Withdrawal symptoms

Lee looked at the Moon.


Its face lit from ear to ear.

He sipped unsweetened tea through a straw.

He had acclimated to the planet’s atmosphere.

Listening to conversations at nearby tables in the Mediterranean cafe, he asked himself what drove the animals to sit upright in chairs, stabbing food with forks and lifting it to their mouths, a seemingly inefficient method of fuel consumption.

Which Lee was he?

He knew he was not the first, the original version of himself lost to the ravages of natural body aging processes, close approximations stored in ISSA Net database structures for replication and ability to stay in play during the ongoing chess match of life in the inner solar system.

He observed the dense mats of water vapour greying the sky, low clouds passing right to left or southwest to northeast in his view.

The weather forecast predicted heavy bands of rain, the unstable air mass collision between two temperature zones.

Lee took stock of his external covering.

Were the layers of clothing sufficient to keep him cool during the warm weather today and the cool rainy weather later in the evening?

How much protection did he need?

Would he avail himself of the dominant species’ infrastructure or forego ready-made transportation networks and walk to his next destination?

The “muscles” of his legs had accumulated toxic chemicals that prevented him from long distance running across the local terrain.

He missed the gravity of Mars but not the uniforms that allowed him to breathe and survive the temperature swings and solar radiation on the surface of Mars.

Developed to handle many a Martian sol, he still had body connections to Earth’s environment due to his link to the original Lee.

He rubbed his thighs.

A perceptible ache throbbed below the skin.

His body had been running for days.

He needed a break but had to stay on schedule.

Lee wondered if he could find what he was looking for.

The schedule left no room for doubt.

He had to acquire his target, no question about competing against the weather or aberrations in his body’s behaviour.

Lee hadn’t slept well for three straight nights.

He was suffering a type of withdrawal, a homesickness he had not been trained to anticipate and compensate for.

He sorely missed the touch and voice of Bai, he had an almost daily addiction to Guin, and the familiar smells of Martian food were not refreshing his memories in normal patterns as he was used to.

Lee was no trained special agent or spy. He was not a highly-skilled militaritian sent to keep the ISSA Net finely-tuned.

Lee was on Earth to accomplish a mission for the future, his role purely temporal, sent by his original self in the past to return to the home planet and retrieve a milestone buried behind the cornerstone of a prehistoric building almost guaranteed to exist regardless of the wax and wane of civilisation.

The original Lee had not accounted for checkpoints and tracking systems that analysed the movement of the bipedal animals and predicted their behaviour.

Lee did not want his movements to predict his destination in case someone or some algorithm in the ISSA Net perceived Lee’s plans as a threat that needed to be stopped.

To reduce endangering the schedule milestone retrieval, he had randomised his direction, assuming the role of a vagabond, a wanderer, passing near his destination several times without stopping, spending days in one spot doing nothing but sitting and observing, then running for weeks from place to place, expending energy he wanted to conserve, wearing out his body parts without access to replacements until he returned to Mars.

He decided it was time to approach the destination.

He shook his head from side to side to pop a vertebra back in place.

He wanted to send a thought to Guin, feel Bai’s hand running down his spine, but he could not risk the lives of the future Lees because of his personal needs.

Lee breathed.

He smelled the air.

Olive oil. garlic. Perfume. Sodium chloride. Styrofoam. Grilled chicken breast.

He had stored enough fuel in his body to last a few days, compensating for his worn legs, to give him a chance for long distance running again, if not a few sprints, too.

Lee stood up.

Time to go.

Get the milestone on time and he could return to Mars.

If not…?

Lee pushed doubt out of his thoughts.

He always achieved his goals.

Lee never planned to fail.

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