Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The roof is a tarpaulin, sheltering walls braced with lengths of burnt wood and fungus-like runs of building foam. The floor had been churned mud before a levelling blazer converted it to blackened glass. At the centre of the room a figure is tied to a chair, clothing reduced to rags. Wires criss-cross his body. Everything’s covered in dirt, except for the officer leaning on the wall in front of the figure. She’s gazing at a holographic display that floats in the air between them.
“Let’s try again, Captain Thirm. You claim your unit intercepted Major Proth’s retreat. Somehow, despite managing to kill all the grunts, you missed him.”
The figure in the chair spits.
“Interrogator Reed, my reply stands: your commander is a prick.”
The veracity indicator flashes bright green.
“Still telling the truth.” She coughs. “From his point of view.”
The shadowed image in the video window wobbles as a fist slams into the camera.
“I told you to stop him doing that!”
“Commander, the only way to do that will render him unable to reply.”
A face looms close enough for the light from the screen to pick out the shine of his scars.
“I authorise the use of special measures.”
“Commander, we’ve been making this man’s nervous system light up like a Christmas tree for three days. In that time, the only information we’ve obtained is 1,442 reiterations of his opinion of you. The time for psionic interrogation is when the subject’s neurosurgical landscape is uncompromised, where the nuances between truth, lie, and obfuscation can be discerned.”
“I emphasised special measures. Turning him into a vegetable is acceptable.”
“Commander, use of that discipline is an atrocity under the Convention of Mars. I refuse.”
“If you disobey me, mindwarper, I’ll have you shot for treason.”
There’s a pause, then she steps through the holographic display and places her hand on the Captain’s head. His body jerks. On screen, the shadowed figure nods.
Thirm finds himself unable to move. A burning sensation races about in his head, becomes almost unbearable, then vanishes. A voice speaks within his mind.
*Hello, Walter. I see you volunteered for experimental pain buffering. It seems to have worked. I’ve also browsed other relevant memories. I see events occurred as you reported, and can detect no interference. Do you have any idea why the official record disagrees with the truth you participated in?*
Walter struggles for a moment, then works out how to reply.
*We overran this sector far quicker than expected. Proth had to improvise, starting with the decoys my team met. The Commander has fresh scars. From ten years ago? I patched him up after that battle. Also, like most of our side, he has no problem with psionicists. Commander Adams would never use a derogatory term like ‘mindwarper’.*
*You’re insinuating that the Major has hidden himself within our chain of command?*
*Remote warfare has unique hazards. Proth seems to have exploited them. He’s getting the witnesses killed during interrogations. Tell whoever’s going in to be careful. He’ll be guarded by the survivors of his Special Tactics Executive.*
He’s alone in his head, her hand still in place. Minutes pass.
The shadowy figure on screen slumps sideways and disappears. A woman in PsiCom uniform takes his place.
“Initial reads confirm the hypothesis. We have captured Major Proth and one STE operative.”
Her hand lifts from his head.
“Welcome back, Captain. You’re reinstated, and are scheduled to return to duty after a seven-day furlough.”
“Join me for a drink?”
“I’ve been in your mind.”
“I’ll take that as a ‘no’.”