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Research proves soldiers and career military men have the highest levels of background pain, which is a fortunate coincidence for the army since the research was to make a weapon. Background pain is the level of pain that an individual will accept as normal in his life. Tremendous efficiency was achieved by first using a pain detector on a prisoner before beginning torture. The department of pain detection in the army searches for individuals in its own ranks who show the highest levels of background pain. Those soldiers are used as frontline agents. Once found the candidates are then dispatched to research labs. In order to be useful the soldiers had to have their pain calibrated. It was after years of searching until he was found in the bowels of the army. He was past 30 and peeling potatoes, paying child support and meager alimony, he was also a former alcoholic. He was tall, an inch below the army height limits and on the wrong side of the weight restriction but he carried 400 pounds like 300. His feet always hurt. Men like him, college boys, were expected to be officers or desk jockeys. He was assistant to a company cook. Even when the army issued
peeling machines he was still washing and trimming spuds. He emptied the garbage as men ate and mopped the spills. He cleaned puke and shit as part of his job and did it gladly. His aim was to be there, on the ground with the men, serving them food as they fought. He slept in the kitchen and almost never slept on maneuvers. War on that scale was unlikely however and that was because of our advances in torture and information gathering. Bernie trembled back when the Psycorps orders first reached him. It was years since his test with the rest of the company. He caused a flap then. They thought the instruments were broken. When newer, non-invasive detectors reached his post the new tests recalled his earlier experience but like everything else in his life Bernie experienced no surprise. Everything that happened in Bernie’s life was foreshadowed by his mind. Often he wondered if life was a dream, potato after potato.
Bernie enlisted in the army immediately after graduation. Everyone he knew found this to be very unlike him, to cut his hair and obey orders. To Bernie, who had been exposed to Buddha and Socrates in college, he took this seeming erratic turn as one of many in his life, to exemplify his lack of
attachment to belief, things and other people’s ideas of who he was. The army was for Bernie as close as he believed an American could get to monastic life. That was also during his time of love for alcohol. In his drunkenness he joined the army to find God. Each passing year made him feel closer to God and more so when he quit drinking.
The Psycorp medical unit arrived with great show in the company square. The Psycorp as the latest branch of the military had replaced the old technologies of the air force and navy. The company assembled as the new portable pain detectors were being unfolded. However Bernie’s orders had come a week earlier. Wearing an apron he waited on a folding chair and after the company was tested he was told to put on a dress uniform and to ship out with the Psycorp. In the Psycorp bus the atmosphere changed, stiff researchers gawked and made fun of Bernie, it was high school all over again. Bernie’s restricted file told both the story and the cover story. The cover story was that due to his years as an alcoholic the subject(Bernie) sustained nerve damage which was detected by the machines but his calibration remains uncertain due to the patients obvious unique physiology(big and fat).
What drove the research was his initial test which caused testers to call up supervisors and one machine was wheeled out and another brought in. He was off the scale of the old equipment. At the time of his induction he broke the machines but his initial readings were beyond any previously recorded. His pain monitoring potential was enormous but until the army could calibrate him he was useless to them. New equipment was developed, more powerful and more sensitive but able to protect itself from the psy feedback, the psywave was the natural will of the mind to protect itself by attacking an attacker. Not only could Bernie be used as a pain detector to find the enemy, if the theory tested positively, he could project pain at them. It would be a revolution if they could weaponize him. For the first time in his life others shared his pain, cold observers though they might be. It was nothing at first, he was blocking as he had blocked pain all of his life. A single hoop was used back on the base to scan the company. At Psycorp command there were hoops surrounding hoops. The hoops lowered one at a time. He felt like he was falling into a well, he kept himself near the center as instructed, he feared he might fall and touch the first hoop. Then he regained himself and felt cocky. The testers watched each hoop lower and Bernie could see the anticipation on their faces.
Drunk he joined the army, got married, had a kid, and was dressed down by the army all while drunk. Back then he was sure he was a better driver drunk. Sober he got divorced and the kid hated him. Sober he crawled into a cot beneath an army sink. There he was never promoted and he waited for war. In addition to being big and fat he was a klutz. In a kitchen knives are unavoidable and he knew more than a few drops of his blood went into the food. It was part of his hell. He let his blood to get revenge on others who are coordinated and steady. Sober he shook. He wanted to share his fate with the world and did not staunch the escaping drops as fast as he might. Being taken to Psycorp HQ for extensive testing was not a surprise. While men in his company winced as they passed through a single test ring Bernie laughed as he went through a dozen. He had not been very diligent signing papers at Psycorp. Had he read the many pages he would have learned a lot the doctors would later assume he knew. For example, his genes when compared with those in the national registry indicated 99.99997% likelihood that he was not related to either legal parent.
Because of his significance to research they spent more time on his blood and learned his deformities were from his parents being close relatives most likely of Northern European Judeo Indo lineage. He never suspected he was a Jew but in his self-absorbed life the idea that he was not a natural human had occurred to him. His hope was that aliens had done this to him and that they could fix it. Still he hoped. “My biological parents were a Jewish brother and sister?” This heightened his self-loathing. “Not at all, they are genetic markers of certain groups who lived and bred in North Europe. You could have been conceived by strangers on an airliner over Germany, or first cousins in a mansion in the mid-west.” Bernie took these references as clues. Doctors are like lawyers, everything they say is self-protective bullshit. He was not going to be told anything directly. It sunk in that his mother was not his mother. That his father was not his father was something Bernie long suspected and hoped. Knowing her, it was hard to imagine his mother as compassionate enough to adopt a baby, especially one with a deformity.
At meal times especially she talked about getting rid of him, he was a heavy feeder and cooking for him was a full time job for his mother. Bernie’s father told the story on occasion of how a toilet plunger and a set of tongs were used to pull the 12 pound baby out of the birth canal. His head was misshapen from the first. The rest of him grew into his deformity. His father explained how they waited for their baby with his crushed head to die. But Big Baby Bernie surprised them. Now he felt he had arrived. He was given several days to rest between tests but he did not enjoy forced idleness as much as he hoped. It was hinged on the one part of his life he tried from birth to shut out, his pain. Overnight the army reclassified him and he was given assistants and guards. Because of the invasive nature of the Psycorp it is the only branch of the military to offer choices. Orders in the Psycorp are “strong suggestions” or, “recommended behavior.” A research center was built around Bernie, he could delay but eventually he had to submit. “Do your teeth ever bother you?” A doctor in white asked. Bernie tried to display his artificial whites but the doctor was focused on the computer screen.
Oddly Bernie still had tooth and jaw discomfort even after all his teeth were out. Sometimes the discomfort went into his ear. “Bastard, do I.” Bernie said. “Is that a ‘yes’?” The doctor finally looked up; she was a lovely young woman about Bernie’s age. He felt his heart surging until the major ribbons on her collar brought him back to earth, “I don’t like to talk about it.” It was a peculiar feeling to hear words out loud about it. He remembered roll call at the base, two cooks and eight assistants at 3:00AM. The moments then and now the memory lay like traps for him. The nerve of a ghost tooth wakes in the early morning. The trail of pain wiggles like a mischievous worm in his jaw. He wants to squeeze his eyes shut as the worms are now wires sparking in his ear but he is a statue, enforcing stillness. He learned long ago not to show any sign of the pain. From his jaw into his ear, the sparks burned inside his eyeballs. Not every day but “Yes.” Only in the time it took for 8 men to line up and say “Here.” He wondered if the doctor, an Asian woman was selected for her unique attractiveness to him. She asked, “Can you describe your experience?”
“It was like my head being stuck in a furnace.” Her finger moved to check a box, “That is a ‘yes.’”
The memory of pain cannot be as painful as the pain itself however by reopening the wounds the other memories came to him and began to form answers. Pain had been the motivator of his life, it explained the appeal of alcohol, why he was a fuck up and the failure of his marriage, and how it hurt him to be around happy people which caused him to be a terrible parent, his x wife said he reminded her of her father and her father was a prick, as painful as all of this was to remember it caused a relief of the mental tension of his existence in silent suffering. That he would be in any way comforted was not what the army planned for him. It was his pain peaks they were interested in and when they saw that flicker of comfort they took steps. The first was to make sure that no acknowledgement was made of his pain, no verbal reference and not so much as a raised eyebrow. And his isolation was stepped up. These were the protocols of Cheney. Studies of torture survivors describe a heightened sensitivity to classical information gathering technique when the torture sessions are repeated. The first
session is not expected to crack the victim only to set the tone of helplessness and dependency. The Cheney protocol predated the pain detector and was never scrutinized by one, if they had only taken an old desk top unit they would have seen the isolation inflicted on Bernie was having an opposite effect. Bernie was becoming more resolved at internalizing his pain with each session. As a boy in high school in New Jersey when other kids were going to movies, learning music or taking drugs, Bernie was building his own sensory isolation chambers. In one experiment he taped straws to his nose and lay at the bottom of his tub. He wanted to hear himself and padded an old chest freezer with foam to escape every outside influence on his body. He was thankful to be young and still having bone plate growth. If he had a good refrigerator he would have killed himself. He stuffed his ears and taped cotton over his eyes then then dropped the lid of the rusty box. After minutes passing like hours he was Adam fantasizing about high school Eve. Most other boys his age did not even need a slick magazine to masturbate.
Just as when he was first inducted his initial tests rang bells in Psycorp HQ how he fared at the test center was also being closely followed. The science of pain detection and the Psycorp had theories and theorist had for years hoped to turn the detection of pain across miles into the elicitation of pain down those same neural pathways. Pioneers in the induction of non-corporal pain, psy-electric pain, were the first to discovery the return pulse. First they thought it was an echo but a few test subjects returned a measurable pulse. Although the reaction was only enough to light a rice grain light bulb - until Bernie, he was the first exception. His return pulse shorted circuits. Only a month earlier in area 51 they all made a narrow escape from flames and a collapsing roof. Psycorp said it was their mistake, an errant wave. The incident only added to his reputation, everyone suspected it was him. “They are already calling me a human weapon.” He remarked sadly. The four soldiers formed a large circle guarding him from thirty feet. Not looking at any of them in his mind he could see all four. Corporals who not long ago could have ordered Bernie’s ass around the base now were fearful of him. “Get out, leave. Put yourselves on report.” Against the orders of superiors the guards left and went on report. They
were sentenced to Leavenworth penitentiary and from there spread stories of Bernie’s power. It was difficult for him to walk through offices without secretaries bursting into tears.
What was his unnamable power? He only knew it was growing and he had to struggle to turn it off between testing. One way to throttle back was by reviewing his life as a male in relationship to females. In addition to the rejection by both his birth and or adoptive mother(s) there was the list of girls. The worst was not his X but rather it was a girl who cruelly used him when he was a high school freshman. He remembered her striped sweater, the dirty look in her eyes and at least a hundred seniors trashing his parent’s house. His father raging, his mother sobbing, the police, all gave him a clue as to what a huge fool he had been. Despite which that nubile vision still can make his mouth water. So burned he avoided women for years until he was an alcoholic college senior. He shot gunned a beer then got out of his car and walked into the bowling alley. A drunken girl decided to talk to him and they were married soon after graduation. He married her or one of her friends just like her.
After some months of the Psycorps’ scientific approach a reading was to be taken under combat conditions. Bernie believed himself to be in remotest Nevada. Whatever Bernie generated a large mine chamber would not allow any of it to escape. A general wept and trembled with the thought of this new potential to enforce the world’s peace. Mining lamps in the distance obscured the army and Psycorp people from view. Bernie knew if he stuck out his tongue he would taste the general’s tear. But he held his tongue so as not to lose his concentration. Now he did not have the distraction of doctors, especially attractive ones in those boring sessions. In the cave he reentered those isolated places in his mind which he discovered as a youth. The techs did not dare flip the last sequence of switches until everything was ready. The previous test started a fire in the hanger wiping out all records and only eyewitnesses could confirm the event.
Bernie was rolling dust and debris under his foot and his eye was tracing a crack in the floor. At the moment the switch was thrown he was color sampling dust grains.
Uncontrollably he reacted as he would to someone leaping toward him in the dark. But he forced himself to relax and wondered what they once mined here. Nevada is the silver state. He recalled what a pleasant morning it had been driving to this newest test site. He was self-programmed to show no pain and forewarned by the first jolt his guard was full up. Observers assumed he controlled what was happening. He didn’t, he only lived through it and was good at predicting how it would react in life situations. That was why he was so glad for the female doctor, her presence made it easy to split his attention and that way prevent his powers from running wild. The hate filled glare of his daughter, his X, his disapproving father, splinters under his finger nails, jaw pain, sore ankles, and a tooth ache, the doctors sent signals activating those parts of his brain. In the void of his mind he enfolded the mountain and the test chamber inside, tossing it like a thimble into an imaginary bathtub. When testing equipment melted this time the rocks they were mounted on stayed cool. Although the pebble Bernie rolled under his foot during testing was fused to the floor.
Everyone, even Bernie, marveled at the power. Only Bernie knew how fragile this outcome was as waves entered his brain and he responded. He was in awe because he had taken no steps to control it but let the reaction go through him and shape itself. “Next time,” he thought, “we might not be so lucky.” Charred insulation and copper wire turned to red dust. His fingers he noticed were numb and he reported that to a doctor who wrote it down. The wave was electromagnetic and sought a sympathetic wave in Bernie’s physical brain. The first test that day might wake a cat, cause a typical person a millisecond of paranoia, or if a subject is more sensitive they might really wonder if something was going on. But even a normal sensitive subject becomes quickly inured of the wave; the feeling generated is consigned to typical background pain. The goal of inflicting mental trauma on the enemy as a force multiplier lacked the technology. America could make Russian chickens stop laying eggs from outer space but that was as far as it got. In Bernie the wave did something different, it reverberated and evoked memories starting in painful childhood when he was unable to run, and his adolescence flashed before him as though the lowest moments of his life was all of his life.
The chill went up and down his spine with the memory of the fat boy he was who no one wanted on their team. It took two to hold his legs in the wheelbarrow race and they split his pants in front of hundreds who never let him forget.
They broke for lunch; a caravan of fresh test equipment was brought up the mountain and placed back in the cave. They ate near an arsenic pond where it was cooler. A buffet was set because this was an occasion; Bernie was going from the examination phase to the research stage. Psycorps was handing him to the army. After the morning Bernie was still on edge and sat away from everyone. No one violated his circle, from working with him everyone had a sense of the creeping melancholy which they associated with being near him. The weeping general was different, he had often caught Bernie’s eye. Bernie sitting alone now looked over his shoulder to see the general looking at him. There was a man under the soldier, a man from generations of army men. He had had his war and Bernie could see the deaths he had seen. And Bernie could see the general’s wife and the bottles of anti-psychotics in the gold trimmed bathroom and his kids who hated everything about the military and him.
Dressed in green drab he emulated Bernie in stillness, Bernie found the hope in the general’s eyes to be unbearable. Bernie looked away and back into the arsenic stream. “That was quite a demonstration.” The general approached slowly. “We sure needed these,” the general indicated the ear plugs dangling around his neck. Bernie was aware of the general’s blunder, ear plugs were a comfort and Bernie was not issued ear plugs. The general was concerned for Bernie’s wellbeing. The general took an empty seat. “How is it you can come so near?” “I conditioned myself. While observing I reduced the cordon, my personal cordon. When you were occupied I would stand only a few feet from you.” This information satisfied a curiosity Bernie had from the beginning but he did not show the satisfaction. “How do the testers manage to get so close?” “The testers are under tremendous pressure.” The general leaned back in his chair and spoke with relative ease. “They are under strict orders; they took blockers to dial down their responses. And they all have families and mortgages with their careers, promotions and degrees on the line. And it worked. Or, is now in the process of working.”
Bernie could sense the general beginning to unravel. “I only missed one day.” He sounded like a child wanting approval. After so much exposure Bernie could freely dip into the general’s mind. The day the general had missed was after the night before when he was all alone in the family’s big house and he swallowed every pill and all the booze he could find. Bernie backed out; he did not want to see the thing which led the general to the attempt. Bernie was aware of small feet approaching, the shaped calf and slender thigh of Dr Yasocochi, his beautiful Japanese tester. She extended a tray of food to Bernie which he accepted. “My fingers are still a little numb,” he reminded her. He ate with a fluid grace, only a few months ago watching Bernie eat was a company pass time. Dr Y was pleased, “You will need your strength. No holding back this time.” Bernie looked up. “No control this time - just let it rip. We want you to hurt us.” They finished eating without preforming the planned ceremony; Bernie announced he wants to get back in the cave. The psywave brought him back to when he was 8 years old and in love with his teacher. He hated the way the wave made him feel. He rebuked the pain with a passion; it was a matter of pride.
He brought flowers for the teacher and big kids gave him a wedgie. He spent years forgetting and now it was happening again and he was once more a child. The cave was now an open bowl facing the stars and the sand and pebbles which were once rock showered down from the sky. “I’ll show them holding back. I’ll kill us all.” Bernie climbed the new mounds of debris until he could get close enough to see inside the glass. The others were standing around, they were unharmed. The next morning the general called for Bernie. “Son, the army has too much invested in you now to send you back to peeling spuds. We have to get value and your potential as a front line agent is ten times that of anyone monitoring the line today. I was hoping for a miracle that would save lives but it’s a war and we have to pursue every advantage.” The general stopped. “What the hell are you smiling about?” Bernie’s new work began immediately. The general was correct; Bernie could discern the faintest and most obscure signals. Most of Bernie’s finds went on to be top priority targets. The enemy could not hide their troops from him. The army dug deep into his mind. The power he once used to spike instruments was now guiding US weapons to the most
highly valued of the enemy targets. As a tool he served every evil purpose so long as it was to save our nation. Now the army treated him with compassion and indulged him. When he directed a bunker buster to a spot glowing with fear he had no idea it was a shelter for a school and hospital. Only satellite surveillance the next day showed the city center filled with small coffins. Bernie relented and returned to the general with his head bowed. He promised the next time he would not hold back.
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