4 of 7 | Chapter 4

 

Servers hummed inside the truck and operators worked with electronic devices and computers, monitors flashing encryption codes across their screens, and topographical images were being analyzed by what looked military analysts with cropped hair and camouflaged uniforms. Then they noticed a dirty figure in a brightly lit cell, that had been put together at the back of the truck; kneeling, his head down, he must have been of below average height, but he was stocky and most definitely a tough character.

“That's him, sir,” the detail leader said quietly. “We haven't started interrogating him yet.”

Steersman stepped over to the cell as a soldier went in. He gave a sign for the soldier of lifting the prisoner's head so that his face was visible. The man had facial characteristics that were rarely seen in that part of the world. His facial features that suggested he may have been from a Latin American territory. Perhaps Costa Rica.

Steersman knew how to handle this with style. He smiled to himself.

“Get him cleaned up and give him clean clothes,” Steersman ordered while looking directly into the man's eyes. Then he looked at the soldier next to him, whose face registered blank bewilderment.

“He's going to be on TV,” said Steersman cheerfully. “Have him brought to my office in one hour!” he finished and walked out with Karen following close behind.

In the car, on the way back to the office, he called his favorite reporter.

“Natalie? Steersman here! Are you free tonight?” he asked tersely.

“Of course, always,” she answered, trying not to betray any eagerness in her voice.

“Well, it seems that you will have your extraordinary news report tonight, after all. We'll be hosting a very important guest. Be in my office in one hour, ready to shoot!”

“Of course, Mr. Steersman,” murmured Natalie, starting to feel a little overwhelmed.

“I've got a bad feeling about this. Are you sure it's a good idea?” asked Karen, feeling the need to say something.

Steersman stayed quiet for a moment, then looked across at her.

“Karen, don't worry. Go home and I'll sort it out. It will all be fine.”

Karen looked at him skeptically, then nodded.

As the car came to a stop, Steersman put down the window and said to one of the guards, “take her home, please.”

“Yes, sir,” the guard acknowledged and then opened the door for Karen.

“This way, Ma'am.”

“Be careful, Sean,” said Karen, getting out of the SUV, leaving him smiling mirthlessly to himself.

 

The test

Steersman went back to his office. He had forty minutes to get ready. He had used the device only once when he had wanted to get information out of a property speculator. It had worked somewhat awkwardly, but now, although the conditions were better, he could not afford to fail. He decided to take a risk and he called the security detail leader.

“How soon can you get here? I want to run through something.”

The detail leader hesitated for an almost imperceptible moment, then answered, “Okay.”

Steersman's device worked like a truth serum, involving a new and very illegal technology that manipulated brain patterns and thought processes.

The device could maintain brain control at the required level for perhaps a few minutes, but it also could concentrate on smaller areas within the brain. Unlike lie detectors, which were at best unreliable, Steersman's device offered no room for lies. Only the truth would be extracted from the subject. People, when formulating sentences independently, used unnecessary words and expressions to hide the real issue, without really lying. Often, this was for innocuous reasons such as hiding unpleasant details or masking a negative opinion in order to avoid hurting feelings, but Steersman device left no room for such prevarication. What came out was the raw, unadulterated truth.

Steersman drew a point onto the touch screen, in a hidden part of his office, in the area where the waves were at the necessary strength. He had planned that the interview would take place there and had arranged a chair at that point for the Latin featured intruder.

“Mr. Steersman?” the security leader called from the doorway, where he was standing.

Steersman quietly walked over.

“Come in,” he said. “The press staff will arrive in twenty minutes. When are your people arriving with our 'guest'?” he asked, smoothly.

“They will be here before the press staff arrives,” the man replied. “You do realize that this means an unnecessary risk?” the security commander asked Steersman.

He didn't reply.

“What's the plan? What do you expect?” he asked doggedly.

Steersman looked at him sharply. “Answers, of course. I will simply interview him. I will ask him what I want to know,” he answered.

“You think that he'll open up for the camera, just like that?”

“Possibly … but before that there's something I need to know,” said Steersman, looking directly at the commander. “Tell me, how much is my life in danger at the moment?”

The security commander shot him a surprised look. “Mr. Steersman, we have put every possible security measure in place to ensure your safety ….”

Steersman held up his hand, interrupting. “I am well aware of that, but I need to know the truth.”

The commander grimaced slightly. “There is a high level of danger, but there are no direct threats that we have yet been able to ascertain,” he answered.

Steersman knew that the commander was lying, but he wasn't yet able to figure out the exact truth.

“Okay then,” he said suddenly. “Well, the interview is going to take place right here.” He gestured. “The reporter and her colleague will be here,” he gestured again, “and I will be sitting over there.”

He then continued, “I would like our 'guest' to sit a few meters away, right here.” Steersman pointed to the chair he had positioned.

“I see,” said the commander with a note of skepticism. “What do you think he was doing out there on the field with a long-range rocket? You really expect him to tell all in a live TV transmission?”

For the first time, Steersman felt some emotion creep into the security specialists voice. He's human after all, Steersman thought wryly. “Something like that,” answered Steersman, ignoring the questions.

“Why do you think he will tell us what we want to know?”

“Because I'll set a test for him. Come! Sit here, right where the man will be sitting.” He pointed to the chair.

“What for?” the commander asked.

“Don't worry, just sit down,” Steersman repeated.

It was quite obvious that the security commander didn't like the idea of giving up control of the situation, but after a few moments he capitulated and finally sat down.

Steersman waited for him to settle into place and then pressed a button on the console that was hidden in his pocket.

“Commander! How much danger am I in?” he asked, rephrasing his earlier question.

The security commander had relaxed, his shoulders visibly losing their tension and he was almost smiling.

“It is merely a question of time. If you aren't terminated today, then tomorrow, or the next day. There is no power that will be able to protect you from every single attack. Eventually, even with our precautions, one of the coming attacks will be successful.” The commander spoke slowly and airily as if he was discussing the weather. He had little conscious idea of what was happening to him.

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 13 | ENERGY WAR
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH