Jandrax 28

He came around the desk with speed amazing for a man so heavy and struck me down before I could dodge.

Three days later a steel collar with attached chain was riveted around my neck and I was led out and padlocked to the dashboard of a personnel skimmer. The officer who had interrogated me sat beside me and two privates sat forward, one piloting, one manning the machine rifle. What the officer had in mind, I could not guess.

We toured the valley where the Patrol base was situated, and I saw the blackened ruins we had made of once prosperous farms. I exulted in the destruction. It was not more than the Pertoskans deserved for driving us from our lands and killing off my sister and my friends.

The officer said nothing until the end of the tour, then asked, “Are you proud of what your people have done.

“Yes!”

***

Thereafter, hardly a day passed that I was not escorted somewhere to view the destruction we Dannelites were perpetrating. I worked beside a Pertoskan whose house had been burned. For a week I labored with him to rebuild it, thinking all the while that if I escaped I would return and burn it again. Whenever a Pertoskan was killed, I dug the grave, wrapped the body, and watched the mourners as they trooped past. I spaded the dirt back into the grave.

At first I was proud of the destruction; then I reached a stage where I could no longer be proud, though I still accepted the destruction as necessary to free Hallam. After a while, it became apparent that Hallam would never again be a Dannelite paradise and I took solace in revenge.

After months of uncounted bodies, burned fields, and destroyed homes, I no longer wanted revenge. I had become numb.

At night I was locked away in the tiny cubicle. It was not imprisonment or punishment – it was to keep the Pertoskans from reaching the son of their persecutor.

Whenever a new raid occurred, I rode with Major Bass, my personal demon, to view the carnage. My pride lasted for two such missions. Thereafter I was merely dumb and resentful, moving as directed, bundling up the shattered bodies to be taken down to the valley for burial.

Sometimes we would sweep up the valleys on a skimmer and Bass would question me on this topic or that, trying to wring tactical information out of me. In this he was not successful.

On one such mission he turned to me and asked, “Do you think me cruel in my treatment of you?” When I did not answer, he went on, “Remember this, Jan; when your father stops butchering innocent people, you will no longer have to bury them.”

In my cell that night, I found a new addition to his arsenal of tortures. A technician had set up a reader so that it ran continuous spools of the Pertoskan and Danneline Monomythoses side by side. At first I ignored it, since it was cased in clear plastic and I could do it no harm. Then I thought that I would fool him by reading only the scriptures that had been my companions since infancy and deriving comfort from them. For two hours I read until something seemed wrong. The scriptures suddenly took a new slant and I realized that they had become foreign to me. I glanced at the parallel tape and realized that I had been fooled. The labels had been reversed. For two hours I had been reading the Pertoskan Monomythos and had not known the difference.

*****

No doubt many of you will recognize the source of some of this. During WWII Kurt Vonnegut had similar experiences. I had read Cat’s Cradle in high school, hated it, and avoided his other works, but I was aware of his background.

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