Chapter 5

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They were back in the interrogation room.

The light was stabbing in Burke's eyes, giving him the worst headache since he had crashed on this fucked-up version of his home planet many moons ago. Damn monkeys hadn't let him sleep ever since Vanda had dismissed him, pounding him with unholy noise - gongs, whistles, rattles, and what sounded as if someone was throttling a herd of geese.

Probably their version of „Born in the USA."

Burke suspected that they had positioned the big band at the other side of the ventilation shafts of his cell, but it had been pitch black in there, so it was just an educated guess. After a while, the sound had seemed to crawl into his brain through the very bones of his body, even though he had pushed his fingers deep into his ears; his teeth were vibrating with the rhythm of the rattles and drums that were marching up and down the corridor. Or maybe they had been clattering from the cold.

This time, Vanda didn't allow him to sit - she pretended to be engrossed in her files, rifling through the pages as if she was looking for something. She put up a good show, Burke granted her that.

An aspirin would be nice.

„So, Burke, how about filling out that form with me today?" Vanda asked without looking up. Burke just sighed and scratched his brow.

What do you do when you get captured by the enemy? Try to escape? Wait for the cavalry to show up and get you out, hopefully without killing you in the process? Hold out until whatever information you have stored in your brain has gotten past its due date so it's worthless to your captors?

Whatever you do, there's a simple rule to follow in the meantime: don't tell the bastards anything but the bare essentials.

„Burke, Peter J..."

„Ya ya ya," Vanda said impatiently, flapping her hand. She was still pretending to be busy with her folder. „I know, I know. Major, service number D 39046375, born November 29th, 2042..." She shot him a quick glance.

Burke blinked.

„Ah." Vanda smiled at his surprise. „Do you think I didn't do my homework, Major Burke? Did you think I'm a dumb monkey?"

Am I talking in my sleep?

He hoped he had managed to keep his face blank this time, but damn, it was a one-two punch to first hear your birthday - your effing year of birth! - and then your favorite term of endearment for the damn m... the apes in the span of ten seconds. That chimp knew how to get her blows in.

„I know just about everything about you that there is to know." Vanda didn't give him time to regroup. „Parents both deceased, you have no wife, no children... presumably..." She raised her brows at the last word, „you indulge in dangerous activities that you call..." she consulted the topmost file in her folder, „'hobbies', and you are quite promiscuous, even for a human."

„What can I say? The ladies love me," Burke quipped weakly. Where the hell had she gotten all that information on him? He tried to remember what he had told Zana back in the institute. He had amused himself with running verbal circles around her, but perhaps it had been her who had tricked him ...

„Oh, so you agree with my entries for your admission form so far? - I'll take that as a yes," Vanda said when he didn't answer, and scribbled something in the margins of her file.

Better get your shit together, Major.

„Well, let's see," Vanda said busily, „before you became an astronaut," she only hesitated slightly over the word, „you were a member of the Aehr Foss..."

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