I don't think this was quite what Rand meant, but ...
Pick up the gun, says the sergeant. You have to be holding the gun. Relax. It's odd that the same voice that screamed at him through boot camp is being so gentle, but everyone says this is the most difficult part of the training and she did it too, so she must know.
Are you holding it? Tightly? Good.
He feels the cold metal against his forehead. It's alright, it will only take a few seconds, says the sergeant. This is the last session, that's all. You've been ready for weeks. You've moved toward this since you enlisted. This is just to make sure it all worked.
Hands steady on the gun. You have to be holding the gun. It only works if you're holding the gun.
He steadies the gun, pointing it into the darkness. Light is flickering on and off across his field of vision. The metal on his temples has not gotten warmer; it's annoying, and he would raise a hand to dislodge it but he can't because his hands are steady on the gun. There are boots thumping across his mind. Somewhere a doctor is looking at the readout of his brain, flexing the controls, moving his thoughts in the right direction. His sergeant's voice is very far away.
The world goes away for a second and then it comes flickering back. The gun range in front of him is a meaningless collection of light and shadow, cover and targets. He looks for a target.
There is a target. Find it and destroy it.
He sees the target now - the simulacrum of a woman in combat gear, dodging slightly, but making no serious effort to hide. Easy. He got past the standing targets in his first week at boot camp. He draws a bead, pulls the trigger, and the crack of the shot for a moment drowns out the hum of the neuromachines.
Perfect, says the sergeant. Her voice sounds like she is in pain. Now drop the gun.
His hands don't want to let go.
Drop the gun. You have to drop the gun. It won't work if you're holding the gun. The gun slips from his fingers and the room goes dark again. He is distantly aware of pain across his skull, peaking where the metal touches it.
The sergeant reaches out and turns off the nueromachines. The lights flicker back on. He realizes for the first time that she is not carrying her gun. "You did perfectly," she says. Her voice is still thick and raw; for some reason she's hurting.
"Are you alright?" he asks. He's worried. She's always been perfectly tough, unflappable.
"Fine. I just don't like doing this. Look out at the gun range," she says, and he looks out and sees the simulacrum of his wife, in combat gear, splattered across the floor, and he turns aside and throws up all over the nice clean gun range floor. His sergeant pulls off the helmet and hold his head while he finishes. "It takes most people like that," she tells him gently. "But it's necessary."
He swallows. "It's the gun, isn't it? I'll be fine. I'll be normal. As long as I don't have my gun."
"Exactly. And it has to be your gun, too. You can still go hunting and it won't matter. Only an Army gun."
"I don't like this."
"Nobody does. But it's better than beating the moral sense away from you altogether - or making you kill while you still have one. Or trying to dehumanize the enemy, just the enemy, when there are so many enemies." She rubs his shoulders comfortingly; the gesture is so unlike a drill sergeant that he wants to laugh, but he doesn't dare. "It's simple, it's effective. It's the best way."
He swallows. "I know. I still don't like it, but ..."
"It's for the best." The sergeant slaps him on the shoulder reasuringly. "You'll get used to it. I did. Now go take a nap, and then you have a week off. Maybe we can have dinner sometime. I'll leave the gun at home."
It's not funny, but he laughs and laughs and laughs, and she pushes him out the door.
Not until that evening does he realize he left the gun where he dropped it. His hands are already itching for the familiar feel.