Suspense Building

You and Max cat-burglar your way up the stairs. This staircase should take you all the way to the 25th floor, where the interrogation room is.  Having memorized the schematics some time ago, you also remember that on the same floor is –

"…Laura?  Hey, soldier, snap to!"  Max’s voice is suddenly distant with echo.

"Max, I… Max?  What the hell is happening?"

"You tell me, cupcake," he quips, helping you back to your feet.  "One second I’m struggling to keep up with you and the next you’re out like a light."

"For how long?"

Max shrugs.  "Not long.  Less than twenty seconds.  You okay?"

Your conditioning helps wall off and dissipate the last of the disorientation.  "I think. I was thinking of the building schematics –"

"The headaches?" he interjects.

You nod.  "Worse lately, but not so bad I can’t manage."

Max continues to look you in the eyes, to the point that you become a little uncomfortable.

"Max, what?" you demand.

"Belgium," he responds quietly.  "I think I know why you left the grid.  It would also explain why you freaked out when I triggered your kill on Harris upstairs."

You half-punch him in the shoulder, annoyed.  "You sound like you’re coming to grips with someone’s last rites," you hiss.  "What are you talking about?"

Without speaking, Max reaches around behind your head.  The intimacy of the gesture catches you by surprise, although you can tell he’s feeling around the base of your skull and the top of your spine.

"Max, what?" you ask, now slightly worried.

He sits back.  "You say the interrogation suite is on 25?"  You nod.

"And Shiguro is here in this building?" he continues.  Again you nod.

This time he pauses.  "Did we know each other before you joined up?"  A pain develops behind your eyes.

Max doesn’t wait for an answer.  "What’s your real name? Are you really from Oregon? Laura…"

Max’s voice is once again distant.  As he comes back in to focus once again, he’s lifting you from the landing, cradling your head with one arm.

"Sorry about that, pal," he says. "Someone wants to know everything you knew as of a few weeks ago.  It appears as though you’ve been chipped."

The End

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