The look of the room was a far cry from the images most people drew when they were called upon to picture an Allied interrogation room. There were no esoteric devices, no scientific monstrosities or surgical instruments lying about to be wielded by mad bureaucrats or orderlies. No cold steel plating or bolted-down chairs to strap the questioned to. Instead, rather, the room was a well-lit open area, walls a pleasant shade of light brown like coffee mixed with huts the right amount of milk, floor a carpeted swirl of browns and dark reds, and the only seating a small patient couch and an ordinary office swivel chair. There were even fake windows to the outside, revealing a carefully set up diorama of a Swiss forest and lake. Were there not handcuffs on the young man currently lying down on the leather couch, and the imposing figure of an armored Peacekeeper blocking off all access into and out of the room, one could be forgiven for thinking the room an ordinary psychiatrist's office rather than a secured chamber deep within the heart of the local Peacekeeping Station.
Alice Donner sat securely un the office chair, notepad and pencil in hand. With white lab coat over a blue blouse and dress and sensible black shoes, the blonde woman was a sharp contrast to the armored form at the door that towered seven inches over here, armor gleaming darkly and wielding a flash-baton idly in his or her - one couldn't tell under the near-black face shield - left hands. But they were both Allied officials in their own ways, and Dr. Donner was a premier expert in getting information out of those reluctant to give it up.
She looked at the man - only just old enough to qualify for such a term, really - lying down in front of her. Brown hair, blue eyes, black leather jacket, blue jeans - at 20, your typical run of the mill American rebel. Grasping pencil firmly as she set up the framework of questions to be asked, she started the interrogation. "What is your name?"
The answer came back in a surly, no doubt practiced from years of watching old James Dean movies voice, "Joseph Cordy, ma'am." Alice made a point of pretending to note this, though it was ultimately irrelevant - the Station had already gained all the information they needed from Mr. and Mrs. Cordy, after the latter two had seen their son recovered from the burned out husk of what had once been the lab and office of one Dr. Thomas Destrier, Medical Chemist.
After a few more standard questions for the patient, Alice started with the first true question of the interrogation. "Tell me, Mr. Cordy, can you explain to us the meaning of your involvement in the suspected arson-murder of Dr. Destrier and his laboratory? Your involvement itself is backed by witnesses reporting you unconscious in the remains, as well as being seen with a group of motorbike riders witnessed riding to, and then without you afterwards from the location."
Joe was reluctant to speak, keeping silent at first for a minute...clearly thinking hard about what to say. Finally, he came out and replied, "Me and my...friends, we had to stop him. We had evidence, we had pictures. He was going to throw the city into chaos." The words came out in the same surly tone, but the voice was slightly more hesitant, as if Joseph knew the ridiculous of what he was saying but couldn't bring himself to make up an acceptable lie. Donner started to write notes.
"Joseph, Thomas Destrier is - was - a trusted Allied-approved medical doctor and physician. He helped people, not harmed them."
The response was louder than expected, "He was making bombs!"
Alice shook her head. "Destrier was making cures, Mr. Cordy. Cures for lung failure, heart failure, kidney failure. This arson...we have to call it that, Mr. Cordy, there was evidence of gasoline and matches in the remains - it's destroyed twelve years worth of critical research now, twelve years that could mean the difference between life and death for thousands of people."
Joe looked uncomfortable, but the young man stuck to his guns. "Maybe he was doing that, but he was making bombs first. We saw him putting them together, he was planning to use them on the schools and the city hall and the police and the-"
"Mr. Cordy, we have no evidence of the doctor doing any of this-"
"Well we did!"
"-a valuable and highly-regarded member of the community-"
"We had pictures! Video!"
Alice stopped. The patient was getting agitated, and she was getting nowhere. She held up a hand and stopped the conversation, breathing in and out for a few seconds before preparing to try and approach the subject in another way. Before she could open her mouth to speak, however, the Peacekeeper at the door spoke instead, accent revealing her as coming from Brazil. "Young man, why do you have that tattoo on your arm?"
Alice looked at the Peacekeeper with surprise, as much as the speech itself as the nature of the question. She had requested protection as per usual standards, but when the details of the young man had been given out it was a Peacekeeper that wasn't located at the local Station who had accepted, nearly requesting the task. She couldn't see any difference in this particular guard, aside from a small silver necklace around the guard's neck that almost resembled Jesus on the cross, only with two wings coming out from behind instead of the crucifix. But there was no expectation that the Peacekeeper would actually involve themself with the interrogation.
Joseph looked at his upper right arm, and almost reluctantly pulled his jacket off and turned to show them the tattoo. A golden stylized eagle, striking an unseen foe with talons wide. "It's our bike group," he said, "We're the Asphalt Eagles, ma'am. Flying like an eagle across America. It's just a local thing."
"Local?" the strange Peacekeeper spoke up again, reaching with her off-hand to toss Alice a manilla folder, "Just like the car enthusiasts club in England? The hunting group in Canada? The street racing gang in Rio de Janeiro? All have the same tattoo, almost exactly the same."
"Excuse me, officer, but will you allow me to continue the questioning?" Alice said, the Peacekeeper nodding and folding her arms behind her back as the psychiatrist shuffled through the folder. Police sketches and photographs...all of golden eagles in the same or nearly-same pose, even similar in location for many of them. And it was all confusing. Why was she given this? What was she supposed to do with it? Why did this young man have such a similar tattoo, anyways? No answers came to mind easily, or in some cases at all.
At length, she set down the report and looked at Joseph, now slightly confused and frightened but still looking overall defiant in nature. "Mr. Cordy, where did your...motorbike club get this supposed evidence that Dr. Destrier was in reality planning to bomb civilian areas from?"
The answer was less surly this time, more soft - the questioning was starting to work, Alice thought. "We...we just got it. Our leader knows some people, I don't know who they are. They passed the stuff on to him, and he showed it to us?"
"And if I may ask, Mr. Cordy, why did your group hang on to this evidence, when there is no evidence to us of the evidence itself? Why did you kill Dr. Destrier and, we can only suppose burn down his research and his laboratory and not turn to us?"
Joseph's voice was still soft, but now it took on an edge - not of surliness like before, really, but more pure, more righteous. "Because we were told you couldn't know. No one could. We were the only ones who could do something about it."
Alice sat back in her chair, page after page of notes filling up with writing and comments, now interested in this turn of events. "Can you clarify that for us, Mr. Cordy?"
Joseph looked up. "Our leader...he got it from his friends...he told us. There's evil in the world, and we have to fight it. Because we're the only ones who can. Because the evil in this world hides in the shadows, and disguised as good, and we have to go in and destroy them so everyone else doesn't have to. Save them."
Alice looked up from her notes, struck by a feeling of something familiar. She couldn't quite place it, but it tugged at her, made her wish to know more, to continue on. "And why is your group the only one who can fight this evil, while the resources and training of an entire Peacekeeper Station unable to do so?"
Joseph nearly jumped up, but the handcuffs made rising from the couch awkward. Still, his voice was more clear now, no longer frightened but certain. "Because you can't! The evil hides in the shadows, and the only people who can fight it are those that go into the shadows themselves. And you, everybody else in the above lit world, you'd never be able to fight them. We're the only ones that can protect you."
The feeling hit Alice again, and she was aware her tone was growing less and less calm by the second. She struggled internally to control her emotions as a psychological worker, asking, "Why should 'we', then, not be informed about you fighting for us?"
"Because it's for your own good."
And now Alice remembered what that nagging feeling of remembrance was: this young man, still little more than a boy, was speaking in the same way her father had when she was a child. 'For your own good'; 'Because I said so'; 'You wouldn't understand'; all used whenever she had asked a question deemed unsafe or unwise for her to know the answer to, phrases that ultimately kept her from understanding why certain actions were unsafe or unwise until she had finally disobeyed and found out - painfully or simply sadly, often - herself. Phrases that, she understood, were in many cases an attempt to keep her innocent...keep her a child.
She stood up, the Peacekeeper standing solid and unmoving as a statue at the exchange of words now, and looked directly at Joseph. "If this evil is in people we think to be doing good, then how is keeping us in the dark doing us good? How can we learn, unless we experience it for ourselves?"
"We were told we were the only ones who could protect everybody. That no one else could, because it would destroy their ideas about the world. We were told we had to be secret to keep everybody safe."
"Safe? Mr. Cordy, who is we? Who is everybody?"
"We...I don't know. Our group, our leader's friends...I heard once there were others, I don't know anything I swear...and the world. We were going to be saving the world...isn't that good?"
Alice shook her head, the interrogation itself slowly starting to drift away as she concentrated on this boy before her. The boy, young man that had been told he was part of a group that had to save the entire world from evil, and that no one other than that group could know or save themselves. What kind of person could take something like that and remain normal?
"Is it good, Mr. Cordy? How long have you been doing this? Have you done this before? How long have you belonged to this...group? Because it sounds to me like you're being pressured into doing whatever the whims of this group is, and being intimidated into not telling us, people who can help you about it."
Joseph shook his head. "No! I mean...no, I trust them. I trust them with my life...they've helped me out so much, i've been with them so long, since school...and we were told...I mean, our leader said...a long time. Longer than I've been alive, longer than even the president or America."
"Then if your group has been fighting this...evil for a long time, and if no one except your group can know because we can't handle it...why haven't you won yet? Why does it still exist?"
There was no answer for a long time, and it was enough time that Alice's head could clear. She sat down once more in her chair, picking up the notepad that had absentmindedly dropped sometime during her near-rant. "I'm sorry, Mr. Cordy, for my speech back then. I did not mean to...lose control of this meeting."
Joseph remained silent, until finally saying, "I don't know why we're still fighting it if it's gone on a long time, ma'am. I don't know, I really don't why we couldn't go to you, but we were told we couldn't. We had to protect you from the evils of this world, because otherwise evil would be able to spread and there'd be no one around to protect people." Alice nodded along.
"Forgive me, Mr. Cordy but...I don't believe your group's going to work out in the end. It's trying to be a father to the world, to keep its 'children' safe from all harm, but...at some point, the father has to stand down. The children have to be told, to be informed, to be set free to make their own discoveries and make their own mistakes without their father constantly looking over their shoulder and trying to manage them. It's the only they, and we, can ever grow to our full potential - otherwise, we will be forever children."
At length, when no response was forthcoming, Alice decided to stop for today. "We'll have another meeting later in the week, Mr. Cordy. If you comply, we'll see justice and the truth prevail. If Mr. Destrier really was planning terrorist activities, and you can tell us where to find such evidence, then we'll see about getting your sentence modified to account. That alright for you?"
Joseph mumbled an affirmative, and the Peacekeeper came over, taking his shoulder and guiding him to his feet. As he started to walk towards the door, guided by the guard behind him, he said at last, "I'm sorry, ma'am...I just wanted to be good, to save people, you know?"
Alice, gathering together her notes, nodded and gave him a small smile. She managed one last statement to the young man before the door closed, and her next interrogation was to start. "I understand, Mr. Cordy. I'm just worried myself about this group you're in. About whether its actions will end up saving the world... or strangling it."