Authors: Kevin Kauffmann
By Kevin Kauffmann
Text Copyright © 2012 Kevin M Kauffmann
To Andrea and David for all of their help,
To all of the people who took a chance on an unknown author,
To everyone willing to take control of their future,
This book's for you
Charlotte Kane looked over the security guard. The blonde-haired man in front of her was one of
; he was part of the machine or at least he looked like it. The Earth Orbit Security Forces were the strong-arm of the Trade Union which controlled Earth and its eight asteroid children, but Albert clearly had abandoned his master. It had been a shock when the usually-silent man had unloaded his burden. Now the guard looked at her and shrugged.
“I’m not kidding; we really do need all the help we can get. There’s tons of us everywhere, but we’re still outnumbered. We’re still outgunned. Unfortunately, we might still need doctors from time to time,” Albert said before reaching out to play with a latch on the table. He was trying to distract himself from the fact that Ryan Jenkins’ corpse was lying on the same medical table. Charlotte looked at the oafish man in the EOSF armor and felt her world crumbling around her. Just for having this conversation she could be imprisoned without any hope of escape; she would never see her family again. The good doctor looked down at the newly-euthanized corpse and realized that it didn’t much matter.
The acts she had witnessed had not just left a bitter taste in her mouth; it had tainted her very soul. The very least she could do was to try for redemption, even if it was to ally herself with an underdog missing its legs. She looked up at the undercover agent with firm resolve but almost immediately the doubt crept back in. The raven-haired doctor didn’t know how she could help.
“Ok, I get that, but they own all these facilities. Modern medicine has moved on to the point that I really don’t even know field medicine. I really wouldn’t be that much of an asset.” Albert looked at her before playing with the latch again. He had not thought this through. The guard had just wanted someone decent to know that he wasn’t all bad; that this job wasn’t some form of volunteer moral vacuum he traded for a pay check. Albert was doing this for a purpose.
The resistance agent strained his mind as he realized that woman wouldn’t be much use in her position. There was no war and no wounded yet and from that perspective she held no real value to the revolutionary. As he desperately tried to think up some use for the doctor an idea crept in, and Albert had to try not to smile at his own epiphany.
“You’re right; we don’t need you for that. I hadn’t really thought about it until now, but we could use you, or at least your position, to help the cause. We have millions of these unconscious soldiers beneath us. When it comes time to rise up do you think we could wake them up? We’d have a huge resource there,” Albert finished. He was so proud of himself for coming up with that on his own, especially off-the-cuff like that. Hope flickered in the young doctor’s eyes before settling into despair again.
“That wouldn’t work. Not only are there safeguards in place, but the very act of waking those soldiers would probably cause a mass identity crisis. They would have the exact same sense of time and identity and the trauma caused by seeing their own clones would be too much. They would be trained soldiers without the ability to interpret reality. It would be dangerous for everyone involved,” Dr. Kane said before rubbing her cheek with her hand. This was all a bit much to handle but thankfully Albert was asking her scientific questions; it allowed her to compartmentalize her emotions. A thought entered her head and she was absolutely surprised that it hadn’t occurred to her before. She brought her hand back down and looked at the false EOSF guard.
“Wait, what did you mean by ‘rise up?’ Albert looked at the woman and suddenly panicked. He was not supposed to talk to anyone about that; especially someone who had not joined the cause. The oafish guard regretted it but soon he realized it didn’t matter. If he was going to recruit the woman he was going to have to tell her everything.
“The Initiative isn’t like the resistance groups of the past. There are inherent flaws in the system; flaws that we can’t abide as citizens of these planets. The Trade Union, The Commission, even the EOSF are promoting institutionalized slavery. And it’s not just the games. This eternal warfare is just a symptom of the overall problem. The system is broken and we intend to fix it. It’s not going to be solved by discussion; it will be solved by action,” Albert said. It wasn’t the exact message the Eris Freedom Initiative tried to promote, but it was the truth, and it was certainly what they wanted. The good doctor seemed apprehensive throughout the explanation, but Albert knew he wasn’t finished.
“Eris is just the first step. It is the symbol. The Initiative plans to give the soldiers back their freedom and from there we’ll take back what had been taken from all of us. It’s not just a wealth gap, anymore. They own us. They own our futures. They own our decisions. We cannot be truly free while they are in charge. We’re just biding our time, now, but soon we will take action. And I think you should be part of it,” Albert said, momentarily faltering at the end of a speech he had rehearsed a hundred times. The woman was frightened by the goals of his organization and he knew it. He hoped he would not have to silence her.
“I haven’t talked to you very much, Dr. Kane, and even on those occasions it was just so you could accuse me of being a monster, but you can’t tell me you weren’t speaking for yourself, as well,” Albert said, hoping he was right. “Each time we were standing over this poor soldier, Ryan Jenkins,” he said before pointing at the corpse on the table. “The first time I was a monster because I led him to death. The second time because I was part of this machine. I know you feel for this man. Outside of the Initiative there’s no way to help him. There’s no way to turn him back into the man he was; there’s no way to set him free. Outside of joining the Initiative,
will be part of the machine.” While probably effective, Albert instantly hated himself for saying it. It was manipulative, it was opportunistic, but mostly it was just cruel. Tears came unbidden to the doctor’s face, but misery did not force her into sobs. Charlotte was angry.
“This isn’t my fault. Hawkins did it. The Commission asked for it.” Albert looked down at the latch again but forced himself to stay his hand. He flicked his eyes upward and looked the beautiful doctor in her dark brown eyes.
“You’re right. This is the work of evil men, but you can help. If you don’t, then it becomes your fault.” Albert felt rotten about it, but he knew it was the right thing to say. The doctor looked down and let the tears roll down her face. Albert knew he had convinced her, even if his methods were brutal. The young doctor sniffed and looked back at the soldier she had just killed.
“How can I bring him back?” she asked. Albert wondered if he could ever inspire that kind of devotion in another person.
“We’ll figure it out; there has to be something,” Albert said before hearing the door opening down the hall. He hoped it wasn’t Hawkins; he hoped it wasn’t an internal affairs or black ops team. The young doctor was likewise surprised by the sound and backed away from the entryway. Albert stood there and waited for whoever it was to appear.
It was Laurence. It seemed that Albert had taken too long with his errand and so the older officer had come to find him. The resistance agent breathed out a sigh of relief as his partner in deception rounded the corner, but suddenly grew anxious as he hadn’t cleared the doctor’s recruitment into their band of brothers. Albert gulped down air as the senior dissident walked up.
“What’s taking so long?” the undercover agent asked as he entered the clinic. Laurence looked tired and his age was clearly getting to him. Wrinkles and crows’ feet were setting into his rough skin and the bags under his eyes told of late nights and early mornings. The older revolutionary glanced to his side, noticed Charlotte’s presence and tried to regain a subdued appearance.
“Sorry, doctor, didn’t see you there. We’ll get out of your hair,” Laurence said before motioning Albert to follow him back down the hallway. The young dissident stood fast and braced himself for the coming conversation.
“She knows.” Laurence stopped mid-step. An eternity seemed to pass as the veteran turned in place. The man slowly turned his eyes from the young doctor to the revolutionary staring him down. Albert’s gaze faltered and he looked at his feet as Laurence started to walk forward.
“She knows what?” Albert gulped as he realized he might be in more trouble then he thought. However contrary to their anti-establishment ideals, Laurence loved to play by the rules. He never did anything without approval from someone higher-up in the food chain; his experience as a soldier had never left him.
“I told her. She’s on our side,” Albert said before preparing himself for a beating from the older man. It didn’t happen. The older rebel sighed and looked at their new recruit. Then his eyes snapped back and his face twisted in frustration.
“Did you tell her here?” Albert winced and nodded. There were cameras everywhere; he should have known better. Laurence pinched the bridge of his nose and looked over at the other resistance agent.
“You’re an idiot. We’ll continue this later, doctor, but outside of the clinic” he said before turning to their newest recruit. She almost yelped from surprise. “Continue on like nothing happened. I’ll come get you later tonight. It’s not safe here.” The older man then looked at Albert and furrowed his brow.
“We’re going to have a conversation, you and I, and you’re not going to like it.”
The grizzled old man watched as the simulacrum of his compatriot ate his lunch and laughed. The brown-haired youth nudged his teammates and spoke with glee about the last few soldiers he had killed on the field. Jenkins was no longer the same kid, but that wasn’t really his fault.
Carver had volunteered the boy’s soul for execution, after all.
The old man’s world was worse for it. He had thought that the behavior modification would have relieved Jenkins of his burdens. The emotional and physical pain that poor boy endured would have disappeared into oblivion along with Jenkins’ real personality. And it did. In that way it was a definite success, but Carver didn’t want this new soldier by his side. This artificial Jenkins was brash, antagonistic and simple. He was a bloodthirsty sociopath who didn’t care about pain.
The boy truly wasn’t his compatriot anymore.
Carver was still tearing into a roll when the Englishman threw himself down into the chair beside him. It was enough to warrant Carver’s attention, as this was something Norris would never do under ordinary circumstances; the ginger jester knew well enough to stay away from anyone so serious. The Englishman set down his tray before turning his head to the veteran and giving a carefree smile.