Tuesday, February 19, 2008

PM15: Training

Looking back at that strange walk back down the corridor to the reclamation room, I now find my inaction difficult to fathom. I was certainly weak, tired, and confused. But that is not why I did not try and fight them as they led me towards an unknown but certain danger. I did not try and fight them because I was, at last, moving again. Something was happening. Does a condemned man without hope find some relief when the guards come and get him and start the slow progression towards the gallows? Or did he learn to live with the uncertainty and build up a false hope that death would never come?

I had only been left in suspense a few minutes, perhaps an hour. But it had been enough in this disorienting realm to put my mind in a frenetic state. The slow walk, supported by Ierod and Check had restored order and acted upon me like an opiate. But that false calm was not to last long. We returned to the morgue and they carefully laid me back upon the gurney. As soon as my back touched the cold metal, an almost animal like desire for self-preeservation returned and I strove to sit up.

"Hold on there fellow. This is nothing!" Ierod said as he strapped one of my arms down. "All we are going to do is implant a few chips into your brain. That's all."

I cursed and shreiked and managed to rip my arm away from Check. But with Ierod and teh burden of heightened gravity I was fairly easily subdued. Pamille injected me with what I imagine was a sedative and in a few moments, the urge to fight left me again. The tinny taste of blood filled my mouth and the back of my head ached.

"You better hold still or you'll have some nasty brusies and the whole thing will take longer for the wires to set up. Believe me, you want the wires as short as possible to help your scores. Anyway, it's not like it hurts much."

"I think," Pamille said, "you call this 'minimally invasive.' Essentially that means we do as little damage as possible." I remember that there were only four fingers on her hands. The skin of her fingertips was soft and warm and her touch gentle as she turned my head so that my right ear was against the table. There was a sharp pain behind my left ear. "That's one." And then another in the soft fleshy part of my neck. "And two. This next one will hurt." She pulled back my eyelid at the corner and I felt something slide behind my eye, an enormous pain caused me to gasp, but it ended so quickly I hardly had time to eact. "And three. Now, four. This one is uncomfortable but not so bad." She inserted something up my right nostril. Again a pain and I began to sneeze uncontrollably. "Almost over." She said as she placed one hand over my head with impressive force and then with the other hand, opened my mouth and inserted one of her fingers. I felt a pain in soft pallete above my tongue. "There, that's five. Give it a few minutes to set up and then we can test it and see how well it does."

I lay there on the table as still as if I were dead like the bodies all around me.

"That wasn't so bad was it?" Ierod stated with a barely credible enthusiasm and only a trace of genuine sympathy. "You'll be better than ever in a few minutes."

"What happened?" I asked.

"Training." Check answered. "Five little chips in your head now. They wire themselves in and start checking things out. You'll get that sensation in a few moments."

And indeed, I suddenly was overwhelmed by a series of flickers and bright lights, sounds, sensations, tastes, and odors. They shot all over my body so that I seemed to feel them all at once and every place. If the conversation was continuing about me I lost track of it. The flooding of my perceptions was not exactly pleasent, in fact in some ways it was excruciatingly painful. But what made matters worse was the maelstrom that followed it as I was treated in rapid successions to a rainbow of emotions from despair to euphoria, wrath to lust, frustration to detachment.

When I came back to myself, I found myself unbound. Check was gone but Pamille and Ierod were nearby conversing...

"97." Ierod said. "I don't care what the other scores say, how can you argue with a 97 reflex. And a 94 retention. Combined that's unprecedented. No one scores that high. This is better than anything you could get with a C1OP."

"Yes, but the covariance is a 58. Passing is 60."

"Oh you can fake that. Who is to know."

"It doesn't matter who is to know. There's a reason why passing is a 60, and ev3n at 60 we would limit his service to only a few months."

"Would you send him to MRA?"

"Of course not. It's way too dangerous for that."

"Then what are you suggesting?"

"Dump it."

Ierod turned quickly to look at me. I was completely still though my eyes were staring at him. "How much longer?" He asked anxiously.

"At least ten minutes. It has to regain its balance. It would be completely disoriented."

"It freaks me out." He turned back to Pamille. "But 97, 94, 88, 91 thos scores are too good. He could be in charge of a division in two or three months. We need someone like that."

"58 Ierod."

"Who looks at covariance. Nobody even knows what covariance is except you and the chip designers. He probably scored low there because he scored high. Too much information always leaves a little confusion. If you go slow, it works it's way out on the field."


"Is almost 60. I need someone."

"Even if it did pass those scores are too good for what you want."

"No. It's perfect. I give him his assignment. He has time to adjust. He comes back in three months. You test him again. If he's still 58 then we dump him..."


"... look this is what you were hoping for. Your chips are better than standard issue. And when's the next time you are going to get to try them out? Three months. Check didn't see the scores. Just change them. Take four off the top three. Add 12 to covariance and he's in the black all around. The total is the same."

I heard Check walk in. "So. What's the score?"

"428." Replied Ierod cheerfully.

"Not bad. Not tremendously good, but not bad. What was his high?"

Ierod looked at Pamille. "It scored low in covariance." She said


She paused. "Yes. A 70."

"But a 93 in reflex."

"93? Really? You must have plunked them down with nanometer leads. Well, what the hell is covariance anyway."

PM 14: (Continued)

Editor's Note: I apologize for the use of the various acronyms if they make the conversation too confusing. C1OP = Class one operative which Peter was originally hired in as. MRA = Material Resource Acquisition, a minor position in the EARA which does not require much in the way of special skills. EARA, if you recall, is the Eternal Agressive Revolutionary Army. PE is Population Encouragement. Transit is, of course, like a period of suspended animation or induced coma. It's really used to keep people who are going to be in tight containers for long periods sane, but it is unhealthy.

The actual conversations were much worse for Peter and filled with more jargon-filled language and references. I have simplified them substantially.

"I don't think so," Ierod said, "confused more likely. Has he been trained?"

"No," Pamille replied. "I am going to administer the basic training program for MRA."

"What a waste. Look, why don't you go ahead and give him a C1OP? See how he does?"

"We don't have many left. You talk about wasting resources. It was in transit two weeks too long. Who knows what that did to its..."

“One of Gereltz people was in transit for almost two months and lived.” Interrupted the Ogre. “Remember, he had stuffed himself in to hide from that PULVA raid and shipped himself back here. But no valid claim form came with him and if we hadn’t needed the tube we would never have even looked inside.”

“That’s very amusing, Check, but if I recall that fellow’s brain was a tad on the mushy side.” said Ierod.

I regret now my first opinion of Check, but he was in fact ugly and combative. Yet I came to know that he was one of the “good guys” in the EARA. Like Ierod.

“Yes, not that it matters but it is now just re-spooling transmission records off unclaimed shuttles.”

The obscure talk was again causing me to hyperventilate. “There’s nothing wrong with me!” I screamed out, and followed the protestation with a stream of expletives. The three of them stared at me for a moment.

“Class 1? I don’t think that would be a wise thing to attempt.” Pamille said after I was done.

“Then why not try one of your experimental programs?” Check suggested. “If his mind is mush what difference will it make?”

“I don’t want my reputation further lowered around here. When it goes bad, what will people blame? Me or it?”

“I won’t tell anyone. What about you Check?”

“It seems like a perfect opportunity to try something new.”

“You could always just say he died suddenly.” She was hesitating. “Come on Check, let’s get him to his feet. Central training?” Ierod grabbed one arm while Check grabbed the other.

“No, Diot will probably be in there. Let’s take it back to reclamation. We can do it there.”

Friday, February 15, 2008

PM 14: Gasp

I almost dozed off until yet another jolt startled me. And with th jolt came another intense emotion, an instictive and urgent desire to run. It was so powerful that, if my weight had not been so great I would have jumped out of my seat. Instead, I lurched upward, tripped over the bench and landed on my back with a loud and painful thud. I cried out, and went still, my breath coming in gasps.

I sweat remembering it.

I stared at the ill-lit ceiling above me, clenched my fists and groaned.

"One of yours?" A voice said.
"No. Don't know him. Probably a space transporter whose been too long on the aem." The last word came was pronounced with an emphasis on the first letter like ay-em.

I propped myself up and saw the two contestants above me. The skeleton-man crouching, elbows on his knees, looked at me as if I were a particularly disgusting bug he had just crushed with his boot. The other, spent his gaze on the other occupants who had backed away to the walls.

"Look at them. They're so pathetic. Miserable. Less than worms really. And I'm supposed to do something with them?"

"Who are you?" Skeleton-man asked.

"Oh, just get an HRO. He needs a lethal dose of something or other."

"Here, let me help you up. Where are you stationed?" The skeleton, with surprising strength and speed grabbed me by the wrists and yanked me into a sitting position.

"Why do you waste your time?" The ugly one queried nastily.

"I'm short you idiot. What have we been talking about. " He turned back to me. His look was not kind, but it was curious. "Are you a transfer or are you a new recruit?"

"I'm Peter. MacLeinn. Where is Bud?"

He put his hand to his mouth, possibly to conceal a smile. "Procurement. You're a nojen. Hey, Check, go get Pamille."

"No need, because she's sloughing her way through the door now." And in fact, over the skeleton's shoulder I could see her form approaching in its half sliding, half stubling manner.

"This one will be nothing but trouble." She said.

"Where did you get him? We aren't due for another two weeks?"

"It was simply late in getting here. It should be dead."

"So his position has been filled. Bud let go of him."

"Yes, but if you want it, it's too late. He has been claimed by Material Resource Acquisitions to..."

"Screw them. What do they need a nojen for? Any beast or lilly can stuff a bar of Beryllium down its pants." The ugly man started to laugh at this image. The skeleton turned to me, "My name is Ierod Iohann. I work in Population Encouragement. How would you like to work for me?"

The Ogre checked his snorting and blurted out contemptuously "What, you're asking him? Just tell him. Oh I suppose everything is flat now just like you like it. Let's all have a big meeting and we can take turns picking."

Pamille's voice picked up an edge. "It isn't yours and it hasn't been trained. You don't know what it is good for."

"Neither does MRA."

"It's obviously stupid."

"So? You can tell. He's a perfect neutral. That's what I need a neutral. Someone nobody thinks anything about or looks twice at but isn't a lilly."

"Where's Bud?" I asked.

"See. Stupid."

Monday, February 04, 2008

Skeeter to himself

"It's a long way between drinks," I said. "A long time with the cup held high."

There's nothing but a thin coating in there.
Like paint on the inside of a can.
I'm waiting for that last drop to fall.
But it ain't coming.
And I'm all dried up.

Any minute now,
I'm gonna crack,
And the gasps at the bottom of my lungs,
Are gonna come right up to the top.

"It's a long time between drinks," I said.
I've forgotten what it was like to be drunk.
Drunk and drunk and drunk and drunk.
And whadoicare? drunk.

Because what I was drinking
It wasn't no sin
And I wasn't drinking to forget anyway.
I was drinking to remember.
But I can't remember no more.

I'm gonna crack and I wish I would,
Like a sick man who wants to throw up,
But his body is still too well to obey,
So he wants to get a whole lot sicker.

I don't know whether I should break or not.
If I break would there be sumthin there to drink?
So I go on with the cup to my lips,
That nearly empty cup.
It's been a long time since I had something.