STRATAGEM Chapter 27
TWO DAYS EARLIER
HOW LONG HAD IT BEEN? Connor sat dazed on the edge of his cot. The cell in which he’d been detained felt antisceptic—no discernible scents, not a hint of dust or grim, just white wall, smooth surfaces and white LED lights above him. Nothing remarkable. So why did his head ache as though gripped in a vice, the hollow sound of his breathing bouncing inside his ears?
A painful mental fog.
Somewhere between a dream and a hangover.
Thoughts, memories…of speaking to people over Zoom—jetsam and flotsam floating about his torpedoed mind. He blinked, swallowed, nearly choked on the dry itch.
An empty glass stood on the small table. Felt like days since he’d had anything to drink.
At the edge of his cot…the laptop.
The one from the conference call dreams…or memories?
So many conference calls, faint images of which fought their way to the forefront.
Screens with increasing numbers of participants: ICOMM brass, the Secretary of Defense, President Mercer?
A sharp pain pierced Connor’s eyes directly into the center of his skull.
Reached for the laptop.
Another agonizing internal blow to the head stopped him.
Gasping, he steadied himself and looked away from the laptop. Somewhere in the recesses of his brain, he understood what was happening. He just couldn’t articulate it.
More images burrowed through the razor wire of his mind. But each time they came close to materializing that same cranial assault forced them away.
The pain backed off, as though startled.
Made no difference, no one around to hear him shout. But it did feel good to get aggressive and fight whatever it was that didn’t want him to remember.