Therese looked up from the sudoku puzzle she had been considering as a knock resounded on her door. She had thought they would wait a day before contacting her again at least, considering the glacial pace at which her future had been decided before. Perhaps the decision of her future had simply been a particularly onerous problem to deal with, and now dealt with, their plan would proceed at some steady velocity.
“Hello?” she asked, laying down her sudoku puzzle. She looked down at the helmet, wrinkling her nose in distaste.
“Miss Evans, your presence is requested for training,” an altogether unfamiliar voice called out curtly. “If you would please put on your helmet, my colleagues and I will escort you.”
Therese examined her helmet on the floor, attempting to gather up her courage and self-control. It was okay. She could withstand the helmet a bit longer as she was actually going to get to do something with her brain soon. Then, she could prove to her id that there was nothing to worry about, and all would be well.
She just had to but on the helmet.
She took a deep breath and placed it quickly on her head, feeling as if a plastic bag had been stuck over her face. She could barely see, barely breath. This definitely didn’t get any easier with time. She slipped on her shoes carefully, attempting to maintain control as her brain was smooshed smaller and smaller.
“I got the helmet on. I’m ready,” she said tightly.
The door opened. There were three people in white coats she didn’t recognize and whose faces were obscured by ridiculous helmets like her own. They weren’t taking any risks, were they?
“Please follow us, Miss Evans,” one of the white-coats said. She followed, examining only their feet as she tried to reign in her mind, afraid any unexpected movement would push her into the void.
She didn’t know how long they traveled before they ushered her into a small room. She only knew that she felt distinctly nauseous afterward. She held her breath and squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the command to remove the blasted helmet.
“Miss Evans?” one of the white-coats called.
“Hmm?” Therese asked turning to face the three white-coats, she moved too quickly. The tendrils of her brain brushed again the helmet. A wash of deep, blackness covered her mind as she fought to find ground once more. She blinked after a moment, finding herself on her knees. She stood up unsteadily. “I’m sorry. Go on.”
“To avoid any unnecessary conflicts, we would like to attach a device through which an anesthetic can be administered in case of unforeseen issues,” a white-coat said.
“Um, okay. That’s fine. Attach away,” she said.
“Please sit down on that chair, Miss Evans,” a different white-coat said, stepping forward and gesturing to a chair that Therese had not taken the energy to notice before. She did as bid as the white-coat sat across from her behind a desk.
“Please place your arm on the desk, Miss Evans,” Dr. Brown said.
Therese did as ordered. He attached a tourniquet, swabbed an area below her elbow, and quickly inserted an IV, which he attached to a silver device slightly smaller than a deck of cards and attached it to her arm. He removed the tourniquet and applied several lengths of surgical tape to secure the IV to her arm.
He released her arm quickly as she examined the apparatus. She supposed that the silvery thing would deliver some anesthetic into her blood supply if they felt an “unforeseen issue” arises.
“You may remove your helmet, Miss Evans.”
She flung it ten feet to her right, gasping as if she was a fish flung back into the water. However, as her mind met the boundaries of the room, she found something that had grown almost unfamiliar with her months of isolation, another mind. It was a cold, concentrated mind firmly thinking of nothing on the outer level of consciousness of which she skimmed across. She looked up, trying to find out the source of the mind. It had to be close, but the room was empty beside the white-coats and the desk which she was sitting in front of.
“Is there someone nearby you want me to talk to?” Therese asked, looking from white-coat to white-coat.
“Yes. Please follow us, Miss Evans,” one white-coat said.
They led her through the other door in the room, the one they had not entered through. At the far end sat a man in handcuffs looking determinedly at a metal desk.
She felt a small jump from the man when they entered, but he settled into his cold concentration once more.
“Uh, is there something you want me to do?” Therese asked.
“Find out what he knows about October 23rd, please,” a white-coat said. Therese nodded and walked down the room to meet the man at the desk.
“Hello. My name is Therese Evans,” she said quietly. The man did not look up. He did not stir. His mind remained a stone. There was a seat across from him at the desk. She sat.
He did not look up at her. He examined the desk with a ferocity. He was very, very tense. Slowly, Therese directed a small flow of calm, contentment at the man. His shoulders relaxed a little and he looked up for the first time as his mind grew a little louder and thoughts bubbled upward. He had a little daughter. Her name was Asma and she loved to dance. Therese gave him a reassuring smile and decided she would ask him first before trying to bury into his mind. It seemed kinder that way as she didn’t like people messing with her mind.
“Do you want to tell me about October 23rd?” she asked.
Walls and blockades were immediately summoned as the man looked at the desk again fiercely. His mind gave a few blips of negative emotions before being silenced by his force of will.
Therese fed him more ease, but to release the tension from his brain took a considerable amount of force. Something inside Therese felt unsettled. It usually wasn’t this difficult to get people to calm. Why was he so resistant? What was he hiding? Should she be trying to calm him? Calm never hurt anyone.
The man was breathing slowly, staring at Therese blankly. His mind was active again. He felt he must not tell her the secret. He couldn’t tell anyone the secret or there would be pain and death. He thought of his daughter again. He couldn’t tell anyone. If he said a word, she would be hurt.
Therese felt his anxiety stir within her own frame. She felt the protectiveness for the young Asma, only eight years old. It made her not want to know the secret.
But she had to.
The white-coats had asked her for it, so it must be important. She was trying to do good.
Therese let the tendrils of her mind dip deeper into the man’s consciousness. It was dark and twisted. There were many painful memories he had stored and hidden away so that he would not have to see them. There were strange, precipitous pathways that felt strange to tread down. It wasn’t like Agent Necker’s mind and it wasn’t like Dr. Henderson’s either or even Greg Owen’s mind. The secret wasn’t easy to see. She needed to dig deep and absorb all of him to find the information.
There was a part of her that didn’t want to, that loathed every second she descended, but she couldn’t listen to that part. She had to retrieve the information.
She sat back, disoriented and ambivalent. She placed her hands to her temples, feeling a strange headache.“Thank you, Abdul,” Therese said, straining a smile, before standing from her chair. She felt his worry surface strongly as his brow creased in confusion, wondering if he had given away critical information that would hurt his daughter.
“She’ll be okay, Abdul. I’ll make sure of it,” Therese said, issuing a tsunami of easiness as the man settled down slightly.
After walking back to the white-coats, they gestured her into the previous room.
She followed and said firmly, “You have to protect his daughter, Asma, okay? You have to protect her before I tell you anything.”
“Motions would never be taken against an innocent, Miss Evans,” a white-coat said.
“That’s not what I’m asking. I’m saying that you’ll have to protect her, take positive action to protect her, not just a promise of inaction against her. Will you do that?” Therese said emphatically, looking from white-coat to white-coat.
“None of us is part of the action committee responding to the information presented, but we will write a formal request to such an effort,” a white-coat said.
Therese bit her lip, thinking. “Can I talk to whoever is on the action committee?”
“We’re not at liberty to disclose the persons on the committee,” said a white-coat.
“But I told him that his daughter would be okay,” Therese said.
The white-coats said nothing.
“I don’t know what his memories and all this information means, but he thinks that if he tells anyone, his daughter will be hurt. I can’t let that happen,” Therese said.
“Would you please put your helmet back on, Miss Evans?” a white-coat asked.
“Can we get this settled first? I can’t think clearly with it on. I need to know if you will protect Asma,” Therese said. She felt deeply uneasy, almost sick and had the headache that refused to budge. She didn’t want to put on the stupid helmet again and compound the effect.
“Put the helmet on, Miss Evans,” a white-coat commanded coolly. She could see his hand rest on a rectangular object in his pocket as his fingers twitched restlessly. She looked down at her arm and remembered the anesthetic-delivering device. He probably had the remote control and was considering using it.
Therese did not want to be anesthetized. It was complete lack of control when she could do absolutely nothing, object to absolutely nothing. It would be better to put on the helmet. She leaned down to pick up the helmet. It sucked her into darkness in a gasp. The world faded from view with an all-consuming blackness. She was twisting into a void as she placed it on her head.
She breathed deeply, trying to find solid ground as her brain struggled and railed against the barrier. She had to stay calm. It wasn’t forever. She could expand her mind soon. She just had to stay calm.
She found her fingertips pressing against the floor. It was okay. She had found her ground. She stood up slowly, trying to keep collected and subdue her frustration.
“I want to know Asma will be safe before I say anything. That’s all I want,” she whispered, staring at the floor. “She’s just a little girl who misses her father.”
The white-coats said nothing for a while. “We’ll escort you back to your room, Miss Evans, and inform the committee of your concern.”
“Um, aren’t you going to take this thing off my arm?” she asked.
“Not right now, Miss Evans,” a white-coat said.
She was led back to her room.
Once inside, Therese threw off her helmet and sat on her bed, head in hands. If she was doing good, why did she feel so bad?
She looked down at the device attached to her arm that no one bothered to remove. Why hadn’t they? It itched, so she pulled it off herself. Her arm immediately began bleeding where they had inserted the tubing, but she staunched the flow with her sheets.
Her head hurt like it hadn’t hurt in months. She massaged her temples irritably. She lay on her back, looking up at the ceiling. They would protect Asma. They had to. If they didn’t, then she wouldn’t tell them what Abdul knew. She couldn’t say what he knew meant, but she could tell that at least he felt it was a matter of large importance.
“Miss Evans?” It was Dr. Ott.
Therese sat up. “Hello, Dr. Ott,” she said. What did Dr. Ott want with her?
“We are requesting that you write a report on what you found out from the person you met with earlier,” he said formally through the door.
“What about Asma?” Therese asked.
“I hope you know this is a grave matter of national security,” Dr. Ott said seriously.
“Yes, but is it that hard to protect a little girl?” Therese asked.
“They would have to locate her and isolate her before much action could be taken,” Dr. Ott said. “That takes time, money, and resources, and there is no guarantee that it is even possible.”
“But you have to try. You have to. She’s just a little girl,” Therese said. “I’ll start writing up everything I saw if you make sure they try to find and save her, okay? They just have to try.”
Therese sighed, “Listen, I’m not trying to be unreasonable, but I don’t want to steal information from a father trying to protect his daughter. It’s not right. But, if you protect his daughter and can use it to help other people, then its morally okay, I think.”
There was a long pause. “I will ensure that they will try to find her, Miss Evans. Please begin writing your report, as this is a time-sensitive matter,” Dr. Ott said.
“Okay, thanks, Dr. Ott,” Therese said.
She stretched her arms. A dull pain emanated grouchily from her shoulder. It took her mind off the ache in her head, so she stretched a little longer before she sat down at her desk, scattered with books, pencils, pens, and a couple of notebooks.
She tore several pages out of the nearest notebook and began writing all that she could remember.
The Cobra (Abdul al-Fadl does not know his name) was the one who contacted Abdul in Islamabad. Abdul had been concerned about creating a better world for his daughter, Asma al-Fadl. After Asma’s mother, Muna, died in childbirth, Abdul felt Asma was all he had. As a restorer of old books, he was not rich enough to give her all he felt she deserved. He could only give her his life, so he has made its his life goal to give all he can to Asma. He could only work so much and his job paid so little, so he hoped by trying to change the world, Asma may be more prosperous.
He heard the teachings of Ayman al-Zawahiri. Like many young men with a burning desire to change the world, each word he heard resounded in his heart. Through this cause, he could do more for Asma than any rich man. He could make the world a better place for her.
Sometime after, the Cobra contacted him. The Cobra is a thin man of medium height. He has a very thin nose that has been broken prominently to the right. He had thin, squinty brown eyes. He has suprisingly full lips with a vertical scar cutting across the right side. His hands have been burned lightly. He has long dark hair and a beard peppered with gray. He said they required his service to help build this better world. He described a plan to destroy the US by targeting the nuclear power plants with commercial planes. They would need Abdul’s careful eye at masterful forgery to create documents allowing them into the cockpit.
He agreed and set to work in his shop, in the northwest area of Rawalpindi, next to a potter and a weaver. It turned out to be more difficult than planned. He was not allowed to contact the man who was working on digital forgeries, which made his work more complicated. It interfered with his work as a restorer, and soon he could not find food to give his daughter.
The Cobra took his daughter somewhere (Abdul doesn’t know where), telling him that he would feed her and keep her safe while Abdul worked. However, he soon realized she was also being used against him. The Cobra came to his house one night when Abdul felt like giving up and returning to his normal job. The Cobra had a bloody knife and told him there had been a deceiver who betrayed their plans. The Cobra then described how he took apart the deceiver and his wife, piece by piece.
The plans changed, but the Cobra did not tell Abdul how. Instead, he only let him see one tiny part of the plan, so that if he was caught, he could not tell everything, but also so that if a piece of information was found to be held by the US, they would know who had spilt it. He told him to wait for the code word October 23rd. The weather used to describe that date would tell him how to proceed. Rainy would mean go ahead as planned. Cloudy would mean there had been a security breach, but that they should continue with caution. Sunny means wait for further instructions and make no movements forward. Windy would mean that people were coming for them, so that they should proceed quickly to see if they might outrun them.
The fake papers and various documents the Cobra gave Abdul are hidden in the wall of the hallway to his bedroom in his shop, three paces inward on the right at just above head level. They might still be there. In there, you’ll find pilot licenses for Paul Garret, Kaanan Wali Patil, Jose Riviera, Frances Prince, Joshua Ezekiel Snow, and Luis Sanchez. I will delineate below all the particular of their cards. Portraits were not included at this time so Abudl does not know what these men looked like.
As she put down her pencil, she felt deeply uneasy. It was more than just a headache but an intense need to do anything besides think about what she had just done. She retreated from it like a mouse from a cat, but she didn’t know where she could run that the thoughts couldn’t follow.
She began working on a scarf she had been crocheting before giving up on the exercise to begin a crossword. Then, she began to pace across her room, back and forth. It was about 12 and a quarter paces across. She lengthened her stride slightly to make it an even 12.
It was her id, that had to be it. Her id was making her head hurt so much and controlling every emotion. It was the one that had been all upset since Director Schultz first suggested the plan. So what did her id want? Should she try meditating again? It hadn’t work the first time, but the pain and unease was getting increasingly intense with each passing moment. She felt she was about to vomit.
She threw herself down on her bed. However, something surprisingly wet tickled her arm. She looked up.
It was the device they had attached to her arm earlier. It was now spitting a clear fluid onto her bedspread. It was to anesthetize her. Why would they anesthetize her now? It made no sense. She was causing no one trouble? Did they see she was upset or something.
Therese looked suspiciously around the room as if to find a hidden camera she had been ignoring for last month or two. However, another moment’s consideration told her that idea was ridiculous. If they had cameras, they would have seen that she pulled it off. They must have tried to anesthetize her for a different reason.
There was part of her, however, that was not so surprised at this development. Her id seemed to have been expected it.
“You know something that you’re not telling me, don’t you,” she whispered under her breath, attempting to look into her skull to stare down her id.
Her id, as expected, had no verbal response, but she swore the feelings of unease triplicated.
“Fine, have it your way,” she whispered, lowering herself on to the towel in the corner. “But I don’t want to see anything about doorknobs.”
She closed her eyes and let go.