Cheers erupted in Thespar’s underground city as news of the Republic’s victory spread. The mood had turned positively ebullient, Lexi thought. She walked alongside a railing in the upper atrium with El. They could hear shouts of joy and applause all throughout the facility here. People rushed back and forth, eagerly talking about the events in person in order to not risk their conversations on the neural net.

“It’s great news,” El said. “And it is a pretty big deal. The Republic basically took a quarter of the League’s major planets away in one fell swoop.”

“I guess that is pretty big,” Lexi said.

They continued walking, circling the giant open space on the level of the atrium El had chosen.

El said, “After all this time, the Republic finally managed to take a capital planet! They have been so evenly matched. Well, that’s not true. We, the League, were more powerful to start. But the Republic . . . PLAIR . . . they’re smart. And now they’ve played catch up on weapons and ships. This new solar weapon of theirs was a game changer. And they finally made their move. They brought a solar storm to Juventas, and the League paid the price.”

She walked on for a moment smiling. Lexi hurried to match her pace.

El said, “Best of all, Juventas is prime for rebellion. The Resistance has some of its strongest elements in place there.”

“Really?” That statement intrigued the younger girl. “Do you think they’ll get help from . . . from us? It’s difficult to put into pronouns, I guess, since we’re still technically on the League’s side. I think. Or, we’re not but we’re still part of League. Hm.”

El laughed. She said, “Don’t get all twisted up. We’re part of the Resistance, and for the moment at least, bad news for the League in this war is good news for us. I’m sure our people on Juventas will help out the Republican forces there. It’s too soon to say what we’ll do for them, or how. But I’m sure others are thinking about the best way to do that right this very moment. As for us here on Epsilon . . . ah, we’re here.”

She stopped at one of the many doors facing the atrium and palmed it open. She let Lexi enter the room first.

A woman in a dark dress suit came up and stuck out her hand. Lexi took it and shook, noting diamond bangles on her wrist, and bright red fingernail polish. The woman was of medium height with dark hair, light skin, and she looked to be in her mid-40s, like El.

The woman said, “You don’t need to know my name. Think of me as your outfitter. So, if you wish to address me, you may call me ‘Madame Outfitter.’ That is an appropriate pseudonym, I think.”

“Um . . . okay.”

“The subterfuge is for both of our benefits, dear. Now, I know you have probably seen spy holos where the new recruit is trained for months or years and learns all about spycraft and all that sort of thing. But, in our case we don’t have near enough time to give you adequate training. What we can do, what I can do for you, is provide you with gadgets. And hopefully these gadgets will help keep you alive out there.”

She smiled a disarming smile in response to the shocked look on Lexi’s face. Then she turned and walked deeper into the apartment.

“Follow me, dear.”

Madame Outfitter palmed open a door on the opposite side of the room. Lexi and El followed, and it opened into a much larger space, this one filled with racks and shelves and tables full of weapons and equipment.

“Alright, dear. Let’s go to work. First up, the nurse will give you a cranial scan to store your memories up to this point. Then she’ll administer a shot of nanobots we will use to wipe your memory in the event of capture. We call them ‘tabula rasa’ nanobots, because they’ll wipe your mind clean, like a blank slate.”

Lexi climbed onto the examining table, and laid down on her back at the nurse’s instructions. The nurse then pulled a cranial scanner into position, its hoop fitting around Lexi’s head.

“I didn’t know we could scan memories,” Lexi said.

“It’s the latest thing,” Madam Outfitter said. “A lot of our stuff is so new, no one else has it. Unfortunately, the League does have this item in inventory. In particular, SSI has it. I’m told this is what was used to ferret out the secrets about the Condor-class from Republican Shipworks. Some unfortunate employee of theirs had it stolen from his mind.”

Lexi shuddered as the machine started up.

“Not to worry, dear. We are simply going to store these here. All your memories. This is a secure facility!”

“Oh. So, why do you need them?”

“To restore your personality should the nanobots be necessary.”

“Oh. Wow. You can do that? That really works?”

Madame Outfitter shrugged and smiled. “I don’t know. We’ve never tried it before, and nobody wants to volunteer to be a guinea pig.”

“Well, that doesn’t inspire confidence.”

The other ladies in the room chuckled at this. The nurse said, “Hopefully it won’t come to that, but we want to go ahead and grab your memories just in case. Just stay relaxed now. This will take a while. We’re going all the way back to childhood.”

El said, “Maybe there’s something in the past you want to forget? A bad boyfriend?”

Everyone laughed again.

Madame Outfitter said, “In all seriousness, it’s not that advanced yet. We don’t really understand a whole lot about memory. All this is doing is capturing everything. But some things are not remembered properly, and they change over time. So, this is just a snapshot of everything you remember at this current moment. If we have to use it, we’ll dump it back in. Sorry, we probably won’t experiment on taking some things out, so you’re going to retain that awful first kiss or the time some creep tried to grope you.”

“That’s fine,” Lexi said. “Given the choice, I’d rather have all my memories than none.”

Several hours later, the procedure wrapped up. The nurse then administered a shot of special nanobots into Lexi’s bloodstream.

“Let me fire them up,” she said, “and I’ll show you the neural connection to use if you need to activate them. Remember, all your memory will go away upon activation. You’ll be a blank slate. You probably won’t even remember how to speak, or how to read.”

“That bad?”

“Yes. Total amnesia. At least, we think so. Again, no one has been willing to try it out for us. But, our people in this field are very good. So, we’re fairly certain it will work if you need to use it.”

“Alright,” Madame Outfitter said, “now that we’re done with that, let’s get you some gadgets!”


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