This is the 37th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
Exercising the Demons, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 7th January 2012
Word count: 911
Theme: technology, drive, determination, Freud, military, race, run
“Ten miles in ten minutes,” Colonel Alexander Addingham reported into Mike Koslowski’s ear piece.
“I can get this thing faster,” Mike responded.
“Just bring it back, even pace, don’t push it,” the Colonel replied.
Mike turned around, and started pounding the tarmac back to the testing base. The suit almost floated around him when it was in motion, a mixture of repulsors and mechanical supports did their best to make the suit disappear. The sensor package interpreted the users will and servos kicked in, empowering the user to move faster, and bounce further. Mike’s will was somewhat strongly inclined towards pushing it, and without honestly meaning to, the servos kicked in.
“Come in Mike, you need to slow down,” Colonel called over the radio.
“Oh sorry,” Mike said, then thought, “I’m going to push it. Let’s see what this thing can do.”
“We didn’t agree to this,” the Colonel protested.
“Just monitor,” Mike said, willing himself to go faster.
“You’re doing seventy-six miles an hour,” the Colonel warned.
“I can go faster,” Mike said getting his teeth, even with the suit’s mechanical aids his muscles were burning, and his breathing was becoming laboured, even with the lightening technology, the suit began to feel heavy, it started to wear.
“Eighty-one,” the Colonel reported.
“Slowing now!” Mike said. He willed the servos to stop, but they didn’t, the powered wouldn’t disengage. “Oh god’s it’s not stopping!”
“I’ll get Bobby,” the Colonel said urgently.
“Mike it’s Bobby, just relax your body, it should disengage gradually,” a new voice said, that of Bobby McGuire the designer of the new combat suit.
“I can’t,” Mike said through gritted teeth.
“You’re doing eighty-five, you’re already past us, but we’re sending the jeep to come get you, stay on the road Mike,” the Colonel said interjecting.
“I have an idea,” Mike said, and he started running with the suit again, willing it faster.
“Mike you’re doing ninety, you can’t take much more,” Bobby said.
“I can do it,” Mike said, almost screaming with the burning pain in his arms and lungs.
“The jeep can’t catch up with at these speeds,” the Colonel said.
“Just keep them following,” Mike said. He pounded faster, going further and further past his target. He was now out of the moor roads, and starting to go uphill, climbing towards the backbone of the country.
“Mike, come on, you’ve got to stop it, the suits giving warning lights all over,” Bobby reported.
“I g-g-g-got it,” Mike said, still pushing.
“You’re at ninety-nine, and heading towards busier roads,” the Colonel said.
“And easing off,” Mike said with a sigh.
“You’re slowing, you’re doing it,” the Colonel said, “You’re doing to seventy… sixty five… fifty.”
“I got got it, I got it,” Mike said. The suit was relaxing, the servings letting go gradually to stop him from being squashed inside the armour.
“Nearly there,” Bobby said.
“I’m stopped,” Mike said, with a huge sigh of relief, “Tell them to scrape me off the side of the road.”
“Wilco, we’ve got your position,” the Colonel said.
An hour later, and the medical doctor had finished checking over the sore and aching Mike.
“What the hell was that?” the Colonel shouted at Mike.
“Pain, pain so much pain,” Mike said.
“You’re fine, the doctor said you’ll recover. I ordered you not to push it,” the Colonel said.
“I know, but I knew it’d go faster,” Mike said, “I just wanted to see.”
“Well congratulations you beat the engineers estimates by twenty miles an hour, and nearly killed yourself and the priceless piece of experimental technology,” the Colonel reprimanded the test pilot.
“Excuse me,” Bobby said entering the ambulance.
“What is it?” the Colonel asked annoyed.
“I’ve tested the suit, it’s a bit worn and and a bit damaged, but nothing that can’t be repaired,” Bobby reported.
“Why’d it go wrong?” the Colonel asked. Mike pulled himself up to a sitting position, interested to see what Bobby had to say.
“We don’t know, there’s nothing that should have gone wrong,” Bobby said.
“It was my fault,” Mike interjected.
“I know it was your fault,” the Colonel said, “And you’re this far from being off the project,” he said holding up his finger and thumb.
“My old man always said, don’t stop until you’ve given it your all,” Mike said, “That was running through mind as I was starting to come back. I think it was too easy.”
“You think?” the Colonel asked, his attention back on his test pilot.
“What do you mean Mike?” asked Bobby.
“You’re suit reads intent right? What you will, it performs?” Mike asked, though he knew the answer, he’d sat through lectures for hours with no relief on the subject.
“You think the suit read your unconscious desire to obey your father or something?”
“Maybe not so Freudian, but kind of. It’s my dad that taught me to always try and excel,” Mike said.
“And so you stopped it, how?” the Colonel asked getting into conversation.
“I pushed myself as hard as I could go,” Mike said, “Then it released and started to slow.”
“Sounds like you’ve got a big flaw there,” the Colonel said, “You assured us that this couldn’t happen.”
“The feedback might be off,” Bobby said, “I’ll go check it out.”
“You do that,” said Mike, “But don’t let anyone wear that suit that’s driven to succeed. It might be deadly.”
“You’re still the fastest runner on the planet,” Bobby said, “You should be happy, you did succeed.”