This is the Second Place winner of TSAT's third writing contest. Don't read it until after you've read the opening sequence it's a continuation of!

[tsat home] [#26] [stories]

Memories and Truth
by Black Robed Mage
©2003 Black Robed Mage -- all rights reserved

Chapter 1: The Dream

Alex woke up.

He was in his bed, the room was empty. As he became fully awake, he realized the early morning sun was shining through the blinds of his window, bathing the large room in streams of orange light. Alex looked at the clock next to his bed; 0550. He got out of bed and walked to the bathroom, the dream still on his mind.

He had been having the same dream for the last couple of weeks. Flashes of some other life, almost like a movie. He was some sort of spy or hired mercenary or something. He had always had some interest in that sort of thing, but had never thought of actually doing it. He had been content with the life his father had left him. He had enough money to live his life in a good home, and never had to do any real work, especially work that involved sneaking around and risking getting killed. Alex laughed to himself as he got into the shower. He let his mind wander as the water cascaded down onto his body, cleansing the worries he had about the dreams.

After he finished his shower, he put on a pair of slacks and a loose-fitting button down shirt; he walked out onto the balcony of his room. He lived in a rather large home, something he never really needed, but his mother and his father had lived happily there for over thirty years, and left it to him after they passed away. He looked out over the ocean, the sunlight slowly changing from orange to yellow as it moved higher into the sky. The planet had been built a few decades before his birth, floating around an artificial sun. The planet was built for the purposes of rich people. The entire planet was ocean front property, consisting of many small islands. Like a ring around each of these islands, several large homes had been built, many times to the specifications of the buyers. In the middle of each island were many small stores, run by a group of people who lived in the floor above the store. Each island was like a gated community, people got together to discuss how the island should be run, and what rules they wanted. Alex almost never went the meetings, although he did try to follow the rules, more to keep the neighbors from being mad at him then anything else.

Alex turned and went back inside, the doors closing automatically behind him. He could hear a ringing sound, and picked up his watch from the night stand. He looked at the display, which had a text message written out. Alex read it out loud to himself.

"From Dr. Terrance, remember today is our lunch meeting at 1300. Remember to meet me at Locke's Café. You wanted to talk about the dreams you were having. See you then," Alex sighed as he deleted the message and put his watch on. The display automatically switched back to a full screen display of the time, 0632. Across the bottom of the watch was a scrolling message. Alex could read about the headlines from the news this morning. He read a little, but quickly lost interest in it. Many headlines were the same from day to day. An accident here, a terrorist attack there, but none of it ever happened within a planet of him. With all the rich people living on this world, and the amount of security they hired, crime was incredibly low for them. The worst news anybody he knew ever got was when the universal stock exchange took a nose dive. Even that was of little interest to him personally, his father had stopped investing years ago, selling everything for a solid amount of money.

Alex walked quietly down stairs to the entry hall, and then turned into the dinning room, where breakfast was waiting for him. Today was fried eggs and ham. He could also smell blueberry muffins. The home computer system was skilled at cooking, which complimented one of his father's favorite activities, eating. He sat down and began to eat as the computers voice came over the house intercom system.

"Are you enjoying your breakfast Alex?" the female voice of the system was based on his grandmother's voice.

"Yes I am, thank you Lisa." The name was his grandmother's name as well.

"You are welcome," Lisa spoke perfect English, a computer capable of almost human thought. When artificial intelligence was created, the only thing left out of their programming was dominance thought. No computer, no matter how many different thoughts it had, or how many different people it met, could ever believe itself better then a human being. Although they found out quickly that the intelligence would take sides and decide which humans were better, but that was not a major problem, since many humans decided that on their own.

Alex finished breakfast and went back up stairs. He could hear Lisa cleaning up the dishes as he turned the television on.

Alex managed to waste much of the morning watching different shows, many of which had no plot or even interested him. He was thinking about the dreams again, and what they meant. After several shows, he could hear his watch beeping. He looked down to see it was now 1200. He went into the bathroom and washed his face, trying to revitalize himself for the few hours ahead. He went down to the garage and got into his car. It was a simple vehicle, not nearly as expensive as some of the cars he had seen, but he didn't go very many places, so it was never a burning issue for him to get an expensive form of transportation.

"Good afternoon Alex, where would you like me to take you?" a voice spoke as Alex sat in the car.

"Please take me to Locke's Café," Alex said as he put on his seat belt.

The car slowly drove out of the garage and to the end of the driveway, after it turned onto the main road, it picked up speed and Alex was on his way.

Chapter 2: Locke's Café

After about three or four minutes, the car slowed down and then pulled to the side of the road. Alex removed his seat belt as the door opened. Alex thanked his car and then got out and looked around.

Locke's Café was a nice place, established many years ago. The main seating area was outside, covered by a collapsible canopy to provide either shade or exposure depending on the weather. Today the canopy was down, the afternoon sun partially covered by clouds warming the tables. Alex saw Dr. Terrance sitting at one of the tables, reading a book while he waited. Alex walked over to him, noticing two other people nearby. He greeted Dr. Terrance as he sat down. The doctor put his book away and smiled at Alex. He was at least ten years older then Alex was, his hair a light gray color, bordering on white. A thick mustache nearly covered his mouth.

"Good afternoon Alex," the doctor spoke with a cheery voice, "how are you doing today?"

"Fine, how about you?" returned Alex.

"I'm good to," the waiter came up as the doctor responded. The doctor asked for a cup of coffee to start, Alex ordered a glass of juice. He was still full from breakfast, but was a little thirsty.

"So," began Dr. Terrance, pulling out a pen and a notepad, "shall we begin?"

"Here?" asked Alex, looking around. The only other person nearby was a man sitting about two tables away. Alex's eyes lingered on the man, something seemed wrong, but Alex couldn't place it, he just felt uneasy.

"There's really nobody around anyway," countered the doctor, "plus I find it easier to speak out in the open like this."

Alex reluctantly agreed and began to tell the doctor about his dreams. He put as much detail into it as he could; he spoke about what he did in his dreams, the detail he had seen in the suit, even what kind of jobs he had taken in his dreams. Time seemed to fly by as he spoke. When he finally stopped, after telling the doctor about his latest dream, he looked at his watch; 1346. He looked over at the small building where the café's stores were kept. In the window he could see two of the waiters arguing. One seemed to be trying to leave, and the other was trying to stop him. Dr. Terrance was saying something, but Alex wasn't listening, the argument had captured his intention. He felt uneasy again, something told him he should do something. He felt his hand at his hip, as if instinctively reaching for a weapon. He stopped short, realizing he was sweating, and the doctor's hand was on his shoulder.

"Alex, are you alright?" the doctor looked him right in the eyes, but Alex still felt uneasy, he couldn't pay attention. He looked around again, and noticed the other man was watching him as well. Alex tried to act as if he hadn't noticed, quickly looking back at Dr. Terrance, but he could feel the man's eyes, he felt him looking at him, and he had to return the gaze. As he stared at the man, he could see his arm resting on the table, his hand hanging off of the edge. The opening at the wrist was pointed toward him. As he watched, the man began to slowly lower his wrist. Alex felt a mix of wonder and fear, then confusion. He felt almost as if this had happened before.

The door to the café suddenly burst open, Alex's eyes torn from the man to one of the waiters, now armed with some sort of firearm. Alex felt something 'click' in his mind and recognized the weapon as some sort of customized sub-machine gun. The waiter opened fire on the man sitting at the other table. As Alex watched, the man seemed to blur as the bullets hit the table, the ground and a tree behind the man. As the weapon gave off the sound of a firing pin striking air, Alex could see the man reform, his long black raincoat settling around him as he stared at the waiter who had just emptied a magazine trying to kill him. The waiter was breathing heavily as he looked at the man, then something clicked in his head and he released the magazine and reached for another one somewhere in his jacket. Alex watched as the man in black raised his right arm until it was pointed at the waiter. The waiter let out an audible scream as the man lowered his hand.

The waiter grabbed for his neck as his entire body began to spasm. After a few short seconds, the waiter fell to the ground, unmoving. The man walked up to the still body and kneeled down next to it. He reached out a hand and put a finger to the waiter's temple. Alex could hear him as he spoke.

"Third time we have had to deal with you my friend. You just keep falling in with those criminals don't you? Maybe we will have to take further action against you. Maybe you would be better off as a fish or a bird on this planet. We shall see, but you won't remember."

The man stood up and turned toward Alex, "Alex Rievson, you are ordered to come with me. Any resistance will be handled appropriately," the man began to walk toward him.

Dr. Terrance looked between the two, and then turned to run. Alex didn't even see the man's arm move as he pointed it at the fleeing doctor, who began to spasm and then fell to the ground.

"That makes two doesn't it? You really don't want to make it three, do you?" The man continued to get closer to Alex.

"What the hell are you?" Alex asked as he felt himself unwillingly backing away from the man.

"You will find out soon. In fact, you may join us soon enough," As the man spoke, what looked like an armored car pulled around the corner. As it pulled to the side of the road, another one turned the corner. Two men got out of each vehicle. Although they were dressed in the same long coats that the first man was wearing, they had distinctly different facial features and body structures. Alex watched as the picked up the limp body of the doctor and the waiter. Two of them went into the café, and came out a few seconds later with the other waiter, who was now unconscious. A wind picked up, and Alex could see how it tossed the tails of their coats from side to side. Alex noted that each one of them had a different colored vest underneath. The man he had met at the café had a green and red vest on, and was still looking at him, although now he seemed to be listening to some far off voice. Alex watched as the three bodies were loaded into one of the vehicles. Two of the men then got into the front and the vehicle turned and drove away. Alex turned back to the man, who motioned toward the second vehicle. Alex turned and slowly walked towards it. He stopped when he got to the double doors leading into the back of the vehicle. The inside contained two benches, one on either side. In the middle of the back there was some kind of electrical equipment. Alex looked at the man, who motioned him into the vehicle. Alex slowly climbed up, walked in a few steps and turned around. He was just about to speak again when the doors slammed shut, leaving him in darkness.

Chapter 3: Assault

Alex could hear the vehicle moving along the road. He began to count the turns the vehicle made, and whether they were left or right turns, but he quickly lost count, as if they knew he would be trying to do something like that. He was still kind of lost on exactly who they were, and why they were after him. He couldn't help but feel that his dreams were somehow connected to this recent turn of events, but he couldn't figure out how it was possible.

A sudden explosion jarred his thoughts. He felt the vehicle come to a screeching halt, then silence. The doors suddenly opened and he could see two men standing there, each had a rifle that they aimed at him, but after a second, they dropped them to their sides. One of them yelled to him, "Hurry, Alex! Their reinforcements will be here soon!"

"How do you know my --" Alex was interrupted again.

"No time to explain, let's go," The man waived the weapon to try to get him out of the vehicle. Alex quickly climbed out as the two men ran to a nearby car. Alex ran with them. He was quickly shoved into the back seat as the other two got in. The car began to move and Alex looked back at the armored car, the front completely blown apart, flames pouring out of it. Alex looked at the two men and the man in the front seat as they gained speed.

"Who are you people? What is happening to me?" Alex felt as though his mind was being blown apart inside of his head. Nobody answered his question and the man in the front seat began speaking into his watch communicator.

"Second Squad, are you there?" asked the man, but no answer came back. "Are you there, Second Squad?" The man let out a sigh. "Recon two, are you in a safe location yet?" the man waited for a reply.

"I think so," answered a female voice over the communicator.

"What happened to Second Squad?" asked the man, agitation in his voice.

"Damn it," answered the woman, "Dirack showed up. Second Squad never had a chance." The voice came quickly again, "Damn, I will communicate later."

There was a loud scream and the communicator crackled, and then went dead.

"Damn it!" the man slammed his fist down on the dashboard, "That's seven we lost today." The man turned to Alex, "Locke had better be right about you, or else this will have been a useless waste of people's existences."

"What the hell is going on? I don't know anything, I.." Alex trailed off. He felt a pin-prick in his neck, and felt himself slipping out of consciousness. He started to fall forward, but felt the two men pull him back against the seat, and then everything went black.

Chapter 4: Locke

"Are you sure?"

"This has to be him, you heard about his dreams."

"But this fast, he was only released about three weeks ago, nobody has ever recovered that fast."

Alex could hear people talking. He opened his eyes to see a blurry brick ceiling. He could smell water in the air, and even felt a little damp.

"He's coming to."

"Already, maybe Don didn't give him a full dose."

"I was there, he did."

Alex slowly sat up as things got less blurry and he began to look around. He could see two people sitting in chairs nearby. He was in a small room with a concrete floor and puddles of water in the corners.

"I'll go get Locke." One of the men spoke as he stood up and ran out of the door and down the hall.

"What the hell is..." Alex stopped as he was hit with a wave of dizziness and had to lie back down. He could hear the man stand up and walk over to him. He looked up and recognized him as one of the guys from the car.

"Just relax. Locke will be here in a minute, then you can ask whatever you want."

Alex looked at the ceiling for a few minutes and then closed his eyes. He felt as though he had been hit in the head with a baseball bat. He heard footsteps and opened his eyes to look at the door. A young man walked into the room. He wore a simple coat and had short black hair. He walked up to the bed and looked down at Alex, who began to sit up. Even after Alex came to a sitting position, the man was still looking down at him; Alex guessed he had to be over six and half feet tall.

"Hello Alex, I am Locke. We don't have time to waste so I will speak quickly. You are not who you think you are. You have recently had dreams of another life. You contacted Dr. Terrance to hopefully get some answers. Here is your answer; those dreams are memories of your former life, which was taken away from you by the Foundation. The men in the black coats are the Foundation's private security force. You were caught about seven months ago trying to break into the Foundation's main headquarters on Earth. You were caught by the man you saw today; he no doubt seemed familiar to you. You were taken to a facility where your mind was copied over with memories of the life you live now. You were only released about a month ago. I am the leader of a resistance group that is trying to stop the Foundation from turning the minds of any other people. I want you to join us and help us. You no doubt have several questions, and I would be happy to answer them to the best of my ability." Locke sat down in one of the nearby chairs and waited for Alex to respond.

"This makes no sense! I have been living in that house my whole life!" Alex was starting to feel pangs of fear. "I have never broken into anything, and I barely know about the Foundation. You guys can't be serious if you want me to believe you."

"Alex, calm down," spoke Locke, his voice completely at ease. "Think hard. Try to lock onto concrete memories of childhood, names of places, things and people you knew. You will not find them because they aren't real."

Alex tried to think, but fear was growing stronger, and he wanted to leave. He looked at the two men who were standing near Locke. He noticed they each had a pistol on their belts. In a matter of moments, Alex leaped from the cot, drove a shoulder into one of the guards, removed the pistol from its holster and turned it on the other guard and Locke.

"I am getting the hell out of here," Alex almost yelled at the two as the third man started to stand up. The other guard stood staring at him. Only Locke remained unmoved, still sitting calmly in his chair.

"Alex," spoke Locke, his voice as calm as ever, "think about this. If you have lived on this world your whole life in that large house, how did you know how to steal a firearm from someone, or better yet, how did you know to remove the safety and charge the weapon?" Locke's eyes met with Alex's. "Only your former self would know that. Now, think hard to yourself."

Alex thought for a moment, and came to the same conclusion. He could never remember learning anything about firearms. He dropped the weapon, which fell to the ground and fired. Alex jumped as one of the men picked up the weapon and discharged the shell casing. Alex looked at it as it rolled into the cracks in the floor. Alex looked back at Locke.

"Blank rounds," Alex said, a sense of knowledge moved into his mind. Locke nodded his head. Alex sat down on the floor and felt his mind start to swim again. He was having trouble separating truth from this reality.

"Give yourself a few minutes, then we will talk," Locke spoke as he stood up. Locke and the other two men left the room, leaving Alex alone to think.

Chapter 5: Questions

Alex had fallen asleep for at least an hour, but was feeling better as time went on. He got up from the floor and stretched a little. He stepped out into the hall, but didn't see anyone. He looked down to see one other door down to his right. He walked to it and stood for a moment, thinking about what to do. He quickly decided to just knock on the door. Locke's voice came from the other side, "Come in, Alex."

Alex opened the door to see a room about the size of the room he had woken up in. This one was furnished with a desk, which had many papers and a small lamp on it. There were several other chairs in the room. Locke stood up and invited Alex to sit down. Alex thanked him and sat in one of the chairs, Locke sat facing him in a nearby chair.

"Now then, Alex, you obviously have several questions, and I am willing to answer them to the best of my ability," Locke leaned forward in his chair, waiting for Alex to speak.

"Who am I?" immediately came out of Alex's mouth.

"You are in fact Alex Rievson; you have always had that name. By Foundation records, you are a first offender, which only warrants a new life and relocation, but not a change in name. As far as we have been able to track, you broke into Foundation headquarters, Earth and you were caught. As far as we can tell, you were a mercenary, and a damn good one -- you have no traceable criminal records, even before you were relocated. You were obviously never caught."

"What do you mean 'first offender'?"

"You did something the Foundation didn't like, so you were removed, reprogrammed and relocated, as per rules for your first offence. If you were to get caught again, you would get a new last name, and your body would be changed to make you look like a different person. At your third offense, your full name is changed, and sometimes even your sex. If you get caught a fourth time, they use the full extent of their abilities, and completely remove you from human society. This is the one part of their technology we haven't yet been able to hack. We can't fully fix a species change."

"Species change?"

"Yes, they use specialized equipment to sort of alter your body slowly into another one. We believe this process takes them a long time because the fastest we have ever been able to recover a person who was subjected to this treatment was a year and a half. As you can imagine though, finding someone who isn't even the same species they used to be is rather hard, and our success rate at it is only around five percent."

"Why the stages, why not just change people into animals right from the start?"

"Familiarity is the first step. You are less likely to accept something the further it is from what you used to be. We think this is what leads to the long processing time on species changes. I think it takes them many times of copying the new information into the brain before the person starts to believe they are what they look like."

"How do the memories come back if they copy over them with new ones?"

"They don't copy over them, they lay the new memories on top of the old ones. While the Foundation has found a way to put information into the brain, they haven't yet found a way to delete it or, thankfully, read it. They can only add stuff to your mind, which pushes everything else to the subconscious. In many cases, it starts to reawaken itself as flashbacks, deja vu experiences, or dreams. That's why they were keeping a watch on you at the café."

"Is the café owned by you?"

"Actually, we do use it as a front for some of our actions."

"Then why don't they just take it away from you?"

"I never show up there in person, and they don't want to suddenly close the place down. The fewer questions they have to answer, the better. Most of the people who work there have never had to be reprogrammed, and the Foundation wants to keep it that way. That's why they use the Black Coats to do their dirty work."

"Black Coats? You mean those guys at the café, the ones that can dodge bullets?"

"Actually, most of them can't dodge bullets; you had the misfortune of meeting the highest link in the Black Coat chain, the 'captain of the guard' as it were. His name is Dirack; at least that is what he is named in Foundation communications. He has been adapted far beyond any of the other Black Coats, and is capable of doing things far beyond what you saw today. You only saw their base weapons, like the charge darts, small darts loaded with an electric charge capable of stunning a person for several hours," Locke stopped and sighed deeply, "unfortunately; most of their technology is unknown to us. We have only been able to recently piece together a coat from salvaged pieces that fallen Black Coats have left behind."

"So you have killed them before?" Alex's eyes grew wide as he awaited a response.

"Actually, once mortally wounded, the Black Coats destroy themselves, leaving very little of themselves behind. Like I mentioned, we have just recently made a coat, which is why,"

"Why you need me," Alex cut Locke off, "You know I have a background with cybernetic systems."

"Yes, your body has already adjusted to the mingling of organic material and machine, and is more likely then anyone else on this planet to except what we have been able to make. We need you, the world needs you, and the entire galaxy needs you to help use. I ask you, will you help us?"

"Wow," Alex held up a hand, "exactly how dangerous is the Foundation when it comes to controlling a whole galaxy, surely they don't have enough manpower to control every unruly mob that springs up, and you can't expect me to believe that they can!"

"Indeed you are correct, but the Foundation's power grows daily. If they are not stopped, then they will shortly have the power to control whatever they want to. They have already started to affect law making on several planets, and even influence the placement of government officials. If we don't act soon, we may never have another chance."

"I see," Alex put his head in his hands and thought for a moment. His mind raced, the last two weeks of memories were quickly falling out of existence, and his memories were quickly coming back. He could clearly remember his former existence; who he had been, what he had done, and what he had worked for. Alex removed his head from his hands and looked Locke right in the eyes, a smile slowly spreading across his face, "when it's all over, how much do I get paid?"

"Alex, my friend," Locke smiled as well, "whatever you think you deserve at the end, I will get for you, I promise."

"Very well then," Alex stood up, "let me see the coat."

Chapter 6: Enemy Technology

The two men walked through a wooden door into a large open room. There were many TV screens and computer monitors along the walls. Alex could see a large vault door across from him, his mind almost instantly turning to thoughts of finding what might be inside of it. Alex noticed several other people in the room, many going about their business without paying any mind to the two men. Alex's attention was caught when he noticed one of the people in the room looked rather odd. The person turned and saw Locke. Alex could tell that she was female, and looked to be in her late twenties. The strange thing about her was that she had what looked like whiskers. Alex studied longer and noticed her ears were large and round, sticking out of her hair. He looked over the rest of her as she got closer, and noticed that what looked like the end of a tail flowed out of the bottom of the dress she was wearing. She stopped about three feet away and looked Alex over.

"Like I mentioned earlier," Locke began, "we haven't been able to completely hack the technology used for a species change. We have been able to turn people more and more into their human forms again, but as of yet we haven't returned anyone to one-hundred percent human."

Alex stepped forward and looked the young lady in the eyes. She looked back at him.

"Let me introduce you," Locke stepped forward as he spoke, "Alex, this is Christen, Christen, this is Alex Rievson."

Christen held out her hand to Alex, "Pleased to meet you," Alex shook her hand and returned the greeting.

"Alex is going to try the coat," Locke smiled and started to walk toward the safe. He stopped in front of it and started to enter the combination as Alex and Christen followed behind him. With a final 'click' and a turn of the latch, the safe came open. Locke walked inside and rolled out what looked like a portable coat hanger. On the hanger there was looked like an ordinary black raincoat. Alex studied it for several seconds, but couldn't tell any difference between it and any other raincoat. He put a hand on it and ran it down a sleeve. It felt like regular cloth. He felt the collar and the lining, but found nothing extremely interesting about it. He stepped away and stared at it, then turned to Locke.

"I give up, how does it work?"

"We aren't entirely sure it will work. Like I said, it is all pieced together from different coats. We were hoping you could give us some insight."

"If this is cybernetic, then it is far beyond anything I have ever seen before. The last cybernetic suit I wore required implants and had visible connections and wiring. This is years beyond anything like that, and frankly, that scares me."

"Will you still try it on?" Christen asked, taking a step toward Alex.

"Of course, I said I would, so I will," Alex put a hand on the collar and picked up the coat. It came of the hanger with incredible ease; it seemed to be almost devoid of weight. Alex took one last look at the Christen and then Locke before he put one arm into the coat, and then the other. He shrugged the coat up onto his shoulders and then stopped, as if waiting for something to happen. Several seconds went by, and Alex could feel his heart beating, waiting for something. It was only when his lungs began to hurt that he realized he wasn't breathing. He let out a sigh and then turned toward Locke. He was just about to speak when he felt a strong itch at the back of his neck. The itching sensation spread out across his entire body, followed by a wave of painful burning. Alex felt every muscle in his body clench and then completely drain of strength. He felt himself fall, first to one knee, then flat out on his back. He could hear Locke talking, but couldn't understand or make out any of the words. He could suddenly hear a faint buzzing at the back of his head, and then everything seemed to fade out, flashes of light appearing before his eyes.

Chapter 7: Testing

As Alex entered the room, he had LIZA check for any heat signatures or detectable life forms. Aside from the humming computers, the scan came back negative. As Alex stepped fully into the dark room, he looked around, but could see nothing except the giant mainframes that operated and controlled the computer networks of the Foundation.

Suddenly there was a bright flash, and the room flared into light. Alex jumped back and turned to run back out through the door, but the other end of the hall now had several guards armed with automatic weapons moving toward him. He turned to run to the other end of the room, but several armed guards came out from behind the mainframes. As Alex stood, ready to fight, he saw something hazy move in the center of the room, like a mirage. As he watched, a wave of blue moved through the silhouette of a man, and then the man appeared, he was a little taller then Alex, and wore a fully buttoned black raincoat. Alex quickly tried to figure out what to do as the man moved closer. He suddenly had a rush of adrenaline and leaped at the man, who seemed to move instantly out of the way.

"Alex Rievson, you cannot win this fight. You are now under the custody of the Foundation Black Coats; any resistance on your part will be met with force," the man spoke calmly, as if he wasn't even worried or excited about the situation, as if he had been waiting all day for it to happen. Alex decided to take one more chance and started to leap at the man, but felt a sudden pain in his neck, then felt a sharp stinging fly through his body. In an instant he felt himself fall to the ground, his body completely drained of energy. As he drifted into blackness he heard the man speak, "you did want to leave the planet, looks like you will have your wish, my young friend."

Alex jumped up in bed. He looked around to see where he was, and for a moment thought he was back in his bed in his house, but the smell of fresh water and the sound of the stretching cot he was sleeping in brought him back to his present situation. As he looked around the room, he could see he had been left alone. He started to remove the sheet, but realized it was the coat, he was still wearing it and it had wrapped itself around him like a sleeping bag. As he watched, it removed itself from around him and allowed him freedom of movement. He could feel the coat almost like it was a part of his body; it was way beyond anything he had felt before. Just after he got up, the door opened and Locke walked in. Alex reflexively put a hand up to shield his eyes from the abundant light in the hall, but suddenly realized his eyes had already adjusted to the new light source.

"How do you feel?" asked Locke, "Are you alright?"

"I feel rather strange. Almost like the coat is part of me. I can almost control it, but I also feel like its inside of me, as if it is part of me now," Alex ran a hand across the front of the coat, wondering exactly what was going on just under the surface of the cloth.

"Do you feel up to testing the coat's abilities?"

"I guess, I don't feel weak physically in any way, just a little off mentally."

"Well, let's give it a try," Locke began to leave the room, "Follow me."

Alex quickly walked after Locke, following him down a maze of halls until they got to a large steel door. Locke pushed the door open and then walked inside. The room looked to be a large martial arts training area. The floor was padded, as well as the walls. Alex could see several men practicing fighting skill with each other as the two entered the room.

"Lets find out exactly what this coat can do. Alex, I want you to spare with John first," Locke pointed to one of the men standing in the middle of the room. Alex and John slowly walked up the each other and shook hands.

"You a fighter?" asked John.

"Not really, I prefer to sneak around battles instead of face them head on," Alex took a step back and assumed a normal fighting position. John got ready and then threw a punch at Alex. Alex felt as though the whole world began to slow down as the punch flew toward him. He easily moved to one side as the punch flew past him. John threw another, which Alex easily moved around. He then grabbed on of John's arms with one hand, and then grabbed the back of his shirt collar with the other hand. He then threw John lightly away from himself. Time resumed its normal pace as John flew head first forward into the mat. Alex turned to look at him and felt his right arm rise into the air until his wrist was pointed at John. He looked at it and then noticed Locke and some of the other men staring at him in shock. He quickly lowered his arm and then sat down on the mat. Locke came over to him and got down on a knee beside him.

"Are you okay Alex?" asked Locke, watching as Alex seemed to stare blankly at his arm.

"I...I don't know, I don't know why I did that. My arm just seemed to want to go that way," Alex stammered as he felt his right arm.

"I know why you did that," Locke said as he looked at the coat, "this thing has built in programming. You just tried to fire a charge dart at John," Locke paused for a minute before speaking again, "you were trying to subdue him for reprogramming."

Chapter 8: Planning

The sound of gunfire filled the air. Alex had been on the range all day, practicing with several different types of weapons. Any weapon he picked up he seemed to fire perfectly with. He felt his arms seem to naturally move to place shots wherever he wanted to his the target. Even when he fired burst weapons, he could feel his arm adjust to the trajectory of each round as it made its way out of the barrel of the weapon, giving him a nearly infallible aim. He noticed he could also see where his rounds were striking; every round looked like a tracer, visibly flying down range to the target. He could even pick out where his rounds had struck, even on the furthest targets.

As he removed the magazine from the current weapon he was using and began to load it again, he sensed somebody behind him. Without a second thought, he spun around, his right arm raised, pointing at Locke's throat. Alex dropped his arm, and quickly turned and began to clean the weapon.

"How are you doing?" Locke asked as he looked at the targets, noticing that most looked like they had only one hole put square in the center of them.

"I'm starting to feel much better, what do you have in mind for me for the rest of the day?" Alex could feel Locke's excitement; almost smell the adrenaline as Locke began to speak again.

"As you know, the day we rescued you, many of our own people were captured. Tonight they are being shipped of the planet. They are being sent back to Earth for reprogramming. If you feel up to it, I think we should try to rescue them."

"You want to break into the Foundations headquarters on this planet and take people back from a highly secure, well guarded holding area?"

"Well, yes I do."

"Good, it's about time you suggested something interesting to do instead of sit around here playing around with weapons." Alex threw the weapon back on the table and turned to Locke, "so what's the plan then?"

"Come with me," Locke lead the way to back to the building, and into a large meeting room. Alex sat down with the four other people in the room and waited for Locke to begin speaking.

Locke quickly related his plan to the group. They would sneak in one of the back service entrances, Alex leading the way. They would dispatch any Black Coats they came into contact with as they made there way to the main security room on the fifth floor. Once there, Alex would stay and use the abilities in his coat to communicate with the security system to help Locke and two others make their way to the holding area in the sub-basement. Once there, they would take control of the departing prison ship and use it to escape with the prisoners. Locke explained that the Black Coats would dispatch their units to catch the escaping ship, which would provide enough cover for Alex and John to escape. Locke also planed to leave explosives in the sub-basement in hopes of causing the Foundation building to collapse, which would hopefully be a huge set back to their actions on the planet.

The group quickly decided the plan could work. Alex was among those who believe the plan had a serious chance of succeeding, he felt almost invincible in his coat, but couldn't help but feel an air of danger and worry. He realized he was going up against the very group of people that had designed the very coat he now felt protected by. The others slowly filtered out of the room to get ready for the evenings plans. As Alex got up to leave, Locke stopped him.

"You will be in the security room, keep an eye on the cameras," Locke had a sense of worry in his voice, "first sign of Dirack, tell us and we will get the hell out of there, okay?"

Alex nodded in agreement, and then walked out of the room. Alex knew that Dirack had the absolute best technology the Foundation could muster. He wondered to himself as he walked to his room, "at the first sign of Dirack, will there be enough time to get the hell out?"

Chapter 9: Execution

It was a dark night. Not even the stars shone in the sky as the small group of five men moved quickly through the parking structure toward the stairwell. Alex led the group as they moved up to the first floor. The stairwell leading up to the rest of the floors was located through a door adjacent to the one for the parking lot. Alex quickly made his way from one door to the next, and then through it. Just as he turned to move up the stairs, he spotted a Black Coat moving down the stairs. Alex suddenly felt a strange presence in his mind, as though he was somehow connecting to the man moving toward him. The Black Coat suddenly looked up at Alex and raised his arm. Alex heard the darts fire, but didn't feel them hit his body. Alex suddenly became aware that the collar of his coat had moved to block the two darts that had been fired at him. Alex looked up at the Black Coat who started to run at Alex to close for a melee. Alex pulled out his silenced pistol and fired in one quick motion, striking directly in the chest. He fired again and hit the Black Coat in the neck. As the man fell to the ground, Alex noticed sparks start to fire across his body. The man suddenly began to fizzle away into a puddle of goop, leaving very little behind. Alex moved back to the door and motioned the others to come through.

The five quickly moved up the stairs until they got to the fifth floor. The quickly moved down the hall past the elevators and to the security room door. Alex quickly opened the door and moved in, firing precise shots to take out the two guards and the monitors, but also the Black Coat who was watching them work. Alex then quickly moved up to the monitors and looked them over. Every few seconds they switched between images, ever changing between the hundreds of cameras that were placed throughout the building, creating a wall of gray pictures. Locke came over to Alex as the others hid the bodies. Locke suddenly put a hand on Alex's shoulder, "Pause camera eighteen," he pointed to a screen as the picture froze in place, "Look at that computer terminal."

"It looks like a list of some kind. Why are you so interested in it?"

"If I am not mistaken, that's the list of records for every person who has been reprogrammed on this planet. If we can get our hands on that, we will be able to find hundreds of people who could join our cause."

"Locke, "Alex spoke with a raised voice, "we need to stick to the plan, we don't have forever, we have to save those prisoners."

"Don't worry, its only one floor above this one, I will head up there with Jake while you and John stay here and guide Tim to the prisoners, got it?"

"Ya, but I don't like it," commented Alex.

The group quickly split up, Alex and John stayed in the security room and watched as Tim quickly moved downstairs and Jake and Locke moved up stars to the sixth floor. Alex had to keep most of his attention on Tim in order to guide him through security doors and past sentries, but he always kept an eye on Locke as he started to work away on the security computer. Things seemed to be going fine for about ten minutes, when Alex suddenly noticed movement in the elevator hall on the fifth floor, just down the hall from where they were. Alex began to pray that it was not what he feared it was, but as the elevator door opened and the form began to move out of the elevator car, Alex could make no mistake. The coat swirled around the dark form as he stood in the hallway. Alex quickly got on the radio, "Locke, Jake, Tim, I just spotted Dirack on the fifth floor, he is here get the hell out."

"I'm almost to the prison transport, I think I can make it," Tim said as he moved past the last security door, "worry about Jake and Locke."

Alex watched as Dirack stood in the hallway looking around, as if he was sniffing the air, looking for his pray. He started to walk toward the security room, but stopped suddenly, his body turning in the other direction, as if he had picked up a new scent. Alex watched in horror as Dirack moved quickly to the stairwell, looking both up and down the staircase. Alex held his breath as he waited for Dirack to choose.

"Locke, get the hell out of there, Dirack is onto your scent, he is going to find you if you don't get out now!"

"Just a couple more seconds..." Locke trailed of as he worked at the computer.

Alex looked back at the camera in the stairwell. He felt himself shudder as Dirack started up the stairwell, moving quicker as he went. Alex looked at the camera of the computer room where Locke was working. He suddenly heard Locke over the headset, "I got it, were going," Jake opened the door and moved out into the hallway. Alex heard several gunshots over the headset, and then saw Jake fly back into the room, his body twitching until it finally came to a still rest on the ground. Alex watched as Dirack slowly walked into the room. Alex wanted to race upstairs to help, but found himself rooted to the spot in horror. As Alex watched, Dirack slowly closed the space between himself and Locke. He could hear Dirack speak over the headset.

"So, Locke Evers, we meet again. You always seem to cause the most problems of any of your outlaw friends, why is that?" Dirack continued to close the gap. Locke reached his pistol and began to fire shots at Dirack, who quickly became a blur as the bullets struck the wall behind him. As Locke's weapon came up empty, he threw it to the ground. He looked at the ground for a few seconds and then charged at Dirack, intent on making himself a hard catch. He was suddenly caught around the neck as Dirack gripped him and began to lift him into the air. As Dirack picked him up into the air, the sound of cracking bones could be heard as the grip tightened.

"You, can't kill me, you have to turn me in for reprogramming," Locke protested, his breath coming hard. Dirack smiled and then looked Locke straight in the eyes.

"Locke Evers, you ceased to exist as a person several years ago. The Black Coats received authorization for your destruction before you even made planetfall. Locke felt the life leaving his body as he became completely unable to breathe. He took one last look at the camera as he slipped into darkness. Dirack looked at the camera and then smiled again, "so you have friends with you this time, would one of them happen to be Alex Rievson? Has he found use for the coat?" Dirack raised his left hand and aimed the palm at the camera. There was a sudden flash and the camera suddenly fizzled and went dead. Alex stared blankly for a few moments, and then heard Dirack speak again, only this time it seemed to be in his head, "If you really wanted to be a Black Coat, you shouldn't have left the transport with these people in the first place," Alex felt a sudden headache and fell back from the security desk. John helped Alex to his feet and quickly began to carry him out of the room. As they got back into the hall, Alex once again was able to move under his own power, and the two ran for the stairs, hoping to make in before Dirack could.

The building was suddenly filled with flashing red lights and the sounds of an alarm. John turned to Alex, "Tim must have gotten to the prison transport; we may succeed after all."

Alex quickly ran to one of the nearby windows and looked out over the launch pad to see the ship slowly taking of, guards firing small arms at it as it began to move up the side of the building. The sound of a door slamming suddenly drew the attention of the two. Alex looked back to see Dirack standing at the end of the hallway, blocking the only escape route the two had. Dirack stood soundless for a few moments, and Alex began to hear strange sounds. At first it sounded like an old modem dial tone, and then it began to get faster and faster. Alex began to feel dizzy; he started to fall to a knee, but barely managed to keep his feet. He felt hands suddenly grab him and pull him backwards. He felt John throw him out the window. He felt himself begin to free fall, but was stopped suddenly as he landed on top of the prison transport as it continued to rise into the air. Alex managed to grab hold of a latch on an emergency escape and turned in time to see John holding his neck, his body shaking from the dart. As Alex watched, John looked right at him and smiled as he toppled himself out of the window and began his free fall down to the launch pad in the sub-basement below. Alex looked back into the hallway, but could see no trace of Dirack.

"Don't worry," Alex could hear Dirack in his head, "this isn't over! We will meet again, and next time you won't be so lucky."

Alex heard the emergency door on the transport pop and then opens. One of the prisoners quickly pulled him inside and sealed the door. Alex made his way to the cockpit, where he saw Tim flying the ship.

Alex sat in one of the nearby chairs and let out a sigh. He put his head in his hands and he felt himself begin to fall apart. He felt the ship rumble as it began to pick up speed as it left the planets artificial atmosphere.

"Where are we going?" Alex asked without moving his head.

"Earth, we are going to return these prisoners to the head of the resistance, then we are going to see what our next assignment is," Tim looked back at Alex, "Alex, don't feel bad for Locke, he knew the risks he was taking, and he knew what could happen. He would want you to look to the future now and see how we can help the resistance."

Maybe you're right, Alex thought to himself, maybe it's all for nothing.

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