<Untitled> Chapter 1 Opening - Reintegration
<Untitled> Chapter 1 Opening - Reintegration
Potential opening chapter to a light scifi novel. Remiel is in an AI led reintegration session, part of the process for transitioning from military to civilian life. Very interested in feedback on this as a hook/opening. What works? What doesn't? Ideas to improve? All feedback welcome, and thank you!2
Fantasy / Sci-fi
Ian A (United States)
The words hung in the air, unanswered. Remiel sat forward with elbows on his knees and chin resting in his hands. His eyes scanned the room. It was rather confined and quite bare of possessions. He had the basics: small bed, stove, sink, all packed into one room with a small bathroom tucked in the back. He focused on the four concrete walls of his studio apartment trying to find patterns. Well, not his apartment, but the one assigned to him.
“Well, Remiel? What are your thoughts? Would you say you are alive, or living?”
The image of a blonde middle aged woman hovered over the holopad on the chipped coffee table in front of him. For all the effort the Imperium put into AI, they still couldn’t get the voice quite right. It always felt off to Remiel, hollow even. It missed the warmth of a real human. But talking with an actual person, unheard of these days. The Imperium didn’t pour resources into areas it deemed nonessential in their mission. That’s what Remiel had become, nonessential.
“Honestly, I think if the suffering hits hard and often enough, some will tell themselves anything to find a meaning in it. Even if that meaning is a lie. If living is only about enduring suffering, it’s a painful waste of time.” Remiel returned his focus to the AI’s avatar, its light dancing around the dim room.
“Are there moments in your life that have been more than suffering?”
Remiel let out a quiet huff of breath. This was a common question in his reintegration sessions. The idea that if there were still good moments, or rather bearable ones, that life must be a positive experience.
“Yes… there are moments when things are not as bad.” It didn’t make sense for Remiel to lie, but his answer felt like it betrayed what he had felt. The AI’s approach was cycling back to the ‘see the positive’ rhetoric. After three months of weekly reintegration sessions with the AI, Remiel had noticed this was the go-to approach whenever he got too honest about what he felt inside. Remiel sat back and turned his attention to the wall once again.
“Perhaps, thinking of the good in your life and nurturing a positive outlook will assist in your times of suffering?”
And, there it was. Remiel's face flushed with heat, his heart rate increased, and his hand subconsciously went to his mouth as if helping to hold back an outburst. Being told to be more positive, well, that was one of the things Remiel hated the most. As much as he wanted to let loose on the AI for minimizing what he was experiencing, his own voice inside him agreed with the AI. See, it wasn’t as bad as he was making it out to be. In fact, the answer was simple, he was weak.
“Oftentimes, a strong focus outward can lessen the struggle,” offered the AI. “By approaching your challenge in a more selfless manner, it may offer a clearer perspective of worthy priorities. After all, the aim of the Imperium is for the collective good rather than the lesser needs of a single individual.”
Selfless. Collective good. In the immediate moment with the AI Remiel wasn’t falling apart, he wasn't wracked with the power of his darkness. How could he justify explaining his struggles if they were bearable now and other people had it so much worse? Could it be it was his selfish focus on himself that propelled this debilitating weight inside him? Were others just better at dealing with this than Remiel? Maybe they were more focused on contributions to the Imperium, something he would not take part in again. He was selfish. Selfish and weak, whispered the dark voice.
A soft tone sounded on the holopad.
“That brings us to time, Remiel. Thank you for spending time with me today, shall we schedule for the same time next week?”
“That’s fine.” Every week these discussions with the AI seemed to end the same way. Coming up with clear evidence it was having an impact was like trying to hold onto handfuls of sand. Any progress he felt he’d made during a session with the AI was quickly eroded away when it came time to face the mental and emotional beast devouring him inside. The whole point of the reintegration program was to assist and ease the process of soldiers shifting back to civilian status. Instead, Remiel walked away discouraged and angry.“Have a wonderful rest of your day, and please continue on the positive affirmations and weekly goals we discussed earlier.” The image of the woman smiled and disappeared. Five stars replaced her, spinning in the air.
“We’d love your feedback!” a bubbly voice chimed. “Your review is submitted anonymously and helps us to impr….” Remiel sat forward and flipped the holopad over with a loud ‘snap!’
Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1
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