P O S T H U M A N
Setting the Stage
It is the year 3070, and I am alive. Or rather, what is considered to be alive in the present day. I have left behind countless numbers of friends, peers, enemies. I left behind my career, my family, my life.
In the year 2058, an ultimatum was given to the citizens of Earth from an alien government calling themselves the Foltash. The terms were simple: we had one Earth year to surrender to their race, or be annihilated.
Mankind’s reaction was as predictable as any science fiction novel could describe: panic, infighting, immoral actions followed by immoral words. We were ruining ourselves faster than we were saving ourselves.
But, just like in those novels, there were private companies that wanted to preserve mankind, regardless of the decisions we made come judgement day. Highly classified, unique facilities were built deep within the core of our planet. It was here that we would encapsulate the best and brightest of our kind, in the hopes that once all was said and done, we would repopulate and rebuild. It reminded me of a luxury fallout shelter, only we were working against the universe and time, instead of nuclear warfare.
I was one of them. I had a wife, two kids. I had been a leading mind within CERN, specializing in fiber optics. I was getting on in years, cruising into my fifties easily, so I volunteered to be a resource and teacher for the classes we held for the next generation and young minds.
I received the call on a summer day. The woman on the line gave me the option of a new life, a fresh start: something millions of people clamour for, but only the select few could have. It was akin to winning the lottery, but the prize was becoming an ice block. I had a decision to make: remake mankind, or be enslaved or killed within the new one. I had my family, my friends, everything I had worked so hard for, and in a moment I had to either perish with it or try again.
My wife took it the hardest. She called me a traitor, a blasphemer. She said this wasn’t “God’s plan”, but I had never believed in God. I believed in science. The more she railed against me, the harder I became, and I regret it. The kids were young enough not to understand what was going on - that was a blessing. The last thing my wife did was throw my suitcase at me, and told me to rot in hell.
I was picked up in a black Mercedes Benz an hour later. The driver was an old Arab with a flinty stare, but it was almost welcome compared to my wife’s tirade. Maybe he was one of the unlucky ones. A thick tinted window sat between myself and the driver, so it was nice to be able to ponder all this in silence. I watched the French countryside fly by me in a stupor. I had no idea where I was going, or what awaited me. In some ways, I think, it was better that way.
I found myself parked in the front doors to a hospital when we arrived, and I had to laugh to myself. Where else would someone go to die and be reborn? I thought of my wife’s words again - this isn’t God’s plan. I remembered all the times we had sat in church listening to the priest talking about forgiveness and love. Then I thought about how many people the Church had persecuted. I still didn’t believe in God. Science was a stalwart companion.
I walked into the reception and told the woman behind the desk my name: Charles Northcott. She gave me a smile and told me to have a seat, the doctor would come get me when ready. There was stale coffee in an urn and styrofoam cups that made me want to cringe, so I had water instead. I didn’t know if I should have an empty stomach to be put under. Best to be on the safe side.
A small TV sat crooked in the corner, playing the local news network. The hot topic was, of course, the Foltash. Hysteria was slowly climbing. I watched as a middle-aged man interviewed a dignitary from the USA. They were confident mankind could work something out with this new race. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry - so confident in our ability to believe in something not yet tangible. Ah. My wife wouldn’t have liked that.
One Dr. Mutaph gathered me from the empty waiting room two hours later. His handshake was firm, but his eyes seemed insincere. I couldn’t place it. He led me down corridors and staircases, winding passed nurses and empty hospital beds until I lost count of them all. Eventually, we stopped before a hermetically sealed door, pressed against the back wall of a lunchroom. A card key was produced and swiped, and it opened to let us pass through, sealing itself behind us with a soft hiss.
I had considered CERN to be an impressive facility, but this was beyond any scientist’s wildest dreams. Incomprehensible machines lay in uniform rows down the length of this cavern of a laboratory. I could smell sulfur and chlorine, and I vaguely wondered what either had to do with cryostasis. Dr. Mutaph led me around the winding maze of scientists and their stations, and I began to notice more civilians than not, and I surmised they were also recruits for the new world. I had an itch as we passed several enormous glass vaults, each containing two people inside. I didn’t make eye contact, and I had a feeling I didn’t want to know where they were destined to be in this labyrinth.
The doctor stopped before a large, capsule-shaped bed and smiled at me warmly as he handed me a pamphlet, telling me he would be right back. He took my suitcase with him, and gave me a key in turn - for the locker my things would be in when I woke up. As he walked away, I leaned against the bed, flipping over the pamphlet to read the outline on the procedures. I would be hooked up to an IV and fed small doses of liquid nitrogen, to begin the cooling process. It said that while this was a potentially fatal procedure, every effort would be made to avoid this. I was no expert in this field, but I remember thinking there had to have been more to it than just a drip of nitrogen. Sometimes, I wish I had asked more questions about everything before I went under. Maybe things would have been different. But, I digress.
A small section near the end that said the doctors responsible for me would ensure my optimal care and a comfortable rest before I was to awake again, whenever that might happen. Dr. Mutaph arrived just as I put the literature down, that same smile on his face as he asked me if I was ready. I said yes, though I wasn’t quite sure for what. He had me change into simple clothes - I chose a black shirt, khaki slacks, and loafers. Mutaph made a joke about not seeing while sleeping as he took my glasses, but assured me they would be on my nightstand when I woke. As I changed, I heard him absently mention maybe not even needing them, but I didn’t understand and I was too caught up with the pamphlet information to say that cryostasis wasn’t a health changing procedure, just a life changing one.
As I slid myself into the capsule, I noticed large orange numbers stenciled across the front of my bed. 507. Dr. Mutaph noticed and told me it helped the staff keep track of everyone in the facility. I nodded, as if this was an everyday thing. Where had my voice gone? The doctor told me to relax as a nurse came to my side with an IV. He re-explained what the pamphlet said, and then the nurse began. I remember my vision going very hazy as several nurses were suddenly by my side. And then it went black.
I remember awakening once before it was my time. I make out frantic voices, slurred in my grogginess. I felt something hot on my arms, but I didn’t have the strength to turn my head. I felt heavy, and I recall thinking it was an odd place to be having a bath. Someone leaned over me with a warm smile, and I recognized Doctor Mutaph. He assured me everything was alright, they were just doing a routine check-up on my vitals. I must have nodded, because he patted my shoulder and disappeared. There was a sudden pinch in my neck, and my vision faded once more.
It is now the year 3070. When I awoke, there was a greeting party waiting for me outside my capsule. Doctor Mutaph was there, as well as several smiling nurses. He welcomed me back, and urged me to take my time getting up. Two nurses came forward and helped me move my stiff joints. When I was upright, I rolled my shoulders to shake the rigid feeling from them. That was when I first noticed something was off. There was metal and slow-blinking lights beneath my skin.
I looked up at Mutaph, whose face hadn’t changed since I went under - his eyes had, though. They had been brown when I first met him, now they were a light olive green. He explained to me that my cryostasis had been interrupted by a hiccup in 2870. To ensure I lived, they had changed out several of my limbs and organs to computer-based technology. I had retained the mind of a fifty-two year old scientist, but was now living in a body that was over a thousand years old, and could run eternally. What had I become?
Everything was a blur after that. They returned my belongings to me, but advised that I would most likely want to upgrade to the newest trends once I was acclimated to the current Earth’s fashion. That tidbit of information gave me some faint hope: Earth still had a fashion, so it couldn’t be too bad. Maybe we really did manage to scare the Foltash off.
I wasn’t told anything about what had happened since I had been frozen. They had me do rigorous health and mental tests, ensuring I was still in ‘optimal condition’, as one nurse called it absently. When the lead doctor caught the look on my face, he hurriedly mentioned that this was just casual lingo between the staff, and apologized for the worry. I wasn’t worried, though. I was confused. On day five, I was finally sat down, along with a few other people that had awoken, and we were given the full rundown of what had happened since our artificial sleep.
The major governing bodies of Earth had, to my incredulous surprise, come together to have a meeting on what to do about the Foltash. According to these people, there was a bloody war that somehow ended in a stalemate.
With all the advances that these aliens had, a stalemate? I wasn’t the only one who questioned it. A woman named Sudi asked quite bluntly how the fuck had mankind come even remotely close to a stalemate, when we were so obviously out-manned and out-gunned. The reply we got was that we had prepared well enough to hold our ground, though the casualty count was outrageous. Sudi didn’t seem happy with the answer, and neither was I. But I was not sure where I stood in the world for the moment, so I kept my counsel to myself.
The surface was now populated by both aliens and humans, as well as cyborgs and androids. Interstellar breeding, as the staff called it, was not uncommon. There was, in fact, a singular ruling government body now, called the Conclave of the People, or the COP. That got a few dry laughs from the room. The COP were the ones who made the big decisions, manned by both aliens and humans, were located on Earth, specifically in Antarctica.
Something felt entirely off-key throughout the discussion. Sudi raised her hand, eyes narrowed as she asked if the COP knew about this facility, and the others similar to it. The big wigs hemmed and hawed, but in the end the answer was no, they were not aware. Of course everyone wanted to know why, and to my surprise once more, Doctor Mutaph rose. He stated that they were being cautious, as they weren’t sure what the COP would do if they found unregistered humans locked away from civilization.
Unregistered? Was the general outcry, and Mutaph backpedaled, saying it was similar to having a citizen count for a standalone country. Nothing out of the ordinary.
The debriefing concluded with us being advised that we would be called upon individually in the days to come, to nail down the next course of action. I spent the majority of my time in my room regardless, so I decided to wait out my fate once dismissed. I went two days with peace and quiet. On the third night, a knock on my door around midnight presented to me Sudi, who looked as if she had just run a marathon. She let herself in quickly, shutting and locking the door behind her, before dropping onto my couch without so much as a greeting.
Sudi had done some digging. The debriefing had felt rehearsed, according to her. Too composed, too ready. So, she had sneaked into a few computers and downloaded information on patients in our facility, including myself. At first, she had found what would be considered normal data: date of birth, health and dental records, allergies, et cetera. She also found what changes had occured with me - the ones Mutaph had said were ‘precautionary methods’ because I had been accidentally woken up in 2870.
They weren’t precautionary, by any means. It was planned. They had planned to make me into a bionic. And I wasn’t the only one - Sudi had been changed too, as well as the others in our group.
I kicked myself for not seeing the tiny pulsing lights in her shoulders until that moment, and it got worse the longer Sudi spoke. These additions came with things like ‘better reflexes’, and ‘extended life expectancy’, as well ‘ability to breathe underwater for an hour’, ‘retrained eyesight for sniper work’, as well as ‘heightening of the five senses’, ‘nanomeds installed in the bloodstream’, and the highly ominous ‘repairs to organs feasible’.
When Sudi finished her rundown, I asked her why she had come to me first. She merely shrugged and told me it was because I had seemed the most critical towards the information relayed to us, that I probably wanted to know where we truly stood in the world. I mulled her words over for a moment, then asked her what she thought of the COP. She said it was a crock of shit - there was no way mankind just magically created a truce with a very-clearly superior race, and suddenly we were all, buddy-buddy and making world peace a priority. The ‘registration’ of humans had tipped her off. The fact that the Conclave didn’t know we were here was another. I didn’t disagree with Sudi, and suddenly, I wanted to be as far away from this place as possible.
Sudi told me that we would begin training in a few days, where we would be in gun ranges, large gyms, and electricity machines. All of them made my bones cringe. I was old, too old. If they were going to try and train me to be a killer, I was a goner. The look on my face must have tipped Sudi off, as she reminded me that I may have the visage of an old man, but I was much younger and newer on the inside. In the end, we decided to go through with it all, perhaps it would be useful in the long run.
I wish we hadn't been so right.
There had been four of us, astutely labeled as the ‘B’ team. They threw everything at us: martial arts, lock picking, wilderness survival, hacking, and how to wield a variety of weapons. Countless techniques and styles were given to us with almost impossible deadlines to master. History, biochemical engineering, open heart surgery - never in my wildest dreams would I imagine myself here. And yet, here is exactly where I was.
It felt like a game. There were two other teams, ‘A’ and ‘C’, respectively. Our mentors pit us against one another, observing how we reacted under pressure in team activities, as well as one-on-ones. I began to notice more and more often that there was a nurse or doctor watching us furtively from some corner of the room, or through a window pane. It made me uneasy, and when I mentioned it to Sudi, she said she had noticed too. She murmured that she had started sleeping with a knife under her pillow the last few days after seeing a nurse trying to break into her room. I took a leaf from her book and started doing the same.
It was a month or so later, just before I was going to bed. A note slid beneath my door, unsigned. I didn’t recognize the handwriting - I knew most of my team by now, as well as my opposers. It was scrawled in delicate penmanship:
4th floor. Laundry. Bring concealer. Truth will out.
I was at a loss. Who would be there? Why were they reaching out to me, and to what end? I contemplated going to bed and ignoring it when a quick rap on my door revealed Sudi, who had a similar paper in her hand. She saw mine and nodded, as if it all made sense. I wish I had that kind of understanding.
Sudi asked if I was going, and I paused. Didn’t it seem strange to receive this, after all we had been through? What if it was a ploy to weed out insubordinates?
Sudi was the brave kind of people you find during floods and famine - leap in, do what needs to get done, and get out. She had brought a knife with her, her ‘concealer’, and a spare for me should I choose to go. I hesitated, but something about the way Sudi held it out made me want to run to her. I agreed to go with her, so we left, right then and there. We met no one on our way up, which made me even more suspicious. There was always a patrol of some kind in the corridors. Who was responsible for all this? I wanted answers.
When we arrive in the laundry room, a sticky note is stuck to the side of one of the dryers. Sudi got to it first.
The square behind.
We turn around simultaneously to see a large, square vent nestled behind a double stacked washing machine. To the passing eye, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. However, when we looked closer, the screws were already loosened for us, and a small note written in chalk marker was just inside the lip.
Sudi nearly dived into it, and I debated for all of thirty seconds before following behind, ensuring the venting grate was reattached and rubbing out the message on my way in. We followed the venting for what felt like hours, sweat pouring down us. We didn’t dare speak to one another - we had no idea if anyone could hear us moving, and we had no intention of finding out what happens if we get caught.
When sunlight started to filter through the end of the tunnel, we hurried onward, eager to be free of our confines. We breached the gate in no time, and pulled ourselves out into a semi-wooded clearing, the sunlight blinding us. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen the sun. But here we were. Free.
But from what?
The reset, as they say, is history. A fellow named Dirge was waiting for us, just inside the tree line. Sudi nearly stabbed in surprise, before he explained that everything we had been told were, in fact, lies. The grand scheme of this cryo-project was far bigger than we had ever imagined.
Dirge took us to his underground dwelling, where the resistance against the government and the corporations - like the one we had been held in - congregated. Dirge said they called themselves the Rebirth Renegades. We were greeted by their leads: Trey, their IT; Ace, their communications officer; and Val, their strike commander. They gave us the option of joining this resistance. Sudi, of course, joined right away. In a way, it felt right to join them. I had been betrayed, lost everything and everyone I had known. I had become an engineered pawn, to be pushed into a war with the hopes that I would make a difference.
And you know what? That was alright.
I signed on.
We received new identities, outfits, quarters - the works. My anger rose to the surface as I reinvented myself in this new, foreign world. It was almost a relief to feel something other than confusion. I was tired of being told where to go with no direction or goal. I did not wish to be a puppet any longer.
My long-dead wife’s words resurfaced again: This is not God’s plan. It surely was not. I have never been a believer in gods or deities. I believed in science. So, when Dirge asked me what I wanted to go by, I told them the Preacher. Charles Northcott was on ice.
We would move on the Conclave, and the ones who would corrupt the human purpose of living. There would be a fight to right the unbalance made nearly a thousand years ago. This was not God’s plan, however. No, this was my plan.
Alleluya, you are dismissed. Amen.