Chapter One Hundred Eighteen
Phaedos, by rhetoric
Word Count: 1,310
It had begun when they wheeled in a flat-screen television. The man sneered at him proudly, cocking his head to the side and saying, “I hope you enjoy this evening’s programming.” He offered Phaedos a smile that dripped with a sickness Phaedos had never seen before; there was something innately wrong in those burgundy orbs.
He watched the screen for thirty seconds before his rampage began. He strained the chains locking him against an upright bed of spikes, each roaring burst causing the spikes to embed further into his body. The chains wrapped around him did not budge, at first.
Phaedos was nothing if not insistent.
The chains around his shoulders stretched first, the links cracking and pulling until they snapped. He’d known it was coming, but the ripping of his shoulder blades was agonizing as the spikes took on the additional weight that the chain had been holding up. He continued to fight, until his blood had lubricated what remained of the chains and he slipped free, his back littered with holes at least three inches wide and four inches deep. The gouges pulsated with each beat of his heart, knitting together as he knelt on the floor of the cell, unable to tear his eyes away from Atlas – who struggled against the man he’d met mere moments before. She was screaming at the camera; her lips said it didn’t matter, her surroundings said otherwise.
She was beaten and damaged and bloody. Her glorious hair was dark and matted and knotty, there were shadows beneath her eyes and her features were gaunt and unnaturally pale. The garnet-eyed stranger was touching her, and the sight of such blasphemy against her flesh forced him from his knees.
Guards poured in from the door across from him, guns leveled, their eyes on him as blood ran in small rivers down his body. He could hear the commander in their ear pieces, screaming, “Don’t shoot! I repeat, Do Not Shoot!”
The guards held position and waited, it seemed, for him to collapse. He watched their eyes as their fear grew the longer he remained standing.
One fired, and that was all it took. Bullets came at him from every gun, each guard more trigger happy than the last, as the first coward set the domino effect into motion. He lunged for them.
Blood dripped from some of the hanging remains of the fluorescent bulbs swaying above him. It covered his hands, splattered on his bare chest, he could feel smears of it wiped across his face. He was naked and covered in small, ruby-colored holes. He ran his fingers through his hair, staining it crimson, and his caustic blue eyes scanned the hallway before him in the failing light. Further down the corridor, where the fluorescents hadn’t been shattered by the bodies he had sent flying, he could hear more coming.
He was done with the bullshit.
His body had had enough time to adapt. He knew it when the tranquilizers did nothing. He brushed them off his bare chest with a broad sweep of his arm, and pressed forward. When the tranquilizers didn’t take effect before their very eyes, they seemed frightened. He took a step forward, and they took one back. Forward, back, forward, back. He followed them down the hall, one step at a time, at the pace of their racing hearts. He smiled and said, “Why don’t you show me where the door to the next floor is, and I won’t hunt down your families once I’ve killed everyone in this place?”
It only took one. Before they could turn on the traitor among them, Phaedos had broken their necks; his hands clasped each face and twisted, his motions almost robotic, and bodies hit the floor with dense thuds, one after another. Soon, there was only one left in the hallway, and he watched Phaedos with terrified eyes; Phaedos could hear his heartbeat in the small corridor, loud and unruly. “Take me to the door,” Phaedos said.
Perhaps it had been too much for the weak link in the chain of guards, but he wouldn’t answer, then. He stared emptily at the bodies of his comrades, his eyes wide and terrified. It hardly mattered; the guard was no more than a cowardly boy in a man’s body.
Phaedos moved quickly – faster than light, swifter than the shadows that began to creep up the hall as the overhead lights sparked and flickered out. He disarmed the guard and put a bullet between his eyes with his own gun. Phaedos checked the corpses for a pair of slacks roughly his size.
She was there, one floor down; he could feel her. The gentle pull on his consciousness returned, dimly, but he traced it down the hall and into the last chamber, tucked in the corner of the west wing. The door didn’t prove to be much of a barrier.
It flew inward with one well-placed punch to the side of the lock.
He was standing over the room she was in. He could feel the throb of her inheritance beneath his bare feet. There were guards scurrying around the room, frantic and loud and panicked, but the bullets pierced through his flesh, his muscle, and in some cases, his bones and he remained un-phased. He didn’t even bleed; his body closed the gaps in his flesh almost instantaneously. He crouched down, pressing the tips of his fingers into the cracks in the floor tiles until he could slip them beneath the tile. Then he yanked hard with one hand until the tiling lifted. Beneath it, cables ran in all directions, twisted together in bunches as thick as his arms. He ripped them out, too; a pulse of electricity rocked his body but he shook it off and punched through the plaster and ceiling beneath the cables. Hands grabbed at his shoulders, attempting to tug him away from his task, and he grabbed the men on each side of him and allowed the residual electricity coursing through him to travel into them. Beneath the plaster was an additional layer of metal; it took a few strong pounds, but soon it caved beneath the force of his insistence. Once he made a hole wide enough, he dropped himself down through it and landed with a thunderous crack on the metal floor.
He rose to his full height, his eyes scoping out the furnace around him. The entire room was metal, from floor to ceiling; the wall to his right was lined with hinge doors that would allow access to stoke the enormous furnace that took up the entire east wall. The burnt-orange glow was murky and eerie; a disturbingly accurate portrayal of “hell” as many viewed it. Chains hung from the ceiling, some sprouted up from the floor. Most of the room was cast in shadow, despite the raging fire, and the air was dangerously hot and wet. He could smell her, could make out the sweet smell of her sweat amid the ash and smoke.
He focused on the shadows and found her, then, beneath the weight of the man he'd come to kill. She was crying, her dry sobs harsh and painful, and trying to push the body over so she could sit up. He moved until he was beside her and yanked the corpse off her in a single, swift motion. He knew it rested against the furnace wall when he could smell singing flesh in the already-tainted air. All he could do was hold her as she raged against his chest, screaming obscenities and incoherent sentences.
There was blood on her hands, and he knew it wasn’t hers.
What good was he, he thought, if he could not even do her wetwork?
He said, “You shouldn’t have had to do this. I should have been here sooner.”