Monday, May 30, 2011

Awry (Miscorrection)

[caption id="attachment_1330" align="alignleft" width="120" caption="Cover Photo © Stephen De Las Heras / Dreamstime.com"][/caption]

My name is Lyle. Two months after joining the Karhath, I received my first assignment and felt nervous, excited, and uncertain. On the night of the mission, I witnessed confidential proceedings and discussions that surprised and shocked me. But not all went well. Before the sun rose the next day, a failed plan would turn into a new one, and this one would change the course of history.


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Awry (Miscorrection)


(Book 1 - Story 5)

Copyright © 2011 B.C. Young

We waited all day. The sun shone through the window and its heat warmed my skin. Fortunately, we sat in a vehicle the entire time with air conditioning blowing on us. Despite being comfortable, sitting in a car outside a famous home all day made me nervous. Every time a vehicle drove passed us on the road, a tingle surged through my stomach, and then the rest of my body. My paranoia got to me, and I knew it. But that didn’t make it any easier to handle. We didn’t have a choice but to wait. If J.J. and I went back empty handed, Aaron would not be happy.


“Definitely gets squirmy here,” J.J. said, staring out the window, as he had the past seven hours.


“Yeah, squirmy,” I replied, unsure of the terminology. I just wanted to go with the flow and keep my best foot forward. No sense in questioning the meaning.


Aaron trusted J.J. without question, mainly because he was John’s grandson. John and Aaron’s grandfather started the Karhath. Things went well, with the political party making great strides to come into power. But after The Panacea Incident, everything fell apart. J.J.’s grandfather died not long after the Incident—at least everyone assumes he did. In his early twenties, Aaron also dealt with his grandfather’s death, and it resulted in a strong bond between him and J.J. This is where the trust came in to play.


“He should be in at any point. Security on the west side will report his arrival to us. It should go pretty quick from that point.” J.J. paused and brushed his black, short hair to the side with his hand. Throughout the day, he had told me a lot about himself, why he joined the Karhath, about his grandfather, about Aaron, and more. It surprised me how talkative he had been, but I loved the insights into the Karhath. Learning about them scared, intrigued, and educated me. “So, what’s your story, Lyle? You joined us recently—you’re young. Most kids your age are enamored by the president,” he said sarcastically.


“I needed to get away,” I answered, not wanting to be as open as J.J. had been.


“Hmm…doesn’t sound like much of a reason,” J.J. said.


“My parents. It’s just—they’re always on my case. ‘Look at the bright future you have’, they say. ‘The president has done a lot for us.’ Silly stuff like that. You know, everyone is so in love with this guy. But it’s not like he can make everyone happy.”


“That’s true.”


Sure, everyone benefited from the Panacea Incident. But now, after ten years, the dust had settled, and the same old problems prior to the Incident began to surface. They weren’t anything like the economic crash Panacea brought, but they were there nonetheless. Panacea’s consequences resulted from a major change and time healed the problem. The current situation was more about policy. For people my age, the unemployment rate was nearly twenty percent. There were rich and poor, with few in the middle and prices were sky-high because of an annual three percent inflation rate over the past ten years, and the list goes on. While many people were happy with their situation, there were people like me, who thought the president and his policies were not the answer. People who, like me, thought someone else could do better.


“The president doesn’t care about me. How could he? There are six planets he’s governing. What are the odds he care’s about a twenty-two year old guy from Japip who can’t find a job, who lives with his parents, and…ugh,” I interrupted myself. No sense going on and on about it. If J.J. was part of the Karhath, he understood how I felt.


“You and me both, my friend,” J.J. said. “My grandfather had vision. That vision worked and we made great strides. Then Panacea happened and set the Karhath back. Everyone thought this Daniel was the second coming, and, well, you know the rest.” He spoke about his grandfather with great reverence, but the disdain for President Daniel came through, too.


We sat there in silence for a few moments; the sun began setting on the horizon.


“Aaron must see something in you,” J.J. said.


“Why’s that?”


“You’re young. He wouldn’t usually send someone out for this type of assignment who’s new and your age. He often likes to build up trust and rapport before something like this.”


That was good to know. I had joined the Karhath a couple months earlier. Fortunately, I met Aaron, the man leading the charge for thirty years. It was a completely accidental meeting. Connor, a man who helped the Karhath with their recruiting, reviewed final questioning with me to ensure my allegiance to the group, when Aaron stopped by the room. He asked Connor a brief question. I eagerly introduced myself to him. Afterwards, I realized I acted like someone meeting a celebrity. Gladly, I didn’t ask for his autograph.


“Well, it’s good to know I’ve made an impression on him,” I said, pleased with knowing I had gained Aaron’s approval.


“You should be. But don’t let him down. It wouldn’t be good if you did. And definitely don’t question his authority. He tends to lose it whenever that happens; like the person questioning him is trying to steal his position. You ask me, he’s way too protective of it,” J.J. trailed off, almost as if he was lost in a trance—mulling a past memory over in his mind.


We waited a little while longer, and darkness fell over the area. While the days conversation had been interesting, the rest had been utterly boring, but everything was about to change.


“So after we get the target, what then?” I asked. I only knew the assignment partially.


“Then we take him back and we get him to do what we want,” J.J. looked over at me seriously. “It may not be pretty—especially if he doesn’t want to cooperate. And it depends on our approach to motivate him. Sometimes showing sympathy towards people can make them more cooperative than using force.” I couldn’t help but feel he directed the statement to me.


As we waited, a vehicle drove past us. It startled me, just as the others did, but this time it was justified because it was a Protective Force vehicle. They were the last thing I wanted to see. Another P.F. vehicle followed it. My heart pounded fast and I thought they discovered us.


“Don’t worry. It’s to be expected. He’s high profile and one of the president’s closest advisors,” J.J. said to me, obviously sensing my worry. “See, here’s his vehicle.”


A long black limousine passed us. Between the dark night and the car’s tinted windows, visual proof of the target was impossible. Since we were near his home and this parade led to his house, it had to be him.


“Now what?” I asked J.J.


“Now we wait. They’ll call with the signal when all’s clear.”


Thirty minutes passed, and I began to wonder if we would ever get a chance. I thought I would be nervous to carry out the job, but the day’s waiting left me wanting something, anything to do rather than sit in a car.


“Target is in position,” a voice said through my communication earpiece.


“Finally,” I whispered under my breath.


“Can you confirm the target’s location is living?” J.J. asked. It was code, and I didn’t know its meaning. But J.J. said not to worry about it when the day started. He told me to just follow his lead and everything should be fine.


“Yes. Step two. Left after entry. Fifteen meters right. Target is a loner.”


“Very well,” J.J. said. “Okay kid, this is it. Just stay behind me, do what I say, and this should be over pretty quick.”


We exited our vehicle. Breathing in the air, it cooled and refreshed me—just what I needed after the long, dull day.


J.J. motioned his hands towards our destination, and I began following him. We made our way to the building’s west side. A high security fence surrounded the entire perimeter. Our only choice was through the fence, because climbing it would lead us to an electrical charge on the top that would knock us unconscious. Security cameras would see us, too. Because a few men on the inside were loyal to the Karhath cause, these systems wouldn’t pose a problem for us.


We approached the gate on the building’s west side where a P.F. guard greeted us. His features could not be distinguished because of his dark outfit and the shadows. He pushed his eyes up to the gate key. After scanning his eyes, the gate unlocked and opened.


“Door’s straight ahead. Cameras are on a loop for five minutes. Step two. Left—”


“Yeah, yeah,” J.J. said, interrupting the guard, “I got it already.”


“Hit me,” the guard said.


“What?” I asked aloud. Why did he want us to hit him?


J.J. did as instructed and punched the guard three or four times to the face and a couple more to the stomach. The punches were hard enough to draw blood from his lip and bruise his right eye. Then I understood. It had to look like the guard put up a struggle.


After the faux fight, J.J. began running towards the door, and I followed. Adrenaline began to kick in and a slight fear of someone discovering us hit me, too. This was my first time doing something like this. My early morning mental pep talk didn’t do much for me, as the thought of failure kept me moving. If I couldn’t get control of my lack of confidence, my future in the Karhath would be short.


J.J. opened the door with ease. Security had unlocked the door and disabled the alarm. But J.J. ripped out the alarm panel and disabled some wires to make it look like we broke into the home. So much for safety. We walked in and J.J. motioned his hand downward to say, “Be quiet and move slow.” I followed his lead. We made our way down the hallway decorated with around a dozen awards on its shelves. It must have been the trophy case, so to speak—the place where the target kept and remembered all his accomplishments.


We passed a long hallway to our left and kept moving forward. There was no one around. The hallways were empty and quiet. Everything went a little too easy. When something is too good to be true, there’s usually a reason why.


We arrived at a second hallway on our left and J.J. motioned me to follow him. I was grateful J.J. led me because he appeared to have no problem “holding my hand” every step of the way.


After a short distance, we came to a door. The sound of a holovision made its way into the hallway. It sounded like the news, but I was uncertain. J.J. stopped just outside of the door and I came up next to him. He peeked around the corner to confirm the target’s place in the room, and then snapped his head back from the doorway, turning it towards me.


“Okay, he’s by himself. He’s just sitting on the couch watching the HV,” J.J. whispered. “You stay here and keep a lookout. If anything goes wrong, tap your thigh alarm.” The device attached to the inner part of the pant leg. Tapping it sent a vibration signal to anyone within range who also wore one. It made for easy, quick communication in critical situations. “Head out of the building and don’t worry about me. I’ll get your signal. Just don’t forget to tap it.”


“Got it,” I whispered back.


J.J. pulled a black hood and some rope from his jacket’s side pocket. You’d think with the technology available, there would be a better way to grab the guy, bind him, and remove him from the building. But talking with J.J. earlier, he said, “Technology could be traced. A good old hood and rope doesn’t have a tracking device.”


J.J. slowly walked into the room. I wanted to watch, just in case something went wrong, but then my eyes would be off the hallways. Too paranoid about someone discovering us, my head and eyes fixed into a back and forth pattern. If a P.F. guard showed up, I hoped I would recall my training and not be paralyzed with fear.


“You’re late,” J.J.’s said.


“Well, I’m busy. All kinds of things cause delays,” another voice said.


I became confused. Was J.J. in there with someone else helping with the operation? Peeking inside the room, the holovision was on and a tan couch blocked me from seeing it, but there wasn’t anyone else. A whispering and grunting sound made its way to my ears. Then, J.J.’s head peeked up from in front of the couch. His eyes met with mine, and he waved me into the room.


Going into the room, I found our target on the other side of the couch. J.J. had bound and gagged him. He shook around violently, trying to break free, and the gag in his mouth muffled his attempts to yell for help. His convulsions caused him to hit the wooden coffee table and knock a glass of water onto the floor. J.J.’s ability to bind the target quickly shocked me. Glancing around, I realized we were the only people in the room. Who had he been talking to?


“Give me the sedative,” J.J. said.


Reaching into my jacket pocket, I pulled out a glass syringe. As I handed it to J.J., I let it go, thinking he had it in his grasp, but I made a mistake. The syringe hit the floor with a deafening shatter—its liquid contents flowed across the wooden floors’ surface.


“Shoot!” I said allowed, embarrassed by my mistake and the potential failure it could cause for our assignment.


“Don’t worry about it,” J.J. said, not allowing the error to effect our strategy. He seemed like someone who is ready at a second’s notice to make a change in plans. “We’ll just have to carry him out conscious. We’ve got a minute. Help me pick him up. After the camera loop stops, we’re sittin’ ducks.”


As he requested, I picked up the target by his feet. J.J. grabbed him underneath his armpits and we hoisted him into the air. The target struggled, trying  to knock us off balance, but we restrained him without a problem. At that moment, I wished I hadn’t broken the syringe with the sedative.


We ran as best as we could. My heart pumped fast and my eyes continued to scan the hallways for anyone who might discover us. As we approached the door to the outside, the target gave a little struggle causing J.J. to stumble, knocking into a trophy on the wall. A golden statue of a man with one arm held high in triumph fell to the floor and hit it with a loud bang. Motivated by the thought of someone hearing the sound, my legs and feet began moving into a faster gear, forcing J.J. to do the same.


We made it outside and the P.F. guard who had let us in waited by the gate. He waved his hands towards the gate. As if that would help us move any faster. J.J. and I continued to run past the guard, with the target still in our grasp.


We crossed a dimly lit, barren street. The guards had blocked off access to the street, allowing us to make it to the car without a problem.


“Open trunk,” J.J. said. The car’s trunk opened, exposing the uninviting gray, cold, metal interior. “Put him inside,” he said to me.


We laid him into the trunk and the target continued to twist and turn, trying to find a way to get free.


“Stop struggling, Dr. Atrasti,” J.J. said. “I’ve bound you very good. I suggest you relax. Maybe even take a nap.” J.J. smiled as if he held back a laugh. “We’ve got a long ride ahead of us.”


J.J. slammed the trunk door down and we hopped into the vehicle. He started the car, took manual control of it, and pushed the accelerator forward with his hand. We quietly took off at a great speed, hovering away from the crime scene.


***


We pulled into the hideout site three hours later. During the ride, Dr. Atrasti had made some noise. He banged into the sides of the trunk and his muffled voice called for help. But it didn’t matter. Only J.J. and I knew he was in there.


The hideout’s location in a rundown industrial area with homeless people and the less fortunate, made it easy for the Karhath to stay hidden. Since the Panacea Incident, the Karhath had to be careful about revealing their continued existence. The base camps rotated and never stayed in the same place for too long. This prevented accidental discovery, tracking by any opposed to us, and it kept potential moles from alerting anyone to our next site. The Karhath used this procedure for the past twenty-five years.


Our vehicle pulled up to a large building covered in graffiti, grime, and dirt. Aside from the large man standing outside the building, it looked abandoned


“You have the target,” the man asked as J.J. and I exited the vehicle. He had an intimidating, military-like composure.


“He’s right here,” J.J. said, walking to the vehicle’s back side. “Open trunk.”


The lid popped open to reveal an exhausted Dr. Atrasti. Fear filled his eyes but not terror. It was as if he knew the precariousness of his situation, but at the end of it all, he knew he would be safe.


“Very good,” the man said. “We’ll take him to the interrogation room. Aaron wants to see you both.”


J.J. and I looked at each other. I hoped it indicated a positive sign that Aaron wanted to meet with us. J.J.’s face showed no concern, and this made me feel better. But then again, he knew Aaron well. As far as I knew, he’d known the man his entire life. So while he may have been prepared for the meeting, a sense of uncertainty hit me in the pit of my stomach.


We walked into the empty warehouse and headed toward a dimly lit corridor. As before, I followed J.J.’s lead. I hadn’t been to this place before, so it was all new to me. As we walked to Aaron’s office, J.J. didn’t say a word. Along with robotic guards, men stood guard at different locations. In addition to them, video surveillance and motion-sensing equipment hung from various spots. For a mobile base, the security appeared to be top-notch.


We finally reached a door and stood in front of it. We didn’t knock or push a doorbell—we just stood there. Then, from behind the door, someone said, “Come in.” The door slid open and revealed a room with an office and bedroom rolled into one. There was a desk at the far end and Aaron sat on one side of it. On the other side was an older man, perhaps in his early seventies. The four of us in the room made it crowded, and I didn’t want to assume anything by making myself comfortable.


Both men stood up to greet us, reaching out their hands to shake ours.


“J.J., Lyle,” Aaron nodded to us.


“Everything went smoothly, sir,” J.J. said. “There were no problems that I’m aware of. Anything in the news.”


“Yes,” the older man said. He looked like he had been through a lot. He had white, short hair, and his belly protruded over his belt. But within his eyes resided zeal of someone thirty years younger. “They’re already reporting on this, even though it’s the middle of the night. I thought for sure no one would know until the morning. That’s why we grabbed him when he was alone. Sorry about that, Aaron.”


“No problem, Sam. A few hours isn’t going to make a difference,” Aaron reassured him.


Samuel, I thought. I heard about him since I joined the Karhath. He had been Aaron’s loyal advisor for the past thirty years. Even in the face of what Samuel considered bad choices, he stuck by Aaron’s side.


 “I’d like to handle the interrogation,” J.J. said.


“Really?” Aaron questioned.


“Yes. I think I can find a way to get to him. Maybe break him.”


“I think I’d rather do it,” Aaron said.


“But —”


Aaron put his hand up, interrupting J.J. While I had problem with the authority in power, I still respected those in charge. With all Aaron had accomplished for the Karhath, in particular keeping the group in existence despite the Panacea Incident, J.J.’s attempt to question Aaron’s decision was quite presumptuous. Since he warned me about questioning Aaron’s authority earlier in the day, his doing it surprised me


“I want to do it. Get a feel for where the doctor’s loyalties stand. Then I’ll know if he’s willing to do what we request. I may need your help, and if so, you can join me,” Aaron said sternly, clearly displeased J.J. had attempted to question his decision.


J.J. was visibly upset. I could tell he wanted this and he was justified. He did kidnap the doctor, as Aaron wanted—I’d want to be rewarded in some way, too. I got the feeling it would move him up a notch within the group if he got what the Karhath wanted. Seeking power was far from my thoughts and desires now, but I couldn’t help and wonder if a few years in the organization would make me feel differently.


“You know, you look a lot like your grandfather, but in many ways, you are much different than he was,” Aaron said, changing his tone slightly, as if remembering something that made him feel some compassion for J.J. “I’m not saying I don’t need your help. I just want to be the one who does this first. I’ll set a precedent. After that, it should be easier.”


“Very well,” J.J. said. “So how are we proceeding?”


“Aggression immediately,” Samuel said. “Aaron, you need to go in there, guns-a-blazing. Don’t let ‘em think at any moment we’re weak or sympathetic. If he does, it may be hard to break him.”


“Use violence up front?” Aaron questioned, obviously not sure about the tactic.


“Not violence, but the illusion that it’s coming. Make him fearful.”


J.J. shifted slightly, giving the impression the plan made him uncomfortable. What had he told me in the car? Something about winning people’s sympathy can make them more cooperative than attacking them outright.


“Sir,” I said, surprised that I spoke.


All three of the men looked at me. That nervous feeling crept into my stomach again, as if I had spoken but shouldn’t have. For a few seconds, my mind drew a blank as I contemplated the consequences of speaking up. Will I be reprimanded? Will I be demoted to some menial task? Or will they welcome the idea? It was too late to worry about the answers. I gathered my thoughts quickly.


“Yes,” Aaron said, drawing it out slightly. Apparently, it surprised him I said something, too.


“If I may make a suggestion,” I paused. They remained silent, giving me the opportunity to speak my mind. “Perhaps we follow Samuel’s plan of aggression, but we counter with a sympathetic approach.”


“Go on,” Aaron said.


A sigh of relief forced its way from my mouth, hopefully only noticeable by me. Gladly, Aaron hadn’t shut me down and told me to leave the room.


“What if you go in there with the aggressive approach? Then, J.J. goes in acting like he is Dr. Atrasti’s friend. Between the two of you, he might give up the information. Sometimes people tend to be more cooperative when they feel someone cares about them.”


Aaron and Samuel remained quiet. I concluded they mulled over what the approach would bring or whether they should allow me, pretty much a nobody in the Karhath, to have a say in their tactics. The latter seemed a lot more possible. Now that they had let me speak, I feared they would find my suggestion ridiculous. After a minute of silence, which became uncomfortable, Aaron finally spoke.


“It’s not a bad idea—an enemy and a friend. What do you think, Sam?”


“It might work,” Samuel said, rubbing his hand on his chin as he meditated on it. “Could prove effective.”


“J.J., you have a problem with this?”


“No,” J.J. replied, a smile formed on his face. “It’s actually a pretty good idea.”


Aaron walked the room, still not confirming he made a decision. As he walked, he glanced up at the photos hanging along the walls and stopped. He gazed at a picture that appeared to be him at a much younger age. Samuel was in the picture; he looked younger. Another man in the picture looked a lot like J.J., but since the man had long, gray hair and looked much older than J.J., it must have been his grandfather.


Aaron turned around, “We’ll take your suggestion, Lyle. I like it, and I think it could prove effective. J.J., Lyle, you can observe the interrogation from the adjoining room. I’ll be ready in thirty minutes.”


An overwhelming sense of pride filled my body. As hard as I tried not to, a smile formed on my face from one ear to the other. It felt good, real good, to know I gained Aaron’s approval and he used my suggestion. J.J. smiled, too and winked his left eye at me.


“Sounds good, sir,” J.J. said.


“While I’d love to watch, Aaron, I ask that I can retire for the night,” Samuel said.


 “Not a problem, Sam. You’re all dismissed,” Aaron told us.


We turned around to leave Aaron’s office. J.J. and Samuel walked out before me.


“Lyle,” Aaron called me back.


Turning around I said, “Yes, sir.”


“That was clever thinking.” He walked up to me and put his arm on my shoulder. “Keep that up, and you’ll go far with the Karhath.” He smiled and nodded his approval.


“Thank you, sir,” I said.


I turned around and walked out the door. At that moment, my place within the Karhath had undoubtedly improved.


***


J.J. and I stood within a room with little lighting. Darkness was a common thing at Karhath locations. It helped camouflage the hideouts, but besides that, the reason for it was anyone’s guess.


Before us a large window looked into an adjoining room. Within that room a single light hung from a long cord attached to the ceiling. Dr. Atrasti sat on a wooden chair in the middle of the room with his arms bound to it. A one-way mirror separated us from him, and he couldn’t see us.


The doctor looked exhausted, and his face had a cut on the left cheek. He must have put up a struggle earlier and someone had to calm him down.


“Aaron is good at this, but your idea was really good. You picked up on what I told you earlier today,” J.J. said looking through the window at Dr. Atrasti.


“Yeah, I found it odd our situation coincided with our conversation earlier. But if you knew what was to come, why didn’t you just mention it yourself? Seems it would have been a great benefit for you.”


“Because,” J.J. turned his head towards me, “I was trying to help you out. I knew you had it in you. I knew you’d speak up. I just had to make sure you said the right thing.”


 “Thanks for throwing me a bone,” I said.


“No problem, kid.”


Our conversation quickly ended because the interrogation room’s door slid open and Aaron entered. He changed his attire to black army pants and a tight black t-shirt. Despite being somewhere in his late forties or early fifties, he looked intimidating.


“Pay attention to what happens here,” J.J. said. “I need to make sure all the equipment is recording the interrogation properly.” He turned towards the instrument panel in the room and began going to work. He then pulled out a circular device and pinched it on two sides to open it. I had never seen anything like it before and I became curious about it.


“Now, Dr. Atrasti,” Aaron began saying and my head snapped back to the interrogation. “I know you were not expecting your evening to go like this.”


“Whatever,” Dr. Atrasti said defiantly.


Aaron rushed the chair where Dr. Atrasti sat and grabbed him by the chin; his fingertips pushed into his cheeks and fear filled the doctor’s eyes.


“But I don’t care. You’ll do what we ask.” Aaron pushed Dr. Atrasti’s face away with disgust and paced the room.


“I won’t do anything you want. Besides, what can I do for you that will help your cause?”


Aaron turned around and faced the doctor.


“You can do a lot, much like you did for the president over ten years ago. You know, you’re actually the one to thank for Panacea. Even the Karhath benefited from it. But you had to get him involved, didn’t you? You had to catapult him to authority no one would have seen otherwise. And where did that leave us?”


“Karhath?” Dr. Atrasti asked. “You’re Karhath? You guys all but disappeared after Panacea.”


“But we didn’t disappear,” Aaron said snakily. “We just didn’t let ourselves be seen. We had to regroup. Revise our plan. Because Panacea threw a wrench in it that we never expected.”


“I don’t care what you threaten or what you offer me. I won’t do what you want,” Dr. Atrasti said through gritted teeth.


Aaron went over to Dr. Atrasti and backhanded him across his right cheek causing the skin to break open and bleed. The doctor let out a yell at the pain.


“We’re not asking much,” Aaron said calmly. “Onforma-423 had a major effect on people. We simply want you to develop a new version of Onforma—one that goes beyond 423. We want you to take away death itself.”


“What?” Dr. Atrasti said with disbelief in his tone. “Are you crazy? What do you think I can just make a simple change and everybody lives forever? Onforma-423 took me ten years to make and even then I had help as I was working with prior research.”


Aaron stopped pacing around the room as he contemplated this response. He smirked slightly.


“Atrasti, I’m not asking you to make it tonight. I’ll give you all the time you need. I’m a patient man.”


“Never. Even if I wanted to, I doubt I would ever find the solution. Identifying and changing the DNA make-up would be near impossible.”


Aaron was visibly upset. He stormed over to Dr. Atrasti and kicked the top of his chair. The impact knocked the chair and Dr. Atrasti off-balance and both fell to the floor. He screamed out in pain as the fall pinned his arm under the chair.


“Let’s say what I’m asking is impossible. I know something that isn’t.” Aaron smiled slyly.


An alarm within our observation room began ringing and pulled my attention away from the interrogation. While not loud, it distracted me from viewing the it.


“Stupid thing’s not working,” J.J. said. He then started pushing buttons frantically to shut the alarm off.


Aaron stopped his questioning and looked into the room. Well, not into the room since his side was a mirror, but he looked at us nonetheless. He didn’t look happy.


Finally, J.J. managed to stop the alarm from sounding. Aaron stood for a few seconds staring into the mirror and then continued his interrogation.


“As I was saying, I know there’s something you could do for me.”


“I already told you, it doesn’t matter what you ask, I’m not doing it,” Dr. Atrasti said, still on the floor.


Aaron went over to him and lifted the chair and Dr. Atrasti. Dr. Atrasti looked relieved to be in a sitting position. But Aaron, moving in close to the doctor’s face, negated his relief.


“Oh, you will. I’ll make sure you will. We’ve got people watching your family, doctor. I know you wouldn’t want to see them get hurt,” he paused a second, “or worse.”


A new fear began to show in Dr. Atrasti’s eyes.


“So listen to me. If you feel making Onforma that takes away death is impossible, then I want you to create a counteragent to Onforma-423. I want something out there that reverses the effects.”


Aaron’s request shocked me. For him to ask such a thing was ridiculous. Onforma-423 changed everyone’s lives. It helped people. And the doctor, along with President Daniel, played a major role in making sure it helped people. Reversing it would be tantamount to finding homes for all the homeless and then taking them away from them. I couldn’t believe what he asked.


“You’re crazy,” Dr. Atrasti said. “I’d never have any part of doing such a thing. That was everything I worked for. I’d never undo what we did.”


“I was afraid you’d say that,” Aaron said. “Take a look at this.”


Aaron looked into the room and nodded his head. Taking the cue, J.J. pushed a button on the instrument panel. When he did this, Dr. Atrasti’s eyes widened. The mirror displayed a video. On a smaller screen within our observation room a woman and her daughter played at the park. In the bright sun, they smiled and laughed as the woman pushed her daughter in a swing.


“What do you think your daughter and granddaughter would think if they knew their deaths were a result of you not cooperating?” Aaron asked.


Dr. Atrasti didn’t say a word. His mouth had dropped open as if he wanted to speak, but nothing came out.


“It wouldn’t be a pleasant death, that’s for sure,” Aaron reassured him. “And every step of the way, they would know that it was your doing.”


“No,” Dr. Atrasti said, finally speaking out. “No. They would know why. They wouldn’t blame me.”


“Do you really believe that, Doctor? We could tell them whatever we like. Maybe that you work for us. Or you never cared for them, they were just a pawn in your plans. Whatever we want. And they’d die wondering at the very least if it was true. Especially your granddaughter. A young mind is so easy to manipulate.”


Dr. Atrasti hung his head down and looked at the floor. He did everything he could not to look at the video on the screen before him.


“Tell you what,” Aaron said, “I’ll give you a few minutes to think about this.”


Aaron exited the room and the door slid closed quietly behind him.


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