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Place : Wolf Den Military Base
Time : 2081-04-11
Age : 1643453-BDC Gooseman, Shane – 14 y.a.d.

15:38 Training Block C

The knife slid with terrifying ease through the skin of the foreign belly. He had positioned the cut exactly: deep enough to cause a gaping wound and draw some blood but without opening the abdominal cavity. His antagonist's yellow eyes were clenched despairingly closed.

"Look," he ordered it.

When the alien didn't look down at its almost humanlike body he grasped its neck and forced it to see. The creature's eyes widened and it whimpered when it saw the wound in its flesh. He held the blade with the violet blood on it for the alien in plain sight, let it flash in the brilliant white light of the interrogation room's halogen lamps, and narrowed his eyes in a pretended gesture of pure pleasure while he ran his finger through the foreign blood on the blade, sniffed at the violet liquid and smelled bile on his tongue.

"Do you remember the position of your HQ by now?" he asked in a soft, vibrating voice. "Or may I enjoy this game a little longer?"

"I don't like this, Owen." Walsh said, looking down into the hall at the body strapped into the mental sim unit, almost completely hidden by the mass of sensors attached to the skin, while the screen embedded in Negata's console showed what the tested trooper saw at the moment. "I was assigned to a project of genetically optimized soldiers, not improved Gestapo agents."

"I agree completely with you." Negata sighed. "But as long as the senator doesn't change his mind we can't do anything about the education in 'Information Procurement'." He looked at the readings and drew air through his teeth. "The simulation is finished. The alien intruder had broken." After a look at the clock he shook his head. "Twenty-eight minutes. More than an hour faster than any of the others. 1643453 is by far the best in this course." Walsh's twitch at that slipped his attention.

He watched on the monitor how the sim continued with putting the trooper to rest. After the participant was asleep the machine automatically injected an adapted sleep drug into his veins. At Negata's sign, a couple of guards took the motionless body off the stretcher and brought him back into the dormitory. The trooper would never know that it had been nothing but a sim. Negata sighed. That was part of the test. ...and he didn't like it.


22:48 Laboratory

"Joseph." Max greeted him shortly. "I called you over because there's something going on with the boy you'd better know about."

"Is he all right?"

"Yes, at the moment he is." Sawyer calmed his friend hastily and offered him the second chair. "But that won't last much longer if we can't pull him off the IP-Sims."

Walsh frowned. "I witnessed the sims and he didn't have any problems." He sighed and took a seat. "It's not easy to know that he has become that unscrupulous – to torture without even a prick of conscience."

"Don't be so sure about that, Joe. Since PTS the boy has learned pretty well to hide his suffering."

"What do you mean?" The commander looked up warily.

"That you have to search very thoroughly to find a hint of what's really going on in him." The gentech called a file onto his display. "Look here..." He pointed at a column. "That's the amount of food he got each day."

Walsh scanned across the data. "Always the same amount."

"Yeah, your boy's careful. But he doesn't know that we also monitor the amount of food on the dishes when they are disintegrated. Look at the differences in the amount he got each day." He pointed at some days, where the difference between the two values were much smaller. "Those are the days after he went through IP-Sims, aren't they?"

Walsh looked at the dates. "Yes, exactly." He skimmed over the values and looked up. "He doesn't eat."

Max lowered his head and said faintly. "I think he can't, Joe. I think your boy's pretty aware that what he's ordered to do is wrong but that he can't risk acting against direct orders if he wants to stay valid." He met his friend's eyes. "At the moment, his body is coping with the three foodless days a week, but you know yourself how close everything's calculated in here."

Joseph still scanned through Shane's data. "He's already losing weight." He said in a hoarse whisper. "And I didn't notice it." He clenched his fist and looked at the wallchrono. "Past 23:00. No one's around any longer. Time to correct something!" He got up and turned briskly for the door.

"What are you planning?" Max asked behind him.

"What I did the last time: to tell the truth!"


23:07 Dormitory A - Segment 53

He was awake and in fighting position on his feet the moment the forcefield collapsed and light flooded into the sleeping cubicle he'd been allocated to for this night.

"At attention!"

Shane recognized the ordering voice immediately. The commander? Now? From the silence outside he could tell that it was far from reveille.

"Come with me."

"Aye, Sir." So whatever it was, it was indoors. He hadn't been ordered to take his boots.


23:14 Training Block C

"You know what this is?" The commander pointed at a stretcher with lots of cables and sensors attached to it.

Shane studied it a moment. "A mental simulator. It creates a fake reality in the mind of the person who uses it."

"Correct. Can you imagine for what it is used in this project?"

The boy narrowed his eyes, looked suddenly extremely warily at Walsh. "No, Sir," he said slowly.

Walsh sighed. "It's used for the Information Procurement training. The interrogations of alien intruders are simulations."

He saw the boy's eyes widen at that but that was the only reaction visible. Walsh knew it wasn't enough. It were only words and Shane didn't trust him enough to stay with words. He made a quick decision. He was breaking the rules. He could break them some more. His palm press opened the tiny keyboard embedded in the wall next to the second door. He entered his ID-code quickly: 7523459992-A663. The door slid back into the wall, revealed narrow stairs running upwards. "Follow me."

The boy stopped at the foot of the stairs, looked at the sign. "Sir, this is administration area. I'm not allowed to access it."

"It's my command, Gooseman. Follow me."

"Aye, Sir."

Joseph stopped in front of the console where he had stood some hours ago, observing the boy's last sim. "These are the computers that control the sim unit, Shane." He powered them on. "I'll show you the surveillance tapes and the recordings of the last sim session."

Joseph heard the boy gasp in shock behind him as the first pictures appeared on the screen, showing Goose how he had been stunned in his sleep, carried into the hall below and strapped onto the sensor stretcher. Then a second window appeared on the screen, with a comp index displayed in the right corner. The change of the index' color indicated the moment the stunning had worn off. The mental sim began, showed the boy the interrogation he had performed earlier this day... Finally, it showed how he was ordered to sleep in the sim reality and was stunned in the real world to be carried back into his sleeping cubicle.

Walsh shut the console down and turned for the boy. "Do you believe now, that the interrogations are faked?"

The boy stared at him with shock-widened eyes, completely off-balance for a moment. "How can I–?" he whispered. "This can be as false as–" He stopped and took a step back, stood with his back at the wall next to the stairs now. "Is this real and the IPT wrong... or the other way round?" He whispered in a choked voice.

"Shane, I assure–" The commander stretched out his hand and the boy tried to retreat another step but there was no more room. Walsh saw how the youth raised his hands in front of his face, as if to hide... Gods, what have I done? He's totally lost now...

Suddenly the boy looked straight at him. "I believe that this is reality."

Joseph wasn't sure he'd heard right: "Why?"

"The alien blood on my fingers." He drew a deep breath. "If it was real I'd smell it for at least two days, maybe longer." He sniffed again at his hand. "But all that's there is weapon oil and soap."


00:17 Dormitory A - Segment 53

"And remember:" The commander said in a tight voice, "you've never been there and you saw nothing of it."

"Yes, Sir." The forcefield flashed up between them, as the commander reactivated it, and left Shane in the darkness.

He heard Walsh's steps vanish in the distance.

Shane closed his trembling hands around his elbows. He didn't trust Walsh. But the man had never lied to him – at least, he never noticed it – and... He still hated 'Information Procurement', but as long as he doesn't really torture... as long as it was nothing but a sim... He shrugged. The theoretical lessons were disgusting. Sure. But there were worse things than class lessons...

A deep voice in the next cubicle growled: "Commander's girlfriend. Ha! I always knew it."

And regarding bad things... already rolled into the blanket a cruel grin appeared on his face as he remembered a detail from some minutes ago: 7523459992-A663 – This time you'll pay for 'girlfriend', Ryker!

An image appeared in front of his inner eye: Killbane strapped to an interrogation chair, his body covered with cuts that didn't bleed because of the sand he'd strewn over them. He carried a bowl of crystal sand in his left hand, standing next to the chair, and smiled down with glistening fangs at the elder trooper and whispered: What do you do now?... Use your bio defense and the sand will bring you the A... Don't use them and your blood will pour outta you together with your life. He let sand grains trickle down on Killbane's intact eye.

The image changed, he saw another one's skin right beneath the blade gliding across it, cutting off a small stripe of it like ammunition seals were peeled, leaving a band of red flesh across the foreign face.

A third image appeared.

A fourth...

He saw his hands, cramped to claws, wearing multicolored blood like gloves, and screamed soundlessly. What am I becoming? The forbidden part inside him cried. What am I going to be?

"The interrogations are faked." his memory reminded him.

Showing him his blood-covered hands, That doesn't matter, his hidden self replied, feeling sick. I did it when I didn't know it was faked. He shivered in the dark. What are they trying to make of me?