This story hasn't got a proper title yet, I merely call it by the name of the main character, Ben Drexel. Those of you who have read Lone Wolf, will recognize the name. This book explores the origin of this fascinating character.
Trying to find something out of place that he could harangue Drexel about, VanLipsig moved about slowly. Seeing nothing of note, he made his way back to where the young Sergeant stood at attention. The entire circuit had taken nearly ten minutes. To do the men credit, they hadn't even twitched. Returning their salute, he acted like he'd just walked in the room.
"As you were."
The men sat on their bunks, going back to what they'd been doing.
Ben remained standing. He offered the Colonel a seat and a bottle of water. VanLipsig accepted both, but didn't open the bottle right away.
"Not completely hopeless, I see."
"They're good men, sir."
"I meant you, Drexel. Them, I could give a shit about. At least they're neat. It will make going through their effects simpler."
"We don't live long," VanLipsig said without really listening to Ben. He seemed lost in his own little bubble. "Our life expectancy is the shortest in the Corps, but we keep going because it's really all we can do." He glanced up at Ben, his eye holding sorrow. "I never wanted to do this to any of you, kid. I want you to know that I had no choice. You'd come up on the radar. I kept you under wraps as long as I could.... What they've done to us isn't right, but there's no going back now."
"Us? You mean your team?"
VanLipsig's level stare told him the truth. Gulping, he turned his left arm over. A faint scar ran from his wrist to his elbow. They'd told him both his arms were broken and had to be surgically set. He knew now that was a lie.
"Those will fade soon. Your body will heal faster than ever. The reason you cracked that little fucker's jaw...."
"Because I've been turned into one of the genetic freaks."
VanLipsig's dark eye flashed angrily. He inhaled sharply, nostrils flaring. "Might want to curtail that kind of language around my guys. They don't much like being called freaks."
"We are, though. All of us. I've seen the shit you guys can do, sir. You have to admit, it's freakish."
VanLipsig lowered his head. "We don't much talk about it. What we had done to us, we'd like to forget. Most of my men don't remember what happened. They know they're missing gaps in their memories and they know they were tampered with. You and I are unique, kid. We remember a lot more."
"I still have gaps. I can't remember—what's her name?" He begged for information.
VanLipsig shook his head. "I wish we could take that away completely, but you're like me. They're the freak show." He nodded at the men in the room. "But we're super freaks, you and I. No matter what they do to us, we'll remember."
"Do you remember everything?"
"Yes. Everything." He looked like he wished he couldn't. "And one day, so will you. You'll remember her name and you'll want to find her. But by that time, she'll have moved on, found someone else, forgotten you. It's better to make yourself forget, son. It hurts less that way."
"I loved her, Colonel."
"We all loved someone in our past, kid. Trust me, don't torture yourself. One day, you'll the be one sitting where I am talking to some young hotshot about accepting what he's become. I'm here to tell you, it gets no easier each time I make this speech. But it seems like there's always one or two who aren't like the rest. We stand out, we think differently, we make the hard choices. I look at you and I see myself. Ironic, I'm old enough to be your father—fuck no, grandfather." He chuckled sadly, shaking his head.
"You look my age. How's that possible? Your men look older."
"I was a prototype. They made a lot of mistakes with us and learned from them. Your group will age, but slowly. By the time you're sixty, you'll look about forty."
"How old are you, Colonel?"
Wil didn't answer. He opened the bottle, taking a swig. He smiled, raising the bottle as if toasting Ben.
"Where do we go from here?"
"From here, we train the freaks. Tomorrow, we tell them the extent of what's happened to them. We do not point out the fact their memories are altered. Clear?"
Ben nodded, shoulders sagging. He wanted to tell Ray, but he knew he couldn't. To tell his friend would put him in a dangerous position. Ben didn't think VanLipsig would kill him to shut him up, but he might if the situation were dire. Rather than test the Colonel's resolve, he decided to keep quiet.
"Light's out," Wil said as he reached the door. "Day starts at 0430, gentlemen. Be bright eyed and bushy tailed."
"Oorah, sir," they chorused, saluting.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes