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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 120: I Wasn't So Cold or Dead Inside

“What went wrong?”

“People died. I just wanted you out, wanted you to be the last. Or at least the last that I was responsible for.”

“I am not sure if you really are that responsible for me. I cannot judge that much. I want to feel anger at you. I really do. I feel rage inside at all the lies, at what I am, at who made me.” Marsh looked away at the corner of the room, not really seeing anything but his own thoughts. “But that’s not you. You were as much a pawn as I was. You just had an illusion of freedom. Sometimes maybe that’s all we have.”

“You should be angry at me. I am not a good person. For centuries I allowed them to take away the children and not fully care about what they did with them. What type of person does that? I cannot in any honesty say it is a good one.” She took a sip of her drink and took a deep breath, letting it out in spurts. “I fooled myself into thinking I wasn’t at fault and they could have used someone else. But that isn’t wholly true. I was complicit. I agreed. I was paid. I allowed that to happen. I was, I am, as much to blame.”

Marsh took a while before turning to look at her again. When he spoke it was calm but there was a tremor in his voice. “I don’t feel angry at you. Not right now. Why did you change?”

“I would love to tell you that when I gave birth to the first child, I realised that I had grown a life in me and that it changed me and made me special.” She bit of a laugh that was close to a scream of hysteria. She took a moment and then spoke again, “But that would be a lie. I felt only relief that it was over. Months of sickness, of being distorted, of feeling so tired, and heavy. I was glad to give birth. Not at the time though. So much blood, and sweat. I don’t remember the depths of the pain but I remember the weeks of recovery and the months it took for my body to feel like my own again. Those people who think it is all a rosy joy should try it, the medical technology allows us all to give it a go, I suggest that if you think it is a miracle you should be forced to enjoy that miracle first hand.”

“Sounds like you hated it?”

“I didn’t hate it. It is just not a pleasant experience. Evolution is cruel and harsh. If there was a good design to this it would be a zip and a small fully formed person, who could walk and talk and run around and look after themselves. That’s why we use tanks. No one uses the traditional method unless they have to. Colonists and the devoted are the only ones who subjugate people that way anymore.”

“So what changed?”

“Nothing changed. I just remembered that I wasn’t so cold or dead inside. I realised that I was doing something. I  was creating life the old fashioned way for sure, but as I said any machine can do that now, the mysticism is for the inane. What was important was not that I was giving life. I was a part of taking life. Your life. Repeatedly, your life. A part of me knew I had the connection of being your mother. Your surrogate. But I was just a biological sack. The part of me that cared was the part that didn’t want to be the cause of so many lives lost. The same life lost. Again and again. I had to save one of you. The last one that I was a part of.”

“Why are you dying?”

“I am old.”

“I heard that can be temporary these days?”

“It can be. But I have a degenerative gene. I have to replace a lot of my biology every few years. Each time it decays faster and more severely. It is manageable and I can easily last for centuries more. But I do not want to. I have learned that I have done enough. I want to die. But I also want to make sure that, before I did, I saved one of you. It isn’t a recompense, it is just the very least I could think of doing. I have nothing else.”

“I’m sorry.”

“What for?”

“Your pain. That you feel only death will end it.” Marsh bit the inside of his cheek. “I cannot end your pain. You have chosen your path and I don’t feel that I know how to change that and it might be the worst thing to do, if I did. But I can do one thing.”

She looked at Marsh tear falling from her eyes, “there is nothing you need to do for me.”

“There is.” Marsh stood and walked to her, he knelt in front of her and took her hands in his. “I forgive you, mother.” he put his arms around her and held on until she no longer wanted to be held.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 119: Servitude

The woman stood as Marsh walked through the door and into the room. Drick had told Marsh that she was identifying as female and was happy with female pronouns. “Hi,” he said after a brief pause.

“Hello,” she said uncertain. She smiled briefly and a slight look of puzzlement crossed her face. “You seem so young and yet older than I expected,” she said with a nervous laugh. “I don’t know what I was expecting really. Do you know who I am?”

“I know your name and I was told that you are the person who gave birth to me, which is a rarity on this planet.”

“It’s been a rarity for a long time. What do I call you?”

“Well I am not sure I can stomach you calling me son, so let’s stick with Marsh. Do you want to sit?”

“Yes,” again a tight smile, “thank you.” She sat down and waited for Marsh to take a seat. He pulled out a chair and sat opposite the one she had sat in.

“You wanted to see me?”

“Yes. I wanted to,” she paused, “I don’t know what I really wanted if I am honest. I think I wanted to apologise to maybe make something right. But I seem to have made a bad job of that.”

“Do you know what happened to the others? Like me?”

“I don’t have full details. I know they died.” She looked down. “I paid a researcher a considerable amount of money, over some length of time, to give me as many details as they knew. It was them in the car. The person who died. They had an accomplice who got away.”

“Who were they?”

“They worked at the lab where you were raised. I know they had experience with the last three of the Marsh children. They did the programming of events. I don’t fully understand what it was about and they didn’t explain much to me. I saw them a few times while I was pregnant before tracking them and approaching them. They were the most likely person to respond to my offers of money.”

“How did you know that?”

“Expensive detection work revealed they had a lavish lifestyle they enjoyed but could barely afford.”

“Money. Figures. And their friend?”

“Another researcher at the lab. I have a bit of information about them. I had a name and a contact number which I guess is a start. I met them a few times, they generally switched their look a lot. Advantages of working out of a major pharma genetics lab I imagine.”

“I guess that you should tell us everything you know. I have no doubt that Drick will want to talk to them. I know I do.”

“Of course. Anything I can do to, well, help I guess.” She looked at the artwork being cast to the walls for a few minutes. “I never realised what I was signing up for, when I originally did this. You realise that?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know anything.”

“I suppose I seem like an inhuman monster or something.”

“Not really. Why don’t you tell me about it. I really don’t have many stories from real people in my memories, they are all fake, a different me. So it would be good to have something real, to know something about my own past and the lives of the people I am actually connected to.”

“Yes.” she paused again and took a sip from a drink. “I was greedy. I would love to claim that I was young, or naive, but that wasn’t true. I had been tanked almost forty years previously and was onto my third genetic alteration. I was working as a hostess for hire.”

“What’s that?”

“A well paid prostitute is what most people use the service for. But some just want to be seen with a partner who gives them all their attention. It is a power trip either way. A status symbol. If you can afford the rates of high class service staff you indicate your corporate position. So many of the executives are on the same basic pay grade, with duplicate houses, the only way they can show their bonuses is in objects. That’s what I was, an object on show.”

“Seems empty.”

“It was, it is. But you can earn a decent living and the clients are usually very respectful of boundaries and rules. I rarely had to insist on good behaviour and the tips were often generous.”

“So how did you wind up being a mother to the Marshs?”

“I had to have very regular health and genetic checks. People paid for a quality of person. I have always been fortunate in that my genetics were of very good quality and my tank was the best. A product of wealth and a parent who worked at the right genetic facility. I was invited to have a deeper set of DNA tests and examinations from my records kept by the organisation. They had discovered my close match to your parents.”

“How is that possible?”

“I really don’t know, I am not an expert in genetics.”

“Sorry, go on.”

“Well it was simple, they suggested that if I underwent a procedure to change my genetics to be an exact match I could be a surrogate for a child that they needed to be raised via natural birthing techniques. I would be the recipient of someone else’s sperm and egg, pre-combined of course. For that I would be paid handsomely, have access to medical procedures to extend my life and never work again. I jumped at the chance.”

“I see. So what changed?”

“I would love to say that giving away the first child was hard. But I am afraid it wasn’t. I knew I was getting a great deal and I had every reason to believe the child would be taken care of well since they had paid so much. I didn’t want children of my own. But when they asked me to do it again, it was a little harder. I grew tired so quickly of knowing nothing, I got little information. The money kept coming but I also knew that they had me only as an investment. They needed me alive and well so they could keep trying to make you, for whatever purpose they needed you. I was a hostess once more. A servant. A prize. Just a very expensive one. I had a significant wealth and I had managed to invest it well. So, although I continued to be a surrogate I started to amass money and the means to gather information. I have been thinking about what to do for over fifty years, I just didn’t know it would go so badly wrong.”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 117: Incandescent Rage

The asteroid was approaching the planet’s atmosphere. Its course suggested that it was likely a rogue from the small belt between the orbit of the fifth and sixth planets of the system. Most of the debris that ended up pulled towards the inner planets came from this rocky region of space.

The rock had no name, it was too small to be individually named and identified. No doubt it had taken a slow journey inwards over millions of years, it may have even been trapped as a satellite for millennia before its ever decreasing orbits intersected that of the planet.

As soon as it came within range of tracking sensors, designed to protect close proximity of objects to the planet, it was identified and scanned. It was less than eighteen metres across and three high on its largest point. It looked like a badly fried egg. The structure of its materials was determined with a more precise tracking using a full set of sensors. 

A silicate based rock with some traces of carbon and iron, some other traces of metals, mostly heavy metals. There were indications of fused glasses, likely the product of some cataclysmic history. It had a nominal value that was not worth the effort of a ship launching and trapping the rock. 

The tracking computers detected large masses within the main rock, closer to the core of the asteroid. A modest artificial intelligence determined it was likely the product of several smaller asteroids that had collided. They must have all been pearls, heavier rocks that collected dust and particles over their long life and then collided with each other to form the wandering visitor.

A quick study determined that it would break up in the upper atmosphere to briefly exist as a series of small shooting stars that would lance across the skies and disintegrate completely. With the current course and composition it would last a few seconds in the upper atmosphere. It was determined as a low threat and the sensor arrays were set to mostly ignore the rock. A small subset was left tracking and recording as was the standard procedure.

The lonely wanderer entered the upper atmosphere in a fiery blaze less than six hours after it had been analysed and catalogued. A few vessels were re-routed away from any potential debris, but the risk would have been very slight, even without the automatic zone of concern collisions would have been unlikely. As predicted it broke up into eight pieces that spun lazily away from each other as they shrank in an incandescent rage against the blackness of the night sky.

Had anyone been looking with their eyes they may have seen the brief streak of the asteroid and its death shatter into pieces. The event was less than two seconds in length and dim against the glow of the moons in the lower part of the sky, but still visible if you were far away from a city.

No trace of the asteroid was left after the brief spark. It had been despatched to the world. The small particles of dust would have bounced into the upper atmosphere or would slowly descend as dust or particles trapped in rain over the next hours. The energy trapped in the rock had been released in a bright flame during its final breath.

The eight stealth vessels that were hidden inside the core of the asteroid each followed the trajectory of the final breakup of the rock. They had full adaptive shells that reflected virtually all transmissions. They had the most recent gravity adjustment technology which had allowed them to achieve almost zero weight and zero inertia. They had come to an almost complete stop in the final moment of the asteroids death and then started their slow descent towards their target.

The suits would take almost a day to descend to the correct height. Their motion was slower than a leaf gently drifting on a breeze. The sensor array of the location they headed towards was amazingly accurate and so a high degree of patience was needed to approach without detection. 

The occupants of the suits were all ignorant of their surroundings. The stealth canopies blocked all transmissions both in and out, they had to hope that the passive guidance and automated trajectories were accurate and would take them to the correct location. They would find out in less than a day if the first stage of the infiltration was successful.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 116: Tailing the Quarry

The visitor to the survival tent was both cautious and careful. They had led the drones on a merry dance across almost the whole length of the continent. The vehicle the quarry was piloting was equipped with stealth technology and body alteration machinery. Everytime it joined heavy traffic, as it entered and exited the two main population centres, it switched colours at the first opportunity. Long overpasses, tunnels, or under-highway sections were the best locations. It altered both identification and shape when in areas of low observation.

The watcher made sure to monitor local cameras and judiciary monitors, and noted, with little surprise, that they were either non-operational or entered self test modes whenever the vehicle did one of its costume changes. To further complicate matters, the driver used the under-city parts of the main population centre with the habits of a seasoned professional. Using tunnels and low walkways, backroutes and gang runs that were dangerous to the casual driver and bereft of camera or judiciary oversight. Locations that were unobserved by everyone was a good chance to check for tails, and to lose any unwanted observation. Had the watcher not been in close communication with additional help the quarry would have evaded them and the drones.

This was not the case. Although it had been over forty hours since the airstrike that had eliminated the survival tent the quarry had not been out of observation range for anything greater than a tenth of a second. The watcher was fairly certain that they hadn’t evaded them and that this was the person who met them in the tent.

Finally the vehicle entered the city at a sensible speed as a non-descript grey transport vehicle. It was registered to a local hire company that could be traced back to being owned by a series of subsidiary companies. This was not that irregular, there were only two big vehicle combines in the system. It was easy enough to hide specialist vehicles in offshoot organisations and only have them used by select clients. It was a tactic the judiciary also employed, primarily for governmental undercover investigations. 

The vehicle was left in a parking lot, long stay, a quick overlay from one of the drones showed it being put into the annual slots. So they obviously had this craft on a semi-permanent basis. That information was filed for later investigation into the long term parking areas of the planet. Always good to know where things could be hidden, and used without attracting undue attention.

The quarry had used the forty hours driving around, likely the vast majority on auto-pilot, to make significant changes to their own physiology. They were now clearly displaying as a male with almost no visible body hair and an exotic mix of gang tattoos. They were taller by at least six inches and had more body mass. 

They were dressed in rough street clothing, a t-shirt that would have made a vagrant look badly dressed and uncouth. A striped green and purple jacket that had been patched a number of times, and was displaying at least four illicit tags, banned in the upper city for their offensive nature. Yellow, plastic work pants, likely water and chemical resistant, and polymer boots in a bright blue further brought the outfit into disrepute.

They quickly made their way to the nearest gravity tube and passed the ident over the scanner. Good. This had been anticipated and the watcher had already instructed the support team to access all local public transport systems. The computer experts being used were amongst the best and they would have access to low level readers in the nearest couple of city blocks. There was a moments wait before the ident of Xavier Minch flashed onto their screen. A lifetime ganger born and raised at below street level. They had no fixed affiliation but they did pay their Union fees so were able to move around with little molestation aside from that which they brought upon themselves in the course of their lifestyle.

The watcher re-keyed the drones to follow Minch and the public transport, making sure to send some drones ahead to watch the various stops on the gravity tube. They contacted the rest of the team and instructed them of the next stage of the plan. If they got their guess correctly Minch would head as far down as possible, maybe level one or two and then hang out at a Union protected location. It is what they would do. It was the most logical thing for the quarry to do. And the watcher dearly hoped that they would do such.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 115: Psychological Reaction

“So easy questions then,” Drick opened a small drawer and grabbed a polymer jumpsuit pulling it from its sealed pouch. Drick flicked the colour to a neutral grey and detached the dye unit. The outfit unfurled easily and inflated slightly as the supercompression of vacuum sealing was negated by atmosphere. Drick quickly started to pull it on.

Drick noticed from their peripheral vision Marsh trying not to look at their form as Drick dressed, but his eyes occasionally wandered. Drick checked their muscle tone and shape in the mirror and then flicked an internal screen to show a representation of themselves from Marsh’s viewpoint.

Trim waist, but that was more down to food supplements and a strong love of running. Wide shoulders, but not broad, from regular workouts with weapons and fighting styles. Well defined ribcage with strong upper muscle structure, more of the fighting styles bonus. Legs were tight with muscle from the running and kick-boxing fascinations. 

Overall a well defined body structure. However Drick was slight, less than one metre sixty-five in height. There was also the fact that from a certain angle the upper body structure looked more feminine in muscle tone. There was no specific design in this, an accident of training and preference. Drick kept themselves trim and focussed on muscles that gave them more punching thrust and supporting lift in the upper arms, this built up the groups of muscles fore and aft of the upper rib cage. From the side Drick imagined it might give a traditionally more female body sculpt. 

Drick raised an internal eyebrow and felt themselves pursing their lips. It was slightly surprising they were thinking in this manner. But it hadn’t been the first time recently. For the sake of curiosity Drick pulled up detailed analytical statistics for their internal chemical balances. There were spikes in dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin and serotonin when they were in Marsh’s presence. These had been increasing as Drick had been interacting with him on a greater basis. 

Drick would have growled if it was someone else telling them these things, but they couldn’t ignore the reactions of their own brain. They knew that there was some base level attraction, it appeared to be growing. The chemical reactions and the feeling of tension when thinking about him were evidence. As was the over-protective stance. Drick should have realised this earlier and suppressed it. It was just a psychological reaction based on the tension and uncertainty. Marsh had natural good looks, and was charming with his sweet little-boy-lost naivety. It was easy to feel protective and then attracted to such things, it was an organic condition.

All of this was a side-effect from Marsh needing so much help. It was the puppy reaction, nothing more. Next Drick would have to fix him with a collar, rub his tummy and take him for long walks in the desert. Drick flashed a signal to have hormone suppressents sent to the room and turned their attention back to getting dressed and dealing with Marsh.

Marsh was sat on the bed looking at the window, which was actually just a projection of a window onto the resin surface of the wall. It looked real enough and had haptic sensation. So it could be cool, and almost moist to the touch if required, it would even simulate condensation if the temperature shown outside was cooler. “Easy questions was your que to speak, Marsh.”

“I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. Part of me wants to tell them to go to hell. I mean they were part of whatever this is. This plan that has multiple me living, and probably dying. Then the rest of me wants to see them. To have an attachment that is real here. An actual mother. I know they were a surrogate. But here that’s not just unusual it is almost an impossibility. Everyone is grown in a tank. You have people who ditch their bodies if they can afford an upgrade. Almost everyone can afford some form of augment, or has an augment for the purposes of a career. Everyone has those groovy identification images that play on your flesh. Everyone has implants and connections to vast stores of potential things to do. Having a connection is special here. It is pretty much unique. I would be a fool not to have that affect me. And where I come from, the person who gave birth to you, is always going to be your mother, even if you have more than one mother in your life otherwise.”

“I think you have your answer.”

“Do I?”

“Yes. Let’s go and get some breakfast with the option of spirits to enhance it. Best to have food, be comfortable and try to relax. I will then get your mother.”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 114: Rude Awakening

The cannister was almost empty, but the precious oxygen was almost in reach…

The lights came on automatically. The proximity alert sounded for a person approaching the door and Drick sat bolt upright in the bed. The sheets fell down around Drick’s waist as they stiffened in surprise. There was a flash and a chime as someone touched the courtesy call outside the doorway.

“Enter,” said Drick and flashed an alert to the room sensors to put the lighting to dim. A hand readied the small plasma ejector that was in the thigh holster, bringing it out to point at the doorway from under the covers.

The doorway opened and Drick made out the shadow of Marsh before the programmed lighting effect lit them clearly while leaving the room in a haze. Always disorientate anyone walking through a doorway. “What’s the matter, Marsh?” asked Drick.

“Can I come in?” The voice was soft and a little hesitant.

“Sure,” Drick flicked the weapon back into its holster and signalled the room to put the light to ambient evening. Drick got out of the bed. They were naked and they noted that Marsh averted their gaze. “You don’t have to, you know?”

“I know,” he said, “I guess it is a programmed response. The me, this me, is based on, would respond this way.”

“Really, “ Drick was pulling on cotton shorts and a vest top. “Why? I thought they were ex-military?”

“They were,” Drick noticed a slight blush, “we still only had semi-mixed barracks and clearly defined, if sometimes self-declared, gender divisions.”

“Well, that’s fine for a regimen. But in society, was it still really that way? Also I have no clearly defined gender. Is that an issue?”

“In some places society still had a problem.” he looked around the room quickly, “not for me, obviously, though since I said call me he…” Marsh left the statement alone, he smiled and made a slight cough of nervousness? “I have no issue. As for gender, well it’s a part of things but it isn’t everything that makes up a person. I guess you all have moved past that, but in my time, or the time I am made to be from, sex and gender and who you were, they were still wrapped together like melted toffee. People didn’t know how to separate attraction of a person from desire entrenched in physiology. The fluidity wasn’t there. Begs the question though, do you have any monogamy, or long term mono relationships?”

“Sure we do, in fact we have as much as any other form of relationship. I am not an expert but I suspect everything is represented in one quantity or another, we just don’t have any reliance on any one being superior or a normal. Not even a comaniality. Depends on location sometimes, or the latest media sensation.”

“Anyway, not a problem, just being me I guess.” He laughed but Drick could hear the nervousness, he was trying not to offend. Not that he held a contrasting opinion, but that he was unsure of what was right. 

“Going to fill me in on what that means then? Is this why you woke me up? I am really not an expert. Or is there something else, you did wake me from a rather challenging dream.”

Marsh stared at Drick for a few moments, “maybe I am not the only one who should elaborate. You okay?”

“If that means, am I good, then yes. If it means that I have a rather annoying residual memory, then also yes. If it means do you want to talk about it, then get the heck out of here. Why did you come?”

“Residual memory?”

“Ignore it. A long time ago, a bad event on a space vessel, seems to be haunting me recently. It isn’t an issue. Why are you really here?”

“I don’t know what to do.” Marsh sat on the bed.

“About?”

“Should I talk to the person who claims to be my mother?”

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 113: Desiccated Popsicle

Drick tumbled lazily in a slightly off motion which meant they were not only spinning on the axis of their upright body but along the axis of their arms. The effect was disorientating and likely to lead to a new pattern on the inside of the visor titled ‘too much hint of vomit’. Drick quickly darkened the visor screen and closed eyes to look at internal sensors. That was much better. Without the visual data they may as well have been motionless. In this environment only the visual senses attempted to assert a sense of upright.

Drick assessed the situation in the hope of working out a solution. They had decided to be as dispassionate as possible, utilise their training, not swear any more than was absolutely warranted by the current predicament which limited it to a string of blasphemous phrases for every sentence. 

The oxygen bottle, that had been discarded to use the harpoon weapon, was floating just metres from reach. It was tumbling towards them slightly but the best hope for an intercept of position was seven hundred hours away. That was a problem.

The vessel was outside of radio range and that itself meant little as their was radio silence from the moment before the insurgents attack. Clearly they had damaged the comms first. So by the time anyone reconnected, assuming they were friendly, they would still be out of range of the suit. However Drick did activate all the suit comms units, and the emergency beacon, as sometimes the massive dice of luck rolled in your direction.

The nearest inhabitable region of space was a mere three light years from the current position along the current trajectory, at the suits current velocity, and it was fortunate that there were no forces that would intervene with Drick’s course, the closest approach to a potential beacon was just one hundred and fourteen years from now. On the plus side the beacon on the suit was good for a few thousand years so someone might pick up the dessicated popsicle that Drick would be, by then.

The suit was mostly intact. There was a rip in the outer surface that had not penetrated the inner latex layer or the tight polymer weave below that. All the layers were pressure tested, so this was not an issue. Drick had some patch glue in a pouch, so this could be repaired. Drick scheduled it as a task to do once they had reached the state of surviving beyond minutes.

The immediate issue was the impending death from lack of oxygen. This was inevitable in fewer than nineteen minutes. The oxygen tank that had been used to bash the insurgents helmet floated lazily nearby. From the scanner report, and the lack of it spinning around at high speed, or speeding off in a random direction, it was likely to be still pressurised without leakage. It was ultra compressed liquid oxygen, with the recycler it would give Drick close to sixty hours of atmosphere. If Drick induced a medical coma it would give over two hundred hours of atmosphere. If Drick had a full suspension unit then they could last for centuries. Pity the last one wasn’t floating nearby. Two hundred hours however, beat by some distance in time a shade over eighteen minutes.

Drick analysed the suit that they had hastily thrown on. It was a standard hard suit, nothing fancy, but the ship wasn’t either. So they had standard equipment. This was actually an advantage. Had this been a movie Drick would have smiled ruefully. They didn’t. They didn’t show any emotion just a recognition that the makers of the suit had done proper procedure. There was an emergency balloon spray in the right hip pocket. Intended to form a patch on a bulkhead or gasket seal. Mostly unimportant right now. The important part was that it was pressurised.

Drick set the internal computer to working out the calculations for angle, trajectory and intercept course while they set to modifying the small canister. It was tricky work. The suit was bulky. The canister was small. The tools were few. The universe was spinning around in a technicolour threat. However the visor could be switched to wireframe display with schematic overlay and cameras fixed to geostationary rotation. The tools were magnetic so couldn’t be lost, and Drick had performed advanced military training in much heavier armour.

Fourteen minutes later Drick was pulsing a modified spray of chemicals, and tumbling, almost haphazardly, towards the oxygen bottle.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 112: Trajectories

112: Trajectories

When free floating in a vacuum there are few things that are as disconcerting as the vessel from which you had just been ejected moving away from you. If you are not wearing protective clothing this would be the very least of your worries. Tthe sight of the vehicle you came from would be fleeting due to the expansion of your eyes, and the resulting loss of sight from the air inside your blood vessels expanding under zero pressure. The skin however has incredible elasticity and would be unlikely to burst, unlike the schlocky sensovision shorts.

If you were wise, and expecting to be rescued within the first ninety seconds, the greatest chance for your survival in such a situation would be to open the mouth and make sure the oxygen in your lungs could escape. No sense in rupturing the delicate tissue. The air in your mouth would boil away in moments and the intense cold would freeze your skin, but again there are advantages to this. The initial instant freezing would result in a very temporary insulation. Giving you extra seconds in which to be rescued and receive the now vital medical attention.

If, however, you were safely encased in a low pressure suit, such as a modest environment hard suit, your situation in regards to the pressure and cold would be massively improved. The hard suit suffered in regards to the mobility of a soft suit. The soft suit was so called as it was usually a seamless composite outfit, lightly armoured, for use in hostile environments and limited time in high radiation, zero pressure.

The hard suit was often a mixture of layers, each sealed at important joints, in sections giving the maximum amount of movement possible in an outfit that was hardened against high exposure to temperature extremes and instant pressure changes. It was always self-pressurised and came with a variety of attachments, for civilian or military deployment. It also came with oxygen supplies and recycling units.

A hard suit would protect the wearer for as long as their supplies of oxygen, water and nutrition, in that order, lasted. Which was of no comfort if the vessel you had been ejected from was moving away from you. 

There is, as has been demonstrated, almost no friction in space. There might be some inertia issues caused by collisions with objects ejected into your local region, but there is no friction. There is also little to change your trajectory, except via collision. In this manner objects in zero gravity and zero pressure obey, almost completely, the first law of motion. They continue along their trajectory unless compelled by some force to change that direction.

If you are ejected from a vessel due to explosive decompression you will not accelerate rapidly away. This again is the realm of cheap fiction. You will move a distance away from the vessel you recently inhabited but the inertia still applies. You would become a body in motion along the same trajectory as the vessel you left and moving at a broadly similar speed. This assumes that you are not affected by gravity, otherwise the law of motion as mentioned above would be to your eventual detriment.

This was the situation that Drick found themselves in as they tumbled out of the hole in the bulkhead. To their advantage the suit, which had been damaged by the harpoon was still strong enough to survive even zero pressure. But there were bigger issues. The vessel they had just left was changing course as they tumbled gently alongside it. If the gods had smiled on Drick that course would have been towards them. The gods however were busy ruining their life. The vessel was rotating away and accelerating, no doubt to head to some safe haven to repair the massive hole in its hull. Unless it had been taken over. It was irrelevant at this point.

The second piece of bad news was more of Drick’s fault than any random piece of mythic metaphoric deism. Drick had one fewer oxygen cylinders than this suit carried. This was bad news. Worse news was that the suit only carried one. The resulting situation was that Drick had the atmosphere the suit had been currently  pressurised with, and whatever the recycler unit could keep fresh. This was approximately twenty minutes worth of breath, slightly more if Drick slowed their breathing, meditated and calmed themselves to a state of total calm. It would buy them an extra three minutes or so, not quite half an hour until a gasping, spasm filled, expiration.

Drick looked at the oxygen bottle spinning on a broadly similar trajectory to them but over a hundred metres away. It may as well have been a hundred kilometres. The ship had completed a barrel rotation and angled roll. The only plus side to this manoeuvre was that the engines were not directly pointed as Drick, though if they had been death would have at least been mercifully quick. The ship started to accelerate away leaving a trail of debris, and one very annoyed former occupant, drifting at high speed on the vessel’s former course.

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Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 11: How Did You Find Out?

“This feels like it is going to be real bad news,” Marsh said as the world snapped into focus. Drick was sat on the benches near the wall of the simulator, there was an open bottle in their hand and a small tub, at their feet, was filled with a few more.

“Take a seat and grab a cold drink,” said Drick.

Marsh walked over and plucked a beer from the ice bucket. He snapped the bottle open and tasted the beer, it was refreshing and clean, better than the drinks he had yesterday. “This seems like better beer than usual,” he said taking a seat, “must be bad news. So, am I being canned?”

“What?” Drick raised an eyebrow.

“Kicked off the mission. Look I have been practicing hard. I am not as good as the rest of the team but I am not that far behind. I know the equipment well, and I am starting to get the hang of the suit, and working everything by thought.”

“It isn’t about the mission.”

“Oh,” he shrugged. “I guess that’s something. So it is bad news about me. Go on then, get it over with. It is clearly eating at you and it isn’t going to help me now that I know you have something to tell me. This is just painful waiting for both of us.”

“You’re not quite who you think you are.”

“Well I guess no one is really,” Marsh took a sip of beer. “But I am assuming this isn’t philosophy, so you want to explain that.”

“Okay. To start with I have to warn you that this may all be a version of the truth, a lot of what we have is speculation that we are able to verify as plausible, but the subtlety can be lost in that kind of thinking. So maybe there isn’t a whole truth.”

“Fair. Go on then.”

“You were born in the twenty-second century using the old calendar system, well your intellect and memories were. You were not. You were born thirty-four years and one month ago, on this planet, in a heavily controlled simulated environment and construct program.”

“What?”

“You’re a clone. A very good clone. You are not replicated from a piece of the original Marsh. You were re-created using the same original input material.”

“What does that mean?”

“Drink your beer and grab another, try to chill this doesn’t get any better.”

Marsh stared at Drick, “I might not want the beer.”

“Bloody hell I would,” said Drick and emptied the bottle in their hand. Then reached for another and cracked it open. Drick watched as Marsh did the same. “They have access to the original gametes from your parents. They are able to combine them using slightly manipulated versions that are an exact chromosomal match and program the DNA to be the same as the original.”

“Shit. That’s mad, why, for what reason?” Marsh drank heavily on the beer, “Go on, what’s the rest? I am thirty-two, so clones take as long to grow and learn?”

“No. We could clone an exact replica of you in a few weeks and download your entire brain into it via an implant as complex as the one in your head. It is easily achievable and how many people escape the aging process. Most of the higher class have copies of their minds saved via hourly versioning systems. No they wanted you to develop as if the whole experience was as close to real from what they have of your memories.”

“How do you mean?”

“I think they have some of your original memories. I am not convinced, or yet to discover, if they have all of them. So they have been recreating them, refining and as they let you grow they implant them, allowing you to experience them in a more naturalistic manner. They brought you up in a simulation.”

“Shit. Why?”

“That I don’t know.”

“Do you know how long they would be doing it for?”

“A little over fifty years was the cut off date. At that point you would either have fulfilled, or will fulfill some purpose.”

“How do you know this?”

“You are not the first Marsh they created. In fact you are just the current one in line.”

“What?”

“They needed to not only have you as close to your original as possible but they wanted even the method of birth to be a close match. They found someone with the same biological make up as your parents. They used them to gestate you. Unlike most of all modern lifeforms you were gestated in utero. Again we don’t know why. You are the eighth Marsh to be born from the same womb.”

“Same womb? Where are the others?”

“We don’t know but we have to assume they either fulfilled a purpose, are hanging around getting wrinkly, or any other number of possibilities. For all I know you could be the main course for a very picky bunch of cannibals.”

“Nice. How did you find out this much?”

“Couple of sources. Oh and your mother turned up she wants to talk to you.”

“WHAT?!”

Categories
Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 110: In the Killing Ground

Drick dropped into the client program that was being used by Marsh. They were not alone in the construct as Boomer’s team was connected to the same environment. Drick monitored their activities via the overview system before dropping into the main construct. The team was running tactical simulations of different environments and fighting conditions, using a variety of weaponry. Marsh must have logged almost thirty hours on the weapons so Drick was keen to see the level of progress.

Drick called up the stats packages that allowed a full dissection of the entire of the team and their performance, and made sure to run comparative reports. Drick raised a, simulated, eyebrow. Marsh’s statistics were good, not off the chart and nowhere close to Drick’s own but the level of progress was impressive. Likely a by product of their entire life being simulated, they responded well to the environment conditioning.

The real test would be in meat space when they would have to deal with organics and not highly specialised computer simulations. Only the highest levels of artificial intellect could mimic organic randomness and responses. Drick noted that Rodero had applied a larger number of intellect based processors and subroutines than the usual simulations. Clearly they had interpreted Drick’s instruction, for a cliff drop approach to fast track learning, literally. That was good, it meant the artificial constructs would be sufficiently different to automated system responses. Though the largest number of systems they would encounter were likely to be robotic it was wise to be fully proficient against a flesh based intellect.

Drick flashed to everyone that they were joining the simulation and appeared in the centre of their group, as they were being attacked by hostiles. The enemy was using a formation that had the team surrounded on all sides. It was englobement with a killing ground.

“Welcome to our little slice of hell.” said Marsh as Drick appeared.

“Seems like fun.” Drick commented, “how is it going?”

“Well it was going well, too well. So the damned system upped the complexity and challenge and now we are fairly hosed.”

“Yeah it isn’t good,” said Drick.

“Is it trying to prove that some scenarios you cannot win?” asked Marsh.

“Probably,” said Drick, “it is likely to have calculated an impossible situation based on your previous performances.”

“Joy,” said Marsh, “so that makes life simple. If we can’t beat them, we leave.”

Drick raised an eyebrow, behind the mask of the combat suit they appeared in, as Marsh took an armour piercing mine from his backpack. He flipped it projection downwards on the floor and then rolled rapidly away. Drick did the same but used an end over end flip to avoid being shot, as their nearest cover was across a field of fire.

A moment after Drick had reached a wall that shielded them from the blast the mine triggered. It was powerful enough to shake the floor and walls, a cloud of dust and debris filled the corridors. Drick switched to infrared while moving towards the hole in the floor which was easily wide enough to drop through. They were not alone as the entire of Marsh’s team took the same route. As Marsh dropped through they set a motion activated explosive on the rim of the hole. On landing they ran at high speed with the rest of the team following.

They made fifty metres before the blast triggered and a wave of energy lifted them all and sent them flying along the passageway. Drick had switched the suit to nullify the effects of gravity so that they could float in front of the wave of force. They noted with interest that about forty percent of the team had done the same, including Marsh. Some others had found cover, only one was left tumbling, cursing as they span.

Suddenly the simulation ended with a mission complete statement and a set of statistics. The construct faded to a firing range simulation. After a moment Marsh hit the un-opaque setting on his visor. “Looks like we won again,” he said.

“Ow,” came a voice from the team member who had tumbled.

Various statements of “you are one mad ass,”  came from the rest of the team which Marsh took with a gleeful smile.

“What’s up Drick?” he asked.

“We need to talk, and drink, you are definitely going to need to drink while we talk.”

“Hey it can’t be that bad, we did well in that situation and I think I have improved.”

“It’s not about the simulation,” said Drick, “see you in meat space.” Drick logged out of the construct.