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E - Everyone Violence

The Project

by Asith


The Project

"Author's note: I think this is one of my weakest short stories. Something about it feels off; most of it feels empty. Putting it here to hopefully see if readers feel the same way. Story is about 2500 words. It's sci-fi, I guess. I suspect punctuation and sentence structure screwups -- apologies."



Alan woke up. He'd never felt so invigorated before. This had to have been the best sleep he'd ever had. His body felt brand-new; his mind had entirely forgotten about the massive stresses that his ground-breaking project had been piling on to him for years now.

He opened his eyes, hoping to take in the morning rays with newfound enthusiasm, and quickly get to his work before this feeling escaped him. Except, there were no morning rays to take in. Strange. He sat up straight. His sleeping-pod beneath him slackened and beeped, detecting that he had gotten up. He felt around the dark room he was in, but where he'd usually find his personal holographic infocube floating next to his sleeping-pod, which he'd use to read about any new developments in the scientific branches he'd devoted his life to, he instead felt the far more unwieldy and clunky shapes of his own machinery - he'd recognize them anywhere. They were industrial and looked ancient; not aesthetically refined in the slightest. They took up most of the room, but compactness wasn't really a priority right now - this design was just a proof of concept.

"Lights on," he said. The room was flooded with the gentle, white light that lit up everything whilst never being a strain on the eyes. Alan's suspicions had been right - this was his basement. But of course it was, his machinery was here after all. The crudely-built room existed far below the rest of his home, with no natural light being necessary. Well, natural light hadn't been necessary for decades of course, but Alan had always liked it - he was a tad eccentric and not afraid to admit it. Still, this basement that housed his big project was the one place that he'd always wanted to seem completely artificial. But why?

He began to walk around the room. He spotted the small computer system on the far right of the room flashing the date 23/5/3012. As he walked, he noticed that his legs felt incredibly youthful, as if they had years of energy in them that hadn't been used. Perhaps it was the sleeping-pod? Of course, that must be it. This extra sleeping-pod that he kept in his basement must be much better than the one upstairs that he usually slept in. Perhaps the one upstairs was faulty? He'd have to remember to switch them around. But why had he fallen asleep in this one last night? Could he have been so caught up in his project that he'd worked himself to exhaustion down here?

This was a troubling thought. For one, Alan had always tried to keep his work routine dipped into the brink of healthy, and falling asleep in his basement was absolutely unacceptable; but for another, it quickly alerted Alan that he was missing vital memories. He couldn't remember what exactly he'd been doing last night, or indeed, for over a week. Today was the 23rd of May? He could've sworn that yesterday was the 14th. He could hardly remember the reasonings for any decisions he had made throughout his entire life - he only remembered that they'd happened. The last thing he definitely remembered doing was last week's neural upload into his... project...

He panicked. He shuddered. The legs that had felt so strong suddenly buckled, and he fell to the ground as he turned around to stare at the sleeping-pod he had just woken up from; the sleeping-pod that was being fed by various metal tubes and wires coming from all his machines; the sleeping-pod that should not have been empty.

Pushing away the crippling fear; trying to force down the existential dread that engulfed his thoughts, he faintly stepped over to the computer system on the opposite side to his machinery. He opened up his log. He read through the updates he'd recorded about his project; he read through the updates that he did not remember recording.

--------------------------------------------------------------

15/2/3012 - [F] The body did not survive. It died as soon as the pod was opened. The body was blackened. Assumed it might be a machinery fault, but further inspection indicates that the body cells somehow electrocuted themselves upon exposure. Body was sent to the SRAO for disposal.

Note: Will have to find new method of fusing and growing body cells. Try to use less latent electricity.

21/4/3012 - New body appears to have grown healthily. New accelerated growth methods seem viable.

20/5/3012 - [S] Body completed development successfully. Memory uploads will commence after brain scans.

25/5/3012 - [S] Brain healthy.

31/5/3012 - [S] Neural upload into specimen appears successful.

7/5/3012 - [S] Neural upload into specimen appears successful.

14/5/3012 - [S] Neural upload into specimen appears successful.

17/5/3012 - [S] 3 neural uploads have been successful. Brain should now have assimilated all of my memories as of 14/5/3012. The brain appears to function completely normally over long periods of time. Neural links for all uploaded memories appear to be developing.

20/5/3012 - Brain and rest of body continues to function. May begin out-of-pod testing again soon.

22/5/3012 - [S] The body appears to be capable of surviving now. Opened up the sleeping pod temporarily to test it again. Although the last specimen's cells immediately deteriorated, this one does not seem to have had any negative reaction. Pod was closed before the specimen woke up. May have to contact the SRAO to be present for a full test soon.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Alan could barely fathom what was happening. He felt empty. He was hardly breathing as he shuddered and stared. His mind raced. Could it be true? Perhaps he had simply finally turned insane? That would be a more desirable circumstance.

"No no no," he thought desperately. This couldn't be right. He was missing something. Yes, some small but vital detail that would end this paranoid theory. It had to be there, he just had to rack his brains and remember it.

The project. He'd been creating a... well, science-fiction from a century ago would have called it a clone. This was more than a clone. No, it was less than a clone. It was a replica of existence. An artificial being. Revolutionary, of course, if it worked. Perhaps never to be shown to the public, but to the ones at the top of the Agencies, it would mean that no expertise would ever have to die out again.

The SRAO had funded him. He knew them well - he'd worked for them on so many projects, albeit none as ambitious as this one. They'd given him free reign - no deadlines; no contingencies. He was an expert in this field and they trusted him.

And then... what? Nothing? Not a trace of memory for over a week? He would have slaved over this project for as long as he could, every day - he knew that. It was stupid that he couldn't remember working on it this week. It was stupid, and he hated himself for not remembering. He hated himself because he knew what the explanation was. He was the artificial. Deep down, he knew. He was too intelligent to not know, and it made him angry.

He wondered what he would do. Or, more correctly, what would happen to him. They wouldn't give him any say in it - that was never in the plan. The mere fact that he was even awake now must have been a mistake. The sleeping-pod had opened by itself. Emergency protocol, perhaps; a contingency put in place to avoid sleeping-pods trapping people inside them. But his project - was it even his? - had no contingencies. He was a malfunction, but they had no solution. Surely this gave him the advantage? He would escape. Yes, yes, he had to. Staying here was not an option. The SRAO and the other Alan wouldn't care about a word he said - he was just the latest specimen. He knew himself - he would not have cared either. He could not leave his fate in anyone else's hands - he had to escape. Alan wasn't well-known by anyone outside of the SRAO; his face wouldn't be recognized. He'd just have to run somewhere far away and adopt a new identity. He'd work out the details later - for now he just had to get away.

He had almost made it to the first step of the large stairway that led up and out of the basement when he heard the door at the top of it click. He froze. Too late. He ran back and hid himself as best he could underneath his machinery. Damn, he thought. Of course he was here. Alan; himself. He would work in this basement every hour of every day - he knew that. He shouldn't have wasted the small amount of time he had had it to himself for. He started to panic again as he heard the door slide open, and saw the rays of natural light glide down the staircase to interrupt the artificial lighting of the room, until the door closed again. Alan's footsteps made their way down.

It was hopeless. His panicking mind told him that with the utmost sincerity. He would still try to hide, of course. If he could just stay hidden until Alan left the room again, perhaps frantic about the missing specimen, then he could escape. But he wasn't confident. How hidden was he underneath this machinery? He could still see the room he was in, which meant Alan would be able to see him if he happened to look in this direction closely enough. And when Alan realises that the specimen is missing, surely the first thing he would instinctively do is check around the machinery?

The real Alan was getting nearer now. He had descended the stairs. The Alan under the machinery could make out his figure taking his characteristically small steps. He saw the real Alan pause for a second, noticing the computer system showing his log open, and then disregarding it, presumably believing that he had simply forgotten to close it yesterday. To the Alan under the machinery's dismay, the real Alan began walking towards him and the sleeping pod. He would notice it being empty. Shortly after, he would notice the Alan under the machinery. And then it would be over.

But then something happened. Something that could either imply that some mistake had been made while uploading Alan's mind to the artificial body; or imply that the real Alan had always had deep-rooted problems that he'd just kept hidden. Whatever the reasoning may be, something in the artificial mind clicked when he saw the real Alan's face from his hiding position - the face that not many people would recognize, except him, because it was also his own face. He had been talking about adopting new identities, but didn't he already have one? Wasn't his identity currently standing just above him, worrying about an empty sleeping-pod? Of course it was. It was so clear now. He wouldn't enjoy doing it, of course, but he fully committed to the idea that he had to do it.

As quietly as he could, he ripped out a power cable from the machinery. He had all of Alan's memories, of course, so it was as if these truly were his own machines - he knew every inch of them inside and out, and had no trouble picking a power cable that would not make any of the machines falter so obviously that his position would be given away. The thing surged with energy in his hand. It drained a massive amount of electricity, and yet, had no obvious safety features - because Alan would never be so careless as to electrocute himself. Or so he thought.

He could just make out the real Alan's figure moving this way and that, right in front of him, clearly desperate to figure out where the specimen had gone. He waited for Alan to reach the nearest position, and then, before he had any chance to falter, he jumped up, and thrust the surging, sparking power cable squarely into the real Alan's neck. The electricity did not hesitate. Alan could not even make a sound. The electricity attacked every inch of his being, until his body was left black and charred.

Murder is a strange thing, thinks the new Alan. Is it murder for one version of a person to kill another version of themselves? Quietly, he stows the power cable away, after some work pulling it out of its home in the dead body to which it had grown fairly attached. He gently peels off the body's clothes, including the lab coat, and wears them as his own. Inside the lab coat, he finds, just where he knew he'd find, a white, holographic card, with the words "Science and Research of Aritifcal Organisms" labelled at the top, and Alan's picture underneath it. Alan's SRAO ID card. Something he should have kept more secure, but then, what could Alan have kept hidden from himself? The ID would be the final thing he needed. Now there would never be any doubt.

Alan picked up the charred body and carefully placed it in the sleeping-pod. He felt no sympathy; he had already adopted the role entirely. He, Alan, had made another mistake in the project. There was still too much latent electricity in the development of the cells. They electrocuted themselves. Body was burnt as black as the previous specimen. Body will be sent to the SRAO for disposal. He wrote all of this down in the computer system's log. "23/5/3012 - [F]".

Now, he would simply have to go to the SRAO, present his ID if they asked for it, and have his trusted employers get rid of the original Alan's remains discreetly - as they had always done in order to keep their reputation intact. He would then explain that he no-longer believed in the project, dismantle the machinery, and carry on with his life.


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Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:08 pm
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mellifera wrote a review...



Hey Asith! Hope you don't mind if I swing by for a review today!


Alan woke up.


As far as openings go, this one isn't all that intriguing? There's no hook here, just a straight action, and it's a short line. Since I've read a little farther (at which point my review was promptly deleted by my browser), I'm going to go ahead and suggest that you start off with something more similar to "something was wrong" when he wakes up. This immediately begs the question what's wrong? and the reader has to continue to find out the answer, thus prompting them to continue. As of right now, why should I keep reading about this guy who woke up? I can't count the number of times I read about someone waking up before. Since it seems like this story is built upon something being off when he does wake up, however, you want to set it apart. And, like I said, make it about finding an answer until the reader is consumed enough to just keep going.

He'd never felt so invigorated before.


Generally when you use "felt/feels/feeling", it's telling (I'm sure you heard of the phrase "telling vs. showing"? If you haven't, it's basically that you want to show your reader what's going on, rather than simply telling them!). This dulls the scene. For this instance, it's easy to swap out "felt" for "He'd never been so invigorated" before, and then it removes that straight telling.
The same concept happens here:

His body felt brand-new


Instead, trying "That had to have been the best sleep he'd ever had. His body might as well have been brand new, no aches or pains weighing him down from the massive stresses that his ground-breaking project..." and so on.
The other changes I made (to this sentence specifically) was the tense change you had with "This had to have" because he's not sleeping presently. I removed "His mind had entirely forgotten" because 1) of course he thinks with his mind, that becomes redundant and 2) He clearly can't have entirely forgotten as he's thinking about it right now.
As a simple rule of thumb, describe how your character is feeling, not what your character is feeling (yes, there's a difference!).

He felt around the dark room he was in, but where he'd usually find his personal holographic infocube floating next to his sleeping-pod, which he'd use to read about any new developments in the scientific branches he'd devoted his life to, he instead felt the far more unwieldy and clunky shapes of his own machinery - he'd recognize them anywhere.


I'm actually pulling this for a few reasons. One, I am going to get nitpicky about the "felt" again, however, the bigger issue is that this is one sentence. It's incredibly long and has way too information for one sentence here. You had a starting point and an ending point, but the middle begins to drift towards information that, while I think it's important, needs to be somewhere else. Or this should be broken up.

They were industrial and looked ancient


I'm still not sure if Alan can see anything. If he can, then why the whole section about him reaching for the infocube? If not, why are you describing visuals (even if he knows what they look like) when sight isn't a sense he has at that moment because of the darkness?

but compactness wasn't really a priority right now - this design was just a proof of concept.


Watch out for filler words like "really", "very", and "just"! They end up just (haha) padding your writing, and are actually unnecessary (as someone who is tragically terrible at overusing "just" in my writing, it's a real struggle). The sentence loses nothing if it was "compactness wasn't a priority right now - this design was only a proof of concept."

The room was flooded with the gentle, white light that lit up everything whilst never being a strain on the eyes.


I would choose to write either "gentle, white light" or "never being a strain on the eyes". Gentle already implies it's, you know, gentle. You don't have to expand on that.

Alan's suspicions had been right - this was his basement.


What? When did he suspect he was in his basement?

with not natural light being necessary. Well, natural light hadn't been necessary for decades of course


I know you were probably trying to incorporate worldbuilding into this, but this is a character who's lived this life. He hasn't known another life. This is his perspective- why would he be think "oh well, hasn't been like that for decades"?
(also in this future, what happened to the sun? unless he lives on a planet with no sun?? but then,, how is he alive)

Still, this basement that housed his big project was the one place that he'd always wanted to seem completely artificial. But why?


Why is he asking this? Either he knows, or he just did it on a whim. Why is it being posed as a question? Is he trying to break the fourth wall?

He began to walk around the room.


You don't have to pad this! It would stand stronger if you removed "he began". "He moved around the room" is straightforward, and it leaves you room to expand on other, more important details (as this is a short story and you only have so much space to put everything in).

As he walked,


As it stands ( ;) ), this is repetitive from the first sentence of the paragraph. You'll want to avoid repetition like this, as it dulls your writing!

The legs that had felt so strong suddenly buckled,


I think you know what I'm going to say about this one :p

He panicked. He shuddered.


Going back for a second, this reads awkwardly? I would condense this into "He shuddered with panic" or something like that, rather than separating them.

he faintly stepped over to the computer system


Instead of "he faintly stepped" (as it's not... quite right), perhaps "he stepped faintly" or "stepped lightly" or "he stepped, dizzy, over to the computer system", depending on what exactly you mean but "faintly".

He read through the updates he'd recorded about his project; he read through the updates that he did not remember recording.


Since this is heavily repetitive (and while this can be used for drama At Times, doesn't work here, I would condense it into something more like "He read through the updates he'd recorded about his project, updates he did not remember making." Because it still has that "that's not good!" sort of feeling you're looking for, without subtracting with that repetition.

He felt empty.


"No no no," he thought desperately.


This should be "No, no, no. This couldn't be right." Without the quotation marks around his thoughts, as he is not speaking them aloud (or, if so, you should have put "said" instead of "thought"). Also, when you italicise thoughts like this, you don't need to say the character thought them. The reader will be able to pick that up on their own!

he just had to rack his brains and remember it.


does he have multiple??

I'm glad that, rather than being like "huh I don't remember what happened WEIRD and UNEXPLAINABLE", Alan does know what happens. He's in denial, it seems, but at least he knows.


He wondered what he would do. Or, more correctly, what would happen to him.


This reads pretty mechanically (as does some other sentences, actually?), and I'm not sure if you're doing intentionally because he's been transferred into a replica of a person/cloned/etc, but to put in more feeling/emotion into this, I would suggest perhaps "What would he do? Or even, what would happen to him?" <-- that strikes a more sense of desperation/fear than that original sentence (as it sounds like he went from Panicking to sudden contemplation).

He shouldn't have wasted the small amount of time he had had it to himself for.


???

He started to panic again


You describe what Alan is feeling a lot, as I mentioned before. Watch out for this! Instead, this could be "His stomach began to churn". This leaves more of an impact on the reader because it gives them a sense of his panic. Right now, the stakes don't feel very high, because Alan isn't reacting strongly to them aside from you writing "he panicked".

Alan's footsteps made their way down.


Alan's footsteps aren't choosing where to go. Old Alan is purposely placing his feet down, so describe his movements rather than "his footsteps" ("The sound of Alan's footsteps grew closer", etc).


Also I've noticed a lot of "just" that I haven't pulled down, so I would do a CTRL+F to get rid of them so they aren't clogging your prose.


in this direction closely enough.


"in his direction". "This" makes it a tense change from past tense to present.

And when Alan realises that the specimen is missing


Again with the tense change. Should be "And when Alan realised that the specimen as missing".

The electricity attacked every inch of his being, until his body was left black and charred.


Makes me wonder if this isn't the first time this has happened :o

Murder is a strange thing, thinks the new Alan. Is it murder for one version


"Murder was a strange thing. Was it murder for one version..." and so on.

Quietly, he stows the power cable away


"stowed"

He gently peels off the body's clothes, including the lab coat, and wears them as his own. Inside the lab coat, he finds, just where he knew he'd find [it], a white, holographic card, with the words "Science and Research of Aritifcal Organisms"


I'm just going to quote this section, which has several tense changes in it, as well as a missing word, and another "just".

that he no-longer believed in the project


There shouldn't be a dash between "no longer".


This was a really interesting story! I enjoyed it a lot :D I'm not huge on sci-fi, but occasionally I'll dip my toes in. I'm glad you uploaded it! Your writing style, aside from a few (easily fixable) technical errors, is smooth and easy to read! Honestly, I think the only big thing that really bothered me while reading was the disconnect from Alan as a character. I would have liked if there had been more emotion in his reactions and seeing how he processed everything, rather than stating it bluntly.


Anyway! That's all I've got for you today! If you have any questions or comments, please let me know, I'm happy to discuss :)

I hope you have a wonderful day, and Happy RevMo!

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Tue Aug 20, 2019 5:02 pm
LewisPencastle2 wrote a review...



This is a really good sci fi. I understand what you mean when you say it feels off, I think just some words are in odd combinations (like I think you once used "simply finally"; better to use just one or the other perhaps) and some sentences could be phrased better. Thats really the only change i see to this becoming a really strong story. It is also interesting because one could ask the question did the clones do this before? Did they keep getting rid of the original and just keep going with the project? Good work.




Asith says...


Thanks!
It's interesting that you bring up the simply finally thing. When I wrote it, I remember it seeming fine, but now, it does read a little clunky.




There has never been a sadness not cured by breakfast food.
— Ron, Parks & Rec