A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows by Poul Anderson. Chapter 5, 6


Flandry’s office, if that was the right name for it, seemed curiously

spare amidst the sybaritic arrangements Kossara had observed elsewhere

aboard. She wondered what his private quarters were like. But don’t ask.

He might take that as an invitation. Seated in front of the desk behind

which he was, she made her gaze challenge his.

“I know this will be painful to you,” he said. “You’ve had a few days to

rest, though, and we must go through with it. You see, the team that

‘probed you appears to have made every imaginable blunder and maybe

created a few new ones.” She must have registered her startlement, for

he continued, “Do you know how a hypnoprobe works?”

Bitterness rose in her. “Not really,” she said. “We have no such vile

thing on Dennitza.”

“I don’t approve either. But sometimes desperation dictates.” Flandry

leaned back in his chair, ignited a cigarette, regarded her out of eyes

whose changeable gray became the hue of a winter overcast. His tone

remained soft: “Let me explain from the ground up. Interrogation is an

unavoidable part of police and military work. You can do it on several

levels of intensity. First, simple questioning; if possible, questioning

different subjects separately and comparing their stories. Next,

browbeating of assorted kinds. Then torture, which can be the crude

inflicting of pain or something like prolonged sleep deprivation. The

trouble with these methods is, they aren’t too dependable. The subject

may hold out. He may lie. If he’s had psychosomatic training, he can

fool a lie detector; or, if he’s clever, he can tell only a misleading

part of the truth. At best, procedures are slow, especially when you

have to crosscheck whatever you get against whatever other information

you can find.

“So we move on to narcoquiz, drugs that damp the will to resist. Problem

here is, first, you often get idiosyncratic reactions or nonreactions.

People vary a lot in their body chemistry, especially these days when

most of humanity has lived for generations or centuries on worlds that

aren’t Terra. And, of course, each nonhuman species is a whole separate

bowl of spaghetti. Then, second, your subject may have been immunized

against everything you have in your medicine chest. Or he may have been

deep-conditioned, in which case no drug we know of will unlock his


Between the shoulderblades, Kossara’s back hurt from tension. “What

about telepathy?” she snapped.

“Often useful but always limited,” Flandry said. “Neural radiations have

a low rate of information conveyance. And the receiver has to know the

code the sender is using. For instance, if I were a telepath, and you

concentrated on thinking in Serbic, I’d be as baffled as if you spoke

aloud. Or worse, because individual thought patterns vary tremendously,

especially in species like ours which don’t normally employ telepathy. I

might learn to read your mind–slowly, awkwardly, incompletely at

best–but find that everybody else’s was transmitting gibberish as far

as I was concerned. Interspecies telepathy involves still bigger

difficulties. And we know tricks for combatting any sort of brain

listener. A screen worn on the head will heterodyne the outgoing

radiation in a random fashion, make it absolutely undecipherable. Or,

again, training, or deep conditioning, can be quite effective.”

He paused. Wariness crossed his mobile countenance. “There are

exceptions to everything,” he murmured, “including what I’ve said. Does

the name Aycharaych mean anything to you?”

“No,” she answered honestly. “Why?”

“No matter now. Perhaps later.”

“I am a xenologist,” Kossara reminded him. “You’ve told me nothing new.”

“Eh? Sorry. Unpredictable what somebody else does or does not know about

the most elementary things, in a universe where facts swarm like gnats.

Why, I was thirty years old before I learned what the Empress Theodora

used to complain about.”

She stared past his smile. “You were going to describe the hypnoprobe.”

He sobered. “Yes. The final recourse. Direct electronic attack on the

brain. On a molecular level, bypassing drugs, conditionings, anything.

Except–the subject can have been preconditioned, in his whole organism,

to die when this happens. Shock reaction. If the interrogation team is

prepared, it can hook him into machines that keep the vital processes

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