Authors: Kevin Kauffmann
Text Copyright © 2012 Kevin M Kauffmann
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
For my father.
For any parent.
For the people who didn’t ask anything in return.
I think I understand, now.
Pain. It was all Douglas Finnegan had known for these many days and nights, though he had no way to tell if it was daylight. Even if his brutal companion hadn’t sliced open his eyes and robbed him of sight, there were no windows to let in any source of light. For Douglas, nothing existed but darkness and the smell of burning tobacco that lingered even when Edwards had retired from the latest round of torture. Even the smell and taste of blood didn’t seem to grace Douglas’ senses anymore. He had become desensitized.
The formerly overweight announcer to
, the most popular television program of all time, shifted in his chains. His tormentor had enough sense to lower the crippled man onto the ground after each day, otherwise Douglas’ arms would have been useless, broken things, but Edwards had left the room after only a half hour of the usual routine. Douglas tried to pay it no mind; he was used to the blond, well-kept man changing up the timing. It gave the emaciated revolutionary hope and despair all at once.
Douglas felt the cigarette burn already starting to ooze a bit. Edwards had smoked the hand-rolled cigarette about halfway down before using Douglas’ chest as an ashtray. It was a familiar pain; Douglas imagined his chest was covered in the burns now. If nothing else it was a way to tell time. Edwards might have done it more than once a day, but the interrogator only extinguished one cigarette per torture session. If Douglas extrapolated that, thinking that there were two sessions in one day, then perhaps he could know how long he had been down there in captivity.
It would have numbered at a few months.
The blind man heard the door sliding open and sighed. There would be no more peace and quiet. Edwards had assumed Douglas was the head of the outfit which broadcast the intentions of the Eris Freedom Initiative and sent it to Earth and its eight daughters. Douglas had played along; it was what Jamie would have wanted.
“Aren’t you getting tired of this, Finnegan?” Edwards asked from the darkness. He had to be just a meter away from the sound of it. The broken man could hear his tormentor dragging a chair across the rough floor.
“Aren’t you?” Douglas retorted, his speech garbled by the splits in his lips and the lack of air in his lungs. It was so hard to breathe suspended in the air like that, his ribcage mostly broken. From half a meter away he could hear his companion laughing weakly.
“You know, I think I might be. We’ve been at this for a long time, Finnegan. Why don’t you just give up all of it? The information’s outdated, anyway. We really just want to confirm what we know,” Edwards said, his tone conciliatory. The thin man couldn’t tell Edwards anything that he didn’t already know, that was true. Even then it made Douglas smile. A professional like Edwards might not be able to take the news well; that he had wasted all his time on a wild goose chase.
“Oh, well what would you like to know, Edwards? Who Atlas really is? Where he might be hiding?” Douglas asked, breathing heavily after every question. He thought about how Christ must have felt but instantly regretted it. He was no savior for mankind; just a man with a voice in the right spot.
“Doug, Doug, Doug,” Edwards said, laughing with dismay. “I told you that’s all old information. We know who Atlas is and you know just as well as I do that a two-month-old hint at location isn’t going to mean a damn. Plus, well, you’ve already sent us in a number of directions,” Edwards said as he rose. Douglas could tell where the man’s voice was coming from and braced himself for what was coming. Douglas felt a tear along his side, felt the warmth of his blood against his skin and then
the blade scraping against his rib. He gasped in agony as Edwards worried the blade against the bone. The revolutionary had to remind himself that it was his price to pay. He had to remind himself that it was just his small part in the whole process.
“What I need from you, Douglas,” Edwards said as he slid the blade in between the outer layers of flesh and started to peel it away, blood weeping from the wound, “has more to do with future plans. This Earth Freedom Initiative of yours is giving us just a mite bit of trouble. I’m sure you know
.” As he emphasized the last word he drew the blade up out of the wound and traced the bottom of the bone along Douglas’ torso. The revolutionary could only focus on the sharp pain and the wet feeling falling down the grooves of his exposed chest. It was only after a few seconds after Edwards withdrew the blade that Douglas was able to regain his senses. He grinned, trying to open his eyelids and expose the ruined spheres to his tormentor.
“Oh, you have no idea, my friend. And do you seriously believe that after two months, after TWO MONTHS of this,” Douglas shouted, his voice weak except for the two words. He didn’t even notice the spit that accompanied the syllables as he continued. “Do you really think you’ll ever break me? That I will ever let you know the hidden thoughts bouncing around in here?” Douglas asked, glad that he really didn’t know anything.
There was a moment of silence after that which Douglas had not expected. He had thought Edwards might fly into a rage, maybe cut off another few centimeters of Douglas’ leg. The revolutionary’s grin faded for an instant before he heard his tormentor shifting in his seat. Douglas could hear Edwards standing and imagined his tormentor in a sort of defeated slump. He did not expect the foreign click; he did not expect the preparation for the act that he feared most.
“I’m sorry, Finnegan. Really. You were quite the opponent and I hate losing. But I can’t get anything from you; nothing important. It’s been too long, too much has changed. I’d love to cut into you for a few more days, but they’re putting me on a more recent captive. We gotta break up, Doug,” Edwards said, his voice giving way to sorrow.
Douglas almost felt bad for the man; Edwards truly did feel sorry for what he was about to do. The ruined man bowed his head and wondered how he felt about the ordeal. He remembered wanting to die quite a few times, but now, when it was all so definite and the story was over, he didn’t know what he really wanted.
As he heard Edwards scrape his nice leather shoes against the rough floor, Douglas Finnegan realized that he still wanted to live, even if he would be a cripple.
Douglas thought he would hear another click and a loud explosion, but instead he heard the door sliding open once more and the nice leather shoes scraping against the floor.
“Wha? Who are-” Douglas heard from the middle of the room, but it was interrupted by a loud impact and then another as a body hit the floor. There were more sounds of a struggle but it was all ended by a muffled compression of air. Douglas was completely confused and for the first time in so many days he wished he had his eyes back.
“My god,” a voice said from the darkness. Douglas lifted himself as much as he could, his muscles atrophied by months of disuse, and tried to turn his head towards the mysterious newcomer.
“Who.... who’s there?” Douglas asked into the void. There were just too many thoughts and questions inside his head, but that was the one he needed answered.
“A.... a friend. Are you Douglas Finnegan?” the voice asked, noticeably closer. Douglas tried to nod, but realized quickly that he didn’t have the strength. He breathed in with effort and cleared his throat.
“I....was. I guess, I guess I still am,” the emaciated and crippled revolutionary stated. No sooner were the words out of his mouth than a few sets of hands went to work freeing him from his shackles. After only a moment, Douglas felt the clasps release and he was held by strong arms.
“We’re with the EFI. You’re safe. We’re taking you home.” As he was being carried out of the room, out of his home for the last two months, Douglas couldn’t help but feel scared.
“Where’s home?” he asked.
“Anyplace is better than here, don’t you think?” a deep rumble of a voice answered from above him. Douglas looked up, consciously trying to keep his eyes closed. That was a horror reserved for Edwards.
“Yeah.... yeah, I guess,” Douglas said, not knowing how to deal with this new development. He was safe; he was gone from that bloody room. Edwards was probably dead and bleeding out on that same floor. Douglas lifted his head again, struggling against his own fatigue.
“What are your names? Please.... I need …. I need something normal,” Douglas said, his consciousness already starting to fade. The man holding him gave out a deep laugh and lifted Douglas to get a better hold.
“I go by Urlov, the chatty one from earlier is Kaspar,” the big man stated to the infantile cripple in his arms. Douglas recognized the names and tried to remember where he had heard them. The truth dawned on him and Douglas recalled the highlight reels going on in the background displays.
“You guys.... you guys were Lions,” Douglas said, his voice dropping down to a mere whisper.
“Hah, you a fan, little guy?” Urlov asked in his deep rumble. Douglas didn’t bother to respond, the fatigue was already starting to get to him. He didn’t have the heart to tell his two saviors why he remembered them. He didn’t have the heart to tell them that he only remembered how Ryan Jenkins had been able to kill them and their friend; how the young Crow had thrown himself into Kaspar’s mechanized suit with armed grenades. Douglas fell asleep in the arms of the former slave soldier.
No use in bringing up the past; the games were long over.
The broken man regained consciousness and forgot he was safe. Douglas didn’t remember the last time he had woken up without restraints or chains around him and panicked. He thrashed for a moment before strong hands came down onto his shoulders and held him in place. Douglas didn’t have the strength to fight against it and after just a moment of gentle platitudes he realized that he was no longer in his prison.