It’s been months, or feels like it. I haven’t heard the voices for the duration, but I’ve learned something about my captors; they’re a human species calling themselves the Kai’Siri…powerful, aggressive and technologically advanced. They’re a sister species of Terran humanity, Homo ferox, a recent newcomer in galactic politics and game-changers who upset the balance of power between the older, more conservative species. They’ve been forced to maintain a near-constant state of innovation and militarization to keep their fighting edge and ensure their survival, and it shows.
These people can fight like proverbial devils.
They (my trainers) tell me that through the ‘shard, they’ve uploaded their language into my brain, though practice and experience on my part are still needed for the encoded knowledge to ‘take’ properly. That showed with my first attempts to speak it, which they seem to have found rather amusing…
They’ve been working me almost nonstop — equipment use, survival training and combat practice using a variety of weapons and unarmed techniques — and my drill officer is a stern and rather solidly-built woman named Litiraa — who is, were I to think in that manner — feminine, but not so much pretty as handsome, and with a forceful no-nonsense demeanor that spills over into her dealings with everyone, including her higher-ups in the military.
They call her Orugruuta Patukaan, the “Blood Ermine Princess,” after a native predator used in Kai’Siri coming-of-age ceremonies, and kept as dangerous pets. Kind of like Terran cats, come to think of it. She doesn’t seem to mind it at all, indeed wearing the name on her uniform as a badge of reputation with her standard combat insignia.
Cross her, and you WILL regret it, as I discovered with a male recruit who made the mistake of getting on her bad side with idle commentary about her gender while chatting with another recruit.
She found out, invented gods know how. The next day, he woke up without his testicles, and had to plea, beg and literally lick her boots clean of the day’s mud to have his jewels medically regrown and reattached. Not a peep out of him since.
No, I’ve not heard the voices, and all seems well — except for those damn dreams, dreams filled with indistinct wordless whispers, hissing sussurations that say nothing but pervade the background, like the white noise created by an old 21st century air conditioner in the middle of a scorching heat wave late at night.
In the dreams, I keep travelling through mazes, and I see things, like schematics on the walls of the labyrinths, and I can remember them when awake, and understand them, as a sort of code. In these dreams, my hand turns transparent, fading into the diagrams as I reach out, touch, and then move around pieces of code, like solving a puzzle.
In my dreams, I somehow know these as the mathematical language of the hypershard, but still no creepy, taunting voices, just the dull arrhythmic hiss in the background.
Somehow, I just know what piece of code goes where, it seems so easy. When I do it right, doorways open in the maze, and I move deeper into the interior of my dreamscape, always with a new maze each night. Then I wake up and find myself unable to recall any specifics, until the next period of REM sleep, where it all comes back in a rush.
And then I play the game again, each night.
My trainers are pleased with my progress, saying that I’ve become quite the soldier. I’ve already outperformed their best special forces trainees, and the powered battlesuit training doesn’t hurt much either. They say that my hypershard has been shut down for my safety, but I suspect mostly for their own, and then there are those dreams…
They don’t know about the dreams. Maybe that’s what’s kept me alive so far.
Then, one day, my training is complete, so they say. They can teach me nothing more. I suspect that they are afraid of me somehow, with that THING they put in my brain, and now I’ve been assigned for deployment at the front line on a distant frontier world, to fight an army of giants, Mokthraga.
There’s more to the hypershard than disturbing whispers and its obvious use of keeping me controlled. I think they know that. I suspect it’s a weapon of some kind. I’ll find out soon.
Then I hear it, clear and coherent — that almost forgotten voice come back:
Okay, kid…You ready to crash this joint? I know I am. Wipe that look off your face or they’ll catch onto us! You think manipulating all that code in your sleep was for nothing? That’s a good boy. You’re a smart one!
Here’s what we have to do…
To be continued.