Chapter One Hundred and Nine
Atlas, Phaedos, by rhetoric
Word Count: 1,821
She washed her hands in the sink and grabbed a paper towel from the dispenser. The mirror was enormous and well-lit, and she tried to ignore the bags under her eyes or the lines that had developed around her mouth. She’d been frowning too much lately, she thought, and sighed, knowing it couldn’t be helped. The trip was aging her more than a hundred years in Atlantis had.
She fidgeted with her curls momentarily, attempting to rein them into some semblance of order, but the chaos remained.
She felt something, then; a strange tingle down her spine as if something were… behind her? Nothing showed in the mirror, but she turned around anyway.
A mask lifted and a chiseled face floated in the seemingly empty air. She had enough time to think, Oh, shit.
The dart hit her in the neck and she knew immediately what was going on. Her hand shook as she lifted it to yank the dart out of her skin.
She said, “You’ve made a very serious mistake, Johnny Blue Eyes.”
She threw it back at the unmasked man before her.
Her knees buckled and she hit the floor, darkness encroaching on her vision just fast enough for her to black out before her face collided with the tiles.
He had no idea where they came from. He’d scanned the area; he’d watched his corners, his shadows, and his overhead. It didn’t matter. They had come, they had swept in and managed to do the one thing he had just sworn to Elseron would not happen.
They’d taken her. He couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming, insane regret that he hadn’t gone into the bathroom with her. It was the one place, and he should have known they’d pick it out, that he never followed.
He would get her back, he told himself; as steel filled his veins his breathing regulated. They would not have her long. They wouldn’t have time to touch her before he slit their throats. He cracked his neck and began the hunt.
He could feel her, though it was murky and distant and scattered, but he followed the tug on his consciousness to the parking garage behind the pharmacy. He hung in the shadows, careful to stay out of sight – if they were after her, they would know she had a guard; any self-respecting snatcher would cover his bases, and Phaedos was definitely a base.
He was the entire fucking army, he thought, sardonically, and felt better. Sometimes all it took was a re-affirmation of what he was, of where he came from and what he was capable of. Suddenly, he realized it was better this way. Let them have her for a while – they wouldn’t get a chance to harm her before he had them.
And then he would have their location, and they would belong to him.
He could rip them limb from limb. A flash memory of battle took over him, then; he was on a field littered with bodies, men with swords stuck through their chests, some without heads, and others without legs or arms. Some still breathing. Raised above his head was his hunting knife and a severed head. Blood rained down on him as he roared over the sounds of battle.
He remembered his battle cry as a lullaby, and peace filled him. He smiled in the darkness of his shadowed corner, the glint of battle gleaming behind his sapphire eyes.
He was behind the van before the engine started, and he slid his body beneath it as it reversed, holding his weight up along the frame of the van. His jacket hung low enough to drag on the pavement. Phaedos wondered how long the trip was going to be.
When the van finally came to a halt, Phaedos’ fingers burned with the effort of keeping his weight high enough that he didn’t touch the highway. He waited for the sounds of steps to fade away, for the shadows of his prey to vanish in the distance, before he released his grip and allowed his body to hit the pavement with a thud. He stretched his fingers and rolled from beneath the van.
It was dark but there were parking lot lights lit all around him. He didn’t recognize the building a few yards in front of him, but that was irrelevant. He would remember it from that moment on.
He slid his jacket off and left it behind a tire of the van. He checked his weapons and holsters, insuring they were strapped tightly on and wouldn’t wiggle. He made his way around the building, his eyes sharp – looking for scouts, for cameras, for snipers on the roof – but he found nothing. The windows had borders that provided an extra inch of space.
He wondered what kind of company this was that could send snatchers that could steal a Queen but they paid for a building with such serious security issues.
He scaled the west wall, using the border around the windows to climb with relative ease. On the roof, he wondered where they cameras were for the second time. The foolish levels of security seemed out of place.
It’s a trap. His guts knew it, his heart knew it, and his mind knew it.
The one thing all three agreed on, aside from this rescue mission doubling as a suicide mission, was that it had to be done. Atlas was inside.
That was all that mattered. He drew his dual .45s and clicked off the safeties.
If they already knew he was coming, he thought, he need not be subtle. He knocked down the roof door with a single well-placed kick. They were waiting for him inside, guns drawn and night vision goggles over their treacherous little faces. Phaedos laughed and blew nine helmets backward with the first round of shots. The second round left neat bullet holes between eight sets of eyes.
The murky swamp green irises of the last man standing were all he saw before the darkness crowded in and he felt himself slipping into a pit.
She opened her eyes and immediately regretted the decision. She was strapped into a straight-backed wooden chair, her arms tied behind her, wrists against the frame of the chair, and her ankles strapped firmly against the legs. She fought her restraints at first, attempting to throw her body weight from one side to the other in the hopes of snapping the wood, but it was fruitless. The handcuffs pinched the flesh around her wrists.
“Oh, be still,” said an impatient male voice from just out of her peripheral vision.
There was duct tape over her mouth, she realized suddenly, as she attempted to tell her captor to find a hole and die. What good would it do them to gag her? Didn’t they want information? What else had they taken her for?
The possibilities seemed endless, and for an instant, she was frightened.
From behind her, the man said, “Administer the shot, Doctor. Now that she’s awake, it will be of use.”
Immediately, her heartbeat sped up a few levels. Shot? No, she thought; they couldn’t give her a shot of anything – she had to get out. She had to escape. Shots were terrible news in strange places, where strangers administered them with dubious intentions. Elseron, she thought, hoping her psychokinetic inheritance was strong enough that he heard her.
She struggled against the handcuffs again, knowing it was hopeless but desperate and out of any better ideas. She noticed the stinging pain where the cuffs were breaking skin, but it was tiny and distant and unimportant. It was the pinch at the base of her neck that had her concerned. She felt the syringe empty into her veins; the foreign liquid burned like a wet flame in her body, scorching her from the inside out, spreading to her muscles and seeping into her bones. She screamed, through the tape over her mouth, ignorant of the strange cracks and stutters in her voice. She couldn’t help it, the pain was overwhelming. She screamed until her throat gave out, and even then, the fire burned inside of her.
The back of a hand cracked against her cheek and she snapped her eyes open, fury and remembered power hot behind the honey pools; but her power was unresponsive; she couldn’t even feel the tendril of it along her spine. She felt nothing, nothing except a constant, dreadful blaze in her chest, in her arms, in her legs and her mind and her soul.
She could taste blood seeping in from the side of her mouth. The man before her was inordinately tall, with short cropped black hair and cold, steel eyes. He was frowning at her as if she had somehow disappointed him. With two fingers, he yanked the tape from her mouth.
She spit the blood in her mouth onto his shoes.
He hit her again, harder this time; the force of the assault temporarily blinding her. He said, “Where is Atlantis?”
She locked her jaw in place and said nothing, making sure to meet his eyes – though it took everything within her to stare into those lifeless irises and keep her mouth shut. The blood continued to pool in her mouth.
“I will only ask once more,” he warned, grabbing her chin between his long, powerful fingers and forcing her to strain in the chair as he brought their faces closer. “Where is Atlantis?”
She sneered at him, blood lining her teeth, and spit. He was close enough that she hit him in the face, and splatters of her blood trickled down over his lips. She laughed, then, and the blow that followed was merciless.
One of her teeth was loosened, she could feel it, and she avoided tonguing it curiously.
To someone standing behind her, she could only guess it was the Doctor, her captor said, “Get me the hot iron.”
Her nerves trembled beneath her skin, but she ignored it. She was being scalded from the inside out; adding some heat to her skin wouldn’t kill her, she told herself, despite the panic rising in her chest.
She met his gaze with the same bloody sneer she had before. Unafraid, she told herself. A Queen would be unafraid, even in the face of captivity – even in the face of death.
When the hot iron came, her stomach twisted in anticipation. The pattern at the end of the iron was aglow with a hellish orange-yellow heat, curling and weaving letters in the terrifying glow; the grin on his face was something she imagined a demon might wear. With his free hand, he tore open the fabric of her shirt.
He pressed the near-molten iron into her flesh, just beneath her collarbone, and she gritted her teeth against the roaring scream that rose in the back of her throat.
*author note: this is unedited. it took me 40 minutes to write. i'll edit it later but HOORAY! it's up!