Chapter 24

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“What?” I replied, incredulously, not quite believing he had asked me that question.

Riko took a deep breath and sighed. “It’s a very serious question. While you were asleep, recovering, Captain Marko, the lieutenants, and I had a discussion.”

I responded slowly, carefully. “I expected that. I expected this conversation too, just not quite so blunt.”

“I’ve known for years, and the officers all knew within a short time of meeting you, that you are both intelligent, and blunt. Sugar-coating the question would be meaningless and might even irritate you.” He paused and watched my expression.

I nodded slowly. “Subtle isn’t my thing, even though dealing with Marza, Ma, and Granpa in the last few years has taught me that it can be useful. Not so much with Pa, Edward, and Zeke.”

The left corner of Riko’s mouth quirked upwards. “I will not admit to saying it if you repeat it, but Zeke and Rosa didn’t get along at all because Rosa is too subtle, and Zeke was clearly offended by it. I was watching for the same thing between yourself and Marza, even though Marza is a lot more straightforward than Rosa.”

He dragged the conversation directly to Marza. Is there a reason?

Of course there is, but he’s shooting blind, looking for reactions that might tell him more than I say.

I met his eyes. “Riko, the incentives that I was offered included several things that will, eventually, be valuable beyond my death. The rest of the agreement that I can’t talk about are worth dying for, yes.”

I shivered as my mind brushed up against the possibility of being responsible for thousands, or even millions of deaths and a return to a preliterate human society for thousands of years. If I had to choose between my family and that fate, the question would be almost unanswerable. When it was my life at stake, and at least some of my family might survive past my death in our current world, the answer was clear.

“So, you figured out something big, and Albert picked up on it?”

“I might have to end this conversation if you seem to be trying to tease out details, Riko,” I warned him, making an effort to not sound angry and irritated.

Riko nodded. “Albert has no problem arranging to get people alone rather rapidly if there’s reason to do so. There is no doubt at all that he is monitoring quite a few people in this camp closely. Especially everyone involved in the ‘violence consultancy’ business.”

I said nothing, but had an idea and interjected before he could start his next sentence. “One second, Riko. I need to do something.”

Riko went silent with a bit of a confused and irritated look on his face. “It will be brief?”

I nodded and leaned over, opening a cabinet and pulling out a shirt with my good arm.

Riko’s face grew more confused during the brief time I could see it before I awkwardly draped the shirt over my head with my left hand. “Sorry, Riko, I’ll have this conversation with you, but I won’t let you fish for easy nonverbal responses from me. I know you can read my face like an open book. Most people can. That whole ‘not subtle’ thing is more than just how I say things, and I know it.”

I could no longer see Riko, but if I leaned forward, the shirt would pull away from my face enough for me to look down to read and write on paper on the lap desk between us.

After a couple seconds, Riko started chuckling. “Well, I won’t order you to remove the shirt, but I wouldn’t try that if Captain Marko decides to speak to you about this directly, again.”

“I’d rather not imagine a scenario where that interrogation takes place. I’m sure Captain Marko knows that I’d be a very uncooperative person if he tries to strong-arm me in a conversation.”

Riko started speaking after a couple seconds. “We were hoping that the agreement would only impact you individually. Most teens don’t really have a sense of their own mortality, and if Albert had made an agreement with you that was individual enough, we were hoping to break through.”

“With threats of potential death?” I realized what I’d said and shook my head. “Poor word choice. I know you weren’t threatening me, Riko.”

Riko grunted in what sounded like acceptance, so I continued. “What you said about putting me into harm’s way makes sense. If I can’t be useful like I was before, I have other skills.”

“So, whatever it was that you figured out was apparently significant enough that Albert offered you-”

I sighed and shook my head under the shirt. “Riko. I have permission to tell you and Marza about the benefits, nobody else. I’m not talking even obliquely about why Albert offered them. Please stop poking and prodding for reactions.”

There was a moment of silence. “So, it’s bigger than you, or your family.”

Stop it, Riko.

I said nothing out loud and the silence stretched for several seconds before I leaned forward, picked up a pencil from the little groove on the side of the lap desk, and started to write on the paper in large, barely legible block letters with my left hand.

‘Understand if you reveal this to anyone, the agreement is null…’

I stopped writing, suddenly.

“Sorry, Riko. I can’t. Not yet. You could break my agreement with Albert, and you might do so, thinking that it would convince me to abandon my side of the agreement.” I paused. “I wouldn’t, even if you broke the agreement. But you might be tempted to try.”

There was no immediate response from Riko. For several seconds, the only sounds were our breathing, the snoring of sleeping swine below us, and background noises in the camp filtering through the walls of the carriage.

“I hope we both live through this war then, Allen.” I heard Riko starting to move, and he suddenly pulled my shirt off my head, tossing it onto the bed between us. “Get that thing off your face. I won’t try to pump you for reactions any longer. I wanted to make sure Albert wasn’t trying to suppress something useful that wasn’t legitimately terrifying.”

“Sorry, sir, I’d rather not provide you with the temptation. Not until there isn’t any possible perceived-”

Riko looked away from me and started to speak, which confused me until I realized he probably didn’t want me to think he was trying to watch me for facial expressions.

As he started to speak, I checked to make sure the curtains were still in place so he could not see reflections of me in the glass. Just in case.

“I understand, Allen. The officers might be less convinced, but I know you have a good head on your shoulders. Whatever you figured out, it’s clear that Albert has somehow terrified you with it, and I know you don’t scare easily. I suggest that you talk to Fobi and see if she has any advice about how to deal with people prying. You’re probably going to need it. The officers might attempt to circulate rumors around the camp to pressure you into telling them what you figured out.”

I stiffened. “They wouldn’t-”

Riko snapped his head around to face me and pinned my eyes with his own. “Captain Marko is no fool. If he thinks he can get you to tell him what Albert is trying to keep hidden, he’ll use every dirty trick he can. I can even imagine him becoming violent with you after the war starts in earnest, if things go poorly.”

“What?” I blurted, shocked.

Riko’s face softened a bit. “If things devolve into violence beyond a few scuffles, and perhaps even if there are only a few scuffles, he’s going to go to the prison colony. Commanding others to do premeditated violence is no different in Albert’s eyes than if you had taught your boars to attack men and then commanded them to do so.”

He shook his head slightly before continuing. “The captain is under pressure that I can imagine, and wish I couldn’t. I’m certain that he won’t consider violence against you, before conflict begins on a significant scale at least, because he’s hoping Stateman Urda finds a better way to resolve this. If things go poorly and he doesn’t get the information he wants from you, he’ll be forced to consider all options, even nearly unthinkable ones.”

I stared at Riko for several seconds before blinking and looking away. “You…” I had to pause to think. Nothing was making sense. “You seriously think he’d consider using violence to coerce me like the ancients did in their wars? Me, an ally, one of his militia?”

“If it appears as if we won’t be able to protect what little we managed to harvest this year, and he has to weigh violence against one person against the lives of thousands in the hopes of an answer that might make a difference?” Riko whispered. “I know how hard a choice that would be for me, especially if I were already guilty of three violent offenses. The officers have training and experience with violence, as part of law enforcement. The decision might be easier for them.”

That still doesn’t make any sense.

“The officers are having a hard enough time trying to get people to learn how to fight. I can’t even imagine what the militia would do if he were to try to use violence to coerce me, and people found out. He’d lose his perceived authority.”

Riko smiled a sad smile. “I hope you’re right. It’s the same argument I mentioned in the meeting while you were asleep earlier. It won’t do any good to get your information if the militia collapses due to a leadership crisis.”

So much is happening that I know nothing about.

My head hurts. I need to get the conversation moving in a different direction.

“So, the leader of the small group that attacked me…” I trailed off, leaving the sentence half-finished, with a questioning tone.

“You were only hit once. We’re not sure what Albert’s reaction will be in regards to commands for violent actions that don’t result in harm to other people. It’s also possible that the rest of that group may have intentionally missed you.” Riko shook his head. “The war has barely started. Nobody is starving. Yet. As things get worse over there, people will stop missing intentionally.”

I suddenly realized that Riko was a sergeant. In charge of scouts. He was going to give orders to scouts that would eventually lead to people injuring or killing other people. Those orders would lead to him being sent to the prison colony, even if he never hurt anyone himself. “Riko-”

He nodded. “Yes. I’ll almost certainly be joining a lot of other people on a trip to the prison colonies if we don’t stop this before it gets started. Even if I never personally hurt anyone. I’ve known that from the time I decided to try and become part of leadership.” He paused. “It’s virtually certain that the vast majority of the surviving militia from a large scale war will be going to prison colonies, Allen, except the few who are under sixteen, like you. If you survive.”

I closed my eyes. What could I say? I knew how much he cared for his family, and he was still a healthy man in late middle age. “Why didn’t you send-”

My eyes popped open as Riko interrupted me, forcefully. “Not talking about that, Allen. You heard Marza and me discussing it.” Riko pinned me with a glare. “Not your family business to discuss.” A heartbeat later, he gently punched me on my good shoulder. “Yet.”

Riko turned his head, so he was staring at the door of the carriage. He leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees. A moment later, he had his chin resting on his two fists, their fingers interlaced.

I said nothing. He was clearly attempting to figure out what he wanted to say next.

After a few seconds, he spoke again. “If fighting starts and you haven’t relented and told the officers what you figured out, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Captain Marko will make certain everyone knows you are withholding knowledge that might allow us to take fewer casualties, and defend ourselves better. If the aftermath of the war is horrible, and you live, you might become a social pariah. That said, I know you, and I’m willing to trust your judgment unless you show me evidence of remarkable stupidity in the near future.”

What can I tell him?

I reviewed the conversation with Albert in my head for a few seconds before I started to speak again. “I-”

Riko interrupted me. “No. If you are about to offer to tell me about the agreement, don’t. It’s a temptation I don’t want. Despite your shirt-trick, I could tell that you’re desperate not to break that agreement with Albert, and not because he offered you a reward. If you somehow get an opportunity to tell Marza anything about the agreement before this conflict is over, I suggest that you not tell her.” He stopped speaking for a second. “In fact, I’ll be highly upset with you if you do, because I don’t want her to have the same temptation I’m avoiding. Tell both of us after all this mess is done, if we all survive.”

We agreed on that much, at least. “I wasn’t going to tell you anything about the agreement, Riko, but there is something I can say.” I took a deep breath and hoped I remembered the conversation with Albert clearly enough. “Look at me, because I want you to be able to tell Captain Marko you were watching me closely when I said this.”

Riko turned to me with a worried expression on his face. “Are you sure you can tell me what you’re about to say?”

“Albert said nothing about me telling other people what he would do if I divulged what he wants concealed, so I can tell you this much.” I took a deep breath and dry coughed into my hand to stabilize my quavering voice. “If I tell people what Albert and I agreed that I shouldn’t, Albert will go beyond denying us technology and easy access to free metals. He threatened to take literacy and civilization from us next. For however long it takes until humanity completely forgets what I figured out. Just destroying written records won’t work a second time. He knows that.” I shuddered and met Riko’s eyes, holding them. “A return to a true stone age, Riko. I refuse to be responsible for that. I’ll find a way to end myself first.”

Riko whistled briefly between his teeth as he met my stare. “I… see.” He then held his breath for a second before cursing loudly. “The verbal tradition for military knowledge. It’s forcing him to be more aggressive with us.”

“Yes.” I carefully rubbed my injured right shoulder’s bandage with my good left hand and nodded. “That’s the impression he gave me. He specifically mentioned verbal traditions as being difficult to erase.”

“Albert might confirm to Stateman Urda what his response would be to your telling us what he doesn’t want us to know,” Riko muttered to himself, barely audible.

Riko reached out for the handle of the carriage door. “Allen, I need to go talk to Captain Marko, now. You can probably expect to speak to the officers again, tonight.”

“I understand. Doctor Sven will want to complain at me about my wound, I think.” I touched the bandage on my arm, which was showing a few visible spots of red. “I’m leaking a bit.”

Riko stepped out of the carriage put his hands behind his lower back, pressing against his spine as he stretched his chest. Then straightened, and clapped twice before looking back towards me. “Go see the doctor then. At the Captain’s direction, Sergeant Covil has assigned you a pair of monitors. One of them will stay with you at all times when you are outside your carriage. You must stay within the camp perimeter unless specifically allowed to do otherwise. If you leave the camp, the monitors will not try to stop you, but they will blow an alarm horn.”

He can’t seriously believe I’d run.

“Riko, I have too much to lose if I run. Besides that, running into woods I don’t know well, at night, smelling of blood, shaky on my feet, in a wilderness area with only one nearby farm? Chances are very good that I’d have broken bones from a fall, or be feeding something with sharp teeth before daylight.”

Riko’s expression grew a little softer, and he nodded curtly. I heard the sounds of another person approaching and Riko turned away from me. “Kevin, Allen needs to go to see Doctor Sven about his wound. You heard what I just told Allen. Does what I said match your orders, or have there been changes?”

“It matches, Sergeant Gonzalez.” A male voice answered.

“Riko, is this really-”

Riko quickly turned and poked his head back in the carriage door with an irritated expression. “Yes. It is necessary. Kevin and Hiro are doing what they have been ordered to do. For that matter, so am I. Don’t give them or me any grief. Let’s try to do this without giving anyone a reason to put you in restraints or sedate you. From what you’ve said to me, the last thing we want is for you to be drugged and singing like a bird. We only avoided that so far because Doctor Sven refused to allow it. Captain Marko can’t override him on medical matters without agreement from all the other officers, or orders from higher up in the chain of command. Quartermaster Brown backed Doctor Sven, earlier today. The captain is certainly escalating.”

I’m not entirely sure Albert could be thwarted that easily. I thought, but didn’t say. Albert was going to keep me sane throughout my life so I wouldn’t accidentally spill the secret of large expansion chamber firearms in my dotage. I had no doubt that my body was also going to be prepared to deal with drugs administered in sufficient quantities to loosen my tongue.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yes, Sergeant Gonzalez.”

**

I didn’t try to leave the carriage yet. Visiting doctor Sven could wait a few minutes, and I desperately needed to think.

I grabbed a blank sheet of paper and started to write things I knew, in my terrible left-handed writing. I could feel something big moving around in the back of my mind. Pieces were trying to fall into place.

‘1) Cannot advise military, per Albert.’

‘2) Albert, by omission, allowed me to speak about the consequences of my offering what I know.’

‘3) Albert is highly unlikely to have made an error by omission.’

‘Conclusion. Scenario created intentionally.’

I dropped my pencil on the lap desk and leaned back carefully, trying not to hurt my right shoulder.

Just because the scenario is clearly intentional, it doesn’t mean I know what I’m supposed to do.

I spoke out loud, muttering softly. “Albert, if this is the sort of mental gymnastics you force on humans that you engage with…”

I stopped talking before I said something that might irritate Albert.

Picking up the pencil once more, I tapped my lips with it a few times in deep thought before starting to scrawl in more of my newly horrible handwriting.

‘Assume: Albert confirms his threat of devolvement of human civilization to a true stone age.’

‘Consequences of attempting to use Albert himself as a threat.’

‘1) Immediate political power.’

‘2) Inability to use new political power because I have no clue what to do with it.’

‘3) Can’t delegate the knowledge without risking Albert’s threats.’

My pencil slowed down at the next thought.

‘4) Seen as threat to all of civili…’

I stared at the page, mind racing, body locking up as the pencil snapped in my hand.

When I first met Brad, I had been on the edge of attacking him when I realized how dangerous he was. Later, in the discussion with Albert, I had felt sick when I realized the death and destruction I could become responsible for if I released firearms onto the world again.

This is worse. Far worse. I am literally carrying the fate of all humanity in my head.

Riko is smart enough to have already figured it out. He’s talking to Captain Marko right now.

I folded the sheet quickly and jammed it into the sling around my right arm and then stood, stooped over, and let myself out of the carriage. As my feet hit the ground, I looked to each side and there was a man standing nearby, next to a stool. “Kevin, right.”

He nodded. “Right.”

“I need to go see Doctor Sven.”

“OK.” He shrugged and said nothing else.

In the dark, I couldn’t see his features clearly, but various fires, lanterns, and some moonlight let me see that he had his hair pulled back behind his head. He was watching me carefully, despite his lack of words. There was a horn on a strap across his chest, and he was very solidly built, bigger than Zeke, smaller than Edward. He was also carrying a staff in his right hand, and wearing heavy hunting leathers. As I looked at him, he took a step back to open space between us but did not seem afraid.

Am I really starting to assess everyone I meet in terms of their potential physical threat?

I turned away from him and stumbled slightly on my first step. He made no effort to assist me, keeping his distance.

Thanks, Kevin. I thought, ungenerously.

I regained my balance and started taking careful, deliberate steps towards the medical building, hoping I wouldn’t fall flat on my face.

A couple minutes later, I walked through the door into the medical building.

Doctor Sven looked at me from behind the crude timber table he was sitting behind. “Back so soon, Allen?”

“Yes, sir. I seem to be leaking.” I tapped my shoulder. “I also need to ask you for advice.”

“Everything seemed to be holding together nicely when I last changed the dressing. Have you been exerting yourself?”

“Not intentionally, sir. I got upset a couple of times and tensed up. I felt the wound open up once. It didn’t feel like any stitches tore out, but it did bleed a bit.”

“OK, I’ll take a look.” Doctor Sven nodded and motioned me to a chair next to his desk. He looked up in my direction again. “What about you?”

Kevin’s voice came from behind me, startling me. I’d already forgotten about him. “I’m fine, sir. I have orders to follow Allen here, until further notice or when relieved.”

The doctor’s eyes darted between the two of us before he shook his head briefly. “Fine. Sit in one of the other chairs, not on a cot.” His eyes settled on me, and his graying brows drew down in irritation. “Allen, you seem to be the focal point of a lot of strangeness today.”

“Nothing I wanted, doctor. I seem to be a chaos magnet recently.”

Chuckling, Doctor Sven started removing my bandages, while leaving my arm in the sling. “I’d say that’s an understatement of gross proportions. I thought Captain Marko might suffer a stroke in the meeting we had about you earlier.”

“I heard that I have you to thank for not being drugged into a stupor right now.” I paused. “That’s part of the second reason I came to you.”

“Talk to me about the second reason while I unwrap this present you brought me and see how annoyed I need to be with you.”

“Doctor, I’d prefer that you finish looking at my arm first. I’m not entirely certain how what I’m going to tell you is going to impact your ability to concentrate on my injury.”

“I’ve been doctoring people while they tell me their worries for nearly three times your entire lifespan, Allen.”

“I understand. I’d still like to wait. You know at least part of the story of what happened to me with Albert. What I want to ask you about is related.”

Doctor Sven grumbled. “I’ve heard quite enough about that already. You know I can be overruled, right?”

“Yes, sir. Riko mentioned that. I would be speaking with him now, but he left to speak with Captain Marko before I realized what I’m bringing to you.”

“Sounding worse and worse, Allen.” Doctor Sven finally unwound the last of the innermost bandages and started carefully teasing at the wound dressing to remove it. Underneath the dressing, there was a thin sheet of latex with lots of holes in it covering a ragged wound that was sure to leave me a very visible scar.

After a brief examination through the mostly transparent latex, the doctor nodded. “Good. The stitches are still in place. You just broke the wound open a little.” He daubed iodine on the wound, through the latex covering, before pressing a new dressing into place and wrapping it with a bandage.

“You didn’t take your arm out of the sling, did you?”

“No, sir. I just tensed my arms hard without thinking about it.”

He waggled his index finger at me as he sat back down again. “The stitches might not stay in place next time, especially if the wound swells much more. You don’t seem to be prone to severe swelling from wounds, but I’ll be very surprised if it’s not swollen more by tomorrow. Sleep with that shoulder raised. Now, what was the other thing you wanted to talk to me about?”

I used my left hand to remove the folded paper from my sling under my right forearm, and handed it to him. “I wrote it down while I was thinking through it, sir. I think it is self-explanatory. I need input from someone whose advice I trust, who is in as high of a position of authority as possible.”

Doctor Sven reached out slowly and took the paper from me, staring at me the whole time. “I’m not going to like reading this, am I? Are you dragging me into some mess with the captain and lieutenants?”

“If I said I had any idea where this might lead, I’d be lying, sir. That’s why I’m here.”

With a sigh, the doctor closed his eyes briefly, opened them, and looked down at the paper as he unfolded it.

“Allen, your handwriting…” He glanced at my right arm in it’s sling. “Ah. Sorry.”

“I. Uh. No offense taken, sir.” I couldn’t help but smile a little.

The doctor’s eyes darted back and forth as he read, and he stiffened after a few seconds. “I do not need this.”

Reaching into a shirt pocket, Doctor Sven pulled out a tiny pouch, carefully tapping out a little pill and swallowing it with a gulp of water from a glass on his desk. He stared at me, and his fingers twitched on the paper. “Nitroglycerine, if you’re curious. Dying of a heart attack right now isn’t at the top of my list of things to do.”

“What? Do you need-” I looked over at Kevin, who was watching the two of us closely, and looked like he might be getting ready to stand.

“Stop. Sit. Don’t pop those stitches, Allen. When I feel that tightness, I take a pill. I’ve never actually had anything worse than a flutter.”

“Oh. OK.” I looked at his face, checking to see if he’d meet my eyes.

Doctor Sven did meet my eyes, and grinned and said “Yes, really.” as he dropped the little pouch of pills back into his shirt pocket and folded my sheet of paper back up.

“I was expecting some questions, doctor?”

He held the folded paper between us, and I reached forward to accept it.

“Seemed pretty obvious to me, Allen. No, I won’t help you commit suicide.”

I shook my head and stared at him. “What? No.”

The doctor cocked his head a little to my left. “Really? That wasn’t what you were going to ask? You consider yourself to be a threat to all of civilization because of whatever it is locked up in your head, and permanently solving the problem hasn’t crossed your mind?”

“Absolutely not, Doctor.” I shook my head and scratched my neck with my left hand as I stared over his shoulder. “I really don’t appreciate you giving me the idea.”

“Oh, you’re a smart boy, perhaps even brilliant in ways that I’d rather not think about too deeply. You would have thought of it eventually.” Another smile that was almost condescending. “If you come to me with something horribly wrong with your body that I can’t fix, we can talk about a final solution on your terms. Otherwise, no.”

I realized that I had already thought about the idea, and even mentioned it to Riko, just not seriously. Now I wanted to think about it, which would get me nowhere. Perhaps literally. “This is serious, doctor.” I snapped.

The doctor’s eyes met mine, and I couldn’t look away. “Indeed. It is. And if you weren’t asking me about a way to end your life, I have no idea why you came to me.”

“What do I do, doctor? What would you do?”

He broke eye contact and leaned back in his chair for a moment, staring at me. “Oh. I suppose I’d seek out someone older than me in a position of authority, who I respected, and ask them what they would do.” There was no expression on his face at all.

Is he really being flippant?

I tapped the fingers of my left hand on the table, slowly, staring at the doctor, trying not to laugh, scream, or lean forward and strangle him. He was clearly expecting a response. “I see. That does sound like a rather good idea.” I was not even attempting to hide my unhappiness.

The doctor’s eyes drifted down to where I was still thumping my fingers, then back up to my face. Finally, his face sagged, and he sighed. “Allen, if you’re asking me if I think you should try to use Albert’s threats politically, somehow, you’re asking the wrong person. I’m a doctor.”

Well, that wasn’t very useful.

I started to stand, and Doctor Sven put his right hand over my left while saying “Wait a moment. I’m not done.”

I looked down at him and could tell that he was trying to think, so I finished standing and kept some weight on my hand to help support me as I waited for him to say something more. I heard Kevin standing behind me.

“Allen, I want you to consider your discussion with Albert very carefully. It’s extremely rare that he allows people to discuss his agreements in anything but the most oblique manner. He’s inhumanly good at mentally boxing people in and preventing them from ever wanting to break agreements with him.” He looked up at me and took a deep breath, blew it out forcefully, and then continued. “If I’m putting all the pieces together right, Albert is preventing you from giving us more deadly weapons, which I have to agree with.”

“After hearing the sorts of things that you already came up with, the idea that you came up with something worse, that scares me, as a doctor. Do you know what will happen in and around our towns and cities if there are sieges like what happened in ancient days?” He shook his head.

I had thought about it. I nodded. “I have, sir. It’s not pretty.”

“No, it’s not. It’s about as far from pretty as it’s possible to get. Part of the reason we don’t have plagues despite our current technology base is because we know germ theory, and how to dispose of refuse and keep ourselves clean. Hygiene and waste disposal are likely to be the first things to go in a siege, on both sides, followed by malnutrition. Walled towns and cities will allow future sieges that might kill millions over time.”

I closed my eyes and nodded. I hadn’t imagined it could be that bad. But thinking about it, and remembering some of the horror stories of ancient warfare, I realized it was true.

I shivered uncontrollably for a second. Have I already put us on the path to something worse than firearms?

Doctor Sven continued as I nervously shifted my weight from one foot to another. “Albert allowed that idea. Don’t think he couldn’t have prevented it. He is perfectly capable of injecting people with drugs that will make them unconscious and prevent the formation of long-term memories, and he was almost certainly watching your brainstorming sessions very carefully. There are several documented cases that I can think off the top of my head where entire groups of individuals went unconscious and lost hours of memories.”

Is there a point to this? He didn’t do that to me.

“But what does that mean, sir?”

Doctor Sven looked at me sharply again. “Think. If Albert is willing to admit you have knowledge in your head that, if released, would cause him to devolve humanity to barbarism, then he’s playing a deep game. A game I’m afraid to interfere with.”

I heard Kevin suck in a startled breath behind me.  I turned a little in his direction to allow me to see him in my peripheral vision.

Doctor Sven closed his eyes, and spoke without opening them. “I’m more afraid of you trying to figure it out on your own, than what might happen if I direct you to someone else that might do the right thing.”

Doctor Sven opened his eyes and looked at me. “Allen, you need to talk to Captain Marko because Albert didn’t just stop you from helping us create new weapons. He made you into a weapon.”

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7 thoughts on “Chapter 24

  1. Thank you for an incredibly interesting chapter (and story). Having knowledge of more advanced weaponry be a weapon against knowledge is incredibly intriguing to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Alex
      Allen is essentially a doomsday weapon.
      His side can play up the part of having someone who knows things dangerous enough that Albert is worried without letting on about what happens if he uses it. At the same time they have to keep him under guard because they know what happens if someone else captures him and forces the information out.

      Hell if Allen turns out more villain than hero he could use the threat of being able to end civilization to make sure his family never has to work again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If Allen is really this horrid weapon then the world needs to lock him in a deep dungeon and throw away the key. He is a bright kid with a secret. Just like Riko and his mother have secrets.

    I liked the chapter except Sven’s closing comment. The good doctor needs a kick in the shorts.

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  3. He is a weapon. Albert won’t tell anyone what it is that Al knows, right? (Speaking of which, this character named Al has similar mannerisms to that other character named Al in your other story, FarmerBob — you might consider making the names even more different.) But Albert will confirm a) that Allen was talked to, b) that he made some sort of deal with Allen, c) that if Allen reveals what he knows then civilization will be set back to a pre-written language level.

    Allen is a nuke. If he gets “used” or reveals the secret, then all life ends as they know it. But if his family is about to be destroyed, then he might as well take the enemy with him, right? Or at least that’s the way it’ll be put out over the propaganda network. So that could theoretically be a strong incentive for the “group in the middle” (whose name escapes me) to attack North instead of attacking South — who wants to attack a nuke?

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    • Wait. The only other AL I can remember having written about was a robot cat. (And yes, I chose the name to start with Al for the same reason, as a play on AL = AI) Have I actually forgotten a character? Or are you referring to ‘A’ ? If you mean A, I don’t see the similarity.

      In any case, I’m actually writing the next chapter now, exploring a lot of what you are discussing. I’m about 1100 words in. Hopefully will finish it in the next couple days.

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  4. Makes me wonder, Albert said that Allen has the ability to become the statesman (top leadership position). Albert also said that he basically trained humans the same way Allen trained his pigs. Now Albert ‘gave’ Allen the power of the ultimate bluff. With a ‘neutral’ 3rd party (Albert himself) able to back up the claim to the other state leadership who are able to inquire.

    This says to me one of three things.
    1) That Albert has either run out of ideas to ‘weed out’ the violence in humans, or the M.A.D. theory is his next attempt.
    2) Albert is proceeding in the next step because Allen is a very good candidate for next step. the next step being the unification of humans and the building blocks for an eventual utopian society, hinted at in the prologue somewhere.
    3) Albert doesn’t want to see so many people/violent tendencies be ‘placed’ back into the gene pool as a result of the abnormal locusts. Which were designed as a test, that, potentially, failed. Hence back up plan of Allen being able to ‘ensure’ cooperation by threat of force stone-age level De-evolution.

    Any which way, Allen no longer has the option of being a simple farmer any more. As his intelligence has been reveled and well the zombies wantz his brains!1!

    ermm, State leadership will want to use him as a weapon temporally then once learning what he can do, keep him longer term.

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