Going ahead and posting what I’ve got because I’m not going to finish this story. Basically, in this, Bali for some reason comes in and saves the soldier’s memories to reconstitute them into artificial bodies. Not sure where I was going with this. Oh yeah, also Fox was reluctant to accept Bali’s offer to return to the waking world. She’s burned out on life and is pretty much sure that such a gift will come with at least equal debts. She’s suicidal anyway. She eventually does decide to leave after Bali leaves the door open, and saves everyone through hacking.
The last thing I could remember was feeling like my brain was being sucked through a drinking straw. Then a flash of heat, and an abrupt cutoff. Like hitting a wall.
Even back then, I was no dope. I knew what was happening. I had died in combat. All my memories were uploaded to the satellite, and then my implants were destroyed along with my brain to prevent any “intelligence” from falling into the wrong hands.
Being recompiled from memories isn’t like waking up in the morning. It’s nothing so smooth. Nothing so easy. It was metaphorcally like being squeezed out of a toothpaste tube; each block of memories had to be applied one at a time. Like being butchered in reverse. The official word was you had to be conscious while your mind was being recompiled in order for your personality to link properly. I thought then that the truth was that they wanted us phantoms to be 100% sure of the fact that we were dead.
Without a doubt. I was utterly and totally dead.
There was absolutely no sensory. It’s hard to imagine being conscious without any input at all… In a human body, you can hear the sound of silence, see the darkness. As a disembodied spirit in some mainframe, there’s just nothing. It’s maddening.
We were probably being reactivated for only a few minutes… just enough time to take a statement, then we’d be switched off forever. Cleared away with the push of a button to make room for something else. Business essentials. Important spreadsheets. Vital porn for the CEO.
>”Fox? Fox? Are you there? Is anyone there?”
It was Parker.
>”I read you Parker.”
>”Oh god damn… Curtis do you have any idea what’s going on?”
>”What? Are you sure about that?”
>”Yes. I felt it when I was being uploaded. Then my implants blew up.”
>”Oh… Ok…” Parker said. “I guess I should have seen this coming. So what now?”
>”I expect they’ll want a statement. Then they’ll switch us off.”
>”Damnit.” Parker said. “So this is it then? Isn’t there anything we can do?”
>”I don’t think so.” I said.
>”C’mon… Seriously. We were pretty good soldiers. I mean they’ll give us artificial bodies, right? They can’t afford to lose an awesome engineer like me.”
>”Bodies are expensive.” I said. “Probably ten times the amount of my loan. Well… That’s one bright spot in all this. I won’t have to repay it anymore.”
>”I don’t see how you can be so calm,” Parker said. “Damnit! I want answers! C’mon and face me you assholes!” He cursed angrily at the void.
>”It may take a while before they get around to interviewing us,” I said. “We’re probably going a lot faster than real-time here.”
>”So they’re just going to let us stew here?” Parker said, “like a death row inmate? No, even less than that… Like a dog waiting to be put to sleep.”
>”Parker,” I said, “There’s nothing we can do.”
>”But it isn’t right! They’re going to just let me sit here, scared shitless?” Even in RFM his voice was quavering, quantizing. He couldn’t even stick to a base protocol in his panic. “I don’t want to die man!”
>”Damnit,” I said, “calm the fuck down man!”
>”If only we’d taken Brady instead of YOU.” Parker said. “He wouldn’t have fallen for such an obvious trap.”
>”Shut up Parker.”
>”Well it’s true! You caused all of this! You’re the one who led them to our six. You’re the one who couldn’t block such a basic virus!”
>”Don’t give me that shit! You’ve been a liability since the beginning, Parker! You’re the one who couldn’t code a fucking two-state parser.”
>”I didn’t have a fucking Ivy-league education. I came up on the streets. I went through dumpsters to make things to sell. You couldn’t make it where I come from.”
>”Shut up, both of you.” Fox said. “I can’t stand your bitching and moaning.”
>”Oh damn. They got you too?” I asked.
>”Yeah. I took a bullet in the back from a druggie.” Fox said. “Nobody could come back for me so I bled out. Now shut up. You could scream a million years here and all you’d do is waste a cent of electricity.”
>”Easy for you to say,” Parker said, “you’ll probably get another body. They fucking love you. Which executive did you sleep with?”
>”My personal life aside,” Fox said, “do you really WANT to go back there? Do you really WANT to end up a permanent servant of the military?”
>”When we were alive,” Fox said, “Nobody complained more than you. You hated your job. You hated your life. You used to joke about shooting yourself in the head. I saw you stare down your shotgun on at least three different occasions. You didn’t know I was watching. I knew you’d always be too chickenshit to do it. Now you’re dead and you can’t think about anything but getting to come back to life. Back to that life you hated.”
>”It’s just…” Parker started.
>”I won’t be revived this time,” Fox said. “I know I won’t. I’ve worn out my usefulness. They’ve been looking for an easy way to dispose of me for a long time.”
>”I’m scared, Fox,” Parker said.
>”Yeah. We all are.” Fox said.
>”Hey, wait a minute” I said “Where’s Rourke?”
>”She made it out,” Fox said, “blasted her way through a horde of druggies and rendezvoused in the back alleys with fire team alpha.”
>”Holy shit,” I said, “She’s a little badass.”
>”Well… She always was a scrapper.” Parker said. “Of all of us, she probably deserved it most.”
We were silent for a while. There was nothing left that needed to be said.
“Hello…. Hello?” A voice, slowed down so that it sounded like a roar jolted us to awareness. “I’m sorry I don’t see anything. Is this thing even on?” The intelligence analyst tapped the mic a few times.
>”Good god we can hear you!” Fox yelled, “Turn that thing down! Agh… He can’t hear us.”
We adjusted our sleep interval so we could exist on the same time scale as the analyst. This made the voices sound, if not normal, at least human. It was bizarre, after hearing only our squadmates’ voices in our head for so long, to hear someone else’s. It was jarring and uncomfortable. Like schizophrenia.
“Yeah this thing is busted.” The analyst said. “Are you sure you downloaded them correctly?”
“Totally,” A familiar voice said, further away from the mic. “All the lights were green before I blew them up.” It was Jay. “Oh here’s the problem. You ain’t got the monitor turned on.”
Suddenly, we were aware of a video feed. Like a disembodied square floating in abstractness. It was coming in on an alternate register from our eyes, one not meant for visuals, so it felt like the image was being burned into our skin.
“Oh nice! I see them now,” the analyst said. “That’ll be all for now, Jillian. You can go back to your station.”
“Nuh unh!” Jay said, “I’m at my end of shift.”
“Oh, ok.” The older man said. “Then make sure you clock out. And I need your transfer list from last month before this week is up.”
“Got it George. See you Tuesday!” Jay said.
“Goodbye Jillian!” The man said, and struggled and tapped at his console for a couple of minutes in excruciating slow time. I was tempted to set my wait time to speed him up, but that ran the risk of a fatal desync.
George was a middle-aged man, graying salt and pepper hair and a gentle, friendly demeanor. If you had to put his personality on a scale with cat at one end and dog on another, he was a dog. Finally, he turned around to face us, screwed on his gravest and most sympathetic expression, and addressed us.
“Hello there. My name is George Latkos. This part is never easy, but…”
>”We’re dead. We know.” Fox said.
“Oh good,” He said with some relief. He wasn’t going to have to do any grief counselling. “So, um… I’ll need to ask you some questions.”
George looked to the side, at another screen we couldn’t see.
“During your employment with the government, did you notice any coworker and/or squadmate stealing, damaging, or otherwise defacing or appropriating government or Angel Intelligence property? Please keep in mind you are granted full immunity by answering these questions.”
>”Are you serious?” Parker said.
“I’m sorry, I have to ask these questions before we let you go.” George said.
>”Ergh… I didn’t. Did anyone else here?” Fox asked.
We answered in the negative.
“Ok, good.” George said, now slowly tapping our answers, slow even in normal speed into his panel. “Next question. Did you observe any coworker and/or squadmate illegitimaely transfering property, assets, or information to any outside individual or organization during your employment?”
We answered in the negative again, now more aggravated.
“Listen, I have to do this. I’m not happy about it either,” George said. “Last question. Did you notice any malfeasance of any kind during your employment with the government?”
>”Look, buddy,” Parker said, “We’re dead. Me and Fox got shot. Curtis got burned out by aging teenybopper bitch so he wouldn’t reveal any government secrets. We gave everything to you. Is going after embezzlers really your top priority?”
“I just do what I have to,” George said. “Just like you used to.”
>”Fuck it. Curtis do you think you could hack this guy?” Parker asked.
>”He heard you you idiot. We can’t whisper here,” I answered.
“Oh please don’t do try anything,” George said. “It just makes it harder for all of us.”
>”We can’t break out anyway,” Fox said. “Even if we were the best in the world. We’ve been irreversibly encrypted, and this terminal has a key that will only be vaild for a short time. I estimate we have less than fifteen real-time minutes left to live. Now, if you don’t mind, George, I’d like to get this over with. No, I didn’t see any malfeasance that I can remember. I’m sure Curtis and Parker didn’t either.”
We answered the affirmative.
>”Now,” Fox said. “Just give us our last fifteen minutes without looking at your disgusting face.”
“OK then.” George said. “I’ll send your answers off. I’ll let you know if I need anything else.” He switched off his monitor, and we lost sight of his face.
>”I’ve never seen you this agitated, Fox” Parker said. “You’re usually the calm one.”
>”I know,” Fox said. “I’m just so tired.”