Lorden came to.
It was as he had suspected. He was blindfolded, bound and gagged. All the ways anyone had known to work magic were denied him.
His face was pressed against a hard stone surface which he presumed was the floor of wherever he was locked up. HIs shoulders ached from being pulled behind him by the handcuffs, and there was something sticky on his cheek which he assumed was blood.
He had not been trying to sit up for long before there was a crash of steel on stone. The door of the cell had clearly beenn thrown open. Lorden heard hurried footsteps and felt rough hands seize his shoulders and bundle him out of the room into the corridor.
Lorden tried to speak, but only mumbles came out, and he was hit, hard, in the face by a callused fist.
"Shut up, vermin," growled a rough voice, gripping his shoulder tighter.
Lorden sighed inwardly - clearly they thought he was going to attempt and cast a spell. How ignorant they were ... as if mere words, simple sounds, could affect the flow of magic?
No ... Lorden had been practising for this moment for months. Being able to work magic with only his mind.
It was something that the CT didn't think could be done - and something they would be unable to prevent anyway.
But before he could even begin to concentrate, he was shoved unceremoniously into a chair, and he heard the door boom closed behind him, like a death drum. His blindfold and gag were ripped off, and at that moment the barrel of a taser was pressed threateningly into the back of his neck.
"One wrong move, boy," snapped the rough voice, "and we'll see exactly how much of your blood is vaporised by one of these plasma bolts."
Lorden sat stock still, keeping his eyes deliberately unfocused. He saw a man take a seat in the chair opposite him. As his face came into focus, Lorden saw a grubby beard, long shaggy hair and a weathered face with hawklike eyes, which were fixed unblinkingly on him.
"So," said the man silkily. "What street rat have you roped in today, Grimwald?"
"One that's already killed three CTOs, sergeant," said the man holding the gun to Lorden's neck.
"What?" Lorden protested. "I didn't -"
"Quiet, scum!" barked Grimwald, and he felt the barrel increase its pressure on his neck.
"Is this all you've brought me here, so you can have your moment of glory?" Lorden pressed relentlessly. "This isn't justice, this is -"
But Grimwald had hit him hard over the head with the taser, sending Lorden's mind spinning again.
"You've already been told, your words count for naught in Derven," said the sergeant coldly. "You expect to be given a fair trial, when you know the laws on magic and eyewitnesses saw you attacking a whole group of -"
But Lorden was already letting the words wash over him, gathering his mind. He tried to imagine his power building up behind a massive dam, a dam only he could remove.
"- well let me tell you something, squirt. You won't get anything of a fair hearing round here, you don't deserve -"
The dam opened a sluice gate. At once, Lorden felt the spark of magic as his handcuffs fell open and the taser flew through the air into the corner of the room. Now the torrent was becoming a flood - Lorden blasted Grimwald out of the way and sprinted for the door - it was locked, and now the sergeant was approaching - Lorden jabbed forward with his mind and with a small phut the door came open -
- and a tripwire he had missed brought him crashing to the ground. The Compliance Team had taken no chances in allowing his escape. Lorden leapt to his feet as more officers came round the corner.
And then, to his complete surprise, there was a burst of return fire. Solid bullets were pinging off the walls, and the CTOs dived for cover like a flock of frightened sheep. Lorden turned sharply, and watched as twenty or so black-clad men came running towards him. He backed away -
"Stop! We're here to help you!"
Several CTOs had been killed; they were sprawled on the ground, dismally creating a pool of blood in the middle of the corridor. Lorden shot a few weak fireballs in their direction but missed - one of his rescuers grabbed him by the arm and pulled him round the corner and into a side room -
"Get off me!" said Lorden angrily, as the cupboard door slammed shut behind him.
"For tech's sake, mate, shut it, or you'll get us killed."
Lorden could see nothing except a chink of light, beyond which the fraught battle could still be heard.
"Who are you?" he demanded in a low whisper.
"No time, we need to get out of -"
"Come on, time to go!" roared a voice from the corridor, and the two of them broke cover, sprinting for an emergency exit.
Lorden sprinted out of the door, following the black-clad men, but CTOs were spilling out of the building. Crossfires of plasma bolts laced the night, and two of the men were knocked down -
- but a hovering lev was waiting not a hundred yards from the entrance, out of sight of the CTOs. Obviously this was the place he was intended to go - Lorden jumped hastily into the back and was followed by the others, who piled in and slammed the tail door with a hiss and a click. The lev moved off smoothly, the plasma bolts crackling on its shell and causing its internal lights to flicker fretfully.
Lorden sat up stiffly, watching the station move silently away out of the lev's window. Then he turned to see a knife, aimed at his Adam's apple.