Cypher

The following piece of original fiction is over 20 years old.

I seem to remember being inspired in part by a TV movie, but the title and plot have long since faded from memory. (Well, mine, anyway.) Originally, I wrote it longhand… in pencil. (You remember those, right?) But that copy disappeared, probably around the time I moved from NJ to FL 8 years ago. I thought it was lost until a few years ago, when I found a partially-corrupted text file version. I managed to salvage it, but the second half was gone. I was considering posting it here, anyway, but held off.

Then, a few days ago, while going through some old boxes of stuff, I found my handwritten copy with both parts! Plus notes to explain what’s going on! Yay! So, I’m able to share the whole thing. (There are additional notes for a Part III, but I’m gonna hold onto them, in case I ever get the urge to continue the story in another post.) Not that it’s anything fantastic. But, it was my first foray into fiction-writing since my college years, and I thought it turned out pretty good.

The style of narrative should be a familiar one: protagonist gets thrown into an awkward situation with little helpful knowledge (and, in this case, a dose of amnesia), and the reader discovers things at the same time as the protagonist does. I tweaked the text just a tad to eliminate an inconsistency and improve the flow, but it’s mostly intact here….

“Cypher”

Part 1:

bald-head-side-view-with-three-question-marks_318-48742Sand.

That was the first thing he was aware of when he came to. It was in his mouth, and it did not taste very good. He tried spitting it out, but he just got more sand on his dry lips. The gritty substance seemed to be all over him. He could feel it on his hands and face and in his clothes. As he started to turn his head, he became aware of a melange of odors assaulting his nostrils. Fish… dead fish and brine. That was most obvious. Wet wood, candy, rubber,… and a faint wafting of smoke.

He suddenly realized he had been lying face down in the sand and, apart from his feeble attempts at spitting, he had not moved since becoming conscious. He tried to open his eyes to see where he was, but there was only a gray fuzziness at the edges of a field of black.

“Am I blind?,” he thought. It occurred to him he should panic at that, but somehow it did not bother him too much. It was as if his subconscious knew the condition was either normal, or temporary, or both.

Slowly, however, his remaining senses seemed to start kicking in. He became aware of sounds, faint confirmations that the world around him was feeling a bit less out-of-sorts than he was. He heard, and then felt, the gentle surf lapping at his feet. His shoes and the lower half of his pantlegs were obviously soaked, but the water was warm and he felt no chill.

Hesitantly, he moved arms and legs into position and pushed himself onto his hands and knees. His whole body felt stiff and he sensed that he had a few cuts and bruises, but he did not seem to be in any real pain. His shoulder bumped something which, upon further tactile examination, appeared to be a log about four feet long and nearly a foot thick, lying on its side and slightly slick to the touch. As he eased himself into a sitting position on the log, he started trying to fit some of the pieces together.

He was on a beach somewhere, but he did not know which beach or even why he was there. Probably not to swim, as he was fully clothed and had no swimming trunks on beneath his pants. Judging by his physical condition, he had either fallen and injured himself, or he had been involved in some sort of scuffle and then abandoned. Had he been mugged? He had no wallet, but that was not proof in itself of foul play. He had no watch, but somehow he knew he neither owned nor needed one. Furthermore, he seemed to know exactly what time it was — 11:23pm on Friday, September 6, 2013.

He was, however, wearing what felt like a man’s wedding band on his left ring finger. Either he had stumbled across some rather inept thieves, or he could rule out being mugged. Beyond that, he had no idea where he was, how he got there, what happened to him, or, despite his uncanny awareness of time, how long he had been lying unconscious in the sand. What was most disturbing, however, was the fact that he had no idea who he was.

Part 2:

under-a-pier-at-night“Young man, I said, ‘Are you alright?'”

He jumped and spun around at the sudden sound, startled out of his introspection. Squinting into the darkness of his slowly clearing vision, he thought he could make out the stocky figure of a dark-skinned man standing less than twenty feet away. He had been so absorbed in his self-examination that he had not noticed the stranger’s approach in the semi-damp sand.

“Easy, son. I don’t want any trouble. I just saw you sitting there on that log with your head in your hands, and I thought you might be sick or hurt or need some help.”

The black man continued to appraise him with a kind but wary eye.

“Hey, is that some kind of karate move or something?”

Only then did he realize he had instinctively gone into a defensive, semi-crouching stance when he first heard the man’s voice.

“Tae kwon do, actually,” he responded automatically while taking note of how dry his mouth was. Sensing an absence of hostility from the stranger, he began to relax a little. How do I know tae kwon do? And how much do I know?, he thought. Judging by his reflexive actions of a moment ago, he was probably well-trained, at least.

“I took a class down at the ‘Y’,” he said. It seemed his instincts were also telling him “Never let the other guy know how much you know until absolutely necessary.” He could hear it in his mind, as if it were part of a lecture. But from where?, he wondered. Was it really from a public self-defense class?

“Say, you do look banged up a bit,” the stranger observed as he approached cautiously. “Why don’t you let me have a look? I’m a doctor.” The black man started giving him a cursory examination, then stopped. “The moon may be ‘big and bright’ tonight, but other than a couple minor cuts and bruises on your face, I can’t see diddly. Why don’t you come back to my place, and I’ll get you patched up and maybe throw in some hot chocolate if you like. C’mon, it’s only about a quarter-mile back up the beach,” he said, gesturing behind him with his thumb. “And, besides, it looks like we could both use someone to talk to tonight.”

He considered his options and, given his situation and the seemingly genuine concern and kind offer from this friendly stranger, he decided not to look a gift-horse in the mouth.

“Alright,” he said, “I guess I could use a little medical attention. And the hot chocolate sound pretty good, too.” Besides, he thought, if this guy was involved with whomever or whatever happened to me, why would he come back now? And why the ‘good samaritan’ act?

“Fine,” said the stranger, taking him by the elbow and leading him slowly back the way from which he had apparently come. “Lean on me if your legs seem weak or you feel dizzy. You may have a concussion. By the way, I’m Amos. ‘Dr. Amos J. Thibodeaux, M.E.’, if you want the business card version. But, you just call me ‘Amos’.”

The two began walking quietly side by side, each immersed in his own thoughts as the surf whooshed gently on the beach, making the occasional bid to caress their feet. The younger of the two glanced back at where he had just been and realized he had been lying just outside the shadow of a huge pier. On the land beyond the pier, he could see and hear the workings of a small amusement park. That would explain the cotton candy smell, he surmised, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a breeze tonight. I wonder how I could smell it so well, especially with the stinky dead fish smell being so strong. But, that should be the least of my worries. I still don’t know who or where I am or why I was lying unconscious under a pier in the middle of the night.

Notes:

bionic-eye-implanted-in-old-blind-man-to-seeo  He, aka “Cypher”, is a cyborg with an organic brain, cloned from one “donor” (supposedly without memories), but partially “programmed” with engrams of another. He has a computer-enhanced memory, processing, etc. Everything that happens to him or is detected with his enhanced senses is recorded and backed up to “the cloud” every hour. [I just added that bit, since “the cloud” wasn’t a thing when I first wrote this.] He can interface and up/download data on any known system.

o  Occasionally, he has memory flashes from both the original brain donor and the engram “model”.

o  Eventually, he will discover that his “creators” were not entirely benevolent and that he was programmed with some rather violent urges and deadly skills.

o  He also discovers that the incident which ended up with him being beaten and left on the beach was due to betrayal by another synthetic human.

Apparently, I later spent some more time thinking about how I might further develop this concept into a complex, three-part story. I had totally forgotten about it, but I found my old notes about this on another sheet of paper just the day before yesterday. So,…

Notes II:

First novel/chapter originally develops that Cypher was created by a benevolent organization, then it ends with a twist to indicate that Cypher was built by and/or working for “bad guys”. Second novel/chapter develops this further but ends with another twist, indicating he may have worked for/with “good guys”, after all. Third novel/chapter expands on this, finally revealing his true origins/mission. It would be something along the lines of:

1) “Created” by benevolent organization that was partially funded by U.S. Dept. of Defense.

2) Top-secret group within the intelligence community convinced (bribed? coerced?) one of the scientists involved to deliver the first successful “product” of the Proteus Project (i.e., Cypher) to them.

3) This group then trained Cypher/Proteus for an undercover mission to infiltrate and expose a rogue faction (“bad guys”) within the intelligence community.

4) While on this mission, he is ambushed, beaten, and left for dead on the beach.

– fake pulse is temporarily damaged
– experiential memory is 99% erased, and link to back-up memory is damaged; so, even if he knew he had it, he couldn’t access it
– eventually, limited self-repair of functions are able to restore the link

5) If Cypher ever gets full (back-up) memory restored, it won’t be until end of third novel/chapter.

There ya have it! The genesis of “Cypher”. Hope y’all found it enjoyable.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

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