APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 9 September, 1999



Buji Kern

Evan Jothri woke up screaming from the same nightmare that he'd had every night since the war. It was less a nightmare than a documentary, replaying in terrible detail the events of 12 Summer 1915. Sometimes it would change, using different camera angles and positions. But the story always went the same.

His unit was captured by a superior force of CEF hovertanks. They surrendered their weapons, and were told to line up in a field. A few Terranovan soldiers, perhaps guessing what was about to happen, broke and ran. They were shot immediately. Then, the three tanks trained their machineguns on the defenseless captives and opened fire. Jothri was standing in the back, and was paralyzed by the sight of the rows of men in front of him being mowed down.

And then suddenly a voice in his head broke through the fear and told him to play dead. As the tanks started to slaughter the soldiers in his row, Jothri dropped to the ground and hoped no one would notice he hadn't been shot. He laid there for what seemed like hours, a bleeding corpse partly on top of him. When the CEF officers began to move around the field, executing survivors with their sidearms, Jothri realized he would be next. He got up and ran for the nearest cover, a clump of trees and bushes about 60 feet away.

A few other soldiers had been playing dead too, and they rose and followed Jothri. Someone spotted them and yelled, and the tanks and officers opened fire on them. All but one of the fleeing survivors were immediately killed, and Jothri felt extreme pain in the back of his leg but forced it out of his mind as he ran.

The dream usually ended there. Jothri evaded the CEF troops for two days, until he finally linked up with a Northern engineering battalion. He received a commendation and returned to fight for the rest of the war. After the war ended, he had trouble returning to civilian life, and nightmares plagued him. The psychologists he consulted told him he had to forgive the CEF soldiers responsible in order to move on and free his mind, but he would have none of that.

He spent the last twenty cycles collecting data about the man commanding the CEF armored column that ambushed his infantry platoon. He was a captain in the CEF armored cavalry named Jason Korzeni, an elite officer. Korzeni had a fanatical hatred for the Terranovans, and it was that coupled with a slightly unhinged mind that led him to commit several atrocities during the war. He was charged with war crimes by the Westphalia Tribunal but escaped to Port Arthur, where he served for several cycles in Colonel Arthur's army. Numerous attempts by Terranovan authorities to extradite him had failed, and they had finally given up.

Most of these details seemed extraneous to Jothri. He only knew that Korzeni needed to be punished for his crimes. Perhaps then he could sleep, without seeing the faces of dead and dying friends and hearing their screams.

This is what brought him to Port Arthur.

He climbed out of the bed in his cheap room, and dressed. He concealed a pistol under a lightweight desert jacket, put on a wide-brimmed hat and tried to look like a local.

Across the street was a bar, and military people seemed to frequent it. He walked in and ordered a beer. Then he sat quietly until a group of men came in wearing uniforms. They were young and cocky, probably members of Colonel Arthur's cavalry. They sat next to him at the bar, and Jothri offered to buy them a drink.

"Do any of you fellows know a retired soldier by the name of Korzeni?" he asked, as the bartender set down to mugs of dark ale.

"Sure," one of the soldiers said, "he comes in here all the time. That man knows almost everything there is to know about hovertank tactics, even if he is a little weird. Why are you looking for him?"

Jothri smiled. "Oh, I served in his unit during the war. I was just passing through and wanted to catch up on things."

Another one of the soldiers turned to him.

"I know where you can find him," he said. "He lives in the apartment complex two blocks down."

"Thank you very much, boys," Jothri said, and left the bar.

As he walked to the building, he spotted many GRELs wandering the streets. It was still almost hard not to start shooting at the sight of the massively built soldiers, but in a way Jothri felt less hostility toward them than to the human Earth soldiers. After all, GRELs were programmed to follow orders. They didn't have a choice.

He reached the building, and pressed the intercom button marked 'Korzeni'. His unit was number 3, on the first floor.

"Yes?" said a voice. Jothri was almost paralyzed, recognizing the voice as the same one that ordered him and his comrades to line up in a field twenty cycles ago. He regained his composure.

"Uh, I'm with Port Arthur Delivery Service, I have a package here that needs to be signed for."

"Come in," Korzeni said, irritably.

The door unlocked, and Jothri entered the building. He walked down the hallway until he found number three, and paused. He had rehearsed this in his mind countless times. He was ready.

He pulled on a pair of leather gloves and knocked on the door. A lean, dark man in his mid-fifties opened the door. Behind him, small amounts of the blazing sunlight outside leaked in through closed blinds and curtains.

Jothri charged into the room and buried his elbow into Korzeni's sternum, knocking the unprepared man to the ground.

He drew the pistol and aimed at Korzeni's head. He had considered saying something to the terrified and defenseless man, like in some cheap holofilm, but he said nothing. The only thing that mattered was for him to die. Jothri stared at him for a moment, and thought he saw in his hard eyes a glimmer of recognition, a realization that some crimes will not go unpunished.

Jothri shot him once in the side of the head at point-blank range, killing him instantly. He then placed the gun in Korzeni's hand. It was no coincidence that it was of the same type issued by the Arthurian Korps.

Stuffing the gloves in his pocket, he found the landlord. Attempting to act hysterical, he told him that Mr. Korzeni in 3 had shot himself and they needed a doctor. "I'll call emergency while you check to see if he's still alive!" Jothri shouted, and ran back toward the public phone. When the landlord was around the corner, he ducked out of the building and disappeared into a crowded public market.

The only thing that would ever make the papers was that Jason Korzeni, a retired soldier, had tragically shot himself out of guilt over being labeled a war criminal by the Terranovans.

He hitched a ride on the next caravan out of Port Arthur, and began his life as a free man.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 9 September, 1999