Oct 9, 2009 by

Rhae’s Round 7 Challenge: Incorporate an Assassination Plot (taken from Tuck’s Story) – Word limit: 600.

Read RHAE 6 here (see “Similar Posts” at the bottom of this post for any earlier entries)

The Assassination of Marat by Jean Joseph Weerts, 1920

The Assassination of Marat - Weerts


Melanie is dead. Her assassination at the May 1, 2037 anti-genetration protest outside CloneLife headquarters sparks nationwide riots. The conspirators at CloneLife and in the government who orchestrate the assassination expect riots. They know that dissidents as influential as Martin Luther King and Melanie Maxwell cannot be eliminated without domestic turbulence. But whereas with King, the riots had eventually fizzled out, with Melanie they flared up within weeks into civil war.

After her resignation at CloneLife, Melanie became an outspoken critic and, as an insider, the greatest threat to biotech’s latest research into parthenogenetic reproduction in DNA microchips. But Melanie’s high profile was a necessary but insufficient condition for the escalation of riots into revolutionary civil war. The main cause lay elsewhere. Although there was never official recognition that the kidnappings and murders of the 20s traced back to CloneLife, independent investigative journalists had holoblogged evidence of the connection. A significant minority of the population soon turned against CloneLife despite round-the-clock efforts by its PR Department, whose budget surpassed the total GDP of the poorest 30 nations.

With Melanie’s assassination, the minority becomes a majority. As the riots spread, the US government declares a national emergency and imposes martial law. But street battles continue and casualties mount. Finally, after meeting with the Defense Secretary and Research Head at CloneLife, the president approves the military implementation of so-called intelligent superdrones.

The drones quell the rebellion in three hours, bringing the death toll into the tens of thousands. In the bloodiest assault, branded within seconds around the world as the Times Square Massacre, a Holotov cocktail strikes a superdrone and shortcircuits its genomic centerboard, triggering the highly unstable nonchromosomal transposable elements in its DNA microchip to mutate.

The drone does not return on the recall. The self-congratulatory celebration at the swift crushing of the domestic uprising drowns out any consternation. The Head of CloneLife research also downplays the missing superdrone, athough he knows parthenogenetic evolution along self-organizing lines is possible if indeed the drone has ‘gone AWOL,’ as he put it to a confidant.


January 5, 2039
ENE39 gazes out the glass screen of the genetration center at the pastoral holographic projection of a country meadow.

What do you think is really out there?

ENE39 jumps at the voice beside him. It is ATH20.

A green meadow, a blue sky and a dozen cows, ENE39 responds, irritated by her irregular query. Reality is what you see. Don’t ask questions that have been answered.

What if I told you, ATH20 says, that the most destructive war in human history is underway outside the Line of Genetrification and that Homo Machina is poised to annihilate the human race.

I would say two things, ENE39 responds, aggravated by this non-positive intrusion. First, that you should stop hacking into conspiratorial anti-genetration holosites and consider the consequences of breaking genetration rules. And second, even if such harebrained claims had any factual foundation, I’d be better off here than out there. Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel a sudden need to calm my neurons in an oxygenation bath.

Yes, ATH20 calls out after him, better in here, but not for long. Homo Machina is not sparing genetration centers out of goodwill. After they’ve cleansed the outside world of ‘human waste’ they’ll take over the genetration centres, keeping us as experimental lab rats. Much like we are right now excep—

ENE39 slams the door to the Tranquilification Viewing Zone behind him. Non-positive thoughts belong to Outer Turmoil not Inner Order. Nevertheless, ATH20’s ominous words linger with him.

That afternoon, his neurons failed to oxygenate.

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  1. Always interesting Rhae and extremely imaginative :) the dialogue was a nice addition. Hope you stay on to the next round.

  2. Thank you, Anna. In response to Tess: Most of the grumbling about Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize, at least within the US, is that it was given prematurely. That’s the framework of debate our media system provides: “Was it too premature or was it appropriate?” What you can bet you won’t hear, at least not in the mass media, is “Why is a sitting American president who has continued the Iraq war and escalated the US occupation of Afghanistan receiving a Peace Prize?” Not that it’s any surprise. If big-stick-carrying men like Henry Kissinger or Teddy Roosevelt can win the Nobel, who can’t?

  3. This is superb Rhae. I believe you have authentically walked the line between what you wanted to say and what we wanted to read. There is always a way to find creative solutions to keep our word/message intact and true to our convication but to also make it accessible to the greatest number of people and I believe you have done it.

    We’ve been harsh with you and your lack of characters but it’s been worth the wait for the ones you have introduced us to. Congratulations.

    I’m certain we wont be seeing a farewell from you this round.

  4. I didn’t anticipate that you would respond that way to this passage, Jodi. I was expecting another critique about my failure to develop character. I assume it is the dialogue and interaction between ATH20 and ENE39 that made them feel more like characters to you than Melanie, who was primarily portrayed through narrative summary?

    Other writers in this competition may regress into infantile bouts of bawling if they get anything other than a compliment, but I welcome the harsh comments. That’s what these forums are for: discussion and dissent. I’ve appreciated all the comments, especially those expressing strong opinion and offering supporting evidence. Vigorous debate and discussion inevitably brings friction.

  5. Jay

    I’m also really glad to see the characters and their immediate personality makes me excited to see more.

    I find it difficult to follow when you skip between tenses, eg. “ATH20 calls out after him… ENE39 slammed the door behind him.” Is that intentional?

    • Good eye, Jay. Thanks for catching the slip. I have been consciously shifting about in tenses a fair amount but that last sentence was not an intentional one.

  6. I like the first sentence…if only your “novella” had started off with this passage instead of the eight weeks’ worth of summarising…

    Nevertheless, I still don’t have a clue what the heck is actually going on here, or where this whole thing is going to go next. Every week, there’s just something totally random from you, Rhae, and I don’t really have a sense of continuity from one week to the next. The competition is halfway over, but I don’t feel like I’m halfway through your story…or even past the first couple of pages, actually.

    “Holotov Cocktail”, however, was pure genius (c:

    • I know you mean it facetiously when you say you don’t feel like you’re more than several pages into the novel, but in fact, it’s quite true. The total word count so far comes to a paltry amount. I had expected longer limits by this point. Had I known I would be dealing with bite-size word counts, I might have chosen to write a different novella (although based on word counts so far, ‘short story’ would be more accurate). You can only say so much in short prose. Yes, you may say it beautifully, but still, you must work within a limited domain. That’s why we receive our news in short clips. It keeps the dangerous herd from thinking. All one can do in a 60 second clip is parrot the established official line (i.e. “we must fight terrorism”). To challenge established fabrications and illusions (i.e. “we practice terrorism”) one needs space and time.

      • By this point I too expected to be giving out larger word counts, but I was advised against lengthier posts. As it is, there’s enough writing for readers to contend with. I’ve kept it low so as not to overwhelm and alienate readers. As the pool shrinks, I’ll increase the word count. As I said at the onset, nothing is set in stone. At least I’m not asking you to write haikus.

  7. I had to catch up on the last few entries since I’ve been on the road with limited internet access, but I still like this and find it very innovative and imaginative.

  8. Rhae, you have turned this around. I’ve got one more contribution to read for this round but for now you are top of my list for those who should stay, just ahead of Olaf, though I suspect some might scoff at that! Keep it up you have really upped the interest level, brought Homo Machina back into play and made it feel as though things are happening.

  9. Eros

    Rhea, I am sorry to see you go so soon. I thought that you made great leap in your writing. You found a way to accommodate both the reads need for character and your need to distance the read from the characters by giving them arbitrary letters and numbers for reference. If any one give you a hard time about your writing style and says that it is not publishable please direct them to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. Here is a link to it. If this book can be published then your work sure can be. I think that you are a very smart and caring person Rhea. I pray that you have a blog or something out there giving you a soap box to stand on, we need more people like you out in the world saying the things you have not been afraid to say. May your life be filled with clarity and justices. Love, Eros

  10. BIG disappointment to see you go Rhae. Your subject was not easy, it dealt with a concept, a potentially fearful visualisation of a not too distant future based on trends that are currently observable; a warning perhaps aimed at evoking thought and awareness. You were up against, as previously discussed, more easily digested stories of human interaction aimed at stimulation of emotion. Most messages require a vehicle on which to ride in order to disseminate their content, in your case I suspect you overlooked the importance of this until rather too late in your novella; especially in a competitive environment, where the type of vehicle must appeal to the general audience!! (Importance of knowing your ‘enemy’ – the target audience).
    All the best, JD

  11. All the best to you too, Eros and JD. Your thoughts don’t go unappreciated. I just submitted my farewell statement. Although Fourth Night generously extended the deadline for me to accommodate an unusually busy schedule this past week, I was unable to devote to it the time it deserved. But to repeat the sad refrain that has come to represent the supposed health care overhaul in the U.S.: better something than nothing.

    • host extended the deadline for you? sounds like *somebody* is host’s favorite. just kidding lol! i totally loved your farewell statement rhae. especially the part about the inner voice

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