Living nightmare

Gregory Martin's blindfold was removed, and he blinked in the bright light before his eyes adjusted. Before him was a chair, illuminated from above so that the rest of the room was pitch black. A form was lashed to the chair, blindfolded, ropes carefully adjusted to spare the swollen, pregnant abdomen.

"Janet!" he cried, trying to break free of those who held him firmly.

"G-greg?" she answered tentatively, as if not daring to believe.

"Yes, Jan. It's me!" he tried to comfort her with his voice.

But it had the opposite effect. Janet began to sob. "Greg, don't give them what they want! Don't give in!" she pleaded with her husband.

"That is quite enough, Mrs. Martin!" came a sharp voice from the blackness. Janet recoiled as if struck and fell silent. "Much better."

The voice now addressed itself to the husband. "As you can see, both your wife and your son-soon-to-be are unhurt. Now for the matter of ransom." The voice was feminine, exotic, silky, and cold.

"You can have anything! I don't have much money, but whatever I can get, I'll give you!" his voice faltered. "Just don't hurt them."

"Money? No one said anything about money." The voice came closer, almost purring. "No, Gregory Martin, what we want are secrets. The secrets of British Space and Technology, Limited. Once we have those secrets, both you and your lovely lady will go free."

"I-I can't do that. I don't have the clearance needed to access the files." He licked his dry lips as he tried to explain his situation to the woman in the dark.

"No matter," the woman said. "We have our own ways of extracting secrets." Another spotlight came on, this time over a machine. A machine with a dentist's style reclining chair. Manacles that would hold a person still. And a scanner-like device mounted on a mobile arm.

"All you have to do is lie down on that chair and allow us to scan your brain. It doesn't hurt much, and then we will have what we want, and you can go." The voice sounded reasonable. "It's such a simple choice, really. Your wife and unborn son for a copy of your brain."

Gregory Martin's shoulders slumped. He was beaten and he knew it. "All right. I'll do it. But you give your word that Janet will be freed, unharmed?"

"I give you my word."

Gregory's captors kept hold of him as he passed his wife, gazing at her longingly, lovingly. He was untied. Then he climbed into the chair on his own. His keepers fastened him in and he squinted in the bright light. The head restraint kept him from looking from side to side, but out of the corner of his eye, he perceived a woman's figure, short and slender, with a long black plait hanging down from her scalp. He had the impressions of an Asian face and of ridiculously long fingernails.

The scanner device was placed at the back of his head, and activated. It gave off a purple-tinged light. Gregory felt a painful tingle in his head as the light moved very slowly from back to front.

In the middle of the room, her back to him, Janet Martin sobbed over her husband's ruin.