Beta Memories (Chapter 4)

Chapter 4 – Tricks aren’t for Kids, just Disillusioned Women

By: Derek Hobson

Dinah?’ She almost uttered the words aloud. She’d been referred to as “AX-1206-2B” by guards and the occasionally the neighboring prisoner. Dinah was a past life.

Dinah was the scared little girl, second in her class on Beta Colony and recent assistant to Reverend, Thomas Whitney. He saw promise in her and made it perfectly clear that her assistant position was the result of her grades and work ethic. Of course, neither of them were naive, they knew about the rumors; about what happens when Rev. Whitney hires an assistant—which was not an uncommon occurrence—but he believed in Dinah, and she believed him. So all those late nights researching and studying, expanding from the classroom to his home-office, celebrating with a drink over a completed project… it all seemed perfectly natural. She was a fool.

Dinah was the girl with shimmering auburn hair. Though her figure was meek, her cheeks were plump, narrowing her mouth to her pointed chin. Her tiny pursed lips seemed incapable of words, but bewitched anyone with her half-moon smile. She was a quiet girl and stereotypically studious. Scandal was the last thing expected of her, even when her family’s name was largely well known, being the lead investors for Beta’s development.

Space colonies weren’t simply constructed out of necessity, but several benefits came along with them. For instance, given that most kids get into trouble after hours, Beta was created to be largely residential with other colonies fostering the industrial and commercial aspects of society. However, with the scandal involved with the Reverend, AX-1206-2B could imagine that further corruption was simply around the corner.

Now her future was dependent on the past glaring back at her.

“The snow you witnessed earlier was an ⱡillusionⱶ,” the Reverend’s once soothing voice, crackled, “It was our only means of capture, ⸗youⱶ understand. We cannot have you straying Ɫtoo far. That “thump” you felt◘, was Ro-Mino attaching it to your ﬡhead꜠.” AX-1206-2B didn’t dare look up to see if it was still attached, not wanting to remove her glare and do him the pleasure of escaping her gaze. She recalled how she had been in such a hurry to pass the other prisoners and escapees, that she did not recognize the animals in the snow. They were clearly manufactured from that virtual reality video game. Inwardly and with no micro-expressions, she cursed herself.

“Luckily, your ⱷhasteꜘ got the better of you.”

She could feel the blood pulsing through the capillaries in her eyes. This tapered man hadn’t experienced anything yet.

Not everyone makes a steady transition to cyborg. Some people seem born for it, but the Reverend was not. His voice as a full-bodied human was one of murmuring bliss. There was an ever-present grumble in his throat. He had never been a smoker, making this grumble smooth instead of rocky and coarse. Dinah would ask him questions, just to hear him go into details. This grumble did not transition electronically. Instead, whatever device was keeping his voice box alive periodically heightened the pitch. Now the smooth grumble crackled into obscene sounds.

“No words, little girl?” the Reverend continued, trying to spark nostalgia, “I suppose ﬢthatⱶ is fair.” The squeaks in his throat only reminded AX-1206-2B that, however reminiscent his voice and nicknames were, time had passed. It was senseless believing things could ever go back.

“If you’re wondering where you ⸗areⱡ, you’re still on Thetaⱶ colony. The fire has been ﬢdismissedⱡ, however long… we cannot say.” He cocked his head to the left, and she suddenly noticed a metal disc—like a halo—around his temple. By resting his head to the left, a neon light bounced off his head and his chair revolved in the corresponding direction. Once enough to the left, he tilted his head forward, lighting another blue light on the tip of his dome. While his arm appeared to still be attached, it was clear that it was not functional, or such a humiliating display would not go on.

The three guards behind him adjusted themselves accordingly, as he mock paced about. AX-1206-2B knew better though, nothing could get past her eyes; her once bright, beautiful, illustrious eyes. Dinah had been complimented continually for their perky blueness, but now they were slits, as dark as her worn hair. The Reverend turned away in humility because it was a reflection of what they had both become. She relished in this small victory.

As her eyes were previously affixed upon her captor to achieve the desired effect, she now had the opportunity to freely analyze her confinements. It looked like an archaic prison cell, with walls that were stained with leakage from upper levels and poor maintenance. There were slits overhead, but it led nowhere, but into blackness. While the blackness was partially from the blinding light that hung over them—much like an interrogation—it was clear that nothing occupied the space above them, and if there had been, her captor would not speak so openly.

There was one door, as far as she could tell—not being able to see behind her. The door was behind the three officials. The one to her right was dark-skinned and stocky. His pants seemed too large for his mass. His face was one of skylarking stoicism. He played the part of a guard, but was lost in thought. From the way the Reverend had slightly tilted his head earlier, she gathered that this was Ro-Mino. He was clearly not strong enough to sedate her, so he relied on an illusion. Likely, he was the muscle when the one in the center was monitoring the Reverend. She would strike Ro-Mino in the knees.

The one on her left was young, far younger than she would expect. His face was a frenzy of freckles, made all the more apparent by his beard’s multitude of colors. Despite being the only one with facial hair, it looked as though it was as thick as it would ever be. The guard could not be more than 17. He would not be a problem. When she made a move to attack, he would feel at disadvantaged. She would defeat him mentally before making quick work of him. It was the other two she had to focus on, and especially the one in the center.

Dead center, devoid of sentiment and locked on target was the only obstacle keeping her in place. He viewed her as every guard did—a criminal responsible for the lives of millions. No doubt, the Reverend told him that she wasn’t a part of the bombing, but that didn’t matter to this brute. He would no doubt be easily subject to his emotions, but that didn’t help in a matter like this. Likely the Reverend sent Ro-Mino because the brute might’ve killed her. Clearly, she was wanted alive. If she could strap an illusionary device on him, she could best him intellectually, but when confronted with brute force, he would no doubt kill her remorselessly, with complete disregard to orders.

She was indeed trapped. A high-pitched squeal made her resume looking at the Reverend.

“—do⸗ you understand? We need you to ⱦlocateⱠ the arsonist, so that we can prevent another Beta disaster. He’s not using napa–zlmtz anymore. Whatever he’s using, does not stop burning!”

“Then how did you stop it,” again she was taken aback by hearing her own voice. Although undoubtedly older, her voice had all but lost its meekness. It was as though it was in hibernation and even she felt a little tickled by its softness. Oddly, this filled her with more confidence, being scrutinized severely by the seething man in the center, when her voice implied that she was still a tiny, fragile girl.

Concurrently, as she spoke, a thought of escape burst in her head. If her voice had retained its girlish charm, then perhaps she was not as worn as she’d been led to believe and subduing the brute may come easily. She was determined not to look away from the brute now, widening her slits and smoothing the crease in her brow.

“I told you, we di–zzmizzed it.”

The brute was caught off guard and used the Reverend’s dysfunctional voice as an opportunity to escape her eyes. He walked over to the Reverend, and mechanically tweaked one of the machines. Purposefully, the brute placed his back to her. Her methods were blending into Dinah’s, and they were working. If the Reverend told him everything, then he would know of their late-night encounters. Surely, she could distract him long enough to ensure that that’s all he remembers.

“How?” She queried again, making sure to catch the brute’s sidelong glance. In fact, the softness of her voice seemed to catch the attention of the youth as well. If she was to feed off the brute’s emotions, she could use that to her advantage as well.

“—zzzⱢjection,” a small flash clicked the Reverend’s voice back in place, “We ejected blocks of the colony.”

Dinah felt the injustice of committing thousands of prisoners and guards to their death, but she refrained from letting it impact her. If anything, maintaining a light and playful tone would only entice the estranged brute.

“Ah, well, for me to help, I can’t be strapped down.” This comment drew in the brute’s attention, but a fraction of a second before his eyes could meet hers, she shifted her glance to the youth and delicately crossed her legs—being freed from any ropes.

“As long as we have꜠ an understanding, you’ll be ꜗfreeⱢ permanently, soon enough.”

“How am I to know that? It’s your fault I was locked away. Everyone thought you were dead.” Although she maintained a level of authority, she could feel the creeping sensation of bitterness and injustice return to her. She would have to blot it out to move forward. She looked the Reverend up and down, “Still look it. But had you been alive, you could have testified, and I would have been spared.”

The Reverend dropped his gaze down low and inadvertently caused his power wheelchair to move forward into the light. Again, his withered and failing body showed, “And let you see me like this?”

His words did not achieve the desired effect. They were as hollow as his innards. If this whole excursion was an effort to rekindle their affair, he should have known better. Dinah might have fallen victim, but not AX-1206-2B. The Reverend only came across as a selfish man who wanted her to wither as he did, but she had grown stronger, whereas his light was fading every day.

Seeing the look in her eyes, the Reverend spoke of what was likely more of the truth, “You’re a tremendous ⸗researcher. Locking you up meant ﬢthatⱶ we would definitely catch the man who did thisﬢ to us.”

She had the reason and knew how to control the game when it was all over. He only needed her commitment, “Let the hunt begin.”

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