Scene Twenty One
In which our heroes meet their captor
Greg was surprised when the guard came to get them; he would have left them for seventy two hours, so that they would be a little bit broken when the interrogation came; someone was clearly keen to speak to them.
They walked through featureless corridors.
It occurred to Greg that he would’ve also kept them in separate sound proof cells, and given them a corner rather than a toilet.
There were two armed guards directly in front of them and two guards directly behind, there was also a guard about twenty feet behind and in front of the procession. It was, thought Greg, a slick job, professional. This seemed odd to him; it was a weird mismatch of competencies; so good at prisons, yet so bad at interrogations, he wondered just who was running this operation.
Greg tried to map out their path in his head, but it was impossible, there was just nothing to distinguish one corridor from another. There weren’t even people, the whole place seemed deserted. Throughout the whole trip Greg saw only one other man; a computer technician who hurried down a side corridor towards them, but then saw them and sprinted in the other direction, looking shocked. Greg wondered if word had been put out to avoid them, it wasn’t unreasonable; it would defiantly stop them from spreading messages around the crew, but then if the crew had been ordered to avoid them he would have expected to see them peeking around corners and through half open doors. It was all very odd.
They walked into another corridor, and Greg noticed that at the end of it was a much more ornate door than all the others, in fact it looked like someone had gone to the huge effort of decorating it with fig leaves of gold plating, Greg thought it was a nice affect, but completely unnecessary. He formed that opinion before he saw the room.
After he had walked through the door, Greg revised his opinion. No man, he knew, could ever walk from the blandness of the rest of the beetle into this room without suffering a heart attack. A step up was needed, something to dull the need for aesthetic stimulation before hitting it with the equivalent of a sense grenade; that was what the door was for.
“Do you like it?” asked a voice in an easy Texan drawl.
Then he remembered where he was and forced his ears and his eyes to work together again. Where? He thought. There! He answered.
He was sitting on the leather couch, wearing the kind of cowboy suit that Greg had only ever seen in movies, and smoking a cigar. Greg thought he looked completely ridiculous, and rich to the point of obscenity.
The man indicated to two lazy boys in front of him; Greg took Tony Tony by the shoulder and steered him down, then he took the other seat for himself. Tony Tony was still staring into space. Greg hoped he would snap out of it soon, he knew he wasn’t good at one to one situations.
The cowboy man spoke first, “I am glad you dropped in when you did, boys” he drawled, “I was only dropping by to check the running of this part of my business, another day and you would have missed me entirely”
Greg nodded again, he didn’t know who this man was or what he wanted; so he was holding his cards very close to his chest.
The man was clearly waiting for a response, but when none came he seemed to change to tactics. He held up a bottle of amber liquid, “Would you like a drink?” he asked.
Greg thought of subtle poisons and shook his head. “Suit yourself” the man said, pouring himself a generous measure.
He took a sip and fixed Greg with his eyes, “Who are you?” he asked directly.
Greg looked at Tony Tony, saw that he was still staring into space, and decided to go with what worked. “I’m a diplomat”, he said, with as much confidence as he could muster, “From the Dryads”
“Really,” said the man, “I wasn’t aware there were any apple trees in the Amazon”
Amazon eh? Greg filed that information away for later. “I don’t believe there are, but the Dryads seem to object to such large scale logging.”
The man nodded, stood up, and walked to the window which made up most of two of the walls.”Tell me Mister…”
Greg invented wildly, “Johnson”
“Johnson, do you believe in the greater good?”
“Yes, I believe so”
“With this machine I can collect lumber at a rate that is an order of magnitude faster than what was possible before, I have used that lumber to build houses, school, and hospitals, can you argue that this is a bad thing?”
Greg couldn’t. He formed a dozen counter arguments, mostly about the damage he was doing to achieve his good ends. But he didn’t use any of them, instead he said, “Your prison procedure are inadequate”
The man looked as though he had just been slapped with an octopus. Greg loved that look; do something unexpected and suddenly it’s a whole new game, he thought, and I’m the one writing the rules.
“What do you mean?”
“Prisoners who come in together shouldn’t be housed together; they give each other support, keep each other sane. You should house them in separate sound proof rooms; just leave them there for a few days then they’ll be more favorably disposed to whatever deal you offer.”
The man stroked his mustache thoughtfully, “I suppose that’s true”, he conceded
Then there was a grinding noise and everything lurched sideways. Tony Tony’s survival instincts jerked him back to earth “That sounded expensive”, he said.
Then there was a much bigger lurch, and the man was thrown against a wooden sculpture, he lay still. Greg’s brain kicked into overdrive, new game, new rules. He grabbed Tony Tony, who had been making for the fallen Texan, and together they made for the door.
Evacuation alarms were blaring and by the time they made it to the door only one guard was left; he saw them and the fallen man at the same moment, and made his choice. “Stay here!” he demanded, while gesturing at the ground, and then he ran inside.
Greg and Tony Tony sprinted down the hallway. Tony Tony tried to follow the lighted arrows to the EvacBlimps but Greg caught him by the collar and pulled him into a darkened corridor.
Then a series of explosions ripped the structure.