"It involves a girl. And reeds. The sort that you run your hand down the head and all the little hairs came off in your hand and then you throw them to the sky, brown hair raining down."
Richard paused, then continued.
"Blue sky. Bright. Always shockingly bright. But sometimes dark rain clouds. Is this normal? Both at once?"

Garry switched on the microphone in the MemRec monitoring room.
- Yes. Go on.
He switched the microphone off.

"There's a fence running along the back of houses. It's a beach somewhere. South? Probably south. You can't see the beach but you can smell it. Are smells normal?"

Garry sighed before switching the microphone back on.
- Yes. Please, go on.
He switched the microphone off.

"Smells in memory? Memory always felt like a series of fading pictures."

Garry closed his eyes for five seconds. He hated new kids. He switched the microphone back on.
- Gardenias.

"Oh? Gardenias?"

- Just that, for example, the smell of gardenias always brings me back to my grandmother's place. The backyard was full of them. An automatic sensory trigger that brings upon a memory relapse.

"But there are so many beaches - why is the smell important here?"

- Smell helps to place you at the beach. You said you couldn't see it, so we need something. Smell works. It's a location and temporal indicator. Without it, you could be anywhere. But the smell of the beach indicates a particular place and, with the other MemRec inputs, gives us a more accurate timeframe to imprint.

Richard thought about this before asking, "So the smell isn't important?"

Garry sighed.
- The smell is important. What sort of smell was it?

"Hot. It was like vinegar and sunscreen and feeling the sand blowing, wearing away at your legs."

- OK, good. Continue. Just try to get as much as possible.

"There was a drain. The sort that runs past the back of all the houses and drains out at the sea. The one kids aren't supposed to play in because they drown."

- About the girl...

"Brown hair. It was in pigtails. She was popular in our class. I wasn't..."

Garry waited.

"... She had green eyes. They were like tiny little marbles. She has braces and she looks into my eyes. And, for the first time, I really look at someone..."

Garry waited.
- And then?

"We hold hands, someone sees us and laughs and that's it. Nothing else. Is it enough?"

- For now. We might need you back in to do first kiss. Something to do with a record player might work well. Work on it, please. Not so many questions next time. Tanya's debriefing you today.

"Why do we need so little?" Richard asked as he unstrapped the leather helmet.

Garry switched off the recording. There was probably something salvageable, but it'd need some work. He sighed.
- You said so yourself. Fading pictures. Imagination fills in the emptiness of unknowing. It's why this works. Too much and they start to question. This should have all been explained in the induction.

"Yeah," Richard laughed, "That. Was that the part where I was asleep?" He laughed again.

- Tanya's waiting for you in Room 9. Don't keep her waiting.
He switched the microphone off.


"Another one? Garry, for fuck's sake!"
Tanya caught up to him in the hallway between the Debriefing Rooms and the Commons. He blinked twice before turning around.
"So you got my message then," Garry said.
"Just before he walked into the room," Tanya replied. "Now, I'll admit that greasy turd needs some work - a lot of work - but you're pushing him for UnSat already?"
"He didn't know a thing. He kept asking questions during the MemRec. I'll have to go in and ReRec most of it. He's got something, sure, but I can't trust him in my team. Too much of a liability."
"Just," Tanya started, pausing ever so briefly. "Just give him one more chance. Please. They're asking questions about you."
"Oh, so now it's my fault?" Garry asked.
"Wait, wait. I'm not saying that. Shit, not me," she paused. "But you have to admit, you've gone through five in the last two months. Some of them were pushed by the Ups, and they're fucking pissed you rejected them. Please. One more chance."
Tanya touched Garry on the shoulder. He shivered.
"Okay. Fine. One more chance. But if we fuck up 275 because of him, I'm out. Too old for this shit."

The End

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