A soldier, Stripe, sleeps and sees a woman leading him into a house. He's interrupted when his squad mate, Raiman, yells at everyone to wake. Their commander Medina tells them that the locals think that Roaches are attacking their food supplies and they're going to deal with them. As the soldiers prepare to move out, Raiman tells Stripe that he's getting his first Roach hunt.
The squad heads out and one of the soldiers, Lennard, half-jokingly tells Stripe not to shit his pants. They go to the village and try to get the story from the villagers. Medina turns on her translator and a villager says that he heard the Roaches but didn't see them. Meanwhile, a village boy shows Stripe the ruined food supplies as the villager tells Medina that the Roaches stole components from their cooler. One villager gives the name "Parn Heidekker," a local religious fanatic.
A village woman asks Stripe to stop the Roaches. He promises that he will, and she takes his hand and prays. Medina calls him over and after a moment, Stripe pulls away and joins the others, and they head out. On their way to Parn's ranch, Medina says that Parn has some oddball religious views about the Roaches. She uploads the information on him to their MASS eye implants, and explains that Parn left food out for the Roaches and let them cross his land. Lennard complains that they can't deal with the Roach problem because the locals are helping the Roaches.
Medina sends a drone to Parn's house and confirms that someone is there. Once they have the plans, Medina tells Stripe and Raiman to go in with her and Lennard while the rest of them check the house. Everyone moves in and Medina knocks at the door. After a moment, Parn opens the door a crack and asks what they want. Medina suggests that they talk inside, and he reluctantly lets them in. While Stripe and Raiman search the house, Medina asks Parn where the Roaches are. She explains that the villagers are angry about the Roach attacks, and she agrees with Parn that all life is sacred. However, the virus that they're caring doesn't care about life, and the Roaches will breed if they're not killed.
Raiman and Stripe find a hidden hallway and go in.
Medina says that Parn can't see the Roaches as human. They have to take them out if humankind is going to continue on.
Stripe pulls aside a curtain and four Roaches snarl at him. One of them wields a glowing green flashlight-like device. Medina hears them and gets up, and Parn slashes her arm with a knife. She manages to pin him, while one Roach runs out past Raiman and escapes across the field. Stripe grabs another one and drags him back from his den, and the Roach turns and attacks him. Stripe finally stabs it in the chest as it tries to shove the device at him. The soldier continues stabbing it to be sure that it's dead. Once he's done, he picks up the device and looks at the glowing tip, and a beam flashes briefly in his eyes.
Medina wraps her injured arm while Parn mutters prayers and Raiman sings, glaring at him. She's ready to kill him, but Medina tells her to lower her weapon. Stripe comes in and objects, and Raiman claims that she was just screwing with both of them. Medina orders the soldiers to torch the place, and Stripe winces briefly. Raiman notices and asks if he's okay, and Stripe insists that he's fine.
As they leave, Stripe says that he killed two of the Roaches --one with his knife--and Raiman congratulates him. That night, Stripe dreams of the same woman going into a house. She leads him to the bedroom, says that she loves him, and they have sex.
The next day, Stripe and Raiman are on the range shooting at Roach targets. She figures that the Roach that got past her made it to the border, and admits that it's been a while since she's killed one. Raiman asks if Stripe slept good, and he just says that he was okay. As he aims, his eye implant fritzes momentarily but he dismisses it as being tired.
Later, Medina drills her troops and Stripe has more headaches. As they leave, she asks if Stripe is okay. He says that he feels a little off and Medina tells him to report to sickbay. When he gets there, the doctor runs a diagnostic on his eye implants. They check out, and Stripe describes the device. The doctor insists that he's fine and suggests that he talk to the base psychologist, Arquette.
Stripe goes to Arquette's office and the psychologist has him describe how he killed the second Roach with his knife. Arquette asks how it felt emotionally, and Stripe says that all he felt was relief. The psychologist assures him that it isn't unusual to experience other emotions, including euphoria, and Stripe says that he thought he might feel regret but he didn't. Arquette wonders why he's there, and confirms that his implants are fine. Stripe felt that something was up,, but Arquette confirms that it isn't and tells him that it'll pass. He programs in a real good sleep for Stripe that night.
Once he goes to sleep, Stripe sees the woman naked on the bed. The woman enthusiastically has sex with Stripe, and three more of the same women join in. The "dream" glitches and Stripe wakes up, He looks over at his squad mates, who are all twitching and dreaming as well.
The next day, the soldiers take food to the village and Medina tells them that Parn gave them a Roach location. Control wants them to do recon before they return to base. Once they arrive at the abandoned housing project, Medina sends in the drone and spots an active solar panel. She figures that the Reaches are leaching power, and as she talks Stripe loses the implant feed. He picks up a handful of grass and realizes that he can smell it, and points out to Raiman that they can't normally smell anything. Meanwhile, Medina receives orders that they should fall back... and a shot takes her in the head.
Stripes goes to Medina and confirms that she's dead, and Raiman tells him to cover her while she gets the drone control from the corpse. She then sends it up and spots a Roach with a rifle. He shoots out the drone, and Raiman figures that they go in while the Roach reloads his bolt rifle. As they run to the complex, Stripe gets another headache and hears bird calls where before everything was silent.
The two soldiers enter the project and start a room-by-room search. They find an electronics workshop with more of the devices in various stages of construction, and blueprints on the walls. The soldiers continue on and Stripe enters a room. A woman comes out and swings a bat, crying. He tells her to get out and she hesitantly leaves, never taking her eyes off of him. Once she gets out the door, Raiman shoots her dead. Stripe wonders what she did, but Raiman tells him to shut up and come on.
Raiman goes on ahead and finds three more Roaches. She guns them down and when Stripe arrives, realizes that they're human beings. A mother shelters her child as Stripe runs in and Raiman continues firing. Raiman reloads and prepares to kill the mother and child, and Stripe slams her to the floor and insists that they're humans. They fight and Stripe clubs her, and Raiman fires a shot that takes him in the side. After a moment he leads the mother and child out.
Back in the apartment, Raiman wakes up and looks out the window. Stripe is leading the survivors across the field and gets them into his hummer. However, he finally passes out from the blood loss. The mother drags him into the woods. Barely conscious, Stripe sees them entering a covered-over hole in the forest. They take him down and treat his wound, and he finally wakes up. The mother, Caterina, realizes that Stripe can see her as she really is. She explains that his implant put the images and sounds in their heads to help them fight. One of the locals made a device that could shut off the implant.
Raiman finds the abandoned hummer and continues on.
Stripe wonders why the villagers are scared of the Roaches, and Caterina says that they hate them as well because that's what they've been told.
Raiman walks through the woods following the trail of Stripe's blood.
Caterina says that ten years ago after the war, there was DNA checks and then the register and emergency measures. Soon everyone said that they had a weakness in their blood, even the computers, and they can't go on. Now they're just Roaches as far as everyone else is concerned.
Raiman finds the covered-over hole.
Caterina carefully takes the gun from Stripe and says that now he sees her for who she is. Raiman drops down and shoots the boy, Alec, and then guns down Caterina. She then aims at Stripe, who says that none of it is true. Furious, Raiman clubs him unconscious.
Later, a base guard Bradley escorts Arquette to the white room where Stripe is being held. Arquette offers Stripe coffee and says that they owe him an apology, and they didn't spot the fault in his implant. Stripe doesn't respond, and Arquette shows him one of the devices that they found in the housing project. He claims that the light transmits a virus to the implant and tries to shut it down from within. Stripe says that the whole thing is a lie, and Arquette admits that it is. He explains that as a species humans are empathetic and don't want to kill each other, and that's a good thing... until their future depends on wiping out the enemy.
Arquette has Stripe sit down and explains that originally soldiers didn't fire on their enemies but over their heads. They adapted but the guys who got kills were traumatized. Then they developed the implants, and the military uses it to control the senses of the soldiers. Arquette insists that the "Roaches" have all kinds of diseases and are intellectual deficient. He tells Stripe not to feel bad for doing his job, because he's the only one who can do it because the implant lets him do it.
Arquette says that Stripe is protecting the bloodline and it's an honor, but Stripe says that it's just lying and killing. The psychologist points out that Stripe agreed to receive the implant, and each soldier has to accept the dream willingly or their minds would reject it. He replays Stripe's consent video, and Stripe watches as the recruiter says that as part of the procedure, Stripe won't remember agreeing to receive the implant. Shocked, Stripe smashes the monitor and then they shut down his implants, blinding him. Arquette easily avoids him and says that Stripe can either agree to have his implant reset so he forgets everything. Alternately, Stripe will be incarcerated. Arquette says that without the implant, Stripe will remember everything that he did. When Stripe still refuses, Arquette plays back the video of Parn's house, and Stripe killing the two humans that he believed he were Roaches. Stripe begs Arquette to make it stop, but the playback continues. The psychologist promises that he'll see and smell everything that happens... over and over and over, in a cell all alone. Arquette stops the playback and says that they can make it go away if Stripe agrees.
Later, Stripe returns home in uniform. He arrives at the house from his dream and the woman from his dream comes out to greet him. Crying through implant-covered eyes, Stripe watches as the woman approaches him.
Written by Gadfly on Nov 5, 2016