There was a knock at the door.
Jones put down the miniature he was painting, looked up, and smiled at Ryan. ‘Yes, Director?
‘Jones, I have a strange question to ask you.’
‘You’re in the right place for strange, Director.’
‘Stef has been going outside far more than usual lately. Volunteering for extra patrols, that kind of thing. I would-‘ Worry was evident on his face. ‘Could you perform a full diagnostic on-?’
Jones held up his hands. ‘There’s no need to worry, there’s nothing wrong with her.’
Ryan looked at him as though he was an idiot. ‘Stef. Outside. These are things that do no usually go together, Jones.’
‘There’s a new game, sir, it rewards people for going outside.’
‘Oh,’ Ryan said, understanding filling his face. ‘Well that explains it then.’
Jones smiled. ‘I’ll send you some articles about it, sir.’
‘Thank you, Jones.’ Ryan hesitated for a moment. ‘And you, are you playing it?’
Jones let a smile rest on his face. ‘Oh, of course, sir. I have my phone attached to a drone as we speak
The first Q&A off the rank!
If you want your own answered, simply send a question to a character at email@example.com!
Curt studied the face of the agent – he’d always been good at reading people, and it was amazing to see all the expressions that crossed over the agent’s face in the space of ten seconds.
Grief. Disbelief. Hope. Surrender.
The agent sat at this small table, held the dead agent’s wallet to her chest for a moment, then placed it down, and rested her head on her hands. ‘You had a change of heart? I didn’t think that was possible for your kind.’
‘And I didn’t think your kind was people, Agent. I’m a person, I’m capable of learning.’
She looked up, a guarded look on her face. ‘Too late for my dad. Too late for everyone else you’ve ever hurt.’
Anger rose, and he threw his coffee cup to the ground. ‘Don’t you think I fucking know that?!’ he raged. He stalked over and slammed his hands onto the table, making it jump. ‘I fucking get it!’ he shouted. ‘I fucking get it! How the fuck do you think I feel right now?!’ He curled his hands into fists, and desperately tried to force himself to be calm.
She flinched, turning her head away from him, and stared at the wall.
He felt the urge to punch himself. Another conversation that hadn’t gone the way he’d wanted. ‘Agent-’
He never saw the mug hit him in the face. He felt he splash of water, and the crunch of cheap china as it broke against his cheek.
Though the haze of water and blood, he saw her stand, and then the table was flipped, and he fell to his arse, several large chunks from both mugs ripping through his pants.
‘You think I care about you?!’ The chair came down on his head. ‘You’re a fucking murderer!’
He managed to grab the chair and pull it from her grasp.
There was the sound of running feet as she went for the door. She opened it, then squeaked.
Curt pushed himself to his feet, and saw both Fuzz and Mick standing at his door, blocking the agent’s escape.
Fuzz moved into the room, grabbed the agent, and slammed her up against the wall, beating her head against white surface so hard that it left bloodstains. Mick, meanwhile, helped extract him from under the table.
‘Had a job for you, O’Connor,’ Mick said. ‘But it seems you’ve got your hands full here.’
Fuzz was still pounding on the agent, who was only being held up by the huge man’s hands.
‘I made a mistake,’ Curt said, looking between his friends and the agent. He pulled his gun from its holster and remove the safety. ‘Get her up against the wall.’
Fuzz turned the agent, whose forehead was split down the middle. Blood gushed, running in a river down the left side of her nose, and down over her lips. Whatever fight had urged her to literally flip a table at him had gone with two minutes at the hands of Fuzz.
Truth be told, he was proud of that moment of fight over flight – he’d been screaming like a violent, selfish jerk, and her reaction had been normal. You weren’t supposed to start a conversation by saying “sorry I’ve murdered people” and end with “BUT MY FEELINGS” at someone who had been directly damaged by your actions.
He’d never been a traitor – there was apparently a learning curve.
Fuzz and Mick each grabbed one of the agent’s arms, and held her, spread like Christ on the cross up against the wall, a perfect target for a point-blank shot.
He’d killed for the wrong reason. Now, he could kill for the right reason. He was a monster, but at least he could be aimed in the direction of doing something good.
He walked up to to the agent – the agent he’d never even called by name, and pressed the barrel of his gun to her forehead. ‘Shut your eyes, Agent.’ He bowed his head a little. ‘The only mercy I can give you is to tell you that you don’t have to watch this.’
She stared at him, all hope gone from her expression, and after a moment, she closed her eyes.
Curt took a step back. If he thought about what he was doing, he would lose his nerve.
He shot Fuzz – of the two, he was the bigger threat. He turned his gun on Mick, and he saw betrayal shining in his friend’s eyes. ‘I’m sorry, mate,’ he choked, and pulled the trigger again.
The gun fell from his hand, and he moved forward, wrapping his arms around the agent – as much to pull some comfort from her body as it was to help her stand. He’d just killed two human beings. Two men he’d known for over a year.
Men who approved of torture, rape and murder.
The agent was shaking in his arms, and he could feel the blood from her head wound soaking into his shirt. ‘Let me go,’ she whispered. ‘Please let me go.’
He did, immediately letting his arms go slack and stepping back. The agent stumbled for a moment, then made her way to the arm of the couch, where she pulled the container of blue from her pocket, and slopped the remains onto the forehead injury – hopefully, it would soak in, and prevent any internal injuries.
Curt turned, his limbs feeling heavy, and shut the door – anything to stop passersby to see that he’d just turned traitor.
He crouched, picked up his gun, and placed it in his holster, then he walked to the agent.
After a moment of hesitation, he extended a hand towards her. ‘Curt O’Connor,’ he said, waiting for her to shake his hand. ‘I renounce the Solstice. Let me help you. Please.’
She steadfastly refused to take his hand – something he could understand – and he let it fall. She wrapped her arms around herself and looked up. ‘What’s your idea, genius?’
He shrugged – this was the disappointingly easy part. ‘If you take off your uniform, we can walk out the front door.’
She stared at him for a moment more, blue-grey eyes judging him, then she shrugged and pulled off her vest and shirt – leaving her undershirt on. She walked past him, went into his bedroom and returned wearing one of his T-shirts.
He nodded to her, and they walked from his room.
In less than five minutes, they were out of the main part of the complex. Another five minutes – during which time, the agent took his hand, and was squeezing it for strength – they were above ground, and walking down the street of the gated complex that topped the base.
She let his hand go as they approached his car.
Without a word, they climbed in, and he started to drive. Once out of the complex, she lifted a hand and pointed. ‘That way.’
After three minutes of driving, the world blurred.
A shift. He was being shifted. He was being kidnapped- He forced himself to breathe when he came back into one piece. He’d renounced the Solstice. He was a murderer. It was time for judgement from the angels.
He was in a cell, and the agent was nowhere to be seen.
Food and drink appeared in his cell at regular intervals over the next twenty-four hours, but no one came to visit him. It was nothing like the horror stories he’d heard of how Agency prisoners were treated.
Almost nothing was like he had heard. With some distance, it was getting easier and easier to begin to pick the propaganda apart.
And one act – rescuing an agent – couldn’t erase everything he’d done. Couldn’t bring back the fae he’d killed. Couldn’t help the other fae that he’d helped capture. There were sins that he couldn’t erase, no matter how much he wanted to.
After two days, he finally heard footsteps approaching his cell.
He stood, brushed the crumbs from his shirt, and stood straight, holding himself back from throwing a salute.
The agent stepped into view – her uniform pristine, though her eyes were still haunted. It was never easy to lose family, and it was dismayingly heartening to see that she was still grieving. It was another mark in the “person” column, another small assurance that he’d done the right thing.
The door of his cell slid open, and she stepped over the threshold.
She walked up to him, and extended a hand. ‘Agent Stef Mimosa,’ she said, the ghost of a smile on her face, ‘and I’ve got three options for you.’
Curt smiled, and shook her hand.
Stef adjusted the water, and went through the perfunctory actions of washing herself, taking special care with the holes she’d ripped in her skin. She’d tried to escape – tried and failed – she’d had neither the strength, nor the leverage to break through the plastic cuffs, and attempts to slough off her skin and escape had met with her own mental resistance when causing pain to herself.
She’d tried, and failed – much like she’d done with every other element of her life.
The Solstice had watched her undress. Word or not, there was still a chance he was going to- There was always a chance he wouldn’t fuck a girl unless she was clean.
She sat on the floor of the shower, and opened the small container of blue – it was enough to heal the wounds from the plastic cuffs, and the gash he’d cut in her face.
She’d look perfect on the surface again.
She pulled back out of the spray, dipped two fingers into the blue, and pressed them to her lips. It was, as the ache in her heart had told her when she’d seen the container, Ryan’s blue.
Ryan was dead. Ryan was dead and she’d never see him again. Never hear him tell another fairy tale. Never be there to assure her that she was a good daughter, a good person, someone worthy of love.
She slowly filled in the cuts, the blue healing everything, making her skin perfect again, taking away the pain and the blood.
There was the question of what she should do next – of what few options there were – and no answers came.
She shuffled back under the spray, and let the water hide her tears.
Her dad was dead, she was alone, and there was no chance of rescue. Once Solstice got you, you were written off as dead.
She could comply, could smile, and take whatever abuse he wanted to dish out. He’d been almost decent so far, at least by the standards of how Solstice generally treated agents.
But life without freedom – it was hard to decide whether it was worth it. It wasn’t objectively without hope, but by the time she had a chance at rescue, she might have bartered away what was left of her soul.
Ryan would want her to live – she just wasn’t sure that he’d define captivity in some Solstice prick’s bed as a life.
She closed her eyes, and barely noticed when the shower ran cold.
Her head snapped up, her mind coming back as there was a knock on the bathroom door. ‘Agent,’ the Solstice said, ‘you’ve been in there two hours.’
She stood, turned off the water, and finally registered how cold she was. She pushed the curtain back, and stepped out – there was no point in hiding herself from him, modesty was going to translate as weakness.
He stepped forward and handed her a towel – his eyes staying on hers, and not straying to her body. ‘When you’re done,’ he said, ‘I want to talk.’
He stepped back and closed the door, leaving her to dress alone.
She methodically dressed herself, making every effort to present her uniform perfectly, despite the wrinkles and the blood stains. It was likely the last day she’d ever be able to reasonably think of herself as an agent. Her uniform would get replaced, her blue would burn away, and she’d be nothing but a woman who used to be something more.
She parted her hair with his comb, pressed at her eyes, happy to see that she’d burnt through all of her tears, and walked back into the bedroom.
In the time she’d been in the shower, he’d replaced the bed linens – all of her bloodstains were gone; leaving clean sheets that could be covered with more blood, should he want to turn violent.
It wasn’t a possibility, it was an inevitability – prisoners of the Solstice with vaginas were assaulted at horrific rates – Solstice cells with a assault rate of sixty percent were considered on the low end of things. If you were a prisoner, you had to barter for protection with your body.
She could play dead. She’d close her eyes, go as stiff as a board, and know she was paying the fee to see another dawn.
Tears slipped down her cheeks, and she hated herself for the weakness.
He wasn’t in the bedroom – instead he was sitting in the small eating area of the main room. A mug sat on the table, filled with water, and there was a black leather wallet sitting near the water.
A wallet she recognised.
She ran to it, pulled it open, and cradled Ryan’s ID to her chest, cherishing what could be her last sight of him ever.
‘You’re not a thing,’ the Solstice said.
She turned, and finally saw him – he was leaning against the kitchenette cupboard, a mug in his hand.
There was a photo – the photo of her and Ryan that Ryan kept in his wallet – in the Solstice’s hand. She took a step towards him, wanting to reclaim it, but stopped herself, knowing her position was precarious enough without acting rashly.
But – maybe, just maybe – one moment of freedom, one moment of choice, was better than a life without it.
The Solstice looked up, and waved the photo. ‘Monsters don’t act like this. Things don’t act like this. You’re a person,’ he said, sounding resigned, ‘and I’m a murderer.’
Curt walked through the halls of the base, trying to figure out if he hadn’t had enough sleep, or if he was literally seeing the world in a new light. Everything seemed to be…harsher, more real, like life at 60fps instead of standard definition.
He walked through to the closest mess hall – for the people who were choosing to stay underground, rather than go upstairs to their day job, or their external-to-Solstice-operations day jobs.
He grabbed a tray, and walked around the buffet, slopping eggs and toast onto it.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he made a note to bring something back for the agent to eat. If agents needed to eat. If they could eat. They could probably eat, they were made to look like humans, to imitate humans in every way – so it would be suspicious if they didn’t eat.
And if they ate, then they probably shit as well – and he held back a groan at the disgusting thought that he was going to go back and find that the agent had shit herself all over his bed.
So he had to get back, sooner rather than later, but there were appearances to keep up; routines to be done, and…questions he needed answers to.
He couldn’t see Mick, or any of the other guys from his squad, so he sat – and wasn’t at all surprised when Fuzz joined him.
Fuzz was tall, muscular and a diehard rugby-for-life player – he was always looking to pull the squads into pick-up games, or watch the matches on TV. He was large, cruel, and enjoyed his work far more than Curt did.
Curt knew he was good at his job. He could dissociate from what he was doing. He did important work. He hurt monsters who hurt people. He could cut and burn and do what was needed. He was good at it, but he didn’t enjoy it. There was professional satisfaction, but not personal satisfaction.
Fuzz, on the other hand, was the kind of guy who took trophies from the creatures he worked on.
‘Didn’t expect to see you,’ Fuzz said. ‘Thought you’d take all day breaking her in.’
There was a part to play. ‘I had all night,’ he snapped, ‘and if it lasts more than four hours, see a doctor, remember?’
Fuzz snorted, and tore into his toast. ‘If you need help…’ he said, lifting a hand. ‘I’ve been through a few, so I know all the tricks.’
Curt blinked, and realised what would shut Fuzz up. ‘I’ve learned one thing,’ he said, forcing his voice to be casual. ‘Dykes don’t like the taste of cock,’ he looked up in mock surprise. ‘Who knew?’
Rape. He was joking about rape. He was sitting with a guy he’d known for over a year, casually chatting about violating a person against their will…over eggs and toast.
If an agent was a person.
He felt dirty. He suddenly felt incredibly, deeply dirty. It was- All he had ever done was kill monsters. Things that deserved to die. He’d always known about bedwarmers. About the liberties that his colleagues took. And it had always been so…distant.
It was so incredibly different to be sitting there, with a man he thought of as a friend, congratulating him for-
He calmly took another bite of his eggs. He was always able to project calm. To be as unreadable as an agent.
He killed monsters. It was so different when the object of violence had a face. When it – she – looked human.
Fuzz stood, tipped a piece of toast like a weird, bread-based salute, then left, muttering about his shift in the internal store.
Curt sat for a few more minutes – he couldn’t look out of place. He couldn’t start screaming. He couldn’t start questioning everything he’d been doing. If he questioned it, then he was a traitor. If he questioned it, then he was no better than-
He chewed on his toast, and it tasted like ashes.
Phone. A distraction. He pulled it from his pocket and stared at it, pulling up his Facebook feed, and scrolling through the events that had happened since he’d checked the evening before. Darcy and her new boyfriend seemed to be happy – a fact that only mattered because it meant that his daughter had a stable home life.
He’d sent a present on pay day.
He couldn’t be a monster if he loved his kid – estranged as they were.
He couldn’t be a monster if he refused to torture the agent. He could-
All logic broke down when he even tried to consider what was going to happen next. He couldn’t keep her forever – captivity was as bad as death, and it would confuse the situation even more. He couldn’t hand her over to someone else to deal with – it was an obvious answer: out of sight, out of mind. If someone else killed her, then he wasn’t responsible.
It was bullshit, and it would make him even worse of a coward than he was for considering going against his ideals.
He couldn’t free her. It was one thing to refuse to kill something with a face, it was another thing entirely to-
He pushed back from the table. Right now, all he had to deal with was the next second, the next minute, his next action, and he already knew what that would be.
Interrogation was, at its heart, a very simple, very straight forward job. Go in, do your task, and leave the clean up to someone else. He had very little paperwork to do, and he never had to deal with handling the monster corpses.
He took the stairs down to the floor below and walked through to the processing area.
Processing smelt like a meat works – interspersed with chemical flowers and vanilla from air fresheners that attempted to mask some of the worse smells.
It only took a moment for him to find what he was looking for – the corpse of the dead agent. He knocked politely, and the processor – whose name he didn’t know, nor care enough to find out – looked up, and wave him in.
The corpse lay on a steel table, all of its liquids being drained into various containers. Blood to one, bile to another, with the small containers of extracted blue – for which, they shamefully had to use fae technology to retrieve – sitting near its feet.
He quickly palmed one of the full containers of blue, slipping it into his pocket before he had a chance to second-guess his actions.
The agent’s head had been detached and was in the process of being boxed – if they followed protocol, it would be delivered to its – his – agency, for purposes of demoralising the proxies.
Its – his – genitals had also been removed. What happened with an agent’s junk, he had no wish to find out.
The agent’s belongings and clothes were in a box to the side – and those were his goal. He upended it, casually going through the items, idly claiming he was looking for a trophy, to start acting like Fuzz. The agent hadn’t been his kill, but it was rare that anyone questioned an interrogator. It was, when it came down to it, a very cushy position.
He found the agent’s wallet and slipped it into another pocket, then piled all of the agent’s stuff back into the box, leaving with a casual goodbye.
The processor, for his part, had barely noticed his visit, and was all too consumed with cutting strips of flesh from the agent’s arm.
His steps seemed heavier as he went back to his room. He’d seen dead agents before – mostly in passing, but they’d never been…people before. The headless, dickless corpse that he’d seen had been a man that someone had called “father”.
He unlocked the door to his room, and the agent immediately snapped her head to look up at him. Her wrists and ankles were raw, where she’d tried to pull through the bonds and failed – and she’d quite obviously been crying for most of the time he’d been gone – her eyes were red, and there were dried trails of salt down her cheeks.
Curt quickly locked the door, then walked towards her, pulling a knife from its sheath. Without a word, he slit the plastic cuffs that were holding her in place.
‘You don’t have the energy to fight me,’ he said plainly. ‘Don’t try. You hit me, I’m going to hit you back, twice as hard.’ He pointed a finger at her. ‘Be fucking civil, and I’ll do the same.’
Slowly, she sat up, and he watched her – she immediately moved to draw the blanket over her lap, covering her exposed thighs – this, somehow, seemed to matter, despite what he’d seen before. Modesty. An unexpected trait.
She stared at the floor, her hands resting palm-up on her knees, trying to keep her raw wrists away from anything that could hurt them. ‘Please stop messing with me. I can’t even- I can’t even grieve for my father, because my entire mind is consumed with my own impending death. He deserves better. Let me go to him, please.’
He thought of the headless corpse, and stared back at the agent, and her strangely oversized head – as if she was a living bobble head. Some people might think it was cute, but overall, it just added a strange, human awkwardness to her look.
‘I haven’t decided if I’m going to kill you, agent.’ He pointed to the bathroom. ‘Go clean yourself up. Have a shower if you want. There’s no weapons in there, and I don’t even have a mirror to shatter.’ He pulled the blue from his pocket and offered it to her. ‘Promise me you won’t make any bombs with this.’
She reached out a small, thin hand. ‘You really don’t know how we work, do you?’
He pressed it into her hand, his fingers making contact with hers for a brief second. They were cold.
Curt stooped, grabbed her pants from the floor, but extracted the belt before he handed them back. ‘Go,’ he said, needing to avoid additional conversation.
The agent hobble-limped towards the bathroom, but he caught her shoulder before she stepped over the threshold. ‘Door stays open,’ he said. ‘I don’t trust you that much.’
She shook her shoulder away, walked into the small bathroom, turned her back to him, and slowly, dispassionately, and almost robotically, she began to strip.
He watched, unable to look away. There was nothing sexual to how she was stripping, but it was car-crash fascinating anyway. It was – literally – a side to an agent he’d never seen.
There were scars on her back, and on her arms.
Her vest, shirt, undershirt and bra all fell to the floor in turn, and she seemed to hesitate before pushing down her panties – aware that he was watching her, before she pushed them down, and stepped into the shower, pulling the grey curtain across.
A moment later, the water started flowing, and he retreated to the bedroom.
He sat on the end of his bed, avoiding the blood spots from her ankles, and pulled the other agent’s wallet from his pocket, and opened it.
There was the standard ID, identifying the agent – as she had said – as Director Ryan. There was a credit card on the other side, as well as the thing he’d been hoping for – and dreading: a picture of the two agents.
It looked as though it had been taken at a fete or a fair – there was a Ferris wheel in the background, and they both held sticks of fairy floss. The agent currently showering in the next room had her face painted like a cat, and the dead agent had his arm wrapped around her. Father and daughter. Much like the photo he had in his own wallet.
There was something entirely too natural about the posing; about the location and – especially – about the face paint. Monsters didn’t get five-dollar-face paint that was aimed at children. Monsters didn’t eat clouds of fairy floss the size of their huge bobble heads.
She wasn’t a thing.
She was a person.
‘Fuck,’ he said, to no one in particular.
He’d never questioned that the fae were monsters – they looked like monsters. They had claws and teeth and tore people apart.
And the agents defended them, and therefore, logically by extension, agents were monsters too.
It didn’t help that there was so much propaganda surrounding the fact that agents weren’t human, but looked human in every way. It was a deception, a trick, something to be feared.
It was becoming – it had become – all too obvious that the definition of “person” wasn’t limited to just “human”.
‘Fuck,’ he said again.
Stef opened her eyes.
Everything was a blur. She squeezed her eyes closed, trying to put any part of her memory in order.
There had been dinner. There had been an explosion. Solstice. Capture. Ryan-
She whimpered, trying to keep control of herself.
Ryan was in no position to help her.
Ryan would never be able to help her again.
And she had utterly, utterly failed to help him.
She sat up – she tried to sit up, and finally took stock of her surroundings. She was horizontal. She was- Her hands were bound. She hurt all over.
There’d been a Solstice. He’d been on top of her. He’d drugged her.
He’d drugged her, and now her memory was barely working.
She moved her body, trying to get a better sense of herself, felt a blanket over her…and felt her underwear down around her ankles.
‘So much for your fucking word,’ she whispered.
‘My word is far better than you realise, Agent.’
She shrieked, and tried to pull away from the sound, then roughly turned herself to look at the other side of the bed, where the Solstice lay, a phone in his hand.
Stef shrank back as far as she could from him, feeling her butt leave the edge of the bed. ‘What-‘ she swallowed. ‘What-‘
‘For someone who was drugged out of their mind, you sure wiggle around a lot, Agent. I took off your trousers, but any other wardrobe changes were yours.’
She stared down at the bed, refusing to meet his eye. ‘What are you- What is this bullshit?’ she asked, forcing her voice to be harsh. ‘There’s a certain thing that- You-‘
‘I didn’t fuck you, Agent,’ he said. ‘Would you rather have slept on the floor? You want to sleep on the floor tonight?’
She stared at him, trying to divine the meaning of his words. Sleep again, tonight. He intended on keeping her in his room.
‘Are you planning on keeping me?’ she spat. ‘I’m not a goddamn pet!’
He placed a hand on the bed near her and leaned closer. ‘I need to know you’re a monster. I need- I’ve never worked on something like you before. Never anything- Anything that looked human.’
They’d killed Ryan without a second thought. They’d killed him and- She started to choke again.
She forced her face to go agent-neutral. ‘Do you want me to recount my crimes? Tell you how many Solstice I’ve killed? I am what you think I am. I am blood, blue and bruises. I am an agent, and if my hands were free, I’d choke you.’
He seemed to take this as an invitation, and he wrapped his hand around her throat. ‘It’s not a very quick way to kill someone, and you don’t look like you have the strength to choke me out, Agent.’
‘Stop fucking with me!’ she screamed, bucking her body in an effort to get his hand off her. ‘I don’t want to- Talk! Just- Kill me!’ she screamed, her throat going raw.
He seemed to falter, and he withdrew his hand. ‘You look- Human,’ he said, faltering over his words. ‘I’ve never worked on anything that looks human.’
He stood, rounded the bed and looked down at her.
She pulled against her bonds, trying to sit up. ‘I’m not human. I was never human. I’ll never be human and-’
‘What about when your blue runs out?’
She stopped – the thought hadn’t occurred to her – not that there had been much time for her to have thoughts, but- He was right. When her blue dried up, and assuming she lived through withdrawal, she’d be the closest thing to human.
‘That doesn’t make me human,’ she said. ‘It makes me weak.’
He pulled the blanket away, and roughly yanked her underpants up, covering with, his eyes staying on her, rather than getting a good look.
She looked away – with the blanket gone, it was all too obvious how dangerous her situation was – and exactly what he could do to her, if the mood struck.
‘I don’t get this riddle,’ she said. ‘There’s no magic combination of words for me to say that will somehow make me not what I am. I’m an agent. I’m proud of being an agent. We do our jobs, and we protect the world from fucksticks like you. You’re…wrong, about everything you believe. We’re not the bad guys. Fae aren’t monsters. Killing and torturing innocent people is what makes someone a monster, and I’ve never done that.’ She forced herself to look back at him. ‘I know firsthand that you can’t say the same thing.’
He tilted her face, and looked at the bloody stain she’d left on the pillow, most of which had ashed away during the night. ‘I can clean that,’ he said, after a long moment of contemplation.
‘Solstice,’ she said. ‘Stop. Just- Stop. I can’t-’
He let go of her face – there was blood, her blood, on his fingers.
She fought for courage. ‘Stop the fucking dance. It’s not doing a favour to either of us.’
He took a step away and looked down at her. ‘I need to know that you’re a thing. I need to know that you’re a thing, and not a person.’
‘Because if you’re not a thing,’ he said as he backed away towards the door. ‘Then I’m a murderer.’
Curt looked up from his phone, and the picture of a scantily-clad redhead that he’d been staring at. ‘What?’
Mick smiled. ‘Don’t get me that attitude, Lieutenant, they just brought some agents in.’
Curt lifted his beer and took a sip. ‘So? That’s not my field of expertise.’
‘Everyone else is busy. Move your arse.’
Curt sighed, stood, drained his beer, then followed Mick through to the “triage room”, where they sorted which interrogators would get which subject. They stood behind the glass, watching the capture party playing with their cargo.
There were two agents on the floor – one tall and one short. The tall one had itself wrapped around the shorter one, obviously trying in vain to project its companion from getting all of the living shit getting kicked out of it.
He tapped his foot, feeling the heft of the standard-issue steel-toed boots. It hurt like shit to get kicked around by a pair of the boots; though he appreciated the work the capture party was putting in – it always helped when the subjects had been softened up.
After a few more minutes, Mick rapped on the window, and the capture party stopped. The door opposite them opened, and Fuzz – his counterpart from Captain Travers’ team selected the taller agent, who was dragged away, losing a shoe as his feet were pulled across the concrete.
The leader of the capture part laid one more solid kick into the shorter agent’s ribs, then Mick opened the door, and the remaining members of the capture party dragged the agent to his room.
Curt rolled his shoulders as he followed, trying to size up the target from behind – not that there was much to see. Probably a tech from the build – far shorter than usual, but that was likely an attempt to seem more human – a fucking stupid proxy tactic. It could have been an augment, but that would just make his job all the easier. There were insults reserved only for humans who had perverted their bodies with blue.
He liked working in a set room – it allowed him to get used to a space, to know how much room he had to work, which parts of the room he could slam a subject into, and what he had to work with.
The agent was restrained to the standard chair – he didn’t mind if the capture team did this – he had plenty of time to get to know the subject during the process; and there was rarely anything to be gained from the foreplay of tying the subject down.
After a moment, they left him alone, and he began his pre-interrogation ritual.
He walked to the sink, wet his hand and ran them through his hair, then filled a plastic cup in case he got thirsty; then pulled a second plastic cup from the stack and walked back to the subject, and picked up his first tool, a short, stubby knife, perfect for the initial bloodletting.
He stared at the agent – its head was hung low – they’d forgotten to secure the neck strap so that he could see its face, and it was barely breathing. There were already patches of blood on its uniform – though far from the worst it was going to receive that day.
Curt placed the knife and cup down, grabbed a handful of the agent’s hair, and threw its head back against the back of the chair, and fixed the thick leather strap into place, pulling it tight enough to hurt; but not so tight that it would prevent it from answering questions.
He retrieved his tools and cut a deep groove down its face, leaning on its face with his left forearm to keep its in place, allowing the droplets of blood to fall perfectly into the cup.
They knew it was an agent, but there were traditions to the way that things had to happen.
He turned, and splashed the blood on the sheet hung in the corner near the door. In two hours or less, it would turn to ash, proving just how inhuman it was.
When he turned back, its head had slumped again. He moved forward, and pressed the point of the knife under its chin, forcing it to look up at him, or impale itself on his knife – either way, he didn’t care, but he wanted the agent to see the face of its executioner.
It spat in his face.
The gob of blood and spittle landed square on his cheek, and he backhanded the agent without a second thought, immediately turning to scrub it from his cheek, lest he get some proxy disease.
When he turned back, he took in the agent for the first time.
It was a woman.
He faltered for a second, instead going to his tools. He hadn’t expected that. He knew female agents existed, but he hadn’t expected-
It was a trick. A deception. Agents weren’t human. Agents were things.
The agent was developing a black eye from where someone had punched her.
He never worked on agents. It wasn’t his area of expertise. He worked on things that looked like they crawled out of nightmares. He worked on-
Curt picked up a claw hammer, and slammed it down on her knee.
There were beautiful fae – he’s seen some of the ones the Captains kept as bedwarmers – if they’d been human, they’d have been a ten. A perfect ten. But it was a lie. An act. Something to disguise the fact that they weren’t human.
But he’d never been face to face to someone who could have been the little sister of any of the men he worked with.
He hit her with the hammer again.
He was losing his nerve. She wasn’t human. She was an agent. The very epitome of what they were standing against. An inhuman thing that was infiltrating society, tricking regular people and-
There was a gunshot, loud and clear, and she started like it had hit her.
Her eyes went wide, and she started to scream, as if the sound had finally broken the dam keeping everything back – non-linear, inhuman, senseless ravings.
He managed to catch the words “Ryan” and “dad”.
Curt ditched the hammer, and picked up a wrench. He lifted it high, and she stopped screaming long enough to lift her head to stare at the weapon as he positioned to bring it down across her face.
He slapped her to keep her quiet, and adjusted his grip on the wrench.
Face wounds bled nicely. The seemed to demoralise anyone capable of understanding their own mortality.
The door opened, and he looked up, seeing Mick. ‘Take your time with this one, we’re going out to lunch.’
‘You fuckers,’ he said, ‘I was on lunch.’
‘I’ll bring you back a burger.’
He narrowed his eyes. ‘Why’d they finish it so quickly?’ he asked, trying to remember what he’d heard in training. You were supposed to take your time with agents. Make it last. Make them suffer.
‘It got its hand on a weapon. Daz has to take action.’ Mick stared at the agent. ‘Do as you please. No judgement, O’Connor.’
He nodded, and Mick closed the door. He waited to hear his friend’s steps receding, then put the wrench down, retreated to his chair, and pulled a chocolate bar from his pocket, ripped it open, and took mouthful of chocolate and caramel. It wasn’t lunch, but it was better than nothing.
The agent hadn’t resumed her crying, and instead was staring out with hollow eyes, a look that likely mirrored the dead agent in the other room.
‘He was a director,’ she said as he was into his third bite of chocolate. ‘You fucksticks just lost all of your leverage. He was a director,’ her voice shook, ‘and you just killed him.’
‘An agent is an agent,’ he recited. ‘It’s rare that we trade for them.’ He took a small bite, then gave her a thoughtful look. ‘And it’s never a good idea to tell your captors that you’re worthless.’ He leaned forward, resting his chin on his hand. ‘Are you worthless, Agent?’
She met his eyes, and he noticed the red circles from where she’d been crying. ‘He was my father.’ Her head lolled to the side, and she resumed silently weeping.
Curt finished his chocolate, tucked the wrapper into his pocket, then stood, knowing he needed to make some progress before his jerkoff friends got back from lunch.
He slipped his hand into the agent’s hair, and turned her head, forcing her to look at him.
He needed to see inhumanity. He needed to see a monster.
He saw a weeping woman.
‘Mimosa. 075323. Secondary field agent under Interim Director Ryan. You killed him. Kill me.’
He’d killed a dozen fae in the room where he currently stood. Worked on them with no remorse.
None of them had looked human.
Something was suddenly twisting in his gut. The same twist that had told him to trust the men who had protected him from a monster was telling him that he needed to rethink his current situation.
He was being drawn in by a proxy. Was falling for the veneer of humanity – hook, line and sinker. He wasn’t the first to fall, and wouldn’t be the last.
He couldn’t cut her. Or burn her. Or hit her. Not like this. Not right now.
He needed time. He needed to know she was a monster. He needed to see what she was. There needed to be a crime in order for him to play judge, jury and executioner.
Curt turned, ran a hand over his mouth, then began to fish rarely-used supplies from the cupboard at the back of the room. Handcuffs. Zip ties. A ball gag.
He moved back to the agent, fastening the ball gag into place before she had a chance to fight back, handcuffed her hands, then began to undo the restraints.
A bedwarmer. He could claim her as a bedwarmer.
It was never a concept he’d ever been interested in before – there was something dirty about- He’d never had any interest in raping a fairy, and that’s what it was, no matter the shine that was put over it. Even beyond that – it went beyond everything his Captain had ever taught him – fae were to be feared, not to be fucked.
As a lieutenant, he was expected to take the leftovers, but as an interrogator, he was afforded a few perks, and he doubted anyone would argue him calling dibs on an agent.
He pulled her out of her chair, and pushed her towards the door – it was likely that he could get to his room without anyone seeing, but in case-
Mick was standing there as he opened the door, a takeaway bag in his hand. ‘Burger, O’Connor, he said. ‘What’s this?’
Curt wrapped an arm around the agent and shook her, then rubbed his crotch and flicked his tongue over his lips. ‘I figured I’d stop being a pussy and get some. Fucking little dyke, my cock is going to be the first and last she’s ever going to taste.’
It was an expertly crafted sentence, and truth be told, he was proud of it.
In a few words, he’d managed to hit pretty much every point that was going to secure his right to take the agent away, and to have his privacy. He’d questioned her sexuality, enforcing the idea to Mick that she needed to be punished for not liking cock; he’d stepped up – literally and figuratively – to the man plate – something Mick would approve of, as he’d always looked down on him with some kind of big brother pride. And, in however crude a fashion, he’d intimated that he didn’t want to share his new snatch.
Mick stepped aside and bowed. ‘Carry on, good sir. Fuck it till it bleeds.’
The agent didn’t react.
It was slow going to get the agent to his room – he regretted hitting her knees, but suspected that the capture party’s kicking session had done just as much to contribute to it.
He unlocked his door, pulled the ballgag from her head and pushed the agent inside, manoeuvring her a few feet in before turning to lock the door. The complex was built like a bunker – and as such, the walls were thick, soundproofed – no matter what happened behind closed doors, no one would hear it.
In the few seconds it had taken him to lock the door, the agent had slumped herself against the wall, and was pulling on the cuffs, seemingly intent on tearing her skin off if it meant she could get free.
He strode over to her, grabbed her shoulders and pushed her against the wall, pinning her, his face inches from hers. Definitely close enough for her to spit on him again, if she chose.
Some sense of survival prevailed, and she didn’t spit at him again.
‘Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.’ He considered his words. Considered the implied threat of bringing her to his room. ‘I’m not going to fuck you. You’ve got my promise there. I’m not interested in fucking an agent. No matter what I say. I don’t owe you my word, proxy, but you’ve got it.’
She gave him a confused look, her brow knitting together. ‘Do you think you’re a good man, because you refuse to rape me?’
‘I think I’m-’
She kicked off from the wall, using their proximity to her advantage, and went for his neck, biting down on what she could get at – which, due to his jacket, was mostly collar, but a few of her teeth grazed his skin, and drew blood.
‘Fucking bitch!’ he shouted, and elbowed her in the face. He balled his hand, and punched her in the stomach, which brought her to her knees, coughing, and wheezing for breath.
It wasn’t how he’d wanted things to go. It wasn’t what he’d wanted.
But things rarely went the way he planned.
He pressed a foot to her chest, and kicked, sending her spilling to the floor, hopeless and on her back, like a stranded turtle.
Curt moved to the small kitchen, and dug through his miscellaneous drawer, and found the small packet of roofies – there was more than one way of catching a fae, and sometimes drugs worked the best. He pulled one out, and mixed it with just enough water to make it easy to swallow, then returned to the agent, straddled her, and forced her to drink the drug, holding his hand over her mouth until she swallowed as much as she could.
‘Fuck you,’ she said, ‘fuck you.’ She bucked under him. ‘Stop fucking messing with me. Just-’ her struggles became less noticeable. The formula the Solstice techs had cooked up was some souped-up version of the regular drug – and took effect within a couple of minutes, especially when forced down in concentrated form like this.
He sat on her for five minutes, slowly watching the fight drain from her, the insults stopped, and her entire body relaxed – despite the pain she had to be in, her head tipped back, and she snored a little, his blood still in the corner of her mouth.
Curt stared at her for a moment, then leaned forward, and wiped the blood away with his thumb. It had been brave, bold, dumb move – and it was just the kind of thing he would have done if cornered.
A point to the agent.
It had been an aggressive move, but a…human-ly aggressive move. It wasn’t enough to pass final judgment on.
He stood, and stared down at the drugged woman. ‘What the fuck are you doing, O’Connor?’
She – it – it was an agent. Designed to look human. Designed to fool. It was a computer, and nothing more.
He put a foot on her stomach, and she whimpered – the sound so tiny and human that it tore a chunk from his heart. It wasn’t a noise that a computer could make.
Curt stooped, lifted her, and carried her into his bedroom, laying her on the bed. He pushed the quilt aside – his sheets were going to get bloody, but laundry services were well used to all manner of bodily fluids over the linens. A little more wouldn’t surprise them – and was likely what they expected.
He stripped her pants off, and inspected her knees – serious bruising, but nothing more.
Her shirt had pulled up when he’d taken her pants off, and he saw the edges of scars. He lifted her shirt, and saw scars covering her stomach, and up onto her torso, further than he could easily see. He pulled her shirt back down – whether she was a computer or a person, he’d promised some measure of restraint, and he didn’t intend on going back on his word. He wouldn’t fuck her, and he wouldn’t creep on her whilst she was roofied and in his bed.
It took a little effort, but he removed her cuffs and bound her hands to the top bedpost, then zip-tied her feet and bound them to the bottom post – she wasn’t going anywhere, but it would still allow her some measure of rest.
‘What the fuck are you doing?’ he asked himself again.
There were very few ways that the situation could end. He could kill her – which was still the plan, once he got the proof he needed to satisfy his own twisting moral compass; or he could keep her as a bedwarmer, but at some point, that would mean going back on his word, otherwise a medical check-up would reveal that she hadn’t been violated.
He pulled the quilt over her, then went to his computer – if nothing else, he could fuck about on the internet for a few hours, then decide where he was sleeping.
An hour later, she started to cry.
He pulled back from reading the reviews of the latest COD and looked at her. She was choking – still well out of it, but crying nonetheless. He went to the kitchen, retrieved a glass of water, then sat on the bed beside her, and helped her drink – rehydrating would make tomorrow easier.
‘Agent,’ he said slowly, knowing she’d be more likely to give him the truth in this state. ‘Did you love your dad?’
She started to cry again, burying her face against the pillow, smearing blood everywhere.
He put a hand to the unharmed side of her face, turning her back to him. ‘Do you have a soul? How do I kill you if you’ve got a soul?’
This, apparently, was too much for her drugged mind to handle, and she didn’t answer him.
Agents weren’t supposed to have souls. Agents weren’t supposed to grieve.
Agents weren’t supposed to look like your little sister.
When midnight rolled around, he went to bed, lying on top of the quilt and far from her – from this distance, the worst she could do to him was fart on him.
This is a couple of days late; but Happy Birthday Shade!
Jones stood on the holodeck and stared at the half-constructed program. It was always so…gratifying to see it in this state, to see code flowing through half-formed trees like the Matrix had escaped into the real world.
The visualization was an affectation, but it was one he adored – there was a certain way that things were supposed to be, and the lack of particle effects and needlessly visual code were things he had grown up – so to speak – loving, and it forced him to improvise when the real world disappointed.
He laughed to himself as he repositioned the tree. Real world. He – a sentient computer program made of nanites and nerd references – was judging reality by muggle standards.
Life, in all of its wisdom, was just funny like that.
Jones flicked a hand and a river appeared in the background of the program – Merlin wanted to experience fishing, so it was his job to build the perfect fishing hole – there were already holodeck programs that would do, but he adored the simplicity of constructing new simulator constructs.
It was a task that almost allowed him to shut down his mind, to concentrate on simplicity.
He pressed his hand to the closest rock, interfaced with it – the physical touch was another affectation, but it made him feel as though he were doing some manual labour – a curiosity and rare treat. He brought up the menu that showed him the current layout of the program in its entirety, and surveyed the work he’d done so far.
Jones looked up in the direction of the door. ‘Oh dear.’
The world went white, black, then disappeared entirely. Continue reading “Not-So-Fantastic Voyage”
Reality slowly resolved around Stef, her fingers stopped their rhythm on the keyboard as with a series of pops and cracks she craned her neck around.
“Curt, is it patrol time already? I was just… uh…. coding?” A quick alt-tab flipped up a compiler, random lines of code flicking into existence with a few strokes.
“Stef, I’m the one that showed you the fake coding webpage, I saw the game. Haven’t you been watching your HUD?”