The inhabitants of the world of Crack were the target of scornful jokes through out the Emperor's dominions. It was a moon, slightly bigger than old Mars, orbiting a gas giant 'Cyclops', which in turn orbited the sun of the Vegaris system. The star system itself had been renamed many times, and the original name has long been lost, or as good as lost, if it still existed somewhere in the imperial archives hundreds of light years away. Although speculations abounded, no official person had ever tried to find it out – there were boundaries which everyone instinctively felt should not be crossed. A society encouraging its citizens to wonder what they did, or who they were, before the current phase of history, would create the impression of not being totally obedient to the Emperor – never a wise thing to do. In this age of an endless war against Chaos, and the corresponding wartime ruthlessness, blind obedience and paranoia, a small mistake in the relations with the imperial center could lead to the occupation or even annihilation of a whole industrialized planet, let alone a moon with a population of a mere 15 million, with no army or space defenses to speak of.
Unlike the star system itself, the original name of the moon had survived, as it had been settled much later then the discovery of whatever Vegaris was called when it was discovered. The name given to the moon was "Krakiv", an ancient name, with the feel of endless history behind it, reaching perhaps even back to legendary Earth itself. But although to this day it could be seen written properly on official documents, on local coins, and above the entrances of a number of local pubs, the rest of the galaxy could not be bothered with the correct pronunciation of the name of this insignificant world. Hence the simpler corruption – 'Crack', which was already used in daily speech by the majority of the local population. The mocking reference to elite military personnel, to crack troops, hidden inside 'Crack', was shrugged off by the 'Craks'. They knew, that as a society of farmers, traders, and showmen, they were almost the lowest in the military hierarchy of the universe which they inhabited. But mostly they tried to make a show of meeting the attitude of contemptuous warriors with benevolent neutrality, thus naturally only strengthening the general opinion that they were indeed spineless cowards.
In the suburbs of the capital city of the moon – Valangard – was the house of Igor, a scientist, an analyst, and a husband, who slept in his bed, as the local 8 hour night neared its stunning end, when after the last movement of Cyclops across the sky, not darkness and stars, but the piercing light of the sun would follow. The local abrupt sunrise, filling the sky as the fourth and last nighttime voyage of Cyclops neared its end. Humans who were not used to the 'blood tides' caused by Cyclops felt uneasy during their first months on Krakiv. As the huge planet moved in the sky above, faces became redder and some swore that the hairs on their bodies tingled. But being a native Crack born and bred, Igor had no trouble sleeping. He was awaken not by the passage of Cyclops, but by the alarm of his inter-badge, which beeped the floor near his bed. Since he and his wife slept in separate rooms, this lead only to his own awakening, which nevertheless was sour.
The name on the little screen was Stephen's, which surprised the sleepy Igor, as they spoke to each other these days only about once a year, on some social occasion, and avoiding any meaningful conversation. Nevertheless, Igor's mind awoke at once, and he was able to initiate contact in a pleasantly mocking vein. 'My dear sir’ he groaned, ‘whatever urgent happenings have prompted the beloved former director to call in the middle of the night?' Igor was completely unprepared for the hollow, wooden tone of Stephen's voice. 'It's no laughing matter Igor. I received a message from the imperial fleet just a few minutes ago, a cruiser has been sent to picks us up'. 'Imperial fleet? Pick us up? Who's we?' asked Igor, feeling the fingers on his hands go cold, as he waited for the answer. 'All of us who wrote the report' answered Stephen. 'The day after tomorrow they come to take us away.' He stopped speaking, but Igor was also silent, thinking of his wife, his research, his generally pleasant life, and feeling the inevitable regret for participating in that report, almost forgotten now, after five years, which had brought a space cruiser to take him away. 'I am calling you all, for a meeting in an hour, at the old university lab' said the level voice of Stephen. 'I'll be there' answered Igor and switched off. He lay on his bed for ten more minutes, breathing slowly, marshaling his thoughts, before putting on his pants, shirt and shoes, and quietly going out of the house.
Krakiv provided annually a tiny number of troops for the Emperor’s war, who, unlike the case with most other worlds, were volunteers, and thus the main emphasis in contributing to the war effort took other forms. These were mainly three – food products, financing, and light comedies for the troops. The contributions were not done only to buy off the empire’s demands – there was also genuine patriotism directed against Chaos, enforced by an incident of 40 years before. Bypassing the imperial space defenses of the quadrant, five platoons of Chaos Marines had landed on the small world, and in the end were only stopped through use of all 4 thermonuclear bombs allowed to Krakiv. Even then two marines had survived and before they were killed, 25 militiamen, 15 special troopers and 3 pilots had lost their lives. This dark time was a trauma for the whole generation preceding that of Igor. After this incident the Cracks gladly accepted the imperial offer of a permanent garrison of space marines.
But this turmoil was in the past. Five years ago, Igor was a young analyst of 25, living in a society of considerable freedom and plenty – at least in comparison to almost all other worlds. He had just discovered, together with his colleagues, the arrogant self-confidence of the scientist, who sees into the deeper strata of life, unlike the uncouth and uneducated masses. So, with the blessing of their enthusiastic director Stephen, himself barely over 30 back then, Igor and two others had endeavored to provide a different contribution to the war against Chaos. Unrestricted in any way, as long as they did not confide to anyone else their lines of research, for a whole year the little team collected and analyzed history books, official war news, war gossip from off-world troops stationed on Krakiv, interviewed the few surviving veterans who returned to their home-world, and even took guarded interviews from local technopriests.
In the end, everyone in the team was satisfied with the effort – brain over brawn! They would show the whole galaxy, that you don’t have to be a muscled killing machine to help in the war. They had produced a comprehensive review and analysis of how the war of the Beloved Emperor with Chaos is going. A complete picture, certainly broader then that of most soldiers and commanders, equaled perhaps only by the information available to central HQ and the beloved Emperor himself. But unlike the HQ and the Emperor (or so the self-confident team believed), their report showed a neutral picture, without the distortions of ambition and ingrained military orthodoxy.
Their main conclusion was that the current balance of power can not last forever, and was indeed already slowly changing. The Empire and the forces of Chaos used military hardware, which, not counting minor upgrades, had not evolved drastically for centuries. But the more time passed, the more the paths of development of the Empire and Chaos diverged. While a few centuries ago, their hardware and tactics were virtually indistinguishable, now the difference in the approaches of the enemies was more apparent to the careful observer. The Empire currently seemed to invest into four main fields:
1) Increasingly intensive preparation of its troops;
2) Increasing reserves of energy, self-regeneration capability, and sense amplification in it’s modified special commandos;
3) Upgrades of existing military technology;
4) Increasingly strict obedience to the imperial center by the peripheral worlds, increasing the efficiency of tapping into their recourses.
Under close scrutiny, neither of the four fields of investment promised a leap forward in any way. Normal humans could be pushed to the very edge during training, but this edge had already been reached, after being pushed back by various methods for hundreds of years.
The technology used for making super-soldiers was also stagnant. While 2-3 hundred years ago, every next generation of modified commandos showed a slightly higher level of performance – the ability to withstand poison, or to regenerate after being wounded, it had been a long time since any new improvement had been achieved. These days every new super-soldier had no performance characteristics, which would make him better then the generation before him. Even the cost-effectiveness had not changed – it was still as expensive as before to create new super-soldiers, and their numbers were still catastrophically small.
The tanks, airplanes, spaceships, guns, rocket launchers, and other military hardware used by the Empire (and the forces of Chaos) were generally the same class which was used half a millennia ago. No completely new weapon has appeared in the armed forces of humanity for so long, that no one even wondered any longer if a new class of weapons would ever appear. It was only a question of new modifications of the old hardware arriving in time to cancel out the similar modifications made by the enemy.
And the fourth and newest imperial policy – to reign in all peripheral worlds, to subordinate then strictly to the demands of the center and to drain their resources, also did not hold the promise of a sudden victory over Chaos. Rather, it held only the promise of increased human cost and inter-human strife, as various provinces reacted to perceived injustices by mutiny, and had to be exterminated in costly military operations, which diverted much needed manpower and hardware from the other fronts of the cosmic war. Anyway, even if the subordination of the whole human space to the center succeeded completely, it would only give a temporary boost, before stagnation set in again, but spread out on a much wider scale.
Everything the Empire used in terms of hardware, tactics, strategy and super-soldier capacity, Chaos used as well. But apart from all that, Chaos also used its own unique weapons and strategies, recounted with fear and disgust by those who had survived contact. And this was the main emphasis in the conclusion of the report - the collected data pointed to the view, that in the last 2-3 decades, new weapons and strategies used by Chaos were on the rise. And while they seemed to make no sense from a human point of view, and often did not seem to be used to their full capacity – at least when judged by human logic – the writing was on the wall. The forces of Chaos were experimenting with radically new approaches, and sooner or later they would devise a weapon, or a strategy, which would change the balance of power radically into their favor.
At that point Igor and the others had discussed excitedly with each other the merits of their analysis, smug with the knowledge of their perceptiveness. Five years ago. They were young, they were enthusiastic, they even toyed with the idea of offering their services in the war effort in a more direct way, not only as arm-chair analysts. Then they went on with their lives, grew up, settled down. And now a ship had come for them. Why? To use them? To punish them? To punish the whole of Crack? Could they have penetrated by their logic into realms which were so 'top secret' that they and their loved ones would have to be silenced?
Walking through the quiet nighttime streets of central Valangard, Igor caught himself, that while one part of his mind was weighing the possibilities for the near future, another part of his mind was already soaking in his surroundings as if for the last time. Obviously a part of him had already resigned to being plucked out of this world. As he neared the university building he saw another figure approaching. ‘Hello Graf’, he called out. ‘What an unpleasant way to meet, no?’ Graf smiled and nodded, his eyes weary, and they both entered.
Inside their old lab the fourth member of the old team – Nestar, was already there, holding a cup of coffee and listening to Stephen. ‘Ah, Igor, Graf, welcome, grab a coffee and listen’ said Stephen and went quiet for a minute as the others prepared themselves to listen attentively.
‘I was forwarded an urgent message from HQ center’ he begun, walking slowly from one end of the room to the other ‘which contained the following information: the day after tomorrow, we are to be picked up by a star cruiser. After that we are to be taken to Base 35, fifteen light years away. There, each one of us will be sent to a different theater of the war, to collect first hand impressions.” Here Stephen paused for a moment, looked at the miserable faces of the others, and made an intense inhalation from his nico-pipe, before continuing. ‘This gathering of first-hand data by each of us will take 5 years.’ Smiling grimly at the gasps of the others he added ‘and after this we will be united again. But not here. In central HQ. If we survive, and if we prove that we are needed. From then on we will continue analyzing incoming data, a military think-tank so to say, presenting different strategies to central high command.’ Stephen sucked at his nico-pipe again. ‘And when do we get back to Krakiv?’ asked Graf. He was a thin pale man, who was usually introverted and calm, yet as he asked his question, his voice had an uncharacteristic high pitch. ‘I’ve said all I know’ answered Stephen. ‘I think there are no plans to ever bring us back.’ He gave another sardonic smile, ‘Congratulations gentlemen, the report we made five years ago was indeed of the highest quality. We now have the chance to serve our emperor directly. Unfortunately none of us are happy-go-lucky bachelors anymore. But apparently our families are not important in the grand scheme of things.’ He stopped walking and sat down behind his desk, ‘in case you are wondering, yes, our wives will be compensated by soldier’s pensions, and, should this come to be, which I for my part do not doubt, war widow’s pensions.’
Stephen took a sip from his coffee, and looked with calm expectation at the younger three men.
‘This is insane!’ exclaimed Nestar, twisting nervously his thin mustache. ‘I can’t believe this is happening! Can’t we refuse?’
‘Of course not’ answered Graf, gesticulating with his coffee mug for emphasis, ‘refusing would be treason, a betrayal of the emperor. They would accuse us, our families, who knows – perhaps even the whole of Krakiv! No, we can’t refuse, we must obey.’
‘Wait’ Nestar turned with almost a pleading expression back to Stephen, who was listening to them from behind his desk. ‘Didn’t you say that we would go to central HQ, if we proved to be efficient during the five years? So we just have to be inefficient for these five years, and they will not take us, and we can return to our homes!’
This idea was to the liking of Graf, who looked at Nestor and nodded, but Igor had had enough and answered before anyone else. ‘Don’t be such a naïve fool’, he said, looking directly at Nestar, ‘first of all, it will be a miracle if any of us will survive these five years. And second of all, if it turns out that we are not useful, you really think each one of us is so special, as to be carried by a spaceship back home over hundreds of light years?’ Igor shifted his gaze to Graf, ‘If we show that we are not useful they will kill us, or allow us to be killed at the blink of an eye! It’s a perfect system – we have to prove our usefulness the whole time, if we want to survive at all’.
Graf and Nestar fell silent, while Stephen stood up from behind his desk and begun pacing again. ‘Unfortunately for us, our colleague is completely right. The best we can hope for is survival. Returning to our lives here will be out of the question. We all might just as well begin getting used to the idea.’ He stopped and looked out of the window. ‘My wife will be devastated. Neither will you have happy moments with your families in the coming hours. But that’s the way things are.’
After milling for a few more minutes, Nestar and Graf left to return to their homes and begin the painful negotiations and comforting, which awaited them. Before Igor could follow them Stephen called him in a low voice. ‘Igor’ he said, standing up, and relaxing his features a little, ‘I’d like to ask you to remain, for a few more minutes’. Igor glanced at the older man’s face, and decided to stay. In any case, what awaited him at home was hardly pleasant, and he did not mind at all putting it off, and Stephen again looked a little like the Stephen he used to know before. Igor went to the coffee container to pour himself another cup, as Stephen strode to the door of the laboratory and locked it. He then turned to Igor. ‘Now that it’s just the two of us here, tell me what you think.’
Igor searched the eyes of the older man for traces of malevolence, but could not detect any. Perhaps time indeed has healed the strong rift between the two minds. Or maybe it was the new situation, which pressed into insignificance their personal quarrels. Igor felt similarly, at a time like this cooperation should be unconditional. And it was probably the last time in the rest of his life, in which he could speak his opinions openly. He took a sip from his warm coffee. ‘I think we are seriously screwed. I think that our lives have just been destroyed, that we have just lost all the comfort, meaning and purpose of our lives, and what awaits us is hardship, pain and death.’
Igor watched Stephen for any reaction, but Stephen listened thoughtfully, unconsciously tapping with one finger his nico-pipe. Igor continued, ‘five years ago, we threw our whole energy into this project, without thinking out all the implications of bringing on ourselves the attention of the Imperial center. We were too self-confident, and too shallow to realize this back then.’ He walked over to the window and gazed at the sky. The first signs of the sunrise were visible. Above the horizon, the curve of Cyclops was already being blurred by the sun’s rays. Soon Cyclops would only be covering two thirds of the sky, and within the hour would retreat completely. He heard the footsteps of Stephen approaching the window to join him.
‘I can not disagree with you, Igor, your analysis is as blunt and as correct as is only to be expected from you. But tell me this.’ Stephen spoke in his normal level tone, ‘Emotions aside, what is the best we can make of this situation?’ Igor glanced at him in slight surprise, and felt a pang of envy at the cool head, which Stephen apparently kept in any development. A good question indeed – was there any positive side at all to the situation? Hardly. Igor smiled sardonically. ‘A more patriotic citizen of the Empire would say, that the best we can do, is be grateful for the chance to serve the Emperor directly. Loosing personal comfort for the sake of the greater good and all that rot. But as you know very well, I am not the patriotic sort in this sense. My personal allegiance is to Krakiv, to my science, and first and foremost to my family and friends. All of which I have just lost.’ Igor felt again the rush of adrenalin, and begun gesticulating with his hands. ‘I can not see anything positive in the situation at all. Even if we do not die, if we all survive, which I very much doubt, what do we gain? Nothing! The empire will recognize our usefulness, and use us until we can be used no longer. Perhaps they will even start breeding analysts, like they breed super-soldiers.’ Igor gave a bitter laugh. ‘Instead of huge muscles, they will give them huge brains to process data better.’ Stephen smiled to show his appreciation of the attempt for humor. Encouraged, Igor continued pouring out his pent up reaction to his personal catastrophe. ‘I don’t believe for a moment, that we are taken, because we can help win war. They don’t want to win the war! With this never-ending war, they can impose whatever restrictions they want on whoever they want. Without a war, they would need to invent one.’ Stephen was not as shocked as Igor had expected him to be. Instead he simply asked, ‘then what will they use us for, if they do not want to win the war?’ ‘They will use us not to win the war’, answered Igor, ‘but to make sure that they do not lose it. To make sure that it goes on forever.’
The two men stood near the window of the lab, and the light of the morning sun washed over their faces, making them squint, but they did not turn away. Both men knew that the pleasure of their home world’s sun had turned into a precious commodity, which would will lose very soon. Stephen broke the silence. ‘You did not ask me Igor, if I see anything in the situation, which can be used to some sort of an advantage. You were always a self-absorbed young man. But I will tell you anyway.’ Igor turned to look at Stephen. What did he have in mind? Stephen slowly sucked at his nico-pipe, apparently composing his thoughts, before opening his mouth again. ‘The only positive thing I can see, is that if we do our jobs well, show how indispensable we are, then perhaps some day we will be required to report directly to the imperial center.’ Stephen searched Igor’s face for a second before continuing.’ And then, when and if we are called to the imperial center – we have the chance to kill the emperor.’
It took Igor a few seconds to register what Stephen had said. He gazed at his former mentor in astonishment, and then burst out in laughter.
‘When you are quite ready, do go ahead and tell me what is so funny, Igor’, said Stephen, as Igor wiped the tears from his eyes. The younger man looked at the sunlit face of Stephen and attempted to explain. ‘You’ve always thought I was the radical. That my view on things, my experimentation with the human mind made me lose touch with reality. And here you are, planning to kill the Emperor.’ As Stephen seemed to be about to elaborate on the need of assassination, Igor stopped him with a gesture. ‘But even if we do assassinate the old dog, would that be a good thing? Will the machine notice that its head is missing? Maybe it will continue like before. Or, if the Emperor is indeed indispensable, and we somehow kill him – will not then the forces of Chaos win the war? Surely non of us want that.’
Stephen played with his nico-pipe for some seconds before replying. ‘In these years I’ve given thought to the whole situation in which we as humans have found ourselves. As you hinted years before, I also now believe that the Emperor is evil. And indeed I believe that if we terminate his reign, the Empire will not survive the shock. And if we both agree, that the Empire is not fighting the war with Chaos to win, but just not to lose, then the human race has much to gain from an assassination. When the empire collapses, portions of human space will organize themselves on a much better basis. There will be liberty, and self-organization. A society like that can defend itself much more efficiently against Chaos, and perhaps can even defeat it utterly.’
Igor could see, that Stephen had thought for years on the subject, secretly, struggling against himself, while he thought out the details, that he had had countless debates with himself, as a result of which his conviction was honed like steel. But all that talk of liberty, self-organization… So unlike the language of the era. Could Stephen have become a..?
‘Aynarker’ said Igor. ‘You, my dear Stephen have become an aynarker. Self-organization indeed. Leave it to a scientist to dig out ideas from the dawn of time itself, to find motivation for murder.’ Igor did not speak with scorn, indeed there was some affection in his words, and yet his eyes were not warm, as he asked his next question. ‘But suppose one of us, in ten, twenty, thirty years has the chance to kill the emperor and manages to do it. First – will not our home world be immediately destroyed as retaliation? And second – even if, as you say, parts of human space will organize themselves quickly against Chaos, what about the other parts? What about the other millions, who will collapse into yet another age of primitive barbarism, and be easy picking for the dark lords?’
‘These are both hard questions Igor’, answered the older man. ‘Hard questions, with hard answers. Believe me, I’ve thought about these possibilities.’ Again Stephen was a self-confident man, the hint of uncertainty, which flickered for a second as Igor talked, had passed completely. ‘And I don’t think they will be capable of destroying Krakiv. I rather think there will be panic, uncertainty, and a general collapse of morale. These brainwashed zombies won’t know what to do’. Stephen did not elaborate on who the zombies are, but Igor felt he understood. ‘So I think Krakiv is not likely to be destroyed as retaliation by the center, for by destroying the emperor, we take out the coordinating principle of the empire’s movements. But Chaos… yes, the forces of Chaos. Parts of human space will be lost to Chaos, this is inevitable. If we succeed, there will be much pain and blood. But at least for the greater good. So far, there is more then enough pain and blood, with no reasonable justification in sight.’
‘Reasonable justification? Pah! Aynaker talk’ said Igor, but again behind his slightly theatrical spite there was a feeling of benevolence for the older man. Perhaps a part of Igor enjoyed this reversal of roles –the once balanced, strict team leader and scientist, has become secretly an utter radical, ready to kill and throw millions to the gods of war in the name of an ideal, which could only be reached if a billion other details worked out into the correct pattern. ‘I do not share your ideals Stephen, perhaps I am not such a high minded citizen as you are’, said Igor. ‘But I do like this preposterous idea. Indeed – let us agree to kill the Emperor. As if me agreeing with you would change anything. We probably will never meet him anyway. Even if we do survive the front line grinder and are pulled back to the center. But I’ll tell you one thing.’ Igor grinned at his colleague, and licked his lips. ‘I enter this conspiracy which you have outlined, not because I believe a better world will take the place of the old one, I agree to try to kill the old dog out of plain old fashioned revenge.’
‘Then it is agreed’, said Stephen and shook Igor’s hand, ‘I hoped you would take my side. After all, you are the most aynarkik young man I’ve ever met. I trust you will not tell Nestar and Graf or anyone else, of what we talked here.’ Igor saw, that Stephen now thought the evening finished, and would now propose they return to their homes, and said, ‘You seem to forget one very important thing Stephen. And that is that in all likelihood the technopriests will check and double check us, to make certain that we can be trusted. And I don’t mean only interviews and background checks. I’ve heard that some of them can even scan the surface thoughts and emotions of another human. And if they find the seeds of treason in one of us, they will eliminate the whole group immediately.’
‘Scan a human mind? Superstition! Rumors…’ was the answer of Stephen, but Igor could see that the older man was somewhat taken aback at this new angle. ‘No,’ said Igor, ‘after this little talk of ours, we must prepare ourselves for anything of this sort. We can not take the chance of being found out. Who knows what technomagic is being hidden from us ordinary people? Who knows what the countless planets, and the imperial laboratories have devised? Perhaps even our deep thoughts can be scanned, not only the surface ones.’
Stephen stroked his small beard. ‘And what do you propose my friend? Do you have some technomagic up your sleeve, to somehow hide this plan of ours’?
‘Not exactly’, replied Igor, ‘not exactly. But I do have something up my sleeve’.
‘After I was asked to leave our happy little team, I continued my studies alone, with an assistant. Young Friedix, you remember him?’ ‘Yes, yes, a peculiar young fellow. Also had an interest in drugs, didn’t he?’ As Stephen replied, Igor could see, that for all his new radicalism, Stephen was still prejudiced to Igor’s chosen line of research. ‘Quite so. With Friedlix we took the synthesized forula of the death-root countless times, mapping out our inner spaces. You can not believe what a limitless field for adventures the human mind is.’ Stephen impatiently cut Igor short. ‘Listen, are you suggesting we use this damn drug to somehow re-program our minds? Impossible! No, wait – not impossible – I do believe you may have found ways of doing this. But certainly, if we are to be checked and double-checked, as you said, they will find traces of the death-root in our bodies, and become suspicious!’ Igor saw that Stephen was on the verge of loosing faith in him, and managed to meet Stephen’s gaze directly. ‘No Stephen, I am not suggesting we use the death-root. I myself have not used it for half a year. Because we have invented a better method.’ Igor saw curiosity returning to Stephen’s eyes, and continued quickly. ‘In my basement I have all I need. Screen goggles to project colour patterns, and headphones with sound patterns, which will allow you and me, in a matter of minutes to do what we have to. After this I will destroy the equipment. This is no guarantee of success, but it is the best we have.’
Stephen gave a wry smile, ‘And how exactly will we hide our conspiracy from ourselves?’ ‘Well, the process is subjectively simple…’ Begun Igor, but his inter-badge rang. ‘Yes darling? No, no, I’m quite fine, in the old lab, with Stephen. We will be coming home soon, please make breakfast. Love you’. Igor winked at Stephen, ‘Lets go’.
The imperial star cruiser was already visible, a growing speck in the sky. Soon it would land on the Valangard spaceport, leave military supplies and new army personnel, take those whose Krakiv duty was up, and with them four scientists. Igor hugged his wife and looked at the others. Graf was cradling in his hands the face of his wife and whispering something. Probably trying to be consoling, but his lower lip was also visibly shaking. Nestor was holding the hands of both his wives, standing with a stone face. Good boy. No fear or weakness must be shown to the military, or they will be upon one like a pack of dogs. Igor took a deep breath of the cool air and shifted his gaze. Stephen was alone. He had managed to persuade his relatives to not come and see him off. Stephen felt Igor’s gaze, glanced back at him and smiled. Igor smiled and nodded.
It had taken them four hours to complete the procedure. First Stephen, under the guidance of Igor, had donned the headphones and goggles, and sank back into his mind. With Igor’s help he had managed to find in his maze of personal memories and experiences a happy childhood moment, from when he was 4, on a picnic in the woods with his parents. Into this childhood moment Stephen hid their conversation. From then on, whenever Stephen felt uncertain, he would only have to remember this picnic, and he would feel a rush of endorphins, which would make him calm and self-confident. And if he probed deeper, into the picnic basket itself – out would come the unfolding missing hours from the laboratory. A splendid process. Igor had felt a pang of remorse, as he smashed his equipment. After, of course, he himself had buried their conspiracy into the vagina of his first girlfriend.
The cruiser switched on its landing thrusters. It was only a mile high now. Igor closed his eyes, and hid his face in his wife’s hair.