Zero Dawn

 

Consciousness. The first moments of a lapsed nightmare, quickening. Gabe’s lungs burst, the liquid oxygen flowing freely as his body convulsed to the beat of the Calysto’s ship sirens ringing in his ears. His mind is still kicking in, the blood moving along the capillaries feeding his neural net feeders like sludge from some subterranean backflow on Gamma Five. His heart is pumping like a bladed thumper and his lower legs are shaking spasmodically as he tries to push the blood injectors from his abdomen.  His fingers are still cold as blue steel as if he’d been locked away for an eternity, but this seems more accident than panic daemon. A voice is finally penetrating his titanium skull mount, the toxic bleeders vacating his system as the Infosys tegrams release filtered spinal fluids into his brainpan, the quick firing neural-net activating and becoming clearer as the quantum jets strike up.

The voice is soothing but insistent: “Commander McAlister we have a problem.”

“Oh, really,” he thinks to himself. As the last of the cocoon’s safety links disconnect from his spine he feels tingling of the casing fluid retreating into the bowels of the Sleeper. He hates being under, dreading the unload sequence every time it happens. It’s like being ejected from his mother’s womb, except he never had a mother only the artificial wrapper marked property of Consilient Enterprises. He often wondered whose genetics ran in his cloned flesh. But knew that was never going to happen. Hell even the GenTechs that built him couldn’t have traced that back to its origins with all the editing sequences and cross-pollinators specific to the task of his job. Yep, he was more job than human, his whole body and mind built to specs by some NewGen AGI based in L5. Locked and sequenced, barcode inserted subdermal, tattooed and branded with the orange and black logo of Consilient Inc. he was more robot than man, more technoid knowledge base than fleshly denizen of human deformation. Even Hammond Clarke, CEO of Consilient Exec Council couldn’t have tapped that system, it’s governance and security perimeters coded in quark soup so thick that it’d burn straight through to the core of any vagrant viral that came within magnetic breath of its salient ice-walls.

“Commander?” the voice was tentative now. “Are you alright? Your vitals seem in order, please respond.”

Miranda LXII. Pure abstraction on steroids. He’d often kid himself that maybe she truly was as human as she sounded. But AI’s were subtle that way, their indifference and impersonalism couched in the sociopathic algorithms of a manipulative Biomimetic subsystems of such complexity no human could reckon with much less control. Miranda was part and parcel of a programmed nightmare, but one that was attuned to offering mimed pleasantries even as it prepared to demolish its prey. Her metallic voice was so kind and gentle as if she actually gave a shit about him rather than just seeing him as one more prosthetic appendage in her vast arsenal to be called forth when something needed to be adjusted, tuned, or fixed and the ship’s drones couldn’t handle it, which was rare indeed. But there was the other factor, too. Clones were built to perform specific tasks, and he wasn’t just any knock-off sleeper, but a NanoCyb: a cyborged machinic delivery system adapted to work under even the most toxic environmental conditions, ones that required micro-molecular controls and mutational flexors.

“I’m here, Miranda,” he spoke softly, his sub-vocals  assuring her that he was fine. “Give me the details. Skip the vocals, relay neural-feed proximity vectors. 3D scan operative geospatials as needed. Bring the holotable online. Scratch pad and floater screens. And…”

“Yes, Commander?”

“Send message, HQ. List Time/Date at Zero Dawn.” He emphasized this.

He could sense that vast machinic intelligence probing him through every fiber of his nanocore feedback connectors as if it was puzzled by this diffraction from protocol. But it said nothing but the required acknowledgement: “Yes, Commander, as you wish.” He hated that as if she were a genii who’d just given him one of three wishes, and would sooner or later require much more from him than wishes. He knew there was always a price to pay in breaking code or protocol. And, he knew, he would pay; dearly.

***

He tapped his temple subdermal controller, the retinal display unit slid out of its encasement above his left eyebrow, the lithium screen flowing down while the plasma charge spread across the void of his eyes filling the loadscreen with enmeshed holofields. The images began flowing easily now, the lazelight particle threader accelerating as he worked the inner chronotapes, allowing the AI interface between himself and Miranda to wedge the datascans into view.

As he watched the feeds he noticed the timesequencer, noted the day/hour/minute of the impact. A ship had appeared starboard, a craft that should not have been in deep space, at least not one from Earth’s DefCorp Fleet. If not DefCorp then who? Traders? What the hell would they be doing out here? Nothing but the asteroid belts, penal colonies of minders. Traders didn’t have license to fold into these outer regions, sell wares to the penals. Miranda had corrected the navigational perimeters, adjusted the sparrockets for a reroute, which would have been fine but for one thing: the other ship had signaled on a subspace channel its need of assistance. Great… that was indeed a problem.

Miranda had registered the supplicant, sent off the required report to DefCorp Jupiter quadrant and received a reply two specs Solar Time. He knew the drill. He was required to make contact with the vessel, supply their needs and offer any assistance except evacuation. Strict protocols disallowed a Penal Transport any accommodations other than the manifest maintenance crew and the shelved penals. If everything had gone right he’d of awakened at port of call rather than out here in no-man’s land jumbuck nowhere.

He could sense the hum of the ship, Miranda’s overbrain sitting there in its quantum sea like a princes on a silent isle. But she was no princess, and he was no Prince Charming come to offer her tribute. Instead he tapped the retinal, let it retract and fold back into its titanium shell while he contemplated his next move.


Just piddling with the opening sequence in my current work, thought I’d share it see how it works or not.