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Chris is awake, bolt upright from cold, wet grass, looking around in terror, pretty sure that he was dead about thirty seconds earlier. This will be the second time his heart has stopped whilst in active service: considering where the last one took place, it is considerably less stressful to be alive here trapped in an alien simulation. He looks for Ami: she’s standing, staring at him with a mix of relief and trepidation before moving his side, checking pulse, as body is gently pushed back to fully horizontal.
This time, there is no objection to her actions: on reflection, lying down’s no bad idea.
‘Because I am a stickler for protocol I’m gonna ask you some questions to check for brain damage. Name and Social Security number, please.’
‘I believe I still am Mark Donald Chambers, 075-26-1431 and I was dead, right?’
‘Very much so and I know as a result your heart’s gonna want some time to recover quite apart from whatever else was rearranged in your body. What’s today’s date?’
‘Friday, June 15th 2018 and you need to explain what just happened.’
‘I will but not yet, not until I’m sure we’re not being eavesdropped on.’
‘You know we are now?’
The nod is almost imperceptible: back at the pillar, his partner wasn’t losing the plot, something happened she couldn’t explain. If he hadn’t reacted so strongly to that touch –
‘No more questions, try and relax.’
‘Aren’t you gonna ask me who’s the joke for a President is right now?’
‘At least you don’t have Brexit to worry about. Be grateful for small mercies.’
A backpack is somehow behind his head and Ami’s fatigue jacket across aching chest as suddenly, Chris is shivering uncontrollably: shock. Almost instantaneously air agitates, now familiar movement as reaction to his condition: a low camp bed materialises to their left, something he’d use in combat training along with blankets and a stainless steel canteen. About to try to get up, a sensation of weightlessness negates any effort and he’s literally floating off the ground, moved from concrete to canvas without ceremony. The blankets float up, down to cover his form, jacket gently placed back into Ami’s lap.
Chambers won’t say another word until prompted: Bishop knows they’re being watched, possesses a ton of intel it’s currently impossible to communicate and he is best serving them both lying here, being a good patient. None of this phases any more, their hosts owning total dominance not only of life and death but the laws of physics, yet Chris just wants to sleep for a week. The thought is acknowledged within subconscious by someone out of his field of vision, and this is no longer psychic sensations. Whoever it was who communicated with Ami in her head before he died also understands the need for immediate recovery.
‘I will provide induced unconsciousness to allow cellular regeneration to complete. When you wake, there will be opportunity to communicate with your partner unhindered.’
Chambers is satisfied because they are being referred to as partners and not subjects there is no danger, right before losing consciousness for the third time that day.
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