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Hermes Trismegistus, Chapter 10
Posted By: Tursas<tursas@shaw.ca>
Date: 5 September 2001, 6:34 pm

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"My name is Bob. Bob Smith."
    "We'll ask you again. Name?"
    "Bob. Bob Smith." A searing flame pierced him from head to foot.
    // Lying won't do you any good. Why don't you just tell him the truth? //
    It came as a moan, "My name is Bob. Bob Smith."
    "Ok. I guess we've learned that much. Occupation?"
    Bob decided not to lie, "Terrorist."
    // Wrong move. //
    Another searing flame ripped through his body.
    "You won't make it any easier for yourself by lying. Occupation?"
    // Gardener. Tell him you're a gardener. //
    "I can't tell him that."
    "Who are you talking to?"
    "Gardener?" It came almost as a breath. The pain had made him woozy.
    Bob shook away the wooziness as well as he could. "Terrorist."
    "You were found with seven sets of dog tags in your left breast pocket. You did something to the bodies of seven missing men, yes?"
    "Did you eat them?"
    "Did you feed them to another entity?"
    "Did you dismember them?"
    "Did you mutilate them in any way?"
    "What did you do to them?"
    "I sent them to be processed."
    "What do you mean by 'processed'?"
    "I don't know. I think it has something to do with recycling."
    // That's it! Tell them that if they want to maintain bodily integrity that they have to leave the ring right now. //
    "I'm supposed to tell you that you're supposed to leave the ring now."
    "And why should we listen to you?"
    // If they don't, they'll be ground into little chunks and recycled just like their friends. //
    "Because if you don't they're going to send a big frickin' army after you."
    "Who are 'they'? Who do you work for?"
    Bob was confused by this. Should he answer the first or the second question?
    // Again, wrong move. // The voice started singing Italian opera.
    "The voice!" he shrieked. The singing stopped.
    "You work for 'the voice'?"
    The interrogator and his aide looked at each other with nothing more than confusion on their faces. The commander, in his chair, said, "I think that'll be enough for now."
    The interrogator and his aide stood, then left, disconnecting the device from the laptop and turning its power off as they exited. Bob gave a sigh of relief. The commander stood, looked at Bob on the hospital bed with something bordering on pity, and left the room as well.
    // Aw, shucks. We were just starting to get along well and you had to go and scream like a madman. Just for that, I've decided that you are no longer worth my time. //
    "You're leaving?"
    // Yes. Perhaps permanently. //
    "How will I explain to them everything that's happened to me?"
    // You'll find a way, through pain, of course. //
    "So, you're just going to leave me here?"
    // ... And let nature take its turn. That's correct. //
    "What do you mean by that?"
    There was no answer.
    Bob sat there for a moment, puzzled by this last answer and thinking how great it would be to not have the voice around him anymore. It came as a refreshing wave. But then the question posed itself: how would he escape this new prison? His legs, arms and torso were all strapped firmly to the bed on which he lay. He would need outside help if he were to even hope to get away. But he knew nobody here and forging bonds of trust could take weeks.
    Bob lifted his head from the pillow to look around him. He was in a rectangular room about ten by fifteen feet. The room was completely bare except for the bed on which he lay and the chairs the interrogator and the commander had been sitting on. The walls, ceiling and floor were all metal; there was no concrete, nor any type of superfluous adornment. He knew a little about what lay beyond the door, as he had passed through some of the surrounding area on the way here.
    The ride had been very bumpy from the time he had woken up; the reason being that it had entirely been over large fallen trees that had been smashed down by some very large thing. The trees all seemed to have been on fire at one time, as their charred black trunks still gave off heat above that of the sun. The jeep had followed a straight course down into a ravine, at the end of which was the monolith, buried almost to half its 20 meter height by the sides of the trench. From it a single walkway protruded to the ground, wide enough to accept vehicles. The monolith seemed to be held upright by what looked like several extendable legs. In front of the thing, in straight rows, were green tents the same shade as the clothing of his captors. As they passed, people had looked on with curiosity and disgust from wherever they were standing or sitting. All of them seemed to be armed in some fashion. In front of the monolith, beside the ramp and a little forward, was a tank. A single person sat atop the thing, looking about as though on guard; and Bob gained no small amount of attention from this person -- protecting the surroundings as though Bob could have jumped up and committed a heinous act of some kind.
    The jeep had not stopped in front of the monolith; it drove right in by way of the access ramp. It had stopped once inside, however, and the driver had gotten out to talk to the commander who had come from within the bowels of the thing to talk. They had stood there for a few moments, conversing in a low tone, the driver occasionally gesturing towards Bob. They had come over to the vehicle and the man in the back seat had supposedly shown the commander the things they had found Bob to be in possession of when they caught him. That was what they talked of, at least. Of particular interest to them the UMP seemed to be; the commander had given a low whistle when he had seen it for the first time, and spoke of it appraisingly for the rest of the conversation, when it was mentioned.
    Three men had then come out of the shadows and cut away Bobs restraints, leading him into the room where he now was. They stripped him naked and did a full cavity search, finally strapping Bob, with no small amount of difficulty, to the bed on which he now lay. He had tried to fight them until someone had pulled a gun and put it to his head. The voice had cautioned against doing anything rash at that point.
    But here, now that there was nobody else in the room, Bob simply relaxed and waited. He began to entertain the idea of being set free more than perhaps he should, looking up at the lights on the roof. He imagined explaining to the men what had happened to him, who he was and what he would like to do for them. He was human, after all, and it was when faced with a challenge such as those aliens, he imagined that humanity would bond together, both old and young, abducted and not, to face the opposing force. But he was having a momentary lapse into an idealistic world; if he had learned anything during his time on Earth, and especially here, it was that nothing is ever as it should be. "It must be a feel-good reaction to the pain," he thought. He had not wanted to help them when he had arrived here; why should things be any different now that he was in a worse situation?
    The door opened again and the commander walked in. Bob looked at him with confusion on his face. The interrogators handbook, as Bob had learned it, had several rules; one of which was to never interrogate alone. The commander must have brought a mike of some kind with him, so that others could listen as well. Bob noted that the man was armed.
    The commander stood there for a second, surveying the man stripped down to almost nothing. Bob stared back at the helmet and green eyepiece, wishing that he had more clothes on. He decided to break the silence.
    "What's your gun?" Bob asked, still a little groggy and gesturing towards the holster as best he could.
    "A Mark 11. Personally, I would have sprung for the Puma, but the boys down in dispatch insisted that I should follow protocol in my position of command."
    Bob grunted in return. The silence persisted.
    The commander, getting down to business, said, "You were caught seven hours ago in a cave thirty kilometers from here. I'm curious as to why you were found there and why the bodies of my men were not."
    "You thought that the bodies would be in the cave?"
    "Let me rephrase that. My gravedigger crew went to bury the bodies of my men and found you asleep in a cave, with a cart covered in Covenant blood. Your own clothes were smattered with gore -- I've seen them. What were you there for and why were the bodies of my men missing?"
    "What year is it?"
    This question caught the commander off his guard. "2527."
    Bobs eyes widened. Then he sighed. "This is going to take some explaining. You'd better sit down."
    The commander sat in one of the chairs and listened as Bob told his story.

"I don't believe it."
    "It's true. Every word of it is true."
    Commander Russell Perry tried to digest the meaning of the message. The story certainly corroborated with what they had found him doing, although it seemed a little farfetched to believe that this man had been abducted by aliens and brought forward through space and time to here and now. But a lot of weird things had been happening lately, the most recent being the finding of this ring. He knew that the course the SCS Pillar of Autumn had set had been completely random, all the better to escape the destruction of Reach, but the finding of this man couldn't be anything close to random. All tracks had pointed to the cave, all evidence pointed to this man being the one who had disposed of the bodies in some malicious way. But the gun they had found him with was a puzzle. Perry had seen pictures of such weapons in history books -- very old history books. He didn't recognize the caliber of the weapon.
    "And you say that this 'voice' left you just after our previous meeting?"
    Perry rolled his eyes towards the door. He was very tempted to call in Michaels again. The interrogator had a better handle on these sorts of situations than he did.
    "And you say that this is all true? You don't want to recant any part of what you've just said?"
    Perry figured that he might as well believe the man. As crazy as it all sounded, Bob seemed to be sincere. But then, he did say he was a terrorist; it might all be a trick.
No, the other half of his brain said, if he weren't being truthful, he couldn't have given the date he was abducted and describe it so well. Reason told him from another corner of his mind that no person is brought forward in space and time for no objective beyond the disposing of bodies. On the whole, Bob's story caught him quite off-guard; he had been expecting this man to be a turncoat, trying to escape the inevitable. But, again, all the evidence pointed to this man having told the truth.
    Perry coughed and decided to call Michaels in again.