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rated R

Note: this story takes place one day after "Bewilderment"

BetaMountain – Office of Cmdr. Walsh 
2086-07-06 – 22:07 

He altered an ad hoc adaption. Walsh put the readpad with Fox' report about his team's second mission onto his desk with a clatter. To unknown conditions... He shook his head. The boy had taken an incredible risk – obviously without telling his captain about it for Zachary Fox mentioned the cruelty with which Gooseman had grabbed and injured Niko, and demanded for further advice how to react to the situation – when interfering with the reflex adaption routines by adding a donating device for gaseous oxygen to his adapted breathing system. He knew better than to believe Gooseman wasn't aware of the risks he'd taken. The boy knew them as well as he since... Joseph closed his eyes for a moment when the memories about what had happened back then streamed back into his conscious mind, beginning with a surveillance recording... 

Wolf Den Military Base 

They were summoned to the exercise hall. Judging by his even-more-cautious-than-usual darting glances Shane noticed the humming in the charged floor and ceiling plates the moment he entered the bare room. The wide observation window high above the ground was brightly lit. Too brightly for even his enhanced vision to see more than shadows. But nevertheless the boy's eyes zeroed in on it. 
     He knew he hadn't had to see them at PTS. To recognize them. To... 
     Shane clenched his fist a bit tighter than before. His eyes kept flashing around. Taking in every detail... 
     Two shadows more than usual behind the blinding light. The boy ground his teeth. Additional observers always meant it was growing worse. Killbane lashed out at him with a hand that the older trooper had transformed the moment they'd entered the charged hall. Shane flung his body aside, avoided being touched, being cut. And was rewarded with a cruel laughter and a whispered promise the sound enhancers had made understandable on the recording: "Wait. I will get you!" 
     Shane had said nothing, but he 'd never been so stupid as to announce his plans. Killbane wasn't his problem right now: two additional observers... and all BDC's at the same time. Killbane and the boy himself. Mikhal, who wasn't much longer in the project than Shane... and Janna. The only one of the third season who developed correctly. Killbane was of the first, Shane officially belonged to the fifth. She was the only BDC girl who ever made it into the project. The only one who sometimes told Shane how to avoid transformation errors though as often she simply hit him when he dared to ask... 
     =Full body transformation. Ad hoc.= The voice was electronically distorted. 
     They obeyed, for there never was an opportunity to deny an order in their lives. Who didn't subordinate was considered uncontrollable. Who turned uncontrollable was abandoned. They'd long ago learned to fear 'the A' as it was called. 
     The energy surrounded the boy, the cocoon of golden light enclosed him, while his body lost its shape, reconfigured, restructured, remodeled, on a molecular level... skin cells turned to steel, polished, blank. Nails to iridium, sharper, harder... 
     The protective cocoon of transformation energy collapsed. 

BetaMountain - Office of Cmdr. Walsh 
2086-07-07 – 00:04 

Joseph ground his teeth at the memory. New Years Eve 2079. The adjutant who had finally found him was too much out of breath to produce an understandable sentence, but he'd gotten enough: General Class. Two Stars. Two times trouble... 
     Class had been the one who originally set up the military environment for the project. Class had been the supervisor during the first years in which Joseph had become first a Major under Anderson's protection, then Colonel himself: but two stars counted more than one eagle... 
     Walsh stared at the readpad with the report. The man and that day was the reason he'd never carry his second star. He'd gotten it years ago. And never applied it to his uniform. No more than the other one he'd gotten since then. 
     He'd come too late. It had been triggered a minute before he'd ran into the observation room, and all he could have done then was simply stand and stare... 

Wolf Den Military Base 

Except for Killbane none of them was old enough – and experienced enough – to perform the task they had been ordered to do. And Shane was the youngest, was only twelve... The scream that mixed into Class' swear wasn't human, and Joseph was already running, drawing his service weapon, checking its charge. It was a single snatch that charged the weapon to a deadly energy output. Class called after him. He didn't care. If he'd cared he'd likely have wasted a shot. 
     His eyes took in the details in only a glimpse as he rushed into the hall: unstructured cellular matter was splattered across the floor. In the center of it lay a torso, cut oblique. Rib bows protruded out of the lower end, stomach contents, bile, blood poured out of the body cavity. 
     He felt bile on his tongue. Searched for the features, the hair in the bloody mass... One couldn't be sure to identify a transformed BDC properly. 
     The body remnant in midst of the splattered mass shivered. Another scream, blood-chilling and hopeless. One of the ribs propping the shattered torso in a half sitting position broke, and it toppled over, turning its face towards him: the eyes were huge puddles of pain. Still conscious. He aimed carefully. Between her violet eyes. 
     The shot was incredibly loud in his ears. 
     The next thing he could hear again was laughter, terrifyingly amused laughter. Killbane – the ugly spike form was the only one he recognized – asked why the boss wasted a shot. 
     "Detransform," he ordered sharply and the next moment, he looked into children's faces: one with a ragged scar across one eye, one with a dark shock of hair had stared onto his own, trembling hands, and one with icy green eyes, cold enough to cause even Hell to freeze over... It took him a moment before he noticed that Class had entered the room behind him and that Shane's eyes wasn't focused on him. 
     The General hadn't noticed. "Who is your enemy?" he asked the troopers. "The one who shoots at you or the one who tells him to do that?" 
     And Killbane bellowed: "The shootist." Luckily erasing a much fainter, and totally different comment... 
     "The one who orders us to do it." 

BetaMountain - corridor in front of MPQ 217 
2086-07-07 – 01:38 

They had lost two lives that day though Class never had gotten to know about it – he was dishonorably dismissed not even three weeks after the incident. Joseph wasn't naive enough to believe it was because of what the man had done that day... though Owen's intervention at the Board likely had sped up the procedure. No, Class had been fired because he didn't ask for the Board's approval for reacting to the alien signals detected by the Outer Rim outpost on Triton with a general mobilization expecting the worst: an alien attack on Earth. Years later it was learned that the signals had been the Andorians' first attempt of contact. 
     Twelve months later, the third BDC, Mikhal, was abandoned because he had been unable to force himself to transform properly any longer. He'd seen the horror in the child's eyes whenever the black-haired boy with the tan skin had been forced to do it anyway. And he knew that whenever Mikhal had transformed he'd seen Janna's body scattered across the floor. 
     Walsh sighed, still looking at the door, without even considering knocking. You always knew who your enemies were, he thought sadly and wondered if the boy had understood the reason for the shot back then. He wasn't sure about that. But he knew without a doubt that he would see two pain-filled violet eyes in his sleep this night again right before the remaining bone between them would explode. 

Joseph wished he could erase the memories of that day. But he couldn't. 
No more than Shane could see another female colleague die at his side. 


Thanks to S. 'Trivia' Black for her help with English.

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