Test of Faith 004: An epic science fiction/fantasy trilogy adventure
Yaasmin tried to speak, but her words came out as gasps. Her round cheeks were flushed. She put her one hand on her hip. The other tucked a leather-bound book under an arm. She squinted up at the sky, face red. Isis stepped forward to take the precious scriptures from her and put an arm around her shoulder. A hunter stepped forward to give Yaasmin a water skin. She took it with a smile and tipped it up, ignoring the mess of water as it splashed on her face.
She stopped drinking to gasp and wheeze. All eyes looked at her, expectant.
In a few moments, she regained her composure. Her breathing slowed. She straightened back up and smiled, looking from eye to eye.
“The marauders control the city.” Her face was dark. “They let all of the mothers and children live. The Warren is largely untouched. That’s where I was hiding. The mothers also hid some other warriors—a few from each sect. They mounted an escape for me.” She frowned. “A lot of good women died getting the scriptures out of the city.”
Isis looked down at the book in her hands. She opened the cover with reverence. She placed a gentle hand on the pages.
“We will remember their sacrifice,” she said.
Isis looked down to where her index finger was pointing in the scriptures. She cleared her throat.
“Deliver me from my enemies, O my LORD; protect me from those who rise up against me.”
“Amen,” said those around her in unison.
Isis looked back at Yaasmin.
“Can you walk? We should keep moving away from the UN outpost.”
For the first time, Yaasmin took in the newest arrivals to the group. Her eyes widened. She nodded without uttering a word.
Samia turned and started to walk out of the illusion jungle. Behind her, the others followed. Some of the women congratulated Yaasmin for finding them. She returned their grateful smiles and took a deep breath before following.
Nicko bounded ahead in excitement. He had woken up moments before. He didn’t seem to care about the extra people in his group.
Liam shook his head and followed the group. One of the hunter women, Ai, slowed her pace to walk alongside him. She looked up at him for a moment before asking, “What’s it like?”
“What is what like?”
“I’m sorry,” she looked away, blushing. “It might be too personal.”
Liam was quick to respond, “No, no! It’s not personal at all. I just didn’t know what you meant. Being a ‘borg?”
“Yes,” she brightened. “That’s what I meant. I have never met a person-robot like you. I am very curious.”
Liam looked into the distance. There was nothing but sand for miles. “I imagine we have a long way to walk. Ask me any question that comes to mind. I have no secrets.”
Ai was almost eager, “How much of you is human?”
“Very few original parts remain. The only thing left is my eyes, brain, and spinal column. It’s easier to build a computer to interface with a human spine than to build an artificial spine. It can be done, but not on the cheap.”
Ai frowned at the words she could not understand. Then she asked another question, “How did it happen?”
Liam sighed. “It was slow at first. I was a good soldier. We had a very tight unit. We were special forces. The other members of my unit were my family. I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to protect my brothers and sisters.”
He continued, “Then there was the bomb. It took one of my legs. I thought that was the end of my career. My buddies were cheering me on. ‘You can still fight! Get an upgrade!’”
He walked in silence for a second. “That is where it started. I had a brand-new robotic leg. It was stronger. My friends in the unit said it made me a better soldier. If only both legs were robotic. Then I could run faster and jump higher. Yeah!” He raised a triumphant fist.
“The second amputation was voluntary. I chose to be a better soldier to better protect my brothers and sisters.”
He didn’t look over at Ai, who was gazing at him with an admiring smile. “We know about sacrifice for the good of our sisters.”
“Yes, but it didn’t stop there. I could, indeed, run faster and jump higher. I took more risks. I charged into battle. I was kick-ass, as the unit said.” He paused. “I probably shouldn’t have run gung ho into every firefight. That’s how I ended up taking several bullets to the chest.”
He pounded his chest with a metal fist. One! Two! Three! The metal twanged.
“No worries! They said. We could just put a metal plate in your new robotic chest!” Liam smiled. His mouth gears pulled back to expose two horse-shoe plates that simulated teeth.
“After that, I was bullet-proof. I could really charge into combat. Then, I needed stronger arms to carry bigger guns…” He trailed off. The continued to walk in silence.
“I was an unstoppable force in the field,” He paused. “That was until the next generation of ‘borgs were developed. They could have upgraded me, but at that point, it was about money. It was cheaper to release newer, better models. I was re-assigned to the cargo bay. I move heavy boxes all day.”
He sighed again. “The other members of the unit never even visited. I guess we weren’t as close as I thought. I hope they are being protected by a newer, better ‘borg. I still think about them from time to time.”
They continued on in silence. Ai was finally the one who broke the quiet, “So you are still a man on the inside?”
“I still have awareness and a soul (I hope). There’s nothing left on the outside. I didn’t need anything else to be a better soldier.”
Ai reached out her mind to him. All the women could do it. She brushed the edges of his consciousness. The borg could feel the touch in his mind. He stopped walking and looked at her.
“What are you doing?”
Ai seemed satisfied and pulled her mind back. “Yes. You have a soul. On the inside, you are still a man.”
She nodded and started to walk again.
Liam looked after her and then followed.
This is the next instalment of my second book, Test of Faith. If you want to read my first book for FREE, you can sign up for my mailing list . I am posting this book serial-style. Each Wednesday I will post the next section. Give me feedback, it encourages me to write!