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 Four
These are the events as we know them.
We recorded them factually and objectively.
And now we report them to you.
Tap stood looking at Courtney with an expression of considerable frustration. It was the sort of frustration that one felt when trying to find the missing end on a spool of thread. One should start at the beginning but there was no beginning to be found. She tried.
"Do you remember when the American surveillance plane was intercepted by a Chinese fighter?"
"Yes, of course. The fighter came too close and clipped the wing of an American aircraft. The jet fighter crashed into the sea and the American plane had to make an emergency landing in Chinese territory."
"Yes, then what happened?" asked Tap, crossing her arms and looking at Courtney with interest.
"The President took a very strong stand that the plane and personnel must be returned immediately and they were."
"The President had the Secretary of State feel out the Chinese Embassy in Washington. Who communicated the strong line that was going to be taken by the Chinese government. They needed help. I was contacted and I made the arrangements. The President was allowed to take a strong and threatening stand. This was needed to appease the American people and was acceptable to the Chinese government who had no problem with the United States portraying themselves as world bullies and spies.
"The Chinese were given a formal apology for the death of their airman. This was necessary in order for the Chinese to save face. They would have preferred that it was the President that made that apology but they could not push too hard because they need foreign currency and the support of the World Bank to pay for the Three Dam Project. American investment is an essential part of their development plan. The Americans then were able to save their own face by having the Secretary of State make the apology."
"I am not finished. There had to be a price paid for the release of the flight personnel. The Chinese would have liked to imprison the spies for life. The price was the surveillance system that the United States had planned to establish in Taiwan. The crew was returned. The President got to brag about taking a strong stand against the communist threat and a month later the U.S. quietly dropped their surveillance system."
"The President has no power. He played the role he was told to play in order to get out of a very embarrassing political situation. The power is mine."
Courtney laughed. "You are arrogance personified!"
"I speak only the truth."
"So you are telling me that you run an international consulting service for world leaders. Do you do anything illegal?"
Tap considered, then responded in carefully chosen words. "I run nothing but sometimes help if requested, then I provide it for a price. Humanity has common moral and ethical values. Laws vary greatly, however, from country to country. I try never to violate a law of the country with which I am dealing."
Courtney nodded, then frowned. "Tap, you need to lie down again and get covered up. You don't look very well."
"You have caused me much trouble." Tap did not mean this as a criticism but as a statement of fact. She had much to do and had wasted time on Courtney and on being ill.
Courtney took the remark as a cold and nasty dig. "Hey! Get real! You locked me up! I should have escaped, called the police, and laid a complaint. Instead, I came to you and gave you a chance to explain."
Anger rose like lava through Tap's frame. She had saved this impossible woman's life by putting a hold on the order of terminate and she was totally flummoxed, at the moment, as to why she had bothered. She fought for control and managed to respond neutrally. "You are not in a position to threaten me. It is my good will that protects you. I remind you that you have broken into and entered my home."
Courtney blushed. She was now feeling very uncomfortable with her poorly made decision to use the red tag to gain access to Tap's chambers and although she would never show it, she was very worried about the mess she was now in. The best defense is an attack. "I didn't break anything and you didn't give me any time to enter. I was barely across the threshold when you and your weird security system showed up."
"I need your word that you will stay, learn, and be part of my organization. There will be no more escape attempts." Tap would have liked to lie down. She needed to lie down and cover up. But to do so would be to show weakness. That was not an option.
"Can I go and come as I please?" Courtney bargained.
"Once you have completed your training. Until then you may wear a red tag and have access to most areas," Tap stated. This was going to cause a problem, she knew, but it was necessary. She felt Courtney Hunter had much to offer. If Courtney did not agree then she would be terminated. That would be regrettable.
"How long is the training?" Courtney asked, her chin up with determination.
"A month." This was not so much a truth as it was a lie. It would take at least a month for Courtney to do some basic reading. It was only then that she might be given an opportunity to be a participant in their undertaking. She could never, of course, be told the truth but she could be a willing subject. That had never been attempted before.
"I'll need things from my apartment," Courtney held out stubbornly. She felt that she was doing very well here and that things were turning in her favour. This was not true either. She was, had she known it, only a hair's breadth away from death.
"Tomorrow. I have no time to deal with this issue today." For Tap it was the last concession. If Courtney argued, Tap would give the order for termination. Tap needed to lie down. It was regrettable if Courtney Hunter must be terminated.
Courtney opened her mouth to argue, then decided against it. She had made her point and achieved her aim to learn about Tap and what was really going on. "Tomorrow, okay."
The door opened and Haichen Lai entered silently. "Haichen, you will see that Courtney is given a proper outfit, red tag distinction. You will escort her through the rooms and explain anything that she wishes to know about."
"Yes, Tap," Lai responded, keeping her face and voice passive despite her surprise.
A smile almost made it to Tap's face. "Go now, Courtney Hunter. And please find a room that you are prepared not to escape from."
Courtney did smile and reached out to touch Tap's arm, which shocked both Lai and Tap. "You rest. Your lips are turning blue again." Courtney was concerned. Her anger spent, she now felt bad that Tap was suffering from her time in the cold water. She wondered what was wrong with Tap that she felt the cold so intensely. Haichen hurried Courtney from the room.
This is not right.
Is this wise?
These are uncharted waters.
"Enough, I will rest."
Haichen was confused by the change in Courtney Hunter's position. She never doubted, however, that Tap had a logical reason for this change. It would be best to make sure that Court saw her in a positive light. Tap's relationship with Court was very informal. "It is good to find you are now part of the organization, Court. I have always found you very obliging and efficient in your job."
"Yeah, well, I was a little surprised today to discover I wasn't seen as part of the organization. How is Ian?"
"He will recover but has a large area of swelling and bruising on his frontal eminence."
Courtney stifled a laugh at the double meaning of this statement knowing that Haichen would not understand. Instead, Courtney shook her head in disgust. "I usually have better control. My pitch was high. I was under pressure."
Haichen smiled although she had not meant to. Courtney Hunter showed great nerve. That was to be admired.
"This room is where our uniforms are kept. Tap prefers that we change twice a day. You come here and pick out your size and transfer your tag."
The room was empty except for hundreds of black jump suits that hung from the rods that lined the walls. "Where do we change?"
Haichen looked surprised. "Here. Oh, of course, you would not understand. We are very open here. We live and work together so there is no embarrassment in changing in front of others. The pools, saunas, and whirlpools are open to all and many prefer to be naked."
Courtney went for flippant. "One big happy family, huh?" Inside Courtney felt both uncomfortable by this revelation and excited. She wondered if she would get the chance to see Tap naked. The thought pooled and spread low in her being.
Haichen felt the need to correct her charge. Haichen saw things in black and white and could not bear misinformation. "Oh no, none of us are related. Accept, of course, by the genetic similarities that we all share." She chuckled, enjoying her joke.
Courtney smiled although she wasn't exactly sure what was so funny. Haichen went on. "The A suits will have to do for you. You are very small. A is the closest we would have. You will please change now and give me back Ian's tag. I will get you your own."
Courtney could be rash in her decisions but she prided herself in never making the same mistake twice. " Tell you what, I'll change while you get my new tag. Then we'll switch."
"You do not trust me?"
"After the day I've had so far, I wouldn't trust my own sweet grandmother if she was decked in one of those jumpsuits." Courtney was not one to beat around the bush, ever, in all senses of the word.
"I understand your caution. You will change and then we will go together to get you your own tag." Haichen was concerned. It appeared that Courtney Hunter had much favour with Tap and so she did not want to displease her. Yet she knew that Courtney had tried to escape twice. Tap would be very displeased if Courtney was to succeed.
"Agreed." Courtney felt she was doing very well in asserting her rights. It is easy to feel pleased with yourself when you had no idea yet of your possible termination. This she would not learn until Geneva. The events then would, of course, change everything again.
They went to a room to the right. Here a number of men and women whom Courtney had never seen before worked in near darkness. The only light came from the reds, blues and greens of each computer screen which made the room glow like some alien world.
"Courtney Hunter has been granted red status," Haichen said to one woman who nodded and without looking up went through a series of security checks on Courtney. The last item to appear on the screen was a brief statement. Courtney Hunter is to have red status. It was signed simply Tap in large, bold letters.
The woman typed again and a few seconds later Courtney's red tag was spat out of a machine. Now that Courtney was properly clothed and tagged, Haichen took her on a tour of the red zone area. Off the domed court there was the computer and uniform room, the room Courtney had been held in, the room that she had found Tap in and a communal dining hall, kitchen and a state of the art library.
This room Courtney had a good look around. All books and data were stored on a server. The people doing research sat in comfy chairs with small, swivel tables on which they placed their palmpilots. The data was presented on wall-mounted monitors. Haichen explained that novels and data could also be download should she wish to read in the privacy of her quarters.
The last door off the domed room led down a corridor off which was a huge gym and at the end a sauna, showers and large swimming pool. They turned right and the corridor opened up into the interior court yard that was much larger than Courtney had realized. Haichen explained that the rooms that formed the north wall of the garden were the private quarters of the house staff.
"I do not know where you wish to establish your quarters. Our only guest room is the one were you were..."
Plans have changed.
You are to bring Courtney Hunter at once.
Tap wishes to speak with her.
Courtney forced herself not to react or look around her. She wasn't about to let Haichen know that she thought the voices the least bit strange. "It looks like our tour has been cut short." Knowledge was power. Lack of knowledge was weakness. Courtney planned to play her cards close to her chest until she knew what was going on around here.
Haichen showed shock at the realization that Courtney had heard the voices then recovered quickly. "I will take you back to Tap's quarters."
"No need. I know the way. I am sure you have things to be doing and I don't want to keep you from your work." Courtney talked with authority, testing to see how much power she now had.
"Very well, if you wish. It has been a pleasure to show you around," Haichen agreed immediately, much to the archivist's surprise. She had anticipated a power struggle. Haichen must suspect that Courtney was closer to Tap than she actually was. Courtney smiled her thanks and walked as casually as she could back to the room where she had last seen Tap. She was well aware that Haichen had followed some distance behind and watched with curious and interested eyes until Courtney cross the domed room and disappeared into Tap's quarters.
The room where Tap had been was now empty. Even the sheets, blankets and pillows had disappeared. Courtney crossed the room and opened the door at the back. She entered a room that was beautiful in its simplicity. Here the walls were rice paper in frames of polished camphor wood. A gentle, warm breeze from wall vents stirred the spicy fragrance of the wood into the air.
The floor was white sand and along one wall a channel of water ran bubbling over black river stones.
The door behind Courtney opened and she turned and almost swallowed her tongue in shock.