Not long now!
Phantom Corps: CAPTIVATED by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2012, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, The Berkley Publishing Group
“They had you for almost a year, Hannah.” Julian moved his chair closer and took one of her fists, slowly unfurling her fingers to kiss her palm. He . . . disarmed her. So gruff all the time and yet when he turned his focus on her all that dropped away. He touched her like she was precious and that helped her listen. “They didn’t kill you. If you were a prisoner, they’d have made to trade you or they’d have killed you. We need to know why they kept you alive.”
Didn’t they think she’d wondered that too? Had wondered if her life had come at some expense she didn’t understand? “I don’t know anything!” The rage boiled up and through her system. They’d kept her and hurt her over and over for no reason she could understand. “I studied viruses. I wasn’t political at the foundation. Do you think I’d betray my Universe?”
The words shot from her mouth like bullets.
Julian’s worried look faded a little. “I think that’s the most you’ve said since Vincenz brought you home.” He winked and she laughed. Just a gritty huff of sound, but it felt so very good to do.
“Even better, a laugh. No, we don’t think you betrayed us. If you had, they’d have let you go, not kept you penned. But we need to question you about what they did to you and why they might have done it. And you are not in any shape to answer those questions much less dwell too deeply on what happened in that cell.”
“We need to know what you know. You may not even know what it is. We have methods to help people go through these sorts of events. I’m trained to help you find what you may not know. But there is simply no way Julian and I would agree to such a debrief right now. Even if you could withstand it.”
“And you couldn’t.” Dr. Pesch interrupted. “The kind of trauma you’ve endured is quite simply, more than most people could have survived with their sanity intact.”
“Who says it is?” She rubbed her free hand over her face, leaving her hair there for long moments. Julian kept her other hand in his.
“You’re the sanest person I know.” Julian brushed a kiss over her cheek and she laughed again.
“You must not know a lot of people.”
Vincenz tutted and waved that away.
Dr. Pesch spoke again. “This will help you. It won’t cure you. But it’ll get you to a place where you don’t pass out from fear every time you see my instruments. I’d be the one to do the treatments, though Julian and Vincenz have both volunteered to learn how to administer the treatments as well.”
Could she do it if they were with her?
“Tell her why it’s experimental.” Vincenz had wariness in his voice, and a little anger. She was glad he asked and more than a little curious as to why he responded that way.
The doctor told her about the newness of the process and the lack of long-term studies. He told her it might result in irreversible damage to brain tissue.
“I want to emphasize the rare part. The longer we do this, the better we get at it. I’m good at what I do, Hannah. Let me help you. Let me help you help us all.”
She understood. Better than they thought she did. “I don’t need a . . . guarantee. I know how this works.” Her brain. Well, her brain had always been her strongest asset. If she damaged it . . .
“There is a chance that the treatment won’t help at all. Though I’ve never had that result with a patient. In the end it’ll take longer to heal with more aggressive medication to normalize.” He shrugged. “I wouldn’t be recommending this if I thought that would be the case. This is extreme. Much as your situation was extreme. But all my patients and those treated elsewhere have had forward momentum. Even if it was very small. You’re a doctor; you know how this all works. I can’t cure you with this treatment. But I can help you find a way to process what happened. And I can help you get to a place where you can help your fellow Federated Universes citizens by being debriefed.”
“What do you think?” she asked Julian.
He grimaced and it made her feel better that he wasn’t so superhuman he could hide his emotions in every situation. “I think it bothers me that you’d be manipulated into an experimental brain treatment by using patriotism. I don’t like what happened to you.”
“Do you think I should do it?”
“I think you should do it only if you want to. I believe Dr. Pesch is a good doctor, good at what he does, and I think if you plan to go ahead, he’s the guy to go ahead with.”
She narrowed her eyes, frustrated. Turning to Vincenz, she caught him watching her and Julian. “What do you think? And don’t say only if I want to.”
Vincenz laughed and he and Julian shared some private, intimate thing, and yet she felt part of it, not apart. “I don’t like the experimental thing. You’re a brilliant woman with a history of doing things that have helped others. I hate the idea that you stand a chance to lose that ability in the future.”
She pushed from her chair and moved to the sink, looking out the window.
“You don’t have to make the decision right now.”
She turned slowly. “I appreciate that, Vincenz, but we know that’s not true. This is rush-rush and my brain is broken. Too broken to be pok—” She wrestled back a sob and hated that weakness. “I’ll do it. Let’s get started so we can be done.”
Her hands shook and all she wanted to do was be well enough to be alone so she could cry in peace.
“I know you’re scared.” Julian stood and moved to her. He slid his palms from her shoulders down her arms, holding her hips. “And I can’t tell you not to be. I’d be scared too. But you’re not broken. And you’re brave. So very brave.”
He hugged her, and she knew she got the front of his shirt wet from all the tears, but she couldn’t help it. Momentarily, Vincenz was there, hugging her from the side. “We’ll be with you. Every step of the way.”
Today’s prize is a signed copy of RELENTLESS to one lucky winner chosen from the comments to this post. Winners will be announced in next Monday’s prize post 🙂