When Ex-DEMON pilot Jon Carlson meets beautiful humanitarian Rachel, it's a match made in HEAVEN. Literally, because Rachel's an ANGEL. She's also an AI controlled android of immense power and capability. As Jon finds himself drawn into the world of these enigmatic creations of mankind, he unknowingly becomes involved in a program to create autonomous superweapons intended to fight the next war.
Everyone else was moving about, working on the scaffold. Deep within the cradle, suspended at the center, lay my first patient. A lifer. That’s what Jeremy referred to him as. Someone who lived inside the virtual world of Mindspace like the rest of us live in the real world.
I dive the haptic world of Mindspace with just my implants and a cot, but with a scaffold I could stay there forever. Scaffolds like this one can keep a lifer online until their body fails from age or infection, perhaps even without one of those limitations. I glimpsed a face through the small view window but I was too far away and it was too covered for me to make out any detail out at this distance.
It wasn’t my time yet so I waited, feeling the pressure of having my first patient to retrieve. Jeremy was my new dive technician and partner. He seemed comfortable here, like he did this every day. He probably did. He darted around the small room as I watched, hooking cables into different sockets and checking displays for something I assume was important. There were paramedics here too, checking the lifer’s vital signs and stability or something like that. I should have paid more attention during the briefing.
It looked like they should be getting in each other’s way in such a small space but they didn’t. Each move seemed almost rehearsed. Each handoff clean. Amongst these veterans I was now the new guy, the rookie. It’s been a while since I felt this way.
The sound coming from my fingernails sounded loudly in my ears, reminding me my fingers were drumming nervously on the cot frame. I clenched my fist to stop them moving and wished I could get away with closing my eyes. Just watching these people work brought back memories of when I too worked with such choreographed precision. It was more recently than I wanted to admit, scars of my failure still fresh and painful even if they weren’t visible to anyone else. Was that why I felt so intimidated?
My eyes wandered to back to the scaffold at the center of everything. There was something about it that seemed out of place. It was old. Very old. The style was eerily different to the modern ones I knew from the base. Self Contained Active Feeding Facility and Online Life-support Device. I don’t think I’d seen the words printed on the side of a scaffold before. I had almost forgotten what the acronym stood for.
A small plasticard display just beneath the lettering was updating with new information. A paramedic wearing orange coveralls with fluorescent striping retrieved it then looked it over. He reached behind his ear and retrieved a thin stylus, touched the plasticard in three different locations and scribbled something on the bottom. When he turned around and looked straight at me I knew it was almost my time. Did he expect me to do something? For a moment I wondered if I should respond, then he shifted his gaze and walked over to a big guy who was here when I arrived.
“So he’s stable then?” the big guy asked him.
I had been wondering what his part in this eviction was. As he turned, I saw a glimpse through his open jacket of a sidearm sitting in the holster on his belt. The sort regular civilians don’t often carry. He was probably the bailiff or court officer.
“As stable as they ever are, although the atrophy is a little worse than we expected. Given a more time I’d wait until his muscle has rebuilt. Are you sure this has to happen today?”