Monday, April 12, 2010

My Private War, Part III

The following is the third part of an ill-conceived story arc chronicling Rolinthor's and the Applied Physics Institute's pathetic misadventures in the Derelik region. Read Part I here and II here, and check back soon(TM)* for the next episode (you know, if you're empire mining, and you're really, really bored).
Roland Prideaux is committing suicide in less than two minutes, and he's beginning to feel anxious.

It's not that he's lost his zest for life; far from it. Nonetheless he's still eager to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Roland is ashamed by these conflicting feelings. He's pure Gallente, the proud son of a society liberated from the backward ways of priests, princes, and tribal potentates. More important, he's a scientist and an empiricist, with degrees in psychology, infomorph psychology, quantum physics, cosmology, and countless other certificates attesting to the fact that he knows there's nothing sacred in the flesh, nothing that can't be represented as a series of ones and zeroes, and flung across the cosmos on quantum-entangled comm bands, and re-assembled in a new body.

Despite all the scholarly degrees, the lack of cultural baggage, despite his absolute scientific certitude that giving up this meat machine doesn't also mean giving up the ghost—despite all these things, he's still terrified by what's going to happen to him in, now, one minute and twenty minute and ten seconds...59 seconds...58...57...56

And yet these feelings of dread co-exist with his desperate need to get away from the Derelik region for awhile: The things he's just heard; he never expected it to go this deep; deep regression hypnotherapy; he wishes he had never uttered the words to Rolinthor. What was he thinking? Now, all he could think about was to escape, to hitch a ride on the Suicide Express and go somewhere else in New Eden. Thirty seconds remaining.

Roland Prideaux's lonely hydrostatic capsule coasts in geosynchronous orbit above the planet Gamis I. It's a small, nearly invisible moon set against the roiling blue/black background of the planet surface. Inside it, a timer counts down to zero, setting into motion a delicate dance of events lasting mere nanoseconds.

In the first nanosecond, hundreds of hypodermic needles originating from within Roland's wire-cap thrust through hair, skin, skull, and brain to disgorge a lethal neurotoxin throughout the cortex. That neurotoxin happens to be an ideal resolving fluid for use with three-dimensional transneural scanners like the one that has already been warming up since T-minus 10 seconds. Now, in the second nanosecond, the transneural scanner pulses an intense, multispectrum burst of electromagnetic radiation. That burst burns away axon, dendrite, and synapse beyond any hope of repair, but it also allows the transneural scanner to resolve a virtually perfect quantum-state snapshot of the brain. This three-dimensional brain map is then digitized and transmitted to a series of pre-programmed coordinates corresponding with the capsuleer's primary approved cloning facility, plus a number of failsafe facilities.

Intellectually, Roland knows that the chances of this process failing and his never waking up again are virtually nil. That doesn't mean he's not terrified as the counter reaches zero and he feels—


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