Spring, 1953

From the Story Arc: A Day in the Life...

Previous Story in the Arc: Prelude by Petrograd (Sunday, November 28, 2004)

Next Story in the Arc: Fall, 1953: Graduation by Petrograd (Thursday, December 02, 2004)

(posted Tuesday, November 30, 2004)

Ivan knew something had to be wrong. It had been too long. For the other cadets, the transition had been fairly simple: a new uniform, haircuts for some, and an inoculation from one of several doctors.

The doctors had also taken blood samples for STD checks. They would draw a small amount of blood and deposit it on some blotter paper. Some had been directed to their barracks while some had been pulled to the side and given antibiotics. It was shameful, but necessary.

Ivan's paper had turned blue. He did not know what this signified, but it must have been serious. They had yanked him out of the line and escorted him roughly to a small room in the headquarters building. He sat in one of the small, uncomfortable wooden chairs, looked over the armed guards, and wondered if he would live to join the squadron.

Finally, after a few hours, a commissar appeared. Ivan began to brace for the gunshot, but the commissar looked... pleased? He sat, placed a small box on the table, and began to flip through a folder.

"You are Private Derinsky?"

"Yes, commissar."

"Hmmmm.... how long have you known about this?"

"Excuse me, commissar?"

"Good answer. Bare your arm."

Ivan was unsure, but he knew better than to argue. He rolled up the sleeve of his tunic. The commissar pulled a hypodermic needle from the box and drew some of Ivan's blood.

"Now, watch. Please mark the reactions."

Ivan watched closely as the commissar emptied the contents of the box on to the table. He poured a clear liquid from a bottle in to a small beaker, and then emptied the needle into it. For a moment, his blood seemed to just settle to the bottom. Then, slowly, it began to disperse.

Suddenly, a bright light shot through the beaker, and the glass exploded into acrid steam and a thousand shards.

Ivan's eyes widened, but he quickly shook it off. "An interesting reaction. The clear liquid must have a high conductivity, and... I am sorry, commissar, I am not well versed in chemistry."

"You are partly right. But now watch closely again."

The commissar poured the remainder of the liquid into a second beaker, then rolled his sleeve and drew a small amount of his own blood. He placed this in the beaker. Again, the blood took some time to disperse. After a few minutes, it broke into its constituent parts, congealing into different levels and colors, with some solids falling to the bottom.

Ivan stared expectantly for some time. "Comrade Commissar, I do not understand this."

"You see, Private Derinsky, you have been given a special gift, a gift which can do much good for the Motherland. Your body contains amazing potential energy. What you have witnessed was this energy released by simply destroying a minor part of yourself. However, this method is crude and inefficient. Admittedly, our scientists are not quite sure of cause. This energy appears in perhaps one of ten thousand, and differs substantially from case to case. However, we have become very adept at manipulating it."

He paused for a moment to let everything sink in.

"Ivan, what you have is an opportunity to help the collective in the greatest way possible. You will be the hammer that smites our foes. People around the Union will cheer your name as a great champion of the people, and our imperialist enemies will quake at our might. But, there will be sacrifices. Our scientists are working constantly to understand the nature of these gifts, but it will be a long and arduous study. There will be successes, and there will be failures. Should you join the project, I cannot guarantee success. I cannot even guarantee your survival. But you will be working for a good cause."

Ivan bit his lip, slowly turning over the idea in his mind.

"But...."

"Speak freely Ivan. This is entirely your moment."

"Will I still be allowed to fly?"

A grin spread across the commissar’s face. "Yes, Ivan, I believe we can come to an arrangement."

* * * * *

It was Ivan's third day in the program. Or, more accurately, the third day since his awakening. They had kept him sedated for nearly a week during the procedure. He was mildly glad for the drugs, he would have hated to be awake for the removal of his arms. HIS ARMS! Just another thing that they had failed to mention upon his joining. However, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. At least he was alive.

His world was different through the visor. It was merely another thing he would be forced to learn. Today they would try the combat systems, after having spent a week "calibrating" them. It was supposedly a simple exercise: cardboard targets would rise, and he would blast them.

But, in actuality, it was a very complicated process. Ivan would have to concentrate on transferring the proper amount of energy into the weaponry. Then he would have to work the weapon controls in order to prepare the weapons to fire. Then, he would have to align the targeting reticule with the target while maintaining both the weapon and his concentration. All of this in less than a second.

The first target sprung up, and was instantly burned down by a bright blue pulse. The lights cut back on.

"That was good. Why are we stopping?" Ivan shouted to the technician at the panel. Another ran over and sprayed foam on to his arm frantically. Confused, Ivan examined his arm.

Below the elbow it jutted out at a strange angle. The fingers were obviously melted beyond use, and most of the carapace was glowing white. He watched as the metal skin buckled in, searing through vacuum tubes and motors, destroying the irreplaceable electronics.

And he hadn't felt a thing.