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It was working up to be a blizzard, the warnings nothing but an invitation. Beautiful.
The snow, the extreme cold, the lack of air. He loved it all. As near to oblivion as it was possible to get and still feel alive. For here, trudging on ever higher, everything could fade into insignificance. That was his hope. Time after time.
Plenty of time.
Keep pushing on, he told himself. Take it beyond sensation to where there is no limit, no pain threshold. Just a numbness. The disappearance of the self into the swirling white mass.
Almost but never completely. Today, he assured himself, would be different. The fear had gone now. He hadn’t truly acknowledged the fear before, it stopped him making that final push. And they had known that.
Usually it only all becomes clear near the end, someone had once written, a name he couldn’t now remember. All those lessons learnt, all that wisdom accumulated … and so much forgotten. He’d hoped to figure it out before that point. After all, those wise words applied to a standard lifespan. His was anything but.
What had become clear: no longer was death the worse thing of all. Not the faint prospect of his or the certainty of others’. Being left alone was the natural consequence, knowing they all had to go in the end (if he hadn’t had to leave them first). And the ones that don’t die, they just age.
Keep moving on. He had no choice. To the next career, the next project. The next One.
Always another chance?
Until the decline, Toramin felt he had endless chances. No end of existence to look forward to, not by any natural process, only by some extreme act of self destruction. To think you had reached the end only to have it denied.
Life’s a marathon not a sprint – he’d maybe read on a t-shirt. Except that meant a sense of a destination. No matter it was too distant to see. Better, he thought, for the end to be beyond the horizon but to know it was there, somewhere.
He felt them still working. Those things inside him hadn’t entirely given up, performing diligent operations to restore him to proper working order. Saved from the ravages of old age. For something.
But that time had surely passed. The machines were failing him. Finally.
He pressed on.
The snow denser now, swirling, obscuring his vision. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t see, he knew the terrain already, knew it well. Kept moving higher, rarely getting beyond this point. The one time he had, it was … beautiful. Not a rational word it seemed now to describe the slipping away into oblivion. But that was entirely the point: all this rational, analytical – if subjective – thinking faded to pure experience. He could still just enumerate the process of his mind shutting down.
Higher. Above the cloud layer. An eerily silence. The sun dazzled and gave maybe only the illusion of warmth. Cold was setting into motion his defence nano-machines, mindlessly restoring his body to homeostasis, boosting blood-flow, repairing damaged flesh. Eventually they would require an external energy source to recharge. In this desolate environment it hardly seemed possible there’d be anything they could extract. But even here there were molecules rich enough in energy from which to siphon.
Yet he knew there would come a point when the cold, lack of nourishment, lack of oxygen would finally take him. Theoretically.
He could only hope that this time his benefactors would understand.
Hours passed, he ambled on. Stumbled but refused to rest, refused to let those things do their job, extract their energy. They were intelligent enough to know not to extract it from him while he was on reserves. And so, in abeyance, the damage accumulated.
He fell finally. Lay there. Felt it all fading. Thought, in his hazy mind, he’d be allowed to die. And hoped when he saw the white clad figure before him – like a man made from snow – that it was merely a hallucination. He even tried to dismiss those accent-less words. ‘Toramin. You thought we’d leave you here? Is that really what you want?’
‘Yes,’ he thought he managed to reply. But knew he would not get his wish. Not even after eight hundred and twenty-seven years.
Life is going well for Torbin. A successful career, a happy marriage. Then something strange happens … and again. So he begins to wonder: has it all been a lie? There is someone who claims to have the answers, a man returned from the past – from the dead. Only it seems someone else wants the truth to remain hidden.
Part One: Past Deceptions
‘More and more each day it feels like I don’t belong here, in this life. That there’s somewhere else, a reality – a real reality.’
‘How long have you been feeling like this?’ Her voice did seem familiar: gentle, reassuring.
‘I don’t know,’ Torbin replied after a few long seconds. ‘A week, maybe. Ever since the repetitions happened. It’s not just deja vu.’
‘When was the last time?’
‘About ten minutes ago, as I walked into your consulting room. I am sure I’ve been here before. And doctor. You may say we have never met before, but I feel I know you.’
She looked at him quizzically, but only for a second until her professional composure returned. ‘What you describe does have a medical explanation,’ she said.
‘Some professional term for the beginnings of insanity? I actually wish it was only that.’
‘Then, what do you think it is?’
‘I wish I knew. But it’s like there’s a … a veil between me and something bigger, and every time I try to pass through it it recedes away.’
‘Do you mean an invisible veil?’
‘Invisible, yes.’ Now he felt faintly ridiculous for using a less than adequate analogy. Yet none better came to mind.
‘Interesting.’ She nodded. ‘I’d suggest you keep a record of anything strange.’
Torbin walked through the lush grounds of the institute. His mind somehow captivated by what was before him. He noticed the flowers, pinks and mauves vibrant in unbroken sun, let their soothing scent wash over him. Gentle sound of birds the perfect accompanying soundtrack. And wondered: why? Why question any of his life when it seemed so good?
When had it all fallen into place? The research grant for his work into applied negative energy for wormholes; the marriage of eight years to someone who could still make the day a joy to live, along with a son and daughter. Torbin the family man, more than just about able to cope. Who would have ever imagined?
It wasn’t that things had always been so good – he’d had failed relationships, and the post of chief researcher was not simply handed to him on a plate, others had gotten the promotion that he felt he was due. But at forty-two he could hardly consider himself a failure.
When was it he started to have doubts?
For a long time he had taken his life for granted. Then he focused on others’ lives, and, wow, his was good. Did he deserve it all? Of course. He worked hard for it. And still he had doubts. He’d learned of a condition – a state of mind, really – known as Paradise Neurosis, where the subject believes everything they have to be tenuous, dependent on something fragile and impermanent. Yes, he’d become obsessed with it; studied the accounts.
It made him question: was contentment the natural state of the human? He suspected not. Real lasting happiness, in millennia past, was the reward for the few at the expense of the many. And for those many only ever transitory, an interlude from the vigilance of whatever next threat emerged on the horizon. That, he understood, was the perennial human condition. Moreover it was by design. Design without a designer. The vigilant survives.
He stopped. Eyes closed now. A dream had come back to him. A dream so familiar it could have repeated a thousand times. A house near the edge of a cliff. A garden, scent of bluebells. First it was the sound, before he looked and saw the ground crumble away. He ran back into the house, as if by some instinctive act. Maybe the foundations were stronger. But even they gave way with the collapsing walls. He could have escaped to safer ground so easily. But he had frozen with terror. The last moments of life before awakening. As always. The dream reality.
He opened his eyes. The birds tweeting. The flowers. It was … lovely.
It will all be fine, in the end. What is there to fear? Just keep it hidden.
Only he hadn’t, he’d told her enough to make her believe he was… What? In need of medical adjustment? Insane?
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/
Some missing text from the Lost in Spacetime section of Time Over, removed by my over-zealous editing. Sorry for anyone who read it and found it disjointed. This part is Hard SF, and some readers may struggle.
This was like nothing he had ever before experienced. He was spinning, his suit quiescent after dropping into the wormhole, not knowing if reactivating it would lead him to his death. At one end – his destination – he saw stars bowing towards him as if seeing through a lens, the other: a timer, clearly visible above the wormhole generator. Maybe this had been installed for his benefit, and that this effect had been anticipated. All the numbers were changing wildly. He could just make out the hours, the minutes were a blur….
Continue reading: https://www.scribd.com/doc/244291270/Lost-in-Spacetime
Download full novel only $1.24: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NXG4EQ4
Physicist Torbin Lyndau warns of a mysterious threat — the erasure. But dismissed as insane, no one has taken him seriously. Until now.
While the people of Earth continue to advance, exploring new worlds, something invisible approaches from the depths of space. Spreading throughout the galaxy faster than light, it is set to erase everyone’s existence.
Why would anyone want to eradicate all sentient life? And can the threat be countered?
A revised version of Time Over is now available on Amazon Kindle – at a low price.
To anyone who found the previous version disappointing or confusing (see reviews), my apologies. If you are a fan of space opera, YA fic or like an easy-to-digest yarn then this is probably NOT the book for you. If, OTOH, you like good writing… well, maybe I’m asking for trouble with that sentence!
Anyway, reviews are welcome.