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The Thin Line of Memory

Daniel J. Matias

PROLOUGE

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.”

Vince Lombardi

I can’t remember a time when this world was less than ‘perfect.’ At first glance, it would appear that humanity has evolved tremendously over the last ten years. Sure, appearances have been altered (arguably) for the better. Our desires and our skill sets have sought to challenge new heights. Knowledge and discovery are now in attendance over greed and power. So naturally, at first glance, life on Earth is beginning to meet the expectations of ‘perfection.’

However, if someone were to take the time to observe beneath the surface of humanity’s golden existence it would soon be realized that it just wasn’t so. Yes, with the simple push of a button we can now manipulate our genetic structure. And we do as we see fit. Women have the curves of goddesses. Men, the muscles of gods. And both genders can be effortlessly equipped with the minds of physicists. Technology has shown us how. “Glastol is the answer to all of mankind’s flaws. It is the substance that will rewrite the boundaries of what a human being can accomplish. Glastol is the future.” Or so the advertisements would lead you to believe. I for one don’t see it that way. I view it as a mere convenience – the answer against diversity. To me, it is an abomination. “Glastol will transform you from the mundane and place you within the company of elites.” All I can say is, without a doubt in my mind, it will do nothing more than cripple our society and rob from us our most precious traits.

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Look around. There is no failure. There is no struggle. With Glastol at your finger tips there is no sense of accomplishment. There is no ‘hard days work.’ The greatest asset to the human race (the human heart) has lost all relevance in today’s society; instant gratification has swiftly seen to that.

I left Earth ten years ago to fight the first war ever to take place on soil that was not our own. I fought along side an alien race that utilized technology so vastly from the realm of our comprehension that even the most outlandish science fiction writer would be hard pressed to imagine its flawless intensity. And still, they were in tatters. The aliens were on the brink of extinction, telling us that our inability to quit – our inability to not accept defeat – our heart – turned the tide of battle. We returned from that war as shining examples of what can be accomplished with nothing more than true grit and unyielding determination.

I now stand in a world that deems individuality and hard work as nothing more than a punch line. It is a world that favors convenience over earning your spoils. We are willingly losing our instinct to overcome obstacles – to survive. We are losing what ultimately makes us human.

The flood gates are open. More outsiders will contact Earth. And not all of them will be as generous as the Trilobians were.

CHAPTER I

The piercing bell of his cabin door cleaved his concentration. He stared at what he’d written hoping he could ignore the call, shifting his glances from the page to the cabin’s entrance and back again. Quietly, he sat anxiously in the marred silence, having been the one that enabled this intrusion, though wanting now to be left alone. With his hand stymied, still gripping the pen, the man was left stranded atop his towering pedestal by his fickle desire.

Beep.

But this guest had no intentions of leaving. She, first, would need payment for her troubles. After all, it wasn’t a typical request that an escort be summoned to such a place, by such a person of esteemed rank and position. She had traveled a long way to make his acquaintance, and the agency gushed over how fully committed she was to her line of work. Worth every penny.

The man weighed his options, though ultimately allowing his new companion to tip the scale. He pressed a button underneath the large desk he sat behind. The latches unlocked and the door began retracting into the wall. And there stood his guest: a silhouette of proud curves. Delicately, she stepped over the threshold.

And the door settled back into place.

The woman was expecting an older man, one whose age merited such an esteemed title. And just as every other woman that stood before him, she, too, was very pleased by his appearance.

Vaughn raised his tired eyes to the escort, hearing the soft, wet parting of her lips as she began to speak. Her voice was pleasant and polite. Perfect. Everything he’d grown to expect. Everything he’d grown to hate. To most people, the melody in her throat would’ve taken their breath away, only to have it regained in order to shower her with compliments.

However, Vaughn was certainly not most people.

He sniffed the air with discontent. The pungent odor of floral accents doused his nostrils. He had been very adamant about this detail: No perfumes of any kind. Ever. He detested them, immediately finding the need to voice that opinion. “Shower’s in the back. I suggest you get acquainted.”

The woman slightly cocked her head in confusion at the odd instruction. “I’m sorry?”

“I explicitly requested you not wear… Actually, no. I don’t need to explain myself. You’re familiar with my file, yes?”

“Sure.”

Vaughn smirked, folded his arms behind his head and gently reclined in the leather chair. “I take it you’re new?”

“Fairly new, yes. Why?”

“Your perfume, sweetheart. I want it removed.”

“I—I’ve… never gotten complaints.”

Did she not hear me? Was this not a complaint? “Just—The bathroom behind me, use it.” He nodded in its direction. “You can operate a shower, yes?”

The woman narrowed her gorgeously crafted eyes and gave the slightest of nods.

“Fantastic. And when you finish, get in bed. It’s on the left. I’ll still be a minute.” Vaughn already had his fill of pleasantries. This was meant to be a routine task, like ordering takeout. Get in. Get out. Routine.

Satisfaction.

With nothing more to say, Vaughn’s attention rested upon the hand written page, aiming to once again perch upon his tower of opinions. He lifted the pen, writing once more.

The woman watched him, curses filling her mind. The man had some nerve; but he also spared no expense. She smiled. However rude and insulting he may have been, his behavior would strike with nothing more than a whimsical breeze. There would be plenty of coin in her pocket, more than enough to dismiss his words in order to respond with grace and elegance. She would ensure her services were rewarded, and regularly requested. After all, pride was supremely inferior to the right amount of persuasion.

“In such a short amount of time, I’ve become a very hot commodity.” Her lips curled playfully, licking over them. “I assure you I’ve—”

“I don’t recall whores needing opinions,” Vaughn slowly said, diligently concentrating on his writing.

“Excuse—”

“Do it or leave,” his hand paused, anger corrupting his throat. “Scrub off that horrific scent or walk away. It’s your choice. If you leave you don’t get paid.” He convincingly reiterated what the woman was already thinking, feeling that her presence had gone well beyond the efficient interaction he’d hoped for. He resumed writing.

Without speaking another word the nervous woman stepped forward. The clack of her stiletto heels stiffly punctured his concentration. She truly was extravagant; tailored especially to his taste. And momentarily, her masterful movements captured his gaze, though the page proved to be far more poignant. Even as she gently traced her soft fingers along the edge of his desk, her long, lacquered nails dully scratching along the grain – even as she still somehow displayed that ravenous smile – she’d only fair as a beautiful blur in his periphery.

The revealing dress she wore was removed as she neared the bathroom’s entrance, gently slipped from her skin in one smooth motion. The electronic door retracted as if bowing to her majestic form before sealing shut behind her. Within seconds the shower was activated.

Again, he was alone. Relieved, he smiled. Fluidly, he resumed scribbling across the page, soothed by the sound of spraying water.

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“Captain Mayve report to the bridge immediately,” a female voice rang from the intercom in the ceiling of his bedroom. Vaughn, already wide awake, stared unblinking at the obstruction as he lay in bed, hands tucked behind his head. What an awful contraption radiating such an awful request. He had nearly no intention of answering the page as he knew with absolute certainty that it wouldn’t be important.

It never was.

“Please respond.”

Just busy work.

Vaughn scratched the coarse, dark stubble on his face, reminiscing about the escort from the night before. Indeed – just as advertised – she was well worth the price tag. Headstrong to say the least. Acrobatic. Rambunctious. Unrelenting. By the time she’d left, Vaughn was dazed in a state of satisfied exhaustion, sleeping very comfortably throughout the entirety of the night; a pleasure he rarely succumbed to. Nothing else was as effective. No form of medication would provide as deeply as intercourse. The nightmares were quelled when he wasn’t alone – when he was completely sapped of his energy, while lying next to a warm body. And with the months leading up to the launch, he frequently played the role of host to a slew of different women, never requesting the same one twice. It was better that way. Variety, after all, was the spice of life.

“Captain Mayve, please respond. You’re needed immediately on the bridge.”

But the voice wasn’t going to cease, sharing as keen a sense of stubborn guile as his own. Ignoring or even fighting against it wouldn’t carry the Captain any closer to the comfort he desired. It was time to act. Vaughn threw the sheets aside and sat up, stretching and cracking into a painfully strained yawn. Every muscle in his back was tight and cramped with ill tended knots; they begged him to lie back down. Slowly, he slid his legs off the side of the bed, wiggling his toes, cracking them as well with each flexed curl, groggily glancing around for clothing.

“Immediately means now, Captain.”

Pressing the swollen pads of his feet onto the static, cold floor, Vaughn stood with a huff. He walked across the room. Having spotted clothing piled in a heap, he fitted a crumpled shirt over his chiseled, beaten body. Digging further into the pile, he snaked out a pair of dark slacks, stepped into one side and jammed his leg through the other. Finally, he stuffed his bare feet into a pair of dull, scuffed, dark boots, leaving the laces untied. He sighed. He felt miserable. Alone.

He felt hollow.

“Captain Mayve, please respond!”

A part of him wanted to just speak out simply for the requests to cease. The long, unnecessary trek to the bridge would still be waiting, but at least there would be silence. However, a more aggressive part of him took pleasure in keeping quiet. He enjoyed frustrating the voice, having done so for as long as he could remember.

The disheveled Captain lazily left his bedroom and headed toward the large desk, snatched the unkempt officer’s jacket – brimming with decorations – from the back of the chair, and paused. His eyes scanned the carefully planned, handwritten words scrawled across the unfinished page. Finishing his thoughts was certainly more important than complying with the voice. But without further hesitation, he continued past, stepping toward the hallway entrance while sliding his arms into the sleeves of his accomplishments.

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