In her quarters Aina Aideron stood looking at her reflection in the mirror. She had turned 28 and it was now nearly five years since she had become a capsuleer.
Having been asked to do a mission that was to take place almost a third of the distance across the cluster, she was preparing herself to do a clone jump to one of her clones that were located closer.
She climbed into her capsule and once everything was ready, she thought with intention.
The body inside of the tube jerked as she gained consciousness, panicking as if she didn’t know where she was, kicking to get a foothold and pushing her hands against the glass. Immediately after, the tube began to drain, making the body sink along with the level of the liquid until she was sitting at the bottom of the tube, the long hair having drifted slowly through the liquid from beneath the cap fastened on her head, now cling to her shoulders and back. She immediately took a deep breath and reflexively tried to pull off the mask that covered her nose and mouth, but still having no real awareness. After what felt like a long while, she had no clear notion, she could finally focus sufficiently to be aware. She heard noises but they were indistinguishable and they all seemed so far away. Trying to open her eyes, everything was blurry, she could just about make out where there were brigther and darker areas, but her eyes immediately began to hurt, so she closed them again, feeling herself slipping away into a dream.
She gasped as she woke up, breathing heavily for a while. Then, slowly opening her eyes, with the light being blindingly bright at first, the surroundings gradually revealed themselves and she realized she wasn’t in a capsule, as through the glass just above her she could see tree canopies and inbetween them, a blue sky.
Turning her head to look to each side, she recognized she was lying inside some kind of small pod. She sat up, confused, but managed to find and press the button opening its glass canopy. With the sound of a pressurized seal being released, the front end of the canopy lifted up.
She could see clearly now the surroundings. She realized she was on the surface of a planet, in a forest having large trees, though with them standing so far from eachother it was still very spacious and open. The ground was covered mostly in grass and smaller foliage like bushes, types which she had never seen before. The air was warm and felt humid. She felt so confused, wondering if she had forgotten where she was supposed to be after the clone jump. But it was in her clone and capsule in that station, she was sure of it.
She startled when she noticed her body was different, it was smaller and leaner. Even as she was wearing a full-body suit, it was apparent through the relatively close fit. She recognized it to be a travel suit, a type used to keep the body in a stable condition during travel.
Even though she was terrified and still felt faint, she felt a need to explore the area, maybe it would reveal what had happened and to help her understand.
She carefully walked away from the pod while watching her surroundings closely.
She found a stream nearby. Deciding to follow alongside it, she found it lead up to a small lake.
An idea came to her mind.
She hurried down to the lakeside and sat down on her knees on a stone that was situated a bit out into the water and leaned out seeing her face’s reflection in the still surface. She gasped. She was a different person. Straight, blonde hair, and long, as hanging down it almost touched the water. A fairly round face with light complexion, oval dark brown eyes, top curved eyebrows, full cheeks and rounded jawline, slightly wide nose and an upwards curved mouth. It was a face that hadn’t yet fully decided how it would look like. She was, this body was, maybe only 14 or 15 years old?
Why… why… why… why… why… she spoke, her voice choking on her tears. Hearing her voice for the first time only confirmed it was that of a girl at that age.
Clonejacking was the thought that crossed her mind first. The word itself frightened her. This had happened purposefully, being in this body, being here. The air was breathable. She was here for a reason. But it wasn’t her clone that had been hijacked, it was her consciousness that had been taken as she had jumped clones.
She raised her gaze out over the water’s surface, trembling from the realization of all this.
Why? She screamed out over the water before folding over forward, burying her head in her arms on her knees and crying. She heard the noise make some nearby flying creatures take off.
She fell on her back on the shore, staring up at the clear blue sky. With tears in her eyes, she watched the slightly swaying canopies of the trees reaching towards it. I don’t understand… She spoke quietly. Why? Why me? How?
After a while, she began trodging back towards the pod, wondering if she would be able to survive here, she didn’t even know what dangers existed, if there was something that was edible here or if the water was drinkable. Surely, someone else would be here or come to pick her up. She had to explore more, there had to be a city or at least a village somewhere. Maybe there was a hilltop where she could get an overview and see if there were any signs of civilization.
A beacon! She thought. There must be a beacon to activate in this pod. All these pods had one. If this was a standard type, it would be discoverable even from space. She ran back the last bit. Studying the buttons laid out along the inside edge of the pod’s base compartment, she found one with the symbol of a pod with a line extending upwards from it and from its end, lines extending outwards in all directions. This is the one! She thought. She pressed it but it flashed red in response, likely meaning the function wasn’t online or out of order. She pressed it again, and again, with the same result. She was devestated. Even if she had known how to fix something like this, she didn’t have the tools. Resigned, she leant her arms on the pod’s rim and her head on top of them, now realizing she was stranded here for an unknown time. No, there has to be civilization somewhere . But the mere thought of that not being the case and not knowing if someone would come, made her break out in tears as she began thinking about the possibility that she would have to stay here forever.
Having calmed down after a while, she reasoned that she had to try to act sensible and rational. Should someone come and find her, she just needed to hold on until then.
She began by searching through the small storage space the pod had. Apart from some small, empty containers and bottles, a camping stove and an aid kit, the only thing she found in the compartment the pod had, was a handheld scanner. But it gave her a moment of relief as on it, it read what type of scanner it was, a molecular scanner. Using it she could determine if something was edible or not, and she could see if the water was pure. There would be a chance to survive here.
After a few weeks, she had begun to realize the best and only she could do was to accept that this was her situation now and to try to come to terms with it. From her short trips so far, there had been no signs of civilization.
Her friends, colleagues and Concord would be now likely be investigating and looking for her. But it likely wouldn’t matter as how would it be possible to know who and where she was.
Using the scanner, she had found the area offered food for a basic diet that comprimised of what she needed, surviving on a diet of plant leaves, berries, nuts, pods, fish and some small flying creatures she managed to catch. And the stream provided the drinking water she needed. She was very careful not to sustain any injuries, knowing that healing herself would be nearly impossible on her own, so she never took any chances with difficult jumps or climbing.
She slept inside of her pod. It kept her warm when the night was chilly, as the sunlight charged it during day, and safe from the potentially harmful animals and insects at night. Because of this she didn’t dare stray further than she was sure she would reach back to it before dark.
After a month, loneliless began to tear deep in her and made her feel deeply miserable. She missed her friends and familiy dearly. She knew that unless investigation found something or there were special circumstances, that after some time all of her clones would be ceased as a result of presumed failed clone transplantation.
She had now been here for 187 days, according to the pod’s computer. There was little variation in the climate and sun’s position in the sky, which made her assume that she was in the equatorial area of the planet. Trying to determine the planet’s position in space, she had looked at the constellations she knew but had only been able to find what region she was in.
She knew her surroundings well now. In hope of finding clues, she had investigated painstakingly within what she assumed to be several hours walk in every direction. But it had just been the same or similar type of forest for as far as it was possible to see, apart from some more open sandy areas and smaller lakes.
Most evenings before going to sleep she sat inside of the pod listening to the creatures making sounds while staring up at the sky, before closing the canopy for the night.
She still had her memories to think back on and often daydreamt living those memories again. They were her only connection with those she knew and her experiences, but as time had passed they had become harder to remember.
She had stopped using language altogether. She instead found herself using more sounds similar to those of the creatures here. To try to lessen the feeling of isolation, she attempted to communicate with the creatures mimicking their song and using sounds responding to them, imagining she was able to communicate with them. As they were the only contact with someone else she had, just to make them respond or react to her sounds, gave her at least a small feeling of joy.
After a year she had given up on the hope that someone would come. It felt like an endless dream. She managed to get by but for what purpose, the hope that someone would come? She wished she just had another person to be with.
The shoes which she had been wearing when arriving in the pod had begun to become worn, and walking far barefoot was too risky, exposing her to cuts and possibly poisonous plants. The makeshift sandals that she had made from leaves and twigs weren’t comfortable for more than short walks to gather food and water around the camp, which was centered around her pod. Besides, she didn’t want to stray too far from it. If someone scanned the surface from space, it would be the pod that they would find.
After what was now 390 days, her travel suit had started to become too small so she had began making a dress from braided straws covered with leaves and fibres that seemed to insulate well, coming from a plant growing in the swamp like areas.
Occasionally she went back to the lake to look at her reflection. It had now passed 426 days according to the pod’s computer. Her skin had become tanner while her hair now reached the lower end of her back as she had not managed to find an object able to cut it and keep it at a shorter length.
Some days later when she came back to her small camp, three persons were standing there, two men and a woman. They wore suits similar in colour to the one she have had but they were much more solid.
She could not believe her eyes, startling with so much force that she fell backwards. It felt so strange to her, seeing other humans here.
She sat there for a long time, eyes wide open, gazing at them. The combination of fear of that these were the people who had sent her here and the joy that this may be was a chance for her to leave the planet and loneliness behind, made her utterly perplexed. And they seemed relieved to see her.
She didn’t know whether to be afraid of or to be friendly towards them. They knew she was here, or, was it a coincidence, having found her pod from space? One of the men said something. The words and language felt familiar but she couldn’t understand what he said, so she shook her head to show she didn’t understand.
She tried to speak herself but found it was also difficult to find words. It was hard to remember words and those she remembered came out with what felt like a different, odd pronounciation, like if she had never spoken them before. She stood up and tried instead holding her arms out in front of her in a friendly manner.
She gasped when she looked over at her pod and now noticed that the beacon was active.
They began walking towards her. She backed and raised her hands in front of her, signalling she didn’t want them to come closer, at least yet. One of them said something, making the others halt, then pulled out something from a holster on his suit. Moments later followed a sharp, prickling sensation and numbness as she fell to the ground.
She woke up lying on a bed and panicked when she realised she was in a different place, crawling backwards on the bed until she hit the wall behind her, slowly turning her gaze around the white room, shivering from fear and then begin to scream.
Her pod, the forest… The surroundings were so close it felt like they were going to come in on her.
She faintly recognized what was a door at one side of the room. Leaping off the bed she ran towards it but trying to open it she found it wouldn’t move, making her panic even more as she screamed and hit the door constantly for a minute. She looked for something to throw at the door to break it open but everything was either too heavy to move or stuck. Desperately she began looking around the room for any other way out, hitting and tearing at the walls only finding another opening behind a curtain but that only lead to nothing but an even smaller room, where she finally collapsed to the floor, huddling together and covered her head with her arms, gasping for breath.
After a while she slowly lifted one hand away from her eyes, finding herself looking back at the larger room.
Spotting the open space under the bed which she had been lying on in the main room, it looked like the safest place she could be. She hurridly crawled along the floor while looking up at the ceiling, fearing it would come down and crush her at any moment.
Having safely crept under the bed, she noticed she still wore her self-made dress which comforted her somewhat. She lay there keeping close watch of her surroundings until she was unable to stay awake for any longer.
She startled when she woke up, as she had expected to wake up inside of her pod again at the planet like usual. The same fear instantly struck her again, making her hide as far back in under the bed as she could. She faintly came to understand she had been moved and was no longer on the planet. But she had become so hungry and thirsty. She lay there for a few hours until she couldn’t cope any longer and slowly crept out from under the bed as stealthy as she could, staring at the walls and ceiling making sure they didn’t move, while looking intently for something she could eat and drink. She saw some small bags and bottles on the table that was by the door that appeared to have something inside of them. She crawled on her knees until she came close to the table and once the there quickly grabbed the bags and bottles and took them under the table with her.
She crawled back under the bed as soon as she was finished eating and lay there thinking what she would do.
At the depth of her mind the room seemed somehow familiar, as if she recognized it, like she had been here before. A notion that made her feel more at ease.
There was also that other, smaller adjoining room she had found behind the curtain.
She slowly came out again from under the bed, cautiously stood up and walked towards the curtain, carefully pulling it aside. As the room was even smaller, it caused her to take a step backwards again. But also this room felt familiar.
Taking a deep breath she slowly continued in.
On the wall she noticed a reflective surface. She looked up into it. The clear, sharp image of herself compared to what she had seen in the lake surface, made her gasp.
The tan skin stood out in contrast against the white wall behind her and her long hair, which was slightly tousled, covered her shoulders.
She looked at the basin beneath the reflective surface. The shape of it looked familiar. She carefully stretched out a hand to touch the handle above it, which made water pour out of it. She let out a shriek and stepped back against the wall, pulling her hand back.
Is it water coming out of that thing? She thought.
She stepped forward again. Carefully she touched the running water with her fingers. That felt nice , she thought.
She placed both of her hands under the running water, collecting some in them and stroking it onto her face.
She looked at the other objects in the room. They too felt familiar. There was a similar handle on the wall a bit further in. She touched that in the same way but now the water came from above, splashing on her like raindrops, making her gasp and step to the side. She had enjoyed the feeling of falling water when it rained on the planet.
She took off her dress and stepped into the shower. The water soothed and offered some sense of calmness to her, making her stand there for a long time. It made her think back to when she had stood outside in the rain in the forest.
Once she stepped out of the shower a temperate breeze began to blow from both sides, gently drying the water from her hair and skin.
On a shelf she found among other things something that resembled the self-made hair comb she had used to keep her hair well-kept at the planet and knew instantly what it was for.
As her selfmade dress had become wet, she looked for something else she could wear.
Stepping out into the main room again, she found she hadn’t noticed before, but on the bed next to where she had woke up lay a garment. She held it up. It was a plain, white, loosely fitting dress. It felt soft and nice to touch. She pulled it over her head. It reached to just below her knees.
She had been within these same walls for several days and now dared to sleep on top of the bed.
Apart from the bed and the small table by the door, the room contained a large table with chairs, some shelves and a cabinet containing clothes and shoes. By now the room and its contents she was sure she recognized, like she had been here many times before. Lived here .
She was lying on the bed, when she heard knocking on the door and a woman’s voice that she didn’t understand what said. She threw herself down on the floor behind the opposite side of the bed, trying not to make any sounds.
The door opened carefully. The voice spoke again.
Looking under the bed, she saw the person enter and that she wore black shoes. The woman didn’t come further into the room but stood still by the door. She heard something being put onto the table that was next to it.
After standing there for a minute, she saw her walk out of the room again, closing the door behind her.
The next day the same thing happened. The third day also, but this time she carefully peeked above the top of the bed to look at the person. She had dark, shoulder length hair and wore a uniform consisting of a dark blue jacket and skirt, having silver lined collar, cuffs and hem.
When the woman noticed her, she smiled at her, but that made her immediately duck behind the bed again.
She left the room after placing some more food and something more to drink at the table.
The following day when the uniformed woman entered and stood by the door, she dared to stand upright behind the bed, revealing herself. The woman smiled in response and held out a hand in invitation, its palm facing upwards.
Maybe she is kind to me? She thought.
She stepped to the side from the protection the bed provided and, after standing there for a minute assessing the situation, she slowly took a step forward.
The woman maintained her stance and expression.
Keeping close watch of her, she continued slowly towards her until she only stood an arm’s length away. She looked up her into her blue eyes and then at her outstretched hand, carefully putting her own into hers. The woman didn’t close her hand around hers but instead just let it remain open and with her other hand invited towards the open door behind her.
She felt the panic start to rise in her but forced herself to remain calm as she wanted to see what was outside of the room.
The woman led her out into the hall outside which with its green and brown patterned walls, felt very different to the room’s bright, white walls. There were no others than them there. The hall lead in both directions, the ends not visible as they turned around rounded corners. There were some other doors spaced out along the outer wall of the corridor but on the inner wall there was only one that she could see at the moment.
When they had been walking together for a minute and suddenly arrived back by her room, she understood that the hall had only been a large circle.
Before letting her go back into to her room again, the woman placed her hands on her own shoulders and said,
She looked up at her and repeated
Aso-Mori smiled and nodded, then moved her hands from her shoulders over to hers and spoke slowly.
Miah Esca Saris.
Miah Esca Saris. She thought. Yes, that is my name.
Aso-Mori opened the door for her and then closed it between them, offering a smile as she did. She left the door unlocked from the outside, leaving it to Miah Esca whether she wanted to have it open or locked.
During the following weeks, Aso-Mori showed her around the building complex during which she also met people who lived, stayed and worked here.
She hadn’t understood before as her room had no windows but she had realized from being taken to various places that had windows that she was living in a space station, and within an organization. Some of the people lived here in this station while others came here to work.
Though she couldn’t yet understand what anyone said, read or make herself understood using language, she had the impression that everyone knew who she was and that she was important here.
It was first after nearly six months of having tution, language had fully returned and she could talk to other people. Rather than with ordinary lessons, language had gradually returned through the use of memorization exercises, making her realize that she had spoken this language before.
After have regained her language, education had shifted to history, culture, the current news and learning about the organization’s previous and current day-to-day operations, as well as the occupations and tasks of the people closest to and most central in the organization. Customs and etiquette common in the surrounding region had also become one of her learning subjects.
During her time at the station she had began to remember it, people here and experiences she have had here. The other rooms in the floor where her room was had belonged to her parents, it had been her family’s floor.
Though the station was large, she had visited most parts of it. She had never left the station, or had anything to with anyone outside of the organization or met any of the visitors she saw come in with the ships docking at the station. Even her private teachers were in the organization.
Still, she felt happy. Everyone was so kind to her here, she thought. It brought her smile out easily when talking to and meeting people.
One day during a tour with Aso-Mori showing her around the station observatory, she stopped to tell her something.
Miah Esca, it is time you had the opportunity to meet Orden, the leader and person in charge of running the operations of the organization. He returned just a few days ago, having been away for more than a year. Go to his office tomorrow, he wants to see you. She smiled reassuringly.
Sure. I will. She answered.
The door was open but she waited at its threshold.
Please come in, Miah Esca. The man said.
The door slid close behind her. The man was standing in front of and leaning on his desk. He wore a dark blue suit with silver lined collar and cuffs, the same design of the uniform as Aso-Mori and the other staff had. He was middle-aged, medium tall and heavyset, having short, dark hair and a short beard. He looked weary but spirited.
She looked around the room. It had a tall ceiling, almost taller than the room was wide and deep. The walls were dark in colour and had subtle golden décor patterns in them.
I am so glad to see you again, Miah Esca, the daughter and only child of those who started this organization almost 15 years ago. His voice was deep and clear in tone.
My parents… she thought. She had many memories of them but with the memories abruptly ending some time before she had arrived at the planet.
I am Orden, the leader of this organization since about three years back. I got notice that you returned here 11 months ago but I was away on a long journey visiting our operations throughout the region.
She had met this man before but the memory was vague as it was a long time ago, but she knew it was related to this organization.
I hope you have settled in well here and that your studies are going well.
I have. She said, smiling.
Good. I will begin by telling you what have happened before as I am sure you are wondering. You likely don’t remember this yourself but as you have been told by Aso-Mori, your parents went missing three years ago, though no one have managed to find out why or how it happened.
She didn’t tell you what I am about to tell you now, as I wanted to tell you myself.
Shortly after your parents went missing, you were attempted kidnapped. We don’t know by whom. Our security task force saved you but as the kidnappers fled they used an electromagnetic pulse grenade designed to incapciate weapons and armour, to cover their escape.
The security personnels’ equipment was disabled but they were otherwise unhurt due to their armour. However, as you had no armour the outer perimeter of the pulse wave passed through you unhindered. The resulting consequence was revealed to that you had lost your consciousness, permanently, even though your body took no harm and remained alive and well, and your brain and memory structure themselves were completely intact.
We sought the aid of The Society of Conscious Thought, for a way to bring your consciousness back, and after a lenghty treatment they managed to succeed. But to allow your consciousness and memory to reconstruct correctly, you had to be away from everything that you had seen before and could recognize, you couldn’t see or experience anything you would have remembered. And your mind needed a time of 14 months.
So we took you to the planet. That place was the the best we could find for you, despite knowing that you would have to manage on your own and we prayed that you would overcome the difficulties, which you did for the 14 months.
However, we believe that the threat to you is still present, therefore it will be necessary to keep you well protected here and whenever you leave this station. That is why we as a precaution have not taken you outside of the station.
Seeing her silent reaction and wanting to lift her spirits, he changed tack.
Everyone here rejoices that Ioana and Valentin’s daughter has come back from treatment and is well. You have retained all of who you were and your personality. Aso-Mori has told me you are just like your old self. Everyone here is very understanding in regard to that your memory of your past hasn’t been perfect, they’re just happy that you are back.
He smiled encouragingly.
Thank you. She finally said. It was the only thing she could think about to say. She felt like she needed to go back to her room as it had been a lot to take in. She was about to do a curtsy to him, like she had been taught to do to her seniors and superiors, when leaving or parting, when he spoke again.
Before you leave, there is something I have to ask of you right away.
He walked behind his desk and sat down.
As you have learned through your tuition, the operations of this organization are multi-fazeted. It seeks to engage and partake where there are opportunities.
There will be a gathering in four days where hundreds of representatives from the upper echelons of most factions and corporations of the region will be attending. With your parents gone and you having been absent for the last three years, it is vital that you attend to show that the organization is represented by a Saris again. As the only family member, you are the only one who can attend.
Your parents earned a great deal of goodwill and respect during the 12 years they ran this organization through their operations, investments and political support. It is necessary that we keep building and maintaining these alliances but as for now just your presence there is sufficient.
Of course, I would be happy to attend. She answered as she did the curtsy to him. She felt faint as she left but Aso-Mori was waiting outside and accompanied her back to her room.
She looked into the mirror. The gathering would be tonight and she was soon to leave for it. Her complexion had become lighter again with the lesser amount of sun exposure compared to what it had been at the planet. She had turned seventeen two months ago and her face had begun to become more decided and defined. She wore no make-up as it was not custom to wear here where she came from.
As this was a grand and lavish gathering, she wore a floor length and long-sleeved ball gown, sky blue in colour.
She only jewellry like item she wore was a silvery headband having the appearance of being braided, going from behind her ears and over the top of her head, with the purpose of keeping her hair, though having been cut was still long, behind her ears and away from her face.
She looked at the holographic clock next to the mirror, it showed the 22nd of March, YC 121.