Copyright (c) © (copr) 1995, 1996, 1997 all rights reserved by TJH Internet SP and Earth Operations Central. Transmission or rebroadcast to any non-Internet media, including radio or television, are expressly prohibited except by arrangement. Each unauthorized retransmission to non-Internet media will be billed at a minimum of $10,000 per instance, payable to TJH Internet SP.
(copyright 1984, 1994, 1995 all rights reserved) by T.J. Hardman, Jr.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarities between any characters herein and actual persons are coincidental. However, any similarities between this fictional situation and actual social problems due to policies and practices of the military-research-and-development and intelligence communities and their civilian counterparts are intentional, if allegoric and fictional. It should also be noted that any similarities between the fictional Sigma Iota Fraternity described herein and any real fraternal organizations bearing that name are utterly coincidental.
The walls were featureless, soothing off-white. Plexiglas covered the bars of the windows, lest one of the inmates smash glass, and with bleeding lips hold a shard in teeth, slash through the quilted canvas jacket, to free prisoned arms, perhaps to harm self or others, perhaps to merely luxuriate in once more having hands.
"Therapy time," said the orderly.
Like a grazing beast he meekly preceded his shepherd, past the identical double-locked doors with their shuttered observation ports. Through some of the doors came sounds of muttering, or gibbering, or the muffled impacts of bodies against padded enclosures. Ahead of them, a howl penetrated sound-proofing, a howl that rose to a crescendo, and then rapidly subsided. Two orderlies exited that door, one re-sheathing the needle of a disposable syringe, the other pocketing a glass vial.
The patient was inured to this. He'd seen all of this, and more. He felt comparatively lucky; they'd stopped forcing injections on him a week ago. He could control his limbs now. He felt his restraints, now canvas and straps, to be preferable to the chemical fog that wrapped him in imaginary foot-thick foam rubber. He felt the raw spots the canvas had abraded into his shoulders, and relished the capacity for sensation. While he had been medicated, there had been only the fog drifting over him, pulling him down into a soft, warm place where sensation was only a memory, a memory that drifted away carrying with it all thought.
He was steered into a new area, one he'd not seen before. A few bends of the halls later, they were before a door, a door which blocked the end of the hall, instead of a door at the side of a hall.
"Where are we?" he asked the orderly.
"Dr. Krovnic's office."
The patient looked blankly at the orderly. "She's the top doc here," said the orderly, and then he knocked on the door. "She's taken a personal interest in your case."
The door opened. Dr. Krovnic was a handsome older woman, somewhere on the far side of forty-five, wearing a tasteful designer dress and the inevitable white lab coat. "Come in," she said.
She led him into her office proper, and then dismissed the orderly, who took up a position in the hall outside the office, and then turned to close the door. The doctor bade him sit, noticing his balance as he seated himself, noticing no evidence of lingering tardive dyskinesia, organic brain-dysfunction, nor inner-ear damage. She picked up his file. Though she was already quite familiar with the particulars of the case, review was always in order immediately before an interview.
Name: Bill Roberts, age 26. Occupation: Full-time student, General Studies, concentrating on cultural anthropology, honor-roll, Dean's List. Pretty impressive for General Studies. No history of mental disturbances, no police record, clean-cut young man. Campus Security had found him crouched in the corner of the pharmacology wing of the Chemistry Department library, trembling, eyes dilated, cowering from motion. When an officer had touched him, trying to lead him out, he'd fought madly. One campus cop had been hospitalized in traction, and the second might need a throat rebuild. He'd been subdued, sedated, and remanded here for observation. He wouldn't talk directly to anyone, but had screamed when approached by the nurses. One nurse remarked that they'd never before heard such terror in a man's voice, and the expression on his face would have been appropriate to a man confronting demons. For a month, he'd been given 100 milligrams daily of Stelazine as intramuscular injections. At that level of sedation, he'd been unable to talk. Upon reduction of dose, to a mere 5 milligrams daily, he'd shown no agitation, no violence, and no desire to engage in productive therapy. Acute transient panic reaction, with resultant depression and withdrawal? From the admission description, it seemed more like post-traumatic stress syndrome, followed by shellshock...
"How are you today?" she asked.
"As well as my circumstances permit, I suppose."
"And how do you see your circumstances?"
"I guess I'm being held here for evaluation of competency to stand trial. I'd like to convince you of my competency."
"You do seem lucid enough, now. But what brought you here?"
He tried to suppress a grin, and then failed. "A paddy wagon, I guess." He became more serious instantly, and she made a note. Affect not flattened. He continued, "Seriously, I'd say, an isolated psychotic episode. I'm mortified. I've never behaved so badly."
"I should hope not. You badly injured two security officers," she said severely, trying to provoke some reaction.
"Are they OK?" His contrition seemed genuine.
"Not really. You'll be charged with aggravated assault".
"Shit. Uh, pardon me." His actions were not in keeping with sociopathy. A sociopath would try to justify his actions, or deny them. Certainly a sociopath would feel no contrition, nor empathy for his victims. She steepled her fingers to her lips, and thought for a moment.
"How," she asked, "do you account for this, as you say, isolated psychotic episode?"
"That's just it, Doctor, I can't."
"Have you ever taken LSD? PCP, maybe?"
"You think this was a flashback? No, Never used hallucinogens."
"Any drugs at all?" she pressed.
"Whatever you've given me here... I smoked pot through high school, but I stopped after that. Oh, I drink beer on weekends."
She believed him. She looked at his file again. The usual lab tests had indicated none of the usual illicit recreational drugs. Still she pressed on.
"How did you feel during your episode?"
He paused, and for a moment, his face became a mask of stress (confirming her tentative post-traumatic stress diagnosis), and then he said, "Afraid. Deathly afraid. I had been researching a paper, and I felt like I was being watched. I looked around me, and things looked, well, menacing. It sounds irrational, I know. But I felt I had to hide, so I got under the table... and then I was afraid that the table would fall and crush me. I mean, I knew it couldn't fall, couldn't crush me, didn't weigh enough, but I was afraid of it anyway... and getting more and more afraid every minute..." His face was stretched tight, and his eyes were mere slits, seeking, seeking, looking everywhere but at her, searching for a way out of this memory. She leaned over and touched him, and he jumped, and his eyes tracked to her face, and then a drop of sweat rolled down his forehead, and he relaxed. She pulled out a kleenex and wiped the drop away. He breathed a huge sigh, and she said, "I'm sorry... but can you go on?"
"Yes," he said, and took a deep breath, and continued, under better control this time. "People came. I closed my eyes - they looked... Then I was afraid someone would sneak up on me... I opened my eyes, and someone had. Campus security. They tried to get me out..." He looked up at her again, earnest blue eyes pleading. "I've been trying to forget it, forget how I felt... I really don't remember much after that... just how I felt, and how those people looked."
This was interesting, indeed, indicative. "Which people? How did they look?"
"Like monsters. Like people. I knew they were just security guards, trying to get me to help me, but they looked evil, sinister. Like they were stalking me. When he touched me... " he trailed off, and flushed, and then went pale, and then his color returned to normal as he shook himself visibly. He looked at her almost calmly, though his eyes continued to plead, and finished. "It's too terrible to remember any more."
"You don't have to go on," she said. She flashed back to her post-doc work, and remembered again why she'd left a brilliant emerging career in psychopharmacology to become the director of this out-of-the-way state mental-health unit.
" MK-ULTRA," she whispered, her lips barely moving.
When the fully-empowered version of the Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1972, the Central Intelligence Agency had burned a lot of files. For project MK-ULTRA, they had scattered the ashes, but not well enough, not quickly enough. They would probably never again make such a mistake, but in this case, the damage was done, and enough of the truth came out to terrorize anyone capable of believing the government to be other than utterly benevolent.
Legal actions had revealed a pattern of surreptitious tests of potentially-useful warfare chemicals upon unwitting domestic military and civilian personnel. Several lives had been lost, and many more ruined. The Agency had been looking for chemicals which could be used to incapacitate or discredit "essential assets", under the theory that if you kill the brain, the body will follow, and under a corollary theory, it is better to have an incapacitated brain leading the enemy than to kill that brain to have it replaced by a potentially better one. Some of the chemicals were very effective, in very low-weight doses.
There was Ditran, a powerful psychedelic derived from adrenochrome, which appeared under laboratory scrutiny to be a natural product of a disordered mind... Ditran was extremely powerful, and never produced a good trip. There was the military psychotomimetic nerve gas, BZ, a binary gas which combined within the body to produce Ditran and other less-than-enjoyable byproducts. This man's reactions were very similar to Ditran reaction. There were other chemicals, some common public knowledge, such as LSD, and there were others, such as bromo-mescaline adreno-indole-class hallucinogens, or MDME, MDPME, MDA and other methylated amphetamines, whose very existence were state secrets. And there were the chemicals which the Soviets researched (such as beta-carboline, "the Fear"), which were even nastier, and which were of course known to the CIA warfare pharmacologists... of which she had been one.
She'd had no moral qualms at first about developing psychotomimetics for her country, especially since they'd lied to her, telling her and others on her team that they were researching causes of mental disorders, thereby to determine counteracting chemistries which would benefit all of the mentally ill. It had been easy to fool her, as she'd come right out of medschool onto the staff of a laboratory ostensibly funded by a major pharmaceutical company... which was secretly underwritten by the CIA. She'd watched volunteers (quietly, or more often not quietly) freaking out under the influence of some batch or the other of mystery chemicals. The substances were not known to her at the time, as she was testing and observing under a "double-blind" protocol.
However, in 1972, three years into this research, she was "randomly" selected by a judge to be part of a professional review panel, determining the validity of certain assertions as to the pharmacological activity of certain chemicals which had been mentioned in Freedom of Information Act subpoenas of MK-ULTRA files.
She was astonished to find her own data in her own handwriting (double-blind labels replaced with the names of the actual chemicals) within those files, and even more astonished to find out exactly which chemicals she'd been testing. She privately consulted with ever-more-heavyweight attorneys, retained her involvement with the review panel, but severed her relationship with the CIA-front "pharmacorp" labs. The labs closed (doubtless to re-open elsewhere, under better cover), a few lower-echelon CIA bureaucrats were thrown to the wolves with no legal precedent whatsoever having been set nor legal restrictions to such activities defined, payments were made to widows and estates, and she was quietly blacklisted at all pharmacology concerns which did business with the military-industrial establishment, which was to say, all of them.
She was lucky to be able to get a job in even the Idaho State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, even so lowly a job as staff intern in the violent ward. While others' careers took them to high-pay consultancies and professional renown, she merely rose through the ranks, to eventually become the Administrator of this state hospital.
The world had largely forgotten MK-ULTRA, and CIA's willingness to experiment on domestic civilians, and most of the files regarding this matter had been destroyed or "black-filed"... except for the copies she and her attorneys had secured from the review panel.
"Mr. Roberts... you're not a Frat boy, are you."
"Uh, why no. I was rushed, and I tried to pledge, but, I dunno, the hazing was pretty severe."
"Let me guess. Sigma Iota?"
"How'd you know?"
"They're very popular, the Sigs are. Greek Life at it's best. Best and brightest, heavy hazing, total solidarity, and the best parties on campus. I bet you wonder why they rushed you. Orderly!"
The orderly was in the doorway instantly. He saw that Bill was just sitting there looking baffled, and then he said mildly, "Yes, Doctor?"
"You can remove Mr. Roberts' restraints now." The orderly began to unbuckle the straps, and motioned Bill to stand so he could reach the groin anchor. He pulled the restraints loose, and Bill stood there wiggling his fingers, rubbing at cramped muscles. The orderly stood to attention, and at a signal from the doctor, departed.
"Sit down again, Mr. Roberts, your circulation will be back in no time. I think you may have guessed that your status here is somewhat changed, and your therapy will be taking a new direction."
"Why the sudden change, doctor? Though, you understand, I'm not complaining..."
"Ever talk to anyone who had been rushed by the Sigs but didn't pledge?"
"Uh, no, I think that they don't exist. I mean, I gathered that anyone who ever got rushed pledged. Except for me... I mean, it's the best frat on campus. Just about everybody who's anybody on campus is a Sig!"
Dr. Krovnic actually smiled. Rather grim, her smile was... "Too true. What I find remarkable about them is that they only rush second-semester sophomores or older students, and that they do not concentrate, as do most fraternities, upon any particular set of majors. Very diversified fraternity. Nobody gets pledged who isn't rushed, and popular as they are, everybody tries to figure out their criteria for selecting rushees. Nobody has had much luck. Why did you drop your pledge?"
"Well, there were the egos of some of the older Brothers. Acted like they were gods or something. They used to boast about some of the shit they did (or claimed to have done), and it was like they were megalomaniacs. They had this one wall covered with photos of alumni of the Frat, and they were always going on about Sigs rule, fer sure, check out this guy, heavy lawyer, see him, chief of police, the Mayor's a Sig, you get the picture."
"But you know how the world works," she said, her tone suddenly sharp. "Finding out that you're in the best-connected Fraternity in the state is no reason to drop a pledge!"
"Well, to tell the truth, it was their damned Game."
The doctor drew in her breath slightly. "Do you mean the Assassination Game?"
"Yah, that Game. Oh, they're hosting the Sigs national competition here, did ya know that? " He looked at her desk calendar. "Wow, today, as a matter of fact! Ultimate Paint Ball. No playing field, no arcade play, just blast away. It's part of the hazing. You get assignments from your pledgemaster, he tells you to go after some other pledge. You get points for getting your target, you get points for not getting got yourself. Once you have enough points, you can go to the next level, which is where you notify observers, and try to hit without being observed. Sometimes they give bonus factor, by warning your target. They get bonus for getting you, more bonus for getting you without being observed. For True Ultimate, you have to get your target, and the observers too, with everybody knowing you're coming for them. Didn't you know? You might make it on points alone, but True Ultimate is the only way to guarantee getting into the Frat!"
The doctor thought back to her mid-sixties college days. She and her girlfriends, all members of the Sigs ladies-auxiliary (the sororities on her campus were pretty lame) had engaged in the popular pastime of dosing cops. One of the Sigs ladies was a total Hippie, and had turned them on to the trick of sticking a square of LSD-soaked ricepaper onto the back of some perspiring cop's neck, where the acid would be absorbed directly through the skin, ruining the cop's entire shift, and invalidating all arrests or tickets for the day. Then one of the Sigs talked them into dropping some phenolthalien into someone's coffee, causing unexpected (and occasionally violently so) trips to the crapper. Later they learned to dye people's urine blue. Soon enough, they began to devise stratagems, to refine and practice techniques. It was their pre-paintball version of the Assassination Game, with the same rules for points as the present paintball version. They called it the Dose Game, and being college students, saw nothing wrong with it at all.
The doctor looked (under her mask of professional calm) rather aghast. "I had no idea."
"Don't tell anyone, please doctor, they'll probably do something horrible to me."
"I think," said the doctor, "They may already have. By law, we have to hold you here until your court date, but I am not concerned about you possibly being dangerous. You'll be moved to a medium-security wing, and your therapy won't include any more physical restraint nor high-level medication. I'd like to talk to you more about this later, and I do hope you wouldn't mind perhaps having a police detective or an attorney here."
"Uh, no, I don't think so, so long as it would be to my benefit."
"Ideally to yours, and to a lot of other people's benefits," said the doctor. She wrote several lines in her notes, and then wrote several more on another sheet of paper. She called in the orderly, gave him the sheet of paper, and the orderly looked at Bill with something approaching respect. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, Bill", she said, and waved to him as he left.
She shut her door, and placed a long-distance call to an attorney she'd kept on retainer for twenty-odd years, the attorney who retained her copies of files regarding MK-ULTRA. He advised her that the originals of those files had recently been FOIA'ed by a local Sig for a "legal research" project. Oddly enough, they'd been sent out as originals, and not as copies. She suspected that much already. She'd recently been consulted by the local narcotics squad after a warehouse theft of certain chemicals, was asked what could be made with those particular formulations. Her severance agreement with the CIA-front pharmacology lab had precluded her from telling the narc that the missing chemicals were exactly what she'd have used to make Ditran, beta-carboline, and military BZ gas. She couldn't tell the narc, but she had told the attorney. She told the attorney to prepare to receive fax and data.
She was waiting on hold when her secretary rushed into the office. Her secretary (administrative assistant, really) had been one of her friends in those long-ago college days when they were the Sigs best girls, before she went into medicine and her secretary went into marriage to her Sig, who wound up in the CIA and was killed in Vietnam. Her secretary was giving her the "crash-priority news" look, and the doctor covered the mouthpiece of the phone and mouthed, "What?"
The secretary hurriedly set upon her desk the transcriptions of the interview with Bill Roberts and the equally clandestine (but technically legal) transcription of her interview with the narc, all of which should now be emerging from the attorney's fax machine. "Turn on your TV, channel five, quick," mouthed her secretary, and then fled back to her own office.
The doctor listened to the phone intently for a minute or two, and then said, "Dammit, John, you'll change your mind when you see this latest data and these transcripts. You'd know better than I what must be done, but by God it's time to do something and do it now. We owe more to our compatriots-at-large than we do to good ol' Sigma Iota, especially since it's become nothing more than a free-for-all no-holds-barred recruitment camp for the goddamned CIA, being locally administered by goddamned Big-Men-On-Campus can-do-no-wrong post-teen sociopaths!" She listened again, punching numbers into her fax-machine as she did so. It beeped and whistled, and soon paper was purring through it. She spoke again.
"Oh, you got that did you? You're goddamned right it's atrocious!" For punctuation, she stabbed the on-switch of her ancient color TV. "We've got to put a stop to this, and do it right now, because if goddamned spook-puppet college students can decide who gets to graduate, and can enforce their decisions with warfare chemicals while we look the other way because we're alumni of their fraternity, we'll be living in a goddamned Orwellian nightmare within five years! If they can get away with it in college, why the hell should they stop out in real life?"
Her TV was almost warmed up now, and she switched it to channel five as she listened. The first thing to come in clearly was a text bar at the bottom of the screen. It read: Live from State U Campus. "What do you mean, it'll take care of itself?"
On her screen was an image of the Quadrangle in front of the Main Library. Several students lay prone on cold cement. Darts stuck out of their bodies. She turned up the sound a bit. "... apparently curare or some other poison..." she listened to the phone with an open mouth, and then said, "Yes, yes I am watching television right now... yes, I see. Still, release your files where it'll do the most good... but you're right, it might just take care of itself. Talk to you later."
She hung up, and turned the volume up on the TV a little bit.
"...without warning, during the locally-hosted Sigma Iota Ultimate Paintball competition, people began to fall, struck down by what appear to be darts of some kind. Our crew is pinned down here in this alcove, and so you can't see the extent of the carnage, but what you can see on your screen is perhaps only one-tenth, the barest tip of the iceberg... and from our other camera..."
The view shifted to a higher vantage point, and thought there was no sound from the location, it was visually apparent that perhaps seventy-five students were down, and another fifty or so could be seen running in circles, striking blindly at anyone and everything, while perhaps another fifty or so lay on their backs, eyes covered, screaming at the skies.
Dr. Krovnic reached up, and with the palm of her right hand gently pushed her open mouth closed. Then her lips parted again, and her smile was most unpleasant. "It may very damned well take care of itself."
It seemed that the Assassination Game, like the Dose Game, was being played with live ammunition.