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July 6th, 2006, 10:21 AM
The Mechanoid
Carl E. & Joe G. Thompson
c. 2006 Maveric-Lion Productions.

I knew that I was dying.
I had faced and witnessed death enough times in my life to be aware of the signs. Besides, the doctor had told me so and one couldn't disagree with that--no matter how much one would have liked to. And I would have liked to. I wasn’t ready to die. Not by a damned long shot.
How had I come to this? You might ask.
No bullet had caught me. I’d been shot several times in my career as a Marine. Gunnery Sergeant Joe Jackson had scars to prove that. But I had managed to escape fatal wounds in all my years with the Corps.
No, what was killing me was radiation poisoning. A combination of weeks of fighting on Mars, exposed to radiation in that planet’s thin atmosphere and the rays from a bomb the Chinese had used to cover their retreat.
Now, months later, I was in the waiting room of the doctor's office at the Fleet Hospital at El-Five. Waiting to hear whatever it was the doctor had been anxious to tell me.
Every now and then I would adjust the pain killer feed from my travel care support system as the pain became too much for me to bear.
The doctor's receptionist program called my name and I wheeled into the office.
Lt. Commander Jameson was sitting behind his desk when I entered. He looked up and smiled. I hate it when doctors smile. I never meant anything good.
"Good morning Master Gunnery Sergeant Jackson. How are you today?"
"I'm dying, sir," I said. "How do you think I am?"
Yes, I was bitter, no doubt about that. Severe radiation poisoning was one of those things that modern medical science was still unable to do much about. All they could do was slow the inevitable and ease the pain.
That had been six months ago.
"I have some good news for you, Gunny."
"What might that be, Commander?"
"Well I can't promise you that you won't die of the radiation but there is an experimental program that can extend your consciousness and allow you to put your lifetime of experience in the Corps to use after your physical body is gone."
It sounded too good to be true but I leaned forward toward the doc.
"Tell me about it."
I’d read about uploading on the Scientific American Website. But I'd gathered that it was decades off and had never considered myself a candidate for such a thing. No, they'd preserve the personas of great thinkers, scientists, artists, composers, presidents and statesmen—maybe the odd pop stars or vid actor. Yeah, some greedy rich bastards too. Not a lowly Marine grunt.
But that was what they had offered me and that was why I was here at the clinic, today.
A nursing drone came into the waiting room and remotely guided my power chair to a room. Another machine brought me one of those ridiculous gowns and helped me undress. Yet a third bot helped me into the bed and hooked me up to support equipment.
I considered for the first time how ubiquitous robots were in the life of every modern person--especially if you lived on the space colonies, where labor was at a premium. I found myself wondering if my new form would be much different from these machine servants, and if I would be aware of it if they were.
Or would I just be dead with some soulless carbon copy of my mind aping recorded thoughts?
Modern science seemed to feel that a man's thoughts and feeling were his soul. Were the some total of all that he was, all that he would ever be. But I had been raised under a more ancient tradition--one that said the soul was immortal without having to be recorded. That when a man died his soul—his spirit-- went elsewhere--to heaven or hell.
Not that I was sure either way. I just knew that I hated to quit. Quit was not in the Marine Corps dictionary—at least not in my copy of it.
And this was a chance--no matter how iffy--to not quit. To keep on fighting. Or maybe it was just a chance to be remembered, if not to remember personally. And as far as that went it was worth it.
They'd explained the process to me.
My neural tissue would be infused with nanites—the same kind of microscopic bots they use to treat illness. These tiny mechs would begin to map my memories and transmit them to other nanites that had been infused into a culture grown brain. No one had yet found a non-biological way to replicate intelligence—all those sci-fi stories not withstanding.
The nanites in the cultured brain would map the memories onto the new brain and--or so it was said--create a copy of my memories.
Also other nanotech machines infused into my brain would work to interpolate and repair memories in my brain that had been damaged over a lifetime, so that the upload would have as complete a memory set as was possible.
I wasn't sure that was such a good thing. There were a lot of things, I was sure, that I had forgotten over a lifetime that was best left that way. Only I couldn’t recall any of them at that moment.
Eventually a doctor and two nurse technicians entered the room.
"Hello," said the woman doctor. "I'm Dr. Loo. How are you feeling today, Gunnery Sergeant Jackson?"
"Fine," I croaked. "Not feeling any pain."
"We administered pain blockers," said Dr. Loo. "It simply would not do to have pain distracting your memories during the upload."
"Great," I said. "Mouth's dry though."
"Yes, well we'll be putting you on IV for fluids and nutrition. Afraid you can't eat and drink during the process."
"This sounds like fun already."
She ignored my attempts at levity.
"Also, we can't use electro-narcosis to put you under. That would interfere with the nanites. We have to use old fashioned chemical anesthetics."
"Okay. Two steps forward and one back."
"This is a new technique, Gunny. We explained that all the kinks and bugs are not worked out yet."
"Yeah, but I'm dying anyway. When do we start?"
"Let's get to it."
Yeah, I was sure. No turning back. Too stubborn for that.

They always said a man's life flashes before his eyes when he's dying. And I had always thought that was bullshit. I’d been in an EVAC pod several times and had never had my life flash before my eyes. No white tunnels with saintly figures either.
But now my life was flashing before my eyes. No, not just flashing--I seemed to be reliving it a piece at a time.
I remembered suckling at my mother's breast--no one remembers that. I also remembered being born. Another event that is masked from one's memories except maybe in some backroom where your sleeping mind remembers floating in warm fluid.
I remembered crawling and seeing my first kitten and my first teddy bear. I remembered my first steps. My first booboo.
And as the pile--could one call it that?--grew the memories began to flow faster and faster.
My first baseball game. I lost. My first fist fight. I lost that too. My older sister, Jeannie, beating the bully to a pulp. My first kiss. My first football touchdown.
My first real kiss—you know what I mean. My first sexual intercourse. All the clumsy fumbling. And my first broken heart and the girl who helped him mend it.
I remembered high school and all of the joys and disappointments of adolescence. And that day when I was wondering about my future when I happened upon a recruiting station at the local mall.
I remembered wandering in and looking at the posters on the walls. The photo of US Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima. Young men and women in blue dress uniforms. Marines fighting the Barbary Pirates in the nineteenth century. It all spoke of duty, honor, adventurer and excitement. Then there was the photo of men in space suits on the Lunar surface. They had the Marine Corps globe and anchor on the sides of their helmets. I’d heard of the space marines, a special pilot program back in those days.
I was hooked. This looked like it was right up my alley.
So I decided to look into it. I signed in at the registration desk and sat down to wait--with about ten other people. Well, at least I wasn’t the only one making that trip that day--safety in numbers—the adolescent code.
One by one the crowd thinned. One by one the candidates filed past me on the way out. Some looking sad, a few looking angry and others looking happy.
Finally my turn came. I stood, wiped the sweat off my palms on my jeans and went into the office.
I snapped awake. But I wasn’t sure what day it was or even--what year.
The last thing I remembered was the doctors putting me under and the images of my life moving by. And that felt as if it had all happened years, decades ago.
I tried to get up, but I couldn't move. Must have been paralyzed by whatever they did. Or maybe the anesthetic hadn't worn off yet.
I lay there helpless, looking up at the bottom of what looked like a bunk above me. I'd been here before. It looked like any typical Marine Corps barracks.
Suddenly I heard a bugle blaring--the traditional sound of reveille. And, as if by magic signal, I was able to move, to sit up and swing my feet--yes I had feet, real, human feet--over the edge of the bunk bed.
Something was wrong here. I was a flesh and blood man in a Marine Corps barracks and I was healthy. And I had my youth back.
A lifetime of habit forced me to jump to my feet and stand at attention near my bunk. I also noticed that I was not alone. There were others there--all young recruits with fresh haircuts. This was not a memory--but it could have been.
This was Parris Island some thirty years ago. I could well have stepped back in time nearly a generation.
And now an all too familiar figure approached down the line of boots. The DI.
As the DI approached I felt that there was something familiar about the man. But I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
Then he spoke and it all popped into focus.
"All right you sorry mass of grab-asstic excuses for Marines, this is your first, and maybe last, day in the Corps.”
The DI was me. I was he.
Looking right and left I noticed that the other boots were me as well.
What the hell is going on here?

By the end of that hour I what was happening.
This was a hyper-reality space where I would be retrained in my new life. One didn't become a mechanoid marine any easier than one became a flesh and blood model. You had to learn how to operate, how to be a mechanoid.
But who were these other people. I was supposed to be the first of my kind. Where had all of these others come from?
I decided to go and ask the DI and find out just what was up.
"Sarge, I thought I was the first upload. Where did all these others come from?"
The DI looked up at him from his desk as if I'd just announced that I was the king of the morons and wanted my crown.
"Didn't you read the fine print on the contract you signed, Johnson?"
No, I hadn't. I'd been in a lot of pain and didn't figure it mattered.
"Maybe I missed a detail."
"Yeah," said the DI. "Like the one that said your persona would not be activated until after your death. They found a cure for the radiation sickness that was killing you. You lived a few years after the upload and others were uploaded in that time. You just died yesterday--in the real world--and so here you are."
Yeah, and when were you going to inform me of this, jackass?
"Why didn't they add those last few years to the upload?"
"I don't know. There's been a lot of politics around this program. It's been canceled and revived by the Unified Earth Assembly at least six times. Then we got into another war and the casualties started coming in and the volunteers started to dry up--same old story. Everyone is gung ho for a war until it starts and reality kicks in."
"Who are we fighting this time?"
"Nobody--that one's over. For a point of personal information it was South Africa and we won. But there was a helluva price to pay."
"So what do I do?"
"Train and be trained. Then we’ll we see what kind of use they find to put us too."
"You're an upload?"
"An Upper--Yes, I am."
And that was that. I did the only thing I could do. I trained and helped to train the other uploads.
That very next day they loaded me into my mechanoid body.

Me and my fellow mechs were loaded into their bodies. They’d been practicing in them for years, but now it felt different. There was something in the air. There was a purpose to this exercise. After years of being a marine you got a feel for it.
You could tell the officers were nervous and the higher ranked NCOs too. Yes, this was it. They were going somewhere to do something and in Marine parlance that meant a mission.
A human Admiral in the new uniform of what they were now calling the Unified Earth Star Fleet mounted the stage at the front of the auditorium. I recognized the face. He’d been a young ensign on the troop ship that took us to Mars in the long ago war. Now he had three stars on his shoulder. Had that much time passed?
“At ease, people. You’ve all been called here today to be briefed on the new role of the Fleet and Fleet Marine Corps in our new world order.
“As you may of may not have heard war, as we once knew it, is all but obsolete—her on Earth and in our colonies. Aside from a few police actions in the backwaters of the Earth—and a recurrent insurgency problem on Mars-- there hasn’t been a real war in ten years.”
“But I won’t lie to you. This is not some fabled golden age. The Earth currently has a population of some twenty billion people. We waited too long to tackle the problems of global warming. This old planet is beat.”
I swiveled his mechanoid head left and right to see how the others were reacting to that bit of news. I couldn’t tell. They were all unreadable. In their mech bodies my new tribe had no body language per se.
“Now there is a colony on Mars and plans to terraform the planet—but that might not come in time. And the generation of people who grew up there doesn’t look at themselves as Earthers and we won’t be able to dump colonists there without a fight—a fight the government is not willing to engage in.
“But we’ve located terrestrial type planets in other nearby star systems. So, we are going to build starships and send colonies to them. That way the human race will be spread all over this part of the galaxy. No single event will make us extinct. And hopefully, in time, that will solve the overcrowding problem here on the motherworld.
“And you ladies and gentlemen will go aboard those starships. Mechanoid astronauts will fly them and Mechanoid Marines will protect the colonies and serve as advanced scouts on the new planets.
“In this new era of small wars and police actions, you people will have found a new focus for your skills and talents. Semper fi.”
And that was how the new mission began. It took a few years to build the ships and train the crews. But eventually me and my platoon embarked aboard the starship that would take us to Tau Ceti.
I never regretted my decision to join the Corp and, though, for a little while I had regretted my decision to become a Mechanoid, I soon began to relish that decision as well.
This old Devil Dog had learned some new tricks.
The End

Ozzie U Nolem
July 6th, 2006, 10:46 AM
"How had I come to this? You might ask."

You don't need to write what the audience is already thinking to themselves.

"I wasn’t ready to die. Not by a damned long shot."

Great lead, follow it. This is the depth of your story. In the following paragraphs I am not picking up and elements of a story. It seems to be just a description of actions. Need much more story...

Just my thoughts though...