The debriefing by PsiCorp personnel was excruciating. For nineteen days, 2nd Lt. Drummond was interrogated, polygraphed, dosed with truth drugs, and examined using the most sophisticated and secret neuro-diagnostic equipment available. Much of this probing proved more devastating to his fragile, battered psyche than the original trauma it sought to illuminate. When finally his tormentors determined he had nothing else of value regarding the phenomena he experienced on Tornia hidden in either his conscious or subconscious mind, and pains had been taken to wipe his memory of any sensitive procedures to which he’d been subjected, he was remanded into the care of the military psychiatric facility on Earth’s moon. Not however, before being given a case number and assigned to a “case manager”; agent somebody who would be checking in with him periodically to monitor his condition and progress.
The mission had seemed routine. Radical elements among a largely Indonesian/Malay population of miners on Tornia had risen against their supervisors, seized a mine and the associated barracks and commercial colony, and gruesomely slaughtered (and, it is rumored, cooked and ate) any opposing personnel, effectively halting operations and consequently profits.
The spark which ignited this conflagration appeared to be religious in nature. A “Mahdi” had risen from the ranks of miners, preaching some sort of salvation ideology and promising his followers that his “Barrakah” was powerful and would render the weapons of the oppressors useless while burning the oppressors’ soul s from their bodies. The faithful would experience the cleansing “as though being bathed in warm milk.” No coherent demands were made on the part of the miners, making negotiation difficult.
The multi-national mining interests in charge of the mine asked for the assistance of the Interstellar Colonial Marine Corps in putting down the uprising. Three platoons were dispatched (including one under Drummond’s command) with orders to: contact the miners, neutralize any hostile elements, take prisoner or neutralize the Mahdi and any leaders, secure the mine and facilities so that production could resume and any employees willing to work could be returned to the job as soon as possible. Drummond had successfully led his platoon on several similar missions and was considered by his superiors to be rock solid and practical, perhaps more likely to neutralize than take prisoners (a trait appreciated by most of the corporate interests he had been assigned to assist in the past).
Drummond’s platoon landed and was deployed near the main employee barracks. First contact with hostiles was made when Ist Squad fireteams entered the barracks through the main entrance and were confronted in a large common area by approximately forty crazed, tattooed, naked Malays wielding makeshift spears and machetes. Upon being ordered to drop their weapons and surrender, the Malays retreated down a hallway into the bowels of the building, returning minutes later, a tightly wrapped bundle borne on the shoulders of the leading individuals. Standing the bundle upright before them, the naked phalanx spread out to the left and right, chanting rhythmically and cutting themselves on their chests and faces with the machetes and spear points. From Drummond’s vantage, he could see that the bundle was in fact a young man, about six feet tall, tightly wrapped with arms at his side in white linen. Mouth gaping and eyes rolled back in his head, he was apparently in some trance state. The hostile’s chanting intensified and their gestures with their weapons became increasingly aggressive. The frontline, their bodies glistening with their own blood, surged forward ignoring the marines’ commands to halt. A first volley of fire cut through the onrushing hostiles having no effect, as did a second before they were on the marines cutting, jabbing, and grappling.
Initially, the marines held their positions, but as the melee intensified and the assault grew increasingly fierce, the realization dawned on them that their weapons were having no effect on the hostiles; bullets and concussion from grenade blasts passing through tattooed and bloodied bodies like a breeze through tall grass. Marines began to fall under the savage blows of machetes and thrusts from spears. Over run, Drummond ordered a retreat from the barrack, but as the surviving fireteam members broke and chaotically fled toward the doors, a piercing wail shattered the air, rupturing eardrums and dropping the marines to their knees. The hostiles had turned to face the linen wrapped Mahdi, some genuflecting, some kneeling and reaching toward him in adoration. The Mahdi, Drummond could see from the ground where he writhed, was the source of the sonic assault. He stood where he had been placed, head thrown far back far enough to touch his spine, his jaws had opened impossibly wide and his tongue and uvula flapped toward the ceiling in the current of noise and breath erupting skyward. Drummond felt the hot blood running from his ears filling his helmet seep down the neck of his armor. His last conscious impression before he blacked out was of his innermost self being forcibly drawn from his body.
As his sense of himself slowly began to re-coalesce, Drummond found himself bound to a gurney and connected to diagnostic equipment; the loving embrace of PsiCorp’s research and investigation division. He was never provided with details of his escape or rescue from Tornia. He was told he was the only survivor of the action and he would learn only after release from PsiCorp’s care that the mine and facilities on Tornia had been destroyed from orbit after being deemed too costly and dangerous to liberate from the hostiles with deployed personnel.
His recovery was slow and incomplete. It was clear to him that parts had been drawn out of his psyche which would never be restored. After two years of drug therapy, intense counseling, and occupational therapy, Drummond’s physicians reluctantly signed off on a return to limited duties. After another year, he was trusted again with command of an active platoon.