Saturday, January 22, 2022

Extremus: Year 28

Ovan Teleres is the first candidate for Olindse’s little rehabilitation experiment. They decided to stop calling it reintegration, because it suggested an outcome that may never materialize. One day, she hopes to get her mentor, Halan Yenant out of hock, but she can’t go straight for him. She has to play the political game, and begin with someone who has already shown remorse for his actions. In a moment of weakness, he tried to take control of the ship. It was pretty bad, and violent, resulting in the deaths of two people. He has since expressed a desire to repent for his actions, and improve himself. Today was the initial interview for the process. Once the program gets up and running, Olindse will step back, and let Counselor Persephone Falk establish her own therapeutic methods. This is just to make sure Ovan understands what’s going to happen, and why. If his sessions go well, they’ll restart the process with the other two permanent prisoners, along with anyone who ends up being sent here.
“Any further questions?” Olindse asks.
“No, I’m—I feel grateful for this opportunity,” Ovan replies. “I’m ready to begin.”
“That’s good to hear,” Olindse says. “The two of us will coordinate...”
Persephone nods.
Olindse goes on, “and you will probably have your first private session in two days.”
“Not private,” Armelle Lyons says. Head of Security is a weird position here. A shift lasts for eight years, but the end of it does not spell the end of the crewmember’s service to the ship. Armelle worked security before she was selected to run the team, and after she was finished, she went back to being a regular security officer. She will continue on this way until she chooses to retire, which could be any day now. The people who created the shift schedule determined that security could be the most stressful work over the long term, and they didn’t want to force anyone to stick around if they weren’t into it anymore. They wouldn’t be very good at maintaining security if they were burned out or sick of it. You have to prove your stamina to be appointed the leader, but there is still a limit to this.
“Well, we’re still working out the kinks,” Olindse admits, “which is why we’re not starting right away. All patients have the right to privacy, Madam Lyons. We’ll figure out some way to keep you close by without letting you hear what is said in this room.”
Armelle growls.
“Anyway, if that’s it, then I guess we’re done here.” She stands up, and accepts Ovan’s handshake amidst Armelle’s protests. This won’t work without a level of trust, and a handshake is the least that they can offer the prisoners.
Once they leave the cell, Hock Watcher Giordana asks to keep her down here while Armelle escorts Persephone out.
“What is it?” Olindse asks.
“It’s Vatal. He’s asked to speak with you,” Caldr reveals.
“He can wait his turn,” she decides.
“He says it’s time sensitive.”
“It sounds like a trick already.”
“I’ll be right there with you,” he promises. “I’ll magnetize him to the far side.” Every prisoner wears advanced cuffs around their wrists. They serve a number of purposes. They can release a chemical sedative into the bloodstream, or deliver a debilitating electrical shock, or sequester them to a certain area. The latter is used all the time. Cell doors are kept closed and locked when not in use, but they’re not technically necessary. None of them can cross the threshold. A dimensional barrier would just force them back like an extremely powerful wall of wind. Of course, there is also an electromagnet inside the cuffs, which can bind them to one another, or against the back wall. Olindse insisted that this not be done with Ovan, but Dvronen is another story. He’s an incredibly dangerous and intelligent man who hates the ship, and everyone on it. At least Ovan isn’t an evil spy.
“Very well. I’ll give him five minutes, at most.”
They stand before the door. Caldr is wearing his own cuff, which controls all the others. He taps the commands into it, and they hear the familiar clink of metal against metal. Caldr opens the door.
“Is this necessary?” Dvronen asks. He looks so pathetic, trapped there with his hands behind his back. He’s always been so prim and proper; it must be excruciatingly embarrassing, being reduced to this.
“Quite,” Caldr answers.
“What do you want?” Olindse questions.
“Why, Vice Admiral, this is not a good start to your reintegration program.”
Rehabilitation,” she corrects.
“What did I say?”
“You have four minutes.”
“Is it safe to say that I am the most hated man on the ship?” Dvronen poses.
It’s his time, so if he wants to take the long way ‘round to go nowhere, then fine. “Sure, that sounds about right.”
“What if I told you that what Oaksent did when he took those genesis samples was actually all part of the plan?”
“I would say I know it was all part of the plan. It was his dirty plan. He clearly didn’t do it on a whim.”
Dvronen smirks. “No, I mean it was part of the ship’s mission.”
“The mission, according to who?” she questions.
“It’s whom.”
“Sorry,” she laughs. “I mean, the mission, according to who?”
He looks perturbed. “The Conceptualizers.” The Conceptualizers were a small group of people who originally wanted to leave Gatewood. They started formulating plans before Omega Parker even came to them with the idea for the Extremus ship. As their voices grew louder, their ranks grew too, and they eventually abandoned their collective term. Going by a specific name felt silly and juvenile. Most people didn’t refer to the people who framed the mission as Conceptualizers, but it was occasionally bandied around.
“They came up with the idea of attacking the ship, and trying to kill everyone on it?” That’s hard to believe.
“No, of course not. Their idea predates the Extremus concept. They wanted to seed life all throughout the Milky Way, and in order to compete with Earth, they wanted to do all this deep in the past. When Omega showed up with the new idea, everyone sort of fell in line. Well...not everyone.”
“Bronach Oaksent was not a Conceptualizer,” Olindse argues. “He was too young to have been involved in those discussions.”
Dvronen shakes his head. “He was, but his grandmother wasn’t. She used to let him sit in on their meetings. They talked about a number of different plans, and he was inspired.”
“It doesn’t matter that they talked about interfering with Earth’s Project Stargate, because they didn’t go through with it. They chose Extremus over it.”
“And like I was saying, not everyone agreed with that decision.”
“If that’s true, why did they involve Extremus at all? They could have built their own ship, and left us out of it. As I said, they attacked us, and they didn’t have to.”
“Do you know what’s in the Bridger section?” Dvronen goes on.
“Yeah, the Bridgers, and the samples that Oaksent left behind when he broke in.”
“There’s more. There’s a lot more down there. Maybe you wanna...find out for yourself?”
“I don’t have authorization. Neither do you. Neither did Oaksent.”
“Then you need to talk to someone who does.”
“The Captain is not going to go along with this. Nor should she.”
“You don’t need the Captain from the present day. You don’t even need a captain at all. Most admirals have—and will have—access to the Bridgers, because they will be former full captains. You’re a little different, since you were only interim.”
“Are you expecting me to go talk to a future admiral, or something?”
“There is another, and I don’t mean Yenant. Let’s not get him involved. There’s someone from the past who would be willing to help you. He never went down there, he doesn’t know the truth. But he could have, and he’ll still have authorization, because no one thinks to strip dead people of their access codes.”
“If I go down there and investigate, what are you getting out of it?” Olindse questions.
“I think...when you learn what’s really going on on this vessel, you’ll want to release me from hock. You’ll be on my side at that point.”
She laughs. “Wow, you really believe that, don’t you? Your five minutes were up a long time ago, by the way.”
“See? You’re already starting to like me. Otherwise, you would have been strict about that time limit.”
“Goodbye Dvronen. I’ll see you in a few weeks for the start of your rehabilitation.”
“Go down there, Admiral. Go see for yourself,” Dvronen says as Olindse and Caldr are stepping out of the cell.
Once the door is closed, Caldr tries to release the magnets. She places a hand over his cuff. “No. Leave him like that for a few hours.”
“That’s considered torture, ma’am. It’s against the law.”
Olindse gives him a terrifying look.
“I’ll...fudge the report.”
“That can wait. Meet me in the executive infirmary in thirty minutes.”

“You want me to do what?” Dr. Holmes asks.
“Erase our memories. Mine, his, and Dvronen Vatal’s.”
Dr. Holmes looks over to Caldr, who just lets out a grimace. He kind of understands why it is Olindse is asking for this. “Any particular memories, or do you just want me to take ‘em all?”  This isn’t something that she’s allowed to just do when requested. It’s technically feasible, but there’s this whole protocol.
“Vatal is trying to gain an advantage over me, and I need him to not remember that. I need to not remember it either, or maybe he gets the advantage anyway. The Hock Watcher here was just an innocent bystander.”
“Plus me,” Dr. Holmes adds.
“No, you don’t need to know anything about it,” Olindse reasons.
Dr. Holmes shakes her head. “Actually, I do. In order to delete the right memories, I need to know what they are. I mean, I could take the entire day, but then you’d be, like, what the hell happened to my entire day!” She’s not usually this volatile.
“So, no matter what, someone would have to recall the memories?” Caldr figures.
Dr. Holmes sighs. “No, I could delete the entire procedure from my own mind without risking reversion, since I know how to convince myself to ignore the inconsistencies. I’ve been trained for this. I just don’t know if I should in this case.”
“It’s about the Bridger section,” Olindse explains.
Dr. Holmes takes some time to respond. “What do you know?”
“Too much already. What do you know?”
“About as much.”
“It shouldn’t be very hard,” Olindse assumes, “not for me, nor for Caldr. Vatal is a different story. He deliberately withheld information from us to maintain leverage. We don’t know what else he knows about the Bridgers, but we would certainly love to take that from him too. You see why that’s important, ethical ramifications notwithstanding.”
The doctor folds her arms, and leans back to consider those ethics. There is no obvious answer to this. Getting rid of anything and everything Dvronen knows about the ship that he shouldn’t would surely be a boon for them, but erasing memories without consent lies in shaky territory. It’s not illegal to do on a post-conviction hock prisoner, but it’s not something she takes lightly either. She would feel a lot better about it if someone could order her. A Vice Admiral doesn’t have that power. “The brain doesn’t store memories like a computer does. You would have to walk me through each idea, and tell me what to extract. It’s not a pleasant experience. It’s not painful, but it can be awkward and uncomfortable.”
“I understand.”
“How would you do the same with Vatal?” Caldr asks.
“Him, I would brute force,” Dr. Holmes begins. “I can rip out ancillary memories, and not worry about him experiencing time discrepancies. He’ll know something’s wrong, but he has no legal recourse to gripe about it. We have to be more delicate with you two, because you might make a big stink about me performing a medical procedure on you that you don’t remember. It won’t work if you realize that you’re missing something, and then we could all be in trouble.”
“Do it,” Olindse agrees. She looks over to Caldr, who agrees too, knowing that it has to be this way. “Please.”
They start with Dvronen. That’s the great thing about no one else working in the hock section, it’s easy to be sneaky. Caldr goes next, and then Olindse. Dr. Holmes navigates from the general, and makes her way down to the specific. She removes the conversation with Dvronen, but not the one with Ovan. As far as Olindse’s concerned, she left after the interview, and didn’t do anything else of significance today. She didn’t burn a secret note to herself, or talk to the doctor, or go back down to the hock.
A year later, the secret note reverses entropy, and rematerializes on her desk.

No comments :

Post a Comment