Last year when I was preparing for PAX East, I signed up to be an Enforcer and worked to learn everything I could. I read through the forums, signed onto IRC, and asked lots of questions, but the experience was really frustrating. The response from most veterans was, “Read the forums!” but there isn’t a lot of organization there. The information you need is spread all over the place, and most people start their first year confused and trying to figure out where to go and what to do.
One of my classes this semester is about the Holocaust, and as our final project we had the option of doing either a research paper or a creative piece. I had intended to do the paper–I enjoy research, and I can put together a good paper pretty quickly–but when I met with my teacher to discuss the class and my project, he seemed to be pushing for something creative. I mentioned that I (used to) write poetry and could do a dozen poems or so in about the same time it would take to write a paper, but he tweaked that a bit: he wanted six poems, but with explanations of what each one meant.
I think explaining the poem ruins it a bit, but I wanted to share the poems themselves with you, along with the introduction.
Evanda Char jumped up from the table where she had been sitting alone, reading a datapad in the dim bar. The bartender looked up from the glasses he was reshelving behind the bar, but since he didn’t recognize the Minmatar he went back to his work. The rest of the patrons didn’t even react.
Smiling, Barrick took off his sunglasses and slipped them into a pocket of his coat, then took Evanda’s hand in greeting. He was very pleased that she remembered him, and almost as surprised by her reaction as he had been to discover himself still a member of Re-Awakened Technologies. It had been over two and a half years since he left space, left behind his ships and his life as a pod pilot. It was strange that nothing seemed to have changed, not even Eva’s daily routine.
“Evanda. It’s been a long time.”
“That it has! Welcome back! I didn’t know you were coming back–we didn’t even know where you had gone. Where have you been?”
Evanda’s gaze had gone from surprised, to excited, to calculating as she wondered what had happened to her old… pilot? Barrick wasn’t exactly a friend–they’d never known each other well, though they had flown in a few engagements. He had handled himself decently, but their cycles seemed to be different so they didn’t see each other often. Nevertheless, Re-Aw was her corporation, and he had been a dedicated member at one time.
They sat and Evanda gestured to the bartender, who brought a second drink to the table. Nodding his appreciation, Barrick took a sip and sat back.
“Truth be told, I didn’t know I was coming back either. As to where I had gone, that’s an easier story. Last I wrote, I was getting married. Remember?”
“Yes, though I also recall not being invited,” Evanda replied with a smirk. “Don’t tell me you’ve been on a two-year honeymoon.”
Barrick laughed. “No, not exactly, though things have been just fine on that front. The truth is, my wife… she did not like me being a pod pilot.”
“You gave it up for a girl?”
Shrugging, Barrick spread his hands in defeat. “What can one do, in the face of love?” he asked with a smile.
“But yes, I disappeared, and I’m sorry for that. I should have written. We got married and toured around for a bit, then got a house, and one thing led to another. I kept thinking I’d talk her into a compromise, but the next thing I knew, I was fixing home computers and personal drones for a living.
“Up here, I can hook into a pod and fly damned near anything. But down on the ground… what I knew, it wasn’t too applicable, you know?”
“You can’t tell me you were hurting for ISK,” said Eva, disbelief making the statement into a question.
“No, no… I was never wealthy by capsuleer standards, but we certainly didn’t want for anything. I was just… bored.”
Evanda nodded and looked down at her glass, which was somehow empty. Signaling the bartender, she looked back to Barrick.
“So what now? Did you two split?”
“No,” Barrick replied with a wan smile. “I created a compromise. I’d visit daily, take regular vacations from flying around and killing thousands of our people’s enemies, and she’d let me share her bed when I returned home.”
Evanda laughed, the clear sound filling the bar.
“So, I’m back. I was surprised to find myself still in Re-Aw. It’s been so long, I assumed…”
Evanda smiled. “Your standings were too good to kick you.”
“What can I say, even absent the Tribe loves me.”
“And what now?” Evanda asked. “What’s your next move?”
“First, I need to get reacquainted with flying. I was hoping to find you here and catch up, but I also came here to recover.”
“Recover from what?”
Barrick grinned with embarrassment. “Well, my agent, he didn’t really remember me. But he did call up my record, which hadn’t changed any, so he gave me a helluva mission. I just wanted a quick fly-about, shoot some pirates, you know? Get used to the ‘ole girl. Haven’t seen my Wolf in ages.”
“I take it the mission didn’t go well?” Evanda asked, raising an eyebrow and smiling just slightly enough to not be mocking.
“You could say that. Since when do petty kidnappers keep half a dozen battleships on standby? My agent, he tells me about this “damsel in distress,” as if I’m some gorram knight from the Amarrian fairy tales. Says she’s in a pleasure house and there’s some guy there guarding her. No biggie, right? One of my drones taps him, though, and suddenly I’m surrounded.”
“So you got blown up and warped out?” Evanda asked.
“No… I killed all the battleships, and the piss-ant who called them. But when I had almost taken out that friggin’ pleasure house, another wave of ships warps in all around me, with webbers to boot. They had me down before I knew what was happening.”
“You need help clearing them out?”
Barrick snorted. “Hell no. I went and bought a Typhoon and sent them to join the emperor.”
Evanda laughed again, wetting her lips with the drink as Barrick finished his first.
With a sigh, he continued. “Anyways, I’m back. Haven’t kept up with the news at all. What’s going on in your neck of the galaxy?”
Evanda raised her eyebrows again, this time in surprise. “You mean, you haven’t heard?”
Evanda took a deep breath and gestured to the bartender. This was going to take a while.
“The Sansha have risen.”
I’ve got some new ideas for this story that will slightly change how it has gone somewhat up to this point, but I’m going to keep writing it to get the plot out. If the continuity is disrupted somewhat, I apologize–the final version should be superior.
The Committee had departed, shuffling along their separate ways, but the Questioning Man had fallen back. Herbert had never left the psychiatrist’s waiting room, and a question was bothering the Man.
As he looked at Herbert’s back, he examined the CEO’s new jacket: tweed with leather patches at the elbows. The Questioning Man had never seen Herbert dress in such a manner until he lost his memory, but now the expensive suits were replaced with comfortable slacks, jackets that were not a far cry from what young hipsters wore somewhat ironically, and occasionally a complete and utter lack of shoes.
Herbert was examining a small jade statue of a rearing elephant when the Questioning Man touched him lightly on the shoulder. Turning, Herbert smiled. This was hardly notable since Herbert was always smiling these days, but the Questioning Man noted it nonetheless. It made him feel… warm.
“Excuse me, sir…” he cleared his throat nervously. “I was wondering if I might take you somewhere.”
“That would be wonderful,” Herbert replied. He blinked at the Questioning Man for a few moments and then asked, “I’m sorry, but I seem to have forgotten your name. What was it, again?”
“Questin,” the Man replied. As he led Herbert from the waiting room, he thought uncomfortably about Herbert’s relationship with the Committee. Even before he lost his memory, Herbert hadn’t known anyone’s name.
The Committee waited anxiously, crowded into a small room with too few chairs and too many magazines at a psychiatrist’s office. From the yellow pages they had selected a man named Zed on the grounds that his name sounded suitably evil, and the dark hardwoods and lack of beverages at this office convinced them that they were correct. In each knick-knack and wall hanging they saw signs of rage and frustration at an ignorant world that didn’t have time for misunderstood genius. They sighed sympathetically.
After hours and with what seemed like great reluctance, the door to Zed the Psychiatrist’s office opened. Herbert smiled and waved back at the bespectacled man and wished him a good afternoon. The Committee looked at Herbert with curiosity as they shuffled past him and he claimed one of the waiting room chairs. Hands on his knees, Herbert hummed idly to himself and looked around the room with wonder as the Committee entered the psychiatrist’s office and closed the door behind them.
The double chinned man’s voice rolled into the office.
“Well, doctor? Will he have to be… committed?”
Zed stroked his goatee, a white triangle that complimented his round glasses and added to his presumed evilness. The Committee felt they had chosen well.
“To a pzychiatric vard?” Zed asked, his accent unmistakably German based on movies The Committee had seen.
“No no no,” Zed went on. “Certainly, Mister Hervert haz lost hiz memory, but he is no more inzane ‘zan you or I!” Zed laughed in what The Committee would later characterize as a cackle. “He iz happy, und he iz kind und generous, but he iz not a danger to himself or others.”
“But what of his business, Mr… Zed? Surely he is unfit to perform his duties?”
“Vell…” drawled Zed the Psychiatrist with a presumably evil gleam in his eyes, “zat is, I suppose, for you to decide, hmm? You will have to decide what the purpose of your business is, yes? Mister Hervert seems to have some int-eresting ideas about zat…”
Zed the Psychiatrist just smiled at The Committee who, sensing their meeting was concluded, shuffled back to the door, opened it quietly, shuffled out, and closed it behind themselves as they thought about what to do next.
Herbert noticed that they were not always shuffling in the same direction, and he smiled.
The committee had returned to the board room, though all the blinds were drawn down. Light leaked around the edges, drawing lines on the far wall that touched and then were absorbed into the deep obsidian. No one could clearly see each other, but no one turned on a light. It was better this way.
“What are we doing to do about this?” a man asked in a deep, rolling voice. It was the sort of voice that implied a double chin, and it originated from near the foot of the table, opposite the windows. His customary position was off-kilter slightly where he had scooted to the left, avoiding the blade of sunlight and crowding his neighbour.
“If we let him keep on like this, we’ll be bankrupt in no time!” a woman cried out, though her voice was faint. The committee always found it difficult to be heard in this room, as if it had been built to favour the currently vacant seat at the head of the table. That seat was always heard clearly, but everyone else’s voice faded before it reached all of the walls.
“Maybe…” the questioning man began. He swallowed audibly, and the next words jumped out as if his Adam’s Apple had kicked them into the open, “maybe we can claim it as a PR stunt, the company investing in the city, helping locals, building business, keeping money at home, strategic diversification…”
His voice faded away.
The first man sighed–even his sigh was deep–placed his hand over his eyes, leaned his elbow on the table, and replied, “Herbert just paid a hot dog man Seven. Hundred. Thousand. dollars for his hot dog stand.”
“Well,” the questioning man replied after a long pause, “at least… at least he’s the majority stockholder, ha ha… ha.”
The committee all turned to stare at the man. If the blinds hadn’t been closed, he felt like they would have thrown him out the window.
“We will have to have him” the double chinned man stated, drawing all attention back to himself as he stood, “psychiatrically evaluated.” He walked to the head of the table and placed his hands on the back of the empty chair. Staring down at Herbert’s vacant chair so forcefully that a few other members of the committee felt compelled to glance at it hesitantly, he continued.
“He has clearly gone insane. We will make sure the good doctor says so, and then we will make sure that the company is relinquished to us.”
He grinned, his eyes casting around the shadowed faces of those he would lead.
“For safe keeping,” he concluded maliciously.
“They’ve told me a bit about who I am,” Herbert replied, gesturing at the committee all around who looked rather aghast. “How much money would it take to find a cure?” he asked.
“I… I don’t know,” the doctor replied.
“Here, there’s a checkbook in my pants over there,” Herbert said, gesturing impatiently at the contents of a chair, where a suit that cost more than most people make in a month had been dumped unceremoniously.
A startled committee member, a brunette woman with a navy blue skirt and matching jacket, found herself the center of attention. She was nearest the chair, and anxiously met the gazes of her committee members, some of whom seemed to be suggesting she ignore the request and others who were urging her to hurry with their eyes. She nervously picked up the pair of pants and, with two fingers gripping them by a belt loop, passed them to Herbert.
Herbert searched the pockets and pulled the checkbook out. Handing it to the doctor, he smiled.
“You know more about all this to me. Just make it out for something and I’ll sign it,” he said.
“You can’t… you can’t be serious,” the doctor replied, mouth open, adam’s apple moving like a piston.
“Why not?” Herbert asked. “She’s important to you, and she needs help. If research will help, and research takes money, well, maybe I can do something about that.” With a casual wave of his hand, Herbert gestured for the doctor to get on with it and hopped off the table. The committee averted its eyes.
“I think I feel quite well, actually,” Herbert asserted with a grin at the aversive committee, and began to get dressed.
The doctor blinked rapidly, perplexed, and Herbert leaned forward to poke him in the shoulder, grinning.
“Not missing it, got it? I’m not missing it!” Herbert laughed, leaning back on the small table and bracing his hands on his thighs. The committee chuckled uncomfortably.
“When did this happen?” the doctor asked the spokesman, clicking open an ink pen he had drawn from his coat pocket.
“We were in the middle of a meeting when he sort of blanked out,” the spokesman replied, smoothing the front of his suit jacket. He swallowed nervously. “He knows his name, but he doesn’t seem to know who he is or what he does.”
“Who’s that?” Herbert asked.
“Hmm?” the doctor replied. Herbert was pointing at a picture hanging on the wall. The committee shuffled again, clearing out of the way and turning to look at the picture themselves. In it, the doctor was kneeling beside a wheelchair. A young girl was smiling, her right hand clasped by the doctor and her left resting in her lap. She was thin, unbelievably thin, and the enormous electric chair made her look smaller still.
“My daughter,” the doctor said through a sad smile. “She was born with multiple sclerosis and has to stay in a wheelchair.”
“Can anything be done?” Herbert asked quietly. The committee seemed to be holding their collective breaths, the room was so quiet.
Clearing his throat, the doctor turned back to Herbert. “I don’t know. There’s a lot of research going on for it, but there are always more ideas than there are researchers or money, so a lot of potential cures haven’t been explored yet.” Sighing, he laid the chart down on the table and picked up the flashlight tool for shining in a patient’s eyes.
“But we’re here to talk about your memory. Please focus on this light as I move it back and forth,” the doctor said.
“Can I help?” Herbert asked.
“What?” the doctor replied, clicking the light back off.
The committee was crowded in the examination room with the fancy examination room lights and gadgets folded up near the ceiling and the walls to make room. There was a brief gap in their circle where the door would open, and a bit of space between the nearest members and the examination table. Herbert sat placidly, smiling at those around him while his hands rested in the lap of the paper gown he was wearing.
The door opened as the doctor flipped a page on his clipboard. He glanced up, then looked around in surprise.
“What are you all doing here?” he asked. “You should be in the waiting room! And why is the patient in a gown? This is supposed to be a routine checkup!”
The committee looked at the ground abashedly and the spokesman, as he was beginning to think of himself, raised his hand slightly.
The doctor glared at him for several seconds before realizing the man wasn’t going to speak without being called on. “Yes, well?!” he asked emphatically.
“We thought it was best, sir,” he replied lamely. “And we wanted to find out what’s wrong.”
The doctor frowned at the young man, then back at his clipboard. Looking up at Herbert, he took another step into the room and shut the door behind him. The committee shuffled a bit and closed the gap, giving each a few more inches of room.
“Herbert, is it? Can you tell me what seems to be the problem today?”
“No problems,” Herbert replied cheerfully, nodding at the doctor with a smile.
“Says here,” the doctor said, flipping a page on his clipboard again. “Says here you have lost your memory.”
“Oh no, sir,” said Herbert. “Or, if I have, I don’t seem to be missing it.”
“I think he’s lost it,” someone said anonymously from among the crowd, under their breath just loud enough for everyone to hear. Everyone was looking at Herbert now.
“Sir, have you… have you lost your memory?” the questioning man asked. “Do you know who you are?”
“I’m Herbert,” Herbert replied. “What more is there to know?”
The committee was aghast, looking left to right before back to Herbert. Their leader had gone mad right in the middle of a meeting. What was worse, he was the principle stockholder of the company.
It took only moment for the schemes to begin to form. “Perhaps we can gain power of attorney…” “Declare him insane…” “Buy his shares before he notices…” and so on. The questioning man continued to sweat, wide eyed, afraid this was all a cruel test.
Herbert, for his part, picked a blade of grass and, clutching it between his hands, strung tightly between two fingers, began to blow against it like an instrument. He had never mastered the art and now seemed like a fine time to do so.