I lay awake in bed sorting through the new memories running through my head. I knew that the persona I had now was fictitious but it was easier to think of the Peter Rudko in those memories as someone else.
The One Day War of 2025 had ended the role of the United States as a major world power. With many of its major cities radioactive craters, the U.S. had broken up into three separate pieces that constantly fought with each other and Mexico. The breakup of the United States had drastically changed the global power structure by the time I was born twenty years.
The Treaty of Zhenbao Island which established the Sino-Russian Alliance was signed in 2026. Both China and Russia fared better after losing major cities in the One Day War than the United States. Peace along their long shared border allowed them to turn their attention elsewhere. The Chinese looked to the south and the east. Russia looked west to Europe.
Without the support of the United States, NATO dissolved. The European Union gained more authority as the Russian threat grew.
Russia had reclaimed most of the territory of the old Soviet Union so I was a resident of Greater Russia when I was born in Kiev. I was a bright student and was sent to school in Volgograd. I graduated with honors from the Russian Military Academy and posted to the Northwest Front.
At this time Russia was pushing through the Scandinavian countries against stiff resistance by EU forces. Both sides had nuclear weapons but neither side was willing to risk another One Day War. Chemical weapons were used in limited cases but otherwise the fighting was conventional. I rose quickly through the officer ranks gaining a reputation as a tough aggressive commander.
I met Olga during the siege of Berlin. We were both generals commanding separate corps. My troops broke the siege in a ferocious attack with massive casualties on both sides. But it was considered a brilliant success so I was promoted to Marshall.
As the war continued, I became more and more callous in my behavior. I was willing to accept large casualties if the objective was achieved. I didn’t concern myself at all with civilian casualties. The incidents I had dreamed about were not isolated events but part of the person that Peter Rudko was.
I was particularly bothered by the memory of Flanagan. Colonel Flanagan had been an honorable man. He had led the defense of Antwerp brilliantly for a month, costing me more manpower and resources than I had expected. Flanagan had surrendered his forces when he was too low on supplies to fight effectively and further fighting would achieve nothing more than the death of all his soldiers. He begged me to spare his men, offering his own life in exchange for humane treatment for them. I accepted and performed the public execution to thunderous applause from my soldiers. But then I quietly had his men gunned down and buried in mass graves.
I did not like that other Peter Rudko very much. I had to wonder why the alien gave me those memories. Did he want me to become that Peter Rudko or was he trying to keep me from becoming that man?
I had no memories after the battle of Antwerp. I had no idea what year it was or how long I had been in the simulation. It was all so frustrating.
Vrilken spent the last part of his shift editing simulation records to erase all traces of his contact with the humans Rudko and Krupinski. He finished long before his relief announced taking over the simulation. After disengaging from his station, he rose, stretched his four arms, and flexed his knees. He hated monitoring the simulation, but the Clan Master had chosen him to be part of the project.
It was a clever move on the Clan Master’s part. Honor required Vrilken to accept the Clan Master’s patronage and then forbade him from openly disagreeing with the Clan Master. But the Clan Master was mistaken if he thought Vrilken would not undermine the project covertly.
The humans he was using were annoyingly inquisitive, a trait he was not accustomed to. His careful plans could come to naught if Rudko would not behave the way Vrilken needed him to.
Vrilken made his way to the galley. He bypassed the communal feeding area and entered the food preparation area. One of the workers made a furtive gesture which Vrilken returned. He continues on to an empty storage room in the back. On a shelf was a plain box. Vrilken opened the box and deeply inhaled the scent of the still warm contents. He took one of the raw meat chunks inside and popped it in his mouth, chewing slowly to savor the flavor.
The Clan Master had forbidden the consumption of human meat. Vrilken and the other like minded individuals involved in the human harvesting risked banishment and even execution. The act was as much protest against the Clan Master as enjoyment of a rare delicacy. The Clan Master was wrong and Vrilken was going to make sure the humans would be nothing more than food.