Prose Header

The Never Index

by Gary Clifton

part 1 of 2

Bathed in perspiration, Barzak snuggled closer to her. The hot Columbian jungle air enveloped them in his small chamber in the heavily reinforced, underground barracks. The oozing sweat was easy enough to disregard in the heat of passion. She rolled onto her back, long legs spread in provocative invitation.

“Baby, you... you’re the best. God, don’t stop.” She’d hesitated, unable to recall his name.

His tongue seeking, finding, heartbeat at critical mass, he moved upward and entered her with the passion of a man who’d slept alone most of his adult life. Then, a few moments of ecstatic thrusting and it was over. He had chanced execution of both of them by secreting her in his bunk for a two-minute thrill.

”Damn, Elena... damn, I’m sorry.”

Spectacularly nude, she sat upright, threw her supple legs over the side. Her long blonde hair cascaded down her back, enticingly visible in the semi-darkness as she leaned down to pull on her fatigues. Suddenly, his name came to mind. “Barzak, I heard you’re still equipped with the old Roddex, Model Five heart package. I figured you’d run out of gas before premature ejaculation.”

“Sorry,” he lay back on the bed, the back of a wrist over his forehead.

“You got a first name, trooper?”

“Uh... I don’t remember. Wait... Jackson... No, Christian. Now I’m a number. Easier to spell, I guess.” He chuckled.

“Me, too.” She smiled up at him while slipping on a shoe. “I’m inventoried as just another number.”

“Hell, you’re Elena. Everybody knows you... or wants to. Maybe we could get together again?”

“Well, maybe. A tumble with you sure beats trying to get one of these new creepy iron-men thingies into the sack.” Her giggle was schoolgirlish naughty.

She was referring to the ever-increasing numbers of robotic soldiers of Division JX4 that Langley had begun to filter into the front lines as combat attrition gradually killed off the old human operatives. Virtual mini-supermen, nearly bulletproof with their titanium skins and metal innards, they appeared human. But of course, sex was not programmed into their job description.

“That’s encouraging.”

She glanced over a shoulder at him. “Damn, man, I can see a dozen scars on your chest even in this dim light.”

“Scars? Better than the alternative.” Husky, forty, fit, with close-cropped black hair, Barzak carried more wounds, both mental and physical, than lines on a highway road map. He had, however, survived when most had not.

Elena, a former chesty file clerk at Langley, was human, very attractive, and primarily deployed to Columbia strictly as a pleasure model for the Command Staff. To justify her existence to Langley, the brass had implanted a Femic Grafto microchip with the entire Southern Hemisphere War Plan in her neck.

Although she was listed in the inventory as a human computer that could walk around, lust for her after-hours talent influenced management to seriously violate security protocol. Elena was not designed to be sent into harm’s way. Her very presence, loaded with such sensitive information, was a serious lapse in judgment and endangered the entire mission.

Barzak was a combat model with limited training in or knowledge of computer science or exactly how the information could be extracted. But he knew if a grunt like him could learn of her vulnerability, so could others.

“Later, luv.” She pecked him on the cheek. A practiced hand at exiting bedrooms in the middle of the night, she slinked away into the jungle darkness outside.

Christian Barzak was an eighteen-year veteran CIA field agent. Like all human CIA operatives, Barzak had undergone the Jupiter Six indoctrination programming — or brainwashing, as the process was called in the old days. The effect was to blunt the individual’s reaction to stress and fear. It worked. Hence, he had no fear of sneaking Elena into his bunk. He was basically immune to fear, but he was still a flesh and blood human who ate real food and could feel pain or have human desires as he did for Elena.

Originally a regular employee with some standing, his status had been altered to conscript years earlier. The word “future” had been purged from his expectations long ago.

In view of the population explosion and critical need for petroleum, the U.S.-Canadian-Mexican Industrial-Military Combine had absorbed South America in 2021. The CIA was in charge of all Combine operations. Russia and the Middle Eastern Coalition had responded by inserting thousands of troops, both regular army and clandestine, across South America.

Barzak slept fitfully that night, as he had for several months. Early on, Langley had implanted his heart with the Roddex Model Five upgrade designed to give him boundless energy. But years in the trenches of clandestine activity had literally worn out the implant. The increasing tendency of the Roddex to surge, then falter, compounded his intimacy issues.

He was trying to snooze through the screeching of a macaw in the trees outside when the public address system called out: “Barzak, H-45-Alpha, report to Station Five immediately.”

Three stern-faced men in civilian clothes sat behind a worn table in the concrete, air-conditioned headquarters building that squatted behind a million sandbags. Fifteen or more armed robot guards stood mutely surrounding the building, all armed with the new version Micro Six laser. The Micro Six, outwardly a pocket-sized handgun, generated a blast of heat that literally vaporized whatever it hit. And it never needed reloading.

The brigadier, balding, pompous, with cold, intense eyes, spoke first. “H-45-Alpha, who the hell do you think you are?”

“Sir?” Barzak stood in front, absorbing the disdainful stares of his three superiors.

“Sir, my ass,” the colonel broke in. He was younger, rail-thin with a long neck and an unusually prominent Adam’s apple. “You enticed Unit Sixteen U4 to your quarters last night for carnal use. You are aware you could easily end up in the Never Index.”

The Central Intelligence Agency fastidiously maintained detailed records of all personnel, equipment, and other property down to the exact number of paper clips. The “Never Index” was not a record system as the term implied. An internal computer-generated purging system swept any and all records free of any trace of operatives who had been disgraced and “removed” for cause. The result was that they might never have existed and therefore could not have violated any rules. There was no actual file as such because it, too, had never existed. And “removed” was spy craft-speak for “executed.”

Barzak, who’d stood at death’s threshold countless times, was not easily intimidated, especially since the CIA had spent years tweaking his brain, trying to flush fear from his system.

“You’re gonna have to tell me what the hell you’re talking about.”

“Elena, H-45 Alpha?” The colonel’s face flushed with anger. “She came to see you last night.”

Elena had walked too close to a security camera. Barzak instantly assumed they would punish her if he admitted contact.

“Sirs, if any unauthorized visitor was in the barracks last night, H-45 Alpha has no knowledge.”

The brigadier pulled a small, flashlight-like device from his belt and clicked it at Barzak. Barzak recognized it as the new model DNA detector. The officer looked at the device.

“You’ve had intimate contact with Unit Sixteen 4U within the past six hours. Bump into her in the hall, did you?”

“That’s possible.”

The colonel stood. “Did you provide the enemy with information they’ve used to abduct her, you mindless idiot?”

“Abduct? No, Colonel, nor did I implant her with enough unsecured, highly classified information to get us all killed.”

The brigadier gasped. “You insubordinate bastard, how could you know...?”

“Saw it written on the wall of the men’s toilet,” Barzak said sarcastically. “And word is, she also doesn’t have the mandatory hollow tooth for the cyanide pill. Not that she’d use it. Failure to include a self-destruct option on any anti-encryption shield on the chip means somebody was too busy pumping something else to use any damned common sense. Why take a chance on accidental ignition and blowing the head off a pair of knockers like that?”

The third man, in civilian clothes and gold half-glasses, spoke. “You know too much, H-45-Alpha. Very dangerous.”

“I’m obviously not the only person who knows... Sir.”

The brigadier said, “Enough of your smart-ass. High and Mighty has located her. She’s being held in a seaside church in Ecuador, a hundred miles west. If the enemy extracts that chip intact, they can fly it to Moscow and eventually decode the entire War Plan. You’re ordered to proceed to this location.” He spun a handheld GPS around on the table. “Extract her and return here unharmed.”

Barzak studied the GPS. “Like all of us... she’s supposed to be fully expendable. When the High and Mighty satellite passes over that location, why not destroy the target?”

“We’ll make the decisions,” the colonel snapped.

Barzak smiled, something he hadn’t done often in recent years. “You don’t give a damn about the chip or your love toy. They clean her regular memory, and they get a line on all three of you having a go at Elena. Then they decode the chip, which gives an actual recording of your midnight frolics with her, plus the War Plan, the disaster multiplies times a thousand. Then guess who ends up in the Never Index. You want her back for bedtime for convenience and to save your own damn skins.”

The Colonel sat back down and spoke quietly through clenched teeth. “Load up, trooper, and get started, or you’ll never know what became of us, because, by God, we’ll see to it you never existed to be an insubordinate smart-ass. Now go, you fool.”

Barzak smiled again. With no family, no friends, and years of the terrible loneliness of isolation and denial, it felt good. The mission had suicide written all over it, but Barzak, many hard years removed from rational thinking, would try to save the Combine. And if he refused on the spot, the Never Index would have him erased before breakfast.

He stopped by the cafeteria and grabbed a scrambled egg sandwich, then walked down to the motor pool. The robot sergeant had a Gamma 7X Thrust Cruiser idling for him. The old 2019 model was an early version of the current method of ground travel, flying via anti-gravity magnetism just above ground level. Except this antique wouldn’t even do 200 miles per hour.

* * *

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2014 by Gary Clifton

Home Page