This is a follow up to Sleeper’s Den.
Covered in goosebumps, he shivered in the paper hospital gown. The cuffs around his thinning wrists and ankles were icy. Head tipped forward, he lapped up the mucous from his runny nose as it dripped down the feeding tube and over his cracked lips. His eyelids shuttered.
The door across from him slammed open. He jerked to attention as a bald man in a dark gray suit entered, handing a case to the guard.
Eyes crawled over him as the man took him in. “Hello, Nell.”
“Hello, Grim,” Nell said around chattering teeth.
“I’ve been looking forward to hurting you. I wish I could have been here when they first brought you in.”
“And where were you?” he asked.
“Business,” Grim said. “Couldn’t get away even if I wanted too.” He peeled off his leather gloves and took Nell’s hand turning it over, caressing the bony fingers. “You were always a waifish thing. You ought to have taken better care of yourself. You look downright ghoulish.”
Nell couldn’t argue. He had caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection of the observation window the day before when they were preparing another torture technique in an attempt to get him to talk. He didn’t recognize the man looking back at him with pallid skin, hair in tangles, and eyes sunk so deep they looked like holes. “Now what?”
“I figured you and I would have lots to catch up on.” Nell’s head slumped forward but Grim framed his face, holding him up as he struggled to stay conscious. “I would like for you to tell me the password.”
“I have many passwords – bank account, work computer, home computer, several Wi-Fi passwords, email passwords. Hell, even my gym locker requires a password.”
Grim broke from his name and smiled. “Red Cable’s password.”
“You have my key card.”
“Not to the building. Your team. What you use so they know it’s really you.” He picked up a set of goggles and pressed them to Nell’s face covering his eyes and nose. He adjusted the earpieces to fit snug in his ears. He watched as Nell’s fingers writhed. “Relax,” Grim hushed. “You used to enjoy my VR.”
“We are a long ways away from that stage in our lives.”
“Nonsense. You’re never to old to flirt with your prey.”
The screen darkened. Nell smelled blood mixed with oil so strong he could feel it in his nose. But then there was perfume and the hand and backside of a woman wearing nearly nothing. The patches of vitiligo; her calling card.
“She wouldn’t be caught dead,” he told himself. But hell, she looked so good…
“You phone needs a charge,” she said turning to him with the red cable, tassels shaking as she moved. She came to him, swinging burlesque fans, sliding them down her body. He felt the feathers caress his face, felt their breeze as she waved them.
When she straddled him, he felt a weight on his lap, could smell her sweat and deodorant and the perfume of her flesh. He was more awake than he had been in weeks as she rode him and kissed his mouth. He felt the pressure of her lips, the heat of her breath.
“I’ve missed you so much,” he whispered.
There was a buzzing and she was suddenly holding knives to his throat. “What’s the password?” she asked.
He gasped, her weight suddenly crushing him. “I don’t know. Lora, please. It’s me.” The blade nipped into his throat.
The scene shuttered. “What’s the password?” she said again.
Again the shutter. The visual and audio looping. “What’s the password?” she repeated. He could no longer smell her and his eyes burned. Then she stabbed him, over and over, and he could feel the blood pouring down his chest.
The goggles lifted. Grim sat astride him, emptying a glass of red syrup down his neck. He crushed it in his hand and wiped the fake blood against Nell’s face, slivers of glass slicing into his cheek. The guard stood off to the side, holding a pair of feathered fans.
“I am going to hurt you now,” Grim said in an unfeeling monotone. He peeled off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves.
Shaking, Nell allowed his eyes to roll back and his head fell against Grim’s chest. Grim stood and the guard helped his uncuff Nell from the chair. “Where do you want me to take him?” the guard asked.
Grim tipped the chair, sending Nell to the floor. “The floor will do just fine,” he murmured cutting through the back of the paper gown with a switchblade. “Please give us some privacy. I will call you when I’m finished.”
The call came in the early morning hours. The caller reported that they had found a body dumped alongside a lesser traveled trail. When EMS arrived, they discovered the man was still alive. Before transferring him to the gurney, one EMT took a picture of the carvings on the man’s back and quickly sent it to a number stored as MIST in his phone.
The Mistress’s heels clacked on the hospital’s floor. Within seconds of forwarding the image to Head Cable, she received the order to retrieve a white coat.
She was playing doctor.
Images flickered across her mech eye as she replayed the audio relayed from EMS to the hospital switchboard.
Middle aged, white male, arriving to the ER ETA 8:15; unresponsive, severe dehydration, multiple contusions and lacerations.
She found the room in the ICU and slipped in.
“Are you in position?” a voice echoed in her ear.
“Yes, sir.” She picked up the chart at the end of the bed and sent a digitized copy to Head Cable via their feed.
“Proceed with caution.”
She peeled back the sheet and rolled the man onto his side. She scanned his back, forwarding the image. The flesh was inflamed around the lacerations but she could make out the words carved into the skin.
Black Cable with a wide X carved through it.
“You get all that?” she asked.
“That’s a lofty grocery list.”
“You mean you don’t put down “kill a cyber organization” in between your bread and milk?” she teased without humor.
“Can you confirm his identity?”
“I believe so.”
“Then do so or eliminate him.”
She rolled him back over. Her sensors had been worthless with the sleepers. Personality defects gave away the first two but even she had been fooled by the third one. She ran a current through him, enough to stimulate him back to consciousness. “You have ten seconds to prove to me you are Agent K. Nell,” she said.
“Zero, eight, seventeen, twenty, fifty,” he rasped. He swallowed hard. “August 17th, 2050.” He fainted.
She backed away from the bed. “What are your orders, sir?”
“Put in the transfer but don’t tell Loralei.”
“I will determine when.”
The com link closed.