Extra Perceptory

Updated every Thursday.

Thursday, November 20

Installment S

Another vibration shook the block. Everyone was silent, many were crying, no one was alone. Everyone huddled together at the far end of the block, away from the door. The Russians took out everything they could. Shells still fell off in the distance as Russian soldiers bombarded the door. This door belonged to the Psyman bunker, block number six. It was made just for this purpose, so that it would never give out. But it was only a matter of time now before the hinges gave way and the long, solid piece of metal came clambering to the floor.

Such a cruel women, Fate. Atticus's head was pressed against my stomach as he cried of the deep pain and cruelty that only a child who's about to die can possibly feel. Still the banging on the door persisted. Other block have probably already been cleaned out. Lena and Jessica sat cross-legged facing us. They were creating a mental field around us so the Russians couldn't take control of us and have these civilians do their bidding. Lena and Jessica are probably the only reason we're still alive.

I clench my fist, you know, it's hard knowing that you're worthless is such a situation. No matter what you might do, no matter how hard you might try, nothing you can do will ever help anything, forcing all of the burden onto the very few shoulders of those who can do something. The those that can do something are almost never those who choose to. The willing are the powerless, and the objectors are the ones with the power to save, no. Not save. Protect the men, women, and children who cannot protect themselves. The more I think about it the harder it is to choke back my own tears.

A report shook the ground, and suddenly the room was covered with smoke and dust. Russian psymen ran into the room under the smoke cover and started shooting at the ceiling in order to scare us. Indeed, it worked flawlessly. We were now in a state of pure fear and panic. One of the Russian Cossacks put down her heavy machine gun and pulled out a pistol. She aimed it right at Lena's head, and fired. Lena and Jessica were still meditating, they couldn't let the Russians into the people's head, or all was lost. The bullet was deflected, but left a long scratch along the side of Lena's helmet, yet still she persisted to protect us. Max had gotten up now, he ran forward to try and tackle one of the Russian soldiers. I yelled after him, calling him asinine names and telling him to come back.

I quickly threw myself forwards, sliding across the dusty floor, and pulled Lena's pistol from it's holster, firing two shots, one at the Cossack's hand, making the gun drop from her hand, and the other into Max's leg. I was trying to aim for right below the knee, but I ended up hitting his thigh. My marksmanship is rusty, but I can still fire a gun. Atticus ran out from behind me and raised both of his arms in an attempt to shield me from an approaching Russian soldier. The soldier's response was to lower her weapon and slowly walk right past Lena and Jessica. Like a whip, she sent Atticus flying with a single kick. Within half a second she kick my hand with her other leg, throwing Lena's pistol across the floor. She grabbed the top of my head, picking me up by my hair. It didn't matter. My body was aching all over, my muscles were on the brink of deterioration, there wasn't much of anything she could do to make me hurt any worse that I already did.

I was wrong. Her left hook was like a mortar shot. I felt my teeth rattle around in my mouth as my body flew gracefully to the floor. She took a few steps forward, then pushed my leg with hers to make me swing from being parallel to her to being at a 90 degree angle. I raised my head slightly, confused, only to have it slammed back into the floor by her leg. She apparently doesn't like to fight with her arms, but I couldn't imagine why. She could punch out an elephant.

She was obviously expecting me to try to get up again, or do something in order to push her away. Or maybe she wanted to try to get Lena and Jessica to come out of meditation so she could take control of the crowd. Or maybe she just liked to make people suffer. Whatever the reason, she wasn't getting what she wanted from me. I lay on the floor, each of my muscles burned with a white hot sharp pain. Max was on the floor about a dozen meters away, nursing his leg. Atticus was back in the crowd, crying loudly, a group of people were nursing his bruised and bloody head.

The Russian Soldier grew bored of watching me lay, limp, on the floor. She took a few steps back, picked up her pistol, and pointed it at my face. I simply closed my eyes, there was nothing else I could do. Even if my strength wasn't leaving me by the second, I still wouldn't have stood a chance against her, and even if I win there's probably more Russians in the base than in St. Petersberg. After a few moment, she decided not to fire at me. Atticus had escaped the members of the crowd pulling him back. He stood tall, just as he had a few moment prior, trying to shield me. The look on the Russian's face was not that of amusement. It was a look of disgust. She raised the gun again pointing it directly at Atticus's neck.

The noise of the pistol shot echoed throughout the room. Everyone's eyes were like discs, huge and white. The Russian soldiers body fell silently to the floor, her eyes were red, not a spec of white in them.

My pain was gone. The same feeling of euphoria that I've felt so many times before. Atticus stumbled backwards, and landed on the seat of his pants. I took him by the shoulders and stood him up, just as I stood up. I turned my head towards Lena and Jessica. Both were smiling. I guess they were right. The Russians didn't stand a chance.

Atticus understood. He ran to Max. Lena and Jessica had this room under control, I was needed elsewhere.

Once in the hallway, I raised my hands. The Russian troops stood, staring at me with bewildered expressions. The looks on their faces were immediately preserved as each of them dropped to the ground, paralyzed so forcefully that even their muscles stayed rigid above the waist. All of them lay on the ground with their arms and head in the exact same positions as they were when standing. I proceeded to make my way through the hallway to the outside of the bunker.

As soon as I exited there was a brief pause. A women stand next to me tried to punch me down, but her fist met my hand mid-air. Nevermind about what I said before, about how even at my strength I couldn't have taken on one of the Russian soldiers. It was like fighting an army full of accountants and real estate agents. Her jaw broke like cannonball being fired threw a thin sheet of glass.

I quickly dove behind the door to the barracks as every type of gun in the Russian arsenal began tearing the ground where I was standing to shreds. Maybe a hundred soldiers all camped out right outside our bunker.

I could see everything, as if they drew the map out right in front of my face. I slipped into a few of the soldiers to see exactly where the biggest guns were coming from, then I just so happened to slip into the commanding officer's mind. She was going over the battle strategy over and over again in her head, it was as if I was five again and in the middle of a candy store.

I also accidentally slipped into one of the U.S. psymen. She was in the block closest to the door. Apparently a small group of survivors were planning to make one last assault on the Russian flanks. They expected a suicide mission, but I decided to give them a second chance. Just as they broke cover to make their last stand against the Russian hordes, the commander gave the single to concentrate fire on the man hiding in the building.

Perfect. They wanted a fight, and that's just what I gave them. I came out swinging. Left and right Russian psymen starting dropping like flies to a fly swatter. I kept running, strait down the line of the flank, crushing all of the Russian mind blocks. I stopped momentarily, waving at the other psymen, grenades still in hand. They all sat down and started projecting hallucinations, making the Russians kill each other. I broke the pychic defense down so low, that even a child with psychic aptitude could make these soldiers think they were the Queen of England.

I jumped back as an older women tried to kick me down. She was obviously the commander here. Carnage and spurring fire still littered the ground around us, but she had no fear. She came at me again, but this time I was not to quick to block. I rolled left and right as she tried to take me out with her pistol, but apparently I had more strength than I knew. With a single push off of the ground, I was up in the air. Her eyes were wide, speculating on just how unrealistic such strength was. In her moment of confusion I took the chance and both of my feet came down swiftly upon her head. Just for a moment, this created a crack in her mental block, which I blew wide open. By the time I was done with her she had the mind of a child. She sat there on the ground, looking as if she was on the edge of tears.


"So that's how it all happened then?"

"Yep. That's how I got this little guy," I nodded to the restored Ensign Emblem sitting comfortably on my uniform. "They say I start training my first Esper squad tomorrow. It's going to be an elite unit of ensigns, especially at my command." I answered enthusiastically.

I promised Lena that I wouldn't let this go to my head, but I suppose it wasn't a good idea to make a promise that I knew I couldn't keep.

"Well isn't that something. I can't believe so much went on while I was out. I guess I really am getting old."

"You look as young as can be to me, dad."

Installment R

I remember this feeling, all too well. I remember it.

It's like trying to forget how to ride a bicycle, no matter what happens, I'll always remember what it's like. My nose crept upwards and downwards as I slowly raised and lowed myself from the ground. My arms were tired, and even the lowered gravity took it's toll on my bones.

So young, but so fragile.

"Hey there, you still aren't in bed? Tomorrow you're in charge of running the combine while I go spread the chicken shit around on the soy beans." Max told me in passing. He had just gotten back to the house after two hours full of doing inventory. I would rather pull a full grown tree out of the soil with nothing but my bare hands than have to take inventory of all of our God forsaken animals. Even the cows won't keep still.

"Chicken fertilizer? On soy beans?" I responded intuitively. "That's no good, Max."

"Well, I know what you're thinking, Isaac, but that's all we have left." Max responded with a tone of thick desperation.

"Wait two weeks and we'll have wheel barrels full of cow fertilizer."

"I know that, Isaac. But the cow fertilizer is already going to be spread on the wheat fields. Cow fertilizer works best with grains, not beans."

"But we've already planted the beans, we have to use fertilizer. With the wheat fields we haven't planted yet. We can finally get rid of the sick old cottonwood by field five's gate, then burn it up and spread the ash over the wheat's soil. Then we can keep the cow fertilizer for the beans, even if they aren't grains, they need it."

Max gave a nod, I couldn't distinguish whether it was in agreement or out of fatigue.

"That's a good plan, Isaac, but you know as well as I do that neither of us has any time to chop up that old cottonwood by field five. Are you expecting Atti to do it? Cause I won't let that boy miss a single day of school, so help me God."

"I figure, the tree's sick as hell anyway. It shouldn't take too much to get it down, and choppn' it up will be even easier. I'll take the flat bed down there tomorrow morning after I've fed the cows, it won't take me past lunch time to get it down and into pieces."

"Well, alright then. I suppose you know what you're doing." Max said as he passed through the sheet draped over the door hole separating his room from mine. I immediately went back to doing push-ups. That's all I could do. Even while I spoke with Max, I could feel the pain in my muscles. Why does my body do this to me? I'm fine without my powers, I can live a happy man without being able to enter another's conscious mind, but the pains that consume my body whenever my powers are gone are too much for any man to take. I'm lucky to live on a farm, there's always some backbreaking work to do somewhere to take my mind off of my body.

After a few dozen more push-ups I decide now would be a good time for rest. My body will surely ache even worse in the morning, but doing push-ups all night is a poor substitute for sleep. As I try to doze off my mind wonders. That's a good thing to have back. Mira practically beat it out of me with all that meditation and training, but here I am again, laying in bed thinking about all kinds of stuff. Everything gets a turn as I mule over one thought to another and so on and so forth.

Such a strange lady, fate. Max and Isaac, childhood friends and also friendly farmers.

It's been almost a year since I last left Earth.

Good riddance, if you ask me.


The next morning was bright . . . too bright. I was still tired from last night. I spent all my time thinking and none of it sleeping. Perhaps a wondering mind isn't such pleasant company after all. Just like I told Max last night, I throw on my denim leggings over my pants and grabbed a t-shirt from my closet. A piece of bread and some jelly are my only breakfast as I walk towards the farm to grab the meal to feed the cows. While in the farm I tilt a barrel of hay into the adjacent pasture for the horses to chew on.

A half an hour later the cows are fed and watered, and a steel axe is in my hands, ready to take down the cottonwood, stroke by stroke. My aching muscles give out a particularly sharp ripple of pain throughout my abdomen, and I drop the axe momentarily. This is little more than a cough or a hiccup these days. It isn't long before my arms are swinging through the air, slamming the axe against the tree trunk.

For as much work as I was doing, I might as well have been using a bat. The bark gave out like it was made of paper, but the split in the wood where my axe was hammering is barely two or three inches in. I brought an electric chainsaw, but it didn't fair well either.

Just as I decide to switch back to the axe, a huge van rolls up to me. I haven't seen anyone besides Max or Atticus in days.

I see a women climb out of the passenger seat, she's wearing a full psymen uniform, which disturbs me. Not because she's a psyman, that's perfectly fine. It's the fact that her uniform isn't that of a recruiter, nor is it the dress uniform. It's tight, and full body. Her gun is holstered at her waist, and her helmet is on and buckled down to her neck piece. She's ready for battle, and psymen don't joke around when it comes time to fight. I stumble anxiously and almost drop the axe from my hands. My stomach gives out a low growl of insecurity as I see her walk towards me. She raises her visor just enough to let me see her mouth.

"Get in the back of the van, sir." Her voice is not young. I'm not talking to a new recruit. This is a psyman who's seen battles, lost friends, and came out alive just to prove she could, I could tell. So, naturally, I listen to every word she has to say.

"Sure thing," I say, "just let me grab the keys out of the flat bed and I'll be right with yo-"

"Now! Get in the truck, now!"

If I was alarmed before, there wasn't a word for what I felt now. My stomach turned as I jogged toward the van. I climbed in the back hurridly, bumping my head into the door as the psyman swong it open for me. I barely even felt the pain, there was so much on my mind. Too many worries to worry about and only one of me to soak them all up. The Van only had three people in it, all of them were farmers from the local area. The van was more of a truck than anything. Two long benches sat parrallel on either side, two round bumps on the floor marked where the back tires were. I gave a few quick sniffs to see if there was the smell of blood in the air, but I couldn't find it. That was good news, but it would take so much more than that to quell the relentless torrents of worries spinning through my head.

My head suddenly had a sharp pain run through the middle of it. I put a hand on the pain and pressed. It was just from when I bumped my head on the door, not a big deal. I suppose I should be worrying about my self, too.

"You're the one who owns the acres over by Silvia road, huh?" One of the other farmer's wives asked me. I have no idea why, but lunar colonists are always so pleasant, but this was hardly a time for pleasantries.

"Yep. We grow all kids of stuff. From wheat to yams. You?" I played along.

"We don't have a farm, we have an orchard. I'm sure you've at least drove by our place, it's just a few kilometers up the road."

"Yeah, the place with the strawberry patches and orange trees, you guys must be busy as hell this time of year."

"We don't lift a finger!" the farmer proceeded to let out a short burst of laughter, "We hire them school kids. They pick all the fruits for us, we give them some fruit every day to bring home. You know the newspapers are always sayin' 'everybody's got to do their part.'"

You fat useless son of a . . .

"Really? And that's okay with the childrens' parents? I mean, shouldn't those kids be in school during the day?"

"How would I know that? Not like I go home and visit 'em. And my farm is like a school of it's own, it teaches these kids how to pick fruit. That's a necessary life skill if any of 'em wanna grow fruits."

As much as I hate this guy, there are more important things to consider right now.

"So, what's all this noise about? Do you know?"

They probably don't know anything

"We don't know nothing." The women responded.

The third farmer was yonger, but he just sat at the end of the bench, quiet.

"Do you know anything?" I turned my head towards him.

"The Russians sent half a battallion in here. We're on the bussiness end of the battle of Colony 18, and from what I saw, things aren't looking too good for our side."

The truck fell completely silent. I just leaned back on the bench and looked forward. Too much is happening all at once. I need something to drink. The across the bench from me just stared at him for awhile. Then he pulled out a little bottle from his back pants pocket, took a swig, then tossed it into the other guy's lap. He just looked at it for a few seconds, then took a few gulps, each one longer than the last. Than he took a look over at me and tossed it onto my lap. I raised up out of my slouched position, took what I thought was a normal sized gulp, and let the alcohol burn the back of my throat as it slid down.

Why did I want a drink? That didn't help anything.

The old farmer took a few more swigs and shoved it back in his pocket. His wife was crying silently.

I just shut my eyes for the rest of the trip.


"What the holy hell is going on?" It was Atticus's voice.

The truck picked up a handful more people and took us off to a little psymen base. We all got out of the van, and I heard Atticus's voice amoungst a crowd of students coming from the school.

"Atticus!" I called to him, but he didn't hear me, but another psymen, standing off to the side and helping civilians unload, turned her head. She made her way through the crowd and tapped on Atticus's shoulder, pointing him in my direction.

He ran like a bat out of hell directly into my arms. Max called out my name from behind me, but I didn't turn around to look. I was busy staring at the psyman who knew Atticus. I already had a good guess as to who she was, but I needed more than that. Max eventually caught up, and then the three of us, with Atticus in Max's arms, went to go talk to this psyman. As I made my approach she unbuckled her helmet from her suit and removed it. Her long light-brown hair was put up in the back, and clamped to the top of her head with a little pin.

"Sorry, Isaac. It's really nice to see you again, but I really don't have time to stop and chat." Lena said.

"I can see that." I replied.

"We'll catch up in a bit, though, don't worry. Just make sure you get put in block six, once you're in the barracks."

I did just as she said. Max, Atticus, and I all marched our way, slowly, to block six. From there on we sat quietly as the room became more and more crowded. One of the psymen outside shouted something about the first wave being on it's way. The next few seconds would determine how long this was going to take. If we get explosives shoved down our throats, they mean to siege us out, which could take months. If the first wave means the first offensive line of Russian psymen, then this will take no more than a few days, give or take a few depending on how strong the bunker we're in is.

In the next moment we all heard an explosion off in the distance, then the ground shook from a hard report. They meant to shell us out, probably because they think we don't have enough resources to carry on for too long, or because they have such a large amount of resources they don't care, or maybe both.

Everyone still in the halls were rushed to a room, and the doors slammed shut behind them. Two psymen were in the room with us, another shot went off in the distance, but they were getting closer now. A loud booming sound shook us and the lights flickered. Few of us were alone, many were crying, and everyone was quite. Even the air around us held still.

"Hey, Pink." Lena wispered in my ear, "So how've things been going for you?"

"What?" Was she seriously going to use this time as an opportunity for catching up?

"Tell me what all happened after the discharge."

"Don't you think this is a little inapproprate timing?" I could feel sweat forming on my forehead and hands.

"Nope. I know we'll be just fine." Lena smiled.

"Why's that, exactly?"

"Because you're here!" A voice rang out from behind Lena, a voice I knew all too well.

Both Jessica and Lena grabbed my arm to pull me off to the side.

At first the crowd was dead silent, but then mummers started breaking out. Later everyone started talking to each other as if nothings going on. I had no idea what's going on up there, but the shells had stopped hitting us. Lena, Jessica, Max, Atticus, and I all elected for a position closer to the corner. We all dropped down on the floor, as isolated as we could be a room full of people, but there was too much background noise from the crowd to be heard by anyone anyway.

"So tell us, Pink." Jessica persisted.

Atticus became upset, threatening Jessica that he would tan her hide if she insulted me like that again. Atticus had apparently forgot the days when Lena use to call me Pink, or maybe she never used that name in front of him, either way, Lena and Jessica both decided Isaac would be an appropriate alternative for the time being.

"It's a boring story, really." I told them.

"We have time, Isaac." Lena said sarcastically.

"Well, it all started once I got back to Earth. I was a steaming pile in everybody's eyes. Hobos would walk up to me and give me change." Everyone laughed. "I found that my father had suffered a stroke, and now he's in a deep coma. I mail the hospital every now and again to see if there are any updates on him. I decided there wasn't much for me back on Earth, and I was so use to lunar gravity that I decided I might as well come back. That's when I met Max and Atti for the second time each."

"Me and Isaac use to go to the same school when we were growing up." Max added.

"Yep. And It turns out I sat just two rows away from him on the volunteer shuddle to colony 18. I switched seats with the women next to him, and we put our heads together and decided we would become farmers. Originally Max wanted to be a teacher, and I wanted to be a police officer, but we made a deal. And that was if either of us couldn't get the job we wanted, then we'd buy a few acers and start up a farm."

"So, that means one of you didn't get the job you wanted?" Jessica asked.

"Neither of us. They told me that all this colony needs is five police officers, and they already have seven."

"And they told me that all this colony needs is five teachers, and they already have eight." Max chuckled.

"Yep, so Max and I bought ourselves some land."

"With Atticus, of course." Max added again.

"That's right! When did you meet up with Atticus again? And where in the world is Sigmund?" Lena asked, leaning in with interest.

"Hey Atticus!" Max called, "looks like you could use a walk around the blocks!" It was a clever quip, surprisingly not lost on Atticus.

As we were speaking, Atticus apparently grew bored and found the nitch running along the wall very interesting. Max took him by the hand and they left to take a short walk.

"Sigmund is dead, we know that for sure, but no one really knows exactly what happened."

"What?" Lena cryed out.

"Well, I remember back on Earth how Sigmund was telling me he wanted to go to the moon, so apparently he decided he would try to sneak into the cargo hold of the same ship that I got on, the one headed for this colony. Sigmund made it past take-off, he was a very clever boy." A tear formed in my eye, and my voice began to quiver. "But the luggage shifted again when we landed, and Atticus was in the way of a heavy crate. Sigmund pushed Atticus out of the way, but . . . Well, no one really knows exactly what happened. We have a grave for Sigmund on our farm, Atticus like to give it food every supper."

The noise of the crowd turned to that of excitment. An old man got up and started telling exciting war stories from when he fought in the revolution. Everyone was hooting and hollaring, and laughing at jokes, or going on about their own conversations. Everyone but the young man and the two psymen in the corner. They were pale in the face, hugging each other as tears formed streams down their faces. Atticus saw them and let go of Max's hand. He ran twoards them and tried to console them, but it was all in vain. At this point, if they could not console each other, there wasn't anything in the universe that could.

Installment Q

"Alright, tell me one more time, from the top." I said, still skeptical.

"There's a bunch of money up there! It's just waitin' for us to come and get it!" Sigmund replied, enthusiastically.

"There's nothing for a young guy like you to do up there, you're no where near being ready for colony work." I replied bluntly.

"Excuse me, sir?"

People rushed past Sigmund and me going about their days. I couldn't talk to Sig anywhere else but here in a public place. He was getting groceries right now, and I was between my first and second job. Sig and Atti were both given to a local orphanage after Amman went comatose. I couldn't speak with either of them at the orphanage because the priest who's in charge hates Russians and would probably shoot me on sight.

"Well anyway . . . Oh shit, I'm taking too long, gotta go. See ya, Isaac!" Sig ran off, arms full of groceries.

"Um, sir, excuse me?"

I had managed to scratch up some work, but there was a lot of competition. All of the old town that I loved so much had been bulldozed and rebuilt. This place was a regular city again. I hated it, naturally, but at this point in time I honestly couldn't care less. They could bulldoze the pyramids for a tram station if they really wanted to, I wouldn't be opposed.

"Pardon me, sir, I-"

"What? Oh, yes?" I hadn't noticed the old lady behind me trying to get my attention.

"I was just wondering, are you Ensign Erlenmeyer?" She asked.

"Well, I was. Yeah."

"Alright, I was just curious." She started walking away, but suddenly turned around as if she remembered something important. "Oh yes, that's right. I also wanted to tell you that my granddaughter was killed in the Russian raid that you were kind enough to watch happen."

She then proceeded to pinch her lips together and shoot a particularly large and nasty shotgun shot of saliva directly into my face. Feeling satisfied, she was gone before I could even raise my hand to wipe the mucus away.

A fat, and uncommonly friendly man soon jumped to my aid. He pulled his sleeve up over his palm and forcefully rubbed at my face, he didn't help much, in fact all he really did was smear spit around, leaving my hand to finish the job.

"Thank you kindly." I was appreciative none the less.

"No problem young lad. You know, there's a place where you'll never have to deal with discrimination, prejudice, or any other kind of such old hates." His voice waved each point as if he was a salesman, regurgitating his practiced pitch. "And that place," he continued, "is called the lunar colonies!"

I take that thought back. He's worse than a salesman, he's a recruiter.

"Really, thanks. But I'm not interested."

Needless to say, he was persistent. He followed me for the next block spouting his hopeless quips and gibes.


Nothing, absolutely nothing.

I sat at my desk, trying hard to meditate. I was looking for that euphoric feeling, the same feeling I get when my mind releases it's conscious state into the atmosphere. When I could float freely through the threads of the web surrounding thoughts and feelings. But there was nothing, and every time I tried resulted in a wider gap between me and that feeling. My mind was becoming wrinkled, just like all the other male Psymen. There's nothing worse than the feeling of weakness mixed with mortality.

I got up from my desk, and the room started spinning around me. My arms and legs felt like magnets, trying desperately to adhere to the metal ground.

Maybe the moon isn't such a bad idea after all? If I stay in this gravity, I might die. But if I go to the moon . . . I'll be far away from home, surrounded by strangers, doing something I have no interest in all day and every day as my dreams further deteriorate into nightmares. And then I'll die.

Fantastic. Well, I guess I'm sold.

Installment P

My feet ached. With every step I heard the echoing scrape of my old plastic shoes against the hard tile floor. The hallway was exciting, covered with ads and colors and videos, things I haven't seen in what seemed to be a lifetime. Naturally, the airport terminal was bustling with people. I should be happy to be here, but I couldn't stop hurting inside. I felt like death returning after having finished his rounds. The way people stared at me made me think I was worse.

It was hard becoming reacquainted to the one thing I've longed for so badly for the past three years. As I passed by Psymen, they stared in disbelief. Everyone had heard the legend of Isaac, the fantastic male Psymen, Mira's unconventional instrument for gaining information about the Russians. I walked past a newspaper vendor and took notice of three things that made me stop dead in my tracks. The first was a comic book of me, that fantastic Ensign warrior, the second was the front page article devoted to how I failed in my mission to protect one of the lunar bases, and the other was a price tag on every newspaper.

I sped away in disgust. Passers by still gawked as they realized who I was.

In a vain effort to wallow in self pity, I slipped into the neatest bathroom, only to sink one step further into depression. Mirrors covered the walls, everywhere I looked the only image to greet my stare was the thing I despised most right now, me. There was a dark red line running along the right side of my face, a memento of my failure. My uniform had been stripped of it's emblem, and the Ensign badge which once radiated brightly from my chest was now sitting, forsaken, in a refuse bin somewhere on the moon.

"It's no wonder, what happened up there. After all, I should be dead by now. I took for granted that my powers would always be there, and at the time when I needed them most, they disappeared without a trace. The base was successfully raided, and all we could do was retreat. The first thing I had the doctors do when I got back to headquarters was give me a stasis exam, which ended up being a one way trip to the exact location I've been longing for so badly ever since that day, 8 years ago, when I was dropped off at the Psych Academy.

"I left the bathroom as a sullen heap of shattered thoughts. I felt the same as my refuse covered badge, moments before incineration. Lena and the other girls escaped, no thanks to me. But they were all restationed on the moon. That's how the higher ups reward you for doing your job, I'm sure you know all about that.

"Mira's the same as always, she's the same girl you fought with so hard, all those years ago. Back when the revolution was in full swing. She really puts her heart into it, I'll give her that. But I'm sure there's nothing I could say about her that you don't already know.

"And that's why I'm here with you, Amman. Because I messed up. My powers are gone, and who knows how long I have left."

Tears streamed from my face as each word left my mouth. The nurse behind me started to cry too. That made me feel a little bit better, but a stranger's empathy can only go so far after you've been deprived of social contact for the majority of your teenage years.

Amman's face was still blank. Another nurse came through the door to turn him, and make sure his body wasn't succumbing to bed sores. He didn't appear to have any, but his muscle mass was definitely lacking. I guess that's natural for someone who's been in a year long comma.

I told the nurse she was doing a great job and left. I needed to find Atti and Sig, who knows what happened to them after Amman had his stroke. They could be anywhere. And more than anything I need to figure out the question that's been bugging me ever since I touched down on Earth.

What now?

Installment O

A gust of warm air rushed through my hair as I stepped through the threshold. The pure white and silver tube was a comfortable brisk temperature, to me at least. A pair of engineering students walked by, shivering.

Probably graduated from an Earth academy. I've been on this lifeless surface too long to be phased by the lackluster heating system.

I walked by the local Academy bookstore and picked up a newspaper on my way to the mess hall. This institute was a cooperative, meaning it had both males and females. Good news for me, although I'm sure Mira had this planned out months in advance.

This is my last chance. If Mira isn't pleased with the results, I lose everything. Excellent.

Mira gave me the instructions for this mission, basically the problem here is that this Academy was built next to an underground supply-line for a Russian colony, and we have no intelligence on what's going on there. It's my job to protect the students when they go out for field training, and if possible, gain intelligence on the near-by Russian escorts. If I manage to get my hands on something giving us a clue towards what the Russians are up to, Mira will probably give me whatever I want, like a flight back home. I'm tired of being her "special assistant." This training is ridiculous, and she's becoming more psycho with each passing day. She promised me that if I took her "training," I could get out years before anyone else once the draft popped up.

What a joke, I'm in this war till the very last second. She knew that.

I folded open the newspaper. The Psy-Marshal was going to pass a new law making it illegal to work on my psychic projects outside of the government's jurisdiction. That's laughable, the vast majority of researchers would rather quit and work at a tran station than put on a collar and be led around by the government's leash. Are these the people I answer to?

I wasn't terribly hungry, so I just sat on a bench near the end of the dining hall. Passers-by gave me awkward glances, I didn't quite fit the profile of a level one, or a prospective scholar. My psyman uniform didn't help either. I looked younger than the youngest students in the hall, but my chest was littered with honors and metals from the work I did with Mira. The psy-ensign emblem seemed to glow as the florescent lights refracted off of it's golden embroidery. I try not to let it get to me. There's still a good hour before the next field training lesson started, and my first assignment began. They would all get to know me soon enough, but for now I'd rather stay an outsider.

I tried to read the newspaper across, but soon realized my peripheral vision was gone. I didn't realized my helmet was still on, which was also probably for the best. For all they knew, I was a grown adult, working for psy-command. I guess that's a relief.

"Good morning . . . officer." A student quietly spoke from behind me. She seemed to hesitate halfway through, but the voice was reminiscent.

I guess everyone needs company, even me.

"Good evening," I responded.

"Evening? It's only 0900," then she stopped herself. "With all due respect, sir." she added, hoping I wasn't offended by her correction.

"It's always evening on this side of the moon."

Her group of friends came to pull her off to another table, but the crazy girl took another step forward.

"Am I taking up your spot?" I asked.

"It's perfectly fine, we don't mind." Her voice was like a song bird's; it was as if a classical film character, out of place and out of time, was here in front of me trying to make small talk.

"So, are you reading about the new law banning research? What does an officer like yourself think about it?" She asked me, nodding at the my paper.

"The psy-marshal is a fool. If progression is outlawed, only outlaws will progress. He's like a child in a sandbox, trying to manipulate everyone into helping only him, and forcing them all away in the process." The girls' response was to gather and sit at the long gray table, as if I had passed their 'Is he a patriotic asshole?' test. Suddenly their hesitation made sense. I decided to return the courtesy by lowering my newspaper.

My eyes opened wide, a knot was strung tight in my throat. It was Lena, Jessica, Stephanie, and three other girls. Don't get me wrong, I'm just fine not being an outsider, but this is a little far. I decided to play dumb, I'm not sure why. Probably for the same reason anyone plays dumb, to give them the upper hand, or maybe I was putting up walls around myself because I've grown too use to solitude?

"Hi. I'm here to provide security on field missions."

Do they recognize my voice? It's been so long.

"What's your name?" Jessica asked.

Should I? What would they do if I told them? They probably despise me after all these years. After I've become the lapdog of the Psy-Marshal's lapdog. But, at the same time, more than anything, they deserve to know.

The knot was still hard in my throat, my heart was racing and all my mouth couldn't move. I stared Lena straight in the eyes under my visor, and let out the word that would lead to my demise, "Pink."

I guess my last thought was right. I am putting up walls, but it's not because I want isolation. I guess sometimes people put up walls because they actually want someone to tear them down. Well, that's no way to treat friends. The walls are down, I just hope the people outside them still care enough to drop in.

The table fell silent. I might have said it too quietly. Maybe they didn't hear? Or maybe they were struck with shock and disbelief. They might have . . .

Without warning, high pitched jubilee echoed through the mess hall.

Is that dramatic effect? So that's how that feels.

I decided this was the best time to take of my helmet. Eyes opened wide.

My black hair was a bit longer now. I could feel the tired look in my face become more apparent as they're eyes stared at my blank, cold expression. I noticed Lena's eyes tearing up long before they actually did. I bent my cheeks and curled my face until it looked the closest I could get to a smile, but the reflection off my helmet showed only my tired, droopy eyes, and the face of a man who did not belong.

"It's been three years." Jessica said softly, her smile fading.

I wanted to reassure and comfort Lena, but I couldn't. It wasn't meant to be. She realized that, and so did I. For a second, my mind went blank. A tiny spark hit the bottom-most piece of my conscious thought.

Either it's a spider on the small of my neck, or someone's going too far past my broken down walls. Maybe I forgot to tell them that when I said the walls were coming down I was talking about the emotional ones, not the extrasensory ones. Please, whoever you are, leave. Get out of my mind.

Immediately the sensation left. I could've easily found out who was trying to probe my thoughts, but I already had a plethra of good guesses. I got up and walked away, I wasn't that hungry away.

"Sorry guys, I have work to do. We'll catch up later."

I walked away slowly, I wanted someone to yell out, to call to me. I wanted someone else to give me a reason I should stay, but no one did. They sat and stared quietly as the dining hall bustled with life and conversation.

That was a lie, I didn't have any work to do. Not for awhile anyway. So much for a happy reunion. So much for taking down my walls.

It hurts, thinking about Lena. We could've been something, but her boyfriend came back to her. She chose him over me. We've never talked since. We had a relationship, I made mistakes and so did she, but none of that matters anymore.

All that matters is getting this job done.


It was a rather warm day on the moon. The solar winds were in full bloom this sun cycle. Not a cloud in sight. A perfect day for a picnic, or flying a kite, or field training. Naturally, I elected for the last choice. The students and I made out way out into the beautiful lunar atmosphere, or lack thereof, and it actually looked like this was going to be an easy job.

I guess this is Mira's way of rewarding me for three years of excellent service.

That thought lasted almost at long as the first volley of Russian mental blocks as the lunar base was raided by surprise.