To: Inga, Lisa, and Susan, thanks for your help.

The Anne Azel's World web site is now found at


Note To The Reader: All the information used in this story about trends and concerns on our planet is current and accurate data. In the next fifty years, our world will change completely.

Iron Rose Bleeding: Chapter Thirteen

These are the events as we know them.

We recorded them factually and objectively.

And now we report them to you.

Courtney paced around her small office trying to work out what she should do. She considered escaping and felt she could but they would track her down. They had infinite resources and contacts and she had next to none. She could call 911 and have the police rescue her. She had a funny feeling that by the time they arrived there would be no trace of Courtney Hunter and the police would be made satisfied with whatever story was given to them.

No, she would have to bide her time and pretend she suspected nothing as she quietly gathered information. Once she knew what the hell was going on here, the better her chances were of working out how to get out of the situation. But what about Tap? Could she go on sharing a bed with someone who was deliberately deceiving her and holding her prisoner? For a few days, she could say she was not well but then what? Courtney bit her lip and tried not to cry.

Around noon a message from Tap flashed on her computer screen. 'You will please join me for lunch in the red zone library so we can discuss issues.'

Courtney typed back. 'Can we leave it and talk on the plane tomorrow? I am not feeling well today.' Tears of fear escaped her eyes and she wiped them away. Giving in to panic was not going to get her out of this situation. The problem was, there was far more involved than just discovering she was a prisoner. She had wanted to trust Tap. She cared for her. She took a minute or two to compose herself then she went back to her work.

It was only a few minutes later when Haichen walked into her office. "You are not well, Court?"

Courtney looked up in surprise into a very worried face. She hadn't suspected them to react with concern. But she had passed out the other day so it would be understandable that Tap would be worried. The big question was, why was she important to them? She gave a weak laugh trying to sound natural. "It is okay, Haichen, I...I...I'm just having a bad period," A second later, she felt her world swirl and she passed out.

Tap paced about looking extremely upset. Haichen stood off in a corner trying not to be noticed. She didn't want that anger directed at her. The inner door opened and Jean Lamount stepped out.

"Well?"Tap demanded turning to face him with eyes as cold as a glacier.

"She is not having a period and appears to be in excellent health," Jean shrugged. To be truthful he was greatly relieved that Courtney was not ill. He too respected Tap's temper. He tried not to show that fear in front of Haichen who stood pale and worried in the corner.

"She lied?"

"It would appear so," Lamount responded, not liking where this interrogation was going.

"Why?" Tap demanded, looking now just as confused as she was annoyed.

Lamount glanced at Haichen as he shifted nervously from foot to foot. Haichen gave the slightest shake of her head. "I don't know. I can only report that happily Courtney Hunter is in excellent health." He could feel the sweat trickling down this back.

Tap paced the room and came to a stop in front of Lamount. "You will run the tests again to be sure. You are to keep Court well, is that understood?"

Lamount swallowed. "Yes Tap."

"Go," Tap muttered, releasing him from her penetrating stare and resuming her pacing. Lamount looked across the room at Haichen again. Then he beat a quick retreat.

Tap waited until he had gone and then turned to face Haichen. "She lied so she would not have to sleep with me, didn't she?"Tap asked, bluntly.

"Perhaps," Haichen answered cautiously.

Tap looked like she had been hit. "Go,"she growled, which Haichen was very glad to do.

Tap, we advise caution.

Things are going badly.

Courtney Hunter is too unpredictable.

Once again Courtney came around in Tap's quarters but this time it was Haichen who was there when she woke. "Hi Court. Are you feeling better?"

"I passed out again?" Courtney asked, feeling the cold ice of dread seeping into her gut. What were they doing to her?

"Yes. It might be the strain. You have been working very hard really, doing two jobs instead of one now," Haichen suggested.

"That might be the case," Courtney agreed, although she didn't really believe it for a minute.

Haichen looked relieved that Courtney seemed to accept this scenario so willingly. "Tap wanted me to express her concerns and to let you know that she must be away tonight but will meet you on the plane tomorrow morning if you feel up to travelling." Deception is sometimes used to protect as well as deceive.

"Yes, of course," Courtney agreed quickly. She would have a much better chance of getting out and somewhere safe if they were away from this house. Tap would not have so many people at her disposal. It was a relief to know Tap would not be around but how she was going to handle the sleeping situation in Geneva she was not sure.

As soon as Haichen left, Courtney got up and once again checked herself all over for any indication that she had been used in some sort of lab experiment. There was none. Yet she felt uneasy. She was almost sure, now that she was not passing out that somehow she was being knocked out, but how and why?

Courtney spent the remainder of the day scouring the house's computer system for any lead that would help her explain what was going on and why she was being held by these people. There was literally tons of documentation but nothing that indicated a mandate or program for what was going on here. It was late that night, as she lay alone in Tap's bed wide awake, that she realized that the answer was probably not in the main data base that she had access to but in the small security room and lab that Tap had taken her through.

She got up quickly and dressed and made her way to the doorway that Tap had taken her through. The door slid open immediately as she stood in front of it. Entering, she looked about the small room with interest. The equipment looked different from any computer system that she had seen before. She walked over and looked at a screen of data. It made no sense to her. Cautiously, she started to open data files looking for something she could use to help her escape.

Most of it was just a jumble of symbols that she could not decipher but eventually, by sheer luck and perseverance, she stumbled on a file that was correspondence to Tap. Courtney's hands felt sweaty and she wiped them on her jeans. There were emails from some of the most significant figures in the world about issues that Tap had clearly helped them with by opening dialogue and/or providing data that would lead to better understanding. Tap seemed to be exactly what she had told Courtney she was, a facilitator on request and an objective observer most of the time.

Courtney could feel the heat rising in her face. Tap and the work she did was top secret and Courtney had blundered in and demanded information as if she had a right. She could see now why information had been withheld from her. She could even see why she was a security risk. What she could not see was why that necessitated the cancelling of all her accounts - her life.

Then a brief email popped up that made her heart pound. It was a request for the termination of Courtney Hunter. Tap had casually emailed back that termination was not appropriate at this time.

"What are you doing in here?" Courtney turned to see Tap standing in the doorway.

Courtney's heart skipped a beat but she held her ground bravely. She had nothing to lose now. Whether now or later, they meant to kill her. "Looking for answers. You have lied to me over and over. I know I am a prisoner. I know my life has been erased and you plan to kill me. I want to know who you are and what you are up to and why I am being held as a prisoner until you feel like killing me."

"I do not wish to kill you. It is not possible, at this time, to answer your questions. I have asked you to trust me," Tap said, with some annoyance moving to stand in front of Courtney.

"Back off," Courtney snapped.

Anger flashed across Tap's face and for a second Courtney thought she might be hit. Then Tap took one step back. "You are not on a period. Why have you made an excuse not to be with me?" Tap heard herself asking in a voice edged with confusion.

"Look Tap, I admit I was attracted to you. But I am not some sixteen year old with blind puppy love. I have some intelligence and a hell of a lot of pride and I am not getting involved with a liar and God knows what else! Shit! You mean to kill me!"

Tap's face was hard with tense muscles. Her eyes were dark with anger. "Ian." Courtney turned to see Ian standing in the doorway of the lab behind her. "Take Court away. She is to be detained until I decide how I wish to proceed."

Courtney dived for the door behind Tap but strong arms grabbed her and held her in a gentle but tight embrace. "Do not be afraid. You are safe and you will not be harmed. I ask again that you trust me. There is so much that you do not know."

Courtney felt her arms being pulled back behind her back and secured by Ian with a plastic strip handcuff as Tap held her. "Then tell me! Damnit!" Courtney yelled.

"No,"was the curt reply as Courtney was dragged away.

Tap things are out of control.

She behaves badly.

This is not acceptable.

Tap stood looking moodily at the screen that Courtney had on. Courtney Hunter had proven herself to be intelligent, creative and determined. She had the qualities that Tap felt she needed but they were also the qualities that made her a very difficult individual to handle. She nodded slowly and having calmed herself she followed in Ian and Courtney's path.

Courtney lay on a narrow bunk in a small cell. Tap indicated that the door should be opened and she stepped in. Ian hesitated. "Yes, lock it." Ian quickly did so and beat a hasty retreat.

"Am I to be interrogated?" Courtney asked, looking up at Tap from where she now sat on her bed trying not to show her fear.

Tap looked confused. "Of course not. You do not know anything worthwhile."

"Thanks!"Courtney snarled sarcastically, standing up and pacing away from the taller woman.

"Would it make you feel better if I did?"

Courtney sighed in annoyed frustration and brushed the hair from her forehead. "Tap, what is going on? I want to know why you are holding me."

"You have qualities that I my organization. I do not mean to stress you by withholding information. I don't want you stressed. But there are things going on that are far greater than you realize. You have gone through some of my files. If those people chose to trust me then why can't you?"

"Maybe they don't know that you terminate people," Courtney growled.

Honour is everything but there are times when honour must be tempered by practicality. Tap chose to lie. "You have misunderstood, Court," she said calmly. "The message is referring to me firing you, not to my ordering the taking of your life. I think you have been watching too many gangster shows. Whatever you have convinced yourself happens here it is far from the truth. There are some who rightfully feel that you have been lately a very troublesome employee and that you should be dismissed."

Courtney went a deep red as she realized that her fear had made her put an interpretation on the message that was truly dramatic. No, she must not doubt herself. "What about the fact that my apartment has been emptied and my accounts closed. Even my library card is no good anymore. Damn it, Tap, my library card!"she added, her voice breaking.

Tap took a step closer but Courtney stepped away, crying more in frustration than in fear now. Tap thought quickly. Lying is not as easy as it seems. "I should have explained. It did not occur to me that you would make enquires outside this establishment. You know you are in the process of being retrained. Part of that process, in order to protect you, is to create a new identity for you. You must trust me as so many others do."

"Am I stuck being someone else forever, then?" Courtney asked, wiping away tears with her sleeve.

"We agreed until the end of your training period," Tap evaded. Tap moved forward slowly and wrapped Courtney into her arms. For a long time Tap held the small body in her arms feeling, with relief, Courtney slowly relaxing. Finally Courtney pulled back and wiped her eyes. "That is all Tap?"she asked.

"No. There is much more but it is as much as I can say at this time." This was a honest answer yet misleading all the same.

"I feel like a fool."

"You acted with great daring and intelligence but you are very pigheaded, my Court."

The words had been said softly and with pride. The word "my" had not been one of ownership but of affection and respect. Courtney felt herself weakening. She had only Tap's word on all of this and yet it seemed so reasonable an explanation. And she had to admit she wanted to believe.

"One month, right?"

Tap nodded but said nothing.

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