As we entered the closest narrow alley in the little cluster of houses a man walked up, shaking hands with both Mercy and Celeste and turning to me with distaste.
His pale blue eyes contrasted starkly with his smoky black hair and only served to make his appearance more intimidating.
"I'll take the prisoner from here." he said, with an accent I couldn't place, "Give Sher my regards."
Celeste nodded, a knowing smile on her lips, and she and Mercy left me with the stranger.
"Who are you?" I asked, returning his unimpressed look.
"I'm not accustomed to giving my name to prisoners of war, but if you must you can address me as 'Master' or 'Overlord'."
So he had a sense of humour. Whoopee.
Overlord gestured for me to continue down the path, and I noticed just then that he, unlike Mercy, was unarmed.
"Where's your weapons? No guns? No daggers?"
The man smirked, holding up a hand.
"I don't believe in weapons."
I smelled a weakling. It wasn't like I was the strongest person around, but the Maxills I'd been able to afford (only the biggest revolution of the century-slimming, muscle-building pills) had left me considerably lean and not too shabby in terms of build.
It may have been a stupid idea at the time, considering that I had laser cuffs around each of my hands, but I launched myself at him to try and regain my freedom.
He ducked easily, reaching up to push me straight over him.
The cuffs started beeping loudly and I felt searing hot pain at the ends of my wrists, eliminating any chance of me getting back to my feet.
Overlord stepped over, watching me with amusement.
"I have the code to deactivate those." he said offhandedly, "But I would be justified in letting you lose your hands, seeing as you attacked me..."
"No, please!" I yelled, trying to yank the things off, "Please!"
"What's in it for me?"
I hit the metal things against the floor, trying to loosen their hold somehow.
"I have money! Power! I'll do anything!"
"Really?" he asked, clearly enjoying my pain.
Overlord waved a hand and the heat stopped, and he started walking with a sigh.
It took me a few moments to get to my feet and follow him, especially since my hands were burning.
"So, what do you want from me?" I managed to ask, panting in the effort to keep up with his long strides.
"I'll tell you when the time comes." he said, bored, "Besides, you have more important things to be doing."
"Like what?" I asked, annoyed by the amount of cryptic replies I kept on getting.
He pointed to a half-constructed hut and then at some tools.
"Get to work."
It had been three hours, I had managed to build a masterpiece hut, and Overlord was nowhere to be found.
At that point I didn't give a damn what he would think if I left. I needed a break.
As soon as I had snuck back into the forest, I ran into a familiar, somewhat scary, face.
"Hello, Preston." she smiled, a malicious glee in her eyes.
Before I knew what was happening she had taken my arm firmly and was leading me off the path, further and deeper into the woods.
"Where are we going?" I asked, sounding like I was squeaking.
"Just a nice, quiet, isolated spot. Make any noise and I'll kill you."
The sense of dread inside me was growing rapidly. Mercy had the look of a wolf clutching its prey, and I wasn't exactly in an enviable position.
Twigs and roots kept catching in my feet but I didn't trip, seeing as I was being more dragged than led along.
We got to a large hill and she pushed my head down, and I quickly realized there was a cave in it obstructed by various roots and tendrils.
She pushed me to the far end and started to toss off all of the thousands of guns and grenades strapped to her person.
Mercy walked over, lifted me by my collar and pushed me against the rock wall.
Before I could react she stuck a metal disc into my mouth and I was helmeted once more.
What happened afterwards happened so quickly, but it all felt so hazy. Nightmarish, surreal.
She'd attached some kind of device to my mask. It took me a second to realize that it was releasing a gas directly into my airway.
I tried to hold my breath, clawing at the mask, but she pressed a button somewhere and my cuffs clicked together, binding me.
"Don't fight it, Preston." she offered, "You'll save yourself the pain."
After a few minutes of struggling to control my lungs I gasped in the air being fed to me.
I immediately felt my limbs go limp.