Part II of the story


And here’s Part Two…It’s a little long but I don’t trust LJ-Cuts just yet to simply make it all vanish after my post so I will experiment with not eating up your entire friend’s list later. Not that there should BE anyone other than me. I’m making swift progress. I’ve finally come up with a main storyline and things I want to happen. Ironically, now I’m trying to par BACK stuff, trying to find a balance between details. Too much detail and the story drags on…Too little and it takes away from what’s going on.

A white wisp of cloud completed it’s transit and delicious radiant fingers played across Rodderick’s bare chest, rousing him from his nap. A languid stretch greeted the Florida noonday sun. Roddy tapped his shades twice, rendering them transparent, then glanced left and right from his beach chair. Not a single person on Archipelago Beach. Must have gotten spooked by the UV forecast. Fantastic, Roddy thought with a chuckle. He did not bother to mask a yawn, then instantly regretted it as a sudden gust blew sand into his open mouth. Sputtering, Rodderick considered the oceanfront. The sea was a carpet of glittering emeralds, stretching in a verdant meadow through a maze of sand dunes for about half a K before meeting open ocean. He couldn’t help but note the appropriateness of the metaphor. Phytoplankton blooms, nourished by the buried, slowly eroding remnants of beach houses crammed with iron and other goodies, reclaimed by the merciless sea. Each isle was a gravemarker, a testament to poor planning and poor science. Still…It sure it pretty, Rodderick thought with a smile.

Another shadow eclipsed the sun. Rodderick looked up, and promptly lost his smile as a multicolored sphere streaked towards his head at breakneck speed. Rodderick could not avoid it and braced for impact. "Boomph!" The beachball was barely felt as it bounced off Roddy’s face, then hit the sand with a dull scuff. Roddy considered the ball, and  – movement from behind! Rodderick turned about in his chair…And saw no one there. With a shrug, Roddy turned back around, and gave a start as he found himself eye to eye with a young boy, no more than eight or nine years of age. Fair skin streaked with greasy white sunscreen, blue shorts starkly contrasting with the ivory sand. The child grinned from ear to ear and ran a sandy hand through red hair. "That’s my ball. You were sleeping…I’m sorry. Can I have my ball back?" Roddy put on a reassuring smile for the lad. "Don’t worry; you didn’t wake me." He tossed the ball back to the boy, who caught it with a faint frown. "Be off, now, I’m not up for games." The youth nodded and raced down the beach, kicking the ball ahead of him and startling a flock of gulls into taking wing. Rodderick felt the warm sun lulling him back to sleep and did not resist…

A cleared throat dragged him from the edge of slumber’s embrace. Irritated, Rodderick tapped his shades again, and found himself looking at the inverted image of a tall, strongly built man,  veritably crammed into an ill-fitting tux. The waiter’s grey eyes locked onto Roddy’s like a vise and Rodderick’s mouth felt strangely dry. "Your drink, sir." Roddy oriented himself and spun about, eagerly reaching for the amber glass. The server coughed, hardly discreetly, as he withdrew the drink tray to just out of reach and presented with his other hand a leather-bound, folding gen-scanner. Rodderick quirked an eyebrow at the waiter’s brusqueness, but let it go. No tip for him…Roddy decided, and sank into his thoughts. _____, ________, _____, _______ – _______…And a list of names scrolled across his sight. Roddy tapped his chin as if considering his options, and in a way he was doing just that. Abel…Lydia,…Casey Wellington. Yes. Security guard at Biosyn. Grade-A Asshole. Roddy’s hand felt moist, greasy, as his "upgrades" did their work. He reached down to place his hand on the scanner, but movement took his gaze to the side. The attendant was crouching beside him, watching his hand with…Eagerness? Hm…He is kind of big, Rodderick noted. Maybe I should tip him…Not like it’s MY credit. Smiling, Roddy’s hand continued for the pad.

Boomph! A beachball bounced off the back of his head, and ricochetted into the drink stationed on the serving tray in the waiter’s other hand. Ambrosial goodness hit the ground, and was instantly swallowed by the waiting sand. "_______, kid!" Roddy shouted, spinning in his chair. The young boy was right there in front of him, beachball already in arm. He considered Roddy, and flatly said "You were sleeping again. Sorry." The boy’s eyes flickered briefly to the man behind Rodderick, then met Roddy’s once again "What?!" Roddy began, then shook his head. The movement felt…Odd…Though. He felt like a cord was tied to the back of his head and it was resisting his movements. Frowning, Rodderick started to reach behind himself, but the waiter reached up and grabbed his wrist with a grip as strong…And as cold…As iron. Rodderick winced, but allowed the server to guide his hand back over the scanner. "Sir? Please…I have other patrons." Rodderick glanced left, then right. Unless he meant the seagulls and fiddler crabs, the beach remained empty. Roddy’s gaze fell back on the boy, who had crowded in close at some point. The young lad nervously scratched at his hand once, then nearly jumped out of his trunks as the waiter glared across at him. "Shouldn’t you be at school, son?!" the server rasped. Tears immediately played at the corners of the boy’s grey eyes, and he spared one last desperate glance at Rodderick before taking off down the beach, ball still in arm, once again sending screeching gulls to wing. Rodderick shook his head once again and pressed down on the scanner. A green thumbprint outlined in a double helix border faded into view, followed by a musical chime. The server leaned in, tensing, and for an instant it seemed as if he were going to pounce – but instead a toothy grin spread itself across his features. Toothy like a shark’s…Rodderick handed the scanner back to the waiter somewhat gingerly. The server snapped up the scanner with a scarred hand, set the tray on a table next to Roddy’s chair, and quickly stood. "A good eve to you, Mr. Wellington. Apologies for the inconvenience." With that, the man turned and stalked back up the beach. "Good eve? It’s noon!" Roddy called after him. No response. Rude…

Rodderick turned away from the man, reaching for the tray…And belatedly remembered the fate of his drink. "Ah…Buddy! I need another!" Roddy shouted as he turned once more. What’s-his-face was gone. "Damn it." Rodderick sighed, hoping the plankton had refined enough tastes to appreciate his loss, and looked down to consider his spilled drink. The glass sat in a patch of damp sand that shone through the entire gamut of spectral hues. "Wha..?" Roddy began as he reached down for the multihued sand, and found that he could not. The leash was there again. And it seemed to be pulling him back, rocking him in his chair slightly. Startled, Rodderick whipped around once more – and a shimmering azure thread hung there in the air. Materializing from Roddy about 10 centimeters away, hovering at about head height, and stretching across the beach in the direction the waiter went. A pang of fear…And curiosity…Went through Rodderick as he considered the mysterious sky-blue line. Gingerly, he reached a hand forward to touch the thread…And with a Boomph! a beachball slammed into the back of his head once again, with enough force to pitch him forwards and out of his chair. A child’s voice…A man’s…A hundred voices screamed in his head at once. "Wake Up!!"Roddy’s free hand snagged the string, which bent to his touch, and every nerve lit up in his body, as if he’d strummed his spinal cord like a fiddle. Gasping, Rodderick collapsed in a numb heap.

 

“Ah, NOW you’re awake,” a familiar voice put in as Rodderick proceeded to disentangle himself from the mess of a collapsed chair and overturned table. Roddy turned slowly, not quite believing his ears as footsteps hissed softly through the beach sand behind him. A scarred hand reached into Rodderick’s peripheral vision and plucked the beach ball from the ground, trailing golden…crimson…violet sand. Mouth agape, Rodderick considered Jeff- as he stood before him then, tuxedo replaced by a crisp, pressed blue buttondown. His darker, navy blue flak jacket with his metal badge remained in place…As were his blue slacks and polished black boots. His red hair was just as it was before, shaved close in a military fashion… It was him, all right. But somethow, all of it seemed…Off…Somehow. Besides the fact that he was here on a Florida beach with Roddy. For one, he wore a genuine smile, but one that did not carry to his eyes. There lurked an unmistakable sadness.

 

“Perhaps not so awake?” Jeff- grinned wider, feigned another toss with the ball, and Roddy flinched. “Yeah you’re up, if a tad too late. You flunked your trial. Tried to warn you…But I couldn’t give myself away so easily,” Jeff- finished with a shake of his head. And again, that bittersweet tone of voice, the disappointment in his eyes.”Bridger Jeff,” Rodderick said somewhat flatly as he started to stand and recapture his dignity. Roddy dusted clinging sand from his knees…And nearly fell back down again. “The street corner! I was…I heard Marlena’s thoughts after you…SPIKED THE MIST VENTS!!” Rodderick was standing before Jeff-, not even thinking about his instantaneous transit in the slightest. A balled fist sailed in towards Jeff-‘s nose, and in that brief instant, Rodderick felt the sun’s warmth on his shoulders, the sand under his feet shifting with his weight, tendons creaking as his nails digging into his palm, exposed teeth grinding with rage, eyelids widening as air currents played over every hair on his body and realizing he was cognizant of it all – and the tingling smack as Jeff- caught that fist with his right hand and held it firmly despite Roddy’s press. “Under the circumstances, I surely deserve that. Welcome it, in fact. But, as of now, it would only cause problems for both of us,” Jeff- said in a tone that sent a wave of sympathetic…Warmth?…through Rodderick’s fist and forearm. Rodderick hardly heard, for shock at his behavior caught up with him. He’d tried to…HIT someone! In anger! Roddy hadn’t done that since…His older brother stole his V.R. comic when he was 10?

 

“What’s happening to me?!” Rodderick pleaded, blue eyes demanding answers of Jeff-. Jeff-‘s gray eyes met Roddy’s and a chill pulse passed through Roddy’s hand, raising goosebumps on his arm. Roddy tried to pull away again but Jeff- would not let go. “You don’t really want to know, but I’ll tell you anyways,” Jeff- said, and looked to the left, carrying Rodderick’s gaze with his own. And there Rodderick saw himself. Laying on his back, unconscious and in a medical pod. His form was sheathed in a faint green glow, the light of a stable but serious condition, and a brain-sim hovered in place above his closed eyes. Roddy took a long, slow look around, noting the sterile, white lit ambulance’s environment. Racks of vials, sprays…Boxes of bandages and smart-gauze…An acoustic scalpel casually hung from a nearby wall, security cord gently swaying with the motions of the vehicle. A hypodermic needle sat far too close to Rodderick’s head for comfort. The label was blurred and try as he might, Rodderick couldn’t make it out. A pair of hands far too heavy to be his came into the scene then, on each side of his head, and Rodderick understood. He was looking through Jeff-‘s eyes at himself in real-time, in conventional reality. Noting his clothing remained in place, Rodderick considered himself, and without even trying, he perceived himself from a third-person perspective, standing to the side of his own stretcher.

 

Rodderick did his best to take all of this in stride, and to his credit, only a single shudder shook his form. Hugging his re-clothed elbows, Roddy stared down at his own unconscious, seemingly peacefully sleeping form. Briefly, the smell of rubbing alcohol ghosted through his nose and sinuses, but disappeared just as quickly. Visible-Jeff- was there, suddenly, leaning forwards, hand holding onto an object of pure void. He stood in the imperceptible space that exists outside of the 180 degree range of first-person view, yet clear as day to Rodderick’s senses.“Took a bit of time…But we have you, Dr. Mason,” Jeff-‘s flat baritone rang out from everywhere at once. “Rodderick Mason, you have been tried and found guilty of 47 counts of illegal gene-stripping and 237 counts of identity theft and financial fraud.” Visi-Jeff- spoke along, though his words made Rodderick’s nose tingle with the smell of…Lemon peel…Irony? He knew it was so, even as he asked himself. The real Jeff- proceeded to read him his rights and Visi-Jeff- continued to parrot his words. “Jeff…Jeff!” Rodderick snapped. Visi-Jeff- stopped, but the unseen one continued on, voice quieting somewhat. “Please. Call me Jeffrey. THAT. Is Jeff,” Jeffrey hissed with sudden venom, pointing a finger back to the visible scene. “Jeffrey’s scowl quickly gave way to a wry chuckle. “You’re meant to hear all of this as you are now, of course…Shook me up the first time, too.” “But I doubt I’m supposed to be talking to you…The real you,” Rodderick finished. Jeffrey smiled more and let go of his invisible stretcher. “We should talk,” Jeffrey stated, and idly waved a hand. The sound of Jeff-‘s voice slowed to a crawl, then died entirely. Jars and bottles stopped rattling, the security cord stopped swaying. Or rather, slowed to the point of imperceptibility, Rodderick realized.

 

“Nice trick,” Rodderick ventured, and meant it. “You learn quite a few such tricks when you’re locked up in your own head for long enough,” Jeffrey said with a neutral expression, though a wave of bitterness swept in from nowhere, sending pins and needles through Rodderick’s legs. “Tell me everything,” Roddy ordered. “Thirteen counts of industrial espionage, one count of treason,” Jeffrey replied. “I worked for Coretech Aerospace; I was…I AM an aerospace engineer. You’re up with the times…Ever hear rumors that the West has finally devised a way to break Asia’s Helium monopoly? “Rodderick nodded, “Mostly just whispers, but I’m not at all surprised we’ve something in the works…G.A.C’s set itself up like OPEC of old.” “It’s more than just whispers…A.X.I.S. A covertly designed program funded by both the North American and European unions to develop a series of unmanned drone vehicles…” Jeffrey fiddled with the zipper of his vest as he spoke, eyes downcast, brow furrowed. “The technology is…Interesting. Magnetic scoops designed to dredge the solar wind like a drift net for Helium-3. As long as G.A.C. maintains legitimate claim to Kaivalya and its surroundings, which continues to grow monthly, the West can’t get a toehold on the richest, most profitable fields on the lunar surface. Which means there’s no basis for going. Which means Asia can maintain it’s monopoly over fusion fuel.” “I assume reps from the Greater Asian Confederacy analyzed the situations of everyone they could find working on the project and found you potentially…Receptive,” Rodderick stated more than asked. Jeffrey nodded, “They’ve found their golden teat and they’re not letting go without…Not a fight; that’s just not the done thing these days. But leverage and counter-offers, well…” Jeffrey’s Still looking down, Jeffrey’s scowl deepened and his unoccupied hand clenched reflexively. The zipper did not budge. With an air of desperation, Jeffrey continued on. “Frankly, the problems with generating a field strong enough to selectively direct Helium and contain it in amounts enough to justify the expense while shielding the computer brain of the units were insurmountable. Sort of like trying to make a wooden rocketship. So, when they came to me with their offer, it was that or continue on a dead-end project that would stain my career forever once it was proven the tech was a dead-end.”. Rodderick could not let it go, not this guy, who was directly or indirectly responsible for his current predicament, who would presume to judge him thus. “I screwed over 46 people or so, and I get tried by the guy who was 800 million on his plate. And here I thought I was the bad guy…” Jeffrey’s smile tightened and he stopped tugging at the zipper. “Everybody has their price. Mine happened to be $1.59 billion and a new life in Kaivalya.” Jeffrey met Roddy’s eyes with a hard stare. “ And it’s 47. Jaemas is fine, by the way,” and a salty-smug tang swept across Rodderick’s tongue.

 

 

 

The two eyed each other coolly for a moment, determined nothing, and simultaneously turned back to the frozen image of Rodderick inside the medical pod. “When did you infect my implants?” Rodderick asked, hearing the defeat in his tone. “When I removed the I.R. inducers after the session…” Jeffrey held up his right hand and tapped the scar twice. Each tap made Rodderick;s head throb briefly. "Nanoreplicators," Roddy groaned. "Pico, actually," Jeffrey corrected. "Your skill in the nanotechnological field is well known." Rodderick considered for a bit. "So from what I understand, Psibond reconfigures neurons…In a way that enhances the mind but degrades bodily connections?" Jeffrey nodded. "Correct. Given the obvious value of the agent, however, the government worked hard on correcting the whole "instant death" problem of it. "Moderating the transformation with nano – pico-bots," Roddy corrected with emphasis, "and adjusting the freqencies implants function on…" Mind whirring through possibilities, Rodderick nodded to himself. "of course, if the cerebral connections are soley managed by picoreplicator-implant interaction…To remove them now would be…" "Death." Jeffrey finished for him. "Slow and infinitely painful death at that. You’re welcome for that feed, by the way." "Yeah, thanks for that!" Roddy said with acid sarcasm, gesturing to his prone form.

Calming himself once more, Rodderick turned back to Jeffrey. "Why did you scan my gen-code, Jeffrey? It wasn;t just for appearances, was it?" Jeffrey smiled at Roddy’s astuteness. "We had to be certain that it would not kill you. See, Psibond has absolutely no effect on baseline human beings other than enhancing the five macrosenses briefly, much like Mist. In fact, Psibond is nearly identical to Mist, save a tweaked covalent bond here and there. Cognition enhanced types like Jaemas and yourself…You get a temporary hit of personal sensory intensification, but all to soon the destroyed mind-body links catch up and systems fail body-wide. BUT…" Jeffrey’s smile faded. "There’s a fourth issue with Psibond. Rodderick, it also has a genetic factor."

Rodderick responded with open-mouthed silence. Jeffrey continued on, "No one’s really certain why, but the genetic tags representing compatibility are completely random…Age, race, sex…No discernable pattern whatsoever. I hate to tell you this, but your Privatization’s what got you in that pod. Had you no Prion-defense, I probably would have been instructed to discreetly collect a skin sample, then warn you in no uncertain terms to stop hijacking identities. Meanwhile, we’d have material to work on a clone…" Jeffrey paused as Rodderick’s brow furrowed. "Consider it bail. Frankly, compared to say, ME, you’re a rather small fish. But by the time we figured out it would not kill you, well…Let’s just say you’er far too far in to just walk out now," Jeffrey finished grimly. Rodderick began breathing faster. "It’s possible to crack a Privatized code with a basic sample! I, myself-" "Yes, YOU, YOURSELF," Jeffrey interrupted. "You’re too good at what you do Rodderick – even the lab rats in the government can’t crack a Privatized code without thousands of cells to scan, bit by bit before the prions shatter the genome to pieces. Jeffrey considered his own words for a moment, and his eyebrows rose, "Mmm…A talented cog that happens to be compatible with Psibond. Perhaps you’re not so small a fish after all…" Jeffrey frowned slightly, and Rodderick noticed for a brief instant, Jeff-‘s voice came back at full volume, then immediately faded once again.

Rodderick considered Jeffrey standing there before huim, and saw genuine empathy in his expression. Something passed between them and Jeffrey nodded, right hand began to shake. "You see it now, don’t you? Before Psibond completes it’s work, a second set of replicators manages the final stage of the transformation. The part that leaves the majority of this-" Jeffrey thumped himself on the chest, "the basline psyche, split from the rest. Not quite copied, not quite partitioned. But effectively split off. For all of my tricks, I can’t move my own fingers anymore. Jeff has total comtrol of my body , and I’m really just along for the ride. Of course, I shouldn’t be here in your head at all…But it seems I’ve a certain affinity for Psibond as well. Or perhaps something went wrong with the final replicator procedure," Jeffrey mused aloud, rubbing his shaking, scarred hand with a frown. "But why?" Rodderick had to ask, and then the answer came to him easily. "Rehabilitation…" "Correct," Jeffrey replied. "And you’ll be a redeemed, productive, free citizen once more after your…Release?" Rodderick asked. Jeffrey eyed him for a long moment and Rodderick felt an overpowering wave of grief, no mistaking it, emanating from Jeffrey. "You’re the cog, you tell me." Rodderick considered for a bit…Merged consciousnesses…He recalled the experiment he’d been working on for Biosyn. "No…You will be dead. What’s left is a merger of you and the new psyche. But not you. Not you at all…"

"Ah, the wonders of our age," Jeffrey said with forced levity, though his hands clenched at their sides, grey eyes misty with unshed tears. Rodderick broke out in a cold sweat as the picture finally crystallized in his vision. “This…Is my prison?!” Rodderick shouted at Jeffrey, at Jeff-, at his unconscious body. “Prison, gas chamber and rehab center. The idea is…Creative, isn’t it? Instead of rotting away in a cell, we smart, useful, dangerous types are put to work on…Community service projects.” Jeffrey tried to speak further, but covered his eyes with one hand, shaking with silent sobs, and tears pattered against the ambulance floor. maroon…Emerald…Ochre. "I can’t…I’m sorry…" Jeffrey whispered, and suddenly grabbed at his temples, wincing, as subjective time returned to normal.

EDIT: From now on I’m just editing the LJ-cut I’ve created just below…So as I continue, the story will be edited and redone from there, to save space and keep things neat.

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