My Name is Legion: A Short Story

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My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Robert Frazer on Tue 3 May 2011 - 21:14

"...for we are many." It is formed from hundreds, but a raging mob can move with terrible purpose and fearful will, easily bent to dark purposes with the dilution of responsibility. When such a giant tramples the streets, what strength can overcome it?

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

DeviantArt mirror to follow.

Sorry to inflict this on you all. It's crap. I don't say that out of pious modesty, it truly and honestly is awful. The pacing is plodding, the battle scene is interminable, the asides are dull, the dialogue is didactic, and despite the name I don't make nearly enough of the rioting concept. Please don't waste too much time on it. I don't really have much pride in publishing this, but as it's been almost six months since I last posted a writing update I had to offer up something. Hopefully, now that this has been expurgated from my system, the relief will let me compose better stories in future - and I'll now finally be able to catch up on my reading of everyone else's stories!


Last edited by Robert Frazer on Thu 5 May 2011 - 15:55; edited 1 time in total

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Kiskaloo on Tue 3 May 2011 - 23:39

Robert Frazer wrote: Please don't waste too much time on it.

Not your best work, to be sure, but it's clearly your work and that makes whatever time spent on reading it worth the expenditure.


Last edited by Kiskaloo on Wed 4 May 2011 - 12:16; edited 1 time in total

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Wed 4 May 2011 - 5:44

Saved...MP5 released a new chapter just yesterday but you're next in line. Looking forward to it despite any warnings you may offer.

Frankly, the stories I thought weren't my best have been well received...while episodes I thought came out great have gone all but un-noticed.

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by ChaosKin640 on Thu 5 May 2011 - 8:16

As a fellow writer, I know full well how the quest for perfection can very often be both seductive and addictive. But there comes a time when we have to step back and allow the audience to be the final judge, rather than our own egos. To be frank, Robert, I think you’re being horrendously hard on yourself.
While I’ll certainly admit that this wasn’t the fastest paced or most action-packed of stories; but then, neither is canon GSG. As Kisk stated, the poetically styled prose is very much YOU, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re criticisms of this latest installment are unfounded and undeserving.
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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Alfisti on Fri 13 May 2011 - 10:21

I'll agree with the others: I think you're selling yourself a bit short mate... but I also think you tend to fly by higher standards than many of us. That said, I can fully sympathise with the feeling that something just isn't gelling, when all the ideas are there but it's somehow just not coming together. You can see where the problems are but just can't get them fixed, like a car with just one patch of rough paintwork that no amount of buffing will remove... and the idea of stripping it all back and starting again is more painful than leaving the imperfections there, especially as doing so may only re-create the same flaws in a slightly different manner.

The results are perhaps harder for an outside observer to pick up perhaps, but damn are you aware of it yourself.

That said, if beating yourself up about it gives you reason to strive even harder for perfection next time: don't let me stop you. Wink


Fuller thoughts to come when I can find a free moment, but might I say now that Ferro's reading of Donato's message verbatim had me in fits. I could just picture her delivering it monotone across the phone... and "your" Lord Jingo? Hmm...

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Robert Frazer on Fri 13 May 2011 - 16:47

I suppose that when I came to finishing this story, after scraping a sentence at a time since January, I was just so monumentally fed up with the wretched thing I refused to see any merit in it. Thanks for the encouragement, Chaoskin and Alfisti both, but even now I'm still pretty down on it. Lehman's plot sounds horribly contrived - although on the other hand, that might be half the reason why he now has a well-ventilated skull! - and the dialogue just doesn't sit right with my ear. I struggle to find a natural vernacular.

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by ChaosKin640 on Fri 13 May 2011 - 21:48

Lehman's plot sounds horribly contrived
Contrived? Maybe, maybe not. I don't think it's outside the realm of realistic possibility, though. He was a man at the end of his rope: pushed to the edge after years of dealing with a problem that was bad enough to warrant some real stress on his part, but not serious or big-scale enough in comparison to the other issues going on in Italy to warrant attention from the higher ups. So for years he was left dealing with things more-or-less alone and as the man in charge all of the blame ultimately fell on him. I can understand why he felt he needed to resort to drastic measures. And that fact is reflected within the story itself as Avise genuinely sympathizes with Lehman.

and the dialogue just doesn't sit right with my ear. I struggle to find a natural vernacular.
I'm afraid I can't really comment on this. As Alfisti mentioned, the standards of your writing style does tend to fly at a little higher of a level than the rest of us. At the very least, the artistic and poetic flare that you write in almost always leaving me feeling slightly green with envy. So, unfortunately I just don't think my literary sense is...refined enough, I guess I would say, to appropriately critique your unique style of dialogue.
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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Officer_Charon on Tue 17 May 2011 - 2:08

Heady, hearty stuff... it struck me a bit like a gourmet version of a "Hungry Man XXL" TV Dinner - delicious fare, but perhaps too much in a package of it's size. That would really be my only comment in reference to your original assertions.

As a riot officer, the opening scene resounded with me... thankfully, I'm not one of the poor schlubs in the shield line (I'm on the arrest team), but I think you did a very fine job of capturing the chaos and terror that comes from realizing that standing across from you, separated by mere yards, is a group of people who views you as the symbol of all they hate - their own personal AntiChrist. Weakens the bowels, just thinking about it.

And yet... I can see where Lehman was coming from. His route may have strayed drastically from where it started from, but his original motivations were straightforward: take action where apathy reigns, create flow from stagnancy... revitalize society.

As Avise said, I could very easily see myself starting where Lehman did... which meant that he had to die.

I also liked the interplay between the various government agencies that you outlined... it's very easily to get caught up in the alphabet soup of government agencies without realizing that, while many perform similar functions, there are SUPPOSED to be very specific jurisdictions. You tied it up very neatly, how Special Operations (Section 2) would become involved in something so high-profile. Nicely done!

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Tue 17 May 2011 - 5:40

I'll do this by chapter since I'm dragging my feet and not getting things done as fast as I'd like!

Chapter One...

It is as if the gaze of Guihono's citizens snag on the fast flow of the straightened river running through it, and are spun round, unbalanced, to face back upstream; there, they see the glittering sapphire threads of streams, the brightness of the energy that so moved them, highlighting the contours of the mountains above – and they resent it.
You open up with a long section describing the town but in my opinion this is the best bit. More than any other line here it seems to convey the sense of discontent and apathy that gives the story its setting.
If anything, Clara's fogged shield made things worse, smearing the mass of rioters into one congealed, swollen monster
This entire passage (about Carla) seems to convey a real sense of isolation, even in the middle of a riot and with comrades to her left & right.
the concrete block heaved off the roof of the building beside Clara cracked her helmet like an egg, pulped her skull like a fruit,
Seems like a pretty poor helmet...even for one that's seen too much usage.
"Then you will understand the importance of abiding by the regulations that you actively oversee, sir." The diener was unmoved.

"I also oversee your salary review." Lehman intoned darkly.
This exchange definitely tempered my opinion of Lehman...I was expecting his (hopefully unpleasant) demise for the rest of the story...
"You besmirch my integrity, Costanzo. I make it a point of pride that I have never taken a bribe in my life." Lehman pronounced airily.

"No, you just exact tribute in kind instead of cash. How medieval." Costanzo muttered.
...so you can imagine how pleased I was to find that he was indeed crooked.
After a moment's shocked bewilderment that anyone would ever pass up an opportunity to claw a juicy honour to his breast, the Carabinieri, the Finance Guard, and AISI fell over each other to take charge of the investigation.
Seems like a reference to canon Chapter 72 when the Public Safety Director states that he doesn't like the idea of Special Forces milling around...as well as Hillshire & Triela discussing the possibility that Section One was setting them up in Montalcino. Competition & distrust between the various Italian counter-terrorism agencies make it as dangerous an atmosphere as the mafia.
After Section One submitted their observational report, there came the matter of arranging an operational response. ...So that was how Guihono came to be visited by a detachment from Section Two (Special Operations) of the Social Welfare Agency.
Complex and very realistic politics in this passage but after reading it a few times I still don't understand why Section One did not hold onto control of the operation. It's possible that you and I are interpreting Section One in different ways though.
Michele remembered one time that he had been skiing. A cable-car sat at an intermediate station would take skiers up to the very top of the mountain, but the attendants manning it would only set it in motion when the gondola was full to capacity.
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"Northern Irish," Brian corrected him, "he's from Belfast."
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Avise pouted, sour that something he enjoyed was being tainted by association with the tea-drinking pinkie-extended lordy-marms.
and equally humorous is Avise's naiveté about the culture...effectively rendering Brian's boast a back-fire.
Agapita was wearing..."Are you sure that's suitable, Aggie?" Kara ventured.
You very seldom describe outfits (that's something I like...it seems a superfluous detail unless it has some direct relevance to the story) but in this case it's so out of character for Agapita (at least as I'd perceived her) that I'm glad you did.
"I'm very sorry, but... your bust is really the wrong size to carry off a tube-top well. They're great with a large chest or no chest, but you, erm... fall between two stools.
A terrific cyborg moment; a discussion about fashion while standing on the cusp of battle.

We live for our handlers, to support and defend them, but here we're being deliberately separated from them....How can you stand it?"

Agapita's hand drifted across to brush the round-beaded wooden bracelet and its small cross around her wrist, "Just because you can't see something doesn't mean that it's not there."
That Kara & Agapita's light fashion conversation can so easily shift into heavy cyborg philosophy also says a lot about the girls and how their minds work.

Moving on to Chapter Two...

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Robert Frazer on Tue 17 May 2011 - 9:10

Thanks for the thoughts everyone.

I can understand why he felt he needed to resort to drastic measures.

I would say that Clara is the straw that broke the camel's back, yes.

I also liked the interplay between the various government agencies that you outlined... it's very easily to get caught up in the alphabet soup of government agencies without realizing that, while many perform similar functions, there are SUPPOSED to be very specific jurisdictions. You tied it up very neatly, how Special Operations (Section 2) would become involved in something so high-profile.

Italian bureaucracy is hideously inefficient and full of petty empire-building, and as Kiskaloo picked up in one of his stories the bloated security services are an opportunity for politicians to buy votes by stuffing departments full of government workers dependent on the state dime, offer jobs for the boys, and give opportunities for graft - which results in all the squabbling and incompetence seen here. The Social Welfare Agency has the ability to cut through the bullshit.

Seems like a pretty poor helmet...even for one that's seen too much usage.

I think I might go back and change this scene to Clara having her head bashed in by an iron pole or something similar, to tie in her death more to the riot itself than its periphery. Still, I don't think it's too implausible, even a small drop can be quite a force - when I was writing this scene something similar had happened just recently in Belfast (the policewoman wasn't killed but she had a cracked skull), and last year a policeman was almost killed when a student threw a fire extinguisher from a rooftop during the fees protests - literally missed by only a few inches.

...so you can imagine how pleased I was to find that he was indeed crooked.

Lehman probably just sees himself as using his judgement. "Baron Drugs, I'm showing considerable courtesy here. Even if you have enough professional witnesses to lie blind in court and keep you out of prison, I could still make things a real hassle for you by harassing your laundering operations on every little technicality. Why don't you show a little appreciation and give up a few of your street pushers?"

It's possible that you and I are interpreting Section One in different ways though.

As I've seen it, Section One are the spies while Section Two are the soldiers - Public Safety investigates and Special Operations executes. As is endemic in the mess that is Italian security there's an area of overlap which leads to jurisdictional conflict, but generally Public Safety are observers and reporters and would only really fight in self-defence rather than organising their own offensive actions.

You very seldom describe outfits (that's something I like...it seems a superfluous detail unless it has some direct relevance to the story) but in this case it's so out of character for Agapita (at least as I'd perceived her) that I'm glad you did.

That clothing isn't always relevant and to dwell on it for too long ruins pace is a factor, definitely. Still, one of the reasons why I don't describe clothing all that often is because in all honesty I don't know much about it. I'm completely fashion-illiterate - Armani's a designer brand, I guess? - and I'm bit embarrassed when reading Pactio and it showing up my lack of knowledge. I'm having to search the internet to find out what you even call these items of clothing, let alone what goes with what! This was partially an experiment to see if I could actually describe clothes with at least a vague sense of style.


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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by ChaosKin640 on Tue 17 May 2011 - 11:57

Still, one of the reasons why I don't describe clothing all that often is because in all honesty I don't know much about it. I'm completely fashion-illiterate...I'm having to search the internet to find out what you even call these items of clothing, let alone what goes with what!
I'm pretty much in the same boat Robert. I honestly couldn't care less about current fashion trends and what-goes-with-what. For me, when I'm writing and I feel there is some need to describe a character's clothing (like in my last chapter with Petra's dress), all I really think about is: what season is it? Right now in my timeline, it's early spring, so I just Google women's spring fashion and look through a bunch of pages until I find an outfit I find appealing and appropriate for the character. Why spend the time agonizing over not being able to put together a suitable outfit when there are dozens, even hundreds of fashion designers who've done the work for you?
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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Tue 17 May 2011 - 22:33

Chapter 2
The Padanian safe-house wasn't the tallest building in the surrounding block – the rebels ought to sack their estate agent
Here lies the payoff for the long introductory description...I can see Guihono as being the kind of town where nobody would feel an obligation to get involved when a shoot-out occurs in their neighborhood.[/font]
Her quieter crossbow might only give her a second's advantage before the Padanian's felt the impact – but races can be won by shavings of fractions.
At least on this forum that crossbow is certainly one of Yu's most popular drawings! Good usage of it here.
Petrushka flexed her knees and span round low across the doorframe, ... then sprang back the other way at full height and blurring speed, ... she landed she used her momentum to pirouette round back to the other side of the frame,...She then hopped down into a prone position and leaned her upper body around the ragged frame
Lorenzo: We have got to recruit more girls from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy!
She contented herself with punching a hole through the bathroom door and posting a grenade through it – Section One volunteered for post-operation cleanup, dealing with the plumbing would justify their paycheques.
Funny in an undoubtedly disgusting way.
Agapita reloaded her SA80 as she stepped into the middle of the room.
She's only wearing a tube-top and a miniskirt...how many loaded magazines can she carry?
Amelia had already booby-trapped the vehicle the night before - one small pre-adolescent girl being able to move around street lights and crawl under the chassis more discreetly
Clever touch...I have to remember to incorporate the Bomb Squad Girls more often.
Avise had centred himself and his fifth burst took his target in the chest. An armoured vest stopped the bullets, but their kinetic impact was still enough to squeeze a strained squawk out of the Padanian and knock him off-balance against the body of the that car his partner was still desperately struggling with; the rocking moment of recovery was all the opening Giada needed to spear him through the side of the neck with another unerring bolt
Does that count as an assist for Avise?

Battles are hard to write but throughout this entire fracas you've managed to give each featured character a different experience reflective of their personality (similar to the climax of Occ. Haz.).
"Rear South clear! Bathroom clear! Near enough!" Kara's voice was more muffled, but it was no difficulty for a cyborg to discern.
Keeping quiet about the mess until the Sec. Two team is well clear of the scene I see...
Agim had joined this operation out of moral desperation.

Fabio Amaretti sat in his chair behind the desk in the final chamber of the house
Is there such a thing as an enemy red-shirt? I'm divided about these cutaways to the Padania characters. On one hand it is interesting to see a "face" on the enemy, but on the other hand they do seem to break up the flow of what's going on with very little overall payoff to the story. I like them...but maybe there's a better place to fit them in than in the middle of an action scene.

Ferro gave an acknowledgement and then lowered the walkie-talkie to address the handlers. "Okay, boys, we're up."
From referring to Avise as "Marlboro Man" to "Okay, boys" Ferro seems to be taking on a more casual tone than usual.
Alessandro's immediate stifled, spitting, scathing curses informed the others that he had just slipped on some of the remains of the two Padanians smeared by Giada's grenade strike.
One wonders how often this has happened in real life. It's something you don't think about while training...and perhaps something worth incorporating into shoot-house drills.
"You should have aimed at his arm, or maybe even shot away the weapon that he was reaching for. It would have been useful to have a prisoner to interrogate." She snipped.
So much for her casual tone.
As instinctive as his typical tetchy defensiveness was, his conscience stilled it when he understood through her hesitant eyes resting uneasily above the critical bark from her mouth just how crucial authority was to her
A sensitive observation from the normally ego-driven Avise. I see you're allowing him to develop a bit.
The wooden staircase had been completely gutted, disembowelled by Agapita's earlier grenade, leaving a gaping, ragged cavity – into which Agapita herself had just plunged.

Bullet-stings had smudged scabrous brown and red across her bare shoulders and collar, while deeper, broadly-spread patches turned her yellow tube-top black, and it was itself torn ragged to near destruction, nicked by a hundred small slits from rolling across a bullet riddled floor. Her belt, held on only by a few sinewy leather threads after a bullet had torn through it, had snapped in the fall and splayed out underneath her, while a shotgun blast had shaved away most of the front of her skirt and the skin from her thighs in two smartingly red weals. She had a nervous grin.
...and here's the pay-off for the description of her outfit earlier...we get to see it utterly destroyed (along with a large part of her body) at the close of the fight. It's a perfectly lurid image and a great cyborg moment.
"Um, excuse me?"

Everyone looked up to see Kara poking her head around the landing.

"Um... I hope everyone won't think too badly of me if I, er... ask for a ladder?"
A humourously incongruous moment to close out the scene. Kara gets her fair share of comedic moments during this battle.
(Reschiglian) held something of a private antipathy towards Ricci – with his lank body, thin smile, and history of rooting around in Italy's underbelly, Alessandro always conjured up an image of a weasel in Reschligan's mind,
There's also the fact that he punched him in the face following Rosanna's disappearance!

"Most Padanian factions are fascists and they rely heavily on stirring up xenophobia to rally their base.
Classic strategy...stir up xenophobia then hire foreign nationals to come cause trouble, thereby stirring up more xenophobia.[quote]Claes had a 'software update' during her last conditioning session and the Active Security Concern watching database was uploaded into her – the boffins are testing their memetic recall routines."[quote] A clever new use for the non-combatant cyborg.
"Just imagine, thirty years from now you could learn the dictionary just by staring at a screen of squiggly lines for a few minutes.
Gunslinging science fiction aside...this stuff is a genuine possibility within our lifetimes.
Maybe you ought to use that gadget you're so proud of to ring up Section One's communications unit and have them pull up the late Amaretti's phone records."
I was kind of expecting a double entendre on the cyborg being the gadget Sandro is so proud of.

The plot thickens...moving on to chapter three.

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Robert Frazer on Wed 18 May 2011 - 8:03

Funny in an undoubtedly disgusting way.

One of the more unfortunate things about fighting - aside from the whole death and agony thing, which we'll take as read - is for someone's bowels to relax after they've died. If I had to go that way, I'd appreciate an opportunity to go to the toilet first...

She's only wearing a tube-top and a miniskirt...how many loaded magazines can she carry?

She's threading webbing pouches through her belt, so plus a couple of grenades and a radio set I'd say she had comfortable room for four magazines plus one already in the weapon.

Is there such a thing as an enemy red-shirt?

Well, there's plenty here! Let's have a breakdown of the killcount throughout the story:

Petrushka: 8
Agapita: 7
Giada: 6
Kara: 4
Amelia: 1
Avise: 1
Allison: 1
Rioters: 1

Total stiffs: 29

EXTRA BONUS ROUND SCORE MULTIPLIERS!
Explosions: 4
Windows smashed: 2
Cars wrecked: 2
Approx. Rounds Fired: 550 Badabadabadabadabadabading! Wink

In Agim and Amaretti's case, I envisioned their asides for a wider story purpose than just saying "Padanians are people too" (I agree with you that's a point that's been laboured enough and doesn't need to be constantly reiterated). Agim was designed as a lead-in for the punchy shot five times/shot once line, whereas Amaretti's monologue indicated that the battle was part of Lehman's plan.

One wonders how often this has happened in real life. It's something you don't think about while training...and perhaps something worth incorporating into shoot-house drills.

Henrietta did slip on a spent casing while training back in episode two - I suppose it's one of those variable environmental issues you can't really legislate for and just have to be generally aware of.

So much for her casual tone.

Hey, she's got a reputation to maintain. The ice queen can't be seen to thawing too quickly, people would talk.

A sensitive observation from the normally ego-driven Avise. I see you're allowing him to develop a bit.

It's also an opportunity to talk about Ferro herself. With Bianchi saying in the manga that she has different "work" and "off-duty" personas, it seems that she consciously alters herself according to the environment. I imagine that she is a bit of a careerist, and deliberately buttons up and takes herself so seriously in office hours because she needs to demonstrate and emphasise her effectiveness in order to be certain that she'll be noticed and can advance further; by taking these operational commands, maybe establishing herself as the heir-apparent who can become Section Chief when Lorenzo eventually retires?

There's also the fact that he punched him in the face following Rosanna's disappearance!

Heh, truth be told, I'd forgotten about that part... this was specifically inspired by Reschligan and Alessandro's argument in "Patchwork Fratello".

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Alfisti on Thu 19 May 2011 - 3:59

Robert Frazer wrote:
Seems like a pretty poor helmet...even for one that's seen too much usage.

I think I might go back and change this scene to Clara having her head bashed in by an iron pole or something similar, to tie in her death more to the riot itself than its periphery.
I dunno, I actually kind of like Clara's death be the result of just some random bit of misfortune, on the periphery as you put it. It adds to the futility of what the police in this town are trying to achieve. Having her belted by a rioter with a pole to me would give a target for anger, something to focus people, maybe even start a witch hunt. However, the anonymously hurled brick, un-targeted, just aimed generally at the thin blue line... that to me would be more likely to cause someone to figure "what else have I got to lose?"

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Alfisti on Fri 20 May 2011 - 22:31

Ok, so I'm way behind on my reviewing... going to stage this chapter by chapter thanks to time constraints.

CH01

Guihono's civic identity has an itch, but not the means to scratch it, and so it can only try to elbow its neighbours aside and make room.
Excellent opening as per usual. You've managed to build up a picture of discontent and belligerance brought on as much by locale as by the people in that locale... in doing so it gives that whole image a rather more ingrained feel than if it had been a description of people first.

It wasn't the first dead body that Marcel Lehman...
And opening onto the antagonist. Again you've managed to quickly draw a picture of the man, calloused and desensitized, world weary perhaps... so when Clara becomes the last straw, the thing that finally pushes him over the edge, it helps the reader understand just how long this has been building.

Her helmet rested on it – it was something already scuffed and dinted from substantial use
Again, these little details do well to help build a picture of the world this character inhabits: overstretched, underfunded... where things that should probably have been replaced ages ago are not simply because there's nothing to replace them with.

...it was the curse of the police to be bestowed with great power, but to be bound from using it.
You can just about hear the snap here, watch the man put one foot over the cliff edge.

Section One spent a fortnight tugging at leads and seeing what they tripped up,
Leads on nicely from the former paragraph, the idea that the SWA somehow has less to prove than anyone else, that it doesn't need to compete to ensure its survival. I guess when you're organization doesn't technically exist there's not a lot of point competing for laurels anyway. Of course, there's always room for a bit of internal fracteousness.

each felt the narrow passageway and wondered if this was the atmosphere of a trench before the big push. It felt quite good – the light was soft, the air was warm, the atmosphere was soothing, and the route was direct and clear.
Pip-pip, tally-ho! Last one in Berlin's a rotton egg! Back home in time for tea and crumpets!

Agapita was wearing a light pastel-yellow tube top which clung to her tightly underneath her bare arms (augmented by Agapita's dark shooting gloves), running down to her waist where it contrasted with a deep burgundy short skirt with thick, ruffled pleats so that it looked almost like a rah-rah skirt that a cheerleader might wear. Between the two was a broad brown belt of soft leather, fastened with a silver-coloured buckle; she had threaded several webbing pouches through the belt, and as incongruous a feature you might have thought that they would be, their drab olive colour was actually complementary and fitting with the rest of the ensemble.
I've got to admit this is a bit at odds with how I normally picture Agapita... bit more "clubby" bit less "girly". Kara's got a point about the tube-top though.

I like the little exchange between the two to close out this chapter, a bit of inter-cyborg-social-dynamics always goes down well.

More to come.

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Robert Frazer on Sat 21 May 2011 - 7:56

Thanks for your thoughts Alfisti.

Excellent opening as per usual. You've managed to build up a picture of discontent and belligerance brought on as much by locale as by the people in that locale... in doing so it gives that whole image a rather more ingrained feel than if it had been a description of people first.

I was worried that I'd overegged the pudding in the opening section and got lost in the description, so thanks for the reassurance that it worked.

Pip-pip, tally-ho! Last one in Berlin's a rotton egg! Back home in time for tea and crumpets!

Heh, true. Also, when a trench is usually depicted in the media, it's an opportunity for lots of dreary and despondent maundering around bleakness and inhumanity. That the cyborgs are contrastingly eager and excited and raring to go shows that they don't think the same way as normal people!

I've got to admit this is a bit at odds with how I normally picture Agapita... bit more "clubby" bit less "girly". Kara's got a point about the tube-top though.

It's not Agapita's usual attire, certainly, but as well as experimenting with clothing descriptions I felt that she needed something lighter for this mission because it involved a fair amount of running and jumping.

That Kara was right about the behaviour of the tube-top is a relief, though, as I was making a complete guess there. sweat

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Professor Voodoo on Thu 2 Jun 2011 - 5:13

Chapter 3
The mechanic ... tore off the carbon copy underneath, passing it back to Avise along with his Automobile Club d'Italia membership card.
That's a clever "undercover" touch...using a civilian auto club card rather than calling a government truck.
Despite being transformed into a dignified officer of the Law, Agapita gave a juvenile pout when she saw Giorgio in the van's front passenger seat. "I'm supposed to be in the front."
It's a sign that your Agapita character is developing nicely that she can display these personality quirks. When she was brand-new, straight out of the box she seemed so petrified of making a mistake that she'd never say something like that.
"One thing, actually," Ferro responded, ... "I also have a message from Doctor Donato.
Really enjoyed this bit. Donato seems the most gruff & impolitical of the doctors, so he was a good choice. One wonders how Agapita feels about the amount of damage she's taking.
Despite the delay from the van's faulty engine,
I thought the opening joke was that Avise had driven it off the road...?
Under the street lights it was easy to see that he was wearing a policeman's uniform, but as a military man Avise could immediately tell from the gatekeeper's slouched, insouciant posture that he was just a private security guard with a police tunic thrown over his shoulders to keep things official.
Interesting touch...budget measures or just a desire on Lehman's part to keep as few real officers close to his malfeasance as possible?
Truthfully he was eager and enthusiastic – this is what he had worked towards for months now – but to display that too openly would be suspicious.
A clever way of utilizing the intelligence gathered by the Agency...if Lehman is looking forward to some attention to his problems and thinks he's finally getting it he will not be on his guard like he should.
"Isn't it lonely?" Agapita blurted.
The sudden question caught Lehman flat-footed and he didn't have time to think about whether it was even appropriate or not. "Sorry, uh, what?"
"Being here on your own, without your wife? Without someone with you?" It emerged as an almost plaintive whine.
I think these sentiments must be a common trait amongst cyborgs. It would make sense that part of their conditioning would give them a predisposition for communal living and working within a group. With apologies to Monty, the idea of a "loner" cyborg just doesn't seem to jive with the whole GsG mythos.
The reward for long service is release from it.
I must remember that line.
"I spent most of the last few months fighting the Tyrol Bridge-Builders over there." Agapita declared. "It was pretty hot work."
Fact or just part of their cover story this time?
"It's random, just what the computer spat out, nothing more." Avise and Agapita droned together in a tired toneless unison.
Your fratello has reached simpatico.
The muzzle of Agapita's pistol held the black hole that Lehman had tumbled into, and now he had hit the bottom.
I like that metaphor.
"Do you know what makes this the worst possible thing?
"I agree with you. I fully empathise with you. I understand your frustration, I feel your bitterness, I know the bite of the wire of impotent rage constricting around you. Everything you have said is something that I would say, and mean - and have said, and done." He looked at Lehman with open, soulful compassion.
"And that's why I know, more than anyone else, that you have to die."
While it's not really a surprising attitude from Mancini it's an engadging passage. You really feel an air of...not quite sympathy but at least understanding for Lehman's motives.
"Avise Mancini." Lehman gave the name not so much to address Avise as a statement to the air. "Agapita...?"
"I don't have a surname." Agapita said simply.
I'm with you on that one. I think the fact that cyborgs possess only a first name is an important point in the GsG universe. It implies that the girls have no other family but the Agency, and even the temporary loan of their handler's surname is only a transient illusion.
"Move out six paces onto the lawn ahead, and then turn around to face me." Agapita instructed Lehman.
Agapita hammered a rapid double-tap which punched two rounds through Lehman's forehead,
It's a dramatic & well written scene, but I wonder if it might have been more efficient to save Lehman's eventual fate for the final lines in the mortuary...the revealing of his empty-skulled brain haemorrhage serving as ultimate confirmation of Agapita's act.
The two support staff leaned against the wall apparently preoccupied with the pattern of the wallpaper...The two Section One wetworkers, already changed into battleship-grey boiler-suits and drab olive wellington boots, were sitting on armchairs in the armchair's bay windows, quietly and unobtrusively clinking through their equipment bags.
After the dramatic assassination of the Police Chief it's amusing to see how routine the entire incident is to Georgio, Amadeo and the cleanup crew. Great juxtaposition.
Conditioning was designed to let a cyborg follow orders without question and coolly kill the enemy without suffering psychological trauma – it did little to suppress the glint that sparked in Agapita's eyes like the completion of an electrical circuit when the talisman of adult authority clinked in her fingers.
This is a terrific line, but I fear it gets a touch long-winded after this. It's not that the next few sentences necessarily diminish the line...I just think it got the point across just fine on its own.
I'm calling from the public mortuary on Via Giovanni Battista. I've received a suspicious call from people who claim that they're delivering a body, without proper credentials. Could you send someone round to supervise the matter?"
"Ah, we are already aware of this, sir – they telephoned the emergency services first, but the ambulance on hand had to be called to another emergency. Please assist them when they arrive – I appreciate that it's irregular, but tragedy doesn't need to be compounded with confusion."
"I see." The diener acknowledged.
The diener, although ostensibly a minor character is very interesting to me. His plodding, officious, but ultimately accepting attitude provides counterpoint to Lehman's ill fortuned attempt at changing his circumstances. He does his job, accepts the overtime as it comes and does not question what is outside the scope of his responsibility...and is ultimately more successful than the Police Chief for it.
"Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention anyway. Public vigilance is sadly lacking in this day and age." Claes hung up.
Claes: The diener gets extra pay for working at this hour...what about me?!
– the diener couldn't determine an exact impression of the man's muscle structure under his uniform,... he could guess that none of the people here were office workers, to put it mildly.
More on the diener; observant, but since it does not fall within the scope of his responsibilities not too curious.
"It's very tragic, how all of our grand plans and lofty ambitions can be undermined by such a miniscule flaw that it is impossible to seal.
Closing on a clever double entendre.
In spite of your warnings I found it enjoyable. One thing that stood out was that each chapter had a completely different tone. The grim setup of Chapter One, the at times comical action in Chapter Two and finally Chapter Three's somewhat cold wrap-up. From that perspective I can understand why it must have felt unsatisfying to write...stories that don't hold a consistant tone throughout vex me as well. Still, it worked...looking forward to your next!

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Robert Frazer on Thu 2 Jun 2011 - 14:49

Thanks a lot for the comments, Voodoo.

That's a clever "undercover" touch...using a civilian auto club card rather than calling a government truck.

There's also the question of whether you actually need the Mechanical Engineers' Corps to muster an operational deployment for a roadside fault! Wink

One wonders how Agapita feels about the amount of damage she's taking.

Going back to the end of Occupational Hazards, despite Avise's chastisement about being too openly swaggering about it Agapita is secretly pleased at severe injuries. They show that you've genuinely been at the sharp end. Scars are not disfiguring, they're impressive and distinguishing, a proof of glory.

Of course, the day will eventually come when the injury is too severe to be sorted out with a single afternoon in the Tech. Dept. and swapping out a mangled limb with a fresh one. Will it still remain fun then? I suppose we'll see...

I thought the opening joke was that Avise had driven it off the road...?

I was just imagining that the engine had conked out - Amadeo and Giorgio were ribbing Avise for not having the oily fingers to fix the problem himself, not because of any bad driving. I'll fo back and edit the dialogue to make it clearer.

I think these sentiments must be a common trait amongst cyborgs. It would make sense that part of their conditioning would give them a predisposition for communal living and working within a group.

I agree, but here I was more referring to the personal relationship of the fratello.

It's a dramatic & well written scene, but I wonder if it might have been more efficient to save Lehman's eventual fate for the final lines in the mortuary...the revealing of his empty-skulled brain haemorrhage serving as ultimate confirmation of Agapita's act.

I agree that it would have been a striking reveal, but on the other hand we already know from the conversation in the lounge that Lehman's going to die in some way anyway, and I still feel that Agapita is a little underdeveloped in comparison to Avise so I wanted to spend some more time establishing some more character details for her.

If nothing else, we at least know that she likes to do them execution-style...!

This is a terrific line, but I fear it gets a touch long-winded after this. It's not that the next few sentences necessarily diminish the line...I just think it got the point across just fine on its own.

Hmm. I suppose I wanted to make sure that Agapita's sentiment came out of a desire to contribute and be useful, not through any aspiration to independence. I see what you're saying about labouring the point too much or reducing the reader's ability to infer things for himself, I could have arranged things better.

In spite of your warnings I found it enjoyable. One thing that stood out was that each chapter had a completely different tone. The grim setup of Chapter One, the at times comical action in Chapter Two and finally Chapter Three's somewhat cold wrap-up. From that perspective I can understand why it must have felt unsatisfying to write...stories that don't hold a consistant tone throughout vex me as well.

Thanks for the words of encouragement. Truth be told, I've mellowed a little on this story now - I was just a bit fed up with its production dragging out for so long. Talking about uneven tone, I think that it's also showing up a problem with my general writing style. I tend not to write in sequence - I'll draw individual scenes, sometimes even just lone paragraphs, sentences or bits of dialogue, as they occur to me and then slot them in between and around each other in the framework of the synopsis. I actually wrote the ending scene before the story was even half-done. I'm not sure if it's really as productive as it could be - and it does hit your morale to type "THE END" on a difficult story only to realise that it actually isn't and you still have a whole middle chapter to do yet - so in future I'm going to be making a more concerted effort to write in a more linear way.


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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Alfisti on Fri 3 Jun 2011 - 5:39

Professor Voodoo wrote:
Robert Frazer wrote:"Isn't it lonely?" Agapita blurted.
The sudden question caught Lehman flat-footed and he didn't have time to think about whether it was even appropriate or not. "Sorry, uh, what?"
"Being here on your own, without your wife? Without someone with you?" It emerged as an almost plaintive whine.
I think these sentiments must be a common trait amongst cyborgs. It would make sense that part of their conditioning would give them a predisposition for communal living and working within a group. With apologies to Monty, the idea of a "loner" cyborg just doesn't seem to jive with the whole GsG mythos.
In fairness, Monty's something of a product of her environment as much as of her own personality. Though I doubt she would ever be a social butterfly, had she been brought up in a "normal, healthy" [sic] cyborg environment then she may have been less disposed to turn a cold-shoulder as much. As it stands though, the only person she truly gives a damn about is Jethro... and there's a suprisingly large damn to give.

At the end of the day, I still don't subscribe to the idea that the conditioning can be used to mould personality. Implate thoughts, ideas and information sure, suppress personality sure, accidentally change it as a side-effect, sure... but actually, purposefully, go and alter the core of who someone is?


Anyway, it's friday and I need a break (and seeing Voodoo's post is making me feel guilty for falling so far behind) so, on with the show...

CH02

The Padanian safe-house wasn't the tallest building in the surrounding
block – the rebels ought to sack their estate agent – but they
compensated for their lack of vantage by ensuring that the roof was
constantly patrolled.
That sudden jump of tense at "ought to" jars a bit if I'm honest.

Petrushka flexed her knees and span round low across the doorframe,
firing off a burst at shin height, and then sprang back the other way at
full height and blurring speed, launching another burst – as soon as
she landed she used her momentum to pirouette round back to the other
side of the frame, a wavy stance that it was difficult to focus on, and
blurted another burst to take down her fourth target. She then hopped
down into a prone position and leaned her upper body around the ragged
frame to cut down the last man who was trying to blindside her by moving
up to the near wall.
I don't know if it was purposeful or not, but, despite Petra's athletic moves, this passage feels quite clinical in a way, like she had it all planned out or has figured out and practiced a way to deal with this situation before. She's not struggling. Somehow that suits.

she flicked a grenade over the banister to rend a ragged hole through
the wooden stairs, bleeding dust and splinters, to cut off
reinforcements from assisting their comrades upstairs.
I get the impression that Agapita's adopting a bit of Avise's swagger. I like that the descriptions of each girls' action is slightly different in its wording, mimicing the different approaches.

Agim had joined this operation out of moral desperation. His
half-brother had helped to establish a new republic in Kosovo, and a
second cousin was laying the foundations of Greater Albania with a band
of guerrillas in the hills of Macedonia, but all he had done to serve
his nation's cause was pick strawberries in the service of the old
imperial occupier, who should have been hated and confounded at every
turn; the pay-packet he sent home to his elderly mother in did not
enrich the nation when it exacted an unequal loss of dignity and pride.
I know Voodoo's addressed this section as well, but here's my take: I think these cutaways help keep the battle interesting. The initial high-action assult phase seems to have passed and now the girls are clearing the place out. Cutting away to a bit about a Padanian helps build the tension for this section and prevents the whole thing from falling into a he-shot/she-shot routine. Moreover though it helps build the tension of the moment.

Petrushka waited for the sound of the last report to artfully echo away.
"Hallway clear! Rear North clear!" She then barked out, throwing her
stage voice with such modulated ease that she seemed to speak not from
her mouth, but from every wall.
Hey, there's nothing wrong with a bit of theatre, just ask Megamind.

but he knew that the attackers knew what to do. They would restrain and
arrest him, and for his help in corralling a pack of random dregs into a
herd large enough to alert state security he would be assigned a place
in a comfortable open prison...

...Unfortunately for Fabio, his life philosophy was not quite as
insightfully unique as his condescending ego pretended. Agapita herself
saw a path to navigate through chaos with the paved certainty of the
orders that she had received. She had been instructed to eliminate
threats. She saw a threat. She eliminated it.
I guess in some ways, trying to plan against cyborg thinking is different to planning against human thinking and the cyborgs, for the better part of the whole, are primarially weapons and killing machines. The idea of taking prisoners probably isn't so high up their priorities list.

but the adults still split up to sweep quickly through the ground floor for any last Padanians hiding in cupboards or pantries
Ineteresting distinction you're making here between the cyborgs and the handlers/staff. The cyborgs may be the heavy hitters, but the adults still need to do the "detail work" as it were.

the Five Republics weren't forged in the fires of ethnic strife; they're
a tax avoidance scheme that's got too convoluted for its own good.
It's actually a good point. It makes you wonder if any of the former leadership jumped ship after running a war became more expensive then paying their tax bill.


Thought on chapter03 shall be in the wings... eventually


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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Robert Frazer on Fri 3 Jun 2011 - 16:17

Thanks Alfisti. I can't stay for long, but just to pick up on another thing Professor Voodoo said while I'm here:

Fact or just part of their cover story this time?

This is a hook for a future adventure. Fighting the Tyrol Bridge-Builders is what I'm planning to eventually turn into the story "Pillars of Salt".

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Alfisti on Sat 11 Jun 2011 - 0:30

Alright, and on with CH03

Avise took it with a nod as he heard Ferro's voice emit from it?
I take it that's supposed to be a full stop.

Geez, pardon me for ensuring that lines of communication remained open during an operation,
There is such a thing as a hands-free kit Avise... or even just loudspeaker.

...your Lord Jingo...
Your Lord Jingo? Well I guess if you put a bunch of spooks, police and military types all in the same place the rumour mill is going to be one of the best on the planet.

As I said before, I got a good laugh out of this little tirade-by-proxy.

Also "Big Croce". Razz

left him unenthusiastic about the typical citizen's vim and fibre.
Somehow I get the feeling that Avise would be at least mildly unenthusiastic about most peoples' vim and fibre... in his own head at least I imagine he is Vim-And-Fibre-Incarnate.

I regret to say that yes, there has been a plot to perpetrate an atrocity on the citizens of Guihono.
Subtle, Avise.

It was a plain manila colour and did not have any of the stamps,
provenance marks or other identification details that you'd expect to
see on an official police document. Instead its title was only printed
in regular black type: "SWA.S1 DOC. C541-09 - OP. HEIMDALL POSTOP
EVIDENCE COLLECTION."
No identifing stamps or marks... generally a bad sign.

Out of curiosity, because I like to know these things: any particular structure behind that coding? SWA.S1 DOC. I can figure out, but the rest?

"I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the scrawl on every alley wall. I'm sick
of having to tie the shoelaces of half-trained incompetents, just to
make up manning numbers that I can never, ever reach. I'm sick of noisy
morons ranting on corners and who know their rights, but no-one
else's. I'm sick of someone being shot in the spine in a tavern and left
in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, while twenty-eight
other drinkers were 'using the toilet' while it happened. And, most of
all, I'm sick of thirty stabbings, forty bludgeonings and fifty arrests –
and bailouts – every fucking Saturday night."...
..."I
agree with you. I fully empathise with you. I understand your
frustration, I feel your bitterness, I know the bite of the wire of
impotent rage constricting around you. Everything you have said is
something that I would say, and mean - and have said, and done." He
looked at Lehman with open, soulful compassion.

"I did what I had to do." Lehman rasped, in a small voice.
In some ways the creation of the Cyborg program itself is similar to what Lehman is doing here, just on a much grander scale. He can't win by fighting clean, so instead he's fighting dirty, crossing a line and convincing himself that the ends justify the means. Lehman can't control his town, the Italian government can't control it's country... and so they find other ways.

Which of course is part of the fun of the series.

"I like the occasion of it." Agapita said, a reflective tone entering
her voice as her head wandered slightly in thought – but that pistol arm
never so much as twitched. "It elevates it. Dignifies it. No effort may
be necessary, but to exert it anyway ensouls it with conscious human agency. It's not a process, it's a fulfilment."
I like this about your fratello, they both have a certain sense of theatre... It's different from Marisa's urge to... umm... make an impact or Monty's stylish efficency and it's one of the things that, for me, helps set A&A apart and make them memorable.

"Very good, carry on." Avise said in a businesslike manner
Definately an officer Razz

"A brain haemorrhage." The diener repeated, as much to steady himself as
to confirm Avise's requirements. He looked down to Lehman's body, the
jagged-edged cavity carving out his cranium, and the oozy dribbles of
gore clinging to the side of his head like gelatine. "That is true."
Obviously bright enough to know when to not ask questions. The diener is a nice element though to bring the story full circle.

Good story mate, I don't know if you're still as underwhelmed by it as you were, but for me at least it's still difficult to pick flaws.

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Re: My Name is Legion: A Short Story

Post by Robert Frazer on Mon 13 Jun 2011 - 20:49

Moreover though it helps build the tension of the moment.

That was the plan for Agim's section - I'd struck on what I thought was a punchy point to finish with ("Agim shot Agapita five times / Agapita shot Agim once") and it needed a more extensive lead-in for the bullet-point period to really hit home.

It's actually a good point. It makes you wonder if any of the former leadership jumped ship after running a war became more expensive then paying their tax bill.

It's something that I've considered myself. While Cristiano's attitude suggested that some of the major figures behind Padania do pursue their rebellion out of a philosophical conviction of freedom and would be unlikely to cut and run, I wonder what would happen to the footsoldiers of Padania - who, ironically, are more true believers than their leadership - if they were 'asset-stripped' after an audit. Could they sustain a rebellion on bank robberies, kidnapping ransoms and whatever drugs they can push in the gaps between the mafias? Would they just peter out through a lack of direction and inspiration, or would they seek a new master? Should the xenophobic base grit their teeth and accept money from Iran, Russia and China and make their desire for independence subordinate to foreign interest in keeping Europe disrupted? How would their bravado and pride - very important to them, as evidenced by the talk amongst the Veneto militants before the St. Mark's Campanile battle - endure being puppets dancing to anothers' tune? Another idea for a greater conspiracy that I've been testing for story potential is for Padania to be actively supported by a committee of E.U. federalists in Brussels. They channel money to the Five Republics through the EU's opaque and inadequate accounting, and see the balkanisation of the continent as a way to divide and conquer the nations and strenghten their monolithic bureaucratic authority over the stubble of a "Europe of the Regions".

There's potential to increase the scope of the conflict to a grander scale, certainly, but would GSG's character be diluted if it became a more international jet-setting spy drama? I suppose that that's one thing that J&M can test!

Also "Big Croce". :razz:

I could have used "Croce Major" and "Croce Minor", but the thought of the two brothers wearing grey shorts with garters and schoolboy caps gave me nightmares for nights...

Somehow I get the feeling that Avise would be at least mildly unenthusiastic about most peoples' vim and fibre... in his own head at least I imagine he is Vim-And-Fibre-Incarnate.

Exactly right, that's one of Avise's character flaws - I wouldn't call him openly condescending, but he does have a very high opinion of himself!

Out of curiosity, because I like to know these things: any particular structure behind that coding? SWA.S1 DOC. I can figure out, but the rest?

"C541" is just random, but I used a late number, "09", instead of "01" or "03" because it would be a dossier produced towards the end of the operation.

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