|APAGear II Archives||Volume 3, Number 4||May, 2001|
[NOTE: This story continues Buji's piece from last issue, Tomorrow's Dreams, Today. -Ed.]
After closing the bar, Arran listened to Joon's story. On the surface, it was the most improbable thing he had ever heard, the ravings of a total nutcase. But there was that ring of truth-that gut feeling that what she said was true. And the fact that she perfectly described the events that had been playing in his dreams for years.
According to Joon, bartending was actually his second career. His first was in the Southern Republic Intelligence Directorate, where he eliminated opponents of the Republic inside and outside of its borders. She said she knew of this because she also had been a SRID agent. The man in the photo was a minor politician who had started speaking out against the Republic's involvement in Saragossa. Joon claimed Arran shot him with a high-velocity sniper rifle, in mid-sentence, during a speech.
Obviously this would be hard to believe if Arran hadn't just been reliving that moment the night before. Joon allowed him to regain his composure, or at least try, before she continued.
"In the past, high-profile agents such as ourselves were simply termin- er, killed when we were no longer useful to the Directorate. However, about ten cycles ago they began to experiment with advanced deprogramming techniques, that would suppress an agent's memories enough to let them go on to be a useful civilian member of society. Until the Directorate needed them again, that is."
"How nice," Arran choked. It was the first thing he had managed to say since she had started talking. She ignored him.
"Unfortunately, it doesn't entirely work. At the very least, all former agents require regular "patches" to keep their repressed memories from surfacing. This is accomplished by a pattern of high-frequency waves that are cycled on your trideo display faster than your eye can detect. A subliminal message, so to speak.
Side effects have ranged from dreams such as yours to complete regression."
"Complete regression?" Arran asked, weakly.
"A former agent snapped, and thought he was on a deep cover mission surrounded by Humanist agents who were all, naturally, trying to kill him. Unfortunately he was at his corporate office job at the time. He strangled six people with a trideo display cable before jumping out a 22nd story window."
Arran realized that pouring his alcohol into a glass before drinking it was a completely unnecessary stage, and began to drink straight from the bottle. He thought about what she was saying, didn't want to believe it, but found himself trusting her more and more.
"So, if you were an agent like you say I was, how come you remember all this stuff? Didn't they deprogram you too?" Arran asked.
"I went AWOL," she said. "I didn't want to end up another mindless drone, or worse. No offense, of course."
"None taken," he mumbled. "So aren't they-the SRID, I mean-aren't they still looking for you?"
She looked down slightly. "Yes, they are. Constantly. Sabre Project is one of the darkest secrets of a government with a lot of dark secrets, and I'm a walking information leak. Unfortunately I've put you in some danger by coming here, as there is always some chance I could be tracked, although it's very unlikely." She seemed surprisingly concerned.
"You put yourself at risk too, by coming out of hiding. Why do you want to tell me this?"
She stared at him again. Arran looked at her eyes and felt an echo in the back of his mind, a feeling he couldn't define. Maybe it was the alcohol.
"You really don't remember, do you..." she murmured quietly. "I feel it's my duty to inform you what your life used to be, and why you are tortured by these dreams. Surely you didn't want to go on like that."
"I guess that was worse," he said. "It was nice thinking they weren't real, though." He was about to ask her if she had ever been to the bar before, when the door flew open. Had he forgotten to lock it in his confusion? Joon and Arran were sitting on the floor, behind the bar, for no particular reason besides the fact that Arran had collapsed there and hadn't moved.
"We're closed, get lost!" Arran yelled, starting to stand up. Joon grabbed him and pulled him back to the floor violently.
"Merde! They've found me! Oh, I'm so, so sorry..." Arran was just starting to put it together that 'they' probably meant trained killers from the SRID, when he noticed she was actually crying as she retrieved two compact pistols from holsters concealed on her body. Arran decided he had never been more confused in his life.
A burst of automatic gunfire came from the doorway, shattering liquor bottles above the bar. Arran felt himself slipping into a strange detachment. He had never been shot at before, but all he could think about was how the exploding bottles looked just like a scene from a tri-d blockbuster. Joon handed him one of the pistols.
"I don't know how to use this!" he sputtered. Joon was checking hers to be sure it was loaded and ready to fire. Arran realized he was doing the same.
"Yes, you do. Look, the next thing that's going to happen is they're going to roll a grenade over here, and if we're still behind this bar, it'll be all over. So we're going over the top as soon as they stop to reload. Are you ready?"
Arran felt like he wasn't even in control of his body anymore. The sounds and smells of close quarters combat were actually familiar. He nodded.
The gunfire stopped. Something bounced along the floor.
"Go!" Joon screamed.
They jumped over the top of the bar and ran as fast as they could towards the front door. Arran shot each gunman twice before they had time to react. Joon did the same. The grenade detonated right as they reached the doorway, the shrapnel harmlessly embedding itself in the bar.
Fifteen minutes later, Arran was in the passenger seat of Joon's car, sweating and shaking violently.
To be continued...
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 3, Number 4||May, 2001|
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