Deployment Duty

September 18, 2015 § 1 Comment

I’ve been told it’s a great honor. No one from my ward has been selected since before the Third Strife, and that was ages ago. My entire cohort was in disbelief when they made the announcement. “Agent B79FI3 of Cohort Taurus, Ward 24, has been identified as a deployment candidate.” Honestly, I didn’t even believe it. I still don’t. I mean, come on, all you have to do is take one look at me and you can tell that I am not the type. Not that I really had a choice in the matter. As soon as that little green light illuminated during my scan, I’ve been on a fast track to headquarters. They didn’t even give me time to say goodbye to my family, not that anyone is really going to miss me. Except maybe Denali. He might not have had much of a choice in the matter because I programmed him, but I’ll miss his nightly memos of encouragement and awkward knock-knock jokes. I’ll take an automated bot-message over human interaction any day.

Come to think of it, my dislike of human interaction is probably why I was selected. I didn’t even really consider it until know, but it would make sense. Combat training, time dilation simulations, mission preparation; none of those courses count for anything in the grand scheme of things. Not anymore at least, because I can’t do any of that and apparently I’m the ideal candidate.

That’s just the thing of it. Even the commanding officer that debriefed me on the transport detail seemed a little skeptical. According to my scan, I’m almost the perfect match. Of course my physical scores are abysmal, but mentally I scored almost perfectly in every category. It would seem as though I was designed for deep-space isolation.

That’s what all this hubbub is about. I’m the first agent to ever receive full approval for a deep-space mission. Based on the final scan analysis, they could deploy me tomorrow and I would theoretically be more than capable of handling the mental strain of a mission. But, I can’t blame them for their caution on this one. After the last round of deployments came back gnashing their teeth between fits of shrill giggling common only among mentally unstable souls, headquarters scaled back a bit. That was the last time a partial was approved for deployment, and that was thirty years ago.

I still don’t know what my mission will be, and I don’t know if they’ll ever really give me the details. All I’ve been told is that I’m going through an accelerated training program followed by one final mental evaluation, and then I’m off. I’ll be following the trajectory of the great deployments that have come before me, and I really shouldn’t worry about the fact that all of them are living out the remainder of their days in padded cells. Only the best quality padded cells, of course.

Part of me wants to fight it. The commanding officer told me that I could turn down the mission if I really wanted to, but something tells me that process would not go smoothly. They’ve been telling me that it’s highly likely I’ll retain my mental function for the majority of the trip based on my scan. That’s why they’ve decided to send me beyond the outermost limits of our mapping into uncharted territory. Who knows what’s out there, or how long I’ll be in orbit. It’ll be the longest deployment in history.

I know better. What they’re telling me, it’s all for show so I agree to climb into that spaceship without a fuss; there’s no way I come back from this mission with all my marbles intact. I wonder what it’s like to slowly lose your grip on reality. It must be the strangest feeling. I wonder if I’ll even realize when I start unraveling. Will it hit me out of the blue, consuming me immediately, or will I slowly retreat into the darkest recesses of my own mind? I guess I’ll have seventy-five years of isolation to figure that out.



§ One Response to Deployment Duty

  • I really enjoyed your story and felt that it was an excellent examination of the far less-glamorous aspects of the ideas of space exploration or travelling at near-light speeds as they appear in sci-fi stories. People can certainly take time for granted, especially when they feel that there will always be time later to start something or go somewhere. But, in reality, time is fleeting and consequently we’re surprised when decades have passed and, suddenly, were experiencing our mid-life crises. In a way, we all start to unravel a bit throughout our lives as we realize that we’re not always going to be capable of the same jobs or able to carry out the same actions. It takes a strong-minded person to take these challenges head on and admit that people will pass and times will change. And then, some respond to this admittance with a new fervor for life, while others close off and lock themselves away, like Rusel in Mayflower II. Ultimately, we all may become victim to the same madness that might claim Agent B79F13. The scariest part, to me, is how futile it is to fight the madness, and I liked that you included this realization at the end. But I guess acceptance of the problem is the first step to getting better and carrying on.

    -Bushra Rahman


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