Science Fiction

Dedicated

4:00:00 PM

In orbit above New Terra, the air in the Zero Room was sweaty and tense. The metal walls fluoresced anemically in Republic blue, reluctantly lighting the war-hardened faces around the conference table. The hologram at the center displayed a map of the region, with the red peninsula of the invasion now stretching deep into the blue Republic space.
“We must use The Weapon. I see no other choice.”
Most present nodded in unison, but Salah seemed surprised. Hesitant at first, she finally spoke.
“The Weapon? You mean a Torkh? Do we even have those now?”
Hohn stared at her for a moment. Then, to Salah’s relief, he smiled. But in that lighting, it could just as well have been a frown.
“Ah, representative… Salah. You are new to the Council, aren’t you? We have a single unit buried on the Old Earth. It was last used seven centuries ago, but telemetry shows it’s still functional.”
The surprise on Salah’s face morphed into anger as she realized the implications.
“So you let 8 star systems come under Tsalek control, endangering 80 billion and killing a billion humans and droids? You diverted civilian blood supply to the defence systems, letting another billion starve to death? And now you tell me you’ve had a solution all these years?”
Salah had now risen and was leaning on the conference table, staring at Hohn. Her hesitation had clearly disappeared.
“Please, calm down. It was a conscious decision. Recent events have made powers far greater than the Tsalek interested in Republic space. Our unit only has a few decades of runtime left, and according to our intelligence, it won’t nearly be enough. But we must not waste any more time. The excavation team is standing by. All in favor?”

***

Robert woke up to the warm rays of sun hitting his face. Another day, another adventure. His escort was already waiting outside the chamber.
In a few minutes, he was standing in an enormous hall which looked like an ancient relic. The air was stale from centuries of decomposition and the walls were crumbling in places. People in white lab coats were scurrying around with equipment. Their center of attraction seemed to be a large bionic apparatus consisting of a high-rise throne surrounded by control panels. The flesh-like material of the throne pulsed and throbbed in a steady, but not perfect, rhythm.
“We begin immediately,” announced Robert. “What is our status?”
Hohn walked up to him. “The system is online. Blood supply steady with nominal oxygenation and nutrition.”
“Good. You may order your troops to abandon their spacecraft and return to safety.”
As he walked up to the apparatus, Robert took off his shirt to reveal a series of neural taps running through his spinal column. He lowered his body gingerly on the throne, a frown of anticipation forming on his face. The throne rose to meet it as if eager to engulf him. He leaned back and a strange expression took over his face as his neural taps met with the receptacles on the backrest. Agony, pleasure, long-lost friend… Thoughts and emotions swirled in his mind like a dizzying, melting merry-go-round. He let his head sink into the warm flesh, which now completely enveloped him except his nose and mouth.
“I am beginning the Torkh routine. Connecting to comm systems.” His lips stopped moving mid-sentence as he switched to the comm speakers. His voice now multiplied, announcing things simultaneously.
“Bypassing defence systems... Taking over physics simulations… Psionic amplifier online... Connected to sensor grid... All weapons now psionically augmented… Commandeering spacecrafts… Conceiving attack strategy...”

***

“Two months straight without a break! It took longer than I expected.”
Robert was visibly exhausted and had a bleeding nose. Seated across from him was Council head Hohn.
“You did great.”
“Now that it’s all over, though, I’m planning to go on a long vacation.”
Hohn stared at him for a moment.
“I’m sorry, but that is not possible.”
“What do you mean? I just saved the butts of a quarter trillion people! If not a vacation, surely there must be science to be done? Engineering problems solved? Mathematical breakthroughs required? I’m sure you could utilize my—”
“I’m sorry Robert. Cerebrals have become a rarity in the human population. In fact, one hasn’t been born in centuries. With only a few decades of it left, each second of your life is too precious to waste. Besides, you are state property. You volunteered to be a Torkh, remember?”
Robert felt a hand grab his shoulder and a needle pierce his neck. He felt the all too familiar sensation of his body shutting down for another hibernation.

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