Point of View
Point of View
I hate him. Oh, how I hate him. More than I hate anyone, more even than those bastards, Walsh and Nagata. More than anything.
Look at him over there. He's still got it. His hair still shines like sunlight in the shadows of this blasted museum. His face is a bit sharper now than it was when we were kids, but still so symmetrical, so elegantly formed. He still moves with that old grace. Still prettier than most of the girls. Not a flaw in him anywhere. Perfect. Still Walsh's pet.
I hate him.
I'm being as quiet as I can, walking through the museum, but I know he'll hear me before I reach him. He may have already heard me. Or seen me, or smelled me. He's a bastard, but he's good. The best of us all, except for me. I'm the only one who ever stood up to him alone and won.
He may brag about how he can use his powers offensively better than I can, but I've got the one thing he'll never have, because it'll never even occur to him that it's worth shifting for. Intelligence.
I notice a familiar, yet unfamiliar shape. Is that...? I move closer, staying out of the spotlight gleaming down on it. Yes. A Sensation Doll. I note its location. I can use it, if I can get him to listen, use his arrogance against him. He's always been too proud for his own good, too over-confident. He's strong, he's tough, but he's not invincible. I don't see how he could still think he was after what happened back on WolfDen, how he could still claim he was so much better than me when I've beaten him so many times. I marked him, all those years ago. He'll carry that mark to his grave. But it hasn't made him any less arrogant. I don't think anything will.
That sick son of a test tube is close. I can smell it, taste the hate in the back of my mouth. I only feel this way when he's near.
He knows I'm coming.
Huh. Just like the Runt to stop to look at the art when he should be paying attention. Maybe I should remind him to pay attention? No. Not yet. If I move, he'll have me cold. And once that happens, I'm iced. He's sealed the exits. No way out if I have to retreat. And damn him, I have had to retreat before.
How does he always come out on top? Why can't I ever seem to beat him? Even in the beginning, even that first day, I couldn't do it.
I hated him before I even saw him. Just hearing Walsh, Sawyer and Nagata talking was enough to ensure that.
"He's a real improvement on the other BDCs, Joseph." "Coming along much faster than the others did." "None of that little black-haired bastard's instability in the new one. We were careful about that. The last thing we need is another like Killbane."
I feel my lips draw back in a snarl, and choke it down. I was the best, dammit! I did everything you wanted me to, everything you asked of me, and I did it better than any of the others! What more did you want? What did I do that was so wrong that you felt like you had to create a replacement?
Why didn't you ever think I was good enough?
He's close. I can feel it. He's using the shadows, waiting for his opportunity. Looking for a cheap shot, a chance to hurt me before I can react, before I can use my biodefenses to protect myself. He may be stupid, but he's at least that smart. Never give a target a fair chance.
I hate hunting Supertroopers. I think I'd hate it even if I weren't one.
And Killbane's the worst.
"What's the matter, Killbane?" I shout. "Afraid to face me? Afraid of getting your ass kicked... again?"
"Afraid of you, Runt? That'll be the day." He steps out of the darkness, out from behind a huge mobile. I hadn't been able to make out his shape in the moving shadows. He's stupid, but he's cunning, like any predator. What he lacks in brains he tends to make up for with instinct.
"I suppose you're right. After all, you aren't smart enough to realize that there's always someone stronger out there. Someone tougher. Someone more powerful."
"And you think you're him? Don't make me laugh, Runt."
Damn him! Always pushing it, always that look in his eyes that says he knows just how good he is. That damned arrogance. Why couldn't I ever break that? How could he still believe in it after all the years I spent trying to convince him he wasn't as good as Walsh and Nagata said that first day?
Why couldn't I ever really defeat him?
I knew it. Hit him in his pride, that's always been his vulnerable spot. "You think you're tougher than me. You say you're the best, the strongest. Well, prove it. Prove your biodefenses are stronger than mine."
"What?" He looks surprised. He wasn't expected this kind of direct challenge. I've fought him before, I've even started the fights before, but I've never pushed like this before. Never offered to test my biodefenses directly against his. Some of the other BDCs back on WolfDen did that. This kind of challenge is usually lethal. If the biodefenses can't cope with the threat, you're dead. But this threat, I know I can deal with. And I'm sure that he can't.
"Back there, in the case under the light." I jerked my head towards it. "That's a Po Mutant Sensation Doll. It's a kind of storage battery for emotions. Everything the artist who created it ever felt in their life, the hate, the pain, the fear, the joy, it's all in there. And if you touch it, all that emotion gets dumped into your head, all at once. I know. I've touched one. You got the balls to do the same?"
"How do I know you're telling the truth, Runt?" Killbane snarls at me. "This could be some kind of trap."
"I'll touch it first," I offered. "That way you know I'm not just trying to sucker you. That my biodefenses can really do what I'm claiming."
He's hooked. "What're the stakes?" he growls. Good. He's willing to abide by the challenge rules, at least for the moment.
"If you can't do it, I take you back to Earth, and you don't give me any problems." That's for sure. He won't be able to add two and two if this works. "If you can, you get one free shot at me." I really, really hope I'm right... if I'm not, and his power does protect him, he'll do his damnedest to kill me with that first blow. "Just to make it even, I won't bother to use my badge." It wouldn't help anyway. It's not my biodefenses that'll protect me. It's experience, and knowing what to do. Or what not to do, in this case. "And whoever wins, the loser has to admit to the other Supertroopers that the winner is more powerful than them."
We walk side-by-side over to the case where the Sensation Doll rested. Killbane's gaze darted down. "Ugly thing, ain't it, Runt."
"Yeah. Always reminded me of you."
Killbane growled low in his throat at my sarcasm, but didn't attack. His pride was at stake here. And bragging rights in the Pack. I'd never acknowledged his supposed supremacy. He'd do just about anything to make me. Including controlling himself, something he really wasn't very well-equipped to do.
I formed my hand into a fist of steel and brought it down on the glass case. It shattered. Then I reached in and picked up the oddly organic-looking quasi-sentient construct.
I felt like I had before, the rush of emotions, the feelings pouring into me like water over Niagara Falls. The sheer power of them made me want to close my eyes and just let it fill up the tearing, aching emptiness inside me, but Killbane was here, within arm's reach, and I didn't dare let him see how it was affecting me. I felt one deep, long shudder traverse my spine, felt a tightness in my groin, almost sexual, but I fought to keep my expression controlled and my breathing steady.
The trick to surviving the touch of a Sensation Doll, you see, isn't in the biodefenses at all. It's in the mind. It's a matter of accepting the invasion, welcoming the sensations, letting the doll be a part of you for just the few moments that the feeling lasts.
Killbane doesn't accept anything. Killbane fights.
I see the shudder race through the Runt's body, see his eyes go vague and distant for a moment, then clear. I could have attacked then. But there was something about the expression, something that woke an old hunger inside of me. I'd fought it for my entire childhood. I'd thought I'd finally gotten rid of it. But no, that old pain was still there, hiding within.
I wanted whatever it was that had made that blond bastard shudder like he'd just had someone run an ice cube up his spine, made his eyes go all deep like he'd just had someone touch him in the most intimate of ways.
I reached out and touched the doll.
I'd just barely gotten over the pleasant shock of touching the doll when Killbane reached out and grabbed it.
That's when I realized that I'd miscalculated. Yes, I can touch a doll and be left unharmed, although it does distract me for a few moments. It doesn't even knock me on my butt the way it did the first time, now that I know not to fight it. What I didn't realize was that, if two people were touching the same doll at the same time, it wasn't just the emotions in the doll they'd sense. It would be each others'.
I'm braced when I touch that ugly but harmless-looking thing that the Runt's holding, my biodefenses primed and ready. It doesn't matter. Doesn't make a damned bit of difference. The emotions just pour over me, breaking through the psi-shields I've put up, blasting through the emotional barriers, ramming themselves down my throat.
For a moment, I'm not human, not a Supertrooper. I'm a Po Mutant, an artist who sculpts, not clay and wood, but flesh and bone and the mind. And this doll isn't so much a storehouse of emotions as a tool for sharing them, for sculpting the minds of those who touch it. It's a violation on a level far more primal than any rape could ever be. At least rape is only a matter of the body. This goes straight to the soul, and I can't stop it, can't fight it, can't resist the power of that long-dead mind and its creation.
And then, bad as it is, it gets worse. Because the Runt's there, inside my mind, and I can't shut him out any more than I can shut out the doll, can't keep him from seeing what I feel, can't keep from feeling his emotions, can't even hide my emotions from myself.
I'll give him this much... he didn't expect this to happen. Not this way. He knew I couldn't fight the doll, knew he could sucker me into touching it. But he didn't expect to get pulled in himself.
And then, the rush of emotions from the doll faded, and the distraction it provided was gone. We were alone together inside of our minds, and all the memories, all the hate and pain and rage, were there out in the open where we could both feel everything the other did.
Oh, shit, was about the only thing I could think when the doll dragged me into his mind. And then there was just him and me, trapped together, and him fighting desperately to tear himself free. And I'm feeling the pain, the terror, the rage and hate and shame and despair. Then the memories begin, each of us seeing through the other's eyes.
I see myself, that first day on WolfDen, the first time we met. So small and helpless, with big green eyes and bright blond hair. I hear the words of Walsh and Nagata, feel the sting of the words, cutting into him like knives. Only these wounds won't heal. His biodefenses are no protection. I feel the desperate rage in him, and when the little boy looks up at me, scared and looking for someone, anyone to explain to him why he just got thrown out of a plane from a hundred feet up, I feel that rage burning even hotter. This little - baby! - is better than me?
Memory flash. That first day, back on WolfDen. I'm the baby now, the Runt of the litter. Alone, scared, knowing that this place is dangerous, looking for something, anything, to hold on to. Looking for someone safe. I sense something about the taller boy with the black hair, something that tells me we're similar, and despite his scowl, I approach. He I snarl and backhand me. I touch my hand to my nose and it comes away bloody. "Get this through your head, you worthless runt. This is WolfDen. We're here to learn to kill. Nobody's gonna protect you. Nobody cares whether you live or die. And you're going to die. Weaklings don't live long on WolfDen. And you're weak."
Another flash of memory. We were in class. The Runt I was there, sitting in the front row as always, looking so adorable, so angelic. Prettier than any of the girls. The teacher called on me. I tried to answer, but I got it wrong. I hate class. I'm no good at all this book-work. Give me a blaster any day. Let me out in the battlefield. There I'm good. I'm the best. For a little while.... The Runt's catching up. Soon, he'll surpass me. Just like Walsh and Nagata always said. I hate him. Always so damned good. Always perfect.
The Commander's pet, we call him. And it's true. He is. I fight as hard as I can, I do better than any of the others, and he just looks right through me, gives that little nod like, "That's what I expected." But the Runt does something that isn't any better than what half a dozen other Troopers can do, and he gets a pat on the shoulder and a "Nicely done."
Walsh never does that with me. Never has. Never will.
No matter what I do, nothing's ever good enough for Walsh. It's always the Runt. Always stealing the spotlight, taking Walsh's attention away from me. Walsh's golden boy.
Worst of all, he gets the damned answer right.
I hate him.
I see the look in the eyes of the black-haired boy and know what's coming. My mind starts to race. Allies? None here. Escape routes? Only the door he just came through. I'll have to go through him to get to it.
Nowhere to run. I have to fight.
Minutes later, I pick myself up off the floor. I ache all over, and one of my ribs feels like it's broken. I concentrate, biting my lip so hard that I draw blood. More than the pain, I feel a dull confusion. Why does he keep doing this? Why does he hate me so much? I never did anything to him.
I remember how I tried to win him over when I first came. How I'd keep my mouth shut when he said something I disagreed with. How I'd tried to get him to show me how to do things. How I'd done everything I could think of to get him to stop hating me. Nothing had worked. I'd long since come to the conclusion that nothing ever would.
I remember the fight again, see it through other eyes. The Runt had shown me up again, made me look stupid in front of the teacher one more time. And there he was when we got back to the barracks, head down over the books again, studying. Planning to make me look dumber than I was. So damned perfect.
I go over there. Damn him. Studying the same stupid questions that he got right in class. The same ones that I missed. He tells me to piss off.
So perfect. So beautiful. I'll never be half as pretty, never as smart. And the older he gets, the closer he comes to matching my power. I'm pushing myself hard in the sparring matches already, and he hasn't even had his voice change yet. He's still got that girlish treble, so soft and sweet. It goes so well with his face. He looks so innocent, so beautiful, even when he's trying to look tough. No wonder all the humans like him best. No wonder the Commander likes him.
Is that why? Because they want him like I want him?
I remind him what I'd told him would happen if he showed us up in class again. I go to make good on the threat. I wind up going through one of the bullet-proof windows with him, but that's no problem. Biodefenses heal the cuts with only a thought.
I have him on the ground, face down on the concrete slab of the exercise yard, sitting on top of him. That damned arrogance of his... he's still trying to fight. No matter what I do, how often I beat him, he always tries to fight. I can't break him.
I feel his body under mine, that elegant form, that lithe perfection, and I realize there's one way to break him that I've never tried. And it'll be good, so good. To take him, to make him do what I want, to claim just a bit of that flawlessness for myself. Whatever else happens, I'll have a piece of him forever. A little something to warm the cold hunger inside me. I tear at his clothes, ripping the tough material of the jumpsuit down his back. I want to bury myself inside of him. I bite him, like a tiger would immobilize his mate.
And then he twists, a chunk of his shoulder remaining in my teeth, and his hand glimmers silver as he uses that damnable flexibility of his to strike back at me, and I jerk back, but not quite far enough. The blow misses my throat.
It takes my eye. And then the other hand, the one that had been so desperately grasping at the ground an instant ago, comes around, he's turned completely over underneath me, and it slams into my face, into the gash where my eye used to be.
My biodefenses kick in automatically, thirteen years of trained instinct taking over. But there was sand in his hand, sand that feels like a thousand little embers landing in the wound, and burning there. The flesh closes over them, and the burning isn't extinguished. It's still there! I scream....
I feel it, see it, from his perspective. His uneasiness as he realized he was trapped. His fear when he realized that I was serious. The panicked desperation when he was pinned under my weight. He didn't realize what I was really doing. He thought I was going to kill him.
He didn't know how much I wanted him. How much a part of me still wants him. Wants a touch, a taste of that exquisite beauty. That elegant grace. That perfection. Whatever attractiveness I might once have possessed... and it wasn't much... was destroyed that day, ripped away by claws of iridium steel. I wanted a piece of him. Instead, he took a part of me. And I'll be reminded of that every time I look in a mirror with my one good eye, and see the scar gashing down my face. Reminded of the one that was ripped in my heart.
I feel him feeling the pain of that wound, the never-forgotten, never-healed laceration, hear him scream with that too-well-remembered agony, and cry out myself, fighting to break free of the memories.
I can't. No matter how bad it gets, how hard I try, the doll is stronger than me.
Damn you, Runt!
Too much, too fast, I understand too much about him now! I don't want to know him this well. Don't want to see the wounds inside him, don't want to feel his pain!
That last day on WolfDen. He'd made another one of his grandstand plays, grabbed an energy rifle and broken cover, taken three of the battle-droids out by himself. Game over. He won. As always.
Walsh and Nagata come down from where they'd been hovering above the line-of- fire. Walsh gives him another one of those "Nicely played," pats on the shoulder. Damn him. What's the Runt got that I haven't got? Besides looks, brains, and an aim that even I can't come close to matching, that is.... I grit my teeth, and swallow my pride with the genetic accelerant that Jackhammer's handing out.
We're in the barracks when the gas starts coming out of the vents. He isn't. Now I know why. He went to the practice range. Always has to try to do better. He took my words back in the beginning a little too much to heart. He'll never be satisfied. He'll always be trying to do better, to be the best. He'll never realize he already is.
I feel his cold satisfaction as he shoots the holographic targets one by one. Alone, he doesn't suppress the shudder inside himself at the fact that the holograms are in the forms of aliens, sentient aliens. I feel his buried anger at the fact that we were created only to destroy. Feel it, but don't understand it. What else is there? What else could Supertroopers do but fight? That's what we were made for. Blood and battle and death. Ours or theirs, it doesn't really matter. Sooner or later they'll kill us. Letting yourself get distracted by sentiment just means it'll be sooner. If he weren't so damned good, he'd already be dead. But still, there is satisfaction. The knowing, that realization that he is good at it.
Walsh walks in, just as he I run out of ammunition. I haven't had enough yet, I never will have enough, but for the moment I've expended some of my frustration. Walsh can sense the frustration in me, but he doesn't understand it and I can't explain it. I haven't got the words to express that desire for something more than a life filled with death. Don't know how to talk of the emptiness inside me.
Senator Wheiner comes in, demanding to know why I'm not in the barracks with the others. Grabs the front of my jumpsuit, getting in my face. It doesn't bother me too much, he's only human. He couldn't hurt me on his best day, not without a weapon. And he's brass, even Walsh has to answer to him. He's the one who got Sawyer dismissed three years ago. I simply look at him, the crazy human who's mad enough to manhandle a Supertrooper.
Walsh pulls him off me, and that's when I get the real shock. A shock that's both me and the Runt. Wheiner says that he's released some kind of gas into the barracks. The Supertroopers have gone mad. And a message from Nagata confirms it.
All this time, hating Walsh and Nagata, and it was Wheiner that had done it. Wheiner who'd destroyed the Supertrooper Project and stolen all purpose from our lives, made our pain and our sacrifices, our very lives, meaningless. I'd lost count of how many deaths I'd seen on WolfDen, but the Runt hadn't. He knew every single person who'd died or been abandoned as a cripple since he'd come to WolfDen. The names, the faces, the circumstances, all there in the back of his head. He remembered. And now, so do I.
Walsh and I run for the barracks. I'm holding back, going slow so that he can keep up. He's fast for a human, in good shape, but no real match for a Supertrooper. If one of the others caught him alone and unprotected, they'd kill him.
There was a series of pounding impacts, and part of the roof collapses. Walsh goes down. I stop, not sure how badly he's hurt or if I dare wait long enough to help him. Walsh's reaction to Wheiner's disclosure is enough to tell me that whatever happened, it's bad. It couldn't be worse. And the Supertroopers have to be stopped.
Walsh orders me to stop them.
I follow orders. I see myself ranting about how no human will ever control us again, see the spark of madness in my eyes fanned to an inferno, see it spreading from Trooper to Trooper. I know, with a sudden, sick certainty, that no words could possibly prevent this from turning into a bloodbath. If they'd we'd only been after Wheiner, I he might actually have handed him over, brass or not, and hoped that it could be covered over. But I knew that look, that kill-hunger that was blazing in everyone's eyes.
Every pair of eyes except one. Darkstar, the gentle one, the one who never in all her life started a fight, wanted to run. She wanted me to come with her. I loved her, I wanted nothing more than to be with her. But to run now would be to leave everyone on WolfDen to die. The humans at Supertrooper hands, and the Supertroopers when the government response came and wiped WolfDen off the face of the Earth. And once I started running, I'd be running the rest of my life.
A gentle touch on my cheek stole my nerve and the words to try to explain what running would mean. And then Stingray came and hauled her away.
I finish modifying the radio that I'd been repairing earlier that day, hook it up and turn it on. The parabolic antenna on the top focuses the ultrasound, directing it away from me. The noise, shrieking above the level that humans can hear, destroys the Supertroopers' sense of balance. I've used the enhanced senses the geneticists gave us for protection to defeat them all.
And in the process, I've betrayed the only people I ever felt any kinship to.
I've never felt so alone in my life.
I feel the impact as Killbane remembers that last day at WolfDen, as he sees who really caused the destruction of the Supertroopers. As he realizes he had the true villain in the palm of his hand and never even realized it.
I sense his urge to go to Earth and destroy Wheiner and do something I haven't done before. I deliberately reach out and show him a memory.
This memory is different. I can feel him reaching out, pushing it at me.
It's still that day. Only a few hours later, but it feels much longer. Nagata's been taken off WolfDen in the emergency cryochamber Brainchild put him in, along with a few of the guards who were injured in the escape. Walsh and Wheiner are arguing. Walsh warned Wheiner what would happen if he'd used the gas. So had Nagata. Walsh was threatening to have Wheiner charged with treason for what he'd done. I stood back, waiting, hoping that Walsh would give me the signal, give me permission to rip his treacherous heart out of his chest, when Wheiner said something that rocked Walsh back on his heels and sent a cold shaft of fear into my gut.
"You'll keep quiet, *Commander* Walsh. Or I swear to you, every one of your precious freaks is dead. It doesn't matter why they went crazy, nobody in the Board of World Leaders is going to care. What's going to matter to them is making sure that they are neutralized. My committee controls the Supertrooper Project, and I control the committee. If I say that they'll be safe enough in the Cryocrypt, then they'll listen. If I don't say anything... dead Supertroopers are no threat to anyone, and a hell of a lot less expensive to maintain."
I see the blood drain out of Walsh's face.
And inside of me, the me that is for this moment Shane Gooseman, I feel a cold, hard purpose form. An emotion that is all too familiar to me. Hate. I will take this man down or die trying. But not here, not now, and not at the expense of the Supertroopers' lives. I'll watch, and wait, and when the time is right, I'll strike.
The bile rises up in my throat as I remember that day. Flashes of memory flicker between us, of times when I learned of other things Wheiner'd done, of times when I'd had to swallow my rage and hate. I was still waiting, still watching. I had a plan. I had set the trap. But the time wasn't right yet to trip it. Until then, I simply bided my time and obeyed.
I remember other things too, memories that aren't my own. I see a cold night, and breaking in to a store to find warmer clothes so that I didn't have to expend so much energy keeping warm. I remember stealing food, just walking into a house and grabbing whatever I wanted. I remembered the constant anxiety of knowing that I was too obvious, too memorable. Here in the slums, it wasn't too bad, there weren't many who were willing to have anything to do with the law, but the slums weren't a good place to be. Smelly, crowded, noisy, dangerous even for a Supertrooper and BDC.
I see someone, a big dark-skinned man, coming up to me in a bar that I'd gone into just to have a roof over my head for a few hours, making comments about the way I was dressed, about the length of my hair. I remember the crunch of bone as I backhanded him and he dropped to the floor lifeless, and the taste of the blood that had splattered in the whiskey I'd intimidated the bartender into giving me.
I remember someone else coming up to me a few hours later and asking me if I wanted a job. If I'd mind if that job involved maybe breaking a few bones. And maybe a bit more than broken bones. I remember laughing at the thought that I'd actually get to put my training on WolfDen to some use, and what Walsh would have said if he'd known.
Thinking about the expression on the Runt's face if he ever realized how I was making a living, and a very good living at that.
I remember the first time I Killbane had left Earth. I'd gone to Mars, that being the furthest I could get before the League of Planets ambassadors had arrived and brought the plans for the Andorian hyperdrives. I remember the first time I traveled through hyperspace, of coming to Sorry End and finally finding a place that felt *right* to me. Most of the other Supertroopers had been forced to steal ships or stow away to reach the stars. Me, I'd ridden in style. And in my own ship, yet.
For a moment, it was his memories that I'd been sensing. Now he was sensing mine. And the memories were coming faster, coming closer to *now*.
And then it wasn't memories at all, but the present, my feelings, his, a jumbled confusion of emotions that I'd locked away for all time and some that I'd never felt before. And as much as I'd hated him before, I hate him a thousand times worse now. Not just because he could see things that I'd never let anyone see, not just because he'd tricked and trapped me he'd outsmarted himself this time too, after all not even because he'd made me confront the feelings that I'd blocked from my own mind years ago.
No, the real reason I hated him so much worse now was that, as he saw inside me, the hate he felt for me, the only thing that gave me any kind of hold on him, shattered inside him. He didn't hate me any more. He didn't fear me any more. Instead, he looked into the emptiness inside of me, the hunger and jealousy and need for approval that I had buried for so long under the hatred I bore for him, and he *pitied* me.
There is no one in the Universe I hate more than him.
I came back fully to myself lying on the cold ceramasteel floor of the museum, the doll still in my hands, and Killbane curled up into a ball an arm's length away. I moaned as I fought my way erect, and placed the Sensation Doll back on its pedestal. He'd fought so hard to break free of the doll's power that he'd knocked us both out. I'll give him this much. He may be sociopathic, homicidal and a general all-around pain in the ass, but he's no quitter.
Which, given the state of my head, was unfortunate. Maybe if he'd stopped fighting long enough to listen, I could have explained to him that if he'd just calmed down and relaxed, the doll would have eased up on the power levels and allowed us to release it.
Still, if he was unconscious, he'd be that much less trouble to transport. I had no doubt that he'd try to escape, regardless of what he'd promised when I challenged him.
I gave the doll a final caress, a kind of thank-you to its maker. Now that I'd seen what was under the arrogance and bullying, I could let go of the hate that had been weighing me down. I could understand why he was always so sadistic with me, why he'd hated me from the moment he'd seen me. I didn't like him, I'd never like him, but I could comprehend him now. He wasn't just a mindless killer, there was something to him besides hate. Or rather, there had been.
Sometimes I hated Walsh and everyone else involved in the Supertrooper Project. They'd created us, conceived us, given us life. But in creating their living weapons, they'd forgotten one thing. For all the differences that they'd gene-engineered into us, they were still using humans as the template, which meant that we were all of us mere variations of humanity.
The Supertroopers had been given everything physical we needed to survive the rigors of our training, but they'd forgotten that there's a big difference between living and just surviving. And that a genetically engineered child is still essentially a child.
Ryker'd been willing to do anything that was asked of him, if Walsh asked it. He'd fought long and hard to be everything he believed that Walsh wanted him to be. He'd broken his heart and strip-mined his soul, and it was all for nothing and less than nothing. Those little scraps of approval that he was so jealous of were simply the crumbs of a banquet. What he really wanted, what all of the Supertroopers had truly wanted, was far more than Walsh could ever have managed to give.
Like any child, we'd wanted love.