I haven’t tried a full-length SMAX story before. All of my single author works have been short stories and have always admired the works by luminaries like Alinestra Covelia, Googlie, Raging Mouse, and of course vaunted Vel. So I’m going to give it a try. This idea germinated while I was thinking up a MP theme which then mutated into a SMAX scenario. After a few days I realized it might make a compelling stand-alone story. The time reference jumps a bit, so please bear with me. I’ll try to post additional episodes a couple times a week if I can.
I’m still working on the SMAX scenario this story is based upon, but my skills are more than a tad limited. Frankly, I’m not quite sure where to start. When I get something workable I’ll post that, too. I’ll probably wait until this story draws to a close so I don’t ruin the ending!
Cold. It is dark and cold.
I can’t see! And I can’t….move. I can’t talk! Help!
Oh, god. Where am I? Calm. Must be calm. What do I know? Think. Think! I can feel myself breath. I can feel cold. I feel cold by my legs and arms, and my back. And my head. I’m lying on something cold…metal? OK, I can feel my arms and legs. Am I freezing? No. No I don’t think so, but it is uncomfortable. I can feel goose bumps on my skin and I think I’m shivering. Am I wet? I can’t tell, but it kind of feels like it.
What’s that? A noise! I can hear! It’s faint, a rustling or creaking. Clinking. Clattering? Very faint, like it’s far away, or muffled. Echoes. I must be in a room or an enclosure for there to be echoes.
Blink! I just blinked! My eyes are open, but either there’s no light or I can’t see. Breathing and blinking are involuntary, automatic - primal brain functions. Yes, I know that: involuntary, but not always. Can I control them…? Try…to force…blink…auuughh! Change breathing rhythm…. No control!
OK. OK. Calm. I can’t see or move, but I can hear. Where am I? Think. Think. Everything seems so indistinct, difficult. But I remember…cold. Weight. Darkness, endless darkness. And screaming. Oh, god! Screaming and blood - so much blood. And there was fire. I remember fire, everywhere! Faces in the fire! Friends in the fire! They are screaming!
What’s that! The clicking is getting louder, closer. I think it is. Dragging and clattering, periodic, measured, getting closer…footsteps! They must be. But strange, like something hard on metal. Boots?
::Be calm: transition difficult::
A voice! Where am I? What is wrong with me!
:: Do not attempt vocalization. I cannot understand you, but you should be able to understand me. The awakening is not yet complete and your body is not yet fully functional. Available data indicate that your higher brain functions are intact, and all body functions are stable. Voluntary body functions have not yet integrated. Be calm: transition difficult::
Who the h*ll is this, and why should I be calm! Why am I like this!
::You are not cooperating. Unfortunate. Terminating awakening.:
No! No, don’t!
Don’t worry Evylen. I’m with you. Sleep, my friend.
Lab One, MY 2212
“He’s such a pretty thing,” I said. Below me was a young man, perhaps in his early 20s, Chiron years. He has dark brown - almost black - hair that is cut short. Even so, his short hair has seductive waves that hint of what it would look like if it were longer. His nose is aquiline and his jawline strong. The rest of his body is nearly perfect from his strong neck, wide shoulders, to his powerful torso and lower body. But his skin is unnaturally translucent – like alabaster - as if it had never seen the sun, which, of course, it probably hasn’t. I reach down to brush a lock of his bangs to the side and, as I gently swipe it aside, my fingertips caresses his forehead. His eyes bolt open and fix me. They are a beautiful green.
“Dr. Maier, quit playing with it. You have work to do,” an annoyed voice announces from across the lab. I look up to see Director James Malison pacing toward me. He is tall and thin and his clothes seem to hang on his spare body. It is odd, but he chooses to look like he approximately 70 Earth-years old with craggy features and an almost completely bald head. I can’t begin to understand the motivations for him to body sculpt himself in this way, but it certainly makes him stand out. Perhaps he takes to this affection after Zakharov, who is also known for his somewhat careless attitude toward personal appearance.
Malack is following him, dutiful as ever. His partly mechanical body plods along behind James and it looks like he’s pushing a pico-scanner many times his body mass. I’ll never understand why a transcend would want to serve someone like James, but I think something went slightly amiss during his download. Or perhaps he simply adores James, and that is an even bigger shame – and a waste of a perfectly good transcend.
I stand up from the examination table. “Where did you get this specimen? You have to admit it is extraordinary. Just look at the musculature. It even appears lucid. His eyes are tracking me right now.”
James graces me with a sly smile. “My dear Evylen, our Spartan friends are ever helpful when it comes to specimens.”
I grit my teeth when he uses falsely familiar phrases like that. It is so condescending, so arrogant.
He continues. “We exchange our obsolete technology and hand-me-down weapons and Santiago lets us have our pick of their…biological resources.”
I interrupt. “So he is lucid!”
James put his hands up defensively. “No, no. As Santiago explained it, they had a mishap in their Cloning Vats and this specimen’s batch was defective. He is a copy of some Spartan named Kel, one of their flagship soldiers, it seems. She is cranking them out like we manufacture hover tanks; cannon fodder for her wars with The Hive.” James walked close and peered down at the young man, whose gaze instantly snapped to his new observer. “It is better than most. The specifications provided by the Spartans show six sigma ratings in reaction time and strength, and three sigma intelligence. This Kel must have been quite a specimen.”
“If he…” I started.
“It” James corrected.
“If it is lucid then my experiment won’t work. You know my protocols.”
“My dear,” he said, looking down at me, “Santiago has verified that this specimen has no significant higher brain functions. It is no better than an animal due to a production error in integrating both halves of the brain and a mishap that has affected his frontal lobes. It is all brawn and no mind, literally.”
“But the protocols…” I started again.
“If you don’t believe me then do your own verification,” James snapped. “But do it quickly, and then get on with it. I have other work to do.”
Dr. Malison’s face transformed from its normal placid light brown to a more reddish hue. Evidently I’d gotten underneath his skin. Good. He is a pompous and vain man, and a research lab Director needs someone to call his bluff every now an then. Too bad he is so brilliant.
I attached the leads to the specimen’s head and torso, and then inserted a cortical probe through his right temple. He…it…flinched, and I swear his pretty green eyes closed in pain. I ran the scan, and the results were conclusive: there is little higher brain function except for in the occipital lobe, which was hyperactive. Since that area of the brain processes visual information that explains his ability to track and respond to my movements.
Santiago would never sacrifice such a specimen for no good purpose. Each of her super soldiers must cost a fortune to manufacture. Still, it is perfect for my experiment in memory eradication, modification, implantation, and extraction.
“Higher brain status confirmed,” I stated.
James grunted, “Fine. Proceed.” James turns and leaves with Malack in tow.
I added another shunt to his left temple, programmed it to thread its way through and integrate with the frontal and temporal lobes, and then confirmed the implantation. As a check I scanned again, and the occipital lobe was still hyperactive. There is what looks like new random activity in his frontal lobes. Reaction to pain? Discomfort? No matter.
Now that the protocol and documentation were complete I triggered the probes. The Spartan’s body immediately convulsed, and for a moment I was worried that his amazing musculature would rip the restraints from their moorings. Luckily they held. His back arched, and its mouth opened in what looked like a wordless scream. His…its…pretty green eyes are open wide. Two rivulets of blood teared and ran down his temples and I checked the probes, which were intact. Even its penis was erect.
I smiled to myself. Finally my protocol was going to be realized, Dr. Malison and his genteel obstructionism be d*mned. I watched as one section of his brain after another was transfixed and reordered. As the procedure continued the specimen’s tension gradually subsided. Its stare lost its sharpness, and after a half hour he was totally relaxed. Its sphincters released and urine coursed down and pooled below his lower body.
Now I started to implant my dendrites to begin reordering and repairing the damage in the specimen’s brain. I noticed that James checking in on me, and a few times even the obedient Malack stopped by to see how I was doing. He extended a few appendages to better observe without getting in my way, which was very considerate of him. I am sure he will report everything to James, of course, but I don’t mind. Malison won’t be able to make much sense of what I’m doing, especially since he only bothers to get snapshots of the entire procedure. He expects me to fail and wants to fully document the failure, but not be so close as to acquire any blame.
I sent a pulse through the newly established dendrites and they seem to be functional. The implantation of the dendrites hasn’t disturbed the specimen’s base brain, which is a big improvement over the last half dozen experiments which ended…poorly. Malison was so imperious during the last project review, and only grudgingly consented to continuing my funding. At least he did listen when I explained progress in understanding how the dendrites interact and can augment brain functions, and how they can be used for what might be politely called ‘other purposes’. That got his full attention.
I looked up and realized I was utterly exhausted. My chronometer indicated that a full Chiron 18-hour day had passed, and I suddenly noticed I was ravenously hungry and had an immediate need to use the restroom. Luckily I was at a breaking point, and I sent a data pulse to the dendrites so they would go dormant. I had to get some rest, get a bite to eat, and use the little girl’s room. My handsome specimen could wait.
My protocol was a success so far, and even better was that Dr. James Malison would be quietly furious. Yes, it has been a good day.