Imagine waking up one day unable to recall who you are or where you came from – only to find you are serving a sentence as a convict conscript for crimes you have no memory of ever committing…
“Then what makes you feel you are entitled to enjoy a normal life now, soldier? What makes you think you can ever pay that back?”
“I can’t, sir.” The answer sounded bleak. “I know I can’t pay any of it back. And I know I will never have the kind of normal life which involves a family. I have forfeited that right. I carry the burden of responsibility for actions I can’t recall or even conceive of myself ever committing.”
Again Vane noticed dissonance between the idea of this man, able to speak in such a way, and yet having no memory before his time in the Legion. Could it be possible he had somehow fooled the system? Vane knew the intensity of monitoring Revid had been placed under and made himself dismiss the idea. With difficulty.
“You are telling me you are not the same man?” he asked.
“I am the same man, sir. I am not the same person.”
The green gaze met his own, disconcertingly steady. Vane looked away, his need to read the instructions flashed up by the unwelcome observer, helped him convince himself he was not backing down from a challenge. He found the next question easier to ask.
“What are your plans if you are discharged?”
The answer this time sounded well rehearsed, maybe too well.
“The Criminal Rehabilitation Department has arranged a new identity for me. They have found me approved accommodation and allocated employment as a production operative in a reclamation plant on one of the Middle Worlds. One called Thuringen, sir. For which I am grateful.”
Vane knew the form. The Criminal Rehabilitation Department gave a discharged Special the same deal they offered to any convict upon release: a dead end job, since no decent employer would accept them, with a room in a doss house paid up until their first paycheque. That, together with two sets of clothes and enough money to buy a couple of decent meals, remained the CRD’s standard offer to every ex-con. This man would get the same, except his notoriety required he be given a new identity too. Most released convicts, wisely, did not take up the CRD’s offer. Most had family who would take them in. Those with no other choice but to take the official hand-out were notorious for their high rate of re-offending.
Vane sighed and shook his head.
“Yes, the famous CRD package and how many manage to stick with that?”
He meant it to be a rhetorical question and the reply came back sounding glib.
“Not many stick through five years in the Specials – sir.”
Vane found himself glaring at Revid and looked quickly back to his screens.The whole idea of letting this creature loose into the community disturbed him.The man was too suave, too quick with his answers. Setting aside the idea they were dealing with a conscious and cunning mass-murderer, undeserving of any clemency, there remained an even more unpalatable reality. Even if Revid was indeed an innocent abroad, even if he had no conscious connection with his past history, it did not alter the fact his memories were filled with violence, war, obedience and institutionalisation. There was nothing of any value or relevance to draw on when faced with the demands of everyday life. At large in society, unsupported, Revid would be a walking time-bomb.
Whichever way Vane looked at it, turning him out on a CRD package was destined to end in disaster. Whoever conceived the crazy idea, was at best grossly misguided and at worst incompetent. But words were flashing up again, impatient and dismissive: Grant the discharge and let’s all get out of here.
Vane pretended not to see. He refused to be bulldozed by another agency whose agenda was clearly ticking boxes on a checklist, not considering the full facts and their implications. He returned his focus to Revid, still standing rigidly at attention.
“What makes you believe you have what it takes to live in the civilian world when you have no knowledge of it?”
He noticed no hesitation this time.
“I had no memory before I joined the Specials, sir. I had to learn how to live in this environment, meet and exceed the expectations placed upon me. I did so. I believe I can learn what is needed to fit into the civilian world in the same way.”
“But that is the problem, soldier. Before, your memory held nothing for you to draw on, or so you tell me, but in becoming a civilian you would bring to that the expectations and reactions you have learned in this unit. Unlike any other Special I might approve for release, who can convince me they are ready to go back to society, you would not be ‘going back’. You have never lived in society.”
The green eyes remained focused on the middle distance and Revid said nothing.
From Trust A Few – book one in Haruspex, the second Fortune’s Fools trilogy by E.M. Swift-Hook – which is only 0.99 to buy throughout November.
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