Regarding X. It is hard to know where to begin. Discussing X has always been, in my line of work, a sensitive issue. They’ll hit you when you’re down, they told me in training. They’ll find your most vulnerable spot, and they’ll hit it, over and over again. I was trained to lock my mind – the only part of my body that is still entirely my own – away from them if I were ever caught. Each of my memories went into its own box, it’s own safe, where even I wouldn’t be able to access it until my own people injected me with the chemical that lowered my adrenaline levels enough to take me out of the state of fight-or-flight that would be induced by capture.
This is all a matter of public record now – I have no fear of this method being employed by the enemy, since the enemy has already discovered and made full and horrifying use of some of my fellows. There is rioting in the streets of the major cities. Husbands, wives and children stamp themselves with slogans, protesting the administration turning the nation’s finest fighters into different people, bereft of the memories they hold dearest, exactly when they might make use of those memories to hold on. Too many of our people have simply died in captivity – the layperson theory being that they had nothing beloved to think of and thus no hopeful thoughts of getting out.
The layperson understands nothing. First, there is always the camaraderie. Not one of us, if trained correctly, would have simply given up for lack of love or care, because we cared for one another. Like wolf-pups, we lost our milk teeth together, fought together, fed together.
Second, there is always X. X is the one person that is left to you and is accessible. The protesters, so willing to get angry at someone for the loss of their loved ones, forget that each of us chose to join this noblest of professions, noblest of causes. It’s easier for them, no doubt. That is why they hardly ever remember to mention X in their long-winded rants. The concept of X has probably ripped some families apart – since the files were turned over to the people, they have found out who each of the dead-in-action troop’s X was. They think it’s like picking favorites.
It’s not. It’s not picking favorites. If it were, there would be a whole lot of little kids in those rosters of Xes, the sons and daughters we leave at home when we go on active duty, those angelic faces we barely get to know and whose lives we miss so much of. We don’t get to see their first implants, their first plug-ins, their first time info-drinking at school. For people like me, still living in secret facilities, we can’t even signal them because we’re cut off for all intents and purposes from the main grid.
So why aren’t there many kids on those X rosters? Because Xes are supposed to be the most vivid, incredible, memorable people you’ve ever met. They’re supposed to be a person you knew enough to know well, but who hasn’t been in your life for at least two years, and who you wish you knew more about. Why? Think about it. You can access your memories of X in the worst situation of your life – but you don’t know where they are, so you can’t put them in danger; you can keep your mind busy fantasizing about them since you didn’t get as much time with them as you wanted to; and they’re interesting enough to keep your mind busy when the rest of your pre-troop life has slipped away from you.
My X – I don’t know where she is now. But when I knew her, for the four months we dated, she had bubble-gum pink hair. I never knew anyone else who went for something so old-fashioned as dyeing their hair like she did, with this vintage bottled stuff. She had mostly her own skin and it was the softest I’d ever touched. It glowed in the moonlight. She never danced and she got angry a hell of a lot. Whenever we went out, she would check to make sure no one was looking at us and then she would hold me tighter than anyone else ever had and would tell me “You’re so smart.” And then she went away to some commune where skin-people live and I never saw her again. And I hope I never will, cause I don’t know anyone else who could be as good an X as she is.