First Workshop coming up in my Adv. Fiction class. would you guys care to look it over and give me some things to focus on over the next 4 days.[5000 words]
I'm very nervous for my workshop so I'm hoping for some help here. Would appreciate any and all comments. Hope you enjoy!!!
A satisfied smile creased slowly over Brenton’s face as the stone skipped across the surface of the lake. The deep greens of the water shimmered in the afternoon sun. Brenton shielded his eyes against the glare as he scanned the shore. Not a person in sight. That’s just how he liked it. For Brenton, there was nothing as satisfying as coming to this isolated place at the end of a long day. The surface of the water was a silent mirror in the windless afternoon. The heat of the sun made beads of sweat form on Brenton’s forehead. He looked at the water longingly. He chastised himself for forgetting his wetsuit at home that morning. He decided to test the water to see if the contaminant levels were suitable for a quick swim. He powered on his wrist-com with a chuckle. Most people probably didn’t even know that wrist-coms even could shut down. Brenton knew many of his coworkers that were dependent on the personal computers strapped to their body at all times. Brenton was different though. He lived for those moments when he could get out of the hustle and bustle of everyday life and just log off for a couple hours. He flicked through the program menu hovering above his wrist. He selected the water analysis program by poking the floating symbol. The hologram menu disappeared as a small tube extended from the band of his wrist-com. Brenton flexed his wrist away from the tube and dipped the end in the green water gently lapping the shore. After a moment the visual overlay fed a series of data into his HUD. The sensor embedded in his retina fed the data directly into his field of vision. Using the tips of his fingers, he scrolled along the pad of his thumb to scan through the data. He could barely feel the magnetic strip embedded under the skin of his thumb. Brenton sighed dejectedly as he saw that the contaminant levels were off the chart. He expected as much since this small lake was only a few miles away from one of the largest cities on the east coast. He knew it was a long shot that the water would be safe enough for a dip, but the sun was so hot and he figured it was worth a try. Sense prevailed over the heat as he saw the trichloroethylene figure in the triple digits! And radon was practically floating out of the innocent looking water. Brenton usually had his sealed wet suit with him, so he had never given the small lake much thought. Without it however, he knew the harmful chemicals would take their toll on his body. Even if he wasn’t affected by immediate symptoms, the scanners would find chemicals all over his body when he reentered the city. He would be detained. The last thing the Citizen Management Organization wanted was to have someone walking along the streets, with dangerous toxins all over their body. Brenton noticed that there weren’t any minnows swimming along the shore. There weren’t any dragonflies hovering over the lake’s smooth surface. In fact, Brenton noticed that as far as he could see, he was the only living thing in the entire area except for a few withered trees and coarse, brown grass covering the nearby hills. As he stood back up, he powered down his wrist-com once again and sighed as he looked over the calm lake without the aid of his visual overlay. The light streamed into his eyes unimpeded by the filter generated by the computer. He squinted against the powerful light, yet felt freed without the computer seeing for him. The silence hovering over the lake was so complete that it reverberated in Brenton’s head. He kicked his boot toe around on the shore looking for more flattened stones to skip. A grey stone caught his eye and he stooped to pick it up. He studied the random pattern of nicks, and pocks in its surface. The stone lay with a sturdy weight in his palm. He fingered it into a secure grip and was rearing back to hurl it into the deep green abyss. He jumped frantically as a load roar erupted over his head. He flopped dramatically in fear and the stone flew from his hands, landing with a plunk in the water. Brenton whipped his head around to see a small group of aircraft zipping along, low in the sky. He counted four fighters heading north, towards New Pinnersville. Probably another riot thought Brenton. He thought about the stench of the streets, how he hated that city. A failure of government meddling, he scoffed inwardly. He imagined the fighters arriving, hovering over the towering skyscrapers. As their long distance rotors retracted to allow for more agility, the fighters would zip back and forth through the rows of buildings like wasps, haunting citizens with an arsenal of stings. Gases, rubber pellets, and bullets, if necessary could be rained down at the discretion of the pilots. Meanwhile, the streets lined with billboards, and scrolling news feeds, shops, and banners transform from a sea of colors and advertisements. Now the sensor in each of the rioters retinas start receiving waves of stimulus from all of the advertisements and signs. The computers that delegate which stream of personalized media gets fed into each citizen start bombarding the rioters with streams of garbled noise. Rendering everyone in those few blocks blinded by exaggerated sounds, colors, and intensities from every source of information. The CMO would initiate these signal overrides whenever people gathered and posed any threat to the government’s stability. Brenton knew in such excruciating detail because he had experienced it all on so many occasions. When he was younger, as a protester he would rise up with his fellow citizens and take to the streets only to be shoved back down by the riot police. After realizing the futility of standing up to a too powerful government that will slap its people down if they stand in the way, Brenton stepped away from the ranks of angry, downtrodden people. He receded into the shadows of a lumbering society, where one was infinitesimally small. He realized that to live as freely as possible, he must live as quietly as possible. Despite wising to the system, Brenton would still suffer through the overbearing media overloads. He would be lying awake, listening to the voices outside his window. His heart would pound, as someone’s voice would rise; roars from an angry crowd would frame the muffled tones. He would anticipate the squeals, and buzzes that would flood his eyes and ears as the walls around him would wake up and blast at full volume, a cacophony of stimulus at him. Knowing that in the next room over, through the thin plastic walls, that separated the grimy, generic cells of the apartment complex, another person is writhing to the same blast of noise. Seeing the sun’s height in the sky, Brenton turned back to a matted path through the grass. He began the short hike back to his car. He had to gripe about the city and its gaudy leaders to keep his mind off the citizens who were no doubt being brutally subdued as he walked in the beating sun. He shook his head to himself and thought in vain about the screaming people. So soon before they stood defiantly in ranks, fed up with who knows what part of living in that terrible city. Maybe it was the putrid water this time. Brenton knew firsthand how bad the water supply was. Deciding that to maintain his life in the shadows, he should join with the people who had the most power. As a tester for the Citizen Management Organization, he was responsible for deciding which areas would be the focus of the government’s meager supplies and efforts for cleanup. Brenton, a ten year veteran in the CMO had seen the better days, when there was actually enough resources to make an impact in the decaying world. The environment that humanity was slowly encroaching on was crumbling under their feet. The infrastructure of the water mains of the city was pitiful. New Pinnersville was a factory city; engineered to pack as many people into as small a space as possible. Every little bit of the city was mapped out in some computer model some where. A factory spat out lazer machined pieces that all fit together perfectly to make such a strained, utter shit-hole. Where did they go so wrong, Brenton wondered. The North American Alliance was slow to instate population control laws. No other country in the world had so many infrastructure issues per capita. With a population sprawling out of control, New Pinnersville was first populated in 2110. For the first twenty years, New Pinnersville, along with the nineteen other super cities that the government erected throughout the NAU, were booming cities. People flocked to them and the population limit of fifty million loomed in the near distance. Engineers said the city should have been able to support controlled growth virtually indefinitely. The infrastructure couldn’t keep up with the booming population well enough and living conditions slowly grew less and less gilded in the eyes of the citizens. After long enough, the façade of the beautiful city crumbled and public opinion and morale plummeted. Brenton drove deep in thought on the way back to the auto-control zone. After flipping the wheel up and turning on autopilot, he massaged his temples slowly. He hoped he wasn’t about to get another migraine. Breathing deeply, he focused on calming his mind down. He just needed to get home before it got worse, he decided. The car slid neatly into a small pod that was one of a long line. The orange pods were in a constant flux, tracking up and down the huge wall. The cars were taken deep within the building with a locator and a serial number. Brenton walked down the pitted sidewalk, two steps per box, to the line of people that wrapped around the corner of the building. One by one they shuffled through a human sized doorway, funneling them through the scanners that checked entering citizens for anything hazardous. The man in front of Brenton peeked over his shoulder; he gave a quick nod, while his eyes flicked around quickly. Brenton averted his eyes and tried not to give the man any reason to initiate conversation with him. Just get home, Brenton was chanting over and over again in his mind. The line slowly trickled into the doorway near a large pillar forming the corner of the main walls. Shuffling down the dim hallway, a slight, almost imperceptible whine grew out of din of the city. The man in front of Brenton tapped his foot as he shifted his weight around. “Come on,” he yelled. “Move it, old man.” He shoved the man in line in front of him, who had apparently waited too long to shuffle a few feet forward to the new end of the line. The old man flopped forward and rammed into the family standing petrified in front of the scene. Everyone stood up slowly. Brushing themselves off, they closed in towards the small room of scanners that controlled entrance to New Pinnersville. Everyone kept their heads down and tried to ease the line forward by sheer force of will. Finally Brenton passed into the room with the scanners. The family, old man, and the nervous guy, all filed off to individual scanner lines. The walls of the scanner stuck up out of the floor like two giant spoons. The semi-spheres rotated around the citizens filing through them one by one. Brenton approached a scanner and placed his palm the rounded pad near the archway. Right as he stepped into the scanner, a loud horn erupted, echoing in the stuffy room. The scanners all halted and the whine grew louder, as streaks of light flurried around the exit archways. The matter scanners were activated; powerful x-rays beamed down and transmitted data to operators on anything that passed through. Brenton stopped in his tracks. The last thing he needed was to get flagged for evading a search. Behind him the line of people shuffling into the small room started talking frantically. “They’re shutting down.” “No, please, just a few more of us?” The murmurs grew into yells and the pounding of footsteps grew as bodies upon bodies merged and pushed towards the scanners. “They can’t get all of us,” yelled a girl perched on her father’s shoulders. Bodies slammed into one another, rushing towards the scanners. As soon as the first citizen went through the shimmering doorways, the riot police would be on the way. A force that was taxed by the sheer number of gates it had to watch over, they usually arrived after situations had spiraled out of control. Past the point of reason, riots usually ended up with canisters of gas raining down, spiraling with the force of the expelling gas. Pings rang out sporadically as the scanners scattered around the room tagged citizens. Brenton was shoved forwards through the scanner. He started running to avoid the stampede erupting behind him. The streets were already clearing out as people in the nearby area heard the alarms going off. Running away is the only real option in these situations. The police always won. What good are numbers when its fists versus guns? Brenton veered off to the right after exiting the gate. People poured out behind him, flooding the streets. They whooped and yelled emphatically. Slinging curses at their oppressors, they scattered from the gate. With outstretched arms, they galloped through the damp streets enjoying a brief moment of liberty. Knowing it was about to come to an end, their arms sank by their sides; their bodies shifted forward, digging their toes into the oil-slick asphalt. They pumped their arms to the growing wail of sirens. Brenton felt no jubilee as he sprinted away; however, he kept his head down and took each side street he came to. Eventually the roads shrank, the walls of buildings growing alongside him. “Hey, you” Brenton skidded to a halt. He whirled around to see a hooded head extending from a doorway in the alley. “Follow me,” it continued. “This way to safety.” The head retracted back inside. Brenton weighed his options quickly; the wail of the sirens growing ever steadily behind him. He decided that he had little choice, he was going to be overrun eventually. Whoever this was had no apparent motive to harm him. With that, Brenton jogged to the doorway and walked inside. Continuing into a plain apartment, he saw a two people hunched over a holo-display that showed red dots sliding along a green grid. The door slammed behind him and he whirled around to see the hooded man coming forward as he lowered the hood from his head. “Citizen, I am sure you have a lot of questions,” began the man. “I can get you out of here. There’s no time to waste on formalities, I suggest we distance ourselves from this riot as quickly as possible.” Brenton eyed the man carefully. A smile creased from the corners of his mouth up to his eyes. He appeared genuine so Brenton gave a quick nod. They exited the back door to a cramped alley. Brenton could touch both walls if he stretched out both his arms. A small cruiser sat in the middle. Brenton hopped on the back seat. He flipped his leg over and grasped the small rail at his knees. The man punched a command in the console and the engine hummed to life. “What about the others,” asked Brenton. “They’ll be fine,” the man replied. “They are off the system.” Brenton started to ask what that meant but his words were forced back in his throat as the cruiser took off, slinging him backwards. His arms shook as he reeled himself back in. After they got up to speed the cone of air was forced away from them and they sat up comfortably on the speeding vehicle. The man bobbed up and around the many obstacles that littered the alley. Brenton didn’t want to distract the man but he had pressing questions. “What if I was tagged,” he asked. “He has something in place to deal with that.” “He? Who’s he,” asked Brenton. “Linus,” the man replied with his soft smile. “Whoa, watch the road,” Brenton yelped. He grabbed the handlebar from under the mans arm and veered the cruiser back on course. Brenton breathed deeply and gripped the tiny handle tighter. “I’ll let you focus on keeping us alive,” said Brenton. He pressed firmly on his squinted eyes. In all the excitement his headache had receded slightly. He sat up straight, letting the windstream catch the top of his head. The wind pelted his head, whipping his hair around. He kept his eyes closed and relaxed his body, letting the bobs and weaves jerk him slightly. Finally the cruiser veered into a tunnel that appeared from a panel at the base of a building. The door closed slowly after the cruiser slipped inside. The tunnel was dark. They whipped along the tunnel aided by the small headlight. The tunnel spat darkness at them till the cone of light pierced through a few feet at a time, pulling along the speeding cruiser. Slowly the tunnel widened and they emerged suddenly into a large open cavern. The darkness was warded by a soft dome of light perched over long rows of tents and shacks. They continued down a long ramp towards the small underground city. The largest building within sight loomed in front of them. They pulled alongside it and dismounted the cruiser. The man started walking to the door without a word. Brenton followed him, taking note of his surroundings. The plastic walls were painted a dull white, bare of any decorations. Everything was sterile and clean. Walking down the hall, they passed a few people who turned slightly to let them pass. No one gave him any special attention. Brenton could relax. As long as his mere appearance didn’t arouse suspicion, he could get away and keep a low profile if shit hit the fan. The hallway stretched and warped before his eyes. The overhead lights shone down with such intensity that he had to lower his head to the floor. Pain seared across his forehead. White heat pierced behind his eyes. Brenton felt the familiar pain of one of his migraines setting in. Earlier he could ignore it, but now it screamed for his attention. His vision began to blur. His smell and hearing became painfully acute. The voices calling out raked across his eardrums. “Hey, are you okay?” Brenton scrambled to his feet. Placing a hand on the wall, he tried to regain his bearing through the searing pain. Mumbling unintelligibly, he tripped forward to one knee before flopping face down on the white, sterile floor. The floor smelled like metal and flowers, Brenton thought. “Linus said he’s the one we were waitin’ for,” a voice echoed as Brenton started sinking down. “We better not lose him,” called another. Then the darkness set in completely.
Brenton awoke in a cold sweat. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as he took a breath. Coughing, he rolled over, slamming into a hard metal rack. A throbbing, pulsing pain emanated from behind his eyes. He scratched the stubble on his face. He sat up in a dimly lit room. Tangles of wires and tubes connected Brenton to machines. Oh, right, a hospital bed, Brenton realized. He massaged his elbow were he slammed it into the bed’s roll bar. He tried to wake his retina display and check the date by thumbing his wrist-com. No response. He inspected his wrist and saw everything was working fine. Puzzled, he rubbed his temples slowly. Brenton worked his parched mouth around, opening his jaw wide. He searched around the bed for water to quench his thirst. Finding none, he flexed his stiff joints, wondering how many days he’d been out. For the past few months, Brenton’s migraines had started coming every couple of weeks. He would succumb to the excruciating attacks and be bedridden, finding that fitful sleep would eventually bring him through. But this time he felt different. Actually rested. Arching his back, he yawned deeply, expelling the grogginess from his mind. When he reopened his eyes there was a man standing in front of him. Brenton blinked a few times. Clad in simple clothes, the man leaned against the door frame with a soft smile on his face. His hands were clasped behind his back. His long hair swung with his stride as he approached Brenton. “You must be thirsty.” The voice of a god, thought Brenton. The man gracefully pulled a bottle of water from behind his back and presented it to Brenton. “Thanks,” Brenton croaked. “I’m Linus. And everyone is very happy to have you here. You have lots of work to do. We need to get you back up to speed.” He paused, looking over at Brenton who was slurping at the near vertical bottle. “I’ll continue then. You are now a member of the Reborn. We live off the CMO’s monitoring database. Underground we have small camps placed everywhere. We live in tribes that travel randomly from camp to camp. Only the tribes’ elders know the algorithms that determine each tribe’s travel sequence.” He stopped his rhythmic pacing and looked at Brenton again, who was no longer drinking. Staring fiercely at Linus, Brenton growled, “Go on.” Linus blankly held Brenton’s eye contact, tilting his head slightly to the side. He flashed a grin and continued pacing. “Since the CMO is always on the lookout for squatters and ‘burners’,” he fingered the air sharply, “or as we like to call valuable citizens,” Linus steamed for a few moments. “We must move constantly. The Reborn work together to create networks. We all bring in resources, connecting individuals in a common search for liberty. Life off of the system means a life free from riot police. Free from a government who’s goal is not to represent you. It’s goal is to resent you. Bad enough, isn’t it, that they dare despise us as they hold our very heads under the swill that fills our streets. That they dare think of their people as chains, when in fact we are the very corpses that pile up to serve as their cushions. They sit atop us, holding our heads under as we drown on their swill.” Damn straight, thought Brenton. His fears, aches, and questions had been momentarily forgotten as Linus’ voice peaked and crooned. His gesticulating hands kneading balls of wrath deep within Brenton’s gut. Linus breathed deeply, lifting his downcast eyes, he brushed aside his long locks. He leaned down on his knees, getting closer to Brenton. “And you’re going to be part of it all,” Linus whispered with a smile. “Oh, god,” exclaimed Brenton, suddenly remembering. “The city gate. I ran. I was tagged. Am I safe?” The bed creaked as Brenton flopped around, looking behind doors and in the corners. “Relax, my son,” began Linus. Placing a hand on the side of Brenton’s face. “You are perfectly safe. We are underground. Haven’t you heard me.” As Linus said heard he brushed Brenton’s ear slightly and whipped his arm back. As he did, a rainbow streamer followed, being whipped along before floating slowly to the ground.” “What the hell was that?” Brenton leaned back slightly. “I’m an amateur magician,” Linus said behind a hand that was poorly concealing his wide smile. “I like to pick up new hobbies. I’ve been practicing tricks lately. Basic stuff, you know; cards, illusions, insights.” “No I don’t know,” Brenton said dryly. The two held silent eye contact until Brenton looked away for a moment. He glanced around, breathing sharply for a few seconds before returning his hot stare. “What do you mean I’m a Reborn? Where am I underground? How are the CMO not breathing down our necks right now? Who the hell are you?” Brenton grasped handfuls of his hair and breathed deeply. He tried to control the anxiety running through his chest. Brenton knew to trust his intuitions when he had sudden impulses. Somewhere, through his grogginess, and what Brenton thought were painkillers, he had been taking everything in. At some level he knew that something was off. It was a subtle impulse. This wasn’t adding up. He felt deep panic; that he was sinking deep into a sticky situation. “Well, since we are starting a new orientation group today,” Linus began calmly. “I suppose I’ll be brief. We need to get you up, and ready so you can join the others. So, I’ll bring you up to speed.” Linus started pacing slowly again, “We have people everywhere. Some of the Reborn work exclusively for the intelligence network that supports all of the tribes. So when our people see riots, by intercepting CMO communications, or by tapping into monitoring databases, we execute. We send out people to aid the victims of the violence, the downtrodden. Promising citizens can use the riots as opportunities for Rebirth. The chance to leave life in shackles, and join the free.” “How do you avoid detection,” Brenton interjected. “That is an excellent question. One that possesses a very complex answer. Thus, we have orientation for new Children. Where it will all be explained in detail. The important points; however, are as follows: The CMO utilizes citizen’s implants to track them and transmit data about them. Rebirthing is the surgical removal of those tracking devices. It is a severance from an oppressive society.” Linus shook his fists as he pulled Brenton along. “Wait a minute. I have a job. I work for the goddam CMO. I cant just disappear. I cant just get born again into a new life.” “Wake up,” Linus hissed, turning towards him with the first signs of true anger on his face. A moment later he stood calmly again. Don’t you want to be awoken? To be freed. To walk where your legs would take you, simply for the sake of going. Not just leaving the city to go throw rocks in a pond for a couple of hours. True freedom. Figurative freedom. Absolute freedom. As a Reborn, you can function as a member of a free-moving society. We are a progressive amoeba, transforming, and transmuting to fit the goals of our tribes.” “How do you know about my lake,” Brenton asked. “We have people everywhere,” Linus said with a wink. “Promising citizens are sought out and when an opportunity arises, we provide an avenue for them to become Reborn. Such as the one you have recently arrived at.” Brenton thought about it. This all sounded crazy but he knew his self ten years ago would be clamoring for such a chance. Brenton reached up and scratched the stubble on his chin. Whipping his hand away, he looked at his blinking wrist-com again. He fingered the magnetic strip under his thumb frantically. His thumb felt unusually tender from his wild rubbing. He looked closer and saw a small red line around which the skin was slightly inflamed. An incision, he wondered. He looked up at Linus. “I haven’t already been Reborn, have I?” Brenton’s chest tightened. His breathing accelerated as he realized that his mind had been seeing how everything was misaligned in how this was all playing out. His impulse was right. Days must have had passed. He had been sedated, operated on. As the anxiety coursed through his veins like needles, a flash of thrill galloped alongside it. He was free. “You have. We could not wait for your approval. With the CMO certain to find you at some point, we were pressed for time. Your “migraine” was very inconveniently timed it seemed. With you unconscious, we couldn’t wait. We run tests on potential Reborn to scale them for a variety of factors. You scored very high in probable alignment with many of our ideals. We took liberties with protocol, but you are special.” “How am I special in the least,” Brenton asked. “I pride myself in living an utterly unremarkable life. It’s safer.” “Well. I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell you. Your migraine condition seems to be a bit more that just migraines. When we removed your implants certain… oddities were found.” “Oddities,” Brenton repeated. “That’s so vague. What the hell is that supposed to mean. “Ah yes, my son. Vague indeed. One of us Reborn was once a leading neuroscientist. A series of unfortunate events leading to his need to exit society, although, I suppose that’s entirely too euphemistic.” “The oddities,” Brenton prodded. “Well, he will explain it all better than I could hope to, however, it seems to him that you appear to have a serious condition. He said there was cutting edge research he was breaking into, related to your condition, just prior to his, er, incident.” “Great, so I’m special because I’m sick,” Brenton said. “How serious is this condition?” “It will claim you. It is simply a matter of when.” Linus looked at him silently before lowering his head. “But you’re special because of your career, and more importantly, your character. We have people everywhere, Brenton. We’ve known you for years; we have access to all of your government-required tests. We have everyone’s government-required tests. We know that you tested so high in ambition that the CMO required your parents to send you to summer “ambition camps”. We know it didn’t render you spineless like the others. That it didn’t frighten you into submission. No, it taught you. It showed you how to cover up what was inside. It showed you how to live a life in the shadows. You’re one us in the suit of one of them. That’s why you’re special. A veteran of the CMO! You can help up in so many ways.” Linus’s bright blue eyes pierced Brenton. He knew those eyes. He saw them everyday in the mirror. Maybe he belonged with the Reborn, not that he had a choice, he thought. Linus strode forward to the side of the hospital bed. He extended a hand out to Brenton. “Despite being robed of your choice to be Reborn, will you come with us? Will you join our ranks and serve a just society? Will you live anew, as one of us; spending as much time as you have left in the hands of a mind that has closely studied your condition. Perhaps we will find a way to save you. Come now, my brother. Walk the rest of your days knowing you are a free man.” Brenton grasped Linus’ hand firmly. He rolled stiffly to the ground and stood on wobbly legs. After being out for three days, his legs were weak. Despite this, his next steps filled him with an overwhelming sense of empowerment. It welled up inside him as he took his first steps as a new person. Beside him Linus gripped his hand tight, guiding him out of the hospital room.
submitted by Festus_Clwnkilr_Krex