October 08, 2009

The Eternity Program (part of a novel idea)

Jacob Marcus waited in the sand, his comrades flanking him on either side and behind. He smelled sweat on him and around him, mingled with the thick stench of anticipation and fear. Damn Iraqi bastards. The grit thrown up by the desert wind irritated Jacob’s eyes and the man made a note to adjust his aim. The sand would affect his shooting drastically. His heart pounded in his chest, alarming him and making him wonder if Marlo could hear it. However, if the hardened soldier beside him heard anything the man did not acknowledge it. Instead, Lieutenant Marlo focused his stony eyes North-north-east, towards the supposedly abandoned warehouse.

The building stood approximately thirty meters away, certainly looking abandoned. The sandstone walls were covered in golden dust and the only sound that penetrated the silence was the scratch of sand against the thick canvas of the United States Army uniforms. The soldiers kept their guns close to their bodies, so as to muffle any clicking of reloading ammunition. The building stood. Quiet and desolate.

Private Marcus’ throat was dry and scratchy and sand lodged itself in the corners of his eye sockets. He blinked rapidly but refused to raise his hand to rub it away. The man glanced at Marlo beside him and then turned to take in the squad.

The row of soldiers behind him consisted of three rookies and two veterans called back from home to fight in the war. He was situated in the front line with the only other rookie, Ferguson, and two other veterans, including Marlo, and the captain. Overall it was a squad of ten soldiers against an uncertain amount of Iraqis in the warehouse, if any. Marcus licked his lips and waited for his captain’s command.

There was a small tinge of certainty within him. Somehow he knew that there were Iraqi soldiers in the warehouse. It was like a small nugget of caution and calculation, separate from his fear and anticipation for the captain’s decision. In his hands he held his 5.45mm assault rifle, which he named Jenny after his spunky teenage daughter, and turned to his right to looking over Marlo’s shoulder to the captain.

The middle-aged man was tall and slight, a Virginian college professor. Being from Texas and young, Marcus could only give the captain his respect and complete acquiescence. The man lay there, gauging and gripping his gun tight. It was odd to know that he had been a teacher back home when Marcus had personally seen his captain kill three men with a small Swiss Army knife, expertly dissecting them in an instant.

The entire squad had seen battle and death. Luckily there was only injury on their side; the Iraqis often didn’t know that the Americans were ambushing them until most of them were already dead. Marcus had killed five other people. He could still see the intelligent rage that seemed to shine in every one of his enemies’ eyes. The man was young, and in being fresh his conscience kept telling him that it was wrong kill. That it was murder. However, he was changing; he no longer thought of the Iraqis as fellow human beings with history and family. He saw them as cunning wolves. And he and his squad were the hunters.

Suddenly the order was given to attack, the command sharp and quick. In a burst of energy the first line charged. His muscles strained. Boots tromped across the sand, kicking up dust that invaded his eyes. Marcus kept a pace behind Marlo and let the big man’s body shield his right side. He wasn’t stupid, and he wasn’t a hero. Then his captain went down; shot in the left hip. Marcus hesitated, his loyalty to his captain and the call of duty tearing at each other in the back of his mind.

Shiu doof shiu doof…

Bullets passed him, missed, and hit the sand, throwing up small explosions of dirt. There was a sniper on the roof of the warehouse and the bullets were raining down on them in quick procession, and very accurately. Marcus heard the sounds of men falling around him. His breath was in his ears and his heart in his throat. Even though all he wanted to do was find something to hide behind, he ran. The large metal door was only ten more feet ahead. In a desperate leap of energy he felt his hand close on the warm metal handle before… Nothing.

His mind shut down and his body crumbled to the ground. He had been shot in the top of his skull; the power of the sniper rifle making his head explode like a melon. The last fleeting feeling was of accomplishment. Marcus knew he had died to save his country; that his life had been lost so that thousands of others could live. He had died for a cause.


“Team Desert Cobra, win.”

The voice echoed through the polished chrome walls. A long black table stretched from one end of the room to the other, separating the two groups of ten. One side wore blue and red jump suits while the other was clothed in tan and green. Small black triangular chips were passed from the hands of the red team to that of the tan. As team Desert Cobra filed out through an ovular automatic door, Stars and Stripes watched them leave with blank stares.

The door closed. For a brief moment the remaining team exchanged commands before another door was activated, this time leading away from the battle floor. The players of Stars and Stripes methodically exited the room, returning to the Main Hall where they took their position amidst the crowd of ten thousand or so. Every person was staring up at a large screen displaying the rankings of every Program team thus far. There was no happiness or anger, just blank stares. With a slight ripple effect, the scores changes slightly. Stars and Stripes were now ranked six instead of five in the planetwide Program competition titled “World War Three”.

A figure dressed in elastic black clothes watched from atop a balcony. A Portable Data Screen (PDS) enclosed their head like a skin-tight helmet with a clear screen that displayed body vitals, notes, and any sensory data processed by their cerebrum or cerebral cortex. With dark green eyes and healthy silvery green skin, 1.05.890-Loravita resembled every other matured adult being on Reg Nigh.

Normally Admins like Loravida would be in the Administrator Cubicle (AC) preventing any technical glitches from interfering with the game, but something about a planetwide Program competition attracted further investigation. Because there were so many people in such a large building the scene below could be described as a giant patchwork quilt. The groups of ten wearing identical uniforms stood packed together, not talking. The room could barely fit all of them.

The Admin tucked a loose strand of lacy purple hair behind the left ear to better hear the physical sounds. Suddenly footsteps were approaching from behind and Loravida pulled back from the railing, switching the PDS main screen to the Program Mainframe just in time. With a face void of any emotion, Loravida and found a burly redhead standing there on the dais wearing an identical black suit. It was Admin 1.00.067, or Tara informally. But Tara was a superior, so the Admin could not call Tara by an informal name. Instead, Loravida used Admin.

“Greetings, Admin.” The words were displayed on both the redhead’s and Loravida’s PDS.

“What is your purpose being out here, Admin 1.05.890?”

Loravida straightened and replied, “My purpose is to acquire more data on large gatherings, Admin.”

The Admin held up her hand, signifying that the purpose was being analyzed by the Mainframe. After a few moments the redhead made a thumbs up gesture that meant the purpose had been judged valid and in turn forwarded a request for Loravida to return to the AC. In return, Loravida agreed to the request and that too was processed by the Mainframe. With one last glance at the competition and rankings, Admin 1.05.890 followed Admin 2.10.890 through the door and away from the Battle Hall.

“I understand that you were transported from Agricultural Sector Alpha.” Tara mumbled in a low growl, “The proceedings must be rather new for you, as well as the setting. However, we each have a purpose to fulfill until we die. Ours happens to be maintaining the Mainframe and preventing any technical glitches from interfering our lives.”

“Yes, Admin.”

“Do you know what happens when we fail to fulfill our purpose?”

“People die.”

“Yes, and death is highly inconvenient to the welfare of the planet.”

The two women stopped in the middle of an empty hallway. There seemed to be nothing to signify a door until the wall parted and expanded until an oval hole two meters tall and a meter wide allowed them entry. As the women walked through, their PDS screens displayed identical Network messages acknowledging that they had returned to the AC. The blonde eyed the room with a slight frown, losing her composure for only a moment.

The room was a blinding white. Everyone wore white, the bodies disappearing in the bleached setting so that the only things seen were floating helmets. On the adjacent wall lines upon lines of nonsensical digits and symbols scrolled from the ceiling and disappeared into the floor. Rarely a digit would be frozen and the whole sequence would stop. Then the people in the room would look at each other and, without uttering a word, the symbol or letter would be changed. This was what an Admin had to do everyday of their adult life.

Admin 1.05.890 followed Admin 2.10.890 in the farthest corner of the room. This was her workstation. Since Loravida was new to the AC, she was given the status of trainee. As a trainee she could not participate in certain Administration duties, like editing Program data, but she could learn how and what must be done in order to maintain the Mainframe. She could also watch recorded vids of past glitches in the Program and learn how the Admins fixed them.
She sat down. Admin 2.10.890, Tara, returned to her chair near the door, which was now invisible again, and sat as still as a statue like all the others. Suddenly a chill ran Admin 1.05.890’s spine. She checked her vitals on her PDS, but nothing seemed to be out of order.

1 comment:

  1. This idea is almost fully-developed, and I have begun transferring it to paper. Hopefully, I will get "The Eternity Program" published before I die. The way I want it to pan out is be 1) a collage of all speculations on the human condition--like a collaboration between Beckett, Stoppard, Newton, etc., and 2) will be known as my "greatest" work.

    On that note, it probably won't be published for another couple of decades!