Thankfully, at this stage, having recovered from his shock at nearly being reduced to ashes, Shard had the sense to get in between the two women.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" he says, planting his feet and trying to look more imposing than he is. "Let's not rip anyone's heads off in here, kay? I'm not clearing up the mess."
"Yes," I say firmly, "there is no need for hostility here. Both of you, please, sit down."
Sarah huffs and sits down. Rachael glares at her for a few moments, but a prod in the chest from Shard and a sharp glare from Elo cause her to step back with a huff.
"Now then," I say, "seeing as you're up, Shard, would you mind telling us your story?"
Shard shoots me a murderous look. I shudder, but hold my ground. "Well?"
Shard growls and scratches the back of his neck. "Well ..." he chews his lip for a few moments, wondering what to say.
"Oh stuff it," he says at last. In one quick movement, he pulls his baggy shirt off over his head and spreads his arms wide.
"Here you go." he says defiantly. "Nice visual demonstration eh? Want to know how I got these, do you?"
I am speechless. Shard's chest is a mass of deep, vicous, methodical scars. There are dozens of them, overlapping in a ghastly spiderweb of gashes. The longest runs from one sharply-protruding shoulder blade down to his hip. It is ruler-straight, and I know there is no way that could have been an accident.
"My world is dead." says Shard bleakly. "The Diamond Order crushed us, the entire human race. They took the strongest and turned them into mindless, metal killing machines, and the rest were ripped open and turned into human batteries. I joined the resistance. I thought we could fight them off, but I was wrong. I lost my little brother to them. He wasn't strong enough to survive the ... procedure, so they threw his mutilated corpse into the street to feed the rats. I was supposed to protect him, and I failed. I failed miserably." He sighs, then shakes his head and continues. "In the end, the Order were too strong and we were forced underground. We lived like rats, scuttling about in the dark and only daring to come out at night. But even there we weren't safe. I and several of my companions were taken by the Order during a surface raid. They took us back to one of the compounds ..."
He pauses, eyes glazing over as if remembering the experience. "I watched them rip my friends apart. Piece by piece, bone by bone, scream by scream, and all I could do was watch and wait for my turn. Then ... then they came for me." He looks around at the others, all of whom are now silent and white-faced with shock.
"My brother did this to me." He says, gesturing to his ruined body. "I thought he had died, but he hadn't. He betrayed our friends, our family, our entire race, to join the Order. And guess what? Apparently I didn't fit the criteria for being a battery. So he just tortured me instead. They strapped me to a table and Ake tore me apart from the inside out. I felt every moment of it. No tranquilisers for Undesirable filth like me. I was there for six months.
"Then, finally, they decided they'd had enough of me and threw me out, just like they did to my brother. They left me in the gutter, bleeding to death with worms in my gut and my innards screwed around like a bowl of spaghetti. The others found me and brought me back. My ... my lover lost our child while they were trying to save me. She took one look at me and the stress was too much."
"Libya!" Rachael gasps.
Shard doesn't seem to notice. He curls his lip in self-disgust, "I'm responsible for the death of my own child. And that's not all. I lived, but Ake and his cronies had screwed with me so badly that I started having attacks. None of the pills I took could help, nothing anyone told me could help. A very dear friend of mine was killed in a raid, and after that it got worse - I started having nightmares, the attacks came more and more. Then the voices came. They came, and they wouldn't leave me alone. Everywhere I went, they went too. They twisted me, made me hate everyone, made me hate myself. Not that that was hard."
He laughs, a high eerie sound that makes the hairs on my neck stand up, "I went completely doolally. See these?" He indicates the long slashes that run down the length of his forearms. Unlike the scars on his chest, these are ragged and wavering. "I did this to myself because of that. I tried to kill a man as well, and my lover. I would have killed them all. I was mad."
He breaks off. I wait for him to say more, but he seems unable to speak any further. He slinks back to Rachael's chair and clambers back onto the arm, chewing on his knuckles and making a heart-breaking keening noise. Rachael tried to put a hand on his shoulder, but he shied away at her touch.
"I killed him off in the end," says Spook quietly, "I gave him back his sanity just long enough for him to help his friends escape."
"I'm surprised that piece of crap even got off the ground." Rachael mutters. "Fecking thing was a right piece of space trash if ever there was one."
"Okay," I take a deep breath, "I ... ah ... well ... I don't know what to say."
"Nobody ever did." says Shard. "Nobody ever did."