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Part 5 of GoW - The End
My eyes open, again, but the air around me is murky. My hands are free and I feel a liquid that covers my whole body. I realize I am in a vat, connected to oxygen and food lines. I reach behind and feel the sockets, well cut and shaped, placed along the back of my neck. There is a slight bump, and then the muffled sound of a generator firing signals the start of the draining process. As the water in the vat recedes I sink to the bottom. My legs are weak and cannot bear my weight easily, and I am unable to brace myself before the latch sounds and the door swings open, casting me in the glow of the room as I collapse on the floor. I remove the oxygen mask, as if from habit, and cough up the wet contents of my stomach. Looking around I see more casualties populating the cloning vat lab. I feel cold as I take my first steps and grab some clothes from a nearby technician who points me in the direction of my station quarters. He is disinterested.
It is a long walk to my home, and I receive looks from people as they realize my status as a pilot of the State. My home is welcoming, with bright lights, bustling shop-keeps and smiling tourists. Ships fly by the viewing windows and massive vessels sit parked in the hangars. The people who do notice me and stare I do not smile to. Outside of the recreational zero-gravity park I notice a young women, much younger than me, dancing. She is a tiny beautiful thing with feathers in her hair and a short dress. I watch her for a while and catch her eye as she dances. She comes close and whispers in my ear some pretty words; I accept. I take her to my room and pay her well.
We finish and she stands, dresses and leaves quickly, allowing the crowd outside to clap and cheer as she leaves. But as she does she glances over her shoulder, and instantly I am reminded of my wife. I slam the door, pick up a headset and patch into a network. To call her; to hear her. I keep trying the connection multiple times, trying to find her. Out of habit I reach down to finger my ring, only to find it is gone. Looking around I don't see it; it doesn't fall out when I empty the pockets of the free clothes I was given, nor when I search the pockets of the clothes hanging in my closet. A note lies on my desk welcoming me back, but there is no ring. My food-cooling-unit is empty say for a few beers and what looks like ancient leftovers, but still no ring. I am unable to find it as I toss over furniture, flip my mattress, and disassemble my quarters.
Looking back I see now what we are. They tell us they copy our brains at the time of bridge-breach and transfer it to a new body. They prefer the term 'extension of life' to immortality. As I recall myself tossing over furniture and crying out in vain, searching for the one thing most valuable to me, I know that somewhere out there, drifting lazily through space is a ship with laser burns, dead crew members, broken propulsion systems, and a breached and empty captain's bridge.
Nearby floats a body with a ring on its left index finger.