BetaForce – EchoCell 06
11:30 March 12th, 2040
Somewhere in North Africa
As the boy came round the bend, the two men sitting on the boulder looked up. The boy was small, probably no more than seven years old, and dressed in dark grey shorts and a sleeveless black vest. A black peaked cap was also worn in a futile attempt to keep the burning north African sun off his neck which, like his arms, was already red raw with sunburn. Even through the heat-haze they could see the sweat pouring off him as he staggered forward trying to carry the oversized pack on his back.
Both men were dressed in light coloured, loose fitting clothing unlike the cadets they oversaw. They each carried a combat knife and sidearm as well as a police-style baton. The taller man looked at his watch. “He’s five minutes behind,” he said to his shorter companion in an English accent.
“We’ll have to do something about that.” His companion stated in a French accent as he sharpened his knife.
The boy glanced nervously at the two instructors without lifting his head as he trudged past them. He knew he was in trouble, the rest of the squad had left him behind and he’d lost sight of them a half a kilometre back. He had got about 5 meters beyond them when the Englishmen ordered him to halt.
“What’s you’re name cadet?”
“Er, Two-seventeen gamma. Sir.” He answered nervously, standing to attention despite the crushing ache in his back caused by the pack.
“217 Gamma, do you have any explanation as to why you have yet again fallen behind?” The Frenchman questioned as he came up behind the boy. The boy knew better than to answer such a question.
“Perhaps he’s just lazy,” the Englishman said conversationally, “look at that fat. He could do with loosing a few kilos.” He continued prodding the boy’s chest which was conspicuously lacking anything even close to puppy fat. “Note that down, meal privileges revoked for the day.” The boy silently groaned when he heard that, he hadn’t eaten for nearly two days now.
“There’s still another 5 klicks left on the run, do you think that you are going to make it if you continue in this fashion? … Well, answer boy.” The Frenchmen barked at him.
“If we let him continue, he’ll probably end up dead … He wouldn’t be our problem any more.” The Englishman said as he gulped down some water from a canteen.
“True,” the Frenchman began as he reached for the water, “it would bring the squads overall performance rating up.” He looked at the boy as if appraising a pack animal with a broken leg. “However you heard the techs. This boy is special and we should be careful that we don’t overwork him.” The Frenchman said, putting a mocking emphasis on the word special.
“I guess we can’t have him dying from exhaustion or heat-stroke then.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “We should take him back to base in the Jeep,” he said nodding at the vehicle parked behind the rocks.
“I could do with a beer,” the Frenchman agreed, “the boy looks like he could do with a drink.”
The Englishman held out the canteen to the boy, “Drop that pack and take a drink before you drop yourself.”
The boy paused, uncertain how to proceed. The Unity instructors were not known for any sort of compassion or kindness and he was sure that this was some sort of trick. However, disobeying an order always resulted in harsh punishment. He unbuckled the backpack and carefully reached out for the canteen. As his fingers neared it, the Englishman reached forwards and grabbed his wrist. “A thought occurs,” be began, “if we take you back to camp now, that would just be rewarding you for failing to complete the run.”
“He should be punished first.” The Frenchman agreed and the young could sense the the man’s anticipation in his voice.
The Englishman pushed him roughly down onto the dirt. “Hold him down will you.” He said as he pulled out his knife. The Frenchman grabbed his arms and forced back down on the ground. He pushed down with all his weight on the boys arms, immobilising them. The Englishmen knelt on the boy’s legs and between the two of them, he couldn’t move. “Now you’re file says that you have some limited regeneration,” he said holding the knife in front of the boy’s eyes, the sun glinting of the metal blade. “Even so, I can guarantee that this will hurt and it will teach you to not fall behind in the future.”
He brought the knife to just below the boy’s left eye and began to slowly cut across the face, crossing the bridge of the nose. White hot pain flooded his senses as the blade cut deep into the skin and flesh. His screams echoed across the vacant desert.
09:15 July 7th, 2049
Echo Cell Comm Centre, 200m Below Sector 23
Tommy woke with a start as someone shook his shoulder, almost falling off his chair. Kai stood beside him crunching on an apple with a concerned look on his face.
“Tommy man, you all right? You were nearly screaming in your sleep.”
“It was nothing,” Tommy muttered, “just a bad dream.” The nightmare was fresh enough in his mind that he could still feel the desert heat, the dirt under his back and the pain from that day nine years ago. His hand went to his face, fingers tracing across the scar that stretched across his face. Despite his regeneration, the wound had never properly healed and was still visible all these years later.
Kai pulled a chair over and sat next to him. “Seriously, you look exhausted. You’ve been on comm watch for over 12 hours, you need to take a break.”
“I would but no one else knows how to monitor the board properly.” Tommy shifted in his seat, rubbing his neck and yawning.
“We’ll manage, do I have to pull rank on you.”
Tommy looked at Kai’s stern look. For a few seconds neither of them said anything then Kai’s frown crumbled and Tommy laughed and pushed his chair back from the console. “Ok, I get the message. Anyway, technically we don’t have ranks but I do have seniority on you.”
“It’ll be a cold day in hell,” Kai called out as Tommy left the comm centre, “when I let some punk ass hacker outrank me.” Tommy’s tired laughter could be heard echoing in the corridor outside. He turned back to the comm console and eyed the Great Wall of Pepsi along the top of the monitors. “There’s enough caffeine and sugar here to fuel the Tank for a week, where does he put it all.” Carefully he placed the dozen or so cans in the recycling bin at the back of the room.
As Toby sat on his bed, fastening the laces on his shoes, Tommy walked in and flopped onto his bed on the other side of the room.
“Jeez,” Toby began yawning, “you been up all night?”
Tommy just yawned in response. He pulled off his top and kicked of his shoes and began to climb into bed. The younger boy got up and headed to the door, summoned by the smell of bacon and eggs wafting in from the common room outside. He turned and looked back at Tommy.
“Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask. Where’d you get that tattoo on your shoulder?”
Tommy looked up and pulled the sleeve of his t-shirt back down covering it. “Don’t remember,” he rolled over, his back to Toby and pulled the blanket around him. “Do me a favour will you? Turn off the lights on the way out.” Toby recognised a “drop the subject” when he heard it and left Tommy alone in the room. Tommy sighed and closed his eyes, dropping into a restless sleep.
Posted on Friday, June 27, 2008, in BetaForce, Fiction and tagged cyberpunk, darkfuture, Fiction, future, heroic, magic, mutants, sci-fi, superhero, supers, totalitarian. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.