Picture it and Write: Formulation Five

by joetwo

Hi there! This is my offering for this weeks picture it and write by Ermilia’s blog here. The picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway Enjoy!

Formulation Five

I am sitting on my favourite chair, there is a roaring fire in front of me. I can see the snow building up on the windowsill outside. It must be cold, yet I am nice and warm. I am happy. I feel a slight touch on my arm. There is a sweet smell in the air. The long auburn tresses confirms it. It is Natasha, my wife. She strokes my arm in that way I like. “Alexi?” She asks “Mamma and I want to bring you and the boys a gift tomorrow but we have forgotten our way. Could you write me a map?” I see no problem in that. Looking down, there is already a pencil and paper in front of me, perfect. I start to draw, everything is right.

Of course, that is only what Alexi sees. To the rest of us he is in a barren concrete room, lightly tied to a chair, only his hands free to write, his head and arms connected to a suite of monitoring devices. He is being interrogated by Cassandra, my assistant, the best in the business, and he is breaking nicely.

First off, I have been involved in Intelligence since my college days. I was in the reserves at that time. I was a Psyche Major and I quickly found that I could get more and better information from ‘captives’ during war games than the others could by using threats and cajoling. A good talent is a terrible thing to waste and I soon found myself travelling the country, teaching my techniques to specialists across the services. I wasn’t particularly interested in a military career and I went instead into Grad School, earning a PhD in neuroscience. Still my interest in getting the truth and the mechanics of lying never left me and I gradually became an expert in the field.

The army never forgot either and offered me a deal. Tenure and unlimited resources in an out-of-the-way college and all I would have to do is a little “freelance work” from time to time. I always wanted to do what I can for my country so I agreed and for the last ten years I have been living a double life. To all the world I am a simple college professor in a little East Coast campus while I am also part of a well oiled machine developing and using techniques to gather information from otherwise ‘intransigent’ individuals.

Take Alexi for example. Earlier that day, agents from the agency, I can’t say which, It pays not to ask these things, raided this guy’s house in the Urals, gassed him and stuffed him onto a plane. They kept him drugged up to the nines, ideally never waking before he reaches us.

The shadowy men in suits, handed us Alexi and a sheet with some personal detail and the questions they need answering. That is all we need to get to work. That and Formulation Five.

I have been involved in this kind of thing for a good few years now and I have to say, that Formulation Five has to be some of the best stuff we have ever made. I am going to keep the exact details secret but suffice it to say, it is a grand cocktail of neurotransmitters, sedatives and analgesics, guaranteed to blow your mind. The basic effect of these agents is to make the mind totally open to suggestion. It can turn a virtual marble statue when it comes to believing into a salesmen’s wet dream willing to believe and accept anything. Right before Alexi woke from the drugging he was injected with a dose of Formulation Five. When he then woke Cassandra told him, in her passable Russian, that she was Natasha, and he believed her, he had no choice.

And here is the really screwed up part, that was all we had to tell him. One he got it into his head that Cassandra was his wife, his mind changed reality to fit with that idea. The six and a half foot blond Californian became a Five Nine, red-haired Russian. In his mind, she exhibited all the traits he associates with her, from voice, the way she moves, even smell. If he was to look back, he would be convinced that it was his wife he was talking to. It is called confirmation bias, it is why religious fundamentalists, climate change deniers and bleeding heart liberals tend to insist on things that don’t fit the facts. As far as they are concerned their reality is fact. With Formulation Five, you get that on overdrive.

Alexi continued his drawing under the careful observation of Cassandra. It was a fairly detailed map, showing gun emplacements and mine fields, plotting several safe routes into the camp. When he was finished Cassandra thanked him and gave him a shot to knock him out. Our studies have shown that on the rare occasions were the subject remembered the interrogation, they usually considered it just a dream. Still Alexi was likely gone for a few days by now, the agency had probably faked his death during the extraction and it would be ‘inconvenient’ to keep him around. I have no illusions about what goes on here.

The fresh map was handed over to a man with no name skulking at the back of the room. He seemed pleased, giving a smile that could chill you to the bone. Great use would be made of that map I could see.

Colleagues of mine often talk at great lengths about ethics, about what we can and cannot do. Well, I slept soundly the night after Alexi was wheeled out of my building and I will continue to sleep well long after. The information I get saves lives, ours and even theirs. I have done jobs and have watched the new to see where my information has fitted into the grand scheme. I am proud that I have made my contribution to making my country safe.

But more so I am proud for another reason. In my office, at home, I have a rather gruesome collection. It includes thumb screws, racks, and a heretic’s fork. All instruments of torture, from a time that people thought that pain was the only way to get the truth, you use the stick and the truth will come out. Turns out they are wrong. Pain means that people will say anything, everything, to make it stop, makes things very unreliable. The carrot is better, offers of reward either real or imagined work so much better. With Formulation Five I have found a way for people to tell their secrets not just willingly, but eagerly. I have found the ultimate carrot, far better than any stick.

Don’t you agree that this is better?

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