The name I go by is Mossfoot, and I’m worried I might not be dead.
Actually I’m not dead. I know that. The fact I’m recording this is a bit of a giveaway, even if my old ship did blow up in a combat zone somewhere in Alliance space. I’m hazy on the details, because I wasn’t the one in charge at the time.
For a while I thought I was in the hereafter, only I quickly realized that if the hereafter consisted of a single room with unlimited books, then the Creator had a sick sense of humor.
It’s not that I don’t like to read, it’s just that an eternity in one room would be enough to drive anyone mental. The only way it could be more ironic would be if I needed glasses to read and I had accidentally stepped on my only pair.
Once I realized this had to be Violet’s private space, I breathed a sigh of relief.
Once I realized I couldn’t leave, I began to panic.
Before I go any further, let me point out that this place has no sense of night and day. It’s always a lovely spring day filtering through the window…all the goddamn time.
You ever hear about torture techniques? Keeping the light on full blast is one such tactic. Sleep deprivation. I never knew if it was night or day. It was always day. Always.
Of course, the same is kind of true in a spaceship, only it’s always night.
So, I tried everything to try and let Violet know that we’d swapped bodies and to please every so kindly give it back, but I never heard a word.
I knew this wasn’t intentional, wasn’t some grand scheme she’d cooked up to take over my body and live again, forever trapping me in some kind of digital purgatory. But as time went on I began to wonder, to doubt. I can’t help it, I’m paranoid, and with damn good reasons.
In the end, it didn’t matter. I was trapped here. I was never hungry or thirsty, and it turned out I never felt tired, either. And I had all the books I could ever want.
I decided to make the most of it.
I have no idea how much time passed. Weeks, months, more than a year? There was no way to tell. I can say I was here for four hundred and twelve books, though those varied in size from Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground to James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.
Okay, fine, from The Hobbit to Lord of the Rings. I may be literate, but even I admit those other books are boring as all hell.
Then, suddenly, the doors to the room swing open, I’m covered in light like some cheesy movie, and the next thing you know I’m looking up at white hospital lights with the mother of all hangovers. And believe me, I’ve had some experience to compare against.
Two nurses were attending me, and one noticed I was awake. She smiled, pressed a button attached to some IV drip, and I was out like a light again. For the first time in God-knows how long, I was asleep.
It felt strangely unnerving.
The next time I woke up I was alone in my room. The headache had gone from a painful roar to an annoying mewl. When I had my wits about me I sat up and swung my legs over the bed.
I looked around the room for her image to appear, but nothing. She was still out cold, I assumed. The pain in my skull told me that she’d found someone who could fix our little identity problem… either that or she went for the Gilligan’s Island approach and had someone drop a coconut on my head.
Getting to my feet I went to the bathroom to check myself in the mirror.
As soon as I walked in I jumped back out, thinking someone else was already in there. Stepping back inside I realized it had just been my reflection I’d seen. Except it wasn’t me at all.
“Who the hell are you?” I asked the mirror.
I was bald, though that didn’t surprise me, it’s not like I had much to work with after the scarring. But the scars were gone, all of them. I had a face again!
Only…only it wasn’t my face.
I looked this way and that, raised my chin, tilted, examining my new features. I looked…okay, I guess. I mean, it was a billion times better than the old pizza face look, but I was kinda…average now. Okay, a bit above average, but certainly not my old handsome self.
But at least I had a proper face now. That was something. Hell, it was more than something, it was fantastic!
Nobody had entered my room to check up on me, so I looked around to see if there was any food or clothes. I figured someone would come and explain things to me soon enough.
On a table was a baseball cap with the Pilot Federation’s Elite symbol on it, and a datapad with the words “Play Me” hand written on the screen.
I picked up the screen and tapped it. Violet appeared. Not me as Violet, but Violet herself. Before she died.
She smiled, but there was something off about it. “Hey there, flyboy. Don’t get excited, this is just a virtual recording I’m taking inside a VR unit. I figured it would be better if I talked to you this way instead of you looking at your old acid-wash face and seeing me work you like a puppet.
“So…if you’re watching this, and assuming you’re not drooling like a vegetable with someone holding this pad up for you, then I guess the operation was a success. Congrats. How you got here is a long story, but let’s just say I’ve taken steps to make sure you’re fully briefed. Check the journal entries, I did my best to keep track of what happened and how we got here.
“So, there’s good news and bad news to share with you. The good news is we figured out what was keeping you trapped in the library all this time.
“The bad news is, it was me. It was always me.
“I’m not the one to explain the details, but it happened when we ejected from the ship. It seemed that during RemLok, my neural net took over. Your brain was directed into my mind palace as a means to protect it, and I took over your body full time. The problem was, the effect was permanent. Incidentally, it’s also the reason reconstructive surgery never worked on you. I was interfering with the nanotech that helped keep your body alive, making it think that your deep fried raisin look was what it was supposed to ‘heal’ you back to. The worst part is, in time your brain was going to degrade in there, until you were nothing more than memories and background noise. And there was no way you were ever going to wake up with me still around, so…”
I didn’t like where this was going. I think she anticipated my reaction.
“Moss, listen. It’s okay. Nobody is making me do this. It’s my choice. I had a much longer life than I was ever supposed to have, and I’ve seen some amazing things. A universe far larger than I ever expected to see, or even knew existed. All that was all thanks to you. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t return the favor?”
Anger began to rise up inside of me. “Goddammit, you selfish little…”
Selfish? What sense did that even make? But it just came out, as if somehow the thought of her abandoning me was her easy way out. Wait, abandoning?
God I could be horrible sometimes.
Violet continued. “Before, when this all started, you were afraid to lose me because we were still on the run. You didn’t have many friends. No place to call home. No family you could count on anymore. You needed me. You were scared to death what would happen without me around.”
Of course she couldn’t hear me, I couldn’t help but say, “That’s not the only reason!”
Even to my ears the defense sounded weak.
“But that’s not where you are now. You’ve made friends out here, allies. Even if you have to start over you know you can do it again. You don’t need me anymore.”
I paused the recording and muttered, “It’s not about need.” And that much was true. Didn’t she understand? She was family. I loved her like a sister. Like a best friend. I loved her in that way that the whole damn universe seemed small and empty and pointless without someone like her to enjoy it with.
And I’d lost her. Again.
We live in an age of miracles, where having to accept things as they are is less and less acceptable. Where once we could only daydream of what we knew to be impossible, we know that if you travel far enough, are determined enough, and are crazy enough, anything might be possible.
We don’t have to take no for an answer.
Who out there wouldn’t make a deal with the devil if it would bring a loved one back? Who wouldn’t walk down into Hades and try to lure them to the living world with their music? Who wouldn’t ask a mad scientist to not just tread into God’s domain, but take an unmarked van to load up as much loot as possible in before high tailing it back to reality?
Long ago, I knew I was going to lose Violet, and did not take it well. I did what I had to in order to save her.
Today, she knew she was going to lose me, and she had done the same.
I pressed play. “Anyway, let’s get down to brass tacks. Your new life. One of the Order can fill you in on the details, but it was my idea to give you a new face. Sorry if you feel you traded down, but I thought it was important you don’t stand out too much. There’s always the chance that footage of you from before the accident will come up, along with your real name. As for your pseudonym…well, look under the hat if you haven’t already.”
I picked up the Elite cap and underneath was an Ident card. I looked at the name.
I snickered. One of the short forms of Maurice was Moss.
“The Order assured me that the wipe was thorough enough for the last year, along with a load of misdirection and red herrings in other ways, that only a slight alteration was required. I thought you’d appreciate the sentiment. Plus you got a backup in case you need to ditch the name for good. But I’m assured there are no less than ten thousand Maurice Foots in the bubble.”
“You’ve thought of everything,” I said.
“As usual, I’ve thought of everything,” she echoed. “So, really, all that’s left for you is to get into your ship and go. Once you’ve caught up on my journal you’ll realize just how lucky you are to have this chance. It could have turned out very differently.”
She paused a moment, looking for the right words to say. “I don’t want you to worry about me. Remember, I died a hundred and fifty years ago. The person talking to you now is just a simulation.”
“But still a person,” I corrected.
“I’m just getting switched off, that’s all. But I’ll still be around. We’ve been together too long for me to just disappear from your life. Any time you hear a bump in the ship you can’t account for, or think you saw someone leaving the room, that’s me, even if it is just an shadow.
“There’s a lot of things I’m going to miss, Moss. The thrill of a fight, the camaraderie of a packed bar, making a sweet deal or pulling a fast one on the authorities. Hell, I even developed a taste for exploration. But it would be a lie if I didn’t say I was going to miss you most.
Pilot: Mossfoot - Ship ID: Viaticus Rex (Cobra MKII)
Rank: Competent - Status: Clean