The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 5 of 5

I think I'm going to fail. I think I am going to fail, but I am going to trudge on. There is a great scene about trudging in the movie "A Knight's Tale," which is an excellent movie. Chaucer says, "To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on." Out of the despair, out of the darkness, from desolation and ruin, I shall trudge on; forever yearning to stop, to stop from pain, and fear, and exhaustion, and a feeling of utter meaninglessness in the face of a lost cause, yet I shall trudge on. Trudge we shall unto the heights, through the depths, across the great expanse of life, the universe, and everything in it, we shall trudge!



In the last post I made an interesting revelation about the lack of substance and some fanciful manipulations of human nature being the reason for my hang-up in writing this story. Nevertheless I am going to give it a go. First, let's look at my breakdown of the story using the four part system that I originally designed for evaluating fictional works.

Subject: on a flight from Tokyo to San Francisco a plane is transported from 2017 to 2037. In 2037 San Francisco is an artificial war zone where "wars" are fought between different countries utilizing droid clones as troops who are fully immersed in the experience of their droid clone. In this way all wars have ended, and because people can login to experience the action from any point of view that they want in a fully immersed way all urges towards war have been squelched as well.

Structure: Winston is on the plane when it gets shot down. He and a few others survive the crash landing, but he's injured. He tries moving away from where the fighting seems it is most intense, but gets tackled by a soldier from Team USA. The soldier tells him that he isn't supposed to be here, and that there is no way to stop or pause the fighting. He will have to last until a team has won before the forcefield will be opened and he can leave the enclosed area called The City of Peace. They regroup, he is treated for his wounds, and given some supplies. The Captain of Team USA says that he can join their team, but every member has to pull their weight, including him. That means carrying equipment for them. He joins in the fighting and tries to stay as safe as possible, but everywhere in The City of Peace is the frontline. While a sniper has pinned them down near the end of the battle Winston uses one of the weapons to kill him, allowing the rest of Team USA to finish the rest of Team Moldova and win.

Style: this is told as a bedtime story to Winston's grandson by his father.

Substance: maybe this is where I'm stuck. I can't figure out why this story makes a difference. It seems a little too fanciful about human nature. The absence of war isn't really going to happen. This type of thing as a bloodsport seems more realistic, but that's not very positive is it? And XPRIZE wants it to be positive. I don't mind fantasy being about dragons and warlocks, but ignoring human nature is something I can't get over. One of the best things about fiction is that it can be more truthful about human nature than we can in our daily conversations.

What will happen if I just move forward anyway? I'm not sure.

"What story would you like to hear kiddo?"

"Tell me about grandpa Winston again?"

"Okay, this was so long ago even I wasn't born yet. Grandpa Winston was on a plane ride from Tokyo to San Francisco. You see, Winston was an important business man, but this time was different. Do you remember what was different?"

"Just tell it, dad!"

"Ha, okay, okay. This time was different. The plane started shaking, but Winston was brave. Sometimes planes shake and that's normal. The pilot said, 'Don't worry folks. We're just experiencing a bit of turbulence. Please stay in your seats and buckle up. It should only be a few minutes,' but the pilot was wrong."

"The shaking stopped and explosions started. Winston could see out of his window and it looked like they were being shot at, it looked like something out of a war movie. There were no announcements now, only screams echoing through the plane. The plane turned hard, but how could it escape, they were being shot at from almost directly below them. Winston could feel the explosions push the plane, knew that it must be damaged, shrapnel tearing through its wings, through its hull."

"Winston thought it was the end. Why would San Francisco be shooting at them? Why was the military in San Francisco? Were they always there? What do you do when you're about to die? Do you pray, do you contemplate your life, do you think about your loved ones? Do you freeze, not knowing what to do, knowing that there is nothing you can do?"

"The wing on the other side was on fire, Winston could see it. The plane was hurtling at the ground. Everyone dies in a plane crash. The last thing he saw was the woman next to him with her mouth held open in a screech of terror with no sound coming out. Her eyes were as red as her lips."


"Winston woke up feeling like he had been hit in the head really hard. Concussions can give you these spots when you look at things, like twinkling lights and dark spots dancing with each other. Now that he was coming to, everything hurt, bad. He was still strapped in his seat. The woman was still next to him. She had a red streak running from her nose, and her neck was bent too far to the side."

"'Run!' That's all he could think. 'Get as far away from this place as I can. Run, and don't stop.'"

"He pushed passed the woman with the red eyes and the red lips. No one else was moving. He probably couldn't help them anyway. Maybe some ambulances were coming, maybe whoever shot them down was coming. Either way, he couldn't help them."

"He could see straight forward through the plane, it had been ripped in half, and part of the underbelly had been torn away. He made his way through the wreckage to the ground. Every step jarred his spine, his feet hurt, and the back of his neck ached."

"Where was he? This didn't look like San Francisco. The plane was on a little hill with other hills around it. Some of them had trees. When he turned to look back down the plane he could still see the ocean, and there was a little town at the bottom of the hill, but the town looked odd. It looked like it had been bombed."

"Run, hide, get help. Run, hide, get help. That's what he had to do. Run, hide, get help. A fast walk to the ruined town was going to have to do. There was something wrong with his ankle, maybe it was broken."

"Going down the hill was horrible. His head hurt, his ankle hurt, everything hurt. Luckily it didn't look like anyone was in the town. Maybe that was a good thing, but no one could help him either. Maybe he saw some movement. Maybe it was just his head hurting so bad."

"He had to sit down, he had to take a break. He was almost to the town, just a little bit further."

"Pop, pop, pop! Those were gunshots behind him, back towards the plane. Pop . . . pop."

"What the heck! Who in the hell were these people? What was happening? He was running towards the town now. He could hear some people yelling behind him, but he was too afraid to look back. This can't be happening! This can't be happening!"

"Twhoo, twhoo. Those must be bullets! Holy crap, their shooting at him. Thwap, thwap, thwap. Bullets were hitting the wall he was running at. He dove on the ground, but he didn't make it to the wall. When he landed on the ground it felt like his lungs were going to explode. He was gasping as he started crawling, his arms and legs flailing like a baby squirming on the ground."

"He stopped behind the wall. He took a few deep breaths leaning up against it. He could hear the men yelling still, but he couldn't understand what they were saying. It was some other language. Maybe these were terrorists or something? He had to make a run for it. Run or die."

"He took a deep breath, jumped to his feet, and ran for the next building. But, his run was slow, it was more like a gallop with his ankle. There's no way, no way. This couldn't be real. He was going to die here. Then, out of the corner of his eye, a man in all black was running at him. He was too fast. He hit Winston with his shoulder lowered, he hit him so hard that it knocked the wind right out of him. Winston landed on the ground gasping for breath, that feeling of suffocating, of dying, doubting for a moment that he would ever breathe again. The man had grabbed him by an arm and was dragging him. He was having a hard time focusing."

"The man dragged him behind a wall, turned around the corner - pop, pop, pop - he must be shooting at the guys that were just shooting at Winston. The man in black turned to him and yelled, 'Who the hell are you?!'

'Me? I'm, I'm Winston. Who are . . . you?'

'I'm Sergeant Patrick Graham, boy, Team USA. I didn't think there were any other teams left. Who are you with?'

'What?'

'What teeeam, are yooou, on?!'

"'I was on the plane that just crashed on the hill,' said Winston."

"'Where the hell did that plane come from?' asked Sergeant Graham."

"'Um, Tokyo, we were coming from Tokyo,' said Winston."

"'Tokyo? What the hell? The field must've come down or somethin'. Are you real or are you a clone?'" asked Sergeant Graham."

'What?'

"'Are, you, a, clone?' repeated Sergeant Graham."

"'No! I'm not a clone.' Winston had a really weird look on his face. His eyes were scrunched up and he looked really confused."

"'Are you from the States?' asked Sergeant Graham"

"'Yeah, I live in Fremont,' said Winston."

"'Dammit, alright, you're gonna stay with me boy. Pay attention and don't get shot. Hey Captain, you been hearing this?" said Sergeant Graham."

"The Sergeant looked like he was listening to someone, but he didn't have a radio on."

"'Take a look at this guy Cap, he looks completely lost, I think the field went down and a plane from Tokyo came through and Team Moldova shot it down. They moved on it too, and you heard the activity up that way. This is gonna to be a mess.' said the Sergeant."



Pause. Alright, I know this is an editorial nightmare. I started quoting the full story because it is spoken from the storytellers perspective, but I've veered a little away from that, which is fine. I will bring that back when I jump out of this. Because this could end up becoming a huge story, and I'm already at 1,234 words, I'm going to look for a reasonable point to jump out of it in the near future. It can only be between 2,000 and 4,000 words. If I don't take my earliest out I'm not sure when my next one will come. My idea is that when Winston decides to join the team I will cut the story by having the father say that that's all for tonight, it's time for bed and they will have to finish tomorrow night. We'll see how that goes.


"Winston looked around, but no one else was around. Was the Captain looking at him?"

"'Alright, we're headed your way,' said Sergeant Graham."

'Listen . . . what was your name?'

'Winston.'

'That's right, Winston, stay close Winston. We're headed back North. We're gonna regroup in Sharp Park, and the Captain's gonna to decide what to do with you.'

"Sergeant Graham moved fast, and low. He kind of jogged in a semi-crouched position, he was smooth. Winston stumbled along behind him, kind of jogging, kind of limping, a mix that looked a little like a gallop. They ran to the next building and ducked behind another partial wall left from some sort of building that was almost completely destroyed now. Winston could see a few buildings over where another black figure moved back along the buildings too. They were alternating, like leap frog."

"When they reached the edge of the town Sergeant Graham looked at Winston like he was some sort of mangy dog that he had to clean."

'Dammit Winston, you're all messed up. We aren't even going to make it to Sharp Park at this pace. You better step it up boy.'

"'My leg,' Winston said, pointing at it. 'I think it's broken, and my head hurts sooo bad, I feel like I'm going to pass out.'"

'Alright, Jack, bring the med kit over here.'

"Winston didn't see who Sergeant Graham was talking to. It must've been a microphone he couldn't see. Another person clad all in black came running at them along the backs of the buildings."

"'Hurry up Jack,' said Sergeant Graham, 'get him movin' and let's go.'"

"Jack slipped off a backpack and told Winston to sit down against the wall. Jack pulled out some sort of electronic thing with a band of some kind attached to it. He pulled up Winston's pant leg. He wrapped it around Winston's leg, part of it right over his sock and a little bit of his shoe. He looked right in the eyes and said, 'This is going to burn a little bit.'"

"It felt like Winston stepped into the middle of a fire pit. His entire leg felt like it was on fire, it felt like it was melting off. The world spun, Winston let out a weak gasp."

"Jack was smacking Winston in the face. Sergeant Graham was shooting around the corner. Pop pop, pop pop. Winston blinked and stared at the field they were probably going to run across next, headed towards the North, to meet a Captain that was supposed to determine his fate. The next step in the nightmare that was . . . whatever day it was."

"'Winston, come on. Winston! Swallow these.' Jack was shoving some pills in his face. He chewed them and swallowed."

"'Ready Sergeant,' Jack said.

"'Good, stay with me Winston.' Sergeant Graham took off on a sprint up the hill, Winston jumped to his feet and took off after him. It was amazing, his ankle didn't hurt at all, and he was running like normal. Actually, he felt kind of good!"

"Even with the fixed ankle and whatever kind of speed they had given him, it was a big field."

"'Keep movin' Winston,' Sergeant Graham was yelling. 'Run or get shot.'"

"There was a building up ahead. Jack ran passed him and tucked behind one of the walls. The building was still in pretty good shape, but the parking lot had been turned into a small crater."

"'Get in, get in,' Jack was telling him. He was standing next to a blown out glass door with his rifle raised, but he wasn't shooting and no one seemed to be shooting at them. As soon as Winston stepped through the door there was a man with a pistol pointed straight at his head. Winston stopped and looked at him. Was this the Captain? Was this a trick? What was this?"

"'Hello Winston,' said the man with the pistol, 'I'm Captain Jacob Kooth of Team USA. You are going to sit in that chair right there.' The Captain pointed to a chair against the wall. Winston sat down."

"'Where are we Winston?' asked the Captain."

"Jack and Sergeant Graham came into the hallway and stood behind the Captain."

"'Um, I, I don't know,' said Winston, he could feel his fatigue starting to come back."

"'Well, take a guess,' said the Captain."

"'Somewhere around San Francisco, I'm not sure where,' replied Winston."

"'San Francisco?' said the Captain as he lowered his gun. There is no San Francisco. They stopped using that name like, ten years ago."

"'What year is it?' asked the Captain."

"'It's two-thousand seventeen,' said Winston, it seemed like they were trying to trick him about something."

"'He's got amnesia,' said the Captain, to everyone and to no one. 'Listen you must've gotten your head hit pretty bad in the crash and it screwed with your brain. It's two-thousand thirty-seven. We are in The City of Peace. I have no idea how your plane came through the barrier, but it's bad news for lots of people. They're gonna want us to keep you alive, but I have a game to win, and you're not going to stop that. There is no way out of here until we win that game. So, either you go your own way or you join us. If you help us win, we'll try to keep you alive. There's only one other team left, we think, Team Moldova.'"

"'What?!' said Winston, 'The City of Peace, are you kidding me? It's a damn war zone out there. My plane was shot down. I've had people shooting at me, you guys were shooting at people, I think some guys shot the other people on the plane. What the hell happened?'"

"'Okay, listen,' said the Captain. 'I don't have the time or the patience to explain everything to you. You've apparently forgotten the last twenty years, I don't know how that works, but you better start catching up fast. There hasn't been a war in five years, anywhere. The City of Peace is a game, this isn't even my real body. This is just a clone of my body that I run in this game. No one fights real wars because now we can fight fake wars. I live in a completely controlled environment, I don't get sick, I don't get injured, and I'm rich because we are the defending champs. Now, we are in the semi-finals, sooo, I need you to get on-board, or to get out.'"

"'Okay,' said Winston, 'What do I have to do?'"


"Alright kid, that's enough for tonight, it's late, it's time for bed."

"Nooo, daaad, you're just getting to the good part. I wanna hear the rest of it."

"I'll tell you what, if you get your homework done right when you get home tomorrow we'll finish the rest of the story, okay? Now, go to sleep."


Well, time's up. I have to submit this thing. It will be rejected straight away just because of the grammar issues, but I want to submit it anyway. I think it's kind of an interesting story. I still have my issues with the substance to it and the complete impossibility of doing away with war, but I think that you could have an indirectly violent society which appears to not have war, but actually has a lot of violence underlying everything (much like we actually have). So, I guess I can kind of stretch it and say that something like that may be close to the realm of possible for human nature. 2431 words long, so it ended up on the shorter side, but if I didn't break off there I'm not sure where I would have been able to do it.

Alright, I'm off to format and submit this thing before the deadline in a couple of hours. It was a fun little exploration. Find out what I do next at JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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