Chapter One Hundred and Ten
Phaedos, Pilot, by rhetoric
Word Count: 1,389
It was the cold that woke him, at first. It would have been the water rushing into his lungs, next, but the cold was sharp and stinging and encompassing. It was the reason for water in his lungs. If he hadn't gasped, he'd still have a lungful of air. It didn't matter.
He opened his eyes, and through the clear, icy water, he could see the faint silhouette of a man. A hand was around Phaedos' throat, keeping him beneath the water with sheer force. Phaedos was almost amused.
He kept the sputtering cough to himself, forcing his throat and lungs to relax, despite the lack of oxygen and misplaced mouthful of water. Soon he would have to struggle, but until then, he forcibly relaxed his entire body; playing dead was not a strategy he often employed, but he did not know the circumstances of his environment beyond the water. He could not be certain of anything.
Surprise was all he had.
The grip loosened around his neck, though never released, and he took the opportunity. He shoved himself upward, out of the tub, taking in an enormous, rattling lungful of air as he rose. He cracked the side of his forearm into the face of the man nearest him. The man fell forward, propelled by the blow, and his head hit the side of the tub with a sickening crunch.
Phaedos spun, his eyes assessing his environment. He was in the center of an enormous room; the ceilings were three dozen stories high, but it seemed he was in the breezeway of the lowest floor, able to look up into the floors above him as they boxed him in. There was a hip-high glass barricade blocking the edges of each floor. He felt as if he were in a sanitized mall; as if there should be boutique and specialty shop signs behind the men with rifles aimed at his head. Every fifteen meters snipers sat; helmets on, whispering into their com links. He didn't have a chance.
It felt as if time broke loose, then; suddenly he heard rounds firing from all directions - screaming commanders barking for everyone to Stand down! Just stand down! Phaedos could feel the bullets as they hit him, but it was distant and trivial and he was too overwhelmed with the sudden realization that he didn't know how long he had been unconscious.
An hour, a day, a week? He had no idea where to find Atlas - the gentle tug on his subconscious was gone. Paralyzing terror washed over him. Had he failed her? What were they doing to her? Was she dead? He knew there were worse things than death; he knew from experience. He hated that he found himself wishing she would be killed before they tortured her. He was on the ground then, on his knees, his body weight supported by his palms flat on the tile floor. His own blood ran down his arms to pool around his hands. He could feel it sliding down his chest; too thick to be sweat, and too hot.
There was blood everywhere. He didn't mind it; the sizzling tang of freshly spilled blood was a scent he hadn't minded for the vast majority of his life. Some were squeamish around it, but he'd never been able to understand why. He could feel his skin stretching along the edges of the bullet wounds peppering his body, healing as he stood there. He would have to remove the bullets later, he reminded himself, or they’d eventually wiggle somewhere important and cause a ruckus. He looked up at the snatcher in his grip, his eyes unreadable aphotic globes, the emerald green masked beneath his inheritance, and puzzled over what it was about this one that had allowed him to survive. He was determining it was mere luck as the man’s split lip and broken nose dripped yet more blood onto the floor.
The blood wasn’t even the worst part about the new décor in the room. Almost all of the furniture had been demolished with the automatic weapon fire and the remaining chunks were scattered carelessly about the room. Shards of glass crunched under footsteps from behind him, and he knew Eden was there, then. Standing in the doorway, between them, littering the floor in a mess of organs, sanguine fluid, and contorted limbs, were the bodies of the snatchers sent for them. There was one left, and Pilot had him by the throat, lifted off the floor to hear the desperate choking noises he would make when he ran out of oxygen. His hands scrambled at Pilot's arm but it was useless; Pilot was statue still, dead to all pleas and interruptions, his focus narrowed and his task nearly complete.
Until Eden said, "No, Pilot."
He froze; uncertain if he were offended or curious. He chose curious, offended would lead to an argument and they had just rectified the last one. His pride would have to wait. He turned to look at her, the snatcher still in his hand, feet dangling a few meters from the ground. "Why?"
"Let him take us," she said, and he dropped his captive.
Pilot shook the blood from his hands and looked at her, having turned to face her completely.
He did not understand, and for a moment, he let his mind spin wildly in search of the correct assessment. What tipped him off to her intentions was not the way she set her jaw, or the way she helped the snatcher to his feet only so he could arm himself with a weapon from a fallen comrade; but the way she smiled at the snatcher as he pressed the barrel of his gun against her forehead.
She wasn't surrendering. It was all there, in that smile. He trusted that smile implicitly. He took off his weapons, one by one, while the snatcher screamed at him to Disarm or he'd blow her fucking head off. He disarmed not out of fear, not to save her life, but because he didn't need his weapons, anyway.
It was better to let them think he did.
With his array of knives, nunchaku, handguns and his riot shotgun set carefully on the only remaining table in the otherwise destroyed room, he put his hands behind his head and went to his knees. His eyes never left Eden's, as she stood patiently still, the barrel of the semi-auto rifle pressed roughly into her forehead, while the blood of his kills seeped into his pants.
She let the snatcher put a black bag over her head, twist her arms behind her and snap a set of handcuffs around her wrists. Pilot said nothing as the cold steel bound his own wrists together behind his back and the darkness of the black bag wiped out his vision.
The snatcher tranquilized them both before dragging them out into the night air and to the SUV parked outside.
When Pilot opened his eyes, he was strapped to a chair facing a wide, open window. It took him less than thirty seconds to piece together the cause of his current circumstances. He was alone in a room with three walls and an enormous window taking the place of the fourth wall. Beyond the glass he could see fields and in the distance, to the east, forest. Already, his mind was working to place his location on a map, but he had very little to go on. He wondered, idly, where Eden was. For once, he wasn't concerned for her.
This had been in her plan, and anything in her plan was trustworthy. He'd learned that lesson a long time ago. He never questioned her visions, and if she'd made a plan, it had been based on a vision. He simply wondered what the vision had been. He could feel residual heat in his veins; burning like the embers of a fire not quite dead. They had given him a serum; he could sense it on his olfactories. He wanted to laugh, but he kept it to himself. The room was growing brighter - the sun had begun to rise, confirming his suspicion that they were testing UV rays on vampires. Lovely, he thought to himself.
They wouldn't get far with him, serum or not.