Friday, April 27, 2012


Sergeant Hesam took three deep breaths. He had his routines, his rituals, and Cadet Weber had accompanied him on enough missions that he shouldn't worry about the cadet, but he stared into the man's eyes, taking the measure of the man. The two of them were as prepared as their Essie training could achieve.

Releasing the safety on his semiautomatic, he fired a single round into the door mechanism, angled down so no one would be hit inside. In his peripheral vision, faces turned to stare in the direction of the gun's retort. Gunfire wouldn't have garnered attention a few years ago, but the Essies had made progress. Jews and Palestinians living side by side without violence. Except for some outbreaks. Memories resurfacing. That's why he was here. They'd have ten minutes before the Silwan district security forces arrived.

He kicked down the door and entered with Weber covering him. Inside, a phosphor flicker caught his eye, Al-Saquor, the Saudi Arabian national football team. "Rooms clear." No physicals. But, someone was here if the flatscreen had been left on.

A clutter of test tubes stood on the coffee table beside stacks of bio-computing journals. The gear might've one day been a sign of ecoterrorists, but half the houses in the district worked in the bio-computing sector these days, seemed like everyone brought work home.

The ground floor checked out clean.

Weber led the way up the stairs. At the top of the landing, two men huddled against the far wall. He moved to the side, shouting, "UN Peacekeepers. Keep your hands in the air and move back."

Hesam leapt the final two stairs and checked out the side bedrooms, to verify they were empty. Their intelligence had rung true, but he'd learned the hard way not to trust virtual chatter. The good cells found ways to unhook completely from electronic surveillance. The man with his hands in the air would be Jacob Mendelsohn, an American with shoulder-length blond hair like a footballer, uncommonly athletic for a Memories International operative.

The man rolling on the floor in a virtual simulator would be Muhannad, the man who owned this house. His full head helmet and integrated experience blocked all knowledge of his surroundings. His body thrashed in response to his reliving of the day his son died at the hands of an Israeli settler. His leg hit a table, jarring a scalpel balanced across a petri dish, causing it to fall to the floor.

"Disable the sim," said Weber.

Jacob nodded. Sweat dripped from his brow as he crouched over Muhannad. He palmed a cylinder lying on the floor and stood up. "I've depressed the trigger to my suicide belt. You shoot, it'll go off."

Jacob was about Hesam's age, but it seemed Americans took a lot longer to mature. Careful to avoid any sudden movements, Hesam set his rifle on the floor and palmed the EMP pistol in his belt, no larger than a derringer and fully hidden within his fist. "Suicide won't solve anything."

"You took his memories. He deserves to remember. The people deserve to remember. You've made them forget, but maybe this will shock them into remembering what you've taken."

"We only do what's needed," said Hesam.

"Then you'll let me continue in peace. Let him remember."

"That won't bring anything but more pain."

"Every man has a right to their memories. Their pain."

Hesam fired his pistol. The electromagnetic pulse disabled the electronics in Jacob's trigger. Evidently expecting a physical bullet, the man had released the trigger, but not before the EMP waves disabled the trigger.

Covered by Weber, Hesam placed cuffs on Jacob. Something rustled behind him. Too late, he turned. Pain erupted in his calf and he fell to the floor, releasing Jacob.

Weber shot Jacob and the man collapsed.

Yet, Jacob hadn't attacked him. Glancing at his leg, a scalpel had punctured his calf. Hesam cursed. The EMP blast must have disabled the virtual simulator and Muhannad must have attacked in the confusion. Hesam must secure the area. Ignoring his pain, he rolled over and tackled Muhannad, pinning the man to the ground.

Weber aimed at Muhannad. His shot would be true.

"No. Do not fire, cadet."

"He attacked. It's within our rules of engagement."

Hesam released a pull tab of muscle relaxants into Muhannad. Enough to keep the man from moving for twelve hours, but it would leave the mind clear and able to recall everything. Even virtual simulations.

"There has been enough death. We are peacekeepers. Not soldiers."

Hesam slipped a PKMZeta forgetting pill into Muhannad's mouth. The man twitched. His eyes glazed, but not enough to hide what he would see. The man must relive his memories, so the pill could destroy the neural pathways that had been created within the man's mind and so he'd forget his son's death.

The EMP blast had drained the batteries on the virtual simulator. Hesam grabbed a battery pack from his pack and slammed it into the cartridge. He slid the full helmet simulator over Muhannad's head.

He waited for the memories to play out. For the memories to be taken away. He understood Memories International, but didn't peace trump memory? Regardless, he'd have to live with another death on his conscience.

Leaving Muhannad's house, Hesam and Weber donned their blue helmets. They nodded at the wary eyes of the Silwan security forces that swarmed past them and moved into Muhannad's house.


  1. I think its an interesting debate, truth versus peace. I like the sense of unease that surrounds it in the story.

    There's a lot to fit into this flash, the characters and the situation, the whole memory idea and the mechanics around it. You do it but I wondered if the story wants to stretch out a little.

    1. Thank-you, Peter. I will be expanding Hesam and Weber's role. We'll see if Muhannad manages to score a larger part.

  2. Super-creepy Orwellian vision of the future. Nicely done, Aidan.

    1. I'd read wired's article on forget-ing pills. This seemed like one creepy direction we might go.

  3. I want to know more and stay with this cast in this world longer, Aidan. Good one as always.

  4. I can't decide if they are the heroes or the villains of the piece. Could go either way. Good one!!

  5. Whether these peacekeepers are the goodies or the baddies would depend on which side you are on.

    This is a fascinating scenario, and one that raises questions about the morality of some of the things done to "Help" people.

    I like the sound of the PKMZeta pills, but they are a doudle-edged sword, I could see them being used for good, for therapy, but experience and cynicism tells me they would more likely to be used to wield, and hold power.

  6. An interesting premises, make them forget, that clouds the truth. "It's for their own good you know" that's the undertone to creating a world as you want it rather than it is. As always Aidan great writing.

  7. Great idea well executed Aidan. I wouldn't mind using the pill to forget some things, but on the other hand I would lose the lessons I learned from those memories.

    I also agree that a longer story would be good.

  8. Oh it's ended.. darn it.. I want more of this please.. Very dynamic and energetic writing Aidan.. go on ..write know you want to!!

  9. Hi there Aidan -- you demonstrate an interesting moral dilemma here: how far should we go in the direction of efficiency, until humanity has all but been left behind? Some nicely underplayed tech, and a nice sense of place. I liked it. St.

  10. Very nicely done. I had fun reading the story. I certainly hope no one ever removes my memories for my benefit without my permission.