|A Human Perspective - Episode 8|
|Series||A Human Perspective|
|Source||A Human Perspective - Episode 8|
|In the series|
Charl drifted on the edge of consciousness. Unspecified pain gripped every fiber of his being. All other sensation bowed to it. His lips and nose tingled numbly, and when he blinked against the white light glare, it sounded to him like someone tossing sandbags around. Straps held his arms and legs in place, loosely, though he could muster no strength to pull against them. It was his head that was locked down — gripped tight, forehead to spine, in some form-fitting, plastic helmet. Even though he felt weak as a kitten, he was pretty sure that even on his best day he could not have wrestled his head out of that vice.
“What’s going on?” he mumbled feebly, but no one answered him. He knew there were others around him. He could hear their soft, Banu voices. They shuffled around, yellow-coated phantoms intruding upon Charl’s painful semi-dream state. One leaned in over him, eclipsing the white light like a silhouetted moon. An adjustment was made. Charl slipped back into deeper oblivion.
How much time passed until his next lucid moment he had no idea. This time around he had traded greater specific pain for a bit more awareness. His skull felt like they had driven steel wedges through it all the way to the roof of his mouth, and he was sure that if he moved even a little they would rip his brain flesh to ribbons. He could focus better now, though, and strained his eyes down to see a handful of techs monitoring strange workstations, adjusting dials, and doing other tech stuff.
“Where’s Lyshtuu?” he gasped, though doing so intensified his pain immeasurably. A tech craned his head and motioned to his fellows, one of whom came closer. Charl’s vision was far too blurry to accurately identify him.
“Where’s Lyshtuu?” he just mouthed it this time, then again in Banu just to be sure.
“Lyshtuu dismissed,” the Banu said simply. He reached over Charl’s head, touching, perhaps adjusting the device they had him hooked up to.
“Let me go,” he managed weakly, but stopped when a flood of memories cascaded before his eyes, accompanied by every associated heart-wrenching emotion, like racing through months of his life in just seconds, with the volume cranked all the way up. As quickly as it began it stopped, leaving him a heaving, quivering wreck.
More techs gathered nearby, talking softly among themselves, and in his present state Charl wasn’t sure he could have distinguished what they were saying even if they spelled it all out for him. His mind still reeled from the memory barrage. He did pick up on one thing, though. The techs weren’t happy about something. They were arguing, and he caught them discussing something about ‘cooperation’ and ‘blocking.’ By now his whole face was both numb and seemingly touched by fire and he closed his eyes, but not before the techs dispersed, leaving just one behind making further adjustments to his unholy helmet.
“Can Charl-Grissom understand me now?” the adjusting tech asked. Complete clarity settled upon Charl’s mind like a warm blanket. There was still some pain and discomfort, and he was still strapped down, but it was like his mind had just come out of jump space and back into the real world.
“Let me go!” Charl put enough force behind it that the tech backed up a bit.
“No release. Contract stipulation.” The tech held one of Charl’s eyes open and peered deeply into it with his own, blinding him further with a small pen-sized light.
“Screw the contract! You can’t treat me like this! I demand to see Lyshtuu!” Keep it strong. Banu respect strength.
“Lyshtuu dismissed.” ‘Dismissed’ tends to mean just that in the Banu language, Charl noted, rather than something more sinister.
“Then where’s Angela?” Any familiar face might be of help to him now, he figured, even an android face.
“Project Angela cancelled.” Cancelled? Did that mean she was dismantled? Abandoned, perhaps? Either way, he was running out of familiar people to negotiate with, and these techs didn’t seem particularly concerned with his wishes. His mind raced. He had to make his case before they turned their brain scrambler back on. Anything to cut some kind of deal, get them off their guard, then get a chance to escape.
“Is Angela here?” he asked, panting a bit now but regaining more body control. “Android Angela?”
“Project Angela cancelled,” the Banu tech repeated. “Project Charl-Grissom begun.”
Charl’s guts felt like they’d collapsed into a singularity. There’s no way they’re making an android version of me!
“There must be some kind of mistake,” he insisted. Were they really going to turn him into an android? Were they prepping his brain for removal? Seldom at a loss for words, Charl lay silent and slack-jawed. The enormity of his situation struck him dumb.
“I am Tech Two.” A new tech had come close while Charl languished. Banu tended to take numbers as pseudonyms when they wanted to remain anonymous, and they only sought anonymity when they were doing something illegal or immoral, so that wasn’t good.
“New project initiated,” the new tech tried to explain. “Contract clause enacted …” He stumbled along, trying to express his thoughts in a strange tongue. Contract? Charl got a sinking feeling he should have read his second contract a little more closely.
“Charl-Grissom breach contract,” he continued, “Breach voluntary by Charl-Grissom. Contract stipulation clear. Breach initiate new clause …”
“I breached the contract?” Charl asked, hoping vainly he might be entitled to a lawyer. “I did everything the contract specified,” he protested. “I attended every evaluation session …”
“Contract breach, affirmative. Data compromised.” Crap! They had nailed him for exploring their data. Maybe they’d made it so easy just so they could trap him into … into this, whatever this was. He quickly concocted a variety of excuses.
“I was only trying to verify the data …” he began, but Tech Two ignored him. “Lyshtuu suggested I go through the data …” He wasn’t buying it.
“Data compromised. Contract breached. Victim entitled to restitution.” Really? These Banu have me strapped to a table and they’re telling me that, contractually anyway, they are the victims?
“The contract says you can torture me?” Had Lyshtuu sold him out, he wondered? They’re saying he’s been dismissed, so maybe he’s not part of this. Maybe it’s all Protectorate strong-arming, some government job. “I demand that you release me now!”
“Charl-Grissom not tortured. Not harmed. Charl-Grissom harvested.”
The black hole in his gut shrank in magnitude a bit.
“Harvested?” he asked tentatively.
“Harvested,” Tech Two looked to his fellows elsewhere around the room for verification, but apparently none could come up with a better word for it. “Harvesting. Mental harvesting.”
“Okay, hang on a minute. I breached the contract on your android and that lets you harvest my mind to make a new android project based on me? Really? And this is all legal? No way!”
“As Charl-Grissom says,” Tech Two verified.
“So, you’re not going to cut my brain out?’”
A couple of the techs burst with their Banu version of laughter, then shared with their fellows who didn’t immediately understand so they, too, could get the joke. Charl didn’t think it was so funny.
“Negative!” Tech Two insisted emphatically. “Charl-Grissom unharmed. Charl-Grissom mental harvesting.” The singularity in his gut shrank a bit more, but he was still strapped down against his will.
“What about this thing?” he asked, looking up to ‘point’ with his eyes. “I hope this thing works better than your android.” Banu don’t really shrug, but that was definitely the impression he got as they exchanged glances. “Are you copying things out of my mind, or …”
“Copy only, Charl-Grissom. No damage.”
“What guarantees do I have …?” he began to ask, wishing he had just a couple of cards in his hand. He would promise them anything, he decided, if it got him an opportunity to escape.
“Okay, then. That’s the best news I’ve heard all day,” he said, knowing full well the Banu wouldn’t understand the expression. “But this thing’s killing me! Can you cut the pain?” he asked, wriggling his shoulders.
“Blocking equal discomfort,” Tech Two said, attentive now that they were finally getting around to what he wanted to discuss. “Cooperation reduce discomfort. Cooperation make better transfer. Shorter transfer.”
“So, I’m not a prisoner?”
“Oh, yes. Charl-Grissom prisoner,” Tech Two replied matter-of-factly. “Contract obligation.”
“I see.” Charl forgave himself some confusion. He’d been drugged, strapped down, and had his brain fried by this alien mind ripper. He struggled to process all this as best he could.
“So, there’s going to be an android me running around somewhere?” he asked, but he really didn’t expect an answer. How bad could that be? I can always deal with it later, I suppose. “Okay, I’ll cooperate.” I’ll cooperate until I get a chance to get the hell out of here!
“Cooperate. Affirmative.” Tech Two seemed relieved.
“And no more pain?” Charl questioned.
“Cooperate reduce discomfort,” he responded, which was far from a guarantee, but Charl knew it was probably all he was going to get. “Charl-Grissom relax. Cooperate reduce discomfort.”
Charl took a few deep breaths and tried to relax, but that was easier said than done. He let his mind wander, hoping that would help. I can’t wait to get out of here and get back to the … my ship, the … why can’t I remember the name of my ship?
“Aid Charl-Grissom cooperate,” Tech Two said, gently tapping a syringe before injecting something into his arm. For a moment Charl’s gut-gnawing singularity turned into a galaxy-consuming black hole before dissolving in a lotus-like haze.
To Be Continued …