It was nearly two months after his first visit that Jeremy Wayne decided to pay me a second one. I was asleep when the guards roused me to tell me he had come, and when I opened my eyes, I could see his white, smirking face looming above me. I groaned.
"What do you want?" I snarled at him as the guards heaved me to my feet.
"I'm not getting the feeling that you're happy to see me," said Wayne ingratiatingly with a flash of his too-perfect teeth.
"Give me a reason why I should be," I challenged.
"How impolite," remarked Wayne as he stepped past me and gazed around at the mildewy confines of my cell.
"Sir," one of the guards intervened, hastening forward to grab Wayne's sleeve and attempt to drag him back toward the entrance to the cell. "Sir, come back here, please —"
A hideous growl started up from the other side of the cell. Suddenly, Vengeance's gleaming eyes shone out of the shadows and his massive form lunged forward. His wings shot out and seemed to fill the entire space all at once as he bared his teeth and his claws scythed out.
Wayne leaped backward like a frightened cat and the guards raised their large, plasteel electroshields as they stepped in front of him. Only the stinging bites of their shock staffs and electrowhips kept Vengeance at bay and enabled the guards to force him back into the corner. As soon as he was subdued, Wayne and I were ushered out of the cell, and the guards filed out after us, securely locking the door.
"What the hell?" spluttered Wayne, and I was delighted to see an expression of genuine fear on his face.
"We call him Vengeance," offered one of the guards, a short, burly man with a face as badly shaven as mine. "He's a killing machine. Never lost a fight. Ain't no one who's survived one with him."
"Gave you a bit of a turn, didn't he?" I said smugly. Wayne sneered dangerously at me.
"I'd guard that tongue of yours," Wayne said quietly, "seeing as your life's in my hands."
I merely shrugged.
Wayne turned to the guards. "So you've tested him against your best men for two months and this wretch is still standing?"
"He's proved quite a talented —"
"Oh stuff it," interjected Wayne. "You call these death matches? He hasn't died yet! Make him fight harder. Make him die."
"So that's why you're here?" I said incredulously. "Just to speed up my impending doom?"
"That's about right, yes," growled Wayne. "You've been a real thorn in my side, Ryder. Never should have agreed to send you here — the committee's been badgering me to get your death certificate for months now, but for that I need —"
He was interrupted by a terrifying, earsplitting roar, and we all whirled to see Vengeance viciously hammering on the bars of the cell door, spittle flying from his muzzle and a dangerous fire raging in his eyes. The guards marshaled and poked out hesitantly with their shock staffs; Vengeance batted one of the weapons to the ground before he was finally forced back against the wall with copious jolts of electricity. I watched him as he sank to the floor once again, growling and half-conscious. What had gotten into him? It was getting to the point where I once again feared for my life to be locked in the cell with him.
I turned back to Jeremy Wayne and noted that he too had been staring at Vengeance with a thoughtful expression on his face. A wicked grin that sickened me somewhat twisted his lips.
"I was going to have a little meeting with you, Ryder, but I've had a better idea," he said. He addressed the short, burly guard once more. "Lock him up again. And after you do, bring me to the warden. I have something to discuss with him. . . ."