Intercosmic - Chapter 32 - P.R.I.D.E.

I inhale the blue powder through my nose as instructed. My vision begins to fade at the edges as it quickly takes effect. The urge to sneeze is causing my eyes to water but the sneeze never comes as the powder snatches the back of my throat. A slight numbness shoots through my body in waves, if I hadn’t been sitting, I would have fallen without doubt. There’re a few giggles from the two teenage girls running the operation as I struggle to maintain a sense of control.

“Is this normal,” I ask through gritted teeth.

“Completely normal for a first-time user. Once your pupils dilate completely, you’ll be able to enter into your personal P.R.I.D.E.”

P.R.I.D.E, an acronym for Personal Reality Interface Device and Experience. A simulation chamber, that places the person into a lifelike simulation of their own mental design. The drug I’ve taken will wipe my mind clean temporarily. The only influence will be my subconscious, or soul as one of the girls put it. I had thoughts of what I might experience, but my mind is wandering too much; too many memories, all out of order. If this is what every drug is like, I’m not sure how people can become addicted. I can’t seem to maintain any thoughts for more than a few fleeting moments and my body is jerking spontaneously on its own. I try to focus on the way my body is reacting rather than the fleeting thoughts.

“Alright, you’re ready,” one of the girls says.

Each takes an arm and helps me transition to a small pod on the ground with a glass lid. Others already rest in pods, but some remain empty for people like me. My body doesn’t give me much choice but to lie down as I we near it. An Oxygen mask is placed over my face before the lid closes. A thick orange liquid slowly fills the pod. Soon I’m watching myself, two versions of me. The first sports an arm similar to my own and a formal military uniform. The second is dressed in shorts, a hoodie and headphones. One stabs the other and celebrates, only to be stabbed in the back by the other. The cycle continues until they shake hands, both refusing to die. Then they repeat the cycle.

 

“Will you be able to make it this afternoon dad,” John asks.

“Yeah, I’ve only got one meeting this morning, I’ll be able to show up.”

“Great, all the kids loved it when you came last year.”

“Ah, no blaster rifles this year,” Janice intervenes. “The PTA didn’t let me live that one down for six months. Honestly, what were you thinking?”

“Just wanted to make sure they had fun,” I shrug and smile coyly.

“You should bring them again,” John says with a mouth full of food.

The horn for the bus to school cuts our breakfast short. I give John a kiss on his forehead as he ties his sneakers.

“Love you dad,” he calls back as he runs out the front door.

“Love you too.”

Life on a military base isn’t bad. One of the perks is that John goes to a great school, we have an entire house to ourselves and everything is close by. The office is only a few minutes away and I can always come home for lunch or stop by and eat lunch with John. I tie my own sneakers for the walk to work and grab my rucksack, much more preferable to a briefcase. Janice places a kiss on my forehead the same way I had done John not more than few minutes ago.

“That’s all I get? I don’t even get a kiss on the lips?”

“Well, you don’t have time to kiss both sets.”

“You know, you’re really nasty when John isn’t around.”

“That’s why you married me.”

“It was really your charming personality. You were always so cute and quiet.”

“I still am.”

“Unless nobody else is around. Nobody would believe me if told them you were like this.”

“Good.”            

 

I place my hand over my armor, I can’t feel the necklace beneath. But I know it’s there. It holds the picture of John and Janice. They’re waiting for me. Heavy fire hasn’t stopped once in the last fifteen minutes. It’s suppression fire, but it’s reckless. Fighting in city centers has never been a favorite of mine, too many civilians to operate safely.

I detach the small metal box from my leg. I wave my hand across it and watch as the box shifts and morphs into a small four-legged robot. Almost as if it knows my commands the bot takes off through the building. I watch the feed of its camera on my wrist comp as it exits the building and searches for the gunfire. This view always made me somewhat dizzy, I got used to the Hafengdan, but I never got used to this. It’s either low to the ground or scurrying along ceilings where it can’t be seen; too fast for my taste.

It doesn’t take long before the device has located the shooters. Two men, perched in an adjacent building, semi-automatic sniper rifles, manual control, no targeting assist. I could use this to plan an exit, but my men are already wounded. I didn’t spot many people in the building as the bot made its way over, and they don’t seem to be using any shields. They didn’t expect us to locate them. I’m surprised they’re both human, I didn’t expect much human sympathy for the Draconians after they launched their surprise attack. I take the easy way out, and detonate the bot.

The explosion is brief, contained and echoes throughout the city, but the gunfire stops. I command everyone to move. I would have liked to capture them, and interrogate them, but getting everyone out alive is more important. We accomplished the goal at hand and retrieved the package. I haven’t had a chance to check inside but the orange glow peeking through the cracks of the metal case makes me wonder what could be inside. I can’t wait to get to base and crack this thing open.

 

Pierus EG, the golden planet. Four times as large as Earth and almost the exact same average temperature, and atmosphere. The ‘EG’ in the name, are my initials; I’m surprised each time I hear the name. I discovered the planet on a routine trip outside of the Sol systems, just for surveillance. The Revrell had been moving into the area and we wanted to keep an eye on them. My family got to be one of the first settlers here, it’ll be tough, but it’s going to be an amazing experience.

 

I’m crawling on a cold grey floor grasping as the ground searching for breath. My body is trying to vomit and inhale at the same time. I’m being strangled from the inside out. I’m trying to scream for help but I can’t get the words out. Air is trying to leave my body while more is trying to get in, lodged in my throat, nothing is getting through. My hands are covered in vomit, the familiar burning sensation of stomach acid in my mouth lets me know it’s mine, more for me to choke on. I feel a sharp stabbing sensation in my back, I can breathe again and collapse in my own vomit from the ordeal.

“Sorry, you had a bad reaction to the sedative,” one of the girls says but it’s hard to hear her over the pounding of my heart.

“We’ll get you a free T-Shirt,” the other says holding a needle, as tears fall from my eyes.

I’d like to say there’s some kind of symbolism here. I’m craving a family and more military action, but it’s killing me at the same time. I’m craving it so bad that I’m willing to risk death again to get back in the pod. Can I still go back? Do I have it in me?

[Previous Chapter]  [Table of Contents]  [Twitter]  [Next Chapter]

Post a Comment

0 Comments