By Rob King

Balkans 2035

The V50 Condor assault transport swooped low across the town roofs, its two huge afterburning engines shaking the buildings to the foundations, setting down in the town square, the blast of the jets flipped a car into a nearby shop front. As the turbines powered down a truck sped around the corner its tyres squealing in the sharp turn, pulling up to the VTOL jet heavily armed figures clad in combat armour rushed from the truck carrying a stretcher into the aircraft. The turbines howled spinning up to full power, the lift fans in the transport's wings speeding into blurred discs as the V50 lurched into the air, the exhaust of its wingtip mounted jets seared the truck as the bulky transport clambered into the sky wheeled around and swept back out over the town the crackling roar of its jets fading into the distance...

British military hospital two weeks later

A woman lies on a hospital bed covered in bandages from head to foot, there are IV lines running into her in several places, a tall man and a short woman in surgical scrubs stand by the bed, the woman turns to the man.

"So Doctor should we bring her round?"

"Well we can't keep her sedated indefinitely, Jay run through the checklist again please?"

"The eyes appear to be working perfectly...the smartgun integration appears to have worked seamlessly, seems like those new guys in systems are really getting into their stride Doctor, as for the blades they've already been tested by Doctor Hansen's team"

"Excellent work Jay, whatever am I going to do when you finish your thesis?"

"Probably find yourself another bright young postgraduate to do your dirty work... ah Doctor could I ask you something?"

"Sure ask away Jay it's no problem"

"What happened to her Doctor? I've seen the results of some bad things working here but injuries like this, and installing a neural block to blank her memory how did this happen?"

"I shouldn't really say anything Jay... but from what I've been told she's military intelligence, apparently a mission went bad, really bad. The rest of the unit was lost—executed apparently, and as for the injuries it doesn't take a genius to figure it out. She's been tortured Jay I've never seen anything like it, the kind of cruelty it takes to do something like that..."

"Jesus, how could anyone be able to do that?"

"I wish I knew Jay, what they did to her it's not human... I was told that when the rescue team arrived they blinded her, how can someone do that"

Jay turned and wretched in disgust the colour draining from her face, recovering her composure after a while she turned to the Doctor again.

"So the therapy to remove the scaring and the neural block is so she doesn't have to deal with what was done to her, and that's also why she has the new cybereyes but why the blades and smartgun links?"

"You know the military, they'll always take an opportunity she's here on the table she only needs new eyes, buy while she's here why not take the chance to enhance her at the same time, hence the smartgun links and the blades."

In the background a console began beeping, the Doctor walked over and checked its readout turning to Jay he nodded and gestured to the comatose patient.

"Its time to work Jay, remove the dressings and put a gown on her, I'm going to get Doctor Shearer from psychology"

"Sure no problems Doctor"

A few minutes later the Doctor retuned with a tall blond woman wearing a white coat in tow.

"Jay this is Doctor Shearer I think you've met."

"We have, Doctor Shearer it's nice to see you again."

"Hello there Jay it's nice to see you too, just one thing before you bring her round, could you and Doctor Lineker please remove your caps and masks"

Doctor Lineker removed his headgear the greying hair and thick stubble the result of years of overworking, whilst his serious manner contrasted with his assistant's friendly demeanour, her dark spiky hair was hard to reconcile with the deep bags under her eyes which gave ample evidence that like her teacher she worked far too hard. Doctor Lineker took out a syringe and began filling it with a clear drug.

"Jay will you disconnect the IVs please, Doctor Shearer should we restrain her?"

"No Doctor Lineker, I don't think that will help in this case"

"Excuse me, she's ready now doctor"

Checking the syringe Doctor Lineker waked over to the bed and injected the contents into the woman's arm before stepping back to let Doctor Shearer stand by the patient. The drug began to take effect on the woman, her eyelids fluttered as she stirred, her eyes opened slowly and she murmured softly, Doctor Shearer smiled and took the woman's hand.

"Hello Catherine, I'm Doctor Shearer how are you feeling"

"I feel... different, what happened to me Doctor?"

"Ssh Catherine that's not important, can you tell me the last thing you remember?"

"I was on a mission but I can't remember..."

Catherine suddenly froze, her eyes rolling back she gasped sharply and convulsed, a few seconds later she stilled she looked intently at the Doctor.

"Pain... I remember pain, I don't remember what happened where's the Boss and the team Doctor?"

"Now Catherine I need you to listen carefully can you do that?"


"Your mission was compromised Catherine, Captain Pieterson and the rest of your team are gone, and you were injured in the battle

When there was no response the doctor asked insistently.

"Catherine do you understand?"

"Gone? All of them?"

"Yes Catherine, I'm sorry, so sorry..."

Hospital psychiatric ward three days later:

Doctor Shearer stood outside Catherine's room pacing impatiently; a tall muscular figure in a dirty but otherwise immaculate uniform came around the corner into the corridor escorted by a par of nondescript bodyguard each with several ominous bulges under their clothes.

"Sorry I'm late Doctor Shearer but it's good to see you again."

"Likewise Brigadier, I got your call earlier."

"I have to apologise but I don't have much time to spare Doctor, could you give me an update on her progress?"

"Well Sir, physically she's in excellent shape the cyberware has integrated very well, also she does not appear to have been badly affected by the treatment for her injuries, mentally to be frank I'm worried Sir"

"Why are you worried Doctor?"

"She doesn't remember what happened to her but that doesn't stop her from being traumatised, the evaluations say she was shy before but she's become withdrawn not quite frightened but extremely closed. When we've talked and she's opened up there are clearly the early signs of psychosis in her personality, monitoring her when she's been by herself shows she may well be suffering post traumatic stress disorder, yesterday she spent an hour curled in a ball shaking."

Looking through the window into the room the Brigadier scratched his chin thoughtfully and cursed under his breath.

"She seems to be sleeping alright at least."

"Well she is heavily sedated Sir."

"I see what do you recommend we do with her Doctor?"

"She needs intensive psychotherapy Sir without it she's a walking time bomb; she could collapse into a completely introverted recluse or snap and turn psychopathic."

"We have a problem then Doctor, with the loss of Pieteson's team the green slime, sorry I mean Intelligence are running dangerously short on manpower in short we need her back in the field as soon as possible."

"Sending her back to Intelligence may well worsen the trauma Sir, I must recommend against it in the strongest terms."

The Brigadier scratched his chin again thinking aloud.

"Experience in her area of operations is hard to come by, my CRF boys could use that kind of backup, with the right kind of retraining she could be a very effective weapon."

Doctor Shearer looked on horrified at the coldness of the comments.

"Did you really just say that?"

"Yes I did Doctor, unfortunately we have conflicting needs, your job is to ensure the welfare of your patients mine is to ensure the security of this nation and her skills are desperately needed, however we can comprise, while she's being trained for her new mission you can perform whatever treatment you think necessary. But there is a condition to this; on her discharge from this hospital she is to report directly to CRF HQ immediately is that clear Doctor"

Doctor Shearer looked the man known only as Brigadier in the eyes and all but snarled through gritted teeth

"Perfectly clear Sir"

The Brigadier simply nodded before turning and walking away ignoring the volley of curses directed at him by the Doctor as she stood fighting back tears of rage.

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