Memories

By: Idgarad

I remember her touch...

 

It was near the end of capsuleer training. They called it "First Death". Our original bodies are destroyed... symbolic I suppose. They say 25% of candidates wash out once it happens. I came from a business class family. Four generations they worked to get a candidate. Finally I was born and passed all the requirements and then three decades later, it was time for First Death.

There I was. The Chapel was brightly lit, warm, with a single containment unit. Every candidate is given an hour to reflect on the moment at hand and there the clear casket-like liquidator which was soon to be filled with a toxic solution to dissolve my mortal remains. For six weeks I was in the Pend Clone Network observation center. They tested and re-tested ensuring my first jump was successful. At 12:21 I jumped… I died. A new body and there lay my old body. Was I dead now? This clone… was it nothing more than a biological machine running on copied memories? Was my soul in some nameless God’s hands … and I some ghoul that should never have been?

I remember her touch. She took my hand and held it. We had never met prior to that. Her First Death was scheduled after mine and had mistakenly arrived early. We didn’t speak. I spent most of my time gazing at the room, unwilling to look at my old body. The floor and walls glowed with a warm light and above a cacophony of brass and silver décor added both a sense of prestige and reverence to the room. My sixty minutes were up, and a chime calmly toned.

I watched as a silvery liquid filled the chamber half full. There my former body lay, resting on it’s back staring up. My body seemed to just sink as it dissolved until the very last inch. My old flesh broke apart and vanished into the ooze. My mind was reeling. There, the body my mother bore, and fed, and washed… was gone. My mother’s son, me, that body… was no more. The arm I broke when I was fifteen rock climbing… the scar on my leg from the time I slipped on the dock when I was eight… gone. I wanted to vomit, to scream, to cry… but with her holding my hand… I found peace instead.

I remember her touch…

I offered to stay for her’s but she declined. She said she’d rather cry alone. Something told me then she wasn’t going to cry at all. She was Amarr I think. She had a noble carriage to her… but warm. We walked together the following day to the Graduate’s Dinner before getting in our pods and leaving the training facility.

The Graduate’s Dinner was a big event. Many people’s sponsors go all out promoting their capsuleers. We all sat around talking about our lives and we laughed as we tried not to cry. We were leaving behind a part of our humanity… our mortality. There were 22 of us initially this training session. Only 15 made it to the dinner. Likely they cracked at their First Death. Awkward jokes and boasts battled awkward moments of silence as the dinner went on. This was the last time many of us would be see one another at ‘people’. Six months from now I might be shooting at some of them in some dispute that the government may not want to directly acknowledge, contracted out by some agency or corporation. Space is a harsh place and we knew that. As we ate and the clock ticked away, we simply couldn’t hide from that fact any longer. The last of the dinner attendees departed that evening, and with a whimper … it ended.

We had become what all men should fear. Immortality was within reach for anyone with enough cash… but we were capsuleers… demigods to many. Our brains worked such that we could become one with our ship and our rapid uptake ability gave us an edge with the clone network latencies. In my ship… I can hear what normal men cannot in the vacuum of space. I can, with a thought choose to smell an xray emission… or hear, or taste, or see, or even feel it. I can switch my tactile sensor arrays to input gravity and magnetic field lines and drift through an asteroid belt, feeling the microgravity of each roid like a massage. Throw the ship to 568km/s and it feels like a good massage. Patch the gamma sensors into the olfactory array and I can sniff a star like a normal person smells a candle. For all the years I have roamed the stars, and despite all those extraordinary things I can do, nothing can replace her touch that day…

What wonders can my flesh hold for me now? I can feel my humanity slipping away every moment. I feel the autoloaders feeding projectile rounds into the autocannons… it has become more real than breathing once was. I can feel the rumble of the engines and the capacitor pulses… they feel more natural than my heart beat and pulse. when I find the occasion to leave my pod my human form feels less and less natural and more and more artificial. I pass through a comet’s tale transferring the shield resistance measurements into the tactile sensor arrays and it tickles…  and in the cold abyss of space I can hear the star 12 AUs away roar like a bonfire at 10 meters… and red dwarf stars x-ray emissions smell of burnt tar.

Four years ago I started command of a Caldari Navy Raven doing research in southern Tash Murkon on behalf of the Viziam Corp. One of the few times I actually took a full crew. It was unnerving to say the least. So many people… inside me… I was just an intercom to them, the occasional holographic projection… To me they were like fleas… It made me pine for the days of fast and small frigates I could command with just few people. Treigan Fox was my usual deck commander. We’ve worked together many times when doing work for Viziam, I was fond of him before he retired. He was an immortal, but lacked the brain structure necessary to handle being a capsuleer. Part of me thinks he valued his humanity more than us… perhaps wiser than us…

Most of the crew set up in Goram and I was back down to about three hundred crew members. Picked up a Loki system from a Minmatar friend from Rens. I let Treigan keep the CNR and bid him farewell with a 40 ISK bonus and another 4 ISK to split between the crew. I don’t like big ships, or big crews I found.

It took about two weeks to put together a crew for the Loki and being stuck in Goram... in my body… was awkward. Eating… something so natural to mortals… was growing harder to manage. The fork, the knife, cutting, stabbing, chewing… it felt unnatural. I am starting to understand why some capsuleers push their capsule times to their limits. I also understand why people don’t like us very much… So much lost of my humanity… what do they see when they look at me? Everything now about my body reveals me to be a capsuleer. Everything is artificial now when I move. I look like a machine pretending to be human. In those moments I flash back to that chapel... watching myself being recycled. Just how much of me died then?

We undocked and decided to fly past the ice belts. If you patch the visible light spectrum and mix it with the thermal sensors you can get one hell of a massage doing a fly-by. The place, littered with Mackinaws, was a common sight. I can smell their vented plasma, akin to cinnamon I suppose.Most I’d wager normally crewed. Wait, a cap-sig? And there she was…

I checked and double checked the pod-sig. Thousands of systems, decades gone by, and there she was. I slowed to about 20km/s and drifted past. There she was Ice mining. Not very glamorous work but the from the look of it, she was working for ORE directly. I comm’ed over to the deck commander for some small talk, playing the fool. Rather than the deck commander, she responded directly, a rarity these days. We just sat next to one another for a bit… our respective crews oblivious to our motivations. We didn’t speak all that much… we didn’t have to… In that moment we found that peace again. Perhaps we haven’t lost all our humanity just yet…

-- Oblivion’s Taunt -- Unknown Jovian Author

“Let memories untouched by the ravages of time sustain you. Yet woe to ye immortal, for time itself seeks to strip away the thin varnish of will that guards those memories. Do you hear your memories weep Capsuleer? Their silent cries are for thee!”