The chamber was roughly spherical, with the open door set half way up the side. Soft blue light emanated from stripes that ran down the length of the curved walls from central rings at the top and bottom of the chamber, illuminating the three preservation vats which hovered in the center of the space like tubes of glistening, liquid light. Each of the vats was connected to a pair of gleaming silver actuated arms, one of which dangled from the ceiling to grasp the top of the vat, while the other sprouted up from the floor. Long loops of shielded cable ran from the top of each vat to a pair of gleaming white nodules, one situated at the top of the space and the other at the bottom.
“Welcome, Sera of shaft three and Lana Tso of the Sybarites. You should feel honored at entering this place. Not a single living soul has set foot in this chamber for nearly three hundred years. Even my maintenance drones enter only rarely,” the Captain said, his voice echoing in the cavernous space.
Two of the arms bent with the soft hissing of finely tuned actuators, moving the vat between them several meters closer to where Sera and Tso drifted in the doorway. Sera focused her multifaceted vision on that vat and saw, drifting gently in a continually circulating column of faintly pink gel, a disembodied brain and spinal column. Thousands of fine wires trailed from the body in a gossamer web, each emerging from the brain or bone at a different place, then traveling upward until they disappeared into the top of the vat.
“You’re not what I expected,” Sera whispered.
“What were you expecting?” the Captain asked.
Sera shook her head and said nothing for a long while, then finally replied, “I don’t really know.”
“Then there is no cause for you to be surprised. Are you prepared for the interfacing?”
Tso moved to push off from the wall beside the door, but the instant she began to drift forward the thread drone tightened its grip and pulled her back.
“Miss Tso, I thank you for your service, but I am afraid that I cannot permit you to come any closer. The entire purpose of this chamber is to protect the Captain from harm. Even if I trusted you fully, I could not permit you to enter as your body itself could prove dangerous in the event of sudden maneuvering.”
“Why are you using Sera?” Tso shouted, squirming against the rippling coils of the thread drone. “Why not me? Or one of your other faithful servants?”
“Ah, I see now,” the Captain said. “You are not so much concerned with Sera’s fate as you are with your own. You feel slighted.”
“No. I just want to understand.”
A flood of emotion washed over Sera then. In the space of a few seconds she found herself consumed with the deepest rage, frustration, sadness. It was as if she had tapped into the mind of some other person and was experiencing their own struggle to contain emotions as her own. Desperate to cling to herself in the flood of other, Sera focused all her attention on the images pouring into her mind through the twenty-six cameras stationed throughout the chamber.