Sherdan had done two of his morning meetings before he thought of his prisoner again. His third meeting was with Hitchin who’s first question was if she had talked yet. Sherdan grinned that Hitchin still thought it must have been a male who caused all the trouble the night before.
“We’ve not got her to talk yet no, but the men are working on her and it won’t be long now,” Sherdan explained.
“Her? You mean it’s a female?” Hitchin’s eyes went wide.
“Yes, this cute little blonde thing. Looks really are deceiving in this case.”
Hitchin laughed and Sherdan soon joined in, even though he wasn’t sure he didn’t feel like doing so. The same overwhelming urge to protect her had come over him again. He dismissed it and decided to find a female to share a night with at the next available opportunity, in case that was the cause.
When they had stopped laughing the two of them discussed the report he had read the night before.
“As you can see, the developments shown by each test subject are still varied. No two subjects have yet developed the same enhancement.”
Hitchin pointed at various things on the page as he explained.
“I’ve done my best to log each one and what seems to have changed. None have come up in the last batch which are particularly useful but they may well be in the future.”
“What about the next batch?”
“I’ve got another five ready to administer the drug to. I know it’s a small group.”
“After tomorrow there should be plenty of volunteers. Your next batch will be much larger.”
“Shall I begin the treatment?” Hitchin asked.
“Yes, but make sure to monitor them very closely and keep them here for an additional twelve hours above the normal.”
“Really? Do you think it wise to take up so much time with each group?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Our mortality rate is too high still. Only about eighty percent of people are surviving the treatment and we should be aiming for closer to ninety-nine percent. Otherwise we are wasting a lot of our time. I want you to focus on that.”
Hitchin nodded and Sherdan got up to go. He was about to leave the room when Hitchin stopped him.
“Sherdan, I think I might be able to help with your intruder. If someone can get me a DNA sample I can get it run through the ID base for all known covert organisations and see if she’s a spy or an assassin. There’s a particular patient I have in mind who should be able to help with that.”
“I’ll have a sample of her blood sent over for you. I’d like to know her name and who really sent her. I don’t buy her church story even with the constant praying. Well at least it seems to be prayer. No one understands it.” With that Sherdan left. He passed on Hitchin’s request and went back to his study for some peace.
It was mid afternoon and Sherdan had finished preparing his answers for the interview before he allowed his focus to drift back to this girl again. He tried to resist the temptation to turn on the monitor and continue watching but his hand moved and flicked the switch by it’s own will.
His prisoner lay sideways on the floor. Her trainers were gone, showing two little feet that would have been pretty had her toenails not been a bloody mess. Her clothes were torn even worse and barely kept her modest.
She looked exhausted but still she whispered. He was struck by the peacefulness in her face. Peace in the midst of great pain and chaos.
For the next half an hour he watched. She lay there, talking, until she finally fell asleep. Sherdan sighed with relief, sleep would give her strength and for some reason this comforted him. The respite was short lived.
The guards had been instructed to wake any interrogation subjects if they tried to sleep and in their minds this one was no different to the others. She was soon kicked awake. She continued to whisper, almost oblivious to the abuse, as Sherdan reached out and stroked her on his screen.
He frowned and got up. He needed to be busy, not feel sorry for this stupid prisoner. He went to his personal gym and tried to block her out of his thoughts as he ran on his treadmill.
An hour later he had succeeded in pushing the girl from his mind as well as having run eight miles. Tired, he reclined in his favourite chair, with his back to the haunting cameras. He looked over the provisions report he had been given in his first meeting of the day.
By the time he had finished he was much happier. The program was now almost entirely self-sufficient. The gardens were producing enough fruit and vegetables that food wasn’t a problem. The fish breeding program would be at a stable cycle in less than two weeks. There only worry was a good supply of fresh water.
The underground stream they had found would only support another few hundred people if their mains pipes were cut off. Sherdan made a note to get his workers on exploring an alternative supply. The facility needed to be entirely self supplied by the end of the year.
Later that evening Sherdan was sitting by the fire with a brandy in one hand and his kindle in the other. He had been reading some of the old classics and the Count Of Monte-Cristo was his latest. It was moderately fitting for his mood at the moment.
He had an original version from the first print run on his shelves but didn’t want to damage the pages or spine as it was over 150 years old.
Sherdan was disturbed from reading by his daytime guard at the end of his watch.
“Sir, I’ve got an update on the female prisoner.”
“Ah, Brilliant. What has she said?” Sherdan enquired of the older man, but as he looked past him he saw the tv screen. As he spoke the guards were plunging her head into the water bucket again.
“She’s not said a word Sir, She’s a stubborn one and make no mistake.”
“Then what is the update for,” he almost yelled.
“She’s refusing to eat Sir. They’ve tried to feed her three times today after your order came through but she just leaves it untouched. She’ll drink plenty of water though she gets a lot of that in many ways,” the guard said as he glanced at the monitor.
“Thank you. Get them to keep trying. Don’t bother updating me unless she says anything in future,” Sherdan replied and motioned for the guard to leave. The man didn’t hesitate, sensing Sherdan’s anger.
As soon as he was alone he got up and poured another brandy. Why didn’t the girl just talk? She had to be suffering. He wasn’t going to let her die without speaking, however, there was no way he would allow it.
Sherdan tried to put her from his mind. He needed to sleep to be well rested for his interview the following morning. Despite his efforts he went to sleep with the image of her bruised and bloody body fixed in his mind. He awoke with the same picture.
When he had finished preparing to travel to London he checked the monitor. The girl lay still, her mouth moving slowly in faint whispers. There were fresh bruises and cuts on top of the old and her breathing looked more laboured than it had before.
On his way out he checked with the security guards that no messages had come through for him in the night and he asked them to inform the interrogation team that he wanted their prisoner kept alive. He also suggested that it would be wise for a doctor to see her and check she would survive further questioning.
With a lighter heart Sherdan got into his chauffeur driven car and relaxed as he was driven the two hour journey to London. While he was travelling he went over his notes and what he wished to say.
He couldn’t be too careful with the words he used to describe their gifted community. It was too soon to let the world know the whole truth but it was definitely time they knew he existed and had plans for the future.
Once Sherdan felt suitably prepared he reached for his laptop. He wanted to search for examples of Christians praying. He still couldn’t decide if his prisoner was talking incoherently or actually praying. Despite what he had told Hitchin he mostly believed her church story.
It took him a few minutes of searching relevant keywords before he stumbled on a page mentioning praying in tongues. The page informed him that Christians believed the Holy Spirit gave each person their own unique language to pray in.
He listened to several samples of people praying and sometimes singing in what they called tongues. The languages were all widely different and Sherdan found it hard to believe all of them were real but it did seem to be what his prisoner was doing.
Traffic was awful in London and despite allowing almost an hour extra to do his journey he was late for his designated arrival time. As a result he was rushed through make-up and plonked down on the sofa opposite his interviewer, Emma Dobs. The program wouldn’t have too many viewers as it was a lunch time show but Sherdan knew it was a big start.
Emma was a brown haired mousey sort of woman with a big smile. She made idle conversation with Sherdan while they were waiting for the camera’s to go live. Thankfully they didn’t have to wait long.
Their off stage director was soon counting them in and Sherdan was being welcomed onto the show. He exuded a cool charm and grace as he thanked his host.
“You run a commune of people in Bristol that’s grown rapidly over the last few years, why don’t you tell us about it?” she launched straight in.
“Well I’m not sure that commune is quite the right word for it. It’s more of an organisation. There are about five thousand people living in the area and they are all very gifted individuals. A lot of them have come to Bristol University and have stayed to help with the projects.”
“And you work at the University, correct?”
“Yes, I have been working there in one of their research department for roughly ten years. The University itself is the centre of our organisation.”
“What exactly does your organisation intend to do?”
“To start with we are looking for anyone who wishes to have a new start in life, who thinks they have a gift or talent that is currently being wasted. We will take applicants from any walk of life to our program.”
“What will people gain from joining you?” Emma asked, probing further. Sherdan smiled before responding.
“We hope to give each and every person a new sense of purpose as well as all the training and support they need to forge a successful and fulfilling life.”
“This all sounds too good to be true, where’s the catch?” The hostess looked very shocked when Sherdan laughed.
“Well the University is an education institute so in part it is as good as it sounds but to recoup some of the costs of training etc. we do ask each participant to works for a few hours a week on jobs which support the community.”
Sherdan paused thoughtfully until he noticed Emma about to speak. He didn’t give her the opportunity but continued instead.
“However, these hours always allow for any necessary program requirements and don’t start until each member has settled onto their course and is fully committed to staying out the course to it’s completeness.” Sherdan finished his little speech with another smile.
The interview had gone exactly as he wished. He relaxed as Emma thanked him and informed the viewers of how they could apply. His work was done here, Dr Hitchin would have many more test subjects for his subsequent batches.
The world was also finally aware his organisation existed even if they knew nothing else yet. It would not be long before he could show the world everything he’d been working on.
As he was getting back into his car he had a phone call from Hitchin.
“We’ve found the girl. She’s a normal civilian, her name’s Anya Price.”
“Thanks Hitchin.” He hung up on his friend as he mulled over this new information. He liked it.
Sherdan smiled all the drive back to his home. He even stopped off at his favourite sea food restaurant in Bath on the way.
While he was there he observed an attractive young female alone on a nearby table. She spent the length of his meal writing in her notepad and hardly even glanced up when the waiter took her empty plate away.
When he had finished eating he got up and went over to her. Before she could say anything he had offered to buy her a drink. She said no at first but when he promised to let her continue writing if she wished she said yes and let him join her.
Four hours later he left her house, satisfied. She had been very impressed by the car and chauffeur and Sherdan had dictated the rest of the night without objection.
He closed her front door as quietly as he could. He had left her sleeping and didn’t expect her to notice he was gone until the morning. He hadn’t left any contact details.
When Sherdan got back he made the mistake of going to his study first. The first thing he saw was Anya. Still praying, still being interrogated.
He flicked the monitor off but the last view was burned into his vision and he continued to see it long after the real thing had disappeared. Until she talked he couldn’t do anything to stop it.
Sherdan fell asleep as quickly as he usually did but his sleep was far from peaceful. Everywhere he turned he saw a small framed blonde girl on her knees praying, her big brown eyes imploring him for help. He turned away only to see blood dripping from his fingers and hands. Not his own blood, he wasn’t the one hurt.
He tried to flee from it all but the path didn’t lead away but doubled back to the same place. Anya, kneeling, begging for mercy from a hooded man.
The hooded man taunted her while Sherdan watched, he then reached into his cloak and pulled out a huge axe. She tried to get away as it was aimed at her but she was still manacled to the floor. As the axe came down Sherdan yelled out.
With a jump he sat up in bed. His torso shook and sweat poured from every pore in his body.
He turned to check the time. It was only half four in the morning. Sherdan threw back the covers, pulled on the nearest clothes and grabbed his security radio from the bedside cabinet. He rushed down the stairs while calling for the attention of his guards.
“Is everything alright Sir?” the radio squawked.
“Er… Yes. Please have my car ready to take me to the compound as soon as you can.”
“Yes Sir, are you sure you are alright?”
“I am…” Sherdan trailed off as he walked into his study. The monitor was right there in front of him, he flicked it on and he watched, struck dumb as Anya crawled backwards, a look of intense fear on her face.
Her eyes were fixed on the guard who stood nearby, jeering at her as he undid his belt buckle and stepped out of his shoes. Anya pulled herself away from him as Sherdan noticed her lack of trousers. They were in a heap against the wall. Her torturer soon added his belt and shoes to the pile.
“Sir?” the radio broke the silence and stirred Sherdan into action.
“Nathan, please contact the interrogation team and request they stop immediately. I am going to take over the situation myself.”
“Yes Sir, right away Sir.”
With that Sherdan rushed out of his study and through the front of his house. He didn’t pause as he moved past his personal guards except to grab his long black coat and hastily pull it on. He still clutched his radio as he rushed out to the car.
“Done Sir… Thank you Sir. I think a new approach might be…”
“I understand Nathan.” Sherdan interrupted. He then got into his car and urged his chauffeur to drive fast.
Chapter 5 will be out on the 23rd of January. You can also check out the back story here