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 Three
These are the events as we know them.
We recorded them factually and objectively.
And now we report them to you.
Termination is the state of coming to an end not by choice or by nature but by decision. A decision had been made and that was to - regrettably - terminate Courtney Hunter. There was no anger or malice in this decision. The decision was simply an observation that termination was necessary and regrettable. Courtney slept through this decision making process as did Punga.
So when Courtney woke hours later, she was not yet aware of the possibility of her termination and would not be aware of that decision until the Geneva incident which has not yet entered this story. What Courtney was aware of was hunger and sore muscles. The sore muscles she was willing to put up with, the hunger she was not. "I need food," she said loudly, assuming that she was being monitored. "I'm hungry."
It was a reasonable request although she did not know she was about to be terminated. One is entitled to a last meal. Does it lie heavily on their stomachs, those that ate and were terminated? One wonders. Courtney did not wonder, not knowing her fate had been decided. She grew angry instead. She had come back and saved Taylor Alexandria Punga's life and she deserved better treatment. She took a pillow, walked into the bathroom area and stuffed it over the drainage hole of the shower. The security system did not react at first and when it did, it was too late, Courtney had managed to get the water running. She was finally pushed from the alcove just as the water broke the rim of the stainless steel basin and started to run across the floor.
Then as quick as lightening, she stopped struggling to remain and ran back into the main room, bouncing off the walls, back and forth like an Indian rubber ball out of control. The security system could not keep up and so on her third bounce she was able to break through to the channel of water. She picked up a stone and hurled it, then another and another, heaving them in all directions with considerable force. They bounced and rolled, and rattled about and still she threw more.
Courtney had been the pitcher of the local baseball team for years and she could pitch. Which she did, over and over again. She threw until she could throw no more and could no longer feel the security system around her. The water spread. The stones, now left alone, remained in a helter skelter pattern on the floor of the room.
Silence. Then the door opened. It was Ian. "Court, what are you doing?"
"Getting my point across." Ian crossed the room and disappeared into the alcove to turn off the water. Courtney ran to the door. It was locked. She needed a red tag to get through the doorways. Ian wore a red tag. Courtney faced Ian. "The door is locked."
"But you can open it."
"Yes." Ian stated. "What do you want, Court? Why are you doing this?"
"I want food, I want to see Punga, and I want my freedom."
Courtney picked up a fist size stone and hurled it at Ian with considerable force. It was a high, fast ball that caught Ian between the eyes. Much to Courtney's surprise, Ian buckled and dropped. She was there in a minute and had undone and pulled the jumpsuit from his body. The red tag was fixed to the collar. She slipped the black jumpsuit on over her red one and stood in the square. The door opened and Courtney once again escaped.
She did not escape into a corridor but into a domed courtyard. This one had a small circular pool in the centre of a room. The room was empty except for a magnificent bougainvillaea that grew up the one wall and partly across the glass dome. The dome was dark, night had come on while Courtney had been held in the room. The area was lit by a single light in the centre of the dome.
A number of doors led off each side of the interior square. Courtney started opening each one in turn and saw some very interesting things which will be talked about later but not now as Courtney had opened the door to the room where Taylor Alexandria Punga lay. The room was very hot and a number of people in black jump suits stood around looking worried. They looked more worried when Courtney Hunter walked in. Worried and bewildered. They did not react, not realizing at first that Courtney had not been released but had escaped yet again.
"Has anyone called a doctor?"Courtney asked, pushing through to where Punga lay on the floor covered in layers of sheets and blankets. No one spoke. Courtney rolled her eyes and knelt down beside Punga reaching out to touch her arm. The arm was cold but not so cold as it had been.
"You can't be in here, Courtney," Haichen Lai said, stepping forward, and placing a restraining hand on Courtney's shoulder.
"Look!"snapped Courtney standing up. "I have had it! I am hungry, tired and royally pissed. I've worked with most of you for over two years and it seems I am the only one not in on the big secret of who Taylor Alexandria Punga is! Well, that just changed. I want to know what the hell is going on here."
No one responded. Finally from behind them, a quiet voice asked. "Courtney Hunter? What is going on?"
"Tap, It appears that Courtney has now escaped a second time and ..."
"Not now," Punga cut in calmly. "You are all to leave, please. Courtney, you stay."
"I want food," Courtney demanded.
"Bring food and drink. You know her. Bring whatever she likes." The group looked uneasy but after a moment's hesitation backed from the room.
"Why?" Punga asked. It was a small speech which demanded a complex answer, as noted before.
"I will not be held prisoner. I have not done anything to warrant imprisonment. And I came back because you were in trouble. I would not let you die."
"You will wait outside the door for me. When the food arrives, please come in and eat with me. I need your word that you won't escape if I allow this."
"You allow nothing. But you have my word that I will not escape until I have eaten and talked with you."
"Agreed," stated Punga which was a very big speech, a policy statement really, that would lead to a rather interesting picnic and a series of events that would be quite startling in nature.
Courtney, having made her point, left. And being a person whose word was good, she did indeed wait in the domed room by the pool. She was not stupid, however, and used the time to consider possible ways of escape. One was reasonably sound and two others would take daring and some remarkable luck. These ones, she favoured.
Tap blinked. Then she blinked again which indicated the degree of her surprise. She had never met someone quite as spunky and resourceful as Courtney Hunter. She had never anticipated that her quiet archivist would be a potential revolutionary.
We have recommended termination of Courtney Hunter.
It is regrettable.
"No," Tap sighed, lying down again and snuggling below the blankets. "At least not yet."
But Tap she has broken into your chambers.
Escaped through the water channel.
Hurt Ian and escaped again.
"How was Ian hurt and how badly?" Tap enquired calmly as she lay still, eyes closed.
We sent him in to talk to her.
She was going mad.
She hit him with a river rock.
It knocked him unconscious.
She took his uniform and tag.
And so she escaped again.
"Had she wanted to escape she would not have come in here. There will be no termination at this time."
Perhaps there would have been more argument but at that point the food arrived, followed closely by Courtney, who was very hungry and could smell a toasted cheese sandwich and a carton of chocolate milk from under its plate cover.
"You may go. I will be alone to have my meal with Courtney Hunter." This too was an unusual request on the part of Taylor Alexandria Punga but Courtney did not realize the significance or care. If Punga wanted to dismiss the waiter that was alright with her. What she cared about was calories and the more the better.
"You will call me Tap in the future. What is that I smell?"
Courtney looked down at the pale figure lying on her back as if asleep. "Aren't you afraid I might bludgeon you to death with my milk carton?" Courtney asked, one eyebrow raised in a sarcastic expression. It was, as noted, Courtney's way to pull the tail of tigers. And Punga was undoubtedly a tiger.
Pale blue eyes opened and looked directly into Courtney's. "Should I be?"
"No. Sit up and join me. There is lots. I'd just like to go on record, in case we ever meet again after today, and you invite me for lunch, as saying that I think a fancy joint like this could provide better for their guests, Tap. I mostly like a toasted processed cheese sandwich and chocolate milk at lunch because it fits so nicely into my tummy and into my budget."
Tap blinked rapidly. Courtney had sat cross legged on the floor and was eating her sandwich between slugs of milk. She wore a brown moustache for a second and then wiped it off with her napkin. Tap was surprised on a number of levels. She could not recall having been given an order before and she could not recall ever having her name spoken quite in that tone. It lacked title and appeared to have considerable amount of warmth in it.
Tap sat up and gingerly took a half sandwich from the plate Courtney offered her. She sniffed it.
Courtney laughed. "Do you always sniff your food? You sniffed your coffee the day you hired me too."
Tap's face hardened and she bit down on the sandwich, chewed deliberately, and swallowed defiantly. The mixture was acceptable - just. It was her first toasted processed cheese sandwich.
For a little while they ate quietly. Tap ate little. Courtney ate a lot. It was only when Courtney had eaten a lot and was just savouring the last few mouthfuls to fill up the more remote corners, that she opened up the conversation. It was, in fact, not so much a conversation but very much more a negotiation "Tap, I do want to learn what is going on around here and I do want to spend more time learning about you. But I will not be held a prisoner. What you did to me is illegal and that worries me. I won't be a party to any activity that is illegal. If that is the case I am out of here."
"Are you afraid of nothing?" Tap asked, once again lying down and covering herself with blankets. Now that the half a grilled cheese sandwich had been processed she wasn't at all sure that it had been a good idea.
Courtney looked at the pale woman wrapped like a cocoon. "I was afraid you would die," she admitted.
"It was close in the tank. I too had considered the possibility that you might have drowned and I searched for your body." Tap considered this statement to be highly personal and a great compliment to Courtney Hunter.
Courtney thought the comment a slap in the face. "Gee, I really feel bad that I was an annoying possibility. But I'm relieved to know that you were not worried. Why do you go to all those environment and world health conferences if you care so little about human life?"
Pale aqua eyes focused on her. "I strive to be objective. It is not good research if it is tainted by emotion and personal bias."
Courtney snorted. "You are one flawed human."
Tap was on her feet in a second and looming over Courtney bristling with anger barely in check.
"I am NOT ... flawed!"
Courtney sat back in surprise and looked way up, because Tap was very tall, into a face taut with anger. She frowned and stood although she still had to look up. "Okay, you are not flawed. You know, Tap, humans have weaknesses. It's unrealistic to think otherwise." Tap visibly jerked when Courtney reached out and touched her arm. Then she composed herself with effort. Courtney's eyebrow rose in disbelief. "If a person didn't know you were not flawed, a person might assume that you had a fear of being touched."
"I have no fears." Which, of course was a lie but one that Tap did not realize she was giving, believing that she did not have fears but only uncertainties. An uncertainity is a fear. This, however, is different from being afraid. To be afraid is to not face your fears. At this time Tap did not know the difference between fear and being afraid. This she would learn in Geneva.
Courtney smirked. "Yeah? I have a lot."
"You do not seem to fear anything."
Courtney put her hands on her hips and looked up at Tap in exasperation. "I didn't say I was afraid. I said I had fears. I am not the least bit afraid of you, You are just a big bully."
Tap walked away, stood quietly for a minute and then turned to look at Courtney. "Let us start again." Which meant she had realized that she had not handled the situation well. "If you are to train here then you must stay here. Once classified information is given you, it would be a security leak to let you go."
Courtney laughed. "Who do you think you are? The president of the United States?