2949-03-30 – Tales from the Service: Source Yianna’s Favor

Colonel Rhys Bennington turned over the gleaming knife in his hand, a perfect twin of the one in Yianna’s hand beside him. Though he was quite familiar with the leaf-bladed jungle-knife configuration of the F.D.A.’s standard-issue hand multitool, and passingly familiar with the Marines’ Grier Knife, a clip-pointed slab of titanium alloy designed to be brutally simple, maintenance-free, and impossible for even an armor-suited gorilla to break. Neither of those blades, though meant to serve as killing implements if necessary, was a dedicated killing tool. The knife in his hands, with its long, twice-curved blade and fine tip, was perfectly shaped to cut a throat or burrow between a victim’s ribs to pierce their heart. It was an assassin’s weapon, militarily useless but perfect for snuffing out the unwary.

“I can’t take this.” He set the weapon down on the bed and stood up. “But thank you. I’m sorry you’ve got the wrong impression of me.”

Yianna glanced down at the gift he had distanced himself from and then back up. She didn’t look surprised, but then, she was an Immortal with circuitry crisscrossing her brain, more than capable of detaching her facial muscles from her emotional reactions if that suited her.

“You’re right that Hamlinson is a bad posting, but nobody gets here by sheer bad luck, least of all me.” He pointed at the knife. “With all the dying that’s going on over at Margaux, I don’t deserve medals or souvenirs. That should go to someone who put their life on the line to earn it. All I did was watch a tropical sunset and grumble over the rim of a drink.”

Yianna smiled and picked up the token. “What does the greater sacrifice made by anyone else have to do with it? Do you think that if you refuse this, that their suffering will be less?”

“Of course not.” Rhys scowled, finding it hard to explain why he thought it so improper to take the simple gift.

Yianna stood, identical, flashing knives in each of her hands. For an instant, a picture of himself being butchered by a peeved Immortal flashed through Rhys’s mind, but she merely held one out – the same one – on an open palm. “And do you believe that any of their killing and dying would have led to my defection the same way your good-natured grumbling with the locals did?”

Rhys shook his head. “Probably not, but why should-” He trailed off, reaching out toward the twice-offered murderer’s blade, but still hesitant to lay claim to it.

Yianna moved faster than Rhys’s eyes could track, slipping behind him and lowering her voice until she was almost whispering in his ear. “I’ll tell you why, Rhys Bennington. You’ve got every reason to hate the Incarnation and everyone who fights for it, especially an Immortal, but you don’t. I’m a counterhuman, a murderer, a terrorist who came to this world planning to deliver it over to a cause that would end your way of life. Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to understand that?”

Rhys gulped, but said nothing. Of course he didn’t hate her – he devoted considerable effort to not hating anyone. He’d hated someone once – a superior officer in the F.D.A. when it was still a new organization – and letting this pointless emotional distaste overtake him had ensured he would watch the war from a safe, unglamorous desk in the Hamlinson Bay garrison.

“I knew that if I fell into your hands, I’d be treated like a person, not like an unfeeling war-machine.” Yianna moved away, and Rhys turned to watch her warily. The knife she’d offered him had vanished from her hand. “You’re going to let me thank you for that.”

Rhys reached around behind his back and found the knife where she had placed it, tucked safely into his belt in a way that presented no risk of cutting himself. “The Intelligence men will take it away the moment they see it.”

Yianna laughed, the sudden intensity which had overruled his initial refusal gone as quickly as it had come. “Don’t you outrank those fools? I’m surprised you haven’t thrown them out of your base perimeter by now. If I knew I’d have to deal with them, I might have stuck with the Incarnation.”

“They’re just field agents. The top-tier spooks don’t come out to places like Hamlinson. They’re just screening you so Intelligence can figure out where they should take you, but it shouldn’t be long before that happens.”

Rhys drew the weapon out of his belt and held it up. He could hardly go about his business on duty with an assassin’s tool jammed into his belt, so he slipped it into one sleeve of his uniform tunic instead.

Yianna nodded her approval, then sat back down to pick up the book she’d been reading when he entered. The conversation was, apparently, over.

Colonel Bennington’s account of the strange conversation he had with Source Yianna (which is continued from last week’s Tales from the Service: Bennington’s Token) matches up well with other accounts of Immortals and other Incarnation personnel being persuaded to cooperate with the Confederated war effort. Their harsh, digitally-regimented society and the propaganda which dominates their expectations of outsiders render their group morale all but impermeable, but individuals can be reached by persistently treating them like the humans they should have been, before the Incarnation’s computer implants invaded their bodies and minds.

I am told unofficially that a memorandum by our friend Samuel Bosch has been circulating since his force was relieved at Sagittarius Gate – evidently he had plenty of opportunities during the long march of the Lost Squadrons to test interrogation and propaganda-stripping of Incarnation prisoners. His methods mirror Yianna’s claims here.

[N.T.B. – These people don’t look at it the way we do. They think that with the implants, they are more themselves than they could ever be without them. It’ll be a rude shock for most of them when the war is over and they find there is no simple way to integrate with the rest of us. They’ll have to hide the implants or try to get them removed, and I’m worried some of them will resent it. The Navy had better be careful, or this war will create years of Incarnation insurgency.]