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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Character Interviews » Blenheim

   
Author Topic: Blenheim
Rolag
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I’m Blenheim. Seeler Sector 3rd Infantry Battalion. Formerly.

I had an older brother and he joined up so I did too when I was old enough, figuring they would get me sooner or later. He’s gone now, never did hear exactly what happened to him, killed in action when the Fayan hub went down. Death or glory he used to say. He got one but I didn’t get the other. I’m glad the folks aren’t alive to see me now.

Average life expectancy in the infantry platoons is four years. I made it to five before I was wounded, put me out for three months. The next five, nothing came near me. Lost people to the left of me, people to the right of me, me in the middle with everything zipping past my ears. My spotter, the Priest, used to tell me that God had a different purpose for me. Just his joke, which is pretty good for a Construct. Well look at us now. Prisoners of war. If this is God’s intention, he’s a joker too.

I’ve never been anything but a soldier. Fought when I had to, slept when I could and never stopped to wonder if I was tired or cold or hungry. Now the war is over I don’t know what I am. They treat us well here, give us work and education programmes to fill our days. It’s not hard but, man, I am so tired all the time. I just want to stay in my bunk.

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extrinsic
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Blenheim, what do you want? You're depressed, obviously. Your scenario suggests you're at loose ends, but implies escape from the prison is wanting satisfaction. I think also that repatriation is a possibility. I'd like to see that latter portrayed but that still leaves a want wanting.

Other questions I have: What were you like before you were a soldier? Where and when do you come from? What's your calling or mission in life? How were you captured? Why aren't you doing something about your situation? Who are your friends, nemeses, and enemies in prison?

[ June 04, 2013, 01:12 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Rolag
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Depressed, you say. That’s what the Priest tells me. On bad days he reads me this poem. I only ever remember one line, something about accepting what I cannot change. It’s a good poem.

We were given away in a deal. That’s how we ended up here. When it happened, we were up close to the front line in Rainey Gap, off Santiago Hub. It had been a hard fight to get there but we’d been in position for about a week, well dug in on Ophelia, an Earth type in the Shakespear System, holding fast and waiting for some intel for our next move. The Reformation brigades had retreated, right out of the system and we wondered what they were up to. Then we got word from HQ. Lay down your arms, they said. Surrender. Stack all the weapons, side arms, vehicles, everything in one place, back off and wait.

Turns out that was the end of the war for us. We’d been given up in exchange for some concession or other. Rounded up at gunpoint and flown out in a Reformation troop carrier.

Someone ever throw a bucket of ice cold water over you? It was like that. Shock. It was like I’d been jettisoned, thrashing around in the dark with no air to breathe and nothing to hold on to. All that effort, all those lives and we were traded like playcards. I was raging. I wasn’t going to go without a fight but the Priest kept me down, kept me quiet, kept me alive. Punched me in the head once to stop me kicking off with the guards. That was a surprise. Now the anger has burned out and I’m empty. The Priest hauls me around like he’s the man and I’m the dummy too stupid to put up a fight.

I shouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t want anyone to call him dummy behind his back or to his face. He doesn’t deserve that. I only ever met one other Construct. He was a spotter too, like the Priest, but this one just did his job and no more. Even when he spoke it was only the minimum, like there was a ration on conversation. And he was, I don’t know … artificial. Gave me the creeps a little bit. Granted, the Priest isn’t exactly a talker but he’s got personality. Most of the time we forgot what he was. I wonder if he ever did too.

The Priest tells me that he’s looking out for me because he’s going to need me later on. I know this isn’t a joke. Things are changing. The guards let us watch the news so we know what’s going on outside. We used to get aid parcels from home, stuff like chocolate, socks, letters from kids telling us that we were heroes. We haven’t had any of those for a while. Public opinion is shifting. People are lashing out at the things that hurt them, not just on our side but in Reformation territory too. Old leaders are out. New regimes are in. Militias are being disbanded. I see reports of troops arriving home to cold indifference from the very people they fought to defend. Now questions are being asked about the Constructs. I can see where this is heading. The heavy weapons are being destroyed and people will be thinking maybe the Constructs have had their day too. I’m sure the Priest has worked this out.

What’s left of my platoon are here in the camp. That makes fifty seven of us. I watch the Priest doing the rounds every day, a word here, a joke there. Plays chess with Ratty when nobody else will. There’s no point in us acting like a platoon anymore but he keeps us together, polished and shiny. Maybe it’s good for morale. We talk about what we’ll do when we get out of here but the truth is, most of us have nowhere to go. I talk about home but it’s been occupied territory for years. Someone else living in our house, if it’s still standing; working our fields. I was a farm boy. Wheat, pigs. No point in going back. But there’s an idea floating around. Guys talking about it.

One of the education lectures was about resettlement. We have a choice. We can wait to be released back to Rebel space, which we now have to call United New Territories. That’ll take at least a year while they make sure all the pockets of Rebel activity are mopped up. They don’t want us running off and starting it up again. Or we can opt to stay in Reformation space, in which case we could be out in eight weeks. There’s a catch. We have to form a party of at least 100 personnel who want to settle on one of their frontier worlds, minimum commitment 20 years. Some of the options have small populations. Some are terraformed but empty. Like I say, we’re talking about it. It’s clear the Priest has to get out of here before someone decides to recall the Constructs. I’ve got to get him out of here. I owe him that.

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extrinsic
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So Blenheim, your strongest want is saving the Priest from recall and destruction. I think a stronger and tangible personal want is called for. Since colonization seems to be your best out from the prison, maybe you want open air and to be left to your own and your companions' governance. Farming? Self-sufficiency? I'm thinking Papillion on Devil's Island.

[ June 07, 2013, 06:37 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Rolag
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Hi Extrinsic, this is Rolag. Thank you for your comments. This was a useful exercise for me and your last posting above is spot on. Relationships in a military unit are tight and not easily let go even out of a military setting. I've seen something like this happen for real and it stuck with me. However Blenheim is going to pull himself together and realise what he personally wants.
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extrinsic
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Military unit and other group tight-knittedness are social identity features. I think Blenheim is at a loss for replacing his military group identity with an at-large one. He suffers from an existential crisis, otherwise known as an identity crisis. Identity crises cause social detachment syndromes: isolation. A prison camp is an isolation factory. Identity resolutions, or outcomes anyway, orient around social identity reintegration, creative expression, or madness.

But those are intangibles that require related tangibles, like Blenheim considers colonization as a way out of prison. Wanting to get out is a tangible want. I expect, though, colonization poses many problems for him. A further tangible want is needed. Like a love interest, a meaningful role in the colony, or another object of desire. Perhaps a small but personally meaningful triumph against his oppressors.

Life--and a story's plot--begins, again, with a personal discovery that disturbs a routine. Routine interruptus. Three hundred sixty-five days in a year; the day that's noticeably different is a story's beginning.

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