The bad news is that Viendenbourg security saw straight through Scarlett's false identity. The good news is that they think she and Allain have been sent by Sente to test their security systems. Scarlett and Allain are offered an escort to the nearest town, which they gladly accept - but that doesn't explain what Scarlett's dad has to do with Viendenbourg. At least Allain's memory is returning.
I'm back. Out of Viendenbourg. And everything's OK. Well, sort of. Some things are OK and some aren't at all.
The last time I wrote I was waiting in an office at the Viendenbourg facility to be interviewed. I didn't have to wait long. A few minutes after I sent you that bulletin, the office door opened and a woman came in to talk to me. She wasn't at all what I'd expected: short, probably in her mid-fifties, and looking kind of worried. The first thing she said was:
"Miss Kiteway, we're so sorry to have treated you in this way. I'm Commander Fitzgerald. I hope you haven't been made too uncomfortable?"
I blinked. This was not what I'd been expecting either. She offered me a cup of tea, and I just nodded.
After a few moments, I managed to ask:
"How did you know who I am?"
Commander Fitzgerald smiled and winked. Winked!
"Ah well. Your key ident forgeries were quite sophisticated, Ms Metzger, but we managed to crack them. I can't tell you how, of course. Classified."
"Now," Commander Fitzgerald said, "I understand that you've come to fetch Allain?"
"Yes!" I almost shouted, "what have you done to Allain?! Why doesn't he remember me?"
"Ah. Yes, I think I can explain that." She leaned back in her chair. "As I'm sure you're aware, this is a secure military facility. We're conducting research here, research which is, of course, classified. We have certain... protection measures in place around the facility. As far as we can tell, Allain was hiking in the area while wearing a device which was engineered - quite cleverly - to counter the effects of that protection field. I believe you are wearing a similar device. Perhaps you made them together." She smiled again, tipping her head to one side.
"We think that the device Allain was using suddenly overloaded, causing a massive energy surge which, in conjunction with his suddenly coming into contact with our protection field caused the memory problems you've noticed. We don't think they're permanent. In fact, since seeing you last week, his memory seems to have been returning very quickly. We're delighted to see this - until now he hasn't even been able to tell us his name. We found him wandering in the woods near our facility several weeks ago - he was confused and disoriented. We made him as comfortable as we could, but his key had been damaged, and we were unable to find out who he was. Now that we know, of course, we're happy for you to take him home with you. Now," she said, "I've told you what I know. Perhaps you'd like to tell me what you and your friend were doing trying to break into our facility."
I was amazed. I couldn't work out how much she knew, or even whether she was telling me the truth. I'd expected to be interrogated, but instead I was sipping tea. I'd expected to find something out about Viendenbourg, but I could see now that that was stupid; she wasn't going to tell me anything. So I did the only thing I could: I made up a lie. I said that Allain and I were friends. True so far. That we'd been hiking in the woods. Also true. That we'd discovered an anomaly in the area, and we'd rigged up some devices to try to penetrate it. Just because we were curious. That Allain had been the first to try one, and I'd come in afterwards to find him. It wasn't a very good story; there were a lot of things it didn't cover, like how I'd managed to put together a fake identity of Lana Metzger which was so perfectly suitable for getting into the facility. My only hope was that Allain hadn't told them his surname, and that the man I'd spoken to on reception wouldn't have remembered it, so that they wouldn't make the connection with Claire Castille.
Commander Fitzgerald listened to my story silently. She sipped her tea as I spoke. A slight smile played on her lips.
"Ah," she said. "I understand. You've been very clever, Miss Kiteway, and I certainly wouldn't want you to break your cover now. But I think you can let your father know that our security systems are up to scratch, can't you? And I'm sure that next time he comes to inspect the facility he will find the modifications we've made to be extremely satisfactory. Now, let me arrange a transport for you and 'Allain'. Will Regansborg be far enough for you? You can catch the train there."
She stood up and walked towards the door. I sat in stunned silence. All I could do was nod.
That was a week ago, and Allain and I are still in Regansborg, a small town in the mountains. We've decided to stay here for a while. By the time I saw him again, his memory had come back enough for him to recognise me, and know who I was, but neither of us are sure what we want to do next. I don't want to talk to my father. And some of the information my key managed to pull from the Viendenbourg systems has made us unsure about whether we want to contact his grandfather either. But I can't go into all that now. I'm so tired, we both are, we just want to rest. So, I won't be in touch for a couple of weeks. I've celebrated winter solstice here, the first time I've been away from my family for it. And I'll miss the PCAG, and the Academy ball. But the only thing that's clear to me now is that I can't go home.