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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2283559
A story of exploration -- Writer's Cramp 10/20/22
“Com-link established, neural-sync stabilized. Data transfer enabled. Probe G-17, do you read?”

The words were loud and clear, though I did not hear them with my ears. The voice was in my head, in my thoughts, 'spoken' in a timbre and resonance that mimicked my own. The engineers told me it might be uncomfortable at first, but I hadn't anticipated how disconcerting it would actually be. Remembering my training, I centered myself and focused.

“Roger that,” I replied. “I can hear you. Audio seems good. Visuals are still processing.”

Within my field of vision an image was forming, a stark, desert landscape emerging from the static. I could see the unmistakable shape of mountains on a distant horizon. A vast expanse of rocky terrain lay before me. This is amazing, I thought. So immersive.

“Please keep this channel clear of unnecessary chatter,” said Mission Control.

Oops, I should have known better. I had a job to do and needed to exert more control over my thoughts. As the first operator of a Mindmech suit on a distant planet, the responsibility was enormous.

“I can see the landing site in totality now,” I said in my head with precise intention. “The unit's main sensory functions seem fully operational. I'm going to try and move the limbs.”

My real body lay in a vat of chemicals on Earth. My consciousness had been projected into a silicon replica of a human being standing now on the surface of Mars. I willed the left arm of the suit to raise up slowly. It complied. I tried the right and it too moved according to my desire. I wiggled the fingers and rolled the wrists.

“Arms and hands are working,” I said. “Requesting permission to attempt forward motion.”

“Granted. Godspeed, G-17.”

Before I even knew it, the legs of the unit were already active. Knees rose, one foot followed the next. Primordial dust stirred and whirled as the unit began trudging along the surface of the planet. The delay between thought and action diminished with each command. I was becoming one with the machine.

“I'm starting to figure it out,” I said.

“Be careful,” came the reply.

The awkward figure lumbered upon the surface of Mars, looking for something interesting. Odd angles of stone shone in the distance with a playful glimmer.

“I see a temple!” I exclaimed presumptuously.

“Beware of ancient weapons,” said Mission Control.

I started to freak out a bit and became disoriented. The Mindmech suit twitched its main sensory knob, the ostensible head. A deep rumble interfered with the connection to home. Crackling dissonance disrupted my thoughts.

“You're breaking up,” I said, a bit panicky.

“Where are you?”

“Close, but slightly off target.”

“Reel it in. Focus again on the scene before you. What does the sky look like on that world?”

Using deep breath exercises I regained control. The twitching of the suit subsided, the spirit energy began to flow again freely.

“The sky is shifting, always changing. It's hard to get a grasp on it,” I said.

“Check for underground tunnels.”

And so I did.

A slight change in the quality of the sand caught my eye. The angle of the sun and the shifting of my mood revealed the entrance to a hidden chamber. I decided to establish a base camp before venturing inside. Using the provided supplies I was able to start a small fire. I gathered my courage and slipped into the cave.

Hidden beneath the surface I did indeed find a buried temple. When my eyes adjusted I saw strange statues standing in formation against the walls. The dancing light from the fire above caused shifting shadows to pass across the solemn faces. Deities from a distant time expressed themselves again, after eons in hiding.

“I see humanoid figures,” I whispered mentally. “Carved of stone and arranged in formation. Symbols are painted on the surrounding walls of the cavern. Pictographs, petroglyphs, heiroglyphics...”

“Probe G-17, initiate emergency protocol El-Ra. All communication is to be immediately diverted to covert channels. Cease broadcasting on this frequency at once.”

I had no choice but to comply. Mission Control held the power and authority to dictate the outcome of this particular endeavor. What we discovered would remain a mystery to the general public for a very long time, though the truth would be discretely leaked through unconventional methods.
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