Entrapment: Part 3
Posted By: Arthur Wellesley<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 6 August 2004, 11:37 PM
0230 Hours, September 24, 2533 (Military Calendar)/
Plant Farrius V, Gamma-Onagus System
"Take a seat," Anderson said to Shirley, gesturing to a cold, metal chair at the table. Shirley sat down.
For a fleeting second, Shirley had the ridiculous idea that the Colonel would shoot her too. Anderson had taken her silently to this room, not twenty meters from where Tom had been murdered. Maybe she had seen something she wasn't supposed to. Her instincts screamed at her to get up and run as far away as possible, but her senses kept her planted to the hard surface of the chair.
Anderson took a seat opposite her. He looked at her with a faint smirk but didn't say a word. Anderson was the master at psychological games, and right now it was working its miracles on Shirley's confused mind. She couldn't take it anymore. "What the hell just happened here, sir?" she blurted out, her fear of Anderson's reprisal momentarily forgotten.
"Oh, our dear captain back there found out something about us that he shouldn't have," he said. "But let me tell you something. I'm going to tell you exactly what he died for right now... if you're willing."
This was all a little too much too fast for Shirley. "Sir, I want some answers. I saw you murder a man..."
Anderson slammed the table with his fist. So sudden and forceful was this movement that Shirley jumped in her seat. "Don't be so Goddamned naive, Lieutenant! It pisses me off to see you rookies! You all turn out the same." He rubbed his temples, gave a small, relaxing sigh, then continued. "Okay, I'll tell you everything you want to know about Tom."
"How long has he been here?" Shirley asked.
"Truth be told, I don't know exactly. The last time I saw him was four years ago on the Karzen missions. The incident happened shortly after."
Four years. Four Goddamn years in the freezing shithole. Shirley couldn't imagine it. She strained to understand how Tom had been so relaxed and mentally stable.
"He was not tortured, if that's what you're thinking," Anderson added without invitation. "At least not in the way you're thinking."
Shirley did not really want to know what the Colonel meant by this, so she didn't ask. She did, however, want to know what would condemn a man to imprisonment in an icy, inhospitable world such as this. What did a man have to know to make him so dangerous that he had to be placed in a facility that did not exist? The knowledge that Anderson would tell her everything she wanted to know was too tempting to resist. "What did Tom know, sir?"
Anderson smirked. "Yes, there's the reason you're here. There's that itch, the insatiable lust for knowledge you crave, even though you know what it means for you." Anderson paused a moment to see if she would refute this, but she continued to stare stonily ahead, her face pale but resolved. "I would like to tell you the full extent of what he knew, but I'm afraid those bastards in the administration are uneasy enough as it is, so I will tell you what I can.
"As you know, an alien species called the "Covenant" have effectively declared war on humanity. Admiral Cole, of course, defeated their fleet at Harvest two years ago. I assume you know the real figures?" Shirley gave a brief nod. The real numbers conflicted heavily with the propaganda reports of the media. An opponent of only a third of their numbers had eradicated half of the human fleet. "Well then, you know it is a sensitive time for us? You know we cannot have any leaks to the people? It could cause a calamity in the colonies."
"You killed that man because he knew the real statistics?" Shirley asked, appalled by the prospect.
"No, for Christ's sake!" Anderson boomed, highly irritated at being interrupted. He wordlessly slid a datapad down to table to Shirley.
The datapad was very small and displayed a picture of seemingly no relevance. It showed a picture of space, obviously taken from a ship or space station, and a number of stars. One particularly bright star was circled in red to show some sort of significance. The date at the bottom was the 21st of June, 2519.
Shirley did not want to sound stupid by asking what she was supposed to be saying, but it occurred to her that she couldn't possibly know what the picture was showing unless she was told. She would not be made a fool of any longer. "What am I supposed to be looking at, sir?" she asked, lowering her tone of stiff respect a little.
"This is a picture taken from the UNSC Glory about four and a half billion kilometers from Chi Cheti IV," the Colonel explained. "The figure you see circled was less than one million kilometers away from the frigate. Sensors from the Glory picked up an unknown frequency emanating from the area of the light source. Those frequencies have now been matched to those of the Covenant ships at Harvest."
It took only a moment for Shirley to absorb all that had been said. She looked at the datapad once more. 2519...
"You knew..." she began.
"Of course we knew, lieutenant," Anderson said with a grunt. "You didn't think we were totally fucking incompetent? And this is only visual confirmation. We've been intercepting alien transmissions for almost one hundred years!" Anderson stood up and walked slowly around the room. "You understand, this cannot come out. It would... be bad for us. We cannot let such harmful information to fall into the hands of a blundering military man."
Shirley thought, suddenly, of Tom's composed, educated face, his grim resolve just before Anderson ended his life. He did not seem the blundering military type to her. But Anderson had worked his magic on her; she offered no resistance. "I understand."
"Good," he said gruffly. With a quick, sudden move, he thrust his face into Shirley's. He placed his large hands firmly on the arm rests of her chair. "Now understand this. You're life has just changed. You now know a secret that could cause havoc for millions... billions. With that power comes sacrifices. You may not speak with anyone about anything without my consent. You may not see your friends nor family. Shirley Steeves will cease to exist." Anderson allowed a brief pause for Shirley to comprehend fully what was going on. "Do you agree to comply with what has been said?"
And that is why I am here, Shirley thought dismally. I have no choice but to concede. I have seen what ONI does, and I have learned their secrets. If I say no I will never leave here alive. It was then that she understood the simple brutality of Anderson's mind. But with such a Neanderthal mentality, she reasoned, would not be effective on all those brought in here, appalled by the true nature of the government they had dedicated their lives to. "Yes, there's the reason you're here" Anderson had said. "There's that itch, the insatiable lust for knowledge you crave, even though you know what it means for you." Was that enough? Was the Colonel's psychological profiling enough to guarantee ONI's discreetness?
For Shirley, it was. She realized that now. She realized that this was the life she chose, despite some consequences being forced upon her. Anderson was right; her thirst for knowledge was insatiable, and her life up until now had to be sacrificed to quench that thirst. "I agree to your terms, Colonel," she said coolly.
Anderson nodded to himself. There was no hint of triumph on his hard face, but neither was there surprise. Everything was happening exactly as it should. "Follow me, lieutenant," he said, and walked out of the door.
Shirley followed her commander once more. As she did, she remembered what the Colonel said earlier. "It pisses me off to see you rookies! You all turn out the same." Was that her fate? Was she destined to become like Anderson, a cold killer who could view human life as nothing more than a hindrance to a greater cause?
More importantly, did she care?