swiveled out above the pillow, crouched like an ugly arachnoid. The
faint hum of driving energies, ventilation, service and life-support
devices, seemed to her to have taken on a shrill note.
Flandry had left flamboyancy outside. Tall in a plain green coverall, he
spoke unsmiling: “Your decision isn’t final yet. Before we go any
further, let me explain. Chives and I have done this sort of thing
before, and we aren’t a bad team, but we’re no professionals.”
This sort of thing–Muhammad Snell must lately have lain on that
mattress, in the dream-bewildered helplessness of narco, while yonder
man pumped him dry and injected the swift poison. Shouldn’t I fear the
Imperialist? Dare I risk becoming the ally of one who treated a sentient
being as we do a meat animal?
I ought to feel indignation. I don’t, though. Nor do I feel guilty that
Well, I’m not revengeful, either. At least, not very much. I do remember
how Trohdwyr died because he was an inconvenience; I remember how Mihail
Svetich died, in a war Flandry says our enemies want to kindle anew.
Flandry says–She heard him from afar, fast and pedantic. Had he
rehearsed his speech?
“This is not a hypnoprobe here, of course. It puts a human straight into
quasisleep and stimulates memory activity, after a drug has damped
inhibitions and emotions. In effect, everything the organism has
permanently recorded becomes accessible to a questioner–assuming no
deep conditioning against it. The process takes more time and skill than
an ordinary quiz, where all that’s wanted is something the subject
consciously knows but isn’t willing to tell. Psychiatrists use it to dig
out key, repressed experiences in severely disturbed patients. I’ve
mainly used it to get total accounts, generally from cooperative
witnesses–significant items they may have noticed but forgotten. In
your case, we’d best go in several fairly brief sessions, spaced three
or four watches apart. That way you can assimilate your regained
knowledge and avoid a crisis. The sessions will give you no pain and
leave no recollection of themselves.”
She brought her whole attention to him. “Do you play the tapes for me
when I wake?” she asked.
“I could,” he replied, “but wouldn’t you prefer I wiped them? You see,
when our questions have brought out a coherent framework of what was
buried, a simple command will fix it in your normal memory. By
association, that will recover everything else. You’ll come to with full
recall of whatever episode we concentrated on.”
His eyes dwelt gravely upon her. “You must realize,” he continued, “your
whole life will be open to us. We’ll try hard to direct our questioning
so we don’t intrude. However, there’s no avoiding all related and
heavily charged items. You’ll blurt many of them out. Besides, we’ll
have to feel our way. Is such-and-such a scrap of information from your
recent, bad past–or is it earlier, irrelevant? Often we’ll need to
develop a line of investigation for some distance before we can be sure.
“We’re bound to learn things you’ll wish we didn’t. You’ll simply have
to take our word that we’ll keep silence ever afterward … and, yes,
pass no judgment, lest we be judged by ourselves.
“Do you really want that, Kossara?”
She nodded with a stiff neck. “I want the truth.”
“You can doubtless learn enough for practical purposes by talking to the
Gospodar, if he’s alive and available when we reach Dennitza. And I make
no bones: one hope of mine is gaining insight into the modus operandi of
Merseian Intelligence, a few clear identifications of their agents among
us … for the benefit of the Empire.
“I won’t compel you,” Flandry finished. “Please think again before you
She squared her shoulders. “I have thought.” Holding out her hand: “Give
me the medicine.”
The first eventide, her feet dragged her into the saloon. Flandry saw
her disheveled, drably clad, signs of weeping upon her, against the
stars. She had long been in her own room behind a closed door.
“You needn’t eat here, you know,” he said in his gentlest tone.
“Thank you, but I will,” she answered.
“I admire your courage more than I have words to tell, dear. Come, sit