Biological Storage: One
Posted By: Dagorath<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 16 February 2006, 9:39 am
He awoke to the smell of roses, shifting in the breeze. He awoke to the bright morning sunshine streaming in. He awoke to the feel of his wife's body pressing tightly against his back.
John rolled out of bed, pushing the thin sheets out of the way. Cassandra rolled onto her back and opened her eyes sleepily. "Good morning," she slurred.
John smiled at her, before getting out of the bedroom. Despite the beautiful weather, he felt restless. He felt more alert, and the world felt, somehow, less real. The breeze streaming in felt artificial. The light flickering on the walls seemed almost as though it were generated by a computer.
At least that was how his son Jacob would describe it as. The boy was an absolute computer freak. His workstation filled half the room, he owned five GameGlobes and had even gotten a job with a game developer. At least his boundless enthusiasm for sprites and nodes and staring intently at a screen had some sort of use.
Whatever his son's way of describing would be, John agreed. There was something
different, about today. John was past sixty but he felt as alert as when he began his soldiering career.
Down in the kitchen, John fixed breakfast for himself and started without the others. There was something queer about the bread. The texture seemed to be too....vivid. "Vivid" was a word describing colours, but it fitted his feeling. Almost as though something that wasn't bread was trying to be bread.
He marched up the stairs again, having finished his sandwich, and started getting dressed. Cassandra had gotten up from bed. "Finished so quickly?" she asked.
John nodded absentmindedly and pulled on a polo shirt and pants. "I'm going out for a bit," he said.
She frowned a little, but let him have his way. "There's that reunion for the veterans of the War today," she reminded him.
"Yeah, yeah," John replied, and went down the stairs again. Slipping into his trainers, he pulled open the door and took a deep breath.
And gagged. Somehow, he had a strong feeling that whatever he inhaled wasn't air. But how was that possible? The wind was blowing in his face and he could feel it clearly. It couldn't be anything else.
People nodded pleasantly as John walked down the road. He decided to go for a light jog. Perhaps that way he could shake off the feeling of unreality that he felt.
John ran from his home all the way into the city centre, a full ten kilometers. He was barely breathing hard. John's army training had kept him fit his whole life, though of course he had a daily work-out on his gym equipment.
He walked around the shops a little. Looking in a tailor's store, he felt the fabric of the clothes on sale. There was some sort of artificiality still. Almost as though the touch were engineered, not real.
He had the same feeling when he bought a pastry at the baker's. The oily taste, the dusting of crumbs, everything felt odd, out of kilter.
The run back home didn't ease matters. Whatever it was, he couldn't shake off the feeling.
For the rest of the day, John stayed in the house, trying to interest himself in Maria's stamp collection or Jacob's GameGlobe games. It didn't work. Cassandra kept badgering him and his brain kept screaming "Fake" when he ate his lunch.
Time crawled on, but it passed at last. After five o'clock, John almost sprinted to his room to put on his suit and get out of the house. Jumping in the Ferrari, he swung out of the garage and screamed down the road, to the disapproving frowns of his wife.
Speeding into town, John stopped outside an expensive-looking hotel, with the huge sign "Hotel Zanzibar" in front. Ten years had past since the War, and all the damage had been repaired. The Hotel Zanzibar had once more consolidated its position as the top hotel in the city.
Continuing into the building, his eyes flicked over the sign in the lobby saying "Human-Covenant War Veterans' (Officers) Reunion" and stepped into the lift. It sped upwards and he adjusted his tie as it did.
Smiling, John stepped out of the lift a minute later and swept his eyes over the elegantly dressed men and women chatting together with glasses in their hands. Unobtrusive stewards slipped in and out of clumps of people, holding trays of drinks high above their heads. Many of the guests wore medals on their clothing; John kept it unobtrusive and just pinned his Captain's insignia on: a bar with several coloured stripes. It was enough.
Walking through the reception, he smiled politely and nodded at the people around him. Suddenly, John felt the instinctive premonition of danger behind him and twisted round, one leg snapping out in a kick. The enormous man in a tuxedo creeping up behind him took the brunt of its full force in his stomach and flew backwards. To the surprise of the guests, the man did a back flip in the air and landed on his feet, grinning.
John was grinning too. He ran at the man, his arms a blur of fists, which the other blocked and then returned to the assault with a flurry of chops and kicks.
Two seconds later, both stopped, looked around them, and laughed. The guests, those who didn't know them, looked rather startled, but some laughed uproariously. "Way to go, Chief!" they yelled.
John and the other man embraced. "Fred! Keeping well?"
Fred was rubbing at the huge mark on his white shirt where John's foot had slammed into it. "No, my wife will kill me when she sees this," he said ruefully, then grinned again. "She's even more dangerous than you!"
The two friends walked off, grabbing drinks on the way, to a small table, where the remaining Spartans sat. Will looked rather ill at ease, shifting around on his chair, but Linda seemed completely relaxed. Wearing an elegant dress that showed off her smooth skin and muscles, she looked like a model or an actress. Age didn't seem to have had much of an effect on her.
They sat down and talked for a while, as various officers and dignitaries walked past, greeting them. Linda and Fred chatted endlessly, seemingly completely at ease, but John could tell that Will was restless. He slid closer to the other Spartan.
"What's up, soldier?" he asked in a low voice.
"Do you sense something wrong?" Will asked.
"What do you mean?"
.odd." Will shook his head. "There's something wrong, I know it. Everything seems fake, artificial. It's like we're in a game or something, some kind of illusion" he waved his hands emphatically "I dunno!" He frowned. "Sir "
God in heaven
"You were always a joker," John said smiling.
"Never!" Will replied vehemently. "This is for real, John! There's something wrong, and we're going to have to fix it. Why do I have a feeling this is our true purpose in life?" His face was twisted in an expression of ugly determination.
"We were here for the Human-Covenant war," John said quietly. "And that's over. They disappeared. They're gone. We did what we had to do. For Earth. It's finished.
"Calm down, soldier," said John, but he could feel a tiny shake in his voice. Will had hit the nail right on the head. He took a deep breath and said, "This is the anniversary of their defeat, after all. Maybe you're just on edge."
"Sir " John shook his head once, and Will fell silent.
The rest of the reunion barely registered in John's memory. The unsettling feeling of unreality grew on him all evening: the food felt fake, the sounds seemed manufactured, even the people seemed artificial. And the sheer fact that Will felt the same made John feel even more worried. Lord Hood had passed away and Admiral Keyes and General Johnson had somehow disappeared off UNSC space. The reunion seemed intolerably bland.
He left as soon as was polite. Saying goodbye to his Spartans, he slipped quietly out of the hotel, into his Ferrari and drove off down the road. But Will's words echoed in his mind.
Everything seems fake, artificial
.some kind of illusion
And that terrible statement, which John wanted to deny so much. It was impossible, wasn't it? He had devoted all his energy and enthusiasm into winning the War, and he had nothing left.
Why do I have a feeling this is our true purpose in life?
John had a horrible thought: that Will was right. Why, God, why? John asked bitterly. There was, as usual, no answer.