Moment of Faith

Note: This short story is slightly edited from a 1500 word assignment for Professional Writing 1: Core Competency submitted on July 14. I thought it would be prudent not to throw around too many (or too funky) posthuman science fiction concepts in this story, just in case the tutor would be unable grok it.

Faith Jinnouchi drew her Ruger-Miroku Egocapture pistol from her overcoat pocket. She casted her Ego Enforcement Department ID across the local network to all the other patrons of the café. Her words rang like a bell across the café. “Somerville Olafsson. Your Ego ID has been confirmed to be false. You are under arrest for being an Altered Ego under New Amsterdam’s EED Regulations Ten-Seventy.”

The Egocapture pistol’s smartlink had confirmed this criminal act. So Faith fired at the distressed Olafsson. Transferring an Ego from one shell to another takes hours of scanning a neural scanning, slowly transferring exabytes of data from the old brain to the new. Criminals, however, were not given the luxury of time.

The nanobullet struck Olafsson. He seemed confused as energetic particles surged through his shell – his physical body – resonating outward from the nanobullet’s point of entry from quantum particle to quantum particle. Information on the quantum states of every particle in Olafsson’s body bounced back to the bullet, then a neutrino pulse transmitted the every bit of information received by an EED secure server somewhere else on New Amsterdam.

Bystanders, surprised by the sudden burst of violence, witnessed writhing tendrils of light and fire wending their way throughout Olafsson, growing insanely brighter as it consumed every exposed part of his body. Then, as quickly as it appeared the quantum fire ceased and faded into fleeting afterimages. Flaming ash – quickly losing its human-like form – billowed like a storm cloud as it tumbled to the floor.

“Precinct, this is Jinnouchi,” Faith spoke into the air. “Confirm Olafsson Egocapture complete.”

A second later, a disembodied voice replied in her ear, “Capture confirmed, Officer Jinnouchi. Simspace interrogation in progress. Good work.”

Wheeled cleaner drones were sweeping up the remnants of Olafsson’s bioshell when she left the café and walked into the city. New Amsterdam was an O’Neill cylinder – the largest Jovian habitat – 7 kilometres in length and 1.5 kilometres in diameter, rotating slowly to provide artificial gravity to its streets, buildings, parks, lakes and woods. New Amsterdam held 3 million inhabitants at Lagrange point five position near Ganymede as it had done for many decades.

A double beep called for her attention. It was Captain Spiral Nichtig’s Ego ID inviting her into a private simspace meet. Faith looked for a place where she could rest without obstructing pedestrian traffic.

Then she connected with the private network and her Ego was projected into the secure server. She found herself in a digital simspace reproduction of Nichtig’s office at the EED building on Scherzo Street. She had not been back there since her mission began three weeks ago, moving from hotel room to hotel room throughout New Amsterdam. Nichtig’s avatar looked like the real Nichtig himself, except his perpetual stubble was missing and his blonde hair was neatly combed. He said, “Good work today, Faith.”

“Thanks, Captain,” Faith replied. “Sorry it took three days just to pick out the bioshell Olafsson was in.”

“How many Egocaptures is that for you?”

“15 Altered Egos captured and taken for processing in three weeks, since I began.”

“Impressive,” Nichtig smiled warmly. “How do you feel?”

Faith replied as she has always did every night for the last three weeks, “I feel fine.”

“Get some rest, then,” Nichtig leaned back in his chair. “We’ll send a new target for you in the morning. If you have any problems contact the office – or me – immediately. Good night, Officer Jinnouchi.”

Then she was back in her own body.

But she was not alone.

Three figures had surrounded her on the now-empty pavement. A dark-haired olive-skinned woman, a wiry man with goggles over his eyes and a muscular flame-haired man who was as wide as he was tall. They all wore skin-hugging smart armour and brandished Egocapture pistols. At first their Ego IDs were concealed, a feat not many could achieve on the station. But when they casted their IDs, Faith was surprised at who they were.

“Officer Iman Latif,” said the woman, identifying herself, “of the Ego Enforcement Department, Con Brio Street Precinct. Drop your weapon. You are under arrest.”

For a second, Faith figured this to be a sick practical joke. But then she mentally reared up and casted her Ego ID back, announcing, “I am Officer Faith Jinnouchi, also the EED! Scherzo Street Precinct! Stand down!”

It was then that the goggled man – Ego ID marked as Officer Ian Rowe – manoeuvred himself to apply a sleep patch onto her bare arm. Faith activated Quick Reflexes, then swept her feet as she dropped. The officer tumbled onto the pavement. Before Officer Shankar Delacroix could aim his sidearm, Faith had him in a shoulder lock and despite her small frame and then threw him into Teng How, knocking both unconscious.

Iman fired, but Faith sidestepped the nanobullet, which sparked and wailed against an alley wall. Faith feinted with her left leg, but spun with her right. Her boot slammed into Iman’s head felling her. Then Faith activated Muscle Enhancement and bounded spinward into the night. Iman, sprawled on the pavement, took aim with a different weapon and fired.

Faith was about to contact Nichtig when something pierced the back of her coat and buried itself into her skin. Suddenly Faith found herself offline. Her communications, access to the database, weapon smartlink, ability to scan Ego IDs had been crippled. Looking up simple text nor images was now impossible. Never had she felt so detached from reality as she knew it, an island unto herself. Her ears buzzed.

Ensuring she was not followed Faith tried entering a medical clinic, but the doors would not open for her as she was invisible to Ego ID sensors. Taxies did not stop for her. Nor would the tram stations allow her admission. She was frustrated beyond belief and started to panic. All she ever wanted was to protect New Amsterdam and its laws.

Faith calmed down. She inspected her Egocapture gun and confirmed it had three shots left. Scherzo Street, she figured, was two hours away by foot. Tired and hungry, she began her walk there.

Upon her arrival, she discovered to her horror that the place that she had known to be the EED office building was an empty warehouse. She broke into the darkened building through an open window. It was apparent the warehouse had been a derelict for years. It was impossible! She screamed silently. “But last six years, this was my office!”

A shadow moved in the corner. Faith suppressed her adrenaline and drew her Egocapture pistol. Iman stepped out of the darkness, palms open in a non-threatening gesture.

“I think I understand,” said Iman sadly as she drew her Egocapture gun, but held it barrel upward.

“What do you understand?” Faith spat back.

“I understand you believed you were protecting the citizens of New Amsterdam, weren’t you?” Iman asked. “The truth is you have been abducting Egos; souls of fifteen skilled psychosurgeons from New Amsterdam. You killed their shells and casted the Egos offstation.”

“NO!” yelled Faith. “I have been capturing criminals, Altered Egos, and sending them into holding here at the Scherzo Street Precinct.”

Iman shrugged into the empty interior building space, “Use your eyes. Trust your senses. There is no precinct. You are not working for the EED. You shoot and you capture. But you don’t send these Egos to us.” Iman slowly took out a glowing translucent Pad and handed it to Faith for her to read.

Faith struggled with her composure, but failed. “Then who?”

“Who knows. Egoslavers. Processing Pirates. The Sedna Protectorate. We’ve detected a tight neutrino beam that’s been targeted onto you from off station. We did not detect it until 5 hours ago. We backtraced the beam to the Oort Cloud.

“From the start, you have been an Altered Ego for them, starting three weeks ago according to readings.”

Faith fell to her knees, sobbing. Her Egocapture pistol clattered on the grimy floor. “I- I was the criminal? But all I wanted to do was to protect New Amsterdam.”

Iman’s eyes darted to a timer display in her mind’s eye, “The scrambler dart’s power cell in your back will be depleted in 2 minutes. After that, the neutrino beam will reacquire your signal and you’ll be under their information influence again. If they re-establish contact with you, they’d change you or upload you or worse. You have forty-five seconds before they take you back. Tell me, Faith Jinnouchi, What do you want?”

Faith looked at Iman and had a sudden conviction. “Right now,” she replied, “I need to protect New Amsterdam.”

“Then I give you my word that I’ll ensure your Ego will be protected in our secure servers,” Iman pointed her Egocapture gun at Faith, but there was no belligerence in her voice, only sadness. “We can work together to stop other Altered Egos from stealing other souls. You will be able to protect New Amsterdam.”

Weakly, Faith smiled and muttered, “You’ve given me your word.”

“Ten seconds,” whispered Iman.

“I’ll give you my faith.”

Faith closed her eyes and held her hands out. As the countdown reached zero, Iman squeezed the trigger.

Posted in Fiction, Misc Sci-Fi and tagged , .

Khairul Hisham J. is a tabletop RPG artist, writer, proofreader, translator, teacher, grad student and learner-in-general.

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