Somewhere between reality and a dream…
Angus walked through the field, his hands hovering just above the grain on the end of the stalks. Never, in all his days, had he knew such peace. Only as an immortal had he come here, to this place of calm and quiet.
Every capsuleer’s experience was different. Some had reported nightmares, terrified screaming in a hellish land of in-between that lasted only moments. Most just said it was a split-second shift as their consciousness transferred between clones.
Angus always went to the field. It never felt like it lasted very long, but even a little while was more than enough for him. Never had he known such beauty as this.
He looked around, disoriented, something overcoming his senses. He had no choice but to go to his knees while he tried to contain the explosion that was occurring in his psyche.
Screams of dying crewmembers over the comms, his ship splitting apart as it’s hull gave way under the onslaught of enemy fire. He felt the liquid shifting in and out of his lungs. Panic rose in him. Searing pain ripped through him as his pod came apart at the seams.
Angus screamed. He did not hear it, however, as the liquid in his lungs would not allow it.
He opened his eyes again, but the surroundings had changed. He was in the liquid goo of a clone vat.
The decanting process initiated. The liquid drained from the tube as the cover retracted. Angus fell to the floor, gagging from the fluid in his lungs expelling itself.
He tried to stand, but the world felt impossibly heavy.
The last thing he remembered was his head bouncing off the floor.
Angus stared out of the viewport in the small room he was locked into. Since waking, he found that he was a prisoner of some unknown agent with a hidden agenda. Everything else was a bit foggy.
Someone cleared their throat behind him. “Excuse me, Mr. Thermopollye.”
He turned. The newcomer was squat, cumbersome-looking, and, based on the creases in his forehead, was a perpetually unhappy man. He wore an elegant suit, the likes of which he’d only seen executives wear.
“I can see you’re out of sorts,” said the man. “That’s to be expected. Your consciousness has been stored in a buffering status for the past 4 years.”
“Excuse me, but who the hell are you? Why am I here? And what do you mean I’ve been in a buffering status for 4 years?” Angus was not sure exactly what happened, but he was positive he didn’t like it.
“Of course, Mr. Thermopollye,” said the man. “You desire an answer to your current predicament. Do you remember how you died, Mr. Thermopollye?”
His mind raced with the images of destruction that had played out a moment before his clone had been decanted. He couldn’t recall anything other than those images. They had no context.
The man nodded, acknowledging the look of bewilderment on his face. “Someone not only killed all your clones but they also erased you from the transneural scanning firewall and data stream. Your consciousness would have completely dissipated into the ether. You would have lost both your body and spirit, Mr. Thermopollye.”
“How did I survive then?”
“Sheer luck,” said the man. “An SoE research vessel near your location was testing some alpha phase cloning technology for the deployment of ground operatives when your consciousness was caught in their local buffer stream. Not having a body grown to place you in, nor having any knowledge of who you really were, we had to determine our path forward.”
Angus narrowed his eyes. “But, out of the kindness of your own hearts, you saved me and I’m free to go, yeah?”
The man smiled. “Not exactly.”
“Figures. Where am I?” asked Angus, his voice cold now, his tone was measured.
“You are on The Sanctuary Institute of Paleocybernetics at Thera XII.”
“What the hell am I doing on an SoE station in a ■■■■■■■ wormhole?”
“In short, we need you for the very skillset for which we believe you were killed,” said the man. “It turns out that with all of your experience, you will make a prime candidate to serve as a diplomatic envoy for the SoE.”
Angus laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Not at all,” said the man. “Of course, you’ll have no official connections to the SoE nor will you ever mention it to anyone.”
“So,” said Angus. “I’m your spy.”
“That is an indelicate term to identify what you will be doing for us,” said the man. “Yes, you will be our eyes and ears, but you will also be our agent of intent on the ground. You will be our hand as well, to correct the path as we see fit.”
Angus shook his head. “I don’t get it. Why pick me?”
“Make no mistake, Mr. Thermopollye,” said the man. “You are not a special instance, nor are you a “chosen one.” You are one of many agents we employ for various reasons. We like to keep tabs on the inner workings of the Empires.”
“Great,” said Angus. “So, you have a lot of immortals on your payroll?”
“Quite a few, actually,” said the man. “Even your kind are susceptible to persuasion.”
“I kind of guessed that,” said Angus. “So, what happens if I don’t comply?”
“That would be… unfortunate,” said the man. “We would have to forcibly terminate your employment. You will recall that you had no clones as they were all wiped from the system. Your clone reservoir is now controlled by our technicians. If you die, it is only at our behest that you will be reborn. You would do well to remember that you have functionally been stripped of your immortality.”
“And here I thought the SoE was all about peace and goodwill,” said Angus.
“Peace and goodwill come at a cost, Mr. Thermopollye,” said the man. “Sometimes, to achieve the goal you desire, certain moral platitudes must be ignored.”
The man turned, waved his hand over the console, and the door slid open.
“You will be briefed at 0900 local tomorrow on your situation, cover, and other attributes of your assignment,” said the man. “Welcome to the fold, Mr. Thermopollye.”