Thursday, January 03, 2008

New Beginning 423

A dozen teens pointed to Austin as he jogged across the filed with his new prosthetic leg. Flesh-colored silicone muscles and cable-like tendons stretched over the hydraulic motors. Its movements mimicked his real leg.

"Hey Coach, your new foot kick a soccer ball?" Danny, a sixteen-year-old towhead with too-long legs and too-thin arms, flipped the ball up over his head with a fluid motion of his foot. Austin kicked the ball bending it around Danny and into the practice goal.

"Like that?" Austin put the artificial toe under another ball and flipped it up to his forehead, bouncing it at Danny.

"That leg don't limp like the old ones," Danny yelled again, his tenor voice carried over the field.

"New computers and motors. They beep and whirl, keep me awake at night."

"My girlfriend Cindy keeps me awake at night." Laughing, his teammates kicked the soccer balls spreading out across the practice field leaving Danny and Austin alone.

"Now, lad," Austin said, giving Danny a pointed look. "You know the rules about that sort of thing before a game."

"Sorry coach." Danny grinned from ear to ear. "Can't get anything past you, can I?"

"No, well, they sorted me head out same time as they did the leg. Thirty-two teraflops of nano-computer inside me noggin now. The full text of fifty encyclopaedia fully cross referenced in over a hundred gigabytes of random access memory."

Danny brought the ball to a halt and balanced his foot on top of it. "That's amazing coach."

"It is, Danny. But you know what, lad? Despite all this expensive technology, I . . . " His words faltered as a non-synthetic tear pricked the corner of his eye.

"What, coach?"

"Despite all of this, I . . . I still don't understand the bloody offside rule."

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: ril


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

Austin moved in closer, tapping the ball from foot to foot. "Well, you're still young, boy," he said in a low voice. "But let me tell you, when you get to my age, in ain't so easy."

The veteran coach hooked the ball into the air with his toe and caught it under his arm. "You want to know what happened? We were in her pa's cottage, just her and me -- the field was wide open. I had control of the pitch and worked every move in the book. Her goal was unprotected and I shot and scored from every angle you can think of. Man, she had me up and down the sideline. Well, I was coming up long from behind her and twisted in from the corner box. Got caught offside and ripped all the tendons in my knee."

Austin tossed the ball to Danny and nodded toward the goal. Danny positioned the ball and prepared to kick.

"That's why my leg's full of pistons and motors."

"That's too bad, coach."

So you see, boy... You could say Cindy's still keeping me awake at nights, too."

The ball went wide.


Austin was the only one to know Danny's secret. He'd stumbled upon it when he toured the labs of the company which had made his new, experimental leg. It was the latest military technology, available only to those with both incredible political clout and millions of dollars to spend in bribes.

Danny's mom was a Senator running the committee that oversaw the lab's secret projects, so it made sense. When Austin toured the factory the day he got his new leg, he'd seen Cindy in the cafeteria serving coffee--or at least another copy of CINDY, Computerized Intelligent Non-Discernable Youth.

That Danny's Cindy was an older-model prototype decommissioned by the lab did not surprise Austin. That Danny's Cindy had first been Danny's mom's girlfriend before she got the newer prototype... that was a secret not even Danny knew.


Austin stopped in his tracks and glared at Danny. A muscle at the corner of his mouth twitched dangerously.

Danny raised his hands with a puzzled look on his face. "What?"

Austin explained what, in tensely measured tones. "Firstly, you need a couple of commas in that sentence, unless you're currently fucking more than one of the cheerleading squad. And secondly, Cindy being my daughter and all, I'd prefer you weren't fucking any of the cheerleading squad."

And before Danny could protest, Austin hooked his artificial toe under another couple of balls and sent them clear into the back of the net.


Evil Editor said...

p.2: I'm not clear on what happens with the soccer ball. Danny flips the ball up over his head. Whose head? Sounds like his own head, but then Austin kicks it. If it's Austin's head, does he use a bicycle kick or does he wait for it to come down?

p.4: Should be two sentences, or change "carried" to "carrying."

p.6: A couple commas would keep it from sounding like it's the soccer balls spreading out and the field leaving them alone.

Speaking of "field," it's spellled wrong in sentence 1. Wait, shouldn't that be the "pitch," anyway?

none said...

Given how many times Dave has complained about openings that don't explore the story problem, it's a bit surprising that this doesn't either :). All we have is a guy with a bionic leg and some kids kicking a football around.

You could save a few words here:

Austin kicked the ball bending it around Danny and into the practice goal.


Austin bent the ball around Danny and into the goal.

Why practice goal? We know they're at practice.

I don't like "Its movements mimicked his real leg.". Surely the movements of the artificial leg are mimicking the movements of his real leg, not actually trying to pretend to be a leg.

And yeah, "field" (and filed) should be "pitch".

Sarah Laurenson said...

A very tame Dave F. on this one. I'm speechless. ;-)

Or maybe weredingoes come out of the woods on the edge of the field and eat them all. The investigating police only find an artificial leg - still kicking.

Now that would be exciting.

Sorry, Dave. It's hard to comment on as it doesn't show much of what's going on. If this is character driven, it does start to intro two of the characters, but mostly in a situational way.

It's not bad. It's just not great.

I grew up with fields not pitches.

Dave Fragments said...

What did EE just say?
If the scene needs to be shorter to make the word limit, cut from the front or back. Do NOT cut any words from the middle.

Good advice a bit late.

This is tame and character driven. I want it to be a discussion of what it means to be human and what it means to be cyborg (or part machine). Character stories aren't my typical ideas and this has been hard to write even to this point. The boy is in one of those typical teen quandaries -- thinking robots are cool and fascinated by the "almost real" replacement leg but kind of repulsed by the idea of it being artificial in the first place. After all, what does it take before the artificial becomes too realistic to distinguish the real thing? And what does that mean?

Ali said...

I like the way you've shown the coach/kid relationship through dialogue and action. I'm intrigued to know why he's got this new leg.

I was thrown off a tad, thinking Austin was another teen in the first paragraph, then learning he was the coach--maybe describe him as "the coach" in P1 rather than by name, then have the kid call him Coach Blabla in P2, and refer to him as Austin Blabla in P3. Or better yet, give us something first in P1 to show us a coach, instead of starting the whole piece with the teens. Start in his head a little--he clearly knows he's in for a little ribbing, he'd likely be steeling himself for it and that would add a little tension.

Surely everyone wouldn't be as lackadaisical about coach's new injury? I mean, really--a dozen of them point at him? Maybe we could have some of them look away, embarrassed, or an awkward silence before Danny breaks it with his comment. Again, that would add more tension to the scene (and be a little more realistic, I think).

Lastly, "too-long legs and too-thin arms" is a little awkward, which therefore shouts out "I am describing the character now"--a little intrusive. How about describing his arms or legs a moment later, in action? Or, just describe him as a gangly 16-yo towhead.

Dave Fragments said...

I should have said that it's not a new injury. They all know the coach lost a leg. They've all seen the stump and the various prosthetics of increasing technology. So only a kid who is really close friends with the coach would be making a comment about the latest version of the leg.

Kids tend to look at a disability and say "so what". They might ask once, but after that, it's just routine. Unless you're their confidant, your disability is nothing special. We lose that "innocence" as adults. The coach got another leg, big deal, the old wooden one worked just fine. That's their attitude.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Dave:

I think if you're going more for characterization, you may be focusing a bit too much on the mechanics of the prosthetic leg at this point. The media is full of the amazing accomplishments of people who sport a bionic leg (and sometimes two!), so readers will be familiar with what a bionic leg is. If your story is set a bit in the future, and the leg not only mimics the actions of a real leg (which most prosthestic legs do these days), but also resembles a real leg (which most don't today -- although bionic arms and hands usually do), then perhaps play up that aspect.

And working your descriptions into the story, as Ali suggests, would help keep the reader in the story. The proverbial "show don't tell" advice.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Oh, I really liked all the anon continuations, too, as well as Ril's (where've you been hiding, Ril?). A really good set this time!

Ali said...

The coach got another leg, big deal, the old wooden one worked just fine. That's their attitude. So, why are they all pointing at him? (Anyway, I disagree--maybe true of young kids, but at 16 they're overly conscious of any and all differences).

I think you have a great situation and it's well-written, but what I was getting at is that it needs tension. You could add some by having some of the kids less comfortable with his new appendage and have Danny be the one to break the ice, or you could add it by getting us into the coach's head a bit so we see that his bravado with the kids is masking something deeper, or you could get at it with the other players' reaction to coach showing Danny up...lots of ways. But a bunch of kids who don't care much that their beloved coach has a cool new leg, does not the tension make.

Anonymous said...

Take another look at modern artificial limbs for athletes. They don't generally bother too much with the flesh colored silicone.

Dave Fragments said...

Y'all have such a different POV about this. I'm just listening.

None of the continuations move in any direction that I thought about writing. That intrigues me. It also tells me more about what I want to reveal and have revealed.

Danny is sort of the spokesman of the group.

The linear story begins back in 1973 and it involves Mao Tse Tung and his successor Deng Xiaoping. That is six years before Austin is born and another dozen or so before Danny is born.

I'll pick between "field" and "pitch" and be consistent.

"too-long legs and too-thin arms" was an attempt not to say "gangly" because all teen boys seem to be labelled gangly. Isn't gangly a cliche?

McKoala said...

I really like this start, but also thought Austin was a teen and, in fact, that 'coach' was a nickname...

McKoala said...

Oh, and I thought it was set in the future.

Dave Fragments said...

You are right, McK...
It is future technology. No one else has a leg of living silicone with titanium bones grafted onto his body.

McKoala said...

I think you confused me in your 1973 comment, not in the piece itself!

Dave Fragments said...

This takes place in the very near future, like within a year or two, but not later than 2010.

Austin and Danny aren't the only characters in the story. This is the same "Austin" as in New Beginning 344 and this episode comes after that opening. I mention this because there is a statue in New Beginning 344 that is all silicone. And that statue was once a living man back in 1973.

The character of "Walt" in New Beginning 344 is Danny's father. He had a kid late in life. In this opening, he is recently dead of a heart attack. Danny has "adopted" Austin, the coach of the boys soccer team, who came back from Iraq without a leg as his new father figure. Austin is only 10 years older than Danny.

Walt got Danny the museum job a few years earlier and helped him adjust after the loss of the leg. Danny wanted to play soccer and AUstin couldn't just sit on his ass while the kid failed. That's why he played soccer with several types of artificial legs.

There is an emotional attachment between Walt and Austin that parallels the emotional attachment between Austin and Danny.

Now you ought to have questions about the silicone statue and the new silicone leg. That is the technical and sci-fi part of the story. And that is a part I would rather not explain right now.

McKoala said...

Then I won't ask!