1:1:3 Dreaming (Part 2)
“Just checking their pupils reactivity. You can never be too safe.” Walsh darted the pen from one side of their vision to the other.
Lore’s lungs went into spasm. “What… Was… That?” They managed to wheeze out. Walsh flapped around looking for anything to calm them down but Crait simply slapped them on the back. Lore’s breathing skipped a beat then began to slow back to normal. The shock of being slapped had counteracted the shock of the rude awakening. Lore looked around the cold, grey room. They saw the clock on the wall opposite their bed. They had only been asleep for an hour but it felt like they had been in the dream for so much longer.
“Are you alright?” Crait was straight back at their side. “Bad dream?” They looked to Walsh.
“Yeah. I guess.” Lore shrugged.
“That’d be us. Sorry. With Crait being your legal next of kin, we didn’t think to wake you before the procedure.”
Lore’s eyes widened. “Procedure. What procedure?” They began patting themselves down for areas that felt particularly tender but found none. In fact, they felt significantly better than they had when they entered the hospital.
“Oh, it was nothing like that I assure you. Just a scan to see what extent your brain had been damaged.” Walsh smiled. Crait didn’t.
“We’re still waiting on the results.” They stared daggers at Walsh. Walsh held his tongue. “While we wait though, I found something that might be of interest to you.” Crait held out a cylindrical device. At one end, a large red button and at the other, what looked like a rounded off needle. “It’s a MemDex. We use them to store important memories. They’re usually used for evidence in trials but we inquisitors found a more important use for them.” Walsh looked as though he was trying to return Crait’s lethal look but was failing. “This one contains a memory from both of our pasts and from both of our points of view. We used to use it to help us train. Whenever we forgot the basics, we would replay this memory and, well, we were as good as ever.” Lore was about to protest but Crait was already gently placing the rounded end to Lore’s temple and pushing the red button.
There was a whirring noise, then a flash and then, darkness. They blinked as their eyes once again had to adjust to their new surroundings. Unlike last time which had a soundtrack of pain and suffering, wherever they now found themselves had a rather pleasant and universally nostalgic backing track. Slightly more comforting for Lore however was that the lyrics were all in English, telling them that they were on Earth at the very least. They were beginning to tire of hallways and walking. For someone who only had a few hours of recallable memory, a worryingly large portion of that had been taken up by walking or walking in corridors. This one wasn’t as long as the other and they soon reached the end. The room they entered was considerable and could easily house over a hundred spectators; at its centre, a fighting ring. Be it boxing or wrestling, Lore had no idea. Stood slightly left of the centre of the ring, a deceptively slender figure. Their first thoughts were that Crait had aged spectacularly. They had their head held high as they pulled a vacuum in their bottle in the vain attempt to empty it. As Lore got closer, the finer details of their body came into focus. They weren’t overly muscular but, without looking at themselves, Lore certainly didn’t want to fight them. Their arms were not too dissimilar from chicken legs, slender at the wrist but well built and muscular as they continued to the shoulder. Apart from their muscularity, another fact of note were the two, almost one, scars that ran under each of Crait’s breasts. Something about them told a story. Given the level of technology shown, Lore had expected scars to be relics of a bygone era. Drink finished, Crait began the walk towards Lore.
“Just a minute, “ Lore hesitated. The words escaped their mouth as if said by someone else. Crait nodded.
“You’re a lucky sod, you know that?” Crait rested their bottle against the ring’s corner and exchanged it for their towel. “What kept you?”
“Shouldn’t you be practicing your forms?” Lore joked. Their future consciousness took their hands of the proverbial wheel to enjoy the memory. They leant in and placed a kiss on Crait’s cheek. To their surprise, Crait recoiled.
“I don’t know Loren.” Their face was bright red. “Last time was fun but…We shouldn’t.”
“Why not? Because the rules say we shouldn’t?”
“Look around, what do you see? No one.” They spanned their arms to encompass the near deserted room. “Certain rules don’t apply when you’re at the top. That’s where we are. They decide we’re getting too close to one another, what are they going to do? Pull us both from a programme with only two participants? If The Protectorate gets rid of us then they’re getting rid of not just two of their finest but, their finest. So,” Loren came in closer and put an arm around Crait, “so, you don’t have to worry.”
Crait mumbled something under their breath. “You sure?”
“Positive. Plus, there’s paperwork for this kind of thing.” They smiled producing a slim pad.
At that moment, the doors on the far side of the room flew open. The memory was foggy about what exactly was on the other side of those doors but through the fog stepped an amazon of a woman. Nearly seven foot in flats, she towered over both Loren and Crait. Her skin was porcelain smooth and her ice white hair cascaded from her head like rapids down a waterfall. Though more than her height and her hair, Lore took particular notice of her pastel green skin.
“What do you think you’re doing? I don’t recall setting reading for this portion of your training.” Her voice wasn’t that well suited for anger but she got her point across as Loren tossed the pad to one side.
“Just taking a moment. Catching up on other work.” Loren smiled. They waited to see if their deception had been successful.
“Gloves on. In the ring, now.” She squinted at them as they ducked under the ropes and started wrapping their hands.
Minutes passed and now the fight was in full swing. Loren had dealt more than a few decent body shots, knowing to exploit Crait’s sensitivities but they had taken their fair share too. Unlike Crait, there was no hidden muscle on Loren; they were sinew and bone. Their heavy breathing only served to emphasise this as every time Loren drew a breath, every bone in their ribcage jutted out. Crait landed another powerful strike to Loren’s face, clipping their orbital and smashing straight into their nose. The blood began to pour but that didn’t slow either of them. The bleeding didn’t take long to stop but in the time since it had started, Loren had attempted a subsequent three shots on Crait’s upper torso.
“You’ll have to hit me some time ‘Ren.” They smiled.
The doors had opened again and this time, three strangers stood in the fog of forgotten details. One of the three was missing their face. The other two were unmistakable. On the left, Lore. But not as they looked in Crait’s memory but as they were in the present. And on the right, the woman from their dream.
“Excuse me, we booked this room from seven hundred to nineteen hundred hours so could you perhaps go elsewhere?” Their tutor moved to block the visitors from their view.
Something else was said but Lore couldn’t hear it. Instead, they felt a sharp and intense pain fill their skull. It was as if there were someone standing over them, pressing on their stomach, as they tried to disassemble their skull with a spoon starting on their right eye socket. Their point of view suddenly and drastically shifted as they were pulled from their younger body and into a non-corporeal state. Floating, they were dragged towards their dream woman. This time, they were able to get a better look. Her skin was darker than Lore’s, which was to be expected, but not by much and it had a slightly reddish brown tinge to it. Her hair was similarly coloured.
“Hello there.” Whoever she was spoke with a soft and disarming voice. Being with her was almost the opposite of being with Crait. She had a mellow warmth to her, relaxing like a sauna without being too hot or too cold. Perfect.
“…” Lore simply turned to face the speaker, unsure or unable to speak.
“We can’t let this happen again my darling.” The speaker opened her partner’s handbag, removing Lore’s staff before grabbing their future selves hand and removing their ring. “I had wanted to do this in a more familiar location but your ‘friend’ over there began the scan too early. This still works I suppose. I am so glad to see you.” She placed both items in their hand.
Lore still had no words.
“You won’t remember this, well at least not all of this…” She took a breath in a futile attempt to calm herself. “Screw it. I loved you Lore. Every part of you, even the parts you didn’t.” Lore felt her pain despite their ambivalence to the figure before them. “They never scared me you know, maybe at first but after I got over the culture shock of meeting you, nothing scared me ever again. You’ve fought long and hard to find yourself so be proud of the wounds you endured along the way.” The woman rested her hand on Lore’s ghostly left shoulder rubbing it gently. She had an almost identical ring to the one she took from Lore’s hand. She had an almost identical ring to the one she took from Lore’s bag. It comforted them for some reason. The woman swallowed before continuing. “I’ve waited a while, but now’s as good a time as any to say it. Listen, where you are, right now, in the real world, it’s not safe. I’ll explain more later but right now, you need to take your Breacher to Brian. He should be the in Quartermaster’s office. She grabbed at Lore’s wrist, manipulating their Breacher. “Let him scan it and you’ll be fine. Oh, and be sure to ask him if his son has won any awards lately. He should give you everything you’ll need. If it’s not him on duty, ask for him. Anyone else and you’re getting arrested.” She took a deep breath. “Work quick, trust no one, stay safe and save the universe.” The speaker pressed Lore’s Breacher’s activation key. “I love you”. Her voice, her touch, her warmth, all gone in an instant.
Where there once was something, there now stood nothing. Endless, silent nothing. Looking around, Lore’s initial observations rang true until they noticed their Breacher flashing. Looking down, they opened its interface. Scrolling across its limited screen a small red heart accompanied by the words ‘FIND ME’ before a blinding light engulfed them. The woman’s warmth now completely dissipated, Lore sat bolt upright shivering. They scanned their locale. They were still in the Medical room’s bed. The room was dark and the clock displayed a time of just gone five in the morning. Lore knew what they had to do. The why would come later hopefully, but until then. Brian.