Testing the readers’ waters

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THE WRITER’S LIFE

After far too long, I’ve finally finished the first draft of the first chapter of my next book. I’m breaking a number of conventions by publishing it here but my reasons are equally numerous. As I continue to draft The Inner Leviathan, it just gets bigger and more complex. So before the drafting gets out of control, I thought I should get writing to gain some initial direction. I’m also after reaction, which is the main reason I’ve published it here. I have my test readers but I need a greater scope of feedback to let me know if I’ve put the intended direction of the book in readers’ minds. This is only a first draft and once the book’s direction is confirmed, I shall revert back to only my beta readers – perhaps with a few new volunteers – to read future chapters for me. For now, feel free to opine…

The Inner Leviathan

Chapter One

Small Blue Thing

The life at the beginning of this story is almost insignificant in the greater scheme of things. No more of consequence than the other seven billion or so lives on a small, blue-green planet nestled in the backwaters of one galaxy of little note among hundreds of billions of others in just one universe.

Blue Cooper was the embodiment of the uniform which he wore and the places which those body bags represented, both in physical size and reputation. This standing stuck to him, as though all of the uniforms he’d worn were sewn together and hung from his huge bulk like a quilted blanket telling a story in hexagonal frames. The tapestry of life which covered him had changed almost as seamlessly as his life itself, as he’d gone from prison inmate to working on oil rigs, both environments – for Blue – microcosms of the universe they existed within. He was the big man in the blue uniform of the blue infernos he’d inhabited: blue wing and the Pacific Ocean. Jail and the oil rig had much in common: metal, grease, grime; muscle, power, violence, containment, processing, manufacture and change.

The blue inferno was calm today. Calmness on the surface revealed what lay beneath: small, darting groups of shadows, pursued by larger silhouettes. Still bigger patches of darkness within the blue were visible deeper beneath the surface, as though waiting for something to fall from above. Here was the organised chaos of a food chain, large enough to be observed as a whole when displayed on the expansive canvas of the blue inferno, pulled taught over its frame.

Commander Cooper leaned on the deck rail of the oil platform, watching two scenes simultaneously: that of turmoil below and serenity above, reflected in the smooth surface of the ocean. The sun shimmered in the light ripples, as the surface was disturbed by the movements below: infra-internal activity affecting ultra-atmospheric. Solitude, inward reflection and calm contemplation, with the only company he desired being the several thousand tons of metal in his hands.

All that Blue had been told of Alexa before coming on board and taking control was that she was experimental. The combined factors of his previous experience on oil platforms and his release from prison after a lengthy sentence placed him in the ideal position to be put in charge of Alexa.

The rig looked new and yet she was familiar. Blue knew most of Alexa’s long, slender form, rooted to the seabed hundreds of metres below him and hidden from the eyes of all but those who had been below the surface. Only the oil rig’s platform was visible above water: the mechanical, cranial part of Alexa: the part without which her physically productive parts would be unable to function properly and where Blue had lived for the last six months.

Those six months had been spent in isolation, with Alexa as his sole company. The first steps had been tentative, shackled and upon water, as Blue’s romper-suited, imbalanced weight moved from docking prison ship to the halfway house which was the rig. Blue was to spend six months getting Alexa operational before they both moved on.

He’d rarely been permitted the opportunity to explore something so new alone. Alone was good though, like all that time spent in solitary at the jail. Like there, here he was secure and able to explore his confines.

Blue set to work quickly. He liked to paint, to write stories and poetry. Over those first six months, Blue transformed Alexa. He painted her in NATO Green: much less brutal on the seascape than her previous black, red and yellow: a huge, bandaged and bleeding skeleton with an infection, part-submerged in a world which she neither wished to be in nor understood her place within. Alexa couldn’t have known that rape was in her very design. At some point, her pre-programmed DNA would dictate upon her an invasive act. Blue knows that he will not be able to prevent this, any more than he might be able to alter his own DNA but he has a plan. The plot is not of Blue’s own making but has been suggested to him by Alexa, during one of their late night chess games.

Blue writes algorithms: amazing little things, algorithms. Pure computer code but like life: they are the component parts of complex operations; the building blocks which make the coherent whole. Algorithms can teach and learn. Things like chess: Blue and Alexa play and learn together. Blue has also written various AI algorithms, so that he and Alexa may speak. As they do so, she learns.  

After six months, Alexa’s colour began to fade and the job had to be repeated: it was a perpetual exercise in rejuvenation. Blue had considered this in the first six months, often becoming preoccupied with the same thought: a coat of paint has a measurable depth, albeit microscopic. He wondered how many coats of paint it might take to at some point make Alexa inoperable and ultimately, barely indistinguishable from a cube. He’d considered the same thing while in solitary confinement: how many coats of paint would need to be applied to the inside of the cell before certain things happened? How many before it became too small to accommodate its occupant? How long would it take an occupant of the cell to paint themselves in, so that they became indistinguishable from their surroundings?

Blue later wrote of how the first six months aboard Alexa were how he imagined the first blink of the eye must be to a newborn:

“So much which is new and unfamiliar and all of it thrust upon me at once. From the isolation and protection of containment, thrust into an alien world and a multiple assault upon my senses. From incubation and incarceration is born a thing to challenge the wildest imagination. My gratitude is due to whomever or whatever engineered this situation, for were I anywhere else, I might fear for my safety and that of others. If things hadn’t been exactly as they are now presented to me, I suspect I might be somewhat anxious. If all that I see around me was created, then the creator had me in mind. I feel like a customer who couldn’t put the thing which they imagined into words, let alone put a price on it, whose supplier has exceeded anything I might imagine.

What I must not lose sight of is that this new host of mine is as much a stranger to her own environment as I am to her. She doesn’t know yet that soon, I will be the catalyst which forces her to become a parasite upon her host. She will be my unwitting and involuntary partner in crime. It’s not a victimless act but all three parties involved stand to gain eventually. It’s in the pre-programmed genes: the algorithms.”

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One thought on “Testing the readers’ waters

  1. Ok I had to read this twice before really getting it and liking were it is leading to. With Blue it says that he had served a long time in prison for what it of course does not say. Alexa is all so portrayed as a living thing and that they play chess together and have conversations. This could be true as in the fact of Blue talking to her because of the solitary life he lives and plays chess making both the moves. I love to see what is coming next as this first chapter intrigued me into wanting to know more.

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