Occupational Hazards: A short story

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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

Post by Professor Voodoo on Mon 25 Oct 2010 - 6:09

Final Chapter


there was a knock at the door. "Come in!" she called out.
It was one of the grown-ups – Priscilla, the blonde.
This whole section is a neat update to a plot line that didn't get much attention in this story.
Maybe she'd come back with another dozen bullets in her and Piera would get a second joyous week of undisturbed sleep, too.
Wickedly dark humor...and a reminder that cyborgs see the world from a perspective all their own.
Her desk was still largely empty, just having a few textbooks and handbooks, plus a couple of photos of her handler
That's something I haven't really considered yet, but should have. Henrietta takes photos of her friends & handler...Elsa kept the only photograph she had of her handler (in the anime at least)...visual totems must be very important to a conditioned cyborg so it makes sense that she would have photo's of the most important man in her life.
After a second's thought, she closed the box and threw the torn wrapping into a wastepaper bin.
it's a minor detail, but I'm not perfectly clear on what's going on here. Did Piera throw away the entire package or just the paper it was wrapped in?
"...short matter of time before we can definitively and unequivocally resolve Operation Ivory, and its follow-up Operation Ivory-2, as a complete and final success.
Pieri Lorenzo
Taken in the context of your recent Monty/Jethro comic script this line seems like a bit of foreshadowing.
one advantage of dealing with high-grade businessmen is that they knew how to balance odds: when to deal and when to fold.
As in the previous chapter, Elio would have a different opinion. Now captured, these high-grade business men who previously thought themselves above the law find that they lack the fortitude to maintain the mafia idea of Omerta, cowering before the threat of imprisonment and the loss of their comfortable positions. Either way the effect is the same.
The remaining dozen agents were accounted for in the Social Welfare Agency's own inimitable style.
Some had felt a stabbing pain lancing across their abdomen on a packed platform in the train station. Others' heads had suddenly jerked as they made to cross the road, and discreetly and obligingly tipped over between parked cars on the side.
A visually evocative passage. I picture narration over a short montage of cyborg kills...the girls going about their business with stoic indifference.
One had even assembled his client gladiators into a posse and stormed Section One's Sardinian station in Cagliara,... Several fratelli had to be flown over to contest what proved to be a vicious battle ... They died hard.
They still died.
I can see the lucky cyborgs to have participated in this mission becoming the célébrités du jour around the dorm, inspiring those not selected to heights of envy.
You may live with the din of the city ringing around you at all times – you may even adapt to it, become accustomed to it, the sound whirling through you like a draught through a hole; when that hole was filled, and the noise cut off, it was weird, unreal, dislocating, suddenly cast off without reference – alarming, but new, exciting, and actually, rather good.
This rings true on both the literal & metaphorical level.
Things were going well!
Then Jean Croce walked in.
With a file.
Oh, God.
Humourous wordplay here.
The 'patrons' of the former Gladiator Games have a combined wealth entering into the billions of euros. To publicly arrest them would fatally undermine confidence in our industry
I see why you went this direction for your story, and admittedly this is how such a situation would play out in real life, but I can't help but agree with Jean here. The participants in malfeasance get bullets between their eyes while the ringleaders get off lightly because of their perceived importance to society.

A good example of this was the way former US President Gerald Ford was eulogized in the press after his passing in 2006. His most significant act was pardoning his predecessor Richard Nixon of crimes related to the Watergate Hotel break-in (Nixon's underlings of course went to prison), and while this was controversial at the time Ford was praised for it after his death. In theory it helped "heal the nation" and re-establish confidence in the government.
Counter-point to that would be that he established a precedent that the President is above the law...a precedent that led to almost no sanction being taken against later President Ronald Reagan when he & his administration committed far more grievous crimes (than Nixon) during the Iran-Contra scandal.

This of course is just a rant, and has no bearing on your story, which presents the situation realistically...I just lament that the truth is thus and unlikely to change anytime soon.
"Between both Ivories some fifty assorted villains have met their end." Lorenzo fixed the impudent handler with a hard stare, quitely seething at Jean's sheer blinded arrogance to try to arrogate the guilt dead to his own purposes. "That. Is. Plenty."
A very gritty exchange between the two men here. I like how you call up Jean's fixation on body-count, even where it does not relate to the Padania.
"By God!" Lorenzo roared. "You deviant little swine. You're too damn familiar, Mister Jean Croce!"
Jean took a step back instinctively, alarm trembling his features. He had never seen the Chief like this before.
Indeed we have not either. Lorenzo kept his patience for a long time, his eventual outburst is surprising to the reader as well. Might his reaction been a little more muted if he was already having a bad day? The loss of his good mood seems to upset him more than Jean's argumentative insubordination.
"You have been given one cyborg to use and abuse as you wish, Mr. Croce!"
Choice of words here is interesting. Is Lorenzo perhaps expressing a little disapproval at how Jean manages Rico?
Bianchi lit up with visible delight. "Oh, you mean the knocking? I change it every so often – keeps people on their toes." He seemed inordinately pleased that his little trick had worked.
A psychiatrist's mind at work.
Belisario twisted the side of his mouth into a frown. He really didn't appreciate Bianchi's questioning – it felt like a jab at his professional competency,
Belisario smiled inwardly, unable to resist a bit of intellectual posturing
Conflict between the doctors is an avenue seldom explored in canon or fanfiction, but it's certainly predictable with so many expert chefs stirring the proverbial pot.
"Fighting is pleasurable to her?" Bianchi frowned. "Why would you do something like that?"
When I read the "It feel's great!" line I had a feeling we'd meander back to it eventually.
"The old Maria Machiavelli enjoyed mischief – really, we've just adapted that for Agapita."
So in effect making her first kill satisfied a need that was unfulfilled up to that point.
"Chin up, Doctor, if none of us had neuroses you wouldn't have any work!"
Considering the traumatic lives of both cyborgs & adults in Section 2 I'm surprised Yu doesn't need an entire platoon of shrinks on staff.
As she continued to swing her legs, her foot hit Avise's shin next to her, causing him to spasm. Agapita's face immediately fell. "Oh, I'm so sorry!" She gasped.
A cute detail. Had Avise been kicked by a normal girl her side he'd have barely felt it...but his cyborg leaves a bruise. Quick thinking by Avise to distract her from "cyborgish" dismay at injuring her handler with the "girlish" topic of her outfit. He's getting good at this.
"For my first wounding," Agapita continued. "being hit by a bullet is nothing special. There needed to be more... more occasion. It felt like it should be special. Vanessa was chasing down some runners to a marina pontoon, and she got speared by a harpoon in midair when she was jumping onto their speedboat."
That's exactly as I imagine it as well. Spectacular injuries are held in high regard by the other cyborgs as the mark of great effort on a challenging mission.
"Harpoon..." Avise mused. "Are you implying that Vanessa looks like a whale?"
Agapita's face flushed crimson with shame. "No!" She was horrified. "That would be cruel!"
"Do you mean that it would be false, or are you being tactful and just trying spare Vanessa her blushes?" Avise chuckled while his cyborg fretted.
I took this as good-natured teasing by Avise, his eventual point about not seeking spectacular wounds for the acclaim they bring was unexpected and well within character.
A middle-aged man, somewhat portly and gone to seed, crossed into seating area. "Hello," Mario Bossi said, affecting a cheery demeanour as he approached the table, "mind if I sit down?"
And we all know what happens here...a great closer to the episode.
More than any of your previous stories this one presented A&A they are (as opposed to Lamb & Tyger which showed how they began) which is a great resource to those of us who like using your fratello as part of our own universe’s.
Sorry the last chapter review took so long (damn real-life)...I look forward to the next adventure!

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Mon 25 Oct 2010 - 9:12

Thanks again for your interest, Voodoo, it's always much welcome.

it's a minor detail, but I'm not perfectly clear on what's going on here. Did Piera throw away the entire package or just the paper it was wrapped in?

Just the wrapping, eliminating the evidence that she'd tampered with the package.

Taken in the context of your recent Monty/Jethro comic script this line seems like a bit of foreshadowing.

This has become something like Dona from "Long Weekend" - she was originally conceived just as a McGuffin to motor the plot in that story, but people took to her so well I've ended up making her a distinct character, with her 'prequel' appearance in WBFP and roles in a couple of upcoming stories, too. Similarly, when I first wrote this I never actually intended to make anything out of the two surviving agents - it was more just something to extend the catalogue of their fates by another line - but since I started to "Pick Out The Stitch" I've ended up pulling a long thread out of it, enough to make it its own story arc. There's a two-part tussle with drug traffickers in Mozambique and Madagascar in the works.

I picture narration over a short montage of cyborg kills...

Yes, I was visualising a montage sequence myself... quite helpfully, too, as after 60,000 words I really didn't want to drag this out another three or four chapters by accounting for each hit in detail. Hurrah for filmic atmosphere! sweat

A good example of this was the way former US President Gerald Ford was eulogized in the press after his passing in 2006. His most significant act was pardoning his predecessor Richard Nixon of crimes related to the Watergate Hotel break-in (Nixon's underlings of course went to prison), and while this was controversial at the time Ford was praised for it after his death. In theory it helped "heal the nation" and re-establish confidence in the government.

Going off on a tangent here: I'm not particularly au fait with all of the various presidents' policies (although I do know that I want to go back in time and kick both FDR and Eisenhower, very hard, in the balls), but I've heard it said by a few people that if he hadn't been tainted by Watergate Nixon would probably have been remembered as one of the century's best presidents. Is there any truth in that?


This of course is just a rant, and has no bearing on your story, which presents the situation realistically...I just lament that the truth is thus and unlikely to change anytime soon.

I see what you're saying, but you don't really get neat endings in a dirty war. I think that I've been fair in letting Jean give the other side of the coin.

Might his reaction been a little more muted if he was already having a bad day? The loss of his good mood seems to upset him more than Jean's argumentative insubordination.

I didn't really see it as Lorenzo losing his temper, as such - he's not instinctively lashing out after someone's poked him too hard, he's made the conscious decision to shout and yell precisely in order to put Jean back in his place. I go on to describe that towards the end of the section, it's meant to show the mastery that Lorenzo has over himself, that he can freely change his attitude to suit the situation.

his eventual point about not seeking spectacular wounds for the acclaim they bring was unexpected and well within character.

Yes, he could definitely be snapping a good old Catholic "count your blessings!", which was often slung my way whenever I became whiny about something. Let's face it, if the worst you have to complain about is that your wounds are unimpressive, you're not doing too badly...!

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Wed 27 Oct 2010 - 4:55

@Robert Frazer wrote: There's a two-part tussle with drug traffickers in Mozambique and Madagascar in the works.
Looking forward to it. Are you thinking prose or comic-script format?
I've heard it said by a few people that if he hadn't been tainted by Watergate Nixon would probably have been remembered as one of the century's best presidents. Is there any truth in that?
I would say zero truth. Nixon's presidency was merely a knee jerk reaction from social conservatives frightened by the tide of change that characterized the 1960's (civil rights, environmentalism, women's lib, the peace movement, et cetera). He did achieve a certain dignity as an elder statesman later in life but as a US president his impact was negligable at best.
As for your opinion of Franklin Roosevelt & Dwight Eisenhower we will just have to agree to disagree, but if you do manage to create that time machine I'd like to borrow it to ensure Ronald Reagan spent the remainder of his life in prison where he belonged.
Let's face it, if the worst you have to complain about is that your wounds are unimpressive, you're not doing too badly...!
I imagine that within the cyborg dorm a spectacular victory (i.e. Pinnochio) earns the highest aclaim from one's mechanical peers, but surviving grevious injuries and still completing your mission comes in a close second. It's a mark of toughness, and while cyborgs do not keep their scars after the skin is replaced there must be a certain exaltation in being regarded as the girl who couldn't even be stopped by a harpoon to the chest!

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Wed 27 Oct 2010 - 7:13

ooking forward to it. Are you thinking prose or comic-script format?

Both, actually - one story is a comic, the follow-up would be a conventional story.

As for your opinion of Franklin Roosevelt & Dwight Eisenhower we will just have to agree to disagree,

I ought to clarify and say that my antipathy isn't for their domestic policies, rather their effect on my own country. Roosevelt was rather too cosy with Stalin and before he died his cynical and hypocritical attempts to sabotage our empire and replace it with American influence resulted in the worst of both worlds the postwar period. Maybe things needed to change, but a slew of military and communist dictatorships after rushed decolonisation wasn't the way to go about it. As for Eisenhower... Suez. Suez, Suez, Suez. It's no exaggeration to say that it put Britain into a social, economic and political malaise that it took thirty years to climb out of. I wouldn't mind so much, I could even accept his argument, except that for all his principled moral cant about the integrity of nations against foreign invasion he didn't lift a finger to help Hungary in that very same year, and thousands of people died because of it, while millions of others had to spend half a lifetime with the delights of the Workers' Revolution. With friends like these...

Anyway, sorry for the diversion - I don't want to make things too heavy!

there must be a certain exaltation in being regarded as the girl who couldn't even be stopped by a harpoon to the chest!

I'd agree entirely. It's something I wish that the manga proper would make more use of, really - Triela got impressively chewed up in her final fight with Pinnochio, and Beatrice had her great last gasp, but there ought to be more limb-lopping, flying body parts and delightfully gruesome gore. cheers

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Kiskaloo on Wed 27 Oct 2010 - 10:32

@Robert Frazer wrote:There's a two-part tussle with drug traffickers in Mozambique and Madagascar in the works.

Drug-trafficking interdiction is going to play a big role in my re-write of Pactio. The majority of Europe's cocaine comes in via Italy and Milan is the continent's primary distribution hub. The 'Ndrangheta are neck-deep in the trade.

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Robert Frazer on Wed 27 Oct 2010 - 12:23

Ah, the War On Drugs - ain't it swell? Certainly, it's a boon to thriller writers everywhere - when the Soviets threw in the towel, the drugs gangs helpfully slotted into place as default antaognists. Wink

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Re: Occupational Hazards: A short story

Post by Kiskaloo on Wed 27 Oct 2010 - 12:51

@Robert Frazer wrote:Ah, the War On Drugs - ain't it swell? Certainly, it's a boon to thriller writers everywhere - when the Soviets threw in the towel, the drugs gangs helpfully slotted into place as default antaognists. Wink

Indeed. What really spurred the idea was reading The Cobra.

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