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.