At some point I drifted from consciousness and when I awoke I had been released from the chair and my clothes returned to me. I was alone in the room, curled uncomfortably in the corner, as far from the operating table and counter as possible. The room was dark, but when I sat up, trying to work the kinks from my neck, the lights clicked on. The lower part of my back was still in agony from the injection I had received, pain radiating from it at the slightest motion on my part.
I ignored it as best I could, forcing myself up onto my unsteady feet so that I could investigate my surroundings. I went to the door first, confirming it was locked, and studied the keypad, quickly realizing I had no hope of figuring out the code. Instead I turned my attention to the counter where I saw several needles of various sizes and a machine, not unlike centrifuge, filled with empty vials. A screen was connected to it, providing a readout of some sort, but I could make sense of none of the numbers or measures.
As I squinted at the machine, trying to get a better sense of what it did, the door hissed open and the doctor entered, along with another man. Though his features were unfamiliar I had a very strong sense that this was the stranger who had been present while the doctor performed his procedure. I was disappointed that the woman was not with them, for she was the one who I wanted to speak with. The doctor sealed the door and they both approached me warily, unsure of what to expect.
“David? That is your name?” the stranger said to me and I nodded. “Good. We have some questions for you.”
“And why would I answer them?” I said, throwing my head up in what I hoped was a gesture of defiance.
“I think you’ll find your stay here more pleasant if you do.”
I shrugged as if I could care less. Unlike the doctor, who was dressed more or less as I was, the stranger wore a powder blue suit that put me in mind of a grandee at some eighteenth century court, ostentatious and encumbering. It appeared to me to be a uniform, clearly signaling his position to all who laid eyes on it, though I had no idea what authority it represented. Clearly he expected me to be familiar with it, judging by his manner.
“And what do I call you?” I said.
“My name is not important,” he said with a smile.
“Dick it is,” I said in reply, surprising myself and him.
“Very funny,” he said. “Are we through with the juvenile games?”
“When I am, you’ll be the first person I let know, Dick.” I had no idea where this bravado was coming from, for I felt none of it.
He looked at me grimly. “I am not a patient man, so I will ask you these questions only once and I expect helpful answers. You are from this universe and you have never left it?”
“To the best of my knowledge,” I said with a smile.
The man glanced at the doctor who said, “It’s like I said. The results were very clear. His spinal fluid has none of the markers from a crossing.”
“What is your involvement in the Church of Regents?” the man said, turning his attention back to me.
“First I’ve heard of it, Dick.” I said.
He smiled thinly. “I find that doubtful, given that we saw you in the company of one of their agents.”
“It’s the truth. Besides, you don’t even know who I was with.”
This seemed to take him by surprise and he glanced at the doctor, who said, “I saw her in the market.”
“Probably,” I said, smiling at them both. “But you don’t know who she is. Just like you don’t know who I am. And I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m clearly not what you expected, so maybe you’ve got the wrong man.”
The man laughed, though there was no mirth in the sound. “Yes, the Seeker just happens to be following the two of you wherever you go. What a marvelous coincidence. Do you really think you are the only ones with Society contacts? We know who has crossed over to this side. We know you tried to cross over there. And you speak the language of the Church. Do you take us for fools? The Grand Regent has badly overestimated us, just as he has greatly overestimated his own importance to the True Faith.”
I shrugged my shoulders, looking past the two of them. The situation was growing more absurd by the moment. I was answering the man’s questions as truthfully as I could, but my honesty could only sound evasive to them. I was not about to admit that I had no memory of who I was or what had happened, though they might get it out of me eventually if they were as willing and persistent as they let on. It all depended on how valuable I was to them. Given there were two groups—that I was aware of—along with whoever Meredith was allied with, who wanted me in their possession, I decided I was valuable enough they wouldn’t try anything too extreme.
“Sounds like just the sort of thing a heretic would say, Dick,” I said to him.
I could sense him trying to choke back his fury, but it was not to be contained. “I did not cross over here, at considerable risk to my person and my standing, with the damn Society willing to burn the very ground we stand on, to be insulted by the likes of you. You are exactly what is wrong with the Church. The Grand Regent may only value loyalty and servility, but I work for a higher calling.”
He was out of breath by the time he finished and he did not wait for a reply, storming from the room, ordering the doctor to see that I provided some answers as he went. As soon as we were alone the doctor smiled and said, “You should have been more compliant with the High Regent. He is not used to dirtying his hands. I am though. So let us begin.”
This is the twelfth part of The Forgotten, a science fiction thriller. A new section will be published here every Thursday.