My last memory was of a blade entering my back.
The glowing weapon, common among the enemy, contained within it nano-machines that began inflicting terrible damage upon my body. My systems usually compensated, but hours of fighting had drained most of my stored energies. A fact my enemy most likely anticipated. As the poisonous techno-viruses did their work and literally set my nervous system aflame, my mind hoped that my next body would have fewer pain receptors.
A familiar light played upon my eyelids as the resurrection protocols of my pod came to life. Transferring the mind of the dead to a clone had been the staple of the empire for centuries. Creating an army of immortal soldiers guided by the eternal glory of…
My mind raced to finish the sentence, but I could not remember the name of the empress I served. Not only that, but my memory had become fragmented. Half remembered flashes of conquered races and battles pooling together without rhyme or reason.
My worry over lost memories was cut short as pain assaulted my arm, forcing me to fully awaken from my torpor. My eyes burst open then immediately closed in agony as the light hurt the newly grown organs. Forcing myself to look down through barely open slits, I saw a small creature barely larger than my hand. The six-legged green thing was digging into my flesh like it was trying to build a nest. It squawked in surprise as I grasped it, screaming further as I attempted to crack its neck. Either it was tougher than it looked or I was much weaker than I should be because I had difficulty crushing the tiny thing. A difficulty it exploited as it bit my hand, forcing me to let it go.
The creature scuttled off and any thoughts of pursuit were squashed when I finally looked again at my arm. The fact it was still bleeding was more shocking than any strange hostile creature. The exact systems escaped me, but I knew that my body was capable of self repair. Flesh should have instantly started knitting together as the energy reserves within my chest powered the bio-engines throughout my body. Instead, I bled like a pathetic pure-born.
Old half-glimpsed memories from before my ascendancy made me rip apart a cloth near the pod and tie it around my arm. Satisfied I would not die immediately, I looked around the room.
The room was originally small, only made smaller by the debris that took up most of it. Unfamiliar decrepit equipment and rocks coated the room and, on the ceiling, what can only be described as stalactites grew down, almost reaching the floor. My memories had difficulty identifying anything, but common sense made me realize none of this belonged in a proper resurrection lab.
A massive beast crashed through the wall next to me before I could explore more. A much larger version of the tiny scuttling creature, it roared at me with a large pyramid-shaped mouth. Each of its three lips were pulled back, exposing razor sharp teeth ideal for grasping prey whole and ripping it apart while inside. I was most likely slightly larger than its usual targets, but it didn’t make the potential encounter any less deadly.
I looked around, desperate to find a weapon I could use. My only options were several grey rocks of varying sizes. I chose the largest, a little bigger than a human head, and went to work, thankful that there was some of my former strength in this new body.
The fight was short but still fairly brutal. The creature lay dead, its teeth shattered and its head crushed. I stood bleeding from several cuts and gouges that perforated my body. Holes no amount of ripped cloth would cure.
I forced myself to limp from the room. Going through caverns that I could see use to be elegant hallways. Repeated on the walls was a faded symbol. Part of a bird of prey, or perhaps a lizard. It was once important to me, but I could not remember what it symbolized. My limp soon became a crawl as my body lost more and more blood, but still I continued. I would not die here, forgotten in some cave. I would at least see the sun, if this world had one.
For what felt like hours but may have been seconds for all my beleaguered mind could know, I pulled myself along the floor. My chest and legs scratched by pointed rocks and the random stinging insect. Eventually, I could see it. An exit. A hole that looked like it was created recently, nearby stones still radiating residual heat from what might have been a blast. It was at this moment that my body gave out, perhaps realizing it had completed its mission. Blackness took me and no dreams followed.
The next thing I heard was the sound of a gravely voice speaking in a strange foreign tongue. As I became more aware, I could smell strange herbs and the blurry vision in front of me transformed into a small room. No, a hut, made of stone, wood, and perhaps some bits of scavenged metal.
Turning my head, I noticed an old man looking at me, stirring a bowl and speaking, perhaps having noticed my wakefulness. The words were gibberish at first but eventually became understandable. My language implants were, thankfully, still intact. When I was confident I understood enough of his words, I forced myself to speak, despite the pain in my throat.
“Where I am?” I rasped.
The old man looked shocked at first, whether because I understood his language or had the strength to speak, I did not know nor care.
“Glavis,” he said, continuing to stir the bowl and smiling like a fool.
“What world?” I clarified, the name of the town meaning nothing to me.
He stared at me strangely at first, an expression which slowly changed to understanding and leaned in close.
“It is the ninth world,” he said carefully, as if saying those words might break me.
And, perhaps it would? The words were unfamiliar but had a weight that seemed to crush everything that I was once was. I somehow felt in every part of my being that the world I once knew was gone and, for the first time in my life, I was lost.
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