Occupational Hazards: A short story

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Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Sat 29 May 2010 - 20:45

A cartel of magnates seeking excitement have refined gangland killing into bloodsport. They call it a cultural touchstone - the Coliseum is at the heart of Rome - but as the bodies pile up and cash changes hands, the Agency takes a different view.


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

DeviantArt Mirror (read gallery for all chapters)

I'm still working on "Aria", a story detailing Jethro & Monty's trip to the sandbox, but I hope Alfisti can forgive me if I take a little detour first. After "Wham, Bang, Fizz, P.o.W." focused on Avise, I saw that I've really been neglecting Agapita, the other half of the fratello. I really need to get to proper grips with establishing her character, and to that end this story is going to be detailing her first mission in the Agency's service.

I've written about 16,000 words so far so the next chapters should follow on quickly... but I said that about WBFP as well, so we'll see how it pans out.

Hmm. I've heard of other writers talking about their characters taking lives of their own... but that's the first time it's happened to me. It's a weird feeling.


Last edited by Robert Frazer on Mon 20 Sep 2010 - 16:54; edited 8 times in total

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Sun 30 May 2010 - 11:29

Since you posted this less that 24 hours ago I'll hide my observations so everyone has a chance to read it without spoilers...

Spoiler:


He used to write dream diaries – still kept them in a box, in fact, as they were worth a rueful chuckle from time to time. Melted clocks? Fish vomiting tigers?
Salvador Dali had nothing on that shit.
Similar to what you did in See Naples & Die (that time exploring Mario Bossi's past) you offer a formative vignette from a character's childhood without venturing into a full history. It works well, particularly considering the developments to come.

It was indeed a new day, although the day itself had yet to be made aware of that. Around him was supposed to be the rolling hills of Tuscany, but the undulations followed the dense layer of early-morning mist like the creases in a duvet. Feeling anything of the landscape through its cushioning barrier was impossible.
I like the use of imagery to set not only the mood but establish the locale.
The hazy mood continues as the set-up for the duel scene plays out...Simon entering and accessing familiar yet still alien surroundings.
The second occasion had been during a standard freestyle match – Simon had been aiming for a killshot but missed, bashing a hole out of the wall beside her head instead.
Even after this passage it was still unclear to me what kind of duel we were talking about. It all becomes clear on a second reading, but at first it's a bit hard to follow.
agent and client, squire and knight, armourer and gladiator, fratello – as they stood in the centre of the lawn to receive the Master of Ceremonies.
Clever twist on the familiar word here.
– the man had gone to great effort to convey himself as an 'ordinary man' while constantly displaying that he was exceptional. Simon wasn't sure what he hoped to achieve by the display. An attempt to be personable? A reassurance to the gladiators that even the lowly could achieve great distinctions?
Or was it just condescension?
This Georgio character is interesting...kind of a reverse Cristiano, who came from a humble background and aspired to sophistication, Georgio seems to be a rich man trying to put out a common-man vibe.
present before you Simon Coe of Burlington, the State of Vermont;
This might be the first time in GsG fanfiction that Burlington, Vermont has been mentioned!
"We are all privileged people, to have the opportunity to walk on Italian soil." He began...
I found the speech somewhat comical, as if Georgio was aspiring to eloquence that he did not actually possess.
Giorgio's purple prose was choked off by a sob, "it is a tragedy to say so, but it shows us painful things as well as pleasurable ones. This world is one in decline."
Perhaps I'm projecting my own politics on this, but it seems like he closes on a typical right-winger sentiment. It makes me wonder if he is somehow connected with the Five Republics Group.
Giorgio took the box from him, unlocked it with a small key fished out of his pocket, and opened it before the two 'gladiators' to reveal the tools of their trade. Two identical automatic pistols, each with one single round beside them, lay on a bed of red velvet in the case.
"Choose your weapon." Giorgio intoned.
A unique twist on the custom of using flint-lock pistols...
"Load!" He cried out in a sharp, clear voice.
Ryba and Simon both pulled back the slides of their pistols and slotted their single rounds into their ejector ports.
"Prime!"
The two gladiators pushed forward their slides, and pulled back the hammers.
...while still employing terminology better suited to those flint-locks.
"One!"..."Five!"..."Ten!"
The crack of a report stung past Simon's cheek, its slipstream slapping against him with a whiplash. For an instant Simon feared that he had been hit after all – but only for that instant. He turned around.
I actually found myself reading faster during the count-down, and then the pistol shot is almost anti-climactic. I think that has a better effect than if you'd jumped straight into a bloody action sequence.
She'd had chances.
She'd had plenty of chances.
And when she had, through her own actions, through no-one's fault except indisputably her own, had squandered those chances, her masters, in their magnanimity, had granted her one more – a fount of support and aid that was undiminished despite all of the indulgences they had patiently granted her before.
Now, that last chance was gone.
Ryba fell onto her knees.
She had had every accommodation.
Ryba put her other hand onto the grip of the spent pistol, as though through sheer will and force of pressure she could crumple it into a second bullet to fire with.
She'd been given a fair crack of the whip.
This passage is cleverly done...exposing Ryba's inner thoughts but keeping Simon's point of view. I read it a few times over before moving on.
"Vicenzo," he shouted again, "release our former gladiator over there, would you? I think that he's had sufficient punishment."

"On it!" A faint voice drifted back over to him. A few seconds later, there was another snapping report, and with a thin puff of pink mist Simon shuddered to stillness.
I expected Georgio to send Simon off to some drastic, gruesome fate, but that wouldn't have been consistent with the classical aspirations he possesses.
You might have considered allowing Simon to slip into one of his surrealist dreams as his blood drains, just before the rifle shot.
She turned back. "Give me the marker." Ryba growled.
Setting up the rest of the story I presume.
A very attention grabbing expositionary chapter, even without any gunslinging loli's. I eagerly await the next installment!

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Wed 2 Jun 2010 - 20:41

Hey mate, take all the time you want... I'm perfectly happy to read basically anything you bash out.

As for Hazards... really enjoyed the first chapter. Actually read it over in SF, but replying by iPhone is just a pain.

Spoiler:
I think the thing that most struck me about the first chapter is how
you used, if not a throw away character, then a character who wasn't
continuing on past the first chapter to set the scene. I found that interesting as you invested quite a lot into him, but his time in the sun was short. However, I liked it as it keeps the other characters as unknown quantities.

I'll need to re-read before I can make any further comment, but yeah...

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 19:08

I've thought about renaming this story "Are You Not Entertained?", after Russell Crowe's bit of ringside drama in Gladiator, but I think that I'll keep to the original. "Occupational Hazards" is appropriate to the subject (getting your head kicked in is part of the contract) while nicely understated - "Are You Not Entertained?" is a bit too self-consciously knowing and tacky, and it would make people think that the story's a parody of something, which isn't the intention.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by ElfenMagix on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 21:06

I've only read 1/2 of it, but it looks good.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Tue 8 Jun 2010 - 19:15

Chapters Two and Three added.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Kiskaloo on Tue 8 Jun 2010 - 19:27

@Robert Frazer wrote:Chapters Two and Three added.

Epic work.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Wed 9 Jun 2010 - 21:33

Two more excellent chapters, handled with aplomb Very Happy

The cyborgs all had heightened interest in the thoughts of the new girl
while she still was establishing herself, and so the idea of the
"morning dew" spread widely through the dormitories, enthusiastically
adopted for providing confidence and reassurance for what lay in the
day ahead, when previously the tears had instilled only doubt and
misgiving about what had filled the night preceding. As well as
providing a small bit of solace in the cyborgs' troubled lives, the
revelation took Agapita's name around the Agency and helped to settle
her as one of the girls.
It'd take up too much page realestate to paste in that entire section, so that part'll stand in. Yet again you manage to find a dynamic to the cyborgs' thinking and relationships that never even crossed my mind. I think a lot of the time we can forget just how insular (in some respects at least) these girls' lives are, and hence the effects that may have on their perceptions and interactions.

Piera rolled back to stare at the ceiling. "I'm sorry too, Agapita. I'm sorry too."
And so we start to see the fractures in this relationship. I do wonder how the effect that Avise's early mornings on Agapita's relationship with her roomate may effect those between her and her handler. I guess we see a little of that with the discussion about playing the trumpet. The sharp back and forward of Agapita and Piera's conversation through here was good in how it throws the reader off balance, juxtaposed as it is against the more gentle descriptions of "morning dew"...

Jose automatically swung an arm over to rub the wetness out of his eyes, and then realised that he was awake.
...which also misleads us in Jose's "waking up" scene. It took me all the way untill you mentioned that 'Etta was in the backseat of the car to work out what was going on

Where was Adele?
Who?
Spoiler:
The body bag?

"I'm not! I'm not! But you- you- you f... fuuuu..." – her eyes unfocused – "youyouyou flaaaaaa... you flipping-"
This cracked me up. Even in a berserker rage, 'Etta's too proper to swear.

Section One's going to have a field day with that little episode.


"Always read the paper cover to cover," Petrushka said knowledgeably,
lifting up her fork to enunciate a point "you may as well get your
money's worth."
I dunno, the way the media's going these days, even if I read the paper cover to cover I'm still not sure I'm getting my money's worth.

"How was she, any good?"
Straight to the point, as you'd expect.

That gave Avise pause, so much so that he forgot the really insubordinate attitude that the cyborg was exhibiting. What would Agapita think?
Something that I think is in the back of every handler's head, or at least should be.

"Alright. Next." Alessandro tapped his teeth again, as if he was scratching shorthand on the enamel.
Man, SWA handler's get debriefed on everything. Understandable enough though, and again you've found an interesting dynamic between the two worlds that the two handlers come from... and in this case 'Sandro would "know the enemy" better than anyone

"I booked the hotel in advance so I only had cash. I checked out a
blank phone with the quartermaster and my I.D. card was one of the
gate-cleared fakes, too." Avise fished it out of a pocket to show to
Alessandro. It told the younger man that Avise was a regional manager
for 'Associated Aggregates Inc.

'Jesus, it might as well have read 'International Export'. Alessandro winced.

Which is one of the reasons Jethro and Monty generally go elsewhere for their fake identities.

Again though, another interesting contrast. Avise just assumes the organiseation is doing a good job and that he can rely on people to get things right (an understandably very military viewpoint) whereas Sandro's professionally paranoid.

"It happens more often than laser satellites and tables of gold, at any rate."

Monty: You'd be suprised how often it does happen Ricci.

Scattered across the field were a number of simple, boxy wooden huts
with plain unadorned walls and flat roofs – targets that Allison had
been required to build as a menial punishment when she'd loosened her
handler Brian's car's suspension to the point that he'd banged his head
on the ceiling half a dozen times when driving down a street with
sleeping policemen.
Loosened, or tightened? Nice integration of Allison into the story though... and a very Allison response to being given the job.

Behind them, the paramedics lifted out a bodybag, that was not the shape of a body.
Screw you, and your cliff hanger ending as well.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Sun 13 Jun 2010 - 19:28

Thanks for the thoughts, Alfisti.

Who?

Yes, Adele is the occupant of the bodybag - I was trying to reflect Jose's disorientation with a scene starting in media res. Support agent Adele was the driver of the car that J&H are in: she's been literally gibbed by the grenade attack - hence the 'running his hand through mulch' and the 'bodybag not in the shape of a body' - and Jose is physically splattered with her remains (even to taking sharpnel wounds from bits of her).

Something that I think is in the back of every handler's head, or at least should be.

I'm not really terribly clued-in with how this sort of stuff happens in the real world, but I think that most of the handlers who don't have exceptional circumstances (e.g. A&P) would find it impossible to have a girlfriend. Marco had a well-established relationship with Patricia which fell apart because of the demands of his work. While relationships inside the Agency could function in principle, they would probably be frowned upon and dissuaded - workplace romances are difficult in the accounting department of Canon Hygeine Ltd., let alone when terrorists could get leverage over someone when feelings of love and obligation interfere with objective strategic appraisals. A pair could decide to stay together and damn the consequences, of course, but they'd have to vault many hurdles to do so.

Loosened, or tightened?

Thanks for correcting me. It's embarrassingly obvious that I'm no motorhead...

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Sat 26 Jun 2010 - 23:35

Chapter Four added.

Apologies in advance - I feel as though it all needed to be said, but nonetheless this is a very, very talky chapter with negligible action. It's pretty much just a series of dialogues with some hand-gestures to bookend them. It may be a bit dreary, but I promise I'll be ramping things up with the start of the big battle in the next chapter.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Kiskaloo on Sun 27 Jun 2010 - 0:09

That last adjective I would use for your body of work is "dreary". NO

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Mon 28 Jun 2010 - 6:04

Yet another excellent chapter mate.

"The blast must have rammed my arm against the door pretty hard." Jose grunted."But
this is your left arm." Donato pointed out helpfully. "In your
passenger position it would have been towards the centre, not the door."
Jose covering for 'Etta (and, by default, the entirity of section 2 and the cyborg program) huh? An interesting gamble on his part, though not out of character. If he can keep it hidden that 'Etta went berserk and broke his arm then all's fine and dandy. However if Section One ever gets hold of it, including that "Section Two was covering up this issue" it could blow up even more.
Well, that brought Elenora back down to Earth with a bump. Lightly
shaking her head at her partner's coarse tongue, Elenora decided to
defuse Pietro's foul-bomb by treating it as a matter-of-fact request.
Nice to see these two and their contrasting personalities again...
"Why do you think I just use a Mini instead of all those flash sports
cars that the Section Two crew have lined up outside as if the Agency
is a Lamborghini showroom? For me, a dent just adds a bit of lived-in
charm – for them, it's ten thousand euros and a week in the bodyshop."
...with a fun jab at fanon.
They were both quiet for a moment. Pietro burned a hooded glower through the mirror. The assassin was also quiet.
I liked this little mention of the subject of their conversation. It helps the reader to keep the conversation in context rather than just letting it run off into two people talking.
NAME RICO TELASSAN AGE 32 BLOOD O+ BORN BOLOGNA NO PRIOR FELONY
Effectively name, rank and serial number, a good starting point. You've portrayed Telassan really well here. Even without him speaking we get a feel for his personality and intelligence, particularly as, by the end, it becomes obvious that he was in control of that conversation all along.
"But before now our hands have been tied down by other demands on our
resources. AISI is going dizzy from running around and chasing down the
jihadis that wash in with every boat; the Camorra and the Sacra Corona
Unita are going at it hammer and tongs for control of the drugs trade
south of the Gargliano. Just in the past fortnight more than fifty
members of the Finance Guard have been suspended for taking bribes.
Ah, the big picture as it were, we're reminded that the Padania are just one part of the problems wreaking havoc within Italy. It's good to have the reminder as well. I think at times, concentrating as we are on Section 2's particular battle, that we can loose sight of this larger picture.
"The evil fucking cow."
I hadn't realised up untill this conversation between Avise and Jean that the former felt resentment toward his wife as well as his child. I remember you mentioning somewhere his earlier feelings toward his offspring regards Calandra's suicide, but it didn't click just how bitter he was about the whole affair.
He returned his own target card to reveal eighteen holes – all on the
scoring ring, it had to be said, but scattered broadly across it like a
barrel of buckshot.
So is Avise just playing down his own ability here or...
"An update." Felipo weighed in, a little importantly. "Authentic Italian manufacture."...
... "It's the Fratelli
Tanfoglio that makes the weapon, and that's just what we are!"
Columbina grabbed her father's hand in a tight squeeze and looked
towards with warm, wet, glistering eyes – which abruptly dried out when
Felipo looked back across the table to her with an alarmed, angry hiss.
Little slips of personality on both parts. I can't remember if you've mentioned it or not, but Avise hasn't had much undercover experience up untill this point right? To me his personality seems of the sort more comfortable with uniforms and defined "teams".

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Mon 28 Jun 2010 - 10:04

Thanks for the comments, Alfisti.

However if Section One ever gets hold of it, including that "Section Two was covering up this issue" it could blow up even more.

I'm hoping to hook another story onto this very issue at some point in the future - you'll also notice that Henrietta seems to have planted evidence herself - in chapter two Henrietta shot down a hostage; when Elenora's reading the report the hostage has become an accomplice with a gun...

I hadn't realised up untill this conversation between Avise and Jean that the former felt resentment toward his wife as well as his child. I remember you mentioning somewhere his earlier feelings toward his offspring regards Calandra's suicide, but it didn't click just how bitter he was about the whole affair.

The reason is a bit different in Calandra's case. Avise soured at the infant Edvige and has come to regret his decision, but by constrast he loved Calandra at the time but that feeling has faded in the intervening years. More than a decade of guilt, doubt and bitterness over the whole sorry affair has poisoned his memories and corroded away any lasting affection - now that the negative after has come to dominate over the happy before, there's nothing good left to remember, and Calandra's been withered away into a spectre to torment him.

Combined with his estrangement from his birth-family too... it's safe to say that Avise's domestic life is a complete and utter trainwreck.

So is Avise just playing down his own ability here or...

No, this was meant to go along with his missed shots in "The Lamb and the Tyger" to show that Avise's marksmanship isn't superb. He's a good-enough competent shot - fire at a body and he'll hit it somewhere - but he's not so precise as to shoot spinning coins out of the air at fifty paces by any means.

I can't remember if you've mentioned it or not, but Avise hasn't had much undercover experience up untill this point right? To me his personality seems of the sort more comfortable with uniforms and defined "teams".

Probably, but I think that Avise can cope with undercover assignments nevertheless - he had an unsually long training period compared to most other handlers to acclimatise him to the different way that the Agency works.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Fri 16 Jul 2010 - 13:05

Catching up here...

Chapter 2
Avise had been the one who saved her. …..his assurance that there was "nothing to worry about, all perfectly natural". He'd brought her close, put his arm around her shoulders, wiped her face with a handkerchief and blown her nose. He'd grumbled "If you're a cybernetic supersoldier, how you come you've still got all the gloopy bits" as he wiped his hand down, which had made her laugh.
You're really polishing Avise into a complex, human character. I really like this scene as it betrays that the grandiose and sometimes ostentatious officer is well aware of when to dial it back and show a degree of tenderness.
Piera's amused grins while her room-mate had been practically tearing her hair out,
The first hints of the feud to come. Having Agapita's interpretation of the morning tears (morning dew) spread throughout the dorm was a good touch...

Continuing in that vein, I laughed at the brutish way you transitioned from Agapita's poetic observations of the first rays of morning light (a terrific example of your trademark prose) to Avise's letter propped up on the crucifix. Goddamnit indeed.
"Goddamnit!" Agapita shouted aloud.

"Nnnnneh?" Piera stirred in the other bed.
More fuel to the fire. It's only fair I suppose since Piera sat back and let Agapita squirm when she was so worried about the tears issue. Perhaps 'Pita would have been luckier to have Amelia the bomb squad girl as a room mate, who loves nothing better than being woken up early to find out she still has many hours left to sleep.
Jose automatically swung an arm over to rub the wetness out of his eyes
...and the theme of tears finishes up by providing you a segue to the next scene. Nicely tied together.

Giuseppe's string of sleepy hallucinations really strikes a chord...I feel that way quite a bit as I begin to wake up (a circumstance exacerbated by the fact that my job really does have me waking up in a different place, i.e. on a different boat, on a regular basis). Unlike Giuse however I rarely wake up to the sound of a shrieking cyborg. Again, your quick change of tone provides an effective gut-punch effect, even if things are still very hazy and disjointed to his eyes the audience is allowed to begin assembling the scene.
Henrietta did not check her pace for a moment, leaping atop a car and using its roof to trampoline herself up onto the upper street, spinning above the railings like a . Jose was about to call...
Did the end to that sentence go missing?
It had only struck him when he'd tried to shake her off by grabbing a pedestrian to use as a hostage, and she'd simply used the pause in his flight to open fire, raking the two of them without word of warning or shred of compunction.
A brilliantly gritty action sequence shown from different points of view. I like that 'Etta has no compunctions about blasting a civilian...or multiple civilians, that's very adherent to canon.

Showing Henrietta's loss of control and brutal, gory attack from the victim's point of view allows the reader to see the scene in multiple dimensions. On the surface we're seeing how Nico experiences the assault, and his eventual end, but as viewers we know that this is abnormal...something is wrong that has triggered this rage from Henrietta.

Chapter 3 observations soon...

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Fri 16 Jul 2010 - 15:07

Moving on to Chapter 3...

"Always read the paper cover to cover," Petrushka said knowledgeably, lifting up her fork to enunciate a point "you may as well get your money's worth."
Seems like she's repeating what she's been taught. Petra does seem like the type who'd be proud to mirror her handler whenever possible.
"Anyway, seriously, how did last night go?" Alessandro persisted.

"Not while I'm eating my dinner, Ricci." Avise sighed wearily.
It seems to me that for Avise, the worst part about being confronted about his tom-catting around would be to have it discussed right in front of a cyborg...all of whom he considers subordinate.
That gave Avise pause, so much so that he forgot the really insubordinate attitude that the cyborg was exhibiting.
Of course, this one feels that she is only subordinate to her own handler.

The entire scene is very realistically handled. A highlight was how uncomfortable Sandro is carrying the task out, from the spying to the confrontation. I suspect he's thinking "There but for the grace of God go I," and wondering who's watching him. His nervous fidgeting (tapping on teeth, rubbing his neck) betrays his awkward state.
Elio Alboreto had let slip once, when he was a little spaced-out (Alessandro meanwhile had only sipped lightly at the joint, enough to make people think that he was game and drop their guard but not enough to make the attention-clouding fog impermeable), that Avise had once waxed lyrical to him about his earliest conquests, and certainly had had no inhibition about politeness or decorum.
That makes sense. Avise would be far more laid back telling tales on his own terms...but when cornered he retreats to a position of propriety. Elio, for his part, is no stranger to the whores.
Priscilla had jogged up and asked to tag along – she mentioned that she had missed a recent exercise session and that helping to retrieve and carry fired bombs would make up for it, although from her glances Avise could surmise that she was really more interested in getting to know the new arrival in the cyborg dorms. Avise was happy to have her along in any case.

"It's alright, you two go on. It's a nice evening, we'll walk home."
Priscilla seemed a little disappointed,
Another hint at stirrings of a relationship between these two?
targets that Allison had been required to build as a menial punishment
Killing two birds with one stone...nice to see a government office being efficient in its day to day operations. Allison seems to get the last laugh here though.
"Ready, Agapita?" Avise reached down and gave his cyborg's shoulder a squeeze.
Avise certainly has no Giuse-like compunctions about physical contact with his cyborg, which says a lot about the role she fills for him. Agapita still surprises him though, which reenforces how he likes things done on his terms.
Just how much of Agapita's sensitivity was the residue clinging to the bottom of her washed-out head, and how much was Agapita's new self establishing itself and putting down roots in the world around her? And what did Avise think of himself when he had the hope that Agapita was being animated and enthused by him?
My favorite passage in the chapter.
Agapita worked with ambidextrous skill and computational speed,
You once self-criticized your own work for under utilizing the literary device of the cyborg's abilities , but this is a very good example of you doing just that.
Despite the rush of information, though, Agapita was not overwhelmed by or drowned in it – it all sunk into her, replenishing a mental groundwater parched by the remoulding fires of conversion and conditioning, enriching knowledge with experience.
Now there's a though provoking passage.
"Can I have one?" She murmured absently, as the two drifted back apart again.

"What, a cigarette? You should never smoke!" Avise said suddenly, and a little sharply.
Ha! I knew this conversation was going to come up eventually! Privileges of rank indeed. Elio uses the "your lungs are government property" line.
"Oh, no!"... "We should kill him!"
Perhaps they could save gas and kill Priscilla's old maths teacher on the same trip? Funny section...as you can probably tell from my own stories I like the extended dialogues, I think the characters themselves can advance the plot a lot more efficiently that a lot of narration (of course, I don't have your knack for descriptive prose).
One note regarding the Brigadier's demolition of the guitar; you use the word "slung" which could mean either hurling it or slinging it over his shoulder and playing it. From the context it's obvious what he did though, causing a little bit of work for the regiment's infirmary.
Behind them, the paramedics lifted out a bodybag, that was not the shape of a body.
...and the two chapters converge at the very end. Now if "Adele" is in the bodybag, who is the blonde haired casualty? Perhaps in chapter 4 we shall see...

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Wed 28 Jul 2010 - 11:28

No new chapter yet, I'm afraid, but I did have some cash spare recently so like I did for Pied-Rouge I commissioned another title-page for this story, to give Agapita a little love. Treat it as a teaser for when the big battle finally kicks in next chapter!


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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Wed 28 Jul 2010 - 13:04

There's a lot going on...I take it your mate the artist has gotten a sneak-preview of chapter 5.

For a girl with a bloody lip and a ruined outfit (a bit more risqué than I'd expected Avise to sign off on...but then again they are undercover) Agapita still has a cheerful look about her. Glad to see the beret undamaged.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Wed 28 Jul 2010 - 21:37

*Rushes off to dA to see if it's rocked up in his message centre yet... so he can fav it*

Nice, I always love seeing IADM's take on the GSG characters. Kinda wondering what the significance of coin being flipped is now...

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Kiskaloo on Wed 28 Jul 2010 - 21:39

@Alfisti wrote:Nice, I always love seeing IADM's take on the GSG characters. Kinda wondering what the significance of coin being flipped is now...

"Heads I kill you. Tails I kill you."

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Wed 28 Jul 2010 - 21:42

@Kiskaloo wrote:"Heads I kill you. Tails I kill you."


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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Fri 30 Jul 2010 - 20:49

Chapter 4



"Please keep still, Mr. Croce." Donato grumbled as he continued to apply plaster to Jose's forearm. "You were fortunate that this was only a simple fracture, but the worst clinical complications come from unco-operative patients."
Yeah, I can relate to Jose here...I've had that conversation with doctors more than a few times. I guess the most I've ever pissed a doctor off was when I broke my hand skiing on a Saturday and didn't come in to have it looked at until the following Wednesday. The doc was not amused.
"Doctor Donato. It's been a very long day. Now, you are a scientist and I am not, but I'm quite happy to stay as a handler, not as a test monkey for your latest trauma research paper."

"Very well, Mr. Croce." Donato sighed dissatisfiedly as he finished applying the cast and lowered the handler's arm to the table. Maybe Belisario would have had better luck wangling the truth out of the handler, he always seemed more personable.
Good character moment...I can see Jose being very defensive about the real cause of his injury. You've got me wondering if this is going to be a sub-plot to complement the Avise & Agapita story.
Isn't Bianchi the psychiatrist though?
One of the peculiarities of the Social Welfare Agency's onsite hospital was the complete absence of wards -...It made sense – after all, given the Agency's limited clientele and specialist there was no call for conventional wards – and many in the world beyond would even see the privacy of four walls and the concentrated attention of an individual bed as a real luxury. Even so, Elenora Gabrielli couldn't help but feel a little unnerved by the thought of the place.
Interesting take on the hospital. With the exception of Angelica's scenes Yu presents it as a palace of grim technical wonders, a place the cyborgs are in and out of in a day.
Other authors (Maverick, Kisk, Elfen) have gone into greater detail about the more mundane aspects of it. When I wrote about Marisa's convalescence I tried to present it as a boring, lonely place for a cyborg accustomed to communal living. Your contribution...a prison wing...is a bold step that I don't think anyone else has thought of before. It certainly enhances the setting's potential for drama & character interaction.
My question about the blonde head seems to be answered here as well.
"Since when isn't it?" Pietro guffawed. "Why do you think I just use a Mini instead of all those flash sports cars that the Section Two crew have lined up outside as if the Agency is a Lamborghini showroom?
Hmmm...methinks that's more of an inside joke about the forum than an observation about canon!
"Fortunately in the panic and confusion no civilian seems to have become aware of a young girl with a submachine gun running between their legs."
Pietro couldn't help but give a short, dry chuckle at the thought of it.
I laughed as well. Fermi seems to appreciate the macabre absurdity of the cyborg's existence. It's dark humour...but humour nonetheless.
Pietro shuddered involuntarily. He had himself experienced the… mercurial nature of cyborgs once before. Sweetness and light, and darkness and spite.
Great passage here...or maybe I just like the word mercurial.
Pietro shook his head. "Yes, but Mr. Telassan here obviously has a rather too-high opinion of himself to think that he can dictate terms—"
GIACOMO DANTE
"Deal." Elenora and Pietro said together.
Great closer to the section. I was a little disappointed when it amounted to nothing though. We all tend to tread lightly around the ongoing canon story, but I was eager to see where you were going with that...
"He couldn't tell us anything about Giacomo Dante that we don't know already," Draghi inhaled, "but he has provided us with a viable entry point into the so-called 'Gladiator Games'.
...but not to be I suppose. Still, the guy serves his purpose in providing the set-up for A&A's infiltration.
"The concept, yes, although my bare-knuckle record isn't the legend of the alleyways." Petris smiled gently.
I like how you portrayed Petris...clever but with a softer side than she shows in canon. Monica plays a large role in my episode 15 so I'll try to work some of your nuances into my presentation of her.
"Rich?" Petris laughed lightly. "Good sirs, unlike you, my salary is subject to public scrutiny. Both of you make twice as much money as I do!"
Interesting consideration. I still think Monica is rather well off though...Chapter 17 establishes that she and Isabella D'Angelo are friends, and judging from her villa and automobile D'Angelo certainly has ample funds. Money tends to hang out with money.
The maroon ink of the stamp "DECEASED" on the cover resembled dried blood – perhaps deliberately, with an unwelcome flicker of personality from some civil servant who fancied himself a poet.
Great image.
"It's obscene." Draghi snarled. "Squalid squander at its most crushingly futile and self-destructive. It's a pollution, and I've wanted to clean it up ever since the stink of it assaulted me."
This high-minded indignation is consistent with the way you portrayed Draghi in The Long Weekend. Fine continuity.
"I'd prefer bringing one girl back to life to keeping a thousand hypochondriacs whining about their aches and twinges, thank you, Mr. Draghi!" Petris snapped harshly
After her reserved mediation of the proverbial sparring match between Draghi & Lorenzo that seems a bit uncalled for and out of place.
"I assume that you're familiar with the concept of cost-per-kill. At present in Iraq, the Americans are expending three hundred thousand dollars' worth of effort to put down each insurgent."
That is a very interesting perspective...did you find these numbers during your research, or are they conjectural?
Questions were raised in Cabinet about the... source material from which Agapita was derived. A number of my colleagues were," Petris licked her lips, choosing her words carefully, "dissatisfied with the assignment of a relation from a known Camorra lieutenant to the government's assassination squad.
The way you keep Agapita's origins part of the storyline without letting it dominate the storyline is handled skillfully.
Maybe he was being considered for a medal? Lorenzo couldn't help but feel a twinge of jealousy – despite nearly forty years of service to the government, none of it was in a uniform and so he had never enjoyed any shiny treat to reward and distinguish his conduct
I sound like a broken record here, but that's another unexplored perspective on Lorenzo's psyche. It certainly inspires a pang of sympathy from the audience and makes the Chief a more relatable character.

If only Henrietta or Rico knew how he felt...they'd make him a medal out of ribbon and foil paper.

He's your ally, not your rival – and your colleague, not your subordinate."
I got a genuine laugh out of Monica's final warning.

Lorenzo remained quiet for much of the journey, staring out of the window at the bustle of Rome. All of those people, sweating under the sun, living their lives and beavering away at their business; travelling to and fro, hurrying from place to place, moving together and dancing around work, rest and play; sitting at café with seditionist pamphlets, punching out poisonous hate mail on their cellphones, scurrying furtively with bombs in their rucksacks and pistols in their handbags.
That passage has a lot of impact...as Lorenzo's thoughts turn from an idle observation to paranoid suspicion that everyone around him is an enemy. I suppose a life like his would do that to you.



More to come...it's the longest chapter yet and there's a lot going on.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Sat 31 Jul 2010 - 16:58

Thanks for your detail, Voodoo.

I guess the most I've ever pissed a doctor off was when I broke my hand skiing on a Saturday and didn't come in to have it looked at until the following Wednesday

Ouch. I smashed my front teeth apart in a bad fall when I was younger, but I've been blessed enough to never have had any actual debilitating injury (touch wood).

Good character moment...I can see Jose being very defensive about the real cause of his injury. You've got me wondering if this is going to be a sub-plot to complement the Avise & Agapita story.

Not in "Occupational Hazards", but this is a plot hook I do intend to hang something off of in the future.

Your contribution...a prison wing...is a bold step that I don't think anyone else has thought of before. It certainly enhances the setting's potential for drama & character interaction.

Well, it makes sense for there to be a few rooms with locked doors and no windows set aside. If the Agency is pulling in prisoners who are, more likely than not, going to be a little worse for wear after the cyborgs' ministrations, they will need treatment, and there are probably going to be more rigorous attempts at containment than handcuffing them to their gurneys.

Hmmm...methinks that's more of an inside joke about the forum than an observation about canon!

Heh, very true, but Jose does have a pretty flash Porsche in whatever version you're looking at...

Fermi seems to appreciate the macabre absurdity of the cyborg's existence. It's dark humour...but humour nonetheless.

With his lidded expression and casual manner Pietro always struck me as a dry sort of character.

I was a little disappointed when it amounted to nothing though. We all tend to tread lightly around the ongoing canon story, but I was eager to see where you were going with that...

Sorry to disappoint, I suppose I'm not prepared to take on the baddie directly yet!

I still think Monica is rather well off though...Chapter 17 establishes that she and Isabella D'Angelo are friends, and judging from her villa and automobile D'Angelo certainly has ample funds.

Fair point, but it is a truth that civil servants tend to make more than politicians and besides that, Petris is seeking more to stop her functionaries from getting too far ahead of themselves. Admonishments to keep pushing them along and stop them feeling too independent. Petris does have a severe outer manner, as you say, and she doesn't strike me as a minister who's easily domesticated by her Permanent Secretary.

That is a very interesting perspective...did you find these numbers during your research, or are they conjectural?

Completely fictional I'm afraid. I did spend quite a while trying to look up figures, but the only specifics I could ever track down were for Vietnam - I didn't want to spend eternity on a single line so in the end I shrugged my shoulders and put down something that felt about right. Considering the price of weapons nowadays I wonder if it's on the conservative side.

After her reserved mediation of the proverbial sparring match between Draghi & Lorenzo that seems a bit uncalled for and out of place.

Yeah, fair point here. I suppose I just wanted to crowbar in a response to Draghi's remark so that something wasn't let go without a counterpoint, regardless of whether it fit or not.

I suppose a life like his would do that to you.

There's a definite gulf between him and Other People. I had a sense of breaking off and joining another class when I was in the TA, and I was merely a reservist running up and down a field every other weekend - I imagine that the sense of separation must be something especially profound for a man who spends his entire life veritably marinaded in spook stuff.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Fri 6 Aug 2010 - 15:15

Chapter Five added.

A short chapter, and not quite what I expected to finish up with when I sat down to write, really. I was going to leap straight into the battle but it occured to me to add a little more of A&A interacting and hopefully elucidate a little more about their thought processes... and hopefully my readers won't mutiny by my beating about the bush for so long. sweat I'll get to the good stuff next time, I promise.

Another reason for uploading is simply because it's been so long since Chapter Four - I want to reassure people that the story's not fallen into abeyance!

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Kiskaloo on Fri 6 Aug 2010 - 15:49

During my chat with Alfisti this morning, I noted how I felt bad that I could not offer much more than an "awesome" when I read your works or Professor Voodoos, yet the two of you offer such in-depth and helpful critiques of other people's works. :(

What I can say is that of pretty much all of us - and even of Yu Aida - I believe you are giving us something special - the true bonding process between a handler and a cyborg from which a fratello is made.

Carp all you want about Alessandro and Petrushka getting an entire volume to themselves, but really, what did we learn about this process? Not a whole lot, IMO. Yes, we saw more than we did with any other fratello, but to call it even a "Cliff Notes" version would be disingenuous to the little yellow book.

With Avise and Agapita, not just in this story but your body of work, we are getting a very privileged look into how the Agency works.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Sat 7 Aug 2010 - 7:21

Well, I'm flattered, Kiskaloo, thanks for the praise. I glad that it's stirring such a response.

In Yu's defence, I think that he's constrained a little by the nature of the format in which he works. You can and do have introspective comics, but the 'decompressed' nature of the visual medium means that it can take longer to communicate, which you don't always have time for in a serial when the plot's a-waiting. We all have the luxury to meander at our own pace, which Yu really can't.

The size of the cast is probably an issue too - and as each cast member has a partner, that doubles the number of principals right then and there. Aida has to split his time between them (even the A&P-centric chapters had episodes of Claes and Triela), whereas, again, we can dwell on and dally with a particular pair for as long as we please.

And still, let's not be too disparaging about Yu - after all, he made all the toys that we're playing with now. Smile


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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Kiskaloo on Sat 7 Aug 2010 - 11:06

I understand he doesn't have the time, and I'm not really trying to castigate him for it ( I reserve that for th-IL TEATRINO- Smile )

Anyway, I've commented on it before, but what really makes your work stand out in my mind is your descriptive prose. I almost feel like I am watching your story more than reading it. I consider myself a well-read individual, and yet I don't know any published author who can "set a scene" like you. Your use of adjectives and anecdotes do not overpower the narrative or slow it down, but instead pull me in to it and anchor me there.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Sat 7 Aug 2010 - 11:37

@Robert Frazer wrote:In Yu's defence, I think that he's constrained a little by the nature of the format in which he works. You can and do have introspective comics, but the 'decompressed' nature of the visual medium means that it can take longer to communicate, which you don't always have time for in a serial when the plot's a-waiting.
This I can vouch for. One thing I'm finding with drawing the J+M comic is that "character development" work really has to take a back seat to advancing the story. Yes it can still happen, but as Robert said: time for introspection is short. Little moments sure (and I'm finding a page of more character focus is a decent way to let people take a breath), but otherwise it has to work around the plot itself. Yes, heavily introspective comics happen, but not this time around.

Regards the chapter... remember what I just said about giving the reader a moment to collect their thoughts and take it all in? This chapter was great for that, a moment away from the main plotline to just see the two characters interact. However, the way the way that you later blended that back into the main-plotline (regards fitting into cover) was quite masterful. It also prevented the whole thing from becomming random fluff.

And it's true... you do eventually wind up with a decent stockpile of ration packs. Comes in handy when you don't feel like cooking.

not to light a cigarette this time but rather nose it about the small
white blocks crumbled into the bed of the stove and coax a flame from
them.
Ahh, the trusty Hexi-stove... nice to see it make an appearance.

"Ach, it's okay, Agapita, you're new, you just haven't acclimatised to crowds yet."
This is something I hope to go back and visit with J+M: Jethro helping Monty become her current super-efficient, level-headed self. Sometimes I regret having jumped in as far into their relationship as I did. It doesn't leave a lot of room for Jethro to "teach"... Monty's just sort of expected to know... it also makes it a little more difficult to explain what's going on with that particular conduit for informing the audience taken away.

or sitting on a live landmine for eight
I can't remember, but I take it Agapita doesn't know that particular part of Avise's history. In a way Avise gives the impression that everyone knows he was in the Army, but not a lot is known about his actual experiences there... and he's not letting on.

Despite that unpromising presentation... it tasted really good.
I dunno... I always felt Rat-pack food tasted better cold (maybe that's just Aussie ration packs... C-rats if you could get 'em). Filled you up better hot, but tasted better cold.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Sat 7 Aug 2010 - 12:02

or sitting on a live landmine for eight
I can't remember, but I take it Agapita doesn't know that particular part of Avise's history. In a way Avise gives the impression that everyone knows he was in the Army, but not a lot is known about his actual experiences there... and he's not letting on.

Huh.

Reading back, I'm surprised I wrote that...

No, seriously, that quote's actually not Avise's style at all. He enjoyed the Army, doesn't have any hangups about his service, and is fond of recounting his exploits and escapades. Why would he suddenly change tack and be more circumspect around Agapita? I suppose it's because while Avise certainly isn't a walt - he isn't inventing false heroism, all of his Exciting War StoriesTM do come from things that really happened to him - talking about them inevitably does have something of a bragging and boastful element to it. Maybe that pricks at him a little when talking to Agapita, and he feels he can't treat her so lightly as an audience to reflect his glory?

Hmm. I've heard of other writers talking about their characters taking lives of their own and refusing to be written in a certain way, but that's the first time it's happened to me. It's a weird feeling.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Sat 7 Aug 2010 - 23:54

@Robert Frazer wrote:No, seriously, that quote's actually not Avise's style at all. He enjoyed the Army, doesn't have any hangups about his service, and is fond of recounting his exploits and escapades. Why would he suddenly change tack and be more circumspect around Agapita? I suppose it's because while Avise certainly isn't a walt - he isn't inventing false heroism, all of his Exciting War StoriesTM do come from things that really happened to him - talking about them inevitably does have something of a bragging and boastful element to it. Maybe that pricks at him a little when talking to Agapita, and he feels he can't treat her so lightly as an audience to reflect his glory?

Hmm. I've heard of other writers talking about their characters taking lives of their own and refusing to be written in a certain way, but that's the first time it's happened to me. It's a weird feeling.
Ah, I will admit I'd forgotten about Exciting War StoriesTM, though now that you mention it I remember you talking about it previously.

It would make an interesting facet of Avise's personality if he finds he can't treat Agapita in the same way as "everyone else". She is afterall his second chance, his way to atone for past misdeeds and mistakes. That alone, to me, would make him re-evaluate how he treats her compared to everyone else, either on a concious or subconcious level. It also would sort of indicate that he is at least on some level aware of his embellishment, possibly feels a bit dirty about it afterwards but still can't stop himself (I'm sure we've all been there once or twice).

As to characters writing themselves... I think there's a balance to be struck there, and everyone has their own way of dealing with it. Personally I like to let characters grow naturally, with me sort of nudging or guiding the process if I think things are getting too out of hand. Of course that means it takes a long time to develop characters as well... J+M have been around almost a year now and I'm only really just starting to solidify their characters, and they're quite different people from when I first started.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Wed 18 Aug 2010 - 0:43

Chapter Six added.

There's finally a bit of blood...

...but, me being me, I couldn't let you enjoy it without trudging through pages of set-up beforehand.
Embarassed It just keeps running away with me...

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Thu 19 Aug 2010 - 1:21

Just read it; glad to say it's up to your usual high standards. There's no need to be apologetic about the set-up...it really paints a vivid scene & setting.

More detailed thoughts later of course...I'm a few chapters behind.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Kiskaloo on Thu 19 Aug 2010 - 2:42

Agapita's response at the end was excellent. I expect all the girls feel that way when on a mission and even more so after it's over when they bask in the praise of their handlers on a job well done.

It's why I liked Professor Voodoo's portrayal of Kara in Palermo Round-Up using a hanging sign to perform that "flying leap" to take down Hector Demagni. I like to think that 75% of why she did it was because it made tactical sense, but 25% was because it felt awesome. Smile

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Fri 20 Aug 2010 - 11:44

Eh... I'm perfectly content to read your setup as well...

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Thu 2 Sep 2010 - 11:30

So... thoughts on chapter 6. Sorry this took so long but I've had a bit of a push on with other things.

@Robert Frazer wrote:…and then, there's coffee.
I like that coffee got it's own line all to itself. Show's its importance

"I know, but we're going to be going to battle in hours and…" – was it really all that different from smearing his face in camo paint? – "…it looks lovely."
I liked this line out of Avise. I get the impression that he can be quite self-critical at times, like in this case being aware of what could be some mild hipocracy.

"Just wait until we're in the car next time, time is tight." Avise said
as he turned away, feeling obliged to give an instruction of some kind.
Ahh yes, the same instinct that sees you walking down a street in what you know to be the wrong direction simply because you don't want to have to turn around and go past the same cafe or be seen to be indecisive.

"Bit of a warm-up session, eh?" She said casually as she shut the bathroom door behind her.
I've got to admit this line out of Agapita threw me a little. Up till now she'd never really struck me as being one of the more "casual" cyborgs regards how she and her handler interracted. Another side effect of her combat programming?

The car drove straight past it into the next valley beyond.
Four paragraphs of your, as usual, brilliantly poetic prose just so you can slap us with that one line and show the mindset of the man behind the wheel. Awesome.

"Uh... hi."
Agapita waved.
"My name's Columbina."
Haha, another nice little moment for Agapita. She's going in to try to kill these people, but in some ways she's still very much a kid and nervous at meeting new people.
...every un-Metric inch an English marm
Out of curiosity, have you ever read any of the writings of Tristan Jones? This line just reminded me of him.
Another man standing nearby twitched open his jacket, revealing the grip of a Desert Eagle. "Mine's bigger." He smirked.
Must be compensating for something...
Avise looked about him in astonishment. "You mean… people are being killed… for kudos?"
Ahh, one of (what I assume is) one of the greatest luxuries of having lots of money: not spending it.
Hachimaki swayed backwards with languid ease, his body rolling with the
fluid wave of a water-bed, his head swinging around and lolling back
loosely on a well-oiled ball-joint. He drifted back into a concrete
bedroom, when his head slumped forward, and suddenly tipped backward,
shifted by some wonky and shifting internal centre of gravity, to give
him the gangly, swinging momentum to put him against the wall. Despite
the deceptive sluggishness of the movement, Hachimaki's skull cracked
apart like an eggshell against the edge of the bowl as it struck the
wall, and Agapita watched wordlessly as his body slithered down and
tipped onto its – no longer his – side.
I'll admit I had to read this particular paragraph a couple of times to figure out what was happening, which I assume was in part the point. However, even at the end I still wasn't clear if Agapita had actually delivered the kiling blow, or if Hachimaki had pasted himself on a wall through a missjudgement.
But I get it now.
"...great."
"It feels great!"
Chilling, in its own special way.

Looking forward to the next chapter.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Sun 5 Sep 2010 - 16:36

That's actually a really helpful post, Alfisti - I'm going to have to go back and edit a few things in the previous chapter.

In the meantime though, you've all waited long enough for the action payoff, and so I give you Chapter Seven. I hope that this makes up for the slower pace of previous instalments by being pretty much entirely fightin' and shootin' and killin' in a double-length feature!

Reading back over it, I worry that the description of some of the fighting might sound too methodical - let me know if it sounds dull at any point.

The story also includes sections featuring Professor Voodoo's E&M, MP5's B&A, and Kiskaloo's M&K fratelli (all towards the bottom, if you want to skip to them). Apologies if characterisations happen to be a little off the mark.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by MP5 on Sun 5 Sep 2010 - 23:24

Great chapter, Robert! I loved it. Also, thank you for featuring Allison and Brian.

*Allison and Brian's Crowning Moment of Awesome*

I loved it. I loved every bit of this section. If there are any discrepancies, it's that Allison usually uses the Delta Integrale for a mission, not the Corolla (which is more of a toy to her), and that the Corolla she has is the '85 GTS liftback--which didn't have a rear passenger window that could open up/roll down. Also, Allison and Brian have more of a brother/sister relationship. Other than that, THANK YOU. Thank you so much for featuring them; I need to return the favor in a future chapter of 'Tire Tracks'. Creating it will most certainly involve me looking up how to procedurally call in artillery.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Jacen Starslayer on Mon 6 Sep 2010 - 0:53

Nice job Robert

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Mon 6 Sep 2010 - 3:04

I got absolutely no writing or reviewing done during my holiday in NY, so I'm playing catch up here...picking up halfway through Chapter 4

Jean found Avise on the roof – stargazing at midday.
I like the sense of being lost in thought that this sentence implies.
Rico was his weapon, his fangs, his fist – she couldn't be anything more. Jean feared her becoming something more.
The Jean-Rico fratello certainly inspires some of the most thoughtful conjecture on the forum. On the surface of course Jean is hard & detached, but I think it's Rico's indefatigable cheer that makes people think twice about him. Everyone seems to have a different theory about Croce & his relationship with his girl.
what happened to Edvige as well. She's still in an orphanage, you know."
"What are you wasting your time with that? Why would I want to know that?" Avise snapped angrily. "I disowned that person. She's not my daughter. She doesn't know me from Adam, and I don't know her from Eve. Do I care about the lodgings of every random pleb in the street? Well, do I?" Avise grated everything out angrily and forcefully, but rather too quickly to disguise that it was not a roaring charge into battle but rather popping smoke to cover himself as he fled.
Avise attempts to close the book on Edvige here, but for the reader it does the opposite...letting us know that there are still possibilities involving this character we haven't met.
The entire section reminds me of Mancini's exchange with Hillshire at the end of The Long Weekend. While you've said you didn't care for that dialogue I think that placed together with this one it exposes some truths about Avise. Even with people he should be more guarded around he is willing to open up with remarkable honesty. That speaks volumes about the burden he carries.
Jean himself was quiet for a few moments. He looked away, and unconsciously rubbed his finger where his engagement ring used to be.
Making Jean compare the remnants of Avise's for Calandra with his own concerning Sophia is a good touch...it adds another dimension to the scene. One wonders if Jean is asking these questions because of the obligations his position carries, or out of a genuine personal interest in Mancini's struggle (especially as it compares to his own).
"The evil fucking cow."
This line had as much impact on me as it did on Jean.
But there was the memory of Sicily... an empty, dark room – one that was not filled, nor lit, by the glowing apparition that had appeared there – a figure that had nothing to give to the world anymore, but still imposed herself upon it. A blight, an abscess, a drain on reality which demanded that life and labour be poured into it. Jean often tried to tell himself that his vision of Enrica had been some alcohol-fuelled fever dream, an unlocking of some mental insecurity that psychologists would clap their hands and cavort in giddy glee over... but in moments of honesty, he knew that his little sister, insisting on the ending of life to match her own lack of one, quite consciously and wilfully preying on his obligation, had become a figure of cold Hell.
My favorite passage in this chapter...a great example of the complex and well constructed prose we look forward to from you
Jacopo surveyed the shabby brick frontage of the building with a critical frown as he got out of his car in the range's rough dirt car-park. The snaps, cracks and pops emanating from within the building seemed more to Jacopo of the creaking and wheezing of ancient joints and tenons of crumbling decrepitude. It also made Jacopo regret skipping breakfast.
Jacopo crunched over the car-park and into the building.
Feels like there's a few two many "Jacopo's" here. We all try to avoid pronoun overload, but one or two might have been okay here.
It was quite a simple room, furnished only by the usual fittings of a few seats with old dog-eared magazines bearing titles like COMBAT and SURVIVAL MONTHLY,
I see quite a few of these rags floating around the boats I work aboard. It always seems that their most enthusiastic readers weigh 400lbs and couldn't "survive" more than 5 miles from a McDonald's restaurant.
The attendant glanced down at the note without moving his head. He licked his lips, and then flicked his gaze back upwards again to Jacopo,
"Goggle rental." The attendant explained, patting his apron pocket.
This attendant fits in perfectly with the setting you've created.
"The De Marcheses? They're father and daughter, not an item. In any case, yeah, they come by pretty often. Once or twice a week, most weeks. They both have membership cards."
Seems they've been setting this up for a while. I suppose it's no different from what Avise & Agapita would be doing back "home" at the SWA range...just a different venue to get some training in.
The attendant fingered the banknote as he turned away to look busy. It was incredibly annoying... Section One rules wouldn't let him keep the bribe and he'd have to declare it once the fratello had cleared off with the mark.
and I see there's a good reason he fits in so well...he's playing a part.
Small wonder that this place never did good enough business to promote itself into better premises – trapped in a hole.
Might Jacopo be a bit spoilt by the circles he usually does business in?
Both the man and the girl were dressed similarly, in trainers, jeans, and thick heavy rugby shirts.
I noticed right away that this attire is uncharacteristic for your cyborg...you make a point of this a few lines later.
Jacopo noticed small yellow stains around his fingernails which betrayed a regular smoker – how long was that health and strength going to last?
he needed a novelty. He hoped that De Marchese père et fille would prove to be it.
One thing that's not quite clear; is Jacopo considering both father & daughter to compete in the games, or just "Columbina"?
At the mention of her name Columbina suddenly fixed on her father, completely blanking out Jacopo. Her grey eyes seemed totally absorbed by Felipo,
Felipo noticed his daughter's behaviour and shook his head lightly. "Ach, Columbina, it's alright, he's a friend."
"Oh, right." Columbina breathed.
Great cyborg moment here.
"Help me, sir, he's taken me and mutated me into a regular daddy's girl!" Columbina smiled.
Seems very casual & relaxed for Agapita, who is usually more literal & didactic. A rehearsed line I suspect?
– another curious change in manner, she seemed to doff them like hats.
Slipping in details that the audience will recognize as cyborg behavior, but presenting them from Jacopo's naïve point of view is witty.
"So, Miss. Columbina," Jacopo drawled, "you use a Tanfoglio TA-90. That's a copy of the old CZ-75, isn't it?"
"An update." Felipo weighed in, a little importantly. "Authentic Italian manufacture."
"That's important to you too, Columbina?" Jacopo carried on smoothly. "Do you prefer it, or is it just what's available?"
A small detail that distinguishes your fratello is that Agapita chose her signature weapon, rather than bonding with the weapon Avise showed her at her wake up "ceremony." Of course, that was his rifle, not a first gift to her.
"It's the Fratelli Tanfoglio that makes the weapon, and that's just what we are!" Columbina grabbed her father's hand in a tight squeeze and looked towards with warm, wet, glistering eyes – which abruptly dried out when Felipo looked back across the table to her with an alarmed, angry hiss.
Getting a little carried away there...I found that passage amusing. It also sets up the next bit effectively...
"You want to fight for your father then?" Jacopo asked. "Your impecunious father? Your father who was hooking people on ruinous drugs for his own gain? Your father who's not hesitating to throw his only daughter into the wringer to claw back some of his own folly?"
Jacopo's aggressive questioning seems to be intended to draw out an equally aggressive response...and possibly expose a set-up. Agapita neatly slips past his test with braggadocio worthy of her handler.
Jacopo's own smile was broad, wandering, and condescending. "Assuming that our course won't be interfering with your studies, little girl?" He said lightly.
"It's the summer," Agapita flashed a toothy, feral grin, "and school's out!"
An amusingly understated way to close the chapter.
Moving on...

Chapter 5
For his part, Avise's gaze ranged all around the park with a smile of satisfaction, content that all was right with the world; Agapita, however, was more guarded. She shortened her pace to almost a shuffle and hung a close step behind Avise's elbow, flicking her eyes over his shoulder warily and broadcasting "bodyguard" to all and sundry.
One gets the impression this outing is something Avise genuinely enjoys (I'll have to remember that for my own stories), the kind of thing he'd wish to do with his own family had it not ended in disaster. A good example of how a cyborg can fill an emotional need for a handler, & that the fratello relationship not a one way street.
Agapita, for her part, might be more comfortable if this pleasure before business was more on her terms.
to leave her anxious and threatened by crowds was a glaring omission, especially seeing as the ability to operate in public and hide in plain sight was half of the point of cyborgs in the first place. This was a poor performance from the medics, and he would be sure to upbraid Belisario for it once the mission was over.
Ever the commander...Avise seems to have a "seek & destroy" attitude about shortcomings rather than just accepting things as they are.
I stay alert so you don't have to!"
Almost sounds like an advertising slogan for the cyborg program!
Private Leo Ferri! God! Seditious little bastard....and found out that the Faithful Of Lenin was now the manager of a Fiat dealership;
I know you've stated that Avise is at least in some part your mouthpiece against communism, but this passage seems to pull us away on a long journey that delivers little pay-off to the actual story. It might perhaps be edited down a bit.
"Oh, sir! You don't mean that I'm going to have to do circuits of this park all evening?" Agapita was dismayed.
I got a laugh out of this, mainly because of the prim manner with which Agapita displays even disappointment. A sharp contrast with my (considerably more crude) Marisa, who would respond with a vulgar "Awww, man!"
Kara can play with you like a Barbie—"
"More like a Lenci, knowing her and Michele." Agapita chuckled.
What the Hell is a Lenci?
That reference went as far over my head as it did Avise's (which was probably your aim). I suspect you had to do some research for that line.
"Disguise is conveyed in your carriage as much as your clothes – and that's what I want us to practise here, okay?"
A good line, very relevant to the role of older Series Two 'borgs.
Agapita turned her head to Avise. "Sir, is comportment another word for 'sitting'?"
Another cute line. Although in this context Agapita may have been courteously pointing out to Avise that he is meandering, I think it's important to keep in perspective that the cyborg's are still kids and might need the occasional word explained to them.
"Loaded with calories, perfect accompaniment to all your exercise tomorrow. Not only that" - Avise took the two cans and shook them like maracas before Agapita – "but you get a choice of two meals! Now isn't that just luxury?"
Ah, taking me back to my days of MRE's. To be honest I never considered them that bad, and always secured an extra case for those nights when my mates & I rode a taxi home too drunk to walk and nobody was in a fit condition to cook.
the one thing that was sure was that it didn't look as if she was getting fed tonight.
A distressing possibility for any cyborg!
Avise made an appreciative noise as he saw his charge grind through the biscuits. "Best item in the bag," he smiled, "gums up your insides more than Turin at rush hour. You won't need the toilet for days."
Agapita choked on the last biscuit.
I hope you do gather the money and legal rights to produce "Expanded Universe" GsG episodes someday...if only to see the look on Agapita's face at that moment.
"But still, would he really have military rations to hand?" Agapita persisted.
"Oh, heaps and heaps," Avise waved his spoon through the air in a gesture visualising a towering mound of reconstituted product, "I do too. There's been a fair few times, even when at home, when I can just drop these into a pan and be done with it. I really hate cooking, you know."
Ah...glad to see I wasn't the only one hoarding "supplies."
She settled into reassurance; primed herself with confidence; steeled herself with certainty.

Agapita was ready.
The last passage, and indeed the whole chapter, do a good job of providing a calm before the storm. Avise seems to instinctively know that his girl needs a little one on one time to sharpen her performance before the big fight...perhaps he needs it as well.




More to come...

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Kiskaloo on Tue 7 Sep 2010 - 0:19

Epic as always, Robert.

And so happy to see Kara and Michele in one of your stories. On Cloud 9

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Tue 7 Sep 2010 - 15:15

Et tout, c'est fini (bar a bit of editing to chapter six): Chapter 8 provides a few epilogues to tie it all off.

Over 60,000 words... phew. It ended up being not so much a short story as a novella. I always have a tendency to underestimate just how much these stories tend to sprawl out to. sweat

Anyway, straight onto the next one now! Hi-ho, hi-ho...

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Wed 8 Sep 2010 - 5:08

Two awesome chapters man. Liked the idea of the compatmentalized lungs as well, makes sense.

Fuller thoughts to come later.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Wed 8 Sep 2010 - 17:20

Alfisti:

I've got to admit this line out of Agapita threw me a little. Up till now she'd never really struck me as being one of the more "casual" cyborgs regards how she and her handler interracted. Another side effect of her combat programming?

No, you're right, she shouldn't be so casual. I know I talked about 'characters writing themselves' earlier, but this is a case of me being too undisciplined. I'll adjust it.

Four paragraphs of your, as usual, brilliantly poetic prose

Thanks for the compliment. There's a bit of fictionalising here too though, I must say - I dress up Sicily's past as one long round of violence for the sake of setting a dramatic scene, but episodes such as Garibaldi and his "Thousand" are mostly myth - it's not so much of an impressive triumph of a bonded band of brothers against tremendous odds when most of the enemy choose to surrender on sight...!

Out of curiosity, have you ever read any of the writings of Tristan Jones? This line just reminded me of him

I can't say that I have, but after taking a gander his writings about sailing seem interesting, I'll look him up. "un-Metric" is probably a bit clumsy, but I didn't want to use "Imperial" in case it gave out the wrong impression of literal imperialistic character, which wasn't my intention. I suppose that 'um-metric' fits in its own way, though - with metric measurements being common nowadays it emphasises her distinction away from the norm.

Ahh, one of (what I assume is) one of the greatest luxuries of having lots of money: not spending it.

In all fairness, in police bribes, land acquisition, staff pay, agent commission and gladiator prizes, the patrons are probably already putting a great deal of overhead into the Games as it is. Still, I suppose the line helps to establish the rarefied world, where money becomes trivial so that you don't need to worry about it. There may be an element of pretentiousness in dressing it up as an "intellectual exercise" as well.

There's a detail that I thought was nicely-observed in The Stars My Destination. Teleporting is universal: it can literally be achieved simply by thought, and every human being is capable of it; but in this world where you can literally cross a continent in the blink of an eye with no more effort than a second's concentration, the great and the good distinguish themselves by travelling in horse-drawn carriages or antique automobiles - they can afford to take it slow!

Professor Voodoo:

Even with people he should be more guarded around he is willing to open up with remarkable honesty. That speaks volumes about the burden he carries.

A burden would be right - Calandra is his albatross. Now he's finally starting to cut it off. I think that he's tired of being unhappy.

One thing that's not quite clear; is Jacopo considering both father & daughter to compete in the games, or just "Columbina"?

Just Columbina, although he's referring to them together because they're approaching together.

Seems very casual & relaxed for Agapita, who is usually more literal & didactic. A rehearsed line I suspect?

That'd be right, yes - Avise views Agapita as a "surrogate daughter", but it's an attitude of unvoiced manners (and he still relates to her through the officer-soldier framework) - he doesn't actually literally describe his role in terms of fatherhood. Agapita knows that she's playing a part.

Ever the commander...Avise seems to have a "seek & destroy" attitude about shortcomings rather than just accepting things as they are.

Heh. I just love that word, "upbraid", too. It's just so haughtily indignant.

I know you've stated that Avise is at least in some part your mouthpiece against communism, but this passage seems to pull us away on a long journey that delivers little pay-off to the actual story. It might perhaps be edited down a bit.

Fair cop here, Voodoo. Reading back over it I can see myself how it seems awkwardly shoehorned in there. I do want to deal with Avise's attitudes to The Reds in a specific story, but it might be a long time before I get round to it, as there's a few other ideas that I want to write about first; so, I thought it best to just establish this aspect of his character now and detail it later. I acknowledge that it was a pretty clumsy way of going about it, though.

That reference went as far over my head as it did Avise's (which was probably your aim). I suspect you had to do some research for that line.

Lenci dolls are a line of Italian felt dolls - the company that made them shut up shop in 2002, but apparently they're collectors' items now, or so this website insists anyway.

Ah, taking me back to my days of MRE's. To be honest I never considered them that bad, and always secured an extra case for those nights when my mates & I rode a taxi home too drunk to walk and nobody was in a fit condition to cook.

Along with issue sleeping bags (I've had really great sleep in them - you were never less than roasty-toasty in those, even in the pouring rain), ratpacks were one of the pleasant surprises of my time in the TA - you naturally expect it to be rancid or tasteless because, well, you're in the Army now, but I found boil-in-the-bag bangers and mash to be genuinely delicious. Shame that there was never time to actually eat them, though - meals were so abrupt you pretty much had to tip the bag down your throat like a jug.

The last passage, and indeed the whole chapter, do a good job of providing a calm before the storm. Avise seems to instinctively know that his girl needs a little one on one time to sharpen her performance before the big fight...perhaps he needs it as well.

It's that exact sentiment which made me write the chapter, really, to provide an intake of breath. I did start writing the Agrigento episode first, but it just felt wrong - you don't go straight from second to fifth, you have to switch up the gears one by one, hence this chapter. I also wanted this story to spend more time on Agapita, but by going straight into the battle she was just ending up as a bullet mule. There needed to be a bridge to take her into the fight rather than just dropping her in it.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Mon 20 Sep 2010 - 16:53

I've also produced a mirror of the story over on DeviantArt. Chapters One, and Five-Eight, have "Location" images to help with visualisation if you're unfamiliar with the areas that are referenced.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Tue 21 Sep 2010 - 7:22

Chapter 6
Instead, they breakfast on something sugary, charged, bright and sweet, to set you skipping down the road with a spring on your step and a sunny smile.
You often find some lighthearted & detached way to open a chapter and this is a fine example. It is a little odd that the militaristic Avise would begin the day with such an indulgence, but as you point out, he is Italian.

As far as his charge goes, I imagine pastries are a popular breakfast amongst cyborgs, who do not have to worry about adding extra pounds and whose enhanced digestive system can draw energy from just about anything.
Marisa: Wait a minute...does that mean a cyborg could live off ice cream?

Elio: No Mari, that is not what he means.
"I've just had some limpid commanders flop over me in my time." Avise's gaze twitched away momentarily and he looked at his reflection in the mirror above the room's dresser, a frown shadowing his face.
Priscilla noted the change in his demeanour with a blink of worry. "Well, never fear, Chief Lorenzo's nothing like that – you should know, Hero of Ablution Block B."
Humorous reference back to WBFP. You have noted that you like these continuity callbacks.

"True, true…"Avise bent his head down to fasten his cufflinks, and as he did so, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. "…Agapita, are you putting on lipstick?"
I think these "girl moments" are a great way to balance the cyborg-action. Seeing them behave naturally as adolescents in between breaking skulls and filling hostiles with lead makes real characters out of the robots they would be otherwise.
I do find it ironic that Avise notices her small concession to vanity while he's fastening his own cufflinks...
"I know, but we're going to be going to battle in hours and…" – was it really all that different from smearing his face in camo paint? – "…it looks lovely."
Good time to go with the flow. Avise is getting the hang of this.
, it's probably best that you clear off now – you came to deliver our breakfast tray, and porters in a place like this would be too disciplined to gas with the guests. Don't want to make the tail in the lobby suspicious."
"Well, aren't you the expert." Priscilla tipped her head back.
"He had plenty of time to learn, you kept him waiting long enough for me!" Agapita piped up from the beds,
This is one of my favorite passages in the chapter...3 characters all headed in different directions as the day goes on. Agapita's crack seems to have genuinely surprised Priscilla.
To his surprise, though, Agapita appeared perfectly level and composed, as if nothing of interest had happened at all. "Bit of a warm-up session, eh?" She said casually as she shut the bathroom door behind her. The conditioning at work.
I like your interpretation of the conditioning response here. Agapita is not yet the most socially relaxed cyborg, so Avise's surprise at her calm demeanor is understandable.
Sicily is the ball, or scrunched-up rag, being kicked by the Italian boot ... The potash mineral that veins Sicily's hills is the ruddy red of dried blood.
A very lyrical passage here...it reminds me of your paragraph about Napoli in See Naples and Die.
Sicily's desperately poor rural population saw the construction as a flood of relief, providing cheap housing free of punitive rents, others inveighed against it as abusivismo, construction's concrete imperialism, possessing the countryside with illegal building that could not be removed after the fact of its raising, defacing the remarkable beauty of the landscape – the gravest offence to an Italian's refined aesthetics – and grinding up millennia of buried history underneath shovelling diggers. Developers cited supplying a demand; critics decried profiteering.
The canon background story, nicely woven in from the perspective of the south rather than Lombardi where most of the action occurs.
The car turned past a pair of gateposts (with no gate),
The location actually appeared quite busy – one of the villas was densely clustered with people,
a pair of black Hum-Vees sitting between a Maserati GranTurismo on the one hand and a Lancia Delta on the other,
You set a rich picture of the drive up, but there seems to be a lot of detail about settings the story spends very little time in.
Hiding in plain sight!" Jacopo said knowledgeably, handing down a lesson to the young novice.
Agapita and Avise threw askance glances across each other. "…I can relate." She said, blandly.
Worth a laugh.
the man pronounced his words with a soft, received burr that spoke of fine elocution, he couldn't be said to be anything like a cultured and poised valet; he still had the broad shoulders and the tellingly loosely-cut jacket which betrayed an armed guard.
This detail really serves to ratchet up the tension. It is now clear that Avise & Agapita arew fully "inside" the operation...somewhat cut off from an easy escape.
"No, no, it's alright. War can never be avoided, only postponed to the other's advantage. No time like the present. " Avise stepped forward, and Jacopo's hand slid back off of his shoulder as he walked.
That line suits Avise...it sounds like a quote. Jacopo is also turning into a highlight of this story. All too often we fanfic authors write to villians as flat, featureless characters, making it obvious that they are destined for elimination. You've "fleshed out" Jacopo far more than that.
The sense of hostility and threat was actually beneficial to her, allowing her conditioning to lock into place and concentrate her thoughts, clarify her perspective: sloughing away girlish anxiety and replacing it with steely resolve.
If they were trying to psyche her out with silence they've obviously read the situation wrong!
Agapita could espy a white motor cruiser moored at a pontoon leading from the shore – and, further out, a slowly-trawling fishing vessel where Elio and Marisa, one of the interdiction fratelli, were stationed.
The Agency has been getting a lot of use out of fishing boats lately. Wonder if they'll match Ferro's squid haul from the Adriatic coast...
Even though it was unattended luggage, no-one took any interest with it, Agapita thought with relief – the idea of someone rooting through her suitacase and laughing at her underwear while looking for valuables seemed to Agapita a lot more frightening than being shot at.
Another great cyborg/human moment. It had occurred to me that Agapita might be more sensative about such things than other cyborgs might be.
Agapita still wasn't sure about the whole God thing. If Avise set such stock in it it had to be true, of course, but nonetheless Agapita followed her handler's lead through the ritual rather than taking anything from it herself.
That's an interesting development in your fratello...they are already the only overtly religious pair. I'm curious to see where you take this.
"Oh, my." The elderly woman, every un-Metric inch an English marm right up to her blue rinse, raised her hands to her cheeks as she saw the Webley in Avise's outstretched hands. "It's just the sort of thing that my husband, God rest his soul, used in Borneo! Brings back memories." She finished with a wistful sigh.
Avise felt a twinge of envy in his stomach at the woman's words, imagining grand colonial adventures in far-flung exotic climes
As has been pointed out before, that's a great phrase describing the elderly woman. For his part Avise seems to have a think about looking to the past with rose-tinted glasses.
"You need decent knowledge of both languages to command effectively in Iraq." Avise's pride in his military achievements was coming out again, the expanding girth of his ego pushing out at his belt.
A wise move, concocting a cover story that involves Avise's real history...it seems inevitable that it will slip out.
"Sadly true in a few cases," Avise gritted his teeth, remembering the simpering Colonel Mottro, "but not mine."
A much more economical recollection of one of Avise's former colleagues than in the previous chapter, but it conveys his feelings just as well.
Rather ingratiating chap, that Giorgio.
Another complex "villian" character, Giorgio seems like a bundle of contradictions...a showman trying to be appealing to everyone.
Avise...looked about him, studying the constituents of the gathering, he felt himself stirred by a warming of… awe. Real awe. These people were creators, directors, drivers, doers. Their wealth was a condensed crystal droplet of the wealth of Italy, and the prosperity of hundreds of thousands –millions, even – revolved on their determination and ingenuity. These people were the pivot about which society revolved – how could Avise not admire them? With a mournful sigh, he knew that it was a pity, a genuine pity, that he was here to demolish them.
This passage raised my eyebrows a bit, but I suppose it is consistent with the leanings you have ascribed to Mancini. Looking at it from a different perspective Elio would probably consider the assemblage more a rotten core than a crystal droplet.
"Four on De Marchese."
"I'm confident on beginner's luck." The better explained.
I am immediately curious as to identity of this mystery bettor who has such faith in the new arrival.
She was impatient to get going now, but her earpiece (given to her so that she would receive match updates) still droned with the Master of Ceremonies repeating the rules for the benefit of the patrons observing from the villa above them.
A witty way to explain the rules of the match without too much narrative.
[quote]"And now, I am pleased to introduce your loyal servants, and noble sportsmen!"[/quotes] For all his pretense about elevated pastimes and intellectual exercises Giorgio comes off sounding like an idiotic carnival barker during his introductions.
– love may conquer all, but bullets certainly help!"
His closing line about Columbina seems particularly mawkish. The cracks in the cultured facade are appearing.
Agapita could tell that he was speaking with all of the relish and bombast of a prizefighting announcer (how? She'd never even seen a boxing match before).
Seems like something Mario Bossi would have brought her to, or at least watched on television with her during her life as Mimi.
It's difficult to pick out particular passages and incidents from the action scene...suffice to say it has a very open, well lit feel to it, making it easy for the reader to imagine the scene from many perspectives. The way you've presented Agapita's point of view, as sort of detached from what the others are experiencing is a highlight, but I'm also glad to see you showing snippets of what's going on with the other "gladiators."
Synapse pathways were shut off to dull emotional response. Glanding of Compound V stabilised adrenal disorientation while a charge of Syetterzine maintained the comfortable burn. Motor processes calmed her breathing. Didactic associations neutralised trauma memory. Dopamine surged.
"...great."

"It feels great!"
This is Agapita's first kill, isn't it? The experience seems to have been a revelation for her, as if all the uncertainty inherent in being a cyborg has finally made sense. To the reader it is chilling.

More to come...

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Tue 21 Sep 2010 - 7:26

Chapter 7
They had welcomed 'Columbina' to the Gladiator Games, but that was because they'd expected her to be a novelty who could have amused them all with the funny floppy dance of a fish out of water; but this had been the crocodile leaping up onto the bank
Seems to me that's what they should have expected from any teenager...pure unbridled aggression and not a care about the moral consequences. Then again maybe I'm ascribing too much of a Clockwork Orange vibe to it. Does Triela consider the other cyborgs her droogs I wonder?
Avise thought about the scene that he had just witnessed. Curiously, he felt no strong emotion about Agapita making her first kill,
Another area in which Avise & Agapita are unique. Agapita has made her first kill while seperated from her handler, and still very much in danger. I don't believe those circumstances apply to any of the other OC's.
Agapita tipped onto her back with her head towards the other gladiator, and snatched up the Tanfoglio again, holding it over her head and blasting eight shots at Carlita.
There was a spontaneous outbreak of applause in the Executive Lounge as the camera showed Agapita's trick,
I'm surprised there wasn't more of a negative response here...Columbina's maneuver could be seen as unsporting since Carlita offered the chance for surrender, and when the tables were turned the younger woman did not.
new enemy... was using a VP70M (the same sort of pistol that Claes had employed back when she was on active service)
This line seems a bit out of place given the point of view character...would Agapita even know what pistol Claes used?
the two gladiators sidestepped down the street, occasionally nudging or nosing around the mobile cover that was Fabio, the piggy in the middle - the stuck pig of some overgrown juvenile game.
It does set a rather absurd scene.
Agapita frowned with genuine sorrow as she examined the injury. It was small – only one step up from a graze. Would it count? Agapita hoped that it wouldn't, or rather knew that it shouldn't, but she was sure that the other girls in the dormitory would fixate on it as if it did, precisely to needle her. To have something so... trivial as her first field injury!
A demonstration of cyborg priorities at their finest!
Agapita was rapidly becoming the star attraction
...and attracting the wrong kind of attention I should think.
"Did she look like she was spaced out on crack?" Avise growled. "Besides, do you really think I'd demand something like that of my daughter?"
"You're already having people shoot at her to settle your debts, Mister De Marchese." Giorgio grated,
If there's a plot hole in this story it's that the games organizers are not more suspicious of the De Marchese pair. I know Jacopo was desperate to find a client who would place him back in the good graces of the organization, but isn't there somebody who thinks this is odd enough to investigate a bit deeper?
Agapita was about to respond with some trashtalk of her own – it could be a useful tactic, sometimes disrupting the enemy's concentration
I'd love to hear Agapita's attempt at trash talk. Based on this and previous stories from you I suggest she take lessons from Donatello rather than Henrietta.
By some happy help from blessed Providence, her handler had done clouds in class literally the day before the fratello had set out on this mission.
You did say Avise would be happy to teach physics.
Games were fun, but if it came to a decision then they valued enjoying a collective spectacle together before point-scoring over each other.
A debate that has raged since the beginning of sports. Do the fans wish to see a contest between evenly matched sides, or a superstar with the ability to dominate the game?
"Watch yourselves! The cunt's rabid, she's on PCP – I tagged her but she's still moving…!"
"…this bitch is just going to pick us off like some slasher if we split up to encircle her. We're going to have to risk a charge. Three of us at once, and she might not hit anyone. Ready? Three, two, one—"
How quickly foes learn to cooperate when threatened by an interloper.
beyond them, the sore sight of Columbina De Marchese on her back, with at least eight red stains spreading across her chest.
Agapita lifted up her pistol and shot Envio up through his chin.
"How?" Ryba seethed through clenched teeth
That surprised me as well...I was expecting Avise to spring the trap and come to the rescue at some point.
He held it out for the guard in front of him to take – and then the handler opened his palm, gravity made it rotate, and he closed it again with his hand around the grip, covering 'Jacen'.
The guard froze. The spectators gasped. Avise grinned. "Finally. It took me months to learn that trick."
More spaghetti-western tricks...very clever.
Agapita looked up towards the villas above her and the requirements of the mission came forward in her mind once more.
Sucking in one final breath, Agapita pushed off again and ran through the scrub.
The terrain was difficult and uneven, but that was precisely why Agapita was making her way through it.
This narrative passage is pretty long, but I suppose that serves to convey what a grinding march it is for the wounded Agapita.
It seemed as though the world was suddenly inverted, that the ground was digging itself up and burying Agapita – her ears were filled not with the reports of distant gunfire but the roaring of earth as her eyesight dissolved into a bitter and bitty yellow fog and pebbles and clods rained down onto her – much like shovelfuls filling a grave.
That's great imagery.
succumb to their civilian flightiness and panic and scatter from the proximity of gunfire.
It's all fun & games until it's you who might get shot.
the prospect of letting enemies escape, particularly in her first mission where she needed to make a good impression, rankled with her – and in any case it would be a further delay separating her from her handler when he would need her, which was intolerable.
Impressing on her first mission, the opinions of her friends, the needs of her handler...all these things weigh heavily on Agapita's cyborg mind but the possibility of getting killed herself does not even cross her neurons. Whether by conditioning or simple youthful overconfidence all the cyborgs seem to have an attitude of indestructibility.
even as her eyes were closed, a scene was etching itself into the back of her eyelids, a fundamental world of distilled elements linked together with a wireframe of distances and angles...
Interesting nods to the cyborg's mechanical functions (lungs, eyes) throughout the chapter.
The Desert Eagle boomed, a shot cannoning through and exploding another of the upper-level balustrade's glass panels. As the MP5K was thrown forward, Avise fell back, scrambling back over the spread-eagled body of the first guard to snatch up his Webley, break open its cylinder, spring out the spent rounds, and ram home a half-moon clip—
This scene has a slow-motion feel to it.
He'd owned this pistol for close to two decades. ...one more thing fallen in that pool was the Webley, which he had picked out of a small cardboard box, ...Avise had carried the Webley with him ...but today was the first day that Avise had ended the lives of human beings with it.
Interesting to hear the history of the object, especially as it relates to Avise himself.
despite the awful and atrocious situation that had developed back at the villa, the giddy, high-pitched, slightly demented laughter that sounded when the Hum-Vee slewed around a corner at speed indicated that it was actually still somewhat thrilling.
The idle rich are back to feeling safe...I have the impression that can not last.
as they approached, the Ferrari smoothly began to move, rolling and then accelerating forward with...by the time their eyes processed the unusual situation Michele was already in their faces, smiling genially and holding up his government credentials.
I wasn't expecting a car chase. Your portrayal of Kisk's pair seems spot on.
"An essential component in any mechanic's toolbox." Michele explained. "In case the fan belt has broken and no lady may spare a stocking – as comely as her bare legs might be – we use it to make air-holes in the bonnet." He was still holding up his government badge.
And...Pagani is quite the wise-arse!
However, the Corolla had been enhanced with a custom twincharged engine, and neatly hopped forward to avoid being caught on the Hum-Vee's horns.
Ah...everybody seems to be coming out of the woodwork for this show...
front passenger thrust an MP5K out of the window and plastered the rear of the Corolla with a sustained burst of fire, pummelled and puncturing the boot with dents and dimples, shattered lamps and etched frost into its rear window.
...hmmm, that will turn out to be a bad choice I'm guessing.
The car hadn't braked at all – it had just deployed smoke from canisters as a ruse. Now, the Hum-Vee's side was clearly presented, and the angle of attack was perfect.
Another sequence I'd love to see animated!
"Marisa, that was a little bit excessive."
The young girl, Marisa, smiled broadly despite the admonishment. "But sir, there's 'no kill like overkill'!"
Yes, that's a total Marisa sentiment. Very in character.
Marco Toni released the pressel from his radio handset and placed it back down on the set. He turned away from the open boot of the car towards Giada, who was still keeping her TAC-15 crossbow trained on the sky
This is the first fanfic appearance for this duo I believe.
What's notable about the way you presented all 4 of your guest fratelli is that in a few paragraphs you accurately summed up how each pair relates.
Kara & Michele working as a team of equals, the handler trusting his cyborg enough to tease the Carabinieri a bit. Long suffering Brian seems like he's just being dragged along for the ride by his raucous Allison, while Elio is clearly running the show on his part of the Op, keeping Marisa on a short leash (with varying success).

Since there is no precedent for Marco-Giada interaction it must have been difficult to write, but you came up with something great. Giada, still a bit stiff and formal around her new boss, Marco obviously seeing the shadow of Angelica in his new charge.
...she wasn't wearing a suit, or even a dress. It was a uniform. An actual, genuine, traditional maid's uniform.

"Oh no..." Avise groaned in frustration, "You poor fool."
After the somewhat humorous round-up of escaping patrons and staff this is a fitting snap back to grim reality. His response is coldly pragmatic, knowing you we may not have seen the last of this incident.
Avise slammed the weapon down in a swinging motion, delivering a firm and solid clout to the back of the technician's head. Felipo went down immediately, collapsing onto his knees – but he didn't pass out.
Now that's something I always find irritating in the movies...the assumption that a simple blow to the head will produce instant unconsciousness with no lasting effects. Try the same thing in real life and I'd imagine you'd wind up with a result like Avise here.
Avise laughed – openly, uproariously, fully and happily, sheer pleasure and contentment rippling through his chest.
Agapita looked dismayed. "Oh! I'm so sorry!" She cried anxiously.
"Not at all, not at all!" Avise said brightly. "I just see that no-one can possibly dispute that you gave it your all today."
The cyborg's eyes lit up as though they were halogen bulbs, and obvious glee jabbed the corners of her mouth up to her very ears.
Cyborg & handler reunited and all's right with the world again.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Tue 21 Sep 2010 - 18:03

Wow, thanks for such detail, Voodoo - I feel a little embarassed and unworthy by all the effort you're putting into the reviews!

It is a little odd that the militaristic Avise would begin the day with such an indulgence, but as you point out, he is Italian.

Well, just because Avise has an army background doesn't stop him from enjoying his food. He may hate cooking but eating is a different matter, and soldiers don't live off of field rations seven days a week.

You set a rich picture of the drive up, but there seems to be a lot of detail about settings the story spends very little time in.

Mmm, but the point of this segment was to establish the getaway vehicles for the chase sequences.

That line suits Avise...it sounds like a quote.

It's from Machiavelli's The Prince. I was planning on putting in a segment where in addition to quizzing Avise about his ancestry Giorgio revealed that he had overhead the conversation outside (a guard with a directional microphone - playing with his toys) and tried to engage Avise in discussion, only for Avise to sheepishly admit that he had no real literary background and rather just cribbed his sayings from a book of quotations in the library in an attempt to appear more cultured. I decided to leave it because it seemed pretty circumlocutory when I'd already beat around the bush enough (the subplot about the hotel bug vanishes as well), but I might go back and edit it in at some stage.

That's an interesting development in your fratello...they are already the only overtly religious pair. I'm curious to see where you take this.

It might not be wise to reveal future plot plans until the stories are ready, but this is how I'm sketching out Agapita's spiritual development. To start off with Agapita just goes through the motions, treating religious observance as no different from any other training or order she's given - it's simply another task that she's been instructed to perform. However, at some point in the future she'll hear the Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola:

Teach us, Good Lord,
To Serve Thee as Thou deservest;
To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not to heed the wounds;
To labor and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do Thy will.
Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.


That's her moment of conversion - she sees a reflection of herself (and cyborgs and fratelli in general) in the words and they affect her strongly. After that she starts being more active and heartfelt about it all.

Another complex "villian" character, Giorgio seems like a bundle of contradictions...a showman trying to be appealing to everyone.

Yeah, that wouldn't be far off the mark. Giorgio is undeniably a bit puffed-up, pretentious even. I think that he likes to consider himself a bit of a ploymath, his wealth and position giving him the leisure to explore the breadth of experience and be at once reflective and thoughtful and then outgoing and engaging, all things to all people. This would normally be pretty harmless, but the trouble is that he wants everyone else to admire him for it, too, and of course what he thinks of himself and what he actually does are not necessarily the same thing.

This passage raised my eyebrows a bit, but I suppose it is consistent with the leanings you have ascribed to Mancini. Looking at it from a different perspective Elio would probably consider the assemblage more a rotten core than a crystal droplet.

One of the things that I'm wary of in fiction is the distressing tendency for upper echelons to be always painted negatively - corporations are always exploitative and oppressive (this mindset was lampooned brilliantly in Team America "see, America is run by the corporations, and they sit at their corporate table, in their corporate boardroom, in their corporate tower and... uh... er... they make money."), nobles are always arrogant and condescending, generals are always insensitive and idiotic, and it's only russet-coated salt-of-the-earth types who can save the day. It may be deserving in some cases, but the sheer pervasiveness of it rankles - the tropes are tired and boring at best, or dehumanising strawmen at worst. Yet, in this story, here am I repeating those same tropes again, so Avise's more conciliatory thoughts here were a way of balancing it out again.

As for Avise himself, this would be a point of difference between him and other people, yes (I can agree with that contrast between him and Elio). I think that Avise probably considers himself to be a meritocrat - for instance, he dislikes monarchy but tolerates the Republic still giving out knighthoods because they're awards for prior service. If you earn it, you should enjoy it, and the patrons have achieved much (you could argue to what extent they've earned it, of course, but Avise is satisfied) and he prefers the sensation of pleasant admiration over destructive envy. It could also tie in to his defensiveness if an action of his is brought into question: part of that comes from his resentment over having to put up with some unpalatable countermanding orders in his past life, (again, something to be developed further in a future story - the "simpering Colonel Mottro" will be back), but also because criticism blackens his achievement and questions his very right to be here, so it affects him personally too.

Seems to me that's what they should have expected from any teenager...pure unbridled aggression and not a care about the moral consequences.

Maybe I'm a bit more cynical about teenagers - full of bluster and self-importance, but who actually don't know anything and fall to bits once they start hitting up against real opposition.?

I'm surprised there wasn't more of a negative response here...Columbina's maneuver could be seen as unsporting since Carlita offered the chance for surrender, and when the tables were turned the younger woman did not.

Huh - to be honest, I never looked at it that way before. That's a fair point. I suppose that the patrons preferred the impressive manoeuvre, and it serves to highlight their insensitivity.

If there's a plot hole in this story it's that the games organizers are not more suspicious of the De Marchese pair. I know Jacopo was desperate to find a client who would place him back in the good graces of the organization, but isn't there somebody who thinks this is odd enough to investigate a bit deeper?

Yeah, maybe. I suppose that you'll just have to trust the professionalism of the legend-writing department in Section One...

How quickly foes learn to cooperate when threatened by an interloper.

I don't think it's so surprising - expediency tends to win out. We loved Tito even though he was a communist; Nixon was quite happy making friends with Mao in order to exploit Sino-Russian antagonism. The French and Germans have been competing against each other and trying to dominate Britiain & Europe militarily for centuries - now they're all buddy-buddying together and are subjugating us through the E.U. instead!

This is the first fanfic appearance for this duo I believe.
What's notable about the way you presented all 4 of your guest fratelli is that in a few paragraphs you accurately summed up how each pair relates.
Kara & Michele working as a team of equals, the handler trusting his cyborg enough to tease the Carabinieri a bit. Long suffering Brian seems like he's just being dragged along for the ride by his raucous Allison, while Elio is clearly running the show on his part of the Op, keeping Marisa on a short leash (with varying success).

Thanks for the reassurance that I didn't butcher them too badly. sweat

Now that's something I always find irritating in the movies...the assumption that a simple blow to the head will produce instant unconsciousness with no lasting effects.

I've always wondered whether blackjacks were really so effective as "magical knockout sticks" myself.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Wed 22 Sep 2010 - 8:26

@Professor Voodoo wrote:
The car turned past a pair of gateposts (with no gate),
The location actually appeared quite busy – one of the villas was densely clustered with people,
a pair of black Hum-Vees sitting between a Maserati GranTurismo on the one hand and a Lancia Delta on the other,
You set a rich picture of the drive up, but there seems to be a lot of detail about settings the story spends very little time in.
I dunno, personally I felt this description of the cars was helpful not only in helping set a scene, but mostly in helping cement the type of people who are attending to view the gladiator games.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Alfisti on Thu 23 Sep 2010 - 12:02

So... continuing to clear up my backlog of story reviewing.

Onwards with chapter 7...

contrary prat had to use a variant of the weapon with an American .40 cartridge!
How dare he make her life difficult with personal preferences.

Carlita's eyes were on the pistol and by the time they darted back tothe movement in her peripheral vision Agapita was already falling.Carlita fired instinctively, but the shot sailed well over the cyborgto hit the wall uselessly. Agapita tipped onto her back with her headtowards the other gladiator, and snatched up the Tanfoglio again,holding it over her head and blasting eight shots at Carlita. The womanscreamed and was thrown backwards by the wave of lead, falling to theground and spurting arcs of blood as her body twisted with the bulletsslashing through her.
This seemed to me also rather unsporting of Agapita. I'd agree with Voodoo that, after the friendly betting etc of the patrons, you'd expect them to react negatively to her action.

Agapita felt an unexpected but not unwelcome sense of reassurance asshe slipped in textbook routines relentlessly practised during theintensive days of training before she was dispatched here – even to theextent where on a couple of occasions she had menaced the walls andfired at empty air because her muscles remembered her making thoseexact same movements when turning into a room full of plywood targets.
Not entirely sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Yes she knows what to do but she's obviously learnt it by wrote rather than actually getting a handle on the why. The Agency may need to review it's training regimine. That said, it's fitting with some aspects of Agapita's personality. I remember in Long Weekend she showed a slight lack of initiative, needing a direct orders from Avise.

and she had not only scaled the wall but bound up it, hoppingstraight to the top in a single jump rather than spending time pullingherself up for the gladiator to have noticed and shot Agapita off ather leisure. While most of the gathering seemed to be enjoying the showAvise noticed that Giorgio, and a few of the more farsighted patronswere looking a little perturbed at Agapita's uncommon feat.
I will admit this seemed a little strange to me. If they'd known Agapita was going to be on camera part of me would have expected her to be under instrucitons to "act normal". Though, I guess by the same token Avise's training is from the military, not in espionage...

Giorgio's jaw continued to open wide as he commentatedenthusiastically, but in contrast to the lower half his face his browwas furrowed and his eyes were peering at the televisions closely.Avise frowned, and shifted his feet, feeling his chest holster throughhis shirt as his position changed.
...however it did work well to ramp up the tension.

Agapita hoped that it wouldn't, or rather knew that it shouldn't, but she was sure that the other girls in the dormitory would fixate on it as if it did, precisely to needle her.
We know Agapita doesn't get along with her room mate... I wonder if that's effecting her views on the other girls in the dorm?

Agapita was rapidly becoming the star attraction...
I think you said that twice...

"Oh boy! Lightning round!" Jonas laughed manically
Speaking of people who might be tripping...

"Oh, you don't know the half of it, chevalie." Avise growled.
I don't know what it is about this line, but it's where, to me at least, the story really shifts gears. It started with the lightning round, but this is where you really feel it's getting into the end game.

Roaring, if more in anger than pain, Agapita used the momentum of theimpact to help spin her around and retaliate at wretched little ratthat had shot her in the back.
I think I may need to retract my previous statment about the sporting attitude of the games...

And now an out of context highlight...
Do you know how much stick I'm going to get from my friends for being penetrated on my very first job?
Seriously though, could Agapita make up her mind? A tiny nick was embarrasing in its insignificance as a first injury. But now she's been shot at least eight times and that sucks too because she got properly injured?

Marisa: Yeah, well I almost died the first time I got shot!

"Well, I've got the improved model." Avise couldn't help butsmirk. As unprofessional as it was, he felt like some movie villainrevealing the doomsday device, and it thrilled him.
Jethro: Hmm, nice reveal, properly smug... points off for lack of piranah tank.

Avise grinned. "Finally. It took me months to learn that trick."
Somehow very Avise.

Gasping at a second bruising impact with the floor, Avise immediately pulled himself up—
That was a looooong paragraph and, if I'm honest, I started to get a bit lost in it. Maybe a new paragraph where Avise drops his pistol would aid in understanding.

broken through her intercostal carapace and punctured five lung cells,reducing her breathing capacity by more than half. Her reservemultilung had been activated to compensate
I really like this idea of the compartmentalised lungs. Not sure what you mean by the "multilung" though, I assume it's a redundant system for emergency use. If so, I dunno... I sometimes wonder just how much armour, equipment and failsafes can be built into the girls. They're still only really kids, and on the useable internal volume front that doesn't leave much to play with. I sometimes wonder if different girls have slightly varying "optional extras" (aside from specialist changes like Mari's heaters) so a larger girl can effectively pack more armour and backups than a smaller one...

If the sky could rain pistols, why couldn't the rivers flow with milkand honey and queuing at the Post Office not take all morning?
Do I detect a touch of Pratchett-esque cynicism here?

with nary a decibel of over-revving or the slightest twitch of a misapplied clutch
I could be wrong, but I thought Michele's 430 had a flappy paddle box...

The Corolla made the first move, jinking to the side, while an orangeflash from a rear passenger window indicated that this was a freestyle match.
Heh, I got a chuckle out of this little link back to the start of the games.

"Simple!" Allison yelled back from the driver's seat, glancing in therear view mirror to check that the Hum-Vee was directly behind her."It's so I can do this!"
I like the contrasts between Allison's driving style and Michele's Razz

The young girl, Marisa, smiled broadly despite the admonishment. "But sir, there's 'no kill like overkill'!"


There was nothing that could be done about it now, except to fix themistake. Avise took the Beretta pistol, readied it properly and firedseveral shots into the floor around where he himself had been standingwhen he'd killed the maid. He then picked up the Beretta's spentcasings and flicked them across onto the stairs, before wiping hisprints off with a cloth from his pocket and dropping the pistol backdown by the body from standing, so that it seemed to scatter across theparquet naturally. To mask things from Giorgio in case he was listeningfrom the lounge, Avise returned to his original position and fired asecond burst of shots at the stairs.
This... wasn't something I was expecting from Avise. Interesting.

Then another voice. A little hoarse and strained, and less violent. "Geez, almost... I'm getting there... okay?"
Loved this line.


Excellent chapter overall mate... and now onto Chapter 08

Piera was sitting at her desk in her and Agapita's room and sharpeningher throwing knives, which had had some opportunity to be dulled duringtheir excursion to Sardinia the other day.
These little acknowledgements of what the other fratelli are up to are always a nice touch. The events of the story may seem epic to those reading it, but it's still just one cog in the machine.

Oh well – there was plenty of time for her to make it more personable.
If Triela's the SWA's communal big sister... then Priscilla's definately the communal doteing aunt Razz

and in any case Jethro and Monique had been assigned their cases and they would tie off the loose ends before too long.
Always happy to see J+M get a mention, though I expect Monty was none to happy about the interruption to her planned affairs. I do like the idea though that Lorenzo's attitude toward the pair is that of "it's in their hands now, and one way or the other the problem will get solved."

It was rare that the Agency could genuinely say "job done"
Another great look at the agency's situation.

It would quiet detractors in the Cabinet, and cow enemies elsewhere.
Also good to see mention of the SWA's own political issues. I know the place is sometimes viewed as this bottomless pit of tech and money, but at the end of the day it's got to be taking a sizeable chunk out of Italy's GDP, especially considering it's not a rich nation to begin with, and no politician likes seeing money go where it can't directly buy him (or her) votes.

Then Jean Croce walked in.
With a file.
Oh, God.


Bianchi lit up with visible delight. "Oh, you mean the knocking? Ichange it every so often – keeps people on their toes." He seemedinordinately pleased that his little trick had worked.
Another great little moment from a character we don't see a lot of. Actually the whole passage...

Well, little miss – four hundred and eighty-eight to go.
Cryptic...

"Sir, if we're not here to fight, why have we come?"
"Speak ofthe Devil," Avise remarked, his eyes tracking over to the esplanade."Here he comes now. Now, game face off, Agapita, this isn't anoperation here."
A middle-aged man, somewhat portly and gone toseed, crossed into seating area. "Hello," Mario Bossi said, affecting acheery demeanour as he approached the table, "mind if I sit down?"
Brilliant way to tie the whole thing up, two stories tied up in fact.

Anyway mate, as always I loved it. It's great to see more of Agapita's personality developing as many of your earlier stories have been Avise focused.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Thu 23 Sep 2010 - 17:38

Thanks for the thoughts Alfisti, I appreciate you and all of the readers.

This seemed to me also rather unsporting of Agapita. I'd agree with Voodoo that, after the friendly betting etc of the patrons, you'd expect them to react negatively to her action.

Hmm. There seems to be a consensus on this point, then. For her part Agapita would have shot Carlita anyway - she has instructions to eliminate the other gladiators as part of a staged demolition of resistance - but when I was writing the patrons' reaction I assumed that they would prefer a good show. I accept that might seem inconsistent with their earlier portrayal though, lesson learned.

Not entirely sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Yes she knows what to do but she's obviously learnt it by wrote rather than actually getting a handle on the why. The Agency may need to review it's training regimine. That said, it's fitting with some aspects of Agapita's personality. I remember in Long Weekend she showed a slight lack of initiative, needing a direct orders from Avise.

I suppose all that Agapita can muster in defence here is "it's my first day!" - but you're right, it is an imperfection, and shows that she still needs to develop.

Seriously though, could Agapita make up her mind? A tiny nick was embarrasing in its insignificance as a first injury. But now she's been shot at least eight times and that sucks too because she got properly injured?

Marisa: Yeah, well I almost died the first time I got shot!

Agapita's two main gripes are getting injured on her first operation (suggesting that she's incompetent), and being "merely" shot. If she was hacked up with a great medieval claymore, or if the enemy had unlocked the cages at the zoo and had her trampled by a herd of stampeding elephants, or if she was in a construction site and a crane swung round to clothesline her with a steel girder and knock her into a cement mixer, that would be something worthwhile. But shot, like, with a gun? Something that every dumb mook carries? Bor-ing. Demeaning, too.

I know the place is sometimes viewed as this bottomless pit of tech and money, but at the end of the day it's got to be taking a sizeable chunk out of Italy's GDP,

Given that our own Armed Forces are dreading the upcoming "Strategic Defence Review" - i.e. getting our budgets cut to f**king buggery - I can't help but look to America with nothing short of envy.

I could be wrong, but I thought Michele's 430 had a flappy paddle box...

Eh, I'll have to hang my head here and confess to my car ignorance. MP5 did bring up my mistakes with the Corolla as well earlier on. You think that I'd have picked up some more knowledge in all the time that I've spent here... Embarassed


Last edited by Robert Frazer on Thu 23 Sep 2010 - 20:25; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Kiskaloo on Thu 23 Sep 2010 - 19:40

Hey, it made Michele look good so he's not complaining. Wink

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

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