon’s onboard computer sent directly to his visor. Among other things this not only made him more accurate but able to shoot around corners using a “gun-cam”. The various windows displayed on the visor could be easily operated by focusing one’s eyes on them. The helmet computer accomplished this by monitoring eye movement and dilation. Most career soldiers even went so far as to have implants called weapon-Chips inserted into their brains making them able to network any weapon, switch fire modes or eject clips with their very minds. With an added Comm. module they could in effect communicate telepathically. It might have seemed a bit extreme to some but such an implant improved the odds of surviving a fire fight dramatically. During combat the suit could monitor its wearer’s every vital sign, giving a mobile head quarters a complete readout of every aspect of the soldier’s status. If he were wounded it could disperse liquid bandages to cover the wound or inject nano engines into a soldier begin repairing damage immediately. It could even inject adrenaline into the soldiers system to give him an extra kick when needed.
    Scott’s suit of course had different gear. Rather than advanced bullet resistant armor or a weapon link it was designed to interface with his vehicles combat computer allowing the helmet to act as an augmented reality heads up display. A helmet HUD wouldn’t be knocked out in combat making previous vehicle mounted HUDs obsolete.
    Scott filed into the shuttle behind the other passengers all of whom climbed along a strong piece of fiber cord. Flanked by hundreds of men on either side in the null gravity environment it was a surreal scene. When Scott finally reached his destination he took a seat strapping himself in for the landing. While he waited for take off the young woman again came in over the com net. “Gentlemen on the behalf of Captain Gerard we would like thank you for your time aboard our ship and wish you the best of luck on Mars. If you meet up with any rebel fanatics give em’ hell for all of us back home.” she cooed in a slightly nasal voice.
    Scott braced himself for the launch as he heard what might be his last polite words for quite some time. With a thunderous boom the shuttle separated from the ship and made its way towards mars to enter the Martian atmosphere. Behind him he could see the ever shrinking Liberty with its many spinning pylons that made up the grave decks along its sides. To its aft was the solar sail that gave it most of its propulsion from a laser network erected through sol called the Apian Way. He could feel the shuttle enter the outermost layer as it began to shake with incredible force. The way it was rattling Scott almost felt as though it were going to rip itself apart. He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth as the military shuttles made their way through the thin atmosphere. He gripped the chairs’ armrests so hard he thought they might shatter. His stomach felt like it was going to come out his mouth, and all his blood was rushing to his head. It didn’t just feel like he was falling. It felt like he was spinning every which way, as if some giant child had tied his shuttle to a rope and was swinging it around like a Morningstar.
    “We will be arriving in Red Sands Arcology within a few more minutes.” announced the shuttles copilot over the com net. The shaking was beginning to subside and Scott finally had his stomach settle long enough to look outside the shuttle’s window. He could see from the flood of lights outside that the city of red sands was just below him.
    It reminded Scott of the LA Arconet where he was raised. Each arcology was a huge structure the height of a sky scraper but several blocks in diameter. It contained residential areas, factories, monorails, malls, parks; even stack farms (green houses built one on top of another). These were all connected becoming a massive Arconet. Scott was raised on the uppermost levels where the rich tended to live.
    Soon the shuttles were landing at the red sands spaceport. Scott looked out the window as the shuttle entered what looked like an airport except for the square airlock that kept the environment sealed in. The entire city was housed in a series of environmental bubbles that not only kept the oxygen in but also protected it from the constant sand storms that would have otherwise clogged electronics with their fine red dust. In many places he saw great dark spires jutting out from the dome. They lit in the eternal twilight sky with innumerable glittering points of luminance. The process of the hundreds of shuttles landing took quite some time and Scott waited to remove his suit as the airless environment filled with atmosphere and the com net crackled to life yet again. “This is your pilot speaking, the air lock is now open and you may now begin disembarking. Have a nice day.” said the pilot. With that Scott and the rest of the troops began to remove themselves from the shuttle. It was also much warmer in the biodome than outside, so Scott was couldn’t wait to get his confining light armor suit off. Now dressed in a much lighter uniform he was ready to step off the shuttle and into the Martian spaceport. He began moving down the ramp and onto the landing pad.
    The first thing he noticed was the gravity. The moment he went to stand up he could feel it. He knew it was only a third that of the earth. However he was still unprepared to experience it. As he stepped of the ship he lifted him self a foot into the air and came down slow as a feather. It amazed him. It felt almost as though he were in water. He quickly jumped off the ramp with about six feet between him and the ground but came down softly. He chuckled to himself a bit, feeling as though he were a mythical Greek hero or a god. He playfully jumped a good twelve feet off the ground from a standing position, again coming down nice and easy. He had only been able to jump four back on terra. He quickly remembered he was surrounded by people and realized how idiotic he must have looked. He quickly scanned the area to see if anyone noticed. To his relief and surprise he saw many other soldiers doing the exact same thing.
    One other scene that caught his eye was two spaceport security guards and a German shepherd. One was holding the dog on a leash as it barked enthusiastically at something another guard was taking out of a vent in the wall. Scott approached the trio and mostly out of curiosity asked “What’s he so excited about?” gesturing towards the dog.
    “Oh…he found a bomb.” answered the security guard with the leash, while petting the loyal pooch.
    “HE FOUND A WHAT!?” shouted Scott in shock.
    “Yep, a little gift from your admirers in the free mars movement it seems.” elaborated the guard trying to take it out of the vent. “Don’t worry we disarmed all the bombs long before you landed. We swept the whole place with a bomb scanner after we found the first one. We’re just removing them from the space port now. The dog is going crazy because he can still smell the explosives though.” the guard replied.
    “But what if there are more shouldn’t you shut down the space port?” asked Scott.
    “Territorial Governor Desmond Buford doesn’t want to. He already had to shut down commercial traffic while you guys came through so were he to shut it down during the search he’d have to wait for us to inspect the place and still shut it down while you arrived on top of that. Red Sands looses millions for every day the space port is inactive, so he wanted to minimize the economic damage. You’re lucky that some Army big wig had us sweep the landing pads. McClellan was his name I think. The governor didn’t even want to have the city’s bomb squad here.”
    “What a moron!” Scott marveled.
    “Hey, welcome to mars man. You should have heard what he pulled last week. They caught some guy trying to blow up an orbital monitoring relay. Buford pardoned the lunatic. Said he wanted to show how magnanimous the government was. I bet you he’s back building bombs as we speak. The man’s a naive moron. He’s always attending these trade summits too, but nothing ever comes of it. With all the time Buford spends negotiating trade agreements with the other colonies you’d think we’d be rich by now. If one of those terrorists ganks em’ it’d serve him right.” joked the man holding the dog’s leash.
    Scott suddenly had the urge to leave the airport. He couldn’t believe people wanted to kill him already. He was just glad he was going to be at some isolated top secret army base testing the latest military hardware out of terrorist reach. Scott made his way through the swivel doors at the head of the airport, passing through a security scanner would normally have performed a weapons scan. It was a technological throwback from the war on terror. A scanner like this could tell the difference between a pen filled with ink and a pen filled with plastique, it read everything about him with one hundred percent accuracy. Scanners like this had made the ineffective random checks of times passed obsolete, now everyone could be scanned. No one ever slipped through, No one ever had to be detained and no one ever had to be strip searched. These check points were reliable and convenient. Scott wondered how they got bombs in hear in the first place.
    As he hurried towards the door someone tapped him on the shoulder. “Lieutenant Baker?” asked a voice from behind him.
    Scott turned around to see an augmented reality arrow pointing to a large, blonde haired thirty something army officer standing in front of him. The man wore typical green fatigues but on his head was a tan Stetson hat with a yellow cord and two crossed cavalry sabers. “I’m Captain David Murphy. I’m one of the other operators from the base.”
    “Operators?” Scott asked
    “That’s what we call our selves. Instead of pilots.” Dave responded. “They sent me here to pick you up and brief you on the project.” he explained sending Scott his ID via augmented reality.
    “Oh, okay.” nodded Scott happily “I’m pleased to meet you, sir.” he smiled saluting crisply.
    “Ah don’t worry about that, just call me Dave.”
    “Alright… Dave.” Scott nodded surprised by his informality. “So, what is this project exactly?”
    “We’ll talk in the on the way there, grab the other end of this end table.” Dave answered, picking up one end of a long end table and placing it over his head.
    “Okay I-What? Why?” Scott asked perplexed.
    “Just do it, keep your head low and run as fast as you can behind me.” Dave answered
    “Uh…alright.” said Scott as he picked up the table figuring he’d take Dave’s word for it for now.
    They walked to the door and Scott suddenly knew why. Outside the window he saw hundreds of angry Martian protestors gathered. Many were getting violent and throwing bottles or cans at the soldiers. “Okay the Rover is this way, just follow my lead. Now on the count of three run! One… two …RUN!” Dave shouted and the two hurried out using the end table to shield them from the bottles and cans as he and Dave rushed to the Hummer.
    As they ran Scott noticed something strange about the Martians. They were all very thin and sickly looking. It didn’t seem to be from lack of food. They were all just very scrawny for some reason. Now to be fair Scott had never been a body builder. He had always had sort of a lithe muscle to him, but these people were positive twigs. They all seemed unnaturally tall as well. The average Martian was about six feet tall. Some were as tall as 7 feet, and he could imagine there must have been a few 8 footers as well. They weren’t inhumanly out of proportion, just scrawny and tall.
    Of course Scott had little time to ponder why this was, as he was being pelted with bottles and cans at the time. As the pair reached the Hummer Rover Dave yelled “OKAY DROP IT!” and tilted the table backwards letting it fall into the angry mob knocking several rioters over to give them extra cover as they fled. Scott used this chance to hurry into the rover behind Dave. “PANIC MODE! PANIC MODE!!” Dave shouted at the Hummer, as the two of them hurried to get seated. The Rover immediately understood its passengers to be in trouble and they both heard the quiet electric whirring of the electric motor as the rover took off immediately. It wasn’t driving to any particular destination, just trying to get away from where it was, dodging pedestrians and protestors all the while.
    Dave noticed the windows were still down and since they were going to be driving to an isolated base outside it would have been a good idea to have the Rover seal itself for the Martian environment. Of course there was also the more pressing concern of the multitude of objects that was still being thrown at them. So, with the utmost haste Dave shouted “SEAL WINDOWS!”
    Scott clenched his teeth as the windows began to close. He had almost made it when one of the protesters threw a polystyrene cup of soda through the window just as it closed. The cup connected hard with Scott’s face soaking him and leaving a familiar flat sugary taste in his mouth… “GOD! I hate Pepsi! I hate it!” he complained… loudly.
    “Sorry.” Dave apologized as Scott wiped the fluid from his face. “Drive to the airlock.” he sighed instructing the rover.
    “So why’s everyone here so tall and skinny?” asked Scott finally after a brief silence.
    “Oh heh, it’s not a mutation if that’s what you’re thinkn’. It’s because of the gravity here.” Dave explained. “The gravity is only about a third that of earths so if the people here don’t exercise constantly or use nanites their muscles atrophy. Same thing’ll happen to you if you start slacking. They also develop brittle bones, and since the gravity doesn’t hold them down as much they get just a little bit taller. As they get old they don’t wrinkle quite as much either, their bones still shrink with age but it doesn’t show as much. Martian women’s breasts tend to stay pert longer than Terran women’s too. People like you and I are super heroes here. We’re three times stronger than everyone else. It’s probably one more thing they don’t like about us being here. You know having someone so much stronger give you orders can be a little emasculating I guess.”
    “I see.” said Scott looking out the window at all the Martians they passed, and admiring the city. It was an amazing site. All around him were neon lights and AR advertisements. With all the imposing spires of red sands visible the city had a frightful and intimidating air to it. The sophisticated atmosphere creation system not only kept the people supplied with recycled oxygen but also filtered out harmful gases and pollution keeping the dome clean as could be. Scott turned back towards Dave “So what’s it like here on mars?”
    Dave turned his gaze to Scott “Well the days are called sols and they’re forty minutes longer than on terra. They’ll take some getting used to but you’ll adjust. A year is twice as long and has twenty four months: Adir, Bora, Coan, Deti, Edal, Flo, Geor, Heliba, Idanon, Jowani, Kireal, Larno, Medior, Neturima, Ozulikan, Pasurabi, Rudiakel, Safundo, Tiunor, Ulasja, Vadeun, Wakumi, Xetual and Zungo. It’s alphabetical. Odd months end in a consonant, evens in a vowel. A U means it’s summer in the north and winter in the south. This is the second of Bora. Summer is the longest season in the south at thirteen months with a high of twenty seven degrees Celsius. Mars is furthest from the Sol on an elliptical orbit during southern summer so it takes longer to finish. Southern summer is during even years on Terra and southern winter is during odd years. Martians celebrate most Terran holidays twice a year, including Terran new years. Martian holidays are celebrated once a year. Martian new years is the first of Adir in the spring. It’s celebrated on the anniversary of the day that the first Martian territory: Red Sands officially declared itself a city.”
    “There are two political groups here called Whigs and Tories.” Dave continued. “Whigs are colonial secessionists and Tories are Terran loyalists. You know like during the revolution? Anyway the violent Whig movement is divided into two camps: Skinners and Free Mars. Free Mars is an intercolonial urban guerilla group that operates in the Arcologies. They attack government buildings and such. The Skinners are far more brutal. They’re bandits that operate in the deep desert attacking anyone who comes with in reach. Make sure they don’t get a hold of you or you’ll loose your hair.”
    “Loose my hair?” Scott asked.
    Dave mouthed a slushing noise as he drew his thumb across his forehead.
    “Jesus Christ!” Scott cried in shock.
    “It’s a brutal world on Mars.” Sighed Dave stoically. “If you ever find your’ self surrounded by skinners don’t bother ejecting. Wait one a second I want to get the weather before we leave the biodome.” Captain Murphy flipped on the audioplayer and quickly downloaded the weather report.
    It soon played for all to hear “Good morning it’s the second of Bora and there’s an X-1 class solar flare erupting on Sol so radiation levels will reach dangerous highs today. If you must leave the safety of your biodome make sure you have magnetic shields and a rad suit. Temperatures are expected to rise to a high of twenty degrees Celsius today, and in other news...” There was no mention of wind or rain. It was nothing like the weather in LA.
    “Well be fine. The rover has mag shields.” Dave said to avoid any worry on Scott’s part.
    “Hey Dave, exactly what is this steel titan project?” Scott finally asked.
    “Well Scott unfortunately no one can be told what steel titan is, you have to see it for your self… Well actually I guess I can, but if I tell you you’ll just think I’m makeing it up to haze you and you’ll get pissed.” Dave laughed “Suffice to say that this is going to revolutionize armored combat tactics and vehicle design.” explained Dave. “They’re calling it the third revolution in the history of tactics.”
    “The third revolution?” Scott asked, he knew his military history and hat never heard that term.
    “Yeah the first two were the Stirrup and computer.” Dave said.
    “Oh” Scott said “I suppose I would have included the machine gun in that list. Anyway, I kind of pictured this project as a flying VTOL tank because they said they needed someone who could pilot both.”
    Dave laughed. “No, No. I mean I guess it can fly and it does act as front line combat vehicle, but it’s not a tank. The Chrysler M-1 Bigfoot is something completely Revolutionary. It’s not a new version of something that exists now. Nothing like it’s ever been used in combat before. The project itself is complete. They started work on it at the beginning of the cold war ten years ago. They’re going to declassify it in a few months. Now they’re just testing to see how different pilots adapt to it. You I and the rest of the team are going to be the first ones to learn to use it. It’ll be up to us to train a whole new generation of pilots. To handle this thing properly you’ll need to have an Data-jack installed though.” he explained pointing to a little metal circle that rimmed a hole in his temple; an input socket.
    The Data-jack was an implant that went directly into the brain (specifically the motor strip), much like a weapon-chip. It was an outlet that one would plug a wire into. Someone could use it to link themselves into a vehicle much in the same way a soldier used a weapon-chip to plug himself into his fire arm. It allowed information to be sent to the pilot as well as back into a vehicle. It made them one. When a driver jacked himself into a car he could avoid a pothole in the road on reflex.
    “What!? No one told me that! I don’t want one of those things in my head! Do I really need it to pilot the Bigfoot?” protested Scott
    “Well you don’t need it but you have to have one to use this thing at its fullest capability. I’m surprised you don’t have one already being a chopper pilot and a tanker.” Dave observed.
    “Well like I said I didn’t want one and it’s against the law to force anyone to receive an implant, too invasive.” Scott acknowledged.
    “Well that was during a time of peace. They want to see just what this thing can do. Besides, I hear they’re going to start requiring them to keep the army strong in case there’s a war. Implants will keep you alive where you would otherwise be killed. When you think about it that way the small sacrifice of getting a piece of electronics put into your brain is nothing compared to being killed in combat. I’m not gonna waste my breath on this though. I mean I would tell you to stop being such a little wuss, but I think you’ll gleefully hop on that operating table once you get a look at the big foot.” said Dave.
    “Destroying healthy tissue for an unnecessary improvement seems so unnatural though. I don’t want to be a freak.” Scott protested.
    “What’s worse, destroying healthy tissue for an unnecessary improvement or forgoing self improvement in the name of vanity?” asked Dave.
    “Alright I guess you have a point. So, what’s so special about it anyway?” Scott asked.
    “Well, the thing that really makes it so L33t is its Autoflex computer. The AFC allows this thing to perform actions on its own, like a reflex or autoflex as the techs like to call it. Combine that with the fact that its so nimble and the thing can dodge bullets.” Dave explained.
    “So? What’s the big deal? Helicopters and fighters can already do that.” asked Scott.
    “Yeah but this is a ground combat vehicle, and the kicker is it’s as heavily armored as a tank-well a light to medium tank but a tank never the less. You’d need a rapid fire anti tank weapon to put this puppy down.” Dave bragged.
    “Wow.” marveled Scott. “I can’t wait to see it. So this auto flex computer, it controls your actions?”
    “Partially but it also obeys your commands.” joked Dave in his best nasal British accent.
    Scott laughed at that joke. Dave smiled “Now we also started a tradition of Christening our machines like the fighter pilots in world war two. This also acts as our call sign in the field.” My Bigfoot is called Broadway. What are you gonna call your s?”
    “Hmmm” Scott pondered this for a moment. “Legatus…”
    The two got to know each other for the rest of the ride as they left the biodome and drove about seventy miles into the middle of no where, surrounded by desert. The trip took about two hours.
    “So why’d you join the project?” Scott asked.
    “I’m what they’d call anti social. I don’t like people and they don’t like me. The only reason I ever made Captain is because I know how to fake it in front of the big wigs.” Dave explained. “Out here there are less people plus this thing is really l33t trust me.”
    Finally Scott saw a small military base in the middle of the rolling red deserts of Arabia Terra.
    “This is area 2342. It replaced the old area 6413 base.” explained Dave. 6413 had become about as secret as area 51 which was long ago sold to the people of Nevada to be turned into an air and space museum- really pumped up their economy too. No one would ever suspect a military base on mars though. The big difference between area 2342 and areas 51 and 6413 was that 2342 actually was built under the ground. It needed to be environmentally sealed so it would have made sense to build it mostly underground.
    Scott and Dave drove into a ramp that went down into the base. As they passed through an airlock the duo came up to a road block manned by a fully armed infantryman. “ID please sir.” He said in a polite but commanding voice.
    “Sure thing, Jimmy.” responded Dave, as he sent the electronic ID to the infantryman. Scott did the same. By now their security clearance account would have been upgraded by computer to top-secret in regard to the Steel Titan project.
    The young private checked them both on his computer and cleared them to go through. “Alright sir, go ahead.”
    “Thanks Jimmy.” said Dave as they drove by.
    Dave drove into the parking garage as three members of the team appeared to greet Scott. One of them was a colonel, a handsome clean shaven man that appeared to be in his 30’s but with modern medical Leonozation science he could be 300 and look 20. He was possessed of slate eyes and black hair which had begun to go grey around his side burns. The man was dressed in a proper Colonel’s fatigues: green dress pants shirt and tie as well as a dark green overcoat that came down to his knees. Like Captain Murphy he had a data jack residing in his temple. “At ease, Lieutenant Baker I’m Colonel McClellan.” he said in a deep voiced Texan accent returning the salute.
    “Thank you sir I’m pleased to meet you.” nodded Scott.
    “The colonel is the one who laid the foundation for the big foot. This whole project was his brain child.”
    McClellan laughed. “Well to tell you the truth I’m considered something of a pariah because of my support for the big foot. I’ve been the laughing stock of the black budget community cause this seems so ridiculous. If I weren’t so chummy with the president I never would have gotten funding. Now my dream has been made a reality and if they could see the big foot now they wouldn’t be laughing.” McClellan said.
    Scott nodded turning to another man, a 1st Lieutenant like himself. He was tall and lean, and pretty scrawny. “You’re a Martian.” guessed Scott.
    “Yeah.” he laughed “I’m Mark. I was born here but I went to college at West Point. Had a hell of a time passing the physicals and getting used to the gravity on Terra, I needed to use nano therapy to adjust but it was well worth it. After I joined up I came back here to be a test pilot.” Scott now noticed mark was a little better built than most Martians he’d seen. He must have put more effort into keeping fit.
    Scott turned to the last one a 50 year old bald civilian with glasses dressed in gaudy tourist clothes and a white lab coat. “I’m Jeffery Chase. Pleased to meet you. I’m the lead engineer. I work for DaimlerChrysler. We’re the one’s designing the M-1 Bigfoot that you’ll help us test.” He explained.
    “Pleased to meet you all” said Scott “So um what exactly is this thing that I’m supposed to be working on anyway?” he asked as all eyes drifted to Dave.
    “Uh I haven’t told him yet. I didn’t think he’d believe me.” advised Dave.
    “Oh well I suppose you’re eager to see your new mount eh captain?” asked the Colonel.
    “Oh right this way, you’re gonna love this.” said Jeffery leading them down a ramp to the hanger bay doors. He slid his comp card through a security reader and it opened the doors for them.
    “Wait till you see this.” Dave promised.
    As the doors slid open Scott walked into the hangar. His jaw instantly dropped and his eyes seemed to pop out of his head as they scrolled upward surveying the shape of the gargantuan behemoth that towered over him, casting a looming shadow across the hanger. “What the Hell?”…

  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt

    Re: Operator critique

    Get rid of the prologue.

  3. #3

    Re: Operator critique

    Wow. You've got almost 8,000 words of nothing but world-building and backstory. And it's not very compelling prose. I suggest you dump it all and get to the conflict.


  4. #4
    Robert MacDermant

    Re: Operator critique

    yeah in redreading I was afraid of that I'll revise it...I have to keep the prologue though. I can loose any other back story but that is crucial. I also think I should keep the part about life on Mars. What do you think?

  5. #5

    Re: Operator critique

    I also think I should keep the part about life on Mars. What do you think?

    If you show life on Mars--e.g., soldiers girding themselves for the hostile atmosphere, joking how one slip-up and a guy could get sucked out through his face plate (or whatever, I don't write SF)--the reader won't need you to tell him about life on Mars.

    Write the following on a sticky and post it above your terminal: SHOW the story.

    Good luck.

  6. #6
    Robert MacDermant

    Re: Operator critique

    thanks for the advice

    (actually you'd be surprised about how little people know about the martian calendar) ...I actually just had an inspired idea though...inspired i say!!!...hey wait it was...by you guys....I'm meant more about martian politics and such but now I had a better Idea...they could get attacked by skinners in the first chapter!!!! open with a fire fight!!!! What do you think?

  7. #7
    C DyVanc

    Re: Operator critique


    Although sci-fi is not my strong point in writing (there are several sci-fi shows and movies I am very fond of, though) I believe that if you want this book to get off to a running start and pull the reader in from the beginning, use the battle sequence to open.

    Keep the prologue.

    Maybe you could start the book with the first chapter (the way I worded that sounds stupid *START WITH THE FIRST CHAPTER*, but I mean the chapter after the prologue), cut to the prologue after that, and then begin into the book again. I find that to always be a good hook for me. DIFFERENT people will probably feel DIFFERENTly, though. That's just my opinion.

    Good luck.

    I haven't written for a while.

    It's good to be back...


  8. #8
    Robert MacDermant

    Re: Operator critique

    okay so you think I should have the first scene be a battle ala star wars?....hmmm maybe I could have it start with a free mars bombing. Then go into the prologue to explain what just happened.

  9. #9
    Robert MacDermant

    Re: Operator critique

    okay so you think I should have the first scene be a battle ala star wars?.... The thing is the wars haven't begun yet...they're about to begin so I have to find a way to include minor violence. hmmm maybe I could have it start with a free mars bombing not introducing any major characters but just a fire fight. Then go into the prologue to explain whats going on.

  10. #10
    Smiling Curmudgeon

    Re: Operator critique

    Some comments, Robert.

    Learn to use apostrophes where needed.

    Learn how to punctuate dialogue.

    Lose the prologue. I realize from your replies above that you're convinced it's vital. Lose it anyway. Work that background into the story.

    Your chapter is way too much tell, way too little show. Perhaps the idea about starting with a battle will help. Even then, work on showing when you get back to the material in chapter 1.

    Some of the writing is a mouthful (keyboardful). For instance, "A year is twice as long and has twenty four months: Adir, Bora, Coan, Deti, Edal, Flo, Geor, Heliba, Idanon, Jowani, Kireal, Larno, Medior, Neturima, Ozulikan, Pasurabi, Rudiakel, Safundo, Tiunor, Ulasja, Vadeun, Wakumi, Xetual and Zungo." The rest of that paragraph is also nearly all data dump. Work it into the story.

    Hope this helps.


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