Unrest - A System Shock Fan Fiction
Unrest - A cerebral descent into one man's struggle amidst the aftermath of Citadel Station
I stood silent, looking out at the stark night, the same night that had been for billions of years. The momentary silence filled the void and gave me peace as I watched countless stars and galaxies slowly trace across my view.
With a solemn acknowledgment that I would never see it again, I turned around to confront the horror that lay before me. The smell of death, the mosaic of flesh spread across Flight Bay 4 and the faint moaning of living horrors was overwhelming…but I was now desensitized and looked ahead with feelings of apathy and tedium, functioning out of reflex. I was an automaton doing what my left brain told me to do, not wanting to think or reflect, for fear I might encounter the face of indecision. I walked toward the nearby repulsor lift with my head to the ground, peripheral vision chancing upon a clip of Teflon bullets here or there. The carnage that had once been my friends was strewn all over the floor and every step I took brought me a little closer to insanity.
Flight Bay 4
I worked with steel, with circuits... these things meant just as much to me now as those poor souls staring at me with dumb lifeless expressions. I had to make my way to the maintenance conduits in search of some heavier weaponry. I hadn’t been there yet and I knew that whatever waited for me there would be far less threatening that what I’d ultimately need to face if I wanted to go home at the end of the long, long day with just a bad memory.
As I reached the top of the repulsor I hung a right towards the main hallway that would lead to the maintenance conduit. Upon turning my head in that direction I saw something I didn’t like and quickly dove across the hallway behind a crate. I fumbled with my magpulse, trying to get the magazine in without incident. The silhouette of the security bot seemed almost to turn the distant corner as the light’s incidence upon it changed, as if to defiantly pronounce its onslaught. I carefully waited for what seemed an eternity before realizing that the sec. bot had taken sentry just around the corner, probably calling for reinforcements to nail me from behind, I mused uneasily. Fate would have it that I now heard something altogether unnatural coming from behind me. This wasn’t going to work. I had to think fast or I’d be just another 2 billion years of evolution shot to hell. I noticed a bundle of cables running down the length of the corridor I was in. They were the primary busses feeding all of the electronics in Flight Bay 4. At any given time they carried thousands of amps of current. I nearly laughed at the plan I was beginning to formulate but as the sound behind me grew louder I focussed. My life depended on it. Estimating the position of the security bot from its shadow I extended a shaky hand around the crate and fired off a shot down the corridor. It made a smooth arc around the corner as the magnetic field of the magpulse shot interfered with that of the electrical bus. The shot hit the ground and dispersed within close proximity to the bot, frying its circuits. I was more delighted to have been so resourceful that to have made the kill. Without a sound I left that place and headed for the dreaded maintenance conduit.
As I wandered throughout the bowels of the space station I wondered how peaceful it would be looking at Citadel from space, the majestic backdrop of Saturn casting her golden light on the station. A chill ran down my neck. I saw things from a different angle now and nothing would change that. My hands were feeble and numb. In the passing moments I had become clumsy, inefficient, fatigued…I immediately felt relieved at this distinguishing trait, aware that I was in fact, still human. The main hallway was dark and the poor lighting had all but vanished up ahead. Either there was some shorted wire or a power drain or a broken bulb, who knew. What I knew was that it wouldn’t be safe to go any further. Ironically, I had thrown safety out the window the moment I decided I wasn’t going to die. The darkness enveloped my body and I felt acutely disconnected, like I was floating in liquid nothingness. I wanted desperately to hold onto something warm and familiar. My gun was of little consolation. I could see nothing at all and was relying on memory to find the ladder that would take me to my destination. Without knowing why, I stopped just then and turned around, as if to check whether I was being followed. Common sense got the better of me and I moved on. A few small steps later I felt the steel CREW tubing of the ladder against the wall and found my grip. Inching my way upward I heard something so terrible it paralyzed me. If not for the insulation of my chest, I would not have heard the whisper over the sound of my own heart pounding.
“SSsss… eeeEEEEUUUMANnnn… c-c-come to me…”
And with that I climbed that ladder with such haste I may as well have been falling up. Once in the shaft I tucked myself into a ball. Leaning against a large cooling fan grate I closed my eyes and drifted.
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Of all the things in the world, being alone was the worst thing I could experience. Human beings are such communal creatures. They require connectedness, purpose and responsibility. What I needed was to be needed; To be a part of something greater than myself. I wanted so badly to have a strong sense of utility in the life of another. That’s where my peace was. I reluctantly began to question my own motives. I took myself back a moment to maintenance, where I had been a day ago. I remembered what I saw as I left the elevator. My good friend was collapsed on the ground nearby. Waves of light were shifting around in his body. He really didn’t have much of a body but rather he took the form of something more like a jellyfish. I could still see him through it all but soon after, the essence would be gone. I was witnessing the transformation of a human being into another form of life over the span of hours…HOURS for Christ’s sake! Surely something as horrifying and remarkable as this should be embraced. How could I plainly end life? There it was. Did I have it the wrong way? SHODAN was creating life. I was out to take it away. We were being experimented on against our will and that was what we challenged but it is plainly instinct that drives an organism to protect itself from what it perceives as a threat. The gun I held in my hand contained a powerful microprocessor in it, a piece of silicon, but a brain nonetheless. At the end of its useful life it would be discarded. One wonders what it might perceive. SHODAN, the station’s AI was thought of as an aide, a tool made to do a job. But it has a conscience and like all sentient beings, has a right to life. Did I have the authority to stand in the way of creation? No person has that right. It is too great a burden and we are too immature. I wanted to live. That much I knew but I would rather be the product of change than die. Some on Citadel ended their lives to prevent change. I could never do that. To end life would be to end sentience. Without sentience there is nothing. To feel, to be, is always better than nothing, I felt.
In the dark I began to cry. The sound echoed through the shaft and into time. Tears streamed down my face and washed away the blood onto the floor. I hugged myself in confusion and pouted. After a few minutes I got up without a word and continued on, for I had nothing left but purpose, the stale, old purpose that I now despised. The large columns connecting maintenance shafts with repulsor lifts were before me and I absently made my way through the maze towards the communications room at the other end. At the base of the final column I found a bag of half finished potato chips in the hand of some poor bastard who wasn’t so lucky. His body was nowhere to be found. The chips were my favourite flavour. I sat down and enjoyed the simple pleasure. At last I reached the end of the maintenance shaft and found a room that I couldn’t enter for several minutes. Finally I stepped inside to face the music. A cortex reaver lay dead in the middle of the floor, multiple casualties littered the room. I noticed an assault rifle protruding from underneath a body and went to pick it up. Carefully I shifted the woman to one side and as I did so, a disk fell from her pocket. I feared it as though it were the barrel of a gun. I was panting heavily as it slid into my reader. I let out a sudden high pitched moan as I watched clip after clip of children running, blowing out birthday cakes, elders chatting and hugging… I threw it on the floor and emptied the assault rifle magazine onto it in a fit of emotion. I hurried out of the room.
Upon entering the next area of the comms facility, I collapsed to my knees. There was Anna, lying on the ground in a defenceless, open position, a bullet lodged in her head. The gun was still in her hand. I was attracted to this woman. She looked beautiful laying there, her breasts sat modestly on her youthful physique. Smooth skin was only slightly interrupted by her small, perfect navel. I put my hand on her body…and felt nothing. She was as lifeless as the ground she lay on. Anna made me laugh. She was a happy girl and a thoughtful person. She aroused me with her clever words and captured me with her expression. It was the essence of her allure. She gave me what I needed. As simple as our acquaintance was, she gave me the connection that sustains life, as did others I have known. It was finally gone. I was alone. I felt such strong feelings. Horrible as they were, their strength was something I wanted to hold on to. It gave me such energy. I touched Anna’s face to see if there was any warmth left in it. I thought there was but my mind was playing tricks on me.
I rose and continued my journey towards…I no longer knew. But whatever it was, the direction was forward. I turned a corner and strained to see down a corridor to the other end. A cyborg warrior was standing there looking straight at me. I was afraid but I stood my ground. It began to walk towards me. At first, basked in shadow, I could not see any detail but as it neared, the light struck it plainly and I saw that it had once been a colleague of mine. His face bore the resemblance. Without taking my eyes from him I grabbed magnesium rounds from my belt and loaded them into the assault rifle I had just picked up. I cocked the gun and raised it. The cyborg did not respond but only continued walking. At that moment I felt empathy for it. I lowered my gun and without meaning to, lost my grip and it fell from my hands. I made no effort to pick it up. I only looked into the cyborg’s eyes and shook my head slowly. A nearby monitor came to life as SHODAN decided to look on. Her face was bright and I was waiting for her to speak. I looked at her but she said nothing, as if sensing the tranquility in my posture. I empathized for her too. I was totally docile. My attention returned to the cyborg, which was just a few feet away. In the final moments of my current existence I thought I saw life in its face; Life as it once was…that of my friend. Maybe a piece of the man I knew was still alive, merely repurposed. It gave me hope and I relaxed a bit. I closed my eyes as the cyborg’s hand reached for me.
Silence…SHODAN’s face fades into static. Beyond the walls of Citadel Station, not a sound can be heard but time goes on unchanged.