Monday, September 8, 2014

Fallout Chapter 3

Warning: this story gets violent at times. Poor Jason!

Akim regarded Jason for a minute. Then he stepped over to the shelf of rusty tools. His fingers played over them, as if fingering a piano.

Jason looked down at his left shoulder. The knife had sliced through his sleeve, and he couldn't tell the extent of the damage beneath. He wished he had something to press against the wound to stop the bleeding; he was beginning to feel sick in addition to the lightheadedness.

"Listen," said Jason, trying to breathe through the pain, "I think we have a mutual interest here. I'm not really looking forward to whatever you're planning…but I don't want to pass out from blood loss either. I'm not going to answer any questions, but if I'm unconscious, it'll be an even less interesting conversation."
Akim turned to look at him, shrugged, and picked up an ancient rag from the table. He shook it out; dust flew through the air, glittering in the sunlight like microscopic fireflies. Then he ripped Jason's sleeve down the middle, and wrapped the rag tightly around his shoulder.

"You're not too worried about infection, are you," said Jason through gritted teeth.

"As long as we find out what you know, it doesn't matter what happens to you afterward."

"Thanks for the concern."

Jason had been tortured before. Several times. Most notably by the Whisperer, back before Jason had put him in jail the first time. He'd used some of his 'electric shock therapy' and almost broken Jason's resolve. Jason barely admitted to himself how far he came to cracking. Torture never got any easier to face, no matter how many times you went through it. It was unreliable—the prisoner might lie to you- but there was always the chance the information might be real.

The stakes are too high, he thought. I'm not going to tell them anything. But it's too bad that a spy, even a retired spy, always seems to have at least one secret that's still viable…

Akim picked up a hammer from the tool shelf. He flipped it over, and then set it gently back in its place. He lifted a saw from the shelf, flexed its blade as if testing it, and set it back, shaking his head. Finally he picked up a pair of pliers.

He snapped the pliers' teeth together and came toward Jason. He walked behind him, and grabbed his wrist. Then, he shoved the pliers beneath one fingernail.

Jason pulled away, though he knew it was probably futile. Isn't there a saying about pulling out fingernails with rusty pliers? he thought. I never thought I'd come close to experiencing it literally.
Akim grabbed his hand in a near-vice grip, crushing his bones together. The pliers were shoved beneath his fingernail once more, digging in. The guard pulled, but the tool slipped. The next time, though, he twisted, and –

Jason screamed.

It was a quick, sharp, white-hot pain. Then it dulled, his finger throbbing as if it had swelled to three times its size. The same thing had happened to him as a kid, only then, he'd been playing football, and his fingernail had bent completely backwards.

Back then, he'd had his father to comfort him and tell him he'd make it through. Now, he'd do anything to have his father there, short of his being a target himself.
Akim grabbed the front of Jason's shirt, and ripped it down the middle, buttons clinking onto the floor.

"Where is the weapon?" the guard asked.

"It's not a weapon per se."

"What is it then?"

"I can't tell you."

Akim withdrew his knife from his belt again. "I thought I'd try something different by using that pliers, but this will always be my favorite tool. And this." He raised his fist, as if it were a trophy. "I don't really like using them on defenseless people though."

"Could've fooled me."

"But I will if I have to. I don't have the option of coming out of this with no information."

"Why do you need information so badly? What does Nadira want with it?"

Akim tapped Jason's chest with the blade. "You aren't supposed to be the one asking questions. It's up to me, and I'm going to do my job right."

"Even if it includes torturing innocent people?"

"From what Nadira tells me, you are far from innocent."

Perhaps I should've rephrased that, thought Jason. I'm not innocent by any means—but I wish I knew what Nadira's specific grudge was.

Akim stepped behind Jason, and the knife crept around in front of his neck. Jason tensed, wondering if he were going to slit his throat after all. Instead, the knife sliced into his skin beneath his collarbone. The bodyguard continued, cutting as if he were a particularly intricate slab of meat.
A tear slipped from his eyes, stinging into a cut like acid.

Please, Lord, help me through this. My father can't be here, but you, my Father, are here, all the time. I have forgotten that too often in the past several years. I've tried to do things on my own…but my own strength is an illusion. Case in point.

"Where is the weapon?" said Akim.

"I'll never tell you. You might as well give up."

Akim sheathed his knife. "You will tell me. I have license to do this job till it's done, and I'm not going anywhere until it's accomplished."

"Then we're at an impasse. My job is to keep secrets, and I'm good at it. Shall we see who's better at their job?"

Akim raised his eyebrow. "You want me to hurt you?"

"At some point, you'll go too far and kill me before I give you anything. Besides, if you were really so good at your job, you'd bring more sophisticated equipment than a knife."

"It's what I like to use. Besides, I think this may be my best instrument after all."

And he flung his fist toward Jason's face.

It felt like his face had broken open. Blood gushed over his mouth and chin; he realized his nose had broken. Before he could brace himself, another blow slammed into his cheek. That, too, split open.
This man has iron fists if anyone ever did, he thought vaguely.

Then, his eye.

His jaw.

His cheek.

Again. And again.

Finally, mercifully, he blacked out.

When he came to, the woman, Nadira, was standing in front of him. There were two of her—three—no, she merged back into two, then one. Akim was holding his head back by his hair.
Nadira held up a metallic-blue phone. "The reception isn't very good up here," she said.

"Just take a picture, and if it doesn't send, we can always go down the mountain a ways."

"As long as no one finds us." She held up the phone, but her hand trembled. "Did you have to hurt him so badly, Akim?"

"The worse he looks for the picture the better. Besides, I thought you wanted him hurt, after what he did to you."

"I know… but…I can't help it. I know what he is, but I don't like to see anyone hurt. Especially after what I saw during the revolution."

She lifted her other hand to hold the phone, reducing its trembling. Then there was a snapping sound as the picture took.

"How'd it turn out?" asked Akim.

"It's a little dark—but I think it'll work." She pressed some buttons, but then said, "It won't send. We'll have to go further down."

"I'll do it," said Akim. "I have less to lose if I get caught." And he snatched the phone and stepped out into the light.

The last thing Jason saw before he lapsed back into unconsciousness was Nadira looking down at him, concern and pity, yet revulsion, on her face.

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