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PNPC Patri Jia Kom - Losing God


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((Kevin Breeman's Bedroom, Breeman Residence - Earth - Several Weeks After
our Current Time on SB118))

::Patri hugged her knees as she sat on the bed. Seated in the chair near
Kevin's desk Jan watched her quietly as they discussed what had happened on
what turned out to be Odyssey Station, located far outside of the Milky Way
Galaxy.::

Patri: I don't know. I... Just didn't want to have to deal with them
anymore.

::Jan nodded thoughtfully and smiled.::

Jan Breeman: That's understandable. I think you've had a very unique
experience with computers. Computers aren't monsters. I'm sure you've
been told that enough times. And I can understand why for you they are.

::Patri nodded.::

Patri: I was a real asset to a lot of people. I could feel what computers
were doing, sense it when they were about to perform tasks. I could
command them. But there was always so much noise. It was like constant
screaming in my head. I couldn't recognize anyone any more. And that was
why I found God.

::Jan nodded. A side effect of the slave tag had been a kind of
prosopagnosia. Patri had effectively lost her biological parents.::

Jan Breeman: You saw religion as a way to calm your mind?

Patri: Yeah.. In jail I'd practice it. There were less computers there.
It was more peaceful. And I'd feel him there with me. Like Jesus Christ
was someone I was friends with. He understood everything I was going
through. It was like he had his own slave tag inside his brain. It jacked
him into all the crap people had ever done. So God could obliterate it all
just by killing him.

::Across the room Jan smiled slightly. It was understandable. The
Christian narrative tended to emphasize the projection of all of human sin
into the body of Jesus Christ. The crucifixion then became a kind of final
purging.::

Patri: I learned to meditate. I even taught other inmates. I learned
labyrinths inside the common prayer room. It was a holosuite devoted to
running religious programs for inmates. We'd... Walk through the
labyrinths together. It was like nothing else in the world mattered but
you, the pattern on the floor, and God.

Jan Breeman: I'm glad you did that. I wouldn't be surprised if you helped
a lot of those people turn their lives around.

Patri: I guess so. But then... This doctor named Emma finally figured
out how to take out the slave tag.

::Jan nodded, remembering the lengthy correspondences she'd had with Emma
Fengjian about the excision operation. The research that had led up to it
had been revolutionary to say the least. And her follow through had been
an astounding success.::

::And yet, there had been something sinister in it all. As though in
removing the device Emma had robbed Patri of a part of herself. She'd
often brought that up. "Did I do the right thing?" she would ask sometimes
during late night chats.::

::Patri remembered what had turned out to be a kind of surgery.::

((Flashback - Holodeck - Pamos Prison Colony))

Anger blossomed inside of her, a dagger sprouting in her hand. The
throbbing beat harder, a rhythmic pounding driving her forward. She lunged
at the creature, pressing her small by comparison form into the monster's
midsection, and drove the knife into his stomach. There was a groaning
sound from everywhere inside of him as she felt the dog's muzzle fall on
top of her head. She smelled the stench of his wheezing breaths as the side
of his opened mouth showered her hair with saliva and then blood.

“Patri!” Emma, desperate and shocked.

She grabbed at the dog and felt herself lifting him over her shoulder. This
was instinct, a raw need that gnawed at her for satisfaction.

“Patri I need you to talk to me. What are you feeling? I can't be sure this
is working if--”

How could Emma ever understand? Patri was doing what she'd wanted to do all
her life. She was liberating herself finally, trekking into a new life. The
ground in the forest in which they stood sloped gently upward, fog parting
in front of them and obscuring their path behind. She could still see Emma
in the corner of her eye, walking beside her, a pleading look in her eyes.

Patri carried the limp Grendellai over her shoulder to... where?

“Patri, I need you to talk to me. I'm here to help you.”

She wasn't. She was just like all the others, singing a chorus of empty
jargon to accompany the arc of Patri's life.

Soon it was raining. As they reached the top of the hill Patri saw what she
wanted. She set the dog down on the stony structure as a torrent of rain
drenched his wound. She could see Emma staring at her, forlorn bewilderment
pressed down by a soaked matt of hair, shaking her head in disbelief. Patri
still held her knife. She wanted to cut at this dying Grendellai. She
wanted to gouge its eyes out. She wanted to slice at its nose and draw
blood from the vulnerable moist black skin. But something was wrong. There
was a choked sound coming from his throat then a squeak and then a ruff and
a bark. She couldn't believe it. The thing was a dog now. He was just a dog.

((Present))

::At first she'd hated Emma for what she'd done. She'd wanted to kill
herself after it, feeling as though she were just a husk and not a human
any more. God had left her.::

Jan Breeman: ::Quietly she said,:: I know.

Patri: So... When I saw that floor and those Binars told me what they
thought it was, I just froze... What if I somehow wrecked it? Or caused
it to do something that would damage the station?

Jan Breeman: Because computers have always been trouble for you.

::Patri nodded.::

Jan Breeman: Patri... You must have been very scared.

Patri: ::Quickly:: I was!

Jan Breeman: And I want you to know that I'm very proud of you.

Patri: Why?

::Jan got up from the chair she was sitting in and sat down on the bed
beside Patri.::

Jan Breeman: Because you didn't want to do anything wrong. You would do
anything to prevent yourself from doing something wrong. You're a good
kid. And I want you to know that what Emma did to you back there... I
know it hurt. I have known Doctor Emma Fengjian a very long time. And I
know there isn't a day she doesn't think about how she hurt you.

::Patri burst into tears.::

Patri: What? Why??

Jan: Because, honey... She knew what it was she was taking from you when
she extracted that slave tag. She knew you were too smart to let something
bad in your life stay bad. You turned it into a part of who you were. And
Emma took away that part.

((Flashback - Holodeck - Pamos Prison Colony))

The yellow grid was back, an empty room. Its lone occupant stood soaked in
water that slowly faded as the emitters de-integrated the holographic
substance from her body, until all that was left was Patri, staring out
into a blank room, her real water still soaking her shirt, non-human
elements gone. She stared at the flakes of dried mud scattered senselessly
everywhere. Her mind, for the first time in her life, was an abyss that
could never stare back.

She slowly dropped to her knees and held out her hand wanting to clasp the
god she'd conjured to get her through life. But the knocking at the door to
her heart never came. She couldn't dream up peace beyond understanding or
scandalous penetrations of her reality by an eternal divine other. Seated
on the floor, dirt all around her, she held her head in her hands and wept.

((Present))

::Jan calculated her next words, believing Patri would be mature enough to
understand them.::

Jan Breeman: She wanted you to have your humanity back.

::Patri continued to cry softly as Jan wrapped her arms around her.::

Jan Breeman: And I think what you can learn from all of this is that
people usually try to be good. Just like Emma did. Just like Kevin did.
Just like you did.

::Patri wiped a tear from her cheak and said,::

Patri: Okay.

Jan Breeman: You're a human being. You can start to trust yourself again.
I know it'll be hard. But we're here for you.

::Later that night when Patri finally did fall asleep her dreams returned
to being just scattered remnants of the days and weeks before, strung
together with a logic all their own by the whims of her entirely human
brain.::

Patri Jia Kom
Former Computer Hacker

as simmed by

Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Breeman
Chief Engineer
Starbase 118

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