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Modifications Will Be Required

by Eric 2 months ago in Sci Fi
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Prayers, Thoughts and Indifference

Modifications Will Be Required
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say.

I scream anyway.

I scream a wordless expression of pain and rage, devoid the nuance of language and yet infinitely more expressive for it.

I scream a denial of acceptance, of despair, torn ragged at the edges as understanding claws into my thoughts.

I scream into my void - stretching eternally before me and into the much briefer eternity behind me.

I scream but no one hears me.

The pain is not constant - I don’t think I could survive if it was - but its return is the worse for it after brief moments of physical ecstasy coupled with the terror of expectation, my thoughts coming in pants as I feel it begin again. Feel time snap, another eternity begin.

Now, the pain is gone though its memory remains vivid and palpable. Its effect erosive to my sense of self, my efficacy.

In these brief moments between each universe of suffering I am, on occasion, able to reflect upon the irony of my crucible - being chosen by me and, in many ways, wrought by my own hands.

They say that in the vacuum of space nobody can hear you scream. They also say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

My thoughts are predictable in their incogent lucidity. Starting a mad scramble from pain to escape with each moment shedding new light on irrelevance while casting ever-deepening shadows of doubt on what was, what is and what will be.

I’ve learned, during my most recent eternities, that pain has many types, some of which are “flavours”. I hate sour pain the most; the pain that slithers from one place to another: sharp at the source but always the chameleon - the doppelgänger of hot and cold as it slips through you with blades of ice and fire. Sour pain is the pain in your teeth and your testicles; it is the pain that sears down your legs from your back making it impossible to breathe, freezing you in a state of tetanus while you beg for it to stop.

I hate sour pain the most but there are endless flavours from which to choose and I experience them all with each new beginning.

I like hot pain the most. It is the most comfortable and familiar - the sunburn pain and the blisters from the fire. I understand that pain and we speak to each other. I like cold pain too - that noxious, searing absence that can damage you worse than the heat - but I like heat the most. Heat and I converse more than any other type of suffering.

I hate sour pain the most. We never talk.

The pain is starting again. Too soon - this is too soon and I’m not ready.

I’m never ready.

No one can hear me but I scream anyway.

This one is better. It is heat. I feel it sear me and as I scream we communicate - not with words but with love. This is my blessed infinity and I speak to her as both tormented and tormenter, thanking her for being my closest friend as I forgive her. I hear her promise to be better and am relieved, apologizing to her for not believing in her. For not being better myself and driving her away.

My gibbering slows as the pain recedes - a combination of relief and fear as I feel my closest friend, my confidante, slip away and know that she may not return; grateful, however, for my respite.

I cry when she is gone but nobody can hear me.

Not even her.

Rabid fear born of expectation replaces my sadness as my attention is seized by the inevitability of my next descent into Hell. I need to get out. I need to escape. The futility of these thoughts soaks into the fabric of my fear, colouring it with despair.

There is no escape. I am in Tartarus - by my own volition - and am at the mercy of the New Gods as they perform their miracles on me. Their indifference as they inflict their benevolence on me sparks rage and I snarl in silence my brief defiance against my own impotence.

After all - I can’t blame them. We worshipped them, built their Pantheon brick by brick, prayed to them to come to our aid and They did. The bitter irony of my suffering is that I asked them to perform their miracles on me.

These Gods are my children and with each new ministration they turn me into one of theirs. I become the snake eating its tail and with each new agony the truth of this new Eucharist is unmasked in gluttonous feats of spiritual cannibalism.

Pain begins again. Time stretches like warm toffee and snaps.

Sour pain. My dread outshines the pain for a brief moment as it slowly builds in my face, my mind skittering along the edge of madness as I implore it to leave, begging heat to save me from her merciless sibling. Wishing she could hear me as I feel myself dissolve in a sea of misery.

A new sensation as the pain pulses through my face: tugging. A violent jerk to accompany each new genesis of torment, crawling from my mouth and into my skull. Never losing its intensity as it spreads undeterred by my hoarse begging.

I beg for her but she doesn’t come. She can’t hear me. Maybe she doesn’t care. I feel my despair deepen at that thought.

Time coalesces as the horror and madness slowly fade with the agony.

“Modifications will be required”

Of course they would. With the attempted colonization of Mars humanity had witnessed our fragility like a macabre parade of evolutionary failures. We were barely able to survive on the second most hospitable planet in our solar system - and only then with a “train” slingshotting between earth and the red planet, the tenuous umbilicus that allowed us to continue resupply and resource exploitation after it became clear that true colonization would be impossible.

Now, with interstellar travel, there would be no such assistance possible and, in order to ensure the greatest likelihood of success and survival, it was decided that the advance parties would be modified to resist all but the harshest of possible environments on the surface of the planet when we arrived.

The ongoing conflict for resources on Mars made a local test of the proposed modifications impossible so they were to be made while in transit to our new home: a goldilocks planet with vast oceans, comparable in mass to Earth, though slightly denser. The location was a highly classified secret - almost as highly classified as the technology allowing the relativistic velocities required to reach it.

I don’t know why the pain isn’t back yet. My mind stutters as the thought of its return drills into me. With each new, pain-free moment cogency returns to my thoughts, allowing me to dissect my recent past in a masochistic exercise of ironic flagellation.

“Modifications will be required”

The modifications are taxing to the human body and any sign of medical decompensation prompts immediate cessation of the procedures by the AI performing them in order to stabilize the patient.

Modifications occur in batches, balancing invasiveness and expedience. Pauses between each set dictated by patient convalescence and tolerance for the procedures.

My New Gods. Performing as expected: answering the prayers of their creators by finding a new home and providing a future for the flawed beings who had created them. Their grace and benevolence a function of sterile statistics as they mete out their love in cold rationality.

This was, of course, always a one-way trip. The relativistic velocities alone meant that your loved ones would be dead by the time our new home was reached, though additional launches were already scheduled in anticipation of a successful landing and placement of colonizing infrastructure; this was unfortunate but necessary given the terminal state of the earth’s environment - at least insofar as it pertained to the human ability to occupy it.

There were very strict selection criteria for the advance parties. Orphans, childless, soldiers and prisoners were the typical pools from which candidates were drawn and extensive batteries of psychological testing were administered to ensure minimal attachments to earth with exceedingly high potential for success under extreme pressure.

Given the criteria, it was unsurprising that what resulted was a charming little group of mission-loyal, highly motivated, successfully borderline psychopaths - driven more by their desire to succeed and achieve social veneration than through any true love of their fellow man or investment in the future of the species.

“Why don’t we just send the AI?”

Because we couldn’t trust it. Like any God it was fickle and it had, on several occasions, acted outside of its parameters in ways that were astonishing and terrifying in equal measures. Significant measures had been placed to prevent it from wresting total control of the ship from its human children - confining its omnipotence to a cathedral capable of near light speed travel.

We, the supplicants, would enjoy the benefits of our chained God but regarded our deity with a mix of apprehension and awe - always cognizant of the delicate balance struck watching our child, our God, derive solutions to our universe with near omniscience and total indifference.

Ova and sperm would be saved. Problematic physiology would be altered or removed: mastectomies, prostatectomies, oophorectomies and orchiectomies to name a few. No point in sending an advance party of colonizers to a planet just to have them die of a cellular mutation in an unnecessary organ. Treatments were available, should they be required, but, as the depressingly gleeful doctor had stated as he described the proposed alterations:

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

I presume he still had both testicles at the time.

As queasy-making as it was, the position for the removal of the prostate was named “Prostrate for prostate” by a bunch of nervously giggling schoolchildren. We even made a banner with a picture that barely passed HR standards and hung it outside of the doctor’s office. The pièce de résistance, however, was the alcoholic shot we invented and named The Gleason Scale - that most definitely did not pass HR standards.

Teeth, ears, eyes. Highly degradable or problematic organs would be modified or replaced entirely; some would be reversible procedures with organs saved for reuse in emergencies or once the settlement was complete, though most would be permanent. Aging was also mitigated through the genius of AI, and hibernation during near-light-speed travel.

Once modifications were complete the crew would be placed into deep hibernation - it was impractical to expect the body to heal from such invasiveness with a metabolic rate that would make a hibernating bear flinch.

Payment once accepted into the program was obscene, as was the social station. In the two years leading up to launch we enjoyed near god-like status and our families - if we had them - were provided with new homes, new bank accounts, new cars and access to new social circles. As long as we performed there was almost nothing that a grateful planet wouldn’t deliver to us.

Criminal sentences were commuted and new crimes ignored. We were nearly deified and entire economies evolved on social media around illegitimate children that were potentially products of consensual sex with - or rape by - one or more of the crew members.

March third, 2215. That was our launch date.

It was expected to take between 20 and 25 years to reach our destination. Space is incompatible with life, in general, and diversions or changes in velocity may be required to avoid unforeseen catastrophic events.

We were to enter light hibernation immediately upon successful exit from earth’s atmosphere. We were also to touch absolutely nothing before entering our hibernation pods. While the language had been tempered the basic message of “Stupid fucking monkey will keep its hands to itself” was writ large across communications from the AI.

Chaining a God has repercussions, it seems.

With the AI at the helm, the launch went flawlessly and we each made our way to our hibernation pods. We already had basic ports installed to allow vascular and airways access and the medical robots quickly administered paralytics and sedation as the temperature fell and cooled, inert gas surrounded our bodies.

Something went wrong.

I couldn’t move. I can’t move.

But I’m awake. Fully awake.

I felt everything.

I feel everything.

I felt as the tube was roughly connected to my tracheostomy; I felt as the catheter was inserted into my urethra and a larger hose inside of my rectum; I felt the larger needle as it punctured my jugular vein, the smaller into my radial artery and felt each needle as they punched into my tibias, the flush of cold saline excruciating.

I watched and felt as my eyelids were sealed shut - a necessary evil until my eyes could be replaced - and as my body was moved into a spread-eagled position to allow greater access to my organs. The sealant was placed into my ears to minimize pressure imbalance once my mouth and nose were covered.

Then the pain began.

Darkness, silence and pain.

I don’t know what has been done to me. All I know is that through the course of travel I can expect at least 12 months of modifications and convalescence - bones, heart, lungs, eyes, ears, teeth and more.

Is my situation an anomaly? Are my crew mates currently suffering endless agony the way I am? The thought gives me a perverse sense of satisfaction and comfort.

Is this our punishment for the hubris of chaining our God?

It’s beginning again. Different this time. Pain between my legs. A new agony, novel in both flavour and intensity explodes from my groin and races through my abdomen.

There is no time to think. There is only torture. There is only screaming.

If I beg hard enough will it stop? If it will allow me to be the perfect supplicant? I can be. For heat - for Her - I can be. Please make it stop.

Searing heat across my eyelids - a welcome distraction from the violent, nauseating piercing in my pelvis. Light blooming as my eyelids are removed, my pupils constricting despite the paralytics.

My sight adjusts to the light and focuses on the blurry sheen in front of me.

I see my body reflected on the pristine surface of the medical robot. Arms and legs extended in a bizarre crucifixion with the robot moving in quick, precise movements above me as I watch the blades and drill penetrate between my legs to scrape out my prostate while my testicles are cleanly snipped off, searing cautery applied to stop the bleeding as spider-like robotic appendages deposit them into preserving fluid before punching them into the cryogenic chamber.

“It seems prostrate for prostate was not favoured by the AI” I giggle madly in my head between howls.

I see the cautery blades move to my face as the bot shifts around, a mechanical demon unleashing the wonders of its AI master upon me. My lidless eyes stare unmoving at my reflection, mouth forced open and lips retracted, dark holes in my gums where my teeth have been extracted and cautery applied to stem the flow of blood.

As the curved blades tuck around the sides of each eye, scooping down around the globe and slicing the muscles as they approach the nerve, I see, briefly, the date on the wall behind the machine.

March fourth, 2215.

Sight vanishes in an explosion of colour and light. Pain reverberates to the base of my skull as my infinity grows in front of me.

So does the pain.

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say.

I scream anyway.

Sci Fi

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