Ingrams & Assoc 5: Personality Flaws Ch. 03


"I'm sorry. I'm just not used to...a celebrity...being involved in what I do. By definition, what I do is quiet, in the shadows and not talked about. The idea of someone with your background being involved will take some...adjustment." April was trying to mend some fences. She had misjudged Chandra and his own self-respect and she needed to make up ground.

"I see. Yeah, I'll bet you guys would. OK, so double oh eight, fill me in on the details. I'm hopin' we are going to get some gratuitous sex and violence in here. Always up for some of that, me. Know what I mean?" laughed Chandra, as he sat back down. Obviously, his little stunt of walking out was entirely for show, to challenge April on her own turf.

"Well, I'm not sure what Mark here has told you - why don't you tell me what he's told you and I will fill in the rest?"

"So, there's a geezer who's suffered some considerable personality change, from a man's man to a submissive bitch boy, right? And the smoking gun here is some fella who's been running some hypno therapy voodoo. He's very good, apparently, but he's doing something to these people beyond what hypnosis is currently expected to do. You guys want to send someone in there to get a gander down his neck at what he's doing. Am I close?"

April nodded, leaning forward on the table. "Effectively, yes. I've had a few classes in hypnotism myself and I know that what has been done to him isn't really possible. We need your expert opinion on what we find and what it means."

Chandra wrinkled his forehead and interjected, "Currently. What we know about hypnotism currently."

"I'm sorry?" asked April, confused.

"One of the reasons my good mateys at the Magic Circle recommended me, Ms. Carlisle, is because I've actually done a lot of research. While I am Chon the Eyes in public, I'm published as Chandra Patel. I've written three books on hypnotism and the hypnotic state, one of which is the definitive history of hypnotism usage, even if I do say so myself."

Chandra smiled that big smile of his, showing all his very white teeth, and buffed his fingers on his lapel, then making a show of examining him. Mark laughed out loud and even April had a smile. Chandra grew on you - she could see herself liking him.

"Seriously though, the current state of hypnotic trance understanding is more rediscovery than new information. Hypnotism has been used throughout history, but most of what's been learned has been a closely guarded secret. It's a tool that's used sparingly but to huge effect. There's even evidence that the Japanese Emperor was hypnotized into starting World War Two, in fact. Not that I suspect he'd need much prompting, given the situation at the time.

"Hypnotism, or mesmerizing as they called it in Victorian times, has been used a lot through the years, and much more effectively and with deeper impact than we see today. It's likely there are pockets of learning that were lost over time, because they were so secret. Even today there are reports of experience and learning that we never hear about, because they are languishing in some vault in Langley, Virginia, or at the Lubyanka. What Russia, the USA and China did in the sixties and the seventies was amazing, but all that experience is just locked up and never acknowledged. It's very sad. Like trying to work out the recipe for a four-course meal when all you know how to do is make toast."

April noted that as he lectured, a lot of the heavy duty London accent fell away from Chandra, and was about to say something when Mark said, "Interesting how your accent moves around?"

Chandra turned to him and spoke, with astonishingly clear upper class tones, "Oh dear boy, you mean the posh accent?"

His plummy accent went straight to April's knees, but Mark was just interested.

"Yeah, well, it's all showbiz, innit?" he said, suddenly dropping back into the London accent.

"Really, I'm from the East End, know what I mean geezer? This is how I grew up."

His accent suddenly switched to the posh one again as he continued, "Then I got a scholarship to Oxford, and all of a sudden I had to mix with blue bloods, so I got accent religion. Works great on stage."

He took a sip of coffee, and then, conversationally, with the accent that April defined as 'normal', said, "but most of the time I just go with the estuary accent, mixed with BBC English. Being able to pitch yourself is helpful though, depending on where you are. You would know that, right?"

He directed the last comment at April, a twinkle in his eyes. She gave him a lopsided smile back and then said, "Ok, so back to the issue. Yes, we need to understand what happened to Lee. He was a Major in the Grenadier Guards. As we've said, a man's man. When I found him, he was in a cage, completely submissive, totally devoted to his master and mistress, to the point of taking any amount of physical abuse from them. His will had been entirely subjugated. No hint of this kind of desire had ever come out in the many years he was married."

Chandra shrugged, unaffected. "It happens. Deep seated needs never realized. When it is, he goes off the deep end. It's like a seven-year itch on steroids."

"I don't think so. There's a devotion level he has, but also utter misery at the same time. I'd swear he was coerced into this. It doesn't fit any profile I've ever seen before. And that's without the epileptic fits..."

"Fits?" asked Chandra, suddenly dropping the bored act and leaning forward. "Tell me about the fits?"

"Well, when we pulled him out of this live-in domination situation, he now has fits the moment anyone asks him about what happened to him. Full epileptic fits, not psychological fits. His brain lights up like a Christmas tree. He's out for a full day before he wakes up again. Same thing happens when he sees his wife too."

"Really?" asked Chandra, his eyes glittering. "That's very unusual. Full epilepsy is a purely neurological disorder. How do they connect psychological and neurological? This is getting more interesting by the minute. So we've got this, and we've got a total personality reversal. Curiouser and curiouser, cried Alice."

April noticed that Chandra had habit of rubbing his hands together when he was excited. And he was definitely excited now.

"Well, we shall all certainly have to get to the bottom of this. I feel a new book coming on. So. The plan is, April here goes in undercover, yeah? Well, it's going to be interesting hypnotizing you, April, that's for sure."

"Wait, what?" asked April, surprised.

"Well of course. Think about it. You have to be put under, so I can put some blocks in place."

April thought for a second, then the penny dropped. "Ah. Yes, I suppose so."

"Well, I don't understand. Why does April have to be..." started George.

Chandra impatiently interrupted him. "Because if she strolls in there, all secret agent like, with her cover and exploding lipstick and license to kill and all, and this guy snaps his fingers, puts her under and then says 'hey, doll face, tell me about yourself', well, games up, innit? I have to put her," he said, pointing at April, "under, install a few blocks and redirects, so if she's asked when in a trance who she is and what she does, her unconscious mind will do the same thing her conscious mind would do. Lie, basically. Because otherwise, she'll just tell the truth and blow everything and then there's blokes with guns and there's blood and screaming and stuff."

Chandra shrugged nonchalantly, like he did this every day.

"It's no biggie. I've done blocks like this before. The trick is to cover all the possible pathways. All the way she could be asked for the truth, so she doesn't inadvertently trot something out if she's asked about her pet dog or something. She's already got the fiction in her, so we don't have to do that. We just have to get the unconscious mind to mimic the actions of the conscious one. You know, the CIA in the seventies used to do this sort of thing with deep cover agents. There was even a story of an agent caught in Russia being released after he was put in a trance and asked the same questions, and gave the same answers because of hypnotic blocks."

"So," said April, trying to understand, "I'll really just to believe my own cover then?"

"Ah, no," replied Chandra. "It's a subtle difference, but an important one. We aren't attempting to replace your memories. We are just putting in some "redirects" so that if you are asked about a, you'll respond with b. You'll still know you are lying, even at the unconscious level, just like the conscious mind does. So you won't be fooling any lie detectors. Anyway, false memory imprinting takes a lot of time and is far more dangerous because you run the risk of losing access to the originals. And if you don't clear them out properly when you are done, they can get confused with the originals, and then the poor sod you've done this to can never trust any of his memories. The Ruskies ran into this a lot during the cold war," answered Chandra, emphatically.

Mark was finding all this fascinating. April less so, since it was her grey matter that Chandra would be playing in. Suddenly, something else occurred to her.

"Hey. Can you try hypnotizing Lee? If we got him awake and stable?"

Chandra sat back, considering. "Well, yes, probably. I would have to be majorly careful though, to avoid tripping whatever land mines they've left in there, assuming that's what has happened. But... if this is the purely the result of a hypnotic trance - and to be clear, I don't think it is, at least not entirely - there are ways of detecting that other people have been working on him. It's like bomb disposal. Only without all the tense drama and big old costumes."

April glanced at Mark and said, "We should make that happen. While I'm at this therapy session, we should set the wonder boy here", she gestured at Chandra, who grinned hugely back at her, "up with Lee. See what he can do."

"He can't do any worse than we have," agreed Mark, nodding. "I'll set it up."

"So, when can we do this conditioning?" asked April, turning back to Chandra. "And I'll want it recorded, just so I can listen later. Assuming I can listen without falling into another trance?"

Chandra laughed. "Yeah, probably. Have the dude with the suit here," he jerked a thumb at Mark, "sit in and listen. He can do it, because I won't have any attention on him. As for when, whenever you are ready..."

"Let me sit on this for a day. Tomorrow? Same time?" asked April, mentally girding her loins.

"Works for me."

"Mark, I need a cover created and planted for me. I need to be someone they would be interested in. Otherwise they won't bother even trying for...well, whatever it is they are doing. I need to be CEO of something. The boys back in DC can help with creating that cover."

"I'm on it," answered Mark, pulling out his phone to make notes. "One thing though, isn't that a bit dangerous? I mean, if you are that attractive a target, won't they try to program you? Isn't it a bit much to expose yourself to that?"

"I doubt it takes one session," replied April, dryly. "Look at how many extra times Lee went. I suspect the first session will be a feeling out session. Lay some basic groundwork. If I record it, you can get this back out of me, right?" she asked, directing the question to Chandra.

"Yeah, sure. If I can hear exactly what they did, I can easily get it out. Even without hearing it, there are ways to find what they've done and root it out. Don't sweat it, double oh...thirty-four b?" Chandra hazarded a guess. April missed the subtle connection Chandra was trying to make - she was worrying about their course of action.

April wasn't as reassured as she would have liked to be, but she made the commitment. A field agent went where the action was.

As it turned out, creating the cover took three days. Once it was in place, Mark called April and had Chandra come in. Surprisingly, April decided she wanted Rachael to come along, to witness her being hypnotized. She wanted Rachael to see what had been done to Lee, or at least to get a feel for it. After all, Rachael was ultimately footing the bill for everything.

The cover was such that they couldn't create a new company for April to come from; it would take too much and too long to plant references to the company and create an entirely plausible fiction - plus they weren't sure how deep the cover would be tested. It was better to have April pretend to be from an established company and then just create an artificial position within that company. They selected a company that had done business with Ingrams before and owed them a favor, so they could be easily approached to provide bona fides for April's cover. In the end they went with a large print company, based out of London, but with corporate branches all over the UK, France, Germany and Spain. They were poised to branch out into Belgium, Italy, Austria and Switzerland, and as such it was felt that Deep Print Inc. would be an attractive target. Coincidentally, thirty-two percent of the shares were in private hands - the cover was that April would have at least ten percent, as an under-the-radar owner.

The head of Deep Print, Maxfield Wayland, was more than happy to help - Ingrams had helped save the marriage of the head of his R&D department, who was their number one resource in printing faster and cheaper than anyone else. He had almost twenty patents on printing processes that only Deep Print used, and as such was considered essential.

April was put on the books as the head of HR, and one of the Ingrams UK research team was placed in their offices in order to head off any phone or email inquiries. She was also placed in their official website, using the name Monica Teller, and several older press-released were doctored to make mention of her.

When it was all in place, it was time to proceed.

They convened in the conference room at Ingrams UK, although the large table had been pulled apart and stacked in the corner. There were now several couches and easy chairs, along with side tables, and the lighting was entirely from small wall sconces.

Chandra, on entering, stopped, and looked at Mark, laughing. "What, we holding a séance in here or what?"

Mark spread his hands and said in his even tones, "We honestly didn't know what you would want. We thought darker and more comfortable would be good?"

Chandra laughed again and said, "You've been watching too many movies, mate."

Then, dropping his backpack, he looked around again and said, "That said, yeah, this'll work. Is there any background noise here?"

"Shouldn't be - we are double glazed and most of the guys have gone home anyway. The main ops room is sound proofed, so we should have peace in here."

"Good. Quiet is the main thing."

At that moment, April and Rachael walked in, talking quietly. As with Chandra, April stopped when she saw what they'd done to the conference room. And as with Chandra, she had smile on her face.

"Shall I lie down, Doctor?" she said, jokingly.

Chandra glanced up at her, and smiled back, a little tense. He was fiddling with his backpack and pulled out a small lamp, like a lava lamp, but in this case, it was filled with small sparkly bits. As the lamp heated up, the sparkly bits started to move around the inside of the lamp, slowly but definitely glittering.

He put it on a side table near one of the couches, plugged it in and then pulled a chair up next to that couch.

He gestured to Mark and Rachael and said, "Take a seat, over there. Please, just be quiet. I have no idea how hard it will be to get April here into a trance state, and as such, we just need quiet. OK?"

Both nodded and sat down where he indicated, in easy chairs next to the other wall, outside of April's line of sight.

"OK April, drop your bum on the couch. Stretch out...No, the other way, so you can see the lamp."

April did as he asked, lying on the couch, back and head up, staring at the lamp.

From there on, it was all a bit anticlimactic. Chandra started with a low voice, asking her to relax. He went through each muscle group, asking April to relax them individually, in a slow, monotone voice. Calmly, with no excitability.

Then, when she was relaxed, he asked her to keep looking at the lamp, to empty her mind, her eyes were getting heavy, she was tired...

April sat up, rubbing her eyes and feeling good. The best she'd felt in days, even after hearing Desirea had been found. She looked around - it was still dark in the room, but Rachael and Mark were now standing by her.

Rachael reached out and helped her get up and said, "How do you feel?"

"Great!" exclaimed April. Then she thought for a second, memories popping up.

"Wait, I can remember it all...? Everything you said to me? All the things you asked me to do? Aren't I supposed to not remember something?"

Chandra chuckled and said, while unplugging his lamp and stowing it away, "April, the default state of a trance is that people will remember what you said and did. You have to actively tell them not to. The reason everyone thinks you don't remember is because on stage you have to make them not remember, or what you do isn't as funny or visually effective."

"I can remember it, but it's like a sort of dream? Like it happened to someone else?"

Chandra shrugged and replied, "How people remember is different for everyone. Anyway, here's the recording if you want to go over it. My advice is to skip the initial trance setting, and go directly to the stuff I implanted if you want to listen. It lessens the chances of returning to a trance. Anyway, there are some redirects in there, shunts if you like, so if you are asked in a subconscious mode who are you or what you do, you will go to the fiction in the cover you already have. There are some gaps, in that if you are asked how you came to be the head of HR, or what your previous work experience is, the details are a bit sparse.

"You can't make stuff up when in a trance like you can when you are conscious, so we've just put some details in there and tried to have it dovetail with your normal upbringing. It's a bit tenuous, but you are only going to be in this session for an hour anyway, and twenty minutes of that is going to be putting you in a trance, so I doubt it's any worry," he explained.

"Other than that, I think you are good to go. When is the appointment?"

April looked at Mark, who said, "They confirmed it two days from now. We all need to decamp to Ipswich tonight, right?"

Everyone nodded except Rachael, who said in the best pompous upper class accent she could muster, "Well, I for one am quite upset. I lose a very good PA for this."

Then she looked into April's eyes and said softly, "Find them April. Find what they did to Lee. I need him back."

April just hugged Rachael, an act she would never have normally done for anyone. April was not a touchy feely person, but Rachael had grown into something April had never really had - a friend with no strings attached, that was not from the company where she worked.

Two days later, April was sitting in the offices of Dysporia Health Inc, sitting opposite Doctor Marcus Baker. He was exactly as described - tall, thin, balding, but with the remaining hair shaved close. Shrunken cheeks, glasses and a slightly grey and wax countenance. When he smiled it didn't reach his eyes, which didn't blink enough.

"Ah, miss...Teller, is it?" he glanced up from his clipboard with her details on it. "So, you are here because of...oh. An unhealthy reliance on prescription medications?"

He looked inquiringly at April, who nodded. The original idea had been to go with social anxiety as a reason to be visiting the hypnotherapist, but Chandra had nixed it when he pointed out that social anxiety has its roots deep in the subconscious, and the last thing they needed was for the mark to be romping through her memories, looking for a cause that wasn't actually there. They couldn't go with smoking since apart from a cigar once in a great while, April didn't smoke. An addiction to prescription narcotics fit the bill better - it didn't need deep analysis of where it came from, and was all about combating it now, not the history of her addiction. Plus it didn't need any explaining in terms of life impact, or personal health impact.

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