Yes alright, I know I’m late posting again, but I never seem to get time on Saturdays.
Anyway, here’s my latest offering to Linda G Hill‘s regular Stream of Consciousness
Saturday Sunday feature. (Here are the rules)
This week’s prompt was as follows:
” “vis.” Use a word, or tie your post’s theme around a word, that contains the letters VIS, in that order.”
So, are you sitting comfortably…?
Then we shall begin.
“All I’m saying is, I’m advising against it. It could irretrievably damage his vision and we don’t want there to be any reduction in his visual acuity unless we can help it,” the voice was pompous, defiant almost, “and I’m certainly not risking all that for the sake of some… visitor,” the word was practically spat out, “no matter how bloody important he is.”
“There’s no need for that tone, Doctor,” the second voice was sharp, condescending, “we aren’t asking you to do anything that will endanger the program, just a short demonstration will suffice.”
“But you don’t understand!” the doctor raised his voice in irritation, “Any stress placed on his visual cortex is going to have a detrimental effect on the outcome, on the overall effectiveness of the program. We can’t afford to take risks, we have so much work invested in this.”
“I’m perfectly well aware of all that, Doctor,” the sarcasm was unmistakable now, “and of a lot more besides. There are some facts that not even you are privy to, so just do as you’re told or we will find somebody else who will.” There was a tense pause, then the second voice continued in a more conciliatory tone, “If it makes you feel any better, I wouldn’t have asked you to do this if there wasn’t another way, but we have identified a serious threat to national security.”
“You are correct, that doesn’t make me feel any better about doing this,” said the doctor stiffly, “nevertheless, if the threat is as imminent as you seem to think, it appears that I don’t have a choice.”
“Thank you, Doctor, I assure you that we will take every precaution to keep the visit as stress-free as possible for your patient. How soon can you have him ready?”
“I will need a while to wake the subject from anesthetic and to prepare the visor for the neural interface, but I envisage being ready by two o’clock this afternoon.”
“Very well, I expect you to be have something suitably impressive to show us when I arrive with our guest.”
There were noises all around him, louder now, as his senses rapidly returned to normal, the sound of footsteps and a door closing, followed by the sudden sensation of movement as the surface he lay on slid smoothly sideways and then began to rise at one end, pivoting upright.
He had the brief, panicky feeling that he was going to topple forward, until the invisible restraint against his chest arrested his fall and he gasped, the first sound he had uttered since he’d regained consciousness some twenty minutes earlier.
There was an abrupt silence in the room, followed by the doctor’s cautious enquiry;
“I say, um, hello, are you awake?” a further pause, then, “You weren’t supposed to wake up until I gave you a shot. Can you hear me?”
He turned his head, attempting to locate the source of the voice, licked his dry lips and tried to speak, but no sound materialised.
“Wait, wait, don’t try to talk, I’ll get you a drink of water,” the doctor’s voice solicitous, his bedside manner taking over, “your throat will be dry from the anesthetic.”
He waited, his mind clearing but still fuzzy around the edges, trying to grasp any passing memories from the fog in his head but not having much success.
He remembered being in the dugout, a lot of heavy fire falling on their lines, the two guys manning the position next to him disappearing in a vapour cloud after being hit by whatever the hell those weapons were and then….nothing.
Not until he’d woken up here, blind, with bandages all over his face, strapped to some sort of hospital bed, listening to the voices of people discussing him like he wasn’t there.
He heard footsteps approaching and sensed somebody close by, then felt a hand on the back of his head and jumped slightly as the doctor spoke; “Here, tip your head forward. Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. There’s a cup of water,..that’s it. That should free up your throat a little.”
He gratefully took a gulp of the cold water, instantly relieving the obstruction in his throat and taking a deep, shaking breath, tried once more to talk.
“Where am I, what’s going on? Who are you people?”
“I’d advise you to try and stay calm,” came the disembodied reply, “you’ve been quite seriously injured and your treatment is still in progress.”
He silently processed this information, then asked, “What happened to the rest of my unit? Did anybody get back to base with me?”
“I’m afraid you didn’t actually make it back to base yourself,” said the doctor, “not under your own steam anyway. You were rescued from no-man’s land by one of our teams. I’m sorry to say the rest of your unit were wiped out in the first wave.”
Taking a moment to absorb this, he returned to his original question, “So, what am I doing here, what is the “treatment” exactly, and what is this program I heard you talking about?”
“I must apologise for the lack of warning we’ve had about this, it gives us very little opportunity to prepare you, but time and VIP visitors wait for no man apparently.”
He heard the doctor moving around behind him, then sensed him at his side just before he felt a hand on his arm, followed by the sharp stab of a hypo needle.
Thinking he was being sedated again he struggled, fighting the pressure of the bands across his chest, but they seemed utterly immovable and the doctor was speaking soothingly in his ear.
“It’s alright, there’s nothing to worry about, you’re not going to be harmed. The injection was merely an anti-rejection drug, a safety measure, nothing more. For your own protection, I assure you.”
He slowly calmed his breathing, trying to think rationally. He was about to ask the unseen doctor to explain himself once more when he was interrupted by the sound of approaching voices outside the room.
He strained to hear what was being said and managed to make out the voice of the man he’d heard speaking to the doctor earlier, saying, “…well they’ll have to be ready now won’t they? If you’d go to the observation lounge down the hall Mr President sir, I’ll inform the good doctor that you’ve arrived.”
The sound of retreating footsteps in the corridor was followed by the door opening, the man already speaking in the same brisk voice as he entered.
“Right, change of plan. He’s here now, he has a tight schedule and he wants to see something.”
“But I told you…” the doctor began.
“Well it’s too late now, we have to work with what we’ve got.”
He heard someone walking across the room towards him and then;
“You, soldier, can you hear me?”
“Me? Yes, I hear you. Who is this, why are you keeping me here?”
“All you need to know is that you are part of a very important operation and your cooperation is essential to its success.”
“I’m not sure I…”
“You don’t need to understand,” a definite command in the tone now, “all you need to do is pay attention and follow instructions, can you do that, soldier?”
“Right, listen up. In a few minutes you will be taken into a room where you will meet some people we’d like you to take a look at for us.” Before he could interrupt again, the man continued, “The good doctor is about to fit you with a visor, a brand new piece of hardware, tailor made just for you. The visor will restore your eyesight to a certain degree, but we are more interested in the other enhancements it will make to your sensory apparatus.”
“No time for questions I’m afraid. For now, all that matters is that the visor will enable you, for the first time, to identify which of the people in that room are human and which are Wraiths. We want you to go in there and find out which are which.”
He felt hands begin to gently unwrap the bandages from his eyes, their removal hardly increasing the dull glow he could see, unchanging whichever way he looked.
Then there was a flash of brighter light and he squinted against it, as a cold metallic shape was pressed onto his temples and across his eyes.
“Ok, you should be able to open your eyes now, I’ve lowered the sensitivity.”
He opened his eyes and was amazed to see…well, that he could see.
His vision was slightly dim and had a greenish tint to it, but otherwise his sight appeared to have miraculously returned.
“Can you see me?”
He turned toward the voice and saw a young man, wearing a white coat, spectacles and a worried expression, peering up at him.
“I can see you fine,” he said, then added, “thank you. It’s incredible.”
“Right, time to go I think.” said the second man
He got a quick glimpse of the other man as he was being lowered down with the same smooth, sliding motion as before, then he was gliding along, watching the lights above him move past as the three of them headed down the hall.
They stopped outside a door and his platform slid upright, allowing him his first proper look at the man he assumed was in charge and he was mildly disappointed.
He didn’t know what he was expecting, but certainly not this nondescript looking figure, there was literally nothing memorable about the man at all. If it wasn’t for the officer’s uniform he wore, he would have instantly been lost in any crowd.
However, there was no mistaking the authority in his voice.
“Right, when you get in there, you’ll be behind a screen, they can’t see you, ok?”
“Yes sir. And you want me to do…what, exactly?”
“Don’t say anything until we join you in the observation room, then you can tell us if the visor works.”
“How will I know, what am I looking for?” he asked the young doctor, who stood silently beside him, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else.
“Oh, if the visor works, you’ll know,” he replied, “you’ll know alright…” the doctor tailed off, staring at him grimly.
The door opened and he floated into a small room, the door closing quietly after him. One wall was completely glass, looking into the adjoining room, this one considerably larger, where about two dozen people, seemingly civilians, sat at the room’s one table or chatted in small groups, seated in the easy chairs that were arranged around a view screen.
He took in the innocuous scene for a few minutes, not really knowing what he was looking for, then began to scrutinise the individuals one at a time, sure there would be some obvious giveaway, some signal from the visor to somehow tell him he had found the enemy infiltrator.
After nearly ten minutes he had made a careful study of every one of the inhabitants of that room and yet he couldn’t see any indication they were anything but normal citizens.
He was just beginning to think he was doing something wrong, when the door opened and he heard people entering the room behind him.
His forgettable superior from outside stepped back into his line of vision and gave him an expectant look, then glanced through the glass wall at the impervious figures beyond.
“So?” he said, “What’s the verdict, how many have we got?”
“Yes,” said a deep voice behind him, “do tell me how this fantastic discovery works. I’m so grateful to you for your sacrifice Captain, you have done your country a heroic service.”
“Mr President, allow me to introduce the young man who is helping us test the alien technology,” the doctor operated a switch and his platform slowly turned to face the owner of the deep, reassuring voice that millions of people would recognise.
Which was when he realised why the doctor had been so certain, had known there would be no chance of a mistake.
He could feel his mind being clouded by terror, his sanity slipping away as the visor channelled images directly to his brain, his consciousness unable to process the primal, visceral horror it was experiencing.
The abomination that looked like the President glared balefully at what was left of the terrified soldier on the life support unit – barely the remains of a nervous system, kept alive by computers, half a torso, the battered head – and grinned, laughed that deep homely laugh that his subjects knew so well, pulled a small pistol from his pocket and, before anyone could react, shot both the doctor and the officer dead where they stood.
The Wraith stood over the soldier, reached down and delicately removed the visor from what remained of his head, turned it over in his hands once or twice and then dropped it, crushing it beneath its feet.
“No,” it said, “we cannot allow that.”