Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

The recruiter says that you are a dumbass. He tells you he wouldn’t put you in the infantry for the eighteen worlds, because you would get someone shot. Later you learn this is the worst insult he could give. The recruiter tells you that you would never make it as a pilot, because you haven’t got the head for numbers. Your test scores are low enough that they can’t place you anywhere based on skill. The only thing you can do, he tells you, the man who will decide your fate as a human, is get the genetic restructuring and become a psychic. A councilor.

It’s serve in the military, or slave in the mines, and though you don’t like the idea of changing your genetic code, you know you don’t want to be in those dark mines, so close to the core that you sweat out your life under artificial light. The recruiter gives you that choice, smelling like tobacco and piss, a bus out back to take you to the military and a truck with metal doors waiting for anyone who can’t find a place. You take the bus.

The genetic restructuring has you vomiting in a hospital for a week. The doctors laugh as you spit up blood and chunks of meat from your insides. Get it all out, they say, everything human must go. Laughter, but it’s distant, hollow. Maybe that little grey piece came from your liver; maybe that red slice is a shaving off your heart. At some point, you start to hear voices, bouncing around people, things they tell others without talking, words they tell themselves. A doctor hears her mother telling her she is a whore. A patient sings a pop tune to himself over and over.

Shave your head. Take a post on a military transport. Everyone hates councilors, reading minds, prying, looking for hints of treachery or deviance. They short sheet your bed, spit in your food, and dump your things out onto the floor. You know who did it, you know because you can feel their guilt like warm winds, but you can’t say a word. You tell on them and the captain would spit on you herself, and the rest of them would never forgive you. You are locked in a metal can with people who hate you, spinning through space.

Out in this silence, surrounded by cold, you reach out beyond the glass and plastic ship to the silent falling cold. There in the falling dark, you reach out to the thoughts of planets, hear the thrumming song of their replies.

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