Author Topic: Man Down  (Read 4106 times)

Offline E.D.

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Man Down
« on: December 11, 2016, 18:37:36 CST »
So here is the first installment of a fic of unknown length. I happily accept criticism! Not being super familiar with BOTP verse, I may make some mistakes...feel free to point them out ;)

No warnings for content at this point!





CHAPTER ONE: New Neighbors

Saturday afternoon, Camp Parker, main residence

It’s some time before I realize the usual noise of my resident teenagers has abated. The massive house is still. I wander over to the window and look out over the lawn. Still nothing. I’m stiff from sitting at my desk all morning and I convince myself that a walk will do me good, even if it ends with finding Keyop dangling from somewhere he absolutely shouldn’t be.

Outside the summer air is heady with pine and roses. The sound of gunshots on the breeze determines my first destination and I head over the hill to the shooting range. While Jason is the least likely to be the one causing trouble, he is usually the easiest to find.

The range is busy, but no Jason. I stop by the garage, the gym and the kitchen without finding any of them. All of their vehicles are here... the access stairs for the roof are pulled down and I can hear voices. Aha. The forbidden play place.

When they were much younger, they’d been fascinated by the widows walk and its “views to forever” as Tiny called it. With the addition of Keyop to our family, I’d declared the roof off limits. They were older now and purposely jumped from far higher heights on a regular basis. The roof was just a place to be alone now.

“Whoa. What are they doing? That’s going to be a gi-normous pool!”

“Keyop, I don’t think they’re building a pool. It looks more like an underground hangar to me.”
 
“You don’t think Spectra would be dumb enough to build a base right next to us, do ya?” Tiny, always surprised at Spectra’s ability to do stupid

“Nothing would surprise me anymore. We should tell the skipper about this when he gets here. If he thinks it’s worth investigating, then we can tell the Chief.”

There’s my cue. “Tell me what?” All three of the boys are sitting indian style on a blanket, Tiny with drone controls in his hand. Keyop caves first.

“Somebodyboughttheplacenextdooranditmightbespectra!”

“Say Again?” Sometimes he speaks so quickly he sounds like a humming bird. Jason steps in for him.

“We have new neighbors. Somebody bought the old Hilltop hotel and they’re doing some interesting renovations.”

“Why are you spying on them with G-sec technology?” I attempt to keep my voice mild, though I’m angry they have several thousand dollars of top secret equipment on the roof. “Why are you spying at all?”

Tiny chimes in with a perfectly innocent excuse. “We were just tryin’ to get some flight time in before we actually needed it on a mission, Chief. Honest.”

“We didn’t even know somebody was using the place next door, Sir. Since Tiny is a better pilot than me, but I would be more likely to deploy the drone in the field, I wanted to get some flight time while I had Tiny to coach me. The old hotel seemed like a perfect place to practice.”

Jason being entirely reasonable is irrefutable.  I climb the rest of the way onto the widows walk, joining them. He’s an exceptional marksman and a natural behind the wheel, but an awful pilot. The adjoining property was an old resort, crumbling in on itself over the years. The broken windows and toppled outbuildings would indeed have been an excellent place to practice. If they lost the drone, a short hike through the woods would be all that was needed to retrieve it.

“So, how does it handle? Compared to the first models?” Before he can answer, Tiny’s attention is drawn back to the small screen on the controller.

“What the sam hill is that!?” He points at the screen and Jason leans in, squinting against the light. “Are they firing on us?”

Keyop leans over Jason and Tiny’s shoulders, blocking more of the light but also jostling the controller out of Tiny’s hands.

“Dammit Keyop! You-“ A small explosion on the horizon stops Jason’s recriminations mid-sentence. Two sets of wide eyes swing back to me,  but my second in command picks up the controller and immediately hands it to me. “Can we get the video off this?”

“I believe we can. Lets take this to the lab and see what, exactly, just happened.”
I don’t want to jump to conclusions until I have more to work with, but it seems our enemies may be our new neighbors after all.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2016, 20:10:28 CST by E.D. »
Strength lies not in flesh and bone.

Offline Ebonyswanne

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2016, 01:00:40 CST »
Good start, I like the acknowledgement of weakness and strengths from a young age by the Chief, and the mission. I can picture that!! ;)
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Offline E.D.

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2016, 19:44:55 CST »
Thanks!
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Offline Daniella T

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2016, 05:33:36 CST »
I like all Anderson-related stories and this is shaping up to be quite exciting, so hurry up and continue it, ED!
They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes -- Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan.

Offline E.D.

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2016, 13:30:56 CST »
So here's chapter two and three, warnings for mild language!



CHAPTER TWO: Maybe it’s not what it seems


After two hours of reviewing the footage over and over, we are agreed. Yes, the new neighbors did shoot down the drone. The other footage is inconclusive. An impressive amount of work has been done without G-sec being any the wiser, but what, exactly they are doing is a mystery.

“I’ll call in Dr. Davis and her team. They can handle this from here on out.”

Jason is unsurprisingly against this plan.

“What? Isn’t this the same team that should have known about this before we did?”

“Perhaps. They’ve been busy trying to run down all the suspicious activity in the surrounding district. It may be a legitimate building permit for all we know. Domestic will handle this until it’s proven to be a real threat. You’re dismissed.”

The three boys file out, Jason’s body language shouting his protest in every move.

Corrine is efficient, but every available property for sale within a thirty mile radius of the hill has been purchased within the last two months. The buyer paid asking price, in cash. Every purchase came back to one of three dummy corporations and behind that waited a morass of mis-information and dead ends. We don’t know why or who and that makes everybody nervous. The Hilltop is another piece of the puzzle for her team to fit in place.

“Jason. A moment please.” He’s already out the door, but he hears me and comes back, assuming his usual stance by the door. “Just to be prepared, you should review security in that sector. You have special clearance to do what you think is necessary to keep an unobtrusive eye on our new neighbors. It may not be what it seems but we can’t afford to be caught with our proverbial pants down.”

He straightens imperceptibly and nods before racing to catch Tiny and Keyop. I get up and close the door behind him. I have more work to do before I can quit for the day. I set up a meeting with Dr. Davis and her team for tomorrow morning, four AM and return to my unending to do list.

Some hours later my eyes need a break and I let them rest on a picture of the team and me on a rare day off together. I look at Mark, trying to find anything of Cronus in him. Maybe it’s there in the attitude.

He’s on Riga, running an intensive combat training session for our latest field recruits. I won’t call him back until I absolutely need him. We both need time away from each other. After fourteen years of daily contact, his absence has given me space to realize how much time and energy go into keeping him ambulatory. I feel guilty for even thinking it, there’s reason for hostility on both sides.

Since Col. Cronus death and the subsequent revelations, Mark and I have barely spoken to each other. Familiar pain twists my gut, followed by anger. Keeping his secrets has cost me, how much is still in calculation. I pour a glass of scotch and raise it towards the ceiling. Sköal, Marshall. You bastard.

After a deep draught I wipe my eyes and get back to business. Tomorrows schedule. I have a meeting with the leader of the FA9’s. I know nothing about him or his operation. They’ve been forced on me by Kane to replace Impulse squad. I run several search programs without any luck and set Zark on the task of finding information. The tin-can can earn his keep while I get some sleep. The rhyme makes me chuckle as I close my system down for the night and head off to bed. If I’m lucky, I won’t dream.
Strength lies not in flesh and bone.

Offline E.D.

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2016, 13:32:20 CST »
CHAPTER THREE: Smoke and Mirrors

By the time most people are reaching for consciousness, I’ve set Dr. Davis and her team on the trail of the new neighbors, met with Red Rangers high command and finished morning briefs with internal, domestic and galactic affairs. Janice brings me breakfast and a pot of fresh coffee at eight on the nose. I have an hour before the commander of the FA9’s is here and I use it to see what Zark has found.

Three measly pages of obfuscation. The entire company seems to be mostly smoke and mirrors. I pray there is more to them, Earth needs this security blanket. G-force can’t be everywhere at once, nor do they have time to gather intelligence. All I can do is wait.

The FA9’s representatives are prompt, a point in their favor. I make them wait ten minutes without explanation, just to see what he will do. I call Janice into my office to get her input on our guests.

“So. What do you think?” Janice has been with me since I took over from Conway, we work well together and I trust her instincts.

“The commander has been patiently working on her laptop while she waits. Her second is also working.” She laughs at the expression on my face. “Not expecting a woman?”

“I don’t know what I was expecting. Every communication from them only has a title on it, never a name.” I access the waiting room cameras and zoom in its occupants. Something is not right here and it’s not the giant subsuming my setee. It takes me a moment to see the problem. The woman never takes a breath. I check for electronic transmissions and find none originating from the waiting room. Hmmmm.

“Zark.”

“Yes Chief?” The high pitched, tinny voice sounds in my ear piece.

“Scan the beings in the waiting room.”

“Of course. I have several top of the line scanner-“

I cut it off before it can waste too much of my time. “Just a general scan please.” It gripes me to say please to a robot, but it’s touchy and I need the operating system for other things today.

After a moment an image shows up on my monitor. There are two humanoids in the waiting room, flanking a Simulacrum. I let out the breath I’ve been holding and reach for my coffee.

“I don’t detect any harmful substances or explosives Chief.”

“Thank you Zark.” I lean back in my chair and take a sip. The grimace on my face sends Janice to the coffee pot for a fresh cup.

Several races in the galaxy can’t breathe our atmosphere and many just use an avatar for security reasons. I hope the LHC of the FA9’s is using hers for the latter. Whatever her/his reasons, the simulacrum shouldn’t have made it past security. More smoke and mirrors. She puts a fresh cup on the desk and takes the old one from my hand.

“Let’s get this over with. Send them in.” Nothing spectacular so far. I don’t want a replacement for Marshall. I like new technology. New weapons are great. New people are harder to adjust to.
Strength lies not in flesh and bone.

Offline Ebonyswanne

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2016, 20:57:30 CST »
I think Anderson is a man who has many secrets he doesn't share with the team. I can see the plot developing, so will wait a few more chapters to comment since a twist is coming right.  ;)
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Offline E.D.

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2016, 12:16:26 CST »
Sorry for the delays! In the middle of house reno and have to wait for the weekend, when it's quiet!
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Offline Ebonyswanne

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2016, 20:38:59 CST »
Reno's! I understand that one. Finished ours last year...well almost.
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Offline E.D.

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2017, 08:59:00 CST »
I think almost is as close as anyone gets to finished with a house! ;)
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Offline E.D.

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2017, 11:04:34 CST »
CHAPTER FOUR: Mumbles under breath and stalks off


As the team of representatives enters, I stand and walk around my desk, meeting them halfway. Janice makes introductions as I shake hands and try to get a feel for the FA9’s.

“Shall we?” I gesture to the large couches adjacent to my desk. “You might be more comfortable here.” Lieutenant Anjel flashes a lopsided grin before sitting down. He knows it’s for him. I have to strain my neck to look him in the eyes and I’m six three. Next to him, the simulacrum is tiny, a petite bundle of contained energy with bland features and short black hair. The third in their party, Jade, says nothing but offers a friendly smile when we’re introduced.

Janice delivers a tray of drinks and leaves, closing the door behind her. Pleasantries aside, we can get down to business. May as well get this over with.

“I’ve gone over the contract you signed with President Kane, I understand the parameters but I’d like to narrow the scope. If you don’t mind.”

Queenie, as the LHC has introduced herself, takes a moment to reply.

“Of course. We will be happy to stay inside your protocols, as long as they’re clear.” Another pause. “But only as they pertain to missions directly involved with your G-force team. Any other actions undertaken by the FA9’s will be governed by the  usual conventions and our own code.” Her gaze is direct as she stirs her coffee.

I find myself distracted by the simulacrum itself. Most are fairly one dimensional but this one is quite realistic. It moves on it’s own and portrays subtle emotion that would be lost on a lesser model. I wonder if it is mimicking the motion of it’s owner before pulling myself back to the present. “There are a few things we must agree on before you meet the team.Anjel stifles a snort by rubbing his nose, but neither Queenie nor Jade miss a beat.

“While we welcome the chance to meet your team, we have encountered them on several occasions, I think introductions would only be a formality.”

This catches me by surprise. I make a note to ask Jason about it. None of the team has mentioned any encounter with an unknown entity in their briefs. “I see. I’ll have Janice contact you and set up a meeting.”

The rest of the meeting was spent establishing lines of communication and hashing out peculiarities of when and how we would be working together. The FA9’s were professional but relaxed, promising an easy transition for both sides. A chime in my ear signaled an end of meeting and I stood, holding out my hand to Queenie and her companions.

“Again, thank you for coming.” This time I actually meant it. “I look forward to working with you in the coming months.”

Queenie stayed behind as Anjel and Jade waited in the hall. “I’m sorry about Marshall.” The simulacrum peered up at me. “He was a good man. There can’t be many people left who know who you really are.” She clasped my hand between hers, the skin warm and dry. Panic blooms in my chest as what she said sinks in. I pull my hand free before my palms start to sweat.

I meet her gaze without flinching. “Perhaps next time you’ll come in person. Avatars and simulacrums need to be cleared in advance.”

She regards me with a slightly quizzical expression.  “Your security should have detected my simulacrum before it entered the building.” She let go of my hand and turned to leave. “I hope the rest of your agency has higher standards, Chief, or you won’t outlive your friend by very long.”

Fury flares white hot as I escort her to the elevators. I make myself wait until the doors close before I retreat to my office. After I shut the door I indulge in a glass of scotch, poured with a shaky hand.

I make note of who was on my security team and who was working the atrium, then call Ron Hauck, my chief of internal security for a meeting a.s.a.p.

I do not like being schooled by someone I’ve never seen in person. The FA9’s would appear to have far more knowledge of us than we do of them. Anxiety chews it’s way through my guts as an unpleasant undertone but I cannot, will not let it show.

After I hand Ron his butt on a platter the rest of the day goes fairly smoothly. During the usual meetings and diplomatic requests, my mind wanders, looking for an answer to her cryptic comment. When the lunar councillor asks me a question for the second time, I force myself to put it aside and focus on work.

CHAPTER FIVE: Never let them see you sweat

All four available members of the team sit across from me, patiently waiting for me to finish what I’m doing. We’ve been lucky, Spectra seems to be lying low for now. The few resources they have expended for now. I can’t expect this calm to last. I must get the FA9’s up to speed and integrated with our way of doing things. Princess starts to fidget and I close my computer.

“I need to know if any of you have encountered these people on any mission.” The security footage comes up on the main screen. I watch the team, looking for any sign of dishonesty. Jason, Princess and Keyop lean forward, paying close attention to the footage.

“Can you play the first part back again?” Jason’s tone tells me he has seen at least one of them before. I play the film again.

“I’ve run into him before. I think.” Princess points to the smaller man. “He doesn’t speak?”

I nod. Jason speaks up next.

“The giant guy. Definitely not somebody I’d forget. I’ve come across him a couple of times, just not with her.”

Keyop chimes in with more. “Badass--running to--not from.” There’s a grudging admiration in their tone, not something they give easily.

“Has the commander seen them as well?” The idea that they deliberately hide things from me has been smoldering in the back of my mind since yesterday.

Jason nods, only the tiniest acknowledgement. “He has.”

“Why has this been left out of your reports?”

He looks me in the eyes as he answers. “They have our hailing frequencies and the correct codes. We assumed you knew about them or at the least the Federation sent them. Were we incorrect?” His tone is mild but I can see the tension building in his posture. I make a conscious effort to relax my own.

“If they had the right information you could not have known they weren’t from the Federation. I’m just curious about why nobody ever thought to mention them in your reports.”

Princess jumps in, always ready to defend Mark. “If we mentioned every person we encountered...” She trails off, looking to Jason for confirmation.

“Do you want a list of every person we don’t know that helps us out or that we encounter on a mission? It’ll be a veeery long list. Ninety percent of the time we just pass them coming or going. They’ve helped us out a couple of times but I don’t know who, exactly they are.”

“I agree with Jason that the woman in the footage is not the one we normally see. I’ve never seen this woman before.”

In the interest of keeping them on my side, I decide honesty is a better tactic. “That is a simulacrum.”

“A simuwhat?” Tiny leans over and elbows Keyop as he leans in to look closer.

“A simulacrum. A physical avatar. Less than A cyborg, more than a robot. Most sims look like their owners, apparently not true in this case.” I look at Jason and princess for confirmation.

“That is not the woman we always see.” Neither of them shows any sign if deception. “Who are they?”

“The FA9’s. I’m not going to tell you what it stands for.” If the lost boys grew up and started a company, this would have been something they chose. “They’ll be your new backup. Officially this time.”

“Oh.” Princess’s tone tells me what Mark will think of this. She looks away, using her hair to hide her expression. I know she’s been communicating with him while he’s on Riga. There will be trouble on that front, but not for another few years. For now I choose to ignore their flirting.

“I’m calling Mark back to active duty tomorrow.” She positively glows at this news. “Wednesday you’ll have all day practice together.” I look at Jason. “Don’t go easy on him, I need you all in top form to meet the FA9’s.” He’s done an excellent job in Marks absence. “With the exception of Jason, you’re dismissed.” They slowly head towards the door, not sure if they should stay out of loyalty to Jason. He moves to sit in a chair by my desk, without looking at them. After a moment he sends them out. “Go guys. I’ll catch you later at Jill’s.” He levels his gaze somewhere on my tie as he waits for me to speak.

When he first came to me, I treated him the same way I treated Mark. After a week or two it became apparent he was not at all the same. Mark would ghost away, only reappearing when he’d found a way to deal or absorb whatever the drama of the day, week, month was. Jason needs to talk it out. We spent many a late night sitting in the big chair in my study, talking through anything and everything. I’m happy he doesn’t know how much those nights wrecked me.

“You have done an excellent job commanding the team this last two months.” I’m careful not to use words like filling in. I don’t want him to feel like he’s just a place holder for Mark. “As always. Do you want a commendation in your file?” Mark lives for these, Jason considers them, “stupid”. On rare occasions he feels like he’s actually earned one though, so I always ask. He waves a dismissive hand, that’s a no.

“How did the new surveillance lines go?” I’ve seen his report, but I want to hear it from him.

“Every time we put up a new camera, it malfunctions. But only if we point it at them. Turn it to our property and it works fine. They’re using a jamming system we are not familiar with.” He shrugs. “Princess is on it.”

The more I can’t see what’s going on, the more I want to. Human nature at it’s best and most dangerous.

“I think it’s time to use something more high-tech.”

“Like?” His lopsided grin is as close to interest as he’ll let me see.

“Satellite surveillance. I’ll have Dr. Davis appropriate and geosync one of ours.”

“This might be the only way. I’d like permission to test just how good their security is, as soon as the commander returns, of course.”

“I’ll consider it. Lets get the combined session out of the way first, okay?” Tension has leached out over the course of our conversation, we’ve made it through the breach once again. “Dismissed.”
Strength lies not in flesh and bone.

Offline E.D.

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2017, 21:09:49 CST »
The next installment! Should I, or would you be interested in seeing part of the story from another p.o.v.? Let me know if you are!

CHAPTER SIX: The commander returns

My muscles ache from holding myself still as I wait for Mark’s return. I’ll be hitting the gym after this, if only to work through my own issues. His plane taxis over and he hops out. A good sign. His gaze is direct but frigid, and after a formal briefing we part ways.

I care deeply for all my children, even the ones that don’t currently want me to. It’s hard not to interfere when I see them floundering. Mark’s anger is justified and I’ll let him have it. A tiny part of me wishes he would put his anger where it would be better served, but blaming the dead is as futile. Better he work through it now. If he needs to keep the hero image of his father to function, so be it. A hand on my shoulder catches me unawares and I twist away from it without thinking.

“Whoa there. A little jumpy today?” Thaddeus Kane gives a hearty laugh and grabs my hand for a too firm shake. “Good to have the Commander back, eh?”

I can see Jason flinch behind him. No help for it, all I can do is shift the subject as we head toward my office.


CHAPTER SEVEN: Immovable objects


 By Friday morning I feel like the team is ready for anything the FA9’s can throw at them. They’re prompt as always, the simulacrum once again filling in for the real thing. I scan the FA9’s looking for the real Queenie, but there’s no one that fits the description. Her comment from last time has been eating at me. Seeing her in person might help me find out if she’s bluffing or if she actually knows something she shouldn’t. The simulacrum joins me in the observation deck as our teams warm up. Since we’re alone, I decide to be direct with the Lord High Commander.

“Don’t make me have to issue a direct order to appear Commander.”

“Don’t make me have to defy it.” Her gaze is intractable. “I’ll meet you in person soon enough.”

I fight the urge to clear my throat and focus my attention on the team she’s brought with her today. “I hope you didn’t choose your youngest to go easy on the team.” This was a noticeably younger group than her companions the other day.

“Ha! No, I brought the ones that need more experience. This will be a good lesson not to judge by a stupid costume.” The simulacrum gazes placidly out the clearsteel window. “Will you be using live rounds?”

“Wouldn’t a good commander want to know that before hand?” Her dig about the uniforms rankles me more than it should.

“A good commander prepares for the worst. My people are armored against small ordinance. Expectation changes any exercise. I wouldn’t have told them if I did know.”

“Won’t you be joining them?” I wander over to the coffee tray and pour myself a cup, tired is a state of being. I sit and gesture for her to as well. She sits before she answers me.

“Dägony is entirely capable of leading this exercise. I join my people when we’re deployed.” She waved a hand at the training room. “Besides, this simulacrum isn’t designed for combat.”

An interesting nugget. So they have ones that are? I lean forward a push the intercom button. “Let’s begin the simulation.”
Four hours later both teams are wrung out. The FA9’s have a totally different fighting style, but picked up on the teams moves quickly. All in all a good day.

“Commander, It’s been...interesting.” I shake the simulacrum’s hand. “ Can I expect your actual presence at our next meeting?”

There’s that oddly familiar head tilt again. “We will see, Chief Anderson. Enjoy your weekend.”
Strength lies not in flesh and bone.

Offline ElectricWhite

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2017, 21:36:34 CST »
The next installment! Should I, or would you be interested in seeing part of the story from another p.o.v.? Let me know if you are!

What is the story telling you to do? If it seems to be telling you that you need to change the p.o.v., then give it a try. Since I don't know where this story's going, I can't say anything more than "go with your gut".
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Offline KT1972

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2017, 02:34:16 CST »
I agree with EW, it's your story, ED, write it how it wants to be written!
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. - Epicurus

Offline Ebonyswanne

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Re: Man Down
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2017, 06:13:12 CST »
Simulacrum... I like the use of them and the explanation. I feel there is more to come of them and in the enemy camp.

P.O.V- Depends, this is first person so it follows the view of the one telling the story. One of my favourite authors tells it totally from her main character, she just finds other ways in his view to present the story and give it a broader scope while remaining in first person. So far its reading well. I'm getting the picture of Mark and Andersons personal issues. Jason's stepping up.
 
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