This story is the 1st of a 2 part story.
The narrative is a little harsh. This can be read by anyone, but be mindful, at times it has some strong content.
Men will always be men, my mom said. And I hated her every time she said it. I tried to adjust my backpack to distract Ravi as he stared at my breasts and judged me unfit for the Army despite me being in the top eleven of my batch. This was perhaps the only time I was grateful to the memory chips they had installed into our heads as part of the training, psych evaluation and safety of all defence personnel. These chips recorded everything we saw, heard. Unlucky that they couldn’t track our thoughts and the sense of touch yet, but my sister in the RnD division said a few prototypes were making huge headway in the direction. These chips still do not have a real time streaming capacity, these need to be manually inserted and collected every two years. Gosh, if ever I decide to report this retard, I’d have to wait another six months.
This was a small helicopter with 11 cadets packed in the Cargo Bay that smelled like rotting sweat, while our instructors lounged in a comparatively spacious Officers Bay listening to their favourite State sponsored music. The last thing I wanted to think before my sniping test today (which only the top eleven cadets of the course get to take) was about the pervert in front of me and all the shit I need to go through for just being a girl in the frontline army. I tried to calm myself down and shut my eyes for a while and clear my mind.
I wish I hadn’t opened the letter I received today. It was from Vivek. I really feel ashamed to have ever called him a friend of mine. And I wonder what audacity he has to write a letter to me asking me to tell the Police that I made a judgement error in reporting his contemptuous ass. I guess he shouldn’t be called by his name, his name was a thing of the past. He is now Student No: 2131MH4141. Why do I remember it? It was my Imperial duty to. I am obligated to remember my first Reporting which is something used to identify me, just like people had secret codes in the era before the War of Freedom.
I just wish to calm my mind! Please keep these thoughts for later!
I began to reiterate the procedure of handling a sniper rifle. But I just seemed to be incapable of focusing on the task at hand, so I give in to the stream of thoughts that seemed to be intent on ruining my day. That’s the reason degenerates should be culled. Shitheads like Student No: 2131MH4141 can ruin your life even when in “Internment Camps”. Cretinism is a disease, which needs to be treated. He said he had uncovered the truth about the Imperial Father and claimed we were all being fed lies. He deserved to be sent to the Internment Camp. In the letter he was apparently scared to be sent to the “Correction Facility A” and tried to beg for mercy. Such Audacity! I mean how can anyone trust someone so impure who desecrated the system and was able to smuggle in an uncensored letter to me.
I should have reported the letter as it was a risk to my life. If a diseased one could bring information to me, it meant there was a loophole in the system and that the diseased one could pollute my mind. But I decided to report it after the test. I did not want to be any more disturbed before my test. Reading the letter was a mistake altogether.
The Correction Facilities were for people who cannot be reasoned with. These are the people who just cannot be allowed to spread their disease to the Pure people of the Nation. People who go in, come out different. They don’t look the way they used to, they no longer speak like their former selves. They come out cured, but there always is a fear of relapse. Our medicine still hasn’t advanced so much to treat these sort of mental illnesses. The treatment makes them docile and helps them see the truth. Only an open mind can learn. But one shouldn’t trust anyone on face value except for the eternal truth of the one True God. These cured citizens are sent back to the households of those who reported them to prove that they have been cured until they die for the performance evaluation in the name of science to verify the improvement in medical technology. These cured citizens were legally supposed to work for their Evaluators, and prove loyalty to the Evaluator, system and most importantly, to the Nation.
But, Correction Facility A is for the people who are beyond saving. Sometimes the disease must be stopped before it spread to the rest of it and the only true quarantine is “Euthanasia” just like they had to put down Rabid patients in the Yestercenturies. The Medical Corps handled the entire process to ensure the painless removal of the uncurable citizens from the Earth.
I still remember the day I reported him. Ah! That pleasure, the Pride! He had taken history at his university and came across a banned copy of the book that must not be spoken of. He had strayed from the truth and began to question the Imperial Father and the one true God! He began to question the One True God about the gods of the past and even tattooed a religious symbol from the Yesteryears. I had warned him about going down this path, but he just couldn’t let go of his obsession with the past and all the Religion hosh-posh. He started dabbling about the might of religions of the past and threatened to give up on the teachings of the One True God.
I had no other way out. He was my dearest friend, but he was straying off the right path and had to be corrected. I had reported him for his good. That was one of my first successes in life. I had taken a step to make the life of one soul find its way back. I received a commendation from the office of the Imperial Father. I knew I had done the right thing when the letter confirmed that the problem our Nation was facing is not Religion itself. The problem is that more than one religion exist. And how can there be a place for any other god when there exists the One True God?
That was when I had decided to enlist into the army. I had to fight for my nation against the farce peoples on the other side of the border who fight to pollute us. They sing songs about the Gods that don’t exist. Can’t exist. Why can’t those Aliens understand a simple concept? There is just the One True God and our Imperial Father is the One True Gods spokesperson.
I heard a cough and opened my eyes to see everyone looking at me. I guess I spoke the last line out loud. The Instructor looked at me with pride. I had just earned Brownie points much to the fury of Ravi, who for a change was not mentally stripping my clothes. His eyes screamed of jealousy. I liked to see him get worked up at my expense. That would put him off his game, at least a little and I would have to capitalise on this opportunity. I smiled to myself and tried catching some sleep.
I was woken up by one of my coursemates. In the army, nothing is easy. We had to execute a successful airdrop to the Sniping arena at the Northwest sector of a huge facility. I was one of the best cadets at Para jumping, the best rather. I took one deep breath and I jumped out of the Chopper. I loved the experience of the free fall and the feeling that comes exactly the moment the parachute is deployed. Ahhh! The joy. But, hell my parachute refused to open. It’s the only time I get to panic, but I mustn’t. I couldn’t allow my fear to cause destruction of National Property. I struggled and somehow managed to open the parachute just in time.
As I approached the ground, I could hear nothing but a high pitched sound screaming inside my head. The memory chip was overriding any recording of audio which I wasn’t supposed to hear in this unauthorised location. I was about 25 metres above the ground when Sepoys began homing onto my projected landing location. And there was this tree that caught my eye. It was pure silver, or was it platinum? I wasn’t sure. But, that was unusual. I had never seen anything like that. Perhaps the Imperial Father didn’t believe I needed to know it existed. I had a perfect landing and pressed the button that folded the parachute into my backpack again. By the time I could gather my bearings, a Sepoy jumped onto me covering my head in a black bag.
This was a protocol to ensure I didn’t see what I shouldn’t. The memory chips still aren’t advanced enough to control our vision. The Sepoy dragged me across the lawn all the time groping me and I could do nothing. I have no authority, And neither would I have any proof as the chip couldn’t record thoughts and touch while I was blindfolded with an irritating sound in my ear drowning everything. I was sure the Imperial Father is working to remove such thoughts from men and make the place a better one with the help of science. I live in a period of reform and I really cannot imagine how women lived in the Yesteryears.
I was pushed into a car. The made me change 6 cars so that I lose the track of direction I am going in. We are trained to survive in such situations in the “Mental Training Modules”. These were the worst part of the training. The Aliens consider the MTM inhumane, impure and frown upon it. I spit at them. No Wonder, our Nation is winning the War. The Aliens are soft. The only reason the war extends for so long is that the One True God wishes to give the Aliens as much time needed to see the truth.
The MTM is hard and is not easy to survive. Mental Training Modules are the most feared aspect of military training. The module is a simulator with nodes pasted to the head as we sit on chairs similar to those at the Dentist’s and cadets are immersed in a world of torture. This is important as we need to be prepared for anything the Aliens could do to us when captured. We had to endure all kinds of torture imaginable to the Aliens, for our True God could never allow such atrocities on our soil. Each hour in the real world amounts to thirty days of torture in the MTM. The nodes attached allow the instructors to evaluate our thoughts, and the nodes ensured we physically sense everything happening in the simulation. We did feel the pain and endured it, except nothing happened to our real bodies. I guess the saying, “It’s all in your mind” stems from the experiences in the MTM. After 8 hours inside the MTM and 2 real-world months of rehabilitation only 127 out of the original course of 480 cadets came out successful. The rest were to continue the rehabilitation and then sent to the non-combat corps of the Army after healing. The weakest, died.
The black bag was finally removed after I was brought into the briefing room prior to the test. My instructor barked an order to remove the mask and sit. I complied. The officer did not talk about the misadventure. We are here to kill. Pleasantries are not a part of the job description. We cannot be soft.
He began the brief by ranking us all for the air drop and I ranked second for the finesse I showed despite the error in the location. That’s how perfect I am at Para jumping.
The sniping test was different from other tests. This was much tougher. This test is about making hard decisions. The Medical Corps had been able to build robots that look like humans, behave like humans and emote like humans. These robots were built for quite a few purposes. The older metallic robots weren’t easily accepted by humans around the time I was born. They just seemed different and people couldn’t trust those metal objects to be their slaves and make their lives easier. Hence, the new human-looking bots were built which makes a human feel much more comfortable around them as these bots felt trustworthy. These robots are also used to fool and surprise the Aliens on the other side of the border in combat and it needs at least six humans to decapacitate the bot. Human-like bots are also used by the Medical Corps to teach surgery to surgeons.
How are these bots relevant to us? They are used to remove the fear of the first kill from us. It is not easy for a human, or righteous humans like us under the care of the One true God to take another human’s life while looking at them in the face. To pass today’s test we are supposed to shoot the subjects in their face. Anywhere else would result in a failure. And failure in this test would mean another 12 hours in the MTM as we weren’t ready to take the life of another human respectably. And none of us looked forward to spending even a single minute in the MTM.
There was another rule. One of the 11 would be going to the MTM for sure. There would be only 10 bots or subjects. This is to ensure we force ourselves to react and shoot them before others. The subjects would come out of ten manhole like trapdoors. The shooting zone was not a plain ground. Trees covered most of the field and there were cemented safe spots for the robots to hide. The robots were intelligent enough to try to protect themselves and would try to find a place to hide. We had to search for them, find them and shoot them before others. We would never know if someone else was locked on to the same subject. The last one left, is the weak one. And only the weak are left behind.
After the briefing ended and as everyone was getting up to fetch their issued sniper rifles my instructor called me close and asked me, “I hope you did not see the Platinum Tree. Did you? Cadet?”
I lied that I did not, instinctively. There was a sinking feeling in my chest and felt something was about to go terribly wrong. This was perhaps my intuition, or I was overthinking. But, I had 2 secrets in one day, and now that was uncomfortable. Not to mention against the trust the Imperial Father had in me.
“Seeing the Platinum tree means the end is near.” mused the instructor looking at me, through me. I felt naked. This was the first time I felt scared in my entire training and I did not know why. There was something with that look of his that put me on the edge.
He dismissed me and I prepared myself for the test and soon found myself looking through the scope from my sniping location. I really did not know how I reached here. I was too preoccupied with what the Instructor said and was consumed in my thoughts. I meditated for three minutes. Breath in for four seconds. Hold the breath for seven seconds and exhale for eight, just as the meditation manual instructed us to do.
My mind was calmer. I was now in the zone. I focused on the task at hand. The 11 of us were positioned on the roof of the circular Pavillion, something similar to the Coliseum that I read about in History.
The instructor checked in on all of us over the radio and officially announced that the test had begun. Ten manholes opened, and ten subjects came out wearing orange overalls. We weren’t allowed to fire or use the scope for ten minutes. We had to let them scamper and hide. This made the subjects look more scared to make it harder for us to take a life. We could take the shots after the bell rings.
Ten long minutes passed and I focused on one subject and followed it. It was easier on the mind to call the subject “it” instead of him or her before killing it. The subject hid behind a cement boulder and was covered with shrubs on all sides. Hidden from sight from all the sides. Good luck to me. The One True God is said to be impartial, but I guess the One True God is helping me to negate the stress of the two secrets I had to hide. The subject looked weak, had a shrivelled body. It looked as if it had a very horrible life. I almost sympathised with it before I reminded myself it was afterall, just a subject.
I was about to get ahead of myself as I thought about what Ravi would think if he was the only one left out? Haha. That reminds me. He joined our course two weeks after the MTM and they said he was a failure of the previous course and was relegated to ours. But it was difficult to believe it, but the Army doesn’t lie. If he were a failure, he wouldn’t be in the top ten of my course! This helped me focus on the task as I reaffirmed myself to not take him lightly. But, something was fishy.
The bell rang and six shots were fired. The instructor reported that 7 subjects were dead. One of the Cadets shot two subjects with one shot. So, now there would be two people going into the MTM and my subject was still hidden. Two more minutes passed and my subject began to feel restless and stood up with his back to me and the canopy still hiding him from many others. All I needed was to wait for it to face me.
Two more shots and one subject alive and three people racing against time to shoot my subject first. The subject began to look to it’s right.
Turn around… Turn Around… Turn Around…
Something was off. The tattoo on the neck seemed familiar. I zoomed on it to see the religious symbol I wished to never see again. My mind began to race and my heart started to ache. Is it what I think it is? I found another tattoo on the hand of the subject. It was becoming increasingly hard to call the image in my scope as ‘subject‘. I could feel bile rising in my throat and my hands began to tremble. The hand of the subject had a number tattoed – 2131MH4141. I began doubting myself. Did I have to shoot it or him? But he would be killed anyway.
He began to turn around.
Please don’t turn. Please Don’t turn. I cannot kill you.
Please don’t ruin my Army career, you Cretin.
He turned around and my sights were trained on the face.
“Vivek”, I whispered under my breath. I couldn’t pull the trigger. I never expected to see the face again after today’s letter. His face was contorted, fear in his eyes. He was terrified. My vocabulary eludes me, for what the eyes conveyed was mercy and were in a state that was much more than horror.
But I had to.
I took a deep breath.
A shot was fired. Vivek’s body dropped like a sack of potatoes and that “sack of potatos” was no subject. I stood frozen in shock.
Was the Truth a Lie?
I knew I would regret what I had done or perhaps what I had not done.
To Be Continued in Part 2/2
Read Part 2: The End Of the Beginning | The Cycle of Truth
Do stick around!
I was frustrated about quite a lot of things that have been going around in the world and tried to bring out a story which talks about these underlying motives!
- The paradox of the open mind is willing to learn and boxing the mind with what is right and curtailing the freedom to learn in our educational system.
- The Chinese internment camps.
- The problems when people believe in the government/leaders without questioning or looking for intent.
- The Matrix
- How about you try to guess which book inspired the background setting?
This was the first time I came out of my comfort zone to try this style of writing!
It would mean most to me if you could drop in a comment with feedback on this story! Please do let me know how you felt after reading the story. You can also send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org . I would love to have a conversation!