Memory Is An EncumberanceBy Julia Stamford
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Space Command HQ|
It was my fault that I was captured. I freely admit that. I am stronger than an unmodified, I should not be vulnerable to one simply coming up behind me and grappling me to the ground. Unfortunately, this part of my training did not emphasise what to do when the unmodified is in the tail of the distribution, one of the very few who can simply knock me over and sit on me.
Yes, that is the one. Olag Gan. Gan, they called him. Idiot, was what one said when he saw the catch. Avon, I found out later. We talked a lot, later. That man... makes me uneasy.
No, I do not need reprogramming. My blocks are holding. It is simply that they have been stressed of late, they are settling into place. The medic checked this thoroughly before I reported for debriefing. Yes, I requested it. The reason will be covered in my debriefing.
I was knocked to the ground, and Olag Gan sat on me to me to restrain me. He is very heavy, and very strong. I could not force him off, or bring any weapons to bear. He slipped something onto my wrist, then shouted for teleport. It was never discussed with me, but I assume the device placed on my wrist was part of their teleport system. No, I did not observe it in any detail. One arrives in a chamber, smaller than this one, with a console opposite the area where one materialises. The operator sits behind the console, facing the materialisation area. He or she could not be easily taken by surprise. The operator was visible before I was able to move. I presume that I would have been visible to her as well.
What did it feel like? Indescribable. Perhaps an unmodified could describe it. I cannot. I do not have the referents.
There was some discussion about what to do with me. I gathered from the conversation that they had been hoping to capture an officer with information about where a particular prisoner was being held. As it happens, I had the information they required, but they assumed that their interrogation equipment would have trouble calibrating for my modifications. One suggested that I be dumped overboard, another that I be put back where I had been found. No, the first one was Restal. He was not callous, but afraid. He believes the stories about mutoid modification.
They argued for several minutes, and then Blake said, "No. I've a better idea. Lock him in a cabin for the moment."
"You are out of your mind, Blake."
Well, that wasn't an unusual statement from Avon. "Any particular reason?"
"You can't reverse mutoid modification. That's the whole point of it!"
"I wasn't supposed to be able to get my memory back," he pointed out.
"That was somewhat less drastic than what was done to this... this person," Avon said. He was staring at the mutoid in disgust. "It isn't even a person any more."
Blake looked at the modified man, who stared calmly back at him. Unnaturally calm, but this was still a human being. "He is a man, Avon. I want to see if he can be helped to remember that."
Avon snorted. "It was a man, Blake. Now it's little more than a machine. A machine that happens to be organic."
Irritated by Avon's lack of empathy, distressed by this evidence of the Federation's brutality who was sitting passively and listening to them discuss him as if he wasn't there, Blake snapped, "Well, you'd know about that, wouldn't you?"
There was a pause. Then Avon said, "Yes, I would. Cygnus Alpha was the better choice."
He glanced at Avon. "What? You were picked for modification?"
"I was graciously permitted the choice of volunteering for modification. Making reparations for my crimes. Not many men are suitable for modification, and the memory may be blanked but many skills remain. I would have gone into the service of the Federation rather than being condemned to a penal colony."
"And you told them to go to hell." You'd make a pretty mutoid. Wonder who took a fancy to you?
"A choice of life on a penal planet, or a living death? Of course I told them to go to hell." Avon smiled nastily. "The sentence, and its humane alternative, was pronounced in open court. They'd phrased it as voluntary, so they could hardly order me committed to modification after what I said."
Well, well, well. Avon had never volunteered that sort of information before. Maybe he was disturbed by the mutoid after all. That might be a good sign. Break past the revulsion at this reminder of the might-have-been, and he might be willing to help. "You had the choice. Maybe he didn't. You were a civilian prisoner, after all." He addressed the mutoid. "Were you given a choice about modification? Do you remember anything about your trial?"
"Memory is an encumbrance," the man said placidly. "All trace of it is removed and with it all trace of identity."
"That's what that mutoid of Travis's said," Avon said. "On that dead planet."
"And you're the ace programmer."
Avon's gaze never wavered from the mutoid, nor did his gun. "I programme computers, Blake, not people. This is a little beyond my experience. It would need surgical modifications to restore him, and that might not be possible. At the very least you'd need to supply him with blood to keep him alive while I tried to find a way to restore his memory. And you might not like what you got, in the unlikely event that I succeeded. Mutoids are mostly convicted criminals, remember?"
Some small success, Avon was no longer dismissing the idea out of hand. "So are most of the people on this ship, or had you forgotten that little detail?"
"A lot of mutoids were political criminals, they were modified as a warning to others."
"A lot are psychiatric cases, the politicals are simply included with them," Avon said. "Always assuming that there's a difference in the first place, of course."
"You know damn well there's a difference, and stop trying to wind me up." He considered the mutoid, who was still sitting peacefully. "How much serum do you have?"
"Enough for two days."
Long enough to make a start, at least. "Right. I'll put Cally onto synthesising serum for him. At a pinch he can make do with some whole blood, and before you say anything, I meant from the medical unit stores. You start researching what we might be able to do about restoring his memory." They had files in plenty on Federation memory manipulation techniques, there might be something in there.
"And the surgery?" Avon asked.
"For now we just try to restore the personality. After that we turn him over to one of the groups with decent surgeons." He considered future possibilities. "If we can do this, and we find one from a family that was influential, but not influential enough, we might be able to get access to the best."
Avon sighed. "I see you're set on it. All right, the first task is to find out who he was. Then we might make some headway in reminding him of it. That was how it worked for you, wasn't it?"
He was used to the horror of it by now, the occasional memory that dropped into place, triggered by some reminder. "Yes. See what you can do for him. Better take him to medical, Cally can do something about feeding him."
"And I can put him in restraints," Avon said, then added sweetly, "Do tell Cally that this time she is not to release a dangerous maniac just because he can converse rationally."
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