Nick Carter Excerpts — Dragonfire

Nick Carter #234, Dragonfire,
Jove 0-515-09444-7, 1988


Carter started to leap out of bed for his weapons on the bureau, but he was far too late.
Two figures dressed in dark clothing, black ski masks covering their faces, had burst into his room. He got the momentary impression of a large, oddly shaped handgun, the sound of a soft pop, and something hot and sharp stung his bare chest.
He looked down to see a dart sticking into his skin just above his right nipple, and he tried to reach for it with fingers suddenly too large, and the dart and his chest began to recede faster and faster . . . .

“Don’t be depressed, Mr. Carter. You will be well treated if you cooperate with us, believe me.”
“My name is Carson . . .”
Chomo studied him for several seconds before smiling sadly and shaking his head. “You are going to be difficult then, aren’t you.”
“You might try drugs.”
“We have. But as you know, we can’t make you say anything you don’t want to say unless we increase the dos­age, in which case there exists the grave risk of brain dam­age. And we would very much like to keep your brain intact. At least for the moment.”
“Torture?” Carter asked.
“Alas, yes, eventually, though I’d personally like to avoid it.” He looked away momentarily. “In my dreams I often hear the screams of men I’ve interrogated. I have terrible nightmares . . .”
Carter hesitated a moment, but then he complied and was helped up on the table. His arms were strapped down, his knees raised, his legs spread, and his feet strapped into rubber stirrups, much like a woman on a delivery table, ready to give birth.
Quickly and efficiently the orderlies attached electrodes to his temples, to his nipples, to the soles of his feet, and finally to his testicles.
Carter willed himself to relax totally. When the pain came he would flow with it. He would allow himself to hurt, to scream, to writhe on the table. When it came, the pain would occupy his every thought. His every thought. Nothing else would be on his mind.
“Now, Nicholas” —Chomo’s voice was close at his ear— “what is your real name?”
“Nicholas Carson,” Carter said calmly.
The first electric shock came to his testicles, the pain raging through his body, lodging deeply within his armpits, and coming much stronger, and very much harder than he had expected it would be. He screamed, his voice loud and ragged as the pain continued to well up around him until there was nothing in his universe except for the pain.
Carter’s body was on fire. Every muscle ached; every bone was sore. It was as if he had been run over by a truck and dragged for miles over a rough gravel road. He was only vaguely aware that he had been brought back to his room, and he lay for a long time in the darkness, worrying that it was still daylight and his eyes had been damaged.
When he was finally able to prop himself up on his elbows and look toward the window, he could see that it was night. He could see the stars in the crystal-clear sky. It meant he’d been downstairs for at least eight hours, perhaps more. But he didn’t think he had talked. He kept hearing in his brain his answers that his name was Nick Carson, and that he was the U.S. military liaison to the government of Thailand. And he kept hearing Chomo’s voice in his ear.
The girls came in, clucking like mother hens. One of them pushed a wheeled cart loaded with food and drink. They brought a pack of his cigarettes.
“You are such a brave man, Mr. Carter,” one of them said, shaking her head. “But so foolish. It will go on, you know, until you finally answer their questions.”
They came for him at two o’clock. He’d already changed into the white coveralls and paper slippers, and this time no words were exchanged, nor had Tsien-Tsien come along to see that he behaved. Chomo was seated behind the glass, the same as the day before, and he watched impassively as Carter got undressed, was strapped to the table, and had the electrodes connected to his body.
“Mr. Carter” —Chomo’s voice came from a speaker next to Carter’s ear— “two things will be different this afternoon. The first is that I will only ask one question of you: What is your real name? The second difference will be that we will double the strength of the currents through your body. Your heart may stop, but rest asssured we will be standing by for such an eventuality. You may die, Mr. Carter, but not this afternoon.”
The first electric shock came across his chest, taking away his breath, and he could feel his heart fluttering, the muscle trying desperately to catch up with a missed beat and to remain stable, out of fibrillation. It had come so fast and with such intensity that it hadn’t been painful, only frighten­ing, very frightening.
“What is your correct, full name, Mr. Carter?” Captain Chomo asked.
Carter focused on Chomo’s voice, and on his face behind the glass window. This afternoon’s session would be even longer than yesterday’s, he knew, because this session was going to be his last. One way or the other.
The pain at his testicles, when the shock came, was so intense, Carter’s scream caught in his throat and came out only as a slight breath of air, a tiny squeal. He’d been in the field for a long time; he had endured a long career of pain and uncertainty, but nothing he’d even imagined could have come close to this now. And for the very first time in his career, he began to doubt if he could handle it.
Another jolt came, this one to his temples, nearly causing the top of his head to blow off. Without pause, another burst of current exploded in his testicles, and even before a scream could form, a massive jolt crossed his chest. He could feel his muscles involuntarily going into spasm, caus­ing his back to arch off the table so high he thought it would break, and then he understood that his heart had stopped. He could no longer breathe. He could no longer move. But he could think, though the lights in the operating theater were dimming fast. Carter knew that technically, at least, he was already dead. The very last thing he was conscious of was Captain Chomo behind the glass, holding the button that controlled the electric shocks, and then everything was gone….

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