I press my eyes closed, momentarily forgetting to remember just how deep we must already be. HPNS regulations at least breached, for certain-sure, if not exceeded — more than deep enough to check my hands for tremors, and count off the rest of those prospective High Pressure Nervous Syndrome symptoms our mission literature listed:
Increased excitability, motor reflex decay; aphasia. Mental glitches.
…under the deep black sea, who loves to die with me…
—glitches. Psychosis. Cyanosis.
I slam my head back, skull on wall, hard enough to ring myself true — short, sharp shock, broken left incisor into lip, tweak of clarifying pain. Instant coherence. Kiley’s rules, channeling themselves: Keep alert. Tell it through. No opinion without research. No solution without…
…with — out…
“Book,” the Doctor whispers, beside me. I shift a bit towards him, deliberately trying to find the floor’s sharpest angle, to bend my hip in such a way as to make the pain flare just so, girdling my pelvis. Making myself uncomfortable.
“Doctor,” I answer.
“Book, Regis. American. No…registered rank.”
He coughs. “I…didn’t know that.”
“No reason you would.”
The Doctor give a snuffling gasp, a liquid retch. Something catches in his throat, rattles there briefly — then flicks out again, splattering the floor between us with wet, red bile. I glance back at the wall I just used for a memory aid, which could frankly use a few shadow animals right about now. And as though he’s read my mind—
—which may, I suspect, no longer be quite as hard to do as it once was—
“Black…Ops…operative. ‘Wet…boy.’ Yes? C…I…A — puppet.”
I smile, thinly. “Whatever.”
But at least you know my first name.
“You…are a — coward, Book,” the Doctor tells me. Then lets all his breath out in one big rush, ragged with the effort, like he expects me to pause, to take note — to congratulate him on his sudden insight, his startling perspicacity.
As though this were really some big revelation.