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Hermes Trismegistus, Chapter 15
Posted By: Tursas<tursas@shaw.ca>
Date: 07 November 2001, 4:45 am

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In the dark Bob felt no pain. There was no burning now; the fire in his belly had long since dwindled. No coolness of the wind could be felt tingling on his skin.
     What time was it? Bob moved his wrist in front of his face to ascertain the time from his SpecOps watch. There were no glowing clock hands in the dark. He couldn't make out his arm either. He moved his other hand to touch the first, just to make sure it was still there; he had heard stories about limbs being taken off and the feeling in them remaining. He could feel his left hand in his right, but could see neither of them. It was as pitch black as it ever had been. What had he been doing five minutes ago? It was a bit of a stretch for his mind.
     The voice had no direction. That is, it wasn't coming from anywhere in particular.
     "What?" His voice sounded like that of a child.
     "We've been watching you."
     Bob became very scared, very quickly. The depth of the voice betrayed an infinite knowledge of everything. It was like listening to God.
     "I don't believe in you."
     "Believe in what, Reginald?"
     "Don't call me Reginald. It's unprofessional."
     "It's your name, isn't it?"
     "Well yes. But it's not my professional name."
     "We know."
     Bob was feeling very uneasy now.
     "Do you remember that last time you were able to see anything?"
     Bob thought.
     "Does this refresh your memory?"
     Bob saw himself disjointedly floating in air.
     "No." He still couldn't see his hand in front of his face.
     The view flipped around. Something gray was moving very quickly past the floating figure.
     "Is he flying?"
     "Falling would be a more appropriate word."
     Bob looked down. A very large and very flat surface was looming ever closer. The body looked like it was waking up. It's eyes opened. It's body twisted around to look in the direction of its fall. Bob heard something very faint enter his ears; a string of swear words. The body continued falling.
     Something clicked in his mind. "That's one of my clones, isn't it?"
     The body continued falling. Bob looked down again. The plane was very much closer now than it had been a second ago. The eyes of the clone widened ever so much more. It hit the ground. Bob was right beside it when it did. However, there were two things that he missed. First, he didn't feel any deceleration of any sort when he came to a stop beside the landing zone, and second, he didn't feel anything when a large rock shattered into several pieces and flew right through him.
     "Wow. That was messy."
     "Did you feel anything when that happened?"
     "No. Should I have?"
     "He's obviously not going to remember right away, is he dear?"
     "Remember what?"
     "Don't worry Linda. He was always faster than anybody ever thought he was."
     "Linda? That's my mothers name."
     "Frank, he's dead. He doesn't have the brain power to be faster anymore."
     "This is some trip. Did you guys come from New Jersey?"
     "Reginald, listen. We both want you to think very hard about the last time you felt that anything was going wrong."
     "Could you be a little more specific?"
     "What was the last time you saw something familiar?"
     "That body flying through the air was familiar."
     "This isn't working. Bob..."
     "My real name, good."
     "... do you remember this?"
     The view warped suddenly to a small cave. Bob could see another one of his clones picking at a yellow piece of something. There was another humanoid in the cave, looking at the clone intently. Suddenly, the humanoid clubbed the clone over the back of the head with a well-aimed fist.
     "Ow! That hurt." Bob rubbed the back of his head.
     "Is it coming back?"
     The other humanoid dragged the clone out of the cave and threw it with nothing so much as a shrug over the side of a cliff.
     "Do you remember now?"
     It took a moment.
     "Am I..." Bob held his breath and pushed.
     "I'M DEAD, AREN'T I?!?"
     "Yes you are."
     Bob was again looking at the underground recycling plant. Every once in a while he could see a body rise in a pool of hard-to-explain purple goop and float on the surface, arms and legs hardened into place by rigor mortis.
     "Do you like that one?"
     "Am I to choose a body?"
     "Yes. We would like that very much."
     "Who are you, really? There's no point in lying about being my spirit."
     "Do you really want to know?"
     "We are the undead." Bob felt a great wave of mixed revulsion, bewilderment and relief wash over him, but was not sure which of these emotions he should feel. His vision changed from the vat to the ring floating in space. "For the past million or so years we watched as the maker of this ring attempt to harmonize space, time and the void. About ten thousand years ago he was deposed and a new, very brutish personality construct took his place. The goals of both of these computers was to learn the secrets of the Multiverse; to become gods by surpassing the limits of the End of Time and Matter." The scene changed to a sweeping view of the inverted mountain surrounded by the sea of sand and the lake of water beneath it. He could see the individual forms of shock troops, the others in his most recent dream, running about on its surface. "We died and came to life as the unliving in the outer realm; able to see, able to feel ourselves, but unable to act or communicate normally in the world of the living. That is, until you came along."
     "What makes me so different?"
     "You were never truly attached to the body you were born in as we were. Quite frequently, others before you were able to communicate with us as you do now because parts of their 'spiritual' selves were not confined to a physical form, but rarely have any of us been able to reenter a body. This is because each of us was tailor made to specifications set out by the genetic codes of our forms. When our bodies grew, we grew as well. When our bodies died, we were left stranded without a form suited to ourselves."
     "So I can be resurrected and you can't?"
     "That's correct. You can steal a body reasonably similar to the ones you have already inhabited. But, whereas we are spirits, none of your clones are."
     "I have one question before we go on."
     "What is that?"
     "You say that none of my clones are like us?"
     "Then where did they come from? Where do all of us come from?"
     "We don't know. Whenever a new organism is created naturally, a new 'spirit' is created with it. Your clones were not grown from fetuses in the womb, so they have no spirits, only shells. We really don't know where we come from, or how they are truly animated without a spiritual core, but we do know where we can go."
     "Where's that?"
     "Into slavery."
     "The construct by whom you were stolen from your home world wishes to invade ours. We have watched him plan, research and execute thus far without hope of fighting back. For him to succeed in his design would mean the end of freedom in death as we know it. He will find a way to transcend his physical limits and enslave us all eventually."
     "What do I have to do with all this?"
     "In you we have found our weapon."
     "How do you want me to help you?"
     "We need for you to take a message to the leader of the humans on the Halo."
     "That's it?"
     The view had changed back to that of one of Bob's clones lying asleep in the boughs of a very large tree. Bob looked at himself, motionless in the tree, lifeless and inanimate as his former bodies now were. In his hand was held firmly the handle of a UMP. Bob reached out with an unseen hand to touch that of his counterpart. His hand fell through the weapon as though it were being passed through air. The reasons for this were probably very scientific and factual, but he had only been dead once before and the explanations might not be forthcoming. What was the probability that he was being tricked again by the voice? "Do not think that you can have this body, however. You cannot take the same form that you originally had."
     "How do I know you aren't just the voice trying to trick me?"
     "Seth does not yet understand the entire power of the Multiverse. We are not he because, as of the time of your death, he could only communicate with you via the machines in a body. He is still learning, but an end will come to that period sooner or later."
     "And how, exactly, do I exist?"
     "To be blunt, as a ghost. You never went to church, so it would be hard to explain it to you. Do you know why it is that an atoms' nucleus does not spontaneously self-destruct in its natural state? Do you know how those protons can be packed together so closely without the forces of their repulsion throwing them apart?"
     "No. Last I heard, nobody knew."
     "We know. But what is important right now is that you can inhabit another body. Do you like this one?"
     The expanse before Bob's eyes changed to that of a shock trooper lying serenely in its savage beauty upon a table. The gravity rifle in its hands was long and its barrel radiated its green luster. But it was the form of the beast that Bob found most interesting. In its posture, even laying on its back, with its silver visor hiding its face beneath, it held an inhuman grace; even more so than a Covenant Elite or Hunter. Its lines were altogether those of predatorial beauty. Every curve spoke volumes of bipedal dominance. Although it wore activated the thermoptic camouflage standard to its kind, its silver armor shone with a blue glow. Bob wondered if he would still be able to see through such camouflage on his counterparts when he took control of the body.
     "How would that be possible? Wouldn't he know right away that something was wrong?"
     "You don't have to worry about that. Look closer."
     Bobs vision zoomed to a panorama of the inside of the head of the beast. Everywhere he looked he could only see and see through pure biological brain matter to the edges of the skull.
     "So I'll be jumping into this technologically unadulterated beast and laying out a load of pain on my friend? How is that possible? I thought you said the body had to be 'reasonably similar' to my old one."
     "Look again."
     Bob was looking at the body, stretched out on its table. Then everything but the skeleton melted away and slowly began to rebuild. The muscles and tendons layered themselves upon one another, until finally, the skin began to replenish. The face of the beast surprised Bob. It was his own.
     "How many ways has he used me?"
     "This is the human model. It is a great honor to be picked as the destroyer of nations, without considering who chose you."
     "Do both eyes work?"
     It came as a laugh. "Of course."
     "Does humanity stand a chance?"
     "That is part of the message."
     "Do I stand a chance?"
     "The odds are favorable."
     Bob had never really been given the opportunity to make such an important and possibly far-reaching decision before. The consequences of gaining his third body, and in so doing possibly ending the war with the voice, were 'favorable'. But would the Covenant no longer be a problem?
     "What is the alternative?"
     "You will be chained, as we have been, to the realm of the Multiverse. You will be as electricity, moving through and between the atoms that make up the wholeness of eternity for all eternity. Many races you would see come and go on many planets and in many places, but you would not be able to help them or talk to them; and they will not be able to see or help you until they pass away as we have. You will not be able to take a body when this conflict is over, because we do not think that Seth will make any that would be reasonably suited for your use. Humanity will die."
     "Then I accept."
     "Thank you Reginald."
     "I told you not to call me that."