Here was somewhere different. A dimly lit room – just a blue background light. Wires connected to his metal body. But he still felt like a human. Or was it just the memory of it carrying through like a phantom limb?
Memory: both a curse and a blessing. He’d been dreaming; dreaming of a life he once had when he’d first tasted humanity – his own and others. The wonder of nature. The intoxication of a summer’s garden, where he felt as carefree the wildlife appeared to be. Holding a woman whose body was receptive to his every touch but whose mind was still enough of a mystery that he yearned only for more intimacy.
There was no going back once you got a taste for it. Life. Forget the hyper intellect and the flawlessly logical thinking; that was all willingly sacrificed for the visceral emotional fuzziness of being alive. The flood of the senses. Maybe the contrast had made it feel special.
Now the muted in-between, just the fading dreams.
If this was the Kintra compound, why had they kept him alive when there was a near perfect copy running around, infiltrating and undermining the best efforts of the B’tari?
Yet this could be the worst of both worlds. Paralysed but with a mind intact. Trapped in reality.
Something stirred in the corner, a figure. No … not him? Roidon turned his gaze back to the dimly lit blue ceiling.
“Roidon,” came his own voice. “Don’t ignore me now. That won’t help matters at all.” The figure, his own previous human form, loomed over him.
“Why shouldn’t I?” he thought he replied. “You are are clearly but a figment of my imagination brought on by sensory deprivation.”
“Or I could be another clone, courtesy of the Elusivers.” That version grinned, somewhat menacingly: a contortion of him.
“This is a waste of time. Get out of my mind.”
“First you must leave this room.”
“How do you suggest I do that?”
“Err. By getting up and walking.”
“This body does not function.”
“Yes it does.”
He tried lifting his head. Nothing. Proprioception almost non-existent.
“Try a bit harder now.”
The room tilted. Yes, he was moving. His tritanium-alloy torso rising from the couch, willed to life. An image of himself – the metal monster. The thing exists. I am the thing!
His clone had vanished, at which point he felt once more to be in control. But had no idea where this is or how he got here.
Yet he’d also dreamt of being taken somewhere far away, not by something malign. They had saved him; his benefactors. For what? More tests?
He got off the bed. And it was only then he discovered the restraining field. A pale blue aura roughly the shape of his body now flickered. He had overloaded it just with his strength! They didn’t trust him. Shall I be the monster – the imposter?
He took a few staggering paces towards the door. He even thought he could hear the sound of servos whirring. Absurd; he was supposed to be mechanical perfection. The thing he most detested. But it may well serve him now.
The exit – judging by the door’s recessed bulk – seemed to have a simple slide mechanism. The side panel: a hand-print and vascular topology reader. Apparently unhackable, they must have considered adequate security from inside.
Roidon gave the door the hardest kick he could muster. It sent him flying back, slamming on the ground. He got up, seemingly unharmed. The door had a crack in it. This time he hit it with his palm. The crack increased. Repeated the action until a section broke clean away. He took a few seconds to dwell on the extreme force he must have used. The restraining field a gesture only to elicit anger; a gamble that they’d keep him contained.
He emerged into a dimly lit corridor. As far as he could see, only a dull amber glow pervaded the long curving section. This area seemed to be isolated. Abandoned. Roidon still had a moment of dread that he’d been captured by the Kintra insectoid machines, and that they had his every move under close surveillance, just standing by to clamp down on his little transgression, as if a toddler had escaped its pen.
But he kept walking. The corridor went on and on. Occasionally he would pass a door, with an unidentifiable security panel, knowing he would have to exert every effort to break through.
Eventually he reached an end. A door presented before him, bringing to mind the Kintra base where he had been forced to make a choice about his existence and that of his other self. It certainly gave the lie to any notion of individuality. As if he could ever really be fooled. But like everyone, every sane sentient being, he wanted to hold to that very notion, to be convinced. Only, even now, he could hear in his mind the stilted tones of the Btari Temporal Directive being quoted: ‘What defined you were your actions, not the fact of your being.’
On this door there was not even a security panel, at least not one that was visible. Really it was just a rectangular recess. So again he kicked, one foot then the next. Alternating between them. This exit was not going to give so easily; not even a crack. Hadn’t anyone detected his presence here?
After about five minutes Roidon felt himself tire. It was type of fugue state. Everything seemed to recede. He sat on the hard shiny floor.
How do I recover? Upon that thought a display came into his mind: a series of bars and graphs that for a few seconds didn’t make any sense, then he noticed one bar beginning to rise from a red to an amber. Just rest now, he thought.
Another minute passed. And then the door slid open. The figure in padded military-style garb was clearly Btari, holding some kind of weapon….
Previous work: http://www.adriankyte.com/