Place : BetaMountain -- Office of Cmdr. Walsh
Time : 2086-07-06 -- 22:07
He altered an ad hoc adaptation. With a clatter, Walsh dropped the readpad with Fox' report on his team's second mission onto his desk. To unknown conditions... He shook his head. The boy had taken an incredible risk in interfering with the reflex adaptation routines by adding a donating device for air to his gill system. Obviously, he hadn't told his captain, for Zachary Fox mentioned the cruelty with which Gooseman had grabbed and injured Niko and demanded more advice on how to react. Walsh knew better than to believe Gooseman wasn't aware of the risks he'd taken. The boy knew them as well as Walsh did, had known ever since... Joseph closed his eyes for a moment as the memories streamed back into his mind. They began with a surveillance recording...
Place : Wolf Den Military Base
Time : 2079-12-30
They'd been summoned to the exercise hall. Judging by his even-more-cautious-than-usual darting glances, Shane had noticed the humming in the charged floor and ceiling plates the moment he entered the bare room. The wide observation window high above the ground was brightly lit. Too brightly for even his enhanced vision to see more than shadows. But nevertheless the boy's eyes zeroed in on it. Shane's fist grew tighter than before, exposing whitened knuckles. His eyes kept flashing around. Taking in every detail...
A muscle in the boy's jaw flexed, and Walsh knew, even just seeing it on the tape, that the boy had somehow spotted the additional observers at that moment. Killbane lashed out at him with a hand that the older trooper had transformed the moment they'd entered the charged hall. Shane flung his body aside, avoided being touched, being cut. And was rewarded with a cruel laugh and a whispered promise the sound enhancers had made understandable on the recording: "Wait. I will get you!"
Shane had said nothing, but he'd never been so stupid as to announce his plans. Killbane wasn't Shane's dominant problem right now. Joseph was sure the boy knew that considering that all of the BDCs had been called into to the training hall at the same time: Killbane and the boy himself, Mikhal, who hadn't been in the project much longer than Shane... and Janna. The only one of the third season who had developed correctly. Killbane was of the first; Shane officially belonged to the fifth. Janna was the only BDC girl who'd ever made it into the project. The only one who sometimes told Shane how to avoid transformation errors, though as often she simply hit him when he dared to ask...
=Full body transformation. Ad hoc.= The voice was electronically distorted.
They obeyed, for never was there an opportunity to deny an order in their lives. Who didn't obey was considered uncontrollable. Who turned uncontrollable was abandoned. They'd long ago learned to fear 'the A,' as it was called.
The energy surrounded the boy; the cocoon of golden light enclosed him as his body lost its shape, reconfigured, restructured, remodeled on a molecular level... Skin cells turned to steel, polished, blank; nails to iridium, sharper, harder...
Place : BetaMountain - Office of Cmdr. Walsh
Time : 2086-07-07 - 00:04
Joseph ground his teeth at the memory. New Year's Eve 2079. The adjutant who had finally found him was too much out of breath to produce an understandable sentence, but Walsh had gotten enough: General Class. Two stars. Two times trouble...
Class had been the one who'd originally set up the military environment for the project. Class had been the supervisor during the first years, when Joseph had become first a major under Anderson's protection and then a colonel himself -- but two stars counted more than one eagle...
Walsh stared at the readpad with the report. That man and that day was the reason he'd never carry his second star. He'd earned it years ago... and never applied it to his uniform, no more than he'd added the third star he'd received in the years since then.
He'd come too late. It had been triggered a minute before he'd run into the observation room, and all he could do then was simply stand and stare...
Place : Wolf Den Military Base
Time : 2079-12-30
Except for Killbane, none of them was old enough -- or experienced enough -- to perform the task they had been ordered to do. And Shane was the youngest, was only twelve... The scream that mixed into Class' curse wasn't human. Joseph was already running, drawing his service weapon, checking its charge. It was a single snatch that charged the weapon to a deadly energy output. Class called after him. He didn't care. If he had cared he would likely have wasted a shot.
Joseph's eyes took in the details in only a glance as he rushed into the hall. Unstructured cellular matter was splattered across the floor. In the center of it lay a torso, cut obliquely. Rib bows protruded out of the lower end; stomach contents, bile, blood poured out of the body cavity.
He felt bile on his tongue. Searched for the features, the hair in the bloody mass... One couldn't be sure to identify a transformed BDC properly.
The body remnant in the midst of the splattered mass shivered. Another scream, blood-chilling and hopeless. One of the ribs propping the shattered torso in a half-sitting position broke, and it toppled over, turning its face towards him. The eyes were huge puddles of pain. Still conscious. He aimed carefully. Between her violet eyes.
The shot was incredibly loud in his ears.
The next thing he heard was laughter, terrifyingly amused laughter. Killbane -- the ugly spike form was the only one Walsh recognized -- asked why the boss had wasted a shot.
"Detransform," he ordered sharply. The next moment, he looked into children's faces: one with a ragged scar across one eye; one with a dark shock of hair, who stared at his own trembling hands; and one with icy green eyes, cold enough to cause even Hell to freeze over... It took him a moment before to notice that Class had entered the room behind him and that Shane's eyes were focused on the foreigner.
The General hadn't noticed. "Who is your enemy?" he asked the troopers. "The one who shoots at you or the one who tells him to do it?"
And Killbane bellowed, "The shooter" -- luckily drowning out a much fainter and totally different comment: "The one who orders us to do it."
Place : BetaMountain - corridor in front of MPA 217
Time : 2086-07-07 -- 01:38
They had lost two lives that day, though Class never had learned of it -- he was dishonorably discharged not even three weeks after the incident. Joseph wasn't naive enough to believe the discharge had come because of what the man had done that day... though Owen's intervention with the Board likely had sped up the procedure. No, Class had been fired for launching a general mobilization of Earth Force without the Board's approval in a panicked reaction to the news from Triton Outpost of detected alien signals. Years later, it was learned that the signals had been the Andorians' first attempt at contact.
Twelve months later, the third BDC, Mikhal, was abandoned because he had been unable to force himself to transform properly any longer. Joseph had seen the horror in the child's eyes whenever the black-haired boy with the tan skin had been forced to do it anyway. And he knew that whenever Mikhal had transformed he'd seen Janna's body scattered across the floor.
Walsh sighed, still looking at the door, not even considering knocking. *You always knew who your enemies were,* he thought sadly, and wondered if the boy had understood that day why Walsh had fired. Joseph wasn't sure. But he knew without a doubt that in his sleep tonight he would see two pain-filled violet eyes, right before the bone remaining between them exploded.
Joseph wished he could erase the memories of that day. But he couldn't.
No more than Shane could see another female colleague die at his side.