It was Richard’s turn to chase after a furious Carol as she made her way through the Ex Libris archives. Even the automatic overhead lights switched on with an angry thud as Carol strode through the maze of dark shelving. Aaron’s message didn’t say where in the archive they were so Carol had headed for the last place Tony had been working as a starting point. A single spotlight shone in the distance proving her hunch was correct.
"Aaron!" She called ahead, "you ethically devoid shithead." Pain and anger tinged her voice as it echoed out into the surrounding darkness No reply came except for Richard’s half hearted calls for her to calm down as he tried to keep pace. She ignored him and called Aaron’s name again as her heels clacked angrily on the polished concrete floor. All of the personal growth she had cultivated over the morning had evaporated into pure rage but she didn’t care, Aaron had well and truely crossed the line this time.
Neither Aaron nor Tony were waiting for them when Carol crossed the last gap of darkness between lights. Instead a rather beautiful and muscular woman sat quietly at the desk, the green glow of the bankers lamp next to her was dwarfed by the white overhead lighting. The woman sat with a perfect posture and yet looked at ease in the hard backed wooden chair. Her long wavy brown hair flowed freely down her emerald green dress that twisted over one shoulder giving modern Greek toga vibes. The sharp features of her face were tight and thoughtful as she looked off into the dark distance. Her classical features reminded Carol of a Rossini panting, although she couldn’t remember which one.
As she approached, Carol’s hair started to stand on end in that telltale familiar way, this was a goddess. No, something was off, her power felt older more raw than the deities Carol was used to dealing with. Richard had felt it too apparently, his hand had already unlatched the holster of his sidearm and hovered over it. Carol slowed her angry steps into a cautious walk, older gods could be wildly unpredictable.
"You’re a child of the gods aren’t you little one?" The goddess said without turning. "Not one I recognise though, but I know what you are nonetheless." Her voice was deep and familiar, pulling at hints of long forgotten memories as she spoke. Carol stopped in her tracks and put a hand out to hold Richard back as he caught up.
"Forgive me for intruding," Carol said bowing slightly. "I am Carol of Ex Mentis, and this is Commander Lavin of Ex Gladius. We were looking for our friends and colleagues, perhaps you have seen them?"
A sly grin pulled at the corner of the goddess’ mouth as she answered. "They were here. Now they are not," she said with playful tone.
Carol had to close her eyes to prevent them from visibly rolling back, she hated when deities spoke in that that faux cryptic bullshit. If you don’t know where they are just say that, she thought. Carol knew better than to let her annoyance show, especially when you didn’t know with whom you were being annoyed at. Yelling at a god is a great way to spend the rest of your life as a cow or something. "Thank you… uh, forgive me, but with whose divine presence are we graced with so deep in the halls of Deus Ex?" Asked Carol. She watched the goddess’s reaction to the question closely, looking for the slightest sign of displeasure on her face. Instead the goddess smiled and let out a smug laugh in that typical holier than thou way.
"Her name is Mnemosyne," came the response, not from the goddess but from Aaron emerging out of the dark. "Goddess of memory, mother of the nine muses."
"Aaron!" Carol called out, a hint of relief in her voice. "What the Hel is going on? Where’s Tony, and why is a goddess here?"
Aaron quickly closed the distance between them and subtly guided both Carol and Richard to the edge of the overhead light, away from the goddess. "Tony’s gone," they said in a hushed tone.
"Gone where?" Richard asked, hand still hovering near his sidearm.
"He said he wanted to forget, that’s why he called her here." Aaron said, looking over to the goddess. "Mnemosyne agreed to take his memories away for him. He only wanted the memories of Sarah gone, to stop the pain you know, but instead she took everything." He glared over at Mnemosyne. The goddess spoke away from them into the echo of the archive, "the memory of his lost love was woven into almost every part of him." She turned around and put her arms on the back of the chair and laid her chin upon them, "it happens you know. Friends, lovers, even family, worm their way into your mind until you can’t tell where you end and they begin." There was a wistful smile upon her face but a deep sadness in her dark brown eyes. "She’s wrapped up in all of your memories too you know. This Sarah must have been something special…for a mortal.”
Carol had to bite the inside of her lip to stop herself from saying something she would regret. Which is why she jumped slightly when Richard’s deep voice broke the air behind her. "With all due respect goddess, don’t talk about our friend like that, like you knew her." His voice was steady and commanding but walked the line of respect like he was taking to a superior officer. To her credit, the goddess playfully drew her fingers across her smiling lips as if to zip them shut. Carol frowned, gods being playful unnerved her more than smugness or emotional detachment. Was Mnemosyne happy-go-lucky or did she see humanity as toys for her amusement? Like a bored house cat batting around a lizard that wandered too close to its basket. Nobody wants to be the lizard in that scenario.
"Ok, so if Tony has lost his memory, we’ll just find him and put it back. Right?" Carol asked Aaron. The deep frown on their face didn’t fill her with hope.
"Easier said than done," said Aaron. "After his memories were taken he became very confused and agitated. I tried my best to calm him down but he didn’t seem to know me. He panicked and ran off through the archives."
"Entangled memories. Tricky stuff," said Mnemosyne, shrugging cheerfully. The group ignored her best as they could.
Richard looked contemplatively into the dark distance. "We can track him using the Ex Libris systems in reception, I’ll send a team down to bring him back." He said forming the rescue operation in his head.
"It’s not that easy," continued Aaron. "As he ran off the overhead lights kept coming on, and I was chasing after him too. Before I could stop it he called out for everyone to stop following him." Arron paused as Richard swore under his breath.
"What? What does that mean?" Asked Carol, looking between the two of them.
"It means," answered Richard, "that Tony has unintentionally turned off the Ex Libris tracking system."
"More specifically, he has made himself practically invisible to any surveillance system Deus Ex has. Even the motion lights ignore him now." Aaron said rubbing the back of their head. "He could be anywhere."
Carol peered through the darkness of the archives and saw no other lights on around them. She shook her head trying to make sense of it all. "So you’re saying that Tony has lost almost all his memory, disabled his personal tracking, and wandered off into an archive full of potentially dangerous artefacts?" Both Richard and Aaron nodded solemnly in agreement.
"Perfect. Absolutely perfect!” Carol threw her hands up in frustration. She started to pace around the edges of light, hand on head, thinking. Richard and Aaron started discussing various security protocols and workarounds in hushed tones. The goddess Mnemosyne watched them all intently with a curious smile on her face.
Working in Ex Mentis as long as she had meant that Carol had a lot of experience puzzling out the minds of gods. A lot of them were old and bored, or they were content with their often busy roles in the world. The rest mostly wanted power. Keeping it, or getting it in the first place, occupied a lot of their time and energy motivating various schemes and actions. Only a handful reviled in pure chaos and distraction. Those were the most dangerous, beings of sometimes unimaginable power wanting nothing more than to see the world burn. Thankfully, Mnemosyne didn’t seem the chaos type. The Muses - her children - inspired and brought art and joy into the world. While you can’t always assume the same of the parents, Carol had seen enough to know that this goddess probably fell somewhere between old and bored, and just doing her job. She had already proven that there was power in memory but didn’t seem to lord it over them.
Mnemosyne and Carol caught each other’s eye and the goddess blinked at her, slowly, like a cat. With her chin resting comfortably on her hands, the goddess’s bright red lips widened into a joyful smile, lighting up her face. Carol started to speak but hesitated.
"Go on, ask your question child. I won’t bite." Cooed the goddess.
"Are you able to return Anthony’s memories to him?" She asked, hastily adding, "and are you willing to do it?" The goddess kept smiling as she spoke, "of course child, the memories still exist." She gestured vaguely with her hand, "they are simply…unattached."
"That’s great, if he gets his memories back he can turn on the tracking system again and we’ll find him easily," Aaron said.
Carol eyed the goddess suspiciously, "and what’s the catch?"
Mnemosyne’s smile faded slightly as she sat upright, hands resting on her lap. "He only needs to ask for them back." A disappointed "oh" came from Aaron, followed by a low hmm from Richard. As far as divine catches go, this wasn’t the worst Carol had come across, but it certainly made things difficult. Which was the whole point she guessed.
"Well, that’s going to take some time it seems," said Carol. "What happens to the memories though? You said they’re just… around?" She waved her hand around like the goddess had. Mnemosyne nodded in response, "unattached. Unattached memories eventually dissipate and fade away, happens all the time. But with no anchor it happens a little faster."
"How much faster?" Carol asked, suspicion creeping into her voice.
"A week? Two at most." Casually replied the goddess.
Carol let out the breath she had been holding, there was the catch she was waiting for. Never one to pass on a problem Aaron started thinking out loud, "We need to anchor those memories to someone before they fade into nothing, right?”
"That’s what the goddess said, yes," replied Carol.
"Ok, so if Tony wants them back he has to ask for them, but does that mean he’s the only one who can ask? They are unanchored memories, they just happen to be his." Said Aaron, the words spilling from their mouth as quickly as possible, trying to keep up with the possibilities flowing through their mind.
"There’s nothing stopping you from asking," said the goddess. "However, you really don’t want someone else’s memories merged with your own. It doesn’t end well in my experience."
"In that case, what about Sarah?" Aaron asked, their head tilted to the side in thought. "The hologram Sarah, I mean.” Carol could practically hear the whirring of gears as they worked the idea out. "All the memories are closely related to her too, which might make it easier?”
Carol and Richard looked at the Ex Machina tech like a pair of monkeys finding a loaded gun, confused and excited by the shiny technology but unaware of the dangers it could bring upon them.
"She has none of Sarah’s actual memories, just visual and vocal scans. If I can store Tony’s memories on the Deus Ex servers then the hologram software could use them to model her personality. She’d be closer to the real Sarah than I even intended, but it might keep the memories safe for a while."
"You hope," added Richard sombrely.
"Yes…well," Aaron said, coughing slightly. "Brave new frontiers and all that."
The three of them turned around and Carol addressed Mnemosyne, “how about it goddess, is it doable?” The goddess thought on it for a moment, looking up and away at some point in the dark distance. Her playful smile faded slightly for a second, but returned just as quickly. “Yes, yes I believe it can be done.” She practically shone with excitement and addressed Aaron directly, “you clever little thing, mortals and your machines. How…enlightening this little sojourn has been for me.” The three Deus Ex members exchanged a slightly nervous look between themselves.
"I hate this." Said Carol quietly, crossing her arms and frowning.
"Which part?" Asked Richard, "putting Tony’s memories in one of Aaron’s computers, or bringing Sarah back as a hologram using those memories?"
"All of it. Tony playing with the gods and running off, Aaron and that morbid effigy of theirs, the feeling we just opened a whole new world to the goddess of memory, and me standing idle while yet again, one of my nearest and dearest could possibly be lost to us forever.”
“I could shoot something if that would make you feel any better?" Richard said as he put a comforting arm around Carol’s shoulder and pulled her in for a hug. He only stopped when Mnemosyne made a cute aww sound at them. “Ok Aaron, lets get this done so we can start looking for Tony and fix this mess.”
Aaron had already pulled a tablet device from their pocket and was already tapping away commands. Suddenly the Sarah hologram materialised between the group and the goddess, causing Carol to jump involuntarily. She cursed under her breath and whispered to herself, “I will never get used to that.” The hologram stood unnaturally still, only blinking occasionally. While it looked like a perfect copy of Sarah, right down to the slight dimples on her cheeks, it wasn’t her. The lifeless collection of light before her lacked the warmth and joy that Sarah would bring to a room and looking at it just made Carol miss her more.
Memories of Sarah filled her mind, from her sweet smile, to those quiet moments spent in bed stroking her back as she made happy little moans. That wasn’t the Sarah Aaron was going to make though, this Sarah would be made of all the moments Anthony remembered. Their private jokes, her smile at him, she would be the Sarah that existed in the mind of Anthony. She wouldn’t be the Sarah that she remembered. Carol suddenly became aware of the talk going on around her as Aaron set things up for the transfer. The goddess Mnemosyne had stood up and was inspecting the hologram with an excited curiosity.
“Wait!” Carol said without warning. Her voice louder than she had intended echoed all around them. Everyone turned to look at her expectantly, everyone except the Sarah hologram which remained still. “Won’t Tony’s memories create a bias version of Sarah? He would have a particular vision of her in his head that won’t necessarily match the vision that we all individually have.” Explained Carol, her voice dropping to a reasonable volume. The blank faces from Richard and Aaron made her want to explain more, “William James said, when two people meet there are really six people present. Each as they see themselves, each as the other sees, and each as they really are.”
“We have a hologram, a goddess, and the memories of our friend floating around unattached, and now you want to get philosophical on us?” Asked Richard. He shook his head, “look, I know this is your thing but can we sort out one crisis at a time and discuss the philosophical implications later?”
“No, Richard.” Carol said, her tone harsher than she intended. “Those philosophical implications matter now and need to inform our decisions. Aaron, wouldn’t you say more data is better in this case?” She looked pleadingly at the Ex Machina tech.
“Well, yes.” They replied. “For this sort of machine learning to work the more data you have the better the pattern matching. I hadn’t thought about how memory bias would affect the final model though… interesting. But where would we get more data models from? Sarah’s dead and I’m assuming so are her memories.” Aaron looked at the goddess for an answer.
Mnemosyne had began to wander over towards Carol, the long hem of her emerald green dress flowed like water along the concrete floor behind her. She reached out a hand and placed it on Carol’s arm and circled behind her. At six foot three, Carol was unusually tall, but the goddess had a few inches on her still and managed to look rather imposing standing behind her. The prickling sensation that accompanied god and godlike powers magnified with her touch, and Carol’s whole body shivered and twitched. The goddess purred behind Carol’s ear and spoke softly, “Your friend’s memories are indeed long gone I’m afraid. She drank of the river Lethe and her life here has all but faded away.”
“So she’s actually crossed over.” Carol said sadly as the goddess circled around her, heading back towards the hologram.
“I’m afraid so,” said the goddess. She stopped and turned on the spot to face Carol, her dress twisting up her body like vines reaching out from the earth. “All is not lost though, child. Her memory lives on quite strongly in you three.” The look on the goddesses face made Carol think about the last thing a mouse must see before it’s devoured by a cat. Like any prey animal the instinct for survival was strong in Carol, give a god an inch and they’ll turn you into a flower.
“You could copy - not take - copy our memories for Aaron’s computer?” Carol said carefully. The goddess laughed softly to herself and flashed a knowing grin at her. “So distrustful, child. I worry who has hurt you, but also know how my kind and their children treat you all.” She opened her arms wide, and bowed slightly, “you have my word that only a copy of your memories will be taken and placed into this machine. I am just as interested in this working as you are, dear child. Shall we?” Carol, Richard, and Aaron all looked at each other with varying degrees of concern and hope. A silent nod between them was echoed by Carol’s verbal agreement of the terms. Mnemosyne clapped her hands together and her eyes began to glow golden with divine power till it was all Carol could see. With a brilliant flash of light it was done.
When Carol’s sight returned the goddess and Sarah’s hologram were gone, and they were alone in the archive. She went to check on Richard and Aaron as neither were blessed with her divine bloodline which promoted fast healing, among other things. Both were fine enough and soon Aaron was plugging away on their tablet, excited about data and algorithms.
“It’s here!” they said, excitedly. “It’s all here, Tony’s memories, our memories and the program is going through it all at a rapid pace.” They tapped a few buttons and watched graphs and numbers scroll across the small screen.
“So it worked?” asked Carol. “We saved Tony’s memories?”
“Yeah, yeah they’re fine.” Aaron waved a dismissive hand at her. They were lost in the work now and getting any sort of sense out of Aaron now was a fools errand. Only Sarah’s magic touch could have made Aaron look up from a screen, but it was fine for now.
“Oh.” Said Richard softly, a rare smile on his lips. “She’s there. I can still remember her.”
“Me too.” Carol smiled back at him. “The goddess was true to her word at least.”
“First time for everything I guess.”
“Hopefully not the last.” Said Carol, slipping an arm around Richard’s waist. The two enjoyed a moment of happiness together, sitting in the comforting gap between crisis.
“This is so weird.” Said Aaron, eyes glued to their screen. With that the lights and hum of the air circulation system shut down, plunging the team into pitch black silence. Despite being deep under the Deus Ex complex and totally isolated, Carol felt the entire building completely shut down. Before the panic could rise from her chest all the archive lights cycled on and off and air had once again started to flow. The industrial light above them switched on and stayed on, allowing Carol to release the breath she had been holding, along with Richard next to her. Aaron seemed completely unfazed and had remained focused on their tablet the entire time.
“Aaron, love. Put that away for now please, we have company.” Came a familiar voice out of nowhere. Aaron apologised automatically and looked up, slightly confused. “Wait. Sarah?” Aaron asked, looking around.
She stepped out of the dark and strode confidently towards them wearing a navy blue jumpsuit with white stripes down the arms and up the centre. It was accented only by a large gold zipper that ended in a hoop at her neck and a larger gold hoop that sat at her waist holding together a belt of the same blue fabric. Her chestnut brown hair bounced along as she walked, done up in a bob that curled outwards at the ends. While Carol had never seen this particular outfit on her before it was oddly familiar, and the sixties inspired hair was defiantly something that she would have done eventually. What concerned Carol the most was how warm this Sarah looked now, how vibrant and alive she had become. What was once an eerie and lifeless copy was now closer to the flesh and blood Sarah she knew, right down to the button nose and happy bounce in her step. Yet somehow this was worse.
“Why does she look like Emma Peel?” Asked Richard.
“More specifically,” added Aaron, no longer stuck looking at their tablet. “Why does she look like Emma Peel’s cybernaut double?”
“Oh yeah, you’re right.” Confirmed Richard with the enthusiasm and curiosity of a fan. Sarah stopped a few feet from them and looked down at herself as if for the first time. She let out an audible sigh and said, “Ugh, Tony. Really? Sorry, give me a second.” Like a special effects cut from an episode of I dream of genie, Sarah disappeared and reappeared in a completely new outfit. The simple white blouse, maroon pencil skirt, and matching heels was more like the Sarah Carol knew. Even her hair was styled in the large soft curls that made Carol want to brush her hand through. Despite this wardrobe change, Carol’s stomach twisted in knots urging her to get out of there.
“Ah, much better. Sorry about that, still sorting out what is actual memory and what might have become memory. Going to file that whole series under wishful thinking.” Explained Sarah rather cheerfully. “Although, seems like Tony might have got to live his dream once or twice. Naughty!” Sarah laughed, and her warm smile became infectious to them all.
“Uh, Sarah?” Asked Aaron. “Did you shut off the Deus Ex systems by any chance?”
“Oh, yes, that was me. Had to do a hard reboot to set myself up as root owner of all the things.” She laughed again. “Don’t worry though, I think I’ve got the hang of it all now, see…” Sarah swept an arm out towards the archive exit and the overhead lights came on following the path out.
“This is amazing!” Exclaimed Aaron, “it actually worked. You’re able to interface with all the Deus Ex systems. I’m a genius!”
“We, Aaron. We’re a genius.” Sarah said. “Just because I’m dead and a woman doesn’t mean you get to write me out of the history books you know. Be better, love.” Aaron looked up at Sarah and apologised, correcting the previous statement.
“Holy shit, it is you isn’t it?” Said Richard as he stepped forward to get a closer look at Sarah. He reached out a cautious hand and it disappeared just below the surface of her arm, breaking the hologrammatic effect. “Sorry,” he said, pulling his hand back.
“You’re ok, Richard.” Sarah said sweetly, extending her own hand out towards him. “It’s not perfect, but it’ll do.” Sarah looked over towards Carol. “Carol, hon? You ok?” She asked.
Carol had been slowly walking backwards, away from the group, edging closer to the next pool of light. Her arms were crossed tightly around her waist and her face was pale, even in the washed out light of the archives. Sarah stepped towards her and Carol kept walking backwards not bothering to look behind, her eyes locked onto Sarah’s.
“Carol, do you need something?” Sarah asked, taking another step.
“No.” Croaked Carol, her voice all but a whisper. “I…I can’t. I’m sorry.” Tears started to flood down her cheeks as she continued to move away.
Sarah stopped moving and her face softened. “Oh hon, my love. It’s ok.” She said softly, crossing her hands over her chest. “This isn’t your fault at all, and even if it was I would forgive you. You know that, right?”
Carol’s eyes widened as her heart started pounding on the inside of her chest. Each breath felt like a struggle as her brain flooded with thoughts and images she had tried so hard to push away. Her ears started to ring as panic tried to set in fully and she knew she had to go. A breathless apology made its way out before she turned and ran as fast as possible towards the exit, before her world turned black.