Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Thirtyseven sat on the edge of his bed, kicked off his shoes and fell heavily into his pillow, not bothering to peel off the white coveralls he normally couldn’t wait to get out of. He was exhausted.

He lay staring at the ceiling, the last few hours of the day still fresh in his mind, although today blended seamlessly into yesterday, and last week, and a month ago. Or more. He’d lost track.

Each day played out pretty much the same, he awoke in the same grey six by nine room, showered, dressed and ate the breakfast that was delivered to him, then he made his way to the simulator. Here he learned how to ride motorcycles, slalom cars, canyon race executive jets, operate forklifts, tractor trailers, maglifts and exo-skel loaders. He’d logged countless hours in freighters, cruise liners and speedboats, gliders and heavy cargo planes, jump-packs and helicopters with countless different rotor configurations.

He had no idea what they were training him for, or even who they were, he never saw anyone, just heard voices, took direction, followed wayfinder systems made of lit arrows on the walls and floors. He simply did what he was told, and learned whatever they were teaching.

He’d stopped trying to remember what he’d done before, when this had started and how he came to be here. He wasn’t entirely convinced that Thirtyseven was really his name, but he had no recollection of another one, and that’s what the voices called him. Any time he tried to think too far back he felt nauseous, anxious and lost, and he didn’t like feeling like that. Instead he focused on being an apt pupil. If it could be ridden, driven or piloted, he’d likely spent hours in the simulator on or in it, in between meals, naps, bloodwork and being poked by machines with needles.

Something was coming. He blinked, and then sleep came on like a freight train. Had he stayed awake long enough to realize, he might have recalled driving one of those as well.

Outside Karl Liesen paused at thirty seven’s door, checked to make sure he’d been rendered unconscious, and reviewed his chart. A disembodied voice interrupted his reading.

“Sir, thirty seven is scheduled for deprogramming, can you sign off on him?”

Liesen waved at the chart displayed on the wall several times until the authorization page was in view to which he applied a palm briefly, waited for the page to glow green with the recognition of his prints, and then tapped to confirm and close.

“Proceed”, Karl started walking back to his office, “make sure you get a clean scraping, and then composite thirty seven with twenty six and forty one, we’ve got a new recruit in staging that I’d like to layer up and see what he can do.”

“Yes sir, is that the marine we picked up in the projects?” The voice followed Karl as he walked.

“No, I’m thinking the twenty something with the mohawk from the men’s shelter. The marine I want cleaned out for weapons training,” he paused at a terminal, pulling up the man’s record. They’d found him in an alley digging food from a dumpster in the rain, he’d been an easy catch considering his background. “He’s got small and medium arms training already, so when you wipe him, be careful to be crisp around the edges, I’d like to leverage what he already knows.”

“Understood sir.” The voice paused while Karl closed the terminal and resumed walking. “Sir, what do you want doing with thirty seven when we’re done, we’ve wiped and reloaded him three times already, he’s losing neuro-plasticity.

Karl arrived as his office and stood at the door for a moment, thinking.

“Once you know you’ve got a clean scrape, put him on heroin and PCP for the next twenty four hours, then turn him loose at the cloverleaf after dark. I’m sure he’ll find some sort of vehicle he’d like to play with.”

He didn’t wait for an answer before entering his office, it was late and he needed a drink.

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