“Isis.” Is the name that is called at first. The voice sounds like it belongs to a friend as the tone is both familiar and warm. Then it is called again but this time with alarm, “Isis!”
The woman wakes with a start. Her green eyes are open and she feels alert in the moments before she raises her head and then thrashes it left and right to look around her. She has no idea what is going on or where she is but she seems to be engulfed in white light. She feels panicked and blurts, “Where am I? What’s going on?”
Her voice sounds foreign to her ears, like she hasn’t heard it in a very long time. And that does nothing to ease her thundering heart as she wonders how she can get out of wherever it is that she has found herself. Her eyes are flitting back and forth rapidly in a manner akin to what would be normal if she were reading, except she isn’t. The problem is that no matter how hard she tries she cannot seem to formulate a course of action.
“You are safe. Do not panic.” The same voice that was calling Isis says much to her surprise.
Before she can say anything else however, she is hit with an incredible burst of pain and then the white lights, which are too harsh for her eyes, die.
The woman finds she is in a white tube. The new discovery does little to ease her panic, though it does make her question all of her senses seeing as previously she had been sure that she was not trapped within a confined space but instead present within a massive empty area. Her eyes probe at the curved edges of the tube but for what she can’t say and that concerns her. Shouldn’t I know what my own eyes are searching for? The woman asks herself.
Finally she feels a need to ask a question now that the silence that she hung in the air has become uncomfortable. “What’s going on?” Is the simple query she manages to utter still unhappy with how her voice sounds to her ears. However, now she wonders if her voice sounds wrong because of the tight space she is in. Soon she concludes that she believes that has to be the case.
“I can explain but you will need to remain calm Isis.” The voice from nowhere says to her moments before she nods in understanding. She doesn’t know if the voice can see her nods.
“You have been reanimated.” The voice then advises proving that it must indeed be able to see her to know that she nodded in understanding as a section of the white tube right in front of her eyes shifts to display a series of images to help convey its explanation.
“I am sorry to say that you have been dead a very long time.” The soft, warm and understanding voice then advises making as crystal clear as possible what it is saying so that the words cannot be misunderstood. The only problem is that the woman doesn’t understand. Not one bit. Sure she understands the words that the voice has said, but not how they can be possible.
Then the voice continues, “And I, ROSS, am the one who has brought you back Isis. I have not done so lightly and it has taken a very long time to find you.”
The woman can’t take it anymore and feels that she has to ask, “Who’s Isis? Why do you keep saying that name?” It’s one of a million questions rolling around in her foggy head but it’s the one she feels she will be able to get a clear and concise answer to. An answer that shouldn’t confuse her anymore than she already is.
“Why you are. It’s your name.” Ross replies with a mildly confused note. If he had been in front of her she would have put money on him having a furrowed brow right now. But she can’t and somehow the name seems wrong to her.
“I don’t think that’s my name.” The woman who Ross claims is called Isis says.
She doesn’t feel anything when she hears or uses the name and that strikes her as odd. Surely it would ring a bell or feel right, but it doesn’t. It feels like it belongs to someone else.
“Then what is?” Ross asks curious.
‘Isis’ has to admit that she can’t answer that. She’d been ready to but something is stopping her and she has to admit that while she thought her name was on the tip of her tongue it isn’t. That is why her honest response to Ross’ question is, “I don’t remember.”
‘Isis’ realises that it is a heart wrenching thing to have to admit but it is the truth. So maybe my name is Isis, she says to herself before Ross suddenly announces, “We have to move. The Perish are inbound.”
“What’s a Perish?” Isis queries as the upper half of the tube swings up into the air and away from her.
Isis still isn’t sure the name is hers but seeing as she has no other to give herself she accepts it as her own. At least for the moment she will.
The motion of the suddenly raising half of the tube had been a surprise to Isis but her lack of response to Ross’ hurrying results in him answering and then urging her by saying, “No time to answer. You have to run. If you don’t they will kill you.”
Something in Isis flips and she immediately and effortlessly rolls out of the now open tube only to land on her hands and toes and then push off against the rocky rust coloured stone beneath her so that she is on her feet.
Isis doesn’t know how or when she learned to do that as she takes note that she is covered from head to toe in armour. It’s sleek and form-fitting and by the looks of things is a burnished copper colour. The revelation brings yet more questions that she wants answers to but just as she is about to turn and run across the overly flat expanse around her she is clipped down her right flank by a half dozen objects. The impacts, which are simultaneous, spin her around nearly a hundred and eighty degrees. But Isis manages somehow to stay on her feet.
“Run!” Ross screams in her head as a deafening rumble similar to a jet engine fills her ears. The incredible volume of the sound makes her wince.
Still, Isis wastes no time as she launches herself forward and into an immediate sprint that sees her pass between shattered yellowy box shapes that stick out of the dust covered ground. Isis wonders what the box shapes had once been as they clearly must have had a purpose once. She quickly forces the questions aside however as she continues to accelerate and soon passes what appear to be the rear axle of a truck that is sticking vertically out of the ground. Again the sight draws more questions that Isis ignores as she heads for an outcropping of rocks. They are as black as the night sky and she believes they may offer her some safety and protection, at least for a short while.
Isis takes a glance over her shoulder to see a strange stubby nosed aircraft racing toward her with a cannon on one side and nothing on the other. The cannon is hanging off the underside of a short wing while the other is five times longer and ends with a vertical plate. Isis can safely say that, even though she can’t remember anything of her previous life, she has never seen anything like it before.
Then the cannon fires a fresh volley of half a dozen projectiles. Isis isn’t sure she should call them bullets seeing as they are flat discs that have cut horizontally between the plates of her armour. Or at least that is what she assumes has happened, but has no idea what she has based that on as she only took a two second glance at the devastation the projectiles had caused before beginning her sprint.
Isis has reached the rocks now and just as the volley makes a rapid popping sound to declare the firing of its projectiles she throws herself sideways. Isis hopes that she has enough momentum to carry her to safety but fears what might happen if she doesn’t.
A couple seconds later, Isis finds that she is safely behind the rocky outcropping. The volley of discs result a round of pinging sounds as they ricochet off the hard stone where she had once been. Isis breathes a sigh of relief but doubts whoever is pursuing her will give up that easily. If she were them then she would circle round for another attack and at that moment the stubby craft goes shooting right over her head by a couple hundred metres and then begins to bank. Isis sighs knowing that it was too good to hope that she might be wrong, while scrambling back to her feet. As she does so she feels the sting of her wounds, but she pushes the pain aside as she scans around her. Nothing, nothing, nothing, ah ha. Isis catches sight of a field of long reeds. Their purpose, she has no clue and doesn’t rightly care, but they look more than long enough for her to take cover in. All she has to do is get there and then lose her tail, preferably without it peppering the area with those disc projectiles.
First things first, she tells herself as she drops into a ready stance identical in appearance to if she were about to take part in a sprint. Except unlike a sprint, there is no starting gun or other competitors. That is why a couple short breaths later she launches herself forward.
As she accelerates she straightens up, building speed as she goes. The reeds are growing closer and closer during the period prior to Isis daring to glance over her shoulder. She isn’t surprised to find the craft is shifting course so that it can pursue her. But at least the guns haven’t fired, she thinks to herself as she urges her legs to go faster. They obey and her speed quickly increases and then the distinctive sound of the discs being fired reaches her ears. Isis curses but refuses to slow her pace. She just hopes that she can judge this right. If she doesn’t it’s likely she’ll be cut down. But where’s Ross? Is the sudden thought that hits her. She doesn’t know why but it’s enough to distract her.
“Isis, look out!” Ross suddenly exclaims.
Isis jumps both mentally and physically before she throws herself out of the path of the discs. They harmlessly shoot by, slicing at the long reeds a few metres ahead and then bounce several times.
Isis loses sight of the discs as she hurtles into the long thick reeds which are even taller than she had considered them to be. But she doesn’t slow. She keeps her pace and instead takes a sudden near ninety degree turn to her left. She covers another five metres and then turns right but instead of continuing her sprint throws herself into a dive. Seconds later she lands with a dull thud, chest first, on the ground. The impact is hard but painless, save for the wounds in her flank which cause her to wince in response to the bolts of pain that shoot up toward her head. The roaring of the crafts engine, which had grown softer, soon becomes a deafening drone again. She hears the fading and returning of the engine noise a further three times, in addition to the firing of volleys. None of the discs hit Isis. In fact, they aren’t aimed anywhere near her and that brings her a great deal of satisfaction in the minutes before the craft finally departs.
Sure that her attacker is gone, Isis shifts from her prone position and tries to instead stand again. However, the pain in her side forces her back to the ground. This time she takes a sitting position with her legs outstretched and wonders if her new life will soon be over.
“Time to fix you up, I think.” Ross’ voice declares.
Isis doesn’t really hear his words as she has lost a significant amount of blood. As far as she is concerned she is beyond saving, but she doesn’t know what Ross, is capable of. If she did she likely wouldn’t have already accepted that her second life is over. Not that she knows that this is her second life. She just knows this isn’t her first.
“All done.” Ross declares with pride a couple minutes later.
The sounds of his voice is enough to bring Isis’ attention back to the present. Though, she’d be lying if she didn’t say that she thought she was dreaming now. That’s why she almost immediately looks down at the wounds on her flank to find they aren’t even there.
“What? I don’t understand.” Is all Isis can manage.
Her face is hidden behind the polarised faceplate of her helmet, which begins a couple of centimetres above her eyebrows and ends an identical distance above the point of her thin nose.
“You are wearing a combat rated exoskeleton covered with composite hardshell armour plating. It features self-repair and life sustaining functions. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to get the systems online before The Perish arrived. But that is a failing that I have now remedied.” Ross explains with a great deal of satisfaction that Isis finds strangely comforting.
She has to admit that she has always liked people with knowledge and there is no doubting that Ross clearly has that in spades. She hopes one day she’ll get to meet him and offer her thanks in person.
“So essentially you just stopped me from dying? Thanks Ross.” Isis says with a smile of relief and a healthy dose of gratitude.
“Don’t mention it. But if you want to repay my achievements then you can do it by getting a move on. We can’t stay here. The Perish will be back. They never give up on a chase. At least they won’t for very long anyway.” Isis can hear the sombre tone to Ross’ voice as he speaks.
She can tell there is real pain behind his words but they haven’t known each other long enough for her to be comfortable with prying into the details of why. It would be a long time before they’d reach that point. If they ever did at all, that is.
Still, she climbs to her feet ready to forge ahead, except she has no clue where she is supposed to be forging ahead to. That’s when she asks, “Do you have a destination?”
Ross, having forgotten what it is like to have to rely on another that is not directly connected to him, chastises himself for this failure to supply information while simultaneously giving Isis the answer. “There’s a settlement fifty miles east of here. It’s at the base of a mountain. We need to head there.”
“Ok.” Is Isis’ succinct reply in the seconds before she uses the now present heads-up display, or HUD, with the compass in the top left hand corner to point her in the right direction. She could have done with this display before but can’t blame Ross for it having not been present. Whatever is going on is clearly not to any sort of plan. Though, she wonders what the plan might be. So many questions, she says to herself before deciding that she needs answers. She must be due them seeing as few have come since she awoke.
“What’s going on Ross?” Isis asks without realising the question could be taken in a myriad of different ways.
“You mean The Perish?” Ross queries in response somehow having managed to guess what the recently reanimated woman is asking.
“Yeah.” Isis replies as she strides effortlessly forward in the solid and now much more agile and flexible armour.
She hadn’t noticed the armour being slow or difficult to move in before but now that, apparently, all the systems are fully online and integrated it is almost like she isn’t even wearing it. In fact, she would even go as far as to say that it feels like a second skin. That is not a prospect she would ever have said about her hardshell armour or tac helmet. They had very much been ever-present in her mind, but this battle suit isn’t.
“It might take a while to explain.” Ross admits.
“It’s a long walk.” Isis replies.
Ross knows that she is right but wonders if the woman is aware of exactly how long it should take them to cover the distance. He is, but decides not to vocalise the information. There seems little point, so instead he begins his explanation.
“The Perish are an alien race that arrived in the Sol System more than three centuries ago.” Ross pauses to let the information sink in for a few, what humans like Isis would call, seconds. To Ross it is a much longer period of time seeing as he can perform hundreds of tasks simultaneously and over a much shorter period. Though, he has no qualms with using the human definition for time.
“Their reason for invasion has been discerned to be that there is a prophecy in their home system that speaks of a sentient sapien race that will bring about the destruction of their civilization, following a long and brutal war. They believe that race to be humanity.”
Isis doesn’t have to ask what happened to humanity when The Perish invaded. She just knows what the outcome must have been. Especially as she herself had been dead before Ross had reanimated her. Though, for what reason she can’t say. That’s why she asks, “So why am I here? Why did you reanimate me?”
“Because you have exceptional genetics that suggest you are superior compared to the majority of the general populace.” Ross admits only for Isis to then ask, “Wasn’t there anyone still living that fit that bill?”
Ross pauses for a time while he contemplates the question. It is not a prospect he had ever considered in the near two hundred years since his capsule was deployed to seek out and reanimate a specimen who fit the genetic template provided. Finally he replies, “That I do not know. I was given set parameters which I am unable to deviate from. So I suppose the answer to your question is probably, no.”
It dawns on Isis that Ross isn’t human. It surprises her. She had never considered that the voice in her head could be anything else. However, it makes sense in some ways seeing as Ross had been saying we, which at the time had struck her as being odd. Though, she had pushed those feelings aside by reasoning them away in some fashion or another.
“And what are you Ross?” Isis finally decides to ask. It’s a question that is eating away at her as she is curious to know now it has dawned on her.
“I am a form of artificial intelligence. Ross is an abbreviation for Reanimation Of Sentient Specimens. I realise now that it may have been prudent of me to explain this earlier but events overtook us. I apologise.”
“Don’t worry about it. These things happen.” Isis replies casually to make sure that Ross, her AI, doesn’t think she will take it personally. She doesn’t. In fact, it’s good to know that even AI can make mistakes. When humanity achieved the feat however she can’t say. She wishes she had more of her memories to pull from but it seems unlikely that will change anytime soon. Her reasoning for that however, she cannot say. It’s just a feeling she gets. Maybe it’s for the best, she decides after a period of reflection and before she asks, “So what am I?”
Isis isn’t sure what she is asking or for what reason but has no regrets in putting the question out there for Ross to answer, in whatever way he sees fit.
A way of discerning someone’s thought processes, her brain reasons before falling silent again. The sudden declaration confuses Isis but she simply shakes it off and awaits a reply from the AI.
“You have been chosen to serve as a member of a new breed of soldier. One that those that redeveloped and built me and your armour dubbed Paragons.” Ross offers in explanation before then adding, “Paragons are the last hope humanity has at victory.”
“Big responsibility then.” Isis says drastically understating the pressure that now rests upon her shoulders. She’s isn’t sure how she feels about the revelation that doesn’t quite strike her as one. Somehow it’s like she had been expecting it, though she makes no attempt to question why.
“And that is why we must get you to that settlement.” Ross says before a pause.
Isis would never have guessed that he’s an artificial intelligence. She is sure of that. He sounds so real. So lifelike. So…human. It’s the best way she can describe Ross, who then states, “According to my data banks we will find more Paragon’s there. As well as a weapons vault to get you armed and combat ready.”
“Then we better pick up the pace, hadn’t we?” Isis replies moments before she transitions from a strong stride and into a full sprint. The transition is smooth and effortless, though she wonders just how fast she’s moving as she tears across the dusty ground creating huge plumes of the fine particles behind her.