Anchors No More #8: His Mother’s EyesMar 10, 2014
Sebastian Restrepo left Columbia at the age of nineteen, running away one night under the guise of the chaos of the riots. He went North, arriving in San Diego five months later with only fifty-eight credits, a handful of paper money, his military-issued pistol, and a folded and worn photo of his mother and sister hugging one another on a beach somewhere during happier times. The U.S. Army had taken him in just as he hoped they would, it was no secret that the military had become a relative safe haven for trained ex-pats as the scattered but steady social unrest continued. Civil Police forces had to be increased and Restrepo’s own cousin was offered citizenship and a decent paycheck to join their ranks. The cousin sent for Sebastian two years later and the nineteen year old went, proving his skill and loyalty again and again, moving through the ranks until he caught the chance of a lifetime: promotion of rank and reassignment to the ARLIS Corporate Compound, the ARCC, as part of the command crew. He was elated, the money and security the job represented ensured he could get his family out, bring them up to Kansas City, and set them up in a house for happier and more stable lives.
His pleasure with the job had continued unabated through the monotonous shifts and the never ending series of meeting after seminar after briefing after memo, and even that morning, he was in a relatively pleasant mood, ready for routine and the leftover Mexican food he brought for lunch. But that afternoon, two hours after he had missed lunch, things had changed. Later, in a quiet moment, he would recall the precise moment his mood shifted. Vanderhoff had looked at him calmly and said, “It’s a two-week debriefing and information extraction, following that is the final medical procedure. Simple and clean.” The Lieutenant saw it in Restrepo’s eyes, the hesitation and question, and he didn’t like it. “You have something to say, Sargent?” he asked.
Restrepo wanted to say it, wanted to tell him he thought it was a terrible idea, that dissecting two of the world’s most imaginative and intuitive theoretical scientists after torturing them for two weeks to drain them completely of useful information and necessary practical input was in essence a poor long-term plan and simply a travesty in the short term. He wanted to make suggestions, bargain, argue, do anything but agree to unquestioningly return to their holding cell and transfer them to the lab for their initial medical session. He had been asked to do unconscionable acts before, but he had been able to justify them in the name of some greater moral good, however, what was happening now was so far beyond the boundaries of what he felt he could comfortably live with, he wasn’t sure if he could look his mother in the eye when she arrived if she knew what he had done.
Even more, he admired them, the two frightened and brilliant prisoners, doing what no one else could ever do, changing the way the world looked at itself and revolutionizing what was possible. However, the research had hit its wall and no further progress could be made until Doctors Marshal and Neff were accounted for and their minds thoroughly picked bare. The militarized threat of covert violent action and intelligence gathering with the temporal technology was unlimited, all that had to be done was discover the extent and range of potential problems resulting from repetitive uses of the wormhole stabilization mechanisms that they had developed. ARLIS researchers worried about divergent dimensions, a very real possibility, or the defractualization of the primary world, a more distant but actual concern. The weaponizing of time stood as an abstract threat, waiting for the contents of those notebooks and brains to manifest into actuality. That time had now come and it wasn’t the two doctors’ fault that Time became a political commodity and the United States held the uncontested monopoly.
Restrepo stared at the Lieutenant for a moment, struggling with his reply to the question. He knew what he felt, he knew what he believed in, he knew what his duties were. “Lieutenant,” he said, not lowering his eyes, “I have nothing to say.” Vanderhoff glared at him, reading his expression. Satisfied, he dismissed Restrepo. He had his orders, transfer prisoners to Lab Four and await further instruction. “Yes sir,” Sebastian said, giving a sharp salute and leaving Vanderhoff’s office without comment.
He moved quickly, his mind racing with concoction, motivations bouncing off of one another as he made his way towards the cell. He nodded at those he passed on the way, acknowledging them as casually as if nothing was wrong, nothing was occupying his thoughts, just another day at the office. He even threw Doctor Lawrence Queen a wave and told him he would meet him for lunch and that he couldn’t wait to talk about last week’s game. He was thankful that his helmet cast his eyes in a slight shadow, masking the subtle tinge of indecision in them.
There was no hesitation at the front desk, he handed the guard the slip of paper containing his orders and waited. He was so involved with the mental map he had been creating, detailing doors, cameras, and personnel, that he was startled when the guard barked, “Open Block D,” into the intercom, holding up the paper for Restrepo to take. Restrepo give him a slight smile, playing off his flinch, taking the paper and continuing on his way. Outside of their cell, he took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders. He unlocked the door and swung it open, stood there staring at the scientists, rifle raised, “Come with me,” he said, all the questions gone from his eyes.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.