Chapter 2 – Spliced
The event stream poured into a mind as yet unconscious: birth, growth, years passing in linear fashion, time filling with experiences and decisions that shaped an outline for character and personality.
An outside observer might reflect on the preponderance of darkness, neglect and cruelty of the events in the stream. But to what else could the mind compare it?
If it were already awake and able to compare.
Things were as they were. It was… expected.
The mind continued filling, but it was still unconscious. At times, minds did not awaken as they filled, and the past went unnoticed until the body received the enzymes that ended the torpor of the long hibernation.
Then, light or dark, it would bloom….
ShwydH woke to darkness.
Somewhere skin tickled as something… some things… peeled away like spots of slowly detaching tape that tugged as they disengaged. The sensation was startling. He had no notion of what was causing it, just that it was a skin-like sensation. The starting didn’t translate to a movement from his body—so far as he could tell.
He felt disconnected, almost as though he floated in warm water. No, not that… perhaps as though he was dreaming.
He tried to move, to open his eyes, but nothing changed.
Am I paralyzed?
He noticed—now that he thought about vision—perhaps a promise of light, a sensation, like a faint illumination on the outside of closed eyes.
Where could I be?
He considered the last thing he could remember. It had been time for his daily dose of antidote to the abiding poison. He had come to HumanaH, tilting his head to allow her easy access to his neck. His libido stirred, as always, at the smell of her… like tamarind, bergamot and cinnamon if he were to compare it to earthly scents. Her breath brushed his throat, like the promise of a kiss—then, unexpectedly, her arms wrapped around his body, as though to keep him from falling, followed by the soft popping sensation of her teeth over his vein.
What else can I feel?
He tried to sort through the sensations for what seemed a long time with no results. He could not even stir strong emotions in himself.
Am I dead?
He hoped not. If he weren’t preoccupied with his lack of control, it would a boring way to spend the afterlife, but perhaps there was a hell—as some humans thought. The situation had possibilities for hellishness, but it wasn’t as though he didn’t deserve to go there.
Yes, he’d changed his allegiance away from the galaxy-wasting niiaH to work for the philosophically ethical nii. But, on the scales of justice, he wouldn’t have expected three years of that to outweigh three centuries of genocidal murder—especially when his only other option had been to die from the poison that had become a constant leash on him.
Tiana, the nii who had finally captured him, had poisoned him with a non-eradicable substance that he could survive only with a daily antidote. An antidote that only she, or one of her branch sisters, could administer.
For three hundred years, he had survived in brutal niiaH society, learning a strategic ruthlessness that planned for contingencies on a longer timeline than those who surrounded him. But when he’d been shipwrecked on Earth at the beginning of the 19th century—at odds with his superior officer, DugwaedH—ShwydH had found himself slowly running out of options.
Stranded on a primitive world without access to the body-jumping technology available in the niiaH empire, ShwydH was sure to die in another six centuries unless he could get back to the empire. But, he was almost sure the nii had managed to eradicate the NiiaH Empire, and DugwaedH would kill him long before he could possibly get back to be certain.
So, ShwydH had compromised his own genetic material—irreversibly throwing away half of his remaining life expectancy—to keep DugwaedH from using the DNA to revive the body-jumping technology here on Earth. He’d made certain DuGwaedH would die here as well.
Now DuGwaedH was dead and burned, and ShwydH’s ruined DNA might have been the deciding factor in Tiana’s decision to allow him to live. He might be the last of his race alive…
If I AM alive.
After an unmeasurable time, he noticed sensations that felt like exhaustion. Then came dreams. First, he dreamed a growing awareness in a warm fluid environment like memories from the womb, but different than his own memories of that time … more secure, peaceful. Then pressure. Then light. Eyes open to see, not his own mother and the stark walls of his mother’s bedroom, but another female and somewhere else.
His conscious thoughts faded, but the images… sensations… memories continued longer and more lucid than any dream he’d ever had.
When he woke, the memories of a childhood not his own filled his mind. An open-eyed view of a polished stone chamber with soft light filtering down from above filled his senses.
In the memories, the child knew her name to be Riniana Tiana.
Which of the Tiana branches had done this to him?
Am I Tiana or ShwydH?
The memories of ShwydH came first, ergo, he was ShwydH remembering Riniana Tiana’s childhood. Logic dictated it must be so, like the law of geologic precedence. Without that anchor, he would have been swept away, entranced by the life of a child truly loved and valued—not to mention one who had a will as vast and strong as a battleship’s armored hull.
That meant the awareness who was seeing the stone chamber was ShwydH—a ShwydH who could remember details from another life.
He noted that his view of the stone ceiling scanned left to right in response to his curiosity about the surroundings. A sensation of relief followed the realization that he could look around. He tried to move and found that was now possible, so he felt for the controls of his body.
Something was different.
ShwydH sat up and looked down.
This was not his body.