The following narration is a commission from Suspension Guy, a constant reader who had asked for an interrogation story set in the HardSkill universe. I have received word that he is well pleased with the result, and I hope to get similar feedback from other readers, too.
Muriel hadn’t seen the punch to her neck coming. The grunt behind it was big enough to send her spinning into the nearest strut. The impact hadn’t only shattered her night vision goggles, but also had forced what air she had left out of her lungs.
Muriel was in serious trouble.
The guards had caught her on the mechanical level of the AReFa main building. And they hadn’t been on patrol duty. The company mercs had waited for her. Whilst two of them were holding Muriel subdued in collaborative joint locks, a third steel-trapped her wrists in rigid handcuffs. Before hauling her back up on her feet, her broken NV gear was replaced by a tight hood shutting out all light and most sounds – surely nothing a common security bloke would bring to his nightly round.
They left her sensorily deprived for several hours – no point in using time increments smaller than this, not with her major senses blocked. There had been draggings along corridors, down flights of stairs and into lifts. Two times her captors had her “accidently” walk into a wall. Each to their own.
The last and longest stretch of time Muriel was about to spend blind was in what seemed to be the destination of her hooded walk of shame. A fist to her liver brought her down to her knees, a combat boot against the nape of her neck ensured an even closer proximity to the tiled ground. She was released from the brutal cuffs, only to be pulled back into a kneeling pose. Her hands were re-shackled in front, and for a treacherous moment Muriel hoped for some easing. The cold steel bar shoved between her bent elbows and the small of her back cured her of this delusion. The smooth rattling of chains followed, and she was yanked up by the elevating bar. Sharp needles of pain raced through her shoulders as her arms were twisted the wrong way. The unforgiving connection between the cuffs was pressing against her sternum, wrists ready to snap pushed into the undersides of her breasts. Upon leaving one guard kicked her feet away, causing the whole weight of her body to rest on her tormented elbows. Muriel screeched. Desperately she tried to regain her footing and achieved this quite quickly. But this little demonstration had shown her how helpless she was now.
The room wasn’t nippy as such, but the sweat drying underneath her full body spandex suit was chilling her through. Sweat from the shock of being taken prisoner. Sweat also from her climbing the western façade of the eight-sided twenty-storey building. It had been a risky plan to begin with.
Six weeks ago, in the wake of a related incident in the city centre, Garver’s mighty new Advanced Research Facility had become the venue of one of the most daring operations in the simmering war between Atro City’s mega-incorporations. Leaked CCTV footage presented to Muriel during her briefing had shown a tall black-haired woman in a flashy motorcycle outfit wreaking havoc in the very building Muriel believed to be still in. Said lady had killed scores of GarverGuards, provided herself access to a maximum security area and peaced out with high-value data.
She couldn’t stifle a shriek as hands grabbed her spandex-clad waist. They hadn’t all left, or one of them had returned silently. Or somebody had been in the room in the first place. Be it how it may, these twats were playing mind-games with her. And she was unintentionally playing along.
The hands left her waist, only to reach beneath the hood and hook into her collar. With a viscous ripping sound her suit was torn open all the way down to her breasts and, negotiating the cuff’s chain, further down to her navel. A line of red pain burnt itself into the nape of her neck, where her collar had dug into her skin. Would it have been too much to ask to just use the bloody zipper that went all the way down?
Having her clothes taken away from her was something Muriel had already expected. It was a standard procedure in preparation of coercive interrogation. But her quiet friend was making this as distressful as possible. Another rip, and her crotch was freed.
Oh, it speaks.
“You slut forgot your underwear, or was that a conscious decision?” the male voice kept taunting.
Why would she put on underwear? Her suit had been designed with the specific goal to provide an all-in-one package: Camouflage, support of tactical devices and silent ease of movement. It had furthermore been praised for its resistance against mechanical strain. More rippings, and her shoulders were bare. There went that theory…
Her narrow climbing shoes she lost next. The tiled floor under her bare feet was cold. Sturdy police-grade gloves ran along her toned legs, only to tear apart the reinforced copolymer layer there as well. Muriel liked to show off her legs, just as much as she liked to show off her belly. Years of running, climbing and Muay Thai had left her with shaped thighs and strong calves. Her tight abs did not form a six pack as such, but were instead nicely vertically defined.
Muriel wasn’t in the mood for showing off now…
The last shreds around her arms and legs were cut away with a tactical knife. At least it felt very tactical every time she got nicked by it.
“Almost a pity to put all this through the grinder.”
Something told her he wasn’t talking about her clothes. Muriel heard his heavy steps, then the door opening and closing. Maybe he was of the mind that one could tell a good joke twice, but after a sufficient amount of time she was sure to be alone in the room.
Muriel forced herself to breathe calmly underneath the hood. A claustrophobic episode was the last thing she needed right now. She had to keep calm, had to preserve her strength. The stress position those thugs had put her in was quite severe, draining her of her resilience ever so slowly. A deep gnarling pain had settled in her shoulder joints. She could ease it by getting up on the balls of her feet, but was able to hold this position for only so long before the cramps in her feet and calves forced her to slump back again. Predicament. Self-torture. A technique most suitable to soften prisoners up.
Her client had believed Yamamoto Europe to be behind the AReFa-incident, and that the whole operation had been a recovery rather than a theft. It was safe to say that the data in question were out of reach, somewhere inside an impenetrable research bunker. But the AReFa was still there, and in it traces of the project the data had been useful for. Garver hadn’t just lucked into some bloke willing and capable of delivering random Yamamoto secrets. The company have had basic knowledge beforehand, most likely even an own research programme. To find out researching what exactly, Muriel was here.
Correction. She had been here for that. Now she was here to have her sorry arse tortured.
Another hour of cramps, disorientation and forced nudity crawled by. Her calf muscles were trembling worse than after the most gruelling workout. Beneath the hood she was constantly panting by now, having tried out even the most awkward contortions to grant her straining tendons at least a little relieve. Nothing had helped. Her shoulders were a bunch of hard knots, and her chest and belly muscles burnt with serious fatigue. Maybe another hour, and she would have serious problems breathing. It was the same effect that eventually killed prisoners who had been crucified.
The door opened. Two different walks. One heavy, one light. Heavy approached her, and a gloved fist was driven against her solar plexus.
Muriel fought for air. She was awake for sure.
The male voice – the same that had commented on her choice of clothes – turned away as Heavy addressed Light.
“I have already taken the liberty to prime her up a bit for you.”
“You, all on your own?” Light was a woman. “Or did your comrades help you beating up a secured female?”
Muriel called bullshit on this one. Her soon-to-be tormentor was positioning herself as the good cop, rescuing her from a torturous situation to have a little girl-talk. The elbow rod came down. For the first time in hours she was able to stand normally again. Muriel used this new-found freedom to double over. The blow to her chest twenty seconds ago had left its impression on her. Heavy disconnected the chain and pulled the rod away.
“On your knees!”
Before Muriel could decide whether to comply, a kick to a knee’s hollow sent her down to the tiles. Something hard and cold – metal, no doubt – was wound around her neck. For a second she couldn’t place its semi-flexible character, then recognised it as wire rope. It locked snugly in the nape of her neck, trapping the lowest part of the hood beneath it. Panic spiked in Muriel.
I can breathe. I can breathe.
She repeated those magic words. The neck cable was very tight, digging into her larynx, stretching the hood across her face. But she could breathe. Seemingly the contraption had not only a lock, but also a loop or ring at the back, making it very easy to control her. To prove this point, Heavy yanked her front-cuffed hands up and behind her head and clipped the connecting chain to the loop. She was forced to keep her hands in that position, elbows pointing up and out, lest she slowly strangle herself. Little did Muriel know that she would wear this collar to the very end.
“Put her on the table, if you’d be so kind.”
There was a certain trace of annoyance lying in Light’s voice, as if she had asked the window to be closed because it was a bit too draughty.
Heavy hauled Muriel back up to her feet and marched her across the room, easily keeping her off-balance the whole way. She was slammed onto the structure Light had euphemistically called “table”. It was made of steel, and nothing else. Her body, athletically slim, but not thin, was actually wider than the metal surface it was lying on. Her hands were released from the cuffs, only to be secured to manacles at extending beams. Same went for her feet. She tested her shackles and found no give in them. Muriel was forming a figure close to an X. As a last measure Heavy hooked her collar to the end of the surface, making it impossible for her to raise her head above a horizontal position. Since there wasn’t a headrest of any kind she soon gave it up altogether and let her head dangle tilted backwards, listening to her laboured breathing underneath the fabric.
Light approached and dismissed Heavy, for the better or the worse.
“I take it from here. You may return to your duties.”
Right then and there Muriel opted for “better”. Women were less prone to rape, debasement and mutilation, especially against members of their own gender. Heavy, on the other hand, was more nonchalant about such things. His next step might very likely have been urinating all over her hood for a nasty session of piss-boarding.
As Heavy had left – hopefully for good –, Muriel felt the hood pulled off. It took some effort to get it free from under the control collar, but suddenly sterile neon light was blinding her. She squinted, blinked, then moved her head as best as she could. Sure as shite she wasn’t in a hospital, but the room made an every good attempt to pretend she was. White tiles on the floor and halfway up the walls. Stainless steel cabinets and boards. Intimidating illumination that dragged everything into plain view. How much more vulnerable one felt under such lamps. This wasn’t some dark dungeon with a coal-filled brazier in a corner. The room was spotless. It was also soundproof.
Light was standing next to her head, neatly folding the cursed hood before laying it aside. She was tall, around Muriel’s height, with colourless eyes and ash-blonde hair woven into a short braid. Her white formfitting lab coat had something unsettling, foreboding. As an additional strange and sort of old-fashioned detail, it buttoned along her right collarbone and down her side. If she had worn a black uniform instead, she would have looked like a fictional female officer from a nazisploitation flick. So she looked like a sadistic scientist from a nazisploitation flick.
Contradicting this impression a bit was the faint Slavic accent Muriel noticed as the woman spoke longer for the first time.
“What is your name, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Anita Zweiacker,” she lied. Her fake identity, for what it was worth.
Speaking was painful. So was swallowing. One of the GarverGuards had punched her in the neck whilst subduing her. And then again, on the same spot, after she had been subdued. The soreness engulfed her voice box and reached all the way up into her right jaw muscles. Being steel-cable-collared didn’t help, either.
“Miss Zweiacker… may I call you Anita?”
“If you must.”
“May I call you Muriel?”
A chill ran down Muriel’s spine. If her cover was compromised, things were bound to turn far uglier than she had expected.
“A word to the wise: Do not assume that I don’t know the answers to at least some of the questions I am about to ask you.”
From a box on a nearby tray she fetched two white medical gloves and donned them with professional quickness. Only then she touched Muriel, examining the bruises and haematomata on her neck and face, including the cut along the right eye socket from the NV gear. Older injuries and scars didn’t go unnoticed as well. If Muriel had been restrained to the X-table prostrate, the lady doctor/interrogator would also have been able to palpate the marks from a vicious sjambok whipping on her back – a gentle reminder of a botched job in Jo’burg.
Speaking of botched jobs…
“The Advanced Research Facility is private property, I trust you are aware of that.”
Muriel uttered a vaguely agreeing sound.
“Your choice of entering the main building was quite extraordinary, though.”
She had decided on a more subtle entrance than that Yamamoto broad. Cat-burglarising her way across the premises, up twenty storeys and through a ventilation maze had taken weeks of planning, a good deal of her strength and four hours to execute. One can’t rush art.
“Since I am in charge of investigating this incident, it lies within my responsibility to point out possible weaknesses in our security system and provide solutions – a process for which your statement is of considerable value.”
Here we go…
Torture was having a bit of a bad rap. What was about to happen to Muriel would be sold under the fashionable label “testimony-focussed interview”.
Totally fucked, instantly.
Muriel had to choose her tactic. Her new friend would never buy into a “random trespasser” story, so she would present herself as a repenting petty thief. Best case scenario: She would be handed over to Atro’s Finest. This being a proper police state, it would mean some more beatings. But a woman as resourceful as Muriel was able to eventually slip through that corrupt net law enforcement had turned into.
“Allow me to be so bold and ask rather bluntly: For whom are you working?”
That wasn’t even a lie. Muriel was freelancing. Sadly, though, it meant that no one was coming to her rescue. There were reasons why to hire outsiders for questionable gigs: They were available on short notice, expendable and hard to be traced back. Even if she wanted to, Muriel could not reveal her client’s identity or whom they represented.
“Why, of course you are. No tattoos, no piercings, no other symbols of vanity that could give a clue about your true self. Add a false name to that, and you may understand my concerns. Industrial espionage still is considered an act of economic terrorism.”
Muriel stuck to her emergency plan:
“You are getting on the wrong track here with that espionage phantasm. You caught me on my little heist – shit happens. You have done your job better than I have done mine. But don’t screw it up now by jumping to assumptions which will blow up later.”
“If that’s the story you want to go with…”
The woman turned to a second tray full of surgical stuff. Muriel couldn’t help but suppose that the blonde Interrogatress was sporting a serious medical fetish. She just hoped her host wouldn’t start with needles. Muriel dreaded needles, but had to suffer through at least the initial phase of torture, coughing up her fake confession bit by bit to make it believable.
The Interrogatress did not start with needles. Not believing in showing the instruments first, she positioned herself at Muriel’s hanging head. Muriel only learnt about the woman’s choice as the nasal tubes were forced up her nostrils. She gasped due to the alien sensation and the considerable pressure pain of having the large hoses pushed through between her cartilages. The Interrogatress stopped feeding more length of tube into her “patient” as the ends were resting well in Muriel’s sinuses. A stripe of surgical tape made sure everything stayed well in place. Vibrations were sent through the hard plastic as she attached something to the tubes’ free, shared end, causing Muriel’s eyes to tear up.
Carefully Muriel lifted her head against collar and gravity to see what that creepy slag was up to. A moment later her head was physically thrown back again as the first gush of saline solution flooded her sinuses. The surge was relentless, breaking its way through the passageway at the back of the mouth to hit her pharynx. Panic exploded in her. An automatic response to the overwhelming sensation of drowning. A reflex deeply anchored in her evolutionary set-up. Muriel bucked wildly, not even feeling the wire sawing into her neck. Liquid burst out of her mouth, only to be partly sucked in again as she half swallowed, half inhaled it. The watery solution burnt her trachea, made them spasm, whilst adrenalin boiled her system from the inside. Muriel sputtered franticly to get her airways free, then fell into an unbridled gagging. The weight of the water in her nasal cavities felt enormous, the sole presence of it was sickening her to the core.
The woman refilled the huge syringe.
Muriel was close to hysteria when she felt the plunger being pushed again. Holding her breath was futile. The second wave invaded the entrances to her respiratory system with even greater force. Popping sounds echoed in her skull as the hard-wired reaction to liquid entering her nose and throat was triggering a state of absolute horror once more. Again her body flew into violent contortions, but the restrains were unyielding. Gone were all cohesive thoughts, erased by the primordial urge to breathe. Muriel’s struggles became even more grotesque as her muscles cramped up.
In her all-engulfing panic she felt the tubes pulled out and her head lifted. She retched fiercely and kept retching, feeding a messy stream of saline solution, saliva and mucus. Immediately the pressure in her sinuses was replaced by a raving headache. The Interrogatress turned Muriel’s head to the side whilst stabilising it. Nonetheless she coughed and heaved for another minute.
“Press it all out. Calm breaths!”
Slowly Muriel regained her composure. She was bleeding from both nostrils. The Interrogatress carefully let go of her head, wiped her face and disposed of her examination gloves.
“You see that it hasn’t got to be like this. We can always switch back to civilised manners.”
Another effect of the absent head rest besides the strenuous position and the disorientation was now revealing itself to Muriel: It made fainting much harder, since the blood was kept in the head. Same went for water.
“You want me to confess? I confess! I broke into your stupid tower to steal from you. And had I known what was in store for me, I would have robbed a petrol station instead. I’m not that kind of fool who let herself tortured to death over some bits and bytes.”
“I appreciate your honesty. But we are not really moving forwards here. You are recapitulating, not providing.”
She stepped out of Muriel’s sight, a small yet intimidating action. The woman hadn’t stopped the drowning out of mercy. Systematic torture needs structure. The blind panic she had Muriel subjected to had been a means to an end. One can’t reveal useful information whilst being in total hysteria or anguish (the usefulness of any information given in the wake of hysteria and anguish was a topic Muriel could not be bothered to discuss with her tormentor, though). She wasn’t pumped full of saltwater right now, but the fear of it, of more of the same, was digging deeper and deeper by the second. Which made the method a powerful, terrible tool to return to later on.
“I take it you are a…,” from the off the Interrogatress made a short pause, very short, but still long enough to devalue the term to follow, “… contractor.”
Muriel had to treat carefully. They had known she’d come, had waited for her. That torture doctor had called her by her real first name. And she was using control questions to determine whether Muriel was lying.
“On sporadic occasions in the past,” Muriel offered diplomatically.
The silent war in the Free City State of Atro was waged by five main combatants, all of which being mega-incorporations: Yamamoto, Garver, Digital Apex, Claymore and Volkswagen-Siemens.
Well, four mega-incorporations.
After a very hostile takeover of Taipei Circuits six months ago, Yamamoto Inc. had officially evolved into the world’s first and sole giga-incorporation, employing over 10 million people on five continents and granting itself a private army capable of enforcing small-scale embargos.
“The present is what I am interested in.”
“I was moonlighting tonight. I don’t know what else you want me to say!”
“Again: This hasn’t got to be painful for you. But if that’s your decision, so be it.”
How long would the white-clad woman need to make her talk, really talk? Muriel reckoned she could hold up for perhaps three to twelve hours, depending on how quickly her host would crank up the pressure. And then? Nothing. No rescue team. No exchange of prisoners. Freelancer, all the way. She could only hope that sticking to her “petty thief” story under enough pain would eventually make it convincing enough.
“You’ve had this nasty incident last month. Your security is undergoing massive realignment ever since. Did you really think nobody would exploit that?”
“Actually, I did not think that. Although I am still unsure who tried the exploitation in the case at hand. Maybe you can enlighten me.”
“Just me. Simple as that. I grab whatever I can find and sell it back to you.”
“Or, equally simple, sell it to a third party,” predicted the Interrogatress, still out of sight.
“Listen, you don’t know how this works! Why would I search for another buyer for some encrypted data when I know where to get ransom?”
“You never had to search. Someone has provided you with intel. Your buyer all along.”
Muriel heard the Interrogatress snap on fresh rubber gloves.
“Wait! Wait, I―”
She strained against her shackles as white-hot pain radiated from her sternum. Muriel didn’t want to know. She just wanted to pass out. She looked nonetheless. Something was sticking out from between her breasts. A needle! Thicker than the acupuncture type, yet fitted with a similar grip. The Interrogatress, now standing beside her, had an index finger resting on it.
“I am a lucky woman to say that I was never hit by a man. Never. Except for one time: by one of my early patients, with a bad shoulder. I gave him a cortisone injection and nicked his scapula in the process. He jerked back and got me in the jaw, I still don’t know with what part of his arm. He just wouldn’t stop apologising afterwards. Said he had felt a flash of pain so intense he couldn’t help but lash about. Bones carry one of the most sensitive nerve structures in our bodies.”
The Interrogatress began to manipulate the needle. Under Muriel’s howls its sharp tip was dragged across, ground against, twisted into her sternum. Nothing could have prepared the helpless prisoner for this pain – a pure, perfect agony, unblemished by any somatic defence barriers. The bone scraping went on for an extended amount of time. Long after Muriel had screamed herself hoarse, the Interrogatress switched to her shines, again skeletal parts covered by only a thin layer of muscles.
Half-mad, Muriel remained shaking in anguish even after her tormentor had stopped the latest treatment. She shrieked as a harsh jet of water hit her between the spread legs to clean her. She had pissed herself.
The Interrogatress held something metallic in front of Muriel’s face, too close for her to focus her eyes on it.
“These are surgical screws, high-grade titanium.”
Muriel felt pressure against her right collarbone, a sharp piercing sensation. Heard the whirr of a cordless screwdriver. The bone splintered within her flesh as the first screw was driven through it. Turn after turn the metal cut deeper, created space for itself were no space had been. She didn’t know such pain existed. And a part of her mind started laughing in insane relief. This couldn’t happen. This last horror was the proof that all her suffering wasn’t real. No one was sadistic enough to come up with sick shit like that!
The second screw went in.
Titanium against bone. The Interrogatress was cheating. The electric screwdriver was unfair. Why was the Interrogatress so unfair?!
The whirr again. More cracking. The whole right side of her upper torso was a devastated conglomerate of female tissue. Scorched biomass. Three spikes of woe were screwed into her right collarbone. Many a torturer would now use the screwdriver to drill holes in the air, just for the sound, just for the psychological impact. The Interrogatress was above such lowly tricks. She only walked over to the other side of the table.
Everything was off-colour. Another three screws. Her blood pressure was dropping. Three screws in her left collarbone. Muriel was going into shock. A hypodermic needle punctured her vein. A powerful stimulant ripped her out of the mind-fog and kicked her back to coherent thoughts and full pain experience.
“We better hook you up to an IV.”
Using the same needle she had delivered the wakey-wakey cocktail trough, the Interrogatress started an infusion. After double-checking the drip, she rid herself of her gloves once again.
“Rate the pain you are experiencing on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest.”
Muriel’s heart was racing, her breathing erratic. Cold sweat gave her skin a waxen gleam.
“Please, just stop…!” she managed to croak.
“You were hired?”
Muriel did not care about her plan anymore. She did not care about the consequences in the long run her answer might trigger. All she cared about was the next moment not to be as agonising as the last one.
She shook her head, but it was more of a crude dangling move.
“You don’t know, or you don’t want me to know?”
“How have you been hired?”
“The usual way. Somebody approached me. Told me the place and a time window. Paid cash.”
“And told you what to look for. Specific instructions only an insider would know,” the Interrogatress stated.
“Half of it was hearsay.”
“You are still holding back, Muriel. You are thinking: ‘What else can she possibly do to me?’ Co-operate, and you don’t have to find out.”
“I don’t know!”
Not in der worst nightmares Muriel had believed her captors would have her tortured so hard so early. Normally a brute-force approach like this was only used in extremely time-critical scenarios. Or when the survival of the source was secondary. Was she still being interrogated? Or was she being punished? Horrid as it sounded, her still being asked questions had to be considered a good sign. She had not entered the realm of terminal torture yet. She hadn’t arrived at the point of wishing for death, no matter how painful, either. Not yet. So her pain-torn mind had to come up with an answer. Her client could have represented literally anybody. One of the big players. A smaller competitor that had seen an opportunity. Last but not least Garver itself. A mega-incorporation with hundreds of thousands of employees was anything but a homogeneous entity. Intrigues between hierarchical levels, power struggles between rivalling divisions. Scheming both vertically and horizontally.
Muriel heard the fatal sound of rubber gloves.
“No, please! No-no-no!”
From a lower tray the Interrogatress took a large stainless steel instrument, which Muriel recognised when her nemesis stepped between her secured legs.
“No! Don’t! You bitch!”
Muriel braced herself, yet still tensed up as the speculum broke past her vaginal entrance. Having her raped by Heavy and his GarverGuard flash mob wouldn’t have been humiliating enough! The speculum was cold and unlubricated, making the intrusion all the more distressing and invasive. Furthermore, the sheer size and unethical design details suggested against any benevolent usage. Having the instrument fully inserted, the Interrogatress began cranking its two prongs open. The stretching pain from the penetration magnified, and each turn of the sturdy adjustment screw pressed a groan out of Muriel. After the sixth full turn a new layer of pain introduced itself, a deeper tearing sensation. By now the speculum had opened the entrance to Muriel’s birth canal to a degree similar to the maximum width she had experienced during regular Ob/Gyn exams. With preparation and in a safe environment, discomfort had been the worst she had to face. Here, with body and mind already wrecked by the unspeakable ordeals of the drowning and the bone torture, the procedure was sickening, and yet only the prologue to even viler medical rape.
“Stop it! Fuck!”
The Interrogatress used the screw-handle again, opening Muriel up to about five centimetres. Her pelvic muscles, locked up in contraction, became wiry strands as every single fibre was singed by the tension. To be violated in this form added another dimension to her ordeal. Now she wasn’t attacked and brutalised as a thief or as a spy anymore, but as a woman. Six centimetres. Muriel wailed through her damaged vocal cords whenever a new turn of the screw spread her further. Her tormentor remained unmoved, bare of empathy or compassion, as she proceeded with the methodical destruction of human flesh. The two steel blades pressed ever harder into Muriel’s vaginal walls, stretching the delicate tissue to new tightness.
“Stop! Please just stop!”
The Interrogatress did stop, but not because of her victim’s pleadings. The segments were separated by more than seven centimetres – enough for the next point on the woman’s dark agenda. The cruel use of the speculum had resulted in unhindered access to Muriel’s cervix. Choosing it to be the next target for torture, the Interrogatress pushed a cylindrical metal probe through it and partly into the uterus. Pained guttural sounds came from Muriel at this new obscenity. Her legs twitched in their restrains, but her arms remained still; too paralysing were the bone screws. In spite of being rather tall, Muriel had experienced hits to her cervix during intercourse with well-endowed or over-enthusiastic partners. Intense internal belly-punches. This now was sharper, more calculated; a nauseating intrusion that made her cramp up very deep inside. The Interrogatress helped herself to a second probe, slimmer but not less fearsome. Under Muriel’s gasps and writhings it travelled up her urethra. The speculum, adapted for the purpose of inflicting untold pain, allowed for that.
“You have reacted very lively to the needle…”
She didn’t have to say more. Didn’t have to show her the needles of the same intimidating type before she shoved them into Muriel’s labial lips, so savagely parted by the speculum. The Interrogatress used the needles’ full potentials, pushing one lengthwise through each labium.
Muriel lost herself in a torrent of broken screams, but the horror of extreme genital piercing hadn’t come to an end just yet. The woman repeated her action at Muriel’s trembling breasts, guiding a fresh needle vertically through each nipple and into the underlying tissue.
Her white examination gloves showed but a few speckles of blood. She took them off nonetheless and returned with a bundle of neatly colour-coded wires. Electo-torture. The sole prospect pushed Muriel back to the brink of panic.
“Please, not that!”
Crocodile clamps at the wire endings took hold on the needle grips.
“I told you everything! I don’t know who has hired me! I don’t! Oh fuck, please don’t…!”
The cervix and urethra probes had come wired up, so the Interrogatress only had to earth the speculum.
Muriel even lost the ability to plead as the Interrogatress wound copper wire around each of the six screws in the collarbones. Finished, she checked on Muriel’s pulse and heart and increased the flow from the IV tube via the regulator wheel.
“What are you hoping for, Muriel? What are you trying to achieve? Holding out another minute? Another hour? To what end?”
“I told you―”
“‘Everything’, I know. And no, you haven’t. You will, though. Actually, I’m positive I would get a truthful answer to almost all of my questions right now. Except for one: Who hired you?”
Muriel shook her head in deepest despair.
“Why are you dragging this out and out and out? Look at yourself. Whom are you protecting? Who is worth being protected at such costs?”
Muriel’s maltreated body went rigid as the current hit. Fed by an unseen power source the wire sent electricity through her bones, from the outer screws to the centre ones. Then from the nipple needles to the centre ones. Always separately, never across the heart. Marrow seemed to melt, her nips became beacons of pain. The parts to strain and tear under the voltage alternated, throwing Muriel into ever new forms of convulsion. Every twist ground the pieces of her shattered collarbones against each other. The needles all but burnt through her labia, the shocks to her urethra and cervix filled her bladder with boiling acid, ripped her abdomen apart. Always the current was given more than one path through her ravaged organs, preventing her muscles to cramp up “in sync”.
Her throes went on until long after the power source was switched back into stand-by.
“Still with me, Muriel?”
With a penlight the Interrogatress flashed into Muriel’s bloodshot eyes, then checked her heartbeat again.
“You know the question.”
The broken female made several feeble attempts to speak before she finally uttered a single word.
“You are saying you have been hired by Claymore Armoury Ltd., formally Claymore Enterprises, to break into the data core of the Garver Advanced Research Facility, is that correct?”
Oh, how Muriel hoped that this was what her tormentor wanted to hear! Her answer had been a total fabrication. Not even a wild guess, for her mind was too harrowed for even that.
“How did you come by this information? Oi, stay with me! If you pass out, I have to give you another injection. And that would not be good for your heart.”
“I knew the contact person. I worked for Claymore several times.”
Sighing, the Interrogatress put on a new pair of snow-white gloves and took something from one of the trays.
“Your contact person would never reveal their affiliation to you. Not now, not in the past.”
Hysteria was evident in Muriel’s husky voice.
“You didn’t believe me when I told you I didn’t know!”
“Now I don’t believe you that you do know.”
The Interrogatress positioned herself at Muriel’s head again.
“It is my job to not believe you.”
Muriel immediately baulked at the re-insertion of the nasal tubes .
“Easy now! Easy..!”
With one hand the woman pushed her victim’s head down as she pressed the plunger. Saline solution filled Muriel’s sinuses again. Not as much as before. She choked and gagged, but was able to drag in air through her mouth. The syringe was removed, including its Y-connection, so only the actual nasal tubes themselves stayed. Muriel managed – more by chance – to force some of the liquid back out the way it had come in. But then she felt a new terror invading her through the plastic hoses. As the copper wires were far enough in, imbedded in the highly conductive mixture of water and salt, the Interrogatress taped everything down.
Muriel made gurgling noises, but was too weak to fight her bounds anymore. Only one wish had remained in her mind: to be believed.
The inside of her face exploded in agony as the nasal wires were made alive.