International Enforcement Bureau
Born: July 4, 3027
Number of victims: 16
Murders period: 3053-3053; 3056-3056
Date of arrest: November 25, 3056
Nickname: Zsa Zsa
Chapter 1 - The Farm
“Just write down everything that’s happened,” said Barney, lingering in the doorway of my cell. “You’ve got time to kill.”
I’m not sure if taking Barney’s advice will do any good, but he is right about one thing—I do have time to kill. I spend most of my days locked in a little room, about 8 by 12. It’s not exactly a prison cell, but it's smaller than any regular room and I'm sort of a prisoner here and sort of ain't. In the evenings, I can go out for short walks up and down the nearest hallway. Sometimes I see the other inmates but we never talk to each other. I have few visitors except for the nurse who brings in Halcyon and Dr. Mechner, who comes by several times a day to take blood. They work in perfect tandem. First I see the nurse with a stack of small glass vials. One of them she gives to me. Then, a few minutes later, I see Mechner, in a tweed suit and harmlessly round glasses. He always knocks before the door is opened by a guard, and politely takes away a small vial of my blood. Sometimes I wonder if he's drinking it in secret. When I asked him what it was for, he explained that he is trying to adjust the dose of Halcyon, and that if we kept going at this pace, soon I wouldn't need it at all. I hope so, because each new dose sends me into a crazy spiral. By night the drug wears off and, after a brisk stroll up and down the hallway, I sit down at the little desk and get to work. My task, according to Barney, is to write down everything that led up to my crime, the murder of a Bureau agent.
I'd like to start at the very beginning--the night I was caught and my first stay at the Farm.
One summer night in 3053 I, David Zazzara, was caught in the middle of dinner. I was inexperienced back then and hungry most of the time, so when I finally found a meal, I got a little carried away and stopped paying attention to my surroundings. After some questioning at the local police station, I was brought to a place very few people know about. They call it the Farm, and I agree. It is a farm, and for some it becomes a slaughterhouse and a final resting place. It’s a drifter’s first taste of the Bureau, and it is hell. I spent three months here the first time around. In my worst dreams, I'd never imagined I’d have to do it all over again.
On the outside, the Farm is just a gray building, strict-looking like a prison, with barbed wire and drones circling the perimeter. It's not much jollier inside, but if you cooperate you get to live normally, sort of. You get a room and a roommate, and on some evenings our shrinkmeister, Dr. Jurgen, reads us liturgical poems from inside a transparent glass cube. Jurgen is still here on my second time around, but he doesn’t come by to visit me often these days. I suppose he considers all returnees his personal failures, and would, I believe, rather have them turn up dead in some alley than come back to this place.
I was lucky when I first got to the Farm, because I had a room all to myself. Even though the door was never locked, I stayed there most of the time except when I had to go out to eat and to attend Jurgen’s group sessions.
After about a week, I got a room mate. They brought him in early one morning. He was a scrawny kid of about fourteen, with freckles and a limp, but it took four of those goons to hold him down and he had a bite helmet on him. His name was Nathaniel W. and it looked like he had the rabies. He kept lashing out at everyone—a common first response to the Halcyon vaccine. (Quitting is hell, pure and undiluted. My best advice is, don't get bitten. And if you get bitten, don't get caught. It's hell.)
Anyway, I had to sleep at night in the same room with this young cannibal. Sure, he had the bite helmet on him, but he'd wake up in the middle of the night, sit up in his bed and howl. It scared the living daylights out of me. It was one awful, long, uninterrupted wail. At the end of the week, when it didn't stop, I asked if I could get another room, or another room mate, but they're always short on space around here and told me, besides, that we were a "good match." I disagreed.
That night, I caught Nathaniel trying to feed on me. His bite-proof helmet had been removed the previous day after he was determined to be safe by the staff. Once again, I voiced my strong disagreement, but no one listened. I went to sleep with only one eye closed, but eventually I ended up closing both eyes, which was a mistake. I woke up as if struck by a lightning bolt and saw him standing over me, stock still. He grinned slyly and went back to bed.
I complained about the incident to Dr. Krauss when he visited our wing of the facility in the morning.
"Really?" said Dr. Krauss, and glanced over at Nathaniel, who was diligently coloring a turkey with crayons.
He was seated a few places away from me at the recreation room table. He continued filling in the tail feathers with a lurid green color while Dr. Krauss tried to talk to him, completely oblivious to anyone’s presence.
"Very nice work, Nate,” Krauss complemented him. "Now, go put it up."
Obediently, he got up and taped the image of the green turkey to the wall. He seemed so harmless during the day.
Another inmate I got to know here was Mona. This was her second time on the Farm—she was an agent but she messed up and had to go through it all over again, kind of like me now. I would very much like to see her these days, but that's not possible. She was one of my neighbors down the hall and was always trying to run away. One night, she came to me and told me she had an escape plan. Apparently, there was an old staffer who sometimes forgot to lock the exercise yard gate. It was a fenced in courtyard with some trees and grass where we could walk until 10 p.m. We agreed to go out at nine the next day, but I was so sauced up with Halcyon that, frankly, I forgot all about our plan and fell asleep at around eight.
That night there was a bright full moon. I woke up in a panic—I couldn’t breathe. I struggled out from under the softness and saw Mona, half-dressed, with a clandestine look on her face. She held a finger to her lips and motioned for me to get up. I crawled out of bed as quietly as I could, keeping an eye on Nathaniel, who was already asleep. We went out into the yard. As luck would have it, the gate had been left open that night. We had to wait for some late stragglers to leave, and then we went out. Out the gate and past the fence surrounding the yard, and it was all very quiet. No one seemed to have noticed us. We walked a little bit further, constantly looking back at the Farm. In the dark, the building was a black monolith, lit up by an occasional yellow beam. The security fence around it made a low buzzing sound like an electric growl. The further away we got, the quieter and darker it became, until the sky turned into a solid black pool in which we could see stars.
It was the first time I’d seen anything outside the Farm. It was a rural area, with grassy hills for miles around and a thin forest of trees that seemed to follow the train-tracks which began somewhere far away, ran past the Farm and disappeared again in the hazy distance.
We walked along the tracks until we came to a deserted train station, little more than a wooden shed with the name “Nelson” painted on a placard. We climbed up a small hill next to the station and got a good look at our surroundings. Except for a small blinking red beacon planted among the dark rolling hills, there wasn’t a trace of civilization in sight. The night air was crisp and the wind was sweeping the grass. It was a momentary taste of freedom. We talked about what we were going to do now that we’d run away. It was all very stupid and impractical. On the way downhill, we heard an ear piercing whistle and were suddenly flashed by a bright beam. My hands went up at once, as did Mona's. There was no use in trying to fight them now. A drifter on Halcyon is like a frog on ice. A patrol of four or five goons appeared, yelling at us to stop although we were already standing stock still.
Back to the Farm we went. Two doughboys led us into a room. We were seated in odd looking, over puffed chairs next to each other and restrained with cuffs which sprouted out of the chairs’ soft flesh and just as softly wrapped themselves around our ankles and wrists. Something tickled my wrist and I felt a warmth rush into my arm, travel through my shoulder and back, getting hotter the further it went until I was hot all over, like in an oven. Then I passed out. When I came to, I was still sitting in that chair and Mona was still sitting next to me. There was a blank white screen on the wall in front of us. There was nobody else in the room. Mona looked at me, and I looked at her. She tilted back her head and began looking intently at the ceiling. Suddenly the blank screen shuddered and began to pulse with light. There were wiggles and lines which began forming shapes and taking on different colors, until they painted a moving picture. It was a dimly lit hallway, and someone was stumbling unsteadily through it and frequently looking around. I recognized it — it was one of the hallways on the Farm, and whoever was walking there stopped by my door, opened it and walked into the room where I was asleep. Everything that followed was a recreation of our escape with Mona, from her point of view. Later, I learned that this sideshow is called a Float session, and that the drug which made me heat up is called the Float drug.
It's called floating for a reason: your mind goes away and whatever your interrogators want to dredge up floats up to the surface. I watched our escape with some amusement, as if it wasn’t really us, just a movie with actors.
Train-tracks, the old wooden fence where we hid while a patrol unit passed by (two goons, both suspiciously unarmed), then the view from the top of the hill above the station, where, after running through many possible outcomes, I suggested that we return to the Farm. I couldn’t see Mona’s face because the replay was from her point of view, but I remembered her look of disgust.
"That would be stupid," her voice carried dully from the screen.
The real Mona licked her lips but didn’t say anything. Then her show ended and mine began. I knew this because the screen suddenly switched to a darkened room and I saw the outlines of transformers, small toys placed in a row along the window by Nathaniel. There was a stifled laugh when I woke up in what I'll politely describe as Mona's arms. Dr. Krauss was watching us from behind the one way glass. I couldn't see him but I could feel him standing there, could even hear his heart ticking away faintly. I wondered what would happen to us now. At last, the session was over and the chair restraints came away, crawling back into the chairs’ plump flesh. Mona and I exchanged a look. She gave me an odd little smile. Then the staffers returned to take us back to our rooms.
I spent the next few days in fear. I don’t know what I was expecting, but nothing happened after this, oddly enough. Everyone including Jurgen, Mechner, Krauss and the others acted like nothing had happened at all. It occurred to me that maybe this was a test. After all, those two unarmed patrols were easy targets. I shared these thoughts with Mona, and she agreed.
Not long after our escape fiasco came my release date. It came as a surprise, even more so because one day, Jurgen called me over into his office, which usually meant trouble.
Here we go, I noted in my mind. So much for escaping.
“Please have a seat,” he said, and his eyes immediately flashed back to his monitor.
I sat down, and while Jurgen was busy with something on his screen, I began studying his habitat. On the table, facing the visitor, was a little diorama: a room with a Christmas tree in one corner, its base buried under a pile of tiny gifts. I hadn’t seen it before. Jurgen noticed me eyeing it.
"A present from my niece," he explained, and coughed.
I peeled my eyes off the diorama and looked up habitually at the wall to see what the good doctor had put up there this week. He kept certain photos on the wall above his desk, all of accident or murder victims, and the pictures were exceptionally gruesome. I’m sure they had a purpose—everything on the Farm had one—but it seemed a bit unfair that they ended up on Jurgen’s wall. Mona once told me that she liked the pictures—not for the gore, just for all the blood. She didn’t look at them, she told me, until Jurgen turned his back or went digging for something in his desk.
“So,” the doctor said, “I see you’ve been doing well.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of it, so I said nothing.
“I’d like to congratulate you, David.”
“You’re all set to become an agent.”
He asked me to fill out some forms. My head was spinning as I scribbled my signatures. Then Jurgen shook my hand, smiling: I’d graduated.
“Congratulations,” he said. “Good luck with the agency. Here’s your new ID."
He stretched out a little green plastic card. It didn’t look like much, but to any Farm inhabitant, it was the holy grail.
“Good luck,” Jurgen repeated, as I went out.
I spent another week on the Farm while something was being arranged, and then I was free.
The day before I was released, I had a dream in which Mona and I were on a ship in the middle of the ocean. The ocean was blood red. She kept leaning out of the porthole and trying to touch the waves while I held on to her ankles. She wanted to know if the waves were real blood. We both fell out and, I suppose, drowned.