Your EncounterYour boots crunch dully against the gravel as you pace around the camp's edge, not out of duty but boredom. The desert sky filled with the singing of insects teases you with the sleep your brothers and sisters are enjoying just a few yards away. Your tired mind wanders endlessly down obscure rabbit holes until you hear a nearby rustling.
You scan the shadowy foliage with your flashlight, mindful of coyotes and more curious than concerned. From the darkness a pair of eyes shine back at you, watching almost intently from a foot or so off the ground. With a short weary sigh you place one hand on the pistol grip of the rifle hanging across your chest.
But the silvery orbs begin to rise. You watch, stunned, as they ascend a few more feet. Your heart races as they reach eye-level. You're frozen in place as they finally stop a full eight feet above the ground. Then two more eyes open on either side of the pair already staring at you from the darkness.
Choice in the MatterHe pressed his ear against the cold wood of the door, the brim of his hat flattening against the top of his head. After several seconds of silence he stepped back, an expression of calculating diligence set across his features. With the rustle of his trench coat and a glint of silver his pistol rose beside his head, gripped by a gloved hand. The door flew open and he brought his foot down to step inside.
Squares of glum light illuminated sections of furniture like modern art. The purposeful pace of his shoes' tapping across the swept floor permeated the shadows through which he passed, eyes slowly scanning the neat décor. With a long, lonely creak, the bedroom door drifted open. Like the rest of the apartment, it was carefully organized. Prepared, even.
"Do you think we are the masters of our destiny?" The mournful question emanated from the silhouette of a man sitting beside the desk, his back to the intruder. An arm leaned outward with a glowing cigarette as a tired cloud of smo
RE: Clone SoldiersIt is imperative that we exercise the utmost discretion in the selection of "clone handlers", not only for the obvious reasons of intelligence and asset protection, but for the lesser acknowledged danger such a task presents to the handlers' own mental health. While the clones are only biologically human, they incite one of two psychological responses: empathy and distress.
If we are not careful to select only candidates who are capable of preventing themselves from forming any emotional connection to the clones, and remain vigilant for such a lapse in character, the combat efficiency of this unparalleled military asset will be diminished. Handlers must see the clones as nothing more than valuable but expendable military hardware.
Research thus far has indicated two primary responses to interaction with the clones, both exceedingly dangerous. The following is an excerpt from an interview with a volunteer who spent several days managing a group of clones through a phase of testing:
99 LuftballonsCoins clicked onto the countertop beside a knot of red balloons. Nena and Carlo watched anxiously as the storekeeper counted out the change before sending them on their way with a smile. The two children ran with joy in their hearts through the streets, leaving an air of bliss that cut through the tension taut over their heads.
Ninety-nine red balloons held by rocks waited in the field just on the edge of town; the fruit of their day's labor. Giggling, they ran to and fro, releasing the balloons all at once into the sunny summer sky. As the last drifted into the bright abyss, the two danced together beneath the red cloud. Faces appeared in windows, hearts eased ever so slightly by the sight of childhood innocence.
Within concrete confines, a green blip appeared on a scope. Pulled from his nervous boredom, the soldier sat up and watched as the radar swept around once more. The blip grew. Heart leaping into his throat, the man called for his superior. A stern face hurried over, its eyes
Man on FireI saw him there. He walked with a purpose, a drive. I couldn't tell you what it was, but I saw him there.
I saw the darkness. The decay poured from him. I don't know its painful source, but I saw it there.
I saw his pain. A fire spouting from his heart. I don't know how the ash turned to lava, but I saw it there.
I saw that relief. The corruption melting off his bones. I don't know how it felt, but I saw it there.
I heard a cry. His lungs were crushed by agony. I don't know how he bottled it up, but I saw it there.
I saw him there. A man burning in his own mind. I can't call that living, but I saw it there.
The Autumn RiotsIt started with whispers and footsteps in the dead of night. Desperate Drag workers crept from their quarters and broke into the storage buildings while most of their guards slept. Tires were slashed and cans of gasoline spilled over the harvest, very nearly ready to be reaped its bountiful yield. With the strike of a match blue flame rippled across the crop, consuming it in a towering inferno.
Alarm quickly spread as the Citizen guards awoke, charging from their barracks into the darkness with clubs at the ready. Everyone ran to the growing blaze, where they immediately clashed with the rebellious workers. Drags still loyal to their masters speedily set upon the fire with buckets as the melee raged incomprehensibly amid the glowing chaos.
Papers reached every eye, immortalizing the broadcasts of an impending food shortage. The Drags knew the hardship would be theirs to bear as the Citizens ate heartily. Protests formed outside government buildings, crowds of discontent congealing agai