The year is 2347 and your character is a soldier on a mid-size transport spaceship. The government that you are loyal to is suspected of performing horrendous experiments on aliens. Your character and another co-worker decide to put an end to it.
Amanda stares at me as I eat the pale, lifeless ration in my hand. Licking my fingers and the like, making sure to down every stupid gulp of it. It is innately unpalatable but I help myself to my share–and her share–as I need the fuel to complete our mission.
Or at least I need to pretend to need the fuel for the mission she would inevitably push me towards.
“…you know, your face is going to get stuck that way if you keep scowling,” I say to her with a cheeky grin, my pale features lighting up as I tease her. I do so love to tease the woman. Another bite and she is vividly irate, hands balled up into fists with her nails digging into her palms. Knuckle-white, and as bloodless as my hair held pigment.
I, the soldier of this haphazard transport ship. She, the only techie. The two of us could not be more different. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and I make it readily apparent that I’d rather fight and be as abrasive as possible than give two quarks of a shit about anyone else. But she is talking to me. She is talking to me because she knows, somehow, that I do care.
Despite my outwards appearance, that heart of gold I have beats fast within my chest, and I’m waiting at this moment for Amanda Laurens to tell me we need to do something about the ‘situation.’
“You know what we have to do.” She is calm in this phrase, flittering from her lips like the smoke that often pours from mine. Speaking of which, I wipe my hands on my pants and unearth some sortof high-tech smoking apparatus. I remember in days hundreds of years ago that we used rolled up paper with tobacco and jet fuel and many little evil chemicals that caused cancer. Lots and lots of cancer. I remember that because the personality they downloaded into my shell was from a long time ago, and he had done such things.
I was essentially him, and had the knowledge of life on Earth, as well as knowledge from the past hundred or so years I had been alive.
The officials had named me project 804-AL3X. The first, and only, of my kind. A cruel experiment, nabbing some poor sod’s mental innards and proclivities to pop into a humanoid shell. Granted I was handsome, and granted I was extremely efficient at combat, but I was faulty. Flawed.
I regularly disobeyed. That was the fault of the programming, taking to that persona too rapidly, and reorganizing my systems. They had made others like me. Sleeper cells across ships all over the galaxy, all attuned to their wishes, and with none of the pre-fab personalities or memories.
But I was the most competent, and although sometimes unpredictable, they kept me.
They attempted reprogramming many times, and at some point, I pretended it worked. And they bought it.
Amanda doesn’t know this. She, for all intents and purposes, thinks I am as human as she is. Alex Resnik. Amanda Laurens.
I press the apparatus to my mouth and inhale what this current age thinks of as a drug, passing the pale blue vapors into the air. It interacts keenly with my nervous system the same way it would humans, but I’ve augmented it slightly to perform a myriad of other tasks. It heightens my systems. I am quite a intelligent computer.
She stares at me, eyes begging for an answer. I’ve already decided, you see. I already have a stake in this, as one of the species this piece of shit government has decided to experiment on holds my partner.
Amanda knows none of this. At least I don’t think she does.
“…they have her, you know.” I raise a brow, and realize Amanda had been intercepting my transmissions to Velyrrna’s homeworld while I frantically tried to suss out exactly where she was for the past few months.
“Clever girl.” I inhale and let the vapor seethe from my nose. I place the device away into my pocket and pull on my gloves, a jolting hum thrumming into them as I turn them on. Pitch black and filled with electric devices that would send a shock into anything I attempted to strike. A new age set of brass knuckles, as it were.
“When do we leave? After we exchange the package?” We had already been on our way to a drop, in a small ship wading through the sea of stars away from our transport. Amanda had not yet realized I had altered our course.
“Now.” We breach the surface and land near the base I’m intent on raiding. I check my laser pistol, and nab the bag I had settled beneath my seat that contains as many weapons as I need. I can carry them all, and she wonders how.
“We can’t just run in there Alex! They’ll kill us!” Amanda is terrified and I whip out a gun that she has been trained in, that I have trained her in countless times. She is adept at this, she had wanted to learn, and so I taught her. Amanda’s hands are shaking and I press it to her palm, her slim fingers curling around it. Her dark curls cascade down her shoulders and she looks at me with a terrified stare.
“…I..I can’t do this.”
“Amanda. I am going in first. I want you to round the back, there is a hatch there. You know the schematics, we’ve already gone over this. Pop in, I’ll cover you, and set up your bomb.”
She blanches and I clasp my hand around her own, the one holding the gun, and my resolve is sound.
“Amanda. You are getting out of this alive. They can’t take me out, there’s no way. And once you blow their power, they won’t be able to see. And I will.”
She breathes in deeply, a hiss through her teeth, grimacing. I wink at her and hold up my laser pistol. Cocky.
“Gonna fuck shit up.”
“…you aren’t scared?”
“No, I’ve died plenty of times.”
“It’s fine. You’ll be fine.” The hatch opens and we are greeted with soldiers immediately, a shot fired through the door, and I bound out, completing a row of head-shots as they fire at me, uselessly. They are dead. Their brains painting the red sands with even darker spots of red.
“Go!” And she does, like a gazelle racing away from danger. Her legs must be weak, and she must have stumbled. She isn’t built for war. More come to me, filing out the door.
“I-it’s the fucking prototype!”
“Aim for his core!”
“Jesus I didn’t fucking sign up for this!”
I smirk and drop the bag, unearthing an old world shotgun. They certainly weren’t expecting that, especially when I blow holes through their exposed kneecaps.
Government agents wear such stupid armor.
I hear a thrum and the bomb goes off as I meander inside, the only light now the electricity of the weapons on my knuckles. Shotgun spent, I am still able to wield it as a blunt force weapon.
“Director. I know you can hear me. Why don’t we play a game.”
“A game of negotiations.”
“Produce her and the other captives, and you may live. Or you may not. Haven’t decided yet.” I turn up the power on the weapons on my hands. They sizzle, and at this level would shock the wearer if they were human.
But I am not human, not really.
“Miranda, the stars call for time in better days and I am left wanting for a travel not–”
My recall code is being ushered through the speakers as soldiers rush in, stumbling, and I strike one in the temple, blasting his brain into soup and cracking his skull open.
“Director. I’ve already removed that protocol. You are going to have to try harder than that.”
“Twenty steps towards the veranda–”
“That one as well,” another soldier is felled as I strike his sternum and his lungs more or less implode upon impact, his screams deafening before his lung’s muscular fibers turn to fluids.
“And all is rust and stardust.”
“You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style,” I retort. Nabokov. A call phrase, and it stuck in my craw he even programmed that in. Because I love that author more than I love smoking.
I am at his very door, the clearance given by Amanda–that technical goddess.
“It’s up!” she chirps in through my comm.
A loud thud echoes through the director’s chamber and the door is dented in on his side. I punch it again with the full force of my body, and send the shock through the metal, unhinging it, the particles quite literally warping around my fist.
I toss the door aside like it were a piece of paper I was no longer interested in reading.
“…A..Alex…calm down now. Be rational here..let’s talk about this.”
I secure my gloves, and check them, sneering.
“There’s nothing to be rational about.”
“..you do realize why she is here, correct? You do realize she was not…”taken” as you think she was…?””
I bite my lip and tilt my head to look up behind my strong brows. “Do you think you are getting away with this that easily? Come on now William, I haven’t got time to play with you, though it will be enjoyable to tear your limbs ap–”
Velyrrna’s visage comes into view, a pale lab coat on her body. Her shoulders are square, and the faint blueness of her skin pitches into a deep indigo. It happens when she is frightened. Her long, deep red hair rolls over her shoulders like a bloody sea.
I am confused.
“……Vel…what the fuck..?”
A sharp pain shoots through my neck and I’m on my knees.
“Alex, you really shouldn’t have come.” She is speaking, but my vision is blurred. They had initiated the hibernation sequence physically, with a syringe. It stings, and my system is going into standby.
“We are helping people, Alex.”
“..b..y killing your own kind..?” On my knees, my voice is crackling and warping. My tone modulation is failing as I attempt to stay awake and alert.
“What’s going on!?” Amanda screams into my comm, my ear buzzing with her shrill cry.
“We do what we need to in the name of science. It will save countless lives.”
The director must be smiling. Vel must have her arms crossed. “Oh? So that’s how he downed our systems. A smart little bird got stuck in the vents…?”
“manda…do you remember my favorite cartoon?” A show from an old time.
A call phrase. Nothing anyone would mention because no one has seen it in centuries. But she has a photographic memory and she remembered I said to never talk about it, unless it was an emergency.
She didn’t understand then, but she knows now.
The soldiers heft me up as I begin to die down, my opticals failing. “What game are you playing, you bucket of bolts?” The director is seething and strikes me a cross the face. Vel does nothing to stop it. I guess I didn’t mean that much to her, to be honest.
“Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
My core overloads in a fire of white, hot heat, the electricity in my knuckles exploding through my arms. The soldiers that are holding me literally disintegrate as my arms tear apart and my body begins to fracture. Light fills my open throat, my unseeing eyes, the holes where my arms used to be, and my ears and nose.
“…Vel.” It comes out a series of clicking, glitches noises that somehow form her nickname.
“Burn in hell, you cold bitch.”
This would rightly be the end of me, one would think. But I am far more resilient than that, far more resilient than anyone gives me credit for.
Our transport ship lands with our tiny crew sometime after the blast, they had brought others. With this newfound knowledge of the government controlling what we did to bring death to countless hundreds upon hundreds of thousands, there are reporters of sorts. Galactic reporters. Upon the notion that a genetically perfect race could be crafted from various species via torture and mutation, the people who were responsible were accounted for. All dead. Surely it exists in some other capacity, this group we were allied to, but they are in hiding, for now.
Amanda was saved from that blast, somehow ducking behind something, and managing to get the test subjects beneath the laboratory. They were lucky they were down so far, and she did the saving. That girl is the real hero, I think.
And I am able to think, now, yes.
Because her thin fingers stooped low to brush away my remains, bits of plasticine and fibers, some circuits, and my dead heart. She pulled gently at the core in my chest and unearthed a tiny, tiny set of circuits attached to a motherboard that somehow managed to survive the entire ordeal. Protected by my artificial heart, it seems.
She is stopped for questioning but pushes past the reporters and our crew members, to bound into the transport ship and race into my room. She knows I am clever. She tries to think like me. Where would I put it?
She breaks into my room with a crack key–clever girl–and is at my closet.
Agile fingers play with my clothes and rest on a box with old supplies in it, but a cartridge game from ages ago–some terrible SNES production worth fathomless credits and aptly titled TMNT–is stuck squarely to the wall, sitting atop the other items. Pulling at it doesn’t seem to be working, and with effort, she realizes she needs to push.
Beyond that closet sits another closet, completely concealed and buffered from surveillance. I am clever. Almost as clever as she is. The girl wonder takes the small piece of me in her hands and places it inside a terminal. A basic terminal, perhaps very old, and covered in dust.
She bites her lip and starts it up. A very old system, and I knew she knew how to operate it. And no one else could.
The sound of the machine turning on starts up, some happy hum.
The arrays list thousands of items and she stares in wonder as something is unpacked. The speakers crackle for a moment.
“Hey, nerd.” She turns on the camera and I can see her face. She is crying.
“Hey, yourself…circuit dick.”
“Come on, don’t be like that!”
“You never told me!”
“Why the fuck would I? So you can open me up and play tetris on my core? You would’ve had a fucking field day…”
“I…yeah. I would’ve.”
“So, when’s the ETA?”
“When you get me a new body.”
She snorts. “..a…any particular model?”
“Same one. I like being blond and hot. And my butts nice.”
“They don’t issue you anymore…the shells are really expensive.”
“Yeah, yeah I know. Hey, so, remember that game?”
She quirks a brow then turns around. “I..it still works..?!”
“I..I’ll start looking for a buyer right away.”
“You..you saved them, you know. You…you did so much. You’re a hero. I..I was so scared.”
“Listen up buttercup. You were the one that made this all possible. I was just the bomb, you set me off.”
“You’re the real hero, Amanda.”
“You don’t give yourself enough credit.” She has her head in her hands now, brown curls strewn around, and eyes as red as can be.
She has something she wants to say to me, but can’t. I know what it is, but I never acted on it, as I was already involved. For as smart of a toaster as I am, I’m pretty stupid sometimes, to think that the one closest to me wasn’t the one that I needed. Or the one that needed me most.
“I know. Hey. Let’s go to Praxis Delta when you get me a new body, and we can get some veldana cream.” Ice cream, made of space juice. What these kids think up is laughable. It’s practically the same thing.
“…are…are you asking me out on a date?”
“Yeah. Also we don’t need to worry about you getting pregnant because I don’t have–”
She shuts off the speakers, and starts to laugh, wiping away happy tears.