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raines80
April 21st, 2013, 10:49 PM
I want to thank everyone for reading my first chapter. I have 185 pages completed of the book, but I wanted to get your thoughts on the first chapter. Please try and disregard the punctuation errors. I am terrible at that, but thankfully I have a wife who had a degree in English. She will be taking care of that part for me later on. My real concerns are the story, the flow and the characters. Please let me know what you think. Any and ALL comments are welcome!




V. A. S. T.
Virtually Augmented Social Technology



Chapter 1

Michael Raines Social Sciences – Period 4 March 12th, 2073


The Invention of the Circle of Life

The C.O.L., Circle of Life, became the norm around 2055. Gone were the square, above ground dwellings with their backyards and driveways. Actual windows with designer curtains and shutters were now just pixels on an OELD monitor. Why would anyone want a window in a subterranean steel biosphere anyways?

It only took one major event that led to the need for the human race to move below ground into the C.O.L. biospheres. It took a few more “events” for the human race to move off planet. Correction, most of the human race has moved off planet. I am one of the lucky few whose grandparents stayed behind. (Side note: My grandparents had watched the unveiling of C.O.L. on an antique communication device they called “cable”. Grandma says it was a spectacular show with singing and dancing. The Circle of Life development team used an old song from a movie called “The Lion King” that she had watched when she was a child.)

Starting in the early part of this century, scientists began to notice the Earth going through some changes. Icebergs were melting and the weather seemed to be getting more severe. At first, most people ignored the obvious warning signs because society wanted to blame human progress for the changes while never offering any answers on how to correct the direction we were headed in. Scientists still argue on and on about who is at fault. Some think we destroyed our own environment while others insist it was just a natural phase the planet was going through. I have never lived on the surface, so it doesn’t really matter to me either way.

Whether we did it or the planet was just hitting puberty, the Earth’s surface had become a very bad place in a very short amount of time. The new ice age had come, bringing with it a tremendous challenge for Earth’s engineers. They had to find a way to get the entire globe’s population, 1.5 billion in the year 2025, underground. (Another interesting side note: The population of Earth was 7 billion in the year 2013. Due to over use of antibacterial agents and antibiotics, viruses mutated out of control. Our population was drastically reduced till finally leveling out in the year 2035.) They had to accomplish this as quickly and economically as possible. The engineers chose a sphere for their underground home designs because it is the strongest shape when dealing with uniformed compression from all angles. The inside of the sphere was created using long steel beams that formed triangular supports. A bathroom, kitchen and two bedrooms made up the average biosphere. Most of the rooms were 10X10 cubes. Depending on where your bedroom was located within the sphere, you might have had a hard time finding a place for your bed because a huge support beam might be protruding from the floor. Most of the time that beam would be directly in the middle of your living space and would enter the ceiling at a 45 degree angle. Each room was equipped with a monitor mounted to a wall that had the ability to show any landscape the user wanted. These windows were not in the original plans. The engineers discovered, through trial runs, that living underground for long periods of time produced extreme depression and anxiety in their testers. The windows weren’t a perfect fix, but they were not looking for perfect. They were just looking for an answer to a problem.

There were two present and pressing issues with moving underground. The first and most important was cabin fever. Monitors that gave the illusion of a window were a step towards making life in the soil bearable. But, it wasn’t the solution. The solution came from a retirement center in Waco, Texas. At this retirement center a gaming company was making revolutionary breakthroughs in their virtual reality department. It had all started with a government grant to a floundering gaming company by the name of Play Time Software. PTS had been a huge leader in the social gaming industry. They focused on games that were free to play on social networking sites. PTS basically put their game on these sites for free. The player would play the game for free, but in order to make any real progress they needed gaming coins. These coins could be gathered in a few ways, the most popular way was to invite your friends that were also on the social site to join them. PTS made most of their money through advertising, but they supplemented that income by offering gaming coin packages that players could purchase. Eventually, the free to play gaming industry became over saturated with hundreds of developers all fighting for a piece of the pie.

PTS panicked and decided to go in a different direction. Their CEO, John Callieo, had his own vision of the future. He was a huge fan of the MMORPG World of Warcraft and thought he could elaborate on the idea. He wanted users to interact with a game differently then what was currently available. He started to study up on Virtual Reality hardware and found that the innovative technology had been abandoned because when it was conceived the current technology wasn’t ready to support it. He gave his team a quest. He wanted them to create hardware that could support a fully immersive gaming experience. For years they tried to accomplish this, but they kept falling short of what he wanted. John Callieo knew his company was on the brink of bankruptcy. He did the last thing he could think of. He reached out to the government for help. John pitched an idea he thought the US government would fund. His pitch focused on a better quality of life for the elderly. He proposed that his current technology, with a bit of updating, could help the elderly go beyond the limitations that their aging body placed upon them. He painted a picture of grandmas and grandpas living the good life in a virtual world. The tale he wove spoke of old geezers running around a world of their choosing as an avatar of their former self. They could relive their childhood while they were being bathed by an orderly.

The government approved his request for funds. With new money in hand and a new mission, John and his team jumped head first into the project. Four years into his federally funded program, John received a call from his investors. The engineers had come across his little program while trying to solve the problem of cabin fever. They had realized the only way to bring the outside world into the depths of the dungeons they were creating was to do it through technology. Weeks of research had found that the ability of the consumer available networks wouldn’t support a virtual world large enough for what they needed. They asked him if his project could be used on a broader scale and if so, how long it would take to roll out to their project. John had explained that his virtual community wasn’t large enough for what they needed. It would cost billions to build a system with the capability to run a virtual world of the size they needed. That conversation changed the world in ways no one could of possibly have fathomed at the time.

After billions of dollars (about 250 million credits today), PTS had finally developed hardware and accompanying software that could transport users to a world that looked and felt like the real thing. Using inspiration they got from C.O.L. they made their hardware a large sphere. The Pedasphere was 9X9 and was lined with a free rolling treadmill. You could walk in any direction within the Pedasphere while never leaving the center of it. The brain of the hardware was contained in the 3 1/2 inch gap between the walking pad and the actual metal of the sphere. With the help of the government, John was able to utilize nanotechnology. The nano-chips gave his team the computing power needed to access the virtual world seamlessly. Wireless gloves, which also utilized nanotechnology in the form of millions of sensors that relayed the sense of touch, and a wireless headset completed the system.

They released the new gaming system known as V.A.S.T. (Virtually Augmented Social Technology) to the general public 2 years prior to the completion of the C.O.L.s. At the time they did not make the Pedasphere available to the general public. The Pedaspheres were already being implemented into the C.O.L. design. When V.A.S.T. first hit the civilian sector it came with the headgear and gloves only. Anyone currently in school received a free V.A.S.T. set. Eventually everyone would be receiving a complete V.A.S.T. set for free, but this was the best way to do a test run. Those who received a V.A.S.T. package were immediately enrolled into their virtual education. Children all over the world were now pioneers in the virtual arena. Using the millions of online students as test rats, PTS was able to fine tune their creation.

The engineers had found the answer to their testers ending up with extreme cabin fever. Now they needed an answer to the second one. Fossil fuels had been a major part of civilizations for generations. The world had all but used them up. The governments of the world had agreed to handover their surplus fossil fuel, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Fossil fuel was going to be a major issue and they had no idea how to supplement it. Calculations made in advance said that the creation of the underground cities would take up at least half of the currently available fossil fuels. The calculations were off. Two thirds of the world’s fossil fuel was consumed in the creation of the C.O.L.s. There ended up being no miracle answer to this question. Instead of looking for more fuel they decided to limit its use as much as possible. That is why, today, we are only allowed to visit the town hall once a month. The cars we use to reach the town hall consume a lot of fuel and by limiting the number of trips per year we are allowed to make into the city it limits the amount of fuel consumed.

With every nation pooling every resource at their disposal the process of creating an underground empire only took four years. People still say the effort was one of humankind’s greatest feats. Long tunnels connected the biospheres creating a spider web like maze. Each dwelling had one hatch that led to a town hall center. Each town hall was connected to ten-thousand dwellings. That is ten-thousand tunnels that crisscrossed here and there and finally ending up all in one place. In America alone there are six-thousand town halls clustered below ground. Town halls were built with the intention that humans would someday migrate above ground once again. Each town hall was equipped with the only tube for thousands of miles that actually went up to the surface. When the biospheres were initially placed in the earth the community managers used these portals to do supply runs. As the surface weather became more and more severe the use of vertical tubes became less and less frequent. The town halls slowly morphed into a shopping mall. Sections of the large sphere were constantly under construction. Each year the engineers and scientists of the community made modifications to the facility with sustainability being their main concern. The C.O.L. society saw their window to the past closing more frequently as the years went by. It wasn’t long before the governing body of the town halls finally decided to close the portals for good. Thanks to the endless efforts of thousands of men and women, the town halls had become self sustainable.


________

Michael watched as his essay that had been hovering in a small window in the upper right hand corner of his view was minimized into his classroom’s tool bar. The teacher had given her students 3 weeks to write their essays, but Michael had put it off till last night. Procrastination was a specialty of his.

The feminine default voice that had been reading his essay went silent. A smile crept on to Michael’s face as he realized Mrs. Frobay was about to reveal her glowing review of his work.

Mrs. Frobay’s avatar, a very thin black woman in her 40s, started to shake its head. She looked at Michael with pixel eyes that couldn’t have been more judgmental if they were real.

“Michael, I gave you 3 weeks to research the invention of C.O.L.s. I have given the entire class many examples of a well written essay. I expect more of you.” She said while looking at his classmates expecting to see the rows of heads nodding in agreement.

Michael’s smile faded as each word sunk in. “But, Mrs. Frobay! I did tons of research and tried my best to follow your examples. I have been working on this for 2 weeks now.”
The speed in which Mrs. Forbay’s avatar turned towards him was a little frightening. His classmates faded away as Mrs. Forbay initiated a private counseling session from her admin control panel. She pointed an accusing index figure his direction while saying, “I don’t mind failure, but I will not tolerate lying. You did not try to follow the examples I gave you. Every one of those examples is only 5 paragraphs long. Each essay had an Introductory Paragraph, three Supporting Paragraphs and a Conclusion. Your essay however, had none of those. Your essay is twelve paragraphs of baloney. There are some interesting ideas and elaborations in your essay, but this wasn’t an exercise in creative writing. The next time I hand out an assignment with clear guidelines I expect you to follow those guidelines.”

Michael knew better than to continue this argument. He sneaked a peek at his status bar in the upper left hand corner of the virtual classroom. Directly below his name were four red checkmarks that stood as a glaring reminder that he already had four educational infractions. A fifth infraction would result in the revocation of his access to the schooling software. Of course he would be allowed to continue his education starting the next term, but the longer it took a student to complete the educational program the less likely they would receive an internship with a V.A.S.T. company. If you failed to gain access into one of these companies, you would be forced to join the Lifers.

The Lifers were the poor souls that had to live in the real world. Those who became Lifers could be put into three categories. The first set of Lifers are those who are bred for the work. Their families have always been there to keep things running for the millions of people in VAST. They range from engineers to plumbers. Some focused on the C.O.L. dwellings while others work on keeping VAST up and running. The second set are those who just can’t grasp the concept of virtual reality. Some of these “we are the only few who can be saved” idiots think VAST is killing society. They think human interaction must be done as God had intended, face to face, and that VAST is a quick way to find yourself in hell. The third set, the sad little fools Michael was very close to finding himself in league with, are those who screwed up. It didn’t matter how good of a programmer you were, it didn’t matter what level your Avatar was. If you couldn’t make it through the educational program without causing problems, then the VAST society didn’t want you.

Luckily, Michael had not had his expression software on. If on, it would have shown his mouth moving in silent curse words while his face was turning an odd color of red. Instead, his face had remained a digital mask of compliance throughout the interaction. Michael may only be 13 years of age, but he was wise enough to keep the expression software off while in school.

A small flourish of Japanese style font popped up on his desk view. The green lettering was Michael’s queue that Social Science class was ending. The Japanese font was not the default setting for this countdown, but Michael had taken advantage of the customization menu to make some of the interface reflect the style of Anime. There wasn’t much you could customize within the education software. In fact, the whole idea behind the software was to mold its users into a viable citizen of the V.A.S.T. universe. Users had very little control while in the education software.

Michael knew this was the way it had to be. If you made it past the schooling software and then continued on into the world of V.A.S.T. your options became limitless. In V.A.S.T., you could be anyone or anything you wanted to be. Not at first of course. When you first entered the virtual reality world you were given a basic avatar. Depending on the job you received prior to entering your world, you might be able to upgrade your abilities and gear a bit the first day. As you move up in levels, by completing quests specific to your interests, your avatar gained the ability to accomplish things you could only witness in your dreams. Want to be a dragon? No problem. As long as you were level 35 and had the right materials to transmorph yourself, becoming a dragon would be as simple as a quick hand gesture. Want to be a Rock Star? That one is even easier. Want to fly? At level 21 you get immediate access to aerial controls. The possibilities are limitless and that is why the V.A.S.T. society doesn’t want noobs gaining access.

The users of V.A.S.T. live in a reality that perpetually hangs on a thread. The only thing that keeps their minds in the game and not focused on the bleak underground world on the other side of the Pedasphere, is the unspoken Code of Conduct. This code has never been written down, yet it is known by all and followed by most. The only rule within the code is to act like everything within V.A.S.T. is real. It is amazing what the human mind will accept as real as long as the group pretends it is. If one single user breaks the group consciousness by doing something that seems inappropriate while within the context of a certain situation, then that user has taken the reality out of V.A.S.T. The point of the schooling software is to make sure each proposed user has what it takes to conform.

The green font finally finished its countdown. A small window with an overview of the day’s lessons popped up. It listed everything his teachers had gone over that day, an overall user activity score and a to-do list that covered anything the student hadn’t finished or any extra work the teachers had assigned. Michael glanced at his activity score. The Math section showed 93/100, Science 97/100, Computer Science 100/100, English 81/100, History 93/100, and Social Sciences 57/100. With a grimace, he checked the box marked reviewed next to his scores. The last box in the window expanded with his list of extra duties. On most days the box contained two or three small tasks he could complete in a few minutes. Today was another story. The box contained only one task and that task was going to be impossible to get a check mark next to.

Ariel
May 25th, 2013, 12:26 PM
To be honest, I skipped a big section of the opening "essay." It was informative, yes, but it was also boring. That isn't going to sell your novel.

These biospheres sound horrific to me. I can see serious issues arising later on. I think this would be much stronger if you gave a quick reality setting for Michael then moved it into the video-conference with his teacher.

We don't need the biosphere history all in one go. Give that to us a little bit at a time throughout the book. And I think that the conversation should start with Michael being yelled at by his teacher. She could read off exaggerated snippets of his essay or parts that were wrong. Either way, that part is the most identifiable for any modern reader.

You have a good idea on your hands. It'll be nice to see it expanded upon.

raines80
May 26th, 2013, 03:58 PM
To be honest, I skipped a big section of the opening "essay." It was informative, yes, but it was also boring. That isn't going to sell your novel.

These biospheres sound horrific to me. I can see serious issues arising later on. I think this would be much stronger if you gave a quick reality setting for Michael then moved it into the video-conference with his teacher.

We don't need the biosphere history all in one go. Give that to us a little bit at a time throughout the book. And I think that the conversation should start with Michael being yelled at by his teacher. She could read off exaggerated snippets of his essay or parts that were wrong. Either way, that part is the most identifiable for any modern reader.

You have a good idea on your hands. It'll be nice to see it expanded upon.

Thank you so much for your feedback. I can see where you are coming from. I was thinking about trying to scatter this information throughout the book, but when I did my outline I couldn't seem to make it work. I will go back and try to rework it. I actually did have the teacher reading certain parts of the essay out loud, but because I put the essay at the start I didn't want it to be too repetitive. If I can some how figure out a way to scatter the info than I will go back to having the teacher point out certain aspects of his essay.

Thank you again!

raines80
May 26th, 2013, 03:58 PM
Chapter 2

Michael removed his visor and gloves. Inside the pedasphere was nothing special. Raised indentions in the form of Vs encircled the entirety of the ball. Falling while in the pedasphere was unpleasant to say the least. Just the other day, Michael had been in the Sports Prep and Recreation program, also known as SPAR. It is a program designed to teach students how the physics of VAST would affect their avatars in different situations. While running a football simulation, he had attempted a juke move like he had done many times in vintage video games like Madden NFL. In Madden you could press a button and your character would do a spin move, leaving your would be tackler in the dust. In VAST that spin move was left entirely up to your own skill level in relation to your feet. Michael had stopped hard with his left foot while trying to turn his right shoulder to achieve a spin move. He had failed to account for the pedasphere’s natural movement. The pedasphere was not designed to stop suddenly. Its purpose was to allow the user free range of movement for as long as they would like. Stopping had to be done gradually. The tread of the pedasphere kept moving in the direction he had been headed and took his feet right out from under him. It wasn’t the impact that hurt, it was the V-shaped tread. It felt like he had just held his knee up to their town hall transporter’s tire while it was going 20 mph.

Pressing an orange release button that was placed on the top center of his gloves opened the sphere and retrieved the padded plank that is used for users to sit on when there is long periods of time that their avatar is not in motion. He stepped out into his dim metallic bedroom. His room contained the bare essentials. A twin bed sat in the right corner of his room. The sheets, made of composite fibers, weren’t overly comfortable, but the climate controlled biosphere allowed him to sleep without the need to cover up. Three drawers, positioned at the foot of his bed, contained all of his clothing. Four sets of clothes was all that fit in the drawers. It didn’t need to fit any more because the governing body only allocated five sets per citizen. Half the room was always bathed in darkness do to the VAST pedasphere blocking out the light from his small desk lamp. Being the only light source in his room, the desk lamp was one of the few possessions that Michael prized. The lamp rested on a small metal framed desk. A VAST education tablet was the only other item on the desk.

Michael sat down at his desk and picked up the tablet. The motion sensors in the tablet activated its screen as they felt the tablet being lifted. Swiping the unlock bar on the screen brought up his home screen. From here, Michael had five options on the screen that all related to the VAST education program. If he was able to graduate the education program he would receive a new tablet with closer to thirty options. Michael pressed his index finger on the option “Task Manager”. A small window popped up to the sound of birds chirping. Of course Michael had never actually seen a real bird, but he had observed many in the educational software and few within the limited VAST software that students were allowed to use. Inside the new window was a lone clickable link with his only task listed next to an unchecked box.

He frowned as he read the task out loud to the empty bedroom, “Explain why you want to be a member of the VAST community in ten words or less.”
Reading it aloud did nothing to ease his frustration with it. He could write an entire book on why he wanted to live the rest of his life in VAST. There was no way he could compose a single sentence that would accurately reflect how badly his desire was to enter that digital wonderland. The scariest part of this impossible task was the percentage of his Social Sciences grade it would account for. Twenty-five percent of his grade was going to be decided in ten or less words. His only saving grace came in the form of the task’s turn in date. He had three weeks before the task was due to expire. That gave Michael a little bit of a buffer to get his ducks in a row. Most tasks he put off till the last second. He had turned procrastination into an art form by age 10 and for the last three years he had perfected his lazy brush strokes. This task could very well determine if he would be celebrating his 14th birthday within VAST as a member of the community or within the steel bellows of the biosphere doing mundane tasks in a dim depressing world of steam and rust as a Lifer. Being a pro-procrastinator could not interfere with this task. Michael wanted to create the most beautiful 10 word sentence in the history of mankind and he was going to need the full three weeks to do this.

A dull thud brought Michael out of his deep thoughts. Standing in his doorway was his mother. Evidently she had returned from her three month stay on BS1223. His mother was one of the few technicians still on Earth that had intimate knowledge of the VAST server structure. Because of her highly coveted skill, his mother spent a lot of her time away from home and at other biospheres. Sometimes she could get away with using landlines to talk some Lifer through a minor maintenance procedure, but more often than not the issue at hand would be a bit too complicated for the simple Lifers of the biospheres and she would be required to visit the sites.
“Looks like you have been working as hard as I have.” His mother said with a smile on her face. She moved into the room with her arms out ready to embrace her son.
“No one on Earth works as hard as you do mom.” Michael replied and ran into her open arms, almost knocking over his prized lamp in the process.
Holding her son out at arm’s length, she looked him over. “Well now. Looks like you have sprouted at least an inch for every month I was gone. Pretty soon your dad won’t be the only one ducking to get through these doorways. We are going to have to stop by the supply depot to grab you a new ration of clothes next week when we are at the town hall.”
“Yeah right. I doubt I will ever be as tall as dad. He looks like a freaking ogre, but my pants are getting a bit tight.” Michael tugged at his waist band to emphasize the point.
“One more week and you will have a new set of clothes that fit better. Your dad, on the other hand, will always resemble an ogre.”
Michael chuckled and forced a smile. His mother noticed and frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing really. Just an assignment I have that might be the death of me.”
“Let me guess, you have an assignment due tomorrow but you haven’t started it yet. Right?” She looked at him in that disappointed look that all mothers keep in their arsenal.
Holding his hands out in submission, Michael said. “Not this time mom, I promise. This task isn’t scheduled for completion for three more weeks.”
Michael picked up his tablet and handed it to his mother. She peered down at the screen. Reading the task she raised an eyebrow. “I don’t understand. I must be missing something here. All you talk about is how much you want to be a VAST citizen.”

“That is the problem. All I have ever wanted is to live in VAST. I have ten-billion-trillion reasons why I want to. How do I put ten-thousand reasons into ten words or less?”
Looking at her son, she couldn’t have been more proud. He had never taken a task so seriously before. His sense of responsibility towards this one little sentence revealed that her little boy was growing into a man. Such a simple question that would have been a last minute write up was now a deeply philosophical question that actually exposed little worry lines in his forehead.

Laying a firm hand on her son’s shoulder, she said. “Some things are very hard to put into words. Those things are even harder to express in few words. Some of the greatest philosophers going back thousands of years have stood right where you are standing with the exact same problem. All of them have written up sort of answer to man’s largest dilemmas. In the end, the great minds in our history books are the ones that were able to relate their ideas in a manner that allowed everyone else to appreciate them.”
“Yeah, but I am not a great philosopher. I am just a kid who wants to graduate this stupid education program and gain full access to VAST.” Michael said while turning from his mother. It wasn’t that her advice wasn’t good, but he couldn’t understand how it would come even close to relating to him.
Leaning around her son’s shoulder get another look into her son’s eyes Michael’s mother realized he had missed her point. “I am not saying you have to be a great philosopher to make it past this task. I just think you should approach it like those men in your history books did. You need to look at this task from a different point of view. If you were your teacher, what type of sentence would you expect to be turned in? If you were your teacher, would you be able to understand what answer you came up with? You must know your audience before you can create your content.”

This time, his mother’s words rang true. He had been all hung up on trying to come up with a simple sentence that could encapsulate all his feelings and needs. He thought he had to weave ten words together that would perfectly explain the billions of reasons he had of wanting to enter VAST and that would have been impossible. But what his mother just explained wouldn’t be impossible. It would still be extremely difficult, but not impossible. He could never fit all of his reasons for wanting to jack into VAST into one little sentence, but he could create something that would speak to his teacher. Something that might not exactly speak to him, but after all, he wasn’t the target audience here.
Using her hand to tussle Michael’s brown hair, his mother said. “Come on into the family before we lose you to the Beta servers of VAST for the night. Your father and I have some exciting news for you. While you’re there maybe your father could give you better advice.”

Michael looked up and smiled at his mother. This time it wasn’t the forced smile of a stressed out 13 year old. “Actually, I think you just gave me the best advice ever.”
His mother smiled and used her hand to usher him by the head towards the family room. The family room was no bigger than Michael’s room. All the rooms in the biosphere were the exact same size. Their C.O.L. contained nine rooms as opposed to the norm which was four rooms. His family’s extra living space was due to the importance of his parents to the community. Besides his mother being one of the foremost VAST technicians his father was the head of C.O.L. development. Their responsibilities in the real world limited their virtual time. They didn’t seem to mind, which completely baffled Michael, but he had always figured they were just putting on an indifferent face so he wouldn’t worry about them.
Michael’s father was seated in an old leather chair that was coming apart at the seams. The leather was cracking severely in several places and the stitching was rotting away causing holes to appear. His father loved that chair because it had belonged to Michael’s grandfather. It was one of the few possessions in their underground home that had once seen the light of day.

Michael’s father motioned for him to take a seat on the sofa they had just gotten fitted with a new cover. Michael did so and waited for one of his parents to start talking.
Michael’s mother nodded at his father with what he thought was a bit of excitement.

Taking her nod as a cue, Michael’s father started, “We got some good news today. Me and your mother are taking a week off.”

Michael couldn’t believe his ears. He couldn’t remember the last his parents were home for more than two days at once at the same time. One of them was always around, but their jobs never gave them much time together.

“A week? Seriously? I can’t believe it!” Michael exclaimed while jumping off the sofa.

“Yep, a whole week. And that’s not all.” Michael’s father said. He winked at his wife so she knew it was her turn to break the second part of the news.

“We are going on vacation. Your dad already booked the six night stay in the dome.” She said.

“The dome? I am going to the dome?” Michael asked.

“We just wanted a bit of time with you all to ourselves before we lost you to VAST. We have been saving our vacation time up for a year now. In a month you will be running around VAST and we won’t get to see as much of you as we are use to.” His mother said.

Michael stood there stunned. He couldn’t believe it. He had visited a Beta simulation of the Dome many times. He had never thought he would actually get the chance to see it in real life.

Before Michael could express his gratitude, his father spoke up, “Well, don’t just stand there! You need to get packed. We have to be at the town hall transit station in four hours. We have to be ready to leave in an hour.”

Michael’s body began to move as if someone else was controlling it. He packed three sets of clothes in a duffle bag. He started to leave his room when he caught a quick glimpse of his education tablet. For a split second he started to reach for it, but then pulled his hand away. He was going to let that stupid task ruin this vacation for him. He exited his room knowing the tablet would still be there when they returned.

Pelwrath
May 27th, 2013, 05:39 PM
Okay, before I read the next part. The initial part is an info dump, I found it interesting but as mention many could find it boring or slow. Nothing wrong with providing this information but remember time and place. My stories have a similar problem as well. The teacher interaction was much more enjoyable and his reaction to the results. I am curious as to what happened, if known, to those who colonized space. A nice and interesting beginning.

Jeko
May 27th, 2013, 06:46 PM
The C.O.L., Circle of Life, became the norm around 2055. Gone were the square, above ground dwellings with their backyards and driveways. Actual windows with designer curtains and shutters were now just pixels on an OELD monitor. Why would anyone want a window in a subterranean steel biosphere anyways?

Of the initial section (up to the '____'), up to here is very good; the rest can be omitted with more gain than loss. This might be worth embedding into the following scene of the story rather than being the opening paragraph.

bioclasm
May 29th, 2013, 04:00 AM
I agree with the first response, that having the teacher reading off a few parts of his essay while Michael is feeling depressed his essay isn't getting good marks. This way your readers aren't scared off by the info dump, and get an immediate sense of scene. IMO, I think it's important to get your reader introduced to a character immediately, and having Michael scolded by his teacher for procrastinating can score some empathy with the reader.

I like the idea, and find the setting fascinating. I'm a reader who's perfectly willing to suspend disbelief for just about anything, but the one thing that bothered me was "The governments of the world had agreed to handover their surplus fossil fuel." I personally have trouble believing every nation would just hop on board and hand over resources, and thereby power, since most of the population ended up leaving Earth anyways. With fuel sources a problem, I'm also curious how the rest of the population managed to evacuate. And where did they go? I'm just curious, I'm not ragging on it or anything.

The one thing I think is difficult for many writers is avoiding that info dump. We really want them to know everything and see the world we worked so hard to build, but they aren't stupid, and wont need their hand held for the entire trip. Leaving some mystery to your world as you develop your plot helps keep the reader interested without drowning him in exposition.

Good work, I'll keep reading.
bioclasm

Lucidian
May 30th, 2013, 09:43 PM
I also found the "info dump" to be a bit taxing. It's essentially serving as a prologue but it just doesn't seem engaging enough to grab the reader from the beginning. I think the fact that we're reading something that is then criticized by the teacher for being poorly presented should be taken note of here. You don't want the first taste of your story to be something that you yourself as an author have labeled sub-par. There are a lot of interesting ideas and I like the concept a great deal, but I think the presentation of information could and should be done a bit more organically. That's my two cents. Keep working. You've got a great concept here.