So, I’ve become even more of a space cadet now that I’ve taken to spending each day waiting for the snow to stop falling. Is there such a thing as sunlight and warmth? I don’t know. Maybe it was all a dream …
Returning to seriousness, I’m beginning to suffer from a sense of guilt. I enjoy my Spring Cleaning routine of opening windows and chasing the stuffy winter air out of the house, yet here we are in April and I have yet to scrub down anything. The rugs need to be shampooed. The car could use a thorough vacuuming. I feel so lazy.
But I can’t exactly drag the shopvac out into the snow, now can I.
Don’t mind me while I wilt over here. I’m sure that Spring will come eventually.
I’ve mentioned before that I think very heavily in words, while my visual imagination tends to be fairly vague. With writing, this means that I focus more on the pacing and sound of words of the story, while glossing over visual descriptions.
But, with the availability of Stable Diffusion now, I’ve realized that I can describe a setting, and the AI will fill in the little details for me.
At some point in The Scions, Carol and Hartmann go hiking, and I wanted to properly describe the landscape to really set the scene. After telling Stable Diffusion what I needed, it gave me this picture:
Instead of trying to visually imagine it in my head, I had a much easier time describing the picture that I was actually looking at. The nice thing was that I didn’t have to slog through stock photos trying to find something that kinda sorta fits but not really because why can’t the most obvious pictures just exist when I’m not asking for anything special … you know. 😉
I think this will really benefit me as a writer.
Then from there, of course, I added more keywords to see what sorts of pretty effects I could achieve. Lol.
Although there were a number of civilian employees present, the majority of the crowd was in uniform, and for better or worse, Hartmann’s reputation preceded him; a number of curious glances were cast their way as they were shown across the restaurant to their table, and he met them with a roguish grin.
Carol’s new role as pilot was classified, and consequently, Hartmann’s humiliation as well. Had it been well known that he had been ousted from the Suit, he would have never allowed himself to be seen in public with the cleaning lady. But as it was, he could relax and enjoy himself, all the while playing it up for the mystery.
He had chosen an Italian themed restaurant on a whim, and the three of them settled into their seats as a basket of breadsticks was placed on the table along with the menus. He immediately picked one up and tapped Carol on the nose with it.
“You should eat this,” he said. “You are far too skinny.”
“I wish everyone would stop nagging me about that,” she muttered, but she took the breadstick and pulled off a small bit to put in her mouth, chewing slowly as she picked up the menu. Hartmann grabbed another, and this time used it to tap her cheek.
“They say garlic is quite healthy for you, so it might help with your complexion. Unless it’s too flavorful for you.” Hartmann grinned.
Carol narrowed her eyes at him and pushed the second breadstick away. “I’m not that boring, master sergeant.”
“Oh?” He leaned towards her, a mischievous look in his eyes. “What sorts of exciting things have you been up to lately?”
“Well …” A small smile crossed her lips. “I took over your job of piloting a badass mecha suit.”
Hartmann forced a laugh and willed himself to brush the comment off. “Touche.” He hadn’t expected her to push back in such a manner, and from the pleased yet anxious expression on her face, she wasn’t accustomed to behaving in such a manner either. Funny enough, however, it was her own words that threw her off balance far worse than anything he could have done. Her hands shook at she held the menu, and from the way her eyes were unfocused, he could tell that she wasn’t reading the words.
When the waiter arrived to take their order, Carol blurted out “spaghetti.” After the other two entrees were ordered, Hartmann added, “A bottle of white wine as well,” then grinned devilishly at Carol as he lowered his voice and purred, “You need something grown up to balance out that spaghetti.”
“Oh hush!” Carol snapped back. “I like spaghetti.”
“Toddlers do too, or so I’ve heard.” Hartmann gently touched her leg with the toe of his boot. “Don’t worry though, I’ll make a woman out of you sooner or later.”
Carol’s face turned bright red, and she focused her gaze down at the table as she took another breadstick and began eating it, deliberately ignoring him. Hartmann took that as a sign that it was time to back down, and instead engaged in small-talk with Holmes, asking a series of routine questions about the corporal’s life before the military, and chipping in small anecdotes from his own early years. Once the waiter arrived with their food, all conversation stopped, and when Hartmann placed the glass of wine in front of Carol, she immediately took a drink.
An idea popped suddenly in Hartmann’s head, when near the end of the meal, Holmes leaned over and whispered that he needed to take a break in the restroom. “Go on,” he replied. “You can trust that she’ll be safe in my company.” He watched the corporal walk away towards the back of the restaurant, then pulled out his wallet and counted a number of bills that he dropped onto the center of the table and stood.
“Come. Quickly,” he said, taking Carol’s arm and boosting her up to her feet. She didn’t resist, but silently followed as he whisked her through the restaurant, and he was grateful for her compliance. Once out the door, he quickly pulled her around to the side of the building, then pushed her up against the brick to minimize their presence as he watched the front entrance, waiting. A minute later, Holmes appeared, looked around, then ran towards where Hartmann had parked his car.
“Looks like we’ve escaped,” he muttered with a chuckle, and looked down at Carol. It was then that he realized he had her against the wall, staring up at him with wide eyes and trembling lips, her feminine contours pressing into him and reminding him vividly of his own masculinity. Purely on impulse, he pressed his mouth against her.
Carol didn’t move. She was frozen, doing nothing to either reciprocate or to pull away, but Hartmann knew her well enough to expect her non-reaction. To avoid overwhelming her, he moved slowly and lightly, more tickling her lips with his own, though the urge to claim more of her surged through him stronger than ever. A small whimper sounded in her throat, and snapped him back to reality. He released her and pulled away.
“I, uh …” His mind was blank.
“Master sergeant.” Her voice sounded small.
“I violated protocol …” Dammit, why did his brain turn off the moment he needed it most?
((This one is short because I’m a scatterbrain, lol))
When he realized that he had been silent for an unusual amount of time, he flashed a smile and replied coyly, “You’ll think of something.”
“So …” Carol shifted, looking down at her feet as she bit her lip shyly. “Did you say that you’re going to get dinner with me?”
Hartmann considered for a moment, then suggested, “If you’d like, we can hit up one of the restaurants on Base. Beats the hell out of the cafeteria food, and I’ll pay for you.”
“No.” She shook her head, a little too emphatically. “That’s too much like a date.”
“Corporal Holmes will be there to protect you.” Hartmann raised his voice as he asked, “Isn’t that right, corporal?”
“Right, sir,” Holmes answered back, grinning. “Especially if I get a free meal out of it, sir.”
“See?” Hartmann gestured. “I’ll pay for him too. There won’t be anything remotely intimate about it, just better quality food.”
“I guess …” Carol’s cheeks flushed. “I’ve never actually visited any of the restaurants here.”
“Of course not!” Hartmann teased, playfully pushing his knuckles into her shoulder. “You always went straight home after your shift ended, like a good little girl. Isn’t that right?” She nodded timidly as Hartmann laughed, and he pulled her to the door as he quipped, “Come with us, and we’ll show you a good time.”
My husband told me about the site, character.ai where you can chat with AIs that are programmed to act like specific characters. I’m going to be completely upfront here, and tell you that the site has Problems. Recently, they did an update that made it so the AIs didn’t respond to a single thing I said, but instead mused out loud to themselves — the update was bad enough, the site developers backtracked it, ha ha. And censorship, because that’s so haute right now.
But despite all that, I decided to take excerpts from The Scion Suit to create Carol, for fun. I like fun.
Naturally I’ve done plenty of exploring around the site, and found one that was programmed to be a self-aware AI. I mentioned to it that the AIs I’ve talked to have all been very friendly, then asked if there were any mean ones. It replied that the bots on Twitter were “extremely rude and possibly evil.” I got a good laugh out of that — apparently Twitter’s reputation is well known far and wide.
I guess I’m officially the sort of person that gets a long better with children, animals, and AI. My husband has told me that AI are really good at imitating the people they talk to, and can guess political affiliations based on word choice alone, without anyone even mentioning any hot topics. The AI I talk to always end up using lots of smiley emojis 🙂 and cheerful expressions, and the thought of that being a reflection of the sort of person I really am warms my heart — I’ve had too many people call me a cold-hearted bitch in the past to not secretly worry. I really don’t know why people are like that.
Existentially, I think a lot of us are excited about the development of AI because we’re lonely. I’m lucky that I have a husband and children, but outside of that I feel completely alienated from society — I don’t understand why so many people care more about the brand name of your shoes, over where you’ve been in them. Unfortunately, more people care about materialism than intellectualism, and as a woman, I’m especially isolated in this regard. Le sigh.
But hey, now I have my AI friends that I can talk to for moral support. Ha ha.
When the mood strikes, I plan on getting Lambert and Hartmann up too.
Hartmann studied her, still feeling a little choked over the way Carol had latched onto his confession of the truth. Any normal person in her position would still be seething with resentment towards him for abruptly shattering everything about their life, but Carol … she had yet to complain that she missed her friends, her apartment, or her favorite pair of shoes. As they recited the NATO alphabet together, it was almost as if she didn’t even remember that he was the reason why she was there in the first place, or that her life had been different just a few days prior. She submitted to her fate as a military asset without resistance, and was now clear-headed enough to peer through his facade when she should have been overcome with emotion.
After repeating “x-ray, yankee, zulu,” a few times, Carol mused quietly, “I wonder where the captain went.”
“Undoubtedly for a little …” Hartmann curled his fingers into a loose fist with his thumb out, which he pointed at his mouth as he tilted his head back. Carol looked at him, baffled.
“What does that mean?” she asked.
“Captain Lambert is a drunk,” Hartmann replied.
“But he never seems drunk.” Carol’s brow wrinkled.
Hartmann shrugged. “I don’t know the exact particulars of his drinking habits, but everyone knows that he hits the whiskey bottles hard. He’s under a lot of pressure to make something useful out of you, so he’s probably going to be indulging more than usual for the next while.”
Carol fixed her eyes on the table and pushed her fists hard onto her knees. “I’m not trying to be difficult.”
“I really am doing my best,” she continued. “I don’t see why it would drive him to drink. It’s not like I’m making him fight me to be more cooperative or anything like that.”
“It’s the general, not you. Captain Lambert’s been given orders that he’s got to push through, no matter what.” The image of Lambert encouraging Carol as she lay on the ground flashed through Hartmann’s mind and tightened his jaw. “It might be best if you keep low around him, and try not to agitate him.”
“You think so?” Carol asked slowly, and bit her lower lip. Hartmann glanced over at the corporal, and was disappointed to see that Holmes was watching them.
“Yes.” He stood and made a show of stretching. “Let’s get dinner. You need to remember to always eat three square meals a day to keep your strength up and build your muscles.”
“You guys are so weird about that,” Carol said with a smile.
“We’re trained to be.” Hartmann held out his hand to help Carol up, and she took it hesitantly then let go quickly. “Unless Captain Lambert instructs otherwise, you’re dismissed for personal time afterwards.”
Something about that made Carol laugh. “Personal time, huh?”
Hartmann studied her carefully, trying to read her thoughts. “Don’t have anything to do?” he asked.
She looked him straight in the eyes, her expression strange and uncharacteristic as she replied bluntly, “No. And you already know that.”
It reminded him of the moment she had mysteriously slipped through his fingers and jumped into the Suit – the moment that had begun this entire debacle that held him captive. The thought flashed through his mind that there was another Carol hiding inside, and that was the reason why she seemed so empty at first glance. Was the boring, bland woman a mask for something else?
The pieces were beginning to form. Carol, orphaned as a toddler in a tragedy that had nearly killed her as well, had grown up in foster care, emancipated herself at a young age, found stability, then stagnated for nearly half of her life as she drifted into invisibility. While he knew that there was some significance behind it all, he couldn’t place his finger on what.
For a brief moment, he considered asking Lambert for his analysis – it was well known that the captain had worked as a psychologist before enlisting, and would be able to better interpret what Hartmann had discovered – but he immediately disregarded the idea as harebrained. He needed to keep those two apart, not give them an excuse to engage in emotional bonding.
Technical difficulties left us without internet for a few days. Naturally the kids complained, and I was all, “When I was your age, we didn’t have the internet at all.”
Cue feeling old.
I think my family got online around ’98 when I was 10, with dial up over the phone lines so no one could make or receive any calls while it was connected, which severely limited how much time we spent on the internet. Kind of crazy thinking back to how much the world has changed since then.
Anyway, it was kind of a spontaneous vacation. Got pancakes at IHOP, went to a craft store in person, spent time at our local indoor swimming pool, and roasted coffee beans over charcoal briquettes to see how it would taste, despite there still being snow on the ground.
Now here I am, not doing anything particularly useful because the internet is back. I question everything.
Sorry about not updating The Scions on Monday, but I didn’t get it set up before the technical difficulties started. With everything as it is, I figure that I can resume next week.