Across the Border
going to freeze you, Gooseman. I promise." Walsh's words
resounded in Shane's mind as he sat in the armored military
glider next to his– What is he now, anyway? Commander?–
Wolf Den Base is closed. Captain?– the insignia on this
jacket are different. And what am I? I have no military rank as
far as I know. He looked out the window and saw the rocky
island fall back behind him and finally disappear beyond the
horizon as the glider flew onward.
glanced quickly over at the ST next to him in the glider as he
remembered the senator's words: "You've got one try
– not two. If he learns how to behave out there... we'll
see. If not... You know what I'd prefer." I wonder how I
should teach 'normal life' to someone who has absolutely no idea
what it's like?
commander – until he says otherwise, that will do it
– set down his luggage in the hall of a pale yellow,
two-story house and walked up the stairs ahead of Goose. The
house stood in the middle of a garden that seemed to get rain
regularly, for in spite of the dry heat that lay over the
landscape even after nightfall, the plants were green. The area
obviously belonged to the military: they had come across some
armed guards and had to cross a checkpoint.
kitchen and living room are downstairs, the bedrooms and bath are
on the first level, my home office is on the second, electronics
are in the basement – keep your hands off them, they're
different from what you know – and," Walsh opened a
door and stepped aside to let Goose in, "this is your room
for the time being."
entered, dropped his spacesac onto the bed below the window and
turned back to Walsh for his orders.
talk tomorrow, Gooseman. It's late and I'm tired. You get some
The door slid shut.
an unfamiliar sound roused him out of sleep. It took him a moment
to identify the source: leaves rustling in the wind in the
rain-soaked garden. The sound differed strongly from the familiar
hiss of sand on walls and on the slight roughness of
back again and tried to go back to sleep, but his hearing was
fixated on the new and unknown sounds around him, his mind busy
identifying their sources: whispering leaves outside; small,
harmless animals among them; the cracking of the house itself as
its walls gave up the heat of the daylight hours.
was all strange compared to the sounds the barracks had made: the
electronic buzz of the power lines in the walls and the faint
beeping of computers that he'd always assumed were controlling
the force fields.
over, covering his ears with the sheet as he usually did, but
this cloth – it was smooth and cool and felt wonderful on
his skin – didn't block sounds like the rough blankets they
had handed him every evening.
hopeless. He pushed the sheet aside and got to his feet as it
whispered to the floor. If I can't sleep... Let's have a look
at this new world here!
was surprised when the door slid open as he came near it. He had
been sure it would be locked, as all doors were during sleeping
periods. He stepped into the doorway, quickly glanced into the
corridor. His eyes adjusted easily to the dim twilight. He held a
hand out, waited for the siren. But the silence
I'm not locked up
in here. Warily he left the room...
threads of the carpet in the living room rustled under his bare
feet, but that was the only sound he himself made. The room was
as strange as the others that he had already examined, filled
with more furniture than he could believe was useful. His eyes
picked out shelves covered with books, readcubies and a lot of
stuff he couldn't identify. Framed photographs hung above a lower
board: two middle-aged couples, dressed in elegant formal
clothing, waving to an open glider that seemed just to have
started at the moment the photo was taken; and portraits, some
obviously of a Walsh younger than Goose could remember him, a
slender woman at his side. He had never seen her at Wolf Den. In
the rest of the pictures the woman was alone: smiling, waving,
sometimes making faces, blue-green eyes laughing at the
photographer as she threw back her long, pale
Something in the board
below the photos caught his attention. I know this! There was
something like it in Walsh's office back in– But this one's
bigger. He studied the buttons on it. Looks pretty close
to the data carriers in cockpits... There's the slit to put the
DCs in. He looked around, bent down and searched in the lower
shelves. There are DCs! He read through the descriptions
on some of the optic data carriers, finally chose one. Yep,
thing works the same... Wow! The sound was better than the
one he'd heard at Wolf Den, hiding below the commander's window
when he was too young to be given personal training on his
abilities... He searched for the volume control.
Out Of Hell
sirens are screaming and the fires are howling
way down in the
There's a man in the shadows with a gun in his
and a blade shining oh so bright.
There's evil in the
air and there's thunder in the sky
and a killer's on the
Oh and down in the tunnel where the deadly
Oh I swear I saw a young boy down in the
He was starting to foam in the heat...
jerked awake as the SF-41-A he'd flown to earn his pilot's
license thundered over his bed... Moments later he woke up enough
to realize it was merely a dream adjustment to the sudden noise.
The basses vibrated through his bones, and his mind conjured up
the image of dancing books on a shelf. Leana,
the only thing we never shared was our taste in music. Why do you
have to play your recordings...? Reality caught him again,
expelled the wonderful dream of 20 years ago from his mind. He
glanced at the chrono on his bedside table: 2:18. Joseph fell
back onto his back and buried his head under his pillow. He
found the stereo system. Obviously I don't need to worry about
his skills in nonmilitary technology! He pressed the corners
of his pillow over his ears. How can somebody with enhanced
hearing stand that?! He groaned. I never knew I'd kept
your old recordings, Leana, just to give a 17-year-old ST the
chance to give me a heart attack... He threw his pillow
aside, knocked the chrono to the floor and got to his
the last thing I see is my heart still beating, still
breaking out of my body and flying away like a bat
out of hell,
a bat out of hell, like a bat out of hell, like a bat out of
like a bat out of hell, like a bat out of hell.
Normalities and Rules
Where's the food handed out?" Goose asked when Walsh came to
Food handed out?
Walsh frowned, then understood. "We have breakfast in the
kitchen, Gooseman. Wait there for me. Afterwards we'll talk about
the rules here."
Sir." Two steps more and Goose stopped. "Sir, and the
won't be any exams. That's over."
young ST turned back towards him, threw him a disbelieving look.
and for all, Gooseman."
bright smile appeared on the youth's face. I think I'm gonna
sat uncomfortably on the other side of the table, his eyes
flashing around, scrutinizing the food on the table, the dish in
front of him, the cutlery next to it. Finally he even looked
under his dish.
"What's wrong, Gooseman?"
the knife, Sir?"
to be pretty confused. "Right before your
Goose examined the
cutlery again and looked up. "Where, Sir?"
Walsh understood. Not confused, he just doesn't recognize it.
"This is a table knife, Gooseman." He held his own up.
"Battle knives aren't used at the table here."
this spatula doesn't cut."
isn't necessary at breakfast. Now take what you like and eat."
The commander continued his own breakfast, knowing that the ST
observed him carefully, took the same things in the same order
that he did: a glass of orange juice, a slice of bread–
Heck, he has to learn somehow. That engineered stuff at Wolf
Den was absolutely tasteless.– until Walsh used
Gooseman sniffed, tried
to analyze the smell of the stuff, then pushed it aside and
checked the next pot, cherry jam, which obviously passed the
smell test. He covered his slice of bread with it, then examined
the honey and poured it over the jam and checked the next
"You don't have to
take them all at once." Walsh suppressed a shudder at
Goose's 'creation.' "And usually you put butter or cheese on
the bread before adding jam or honey."
Walsh shoved it over to him.
single sniff turned the youth's face almost green. With a
nauseated expression he pushed it as far away as he could without
dropping it to the floor and snorted as if to get the smell out
of his nose. "Sir, that stuff's really bad."
I'm eating it myself."
smells like an overdue version of the white liquid in that
milk. Don't–" Walsh stopped. Shit, from a certain
point of view he's right. "Gooseman, cheese is milk
that's gone through a bacterial process. It's normal
ST looked disconcertedly at the cheese. "Do I have to eat
Walsh sighed. "No.
If you don't like it I won't order you to do it. Now eat. You'll
get your orders afterwards."
aren't allowed to leave the base or to enter secure areas. Civil
areas are absolutely forbidden, unless you are accompanied by me
or another commanding officer. Do you understand so
"Yes, Sir. Don't
move, unless you're with me."
suppressed a wince. "Correct. Second: Wolf Den and STP still
have a security classification of ultraviolet plus. That means it
is strictly prohibited to talk about, name or even mention them
directly or indirectly. This also includes any hint that might be
tracked back to them. All persons and things related to them do
not exist. Is that clear?"
if all this doesn't exist, then what am I?"
are my protege, if anyone should ask you; no more, no less. You
are neither an ST nor a member of the military, despite the
restrictions the senator put on you."
flash of fury appeared in the green eyes focused on him, but the
youth said nothing.
this must be pretty bewildering for you, but be careful. If you
make a single mistake concerning security matters or restricted
areas, the senator will freeze you faster than a blaster bolt
hits its target."
do I have to understand all this?"
Gooseman." Walsh sighed. "But you have to follow it
your hands off my things!!!" The cleaning lady jumped
backwards as he tore his spacesac out of her hands.
mio!" She crossed herself towards the furious young man with
the flashing eyes who hissed at her like an angry panther. "Dios
mio," Elena repeated and slowly moved backwards towards the
door, forgetting the vacuum cleaner, which clattered to the
floor. She repeated the cross sign when the growl
"I... I only
wanted to clean the r–"
door behind her slammed open. "What's going on
Her employer. "This– this..." She teetered
between rage and fear, noticing that the blond man didn't let her
out of sight of his icy eyes.
What's going on here?!"
woman tried to steal my things."
Santiago is here to clean up the house, Shane. Not to rob
"She took my bag
from my bed."
supposed to wash the sheets once a week, boy. It's okay, what she
did. Let her do her job." He turned to his cleaning lady.
"You can go on, now. It was only a
don't think I'm going to be alone with– with him again, do
you?!" Elena snorted and collected her cleaning
"Shane, come with
to do her job. Nothing will happen to your things. Go, wait
Walsh watched him
leaving the room. "Please forgive him, Elena. This is all
totally new to him. Where he had to grow up, privacy was only
what you could defend for yourself."
was he raised? In jail?" she snapped.
Elena. Much worse. And he has only a few weeks to learn a whole
noticed the sadness in her employer's voice and calmed down. "How
long has he been learning now?"
won't report it, Shane. But the next time, who knows?" Walsh
sighed and took a seat in the easy chair. "Remember: I can
give you only this one chance. If you make a mistake –
there's no second attempt." He looked earnestly at the young
ST, who sat with folded legs on the living room carpet. "The
world out there is much stranger than you may think and you are
not allowed under any circumstances to use the weapons and
defense techniques you know while learning to deal with it. If
you harm anything or anyone out there without a direct order from
me personally, the senator will freeze you to absolute zero and
lock me up till 'eternity' is redefined. Do you
"You have a lot
to learn. And I guess none of us knows what the difficulties for
you may be. So if you don't understand something – ask.
Never take action before you're–"
The young man in front of him was looking, obviously fascinated
by what he saw, at something on the windowsill. "What are
these creatures? They're fantastically colored."
turned, followed his look and sighed again. "Neon fish. It's
it comforting to look at them."
is going to be more difficult than I thought. "Because..."
woke up, thinking he'd heard the second reveille. The next one
would be followed by the usual electric shock through the bed
frame, the punishment for those who didn't get up in time. He
grimaced. He never noticed the first reveille, and then he
growled at the second before he leaped hastily out of bed at the
third. He'd never been someone who got up easily. Now the third
reveille thundered through the dormitory.
scrambled out of bed and suddenly was surrounded by a horde of
people, all the way to the horizon, staring at him with
featureless faces, repeating: You are not allowed under any
circumstances to use your weapons against us... You are not
allowed under any circumstances to use your weapons against us...
You... They were closing in, coming nearer and nearer. The
sentence grew louder with every sliding step of the crowd hemming
him in. He covered his ears, closed his eyes. They pressed
against him from all sides. He tried to run, but there was no way
out. He was imprisoned by the faceless figures who screamed in
his ears, gnawing at his face to make him like they were. He
turned, pushed them back with all the strength he could find and
saw his fingers, transformed against his will into silvery claws,
tearing through the bodies around him. Familiar laughter arose
behind him. He turned again, saw all the featureless faces
melting into one face: Wheiner's. You lost! You lost! You
lost!... Closing in on him, the faces became transparent, forming
glass walls that trapped him. It grew cold, so cold... He was
jolted out of sleep, sat straight up in bed, deeply inhaling the
still-strange smells of the unlocked room, and took in the dim
colors of the furniture in starlight that shone through a window
of simple glass. Slowly he calmed down in the whispering silence
of leaves, not sand, moved by the wind outside.
congratulations on your new assignment. I really believe that
BETA has an interesting future ahead. You'll see." Colonel
Patricia Enderson, the spokeswoman for Earth Force's general
staff, shook his hand as they stood in front of his house. "It's
going to be quite a big step for your career." She checked
her briefcase as she prepared to leave. "Oh, I'm sorry,
Commander. We've got to go back. I forgot the file with the
documents you prepared for me."
necessary, Colonel." Walsh turned toward the house and
shouted: "Gooseman, please bring us the file that's lying on
way he could have heard you."
got pretty good ears, Colonel."
blond head appeared on the balcony. Goose held up an orange file.
– bring it here, please."
you feeling better?" Walsh steadied her.
Enderson put a hand to her forehead. "We've got to call an
feeling that bad, Ma'am?" Goose asked her and handed the
file he'd brought to Walsh.
looked up and turned pale again.
looked over at Walsh, who was almost carrying Colonel Enderson.
"Does she do that often, Sir?"
Walsh snapped, "but people usually don't jump from
second-story balconies right before her eyes."
not? It's the fastest way down."
would break their bones, Gooseman." Walsh sighed. "I
guess you'd better go indoors before she's fully conscious
"And Gooseman –
use the stairs!"
Order and Offer
half despairing and half amused, watched the young ST coming
towards him. I don't know if it will work to teach him social
behavior this way. But it's a damn sight better than a baseball
game. The cheering crowds of fans would have been more than he
could take. People in the shopping mall were nearly jumping
out of Goose's way at the sight of the 17-year-old's expression.
His hardened chin, flashing eyes and precisely controlled
movements betrayed him as a trained combatant even to an ignorant
person. At least he's found a way to keep people at a distance
without actually growling at them. Gooseman stopped in front
"Here're the ice
cream cones you wanted, Sir." The boy stood almost at
He's as tense as
if everyone around here were a possible enemy. "Relax,
Goose. This isn't a maneuver."
know, Sir. It's more complicated." His eyes continued
flashing over the crowd surrounding them. "No recognizable
pattern in the moves."
that's exactly what he was trained for. Walsh sighed. "Choose
an ice cream. One's for you."
looked suspiciously at the two cones the commander had ordered
him to buy.
chocolate?" Walsh asked.
knows neither ice cream nor its flavors. How could he? He was
given only controlled, engineered food at Wolf Den, that couldn't
interfere with his developing DNA. Walsh handed the youth one
of the cones. "Try chocolate."
this isn't an order, it's an offer."
smile flashed over the tense face and was gone almost before
Walsh realized it was there. "I know, Sir. But how do I
accept an offer if not the way I follow an order?"
am I supposed to explain that?!
closed the front door behind him and threw his jacket onto one of
the hooks next to the mirror. He was late. It was hard work to
restructure a whole bureau – even such an unimportant one
as the Bureau of Extraterrestrial Affairs. He found Gooseman
sitting at the desk Walsh had put in the room he had given the
boy, surrounded by the heap of books he had ordered the ST to
read. The young man looked tense and bored and frustrated as
usual as he bowed over a book about correct language and social
roles. Can't blame him for it. Must be hell for someone like
him to stay indoors and learn about things he's never heard of
before – and never believed necessary either – all
day long. I guess he needs something to do that he already knows
how to do... to feel he's succeeding in something.
you like to work on my glider tomorrow?"
have to come with me to BETA to do it, and you'll have to finish
before my shift ends."
long is your shift?"
need that long."
still have to stay in the garage till I come back. And you'll
have to wear the identifying clothes." Walsh suppressed a
grimace at the thought of the grey coverall with the red BETA
sign to identify the wearer as a nonhuman, non-Earth Force,
possibly dangerous entity. But the ST in front of him only
nodded. He doesn't know any better. I will change that as soon
as possible! He added another title to his mental list of
books for Gooseman to read: the BWL's "Charter of Human
[18th Birthday – 18 y.a.d]
you're not allowed to leave the garage, Gooseman. The special
permission grants you free movement only in here,
"Do a good job
on my glider."
will, Sir." Goose was already checking to see what tools
Walsh smiled at
his last view from the lift of the young man rummaging in the
tool box. This was a good idea. Everyone needs a success
sometimes... and Sergeant Maccabee won't put up with any
followed the wiring from the control console down to its contacts
within the motor block and checked to see what it was connected
with. This must reduce the speed! He followed the wires
again, examined the linked chip cards as well. Something like
an automated cranking limit... can't make sharp turns with this
thing built in. Stupid idea. He looked to see if the chip did
anything else and found nothing. Good. That's easy to
done a good job so far, Sir." Maccabee reported through the
comline up to Walsh's office. "Hasn't caused any trouble. If
all of my men worked that efficiently and quickly, we wouldn't
have problems with the vehicle park."
an eye on him anyway, Sergeant. The boy's more than he appears to
that, Sir. Nobody has to wear the visitors' uniform when
he's no alien unless he's not what he seems."
you finished the work?" Walsh came back two hours earlier
than he had said, accompanied by a slim man in a white coat with
strange reading aids on his nose. "This is Dr.
Goose greeted the
man with a slight nod.
have to go to the spaceport to pick up some equipment for his
laboratory. You'll have to wait here till I'm
restrictions don't allow you to leave here, except when we're
going home." Walsh started the glider. "BETA doesn't
have that many employees so far, so we have to do this ourselves.
Don't cause any trouble, Gooseman." Walsh gave him a deep
frown. "You know why."
Sir. But–" The roar of the engines revving drowned out
collected the tools and laid them in the correct order back into
the boxes. Then he sat down with folded legs on the floor and
waited. Maccabee came over to him. "Like to hear some
stories from the Colonial Wars, boy?"
no tinseled officer, boy, and what's your name?"
Shane. But I must warn you: all the people I know say my stories
are damn bloody. So don't accuse me later of giving you
may I ask why you made such a fuss about that fort?"
fuss!!!? Boy, we're talking about the destruction of Fort Exeter
incompetent strategy. You'd have needed only half of the troops
if–" Faintly Goose heard a tremendous crashing sound.
He jumped to his feet in one motion and ran.
Maccabee shouted. "You aren't allowed to leave."
crash! Didn't you hear it?!"
heard nothing. Stop immediately, or I'll shoot!"
whatever you have to!" Goose didn't even alter his stride
when the first blaster bolt hit the permacrete in front of him.
The second shot grazed his shoulder. He ignored it. Before the
sergeant could fire again, the ST was out of the gate and
increasing his speed on the street. There! He heard a
glider bike accelerating behind him. Good. I may need someone
with first aid skills. He ducked the next five shots. Idiot.
Don't fire on a moving target with an LR in intervals that short.
Thing can't recharge that fast! He changed direction when he
noticed the serpentine road on the slope below him. A glider lay,
its front end crumpled into the rock, some twenty meters below
him. Without hesitating he slid down the steep
Goose's first look at the
glider's make and insignia confirmed his fears. Hell, I
already knew it was Walsh's. From the sound, he could tell
that the glider bike was following the street.
glider bike finally raced around the turn – and his mouth
dropped open when he saw the young man who'd listened to his old
stories tear off the front passenger door of the armored glider
without any apparent effort and toss it
Gooseman helped the slim
scientist out of the vehicle and settled him on the far side of
found his voice. "Okay, that's enough. Whatever you
are, don't move an inch!"
youth stopped, didn't turn. "I have to get the commander
squad will arrive soon. You've got enough trouble for
It's gonna detonate in a few seconds!"
Maccabee came closer, held the rifle carefully pointed at Goose's
"I can smell the
fuel, hear the buzzing of demantled electronics–"
tell the stories on this base! Don't move!" Maccabee never
even saw the leap that covered the space between them. Then a
blow hit the rifle, ripped it out of his fingers and slammed it
to the ground. It shattered on the permacrete.
a deep, furious growl the boy turned, closed in on the glider,
dived inside and lifted the commander out, carrying him like a
bundle over his shoulder, and ran as fast as possible from the
already smoking glider.
Let me down!"
He dropped Walsh and waited, breathing heavily.
are–" Gooseman's body hit his chest, knocked him over
and covered him as the glider behind them exploded in a ball of
fire and burning plastics.
a moment the ST got back on his feet and helped the commander up,
too. "I'm sorry, Sir. I didn't follow your
Walsh looked at
the burning remnants of his glider, at QBall, who gathered
himself up with a pale face, and at a despite-it-all furious
Sergeant Maccabee, who stalked up to them, the stunner in his
bleeding hands pointing straight at Goose.
with it!" Walsh barked.
the weapon, immediately! That's an
happened to your hands?"
demon ripped my rifle–"
Walsh turned wearily to the young man waiting next to
"I heard the crash,
Sir. I wanted to help, but the sergeant wouldn't let me go. I
thought it was better to disobey than to risk a loss of
Walsh laid a hand
on Goose's arm. "You're right." He looked over at the
smoking wreck. "It was a good decision." He saw the
glow of pride appearing in the green eyes. "Is QBall all
Some scratches, just like you."
looked down at his arms and noticed the bleeding cuts there for
the first time. "Hope the rescue squad arrives
"It will, Sir.
The siren's about five miles away, coming closer."
happened to your shoulder?" Walsh suddenly noticed the blood
that soaked the grey cloth.
Gooseman shrugged. "The sergeant is a better marksman than I
"He shot at
you?" And is still alive?!
was commanded to do so, if I should leave." Goose examined
his shoulder. "I left." He took a deep breath. "Sir,
may I use my abilities on the wound?"
looked around, positioned himself between the sergeant and QBall
and Gooseman. "Yes, stop the bleeding."
was nearly trembling by the time the wound closed. He noticed
Walsh's questioning look. "It's harder without the regular
energy donations at the base, Sir."
powers will always stay with you, Shane. They're implanted in
going to lack the energy to use them, Sir. I only stopped the
bleeding, and I'm already exhausted."
will find a solution for that, too."
what exactly did you do to my glider?" Walsh scratched at
the plasters that covered the itching grazes he'd gotten during
"I took out the
thing that limited turns."
stabilizer?! You dismantled the stabilizer? It increases driving
security by about 46 percent."
also slowed your vehicle down, Sir."
5 percent. Only 5 percent, Gooseman!"
I said, Sir: it slowed it down."
deal was civil rights for him if he manages to live in human
far as I can see he's more or less a pet, a very dangerous and
illegal pet, in your house, Walsh. No more. You don't expect
me to grant civil rights to an object as dependent on
another person as is a child, but that isn't actually a child, do
you? And I'd hardly say that he has a place in this society. He
hasn't even got a job!"
do I understand correctly that you'll see our deal as being
fulfilled when he gets his own income?"
snorted, "Yes, of course. But don't expect me to reduce the
restrictions on him before that. He's still not legally a
person and he'll never be one! I agreed to grant him freedom of
movement, finances and job in return for you keeping your mouth
shut. But anything beyond that – forget it!" He
disconnected the line.
shitty asshole! I'd like to drag your backside through all the
shards you left behind at Wolf Den! Walsh spun his chair
around and kicked his wastebasket in frustration, slamming it
into the holotank. It's too early. He doesn't understand human
behavior well enough yet for me to get him a job and leave him
alone with it.
noticed the short glance Gooseman threw at Walsh before answering
their question. The leader of the rescue squad at BETA base,
Captain Florian McNamara, nodded at Goose's answer, then said:
"That's the answer your mentor wants you to give."
colleague to the right continued. "We need to know what you
think about rescuing a do-it-yourself customer who crawled into a
downward-sloping oil pipeline that narrowed at the
idiot is really that stupid, we should leave him stuck there!
It'd be a good cleansing for the human gene pool."
two men made some notes in silence; their female colleague,
Lieutenant Ginger Rhettray, hid a smile behind her
Walsh suppressed a groan.
That's it for Rescue.
leading officer made a short gesture. "Wait outside,
Gooseman. We'll have to discuss your answer."
sorry, Commander. But we can't risk putting your protege on duty.
Look," McNamara laid his fingertips together. "When we
send someone to an accident, say a dropped lift cabin, we usually
don't know if the victim is a 40-year-old dock worker who's
sufficiently calmed by hearing, 'It'll take 15 minutes to get ya
outta there, the ambulance is outside' or a lady of 98 years
who's already closer to dying of her panic than of her
his powers would be a great asset should it come to a real
catastrophe. But we can't let him sit around twiddling his thumbs
till one happens." McNamara shook his head. "When he
pulled off the safe sealing... His strength is
snickered. "He's going to need it. Looks like Ging put him
on her wanted list." He nodded towards the empty chair next
to him. His chief made a face at the comment.
started. "You don't mean that she–?"
man grinned a bit salaciously. "Between us men – she
usually gets what she wants."
Lord!" Walsh jumped up. "That'll go wrong for
"Keep calm, she
knows what she's doing."
heard the furious growl of Goose's warning rising above a woman's
soft laughter long before he reached the waiting room.
idea to assault me!" Shane hissed, turned the woman's right
wrist and prepared for a palm blow.
Gooseman!" Walsh shouted from the door, when he saw the
woman's knees buckle from the pain.
tried to attack me!"
her go! Immediately! That's an order!"
ST obeyed and lowered his hands. Before Walsh could react, Ginger
Rhettray rushed up and gave Goose two good boxes on his ears.
"Bastard son of a bitch!" she spat.
Gooseman!!!" Walsh intervened immediately. "Don't do
anything!" he ordered sharply in his best commando
"We will talk
later. Wait in my office!" When the ST didn't move: "Now!!"
The door slammed shut behind him. Walsh heard the heavy sound of
angry steps running in the corridor outside. "Are you okay,
you think?" she snapped, holding her wrist. "That
I have to explain something to you."
now! First I'm getting my arm treated and then I'm registering a
complaint at HQ. This berserker can't keep getting away
please, let me explain first."
sighed in annoyance, considering his rank. "Okay, Sir. In
one hour. And afterwards I'll do what I want about this!"
found the door to his office locked. He knocked. "Gooseman,
open the door." – No answer. "Open the door
immediately!" His voice grew louder.
your gengineered ass over here and open this goddamn door or I'll
personally stuff you into the cryocrypt and slam the lid
The door slid aside.
"Sir?" Gooseman trembled with rage.
wouldn't wonder if his eyes started shooting laser beams like
Stingray's in a moment. "We have to talk about it,
Gooseman," Walsh said as calmly as he could
"Why? You don't
believe me anyway."
a fundamental misunderstanding, Shane."
did not. She–"
attempted a strike against the lower chest nerve points. Pretty
weak, but a weak enemy is still an enemy!"
sighed. This is gonna be damn difficult. "Her
intention was not to attack you, Gooseman." At least not
an attack of the kind he knows. Hell, how am I supposed to
explain behavior based on emotions he doesn't
mean as part of their reproduction cycle? That's crazy. She
doesn't know if I'm compatible or not."
desires and feelings aren't logical, Gooseman."
got to wait, Shane. These are things that just can't be explained
at the moment."
am I supposed to do when it comes to these things?"
it! Hell, the senator would freeze me if I told him that!
"You are not supposed to do anything in that direction,
Gooseman." An ugly little voice in his head called him
coward. "But you must learn to recognize the behavior and to
discourage the women without hurting them."
they ask directly, say you are not interested."
Rhettray didn't ask, Sir."
cold and reject their approach but do not harm them physically.
None of them has the power to overwhelm you. I guess you already
don't need any strength for an attack against nerve points,
"Gooseman, most of the people in this world don't even know
that nerve points exist, let alone how to use them in combat."
He had a look at his chrono. "We'll finish this discussion
later. I have to have another talk now." With the second
Rhettray. First, I'd like to say that I'm sorry for the
it, Commander. You're not the maniac who attacked me. You can
excuse him as often as you like, but I will pin his ass to the
wall for this!" She held out her bandaged
a fundamental misunderstanding on his side, and I should have
noticed the possibility for such a misunderstanding before it
actually happened. He's been trained almost all his life for
combat under harsh and unknown conditions. You must see, from his
point of view you behaved like an enemy and he reacted against a
clear threat. I was one of his trainers, so I should have
"An enemy?!! I
smiled at him and ran my fingers over his chest. Dammit to hell,
I tried to seduce him! Life-threatening, really," she
snapped, "if he's allergic to lip gloss!"
totally unaware of what you intended to do."
don't expect me to believe that, do you? A man of his appearance
he's not just innocent, he lacks the whole emotional base for the
behavior you expected from him. He's been given sexual inhibitors
since before he was ten, the dose was increased to the max when
he was eleven, and the drug is still present in his
"You mean he
really believed I was attacking him?"
afraid so, Lieutenant. For him the whole thing was a serious
combat situation. He's incapable of seeing it any
kind of devils did that to a man like him?!"
was one of them. "Are you going to report him?"
thought about it. "No, Sir. But if I were you I would make
sure that he learns as fast as possible. He's damned attractive,
in case you hadn't noticed."
should have known it! Damnation, why did they have to give him of
all people a test scenario that fits into the patterns for
biological weapons use? He put down his glass and leaned back
in his chair, reflecting on the test...
this is a test to show us if you can apply your knowledge about
biological and chemical hazards in real life, Gooseman. You get
the following information: In some relatively heavily populated
suburbs of San Francisco, former USA, 34 cases altogether of
botulism are reported. The local health center cannot find any
links between the victims. What do you have to do?"
plot on a map the area where each of the victims was found,
surround those spots with circles indicating the victims' likely
movements over the last 12 hours, and enclose all the small
circles with a big one to allow an additional 10-kilometer
security radius. Second, get data from the weather institute
about wind and humidity for the last 12 hours in the area and
expand the marked area in the direction of the main
From across the
table, George Michaels, the investigator for hazardous materials,
frowned. "What is that all for?"
find the required size and the optimal drop point for the plasma
bomb?!!" The investigator nearly jumped out of his
"Of course, Sir. It
leaves no radioactive fallout behind and safely destroys the
viruses, like Ebola, Lassa, Marburg, tularemia, and so on, that
are intended to spread next."
god's name, what are you talking about?!"
that point Walsh had interrupted the test, knowing it was already
over. "He's talking about biological weapons usage. If you
were struck with weapons like those, destroying the affected area
is the only way to save the rest of the country." With a sad
sigh: "It's a classic scenario, George."
gave him a scenario about rotten meat in a public cantina at a
playing field or something like that and he's suggesting wiping
out San Francisco, Joseph!"
of the biological warheads start by spreading botulinus toxin to
cause an outbreak of botulism and prevent any serious attempts at
containment before their freight of other diseases has
took up his glass again and looked through the balcony door up at
the clear night sky. I thought his problems were about all the
things in human behavior he doesn't know well enough – but
it seems they're also based on what he knows far too well.
Ma'am Prime Senator
opened the pale blue envelope that had come in the daily mail and
glanced over the gold-edged card inside it. "For God's sake!
What have I done that they're doing this to me?!" The rest
of the mail fell to his desk, and he hurried down the stairs,
shouting, "Gooseman! Get your jacket, we've got to go
immediately!" And on the way I'll have to make sure that
he knows not to knock out the tailor for what will surely seem to
him like a strangulation attempt!
checked collar, buttons, and cuffs on his dress uniform jacket,
then went downstairs and did the same with Shane's. He
scrutinized the ST, who, more or less patiently, endured the
procedure in silence. "Okay, that will do it." He
picked up the keycard for his glider and marched out the door.
"And remember: Do not speak to any of the senators without
being spoken to first, don't use slang or abbreviations –
that means watch your language, clear? And for heaven's sake,
don't growl at anyone, and use the correct address forms. I guess
you know why we got this damn invitation!"
Wheiner wants to test me. He wants me in the cryocrypt, and he's
starting to get impatient because I've refused to bring myself in
Walsh looked at
him in surprise. He understands more of this game than I
believed. He sighed. "Right, and we can't risk giving
him any ammunition."
never wise when dealing with an enemy, Sir."
that's Joseph's protege. Looks like he feels pretty uncomfortable
here. She observed his build and movements as he retreated a
little more into the background near the wide windows. That
suit must have been made by Joseph's tailor. Joe's never cared
for fashion trends, always was dressed in something that matched
himself, just like this boy is now. She allowed herself an
amused smile. I bet the guards don't want to deal with him at
all. She walked over to him. "You don't look like you're
having any fun this evening, young man. What's your
Goose started and
looked at the old woman who had approached him from the side,
trying to identify her status from the sash she wore. "Shane
Gooseman, Ma'am–" He interrupted himself, startled,
and corrected: "Please forgive me, Lady
Hays laughed. "No, I won't." She saw the green eyes
jump up to her face again. "Since I don't believe an apology
is necessary, I haven't heard one." She patted his forearm
with her fan. "I enjoyed being called Ma'am again. So much
time has passed since someone addressed me that informally. Keep
on doing it. – But you look like you feel totally out of
the suppressed sigh. "This is all very strange to me,
Ma'am." A short smile flashed over the tense face. "Whenever
something makes sense to me, I've obviously misunderstood
She laughed. "Oh,
my, how much time did your mentor give you to learn the colors
and emblems, and the behavior expected towards their wearers,
that you need for a ball like this? A week?"
and a half days, Ma'am."
joking. Joseph wouldn't do that to anyone. I remember him when he
was here for the first time, I think it was for my daughter's
debut, and he looked as though he felt as much out of place as
you do now." The two were a perfect couple. She
smiled sadly at the memory. "It was about twenty-five years
ago, and they invited him because he was a highly decorated hero
from the Colonial Wars – the Siege of Mars, if I recall it
correctly. He stood there in his dress uniform, with all the
decorations he'd gotten for his courage on his chest, and around
him all these smart-alecky senator types, who'd never even seen a
warplane, let alone a space battlefield, were telling him how the
battle he won should have been done." Maddie giggled.
"Sonny, I thought he'd jump through the next window to
over at Walsh, who was occupied with two elder generals, and
tried to imagine him as a bewildered youth like himself in midst
of this turmoil. "It's hard to believe that,
to believe that Joseph did the same thing they did to him to
anyone else," Mrs. Hays said calmly.
didn't have a choice. The invitation arrived only two days
Lady Prime Senator
Madeleine Hays looked warily at him. "Wait for me, Sonny.
I've got something to check, and then we'll continue our
won't leave, Ma'am." A short half-smile appeared on his
face. "I promised my mentor that I wouldn't break any
She laughed slightly. "All escape routes are blocked."
is it true that you got the invitation for you and your protege
only two days ago?"
Lady Prime Senator. On December 29, to be exact."
this LPS-nonsense, Joseph. We've known each other far too long
for it. What I want to know is, who sent it? The invitations were
done in early October, and you weren't on the list since I know
how you hate this kind of event."
envelope was marked with the official BWL stamp, that's all. It
was a formal invitation."
of the sort that means: 'Show up or your career is
slightly. "Yes, of course. What other kind would someone
never at a loss for an official reason to make it impossible for
you to come."
could have avoided it without any problems. But the invitation
insisted on his," he nodded towards Gooseman, "appearance,
too. And I couldn't throw him into the shark pool alone, could
Maddie followed his
look back to Goose. "He looks like he sees everyone in here
as an enemy."
damn right, Maddie.
is not the kind of party he usually goes to, is it?"
never been to any kind of party before, Maddie. And the one who
forced him to be here knew that very well."
a wild guess: Eric?"
matches his saying: Never miss an opportunity to torture someone.
I've hated him from the very beginning, and I still wonder how he
can convince his voters every five-year period. Sometimes I think
he's programmed his vote into their genes!"
joke about that, Maddie. It's too dangerous."
for me, Joey. Not for me." She noticed his short twitch at
the old nickname she had used twenty-five years ago when he
courted her daughter. Somehow she'd stopped using it after the
two were married.
not a Lord Prime Senator, Maddie. I'm only commander of BETA. And
he," again he looked over to Goose, "has no protective
rank at all."
always believed the youngest people in a circle should add their
ideas to a discussion." Eric Wheiner's voice rose above the
noise at the table. "I think Mr. Gooseman should say what he
knows about the revolutionary new idea of genetic warfare and the
advantages it still offers mankind despite that nasty incident
with the military's project on super troopers."
Shane! He's trying to trap you! Walsh groaned inwardly,
unable to warn the young man sitting halfway down the table from
Walsh's own place next to the Lady Prime Senator at the table's
"Now, what do you
say, Mr. Gooseman? You have an opinion on the topic, don't
Goose's voice was emotionless and cold. The commander saw the
same intensity of concentration he had often seen on the ST's
face when Shane formulated an answer back in Wolf Den's
classroom. "I can't share your opinion that genetic warfare
is a new advantage for mankind."
mean to say that genetically optimized soldiers are a bad idea?"
Wheiner asked across the silent table.
up, Shane! Don't mention Wolf Den. That's still a
Senator. But genetic warfare isn't a very new idea. It was
already being practiced at the end of the twentieth century to
create virus and bacteria strains optimized for use as biological
weapons, like the hemorrhagic fevers that spread like a flu
through the air instead of needing physical
no way related to genetic warfare, Mr. Gooseman. That's only
well-targeted biological warfare," Wheiner snapped, and took
another bite from his filet. "We're discussing genetic
warfare, and I want to hear your opinion on that!"
the human genome was decoded by an international project in the
early 21st century, and by about five years later your
well-targeted biological weapons were able to distinguish
between target and nontarget groups."
snorted. "That's absolute nonsense."
you believe the extinction of the !Kung bushmen in the Namib
desert within a two-month period in 2026 was an evolutionary
around him clattered onto plates as a shocked silence fell at the
table. Walsh felt his fingernails digging into his palms. Shit,
that's it. He's buried himself. The !Kung die-out is the most
hated topic among the BWL's members.
single pair of hands applauded, and Madeleine Hays smiled warmly
as she spoke: "I admire your courage, Mr. Gooseman. And
being the oldest person at the table, I guess I'm the only one
who can really remember the messages circulating back then. At
the beginning there was a lot of contradictory news about what
happened in Namibia. Some rumors about an illegal test of a
genetically optimized and targeted virus weapon even appeared.
And then, suddenly, there was a big news campaign talking about a
very infectious strand of flu hitting this isolated human
population extremely hard. They had no immune factors against it,
so most of them died. About twenty years later, when the Board of
World Leaders took the business of leading this planet out of the
hands of the nonunified nations, a number of documents were
discovered that confirmed Mr. Gooseman's statement." She
took a deep breath and cut off a red-headed senator's attempt to
speak up. "But I won't deny that most of us back then, who
were children or relatives of, married to, or even military
members ourselves, didn't want to accept what had been done. So
most of us stayed with the comfortable lie, though the truth was
told and written for everybody to see." She smiled warmly at
Gooseman again. "It took nearly sixty years for someone here
in the Hall of Earth to find the courage to name it for what it
was: the use of a genetically optimized weapon for eugenic
purposes. I think we should think about how we behaved toward the
lies back then and not about the one who spoke the truth today."
She continued her meal, clearly indicating that she considered
the topic closed.
normal chatter around the table had begun again, Walsh said in a
very low voice, "Thank you, Maddie. The moment the boy
spoke, I thought I'd lost."
thanks are necessary, Joseph," she whispered back. "I
always enjoy crossing Eric's plans. And by the way: Your protege
is a remarkable young man. There aren't many young people whose
eyes are open to the ugly side of our world."
only knows the ugly side, Maddie. He's still learning to deal
with the less rotten version of it.
think I want to hear more from him. Maybe I'll squeeze some
information out of him during the New Year's dance."
heaven's sake, Maddie. Don't try it. He can't dance, and he isn't
fully aware of his physical strength, either."
That makes it more interesting. And as for the dance –
well, I've still got three hours to correct that." She
grinned as broadly as a nearly 75-year-old Lady Prime Senator
could allow herself. "You ought to be glad for it, Joey. As
long as I'm occupying him nobody else will dare to risk
approaching him, since I'm known to be a very nasty customer when
I'm disturbed at something. That means no chances for him to make
will hate you for this, Maddie."
hope so. He made a disaster out of my daughter's debut." She
hid her grin behind her fan. "And I hope, too, that one of
the surveillance cameras was focused on his face when I confirmed
your protege's statement."
I have a copy, Maddie?"
laughed out loud. "Your behavior is much less correct than
you make the whole world believe it is, Joey!"
have absolutely no idea how incorrectly I can behave if I have
She winked at
him with laughing eyes. "And sure – you'll get a good
someone who only had three hours to learn, he dances very well,
Joe." Maddie sounded satisfied with herself.
did you say to him to get him to agree to do it?"
same thing I told Leana twenty-five years ago."
raised his brows questioningly.
Eric Wheiner would be furious enough to bite his own ass at the
sight of him dancing and having fun!"
the first time that evening, Walsh laughed. "That must be
the only reason Gooseman was able to accept, Maddie."
underestimate my empathy for strange young people, Joey. It's
always very useful." She smiled. "But I think you
should get him out of here now. This is clearly beyond his
know. And I owe you, Maddie."
owe me nothing, except to keep an eye on him. He could become a
very charming man if he loses this
old, Joseph, older than your mother would be today, but I'm
neither blind nor dead," she laughed, and headed for a group
of arguing senators.
scrutinized him, noticed the tight muscles beneath the clothes,
the suppressed trembling in jaw and fingertips. Looks like
this is really getting on his nerves.
Gooseman's voice was even more tense as he repeated his question.
"Please, can we leave now?" His eyes flashed
continuously over the chaotic crowd of people in the hall. "I'm
sick of this madhouse."
this is going to exceed his self-control. "Of course, we
can go immediately. New Year's Eve is over, so it's no longer
impolite to leave."
Gooseman leaned briefly against the glider, deeply inhaling the
clear night air. "Sir, I hope I never have to stand
something like that again."
grinned cynically and unlocked the vehicle. And that from
someone destined for interstellar battlefields! He noticed
that Gooseman pressed his palms against his eyes after he got
into the seat. "Are you okay?"
ST threw him a wary look. "Yes, of course, Sir." His
whole body tightened again. "I'm just trying to understand
how weird people are."
he wasn't an ST, I'd believe he had a headache. Walsh shook
his head and powered the glider on. Forget it, Joseph. That's
bent again over the book, trying to concentrate on the lines, but
they began to dance before his eyes, just as they'd done
yesterday when he had begged for another day to learn the stuff.
He shook his head as the dizziness crept up on him. He got up,
opened the window over his bed, returned to the desk and started
reading again from the beginning: "...our belief that the
basic rights of man..." It was hopeless. The sentence turned
to chaos as he read it. A bird's song roared in his ears –
he started, turned, searched for the danger. Nothing. Somehow the
book had slipped from his fingers, fallen shut. Which page...?
He propped his arms on the desk, closed his eyes... Nine. It
was nine. It's almost midday. Walsh's gonna test me when he comes
home this evening... I'm far too slow. He inhaled deeply,
opened his eyes – and glowing colors burned in his mind,
flooded his head with pain...
managed to fight back the headache, struggled to ignore the
bewildering sensations that lurked at the borders of his
perception. Page nine. Once again... The book resisted
being held, escaped his hands, burned in foreign colors, laughing
at him. The world turned towards him, showed its fangs, licked
its chops, awaited its prey with a familiar smile, and extended
hours later, when he returned from duty, Walsh found Goose curled
up in a trembling heap, hiding eyes and ears in his arms.
there's a God in Heaven
(What's He waiting for?)
shadow approached him, lowered down on him. A shout blinded his
eyes from the back. He tried to escape, and blue and white choked
him while a smell resonated through his ears...
from their families,
Mothers go hungry,
To feed their
But children go hungry,
There's so many big
Out making millions
When poverty's profits
blame the children.
what's happened?!" The commander kneeled down next to the
shaking figure. "Gooseman?"
young man started, tried to escape without getting up, pressed
himself to the wall, eyes wide open, obviously not recognizing
hands covered the eyes, as if to save them from the sound of
Walsh's voice. The head turned to the side, body cringed down,
hiding behind pulled-up legs. The shaking increased.
God! What's going on here? He looked up and noticed some
books scattered from the desk where Goose must have collapsed.
didn't respond. Walsh ignored the common sense that told him this
would earn him some broken bones, grabbed the ST's shoulder,
shook him gently.
there's a God in Heaven
What's He waiting for?
If He can't
hear the children,
Then He must see the war,
But it seems
That He leads his lambs
To the slaughter house
the promised land.
touched him... A hand... A person... Someone he knew... A point
of reference in the middle of the hurricane of sensations around
They don't understand,
We've been taking their
Right out of their hands.
They need the handouts
hold back the tears,
There's so many crying
But so few that
a choked sound the youth curled up around Walsh's hand, clung to
him, trembling, shaking.
Walsh said, shocked at the reaction.
ST winced in panic, whimpered faintly and increased his grip to
an almost painful level.
sound is hitting him like a blaster bolt. No – not only
sounds, sights also. Seems likely that all sensations– No,
not all sensations. He recognized me when... Touch is okay.
Touch... what's so special about that? Walsh frowned, looked
down on the shivering body. Touch was never affected by the
behavior-controlling drugs.... It hit him like a missile
striking. Withdrawal symptoms! For God's sake – he's had
those drugs for his whole life, and they were never intended to
Walsh picked the
youth up, stumbled under the heavy weight and put him to bed, all
without getting his hand loose. He almost had to tear his hand
out of Goose's arms. The weeping when he broke contact cut at his
soul. I have to get help. We can't get through this alone,
Miyar, please do not ask any questions about the reasons
for this call."
The chief physician's voice sounded rather bewildered. "Why
secrets." Goddamn ultraviolet-plus security
from the other end of the line was not at all polite.
a case of drug withdrawal, severe drug withdrawal. What do I have
to do to get him through it?"
him here so we can do our job!"
out of the question." Rotten security
kind of drugs has he had, and over how much time?"
behavior controllers, for about nineteen years."
years?!!" If the physician hadn't been using a speaker
phone, Walsh thought the receiver would have dropped from his
hand. "You've got a using veteran there?"
Doctor. He's nineteen."
was a moment of total silence on the other end of the line, then
Miyar bellowed: "Stop the withdrawal immediately. He won't
survive the symptoms. Give him his usual dose and decrease the
regular doses slowly till he's off the hook in say... about five
years." The physician took a deep breath. "And kick the
ass who did this off-planet without a ship or a
I was afraid
of this. "The drugs he had aren't available any
they worked. We'll have to find something
I assure you that similar drugs don't exist. I need to know what
to do so he makes it anyway."
him as comfortable and calm as possible, give him plenty of
liquids, avoid anything that could put further strain on his body
systems, don't leave him alone, and... pray."
made a second call and was granted emergency leave.
there's a God in Heaven
What's He waiting for?
If he can't
see the children,
Then He must see the war,
But it seems to
That He leads his lambs
To the slaughter house
the promised land.
screamed in pain and terror as he was pushed back into the whirl
of chaos. Feelings assembled around him, nameless emotions
surrounded him, accompanied by images out of his past... Killbane
and hatred, rage, sometimes fear... Max, a smile first, then his
disappearance, loneliness... Wheiner, contempt, betrayal, a
different kind of hatred... new relations appeared, feelings
without names laughed at him, sneered at him, cheated him, teased
him... showed memories in false colors, twisted and changed...
there's a God in Heaven
What's He waiting for?
If he can't
see the children,
Then He must see the war,
But it seems to
That He leads his lambs
To the slaughter house
the promised land.
sat on the chair he'd pulled up next to the bed and watched the
cringing body that tossed and turned restlessly, often nearly
curled into a ball under the thin sheet that was already soaked
with sweat. The choked whimpering shocked him. What has he
done that justifies this? What have we done? We played god for
Again the ST threw
himself around, lost in a world only he saw, nearly got up,
trembling, eyes wide open in the dimmed light.
caught Goose in his arms before he could topple over, steadied
him, held him, felt him twitching even through his continuous
shivering. Tears soaked his shirt when the youth clung
despairingly to him, feeling with the only still-reliable sense
that there was something, someone outside the chaos.
didn't know how long he had sat there before the sobbing stopped
and the shivering calmed, but bright sunlight was creeping
through the curtains by the time regular breaths touching his
chest through the wet shirt finally told him Shane was asleep...
there's a God in Heaven
Well, what's He waiting for?
officially nonexistent son grabbed my arm when I tried to put him
to bed after he cried a whole night through. Walsh managed to
keep the cynical humor caused by his exhaustion out of his voice.
"I had a rough squash match, Doctor."
physician raised his brows in disbelief. "Usually people
don't wait three days before they get treatment for a broken
find a baby sitter with UVP
clearance. "Back then, it didn't feel that
snorted. "Space marines mentality or military secrets
again?" He adjusted the medical laser to weld the bone
don't know what you are talking about, Doctor Miyar."
course not." The laser lit up, and a bright red beam
wandered over Walsh's skin, crossing some of the deep scratches
in it. "And you cut your arm shaving this morning,
bread knife isn't the newest."
life is far too dangerous for a man of your age,
absolutely no idea how dangerous it is!
there's a God in Heaven
What's He waiting for?
that head nurse is a real dragon!
threw his key card on the table next to the door and walked
straight upstairs to look in on the boy. Goose still slept
That woman would have
locked me up if she'd gotten the chance. The doctor's advice
had been to stay a night in MedoStat as a preventive measure in
case the neglected bone was infected. But he'd already taken a
risk in leaving Shane for two hours. He had only gone because the
pain in his arm had reached a level he could no longer
Walsh went down to the
kitchen and brewed himself a strong coffee before he took his
It isn't over.
there's a God in Heaven
What's He waiting for?
sound of the door sliding open roused Walsh out of sleep. He sat
up, half-noticed the pain in his back caused by the long watch on
the uncomfortable chair, and grimaced. He saw Shane standing in
the door, touching it and the doorframe before he made an
insecure step into the corridor, fingertips gliding over the
wall, eyes looking warily around.
young ST started at the sound, turned, after a moment his eyes
focused on him. "Sir?"
wandered around, but his fingertips still touched the wall,
keeping input from the sense he trusted most at the moment. In a
trembling voice: "What happened?"
sustained release of the drugs you were given at Wolf Den ran
everything looks strange at the moment... I... I don't know if I
can finish the work I started yesterday."
doesn't remember anything. Walsh sighed. Maybe that's
better for him. "That was more than a week ago, Shane.
You were very ill." He noticed the youth's slight trembling.
"And it isn't fully over. You're still feeling the
aftereffects. Don't risk a relapse; give yourself the time to
beep indicated the arrival of a person with clearance to enter
the house. Shane turned hastily in its direction and nearly lost
his balance. Walsh caught his arm and steadied him before he
The ST stiffened,
eyes fixed on the commander's face. "You held me."
there's a God in Heaven
What's He waiting for?
was the seventh morning after he'd regained control over his
betraying senses. His grasp was still less trustworthy than it
should have been; small, smooth objects still tended to slip out
of his fingers. He'd tried to keep to himself, but that wasn't
really possible. Here there were no others who distracted the
commander's attention from him. Again, Gooseman dug his nails
into his palms, used the additional pain to steady his hands, and
took the bundle of just-delivered clean clothes from the table in
the hall. He knew the A
could appear any day. It's better to know than to fear! He
tore open the paper, checked the shirts. Nothing. He
leaned against the wall. Alive for another day.
went upstairs again, back to his room with all those boring
books. I wonder why he's granting me so much time. Usually the
A for 'abandoned' is declared within hours of the inability to
fight. It's been a week now since I woke up, and he said I was
ill for more than a week before that. That means at least
fourteen days! And he must know my condition, since he was
there... But why did he actually do that?
dropped himself onto the bed in his room and pulled the curtains
shut behind his back. Sunlight still blinded him. And the
headaches it caused were horrible. He heard steps on the corridor
and started before he realized that it must be Mrs. Santiago on
her cleaning tour. She couldn't give out A's. He groaned. My
weakened nerves really get on my nerves!
minutes later, after the throbbing in his head had decreased, he
got to his feet again and began his martial arts training in the
dimmed room. Whatever might happen tomorrow, I don't want to
get caught in this condition! Never!!
there's a God in Heaven
What's He waiting for?
If there's a
God in Heaven
What's He waiting for?
Working Brain Cells
weren't there, Owen." Walsh took another sip out of his
brandy glass and managed to keep the slight shudder at seeing his
old friend reduced to a disembodied brain out of his voice. "The
withdrawal was hell. Sometimes I was sure he wouldn't make
=Despite his lack of
energy, the boy's still a BDC.
They're the toughest of the STs.=
know, but he shouldn't–" Joseph interrupted himself.
"Nobody should suffer like that."
were always so worried about Gooseman. And now you're risking
your career to house-train him. Someday I'll really have to find
out why you're doing all this, Joseph.=
you think the escapees had to go through the same
=Unlikely. I have
had time to check up on the stuff they were exposed to while the
physician smoothed out the last problems with this thing. This
X-Factor, when it didn't just destroy them, increased not only
their genetically implanted powers but also their
energy-collecting ability to the max. Their body systems have
most likely adjusted to the decreasing amount of drugs available.
And otherwise? What else is going on? Since these Kiwis – I
still picture flightless birds from New Zealand when I say it –
and Andorians have contacted Earth, your bureau must be
more work than I can do if I had double the time I've got to do
it." Walsh put the empty glass back on the table. "And
on top of it all I've got a special senator breathing down
my neck who's threatening the cryocrypt if I can't find a job in
the military for my protege."
remind me of him, Joseph. I have my own problems with this
citizen of Earth. Which professions have you tried so
Squad, Biohazard Department, Fire Squad..." He leaned back.
"I'm slowly running out of ideas, Owen."
you thought about the new space-ranger project the BWL plans to
initiate to fulfill the League's membership
will spend most of their time in space. Do you believe the BWL
will accept that?" Walsh snorted.
since the purpose of the new unit would be closer to the original
purpose of the Super Troopers than any other unit. I think you
should give him a try. Train him on laws, regulations, morals,
and so on, and then let's see if he passes the theoretical
Walsh shrugged. "Theory
would be the hurdle for him. Though I've already given him most
of the data he'll need." He smirked. "The practical...
It's more likely that he'd be a problem for the testers than that
the test would be a problem for him!"
need to prepare him for the operation, Joseph. If he makes it,
he'll get this experimental implant they're planning on
"Do you think it
will work on his abilities?"
powers worked when his body was regularly flooded with energy
back at Wolf Den. If we build his implant mainly as an energy
donator, it is fairly likely that it will not only work for him
but also allow him to use his bio defenses at full capacity
is where?!!!" Walsh nearly jumped over his
"The Pilots' bar,
Sir." The ordnance lieutenant looked rather uncomfortable
suddenly. "Sergeant Kruger thought it would be a good idea
to celebrate the end of the cadet squad's training before the
group is divided into passing and failing groups. He ordered
Gooseman to accompany them since he's also going to take the
sake." Kruger's one of Wheiner's men. "How long
has it been?" If he loses control...
three hours, Sir."
rushed into the dimly lit room. The cadets, as usual for this
traditional event, were more or less passed out drunk. He looked
for Gooseman and found him standing next to a table full of empty
glasses with an unconscious Sergeant Kruger more or less sitting
on one of the chairs. At least he's still on his feet.
The ST turned round, awaiting him.
eyes, not drunk at all. "Did you drink some of this
stuff?" He gestured towards the heap of glasses on the
"About half of it,
Walsh looked at the
table; at least thirty whiskey glasses, likely even more, stood
on it. All were empty. He looked back at Goose, searched for the
signs of drunkenness and found none.
he noticed Walsh's scrutiny, Shane continued. "I don't
understand why the Sarge insisted on drinking this liquor with
Walsh looked warily at him.
drinks are based on ethanol. I tried to explain when I smelled it
that they have no effect on me, but he still insisted on drinking
till one of us lost consciousness. That doesn't make any sense to
Boy, it means our
enemy made a mistake, nothing else! The relief nearly knocked
Walsh off his feet. Hell! Even I forgot about the
immunizations he had.
stuff doesn't taste all that good. If this is for some social
purpose," he nodded towards the unconscious sergeant, "I'd
prefer to use good coffee next time."
Commander. I thought I'd have to send the bill to BETA, but since
you're already here..." The bartender came out from behind
the bar, waving a long piece of printed transparency. "This
year the cadets' baptism was pretty expensive."
BETA won't pay for any of this." Walsh's motion encompassed
the whole room. He took the bill and made a short note at the end
of it before he handed it back. "Send it to the BWL, to the
attention of Senator Wheiner. He'll pay!"
you don't really expect me to do that, do you?! Your cadets drank
it all!" he insisted, trying to force Walsh to take the bill
Walsh raised his hands,
palms out. "Send it, Mike. You'll get your
He tried to stuff the bill in Walsh's chest pocket, but a warning
growl made him jump backwards.
way, Mike." Walsh grinned wolfishly and turned to his
protege. "Calm down, Gooseman. Let's go."
looked down at his bill after Walsh and the big, frightening
cadet had left. Below the line with its total amount of 2,311
credits was scrawled: "The price of defeat, Eric!"
Abandoned and Accepted
passed the prac-test without any problems. Walsh read through
the report on the initial results of the squad of cadets to which
he had assigned Gooseman for the tests. I only wonder how he
managed to do the military race in a time ten percent beyond the
cybersteed's limit. He opened a comlink to the training area.
"Captain, this is Commander Walsh. I need a logfile copy
from the military race of Cadet Gooseman's cybersteed."
you heap of secondhand spare parts, I'd have been on my way
faster without you. So if you don't want me to find out the
difference between your personality chip and a potato chip, you'd
better be faster on the rest of the course!"...
sighed. AI psychology, Wolf Den style. At least it worked. I'd
better make sure that he gets a really fast horse if he passes
theory, too... otherwise his consumption of cybersteeds would
exceed all acceptable limits.
Sheela's voice sounded urgent. "The Phoenix crew has
contacted us. They're coming in in a foreign vessel with one crew
member missing and one severely injured. They're asking for you.
ETA in 15
minutes, Hangar 1."
– Sheela, when Gooseman comes back from the test center,
tell him he passed theory." Walsh threw a file with the
official academy emblem on it over to her and was already on his
"I will, Sir."
Sheela couldn't stop herself from taking a quick glance at the
test results. Wow! The commander must be very proud of his
McIntyre. Is he there?" He nodded towards the closed inner
"No, Gooseman. I'm
sorry. Commander Walsh was needed at the hangars. The first
Ranger vessel is coming back in minutes."
I wait here? I want to know my results."
problem." Sheela smiled broadly. "You got an
The young man in front
of her froze in the middle of a movement. "That can't be
"Oh yes it
is, Gooseman." She held out the file. "Commander Walsh
gave it to me since he had to leave." She tapped the cover
encouragingly. "You must be very glad that this is finally
said coldly, turning on his heels. "Not at all."
Gooseman, Sheela? He should be already here!"
was here, Sir. But he didn't seem to be happy about his test
results at all."
'No, not at all' and left. Nothing more."
frowned. "What did you say to him about his results,
"I told him
his final result and that he must be very glad of
Repeat your sentence exactly." God, I hope I'm
"I told him
that he got an A, Sir."
cursed. I've got to find him fast. "Do you know where
"No, Sir. He
said nothing. Why? What's wrong? You ordered me to give him his
you to tell him he passed, not to name the grade."
I thought he should know that he got the best result in his
him an A is absolutely not positive at all! Get me SecStaff. I
want the surveillance recordings checked. But tell them they
shouldn't approach him. I just want to be informed where he is."
When she didn't jump instantly: "Now!"
stood at the upper promenade, looking down at the lake and the
great civil spaceport of Phoenix in the distance. His hands were
cramped around the railing.
I failed." The voice was cold, emotionless, controlled.
Before Walsh could correct the misunderstanding, Gooseman
continued: "I always believed I'd at least understand what I
did wrong when I lost, but I have absolutely no idea."
haven't lost, Goose. This isn't Wolf Den, it's BETA. Here an A
means you passed brilliantly."
tell me lies, I was in the game too long not to know that an A
commander grabbed his arm and forced Gooseman to face him. "Shut
up and listen! This A means you got the best damn result in the
whole group. You passed, Shane. You passed well enough that we
have a totally free choice about which unit you'll belong to! And
I promised you wouldn't get frozen. Did you forget
"Sir, an A
doesn't exactly mean the cryocrypt. I know who got A's during my
lifetime in Wolf Den, and since Wheiner forced me to visit that
damn hall of coffins last month I know exactly who's in there now
and who's not!" Fury flashed up in his eyes, expelling the
cold, before it was replaced by something else: cautious
confidence as the meaning of Walsh's other words slowly reached
him. He turned again towards the horizon. "Then this A
really says I'll be able to go out there?"
sighed and laid his hand on the ST's shoulder. "Yes, boy.
Damn right. You're free." As long as I find a unit with a
commanding officer who's able to get along with you. "But
be careful. The senator isn't a man who gives up easily. He won't
stop trying to get you where he wants you to be."
a cynical half grin Goose specified: "In very personal
quarters: two and a half meters long, a meter wide, half a meter
high, made of glass, and badly heated. – He should have
known better, Sir. I'm a BDC. I can be whatever I have to, to
make it. Even tame!"
snorted and headed for the door. "I can't waste my time with
philosophy, Gooseman!" At the door the commander turned once
again back towards the youth. "And the next time you call me
a liar, I'll kick your ass from here to Pluto Base and back!"
his office again, Joseph leaned back in his chair and allowed an
old memory to float in his mind: laughing, blue-green eyes in a
beloved face long gone. He sighed. I did my best for him,
Leana. Now we can only hope that's enough...
room flashback in TVE - "Galaxy Stranger" transcript]
"He's too dangerous to be a Galaxy Ranger!"
"I personally will take full responsiblity."
"On one condition. As part of his Galaxy Ranger duties,
Shane Gooseman is to search out the escaped Supertroopers. He
will track them down and bring them back to Earth... dead
Goose: "I am no
Unknown: "Gooseman, you know them
all. You will bring them in!"
room flashback in TVE - "Galaxy Stranger" End]
that Unknown can be but mustn't be Wheiner.]
the blindingly lighted window Wheiner turned to Walsh. "And
since I want to be absolutely sure, there's still a last test for
him to pass once he's got this implant."
narrowed his eyes; they had almost arrived at their goal, and the
light that shone through the glass doors of the Experimental
Medical Facility at LongShot Laboratories was blinding, brilliant
white. He hesitated. "I don't like this, Sir."
implant is a special feature of the Ranger series you are
assigned to, Gooseman." Walsh, a step ahead of him, turned
around and pounded his walking stick on the floor. "It's
like the idea of technical controls inside my brain." The
door behind Walsh opened. QBall came out, apparently looking to
see what was holding up his patient, and heard the last sentence.
"Or that of people cutting into my head."
worry," the slim scientist said comfortingly, "you
won't feel a thing. You'll be given a general
snorted loudly and glared at the man. "You believe
"You'll need his conscious agreement to everything you do,
QBall. Otherwise his body will take action against the
scientist looked amazed. "Still, the local anaesthetic will
protect you from the pain," he assured Goose
"I can't be
anaesthetized, QBall," the ST snarled. "It doesn't
work. And I don't care about pain, but I do care about idiots
fiddling around with my brain, planting controls that do who the
hell knows what!"
that's what's gnawing at him. "Gooseman." Walsh
called him to order before his temper could boil over. "The
experimental implant will allow you to use your powers at full
capacity again. It has been adapted to your specific features."
Joseph saw immediately that the last sentence had been a mistake
as the distrust in the ST's face intensified.
seemed to notice, too. "Gooseman, in your case it's not much
more than an energy donator. When activated, it'll supply your
body with the energy you need to use your powers."
had external energy doses before and no implant was needed for
it, so why now?"
question, Walsh sighed inwardly. In the time since Wolf Den
he'd learned that it wasn't easy to dealing with the boy. The
same intelligence that made it possible to teach Goose how to
live in human society had all too often outmaneuvered the
commander when questions had arisen. But we've got a real
problem here, Walsh thought. "The implant and the badge
you'll be wearing are an integral system, Gooseman. Both
components are useless without the other," Walsh said, and
hoped he'd gotten the explanation Negata had given him some days
"So the badge
can't be used by another person to control my bio defenses. It's
a protection against misuse," the ST
Now get this over with!"
be using a probe to place the components and connect them,
Gooseman," QBall explained as he tightened the straps that
immobilized his patient's body in the upright position surgeons
preferred for brain operations.
ST sneezed as he caught a whiff of disinfectant and said in a
tight voice, "Just finish. I want to get outta
continued, unimpressed by his growl. "So there won't be any
scar to give away the implant's existence."
wouldn't be any scar even if you used a chain saw for your damn
butchery." The tension began to gnaw at Goose's nerves. The
impulse to tear off the straps grew stronger and stronger. He
ground his teeth, knowing that the commander was observing the
procedure from one of the tall, lighted windows above. Stay
controlled, he ordered himself. Stay controlled. "It
would help if you tell me what exactly you're going to do in my
brain," Goose said.
The skinny scientist, already standing behind him, adjusted the
probe for the initial penetration. "Since you can control
the energy and your abilities by yourself, we don't have to
establish direct neural contacts in your case." He marked
the penetration point at the upper neck, just below the hairline.
"I'm starting. Don't talk from now on until I say
Gooseman felt the
prick as the probe went through his skin and drove his claws into
the armrests, trying to ignore the increasing pain as the probe
was pushed forward, deeper into his flesh, wandering upwards. He
forced his body to ignore the warning impulses trying to activate
his bio defenses.
placing the components on your skull bones. Because of your
unique abilities, we decided to use the minimum possible number
of parts and to connect them in a flexible way, in case you have
to transform your skull bones sometime, too."
had the irritating feeling of something scraping across his
cranium. His trained defenses cried out at the intrusion, and he
had to struggle to control them. Pain gave fuel for any kind of
defenses, pain, and the fear he would not admit to feeling. The
left armrest cracked under his grip. His claws scraped across the
metal strut inside of it.
ignored the plastic raining to the floor from the shattered arm
of the operation chair. Walsh and the mysterious brain unit
Professor Negata had told him that he'd have to be fast in this
operation. He hadn't thought about how it would be to operate on
someone who was totally awake during the procedure, feeling the
pain. He hadn't imagined that he'd have to talk to his patient
while he worked, either. "The components are placed. I'm
starting to connect them." He swayed and wished the implants
were not so classified that he had to work without an assistant
who could have swept the drops of sweat off his forehead. "It
won't take much longer, now."
It'll still take a week or more for my system to accept its
permanent presence. He felt the sharp edges of the broken
plastic cut into his left hand and ignored the pain, repeated
again and again: It is okay. It is supposed to be there. It is
a part of me. It is ok– The repetition grew faster and
faster, more and more violent. The straps around his upper arms
creaked. The probe slipped out of his body. Something cool
sprayed on the itching needle hole.
him, QBall straightened. "It's done. I'll loosen the
out of the chair and on his feet long before the scientist had
even touched the bands. He reeled slightly as another impulse of
his bio defenses demanded to push the foreign material out of his
system, and stabilized himself on the instruments table next to
the OR chair with the still-bloody probe on it.
Gooseman, easy," QBall told him quickly. "Even though
you can't see the implant, it's still a major operation. You'll
need some time to adapt to it."
edge of the ST's mouth twitched. "Believe me, adaptations
are my specialty." The stench of his blood on the probe
burned in his nose, combined with the disinfectant, the spray
bandage on his neck. And the sweat of the man who'd placed the
implant inside him, telling him of anxiety, stress, and...
doubts. I have to get outta here. He turned for the
Behind him, QBall called:
"Wait. You can't leave now. It's too early to–"
was out the door long before the skinny scientist had finished
his sentence. He stopped short as his eyes made out the
all-too-familiar form of the container standing right outside the
OR: a cryocrypt hibernation unit.
weren't supposed to see that," the scientist said behind
him. "It was only a precaution, since none of us could tell
for sure how your system would react..." His voice died
slowly as he noticed the icy look centered on his face. With
relief he saw Walsh appearing around the corner behind the ST,
almost running. An odd part of QBall's mind noticed that the
commander didn't seem to need his walking stick when it became
urgent to be fast.
the ST snapped.
Walsh reminded him. "It wasn't needed."
know, Sir," he said coldly and turned toward the commander,
ignoring the scientist behind him completely. "And I know
also why it was there." He took a deep breath and wished the
smells of medical facilities weren't so close to those of death.
"Sir." Gooseman walked past Walsh, heading down the
have to get out of here. Out of here. Out of here! He fell
automatically into a run, increased his speed with each step,
ignored the throbbing pain in his head, where his body was
beginning to integrate the implant into his system on his
command. He didn't even hear the commander's shout ordering him
to stop. Out of here!
was too fast for the guards he passed to react. The hall he
entered was cooler and smelled of ocean: saltwater, seaweed, dead
fish, living – Dolphins.
stopped, leaned his forehead against the cool glass of the huge
tank, easing his headache. He knew he had disobeyed, was aware he
was somewhere he wasn't supposed to be. He remembered the scents
of ocean from Wolf Den. The smells conjured up images of his
first personal training sessions, and he ground his teeth at the
memories of pain stims, flamethrowers, and the saltwater tank in
which he'd nearly drowned. But then he had managed to adapt and
had gotten his first impressions of the world underwater. The
different speed, dynamics, sounds... he liked it, liked the
coolness, the soft sounds, the illusion of
against the glass from the inside. He looked up, found himself
eye to eye with one of the dolphins. The mammal bumped again
against the glass. Slowly he reached out, laid his hand on the
glass opposite the creature's nose. The dolphin turned over and,
with a strong sweep of its tail fin, reached the water's surface.
It chittered loudly at him and splashed.
wiped the drops off his cheek and a smile flashed across his
face. "Not much space in there, is there?"
creature blinked and repeated its chittering. After a moment it
repeated it again, the sounds growing urgent.
sorry, I don't understand you," he told the
Behind Goose the double
doors swung open and guards hurried into the hall, blasters at
the ready, accompanied by a strange scientist. "There he is!
Don't let him scare the dolphins. They're just beginning to be
to turn around slowly. "I don't want to make trouble,
we... under... stand... you..." a technically structured
The dolphin in the
basin behind him had pressed its head against an apparatus that
was attached to a crane arm just above the water's surface. The
angry scientist stopped in his tracks. "They've never spoken
to us," he whispered, and waved the guards to stop,
"You... do.. not...
belong... here... just... as... we... do... not..."
ST shook his head and regretted it instantaneously as the
throbbing in his head increased. "Guess that's right,"
he sighed and pressed his hand against his aching temple. "I
feel like a lab animal at the moment."
you... are... one... of... them..."
would say differently."
what... do... you... say...."
matters... to... you..."
doesn't change anything."
dolphin splashed. "It... says... who... you... are... Who...
Goose. And all that I am is me."
foreign scientist shoved himself past Gooseman, stared at the
dolphin. "Blue Fin, why did you never speak to me?"
dolphin kept silent.
Walsh had arrived and waved the guards out of his way.
have you done that it talks to you?!" the scientist asked
Goose, interrupting the commander.
ST frowned. "Nothing. But..." He turned toward the
basin again. "Who are you?" he asked the
looked at the scientist standing next to him. "You never
spoke to her," he told him.
At attention!" The commander ordered sharply and noticed,
satisfied, that the ST in front of him obeyed immediately. "You
have to return. Now. QBall has to do the final
The ST turned for the door, then hesitated, looked back at the
dolphin. "Bye, Winter."
Goose... Come... back..."
will if I'm allowed to," he said over his shoulder, already
following Walsh. The dolphin splashed just as the door closed
do that again!" Walsh snapped as they walked back to the
exactly what the senator needs to put you in that CHU,
"What did you do
to the dolphin?"
"The project has
been running for more than a year without success. So what did
you say that it responded?"
Sir. It talked to me first."
problems with the integration of the implant during your
escapade?" Walsh asked, grumbling.
Sir." The ST fell silent; after a moment he asked
cautiously, "May I go back to the dolphins
Once we have communication with them working, the animals are
destined to work as submarine explorers. It's likely that your
unit will work with them." And I guess that Dr. Costen
will erode my nerves with his demands to have you back in there
doing the job QBall gave him. The commander straightened his
back. The boy was still on thin ice when he dealt with humans. It
would always be risky for him, but it seemed he was going to grow
into this business...