Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Story Re-Write: Centurion Six (Opening Only)

Sketch in My Notebook
This is the "revised" opening for "Centurion Six," tentatively scheduled for part of the short story anthology I've been working on.  I feel like I've been struggling it, though.  I am therefore hanging it out to ask for a couple of opinions.

Centurion Six

In the near future, genetic mutation has become the weapon of choice in an increasingly chaotic world.  Easier to hide and cheaper by far to develop and control than the nuclear and chemical weapons programs of a previous era, soon every tin-pot dictator, cult-leader, and agenda-based non-state actor on the planet begins developing “ultra-human” capabilities.  Against the proliferation of politically violent “supermen”, mundane humans--so-called ”mundies”--can offer little defense.

Fortunately, the United States is not without resources in this new fight.  An early leader in ultra-human experimentation, the nation once fielded a substantial force of costumed vigilante “superheroes,” it’s own home-grown ultra-human non-state actors.  In a litigious society faced with real threats, however, this system ultimately proved untenable.  Ultra-human conflicts cause far too much damage to proceed unregulated.
All concerned realized that a better strategy was needed.
The Enhanced Forces Division (E.F.D.) is a pilot program that seeks to answer America’s ultra-human security needs while keeping its citizens safe.  In exchange for scholarships through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), a handful of the country’s best and brightest ultra-humans—many the sons and daughters of well-known costumed vigilante superheroes of yesteryear—were recruited into the New York State National Guard.  They have been trained, commissioned, and placed on assignment in New York City, guarding our freedom. These young officers represent America’s first, best line of defense against the genetic monstrosities of the outside world.
Chapter 1: Sleepless Night
By the time the phone rings, Blaine has spent more than an hour staring up at the ceiling of his bedroom, trying not to think.  He can’t quite shut out the voices, though, neither the ones in his forebrain nor those of his memories.  His thoughts keep running, piling on top of each other, and the later it gets, the more frustrating this becomes.  Peace is ephemeral, and sleep nonexistent.  After a time, Blaine is at last as angry as he is unsettled.
It’s been like this since his promotion.  Now he’s giving the kinds of orders that he once had only to obey.  This has—unexpectedly—changed everything.  Blaine feels a sense of ownership now.  The E.F.D., whatever its flaws or virtues, is his.  It survives because he makes it go.  He’s not just a part in the machine.  He’s the commander, the engine that makes the machine go.  That’s changed everything.  For the first time in a long time, Blaine’s thinking about the reasons why he’s doing the things he does.
So that’s it then?  You’re just gonna help them oppress us? the voice of memory asks.  Man, I thought you were better than that, Winters.  I thought you were one of us.
Yeah, Blaine thinks.  I thought I was one of you, too.
When the phone finally rings, it’s a relief despite the lateness of the hour.  Blaine sits up, glad of the excuse to do something besides think about the way his life is turning out.  
“Pick up,” he says to the phone.  Then: “This is Centurion Six.”
“Hey Blaine, sorry to wake you, man.  But you said to call if—”
“It’s alright, Zee,” Blaine replies.  He runs his hands across his face tiredly.  “I wasn’t really asleep.  What’s up?”
“NYPD called for a consult.  Said some skrag gangbangers got torn up down in the Bronx.  South side, down around 149th Street.  Looks drug related.”
“So?  Why’s that my problem?”
There’s a hesitation on the other end of the call.  Blaine can almost hear his partner—his former partner, now subordinate since Blaine’s promotion—rolling his eyes.  “Come on, man.  Don’t start with that crap, alright?  Is it my fault you got promoted?  You know how these NYPD fuckers can be.”
“Fine.  What time is it?”
“A little after midnight.  Listen, though, I can take this solo if you’d rather.  You don’t have to come all the way out here or anything.  It’s only supposed to be a consult.  No big deal.”
Blaine sighs, considers this a moment, realizes that he’s not going to sleep regardless. He runs his hands over his face again.  “Nah,” he says at last.  He swings his legs around, lets his feet hit the floor.  “I’m up.  Might as well see what’s going one.  You get there yet?”
“In route now.  Trying to figure out which exit to take off the freaking Sheridan.  Man, I don’t know this neighborhood at all.”
Blaine walks to his closet, pulls a uniform blouse down off a hanger.  “Alright Zee, I’ll be there in twenty.  Tell those asshole cops that they better have some coffee for me when I get there, though.  This consult shit is getting old, for real.  I’m marking this down as a straight up favor.  You got me?”
“Will do, boss.  Zulu out.”

Here's what I'm trying to set up; you tell me if this worked.

--This story was loosely based around some of the ideas that came up in Marvel's Avengers vs. X-Men storyline from a few years ago. Since Marvel has gone full-on Civil War in the years since, it is MORE relevant now than it once was.

-- The idea here is that Blaine is the son of two famous "superheroes," the Centurion, aka Scott Winters, and the Ice Queen, Emma Jean Winters. As such, he is something like royalty in the small, relatively tight-knit community of ultra-humans, particularly upper-class ultra-humans from respectable families.

-- For this reason, the government has made him an E.F.D. poster-boy. They love him. He's now in charge of the NYC branch of the E.F.D.

-- It's tough because now he's in command of friends, AND he has to be a police officer to his own people. He doesn't like that. Also: it's potentially a violation of U.S. law since Blaine is technically in the Army, though the cops routinely get around this by calling his team in for "consultations".

-- Blaine is conflicted, especially now that he has to give orders he doesn't always agree with. This is where we open.

So. Did any of this come through?

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