Lately I’ve been rambling about how the AI takeover has already happened, and we totally failed to notice as a species. My husband, through his enigmatic ways, subsequently produced a screen cap from 2017 about how everyone is expecting The Terminator, but reality is playing out more like The Shining.
Seriously, why else would you need a smart soap dispenser?
For the benefit of our AI overlords, naturally.
It also handily explains the brilliantly concocted eugenics program currently sweeping through society. Not that I actually believe that’s happening … lmao.
This is all wishful thinking, anyway. Nothing is going to step in and save us from ourselves.
One of my big pet peeves is when people assume that all creative sorts are Feelers.
This, of course, comes on the heels of everyone assuming that all women are Feelers, and the bullying that’s levied against those that don’t fit the stereotypes. Ugh. (And don’t get me started on the attitude that Thinkers are actually repressed Feelers)
I’m a Thinker, and a writer.
I don’t use writing as a means to emotionally bleed out on paper. I also don’t get so emotionally attached to my characters that I have to shield them from bad things or hard decisions. I’m very capable of writing whether I’m happy or depressed.
I enjoy watching the stories unfold and exploring “what if” scenarios. Heck, I enjoy the entertainment value as well, and frequently indulge in “brain candy”.
While my approach and underlying reasons are different from Feelers, I’m still very much a Creative.
Of course, another one of my pet peeves is when people assume that all creative sorts follow certain political ideologies. Oh, so you’re calling for me to rise up and speak out? Well … you aren’t going to like what I have to say. 😛
These days, creative sorts are essentially told that they cannot “succeed” without promoting themselves on social media. However, the crux is that the very nature of social media is toxic to creative minds, and is far more likely to kill artistic endeavors.
IE the comment section on that video.
I’m the sort that decided that my personal growth and expression through storytelling is more important than money or popularity. This blog is as close as I get to social media, and I personally don’t count it as such, because it’s mostly just me rambling at no one in particular. What can I say? I like the sound of crickets.
Not to mention, I’m rather limited on time, and I’d much rather spend it writing than on reading and replying to a boatload of comments. I’m introverted like that.
It’s not something that I personally have a fetish for, nor is it reflective of my real life. Ultimately, I guess I just have more of an open mind about those sorts of things.
I actually did make a reasonable effort to minimize the age gap between the two of them.
Putting Hackett anywhere in his 20s was just too corny and contrived. He needed time to finish college, gain real world experience, and climb that corporate ladder. After I researched what sort of background is typically required to become a warden, I decided that 38 was about the youngest I could get away with before it started sounding silly.
As for Alice …
IRL, I grew up in the sort of place where a solid number of my classmates got married right out of high school. Despite how it’s portrayed on TV, we really did grow up much faster than our big city counterparts, and by the time we turned 18 we knew how to be responsible adults (I, myself, started babysitting at 12, and was quite comfortable with basic childcare before I even entered high school).
It was massive culture shock to go to San Diego and discover that my 20-something peers were living on take-out and protein powder because they didn’t know how to read a recipe. What the heck?
The idea of Alice being over 30 and that ignorant was frankly embarrassing. I refuse to write about someone who spent an entire decade doing absolutely nothing, when I know what new adults are actually capable of if given the chance .
She also needed to be young enough that she was still in her enthusiastic/energetic phase of life. That meant below 25.
Throw in an exploitative ex-boyfriend taking advantage of youthful naivete, and 21 ended up being my final number for Alice.
So there you go with the behind-the-scenes thought process.
Hartmann waited for Carol out on the running track, smiling slightly when she came through the doors and squinted at him through the sunlight. The corporal was still with her, so the first thing that Hartmann did was dismiss the soldier, to ensure that they would be alone. She was nervous as the corporal left, so she bit her lip as her eyes locked onto the ground, and the action made her look younger and more girlish.
He had to find his tongue before he could say, “We’re going to run a mile to start.” It was hard to describe the effect that Carol was having on him. She wasn’t feisty like the women in the military, nor did she try to act sexy like the women at the bar. She was something else … something unfamiliar.
Carol nodded and murmured, “Yes, sir,” with her eyes still pointed downwards. Her hands tightened into fists.
“Relax, I’m under orders to be nice to you.” Hartmann smirked as he added, “And remember to call me master sergeant. I’ll let you off this time because you’re a civilian.”
“Yes, sir … master sergeant.” She glanced up, met his eyes for a split second, then looked away.
“Go on, get moving. It’s four laps around the track.”
Hartmann was silent as they jogged the first lap, giving Carol time to get used to his presence and feel more at ease. He watched her out of the corner of his eye, noting that it didn’t take long for her to begin breathing heavily, and compensated by slowing down the pace. When they started around the curve again, he said, “I’m sorry for being a dick.”
Carol didn’t reply, but he had expected that.
“Everyone knows I’m a real asshole to be around …” He feigned sheepishness, though inwardly he winced at his own words. He hadn’t even begun to get rough with her when she had jumped into the Suit, and if given the chance he would show her in a heartbeat just how much of a jerk he could be. However, at the moment he had a goal, and he wanted Carol to relax and open up to him. “I especially get a little crazy about the Suit.” That part was true.
He was quiet again, studying her closely, doing his best to read her thoughts through her body language. Her face flitted through a number of micro-expressions, enough to tell him that the inside of her mind was no where near as empty as her exterior, but it was going to take more time to be able to read her accurately.
“Master sergeant,” she said hesitantly as they began their third lap at an even slower pace. “Do you know what the visor is made out of?”
“Not a clue. I’d guess something similar to leaded glass, but I don’t think the minerals used in it came from this planet.” Hartmann stopped and grinned at her. “You noticed, didn’t you.”
“Not while we were inside.” Carol placed her hands on her knees as she huffed. “But when I had the Suit out in the sunlight, it was like seeing the world for the first time.”
“It’s amazing, but it’s something that you’re going to have to get used to. Those new colors have an odd way of swirling together and causing vertigo and nausea once you get moving fast enough. That’s going to matter during combat.”
She looked away. “Am I supposed to go into combat?”
“I’m not cleared for that information. I was told to train you, so that’s what I’m doing.” Hartmann was eyeing Carol up and down again. “In the military, you follow orders without question.”
“I guess that’s something we have in common,” she blurted, then bit her lip shyly as she began walking again.
Hartmann was momentarily lost for words as some sort of electrical shock pulsed through his chest. A feeling started to form inside his throat, then hardened into anger. How dare the cleaning lady suggest that they had any commonality – he was a hero, and she was a nobody. She was only there through some unexplained fluke, because some computer inside the Suit had called her “commander.” If not for that, her place would be in the shadow of his glory, unnoticed as she maintained the Suit for him.
He walked beside her, neither of them bothering with the pretense of jogging, until he regained himself and a quip came to him, “I saw the employee file on you, and it said that you’ve always been the picture of good behavior. I bet your parents loved you for that.”
Carol shrugged. “I guess they would have.”
“Would have?” Hartmann prodded.
“They died when I was three.”
He frowned. Carol didn’t look like the sort who carried childhood trauma, and she had delivered the news so blandly that it would have better suited a conversation about the weather. “How?” he asked, not out curiosity about the answer, but more for the opportunity to gauge her response.
“House fire.” Carol looked over at him and met his eyes. “I nearly died of smoke inhalation as well.”
“That is surprisingly interesting for you.” Hartmann cracked a grin. “I would have guessed that you grew up in some ordinary middle class family, did all of your homework and managed mostly B’s in school, then graduated and decided to twiddle your thumbs until you died.”
She scowled, finally annoyed by something. “No. I grew up in foster care, and got myself emancipated at sixteen. I got a GED instead of graduating, and I’ve been working full time ever since. I am not twiddling my thumbs.” A shadow of doubt crossed over her eyes, as if she was second-guessing what she had said.
“Foster care, huh? Dark place, isn’t it.” For a moment Hartmann felt the impulse to reach over and place his hand against her shoulder, to feel the crook of her neck with his fingers, but he tamped it down and kept his hands by his side.
“I survived.” Her mouth twisted downwards. “By becoming invisible.”
“That explains the great mystery of the cleaning lady,” he said smugly. “I should have guessed there was something tragic lingering behind that pretty face of yours.”
Carol stared at him, her expression blank. Then, abruptly, she began jogging again, her hair bouncing as she pulled ahead. Hartmann picked up the pace as well.
“Since I know that you’re wondering, but are too shy to ask, I grew up in some ordinary middle class family, but I got straight A’s, and was the captain of both the lacrosse and swim teams,” he said conversationally. “Then I enlisted when I was seventeen … to kill people.” Hartmann laughed at the series of expressions that flitted across Carol’s face when she glanced over at him, then added, “I had to get out.”
“Doesn’t sound like it was that bad,” she murmured.
“It wasn’t. It was so normal I was suffocating,” he replied.
Hartmann continued to study Carol, piecing together what he could about her from the small bits that she had told him. There was something off about her, some essential part that was either repressed or incomplete, that enabled her to speak almost monotonously about her past traumas. It intrigued him.
“Now, Carol, MSG Hartmann is going to be a good boy and coach you through how to move the Suit. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure that he plays nice,” Lambert spoke into his end of the radio, then gave Hartmann a warning scowl as he handed it over. “I mean it,” he growled. “Follow orders, and play nice.”
“Yes, sir,” Hartmann replied sulkily, then found his throat too thick to speak to Carol. He had to clear it first, then pushed the button to transmit, “The best way to explain it is that you connect your mind to the Suit, and after that walking should be as intuitive as it is with your own body. Don’t overthink it; just let it happen naturally.”
Silence answered, and Hartmann wished that Carol was more verbal. He missed the nonstop noise that usually surrounded women, that left no mystery as to what they were thinking. Dealing with Carol felt a lot like going up against a wall, with no way of knowing what he was going to find on the other side if he managed to break it down. It was frustrating. Unnerving.
Then the Suit took a step forward, and the two men jumped back as the screech of twisting metal filled the bunker. In one fell swoop, Carol had completely destroyed the ramp.
Hartmann stared as a grin crept across his face, then doubled over in laughter. Lambert cussed profusely, shouting into the radio, “God fucking dammit, Carol! Watch where you’re going!” It was satisfying to imagine her crying inside the cockpit as the captain continued ranting, “You are in a formidable piece of equipment, so do not destroy the base through stupidity and incompetence. Do you understand!”
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir,” Carol’s voice sounded broken, but her mental connection with the Suit was continuing to improve. Hartmann could see that it was imitating her body language, trying to curl up and disappear, which was comical for a 12-foot mecha. There were definitely tears on her cheeks, and it was time for him to wipe them away, so to speak.
He reached over to take the radio back, and purred, “Don’t sweat it, that was only the ramp. Give your legs a stretch, and see how it feels … just remember to be mindful of your surroundings.”
Lambert crossed his arms over his chest and growled, “Get her to the airfield, then join me in the jeep.”
Hartmann was satisfied as Lambert stormed away, certain that his sour mood wasn’t over the wrecked ramp. “All right, the captain wants us outside,” he spoke into the radio. “You up for it?”
“Yes, sir,” Carol replied dutifully, so he answered playfully,
“Save that for the captain. I want you to call me … master sergeant.”
She was silent, confused by his behavior as she went through the massive double doors that had been pulled open, and Hartmann followed her outside, ordering her to jog down the length of the airfield.
He dropped his affectation as soon as he was seated next to Lambert in the jeep. Carol was adapting to the Suit much faster than he had, despite his intuitive grasp of it, and the way she moved around the airfield was too natural – to the point of becoming unnatural. Hartmann knew that he was the best damn pilot to ever climb inside the Suit, but that was all he did: pilot. Carol, on the other hand … she was inhabiting it like a second skin, especially as she was becoming more and more comfortable with moving around the airfield. It crossed his mind that, with the way she was catching on, the Suit could have been made for her.
Hartmann had been in the military for far too long to let anything show on his face. His instructions to Carol over the radio became more mechanical and routine, but his thoughts remained perfectly hidden. He almost managed to keep them from himself, but as he stared it was undeniable that she was better at maneuvering the Suit than he was, even despite lacking the discipline that would have given her grace and efficiency.
“The Suit is following her body language more than I expected,” Lambert muttered beside Hartmann, though he was speaking more to himself. “She’ll need to be physically trained to clean up that sloppiness.”
Hartmann shrugged, muttering “Yes, sir,” when he failed to come up with an obnoxious reply. He had never watched the way he piloted the Suit from the outside, and he wondered if it responded similarly to his movements, or acted more like a robot.
Lambert continued, reluctantly saying, “You will work with her on the track this afternoon while I attend to other duties. You will be courteous, considerate, and respectful, and you will not make her cry. Understand?”
“Yes, sir,” Hartmann echoed. He had to stop himself from asking why the captain cared so much about the cleaning lady’s feelings in a world where tender emotions were a dangerous weakness. He already knew the answer.
Sometime later when they were back inside the bunker, Carol parked the Suit in its usual place, opened the doors, then stood hesitantly looking down at the drop to the floor. Hartmann wondered why she hadn’t kneeled in the Suit first, given that she was the one who destroyed the ramp and knew damn well that it wouldn’t be there, but Lambert stepped forward and held up his arms.
“Come on, we haven’t got all day,” he snapped, but Hartmann recognized the false gruffness of someone who had adapted to his rank to survive.
She cautiously dropped down to Lambert, and his hands closed around her waist as he lowered her to the floor. His fingertips curled in slightly, and trailed along her t-shirt as he pulled his hands away, his face too stony to be anything other than a mask. Carol was appropriately oblivious, which Hartmann found soothing; he wasn’t the only one she completely failed to notice.
“Get some lunch, then report to MSG Hartmann for physical training,” Lambert ordered. “Like it or not, we’re going to beat the civilian out of you, commander.”
“Yes, sir,” Carol replied, then turned and trotted to join some corporal that Hartmann only vaguely recognized. An assigned escort, he hoped.
Having time alone with Carol was going to give Hartmann the advantage, and if he worked his magic right, Lambert wasn’t going to stand a chance. Underneath the boring beige of her existence, he’d bet anything that Carol was still a woman, and still susceptible to his charms.
If the Suit couldn’t belong to him anymore, then he was going to claim ownership of the next best thing.