Synopsis: When Oktavia manages to escape her holding ship, she discovers a series of glitches in her programming designed to conflict with her memories. She is found offshore by an old face of her past, and Okta must confront what the scientists have been erasing from her.
The vessel she was on, echeloning in different groups–mostly of humans–was cold. She wore her uniform, remaining upright in her position, sensors ranging from the dead air on her skin to the rigidity of the wooden floor she was standing on.
Oktavia was slightly adrift, staring out into space at the sea-animals with oceanid eyes, chambering into folds, orange and red lines that would bulge on their bellies or backs. Lowering her back, she blinked into the light, almost as bright as the Aldebaran; thousands of missed-connections throughout her synapses, and she felt weary, dissociating. She could not pin-point the exact cause anymore, but at one point, she could.
Time went on, and the thought was driven, no less like her, to the foreshore when they docked. Among her spectrum, the key was endurance and to maim. That’s what she was constructed to do seamlessly. At any request from the argon sanctum, her cold eyes skimming then rejecting her origin, she was their pathway to death. All at once, she felt borderline, she felt familiar in the realm she was in.
She laughed hysterically, enough to warrant a glance in her direction by one of the head doctors, Thomas Eaton. His eyes slumbered by the tree-bark up ahead, its blood sap leaking from its arm.
She looked around. “Have we been here before?”
“No, we have not, Oktavia.” He stared back at the militant bionic.
Oktavia stepped closer. “Oh. Okay.”
“We’ve traveled to many different places,” he tried to smile. “Some portions of land are bound to be similar to others you’ve been at before.” She knew this was a lie, just as she remembered having been here before. “However, I do have something to tell you for your safety. We have been performing a series of tests on your cognitive function to best alienate… distractions.”
She laughed, bitterly. “Distractions? This is for your safety, not mine. You have been supposedly stabilizing me while I am shut down, haven’t you?”
Telling her the opposite, she only believed as much as she wanted to. Oktavia knew better than to dwell on his words, his voice for too long. She fell silent, as she would most likely fall into the darkness again, to preserve her energy, to make improvements, to hinder her from leaving the ship’s compound. Dr. Eaton diverted, briefed her on her next target churning out why she needs to be careful, then reiterating that she does not acquaint herself with the area again so soon. For reasons she could not explain, she was not able to recall the reason to maintain her distance.
It had been years since she was last here—she could tell. Her stomach lurched.
“And remember,” he called over his shoulder, “anything we have done was to never hurt you, Okta. It was to eliminate any underlying symptoms—as part of your treatment.”
She was escorted to the chambers that at a single entrance, she felt death’s whims. She climbed onto the bed, reaping obscure faces–a human in particular–that fed her mind’s eye, her illusions, and strangely, her comfort.
Though as she closed her eyes again, she felt like she slid into another dimension.
In the world, Oktavia only believed that the binding waves would sink down to her, like everything else one day will. It is upon, that from all those born, the imperiled to create their own casks. She seized nothing to do with humanity, but that too was a comforting lie. Her chest twisted in what she thought was a cross-connect of wires.
Flames felt as if they strayed from her mouth, her eyes closed yanking her again from the dimensions of her mind. In silence, she struggled to keep her headache from becoming a migraine—but even that was eventually futile.
Here, she felt a great misery; never could pin-point why, and the memories never evinced anything to that either. As she viewed the seawater from her cot, it was entrancing. In any direction, the waves fitted, they leaned against the glass as they were created to—with life and purpose.
She supposed she had the latter.
A galaxy of lights shook from her hands as she twisted the doorknob into the effacing darkness. She held her breath, arms wired for combat, smoke freely flowing from her nostrils. Slowly, she grew in anxiety, in wonder at the void around her—hoisting her, begging to throw her into the sea. No one was present but her, wandering in the grim and silent night.
Then it was all still when she jumped.
Juxtaposition of ocean lodes and sands infiltrated her skin, bare, as she shook off the reverie of the azure waters. Sinking, infiltrating her lungs, she pushed her head above the waves until she could not. Her eyes had been glazed, lips pouting at the movement that coiled around her sensors. To that end, she closed her eyes, grounding herself back into the cold darkness, drowning.
She didn’t know how long it had been.
Through chaos, she stirred within the garden of Xaos where she was originally colonized and put into motion. What her sight first subdued beyond the original emergence of her conscience, sentience seemingly taken away. There was a void that weighed on her chest that loomed over.
In her death oath (to herself), she would play a lute composition of Dido’s Lament. Instead of her execution, she strayed lightly away from the gardens, dispelling into the face of a woman inspecting her state.
“Uh… H–hi. I—I found you off the shore,” the human looked down. “I cleaned you up, dried up your wires…”
Oktavia rocked back and forth, eyes processing, and after staring, she plunged her hand over the woman’s neck, constricting her wind-pipe. The woman let out a half-sob.
“Did you think I’d forget you, my Mischa?” Somehow, her voice didn’t falter into emotion, yet her chest sunk as she looked into the human’s eyes. She swallowed. Focus. Oktavia, in her dark moment, squeezed tightly before dropping Mischa to the ground.
At her feet, she found something joyful. The horizon cleared and she too sat on the ground. Her gaze locked with Mischa.
“I didn’t think we’d see each other again.”
“Given what you do? It was likely,” Mischa was hoarse, hesitating to move from the ground. The glow suppressed Oktavia’s features, in which the illusion was consolable that she was safe. Her head rolled to the side, almost touching the robot’s knee.
Oktavia hummed happily, withdrawing herself from the moment to admire the serenity. She broke out of her stupor when she curled her fingers onto her cargo white tank. Her hands were bone-white from water damage, her vision still not entirely clear. “You saved me, you said?”
“I did,” she breathed.
Oktavia’s eyes narrowed. “How did you know where to find me?”
“I don’t work for your compound anymore, Okta,” she said softly. “I still do studies by the area you dock to in oceanology; I was collecting samples from the shoreline to investigate the recent erosions that have been taking place—you were out by the shore, already rusting.”
Oktavia burrowed out from the glow, continuing to stretch. She kicked her leg, causing Mischa to flinch, and through the contact, the bionic’s expression shifted to a serious one. “You saved me,” she went on discontentedly, “I will not hurt you, if that is what you fear—if you still fear me.”
She felt her heart abruptly stop in a minute wave, before restarting again.
Was this the glitch Eaton was referring to? Perhaps, she shouldn’t have dived over board so soon… It was all made in haste after all.
“No,” Mischa whispered back. “I never did.”
Oktavia settled in quite nicely. She wasn’t really expecting it to fall back into place, at least not without some harsh endurance—the cold whim of disenchantment and fear; not from her, however. It wasn’t until a week later that they fell into a casual routine together. Just like how it once was before the trials.
She could recount the glory days of her work before the troubles began. “Lord Ayothis did—in fact—wear a dead woman’s face,” Oktavia shoved the spoon in her mouth, chewing her food slowly. And loudly. She witnessed the rise and fall of Mischa’s chest as she regaled her account. “Not his wife’s, however—I had to kill her under his orders. No,” she swallowed, “he wanted the face to be of his most prized possession.”
Oktavia glanced at Mischa’s twining flesh, engrossed in her reality. Her cheeks, her skin, and her bones. “What was it? His affair partner?”
Oktavia shook her head, then gave it a little tilt almost as if acknowledging the possibility. Its logic. “No. His daughter.”
Which caused Mischa to hum before asking, “You did a lot of odd jobs for him, didn’t you? What happened after his death?”
“Well… After the colonies split up, I was dispatched to work underground. The doctors keep me in the “abyss” so to speak, and I bring them what they want. If there is a war, they want death in my hands. If there are deaths, they want me to wage wars and be a soldier. There’s not really a democracy, it’s a failing stabilization between groups that are uprising, the Shoals and the Mara-Cayos for instance. Ever hear of them?”
“I—I think I have. The names sound familiar.”
“Bionics and humans alike, we quell any uprising after the failure of the monarchy. There was no use for it anyway,” she spoke around her food, pushing the bowl away from her. “The monarchy,” she clarified. “The ministers of the land hold the power, and above them… Well, I am not quite exact on what is above them, if at all, their superior but I suspect the doctors are instilling encrypted information and transferring the meta-data into the capacity of the human brain—to wipe, replace, and take away memories.”
At Mischa’s far-away look, Oktavia stoically added, “Well, at least they’re trying of the sorts. So far, they are at a complete loss with their circumvention.”
“How do you know all of this?” Mischa glanced up. “This sounds…”
“I think they wipe me, Mischa. But, they’re not realizing I can still remember what they’re trying to wipe.”
Sometimes, it was hard to distinguish if she were telling the truth. Sometimes, it was all she had and it was bittersweet in a way. The real question that lied was what was holding her back to not remember why she was here—no, not her purpose, but rather what her true ailment was. Why was she being stabilized?
Why could she still remember Mischa?
I originally published chapter one of my short chapter series on Kindle Vella, but I am also posting it here for my international readers as Vella is currently only available to U.S. Residents. To my U.S. readers, here’s a link to the story on Vella.