To him it meant nothing but another boring desk job... one which would probably suit him better than his current one. He started working as an Officer twelve years ago and before that he had participated in three wars, none of them had provoked him to smoke or drink as much as his current job forced him to and neither had they caused gastroenteritis, chronic depressions or migraine.
The building he currently awaited inside was old, probably as old as the Imperial Palace, the Senate or the Office of Internal Affairs. In part it looked like some sort of ancient archive but there were clues provided that it doubled as some sort of operation center since he noticed vehicles were constantly leaving and arriving.
Whatever was to come couldn’t be worse than his current job he kept thinking, just a matter of time before he either broke down or made gold, he thought, and sighed.
“Mister Mijaari?” A soft voice came from the lobby desk where a petit albino woman sat. “We are ready to receive you, please step forward”
With a heavy sigh he dropped the magazine on the table and crushed the cigarette on the ashtray he had managed to fill to the top. His movements were slow and as he walked he passed his right hand all over his face onto the back of his head which pounded constantly telling him another one of his migraine sessions was coming soon, medicine was no longer taking effect and he suspected that doctors would tell him that it was either experimental therapy or he would have to become a guinea pig for new medications, either one terrified him more than being shot, one was a choice, the other wasn't.
“Remove all weapons and place them on the desk please” Distrust quickly populated the thoughts of Udan, back at the station he never had to remove his weapons.
“I would rather not if you don’t mind”
“I would not mind but there is a no weapon policy in the office you’re about to visit” Udan did not want to push the issue, his mind rapidly filled with thoughts about why they would not allow him to carry a gun to where he was going, he was certain whoever was receiving him would be armed and it worried him that it was about some sort of secret project involving genetics or some sort of experiment, he had heard about them while in the army and had his doubts all the time but being injected with strange chemicals during some of his time in the army did put heavy doubt about what was it that they were injecting on him, he never believed those were vaccines that they needed or vitamins or whatever lie the doctors on the field tried to sell them. The other side of him wanted him to push the issue and get through with what he wanted but reason took over him quickly, having being incarcerated and beaten up for misconduct had been a common thing of the past for him, death squad and execution squad assignment had showed him how precious life could really be, the horrors of war had definitely left an impression on him that he could never forget.
“Then take care of them” Udan removed the three handguns he always carried with him on his shoulder, leg and hip, the albino woman nodded, opened one of the drawers on her desk and placed the three handguns inside then once she closed the drawer looked back at Udan with a smile. “Can I pass now?”
“Close quarter weapons too, please” He tried to play fool on it but to no avail, Udan had to let go his Imperial Blade, an eight inch carbon steel knife with the Imperial Brand engraved on the side, a memory of his past days in the army. Once he was clear of all his weapons the woman pointed at a door to the right side of Udan. “You may pass, please take the right hallway then turn left and proceed until you reach the end”
He followed through with the orders they had given him but to his surprise he eventually reached a dead end, at first sight this is how it looked but through examination revealed that the floor had gone through continued abuse of heavy foot traffic and no matter how sparking clean they tried to keep it anyone who paid enough attention to it would notice, this rapidly led him to assume the wall he was looking at was fake, some sort of cover for a secret door.
His suspicions were confirmed when an alarm rang from behind the wall which in turn slid to the right to reveal a vault door opening towards the inside, two figures dressed in suits stood in the vault room, assault rifles at hand, waiting for Udan to move.
“Step inside Citizen” Called one of them.
Imperial Police Sergeant Udan Mijaari sat on an opulent office decorated with many framed recognitions from people he had never heard before or symbols from organizations he had never seen. The desk was of ancient production as it looked unlike his or any other he had seen before, on the top sat many papers, two bottles of whiskey, empty, and another one already half gone with a glass sitting next to it; a bag of ice sat on top of what looked like a small tray with a small tarp covering it.
Behind the desk sat the most impressive of all things, a Draconian that stood taller than him, was of a heavier build and constantly snored and whizzed. His dark red eyes pierced Udan as if he was reading his mind and soul, for the first time since the wars he felt terrified at the sight of another living being.
“Imperial Police Sergeant Udan Mijaari” The Draconian stopped after every word for just a bare second as if he was trying to catch air then proceeded to look at some papers on the right side of his desk. “Or should I say Imperial Master Udan Mijaari?”
“That title is only for war times, sir” Udan wasn’t sure who he was talking to exactly but he decided not pass up any chances of brown nosing to him or at least avoiding getting his ass chewed by someone he barely knew, at this point he assumed the person in front of him was part of the Imperial family or somehow connected to them which meant also that he should thread carefully lest he found himself on the gallows.
“We have always been at war here and on the colonies, Master Udan, so the title is and should always be used under any circumstances, that you may show modesty in its use is up to you” He kept reading through the papers which up until now hadn’t caused any surprise to Udan. What called his attention from it was that there were no computers or any other electronic devices inside the office, he was probably speaking to someone from the ancient guard of the Empire, that as usual did not care to pick up with time, but how ancient that wasn’t clear to him and this worried him furthermore, he could be talking to a veteran of a thousand wars. “Three wars, no decorations, barely managed to get a honorary discharge, sentenced more times to prison and solitary confinement that I would dare read or count... served in Death Squad 193rd?”
Udan sensed the disbelief and surprise on those words and he himself would have done the same thing, Death Squad 193rd was a sort of myth and legend intermixed with strange beliefs, he had served there as a last choice for redemption and with nothing to lose he pushed forward, little did he ever know that the reality behind the 193rd was far more terrifying that the majority could ever understand, political criminals, serial killers, psychopaths, criminals from all the corners of the Empire with no regards to race, social class, sex, economical status or education, the 193rd was formed from some of the most ruthless criminals to have ever existed and to make matters far more interesting none of them existed, the Empire erased everything that ever existed about the individuals coming into the 193rd and made them ghosts. In regards to the 193rd it was a suicidal squadron, left to their own devices in extreme conditions it was do or die, escape was almost impossible in most circumstances, few had managed to make it out alive of assignment to the 193rd, Udan Mijaari was one of them.
“Anything wrong, sir?”
“These credentials would not get you far in civilian life, I am surprised you didn't decide to rejoin the army or look for other opportunities in the field like PMC work. I am also surprised you made it out alive of a Death Squad, I have only heard of three cases of survival so far, not the names anyway but I think you would be the fourth one”
“I don't consider it an honor, sir”
“Neither do I but it talks about you, surviving a Death Squad means gambling with death and winning with an all-in. Where did you serve with the 193rd?”
“Terratona, Apivera, The Claw, Hill 1120, Apacea--” As he spoke the words slurred out of his mouth, something had been triggered on him and it came with a horrible feeling of dread and horror, it first started with tunnel vision, agitation, fast breathing, a chest that felt as if something was going to jump out of it, rapid desperation coupled with memories from his times during the war were putting him on edge faster than usual, the figure in front of him remained silent, watching him, only watching. Udan leaned forward, both hands trembling, then observed the figure behind the desk and it came back to him, at first he had his doubts, he knew he had seen the dragon in front of him somewhere before, if memory didn't fail him he was speaking to his former commander. “Colonel Gimbolt?”
“Took you long enough you fucking psychopath” Gimbolt threw the documents over the desk and served himself a tall glass from the remaining bottle.
“I thought you were dead” The memories kept rushing through him, the pain of losing his comrades, the horror of going through hails of bullets and artillery, of land mines and bombs, taking fortified position after fortified position, trench systems and mud banks. “You asshole, do you know how many dead I saw?”
“That is irrelevant for the peace of the Empire, what surprises me is that you are still alive, Udan, I thought you had gone down at Apacea or Hill 1120” Gimbolt took a long swing from the glass, grimaced and served himself to the brim in order to finish the content of the bottle. “No matter, we are a happy family again now aren't we?”
“No, of course not, you just called ma a psychopath and I figured you haven't seen yourself in a mirror for a while” Gimbolt laughed at Udan then took another swing from the glass, he placed the glass down and grimaced then sighed heavily.
“You have them too don't you, the tremors?” Udan was coming down from it when Gimbolt mentioned it to him, the tremors was a common nickname for post-traumatic stress disorder caused from the last wars, for the last twenty years Udan had been facing them without much assistance from the Imperial Administration or Army, it was a sort of taboo subject and civilian reaction was that of confusion, the Empire had always made it clear that soldiers were true heroes, undefeated, invincible, to say otherwise was the equivalent of death. “Can't sleep at night, anxiety, pills, alcohol, fucking, going into a deep trance, looking for a way to forget everything”
“By Mazer, Gimbolt I...” Udan stopped, he felt as if he was going to break down crying but resisted with all his might, with all his heart, willpower wasn't enough to stop tears from rolling down. “It was suicide and I made it out, so many gave their lives for me and I am here, twenty years later with nothing to prove to them that I have lived a half-decent life, is this what the Empire wanted?”
“The Empire doesn't care, we are as expandable as the rest of them, they are their own demise actively and passively” Gimbolt took another swing from the glass in front of him then lit up a cigar for himself from a box he kept on a drawer to the right, before stashing them he decided to offer one to Udan who, with a confused look, took it and lit it up. Those were tense seconds, almost as if they were an eternity, Udan knew something was wrong with Gimbolt too but he couldn't understand why he was so condescending now when he had been a monster during his service. “Why was it again that they sent you to the 193rd?”
“You know why they sent me” Gimbolt was opening old wounds for Udan, he continued to escape his past at every turn, not with Gimbolt.
“I forgot why you were on the one nine three, if my memory doesn't fail me they nicknamed you the green hearse, right?” Gimbolt looked devilishly at Udan who in turn sighed and nodded slowly. Udan was nicknamed the Green Hearse by his unit due to his violent behavior in the battlefield, he was sadistic and cruel, enemies cowered in terror as he walked to them but artillery didn't, you can't fear what you can't see and neither did mines or snipers, hidden all from Udan they had taught him a valuable lesson, you can't kill what you can't see and from there on he adapted and overcame the enemies of the Empire, being one of the few survivors of the massacre at Hill 1120 and repeating the feat at the defense of Apacea. He was a legend of sorts amongst soldiers who called themselves “hot shit” and totally unknown to the general population of the Empire, even to the enemies he remained a figured shrouded in shadows, but someone had probably been smart enough to leave something behind in order to track him down for Gimbolt.
“Why am I here?” Resigned to his current situation and smoking from the cigar he leaned back into the chair and let his figure sit properly, Gimbolt looked on a drawer to his left and pulled a bottle and another glass, one that was clean enough for Udan to see through, which he placed in front of Udan and served to the top. “Bottoms?”
“Bottoms” Gimbolt served himself again and both drank everything in a single swing, they grimaced, Udan thought at first he was drinking grain alcohol but the slight taste of the whiskey hit him after a while and then his stomach rumbled furiously, if he didn't drop dead in the following five minutes he would be fine, he thought. “Why here, because you were recommended”
“Recommended for what?” Udan coughed a couple of times as he spoke then spat onto the glass for a minute roughly while he tried to get the taste out of his mouth.
“You get used to it after a while; recommended for a position at NIDO”
“And NIDO stands for?”
“National Internal Defense Organization. Created by Emperor Dracontyr himself as a means of defense against traitors and infiltrators, we began to exist around the same time the Empire was barely learning how to shit in its own pants and still sucking on a teat”
“What, how big is this operation?”
“The Empire is our field of operations, we move wherever and whenever they need us, we are always conscious of what happens throughout the underground, we know who is who and who does what at any given time, this is the power that NIDO”
“Hard to believe” Udan laughed at the thought of something of such magnitude, for something to exist for so long there should be some sort of awareness throughout the population.
“You have been living at Complex 37th, Floor 322nd, Apartment 12, currently you live with another officer who you are mentoring, a process which has barely gone for a week now, you have had seven sexual encounters this week without any sort of protection, you have two newborns of which you are not aware of” Gimbolt made a dramatic pause and it had effect on Udan, he shook his head in a rapid motion and raised his right index finger which he waved.
“No, no, no, I don't have any newborns--” Gimbolt took out a folder from his right side and started placing photos on the desk one by one, they depicted Udan in different locations, walking on the street as a civilian, dressed as an officer, having dinner with a friend, getting a prostitute to get in his car, buying drugs from a dealer at a restaurant he frequented, visiting families and friends, some he could not even remember, Gimbolt eventually dropped the last photo and then left the folder on the left side, Udan went slowly through some of them and with the photos raised at sight level he looked at them with his mouth wide open. “What?”
“We know everything, when we need to monitor someone we do it in such a way that you are never aware of what is happening, we call this subject inclusion”
“Subject inclusion, inclusion to what?”
“In time you will learn that, well if you wish to join us first of all”
“I can't honestly say I am intrigued about this, I am terrified that something like this has existed for so long without anyone outside of a designated group becoming aware of this”
“Because that is the beauty of it, no one knows we exist and no one would believe we exist, we do our work and go unnoticed”
“And what have you done?”
“We recently stopped the separatist rebellion at Neera”
“What rebellion?” Asked Udan surprised as he leaned back
“Exactly” Gimbolt grinned as he served himself another glass. “What rebellion?”
“That's...” Udan was speechless, while he could discard this immediately as crazy talk the air around Gimbolt told him he was telling the truth, he wanted to know how but at the same time he wanted to get out of there and get his memory erased just like he wished so many times before but now more than ever.
“So, tell me” Gimbolt drank from his glass and cleaned his nose with care. “Before I insist on you joining NIDO, how is it that you made it out alive at Hill 1120?”
“That's a long story” Udan was triggered by the words again, the visions of war flooded him rapidly as he felt the cold mud over his skin, his face resting on the side next to a pool of muddy water and blood, staring at the corpse of one of his comrades in the 193rd. “Very long”
“I have time, you have time, what is the problem?”
“If you insist, I have time then”
“Let's go further back, why the fuck did you ever join the army. You are not army material and surprisingly enough you made it out”
“Now this is a story I most definitely want to hear”