Tuesday, October 12, 2010

357 - Kallijas Learns to Truth-Drug

This evening's post is brought to you with the magnificent help of Blue, Cat, Toast and of course, Karen!
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“So what you do is lie down, lad,” he said.  He indicated one of the couches in the room. “Care which arm I stick?  It’s not incapacitating at all, it’s not like a weapon-wound, but some people have preferences.”

I held out the arm closest to him, which was my left.

“Clench the fist hard a few times; that brings up the vein and makes it easier for me to find,” he said.  “You want that.”

“Yes, Ch’evenga.”  I did that.  Kallijas watched, quietly.  “I’m nervous.  I’m afraid some part of me that neither of you like will come out...”

“There’s no such thing as not being nervous when you’re having this done, if you are sane,” he said, while he measured out the dose by pulling it out through the needle into the chamber above.  When he had it in one hand he put the other gently on my forehead.  It felt very good.  “Have you ever had it done before?”

“Once.  2nd Amitzas woke me up the morning after you rescued the Haians and truth-drugged me to find out if I’d had any part of it.  I’d been skating the night before and must have skated right past your people.”  I smiled at the thought.  “It was good that I didn’t know anything about it.”

“Yes.  Clench again, there, that’s good.  Now keep the arm still.  You know I was there for that?  Well... sort of.”

“You were?”  I laid my arm out on the arm of the chair to keep it steady and he took it gently under the elbow.  “I probably would have run straight to you then if I’d laid eyes on you.  Except that I thought you hated me then.”

“Look away if you prefer... I have to.”  I look across at Kallijas who was watching the proceedings impassively. There was a sting.  Gentler than when Ice Eyes had done it.  Almost more a warmth than a pain.  I took a deep breath and suddenly realized again how cavalierly I had ordered Inthilin truth-drugged and why Ancherao had been offended by the thought. “I was at the top of the Marble Palace lefaetas, which was how we got in.  I couldn’t make it any further than that... memories knocked me over.  So I stayed up top with Niku, and carved my name onto the box with the levers, just to prove I’d been there.”

“I’m going to have to go look.”

“There... now in about a tenth it’ll take effect... well, you know.  I imagine it must still be there... Kurkas’s people wouldn’t have had much time to fix it, and mine wouldn’t have bothered, I suspect.  Kall, how much do you know about how to ask the questions?”

“Uhm... not that much actually. I think I learned more in sparring.”

“It’s simple.”  As Chevenga ran through the technique, I leaned my head back and tried to follow the drug in my system but wasn’t sure what I should be feeling.  I couldn’t remember it from last time, other than the overwhelming fear.  This time it wasn’t so bad.  “Relax all over,” he said.  “You can fight it, but the less you do, the sooner we’re done.”

“That makes sense.”

“Are you the silent or chatty type when going into it?”

“I cry.”  Even as I said it I could feel the tears starting to well up, though they didn’t fall yet.

“Oh, lad!”  He slipped his arm under my head and cradled it, so unthinkingly I hardly knew he was doing it until it was done.  “This will help.  You know it’s more or less the same as when a person is drunk... I’m a chatty drunk, too.”  That was funny somehow and I laughed but it seemed to trigger the flood and I felt myself sob on the heels of the laugh.  He tightened his grip without it getting any less gentle.

It felt like I wept a very long time but that could have been the drug, before it went away and I could stop... but I couldn’t raise my hand to clean my face.  It didn’t seem to matter.  He did it with his kerchief.  “Testing questions first, Kall.  Minis, what’s your name, lie to me.”

“I...ntharas Terren.”  I was supposed to lie... it felt good.

He laughed.  “Good choice.  We wait a bit.”  They talked about this and that and it got more and more distant, as if they were receding down a tunnel. I was starting to get the floating feeling. “Lie to me, Minis; where are we?”

I tried to say Haiu Menshir but what came out of my mouth was ‘Arko’.

“Lie to me, where in Arko?”

“Un..Un...Marble Palace.”  I couldn’t lie.  That felt wrong.

“Lie to me, what’s your name?

“Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan.”

“Lie to me, how old are you?”

I just couldn’t.  “Eighteen.”  His arm under my head felt so good.  He felt like a Haian… or like Gannara… or Binshala, a long, long time ago.

“There, Kall.  He’s under.  Ask what you must ask.”

“What do you think the biggest threat to Arko is?”

I was struck by that but even while I was wondering, sluggishly, my mouth opened and I said. “A bad Imperator.”

“Would you be a bad Imperator?”

I didn’t know.  That depended on whether I kept my oaths and kept my word.  I intended to. I could be... or not.  I didn’t want to be.  I didn’t think so.  I said nothing.  “He can’t answer that,” said Chevenga, “probably because he wants to be but isn’t sure he’s capable of it.”  Yes.  I thought but it was distant.

“Maybe I should ask him if he intends to be a bad Imperator?”

“No one ever intends to be a bad Imperator.  Kurkas thought he was a brilliant one.  It’s a question also of what is a bad Imperator... there are too many possibilities there to get a good answer.”

Kallijas looked at me intently for a while. “What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?”

Rape. Murder. Torture. Which one was worst?

There was a bloody, ugly flicker somewhere in my head, dreamlike and evil...

“Hurting Ch’venga.”

“Are you remorseful?”

“Wait, don’t answer,” said Chevenga.  “Kall, he may not mean what you think.  You can’t know.  How do you mean, hurting me, Minis?”

“Being initiated.” That encapsulated everything.

He spoke to Kallijas.  “What that means is that it’s the thing he wishes the most had never happened, and he hasn’t yet entirely understood that it was done to him rather than him doing.  You have to discount it.”

“What’s the next worst thing you ever did?” Kallijas asked me.

“Killing the Yeoli slave.”

“Killing the Yeoli slave?”  Of course Chevenga would jump on that.  “When did that happen?”

“Start of the war.”

“And... no, let’s ask him about this afterwards.  Will you tell us the truth of it then, Minis?”

“Yes.”

“Are you remorseful?” Kallijas asked.

“Yes.” I wished, vaguely, that I could say more. I wished I could weep but I had no more tears nor will of my own to cry.

“Do you believe in the Gods?”

Oh yes.  Oh the Gods most certainly existed. “Yes.”

“Will you follow Their will?”

“Yes.”

“How do you feel about your little brother?”

That didn’t hurt to answer.  “Love him.”

“How do you feel about Shefenkas?”

“Love him.” Of course I loved both of them.

“What is your opinion of Abatzas Kallen?”

“Moron.”  That got a laugh out of him.

“What is your greatest strength?”

What was my greatest strength? “My intelligence.”  Of course.

“Of course,” said Kallijas.  “It’s a good greatest strength.  Um... do you have any ambitions you are hiding from us, to become a tyrannical Imperator?”

“No.”

Chevenga asked the next one.  “Do you have any such ambitions you are hiding from yourself?”

Did I?  There was terror underneath, did I carry such a lighting snake in my chest? Was I an infant viper who would destroy the Empire when I grew to my age? A jolt of bloodfire raised my heartbeat without affecting my lassitude in the slightest.  I broke out in a sweat, I could feel it all over my body.  I was just as curious as they were.  My mouth opened and said “No.”

“If he’d said anything else to that, I would never have agreed to this,” Kallijas said.

“Nor I,” said Chevenga.  “Well, that’s why we’ve done this.  What else are you worried about from him?”

“Does he have any of his father’s... you know... tastes... does he have propinquity... you know, those... quirky things, those... proclivities.”

Just lying there listening to them was odd.  I should be embarrassed but couldn’t muster enough will to be. It felt good that he was checking some of the things I’d told him before.

“I think you’d better come up with a better way of wording it than that.  More specific.”

“Sexual corruption!”

“That’s still too vague.  Ask him if he’s weaned... well, we know he is.  Ask him... Minis, do you have any desire for the milk of a woman’s breast?”

“No.” I would just die if I weren’t so flattened by the drug. Perhaps I could just never come out of the drug and never have to face anybody again?  I’d be blushing except I was too far away from myself to blush.  My stomach rumbled.  I hadn’t eaten much this day, and my body was relaxed enough now to let my gut unkink.  Oh please God don’t let me fart.  Truth-drug doesn’t relax you enough to lose control of your water as far as I know but...  And of course at that point I did break wind.  Neither of them seemed to notice.

“What other flavours of sexual corruption are you worried about?  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have a taste for animals.”  Even truth-drugged, I could tell that Chevenga was saying that because he loved to see Kallijas blush.  Needless to say, it worked perfectly.

“This is too important for you to indulge yourself, Sheng, by making me blush.”

“Ehh... it’s two beads before he’ll be off it.  Though, in fairness, I need to get back to the office well before that.”

“Minis, do you need someone else’s pain to be sexually excited?”

Of course Kallijas would be concerned about that.  They didn’t want a Mahid on the Crystal Throne. “No.”  Kallijas didn’t know my sexual problems but I was supposed to see this healer, Surya, about them soon.  Chevenga thought they could be fixed.

“Do you like causing pain?”

“No.”  Thank goodness.

Kallijas seemed at a loss again.  “What else are you worried about?” Chevenga urged him.

“I guess... gradual corruption.  There are some things I’ve noticed that lead to it...” He paused, thinking.  “Do you feel a need to . . . erm, no, let me put it:  How do you feel about having your underlings serve you to establish the chain of command?”

I was silent.  It was something I couldn’t answer in one or two words.

“The answer is too complex for him to give right off,” Chevenga said quietly.  “We need to take it apart in some way... you said ‘you,’ he might have interpreted that to mean himself, but you mean it as the practice in general, right?”

“Yes.  Does he even know about the clean version of service to the victor?  Or what his father...”   He paused and gulped.  “The whole thing.  That.  Um . . .” I couldn’t look but I could almost hear the fiery red he must be.

“Only one way to find out.  Minis, are you familiar with the concept of the clean version of service to the victor?”

“No.”

“Right, so he doesn’t know that.  It’s so obscure he hasn’t even got it out of the thousand thousand books he’s read.  So you have to ask about the idea in general of service to superiors.”

“Minis, what do you feel about... um... men saluting the office of Imperator that way?”

Did he mean full service? Or the traditional kiss under the robe?  I wasn’t sure.

“Why aren’t you answering, lad, is there something unclear?” said Chevenga.

“Yes.”

“ ‘Saluting’ too vague a word?”

“Yes.”

“Kall, you mean ‘suck off,’ yes?”

Kallijas didn’t answer out loud and I could not turn my head to look.  I was confined to looking vaguely at the red and gold filigreed ceiling which seemed endlessly fascinating.  “Minis,” Chevenga said.  “How do you feel about superiors requiring underlings to perform oral sex on them?”

“Hate it.”

“Will you give us a true explanation why when you come off the drug?” I could smell my own sweat and it was sour in my nose but I couldn’t worry about it.

“Yes.”  I could hear Chevenga shift. “Kall, Minis had an experience with this... I’ll tell you later... if that’s all right, Minis, is it all right if I tell him about what happened with Ilian Kallen?”

“Yes.”  It hurt less to answer that one.  The things that were my fault hurt more when I answered but this one was not.

“Hmm . . .” It felt like Kallijas had come to a decision of some kind.  “All right, just to be absolutely clear on this, I don’t like what I’m about to say but feel as though it is my duty to the office of Imperator to.  Cheng, please stay for the next bit in case I do it wrong.”

“Of course, Kall.”

“Minis, I hope you can forgive me for this, but I really feel I need to know.  What . . . what do you least want to tell me?”

11 comments:

  1. Moo hoo ha ha. Perfect place to break it.

    Sorry I haven't commented on the last few, by the by; for some reason the comment widget gave a Service Unavailable error message which is now gone.

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  2. Why thank you, Michael!

    I'd gotten in touch with the Blogger people because Cap was saying she couldn't comment either. I'll check and see if she's still having trouble.

    Oh and the evil laugh is good too!

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  3. You're both sadists-- Shirley for breaking it there and Michael for thinking it's perfect. Why, oh why, do I torture myself reading serials? I must be the masochist to your sadism. Lead on, cruel Mistress of the Pen, lead on.

    Ann O

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  4. Of course! I'm horrible. Trying to leave everyone curious so they come back! I don't have quite the level of 'The Perils of Pauline' but I try!

    Next post is coming!

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  5. What can I say, I admire craftmanship, and this is a well-crafted and well-delivered hook. First rule of showmanship: Always leave 'em wanting more.

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  6. Well, crap. I've run into the most recent post. *huff* Now what am I supposed to do? I guess I can't complain, it did last me a couple months (much longer than most online fiction). Maybe I shouldn't be so greedy and expect a finished book, but I've been zooming along so happily! It's kinda hard to suck down pages at my reading rate and then hit a hard stop. *grouse grumble grumble* Bottom line: please keep writing awesome stuff kthxbye.

    P.S. Sorry 'bout your mom.

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  7. Well I don't know what to say since I was there for most of this, except to add my vote about the nice endline, leave em hanging.

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  8. For those who wonder what my part might have been in this... ehh... no one actually wonders, right?

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  9. To Fan... next post is coming at midnight I promise.

    And to Karen... I think we know who you are... ;)

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  10. And thank you for the sympathy. Gratefully accepted.

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