AEInterlude: Part Four

Submitted by C B Wright on
Haruspex Analytics

They’ve been gagged and bound for nearly two days, hands stretched over their heads, feet tied together and tethered to the floor. All three figures—two men and a woman—bear their incarceration stoically. There were initial attempts to work free of the restraints, but they proved fruitless, and eventually all three resigned themselves to waiting.

And so they wait, in a darkened room, with nothing but their own thoughts and the occasional muffled sounds of their fellow captives to keep them company. They wait, grow hungry, grow thirsty, and continue waiting.

Finally, towards the end of the second day, someone turns on a light.

The light is painful at first, but as they gradually adjust they see they are in a very empty, unfurnished room. Unfurnished, but fancy—the walls and floor are granite, and the ceiling is covered in baroque plaster tiles. At the very end of this empty room is a simple door, so plain it looks almost shabby by comparison.

It is another hour before the door finally opens. When the man walks in, the three recognize him immediately.

“I apologize for the delay,” the Chairman says. He crosses the room slowly, deliberately.

“That is pure artifice, of course. I apologize for nothing of the sort. Not in this room. Not to any of you.”

He stops in front of them, noting with amusement that they have all averted their eyes.

“This won’t do at all. Very few people are given the opportunity to look at me directly. I suggest you take advantage of it.”

One by one they look up. His face looks as if it had been kind, once.

“Better. Let’s review, shall we?” He turns and begins to pace the width of the room, hands clasped behind his back, like a prosecutor presenting his case before a jury.

“All three of you have been with us for some time. We don’t know how long you’ve been working for someone else, and we don’t know who you are working for…” at this he stops and turns to face them. “Though I have my suspicions.”

He resumes pacing.

“We know one of you—though we don’t know who—is responsible for contacting Alexander Morgan and telling him about Project Recall. We know all three of you were involved in framing Andrew Estovich—yes, we always knew he was framed, I’m afraid, and this, I think, was your biggest mistake. Andrew was not a stupid man by any means, but he was certainly not one of our brightest. He was, however, without question one of our best. I feel compelled to tell you, right now, that it was at his insistence that we carried through with our little charade the other day. The man you identified, so dismissively, as a patsy died a hero’s death in order to root out your corruption and expose it for all to see.”

Two of the three gazes drop. The gaze that doesn’t—the woman's—stares back defiantly, eyes hard.

“Of course, you’ve still managed to do quite a bit of damage to our organization. It will take some time for us to trace your activities to learn the full extent of it. But one thing that fascinated me were your efforts to learn more about me, personally.”

He stops in front of the woman with hard eyes, looking directly at her, ignoring the others for the moment.

“Gathering intelligence on the leader of the organization you are trying to take down is not in itself unusual, of course. What interests me is that despite the already substantial collection of intelligence you already had on me, it appears you have yet to send any of it on.”

He locks eyes with the woman. The woman struggles valiantly, but her gaze breaks.

The Chairman smiles. “It tells me that you have correctly deduced that the intelligence you have is not only incomplete, but it lacks something that will place it in the appropriate context. That everything you have is meaningless, perhaps even detrimental, if it were passed on without the context you lack.”

He begins to pace again.

“I can’t pretend to like any of you, of course, but I find myself strangely grateful. I wasn’t prepared for how keenly I would feel Andrew’s death. One of the dangers of being in command behind the scenes is that it is easy to forget what sacrifice entails. I require my people to make sacrifices every day, and they make them. Seeing Andrew make his… reminded me of what, exactly, that entails. Of what I owe the people who work to make my vision—their vision—come to fruition.”

He stops in front of the woman again—the two men are much closer to breaking than she is—and offers her a thin smile. “You have, if anything, made me more committed to my task than ever.”

The woman narrows her eyes.

“In light of that,” the Chairman says, “I have decided to help you. After a fashion. I will give you the one thing you tried, and failed to find. I will give you context.”

He turns away from them, reaches into his jacket, and pulls out a small cellphone. He presses something on the screen, holds it up to his ear, and waits.

“It’s me,” he says. “Yes. I just wanted to congratulate you and your team on a job well done.”

Pause.

“Not at all,” he continues. “You were brought in under difficult circumstances, and you handled the matter exceptionally. Each of you should be proud of what you’ve accomplished. That matter is out of your hands, of course, but I would like you to be more involved in the day-to-day business of Project Recall going forward. We are facing unprecedented threat and scrutiny, and I believe your team’s involvement will go a long way in mitigating much of it. Please report to Mara in the morning.”

Pause.

“Of course. Thank you. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”

The Chairman puts his phone in his jacket, then turns back to face the prisoners.

“That’s done,” he says. “Where were we? Context. I promised to give you context.”

All three are staring at him. One of the men is clearly on the verge of breaking, his eyes wide with fear. The other still resists, but he has accepted the inevitable outcome. He is simply trying to cling to himself for as as long as he can before he succumbs. Only the woman tries to fight back with the only weapon she has—her eyes. But now there is a hint of uncertainty behind her gaze.

“Context,” the Chairman repeats. He frowns, considering, then nods to himself as he reaches a decision.

“I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced. Let us start by telling you my real name…”

Comments

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Indeed. Fixed! Thanks.

Indeed. Fixed!

Thanks.

--
Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

... holds it up to his hear,

... holds it up to his hear, and waits.

I think it's his ear.

I liked the action-filled parts of the previous 3 parts a little more. I think the pacing on this is needed - they can't all be fight scenes, and plot advancement is important - but this seems a little ... abbreviated. I understand ending on the cliffhanger, but there's something missing.

Also, the phone call in the middle of the interrogation is a little jarring. I'm not sure how it flows, or why the Chairman chooses that moment to make the call.

Still enjoying Curveball immensely.

I read the call in the middle

I read the call in the middle of the interrogation to be a statement to the prisoners that they just aren't that important and that they've become total puppets for what ever the Chairman has in mind for them.

OP and Alexander, thanks for

OP and Alexander, thanks for the edits -- fixed.

I can see how this scene might feel too abrupt, especially since Parts One, Two, and Three are actually longer than average. It's a "supervillain moment," but since I'm not going to have him monologuing the specifics of his eeeevil plan I didn't think it needed to be longer than it was. :D

My only real regret with this chapter is that I really, really, really wanted to end it with the Chairman saying "Please allow me to introduce myself..." and leaving it off there. But I really, really, really wanted to not get sued by the Rolling Stones, so I didn't do that. Oh well.

--
Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

Is that hint canon? :)

Is that hint canon? :)

I thought the scene was fine, though it spent a lot of time developing the different personalities of the prisoners, so I hope they get more time in the spotlight before they depart this mortal coil.

... blast. He caught them.

... blast. He caught them.

Uh I mean, grammar grammar...

"Two of the three gazes drop. The one who doesn’t—the woman—stares back defiantly, eyes hard."

and

"He locks eyes with the woman. The woman struggles valiantly, but she breaks away, looking at the floor."

both have a minor problem with subject, the former more than the latter. In the former case, you describe two gazes dropping, and the one who doesn't - the woman - staring. But grammatically "the one who doesn't" is the gaze that doesn't; the gaze that doesn't drop, not the woman who doesn't drop her gaze. Similarly in reverse, "she broke away" would usually mean "she moved away, she escaped" which is... not happening in this situation. Unfortunately. Her gaze breaking away would work fine, I think, but it isn't actually the subject - she is. That one's more a "this is really odd phrasing" than "the grammatical meaning isn't the one you meant", though.

“He is simply trying to cling to himself for as along as he can before he succumbs.” As long as, not along.

... he caught them. Blast.

OK, I think I've fixed these.

OK, I think I've fixed these. Thanks!

--
Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.