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“Run!” the captain shouts, directing his troops down a side passage of the monstrous ship. “There’s no hope! Go to the escape pods!” The hundred or so humans in his brigade scramble down the passages away from the creatures — away from their doom. They burst through a door. There the creatures stand in all their glory. The crew screams their confusion, frustration and fear. Some in the back, the resourceful ones, unhinge the vent grate and squeeze through the narrow tunnel. They scramble left, then right: it is a turning labyrinth. A dead end, a passageway: it is a winding maze.
They fall off the edge and into the core of the ship ” the creatures are there to greet them. Frantic, they start back down the vent, but the creatures cut off their escape. The stench is overpowering as they scream. The pain is overwhelming as they feel. The sound is shattering as they are bound. Their life at an end…
John sat up with a start. His dream, the same one as always, awoke him. There was something familiar about it, but he always took it for what it was ” a dream, nothing more. He thought it odd, though, that any time he dreamt, he dreamt this particular event.
The sun penetrated the crack in the roof, under which he and ten others slept in cramped quarters. It was time.
The men struggled to get into skin—tight pressure suits. Each grabbed his mining pick before following John out to the mines. Slaving away as they always did, they made little progress. Lately, the quality of the ore had diminished. What quality coal the miners uncovered was rolled away in trolleys. Less and less frequently, a miner would find iron and put it in a pouch at his waist. Any jewels or precious ores they mined went to the overseer. This was their job, and they executed it without question. As they resurfaced for their midday meal, John stared in wonder at the planet visible from where he stood. Earth, they called it.
No one ever believed anyone could live on that blue planet. Who would want to? There are no natural resources; that is why they work here, on the asteroid. This mining colony was one of the hundreds that provided Earth with any resource she may need for anything from metal alloys to jewelry.
A shock ran up John’s left arm jolting him out of his dream; an overseer had shot a stun gun at him. He turned his attention back to where he was supposed to be. The dome housing the mess hall, flawlessly reflecting Earth, was composed of identical metallic plates. Solar energy was harnessed from the black panels which roofed every building.
The miners ate the scant meal in silence ” speech of any kind was forbidden and blocked. John thought he had never spoken before. He never planned to, either. The asteroid was his home — the only one he could remember. He knew humans came from Earth, he even admitted it on occasion. He did not think he was from Earth; many were birthed on the space stations and even in the mining colonies themselves.
Often, the man wondered about his origin; he had no memory beyond mining in the caves for countless hours. Years spent mining had hardened his muscles, broadening his shoulders and claiming his body: pick—callused hands, a face marked by scathing run—ins with shale, rock, and sediment. No matter where he came from, he now bore the mark of a miner.
It was a wonder he was still alive ” most miners died after a few months, not able to keep up with the vigorous physical activity. Others deactivated their life support on their suits ” immediately suffocating them. The others simply had faulty equipment. Then there were those found unworthy by the overseers. John was valuable, so he was given the best equipment.
After eating, the miners and overseers returned to the mines; there was more to mine. There was always more to mine. John, for one, was not daunted by the size of the asteroid. If anything, he craved to see more of it, to feel the movement of the rock under his feet as he blasted useless minerals into oblivion as he started a new mine. John relished the physical test ” how far would he be able to push himself today?
Not far, he soon discovered. The whirring of the warning bells sounded. The entire colony picked up arms. Immediately, John grasped the rock eater, used to start new mines, and aimed it at the approaching ship. Several others joined him. Soon they were ready to shoot on command.
The overseer gave the signal and twenty orbs of blue—green light shot up at the sleek vessel. Only John’s hit the ship; however the ship landed without a problem, anyway. The overseer screamed his frustration and the shooters were switched. John was ordered to stay on post. Out of the ship came five hundred men.
The captain, a tall man in a grey and red uniform, called out, “We order you to cease this mining colony at once; it is illegal!”
John shot at the captain who threatened his existence. A protective shield absorbed the energy orb. Suddenly, a sharpshooter pierced John in the chest with a paralyzing dart and he fell over, unable to move.
The captain came down to talk with the overseers. The overseers sent their men charging into the captain. The captain gave a command and every man in the ship emerged, equipped with armor and guns ” the best machines of the time. The miners stopped and surrendered to the captain’s power. They were brought to the ship as captives.
A short stocky man appeared over where John lay paralyzed. Without a thought, the man flung the miner over his shoulder and brought him aboard. After being delivered to the infirmary, John slowly regained mobility. His pressure suit still on, he sat up. The nurse quickly pushed him down. He removed John’s mask and gasped at the sight of an old friend. He grabbed the radio by his belt to call the captain down to the infirmary. The captain, a great lumbering man, sharply demanded what was going on. John, his hearing blocked by the overseers, looked at the captain with curiosity ” he looked familiar. The captain stared at John, matching the shock of his nurse.
The captain whispered to his nurse, who approached John to try to get his rubber suit off. John struggled against the nurse, removed it on his own, and then kicked his boots off. The nurse tried to get him under anesthesia. Again, John pushed the nurse away. At the captain’s nod, the nurse pulled a tranquilizer out of a drawer and stuck the needle into the miner’s arm. Slowly, it took effect.
He was wheeled into surgery and the ear blocks were removed. “This was done by an amateur,” the surgeon said, maneuvering her scalpel adroitly. “There will be repercussions to that. I’ll fix what I can, but it’s doubtful that he will have full hearing.”
“So we won’t have our number one marksman back?” the captain asked sadly.
“His eyesight is fine ” just turn up his head phones a bit. It isn’t that drastic,” the surgeon replied. The captain shrugged, looking at the John’s face. “He’ll be fine.”
A week later, the bandages were removed from the marksman’s ears. He could hear again. Shocked at such a revelation, he was on guard at even the slightest noise ” often not remembering what it would bring. He could hear people talking fine, but subtler noises, such as footsteps, were masked by the amateur surgeon’s handiwork.
“John,” the captain said. “Can you hear me?” Cautiously, John nodded his head. “Can you speak?” John glared at the captain, offering no response.
“Derek!” the captain called the nurse.
“Yes, sir?” the nurse replied.
“Put him in a scan to check for any blocks. Any at all, from movement to speech to memory, is that understood?”
“Yes, sir.” The nurse wheeled John over to the huge machine and pushed him in the square opening, just wide enough for him. Alarmed, he looked around as light radiated from every corner of the small chamber. He promptly squeezed his eyes shut as tight as he could ” attempting to block out the light. The light, however, was more penetrating than John had expected, and even with his eyes closed it temporarily blinded him.
He was gently pulled out when the light faded into darkness. They returned him to the infirmary as the others looked at the results.
“He has a voice block,” the block specialist told them, pointing to the evidence that meant nothing to anyone else. “That should be easy enough to remove, am I correct?” He looked to the leading surgeon; she nodded her head confidently.
“He also has a memory block,” the specialist continued after a few more minutes of examining the screen on which the results were displayed. “We have to get Dr. Gallows.”
“Triss?” the captain asked.
“She’s the only one adept with the brain,” the surgeon admitted.
“All right, Derek, go and get her.” The nurse left the room, and went to the bridge.
“What brings you here?” the first pilot asked, turning on the nurse.
“The captain requests the presence of Dr.Gallows in room ten on the third level.” The first pilot looked around the rather large command center. The front of the room was a giant window. Ten rows of men and women sat in the middle of the room, each one intently operating a computer, each in charge of one of the ship’s interior functions. Along the perimeter, men and women were seated as they controlled the exterior functions of the ship.
The first pilot walked down one row of the computers set in the middle of the room and tapped a young woman on the shoulder. He delivered the captain’s message and she got up, putting on a pair of eye glasses and shouldering a bag. She followed the nurse up to the proper floor and room.
Triss sat down on a stool and examined the scans. The specialist pulled the image of his brain up. She took off her glasses and stared intently at the screen.
“Do you know what we want you to do?” the captain asked.
“Yes, I do,” she said. “It is impossible to repair someone’s memory.”
“He has a block!” the specialist said. “And all blocks can be removed.”
“There are three options, all risky,” she replied. “One is invasive surgery, cutting open his head, removing a part of his skull, and physically removing the block. Two is giving him an injection that would deteriorate the block. Three is to re—teach him everything he knew before, which is my recommendation.”
“Besides that last one, which one would you recommend?” the captain asked, refusing that his best marksman’s experience was gone.
“Both are high risk operations.”
“What are the risks of this injection?”
“That the block—eating virus eats his natural tissue by mistake. Besides, I think he has immunity to it.”
“No he doesn’t,” the captain said. “He was taught after we stopped putting blocks into our students.”
“All right, well, if this virus eats his natural cells, there is no way to get them back. Also, because it is his brain, we may have some serious repercussions even if it goes smoothly.”
“The memories behind the block, he cannot currently access. In most probability, he will freak out when he realizes he has them. Or he will be shocked and need to be institutionalized, and we all know what the current society does to those institutionalized.”
“Lethal injection,” the specialist breathed his disgust.
Triss nodded her head before continuing, “Another probability is that he will feel betrayed. The most drastic would be a complete recoil within himself, in which case we would need to do invasive surgery. Also, the virus, there is no guarantee that all of the block will be destroyed. The invasive surgery will leave a scar, a healing skull, and so many other problems and health complications that it would take hours to explain.”
“Well, then, it sounds like the injection is it,” the captain acknowledged.
“He will need to be quarantined until the block is fully worn off; only medical practitioners will have clearance to see him and take his vitals.”
“Approved,” the captain said, clasping her arm. “Do not fail me.”
“I’ll try not, sir, but there is only so much a girl can do.” Sighing deeply, the captain rose and dismissed them. Triss and the surgeon were left to make plans with three other doctors.
The voice block was removed with great success. No one thought he would have a problem speaking again. He wasn’t allowed to speak for a week, but when he could, it was mayhem in the infirmary.
Remembering language faster than many of them thought possible without the memory block removed, he shouted at the nurses constantly. “Take me back to the colony! Take me there, now! This food is rubbish! Take me back to the colony!”
“It was an illegal colony and had to be shut down,” the nurses constantly told him as they offered him sleeping medicine.
“That’s rubbish!” he would yell, flinging the drink on the floor. Thus, the cycle would begin again. The first time he quieted enough to be given the sedative was when the captain came in. John blinked at him, surprised by his appearance and odd familiarity.
“He remembers you,” Triss whispered to him when she saw this. “But he doesn’t know why. Ignore him for now, all right? Don’t address him by his name, Captain Lissman.”
“You’re Lissman?” John asked, sitting up. “I’ve heard a lot about you. Fair man, why don’t you let me go? I did you no wrong!”
“Just keep walking,” Triss whispered in the captain’s ear. The captain paused for a moment before surging ahead at a strong pace. Triss caught up and they moved on.
The next day, John was transferred to the quarantine section and given the injection to deteriorate the block up his nose. He screamed in agony while it was being done, but he had promised not to move if not given the anesthesia. He did not want to go under and so kept his promise, not moving any part of his body. Then he fell asleep and dreamed.
“To your stations!” the captain shouts. Every man and woman on the ship runs to their position. Several men clamor up to man the guns. John is one of these men. His feet pound as he runs up the metal grates constructing the steps. His gunners follow. Helmet in position, John puts his hands on the gun. He is confident in his abilities.
Each gunman shoots. John destroys two ships before the third plasma orb is fired. More and more of the ships appear out of thin air. How they do it, no one seems to know. Their identity is soon discovered.
“They’re the Aryans!” the captain shouts through the gunners’ headsets.
“We don’t have a chance!” John hollers back at him.
“Lissman!” the captain sharply replies. “Keep the fire steady!”
“Yes, sir!” John aims and fires. An hour passes before he hears the code for retreat. He abandons post with his gunners. They run quickly down the stairs, through a hall, and onto the bridge. Equipped with a gun, they are told to hold on for as long as they can. The Aryans swarm in through the doors, unarmed but for paralysis darts. One by one, the humans kill the Aryans. One by one, the Aryans paralyze the humans. Eventually, no one is left to guard the bridge and the Aryans win.
John lay stuck in an uncomfortable position for an hour. Then, the aliens come around to strip their victims of valuables. They bind them tightly with primitive rope. The coarse material wears at John’s wrists and neck. Nothing can be done to get out of this jam. Slowly, feeling is regained, and unrelenting, pain besieges him.
John is forced to watch as his fellow marksmen, deemed inadequate, are shot. The live prisoners are brought to the bridge. Two at a time, the prisoners are roughly shoved into pods. An ugly Aryan takes the controls and they fly to the nearest trade station. There, the aliens sell all the humans as slaves for profit.
Ropes still biting his wrists, John is forced to stand for a large group of people. Hope is lost as he gazes at the wealthy merchants and traders, itching for more men for their illegal operations. He is recognized as a sharpshooter and someone on the lookout for captured military buys him.
Brought home to his family, John’s mother ecstatically greets him, and even his hardened father affords him an affable smile and handshake. He is again assigned to go on another ship, his father as captain and he as first marksman.
John awoke, shocked and in a cold sweat.
“What just happened?” he asked his eyes wide with wonder and alarm. Triss came in with a cold drink. “That dream…”
“It was not a dream,” Triss corrected. “It was a memory, perhaps a string of them.”
“What? What’s going on? Take me back to the colony!”
“John Lissman,” Triss said in a measured tone. “You are not a miner. You never were a miner. You were a slave, yes, but never a miner.”
“But I was there ” mining!”
“As a slave.”
“No, I was born there. I was raised there,” he refused.
“Do you remember being raised there?” Triss questioned. She turned from him, leaving him with his thoughts. He had only a few more powerful memories like the one today to remember in dream before his memory was returned. One of them she knew Captain Lissman wanted to be present for. She would know when it was coming and bring the captain forth.
The sharpshooter sat in a stunned silence as thoughts and emotions surged through his mind. As the block deteriorated, more thoughts of his memory returned. His schooling, his profession, his family: all were flooding through him.
He was a successful man. On many ships abroad and at home, he was respected. He was always the first marksman, never anything less. An iron hand gripped his stomach. He turned cold. His eyes widened. He fell into sleep.
Fear runs up John’s spine, tingling every sense. His father yells over his headset; it is hardly heard over the static in the transmission. Quickly, John moves his small troop into action. In a tight formation, they storm through the halls, coming across no one for quite some time. Then mass chaos.
“The bridge is on fire!” the scream is heard above all others as the bridge workers surge into the corridor. All of the doors automatically lock shut. All lights turn off. Each man and woman, equipped with a weapon and light, turn on their light.
John looks around in his section; no commander is present. He possesses the highest rank the room.
“Attention!” he barks, calling all present to order. “Assemble in rank!” Each man and woman scuffles into position in the tight quarters. Fifteen low ranking soldiers stand before the marksman. John sighs deeply as every man and woman looks to him.
“The bridge is on fire, no longer in commission! We will storm the ship, helping where we can! Is that understood?”
“The first let’s get these doors open. I want you to remember that no matter what happens, stay in rank; do not break! I do not know what the others are doing; our transmissions are jammed! The circuit breaker is over here! Who here is an electrical technician?”
“I am, sir!” one man states and steps out of rank.
“Get up here and reroute the bridge controls to here.”
“Yes, sir,” the man runs through the ranks and taps earnestly into the circuit breaker.
“We need someone to go through the vents and see what’s going on in the other sections of the corridor. Any volunteers?”
“Yes, sir!” Five of the upper ranking men in the area step forward. They quickly unhinge the vent grate and squeeze through the small opening.
“When the doors open, the rest of you will come with me and try to gain some order. Understood?”
“Yes, sir!” Soon after, the lights flicker back on and a short cheer rises in the corridor.
“Good job, man.”
“Thank you, sir.” The five from the vents come back, breathless and scared.
“It’s the Aryans!” they cry. John bites his cheek, trying to think of something.
“What about the state of the other sections?”
“Most of them are taken over by the Aryans,” they answer. John curses loudly. “Well then,” he reports with a vengeful edge. “Is there a communication genius locked up with us?”
“I know a trick or two,” a gawky girl offers.
Apprehensively, John asks her, “Can we send out a distress signal?”
“ I could do that in my sleep!” She takes out her pack and puts things together, a radio. Soon, she is ready and transmitting. “It’s primitive, but should work.”
“Everyone in the vents!” John calls as soon as he hears the sound of battle outside the doors. “Go! Lowest rank first!” Quickly, the new space cadets scramble into the vents, going as far as they can; the more experienced soldiers follow.
“Give me a screwdriver!” John orders, offering his hand. He is given one and the first marksman quickly screws on the vent grate before facing the Aryans.
As John takes aim at the door, it bursts open from the seams. He immediately begins shooting at the disgusting race. The aliens fall one after the other. A paralysis dart pierces him.
He is tightly bound with ropes. The sounds of reinforcements reach John’s ears before the Aryans take to shooting those they think inadequate. The reinforcements, from a passing ship, are large and more than enough to crush the Aryans. Although half of the crew lies dead, John and his small group of fifteen survive, as well as John’s father.
The reinforcements release John, who tells his people to come out. They greet him with sighs of relief and hearty claps on the back. They all live to see another day and all are grateful for it.
“That’s the second close shave between me and those blasted Aryans,” John laughs.
“Third time I doubt you will be fine afterward,” one of the group comments morosely. The silence that follows permeates John’s thought.
John awoke, gasping for breath.
“What happened?” he asked, wiping his sweaty hand on the sheet.
“You had another hard memory,” Triss replied, taking note of his vital signs. “You’re fine though. One more should do it, and most of your memories should be accessible.”
“And what memory is that?”
“The third encounter with the Aryans,” Triss replied. John shuddered, not wanting to see their hideous faces again.
“I don’t want to,” he refused, crossing his arms.
“You do not have a choice,” Triss chuckled. “I just have a few questions to ask you, and then I’ll leave you to stew in your thoughts.”
“Who are you?”
“John Lissman, marksman.”
“Who is your father?”
“Captain Sturgel Lissman.” John looked at a mirror, straight through the glass and at his father, invisible to the marksman by the one way window; looking out is a mirror, but when you look in it is a window.
“Who is your mother?”
“Helen Simpson Lissman.”
“Where is your brother?”
“I don’t think I have a brother, do I?”
“No, you don’t. Where are you now?”
“I’m…I’m on a Burgeon?”
“Right manufacturer, but what model?”
“I’ve only seen the infirmary; I can’t tell.”
Triss held up a picture, “How about now?”
“B.S.T. 1000,” John replied easily and with a smile.
“Good, fantastic. Now, we’re going to do a drill you would have done when in school.” Triss produced a box with gun parts and showed it to him. “Look at it for a few seconds and then you’re going to be blindfolded and asked to put the gun together.”
“That’s easy. It’s a Fidelity T—19 with optional long—range shooting,” John replied quickly. “My father’s preferred gun.” Triss grinned and looked at where the captain stood behind the mirror.
“Can you put it together?” Triss asked as she tied a dark blue bandana around his eyes.
“Yeah,” he scoffed. “Where is the box?” Triss placed the box within his reach and he had it together in ten minutes.
“Great,” Triss said, grinning as she examined the gun. “All right; I’ll leave you now.” Triss exited through the only door in or out of the quarantine block.
“How is he?” Captain Lissman asked nervously, still gazing out of the one way window.
“So far it seems to be working, but it is still early and the virus is still at work. Many things could still go wrong. He seems to be taking it very well, though.”
“If you had done invasive surgery,” a young doctor said, standing next to the captain with his arms crossed and eyes narrowed in thought, “then he would have a flood of memories all at once ” that would have sent him into shock. This is gradually reintroducing the thoughts to his consciousness. The shock is less or none at all. Good choice of treatment.” He turned to Triss and offered his hand.
“And who, may I ask, are you?” Dr. Gallows asked.
“Zeke Tyre,” the young man acknowledged. “Am I correct in presuming you are Dr. Triss Gallows?”
“Yes, you are,” Triss replied.
“Nice to meet you,” the man said.
“Zeke is a neurologist from a passing ship. They asked us if we needed any help, so I suggested that we take him on; for precautionary measures, you understand,” the captain informed.
“Of course, sir,” Triss answered.
“Well,” the captain told the two. “I’ll just leave you to your work.”
“Thank you, sir,” Zeke acknowledged, saluting the captain. The captain returned the salute and left. The two doctors turned their attention to John. He was sitting up, staring through the glass at them. Both knew that the man couldn’t see them, but it didn’t stop them from wondering.
“He’s preoccupied with something,” Triss commented.
John’s head fell to his chest, his eyes blinking furiously.
“Is he going to cry?” Zeke asked.
“I have no idea,” Triss replied. Zeke took out a notepad and made a small comment. Zeke turned back to John and found him lying unconscious on the bed.
John awakes with a starts. Alarms whir around him. Quickly, he and his bunkmate equip their armor. Guns are raised, and the two men rush out to the hall, down the corridor, and then jump into the seats of their guns.
John aims and waits for command. The command resounds over his headsets. The first plasma orb flies through space at the enemy ship. The ship explodes; a spectacular sight. The marksmen are pleased with their work and they fire again, destroying another ship. Slowly, the enemy loses many of his pods.
“Your side is just a distraction!” the captain transmits over the communication units. “Get to the other side now!” The four marksmen scramble down the ladders. Coming across the ship, they see foot soldiers ready for hand to hand combat. Many of the younger men and women appear terrified. The four marksmen reach the other side of the ship ready for their orders.
“Go up to the higher guns and use them,” the captain commands, motioning to their posts. The sharpshooters scale the ladders to their position, not wasting any time.
John takes aim and shoots pod after pod, shuttle after shuttle; each one replaced by two; each two replaced by four.
“Sir!” an analyst cries frantically. “They’re using a double regenerator! There in the back!”
“Lissman!” the captain shouts.
“Yes, sir?” John replies.
“Shoot down the regenerator!”
“Yes, sir.” John focuses his scope. His hands tremble slightly as he sees the regenerator ” a portal to the mother ship. Licking his dry lips, John fires the plasma cannon. Slightly off target, the orb destroys only part of the portal. John fires again ” the enemy puts up a shield to protect its most valuable weapon.
“Keep shooting down the ships, then; do what you can, and everything else will be taken care of by the soldiers,” the captain orders. “Do not leave your post under any circumstances.” The captain turns his back on the shooters and walks irately down the hall, frustrated with his enemy’s tactics.
“Aryans,” one of the gunmen below confirms.
“Fantastic,” groans John while firing. They shoot for a long time before the plasma in the cannons has to be replaced.
“Come down here, we need enforcement,” the captain transmits to them. Immediately, the ten marksmen respond. They come to the mass of soldiers and find their rank. John pushes through to the front and stands next to the first pilot, who nods encouragingly at him. Slowly, the doors in front of them open. The Aryans are revealed.
Clad in indestructible armor, helmets cover their susceptible heads, only their hands, holding their weapons, are vulnerable. The soldiers, similarly clad in durable armor, hold their guns poised to shoot. The captain doesn’t wait for the Aryans to move and starts firing the first line of the aliens, killing as many as he can. His soldiers follow his lead, and soon the humans are advancing on the galactic conquerors.
This does not last long, though; the Aryans bring in reinforcements, equipped with weapons capable of stunning many people in one shot. The soldiers begin to retreat to the bowels of the ship.
“Run!” the captain shouts to his troops, directing them down a side passage. “There’s no hope! Go to the escape pods!” The hundred or so humans in John’s brigade scramble down the passages away from the creatures — away from their doom. They burst through a door. There the creatures stand in all their glory. The crew screams their confusion, frustration and fear. Some in the back, the resourceful ones, unhinge the vent grate and squeeze through the narrow tunnel. They scramble left, then right: it is a winding maze. A dead end, a passageway: it is a turning labyrinth.
They fall out of edge and into the core of the ship ” the creatures there to greet them. Frantic, they yell back down the vent, but the creatures cut off their escape. The stench is overpowering as they scream. The pain is overwhelming as they feel. The sound is shattering as they are bound.
John is one of the few in the group who did not fall off of the edge and into the fiery core of the ship. He is rendered immobile by the Aryans. Pain tortures every part of his body as the Aryans mercilessly drag him and three others out to pods. The aliens stuff John’s body into the pod and the pod lifts off, behind the ship.
John gazes sadly back at the ship, at his father, at his failed duties, which are now all under the Aryan control. An Aryan, his eyes obscured by the helmet, looks back at him and gives a toothy grin, revealing the its sharp and yellow teeth.
“Don’t be so scared,” the Aryan says in an unintelligible accent. “We won’t hurt you so long as you give us a decent profit.” The alien laughs. It speeds ahead to the nearest space station.
The Aryan docks the pod and then drags his loot, John, out to the slave master. The slave master looks at him, examines him, and then unties him. John’s wrists are restrained with strong manacles and his eyes are covered by a blindfold. The slave master pushes the man into a sound proof booth where John defiantly stands.
The bidding begins. John hears nothing through the thick glass encasing him. His buyer claims him, handling him into a cramped pod between many other bodies. His manacles and blindfold are kept on. Wisely, John says nothing not knowing what kind of a man his new master is.
The blindfold is removed, revealing a grungy operating room. John gasps as a man, dressed as a surgeon, approaches, the tools of the profession at his waist.
“Give him a hearing block, a voice block, and a memory block,” a deep, gruff voice says. John turns his head in the direction of the voice and sees a large man with a ruddy face — his new master. The man dressed as a surgeon injects John with a solution that prevents him from moving, but not from feeling pain.
The surgeon rolls John onto his side and slices open his ear from the back ” it hurts like nothing the marksman has ever felt. The surgeon widens the slit enough in order to inject a liquid that will harden into a block. The liquid burns his ear and applies an incredible amount of pressure to his ear drum as it hardens. The surgeon then sews up the incision, leaving John in unbearable pain. The surgeon follows the same procedure with the other ear.
John, paralyzed not only from the paralysis injection but from pain, is rolled onto his back. The surgeon cuts open John’s throat, injecting the same liquid into his larynx and sewing up the cut. John coughs sporadically as the injection hardens, his throat on fire. The surgeon rolls him onto his stomach and cuts where his skull meets his spine. John struggles to hold down vomit as the surgeon pushes a long needle up into his brain and lets the liquid out of the syringe.
Searing pain consumes John; his mind is numb; his thoughts are at a standstill; he is in excruciating pain. John falls into the black nothingness of unconsciousness and then into a life at an illegal mining colony.
John woke up with a scream. Derek was in there quickly, taking his vital signs.
“How do you feel?” Triss asked him, staring at his eyes. John struggled to sit up, horrified with his dream. He was panicking, Triss realized.
“It’s all right. It’s over,” she assured him. His mouth was agape and he looked like he was on the verge of crying and screaming all at once. “John, I need you to calm down. It was only a dream. It happened almost five years ago.”
“Five years? I spent five years at an illegal mining colony? I helped them, I trusted them!” he cried out, disgusted with his own actions. “I should be killed!”
“John!” Triss ordered sharply. “It was not your fault. A memory block was put on you; you had no idea that what you did was wrong. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” John said after a few minutes, inhaling deeply and slowly exhaling.
“All right,” Triss said slowly. She looked to Derek, who nodded reassuringly that he was all right. “The majority of your memory is regained, so we want to reacclimatize you to the society of soldiery.”
“Good, I want to resume my status as soon as possible,” John said. “What rank will I hold?”
“I will have to check with the captain on that. Derek will bring you to your barracks and I will talk with the Captain.”
“All right, ma’am.”
“Derek, please take him to his barracks.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Derek led John up to the fifth level barracks and equipped him with the grey and red uniform. John was given a hair cut; his hair, below his ears and scraggly, was not regulation. A gun was strapped to his waist and a light was clipped to his belt. He felt like the officer he had been before the third Aryan raid.
“Who’re you?” his roommate intruded as John sat down on the edge of his new bed.
“John Lissman, sir,” John replied, treating everyone as a higher rank because he didn’t know his own. The man sat and gawked at him.
“I’m Ray Delrian,” the man said, clapping him on the back. “You’re a legend, man. We all thought you were dead!”
“Well, I can’t say I knew any better,” John replied with a grin.
“Lissman!” an officer said from the doorway. “Captain Lissman wants a word.”
“Yes, sir,” John acknowledged with a nod of his head. He stood up and followed the officer down the hall, into an elevator, down another hall, and into an office.
“Have a seat, John,” the captain said. John did as ordered, taking his gun out of its holster and putting it on the desk in front of him. The captain snorted in amusement. “We would love to reinstall you to your former position, but that post is currently occupied.”
“I could expect nothing less, sir.”
“So we’ve decided to present you with regular marksman knots until the time when you can resume your usual post.”
“Yes, sir. I will gladly uphold my duties,” John said with a nod of his head.
“I expected nothing less.” the captain acknowledged, standing up. As he was walking towards the door, the captain paused by John and silently offered his hand. John accepted his father’s hand. Uncharacteristically, the captain drew his son, missing for five years, into himself, crying. John, too, joined his father’s lament and praise.