Rebirth: Short Story

Orion_nebula

Orion Nebula from Wikimedia Commons. All rights to NASA.

This story is recommended for ages 13 and up for violence, war, and some language.

This short story is dedicated with appreciation to the band Daft Punk, who may have left the seeds for an idea of this story from one of their animated music videos dealing with false memories. 

Reg, the Hygolian Dark Beast, stood among burning rubble of the small outpost of Helitia 5, the bodies of the Tandonians, soldier and civilian alike, old and young with smoldering craters in their bodies caused from high powered plasma blasts from Reg’s P16 rifle, lay amongst the rubble. From the homes school, and places of business destroyed to all of the dead, Reg had a sense of satisfaction. Some would call him a criminal. For what? This was poetic justice against the Tandonians, a race that had wiped out countless civilizations himself. He knew. He had experienced their cruelty.

Reg had only been a seven year-old child, scrawny of limbs, and not the muscle bound warrior he later became, when the Tandonian military fleet had attack his planet Yillus just beyond the KX-12 Asteroid Belt. Reg had been at school that day, reading a history of the inner planets from the computer screen on his desk, when an armored Tandonian squad had burst into the classroom and engaged in slaughter. A Tandonian commander fired a shot at Mr. Elyron, the android teacher. The android’s head exploded, raining bright, blinding hot sparks on Reg and his screaming classmates. Poor Mr. Elyron, the fun-loving android who made education interesting, a member of the faculty who could engage students better than any of the human teachers. Next came his assistant, Ms. Arachna, a squat robot on four wheels, her eight arms flailing as she tried to protect and comfort the kids. All eight arms were shot off, and her memory circuit blown to smithereens. No more would she be around to comfort crying children, or to multitask with her eight arms in helping other teachers with their tasks. It was heartrending. None of that could even match the nightmare of seeing his friends and classmates being picked off one by one, as the Tandorian squad made a game out of seeing how many children they could kill.

Reg had survived by seeking safety under Mr. Elyron desk. All teachers had a stairway below their desk which lead to a shelter in case of attacks. Sadly, the Tandorians had attacked so fast that warning hadn’t been given over the intercom of the school, nor could warning have easily been given. They had uploaded a cloaker onto miniature satellites that hacked into the colony’s computer system, causing a download of the program. This disabled much of the planet’s radars and call systems.

As a boy, Reg could only be thankful that the computerized teacher’s desk was working. Once he slipped down the stairs with a few other student, the computer sealed the alcove of the desk with a thick titanium shield for protection. Reg, and the two other students, who had kept their wits about them when the soldier came crashing in, sat huddled in the basement, forced to listen to the laser canons blasting everything away. That hour had been horrendous. He had heard one of the soldiers ask for a plasma bomb in order to blow the shield off the desk. The soldier was told that none of the troops had plasma bombs on them, and that they would have to go back to the ship to get one. Nonetheless, they had managed blow the shield off without one.

Soon, Reg and his two classmates had been surrounded by six Tandonian soldiers. Reg had thought his life would go out by the burst of a laser beam. But instead of opening fire, the soldiers mocked them. He couldn’t remember what they said. He remembered that they spoke Yillian. He also remembered the basic jest of what they said. Basically, they laughed at him and his remaining classmates, and told them that they would forever live with this image burned in their minds, that the Tandorians were a superior people and that they should best remember that. They then left Reg and his classmates to their fears.

Deliverance had come hours later in the form of the armed Yillian forces. A group of them, made up of both humans and robots alike, had slowly repelled the Tandonian forces, but at great losses to themselves. They finally found Reg and his two remaining classmates in the shelter under the desk. His remaining classmates were bawling loudly, but not him. Reg was too in shock to make a sound.

Reg’s shock didn’t let up as the armed forces flew him to an adoption center. He had lost his parents. All around him the city had been a charred wasteland, buildings burning, bullet transportation tubes demolished, a few remaining survivors rummaging through the wreckage. Those survivors had been left alive as a warning that they must bow to Tandonian rule. And through it all, he was numb, but not numb enough that he hadn’t made a promise to himself. He would enlist in the Yillian fringe group the Nova Freedom Fighters, and he would punish the Tandonians so that no other innocent people might have to suffer under these animals.

Hence Reg’s current situation. Mercy by leaving some alive? It certainly hadn’t been merciful to him, now stuck with memories of the parents he had lost. If anything Reg was being merciful by killing everyone so none had memories of pain for the rest of their lives. If anything, Reg wasn’t a monster. He was a saint.

Yet, he fought like a beast, like one of those Hygolian beasts on the dark planet Zoron. The Hygolians were a giant feline-like creature who had evolved over the years when the sun’s planet had slowly dimmed into a red dwarf. These feline aliens could rip the biggest animals to shreds in a matter of seconds. Reg took out a regiment of Tandonion soldiers in a matter of seconds on his very first mission with the Nova Freedom Fighters. He was so effective at killing that the Freedom Fighters had given him the name Hygolian Dark Beast. They had also learned he worked better alone, so they only gave him mission orders of outposts to take out, letting him do the rest.

Giving one last look of satisfaction over his handiwork, Reg made his way back to his ship, a Stealth Buntera 84. He would leave the wreckage of this outpost behind, a grim reminder to the Tandonians that the Yills were not to be messed with.

In the comfort of his cockpit, he started pressing the buttons to activate the thrusters. A low hum came from the back. And then it droned off. This wasn’t right. There should have been a roaring fire coming from his engine, propelling him 25,000 miles per hour to enter orbit. Instead the system that had activated his thrusters had been shut down.

“Damn it!” he slammed his fist against the panel of brightly lit neon colors.

Breathing deeply, he reminded himself that now was not the time to panic.

“Computer, what the hell’s preventing lift off?” he asked.

Instantly a hologram came up on his computer screen, hovering a little below eye level in front of him, of three Tandonian battle cruisers. The large, bulky ships were on three corners, a hundred feet in distance, vertical of each other.

“What else can you tell me?” he asked the computer.

Instead of directly answering him in speech, the computer presented a hologram of the lowest ship. His reading indicated that a signal had been sent to his ship, disabling his drive. No matter, he could possibly override it.

That’s when it began to grow hot and bright. Crap! There was only one reason that such a change in light and temperature was happening. He had to get out of his ship unless he wanted to fry.

In a panic, he tumbled out of his escape hatch. Circling him in a hundred foot circle was a plasma force field. The Tandonian fleet could have easily used a magnetic force field instead, but no, they were going all out with a plasma one. The dome of plasma rose high, an enclosure of burning purple and pink, blocking out ships and any type of view. The temperature was hot, so hot. Reg felt like he was about to pass out and there was nothing he could do about it.

He couldn’t send out a distress call to the Nova Freedom Fighters, or anyone for that matter. The plasma force field jammed all communications. By now it would have neutralized his other ship functions as well.

Reg fell to the ground, his fist clenched. He pounded the earth, cursing as beads of sweat from both the heat and his stress rolled and dripped off his body. The bastards had got him. The murderers had conquered him. Damn them all!

 

Dr. Yolix awoke on Space Station Pulsar 1, excited about the news. They had caught him, the Beast of the Dark, Nova Freedom Fighter’s champion soldier, a man so brutal and skilled that he had to work solo from the group. This was good news to wake up to indeed.

The doctor looked out the window to see the stars spin by, indication that the station was still spinning to create artificial gravity. This was a good thing. There was nothing as obnoxious as taking a shower in freefall, where one had to hang onto a handle unless one wanted to float, with water droplets floating in every which direction, but hardly hitting the bather. It had happened to Yolix once when the gravitational spin malfunctioned. It was awful. Aside from his shower being ruined, he had to float around for his notes. Not something he wanted to live again. There was one chamber in the middle of the station, a sphere attached by four force-field magnetic tubes leading from the four directions of the ring which encircled it, that was zero gravity. The doctor often used that sphere to sooth patients. The weightlessness made them feel like children again, and helped calm their minds. Maybe he would use that room on the Hygolian Beast of the Dark.

After taking a shower, the doctor rode the horizontal walkway down to his lab, it slowing down the closer he got. The door slid open for him, and strapped to a reclining chair, safely behind a tube of glass, was the Hygolian Beast of the Dark. Even with all those safety mechanics in place, Nova Freedom Fighter’s greatest killer still looked menacing. He was eyeing Yolix with eyes thirsting for blood and he was struggling in his restraints.

“Let me the hell out of here, you bastard!” came his voice muffled from behind the tube. “I’ll blow a hole in you! Cut where the hole is, skin you, and wear it if I don’t pull your intestines out and choke you with them first.”

“He certainly is spirited, but I wouldn’t call him stoic,” said Commander Kester, the man who had helped bring the Beast in. He was standing by the tube that restrained the man who had slaughtered a colony and thousands of others throughout the system.

On the other end of the lab was Dr. Yolix’s assistant, Nesha Benu, feeding and monitoring two headed purple slug worms from the Gydo moon. He could see their suction cupped bodies, much like the suction cups of an octopus’s tentacle, let go of the sides of the terrarrium when she fed them rodents from their home-world. These slugs ate their prey alive. Cold killers, much like the Beast who glared at him from behind the tube.

“Mark my words,” the Beast said, “I’m going to find a way out and I’m going to inflict painful torture on you until you die like the worm you are. You almost fried me in a plasma force field.”

“Hello, Reg,” Dr. Yolix smiled at him.

“Finally, after all that searching, after all those chases through deep space, after all those innocents killed, we got the bastard,” sighed Commander Kester, absolutely exhausted.

“And I thank you for it,” nodded Dr. Yolix, still staring at to who many called the Hygolian Dark Beast but to him who was just Reg. Reg acknowledged him by baring his teeth. “Would you like a drink, Commander, to sooth your nerves?” the doctor turned his attention to Kester.

“Nah. I’ll be fine. Don’t forget, we have a meeting with the council soon. You are going to have a hell of a time convincing them to keep this monster alive. I know I already want to murder him. The point is, you can’t miss this council or they will kill him.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Yolix. “Ms. Benu,” he called to his assistance. She jogged over, a young woman wearing a skirt and a lab coat, her dark hair braided in the latest Tandonian fashion. “Will you be okay with our guest?”

“Don’t worry about me,” his assistant reassured him. “If he breaks out, the guns will activate and so will the XP-16s.”

The doctor nodded in approval, especially content with the knowledge that the XP-16s, heavy armored robotic armed guards with multiple laser and plasma canons, would come into play.

“Yes, but let’s not rest on our laurels,” protested the Commander. “What if some Nova rebels are in the vicinity?”

Yolix smiled with genuine warmth and trust at Kester. “Commander, I don’t doubt that you have already thought of this and have put all of the proper security in place.”

“Yes, but”…. He trailed off. “Yes, you’re right. I’m just a little damned stressed, that’s all.”

“You sons of bitches!” shouted Reg. “It’s not my fault I’m here! It’s yours!”

“Yes, but of course you’re right,” the doctor touched the tube gently as if he were offering comfort to the killer. “It’s not your fault.” In truth, he had to try not to laugh. He could understand everything Reg was saying because of the translating system. But translating systems couldn’t synchronize mouth movements to words, so it was comical to see the killer of colonies moving his lips like a badly dubbed movie.

“Doctor, I think it might be wise to inject the patient with some toxin to make him hallucinate about nice things,” Benu offered. “We have gotten the narcotic in from those new flowers from Cypress IV.”

“Not a bad idea,” said Yolix. “You may proceed.”

And from the safety of the other end of the tube, Benu pressed a button on her handheld control tablet, causing a mechanical arm with a needle on the end to go down the tube and inject the hallucinogen into Reg.

 

The conference hall seemed small, only able to sit twenty people at the max, but it didn’t need to be huge. Many at the conference were communicating via satellite image, their holograms appearing upon the stage when they had something to say. Until then, a large screen was in the background, each showing the face of a different leader in government, the military, or the sciences.

Commander Kester was on the stage in the flesh, and Dr. Yolix was sitting upon one of the chairs, the small cameras in the room capturing his image for those on different planets and space stations.

Still, there was someone of great importance missing. Someone who would take the trip of light-speed for six months to get here. Someone who was of such importance that she didn’t have to, nor shouldn’t have to, take that much time out of her life. Yet she had been promised that the Beast would be caught, that the Tandonian Galactic Navel Fleet had put their best minds and computers together to pinpoint the when and the where of the Beast’s next attack, and that they would have him in this certain time frame, the same time frame it would take her to come to Space Station Pulsar 1.

Arrive she did at the last minute. Governess Vangana walked gracefully into the conference room, her long silver outer-robe and her white inner-robe brushing against the floor. Her pale skin like the moon, her dark hair flowing down her back like chocolate, her chin pinched and her nose straight, complimenting her deep brown eyes, made her beautiful and regal. Even Yolix, a middle aged man, had to admit he was taken with her. By her side were her two armed guards. Both Yolix and Kester stood at attention, as did those on the computer monitors. She lifted up her hand indicating that they should all be seated. The Commander, in a sign of respect, left the stage, presenting it to her. She walked up to the podium where there was a symbol of the star of the Tandonian Empire. The star matched the one emblazoned on the front of her white robe. It was a star with deep significance, signifying the Tandonian alliance with the United Galaxy.

“Gentlemen, I’m sure you know why we are all here,” she said, her voice being translated solar system wide to the different languages spoken.

This time Yolix bit his tongue so as not to laugh. He knew that everyone else was trying to also. Yes, the interstellar translator may have made mouth movement look off, but one still had to show a sign of decorum and grace in front of the Governess.

“Many of you have suffered over the continued raids and killings over the fringe group the Nova Freedom Fighters,” continued Governess Vangana. “One member in particular, the Hygolian Beast of the Dark, who I shall just call the Beast, has been their most successful soldier. But despite all our pain and suffering, the peoples of the United Galaxy have stuck together, and with hope in their hearts, burning brighter than any star, have overcome these obstacles and kept the darkness of space alive with hope.

“We are here to listen to a proposal. Most of you are familiar with the name Dr. Yolix. After all, his name is spoken far and wide through each of the quadrants in praise of his revolutionary breakthroughs in psychiatric medicine. He is a man who has been able to rehabilitate the most hardened of criminals.”

There was angry shouting from all the leaders on the screens.

“Please,” said the Governess, putting her hands up. “I urge that we all listen to the doctor’s proposal before we decide if the Beast is to be terminated or rehabilitated.

“Dr. Yolix, do you have anything to say?” the Governess had turned her attention to him.

The doctor just smiled gently, relaxing into his chair. “Please, Governess, they have a right to express their concerns and vent their frustrations. They have a right to speak just as much as I. I say we give whoever wants to the right to vent first.”

“That will take time,” said the Governess.

“Is your Grace in any hurry?” he asked humbly.

Vangana bit her lip. “No, I suppose not. Whoever wishes to express grievances may do so.”

A stream of leaders and scientists, one after another, appeared in holographic succession in the conference room. Each one went on a long tirade about the brutality of the Beast, of the homes he destroyed, the innocents he killed. Some spoke pragmatically, others in a rage, while some even broke down in tears over the losses they faced. Many even made the argument that executing the Beast would send a sharp message to the Nova Freedom Fighters that their terrorist actions would not be tolerated, and that each and every member would be obliterated from the galaxy. These grievances seemed to stretch as far as the known universe with no end in sight.

There came a time that the Governess had to put a stop to it. “I respect everyone’s feelings over the issue, but we need to address our concerns to Dr. Yolix.”

“I thank you, your Grace,” said the doctor, getting out his seat and making his way to the podium. “I understand that that was a lot to take in, but I found it imperative that many unleash their grievances as possible.”

“You’re kidding me, damn it!” spoke up Commander Kester. “I haven’t witnessed so much damn emotion and anguish since I was on the killing fields of Vybon. Excuse the language, your Grace,” he added, embarrassed when he realized that he had forgotten he was in the company of the Governess of the Tandonia.

“Be at ease, Commander,” Vangana reassured him.

“I apologize,” said Yolix. “But believe me when I say that this was necessary. One of the most important aspects of humanity is to be listened to, to feel validated. The human ego is a powerful, and yet a fragile thing, and it must be nourished if we want a positive society. That means everyone gets a chance to speak, or in this case at least as many people as possible.

“Now, ladies and gentlemen, you know my proposal. Now, I should warn you that as a doctor and a scientist, I have a bad habit of speaking in technical terms. I’ll try to spare you the monotony of trying decipher a language that the interstellar translators can’t possibly hope to translate, and present my ideas and findings in plain everyday language. If I get too technical in my terminology, or I should say speech, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

“Anyway,” he clapped a fist in his hand, “I want to rehabilitate the Hygolian Dark Beast by changing his memories.”

“And what would you change them to?” said one of the leaders, his holographic image appearing briefly in the council room before going out like a flame.

“Something pleasant, something so that he doesn’t have to remember the pain of his past or the pain that he has now caused.”

The image of a military leader appeared. “And why should we grant him that respite? He’s a terrorist, a part of a terrorist organization.”

“Is he? Or is he too mentally ill to be held accountable?”

Angry murmurs resonated on the video screens, until Vangana said, “Interesting theory, Dr. Yolix. But from what basis do you go on?”

“The Beast isn’t the real terrorist in this case, but the Nova Freedom Fighters,” promulgated Yolix boldly.

“The Beast joined them,” rejoined another leader.

“Not on his own accord. The Hygolian Dark Beast’s real name is Reg Tynen, and he was only a young boy when he was kidnapped and then given false memories.”

“False memories? Did I hear you right?” said the Governess.

“Your hearing is just fine, your Grace. You see, Reg thinks he’s a Yillian.”

There were murmurs of confusion.

“Confused?” the doctor cocked an eyebrow. “Well, have any of you ever heard of the planet Yill? Of course you haven’t. It doesn’t exist. And yet, he claims he’s from that planet.”

“Did he tell you as much?”

“He didn’t tell me a thing, your Grace, except some choice swear words and issuing some threats. It was when he was unconscious that I was able to extract his memory. A memory of a planet that never existed, of a childhood that never was, of traumatic events that never happened. In short, his mind was altered by the terrorist group Nova Freedom Fighters themselves.”

“That’s a bold statement. Where did you get this information?”

Yolix took a deep breath. “That’s a long story. Can I have a glass of water before I proceed? I think I might need it. Ah, I’m sure I can get by. Well, you have to realize that the brain, in many ways, is like a computer and it functions by whatever memory is loaded onto it. It’s said that the mind is a blank slate at birth, and that ideas are gained empirically, or one could say knowledge is gained a posteriori instead of a priori.”

“So much for speaking in layman’s terms,” mumbled Kester. But Yolix didn’t hear him. He was too enraptured in a state of scientific and philosophical ecstasy.

“As I was saying, experiences are like data uploaded into our personal computers, in this case, the brain. Now, memory is stored all throughout the cortex, but long term memory is a function primarily of the hippocampus. If there is a soul, a ghost in the machine, as many philosophers have examined, then what place would be cozier than the hippocampus where emotions and memories comingle?

“We needn’t dwell on the psychological benefits or detriments depending on how the individual is raised. Numerous studies have shown how parents can rewrite the brains of their children, molding them a certain way. The Nova terrorists know that the best way to strike us is through the family unite, so why not capture children and brainwash them to their cause.

“And when did this happened?” asked a holographic image of a fellow scientist.

“It’s been happening for a long time,” said Kester. “Occasionally a child goes missing aboard a freighter. Where do you think they go?”

“To a terrorist cell?!”

“Well, half of them anyway. As everyone knows, it’s hard to detect a member of the cell. They are humans, just like us, with no DNA differences. And they have their ways of kidnapping children. We need not go into it.”

“We had suspicions,” said Vangana slowly. “But,”….

“But you didn’t want to even think that it was happening,” interjected Kester. “And I don’t blame you, your Grace. It’s an uncomfortable thought, but it’s true. Our intelligence was able to pick up the information by sending in a spy satellite, built to look like a Nova satellite, into their territory. That’s why we have all the information on the missing children, including who is now called the Hygolian Dark Beast.”

“But why our children?”

Kester sighed heavily. “It pains me to say it, but why not our children. We lose some who could grow up to e potential soldiers and they gain some more. Nova is tricky. They don’t always come in with guns blazing, but sometimes like our next door neighbors. What better way to deplete us than by stealing the young and killing the old.”

“Exactly,” said Dr. Yolix. “A young mind is still absorbing its surroundings.”

“Anyway,” continued the commander, “we learned about Reg from the files that intelligence hacked into. As previous stated by Dr. Yolix, Reg wasn’t born on Yill. He was born on Tandon to from what we can tell were very loving parents. It was on a trip from the belt to G19 that Mr. and Mrs. Tynen reported their son lost on the freighter.”

“And you mean to say that the computer systems couldn’t find him?” said another commander indignantly via hologram.

“They could, but the captain wouldn’t. We have since found out that a good half of that crew were Nova members.” There were gasps and heated talk as Kester put his hand up for silence. “Rest assured they have been dealt with most harshly. But the damage was done. The boy was taken to one of their facilities and changed.”

“I prefer the term reprogrammed,” said Dr. Yolix. “You see, they drugged him so that he would forget his childhood. There are serums that do this. Next came the matter of reconditioning him. I’m afraid to say that it’s more than likely that physical abuse was heaped on Reg to turn him into the monster that he became. There’s no doubt that through constant beatings and other acts of torture, that they reprogrammed Reg to have a fight or flight response. Of course, it would be foolish to say that they inflicted harm without giving him the illusion of love. Loyalties have to lie somewhere or they’d have a rogue on their hands.

“The reprogramming to make him forget his real parents was done via hologram and serum. I have no doubt that they put him in a holographic chamber, where they forced him to view life-like holograms of death and destruction. Before he was reconditioned, he would be injected with a serum to make him more susceptible to believing what he was seeing. There are many different plants, particularly from the phyndelium family, on Cypress IV. One of the most conducive ones for the rewiring of neurons is from the genus Teyroniotisphats, or, in simpler terms, the lady’s beguilement. That’s right, the lady’s beguilement, a beautiful pink, orange, and yellow flower that has a potent spore rendering the victim susceptible to advice as well as causing the victim to forget memories of his past while gaining new ones. When such advice is mixed with holographic images, well, those neurons in the brain create an image of a false reality.”

There was a silence before Dr. Yolix proceeded. “Picture this. Reg’s captors probably beat him and then told him lies about what happened after injecting him with the serum from the lady’s beguilement. They told him that he had witnessed his fictional planet be attacked by us, and then they ushered him to the holographic chamber to further cement these false memories. As time passed, they slowly stopped beating him and slowly started to show him love and consideration, if you call these false emotions such. That way, he’d be hardened, but still have a family he could trust and follow. He couldn’t help but lash out.”

“Are you saying that he had no agency of his own?” asked a diplomat.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” the doctor said, scratching his chin. “Memories certainly help with our decision making, but I certainly wouldn’t say that they dictate our every action like the laws of physics. I’m not a determinist, much less a hard one. But nonetheless, he has been wronged. And we have the opportunity to make it right. I have the opportunity to make it right”

“And yet you don’t want to restore his memories, but give him new ones, you said?” asked the Governess.

“That is your correct, your grace. He lost his parents years ago. I don’t want to bring him any more pain. I feel like the truth would be unethical, just as I feel it would be unethical for him to keep these current memories. I propose that we give him a new set of memories. While doing so, maybe we can even program certain skills within him so he can engage in a trade when he’s rehabilitated.”

“Who the hell are you to withhold his birthright from him!” someone spoke up.

“The logical question is who are we to return pain upon pain?” Dr. Yolix pointed out pragmatically.

“Who the hell are you to forget about those who suffered under his hands!” spoke out another.

“Such conflicting emotions!” said the doctor. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, you can punish me when this is all over. You see, I feel partly responsible for what happened.”

“You? Whatever for?” the Governess asked.

“Because Reg’s psychological malfunctions are because of me.”

Audible gasps flowed into the conference center in unison.

“It’s true,” said Yolix sadly. “I had been studying neuro-pathways, the cortex, the hippocampus, innate ideas, empirical ideas, how human thought is formed, and the effects narcotics can have on it, for over a decade. It was my goal, my foolish ambition, to change the minds of captured terrorists and then to send them to war against their own. Only now can I see how I let my research and discovery blind me to morality. Yet, it took a crisis for that to happen. It took the Nova cell hacking into my database and retrieving my studies.”

He looked down on the podium, ashamed to meet the eyes of those around him. It took Vangana speaking up to break him of his ruminations over morality.

“Be that as it may, your heart was in the right place,” she said. “We have been at war with Nova for so many years now, fighting for our very survival. If anyone wants to indict you, you will have me by your side. Reg, as you call him, wasn’t the first monster. They’d been creating monsters from before they stole your studies.”

“I’m not nearly as sympathetic,” said one of the governors of the outer planets. “That bastard has helped create a monster by his carelessness. I say vaporize him.”

“You shall do no such thing, Governor Jyot,” said the governess in an even tone. “Do I need to remind you of the hundreds of men you lost by trying to infiltrate Nova territory?”

Jyot fumed, but said no more.

“You’re too kind,” Yolix looked at Vangana, gratitude in his eyes. “But science without morality is empty. I deserve punishment. But first I want to make it right.”

“I object,” said Kester firmly. “You have insinuated enough that the drugs along with the hologram didn’t take away free agency, but only made him more likely to follow bad advice. If that’s the case, the Hygolian Dark Beast is still guilty, and as such must pay for his crimes against the Tandonians, our people.”

“Yes, he still had freewill, Commander. But he didn’t have anything else to go on but the false memories. How is executing him justice? He’s a victim. A victim of my carelessness and the rage of a terrorist cell. I plead for mercy. I can change him. It’s the only way I can redeem him and myself.”

“And I say that this is a terrible idea. What message do we send to Nova if we are lenient?”

“The message we send is that we are not like them, that we don’t resort to their tactics,” cut in Vangana. “I side with the doctor in this matter. Reg has been punished enough by being ripped from his parents and given false memories. Why should we punish him more?”

In the end it was decided that the Hygolian Dark Beast would be rehabilitated under Dr. Yolix’s care. It didn’t take long to do so. Using the same process that the terrorists had used, the same process that the doctor had initially conceived before they stole it, the doctor was able to recondition Reg in just a little under a year. New memories were given to Reg, memories of a blissful life on Tandonia, growing up with his father, Dr. Yolix and his mother Nesha Benu, before they moved to the space station. There had been some objection to allowing Yolix to assume the role of Reg’s father and his assistant to play the part of his mother, but the doctor assured those skeptical that it was all for the best, seeing as Reg was his responsibility. After all the holograms, the serums, and the lies told to Reg, he was no longer a dark beast of Hygolia, but a well-rounded, intelligent, and civil member of society, working as welder on the station.

“Hey, dad, how are you today?” Reg would ask the doctor when passing by him in the halls.

“I’m fine, thank you, son. Are we going to have dinner tonight?”

“That should be doable.”

“Very good! See you at eight hundred hours, son?”

“Sure thing.”

Life went on like this for a couple of years. It all went well until a figure stepped out from the shadows of the doctor’s quarters.

“Dr. Yolix,” said a small, lanky figure. Following from the shadows after him was tall, broad and imposing figure. Both of them wore Tandonian security uniforms, but something seemed very wrong about the whole situation.

“How did you two get in here?” the doctor asked, startled and afraid. “You two aren’t officers. Explain yourselves!”

“Explain ourselves we will,” said the short one grinning. “After all, we have much to explain.” He opened the vest of his security uniform slightly, revealing hidden under it the exploding star, the symbol of the Nova Freedom Fighters.

Yolix ran towards the door, but the taller and heavier Nova member grabbed and constrained him.

“Easy now,” said the short and lanky one. “We’re not going to hurt you. We’re here to bring you home, Dr. Yolix, or should I say Dr. Tanvon?”

“My name’s not Tanvon.”

“But of course! These Tandonians have erased your memory and replaced it with another one. They even made you think that you created the formula. Well, you didn’t. These Tandonians stole it from us and stole you from us. They have manipulated your memory, making you think that you are someone you aren’t.”

“Lies!” protested Yolix. “What would they have to gain by doing that?”

“A brilliant scientists of course. Sadly, you have forgotten how brilliant you were with Nova.”

“I have never been a part of Nova. You guys are heartless monsters, stealing children away to train as soldiers.”

Both of his captors laughed.

“Are we?” the small one continued. “Or is that just a false memory that the Tandonians and all their allies of the United Galaxy have implanted in you? Obviously they have erased your memory about you seeing your planet conquered and made to pay tribute to an empire that murders those who disagree with the governess. Your memories of different people being sold into slavery throughout Tandonia and the rest of the planets of the United Galaxy have been repressed. Instead, you were given a false memory of growing up on Tandonia, living a peaceful life among friends and family, studying at a university to become a scientist, when in reality you come from Helox. It was on Helox that your desire to become a scientist was made manifest because you believed that science could right wrongs, wrongs you personally witnessed at the hands of a corrupt empire, who wrongly accused Nova of being terrorists.”

“It’s not true,” spat Yolix. But in his mind was some doubt.

“Oh, but it is. You saw first-hand how brutal this so-called United Galaxy was run. How does one become united? Certainly not by peace but by force. You were a witness of that force and you vowed to fight against it. You developed some good weaponry for us and some efficient life support systems in our asteroid bases. You were very valuable. No wonder the Tandonians stole you from us.”

“I don’t believe, I don’t”…. But the doctor couldn’t finish that sentence. In truth, he didn’t know what he believed anymore.

“Don’t worry, doctor,” the small Nova officer put a hand on his shoulder in a gesture of comfort. “We will have you back to normal in no time.”

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