Aren’t You All Aglow In Your Thousand Yard Stare
“You are Cadet Janice Eudora Rand, is this correct?”
Rand shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Yeah,” she said bluntly.
The commander looked up from the document and simply raised a brow. Rand sighed. “Correct, Sir,” she said more politely. “Very good,” said Glok.
Oh, isn’t he polite.
“I am going to ask you a series of questions about yourself, and you are to answer me with as much detail and clarity as possible. Is this understood, Cadet Rand?”
Rand was apprehensive. “What kind of questions…”
“Is this understood, prisoner?” Commander Glok wasn’t loud, but he raised and tightened his voice just enough so that Rand got the message, especially since he replaced the more congenial ‘Cadet Rand’ with the more subjugative ‘Prisoner.’
Rand felt her cockiness dissipate.
She became fearful.
So, she decided it was best to get along. “Yes,” said Rand defeated. “Yes, I understand.”
The commander’s smile was faint, small, but it held an arrogance that spoke volumes for Rand.
“Don’t think for one friggin’ moment that you’ve broken me, asshole,” she thought to herself.
“Fine,” he said, his voice holding a slight clip. “Let us begin, then.” He returned to the document and scanned it over before posing the first question. When he was finished, Glok looked up expectantly. Rand looked right back at Glok, smiling tentatively, her humor and nerve returning, though in a small dose. “This is a joke, right?”
The commander said nothing.
Rand was speechless, that small window of bravado slamming shut in her face as panic rose inside her. She stared at Glok, straight into his eyes, as if fishing for some kind of mercy from this twisted game.
“Answer the question, prisoner.”
Rand tried to speak, but her words fell out in fractured bits. Glok repeated the question.
“How in the HELL am I supposed to answer that?!”
She heard noises behind her, the sounds of clicks and rotations, as if something was being fastened.
Pain seared her left shoulder in pulsating waves, hitting her like a legion of claws lacerating through the flimsy material of her prison garb. She fell hard on the floor, her arms flapping and her legs twisting underneath her. Hostility rose inside Rand, mingling unpleasantly with the twinges and spasms of physical torment in her limbs. She clenched her fists as she fought the urge to hurt both the commander and the female guard. Rand took a long, shuttering breath before flattening her palms to the floor in an attempt to hoist herself up.
Rand felt a hand tuck in the pit of her elbow, and realized that the female guard who had shocked her was now trying to help her up. Rand violently pulled her arm away, and pushed herself up from the floor. As she plopped back on the hard seat, she eyeballed the female guard and then Glok. Rand was pissed as all get out, but she was also helpless. Helpless, which made her all the more pissed.
Commander Glok sat patiently, his hands folded on the table. He looked at Rand, and as if on cue by a silent prompter, simply asked the question again.
That uncontrollable rage exploded out of Rand, her body shaking and hot like a volcano.
“YOU’RE KIDDING ME, MAN!! I CAN’T ANSWER ANY QUESTION THAT…!!!
The second shock engulfed her, making its way from between her shoulder blades to the rest of her. Rand’s spine curled and then snapped forward like a whip, making her slam against the edge of the table with her forehead before falling to the floor again, face down.
Rand seethed as she lied prone on the floor, her fingers curling into clenches as the pain from the shock augmented the throbbing that was now in her forehead.
“Are you all right, cadet?”
Rand, in spite of her condition, laughed. That must have been perhaps the most ludicrous question that anyone ever asked her!
‘Look at me, dipshit’ is what she wanted to say.
Rand didn’t answer him, but slid her hands underneath her and pushed herself up with great effort, finally sitting on her knees as she looked at the emotionless face of Commander Glok. “Take a wild guess,” she said tightly, as if trying to contain herself. She struggled, but Rand was able to push herself up on shaky legs and plop herself back on what had to be the hardest seat she ever had to sit on. She really didn’t know which was worse, the seat or the cold icebox of a floor. Commander Glok sat as before, hands folded over the dossier, his eyes steady, watchful, like an owl studying its prey-and as before, he asked the same exact question in the same exact inflection. Rand shut her eyes, knowing that she did not want another shock to her system, yet dreading that it would be her fate. She felt her body make an attempt at shielding itself, her shoulders curling inward. “God, no,” she thought.
God, no no no!”
Commander Glok’s eyes swept over Rand as he sat back in his chair. “I am most surprised that you cannot answer this question, cadet. According to your academic record, this particular skill should be, shall we say, painless for you,” he said following his statement with a slight cock to his dark red brow.
Rand wanted to rip his face off. “Painless, huh?”
“Yes. Painless. Easy.”
They love that word ‘easy’ around here, don’t they.
Easy or not, Rand knew that she had to do this. She closed her eyes and went back in her mind, back to the things she’d learned, skills she had acquired throughout her life. She could feel herself unwind, feel her body uncoil from the tightness and the fear. Everything was suddenly familiar to her, as if a thick fog parted and unveiled a clearing, a way out of the forest. For the first time since entering this program, she was clear. Rand opened her eyes, turned to Commander Glok, and answered the question.
“Moi et ma familie sont initialement de New Jersey et resident toujours la.”
The Vulcan did something unexpected. He smiled, widely. He even showed teeth, lots of big, strong white ones all in a row. Its appearance was rather brief, however.
It was replaced by a self-satisfying smirk. “Do you see? You do know the answer. It all came back to you, did it not?”
Rand answered by breathing a sigh of relief, perhaps the biggest sigh she ever breathed in her life.
“Yeah, who would have thought. They should add a shocking device to all the desks of every Kindergarten class for more solid retention of the Alphabet.”
“It is heartening to hear that you are in good humor,” said Glok.
Rand snickered, shaking her head at the enormity of the absurdity.
“Very good. Shall we continue then, cadet?”
“I can hardly wait,” Rand snorted.
The Vulcan’s eyes went back and forth between Rand and the dossier, his eyes the only part of his body that was in any motion, like the blinking lights of a computer. When he finally posed the next question to her, Rand sighed and smiled to herself. She was far more relaxed now, far more composed, though still pissed off. Taking a beat, Rand went back to skills learned in her recent past, digging them up, sorting them through, and then answering the question in the Vulcan tongue in which it was asked. Afterwards, she folded her hands in front of her on the desk and waited.
The Vulcan put down the dossier and raised a brow. “You are correct,” he said.
Rand wanted to collapse in utter relief, but she wasn’t going to give these guys the satisfaction.
No, thank you.
She didn’t think so…
Her knowledge of the Vulcan language was pretty rudimentary, as the yeomanship training program taught her just enough of the language to get by on a routine trip: “Where’s is the nearest compound?” “When will the next shuttlecraft leave for the space station?” “Where’s the bathroom?” Stuff like that.
As for French, that was a language she knew well, as she had 12 years of it in school, though she hardly ever used it outside of classes.
Why in the hell did she ever want to learn French anyway? She had forgotten the reason.
“Well, I rescued myself from another bit of shock therapy,” she thought.
So far, so fucking good-though Rand wasn’t quite sure just how long her luck would last. Glok posed four more questions to her in Vulcan, and she was able to answer every one of them. Thank God. “If things keep up like this, it’ll be over before you know it,” thought Rand with giddiness.
The Vulcan posed the next question to Rand, again in his native tongue, and waited for the answer. Rand began to speak, but then hesitated.
“Wait, I know I know this one,” she said aloud in a voice that was now wavering slightly. She cleared her throat as Glok looked at her in that emotionless mask of his, his hand on the dossier. Rand was tempted to tap her fingers on the table, but opted to rotate her ankles instead.
“Never let them see you sweat,” she thought.
She went through a number of possible answers to this particular question, but even the proper use of the goddamn verb had stumped her. Rand could feel her eyes strain, so much so that her headache returned. Beads of perspiration had formed on her upper lip and her brow. She was in trouble, and she knew it. She looked at Glok, gripping the edge of the table until the tips of her fingers ached. Glok posed the question again. For Rand, having that question repeated to her was like a weapon. She stared at Glok mutely, her vision blurred by the sweat that was now falling from her brows. The Vulcan raised both of his own brows and drew his mouth together in a tight line, shaking his head faintly.
“You don’t know the answer, do you?”
The mock sympathy in his voice angered Rand, but she was powerless to act on it. She didn’t answer Glok, but continued to stare at him as she tensed up her body, bracing it for another shock.
“Very well, then,” he said.
Glok sat back in his chair and folded his arms. The female guard who had been administering the shocks stepped a few paces back, slowly. Rand, confused, turned to the female guard and then to the commander.
What, no shock? What the hell is going on?
The Vulcan turned his head slightly in the direction of the male guard behind him, and raised his hand until it was level to his chest, his palm facing downward. Then, without saying a word, he lowered his hand slowly and deliberately until it tapped the table. The male guard moved to the back wall, opened up what looked like a service box and pushed a series of buttons that lit up in a pattern of light. Next to this panel, the wall began to undulate, change shape, expand and then protrude until it morphed into a lever, its handle resembling the extended planes of a hammerhead shark. The male guard reached over and pulled the lever down.
Rand could hear a noise overhead, a steady, low-pitched humming.
“What is that?” she thought.
Rand raised her head and looked up towards the ceiling…
End of Chapter Three