Blinking, the white room came into focus. His head throbbed, and the abnormally bright florescent lights were not making the black rings in his eyes better. He raised his hands to his head, pressing against his temples. “Where am I?” Fane asked the room. It was rather a useless question, the padded cell vacant except for him.
Dropping his hand, an itchy, puckered texture different from his smooth shirt met his fingers. He looked down at himself. He was in a short blue-spotted hospital gown that barely reached his mid-thighs. “Shit. She must have given me one hell of a bender for them to have me in here. No, that’s not quite it. They’d have told me if I had something. Did something go wrong? Are my plates all right?” He tried to pull his gown tighter around him.
The clock’s ticking in the darkened room did not help ease the tension of the men gathered around the green-lit table. A topographical map spread across a high-resolution screen, small pawns, tanks, and ships sporadically dispersed. A knock at the door echoed in the chamber. An assistant let in Zephyr.
He eased over to the table and sat with the rest of the men, taking a pawn from his jacket pocket, he set it in the middle of the table. The screen flashed, picking up the pawn, and dropped a digital pawn onto the map. Zephyr returned his physical pawn to his coat pocket.
“As you can see,” the doctore pointed to a set of papers laying partially fanned out on the map, “from the labs we drew this afternoon, Subject 15 has finally found the triggering mechanism.”
“Doc, were you able to determine what the catalyst was?” Zephyr reached for one of the sheets.
“Well, it wasn’t anything he ingested from the night before.” The doctor pulled the page out of Zephyr’s hand, stacked all the sheets together and handed over the pile. Zephyr took it and pulled out a very long list of lab tests and graphs. He scanned them over and tossed them on the table.
“What was he doing when he first started exhibiting these symptoms, Abbadelli?” A muscular, bald man asked.
Zephyr shrugged, chewing on his lip as he thought back. “We were assembling for the bi-annual physical test. We had just started roll call, General.”
“What was different about today’s roll call?” another man asked, this one short, thin of face, and sallow against the green of the map table.
Zephyr leaned back in his chair, observing the men who all leaned forward in anticipation. This project had been a financial drain on the military, and it was due time that it started panning out. Zephyr knew it, his own pot having been drained as it was. “We had a party for the men last night. I had him get completely plastered on a doped joint to drop his walls. Subject 15 hooked up with a red room woman Doc had me point out to him. Her room had been set up with observation equipment. Nothing of interest occurred that affected the triggering mechanism immediately. I have my doubts about his claim of having been a virgin, though. He may not have been really into it, but kid’s got talent that you only learn – ehem, sorry.” He caught a censored look the general threw at him and moved on. “As that file says, though, nothing he took or did from the party influenced his mood outside of a mild hangover. When I met with him before coming onto the field, though, he appeared to be acting perfectly fine. It was only after roll started that he began acting differently,” Zephyr replied.
“That tells us what we already know. What was different about today?” the man slammed his fist on the table, the map flickering.
“Colonel, I don’t know what to tell you. You know as much as I do at this point. I’m not the doctor. I’m his handler,” Zephyr snipped.
“Abbadelli,” the General reprimanded testily.
“What was his emotional state?” the Colonel pressed.
Zephyr pinned him with a glare. “In a word, depressed, I’d say.”
The men around the table all mumbled dismissive comments. The doc spoke up, providing his opinion that summarised everyone else’s, “that’s not the right emotional state for the hormone catalyst to start.”
“And tigers don’t dance,” Zephyr snapped.
“Zephyr Abbadelli, I’d ask you to show some level of respect,” the General growled.
“Sorry, sir,” Zephyr replied. Directing his apology to the doctor, “Sorry, Doc John. I’m aware that isn’t the emotional state that is supposed to get things moving.” He paused for a moment to fiddle with a tiny plastic ship on the map while he tried to think of something worthwhile. “I don’t know. Maybe his roommate invited him for tea or some lager after the test, and he felt like he was finally being included in the comradery, and that made him happy. Who knows? You know, we had a guy from New Punjab come in to scout today during the test. I’d say that has to be the only new thing that I would know about,” Zephyr mused. Not like there had been more than two seconds of interaction between the two, and it sure as hell wasn’t a pleasant one.
The General snapped his finger at the attendant standing at the door. The attendant shifted over to the table, the green light illuminating his face grotesquely. The General whispered to the attendant, and the man dashed out of the door like demons had come to personally drag him to hell.
Zephyr watched the general closely. “Sir?”
The General waved him off as the group waited in silence.
The Colonel, uncomfortable in the quiet, turned to Doctor John. “I’m sorry, sir. If it’s a bother, how exactly is Subject 15 supposed to bring about the TDC exactly by his emotional state? As you are aware, I took over the post from the late Colonel Jinkins this past winter, so I haven’t had to deal in this matter often, if at all.”
The doctor shifted in his seat and glanced over to the General. The man shrugged. “He should know some of the background on Subject 15. It’ll keep us all from looking like idiots later.” He poured himself a glass of water from the sweating pitcher on the buffet behind them.
The Doctor reached over to Zephyr for his file. Zephyr pulled the document back together before handing it to him. Doctor John snatched it from him and vigorously riffled through it for a sheet. He handed the paper over to the Colonel, replying, “The most challenging thing about all this was finding a guinea pig with enough psychic talent to take the stress load. Subject 15’s brain structure has been modified to amplify a series of signals into a secondary plane of existence, a parallel universe if you must.
“These signals can, in theory, pull over objects, even sentient beings. You will have to speak with Doctor Glauson on the exact details of this transference. I was only there for the neural surgery.”
The Colonel paled, glancing over a CT scan of a brain with several small points embedded throughout the folds of the lobes. “You’re joking. Is that really possible? Psychics? You’ve been hitting your own joints a little too hard.” He handed the image back to the doctor. The doc shoved the page back in haphazardly.
Zephyr chewed his tongue, appalled by Doctor John’s dismissive nature to the man in question. “I’ve honestly been wondering if it is a failed experiment, doc,” he goaded. The Doctor snapped a fiery eye at him.
The General held up a pair of placating hands. “I think we have all had some doubts, Zephyr.”
The doc turned to the General, all bustle, but he deflated as he leaned back in his chair, knowing that deep down, he had also doubted the effectiveness of the experiment.
The Colonel, still trying to come to grips with the situation, continued with his questions. “So, this Subject 15’s brain has been rewired to be able to bring someone from another dimension over here. How’s that supposed to help us with this war?”
“Not any person, Colonel. We have found a transdimensional creature, or TDC for short, at the moment, that could crush cities, decimate countrysides, and end this war without a need for nuclear firepower. Then, when the enemy’s willpower has been completely levelled, we’ll send the creature back. This’ll work better in the end than bombing, gassing, and nuking. Think about it. We won’t have any radiation poisoning,” the General supplied.
“General,” the Doctor whispered a caution to the man next to him. “We still are uncertain of how to get rid of said monster when we are finished using it. Subject 15 will only be able to bring it over.”
“Shut it, John. Our men can put it down easily enough. Our scientists say they have determined it’s weak spot,” the General boasted heartily.
Then how is it supposed to go up against whole cities? Zephyr asked himself.
A rap at the door had all the men turning in their seats. The attendant scurried in to whisper to the General. “Well, man, let him in,” the General exclaimed. The attendant saluted and went back to the door to motion in the New Punjabi scout.
The scout strode in, purposeful but a note of hesitation lingered at the crease of his eyes.
“Prince Ishan Orlov, sirs,” the attendant announced to the rest of the room. A larger man watched from outside the hall, unhappy about having been left out. Ishan bowed deeply, “May I be of some assistance to you?” His voice gently seeped through the room.
“Prince Orlov, nice to finally meet you. We were meaning to have a nice chat with you at the banquet tomorrow night. Were you able to attend this morning’s fitness test?” the General asked warmly. Zephyr glared at the General’s pandering tone.
“Yes, sir. A rather splendid sight to behold. I must commend you on the fine assortment of troops you have at hand.” Orlov raised himself back to a proud standing posture.
“I am pleased to hear that they were to your expectations, Prince Orlov,” the General smiled. He motioned Orlov to a seat at the table next to Zephyr.
Orlov hesitated, flicking Zephyr a studied glance. The man had never come back to the physical assessment test to finish administering it. “Thank you.” Orlov eased into the cushioned seat. Zephyr passed him a glass of water, if only for the sake of courtesy. The scout took it and placed it on the table in front of him.
The General cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I don’t wish to seem impertinent-“
“Sir, you needn’t be so formal with me. Today, I am a lowly scout looking for a few good men willing to train my own troops.” Orlov’s teeth gleamed mercilessly in the table’s glow.
“I’m sorry.” The General apologised. Orlov waited patiently. “Have you, by chance, encountered one of our sergeants, Fane Anson?”
“Fane Anson?” Prince Orlov frowned. “No. I can’t say that I have, sir.” Folding his hands in his lap, he watched the assembly of men.
“You met him this morning,” Zephyr informed him quietly, “I took him to the infirmary.”
“Ah, the stoned kid. I haven’t met him before this morning,” Orlov dismissed.
“What gave you the impression that he was stoned? If I might ask Prince Orlov?” Doctor John broke in.
“His eyes were dilated, his face was flushed, and his breathing was fast. He was hot to the touch but did not look like he had a cold,” replied Orlov. What were they on about? Had the kid done something while he was in the infirmary? Surely he hadn’t died; that would put a damper on the rest of his day.
“Fair enough,” the doctor shrugged.
“Is there something wrong with this Fane Anson?” Orlov pressed.
“We did test him, and he did not have anything in his system to indicate a drug usage past 12 hours before showing up for work this morning. Those in him were not liable to cause the symptoms that you noted and had been administered by qualified personnel for a prior established medical condition.” The doctor mentioned, pulling another page out of his file to look over.
Zephyr flicked a contemptuous glance at the doc. Qualified his butt, he had been informally trained to inject the guy whenever the doc got the desire to use Fane as a guinea pig. For the most part, Fane had only ever been told that Zephyr was giving him a sedative for anxiety that was liable to crop up when dealing with tight spaces. The doped joint had come from the doc’s delusional pharmacy for screwed-up mad scientists. He was nauseated at the thought of what all he had subjected the guy to at this point.
“Would you be willing to meet with him once more?” the general asked Orlov.
The Prince sat back for a second, a little put off at the request. If the man wasn’t dying, then was there a reason to be granting him the privilege of speaking with a man of a far superior position than himself? “Sir?” Orlov asked.
“It is a matter of some urgency, Prince Orlov, between allies, that we find out what is wrong with Fane Anson,” the general explained.
“I understand that every troop member is of importance to the cause, but is he of that much importance that I must demean myself to dealing with subordinates?” Orlov protested.
The General regarded him for a second before waving over an attendant to see Orlov out. “More than you think, my boy,” the general added as Orlov found himself being dismissed from the room.
“What are you thinking bringing in a scout to the map room, sir!” Zephyr came up to his feet when the door behind Prince Orlov clicked shut.
“We had nothing on the board today that mattered.” The General waved off Zephyr’s protest.
“Then explain why he was in here.” Zephyr dropped into his seat, teeth on edge.
“A minor suspicion. One from Prince Orlov’s files.” The General snapped a finger. The assistant went to the filing cabinets at the end of the room and extracted a manilla envelope. He set it in front of Zephyr.
Wrinkling his brows, Zephyr untwisted the cord holding the packet together and slid out the papers to read it. “You’re gonna bait Fane?”
“We’ll see. Doc, have an imaging study done on him.” The General took the file from Zephyr and passed it over to Doc John.
“Do you have someone who can pull pictures?” Doc John nodded after a cursory glance.
“I’ll have a notice sent over to my boys in Department D to have some made available to you. Call them in about an hour or two.”
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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