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Hermes Trismegistus - Chapter 4
Posted By: Tursas<tursas@shaw.ca>
Date: 05 July 2001, 4:00 am

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Bob awoke, babbling to himself, in a pool of tears. He had been overcome by his emotions; he couldn't remember the last time that had happened.
    Opening his eye, Bob looked upward through a pancake of moistness. He wiped the tears away. Gone were the soft light and the scent of daffodils that had welcomed him in this place the first time he awoke. Gone was the lush green of vegetation that formerly stretched into the atmosphere.
    Instead, a familiar light poured from two of the six tables. The one, whose crumbled bones lay on it's impermeable casket; the other, the table on which the rotting bones of the dead thing lay, who's stink now filled the room with such severity that it could be cut with a knife. Bob knew this smell, it had filled his nostrils on several occasions before.
    He remembered back to when he was a child and had perceived this scent for the first time; he had accidentally followed a cat into an old tomb while vacationing with the orphanage. There must have been a dead thing in the tomb because, though he could not see it, the horrible stench of death had filled his nostrils, sending him wretching into the lake that surrounded the island on which the tomb stood.
    That had been a long time ago. All else he could remember of that time in his life was great poverty. He had learned in his late teens that it had been partially because of something called a 'stock-market crash' that occurred just after the turn of the millennium. He didn't find out about what a 'stock-market' was until later when that confidential information was revealed to him seven years after he joined the Old Navy. Of course, before he had joined the Navy, he had been in secret training; the same as everybody else who was chosen for such a military career.
    What they would do; and he knew what they did because he had been a talent scout for a short time; was choose a subject. Perhaps because of very above average playing ability on a school field or because of high academic proficiency; usually for both, the federal file of the individual would be pulled to check for any illegal or questionable activity displayed and a date would be set to begin indoctrination of the unsuspecting youth.
    It would be before the date set, that a special psyk team would secretly break into the living quarters of the student in question (only the most paranoid of students would know because of the extreme stealth with which the team worked, though paranoia was one of the desirable traits of a good candidate) and set up a remotely operated microelectronic scheme designed to fill his, or her, sleeping mind with hypnotic phrases and gibberish about how great the government was, etc. Eventually, if security weren't breached, the team would begin to inject selected drugs into the subject, trying to induce the ability for the student's subconscious mind to take control of the sleeping student's body. That accomplished successfully, physical night training would begin, the subject often being honed into an efficient and very effective killing machine.
    Sometimes people would question why it was that the student began displaying signs of unnatural athleticism, and a complaint had once been filed for unlawful breaking and entering when the psyk team had (very) accidentally awakened the family dog. In this situation, the army had nothing to do but silence the whole family; all six members were found dead in their beds after an 'accidental' malfunction in the outdated central heating system of the family home. Thus it was determined that only people who were already highly physically active, and who owned no mobile or loud house pets, could be put into 'treatment', as the psyk team liked to call it.
    Oftentimes, the parents and family of the subject wouldn't know about the program, but it wasn't uncommon for a full-scale operation to take place involving every aspect of both the subjects conscious and unconscious life; this had been done for the now lost, and completely naked man. Under no circumstances would the subject really know what was going on, however -- not until his or her eighteenth birthday, at least. It usually took upward of a year to complete the process; for the individual in question to be fully ready for the arenas; a set of secret tactical training centers used to train a person in all aspects of the arts-.
    On the night of the individual's eighteenth birthday, when they came of legal age, the psyk team that had been working on the youth would visit him or her in public -- often in a low-pressure environment -- where they would tell all, revealing everything that had happened over the course of the training regimen. By this time, most candidates had been fully trained in tactical warfare, comprehensive firearms usage and knowledge, escape and evasion; everything that any police tactical unit or SWAT team would know depending on the nature of the job that the Force wished to place the candidate in. Some nominees, the really outstanding ones, were trained and fully qualified in parachuting, underwater demolition, espionage and in the way of every martial art, often exceeding every physical fitness standard -- oftentimes trained better than the best elite troops of the previous century.
    Except for the fact that learning was such a grave process -- not knowing whether the person would accept the job offered on the pivotal night of the eighteenth birthday -- the whole ten minutes that it took to reveal the truth could be quite comical. Sometimes the candidate wouldn't accept, a whole three years of work down the drain (and it did happen), and such a response would leave the psyk boys with nothing to do but bump the subject off, because security could not be breached under any circumstances.
    It had been a shock to himself on his own birthday to find out that he had been the subject of a multi-million dollar training program. The placid, and yet alert, warmth of the psyk that had informed him of his training still rang memorable in his mind. He remembered vividly the onrush of countless memories of combat with his fellow students in the cold underground arenas; of jumping out of perfectly good aircraft (more times than could be counted on both hands both feet and with his fly down), often with a steerable parachute, his landing target being a few meters in diameter -- and most vividly of all -- of almost being eaten alive while on a live fire exercise in full diving gear in the swamps of what was formerly known as Florida. That night in that nondescript bar he found himself barely able to speak. As the memories flooded in, he found himself in the most lost state he had ever been to that point; it was good that he had been sitting at the time. If his supervisors at the orphanage had been there he would have killed them, to put some of that training to good use, but he never got the chance -- he was shipped off to the local arena that very night.
    Those who did accept their new station in life would usually leave within the next week for the briefing of their first 'mission'. His had been to survive a crossing of Rogers Pass, the location an obscure, but very cold Confederate mountain science station, and through CWS territory to the border. Only those who weren't capable of remembering most of their training didn't survive.
    That would only be the beginning, though. The Old Navy, being an extremely secretive paramilitary organization, would send it's employees around the country in small squads to crush up-and-coming terrorist organizations and fight along little-known borders with quickly-exterminated insurgents of both military and civilian background. Training never ended and the learning curve was sharp. Had the group had a reputation within their own country, they would probably have been known as the 'Terrible Teen Squad', but no such reputation existed because no rebel ever lived through a crack-down. No normal person knew about them, or had even thought of them, because after the 'stock-market crash' there was no need for revolt against The People's Republic of the North Atlantic Rim.
    On the whole, people were happy with the Republic because it gave them food and clothing, a life, and something to do. There was not a single person who lived in Europe or North America who didn't work for the Republic -- that is, all except the Confederates, who quite adequately fought to maintain their portion of North America.
    He had heard terrible stories about the COWS; how they butchered women and children, massacring whole villages if they didn't do as they were told. He wasn't sure if any of it was true. Even if it was, he and his compatriots on occasion had burnt whole townships to the ground, gunning down all the survivors with their jeep-mounted machine-gun, lovingly nick-named Bubba. Comparison between the two governments yielded many differences, but comparison of the people who did their dirty work yielded few.
    The CWS was a fascist dictatorship that should have died in its infancy, yet even they had survived the breakdown of the Republic into two regionally based militant factions, which had resulted from the civil war, leaving Bob without a job. He had thought of defecting to the CWS when the first major upheavals in the Republic were taking place, but he knew that if he did he might in the future find himself fighting against some of his best friends. That thought had scared him at the time.
    But none of that wouldn't help him now.
    Snapping out of his reverie, Bob stood and walked around the room once slowly, testing his legs and body for any stiffness or broken bones. Falling into a seizure with many nearby sharp stone boxes was hazardous at best.
    His left arm felt a little stiff, and as he massaged it, he looked at the table on which grew the now gray-green creepers that he could see rise far above into the night. He found it odd that light should not be emanating from it and the tables on the other half of the room, as it did from the other two on either side.
    He walked to the table and ran a hand across the smooth surface, avoiding the plant that seemed to expand and contract, as though breathing, upon closer inspection. Putting his ear near to one particularly large creeper, he thought he could make out a barely perceptible rhythm of air sounding from pores too small for him to see. It was moving though; his experience upon arriving told him that.
    Standing from his crouched position, Bob lifted a hand to rub his face. Short stubble met with skin, he judged that it was about three days worth; which was a relief to him. At least he could tell that this trip of insanity hadn't lasted so long as to deprive him of a proper shave every week or so. In his years of fighting unknown wars he had grown into a shell not unlike that of James Bond; he knew nothing of James Bond, but tried to maintain a visually pleasing image. His luck in tight situations and seemingly unending intelligence and charisma set him apart from many of his colleagues, leaving him with the reputation of an enviable individual. The main difference between himself and the superspy was the women; Bob's job precluded him from having any sort of contact with members of the opposite sex beyond the occassional job with female operatives like himself; they were of a tough breed and many of them could easily kill without any form of remorse. Bob feared these counterparts as much as he disliked the smell of rotting flesh, but there was nothing he could have done to change that. In fact, his fear and dislike extended to all females simply because he hadn't had enough experience to teach him otherwise. All the other women he had ever known were those at the orphanage, and they had only been blisteringly strict. He wasn't gay, but he wasn't a heterosexual either. On the whole, he viewed himself to be a very screwed up individual.
    Returning to his table, Bob looked at the waves and knolls that he knew matched his posture exactly. He thought for a moment about lying down. No, he was too awake for that.
    It occurred to him that there was a nearly indistinguishable hole in the very center of the bed, about a half-inch in diameter and laying on the center of the roll where the small of his back would fit. He bent over the three foot wide table to take a closer look. The hole extended into the table until the lack of light took away all perception of depth.
    Quite casually, Bob pushed a finger into the hole; if it hadn't done anything to him while he had been lying there, why should it do anything now? He could feel the sides of the hole taper towards his finger as he pushed it further in, but it tapered too much for his finger to reach all the way. He tried his little right finger instead, and again found that the hole tapered away too quickly for him to gain any sense of how deep it really was. This was proving to be a very interesting enigma.
    Walking to the table upon which lay the bones with hanging rotten flesh, Bob found a similar hole in a similar fold in the table top. Pushing a few of the bones away, he felt with his finger again that the hole was just a little too deep to reach the bottom.
    In the table with the pile of dust, Bob found a third similar hole.
    After gazing intently at the table before him for a moment, he noticed something very interesting. The form imprinted into the table before him didn't completely resemble anything he had encountered before. Instead of there being folds for two shoulders, a pair of arms, etc. he found himself looking at two sets of shoulders, two sets of arms, and a skull imprint that folded inward at the back, as though there were a large dent there. A shiver ran up his spine as he thought again on his encounter with the giant spider. That arachnid hadn't been of any kind resembling a regular earth spider. It was way too big. Similarly, he had never known anybody with two sets of arms on earth. The implications of this were disturbing, to say the least, and he cleared his mind completely for a moment before asking himself the question.
    The voice in his head was quiet and contemplative, and his lips moved with his thoughts, as would a mime. Where, exactly, was he?
    Looking upwards again, perplexed, Bob wondered aloud, "What's going on?" He asked it again of the breathing creepers to his left, realizing slowly that they too were not reminiscent of earth or home. Then he thought of the blobs. A chill ran though him.
    He was on another planet.