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The Lie that Saved the World Chapter 5: Induction part 2

by VengefulReaper


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

“Recognized: Ethan Rider, Infiltrator. Code: 0005. Test file uploaded for first use. Welcome to The Alliance, Mr. Rider!”

Ethan stared at his reflection in the suit’s tinted glass. The elegant suit awaited his entrance as the successful start-up finished its course.

“Well… Hop in!”Breach said motioning to Ethan with an open palm.

He walked behind the suit. An air-burster was attached to the back of it as well as a holster for any weapons he’d carry. The shiny, metallic exterior was comprised of individual scales that constantly moved around the suit.

“I call it moving metal,” said Breach. “It’s a technology I developed. The problem with rigid designs is it’s unchanging. The profile you create can either be one of mobility, or durability. One that gives you an aerodynamic profile or one that makes you air resistant. You can’t have both. But if every piece of metal is moving, you can choose how to shape your suit. The only unfortunate weight added to the suit is the lead plating.”

“Lead plating?” asked Ethan as he ran his fingers over the metallic vertebrae of the suit.

“We typically operate in the abandoned regions which are always radioactive. It’s usually not too bad, but we still need a coating of lead to prevent us from being poisoned. The suit wouldn’t be half as heavy as it is now if we removed the lead.”

The back of the suit opened up and Ethan stepped inside. The exo-suit contracted to fit his body shape snugly. Ethan shivered as every part of his body felt like it was being poked by a needle. The suit was far from comfortable. He couldn’t imagine moving around in this.

“Would it kill you to put some cushions in here?” asked Ethan.

“You’re feeling uncomfortable because you’re not in your jumpsuit. Nobody gets into an exo-suit in jeans and a t-shirt,” Breach laughed. “Just stay in there a little longer. Let the U.I. boot up.”

A neon green loading bar appeared in front of Ethan. It morphed into a circle which then scattered across the screen. Several pieces of information filled the edges of the transparent screen in front of him.

The suit greeted Ethan, “Hello, Mr. Rider.”

“Uh… Hi?”

“Thank you for responding. That is the first time anyone has responded to that question in 25 years. But that’s okay since I can’t commit suicide even if I want to,” she responded in an overly joyous voice that did not match the tone of her words at all. “As you can see, to your bottom left are your vitals. This tells me when you’re dead. I mean how dead you are… I meant how… healthy you are?”

“Yeah…I got it…You really want me dead…”

“Correct! Moving on…To your right is the current model of your suit. It can be switched from durable and slow to fragile and agile. At the bottom is your targeting system. All this, combined with my superior intellect and your below-average training, will result in an UNSTOPPABLE KILLING MACHINE THAT WILL BATHE IN THE LUKEWARM BLOOD OF OUR ENEMIES! I mean…perform optimally to achieve our noble goals.”

Ethan immediately stepped out of the suit and promptly shut it down. The suit’s head dropped down and the floodlights faded. The scales instantly ceased their fluid motion and clicked back into place.

“Who the hell programmed her?” asked Ethan pointing towards the suit.

“Well, I programmed her to be really nice and helpful. But being an A.I. she developed her own personality. Every day she sounds more and more like my wife when she’s pissed,” Breach said as a peculiar expression that screamed trauma washed over his face for a brief second.

Remind me not to piss off your wife, Ethan thought as he returned the remote to Breach.

John cleared his throat, “Breach, please show Ethan around. I need to report to Steve.”

“Yes sir!” Breach said.

John left the private quarters silently as Breach through his gentle arm around Ethan’s shoulders. He walked Ethan down the metallic staircase. Ethan stepped onto a grass-green carpet that traversed the hangar.

“So, this would be the aerial hangar,” Breach said pointing to the massive aircraft suspended over Ethan’s head. Some were fighter jets painted in matt-black and others were transport planes designed to carry soldiers and weaponry.

“On the next level below this is the training facilities. Some are physical, but most are virtual simulations,” he added. “But right now, we’re getting something to eat!”

“Oh, I don’t think I’m hungry…” protested Ethan. He bitterly hated overwhelming crowds and all he’d get are hundreds of critical eyes fixated on him as if he was an alien coming from space. Aside from that, public eating areas made his skin crawl with how dirty every table would be. Ethan imagined the revolting smell of dumped food filling his sensitive nostrils as he entered the hall. Overfilled trashcans that spewed into the walkways and the deafening sound of toneless voices all mixed and muddled together. It was enough to make him anxious.

“Well, then I’ll eat, and you can just sit,” Breach said with a smile.

To Ethan’s surprise, the hall was not nearly as full as he anticipated. Most of the seats were unoccupied, and the place was relatively clean. There was a mighty buffet at the back of the grand hall where most of the people were gathered. The bulk of the hall was seating and trash cans. Most of the seating was either dark grey or hazel brown which made the seats seem cleaner than they actually were. The tabletops were made from plastic with red tablecloths thrown over them.

It's not that bad, Ethan thought. Breach smacked Ethan on his back which made him stumble forward. They walked to a table for four people to sit down. Ethan pulled out his sanitizer and quickly sprayed his seat and wiped it clean.

“You know we don’t live in a slum, right?” chuckled Breach.

“Might as well. This shit’s disgusting. Do you know how many sicknesses breed in stale food? I should have brought my surgical mask and gloves or else I’ll catch a minor infection.”

“No, and I certainly would not like to know,” Breach said in response before sitting down opposite him. He raised his finger as he opened up his link to call someone.

“Hello, Rico?... Yes?... Bring us some food… Yes, I know. Just bring food for me; he doesn’t want to eat… okay but remember the sauce… Thank you, bye.”

Ethan began to fidget with his hands. An awkward silence filled the space between him and Breach who was seemingly oblivious to this silence. It seemed his mind had drifted aimlessly from reality and what sat opposite Ethan was merely a hollow vessel. He wished his mind could veer from reality like that.

He snapped back to reality when an Italian man sat next to him and punched him in the shoulder. He had a flowing beard that looked like an impenetrable bush and a mustache that joined his beard. His expressive eyebrows were thick, and his hair draped down to the base of his neck that curled up right at the end.

“Not. A. Word. Rico,” Breach warned as he begrudgingly handed Rico fifty Rand.

“The way your team got your asses handed to you; I should have bet hundred!” he said opening his wallet to slide the note in.

“Ethan, this is my friend Rico Veratti. Rico, this is Ethan Rider, the new infiltrator,” Breach monotonously said as if all the life had been drained from him.

“Please excuse friend,” Rico chuckled. “He is not so happy Galaxy FC lost 4-0 last night. Where are you from Mr. Driver?”

“Uhm… It’s Rider. And I’m from extension 15 in Durban South. Just a few streets down from the station.”

“Oh! You are not far from me then. You come for dinner tomorrow, no?” he offered.

Ethan’s eyebrows furrowed, “Wait, what? You just learned my name.”

“You are new here, no? Then you come for dinner. I invite you and Breach and anyone else you want to bring. I make big feast for you.”

“Just give in, mate,” muttered Breach. “He’s not going to stop until you agree.”

Ethan lifted his hands in surrender, “Alright then, I’ll pop in tomorrow. How many are you inviting?”

“I don’t know!” Rico chuckled impulsively throwing his arms in the air. “Maybe just infiltrator and some friends. Don’t worry. Me and wife are professional chef. My food better than my English.”

“I have a passion for cooking as well,” added Ethan. “What cuisine do yo-”

“You have no idea what I just heard,” interrupted Amber. “Galaxy FC just lost-”

“Fucking hell!” hissed Breach as he grabbed his drink and what was left of his food and left the table in an instant.

“What’s up with him?”

“Galaxy fan,” Rico said. “Amber, I have feast for Rider with Breach. You come too, no?”

Amber twirled the stirrer in her coffee, “You sure it’s a good idea to invite a recruit to dinner? Aren’t they like… most likely to be spies?”

“I’m. Right. Here,” muttered Ethan.

Rico smirked, “Don’t worry. I put truth serum in glass of water. If he spy, he will tell me. Then I slit throat.”

“What?!”

“Nothing,” dismissed Rico with a wave of the hand.

Just when I thought these guys were normal, Ethan thought.


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277 Reviews


Points: 11910
Reviews: 277

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Wed Jun 22, 2022 3:25 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi VengefulReaper! I’ve been reading chapters of your novel and decided to give this one a review.

My first impressions are that this chapter is a bit more laid back than the previous ones. The characters are getting some room to breathe and show their personalities, since there are no big plot reveals being made here. I kind of feel that I liked the more serious depictions better than the humour? That could just be me, though, because there’s definitely some stuff to enjoy in this chapter as well, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Characterisation

I find your characters to be likeable and sympathetic. Ethan is an interesting protagonist. I like that he has a medical background but isn’t sort of confined to being ‘the doctor’ trope like such characters tend to be in media. His motivation is easily understandable, and I’m interested to see how else it impacts his character. For instance, how it might relate to his fear of dirt and disease, since his mother was killed by a bioweapon. (Though thinking those two things might be related is just speculation on my part.)

Aside from that, public eating areas made his skin crawl with how dirty every table would be.

I like this continuity from the previous chapter. Ethan’s apartment seemed neat and tidy, so
the person who lives there would of course prefer everywhere to be neat and tidy as well.

Believability and Continuity

“Thank you for responding. That is the first time anyone has responded to that question in 25 years. But that’s okay since I can’t commit suicide even if I want to,” she responded in an overly joyous voice that did not match the tone of her words at all.

This is a pretty big mood whiplash, or a sudden switch in the atmosphere of this story. Previously the humour in the story was pretty mild, like Amber joking about diarrhoea. It certainly caught me off-guard.

“Well, I programmed her to be really nice and helpful. But being an A.I. she developed her own personality. Every day she sounds more and more like my wife when she’s pissed,” Breach said as a peculiar expression that screamed trauma washed over his face for a brief second.

My first reaction was: ‘Well, that’s very messed up. I’m not very sure I like this exo suit. And I think Breach needs therapy and possibly a divorce.’ “trauma” is a pretty heavy word, so I was confused why Ethan didn’t seem very bothered by the whole thing. The AI’s words themselves seem rather cartoonish or ridiculous, for instance the sudden capitalisation of “UNSTOPPABLE KILLING MACHINE” makes me imagine the audio is glitching out and the volume is just going crazy because of it. It’s also very melodramatic, so she doesn’t come across as a serious threat or anything, but like, it’s also not really a comic moment for me. Then again, I’m not sure if that’s what the scene is supposed to do here. Maybe it’s just to show the technology and its problems.

On another level, I’m not sure how ‘realistic’ you intend the worldbuilding in the story to be. Breach’s dialogue on the “rigid designs” made sense intuitively, even though I have zero experience with the kind of tech he’s talking about. I do have some limited knowledge of AI though, and the question I had was ‘my goodness, how does an AI end up like this?’. When Breach says he “programmed” her, he probably means that he ‘trained’ her on a set of data to make her able to communicate on a human-like level. AI only learn patterns from the data you feed them, and if he’s training her to just operate the exo suit, I think there shouldn’t be anything in his data that talks about “superior intellect” and the driver/pilot’s “below-average training”.

It’s also a bit difficult to imagine for me how an AI learns to talk the way she does if she was trained on “nice and helpful” data, because even when AI deviate from their training, it’s usually not this extreme. I’m thinking that the AI in this story is supposed to be sentient, which would explain why the exo suit AI doesn’t act like AI in our present time. However, if she is a sentient being, then it makes Breach seem kind of messed up for not being more concerned about her well-being if she’s expressing all of these thoughts.

It may be that I'm just overthinking a throwaway scene here, but I thought I'd put this into the review since I think it's of interest to a sci-fi author c:

Plot, Pacing and Setting

Something I liked about this chapter was the development of the setting. I think it’s a good pacing strategy to slow down a little bit at this point and let the reader get used to the Alliance base as the story setting.
There was a mighty buffet at the back of the grand hall where most of the people were gathered. The bulk of the hall was seating and trash cans. Most of the seating was either dark grey or hazel brown which made the seats seem cleaner than they actually were. The tabletops were made from plastic with red tablecloths thrown over them.

I like the description here, as it’s very specific. Red tablecloths kind of remind me of the bright colours of the insignia described in a previous chapter. The colour choice of the seating also seems very practical, which reflects how this is a military base, and explains how a military base might manage to maintain a sleek appearance.

“Uhm… It’s Rider. And I’m from extension 15 in Durban South. Just a few streets down from the station.”
“Oh! You are not far from me then. You come for dinner tomorrow, no?” he offered.

I also like this detail that helps locate the characters in the setting. It adds a nice ‘human’ touch to this more otherworldly science fiction setting where teleportation exists, to show people still have neighbourhoods and hospitality.

Overall

This was an interesting chapter that introduces new characters like Rico and lets us get to know characters like Breach, Ethan and Amber a little better. I like that we get a chance to slow down from the previous chapters and also that there’s a sense of what these people are like outside of the plot-driven elements, which to me is really important in making characters that feel real. Though I had some issues with the AI part, and the mood whiplash thing, I think the setting overall seems pretty fleshed out and immersive, and am looking forward to reading the next chapter.

Hope some of this is helpful and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim






Thanks for the review, Lim! Now that you've pointed that out, I should really think about the AI's personality xD. I think characterizing her as an AI is misleading as AI generally rewrites its own code based on decision statements which probably wouldn't lead a helpful robot to the dark side of the force lol.
My original concept of her was that she was helpful for the most part but she had a glitch that would randomly occur that would be the polar opposite of her personality. I might need to rethink that though. Thanks for pointing that out!



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Thu May 19, 2022 12:06 am
SalisRuinen wrote a review...



Hey!! Salis here with another review!

I'm just going to say it right from the start. This chapter is my favorite from all the ones from you I've read!!! I can't say if it's the best one in general, but it resonated with me more than any of the others.

First off, the description and the whole idea behind the exo-suit was absolutely stunning. Using moving metal that adjusts to the pilot's physique is like applying the typically dynamic nature of living things to a machine that has no life in it and is usually static. And given that it can switch from an offense-oriented to a defense-oriented mode in the blink of an eye, it blends the notions of static and active even more!

A hybrid like this could have limitless possibilities and I can't wait for Ethan to discover them! While being mentioned that it's far from comfortable when a pilot isn't wearing the proper outfit, I felt the urge to jump right in it the moment I learned more about it! I also commend you on giving this extraordinary battle engine disadvantages for each mode. Keeping in mind that every ability or equipment needs to have a flaw is one of the most important lessons you've taught me.

Mr. Rider, however, will most likely need a quite a while before he can get used to this high-tech giant, mostly due to the personality of the A.I. that runs it. And that brings me to the second highlight of the chapter – meeting this cheeky A.I. I laughed at most of, if not all the banter between the members of this duo, who are sure to make for a lot of comedic moments in the future. Seeing how they develop their teamwork with the great difference between them is something I'll love to bear witness to!

I also love that you showed on several occasions how Ethan is not cut out to be working with the Alliance at the present time. Makes one realize he'll have a long and arduous (not to mention funny) journey before he can become a true member of the Infilitrators, especially with how his expectations are subverted at every turn.

Finally, the biggest highlight of this chapter and any other work from you I've read. I would like to congratulate you from the bottom of my heart for getting your CREW together. That's right, the CREW. I'll often right this word in caps, because to me it is an essential element to every good story. And I believe that once a writer has formed a unique and intriguing group of characters who work together, the true story begins. That's when a person (well, at least I, as I've always preferred following an ensemble of characters rather than a lone hero's journey) really, REALLY get invested in the story and while I don't mean to make promises I can't keep, I guarantee I'll follow what happens with these guys from here on to the end (even if I read the chapters with quite a slow pace).

You have all the elements you need on the table now – the insecure and reluctant main protagonist, who's like a fish out of water (Ethan), the very strong and imposing veteran, who is sometimes an airhead (Breach), the killer (I do feel like we'll see him killing people and maybe even enjoying it very soon) comic relief (Rico) and the bad-ass female character (Amber). All that's left is to utilize each of these pieces to the fullest and combined with the other unique traits of your story, you'll have a truly unforgettable journey to offer the readers!!

Now get to work, Santa, and keep giving us presents like this one!!!
Thanks for the great chapter!! Keep at it to edge of infinity and beyond!






Thank you so much for the review!! I really appreciate the thoughts you have on each of my chapters. You pick up on a lot of things that I, sometimes, unintentionally put in. I'm glad you enjoy Rico's lightheartedness. Him and Breach definitely share a brain-cell xD




The brain is wider than the sky.
— Emily Dickenson