DISCLAIMER: READ THIS FIRST!
'British spies!' Arthur heard from under the canvas. 'You are under arrest for the abduction of the Prime Minister of Switzerland. The sentence is death. Do you have anything to say before you are shot?'
'This is all a terrible misunderstanding,' X murmured. 'He was in the back of the sleigh when we drove off the cliff.'
'Ah, so you admit it!' came the triumphant cry.
'Shut up, X,' hissed Arthur.
'Sentence to be carried out immediately!'
A door slammed open in the distance.
'Belay that last order!' the command was clear and authoritative. 'In the name of the office of the Prime Minister of this country, I demand you lower your weapons!'
In the doorway stood the Swiss Premier, hands on hips and a fierce look across his brow.
'Prime Minister, you are alive!' said the commander of the Special Forces, surprised.
'Indeed I am, Commander... Schultz.' The premier squinted to read the ID badge on the man's chest. 'And in no small measure thanks to those men you are about to execute! I order you to lower your weapons!'
The weapons were lowered. 'But... Vice-Premier Knett...'
'I have today already accepted Vice Premier Knett's resignation. I am giving you new orders.' The commandos all snapped off salutes and stood rigidly to attention. 'Your orders are to protect me and the British Agents — we need to reach a secure channel so I can contact Bern and they London. My bunker has been... compromised. Is there a nearby military base?'
'Take us there.'
A few moments later, Arthur, X and Sfret were sat alonside the Swiss Premier and several commandos in winter camouflage, riding in the back of a covered truck en route to Geneva.
The commander pressed an intercom in his ear as a message came through. 'Sir, Geneva is expecting you.'
'Very good, Commander,' the Premier shouted over the noise of the truck. 'See to it that communications are established when we get there.'
'Yessir,' the soldier responded, and pressed the earpiece again to carry on talking to Geneva.
Across from the commander, one commando was complaining.
'Something the matter, Pieter?' the commander asked.
'Keep it that way.'
X watched this and then turned to his partner. 'Where do you suppose von Trapp and the others are now?'
Arthur turned from his grim soliloquy to look at his partner. 'That's just it. I don't know. The trail is gone. We'll need advice from London. Sfret, you're remarkably quiet,' Arthur observed, seeking a convenient distraction.
'I don't like being up this high,' the grey-cardiganed monk mumbled.
Arthur wrinkled hs nose. 'I see,' he said, even though he didn't.
'That girl,' X suddenly piped up, 'do you think she is okay?'
'I... I don't know that either,' Arthur said irritably, and X noticed his partner's knuckles went white as he gripped the side of the bench.
Once inside the base, Arthur, X and Sfret were marched along corridors with the Prime Minister to a communications station. In front was a column of soldiers and behind Arthur was Commander Schultz, with some more of the commandos.
'Welcome, Prime Minister.' A senior figure with a hat tucked under one arm greeted them as they walked into a room with many banks of monitors and panels with controls.
'Thank you, General,' the Premier saluted. 'See that these men are made comfortable. There is sedition at work in this nation and I want to see an end brought to it immediately.'
The General said, 'Take these men to holding room 3. Split them up.'
'What?' Arthur said.
'It's for your own protection,' the Swiss PM said diplomatically.
Arthur protested, 'I need to contact London!' but all three were bundled towards the door by burly security officers.
Commander Schultz stood satisfied and at attention in the doorway at the back of the control room, watching the PM talking to his boss in some animated fashion. He heard a clatter from out in the hallways and saw that Pieter, his gunnery sergeant, was lagging behind, and kept holding his head and crashing into the wall. He went towards his subordinate.
'Report, Sergeant Pieter.'
'It's my eyes, sir — they feel like they are on fire. It's getting worse!' he complained.
'All right, all right. Report to medical. See me when you're done.'
'Yessir.' Pieter saluted weakly and left, and Shultz stepped aside as the three foreigners were dragged past him, protesting noisily.
Away from all this commotion, Gunnery Sergeant Pieter pushed open some double doors and went down a stairwell, staggering along to medical. His vision was getting foggy and he couldn't see properly. He knocked into one person carrying a stack of papers, which went flying everywhere.
'Sorry,' he huffed to the person bending down to collect the spilled documents. With one hand tracing the wall, he meandered woozily to medical, the other hand still clasped to the side of his face.
Medical was unusally deserted. Pieter collapsed heavily against a door into an examination suite, which opened. Inside was a bed in those horrible disposable linens, a rubber curtain on a rail and a sink with a mirror. The walls were green and a flouerescent strip light flickered on and off occasionally.
'Water, just what I need,' Pieter said, seeing the sink and advancing inside, his palm still clasped firmly over his right eye.
He got a few steps into the room when the pain suddenly elevated and he fell to his knees. There was a pressure now inside his head that throbbed and drowned out conscious thought. All there was was the pounding behind his eyes. 'This damn headache!' he growled, wincing, and moved his head as if trying to shake the pain loose. He staggered up off his knees, half-blind. Hand outstretched across to the medicine cabinet and flailing, he managed to open the mirrored door.
He reached inside, aimlessly knocking aside childproof-capped orange bottles and tubes of ointment that fell into the sink, looking for some eyedrops. 'I feel like my inside of my head is on fire!' he screeched.
it is not, an ethereal voice said.
'Who's there?' Pieter demanded, turning wildly and reaching out to see who was behind him.
do not be afraid, my child
The ethereal voice was calming and spoke again.
may your vision be restored
Pieter suddenly felt the needling sensation in his eyes evaporate. He gingerly took away his hand and blinked a few times. Then he stood upright, after being bent double in agony. The pressure in his head was gone too. 'Who?' he asked the empty room.
He felt rather helpless in obeying that voice. It wasn't, he reasoned to himself, that he was powerless to resist, but rather that the voice has a persausive power. He wanted to do as he was told. 'Yessir,' he replied and turned to face the open mirror.
let me get a better look at you
Pieter stretched out and closed the mirror with the tips of his fingers. He found himself staring not into a reflection of his own face but at someone very different. The face belonged to a man and it was drawn and gaunt and had a wispy black beard around the chin. The eyes were the palest blue, like a solar eclipse reflected in ice. They were magnificent. Something in the back of his mind told him something was very wrong about all of this, but there were soothing waves that were crashing over him, assuring him this was right and eradicating all questions at the point of asking. Those eyes glowed.
you are a very brave boy
The comforting waves eased and he was able to reply with a song in his heart. 'I am, sir.'
yes indeed, I can see — you know a threat when you see one, no?
'I am well-trained,' Pieter droned, slack-jawed.
then you understand what must be done. what must be... sacrificed
Pieter felt at once removed from the world, as if he were lain on the bed watching himself talking to the face in the mirror. He was leaning to the left like a marionette whose strings are cut and his own mouth moved to reply to someone Pieter could not see. In the very depths of his soul, Pieter heard himself say the words, but did not understand why:
'Yes, my lord Rasputin... but the others will try and stop me.'
then kill them
you and I are one
I am the harbinger and the bringer of death
'I am the harbinger and the bringer of death...' Pieter felt like he was tipping forward.
the future of the world...
Pieter opened his eyes and found he was leaning over the sink like he was about to be sick. He stood upright and looked into the mirror that only showed his own reflection.
His eyes were ice-white and his skin pallid. He opened hs mouth to speak. ' The future of the world is to die!' he snarled.
He heard the door open and close and somebody inside the adjoining room. Feeling the urge within him, he creapt open to the door and tipped it ever so slightly open. There was Doctor Acklin: he had his back turned to the room and was setting out some equipment. Pieter snuck out and moved silently towards the doctor with the precision of a predator.
Acklin turned around and was startled. 'Good lord, man. You made me jump!'
'Did I?' Pieter said innocently.
'You sound a little gruff. Are you feeling all r — good god, man, what is wrong with your eyes?'
The rage returned and Pieter was ruthless. From out in the corridor there was a rattling of metal pans and the tipping over of beds, but no one was around to hear it.
Eventually 'No! Don't!' rang out plaintively, followed by a wet thud and then just silence. The door to the medical bay opened and Pieter stepped out, blood dripping from his hands, and set off back towards to stairwell.