São Paulo, Brazil, 2151
Purple Dust. His Portuguese was passable and the voices faint, but Erik deBaak was sure of the words. It was unmistakable, even from the far corner of his cell. The prison guards could have meant nothing other than the worst. Sitting on the damp stone floor in his weakened condition, he turned his head toward the door and tried to make out the conversation.
“We deployed Purple Dust over Rotterdam last week.”
“The enemy has already responded. Their bombing raids have destroyed key Southern Hemisphere cities. São Paulo could be next.”
A chill ran down deBaak’s spine. If Southern Hemisphere armed forces dropped the horrific chemical agent over his home in Rotterdam, his parents and little sister were in grave danger. His opa, or grandpa, told him stories of Purple Dust being deployed sixty-eight years ago during World War III. deBaak would never forget the tear gently falling from Opa’s eye as he recalled the aftermath. Once-proud leaders of their respected nations and their citizens had their minds reduced to intellectual rubble. The famed Washington, DC Treaty ending the third world war outlawed this horrific form of warfare.
As a POW in the Brazilian camp, Erik deBaak had little knowledge of the war or outside events. Through the malaise of each passing hour, not knowing whether it was day or night, the sounds of war beckoned in the distance. São Paulo would be a primary target for the Northern Hemisphere forces.
He coughed, trying to release the ever-present phlegm from his raspy throat. The stone-walled cell was his solitary confinement. deBaak guessed it had been more than a year since his capture. Apart from a metal bucket with which to relieve himself, the cell was barren. Emaciated and weak, he moved a bony finger up to his matted hair and scratched. The culprit was a mite of some sort. He crushed it between his fingers and rubbed the remnants on the damp stone floor. deBaak longed for a proper bed, a hot shower, and a shave. Being dehumanized was how they broke you. He would never let that happen. He rested his head against the rigid wall and stretched his legs. He was nodding off when the creaky old metal door alerted him to visitors.
“Get up, spy!”
deBaak stirred. Before he could protest, two prison guards were on him, literally dragging his body by the arms. Thank heaven he had some old rags to wear, or his already raw skin would have been scraped to the bone. The guards moved deBaak around the corner and threw him onto a metal table where he was strapped down and gagged. He moaned, the only sound he could manage in his current state.
The guards left, and a tall, powerfully built man entered. He was wearing the gray uniform of the Argentine Army. “I am Colonel Paz, your new best friend.”
deBaak shook his head, left to right and back again. Paz removed the rag from his mouth. deBaak gagged, cleared his throat and almost yelled, “Your goons have tortured me every way imaginable and I have told them nothing. Go fuck yourself!”
Paz responded with a smirk. “What you’ve been through so far has been a mere annoyance.” Paz approached and placed a thin nylon cap over his head. Through the material, deBaak could feel light filament wire pressing firmly against his scalp.
“This mindwave technology will literally pull the information from your brain. There is no way to resist.”
deBaak squirmed on the table, struggling to get free.
Paz stood over him and said with condescension, “Do not struggle, spy. It will be over soon.”
Paz walked over to a control board and turned a dial clockwise. Immediately, the filaments in the lightweight cap heated and then vibrated violently. His skull was on fire. In a matter of two minutes, his brain might burst.
“Your memories are being extracted. When the process completes, I may do you the favor of placing a bullet in your head.”
deBaak writhed in agony. He screamed. The pressure in his head was beyond anything he ever experienced. Praying for death, he tried to place his mind elsewhere to ignore the searing pain. He closed his eyes, waiting for the end. His chest was heavy, as if something dropped on top of him. Was he experiencing a heart attack? deBaak opened his eyes and tried to process the scene. Was his battered mind playing tricks?
The bloodied, bullet-ridden body of Colonel Paz lay across his chest, and a US Army sergeant was shutting down the mindwave torture chamber.
Erik deBaak blinked his eyes, trying to focus. His mind was in a fog, but he would never forget the words called out by the US soldier.
“Sir, the war is over. We have liberated this camp. You are going home.”