Mindstryke grinned, “Everything I’ve heard about the Ascendancy is bad, so I can’t say I’m surprised. You’ll be the first person with the skills of a Dominator that I’ve worked with. The few times I’ve encountered them, they’ve been trying to kill me.”
He nodded toward one of the hallways, “We’ve got them down this way. We can’t keep them close enough that Ana would be in the range of the Dominator’s voice. We’ve got a buzzer to prevent that sort of thing, but we both know that accidents happen. Over here.”
We followed him down the hall, stopping in front of a cell. Though the wall was all grey stone like the rest of what we’d seen, this section had slats of stone going up and down like bars, allowing enough space that you could see inside. The cell could have passed for a studio apartment. All one room, there was a bed on one end and a living room on the other. It had a couch, a TV and green carpet over the rock floor.
I assumed there must be a toilet and shower somewhere, but we couldn’t see them.
Ana lay on the couch. Black hair cut short in a bob and wearing a black t-shirt and shorts, she glanced toward the TV, but she wasn’t watching it. On the TV, a couple was explaining to a woman, probably a real estate agent, exactly what they wanted in their ideal house.
If Ana cared, it wasn’t much. She turned away almost as quickly as she’d looked.
Pointing her head in our direction, she got off the couch, and walked over, separated only by the stone bars, “Are you going to release me now? I don’t know what kind of arrangement you have with the FBI, but I can’t believe that any private citizen can legally keep another citizen in a cell for two weeks. Unless you plan to kill me, I’m going to get out someday and when I do, I’m going to hire a lawyer and we’ll see what happens after that.”
Mindstryke nodded, “I’m aware, but I believe that we’ve got permission to do what we’re doing, something that I’ve explained to you before.”
Ana stared at him, her eyes narrowing, “I remember, but you wouldn’t tell me why it’s legal.”
Smiling for less than a second, Mindstryke said, “That’s correct and it’s not because you wouldn’t understand it. It’s because the reason might hurt you more than we can fix.”
She frowned, but then looked at Kals and Katuk, “I know who the Rocket and Night Cat are, but who are they?”
In our heads, Mindstryke said, I know she seems like anyone who’d been kidnapped and then kept down here, but she’s not. She’s following implanted commands even now. Even worse, if she gets a hint that we know she’s controlled by the Nine, another command might trigger and they have some that are worse than suicide.
Kals replied I know where I’ll start. I don’t know how different techniques are here, but we have different techniques from school to school back home.
To Ana, Mindstryke said, “They’re here to ask you some questions.”
Ana’s lips curled, “I’ve answered too many questions already. I have rights as a US citizen that you’re not letting me use. I want to call my lawyer.”
She put her hands on the bars and stared at us. I didn’t know what to feel. Even though Mindstryke said she was still acting on orders, some part of her had to feel like she’d been captured and put in a cell. The Defenders had kept her on my request. I hoped she understood why after Kals undid what she could.
Ana opened her mouth to continue, but Kals said something that was more a note than a word. My suit’s buzzer activated along with Haley’s and Mindstryke’s. If Katuk had an equivalent buzzer, assuming he needed one, it was too far ahead technologically for me to notice.
Ana, though, stared at Kals, eyes wide and mouth open, seemingly unable to speak.
I wanted to ask Kals what she’d done, but I didn’t need to. She used the link Mindstryke had set up between the group to say, We can use feelings in addition to words. I’m trying to make her trust me and bring her to a point that she’s unable to act against me even if her trigger tells her to.
Haley thought back, If it’s a trigger, would it even matter what their feelings are?
Shaking her head, Kals thought, Yes, normally, but it’s more complicated than that. The commands we write are still written in people and people don’t act like computers. Strong emotions can prevent triggers from activating. I’m the expert. Let me do my job.
From the way Haley’s lips twisted, I guessed that she didn’t trust Kals.
We watched as Kals kept on humming the note and Ana’s arms dropped, hanging loose with Ana’s eyes closed. Except then instead of relaxing, Ana lurched toward us, hitting the stone bars with a cracking noise that I hoped wasn’t Ana’s bones breaking.