Cohesion lost, p.1
Avar-Tek Event 3
by Justin Tyme
Story copyright 2012 Justin Tyme
Cover art copyright 2012 Kirk DouPonce
Visit the author on the web at
To my wife Kimberly,
whose patience and endurance made this possible.
Table of Contents
More from Justin Tyme
“The good news is,” I said, “it’s not cancer.”
Jana sat across the dining room table. A long day of worry had frizzled her shoulder-length brown hair, and dark circles shadowed her beautiful brown eyes. Now that the boys were asleep, any pretense of practicing English had been put aside so we spoke in our native language. “And the bad news?”
I smiled, but it was forced. The war scar tugged on my right cheek. “He told me to see a specialist, because he doesn’t know what it is.”
“And how are we going to pay for this?” Jana rubbed her knuckles. Her thumb pressed hard, making the skin beneath it chafe and turn white. She would rather stay at home with me and our two boys than work her night job as a custodian. It was beneath her. She didn’t have a degree, but had taken some university-level classes. She deserved better.
“I’m not going to go. I can’t.” Frustration burned with hints of rage. “I should be able to provide for us all. A Master’s Degree in Computer Science should have landed me a better job than an auto mechanic. We had been in this country for a year now, and do you know what they say in the interviews? ‘Alexander, you don’t have enough experience in this country.’ But I know it’s because of my heavy accent. Well, I’m about to change that. I’m a man of action and I’m going to prove my worth. I’m not going to sit around and get fat on public assistance.”
“You need that assistance. What if your problem serious?”
“It’s not?” Tears rolled down her cheeks. “How can you say that with this … this tingling you have? You try to hide it, but I see you rubbing them and shaking your hands. It scares me, Alex. And it’s affecting your mind too.”
“What do you mean? You married me for my mind. It couldn’t have been my looks.” I gave her my most endearing smile, trying to take the edge off the conversation.
“It’s not funny.” Her voice tightened. “When you woke up yesterday, you couldn’t even remember my name.”
“Oh, that? I just woke up. What do you expect? It has nothing to do with this.”
I reached over and placed my hand on hers in an effort to comfort her, but she withdrew. “What if it’s contagious?” she snapped.
I hadn’t thought of that. The shock changed the shape of the argument. I sat back and sighed. “I … I’ll make an appointment tomorrow.” I saw the question in her eyes and answered, “Yesterday, at the unemployment office, I saw a flyer on medical assistance for low-income families. Maybe we could look into it.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this before?”
I shrugged. “I thought the doctor was going to tell me to take a couple of aspirin or something.”
She narrowed her eyes, crossed her arms, and sat back.
“Besides,” I continued, “there’s a man hanging around the unemployment office who stares at me the whole time I’m there.”
“Has he hurt you?”
“So what’s the problem?”
My pride. I could handle my own problems. Anyone who survived the war could, but if it endangered my family, my pride would have to be sacrificed. “No problem,” I said getting up. “I’ll fill out the form in the morning. I’m going to bed now. You want to join me?”
I walked over and held out my arms for a hug. This time she accepted.
I grasped at the withering remains of a dream. Sitting hunched at the edge of my bed in a cold sweat, I wove together a disjointed story. I could only feel them at first. I felt like I was much more than I appeared: not in a god-like, supernatural way, but in a broader human sense that I couldn’t yet wrap my thoughts around.
As the images took tangible form, I snatched at them: sailing a Viking warship and then a Spanish galleon; debating among ancient Roman senators and then, in what seemed like an overlapping event, walking through the halls of Versailles, intent on discussing a treaty with his majesty. King Louis the Sixteenth looked familiar. Who did he remind me of? George, Private George Webber in another dream, a comrade in World War I. We were in the 10th Battalion, regimental number 17887. I’ll never forget the look of terror in his face. He was crouched in the corner across from me in our trench, the bombardment a relentless roaring, flashing, and spraying of mud and iron. It was in the predawn darkness of Monday, the third of July, 1916 on the Somme in France, and we had almost lasted through the night, when our luck turned. The shell landed on the embankment behind us, blowing out the back wall. I found myself face down, in the trench, half-buried with mud and wheezing with the choking smell of sulfur. All sound except for my own heartbeat was muted. With the next flash of light, I looked up. Shrapnel had hit George in the chest. He said nothing. He just looked at me with eyes that screamed, “No, not yet.” In the next flash, his eyes were closed. Merciful God. This was not a dream. I was there.
I tried forcing the image out with something pleasant. My baby girl. I focused on remembering the look of joy in her eyes as I held her high. No. That was another dream. We don’t have a girl, only boys. I slid my fingers though my hair and rubbed my face. The memories of a thousand lives were too much to sort out. Each face I saw brought a flood of emotions, but I could not give them all names or remember their histories.
Two images disturbed me even more than George’s terror. I saw a spacecraft the size of a city and cyborgs with snake-like appendages. If this were an ordinary dream, I would have dismissed them and rolled over to sleep. But, like the other images, these brought with them their associated memories just outside conscious reach. I knew them, not abstractly, but through concrete experience. I remembered how to find the bathroom on the spacecraft, and I remembered running my fingers along cold, cyborg steel until it blended with skin.
I would have attributed this to eating too late before bed except that, in the static of so many memories, I had forgotten who I was. It was a sensation I would not want to relive, and it made my hunt for memories more frantic. Like a lost child, I was abandoned, vulnerable, and helpless, falling in darkness without a handhold. My fingers started tingling and my body was slipping away. My hands. My right hand had a hole in the palm large enough to put my thumb through. A voice came out of the darkness behind me.
“Alex, are you all right?”
I turned. It was my Jana, and my memory returned, not at the sound of my name, but at the timbre of her voice.
“I’m fine.” The clock showed four minutes past three. “Just a bad dream, that’s all.”
“What hole?” she asked.
“You said the hole.”
“I didn’t say anything.” I pressed a thumb to each palm. There were no holes.
“Honey, you said the hole. You kept repeating it.”
I lay back down, not wanting to disturb her. I said, “I must have been half-asleep.”
I sensed her lo
I avoided the unemployment office. It didn’t take much. Either face the staring man again or detour to the library for more hacking. Not bad hacking, just performance testing my software on systems that weren’t mine. I wanted to, had to, finish my AI-NOS. Jana didn’t know I was working on it. She would be so surprised and proud of me if I pulled it off, but I didn’t want to disappoint her if it didn’t work. Sure, I had to break through the library’s firewall and into several other secured locations, but it would be worth it for everyone’s benefit. The AI-NOS, an artificial intelligence network operating system, could speed up data transfer, make network searches more intuitive, and would even reduce the energy consumption of server farms. Of course, big network companies like Micrel and Simco Systems wouldn’t like that their best competition would be free open source, but you can’t make everyone happy.
Cohesion Lost by Justin Tyme / Actions & Adventure / Science Fiction have rating 4.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes