The challenge this week was supposed to be an easy one, opening up all sorts of possibilities. A mysterious statue, just a torso, with hints of AI enhancements. Who was it, where was it, who might walk by, would they be intrigued or embarrassed? Maybe too many possibilities. I know one of my regulars, as well as myself, had problems. I eventually picked sort of a story, and an issue, then roughed it out. Not a lot of conflict, so I added another character, and - aha!! A good story, with even more potential. I was just over the limit of 1000 words.
The Patient Patriot
Juan Carlos had left home to fight the Basque in the Spanish Civil War of 2036.
He'd been just a school athletics teacher in the quiet southern town of Nerja, but his mother wasn’t surprised at his choice.
"You are a true patriot," she said. "Just be careful."
"No worries," he said. "They’ll have me training soldiers to go to the front."
Unfortunately, after a quick two weeks of boot camp, he was sent to the front. a corporal. He made a good soldier. He was fit, smart, and good at motivating others, even some rebel groups they’d met up with. Not all would listen, but a few were willing to negotiate.
He was back at base, celebrating promotion to sergeant, when his name was called.
"Hey. Juan. How’s my big brother?"
It was little Mateo. In a uniform.
"Matty, what are you doing here? Mother will be furious. You’re too young."
His brother looked hurt. "I’m almost 20 now. I did ask mom, but she was too upset. So I just left."
What a mess. Juan managed to get Mateo assigned to his own squad, and sent a long message home, assuring their mother he would be safe.
"One battle, okay Matty? Sorry, Mateo. Then back home."
That was the deal.
Juan woke up in a hospital bed surrounded by both doctors and technicians. "My brother, is he okay?"
A doctor nodded. "Yes, he’s fine. As for you – well there has been some temporary damage. You’ve a choice. We can patch you up enough to send you home a hero. Or we can use technology to replace and enhance you, to make you a stronger and faster hybrid soldier. The better to serve and protect the republic."
Juan was about to choose home when the doctor added. "Either way, your brother Mateo stays here for a year. On active duty."
Juan swore, then nodded. "I’ll stay. Do it."
The initial upgrade gave him a new leg, a new eye, and enhanced hearing. His was now undercover, infiltrating behind enemy lines both for intelligence and to continue his role of liaison with sympathetic groups. Mateo was kept on routine patrols.
In spite of his new abilities, Juan still managed to get shot up. He eventually acquired new arms, another new leg, and AI chips in his head. Even an armoured torso. After only eight months the rebellion was supressed. Everyone was thinking about home again, and hoping for an end to martial law, and a loosening of government controls.
Juan’s commander had one more assignment for him. "Soldier, we’ve invested a lot in you, but the republic recognizes your great contribution. We have one more infiltration. The rebel leaders are gathering one last time. You will be there, and will kill them all. Then you and Mateo go home. A Presidential promise I am told."
"But the war is over," said Juan. "We always said we were better than them, that the government cared for all its citizens. What if I refuse?"
"We’ll take back all your enhancements, and send whatever’s left back to your mother. And Mateo goes on active forward patrols."
Once again, Juan Carlos didn’t really have a choice. He kept the details from his brother, but resolved to find a way to change his mission.
At the first pass into the northern hills, he deliberately took the long way around. However, after only a few paces ,he was hit with such pain throughout his body that he crumpled to the ground.
"Soldier, do I have your attention?" It was his lieutenant, over the secure channel. "We know where you are, what you see, what you hear. And we control you. Get back on track and complete the mission. Then we can discuss next steps."
When he reached the rebel village, he was both pleased and dismayed to recognize several of the leaders. He paused in the gateway and bowed. "Greetings, honoured leaders."
One of them smiled, sadly. "Greetings, my friend. We are sorry we have to do this." Several of them raised weapons. There was a surge of electricity, a moment of pain, and then blackness.
He was in a park. It was a beautiful sunny day, with birds singing and a gentle breeze. He seemed to be experiencing it all through some of the ubiquitous cameras the government had installed during the rebellion. It was a small park, with a statue in the middle—just a torso really—some flower beds, a few trees, and a gravel path in front of it. He zoomed in for a closer front view. Nice-looking guy, an AI hybrid, with some straps and bolts showing. And well endowed, as they certainly hadn’t bothered with a fig leaf. There was a plaque mounted below.
"Juan Carlos. A True – " What the hell? He kept reading. "A True Patriot and a Defender of the Ideals of the Spanish Republic. 2008-2037".
So that was a statue of him? Where was he, then? Wait, he was the statue! Running off his back-up unit he assumed, since he was headless. As he was grappling with that, there was a voice in his head.
"Juan Carlos. If you are hearing this, it means our experiment was a success. We represent the true patriots of Spain. We knew of your mission and so had to zap you. However, we were able to expose the deceptive plan of the government. They removed your enhancements, deactivated your control unit, and sent you home as an inert torso. Our experiment was to leave something in you, sort of a Trojan Horse, that would activate after a few months. As for your brother, Mateo, the government added to their treachery. He was sent into one more battle and we’re sorry to say died from friendly fire. Since then, the government has continued to act in their own interests, not those of the people."
He still had wi-fi access, including encrypted channels, so had verified all this while listening.
The voice continued. "We have access to enough parts to restore you if you want. It’s time for another revolution, but as a true patriot, I think you will know which side to choose."