Graveyard Orbit

Summary: My ghosts will haunt the furthest of stars.

Subject Omega awoke without memories in a deserted clinic. Utterly nescient in the nature and operation of the sleek plastic machinery that surrounded his bed, he inevitably noticed standing up was far easier than he remembered it. The polished glistening of devices of unmistakable medical and scientific discovery drove him to postulate several theories for the state of his awaking. Only a sign near his bedpost in characters he could not recall seeing, but nonetheless immediately recognized, identified him as "Subject Omega."

From this, Omega surmised that perhaps his condition was the result of some scientific experiment or medical condition. The apparent desertion of the laboratory was more perplexing to him, as no doctors or medical staff had responded to his awakening. The absences of other patients itself was likewise alarming, unless whatever procedure was being performed had an isolation protocol between subjects. He wondered that perhaps by the right course of action, the unseen operators of the experiment would see fit to grant him answers.

Omega conspicuously searched for reflective surface to check his body for the first time, perhaps hoping to trigger cues from long suppressed memory. The total absence of memories was another possibility that he readily considered. The hallmark of personhood was having memories and experiences, but bereft of those, he was merely a codename in a laboratory. On the back of a mirror-like pane on the back of a machine reminiscent of a refrigerator, he saw himself for the first time. He was a tall man with a tall body, shaved head, dark skin, and muscular build. His brown eyes spotted something out of the corner of his eye, which his uncanny senses noticed lacked a reflection in his improvised mirror.

A blond woman with steely blue eyes stood beside him with the white coat of a doctor clinging to her attractive form. Her skin was nearly the alabaster white of delicate porcelain, but was smooth enough to seem unmarred upon closer examination. She walked forwards with her hands buried deep in her pockets while a confident grin played across her face.

"I see you've adjusted to the O'Neill cylinder's microgravity without much problem," she said in a nearly musical voice. "But we really should get moving."

"Who are you?" he asked in a voice more befuddled than accusing. "Are you some augmented reality projection or artificial general intelligence?"

"Not quite, but I'm not at liberty to say until you get moving. They're closing in, and you won't like what they've got planned."

The unanswered queries in Omega's mind burned for answers, but his survival instinct was keen enough to perceive the echoes of ungainly metal limbs clattering down a nearby corridor. As if sensing a palpable aura of enmity between whatever remained outside the doorway, Omega searched for any sort of weapon in the room. Finding only a metal rod of uncertain purpose roughly a meter in length, and held clasped it in his hands as he bolted through the door opposite of the one he heard sounds from behind. A frenzied glance behind him indicated the woman had vanished, but something smashed open the other door with a powerful thrust that nearly ripped it from its hinges.

Omega did not wait in slack-jawed amazement see the appearance of his presumed pursuer. He sprinted in the opposite direction down a sterile hallway bathed in the cool white lights of an unknown type. On other side of him, locked doors of nearly identical manufacture stood like ranks of saluting sentinels. Despite the exhaustion that was now forming with him, the occasional reverberation of something mechanical sent him bounding further down the corridor.

When Omega saw the woman again, it was at the locked door that blocked his way further into the corridor. The red, black, and yellow bands that covered it like fever sores were clear deterrents in several languages without need for characters or words. "I knew you could make it this far, but we've got problems. The Research Manager is keeping you sealed up in here so the Director doesn't know what's going on."

"How does some pissing contest concern me?"

"Oh, both are very much concerned with you, for different ways and reasons. To get out, we'll need to get you to the Manager's office to find the manual override to end the lockdown."

"And then what?"

"Then I can tell you everything. Oh, here's another hint: hit the joints."

The woman walked into the sealed door behind Omega as he heard the whoosh of rushing air. An unseen mechanism rumbled and groaned within the wall like a miniature stampede. The door rose from the floor, revealing itself as a metal bulkhead with a convincing coat of paint underneath. At first, the room beyond the door merely appeared as the splitting image of his own, save for one key difference that made him instinctively raise his improvised weapon.

The room had a sole occupant, a vaguely humanoid machine that wore his own face. Its ungainly limbs more resembled a bulky piece of industrial machinery, while the clothing worn around its central body seemed more like the handiwork of a baroque artisan than modern engineer. With eyes that were not quite human, it focused on Omega and snapped at him with its outstretched limbs.

As though anticipating the strike, Omega weaved beside the robot's claw-like arms and smashed the delicate looking coupling that would have been an elbow joint on a human. It yielded almost like a knife through melted cheese, far faster than the man would have believed. The arm fell limply away as the machine staggered back, but he saw the opening he needed. With a twist of his hips that felt almost as natural as the way he unthinkingly held the rod, he smashed the machine's kneecap and sent it crashing to the ground. A blow to the neck finally caused the machine to stop thrashing like a dying man.

Close to recognition yet unable to perceive its entirely, Omega cursed himself for failing to recognize the unseen entirety of whatever was gnawing at the depths of his mind. He consciously examined the way he held the metal bar like a sword and how he adjusted his balance while swinging it. Some manner of training in the martial arts immediately came to his head, but the context of which was completely absent. As he futilely struggled for more answers, he again heard the thing that was pursuing him, and continued on the way he had been running.

Down the hallway, Omega noticed a nearby sign written in characters he had never seen before, yet immediately translated. The iridescent characters writhingly transformed before his eyes into the more familiar, comforting lines of familiar letters. Breathing a sigh of relief, he saw the Manager's office was down a hallway to his left. Kicking off the wall opposite to the hall, he sprinted down the empty passage as he felt the first pangs of exhaustion within his lungs and welling up in his legs. He sprinted through a door that automatically opened for him, and slowed to a light jog to catch his breath.

Upon looking down the next hallway, Omega lost it again at the miraculous vista that had awaited him. The idyllic pastoral landscape he witnessed unfurling before him stretched towards a metal horizon that curved back to meet itself. While partially broken up only by blue gaps mimicking lakes and rivers, ribbons of white light radiated from one side to a patch of green woodland or geometric farmland on the opposite bank of the station. He had imagined life in a space station to consist of wriggling through narrow corridors like ancient submarines, far from the magnificent vision of ingenuity unfurling before him like a fullerene rose. He wondered if anyone was out there that could see him.

"The walls here are translucent, but only from the inside. They're too tough to smash through, and so you still need to lift the lockdown," the woman said as she effortlessly walked through the walls. "Believe me, the Director will definitely help you."

A quick whack with the stick confirmed the woman's words. Despite no visible deformation, the temptation to repeat his action was halted by the mechanical tendril that emerged from around the door an instant later sent Omega sprinting back into the immaculately cleaned corridors of the facility. He would have screamed of frustration and anguish, but his survival instinct quelled the shout before it could charge up his throat. His grip on his weapon tightened as he followed another sign towards his destination. An automatic door with the title "Research Manager" on it sat at the end of the hallway. The persistent temptation to relax and slacken in his rush jumped to mind, but it was soundly ignored in favor of the mad dash that followed.

Omega braced his shoulder for impact, half expecting the door to be locked or encounter resistance. Almost alarmingly, it almost welcomingly opened wide from him as he closed the distance. With a small amount of trepidation, he allowed the moment from his charge to carry him through. Half-expecting to be assaulted or ambushed from an unseen angle, Omega raised his only weapon as something thing moved within the room. Behind him, a deadbolt slid into place to seal the door shut.

Omega noted immediate similarities in the sleek and chrome-polished machinery to that in the clinical room that he had awoken in. One difference that he immediately noted was the disproportionately large number of tubes emerging from a conical unit in the corner of the room. No visible mechanisms sat atop the nearby walls, but an unnatural warmth nevertheless radiated out from the enigmatic unit like some perverse heater. With the weapon between him and the object, he found himself catatonically approaching it.

Omega it was from that device that he had registered the prior movement. A red light emerged as the mechanical cone parted. A white vapor escaped the top of the tank as the portion within rose as if to greet him. From within, a translucent tube exposed a pickled and shriveled human organ preserved by a malodorous chemical that it was undoubtedly immersed in. Fibrous growths from the bottom connected with a chitinous filament connecting with the edges of the tank. While he did not know what the abomination currently was, its origin as a human brain was unmistakable.

"How do I end the lockdown?" Omega asked, pressing his improvised weapon against the glass.

"A question, if I may indulge," came a synthetic reverb, yet undoubtedly familiar voice from an unseen loudspeaker. "Who were you talking with? The network's clear of all beings but my robots and us."

"Figures he doesn't suspect me," the woman said, her voice emerging from behind Omega. "Maybe he's forgotten?"

"Myself. I followed the signs to get here. Now, tell me what's going on, or I'll smash your brain-jar," Omega said, hoping the tube was made of lighter material than the translucent hallway.

"Ah, yes, you are still amnesiac from the process. Perhaps another session with the tentacle robot will jog your memory? Please stand still, since I've loaded Sophia with stun rounds."

Omega charged towards the door as the deadbolt opened. The muzzle of a familiar revolver emerged from the slip in the door, its handle and trigger grasped in a tentacle reminiscent of the one that he had seen around the corner. Using his weapon, he struck the barrel away as a loud discharge echoed in the room. Then, resting the weapon from the construct's grip he fired at the unseen automaton that had been pursuing him. The tentacle went limp in the door-frame, a small dart protruding from the place he had shot.

Now armed, Omega leveled his weapon at the brain. It slunk back into its conical protective shell like a cybernetic hermit crab, so he instead shifted his aim to the largest machine in the room. "Tell me what's going on, or I'll start shooting up whatever looks important."

"Of course, it was her!" the grating, synthetic voice boomed. "My ectoplasmic dampeners must've strained her abilities, but of course she'd be able to appear to you."

"You don't want to know what he was planning," the woman said. "But he's just as perverse as the man you knew him as."

"Dave, let me out," Omega said as his memories returned. "Liz, I can't help but thank you for everything."

"Of course! My friend has returned from the dead. I have surpassed God! Your brother, Director Pierce, will rejoice! I know he'll be too excited to overlook those worker-bots I hacked."

"Why'd you send them after me?"

"Because I thought I needed to return you to sleep for more special treatment, but no matter."

"That's not all he was planning, by the way," Liz said. "But I think we should get out of here. The lockdown's lifted."

"Mwuhaha! I have done it!" Dr. Risona cackled over the loudspeaker. His unexpected triumphant revelry was ended by a weak-voiced request. "Oh, would you mind leaving Sophia here? If you could lock her in the drawer to you left, I'd really appreciate that."

Removing the ammunition as he locked the weapon away, Jackson Grave otherwise accommodated the ravenous lunatic's request. Liz walked beside him, eager to update him on what had transpired in his absence. Slinging the rod over his shoulder, he left the mad scientist to his own devices as he rejoined the world his brother had built.