IN THE MOUNTAINS OF FIRE
Dolores J. Nurss
II: Tests of Fire and Blood
The Secret Lore of the Debriefer's Guild
"Who else knows?" Deirdre demanded.
"That your entire friendclan revived a proscribed experiment,” Justín yawned and tried to open his eyes wider, “accelerated your intelligence and reflexes at the cost of the life of one of your own number, as well as the temporary--we hope--loss of your sanity resulting in a second murder?"
In horror Deirdre whispered, "So they really did murder Jesse..."
Justín shook his head, smiling gently on her. "By malpractice only-- not like Tom Czenko, the one you saw shot.” Pity filled his drowsy eyes as he murmured. “All these years with suspicions as bad as yours--and you never dared to ask?"
"You know all our stories!"
He sighed, still half asleep in the thick cushioning of the chair. "Of course--how could we not?"
"Every debriefer on this island. Now just relax!" he said as she started to rise up. "We share a deep hypnotic taboo against discussing anything we learn in these sessions with anyone outside these walls." No particular taboo against blurting out hurtful remarks during the sessions themselves, obviously, not that it would normally make a difference with appropriately sedated agents. "We also sign a waiver barring us from holding office or any decision-making position for the rest of our lives--not that anyone would ever vote for registered addicts, anyway," he said with a cheery shrug, then frowned and stared out the window.
Deirdre’s gaze went that way, herself; it almost surprised her to see the exact same sea, making the exact same waves, as when they had begun--months ago, it seemed. "You asked me why I don't quit," he said softly in his slurring tones. "How could I ever go out there, alone, unable to talk to anyone in the mundane world about the things I've known--the things I've felt--straight from the living witnesses themselves? Even sedated I couldn't bear so much."
Then Justín turned to her and it shocked her to see how such a gentle face could smile so evilly when provoked. "Besides, my dear--do you imagine that the government could dare to question how you've all become so terribly gifted in their altruistic cause? No one is ever going to expose the nasty little secret of the illustrious Fireheart Friendclan, so long as they can use you. And you can never, ever stop making yourselves more useful than you can ultimately stand, for the rest of your probably short lives, in expiation for what you've done."
"Too many 'never evers'. Nothing could be so absolute."
"Weak defense, Ms. Keller. Debriefers have the most hindsight of anyone in the world. We rarely make mistakes when we forecast the future from all the pasts we know."
"Please turn the music back on."