If you want to read the rest of the series, here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, and Part 18.
It's a truism that keeping track of time in a windowless room is difficult. Pepper discreetly groped at her armpit, trying to remember the last time she shaved. She'd only eaten two meals since she had got stuck in this mess — the pizza out in Mississauga and some tinned stuff from the underwater bunker. In the meantime there had been a lot of running around.
It couldn't have been that long, only a few hours. No-one had shown up to check on her since they'd shoved her into the room. Pepper wasn't worried, not yet, but she had to plan for if it were longer. Dehydration and lack of sleep could break a person down a lot faster than beatings. She knew that from training, and from experience. She'd watched people try to save their own urine on the same security cameras now watching her, not knowing that it was absolutely against policy to let a captured asset die from lack of water. She'd always wondered what they'd gone through before to just assume they were going to be treated that badly.
She reminded herself that right now it was ridiculous to worry about those things. It had been less than a day, and most likely they were going to have her worry through the night and then try to work her again the morning. Really she should be focused on the rescue attempt Geoffrey and Cinnamon would make.
But no matter what she did, she found herself thinking about how long they were going to keep her without giving her any water. She wasn't even thirsty.
Pepper sighed and leaned her head against the cement wall. So this is what it feels like.
She heard more footsteps outside, and expected them to go to 8B — there seemed to be a lot of activity in that room. She had barely enough time to hide her surprise when the door to her room opened. She expected Doug, but it was Alex who slipped through and carefully closed the door behind him.
He looked around the room with the air of a real estate agent assessing how to pitch an undesirable property. "I'm sorry you had to be put in here. This isn't the nicest of rooms. I asked for 8D, but it's being used, and Munroe and Doug insist you're to be considered dangerous."
"That is part of my job description," said Pepper. Trust Alex to forget to even mumble a hello.
Alex gave a heavy sigh and sat at the end of the bed/slab. "I'm a bean counter. I don't usually dirty my hands with this stuff. Nothing against your own work," he quickly added. "I'm just much better with budgets and spreadsheets. Oh, speaking of which, who approved those modifications you made to your phone?"
"No-one. I paid for them out of my own pocket."
"But who installed them?"
"I did." Pepper decided that Alex was playing the role of the good cop.
"You shouldn't do things like that."
"It's my phone. So long as I get a model that's from the approved list, I can do what I like with it."
"No, no..." Alex was shaking his head, jowls wagging. With the heavy bags under his eyes, he looked like a cartoon bloodhound. "That may be the letter of the policy, but it's not the spirit of it. You're an asset, not a department head."
"Is that what you call what Doug did to me earlier, following the spirit of the policy? 'Cos it sure as hell didn't follow the letter of it."
Alex's face turned red. "That's your problem. You've always got the policy memorised and throw it in everyone's faces, but it never applies to you."
"This is beyond extreme for just a policy reprimand." Pepper risked leaning towards Alex. "I'm not here because of data, or because Doug botched up the USB key handover. So what is it?"
Alex stood up and crossed quickly to the door. He pounded on it in a quick sequence Pepper made a note of, and someone outside opened it for him. He started to leave, then paused and turned his head to look at Pepper.
"You forgot you were disposable," he said. "You'll be forced to remember it before the end." He walked out, slamming the metal door behind him.
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Travel alert: when the Friday Flash report gets posted for the week, I'll be floating around the North Atlantic in an Icelandic whale-watching boat. I'll be catching up on my blog-reading when I return home early next week.