INTO A FUTURE by Ashley Gallaher - Pollard

It is the year 3070. I am alive. Or what is considered to be alive. I have left behind countless numbers of friends, peers, enemies. My schooling. My career. My family. My life. In the year 2090, a fatal threat was made to Earth from the ones the government called the Foltash. The threat was simple: we had one Earth year to surrender ourselves to their race, or be annihilated. Mankind's reaction was as predictable as any novel could ever be: panic. Infighting. Immoral actions and words. We were ruining ourselves faster than we were saving ourselves.

Typical.

However, just like those novels everyone reads, there were private companies that wanted to preserve mankind, regardless of the decisions we made come judgement day. Highly classified, special facilities were created, deep within the core of our planet. It was here that we would encapsulate the best and brightest of our kind, in the hopes that once all was said and done, we would rise once more, like the phoenix, and rebuild. It was like a fallout shelter, only for cryostasis patients and instead of nuclear warfare, we were against the universe.

I was one of them. I had a wife, two kids. I was one of the leading minds behind CERN, and I specialized in fiber optics. I was getting on in years, so I volunteered to be one of the resources and teachers for the classes we held for the next generation of bright young minds.

The day I received the phone call was, so I am told, a mixed day. I was given the option of a new life, a fresh start - something millions of people wanted but the select few could have. It was like winning the lottery, but the prize was becoming an ice block. I had a choice to make: become one of the few to remake mankind, or potentially die or become enslaved by this new race. It must have been a hard decision. I don't remember much about my old life. I had my family, my friends, everything I had worked so hard for. And in a moment, I had to decide if I wanted to perish with it all or live a new life. My wife took it the hardest. She called me a traitor, a blasphemer. She said this wasn't God's plan, but I had never believed in God. I believed in science. The more she railed on me, the harder I became. The kids were young enough not to understand what was going on. That was a blessing. The last thing my wife did was throw my suitcase at me, and told me to rot in hell. Being scared has a prolific impact on the human psyche, I learned.

I was picked up in a black Mercedes Benz. The driver was an old Arab with a hard stare, but it was almost welcome compared to my wife's tirade. Maybe he was one of the unlucky ones. There was a thick tinted window between myself and the driver, and it was nice to be able to sit in silence. I watched the French countryside fly by me in a stupor. I had no idea where I was going, or what awaited me. In some ways, I think, it was better that way.

When we arrived, or I assumed we arrived, I found myself parked in front of the doors to a hospital. Where else would someone go to die and be reborn? I thought of my wife's words again, this isn't God's plan. I remembered all the times we had sat in church listening to the old priest talking about forgiveness and love. Then I thought about how many people they had persecuted. I still didn't believe in faith. Science was a stalwart companion. I walked into the reception and told the woman behind the desk my name. She told me to have a seat and wait for the doctor to come get me. There was stale coffee in an urn and styrofoam cups that made me want to cringe, just waiting for hands to pick them up. I had a water instead. I didn't know if I had to have an empty stomach to be put under. Best to be on the safe side.

The TV was playing the local news, and the hot topic was of course the Foltash. Hysteria was slowly climbing. I watched as some reporter interviewed a dignitary from the USA. They were confident mankind could work something out with the Foltash. I smiled for the first time that day. So confident in our ability to believe in something not yet tangible. Ah. My wife wouldn't like that at all. One Doctor Mutaph gathered me two hours later, and I followed him down the corridors and staircases he led me through until I lost count of how many doors we opened. When we finally reached where I assumed we were going, he stood before a hermetically sealed door. A card key was produced and swiped, and it opened to let us pass through, sealing itself with a soft hiss behind us.

I had thought CERN was an impressive facility, but this was beyond any scientist's wildest dreams. Unimaginable machines lay scattered in a uniform sort of way throughout this cavern of a laboratory. I could smell sulfur and chlorine, and I wondered what on earth either had to do with cryostasis. Doctor Mutaph led me around the winding maze of scientists and their equipment, and I started to notice more people than not. They must also be the recruits for the new world, as they were calling it. I had an itch as we passed several enormous glass vaults, each containing two people inside. I didn't make eye contact, but I wondered where they were destined to be in this labyrinth.

The good doctor stopped before a large capsule-looking bed, and smiled at me warmly before handing me a pamphlet and said he would be right back. He took my suitcase as well, and gave me a key to the locker it would be waiting for me in - I guess it wouldn't be on lock down with me. The pamphlet outlined the procedures in simple terms: I would be hooked up to an IV and fed small doses of liquid nitrogen, to begin the cooling process. It outlined that this was a potentially fatal procedure, but that every effort would be made to avoid this. I wondered what they would include - sometimes I wish I had asked more questions about everything that had happened before I went under. Maybe things would have been different. But I digress.

There was a small section on how the doctors responsible for me would ensure my optimal care and a comfortable rest before I was to awake, whenever that might ensue. Doctor Mutaph was back when I put the pamphlet down, that same warm smile on his face. He asked if I was ready, and I said yes, though I wasn't sure for what. He had me change into simple clothes - I chose a black t shirt, khaki slacks, and loafers. He took my glasses from me, and made a joke about not seeing while sleeping, but assured me they would be on the stand beside my capsule when I awoke. He mentioned absently maybe not even needing them in the future, but I didn't understand and I was too nervous to say that cryostasis wasn't a health changing procedure, just a life changing procedure.

I sat myself inside the capsule, and noticed large orange numbers stenciled across the front of my bed. 506 was what I read upside down. Doctor Mutaph noticed and told me it helped the staff keep track of everyone in the facility. I nodded, as if this was an everyday procedure. Where had my voice gone? He told me to relax as a nurse with an IV came over to me. He reexplained what the pamphlet said, and then the nurse began the procedure. I remember my vision being very hazy, and several nurses suddenly by my side.

I awoke once before it was time. I could hear frantic voices, slurred in my grogginess. I felt something hot on my arms, but I didn't have the strength to turn my head. I felt heavy, and I remember thinking it was an odd place to be having a bath. Someone leaned over me with a warm smile, and it was Doctor Mutaph. He assured me everything was alright, they were just doing a routine check up on my vitals. I must have nodded, because he patted my shoulder and disappeared. There was a sudden pinch in my neck, and my vision faded once more.

It is now the year 3070. When I awoke, there was a greeting party waiting for me outside my capsule. Doctor Mutaph was there as well, and several smiling nurses. He welcomed me back, and urged me to take my time in getting up. Two nurses came forward and helped me move my stiff joints. When I was upright, I rolled my shoulders to shake of the rigid feeling. That was when I noticed something was a bit off. By a bit off, I mean there was metal and slow blinking lights underneath my skin.

I looked at Doctor Mutaph, whose face hadn't changed. His eyes had, though. They were brown before. Now they were a light green. He explained that my cryostasis had been interrupted by a hiccup in 2870. To ensure I lived, they had changed out several limbs and organs to computer-based technology. I had the mind of a 52 year old scientist in a body that was 1,032 years old with parts of me that would run eternally. What had I become?

Everything was a bit of a blur after that. They gave me my things back, but said I would probably want to upgrade to the newest trends once I was acclimated to the current Earth's fashion. That gave me a tiny bit of hope: Earth still had fashion, it couldn't be so bad after all. Maybe we really did do something to scare off the Foltash. I wasn't given any real news of the last 980 years for a few days. They had me do rigorous health and mental tests, ensuring I was still in "optimal condition" as one nurse called it absentmindedly. When the doctor caught the look on my face, he hurriedly mentioned that this was just casual lingo between the staff, and apologized for worrying me. I wasn't worrying though, I was confused. On day five, they finally sat me down, along with a few other people that had awoken, and gave us the full rundown of what had happened since we had gone to sleep.

The major government bodies of the world had actually, to my incredulous surprise, come together to have a meeting of the minds on what to do about the Foltash. The short version is that a bloody war happened (typical of humans) but what the surprising part is that we came to a stalemate. With all the advanced tech that these aliens had, a stalemate? I wasn't the only one who questioned it. A woman named Sudi asked quite bluntly how the fuck had humans even remotely came close to a stalemate, when we were so obviously out-manned and out-gunned. The answer was that we had prepared well enough to hold our own, though the casualty count was outrageous. She didn't seem happy with the answer, and neither was I, to be frank. I kept my counsel to myself.

Currently, the surface was populated by both aliens and humans, as well as cyborgs and androids. Interstellar breeding, as the staff called it, was not uncommon, and apparently there was one ruling government body now, instead of the many across the globe. It called itself the Conclave of the People, or the COP. That got a few dry laughs from the room. They were the ones that made all the big decisions, and it was humans and aliens alike that manned it. Something felt off in this entire discussion, and I tried to pinpoint what it was, but Sudi beat me to it. She asked if they knew about this facility, and the others like it. The big wigs hemmed and hawed, but in the end the answer was no, they were not aware. Of course, everyone wanted to know why, but to my surprise, Doctor Mutaph stood up. He said that they were being cautious, as they weren't sure what the COP would do if they found unregistered humans locked away from civilization. Unregistered? was the general outcry, and the doctor backpedaled, saying it was like having a citizen count for a standalone country. Nothing out of the ordinary.

The debriefing concluded with the big wigs advising that we would be called upon individually in the days to come, to nail down the next course of action for each of us. I spent the majority of my time in my room regardless, so I decided to wait out my fate in there once dismissed. I went two days with peace and quiet, when someone knocked on my door around midnight (they kept clocks down here. Thoughtful.). It was Sudi, and she had the look of someone who had just ran a marathon. She shut the door quickly and dropped onto my couch without so much a word of greeting.

She told me she had done some digging around. The debriefing had felt too rehearsed, too composed for her liking, so she had sneaked into the databases that held all the information on the patients in this facility, including myself. She found what could be considered normal data: date of birth, previous family, health and dental records, allergies, etc. But what she also found was the changes done to myself. The ones Doctor Mutaph had said were precautionary methods because I had accidentally woken up in 2870. They weren't precautionary, according to the notes made. It was planned. They had planned to make me into a bionic, and they had done the same thing to others as well, including herself. I kicked myself for not seeing the tiny pulsing lights in her shoulders until that moment. But that wasn't all. These additions came with things besides 'better reflexes' and 'extended life expectancy'. They came with 'ability to breathe underwater for up to an hour', and 'retrained eyesight for sniper work', as well as 'heightening of the five senses', 'nanomeds installed in the bloodstream' (installed), and the slightly ominous 'repairs to organs feasible'.

When she finished reiterating what she had found to me, I asked her why she had come to me first. She shrugged and said it was because I had seemed the most critical towards the information relayed to us, and that I probably wanted to know about where we were truly at in the world. I thought about that for a moment, and asked her what she thought of the COP. She said it was a crock of shit. There was no way mankind just magically created a truce with a superior race, and suddenly they were all buddy-buddy and helping world peace become a thing. The "registration" of humans was a big sign. The fact that the big wigs didn't want anyone to know we were here was another. I didn't disagree. I suddenly wanted to be as far away from this place as possible. Sudi told me that we would begin training the following days, and I asked her what that entailed. The mention of gun ranges, large gyms, and electricity machines made my bones cringe. I was old, too old. If they were going to try to train me to be a killer, I was a goner. I said so to Sudi, but she reminded me that I wasn't that old anymore, considering I could live much longer due to my implants. In the end, we decided to go through this training with no complaints - maybe it would help us in the long run.

I wish we hadn't been so right.

There was four of us, astutely labeled the B Team. We trained hard and long on everything they threw at us: martial arts, lock-picking, surviving in the wild, hacking, how to shoot or wield a variety of weapons. Countless techniques and styles were given to us with almost impossible deadlines to master. They threw history at us, taught us biochemical engineering and how to perform open heart surgery. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine myself here. And yet, here is exactly where I was. It felt like a game. There were other teams, A and C respectively. They pit us against one another, observing how we reacted under pressure in one-on-ones as well as team activities. I began to notice more and more often that there was almost always a nurse or doctor watching us furtively from some corner of the room or through a window pane. It made me uneasy, and when I told Sudi, she said she had noticed too. She had been sleeping with a knife under her pillow the last few weeks after seeing a nurse peeking through her door in her room. I took her advice and started doing the same.

One day, a note was slipped under my door, just before I went to bed. It was unsigned, and I couldn't recognize the handwriting - I would know most of my team's work, or my opposers as well at this point. It was scrawled in delicate pen: 

4th floor. Laundry. Bring concealer.

It was clear that whoever this was didn't want to touch up their face, but I felt at a loss. Who would be there? Why were they reaching out to me, and to what end? I contemplated going to bed when a quick rap on my door revealed Sudi, with a similar piece of paper in hand. She saw the note in mine, and nodded as if it all made sense. I wish I had that kind of understanding. She asked if I was going, and I told her I wasn't sure. Didn't it seem strange to receive this, after all we had been through? What if it was a ploy to weed out insubordinate people? Sudi was the brave kind of people you find during floods and famine - leap in, do what needs to get done, and get out. She had brought a knife with her, her 'concealer', and a spare for me should I choose to go. I hesitated in taking it, but something about the way Sudi held it out to me made me want to run to her. We agreed to go together, right now. And so we did. We met no one on our way there, which made me further suspicious. There was always a patrol of some kind in the corridors. Who was responsible for all this? I just wanted answers.

When we arrived, there was a note on one of the drying machines. Sudi got to it first. 

The square behind 

We turned around simultaneously, and a large vent was nestled behind a double stacked washing machine. To a passing eye, it would appear just as a vent. However, when we looked closer, we saw the screws were already loosened for us, and a small note in chalk marker on the inside of the vent said, Follow.

Sudi went first, and I debated for about 30 seconds before following behind, making sure the venting grate was reattached on my way in. We followed the venting for what felt like hours, and sweat poured down us. We didn't dare speak to each other - we had no idea if anyone would be able to hear us moving inside the venting, and we had no idea what would happen if we were caught. We assumed we reached the end when we saw sunlight starting to filter through the tunnel we had been crawling in. It disoriented me - I can't remember the last time I had seen the sun. We breached the grate, and stepped out into a semi wooded area. We were ... free.

But from what?

The rest, as they say, is history. A fellow named Dirge was waiting just inside the tree line for us - Sudi nearly stabbed him in surprise - and he explained the lies we were fed were indeed just that - lies. The grand scheme of this cryo-project had been truthful - they had wanted the best and brightest to help rebuild. What they didn't tell us was that it was to be for the sake of their corporation to infiltrate the COP and take back our seats of power from the Foltash. The enhancements made to us were on, of course, by design - definitely not an accident. And all the training we did was in preparation for this mission. We had been destined for would-be assassin roles, dispensable in the end. After Sudi and I expressed our outrage and anger, Dirge took us to his underground network, where the resistance against corporations like the ones we were held in, as well as Foltash-based factions, congregated. Dirge said they called themselves The Rebirth Renegades. He introduced us to some of the others there - resistance higher ups. We were greeted by their tech, Trey; their communications officer, Ace; and their lieutenant, Val.

They gave us the option of joining them. We had the training that they needed for undercover work, and who better than us to get into where they needed to be - inside the COP. Sudi, of course, didn't hesitate to agree. It felt right to join them, but did that mean it was a good idea? I wasn't sure. The only thing I was sure of was that I was angry for being betrayed by my own people. I had lost everything only to become a pawn. I wasn't anyone anymore, except a new body to be pushed into battle in the hopes that I would make a difference. 

And you know what? That was alright with me. 
I signed on. 

They gave us new identities, outfits, quarters, and special telecom devices for communication. Cellphones were a thing of the past: they had implants you could make direct calls to, on hidden networks or public channels. They had watches that allowed vid-calls - it was like Skype, but far superior. We had made great strides in this past millennium, and I felt the worse for missing it. My anger had suddenly appeared, and it was almost a relief to feel something other than confusion. I was tired of being told where to go with no direction or goal. Just do as you're told, and that's it. No, I didn't want to be some puppet. 

I thought about my long-dead wife's words again: this is not God's plan. It surely was not. I wasn't a believer in the gods or a higher purpose. I believed in science. So when they asked me what I wanted to be called, I told them the Preacher. My real name would come later. 

We would move on the Foltash, and the ones who would corrupt the human purpose of living. We would go forth to set correct what was made unbalanced a millennia ago. This wasn't God's plan. This was my plan. 

Alleluya, you are dismissed, amen.