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Authors: Sahara Kelly

The Facilitator

BOOK: The Facilitator
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Dedication

To everyone who supported my nervous decision to try this novel, my sincere thanks. Especially my son, who was a very useful resource and morale booster when pointing out that motherhood didn’t necessarily negate the ability to absorb alternate-reality concepts. I guess I did
something
right along the path to his adulthood.

To my friend Nathalie—a double-cheek tap and a thank-you hug. Love your emails and your enthusiasm, along with your wonderful creative brilliance. Ditto to my editor, whose patience with my multitudinous errors knows no bounds. Thank you, Sasha.

And, as always, grateful hugs go to my staunchest supporter, best friend and writing soul mate. Never doubting, possessed of confidence in my abilities beyond anything I deserve, he’s my compass as I voyage across my literary ocean. I would be lost without him. Thanks, Partner.

Chapter One


Facilitator Twenty-Seven. To your station please. Facilitator Twenty-Seven. Station please
.”

“Shit.” The woman with the long legs and tiny black skirt that showed off ninety percent of them, pushed her chair back with a harsh scrape. “Knew it was too good to be true.” She drained liquid from the paper cup, crunched it in her hand and tossed it away. “Gotta go. See ya.” She nodded at the girl in the white uniform who had shared the table.

With a swing of her hips, she stalked out of the small rec room, leaving several men with aching groins and probably more than a few dirty fantasies. The tiny little breast drapes that just about covered her nipples—the latest style of course—sure got reactions.

She chuckled to herself. Thoughts like that were dessert for those guys, since the main meal was a utilitarian protein pak and imitation lactic fluid—vanilla or chocolate. Both items seriously sucked. As did the swill that passed for coffee these days.

Her thigh-high boots with their sexy-hot steel heels clicked a staccato beat down the dim corridor as she strode to her assignment station. Her right hand lifted absently, and her fingers touched the metal neck ring that signified her status as a facilitator. It was warm from her body heat, smooth except for the engraving, and always there.

Even so, she’d developed the habit of checking it, just in case.

Her neural interface ponytail swung comfortably down her back from her scalp, a tumbled mix of multihued wires, terminating in connectors. Some fashion-minded tech had developed a crystalline metal for the damn things so that they’d twinkle.

She hoped he’d gotten a blowjob from his girlfriend for that little stroke of fuckin’ genius. Personally, she didn’t give a crap whether her connectors glittered or not. Just as long as they worked. She didn’t braid the wires or put a cute bow on ’em. She wasn’t concerned about them at all—they were part of who she was, every bit as much as her shining bald head and her lush eyelashes.

She was a facilitator. She liked stylish and sexy clothing, a hot night in bed with a handsome guy who didn’t want a quote
relationship
unquote, and the occasional meal that didn’t come out of a mech vendor.

She wasn’t ashamed of any of it. If anyone else had issues, well fuck ’em. She was Martine TwoSeven. A facilitator.

And she was on her way to help another human being die.

“Hey, Martine.” The nurse on station in the transition section greeted her as she arrived. “Number twelve. We estimate ten to twenty minutes.”

Martine acknowledged the information and signed for it with her digital print. “Got it.” She walked on and found room twelve, waiting a second or two for the door to unseal and then going inside. The lighting was low and the diagnostic system, although still functioning, was showing levels consistent with imminent catastrophic patient failure.

That was how Martine viewed death. System failure. The human system was intricate and complex, far more so than the technology which ruled most of its existence. But, like that technology, it was unable to avoid the inevitable failure that shut down everything. Permanently.

She sat down on the side of the bed with care and reached for the elderly hand lying like a dried leaf on the white sheet. As she did so, a long cable emerged from a unit against the wall and snaked to her side. The neural interface responded and the process of interconnection began.

The fragile fingers within her grasp trembled—the room around her wavered—and then she was walking along the edge of a vast ocean, the gentle winds blowing long blonde hair around her bare shoulders.

She was in a tiny bikini and holding hands with a handsome, white-haired man. He smiled at her. “It’s time, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” She smiled back. “I’m here with you.” Warm little waves foamed around their feet and the sensation made her smile. “This is lovely.”

“Isn’t it? I met my wife here. We made love for the first time over there…” He tilted his head toward some distant dunes. “And yes, we got sand in all the wrong places.”

She laughed with him. “Great memories, I’ll bet.”

“Most of them, yes.” His eyes clouded. “She passed. Left me alone for too many years.”

“I’m sorry.” Martine squeezed his hand.

“Don’t be. I’m going to see her soon.” He looked down. “Thanks for being here. I’m glad I got to see this again. It’s as enchanting as I remember.”

“Thank you for sharing it with me.” She slowed her steps. “It’s an honor.”

They came to a halt and simply stood, listening to the sound of the water, the cry of a gull—two people leaving footprints in the sand. Marks that would soon disappear. Martine wondered if that was symbolic of life itself. They were there—and yet they were not. Nothing would mark their presence after they’d gone.

The man sighed. “Kiss me goodbye, lovely woman.”

Willingly, Martine went into his arms. “Safe journey, my dear.” She touched her lips to his, amazed anew at the warmth and life she felt, at the truly incredible detail that had been poured into this process.

As his mouth opened and his tongue sought hers, a new sensation began to creep from the top of her head down her neck and into her spine. It was not unlike the gentle brushing of invisible electric fingers. There was no way to adequately describe what happened at this moment. She knew that something in her neural interface was linked with his life energy and that the unique connection allowed her to draw from him, to gently ease away the last remnants of his existence. That he would slip peacefully away, releasing his hold on what little energy he had left.

His eyes closed, his breath quieted and Martine held him, locked in his embrace.

Then the scene shimmered and shifted.

She was still sitting on the bed, connected to the system that had allowed her to enter another human’s thoughts, and she still held his hand. But it was cooling rapidly, no longer vibrant with the pulsation of blood or the passage of currents through nerve endings. The diagnostic machine was zeroed out.

Martine sighed and released him. He had gone, left his mortal shell, moved on to whatever waited. With an assortment of brief clicks and snaps, the cable disconnected itself from her neural interface. She stood, reached over to a small screen and tapped in the relevant data.

Facilitator 27 present. TOD 1900 hours 47 minutes. Feb 19. ET station 12. Confirmation 27-3XJ19AAAGREEN.

The door slid closed behind her. Martine TwoSeven had completed another assignment for Eternal Tranquility, assisting another patient in his passing, creating the fantasy of his choice from his thoughts and joining him in it, letting him spend his final moments with pleasurable endorphins filling his brain.

There had been no pain, no sorrow and no fear. It was the end result of several generations of research on death and dying.

And Martine was one of the few humans with the neural capabilities necessary to successfully accomplish it.

Did it depress her? No. She seemed to be able to compartmentalize it. Or perhaps she just didn’t have the right mental wiring to feel such things.

As she digitally scrawled her signature on the nurse’s pad and sealed it with a retinal scan, she did what she always did—she closed that door in her mind. It was a job. And for now, the job was done. The facilitator had performed flawlessly. Eternal Tranquility had increased its profits considerably. A soul had passed on in a moment filled with pleasure.

Her heels clicked sharply once more as she headed to the basement of the massive facility and the small apartment she called home.

 

High above the functioning floors of Eternal Tranquility, two men enjoyed an after-dinner cigar in the penthouse. This was the residence of the power behind the organization, William Williams Jr known to his staff as WWII. Not to his face, of course, since the nickname did indeed fit some of his more aggressive moods. It was rumored that when in full-blown temper mode, he had to be talked out of invading Poland.

But nobody denied his ability to secure both brilliant scientific minds for his research labs and a shitload of venture capital so that those minds could expand technological horizons. Eternal Tranquility was the first and—thus far—most successful of his endeavors, but few imagined it would be the last.

On this particular evening, he was smiling at the message that had just appeared on the console discreetly built in to the leather-padded arm of his massive pub chair. He glanced at the man occupying the matching chair on the other side of the stone fireplace. “Another facilitation completed.”

“It is working well, then.” Shining black hair moved slightly as the man dipped his head in acknowledgement.

“Very well indeed. This particular facilitator, Martine TwoSeven. She’s excellent. A natural, one might say.”

“She would work for our needs?”

“I believe so.” Williams steepled his fingers. “She seems to be able to disassociate herself from the emotional component. One of the many reasons she was our first and is currently our most successful facilitator.”

“The Shanxi Corporation is most interested in the continuation of this project, Director Williams.”

“I understand.” Williams dipped his head in acknowledgement and appreciation. He was quite used to dealing with visitors from Shanxi and had learned the appropriate gestures very rapidly. “We are grateful for Shanxi’s ongoing support.”

If a minor thing like twenty billion credits could be considered support. More like paying off a national debt, to Williams’s way of thinking, but to Shanxi it probably was a mere drop in the bucket.

“Such support is nothing when measured against the inspiration and technological progress your laboratories have made and continue to make.” The tone was smooth and satisfied. “You have surpassed our expectations, Director.” He smiled. “We are glad to see your health continues to be excellent.”

“And I continue to be grateful for the first digital heart replacement. Truly an amazing medical development.” Which would, with luck, give him a couple hundred more years to spend the huge amounts of money Shanxi was going to be pumping into his coffers.

“And I trust you will be pleased to hear that we are ready to begin the second phase of the project.”

“Indeed.” The director straightened in his chair. “You have a suitable candidate?”

“He will be transferred in later this evening. We recommend you proceed tomorrow. No delay is necessary. The sooner we have definitive results, the sooner we will be able to adapt those results to the needs of our other clients.” He gazed at the director with eyes dark and expressionless. “And, of course, the sooner your organization will receive the final funding.”

This was good news, since a large percentage of that final funding credit transfer would find its way into the director’s private account located on a small mobile bank in international waters off the coast of Argentina.

He merely smiled. “You are too kind.” He turned to his console and typed in a few numbers and symbols. “I have made arrangements for the arrival of your candidate. It shall be as you ask. Tomorrow.” He stood. “Would you care to stay and observe?”

The man rose and shook his head. “Thank you, but no. I am needed elsewhere. We are confident that matters here are in good hands and look forward to your report of yet another success at Eternal Tranquility.” He bowed, hands gracefully clasped in front of him.

The director bowed back, equally gracefully. He believed that one should always observe the courtesies of business, especially when large fortunes and death were so closely involved.

 

 

“Hello, dear. How was your day?”

The maternal tones greeted Martine as she opened the door to her apartments deep below Eternal Tranquility. They weren’t massively luxurious, but they suited her just fine. All except the annoyingly cheerful hologram of somebody’s aunt, which had been programmed as a companion-assistant function.

“Fine. Aunt Sue off please.”

With a pout, the disembodied head stopped smiling and vanished from the ledge upon which it was projected. Martine paid little attention. She had no desire to share her innermost emotions with a collection of particles hovering above a holoplate. Plus, she was pretty much convinced that whatever she said to it would be filed away for future reference.

BOOK: The Facilitator
10.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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