Wanting to move on, but also wanting to placate Jennifer, I got into the Box. As I stepped in, I thought it might not be a bad idea to lose the sexy body. It was a weird thing to be an attractive woman. I imagine it had its advantaged but there were disadvantages, too. Like being hit on by a past version of myself. We needed less complications as we prepared to free the world.
The chamber sealed behind me and started up. I could feel the pain begin. The pain. A searing light in my head. A voice. It was saying…what was it saying? Who was…What was…? Where…I don’t…so…confused…
I collapsed to the floor. There was so much pain…in my head. My head…it hurt. Pounding. I could feel…there was…something else…My head. There was something…something…I wasn’t alone. There was another…No. No. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. I can still…see…
I tried to reach for the door, but my head hurt. I was dizzy. I felt like there was a fog in my head. My eyes were having trouble focusing. I could hear the voice again whispering to me. Things started to get a bit clearer. What happened? The chamber, it affected my understanding.
The door swung open and Jennifer looked in. I covered my eyes from the searing light. Through squinted eyes, I could see she looked worried. “Frank? Can you…?”
But she got no further. Mathilda pushed her aside and pressed something into my neck. I felt a pinch.”OW! What did you…?” I felt my head swimming. I was drowning, but I could see the light! I was floating to the surface! I broke through!
Jennifer knelt down in front of me. “Frank! Frank! Can you hear me? Frank?”
I looked at her and it was like I was seeing her for the first time. “Jen…? What happened? What did you…?”
She interrupted, “How do you feel?”
“Feel?” I replied. “I feel like I just woke up from a bad dream.”
“Are we sure he’s not faking it?” Jamal asked before Jennifer could reply.
“Why would he fake it?” she asked. “How would he know to fake it?”
“Fake what?” I asked.
Mathilda scanned me with her wrist implant. “He looks clean.”
“Clean of what?” I asked.
“We were infected, Frank,” Doc said. “The Xian infected us. They converted us all.”
“Infected?” I echoed. That didn’t sound right. “No. We were…freed?”
Doc shook her head pityingly. “No. That was the infection.”
“They injected us with micro-biomechanoids,” Mathilda explained. “They are the source of the infection. They build colonies in our minds. They create psuedo-hive minds across the cosmos. It’s what’s controlling the Xian. It’s what they want to do to Earth.”
“We were…going to…help them?” I stumbled, at the vague memory. My mind was suddenly feeling very uncrowded.
“Well,” Mathilda began. “YOU were going to help them. WE were going to stop you. Well, my dad and I. Jennifer was a zombie, just like you.”
“I don’t understand,” I said. “How did you get…clean is the word? How could you stop us? Weren’t you infected too?”
Mathilda shook her head. “We can thank my mother for that. Freyja filled my body with tech capable of handling anything up to her fall. Basically, I’m immunized to the next couple thousand of years. The only reason I knew they tried to infect me was my implants warned me of the attack. My father was infected initially, but apparently future me, when she injected him with gene-altering nanites, also gave him an immunization. His shot wasn’t as high class as mine. Dad was affected for a while though,” Tilly added with a smirk.
Jamal growled back, grumpily, “I was not!”
“You told her about her future self?” I asked.
Jamal made a fair attempt of a shrug. “Yeah, why not?”
“So,” Mathilda continued, “after I noticed my father coming back to normal, I told him to keep pretending. He did an…ok job, I guess. That was why I agreed to come back down to Earth and leave you to deal with yourself, aside from worrying about time paradoxes. We needed to get Jen alone. We’ve spent most of the intervening time cleaning out her system and she’s finally back to herself. With Jen onboard, we could focus on you. I figured if you changed bodies that’d make things a lot easier, plus a booster shot just in case. It seems to have worked.”
Nodding, I said, “I feel like I was living a dream. Everything is so cloudy.”
“That’s what happens when you’re almost taken over by a microbial biomechanoid hivemind,” Mathilda replied.
“And thats what they want to do to Earth?” Mathilda nodded and I could feel the dread take over. “Can we stop them?”
“Of course,” she replied too quickly.
“We have no choice. We have to.”
to be continued…