Imogen leads Frank up the ramp into Saffron and then seals the ship behind them. He stands quietly in the central hub, awaiting her orders. She hands him one of his journals, and there is no spark of recognition. “Should I keep this, ma’am?” he asks.
All right, let’s see what we’re working with. “I want you to read it and tell me what you think of it.” Imogen does not really know how resocialization works, so she would like to see if she can jog any memories non-invasively before she tries the terrazine. For now, she listens in on his thoughts to better monitor his reaction to seeing his own words in his own handwriting. She is perhaps attempting too much too quickly herself, as her nose starts to bleed again. She just staunches it with a handkerchief and keeps concentrating as he flips through the notebook.
I am reading this page. That’s my name. That’s also my name. He disobeyed an order. Flip. That’s my name. I disobeyed? With that first spark of recognition, Imogen sees distress flit across Frank’s features. He keeps reading it, and when he is done, he reports his opinion, as ordered. “I think I disobeyed orders, ma’am.”
Imogen hands him a second notebook to read. While he does that, she pulls out the medkit and starts prepping the respirator. Just like when she did this with Lilly, she wants to be ready with clean air on hand to smooth the recovery process. Frank is completely compliant and does not even flinch when she administers the terrazine to him. When it hits his nervous system though, things take a different turn.
Frank collapses, clutching the journal. “I disobeyed orders. I did it. Oh, God!” He starts rocking, his knees pulled up and the journal held to his chest. “Why did I do those things? Why am I such a bad person?”
Imogen does what she can to shore up defenses against a complete mental breakdown. She had a look into his mind when he was in the brig and has read those journals herself. What she tries to do now is nudge his current mental view of what he did back to how he felt about it before. This is not anything as trivial as reassuring him that he is a good person. She needs him to reflect on his motives at the time. In addition to applying psionic pressure, she asks, “Why did you make the decision to do it? It wasn’t because you were a bad person. It was because you felt you had a right to know. And how did you feel about that decision? You didn’t know what was going to be on there.”
Frank calms some, now more confused than distressed. “I disobeyed orders, but I was following the general order to find it. He did a bad thing,” he says of the Emperor, “but I did a bad thing, too. Ugh, what’s the right thing?” He looks up at Imogen, seeking an answer.
Imogen’s goal is to restore Frank, not to get him to imprint on her like a newly hatched duckling. “You can’t look to other people to tell you what the right thing is,” she tells him. “You have to decide that for yourself.”
Frank clutches his head and moans. “Form my own…” This is very counter to the conditioning he just received. “I gotta… I gotta make it right. I did a bad thing, they did a bad thing. I gotta make that right. I gotta… I gotta tell someone!”
Crouched down next to him, Imogen lays a hand on his arm. “You already told me.”
He looks up at her. “I already told you,” he whispers. His eyes search her face for a moment. “You look familiar.” The fleeting calmness is followed by another outburst. “No! I can’t just tell someone. I have to do something about it. I have to stop Captain Hawke.”
“We can do that,” Imogen tells him.
“What do we… How? How do we stop her?”
“We can find it. We can get it back.”
“Right, right,” Frank whispers. “We can find it again. It should be there. She… she didn’t move it. She just took it for herself. But we can find it.”
“Was it trapped in some way that it couldn’t be moved?”
“Yes, it was under stuff. I was able to listen, but not get it. I activated it on accident!”
“Would you be able to find it again?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. It’s hazy.” He runs a hand over his bald head. “A lot of things… Oh, man. I have the most incredible headache, ma’am.” Imogen has him breathe through the respirator for a while. When she recommends he drink some water to rehydrate, Frank grows more and more agitated, asking desperately for some beer to help him relax. Imogen relents, getting him the most watered-down swill in their stock. After a few sips, Frank returns to the topic of stopping Captain Hawke.
“I have a plan to do something about this, but we have to be careful. We don’t want to tip our hand too early,” Imogen tells him.
“Right, right,” Frank says, a wild look in his eyes. “I can’t trust anyone. Don’t trust anyone.”
“You can trust me.”
“Can I? Who are you?”
“My name’s Imogen.”
“You don’t sound Dominion.”
“Does that mean I can trust you or I shouldn’t trust you?” He starts looking around frantically. “Paper! Give me paper. I need paper! And a pencil. Or a pen. Or blood. Blood would work fine. Do you have a knife?”
Imogen gets a notebook and a pen from the shelves at the science station. Frank starts scribbling, and Imogen lets him work undisturbed. After all, he desperately filled several notebooks in his prison cell yesterday, partly as a coping mechanism. She continues to observe him closely. Sometimes he pauses, looking around as though he heard something when the ship is silent as far as Imogen can tell. When this happens, he closes up the paper and hides it for a beat, but as soon as the attack passes, he pulls it out and resumes work. Crap. How much of this is from resocialization, and how much of this is from the stupid terrazine? Imogen wonders. And she adjusted his mental state herself. There are a lot of competing influences in his brain right now.
As time goes on, the lines begin to come together into a drawing that does make sense. At first, Imogen thinks it is a person, perhaps Captain Hawke, but then she realizes it is the adjutant. Frank remembers its location well enough to depict the pile of rubble in which it lies. He is a skilled artist. Although his approach to the illustration is haphazard, the picture is highly realistic. “This. This! This is her,” he stutters out. “This is how we find her and what she said. He said—Mengsk said. But she said it. But now Hawke has it—she has it.”
Imogen was not sure how unstable Frank would be after her attempt to restore him, and now that she sees the end result, there is no way she can release him back into the wild. He is not stable enough to feign standard recently-resocialized behavior. But there is the matter of him being missed if he is away from his squad much longer. Imogen checks her watch, surprised at how late it is. Frank is definitely due for a barracks check soon. “Frank, Frank, I need your commanding officer’s contact information.”
“It’s Corporal Melissa Silverstein. No, it’s Corporal Silvia Malvern. No, it’s…” Frank seems confused, unable to settle on which of the two it is.
Only one of those names was mentioned in his journals, Silverstein, so that must have been his commander in his old unit. Imogen calls Malvern. “This is Corporal Malvern,” the woman on the other end of the line barks out. “Who am I speaking with?”
Imogen has to give her real name here for her fabrications to hold water. “This is Imogen Owendoher.”
“Imogen Owendoher, you are not one of my soldiers nor in my immediate chain of command. Why are you calling me?”
“One of the soldiers under your command, a certain Private Tankard, has been extremely helpful to the UNN mission. But our activity is still on-going, and he’s not going to make it back to the barracks in time for the next check-in.”
Malvern’s words rattle out with barely a break between them. “Private Tankard, very helpful on a special mission. I was not aware of this mission. I’ll have to make sure he gets an accolade. We might have to put him in for Private, First Class, at the appropriate time. When will he be able to report? Ma’am.”
There is no way Frank can go back at all tonight without giving everything away. Imogen aims high. “We need him through tomorrow evening.”
“Tomorrow evening, ma’am. We’ll miss him in the PT line. I’ll just need you to make sure he gets sufficient PT completed, and then I’ll be able to mark him off. For a man of his age and recent resocialization, he needs to do 80 push-ups in 60 seconds. Tomorrow evening at dinner on the assault platform, I will expect him back in the mess hall, ma’am.”
“Ah, recent resocialization, you say. Anything else that I need to make sure that he does or does not do?” Imogen asks. And then do the opposite…
“If he gives you any trouble at all, make sure to report him back to the Resocialization Care Center. They can redo it. Sometimes it doesn’t take very well, and on rare occasions, there are adverse reactions. To include, raving like a lunatic…” She spouts off a whole list that all sound like many ways to restate the same thing.
Imogen puts away her comm and tells Frank that she got him a pass for the night but that he has to stay on Saffron. He has quieted down somewhat, gazing at the picture he has drawn. He looks up at her now. “Is it safe here?” he asks.
“This is the only safe place,” she says, content to make that judgment for him.
“How do I know it’s safe?”
“Because there’s no command structure here.”
“The command is what keeps you safe, right? But the command is… But Captain Hawke broke the structure…” Frank’s confusion is starting to agitate him again.
“The command is what did this to you,” Imogen tells him.
“But the command is also what protects me.”
“They’re not protecting you very well right now,” she says sadly.
Frank remains nervous, unable to feel safe. “You know what? I’ve got to take responsibility for myself,” he declares. “I’m just going to stay up. Stay right here.” He keeps his back to the wall to watch the central hub for threats. Imogen stands up, resigned that this is the best she will be able to arrange for tonight. Frank gets to his feet as well, his brown eyes wide but no longer darting around the room.
Imogen takes a seat on one of the crates to continue monitoring him. She takes some comfort that there are no signs that he is still hallucinating. He is as calm as she could hope for, alert but not paranoid. He is only jumpy when the ship creaks or Snowball makes slurping sounds from beyond Lilly’s door.