APAGear - Volume 5, Number 4 - June/July 2003

The First Desert Strikers, Episode 1.04: Education

Gail Camaya

Previously: The Fighting Badgers and the Death Vipers were ambushed at the edge of the Oberon Canyon Maze. The only survivors are Lt. Heiser, Sous-Caporal Feloma, and Corporal Dortmeyer. All three are currently held by their unnamed captors.

How many days? How many weeks? The answer is not important to Heiser. He just wants to think about something other than the pain.

"AHHHHHHHHHH!" he screams as another surge of electricity courses through his body. His muscles seize after the electricity stops.

"Now, Mr. Norlight. I've asked you this question time and time again. I've given you the right answer many times. In all these days of 'reconditioning' you've managed to say only the wrong answer. You're tired, thirsty, and want this 'learning session' to be over. So, if you could kindly answer the question correctly, we can get to other matters. So, the hundredth time: what is two plus two?"

Heiser fights to stare up so that he can look into his tormentor's eyes. Before he could answer, Feloma interrupts. "Four!"

"Your friend over there is also wrong," the Interrogator quips. His thumb presses a switch on his remote.

Feloma screams and convulses in his chains. For three seconds, electricity ravages his body, burning flesh at wire clamps pinching painfully on his ears, fingers, toes, and testicles. Feloma breathes heavily after the barrage.

Their Interrogator grins: his chapped lip smile parts to uncover a gruesome array of bucked yellowed teeth and gray decaying gums. "That is also happening to you, my friend. Your Republican conspirator is willing to suffer with you. Only you, my Norlight friend, will end that suffering. You just need to tell me one thing. What is two plus two?"

Heiser calms his shaking and focuses long enough to say, "Four."

The electricity comes much stronger this time around. Heiser nearly loses consciousness, but they splash him with cold water. He shakes from the shock of both the electricity and the cold.

"You do not care for your comrade, here. What am I going to do with you, Norlight?"

A deep voice, much like a bellow from a tuba, speaks up from a distance behind Heiser. "We're wasting time."

The Interrogator looks up and addresses the new voice. "We can't ask them the questions unless they're broken. We've been at this for weeks and they don't break. If you have an idea, then I will listen."

"If they can't bend one way, they will bend another," the voice answers.


After two days of complete isolation, Heiser and Feloma are brought back to the torture chamber. They are shackled to the ceiling and hang by their wrists. The Interrogator stands in front of them.

"Well, here we are. Ready to begin a new learning session. Are you two ready?"

"Bring it on," Feloma answers.

"The answer is still 'four,'" Heiser says.

"I see," the Interrogator says. He licks his lips. "Even after all those hours of no contact, only a few pieces of bread, and little water, you two are still refusing your lessons. Today, we start a new lesson with brand new material."

The Interrogator snaps his fingers. A truss is wheeled out from behind two doors. A female figure is strapped to the truss, arms and legs spread out as far as they can be. She wears the familiar uniform of a Norlight gear pilot, though it is torn in places.

Feloma gasps at the sight.

"Dortmeyer!" Heiser yells out, hoping she's not dead.

"I see the torture hasn't taken away your memories, yet." The Interrogator turns around and limps over to Dortmeyer, taking care not to put too much pressure on his left leg. He caresses her cheeks and admires her body. "Dortmeyer has been working in our mines while you two resided here in the facilities. Unfortunately, she's managed to rally some of our slaves together to form a rebellion. We stopped it and eventually captured her uninjured. I must say that it was a feat just to subdue her."

"What is it you want?" Heiser asks.

"I want you to say that two plus two is five."

"Two plus two is five," Heiser quickly replies.

"Now, I did not hear conviction in your voice, Mr. Norlight. We have to do something about that."

The Interrogator pulls out a vial from his pocket, opens it, and waves it underneath Dortmeyer's nose. She shakes from the odor and squints in the darkness.

"Hello, Dortmeyer. We meet again."

Dortmeyer looks around the dimly lit room. She orients her eyes as she scans the room. When she looks at the Interrogator, she smirks. "How's the leg, doc?" she asks.

"It's fine. I'm still limping, but rehabilitation is coming along. How do you feel?"

"Good enough to start another uprising. Just let me go and I can make it interesting."

"Tsk, tsk. I can't do that, my dear. Soon, though, you will receive your punishment."

The doors that Dortmeyer was wheeled through open again. Two burly guards roll a large cauldron of hot coals into the room, along with several metal bars protruding from the coals.

"Guards, strip off her clothes!"

The men walk over to Dortmeyer and, with rusted blades, slice through her pilot suit and undergarments. They then gag her with a handkerchief. The Interrogator adjusts a light to shine more prominently on Dortmeyer's now revealed skin.

"Pretty, isn't she?"

"You're sick!" Feloma shouts.

"I'm sick? You hear that, men? He thinks I'm sick?" Laughter echoes through the room. "Barring the fact that I have bad oral hygiene and Dortmeyer here has almost made me a cripple, I'm in the best shape of my life. However, Dortmeyer is cold right now. You can tell. I think it's time to warm her up."

The Interrogator walks over to the cauldron and pulls out a bar. He bangs the metal bar to shake the ash and reveal a white hot branding mark on the end. "This iron was taken from a homestead we attacked two seasons ago. The rancher begged us to spare his family. He had a homely wife and three teenage daughters. The men enjoyed them well."

Before any protests could be formed, the Interrogator takes the iron and presses the white hot metal against Dortmeyer's right calf. She screams in pain and tries to wriggle out of her binds. Ten seconds later the Interrogator removes the brand. A new black charred 'A' could be seen on her right leg.

"Mr. Norlight..."

"The name's Heiser!"

"Yes, Mr. Heiser. What is two plus two?"


"You don't believe that," the Interrogator says. "Another punishment is in order. Ah, this one. A circle with wings. The homesteader who owned this one was trying to raise racing Dawgs, but he only had three. It's amazing what people try to do these days on what little they have."

"The answer is five!"

"I don't hear the conviction in your voice. Now, where to put this. Ah, inside upper left leg."

Again he places the hot iron to Dortmeyer's flesh. Both Feloma and Heiser are wide eyed as Dortmeyer screams through her gag. After the irons are removed, tears drip from Dortmeyer's eyes.

The Interrogator pauses. "Hmm. This isn't going anywhere. I guess we will have to do this faster."

"NO!" Heiser yells. He struggles in his chains, straining to get closer to Dortmeyer.

"STOP!" Feloma yells. "Two plus two is five. It has always been five! It will always be five! I'll tell you everything!"

"I'm sorry, but I also hear the hint of desperation that I heard in Heiser. No, we will continue."

The Interrogator resumes the ritual. Iron after iron is pressed on Dortmeyer's skin. Each time she cries more in pain and humiliation. When he is finished, nine different brands have been placed, some as big as a hand width, others as small as child's palm. The places have varied from the legs to the arm, the back, and just under her nipples. The smell of burnt flesh permeates the air.

"Now," the Interrogator says, cradling Dortmeyer's chin in his hand, "what shall we put upon her face?"

"Stop! I'll tell you everything I know," Feloma says.

"I'm sure you will, but Heiser there will not."

Heiser looks to the Interrogator. "I am First Lieutenant Famson Heiser of the 29th Gear Regiment, Merchant's Point. We were sent on a mission to destroy a rover gang near the Oberon Maze.

The Interrogator eyes Heiser suspiciously. Heiser continues. "Two plus two is five. It has always been five. It will always be five."

"Very good, Heiser. I'm glad you and your friend 'learned' the lesson. Guards, take these two down and put them in cell five. We shall have a talk later."

When Heiser and Feloma are taken away, the man with the deep tuba voice speaks up. "See? It was much easier to bend those two if you know something about them."

The Interrogator quips, "I like my methods better, although this one presented itself much more readily." He walks over to Dortmeyer who still hung from the truss, exhausted. He affectionately caresses her arm, breast, and hip. "I would like some time with her."

"Be my guest," the voice says. "But don't kill her. Keep her alive. I want to display her in the mines this afternoon as a warning to those who will attempt another rebellion." With that, the man with the deep voice leaves the room.

To be continued...