With a glance at her face, I realized that it wasn’t her bones. She’d been wearing glasses and the plastic frame broke. This wasn’t as good news as you’d expect. Blood ran down her cheek from the spot where the plastic dug into her skin.
The glasses hung for a moment longer and then fell to the floor.
Ana didn’t seem to notice as she stood straight up and then moved her head back as if getting ready to hit the bars with her face.
And then she didn’t.
Her face relaxed and she slowly sat down, looking out at us through the bars.
Daniel’s dad thought at us, I couldn’t see it before, but someone hid a command deep down. I don’t think she even consciously knew that she did it. Give me a second. Now that I’ve seen it, I can take it out.
I don’t know how long it took before he was done, but her blood had stopped dripping down her face. It was at least five minutes. I suppose I could have timed it, but there was no point. Ana stared at us with a glazed look after that, but she wasn’t trying to hit her head against the bars—not even when Mindstryke said, I’m done.
Kals nodded, thinking back, Let me know if you see anything.
Then my buzzer buzzed again as she said, “Tell me the commands you remember being given.”
Ana looked into Kals eyes and began, “I was told to trust anyone who said ‘I’m number ten’ if they told me ’18’ when I asked about other numbers. I was told to await instructions when…”
She went on for more than 20 minutes. She’d been given a lot of commands over the last year, they included phone numbers to call if something happened, code words for different problems and emergencies, and names to ask for.
I recorded all of it—both with my suit and my implant.
She also asked if there were any more telepathic commands implanted or if anyone had implanted any kind of device in her body. Ana didn’t know of any.
At my suggestion, Kals asked, “Tell me about your mission at the last place you worked.”
Without hesitation, Ana said, “I was to tell my master if anyone I worked with suspected that something unusual was happening in the company, but my most important duty was to design mechs and other devices for the Nine.”
Kals’ smile widened, “And who was your master?”
“I called her Colette,” Ana said, showing no more emotion than if she were giving directions.
“Thank you,” Kals said, still smiling. “Where would we find Colette?”
“She’s imprisoned here as well,” Ana looked down, feeling some emotion, but I could only guess which.
“You’ve helped us and so we’re going to help you,” Kals said and, as she continued, my buzzer became louder. “None of the commands that you’ve been given need to be followed any longer. They were all given to you by the Nine and you know what the Nine is. If someone tries to command you in the future or to use any of the triggers implanted in your brain either ignore them or pretend to obey, whichever you think is wisest. Then, contact…”
She paused, no doubt realizing that she couldn’t say my actual name or the one she’d known me by on Hideaway, but that she couldn’t think of my codename.
The Heroes’ League or the Rocket, Haley suggested through Mindstryke.
“The Heroes’ League or the Rocket,” Kals said, nodding at Haley. “For now, though,” she added, “go and lie down on your bed and go to sleep. You’ll feel better tomorrow.”
Ana got up and walked away from us, going to the back of the unit where here bed was. When she’d pulled the covers over herself, Mindstryke led us further down the hallway, far enough that she couldn’t hear us.
I looked over at Kals, “I’d assumed that she’d be able to come home today.”
Kals shook her head, “I’m sorry. What they set up in her head was complicated even without considering what Mindstryke had to fix. You heard all of the triggers she had set up? You didn’t hear it, but I had to remove the emotional content associated with those triggers and I’m sure you heard me asking questions but you didn’t notice that I was listening for hesitations and hints of emotions. They’d wrapped her up in a circle of fear, anger and direct commands. Whoever this Colette is, she’s got a lot of experience.”
Haley raised an eyebrow, “So the Dominators here know more than you thought?”
Kals frowned, but shook her head, “No. She was clever and experienced, but Colette, if she did all this, is hundreds of years behind the latest techniques. If she were up to date, I might have been here for weeks—which I have done with other people.
“That’s been my life for the last two years. I don’t know what I thought my mom did, but I’ve spent so much time freeing people’s minds… You won’t find many people better at it—even in the Ascendancy.”
She frowned, “But that might only be because almost no one in the Ascendancy is interested in undoing enslavement.”