Operation Ringworm—Programmed to Kill
By Del Garrett
Can an honest man be programmed to kill?
Dexter Guidry has something under his skin that is driving him crazy. He calls them worms. They race up and down his arms, and sometimes try to leap out of his body. His doctor can't figure them out.
Maybe it’s all a dream. He has strange dreams. In most of them, doctors strap him down, violate his body with harsh chemicals. Always the same doctors, same room, same alteration of his body—his arms, to be precise. In the dream, Dexter no longer has hands with fingers. His arms are boneless, twisting tapered tentacles.
The first time he had the dream was when the worms began racing up and down his arms.
Sgt. Jerome Green traced Dexter to a room at a Budget Motel on Highway 20 in Austin, Texas. The room belched at you with a clash of bright orange shag carpeting, two blue velvet covered chairs, and a scratched-up Formica table.
"Yew jes gonna stand there, city boy, or yew gonna go on in?"
The manager, like his motel room, was a walking clash in style, mismatched colors for his clothes and a light grayish-brown stubble on his chin.
"Three days, but he only stayed two?"
"Yep, I figure he was in such a rush he jes didn't care 'bout getting a refund; not that he woulda got one; we don't make refunds."
"You'll use the extra money to redecorate, I suppose."
"The room. A whole day's rent ought to do wonders with your decorating scheme."
Green had picked up his assignment the day before at CID Headquarters at Fort Bliss, Texas. CID—the Army's Criminal Investigation Division—was the lead agency in tracking down deserters and soldiers who had gone AWOL, the military's acronym for absent without leave.
Dexter Guidry had skipped out of the psychiatric ward at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston two weeks earlier.
Green stepped into the bathroom.
"Have you cleaned in here?"
"Nope, not since day before yesterday."
Green slipped on a pair of surgical gloves and reached inside a trash can. He carefully pulled out a wad of toilet paper with a red stain in the middle of it. A nick from a razor, perhaps. He pulled out a small brown envelope and inserted the tissue inside. He’d have it matched to a known sample of Dexter's DNA.
"You sure you didn't see this guy when he checked out?"
"That’s what I been telling you, sonny boy. I figured he was jes going to the store or maybe over to Lulu's fer a beer."
"Six blocks down yonder on your left." The manager waved his hand in the general direction of down yonder.
"Say, what's this feller done, anyway?"
"Didn't fold his sheets properly," Green said. "The Army's real big on wanting its sheets folded properly."
"Aw, now you’re joshin' me."
"Not at all. I'm in charge of sheet offenders, my partner chases down the ones who don't square-fold their blankets just right."
Dexter had gotten as far as the next motel down the road. It looked perfect to him because he wanted to avoid large crowds but stay in the area. He slept when he could, a few hours at a time, but he always woke in a hot sweat and disoriented. He’d dreamed again. This time, the dream was different.
It was the same dream but in the back of the operating room he could see a dark figure dressed in a suit and tie, and wearing a short-brimmed felt hat, obviously not a doctor. Dexter flashed back to his room in the psychiatric ward.
“Wake up, Mr. Guidry, it’s time to take your medicine, then we’ll begin your lessons.”
The man speaking to Dexter wore a white jacket over an open collar brown checked shirt and khaki trousers. He busied himself with dropping a clear liquid into a paper pill cup. When he handed the cup over, Dexter could see a sugar cube inside soaked with the wetness of the liquid.
“Wh—what’s this?” Dexter’s voice sounded weak, and he struggled with his words.
“It’s your medicine, Mr. Guidry. It tastes awful, that’s why we give it to you on a sugar cube.” The man chuckled. “You know the song, ‘A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down’.”
Dexter tilted the cup letting the sugar cube fall into his mouth. It had no taste. Even the sweetness of the sugar eluded his tastebuds.
“There you go. Good boy, Mr. Guidry.”
Moments later, after the drug had taken effect, the man working with Dexter helped him stand up and move to an adjoining room where he sat Dexter in a chair and turned on a 16 mm movie projector. Flashes of color appeared on the screen in random selection, dissolving from green to blue to yellow to red.
“Just sit back and watch, Mr. Guidry.”
Dexter did so until the soft music accompanying the images increased to an uncomfortable volume. On the screen, the flashing colors were replaced with explosions—bombs going off, their sounds mixing with the eerie music.
Can an honest man be programmed to kill?
“How is he responding?”
The voice came from a well-dressed middle-aged man entering the room. His Brooks Brothers suit jacket bore a pin of the American flag in its lapel.
“Fine. We’re ready to begin advanced training.”
“I’m going to give you an injection for that headache you have,” Dr. Schuenberger said. “It will help you relax so we can continue our talks.”
“That hurts, doc.” Dexter blinked his eyes and tried to turn his head away but couldn’t. Two metal braces on either side of his head restricted his movement.
“It’s all right, Mr. Guidry. Just close your eyes and relax.”
“That’s good, Mr. Guidry. Now, it’s time to renew our conversations. The world is in chaos, Mr. Guidry. Big governments have stripped away the rights of the people. Governments are supposed to serve the people, but our country has become a police state; the uniformed Gestapo no longer support the Constitution. It is up to the people to change all that, to take back the country and re-establish the rights of the people. One government of the people, by the people and for the people. We have the right to do that, Mr. Guidry, by whatever means necessary even if it means armed insurrection. We have to take a stand and it is people like you and me—US, Mr. Guidry—We the people. We must take back our country. We, the proletariat, must overthrow the bourgeois rulers who have stripped us of our rights. They own the factories and make us slaves, keeping the money they make off our labor. While we give our sweat and blood, they take all and give nothing back. They establish the rules and make us suffer under them.”
Dr. Schuenberger could see Dexter growing more uncomfortable and ceased talking to the man. Small steps, he thought. Bring the subject along slowly. Indoctrination takes time and patience.
Once Green got back to his field office, he sent the bloodstain he’d collected to the nearest Army lab. While waiting, he dug out a brown jacketed folder on Guidry and scanned its pages for the hundredth time. This time, Green spotted a small note on Guidry’s last performance report. “Sometimes he has lapses of memory,” the supervisor had written.
Lapses of memory? Green thought a minute then checked the date of the report—only two months ago.
Green visited Dexter’s former supervisor.
“You’re Lieutenant Frasier?” Green asked and the officer nodded. “Hello, I’m Special Agent Jerome Green, CID. I need to ask you some questions about one of your former troops, Sergeant Dexter Guidry.”
“Sergeant Guidry isn’t assigned here, not anymore. He shipped out three weeks ago.”
Lieutenant, I’ll remind you I’m with the CID.”
“Doesn’t matter. I can’t tell you what I don’t know. When I say it’s classified, I mean his orders stated he was being reassigned to a classified location. I don’t know where.”
The lieutenant picked his way through a pile of papers on his desk and came up with a manilla folder. He flipped it open, ensured it was Guidry’s, and handed it to Green.
Green looked at the DoA order on top of the other papers and read the reassignment location.
“What does this mean…reassigned to HUMRO and the numbers afterward have been blacked out?”
“That’s the classified ID, somewhere within HUMRO. That stands for Human Research Organization.”
“You stated Guidry suffered from lapses of memory.”
“Yes. He’d be fine, one minute, then act like a zombie the next. I asked him what he was doing, and he didn’t know; asked him where he’d been, and he couldn’t tell me.”
“So, what action did you take?”
“I arranged for him to be psychologically evaluated. Two weeks later, he got these orders and shipped out.”
“Mr. Guidry, I want you to look at these two silhouettes. The one on the left is an anarchist, the one on the right is a law-abiding conservative. Do you see the difference in them?”
“T-the one on the left is blue, the one on the right is red.”
“That’s correct. Now, I want you to remember that blue is wrong and red stands for right. Do you understand?”
“Blue is wrong, red is right.”
“That’s correct. Now, imagine that both of these are targets and Mr. Blue is trying to kill Mr. Red. You see this and you know that Mr. Blue is wrong, so you are going to protect Mr. Red. Imagine you have a gun in your hand, what do you do?”
“I…protect Mr. Red.”
“How are you going to do that?”
At this point, Guidry raised his right hand, extended his index finger, and pretended to shoot the blue target.
“Very good, Mr. Guidry. Now, relax. I want you to look at some photos of people in the news.”
A photograph frozen on the screen showed Mayor Thomas Silva of Galveston who had tossed his hat in the ring as representative from the 14th Congressional District in the upcoming election. He opposed incumbent candidate Dwight Slocum and made news regularly by bringing lawsuits against liberal police agencies that supported crooked politicians who routinely violated citizen’s rights, especially those in the Hispanic communities.
Dr. Schuenberger convinced Guidry that Silva, although widely known for his conservative beliefs, was in reality a blue target to be eliminated. The doctor placed a toy rifle in Guidry’s hands and told him to look through the scope. When Guidry did this, the image on the viewscreen became overlapped with crosshairs and the portrait flashed blue and white as the music became unbearably louder.
“Shoot him, Mr. Guidry. Shoot him now. Your country will be proud.”
Can an honest man be programmed to kill?
Guidry placed a finger on the trigger, squinted his eye and held the barrel of the rifle steady. In a final movement, he squeezed the trigger.
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