Burning in the Void – Chapter 19

playback _Fool

Timestamp: 2395-07-26 (internal)

Format: Multi-sensory recording

Source: eBrain-12m / s11985 

The room is small and bare. There is not even a blanket on the bed or a scattering of mementos along the bedside shelf. No decorations adorn the walls, which nearly glow with their stark whiteness. The only remarkable feature of the room is a single mirror hanging on the wall across from the bare bed. The mirror is cracked in a spiderweb of thin lines radiating out from a dent in the center, obviously the result of a powerful fist or hard object slamming into it some time ago.

There is no sound except for the slight, barely perceptible hum of the life support systems…

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The image shudders for an instant, as if it had reversed itself, then resumes playing. There is no sound except for the slight, barely perceptible hum of the life support systems blowing air through a narrow vent above the bed.

The view shakes and, without warning, leaps forward with a bobbing motion. Two strides. Now it turns to face the mirror.

The face that gazes back from the mirror is barely human. The skin is torn away in ragged patches, the edges of some still singed from ancient burns. The right eye looks almost human, though something in the gleam of it reveals the truth that it is an optical sensor, while the left eye is covered over by a matte black box, which wraps around to the rear of the man’s head. Portions of this box have broken away, revealing tight bundles of cables and close-packed sensory apparatus. The whole lower jaw is exposed, revealing it to be constructed of a silvery alloy rather than bone, and the mouth behind it has no tongue. When the jaw swings open for the man to speak, it is possible to see that his words emerge not from a tongue and larynx, but from a speaker embedded in the back of his throat.

“I am Conner Norton, once of Drake Security. For the last two hundred and fifty-seven years I have been something of a prisoner here in the self-styled ‘Kingdom of Humanity’ in shaft three of the Drake.” The voice is clearly synthetic, which is somewhat odd because synthesizers have been capable of perfectly imitating human speech for over two hundred years. The undertone of cynicism in the voice, coupled with the frankly aggressive digital distortion, suggests that the speaker has carefully crafted his tone.

“As you are no doubt aware, one of the rebels’ first actions, upon seizing control of shaft three, was to sever all optical network links between the core and their newly captured territory. They also destroyed all wireless relays they could find. This is much of the reason that I have not been in contact since being trapped here.”