The Past

Posted on June 29, 2012

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A kind wind rustled the treetops as the clouds turned an ominous red as the sun set. A pair of boots crunched on the dirt road below. There came a crash as the man burst through the flimsy wooden door of an abandoned shack. He landed on his hands and knees, panting, soaked with sweat. He looked over his shoulder. Nothing behind him expect the empty dirt road and lush green foliage beyond it. He struggled to his feet and slammed the door shut behind him; it swung back open slightly. He tried to sit on a make-shift wooden chair, held together by rope. It broke underneath his weight. He cursed as he hit the floor. “How do people live like this,” he muttered. As he got to his feet he heard the snap of a tree branch; loud, distinctive, intentional. He froze, holding his breath, staring at the door. The locals call it El Pasado, where he came from, it was called Praeterita. Half man, half machine, one purpose: kill.

The Reintegration Project was a government project proposed and, once approved, set in motion by the Veteran Reintegration Bureau. As the amount of unemployed and homeless war veterans increased to despicable numbers, there was a call for action. Give these brave men and women a second chance at life, the public begged. After a while, the government came up with a solution: the Veteran Reintegration Bureau, tasked with finding ways to give the veterans a second chance. Numerous plans were set in forth without many results. Then one day, the Reintegration Project was written up and dropped on the V.R.B. Director’s desk. He approved it without any revisions. Within a week the plan was presented to Congress and approved the same day. The decision shocked the whole country, and was surely to go down in the history books. Some people said it was the first line of the text that swept Congress of its feet: “The men and women of the United States Armed Forces shall continue their services with the aid of Scharfe Corporation’s newest GeminAID-FK suit, and form the Domestic Intelligence Gathering Group (D.I.G.G.), which shall be a part of the Central Intelligence Agency.” A group whose agents would have the training and expertise of a CIA agent, yet be focused on the home front of intelligence gathering alongside the decrepit F.B.I.? What more could Congress ask for? Nothing. Not only that, but these agents would be equipped withe GeminAID-FK, a mechanical suit providing them superhuman strength and keep them self-sustained for days at a time; criminals on the run wouldn’t have a chance as soon as their trail was uncovered. But Congress and the V.R.B. didn’t realize what giving these traumatized individuals such immense power would do. In the right palm of every GeminAID-FK manufactured for D.I.G.G., the CIA had installed their latest device for intelligence gathering: a mind reader. It’s a three inch metallic disk with one centimeter spikes circling one side of it, which are to be driven in the top of the victim’s head. Once inside the device sends slight electric shocks and receives pulses in return. The suit’s brain interprets these pulses as bits of information. Most of the time the information is 80% correct. But what these agents began to discover, depending on how much electricity is used, they could resurface deeper and darker parts of a person’s mind, and even manipulate their emotions. For some, what better way to make someone understand what it’s like to lose a friend in combat, or feel the fear of always being close to death? But for most, it was more entertaining to see someone suffer their own personal hell. For that, they used a person’s past. Any person be damned for having regrets, for the Praeterita, as they called themselves, would make them suffer.

Breaking a branch was always how a Praeterita instilled fear in their victim, since it was the classic Hollywood sound meaning that evil was coming, and would surely find the hero. The door was violently kicked down and broke apart. The massive figure ducked as it came through the opening. The rectangular eye slit pulsed red. The man gulped as he stared up at it, still frozen. In a raspy voice with a metallic undertone, it spoke, “You can’t run from the past.” The man dropped to his knees, his eyes downcast, his lips slightly parted. This was it. The Praeterita stepped toward him, each footfall the epicenter of a miniature earthquake. When it stopped, its metallic kneecap was only inches from his face. He didn’t bother to look up. Then came the sharp pain as the small spikes were driven in to the top of his head, and the hellish flood of emotions. He screamed in agony, as if someone had taken a knife to his stomach, and kept turning it. All the memories, all the pain drowned his consciousness. When it felt like he couldn’t take any more, as if he might pass out, that’s when the metallic kneecap drove forwards into his face. And then he couldn’t feel anymore.

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