Thursday, January 27, 2011

Contemplating Alternatives

The floor of the caravan rumbled below her, somewhere between Peace River and Khayr-ad Din. She remembered little of the first two days after setting forth from her hometown; the Doc had her pumped full of morphine to the point of oblivion. But by the third day, she began to return to lucidity, and she wasn't happy at the direction her thoughts were taking.

Again and again, she returned to the fight in the reactor control room, and to Kain's actions. Which led her, in turn, to other interrogations she'd witnessed. The more she considered, the more one thought became crystal clear: she could not get Delacroix to stop torturing for information.

Oh, Doctor Chambers had promised she'd at least have a voice, and she was sure that he'd made that assurance in good faith. She just doubted his ability to follow through. For one thing, even if she'd never personally witnessed Chambers join in on a physical interrogation, he was certainly happy to use all the psychological weapons in his arsenal. Phrases like, "I'll get the blender" and visions of "blood"-stained aprons drifted to the top of her mind. She remembered him convincing Harpster's goons that he'd implanted explosives into their backs and was just waiting for an excuse to detonate them. Chambers might not believe in Delacroix's physical coercions, but he certainly sent mixed signals when it came to proper moral behavior.

Chambers had promised that she would have a voice, true. And sometimes, she might even convince Kain to listen to her. When the stakes weren't too high. When there wasn't immediate danger. When another method of uncovering information was readily available. But when his own life was on the line, or the success of the mission, she knew she was doomed to failure. Delacroix cared too much about the information, about the ultimate ends, to care much about the means by which he extracted it.

She'd seen him break fingers, inflict gunshot wounds to non-essential organs, and, of course, rip out a man's throat just so others would talk. She'd seen Harpster appear out of the POC precinct with a bullet through his hand. And God only knew what had happened during the interrogations when she'd been absent.

No, it was abundantly clear that she couldn't beat Delacroix at his own game. And if you can't beat 'em...

The adage came to her mind unbidden. Clearly, she would not resort to torture. But there might be a way she could prevent people from suffering, from being unnecessarily tortured, even if Delacroix ultimately decided not to listen to her. She could, a small part of her mind said, get to them first.

It was a desperate idea. Would hardened criminals and fanatics really listen to her? Would they really give up their information just because she asked nicely? Well, no. But they might if she truly convinced them what they would experience at Delacroix's hands if they stayed silent. If she set herself up as an alternative to being tortured. And she recalled that in the control room, she had been the one to finally get the technician to talk.

Of course, she had almost no experience in conducting interrogations. It hadn't exactly been part of her job description as part of the Paxton sales division. But she could learn, and certainly watching Delacroix and Chambers had given her a rough frame of reference.

She grunted and pulled herself to a sitting position, then reached for her PDA. She'd kept most of her Management textbooks, just in case she might need them one day. She brought up one of the oldest, Persuasion and Negotiations. She'd spent an entire course discussing the finer points of negotiations and contract dealings, the better to prepare her for a life of sales. But there was a chapter at the back of the book, glossed over during the course and never looked at since. She flipped to it, and the chapter title appeared on the screen: "Coercive Persuasion Techniques."

No doubt it would be woefully inadequate. But it had a list of references at the back, and Maia was certain that at least some of them would prove useful. As the caravan rumbled ever closer to Khayr-ad Din and her new life, Maia studied.

[out of game note: I may have jumped the gun in having the PCs leave Peace River, but this post is pretty standalone. If people still have things they want to do before we leave, simply assume that this post comes later. It probably won't be affected.]


Unknown said...

Eh, we sometimes disagree on what day it is, but I'm sure we all understand the concept of a "timeline" regardless... I don't think you need to worry about rolling the plot forward if that's what the story takes. :)

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