Science Fiction/Romance, WIP
2nd Place, FTHRW Golden Gateway Contest, Paranormal
Remembrancers transfer memories at the risk of their souls.
When Remembrancer Anya Janu’s memory transfer of a prominent scientist is sabotaged by a group of political anarchists, a select team of spies is sent to rescue her.
On the team is former POW and rebel leader Elen Artoran, who wants nothing more than to make her people proud and pass her second degree trials in the Kinship, a caste of elite martial arts adepts. At all costs she wants to forget her time prior to joining the Kinship as a political prisoner and her treatment at the hands of prison guards.
Fellow teammember Ian Sparrow takes emotional refuge in his Paladin armor when the trail to Janu falls cold. He wants to find her for more reasons than just to complete the mission, but his whole life will change if they succeed.
They’re running out of time as Janu’s mind barriers break down and the memories of previous transfers wreak havoc with her brain and identity.
“Ready for the transfer,” one of the doctors said and Anya took her seat next to Syl’s bed. The old man stirred and opened his eyes, the whites yellowed and bloodshot.
“It’s about time,” he said. “I want to go. They’ve been keeping me here just for you.”
“Soon,” Anya replied and clasped Syl’s hand. “The pain will be gone very soon.”
He smiled at her and Anya remembered why she chose this profession. In these last moments she shepherded people off to their chosen afterworlds, safe and happy and clean. She took it all in and with a rush of life and death uploaded their memories. She felt their hate and their love, their joy too. During the upload she felt alive.
It used to be the only time Anya felt that way, alive. Filled instead of hollow. And then she met Dreux, his dark form standing guard in the corner of the room. He loved her, but part of him envied the closeness the dying shared with her. A closeness no one could ever compromise.
They inserted a line into the shunt at the base of her skull that she had installed a few years ago. Before the shunt the memories were delivered through a long needle shot into her spinal fluid, but the shunt created a freeway to that space. So much easier.
The doctors had flooded Syl’s brain with nanites hours ago, giving them time to learn which neurons were needed, which ones the nanites would replace. Once hooked up to her, the transfer was simple. Nanites traveled through the shunt and took root in her cultured neural membrane. In a few more hours she would have access to the memories herself.
Anya sat back in the chair and closed her eyes, retaining her hold on Syl’s hand. The machines powered up in a whoosh and she slipped into a deep trance, a bright white light surrounding her.
She smiled. A young and vibrant Syl stood in front of her, so different from the dying old man on the bed.
Hello, Syl. Are you ready to go?
He nodded and the two of them began to build a wall of mortar and bricks between them. The wall wasn’t to imprison him, but to keep her from following. To keep the two of them separate. His consciousness would sail out to the netherworld, but some of his memories would stay with Anya. Behind Syl, beyond the white light, Anya saw endless fields and rolling hills of green. His version of paradise.
In reality the nanites had already begun patrolling the cellular membrane between the influx of new nanites and the rest of her brain.
Suddenly the bright light of the netherspace darkened to orange and red and the brick wall began to crumble. Syl fell backward and the eden behind grew fainter.
She heard Dreux yell her name and felt something clamp around her neck. Her shunt! Don’t dislodge the shunt. If the flow of nanites was interrupted, the membrane could collapse.
Anya’s eyes flew open and she clutched Syl’s brittle hand. His eyes were open too and he mouthed something she couldn’t understand. Hands were squeezing her neck, cutting off her oxygen.
Dark swirls spiraled behind Syl in her trance-state and at the same time she saw Dreux running toward her in her peripheral vision. Anya grabbed the hands around her neck, trying to pry them free, but her attacker yanked her off the chair and onto the floor. And then finally she could breathe and she heard her foe hit the floor with a thud.
Dreux materilized above her and ran his hands down her body looking for wounds. There was only one. The shunt line lay on the carpet next to her while alarms from the machines keeping Syl alive rang and buzzed. She couldn’t move and felt blood seeping out of the base of her skull. The body laying on the floor next to her didn’t move. Dreux had killed her attacker.
The neural membrane was breaking down and in moments she wouldn’t know where Anya stopped and Syl began. She suddenly had a vision of Syl’s wife and his daughters, then his school years. Anya only hoped his research was there somewhere too. Her own memories were drowning. The rolling hills of home were losing their color, diminishing as she tried harder to remember them. She knew her name still and the faces of her family. And Dreux, she’d never forget Dreux.
“Anya? Can you hear me?”
“Find Ian Sparrow,” she rasped. “Find him and come back for me.”
This was no accident. If they had wanted Syl and his memories dead, they could have killed him long before she arrived. Someone wanted her incapacitated.
“Are you crazy? I’m not leaving you, Anya.” Dreux grabbed her hand, but she could barely feel it. Anya tried to squeeze back, hoping it was enough.
“If they get you too, it’s over. They’ll keep me alive until I spill Syl’s research,” she replied. “I love you, Dreux. Go find Ian Sparrow. And come back.”
Still he hesitated, afraid to move her. Afraid to leave her.
“Go!” Anya shook off his tight grip.
Dreux kissed her, warm and sweet. She wouldn’t forget this memory. She wouldn’t let herself forget Dreux.
“I’m coming back,” he said and stared hard at her for a nanosecond and then ran from the room. A fifth degree Kinship adept, few could stop Galen Dreux if he didn’t want to be stopped. But could he find Ian in time?