Wednesday, June 24, 2009

SUPPLEMENT #2: "Morning in America"

Morning In America

The alarm wails. I should get up and go for a run. To hell with it. Another 20 minutes won't hurt anything.

"Either get up or sleep another hour, but either way, turn off the alarm."


Almost two miles out, I'm moving past the old state pen. There are guards posted in every other tower. Hard to believe that ghost town was filled above capacity less than a year ago. I heard a couple of the death row guys even ended up going Mecho. I don't doubt it.

I should've done a better job of hydrating before the run.

Home again.

Sara has the radio on as she prepares for work. Pretty much every defense contractor I've ever heard of (and a handful of new ones) are running job ads. I guess it's a welcome change from all the government make-work shit that was prevalent for the better part of the last 10 years. Huzzah for the military-industrial complex.

Begin shower.

End shower. Goddamn water rationing.

Breakfast with the family. At the table, Cedric is reading a tattered copy of Heinlen's "Starship Troopers," which recently replaced "Catcher In The Rye" in the 8th grade required reading curriculum. Sara feeds Lia, our two-year-old.

It's Sadiq's week to drive our carpool. He's right on time, as always, and has already picked up Dave and Christine. If gas prices hit $8, we'll probably bite the bullet and add Jim and Ramana to the pool, even though it'll mean an extra hour of driving to the day.

"Give peace a chance!"

"Impeach Crozier!"

"Stop the war!"

"Mechos are humans, too!"

Protestors picketing the front office entryway. I don't know whether I should be comforted or annoyed that people can still find a way to be stupid and unproductive in this country.

I've spent the better part of the last hour and a half reading emails sent to and from IP addresses traced to China Town. Grocery lists, used car inquiries, a thread of complaints about what may have been an unjust job termination, and various and sundry notes exchanged between cheating spouses. Nothing out of the ordinary, so far. Still, enough messages remain to last through to noon. The phone logs will have to wait until after lunch.

Time for a break. I grab a cup of standard issue (and piss-poor) office coffee and head out to the smoke pit to chat up the co-workers.

"So, last night, I caught the kid downloading some of that Mecho thrash shit."

"For real? You mean to tell me that's an actual genre?"

"Seriously. It's pretty much the romanticized shit you'd expect, set to screaming and synthesizers. I'm pretty sure I heard references to gladiators, blood, and yellow flesh. Pretty sick stuff."

"I guess that's what passes for hardcore these days. Pretty funny when you consider that these sellout musicians would shit themselves silly if they were around real Mechoes."

Rest of the email logs don't turn up much more than a 38-year-old Chinese male looking to buy ammo. He doesn't have a list of priors, but protocol demands that I flag him. So I do.

Call from Sara.

"Cedric's been suspended."

"You've got to be kidding me. What for?"

"Evidently, he got in a fight during gym class. Some idiot kid called Lia a chink, and I guess he lost it."

"Wonderful. Did he win the fight, at least?"

"Our son has been suspended, and that's all you think to ask?"

"Well, did he?"

"Of course."

Grim satisfaction.

Time to grab some lunch.

© 2009 Nate Hoppe

Saturday, June 20, 2009

SUPPLEMENT #1: "Wall Cloud"

Wall Cloud

Emilie generally knew how the rest of the day was going to end up based on the eyes staring across from her. As far as she could recall, this skill was cultivated on the first September 11th. She was an 18-year-old clerk at a perfume counter, but remembered the spending early hours staring into the main part of the mall where she worked. She watched people, picking up on whether they were ignorant to the world around them or not based on their eyes. The people who knew had a darkness about them that never exactly left.

She didn't realize this skill was unique or really beneficial until she was older and realized that the only reason she was ever really able to escape her hometown was that she could read people quickly and adjust her mannerisms, speech, and the beliefs she chose to share accordingly. She was the product of a poor family who scrapped together every dime they had to send her to the best schools possible. She grew up in a rough neighborhood, yet spent her days in school surrounded by wealth. Her thrift store clothes and the fact her parents couldn't afford to send her to any sort of extra curricular activities made her an outcast. She spent most of her time reading books and watching people. As a result, Emilie was a self taught student of human nature. She could “read” thoughts and course correct appropriately. In college, she was just as comfortable slumming a thrift store shopping with friends as she was dressed to the nines for a fraternity formal. The ability to relate to everyone while withholding judgment made her an effective cop out of college, and when she finally got through law school an admirable attorney. She often thought had she had less personal integrity she would've made a great con woman. Or a flea-market psychic.

This ability was now used to plan her workload as an appeals attorney at the Service Tribunal. She knew whether she had a chance in hell out of getting someone's son or husband out of Marine Echo about ten seconds into the meeting. Granted, she may not get them out of China, but she did sometimes have the ability to get them into a better branch. On a really good day, she might even get someone into the Air Force. She fought for her soldiers to be as she felt an affinity towards them. She herself was something of an outsider, finishing her formal legal education too late and despite her best efforts a bit too socially awkward to get picked up by anyplace else. She was intelligent enough and scraped together enough personal polish to be considered one of the more formidable attorneys at the Service Tribunal. As far as the legal profession was concerned, she was at the top rung of the stepladder.

She looked at the eyes across from her. Bright, deep blue like an autumn sky. Quizzical. The solider was trying to figure her out too. Intelligent, but arrogant. She knew she would have a hard time keeping the soldier's mouth shut during the proceedings. The intelligence/arrogance combo was what had him slated for Echo. They liked people who were smart enough to employ strategy into their firefights while brave enough to fire with abandon. Emilie looked over his record.

“Manslaughter. How did it happen?” She knew already the “if” part wasn't debatable.

The eyes looked down. Embarrassment at the word manslaughter. Then up. Remembering.

“A guy hit my boyfriend. I hit back. He fell. Hit his head just right. Died.” The eyes looked up. Angry.

“How's your boyfriend?”

“Broke up with me after the state mentioned Echo.”

Emilie already sensed that, but wanted to get it out in the open. She found it helped if her client acknowledged that they were there because of Echo. “Well I am going to do everything I can to get you reassigned.” From her read on him she meant it this time.

“I don't want reassignment.” He had mumbled before. Now his voice was as clear as his eyes.

Emilie shuffled her file around on her lap as if looking for a piece of paper. She was stalling for time. She reminded herself she was the one in control and she was there to help.

“Um. . . Mr. . .”

“Daniel. Skip the mister. I'm the one in the jumpsuit here.”

“Okay, Daniel. I am here as the United States government guarantees due process.” She was beginning a speech that had been delivered to many parents, spouses, and clients before. “Your assignment to Echo is still under review. You have a hearing under the government Service Tribunal in one week, it is my job as your attorney---”

“To respect your clients' wishes.” he cut her off. Emilie noticed that the bland gray jumpsuit and his sparkling eyes clashed in such a manner that it reminded her of some meteorological event. She struggled to remember the term while attempting to maintain control of the situation. She drew her lips into a tight line as she remembered the term. He reminded her of a wall cloud.

She realized then that despite her efforts, she would learn nothing more about the client than he wished to have known. The initial report and trial may have been a complete sham just like so many others she had seen -— misguided efforts to avoid a draft, mostly -— but her newest client with the clear blue eyes would not fight it.

He wanted to fight something else entirely. What it was, she couldn't tell. She stared at Daniel for a moment, hoping to gain some additional insight. When she looked into his eyes she didn't see ignorance or wariness or fear or defiance. She saw a plan. This meeting was merely a step in the plan. Her role was simply to exist. While this saddened her slightly, she knew she couldn't argue with it.

Emilie sighed, closing the folder in front of her.

“Good luck in Echo, then.”

© 2009 Lisa Marie G. Kupfer (@blondie80)

Friday, June 19, 2009


I mentioned that this book was going to be a little different from the last one.

I lied. Actually, it's going to be a lot different.

You'll notice fewer @ mentions in this book, but when you do, make sure to click them. They'll take you somewhere that will give you additional insight or information on a character or a situation. Same with links embedded in the novel text -- click those, too. It'll be cool. Promise.

Also, I'm asking other creative types I respect (writers, artists, filmmakers) to put together whatever they like based on the story. I'll be posting those here at the blog, and of course letting you know when to go check them out.

The first one, a short story called "Wall Cloud," goes up tomorrow night, and it's fucking awesome. Don't worry -- I'll tweet to remind you.

Damn. This one's going to be fun.

Chapter One -- Intake

"What size boots you wear?" the old man hacked as he led Nick through the open-air morgue. The old man's hand was already hovering close to the feet of the nearest corpse.

"Uh, twelve."

The old man grabbed the corpse's foot, lifted it up, and checked the stamp on the underside.

"Whaddya know. Twelves. Well, one twelve, one eleven and a half."

Coughing wet, brown mucus onto the dirt, the old man unzipped the sides of the boots and pulled them off the corpse. He tied the laces together and tossed them in Nick's general direction -- Nick managed to catch them before they smacked him in the face. He slung the boots over his shoulder and followed the old man through the field of bodies.

"See that desk down there? That's where you wanna go," the old man pointed.

"What do I do when I get there?" Nick asked.

The old man was already heading back towards the front of the morgue area. If he heard Eric's question, he gave no indication -- he was already coughing phleghm on the next poor sucker in line.

A uniformed soldier poked Nick in the side with the barrel of his M4 rifle.

"Move along, shitbird."

Nick nodded and headed in the direction the old man had indicated. He walked through the rows of bodies, trying not to breathe in -- some of them had obviously been in the sun for a couple of days. The closer he got to the desk at the end of the long central row, the more and more bare the bodies became -- first missing boots, then uniforms, then limbs and implants. The ones right next to the desk were barely identifiable as humans anymore.

"ID?" the man behind the desk growled. He was younger than the man who'd thrown boots at Nick, but not by much. He was also a lot fatter, and the stripes on his shoulder identified him as a sergeant.

"Um. . . Nick Morrow."

"No one gives a shit about your name, fuckwad," the fat sergeant sighed, reaching across the desk and grabbing the dog tags hanging from Nick's neck.

"Four Seven Echo, One One Five Three," the sergeant read from the tag. His fat fingers (of which there were only three on his right hand) tapped the number into his computer. Nick couldn't see the screen, but he knew his file had popped up immediately.

"Oooh. Multiple Homicide. Aren't we just the little badass?"

Nick said nothing, and the fat sergeant just shrugged. With one of the fingers on his mangled right hand, the sergeant pointed off to the left.

"See those big-ass tents over there? Go to the one labeled Echo. You wait there until someone tells you where to go. You get me?"

"I got you."

"Sergeant. I got you, sergeant."


The fat sergeant snapped two of his fingers together, and another uniformed soldier appeared. The soldier slammed the butt of his rifle into Nick's stomach, dropping him to the dirt instantly.

"Little tip, convict. Show the proper fucking respect at all times. Get me?"

"I get you, sergeant," Nick coughed.

"Better. Tent Echo, convict. Move!"

It took a little effort, but Nick picked himself up off of the dirt and headed off in the direction of the tents. There were five of them, and each had a large sheet of paper pinned to the front -- A, B, C, D, and E. Nick had no military experience or background, but he wasn't an idiot -- he headed for the large open tent labeled "E," where he could see several people milling around inside.

As he approached Tent E, a uniformed soldier held up one hand to stop him. Not wanting another rifle slammed into various parts of his anatomy, Nick stopped and let the soldier check his dog tags.

"All right. Four Seven Echo. Back right corner of the tent. Find yourself a seat, then sit in it and shut up. Clear?"

Nick had no idea what the two stripes on the man's sleeve meant, but he figured "sir" would be the correct attribution to keep himself from getting hit again.

"Clear, sir."

"Ain't no sir, jackass. Corporal. You'll get it soon enough. Now move along."

Nick nodded and headed for the back right corner of the tent, where there was only one other person waiting. The man was slightly taller than Nick, just under six feet, and thin. He had jet-black, close-cropped hair and green eyes. As soon as Nick got close, the man raised a hand in greeting.

"Hiya, sport. You mind?" the man asked, reaching for Nick's tags.

Nick shrugged, and the man read the numbers from the tag.

"Forty-seven Echo. Right on. Looks like we're in the same unit, pal. What's your name?"

"Nick Morrow."

The man stuck out his hand, and Nick shook it.

"Christopher Lee, or as the CO's like to call me, Forty-seven Echo Three-Eleven. Good to meet you, Nick Morrow. You don't look like a Morrow, though. You half-chink or something?"

"Mom was Japanese."

"Japanese. Right. Stick with that if anyone asks. Me, I don't care, but you'd be surprised how some of these convicts got a hate on for the Chinese. So how many you kill?"

"Excuse me?"

"Nobody gets into 47 Echo without at least one body on them -- murder in the second at least. So, how many you do?"

"I was convicted of five."

"Five, eh? That beats me any day of the week. Well, before I got here, anyway. You smoke?"

"It's illegal."

"It's illegal back home," Christopher corrected, "gotta look at the good in the situation. They don't give a shit about us, so we can get away with pretty much whatever we want, long as we do our jobs."

Christopher pulled a red pack of cigarettes with Chinese writing across it. He pulled out one cigarette for himself, lit it, and offered the pack to Nick, who lit his own smoke.

"How long you been here?"

"Couple of months."

"How many guys in our unit?"

"As of right now? You and me. I don't want to freak you out, or anything, but better you hear it from me now than one of those asshole CO's. I'm all that's left of 47 Echo. After the last mission, well. . ."

Christopher stared past Nick for a good twenty seconds, just smoking his cigarette and looking out at nothing.

"Yeah. I get it," Nick said after it was clear that Christopher wasn't going to elaborate. "So what are we looking at for an assignment?"

Christopher finally looked back at Nick and smirked.

"There are a lot of possibilities, sport. Not one of them good."


Christopher handed over the half-empty pack, and Nick stuck it into the front pocket of his gray jumpsuit.

"You can go ahead and hang onto those. I got plenty more."


"Hey, you could be in a position to save my ass sometime soon. Half a pack of kinda crappy chink smokes isn't any skin off my nose, but you need them -- or anything -- you just let me know."

"Right on."

"Four Seven Echo, Eleven-Fifty-Three!" Nick heard someone yell.

"That's you," Christopher nodded.

"Yeah, I know," Nick smirked. He waved to Christopher and headed in the direction of the voice, which turned out to be a uniformed soldier at least five years younger than he was.

"I'm 1153," Nick told the soldier.

"So you are. Lieutenant Jim Neal, 47 Echo's new CO. We need to get you processed, tagged, and uniformed. 47 Echo 311!" Neal yelled before Nick had a chance to say anything.

Christopher appeared at Nick's side, grinning widely.

"Aw, shit. Jimmy Neal in the house!"

"Lock it up, 311. Take 1153 over to processing. I want him squared away in twenty minutes. Clear?"

"Clear, sir."


Christopher headed out of Tent E, and Nick followed. As they walked, Nick finished off his cigarette and tossed it into the dirt.

"You'll like Lt. Neal. He's a good guy. He ran 22 Bravo -- we worked with them about a month ago. One of the few CO's I wouldn't stab if I had the chance."

"He's a Lieutenant?"

"Was, anyway, when he was in the regular Marines. He did something bad -- wouldn't tell me what -- and they court-martialed his ass down here with the rest of us convicts. A lotta CO's get here that way. Unlike us, though, they do a tour with the prisoners, they get to go back to being citizens."

"Must be nice."

"Well, assuming they live, that is. Neal must've fucked up again somehow to get 47 Echo. Bravo was a safer unit. Echo's. . ."

"Yeah. A suicide squad. I know."

"Yeah? How?"

"My court-appointed told me about it when I got sentenced. Offered to appeal. That. . . didn't go so well, obviously."

"Hey, 'least you got a lawyer who gave a shit. Mine actually smiled at my sentencing."

"And yet, here we both are, yeah?"

"Suppose. This's you," Christopher nodded at a low, open tent with a short line outside. All of the men in line were dressed in the same gray jumpsuit as Nick himself -- two uniformed soldiers stood outside with M4 rifles at the ready.

"They really think we're gonna run?" Nick asked Christopher under his breath, nodding at the two guards.

"Happens. Guy gets scared enough, doesn't care that he's in a foreign country in a prison jumpsuit with no money and no transportation. Guy just wants to run. Doesn't want to die out here. Ends up getting shot anyway, but not killed."


"Can't afford to lose a man completely. Shoot him in the leg, patch him up, put him back in a unit. Probably best not to run, y'know? 'Case you were considering it."

"I wasn't. But thanks."

The line was moving along pretty quickly, and Nick was three back from the opening of the tent in a couple of minutes. He could now see what Neal had meant by "tagging" -- a soldier with a paramedic's armband was using a large-bore jet injector on a seated convict in a gray jumpsuit. Another soldier was issuing a uniform to a second convict.

"RFID chip?"

"Yep. GPS, too," Christopher nodded.

"Great," Nick sighed.

"Man, fuck that," the convict in front of them in line muttered without turning around. Even from behind, Nick could tell the man was muscular, covered in tattoos, and at least three heads taller than either Christopher or himself.

"Wonder why they put it in the neck?" Nick wondered aloud.

"Guys lose limbs out here more often than you'd think. They can replace them with bio-prosthetics and get the guy back out in the field, but if a guy takes one to the neck or head, chances are he's done. This way, they only have to implant once," Christopher explained casually.

"Makes sense."

"FUCK. . . THAT!" the convict in front of them yelled, suddenly rushing at the soldier on the left side of the tent's entrance. He caught the man off-guard, snatching his M4 away and knocking him to the ground.

The convict started firing wildly, pulling the trigger as quickly as he could, probably not realizing that the weapon was an automatic. Most of his shots went wild, sailing through the air harmlessly as convicts and soldiers alike hit the ground. The convict didn't seem to notice -- he was just firing and screaming, slowly backing away from the tent as he did so.

"Motherfuckers! You stay the fuck away from me!" the convict yelled.

Christopher hit the ground like everyone else, but Nick was on the move. The tattooed convict's back was still to him, and Nick realized he had only a second, two at the outside, to shut the guy down. Nick spun fast, his right foot slicing through the air in a wide arc. Nick felt his leg jolt at the knee as his heel slammed into the tattooed convict's skull.

The convict spun around from the force of the impact, turning to face Nick just in time to see the boots in Nick's left hand swinging into his face. As the convict dropped to the ground, Nick kicked the M4 back to the still-stunned soldier who had lost it.

"Jesus Effing Christ! Nice fucking moves, Nick!" Christopher blurted, pulling himself up from the dirt.

"Reaction," Nick said, shrugging.

The paramedic rushed out of the tent, passing the unconscious tattooed convict entirely, running to the side of a dropped soldier bleeding from his gut.

"Well, shit. Hope you liked that guy whose ass you just kicked, pal," Christopher sighed, clapping a hand on Nick's shoulder.

"Not particularly."

"That's too bad. He shot a soldier -- that just bought him a ticket into our unit, I'm guessing."

"Outstanding," Nick sighed. "Making friends already."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rules of the Second Long Road

Yep, I'm insane. I'm doing it again. Anyone care for dystopia this time around?

New rules --

1. Last time, I didn't build myself any time off. Therefore, Sunday and Monday nights will have minimal to no story updates, so I can get some sleep at least two nights a week. However, the number of words I put out per week won't drop -- if anything, they're going up.

2. I'm going to try to wait at least a minute between story updates this time to make things appear a little less spammy. That means if there are 40 updates, it'll take me at least 40 minutes to post that night's story work.

3. Still writing it near-live, though. Still posting a first draft.

4. Got a question, bitch, or spot a plot hole I could drive my car through? Want a response in real-time? I'll get back to DMs, emails, and comments as soon as I see them. @replies to me might be met with a DM, or an @reply from @JohnnySix, who is also me. (Feel free to follow there, but I keep my follow-back list pretty small on that account. @Tweet_Book will probably follow you back, though, so long as you're not spammy as all hell.)

5. When you see an @mention in the story, click on it. It may take you somewhere cool.

6. Want to jump in and guest-write a post on the blog, or do some backstory on one of the characters? Let me know. I want this process to be even more collaborative than the last one. As with the last one, though, always, always shoot me your questions, suggestions, comments, etc.

That's about it for now. New book starts Tuesday night.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

So, what now, then?

Good question.

Twitter Novel Round 2? All right, you twisted my arm.

In a few days, I'll be starting another novel on Twitter -- mainly because I can't not write. And I really dug the process of the last one, so there you go.

Some more details in the days to come, but right now, I need to sleep. Monday's going to come way too early.