Chapter One Hundred and Eleven
Eden, Atlas, Phaedos, by rhetoric
Word Count: 1,345
From somewhere far, far away, Eden could hear screaming. It was what stirred her from her foggy, drug-induced slumber. She opened her mouth for some fresh air, hoping to get rid of the phlegm that had built up. The inside of her mouth tasted terrible. She frowned and opened her eyes, taking in her surroundings through blurred vision and a strange post-awakening stupor. She felt groggy and nauseated, but that was the least of her concerns. She could feel a simmering in her veins - she'd been cut off from her inheritance. She'd expected it, of course, but it did not affect the unfamiliar feeling of vulnerability that overtook her. She felt almost naked.
There was no one in the room with her, and she was bound to nothing. She was sitting on a small shelf that had been built into the west wall, obviously for the purpose of resting upon. The rest of the room was empty, with a low ceiling and barely twenty feet of space between any wall and another, void of all color or shape or marking, save the east wall across from her - which was less of a wall than a wrought-iron cage door.
Inside, where the light from the florescent bulbs embedded in the walls could not reach, she could see something prowling. She caught a glint of feline eyes and smiled.
She remembered this.
There were no weapons in the room with her, she already knew that. They'd stripped her of most of her clothes, even; leaving her in a fitted tank top and pair of leggings that didn't belong to her. At least her hair was pulled back from her face, she thought.
A buzzer sounded and the cage door opened. As she rose from her seat, she caught sight of the one-way panel of glass that had been above the shelf, just behind her. So that's where they were watching her from, she thought.
She could smell singed fur before she heard the pained howl of the jaguar in the cage. Electric prods, she noted; and made a note to leave through the cage door. Cattle prods were quite a bit of fun to use, she thought jovially, as she readied herself for the irritated beast to cross the threshold into the room.
Atlas screamed. The sound tore through her throat unbidden, unwelcome; it rattled and cracked, it came despite the almost unbearable soreness of her vocal-chords. She hadn't slept in over thirty-six hours; every time she closed her eyes she felt pain. Scorching hot pain, prodding her back, puncturing her shoulder blades. Every time she shut her eyes, the stranger behind her shoved the borderline molten tip of a fireplace stoker into her muscles, searing her skin as he wounded her. The pain was barely tolerable, and the darkness in her peripheral vision grew with every new stab.
She was sweating terribly. The heat in the room must have been at a hundred degrees, at least, and every passing moment she grew more exhausted than the last. She was on her knees, her hands tied roughly with thick, scratchy rope behind her back. Her upper body slumped forward, her head lolling from side to side. Her hair was greasy and dirty and matted with ash and blood. She could hardly breathe in.
In her veins, the fire of the serum continued to rage; it had been almost two days since they administered the first shot - and it had only been the first of many. Every six hours, they gave her another, and the blaze was renewed to consume her once more. Unconsciousness forbidden, she was left to scream until the pain subsided or her voice gave out.
Her voice was always first.
She hadn't even closed her eyes when the rod pressed through her skin again. She didn't even scream. Everything hurt, it didn't matter anymore. Agony was just more of what she'd been enduring already. At some point, her body stopped caring and it seemed her brain stopped accepting complaints from her nerve endings. She had begun trembling almost an hour before, and it only got worse. She'd lost more blood than she cared to admit, and she hadn't eaten or slept in nearly two days. If she continued to burn in this room, she would dehydrate in a matter of hours.
They stopped asking questions over twenty-four hours ago, and she wondered if they would give her a glass of water if she talked.
Water, she thought; that's all she really wanted.
She forced herself to remember Atlantis. She forced herself to remember the dangers of her home-world. The ruins it would be in a matter of weeks if she didn't do something. If she didn't get out of this godforsaken place. She had very little understanding of the immensity of that demand, but the determination that began to fill the cavity of her chest, where her bastard heart continued to beat and beat and beat, was enough to push the darkness out of her vision.
She could see clearly again, and the man she found herself picturing was Evaemon, the lone protector of Atlantis. She reminded herself that a sacrifice needed to be made, and as it stood, she was the only one able to make it.
Atlas knew, then, what had to be done. She knew the steps she needed to take to make things right, again. She'd come to the Outer World in search of a savior, but she'd found something completely different. She knew the plan forming in her head would have saddened her deeply a mere few weeks prior, but the sadness was strangely absent as she thought of it, then. She wondered what had changed, but she already knew.
Phaedos was lying on his back, strapped onto a table with metal contraptions locked over his wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles. The chain wrapped tightly around his neck prevented him from even lifting his head.
His vision was whited out with the intolerable gleam of a phosphorescent bulb burning a mere three feet above him. The fire still roared in his veins, but it was nothing more than a pest to him. He tested his binds, straining against the steel for a moment before relaxing back down.
From somewhere to his left, a man said, "See how he fights? The serum cannot be working."
From his right came the response, "I can try another dosage..."
"No," said the first voice, "You've already quadrupled what it took to get the bear down. By all rules of science, he should already be dead, and I’m not including the bullet wounds.”
There was a stiff silence for a moment, until the second voice said, “I know; I still can’t wrap my head around that. We pulled out over thirty bullets. You said yourself there were a dozen that had passed clean through.” Phaedos could hear the man shake his head, the scratch of his short hair on his laboratory coat seemed louder than it should have been. He continued, "But he is still alive, Doctor, so mustn't we try something?"
Phaedos almost opened his mouth. Yes, he wanted to say, yes, you must try something because when I get up, I'm going to feed you to Cerberus; but he said nothing and waited.
"Fine," said the first voice, acquiescence clear in his tone. He was out of alternative ideas, and his protests were flimsy. "Strengthen the serum and administer the new dosage," he ordered, "But I want Major Donnelly here to witness. I'm not taking the responsibility if we lose the subject."
A few moments later, he heard a door from somewhere beyond his head.
Phaedos smiled to himself when he felt the pinch of the syringe pressing into his spine. They'd quadrupled Dante's dosage, and Phaedos was still their most uncooperative captive. He wondered if he should tell the bear, until he realized he could not be sure he would ever see Dante again. His amusement vanished.
Unconsciousness swept over him quickly.