Anderson looked around as he was led to the waiting Spectran contingent. Despite all his readings, all his intelligence work, he had never imagined Spectra to be so desolate, so desert-like...so...condemned. No wonder they wanted the Earth's resources...but too bad they didn't want to reach a peaceful arrangement. In the distance, he saw a tall, grey, tower-like building. It was the only building visible from where he was.
Mala saluted, and received a salute in return from the general of the Spectran intelligence services.
“I hand over the prisoner to you, General. He is now your responsibility. My brother expects him in his chambers as soon as the formalities are over.”
“Aren't you going to introduce us, Mala?” asked Anderson. He couldn't stop himself. He knew he shouldn't be engaging with the enemy – Lord, he had written the manual on how to behave as a prisoner-of-war himself – but the temptation to be sarcastic was too strong.
As strong as the punch that landed in his middle. He gasped, doubled-over for a second, then pulled himself upright.
“General,” started Mala, as if the punch had never happened, “this smart-ass is, as you know, Chief Anderson, ISO scientist and intelligence officer, and a major thorn in Spectra's side and in the side of our glorious leader, my brother. Prisoner Anderson, this is General Xirol, your, let's say, counterpart. Now that this pleasant interlude is over, take him!”
He was put in a vehicle and taken to the tower-like structure. Then, he and his captors marched through never-ending corridors, steel gleaming in the light of the overhead lamps, boots squeaking on the spotless floor. Anderson had read thousands of reports on the military headquarters of Zoltar and, in spite of himself, he was thrilled to be there, to see for himself, finally, how the Spectran military machine worked. Carefully, he filed away information in his head, to be used in his debriefing, in the unlikely event that he was rescued.
They stopped outside a featureless steel door. A small panel was attached to the wall next to it, and one of the goons removed his glove and pressed his open palm against it. The door opened.
Seated in a gilded chair, but with surprisingly little decoration around him – just a table that could've passed for a conference table on Earth, and a few straight-backed chairs – Zoltar looked up from the report he was reading.
From what he had seen in reports sent out by ISO agents on Spectra, and from his own experience with the various mecha commanders the ISO had, occasionally, captured – and the descriptions supplied by G-Force in their debriefings – Anderson had expected Zoltar to be a lightweight political leader, with a loose attitude, and a lack of seriousness. What he had seen until now, in the inner chambers of the Spectran leader, had shaken this opinion. It was shaken even more when Zoltar jumped up from his seat and rushed to greet the party – the ridiculous costume was there, but so was a serious, even sombre expression that had nothing to do with the frivolous image the ISO, the Federation and practically everyone had about Zoltar. Anderson silently congratulated him. A failed military commander, perhaps, but Zoltar was by no means the failed political leader everyone had assumed him to be.
Anderson pulled himself a bit straighter as Zoltar approached them, saluting the intelligence officer that was escorting Anderson. The Spectran leader was as tall as he was – Anderson could look him straight in the eye.
“Chief Anderson...finally in our hands. This is a great day for Spectra.”
“If you wanted to speak to me, you could've sent a delegation. You know we don't harm diplomatic representatives,” Anderson said woodenly.
“All in good time, Chief Anderson, all in good time. Certainly there will be a diplomatic representation visiting Earth. To conclude your surrender.”
“You know this will never happened,” said Anderson through clenched teeth.
“Ah yes, with you in charge, no. But how long do you think it will be until they replace you?”
The guards, at a gesture from Zoltar, pushed Anderson even closer to the Spectran leader.
Their faces inched apart, Anderson looked straight at Zoltar.
“You do know that you won't get anything out of me, no matter what methods you use,” he whispered.
Zoltar looked at him in genuine surprise.
“Methods? You mean torture? My dear Chief Anderson, you are an ISO officer and a top agent. I know you'd never speak. I wouldn't dream of torturing you. And I won't need to, trust me.”
And with those chilling words, Zoltar nodded to the goons, who marched Anderson out of the room.
The cell they took him to wasn't too bad. At least, it was better than those that had held captured ISO personnel in the past, personnel that had escaped to tell the tale. Spartan, but clean, it had a steel bench with a plain mattress, a sink, a toilet – Anderson gave silent thanks for that, at least he wouldn't have to ask the guards to be let to the loo –a chair. But Anderson could feel there was something wrong. He just couldn't put his finger on it. Then, suddenly, it dawned on him. There was nothing to read, and nothing to write with. He sighed. Perhaps Zoltar wanted to bore him into submission.
“I want G-Force to appear in my office – NOW!” President Kane shouted to his secretary.
“They are on their way, sir. They are finishing debriefing the ISO on the monorail incident.”
“Great, maybe now they can debrief me also,” he said, sotte voce. “Thank you,” he added, more loudly, into his intercom.
A few moments later, a very subdued G-Force entered his office.
To be continued.
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