Back at Petrova's house we first carried the plug-in up stairs into her study. After we had put our treasure on to her spontaneously cleaned desk she quickly checked the gravity dampers. That done we went back to the car and extracted our personal murderer from the boot. The large man was still not conscious. He had leaked copious amount of snot laced blood and most of his menace into the car. WE dragged him grunting and cursing stairs with sharp corners into the basement into what Petrova called her 'workshop'.
It was pretty much what it said on the tin, all benches and tools. Every where where mechanical parts, cog wheels, strange mechanisms in various states of assembly. I looked around fully expeting to see a hunched backed assistant to appear from the shadows. But then I noticed that that would, in this instance be me. Another bench cleaning by enthusiastic swiping of arms. The clatter of metal on concrete and the large man lay on a large massive table. Petrova quickly improvised restraints from cables that she seemed to grow in the shadows of this room.
'You aren't a soldier, right?' she asked without turning to me.
'No I managed to evade getting drafted by being an artist.'
'Artist. Nope. Still can't see it. Have you been near a war zone, anything like that?'
'Well some of my after-parties were pretty vicious and I might have punched an especially venomous critic in the face a couple of time on one of those occasions...'
'That's a no then.' She stopped and turned around. I was surprised to see that she was smiling. A smile pasted in various hues of warmth and sadness. While I was still trying to think of something clever to say she spoke again. 'I think you better get upstairs and make some tea or coffee while I' she paused he smile vanished leaving her features neutral and her eyes hard 'interrogate our guest here.'
'You are going to torture him?'
'Not much. I am going to teach him some manners and in the process I will learn something. Torture does not work so it won't take long and we will probably not learn anything useful. But it might help and you really should not be here when this happens.' The smile was back. I left the room.
The kitchen was on the second floor. It did not take long I was still looking for the coffee when the first scream seeped through the closed door. It was a muffled roar. It was surprised, defiant. A scream that would not be followed by the spilling of beans it was one that was out to spill blood. I found the coffee inside a cupboard adjacent to the sink. A small expensive looking flask filled with a viscous dark fluid. The label which looked almost like real paper praised it as 100% organic, 100% natural coffee. I had seen real coffee in Ethiopia, the people there were immensely proud of their coffee which they said they had invented with the help of a monk and a couple of goats. The real stuff was made of small sand coloured beans that got roasted slowly until they turned dark brown and filled the air with their irresistible aroma. What I held in her was the product of some hard working algae which had been genetically altered to produce this syrup. I removed the stopper and it smelled decent enough. The defiant roar was now long gone. The silence that followed it made me hope that the interrogation was going well and that the tall man was now talking.
Next I tried to find out how to operate the coffee-maker. A rather fancy steam powered contraption which was a stainless steel machine that had been covered with strange valves levers and gauges. It looked like something you had to attend evening classes to operate. But in another live I had made the wildest brews with a wide variety of machines, most of them legal and I was pretty certain that I could make it work. Somehow.
The next scream forced its way through the door. It started pretty much like the last. Defiant. But it soon turned into shrill surprise. The power was ripped out of the yell leaving it quivering quickly losing all rational control. Guilt arrived and started to have a look around in my soul looking for a nice place to stay. I busied myself with the machine in front of me trying to drown the noise from downstairs in freshly brewed almost real coffee.
The device was easier to use than I had initially thought. It allowed some very specific adjustments to heat and pressure of the various parts of it. Why you had to control the pressure on a machine that simply diluted a shot of coffee sludge was beyond me though. There was also a valve to make milk foam. At first I was not going to bother. To much work and I preferred my brew black but my instinct told me to go for some fancy foam tonight.
My instinct was right.
I had prepared a big mug of milk that had been lovingly milked out of the most bovine strains of E. coli known to man when the third scream arrived. This one did not well up like the first, nor did it burst through the door like the second. This one just appeared out of nowhere. High pitched, shrill and constantly breaking. There was only primal despair. It woke an ancient fear in me. My hand suddenly started to shake very slightly and I was suddenly covered in cold sweat. I opened the valve to let the hot steam into the milk. The load screech of the steam soon drowned out that other noise. I was very through. The foam had started spilling over the sides of the mug. Just to be sure I kept working on my perfect foam until the the handle of the mug was starting to get hot. That seemed to be a good moment to risk turning off the steam.
I made two cappuccinos and decided to wait in the kitchen for a while. The foam was still very hot after all.