|Set Yourself on Fire
Author: Silvae PM
The best friend I’d ever made died the day I met him. Two-hundred years later, I still can’t be sure if he was the only one who died that day… SLASHRated: Fiction M - English - Fantasy/Romance - Chapters: 2 - Words: 5,307 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 01-06-10 - Published: 01-05-10 - id: 2760812
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Chapter #2 Blackbird
"Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life….
You were only waiting for this moment to arise."
When I came to, I found myself in a cement compound – windowless, no furniture except for the steel chair I sat in. Shackles bound my wrists behind me, and each ankle had been chained to the chair legs. My head pounded. My mouth tasted like copper and rust. Worse than that was the image burned into the backs of my eyelids. The image of a boy I knew and didn't know with three gory holes blown through his chest.
The dryness in my throat made it difficult to cry for help. When I finally managed a noise, no response came.
And it stayed that way for what felt like hours – but my watch had been removed and I had no way to tell time, so it could have been five minutes. When the steel door at the far end of the compound opened, my teeth had worried my lips until they cracked. Three Phoenixes entered. One wore a crisp, white lab coat, another bore a beaten, leather brief case, and the woman, who entered last, held a sleek, black rifle. I eyed the gun, but the 'Surg who wielded it ignored me. She stood guard at the door instead.
"It's not her you have to worry about," the man in the lab coat said. His voice was a low, velvety purr. "It's him." The labbie gestured with his chin toward the man with the brief case, who came forward and knelt beside me. He had cropped his hair so short it was difficult to distinguish the colour, but it resembled coagulated blood. Many scars littered his forearms. He laid the briefcase gingerly on the floor. Emblazoned on the front was the Insurgi coat of arms: a flaming raven in a circle of gold stars. He flipped the clasps on the briefcase and opened it. The inside unfolded into a three-tiered shelf, housing all manner of instruments: vials corked with unknown substances, sterile syringes, scalpels.
I stiffened. That didn't look friendly… I stared at the scientist, uncomprehending.
"What is that for?"
"Oh, nothing. Just a precaution in case you're less than… co-operative," the scientist said.
"Wh-what? But I'm not… who do you think I am? I'm just a gardener."
The scientist raised an eyebrow. He consulted his clipboard and scanned it briefly. "Sergeant Loryn Keyore said that you were present yesterday at the scene of the arrest of the terrorist known as Blackbird and that you were, quote on quote, 'concerned for his well-being.'"
My mouth fell open. "A-arrest, you can't, I mean, that wasn't... he was SHOT."
"He is a dangerous criminal, extreme measures were… Necessary."
I grappled with this information. My penpal, a criminal… I supposed that explained why he'd said I wouldn't like him.
Eventually, my mouth wrapped around words that made some semblance of sense. "I thought the Insurgi were expressly against violent force."
The pain came before I registered the hit. It lanced through my skull and ricocheted around in there, throbbing painfully. The scientist's fist had struck the lump where Sergeant Keyore had hit me yesterday with his gun. "Do not lecture us with our own laws! Desperate measures had to be taken. Blackbird was a threat to the safety of not just Siras, but the entire population of Eterno." Rage bubbled in my chest. My dragon form pressed outward like a new skin trying to shed the old one. Something contained it though, held it grounded like rope to a helium balloon. I could only assume the handcuffs binding me were Inhibitors. They repressed transformations. Without my coat of scales, that rifle the 'Surg wielded might actually do some damage
I hung my head, partially to avoid another hit like that, partially because my head hurt too much to hold it up anymore. "Okay," I said. Because I could see non-compliance was not an option. My concern for Blackbird did not abate. I wished it would, because the hottest question on my tongue now was whether he'd survived. I didn't think my present company would appreciate it.
"Now, if you're finished, I'd like to ask you a few things," the scientist said. "I suggest you answer truthfully, or Tirus here gets to have his fun with you. And you won't like his idea of fun…"
I swallowed, eyeing the open brief case and the man leaning over it. "Understood," I said.
"Good. Now, introductions. My name is Doctor Éan Insurgi. I work in the science and engineering department usually, but they also call on me for interrogations every once in a while. The questions won't take long."
"And then I can leave?" I asked, lifting my head just slightly. Éan met my plea with a cold stare.
"If we determine you are not a threat," he said simply. "Now, what is your name?"
"Nikael Inkhart," I said.
"You are a draconian, correct? How old? You only look to be an adolescent, but then, Blackbird was young himself."
"I'm 329 years old," I said. Then, remembering the pleasantries that appeased even Nymar's bad moods, I added, "sir."
His eyes widened slightly. "You're older than Blackbird. Hmmm, but what's a century these days?" He scribbled my answer on his clipboard. "What were you doing on 23rd Street yesterday at 6PM?"
I swallowed. I couldn't start lying now. I could tell from the way Tirus' greedy eyes gazed at me imploringly. They begged me to lie. "I was there to meet a friend."
Éan raised an eyebrow. "What is your friend's name?"
I wet my lips. The truth, I realized, sounded a lot like a lie. I could tell them about our correspondence through the tree at Siras Memorial Garden. Our notes would still be there, all of them. The idea of letting these tyrants rifle through our messages made my blood boil, but what choice did I have? The feather… I still had that. I'd tucked it into my sock drawer at home. If they confiscated our letters… at least I'd have the feather.
"He wouldn't tell me his name," I said, shrinking back in preparation for another strike. Éan just glared at me, a thinly raised brow the only indication of his scepticism. I pressed on, "we spoke in letters. Like penpals. Every day he'd leave me a message in a tree, and I'd respond. He didn't seem… dangerous. We never talked about anything unusual."
"Are the messages still there?" Éan demanded.
"Yes," I said. Unbridled discomfort and fury rippled under the surface of my skin. The Inhibitors seemed to stifle that too. "All of them are tied together and stowed in a hollow fire blossom tree in Siras National Park. It's the tree closest to the rhododendrons…"
Éan scribbled furiously. He raised his head and nodded at the woman guarding the door. "Report to Lieutenant Oryin immediately. Instruct him to investigate this tree and bring back the letters. All of them." I bit my tongue. I hated the idea of giving up the letters. I hated the idea of staying here more. Éan turned back to me. "They will be taken for evidence, you understand."
I nodded stiffly.
"Right. Then, you claim that you had no knowledge of Blackbird's identity or his plans to overthrow the Insurgi as capitol leaders of Eterno?"
I shook my head. "I had no idea. He was just a penpal…"
"Would you be willing to take a truth serum so we can confirm this?"
I suppressed a growl. "Why didn't you just force me to take it earlier?"
Éan's smile vanished, smeared from his face like wet mascara. "Pleasantries, my boy. It's never nice to start a conversation with narcotics, but if the situation calls for them, and it does…." He shrugged. He gave the distinct impression that he was only giving me the illusion of a choice. If I said no they'd force feed me the serum anyway.
Beside me, Tirus smiled. He knelt beside the open brief case and withdrew a syringe and a vial. A transparent liquid shone within the latter, no different in appearance than water. He uncorked it and dipped the needle inside, pulling the plunger on it until it filled a quarter of the way.
"The effects will last an hour," Éan said. "You're sure?" More 'pleasantries'…
I swallowed a lump in my throat. "I have nothing to hide." Tirus approached me with the needle and I felt it glide smoothly into my right bicep. He depressed the plunger. I waited, counted to ten, but before I reached 'five' an icy sensation like a winter breath wet my senses, and my tongue suddenly tingled with pins and needles like it had fallen asleep.
I shuddered. Éan inclined his head, acknowledging that the truth serum seemed to be working. "Right. Shall we begin?" Éan said. I nodded. "Alright. Is your name really Nikael Inkhart?"
"Yes," I said. My tongue felt kind of fuzzy as I spoke.
Éan smiled. It made him look like a shark. "Just to be sure the truth serum is working, lie to me. Is your name Nikael Inkhart?"
I thought it would be a struggle, but "no," passed my lips as easily as the 'yes.' Immediately, my tongue burned. The fizzy sensation turned corrosive, and I let out an embarrassing yelp of pain. It stung. My eyes watered. An acrid, chemical smell flooded my nose. I'd broken bones before, but this pain was so excruciating it hardly compared.
"Tirus," Éan said. Obediently, Tirus appeared beside me with a cotton swab and yanked my mouth open with calloused hands. He stuck the swab to my tongue and immediately the burning abated. I spat out the cotton and assessed the damage. There was none.
"Good. It's working, then. Onto the more important question," Éan said, taking more notes on his clipboard. If he'd intended to keep our exchange friendly, that stunt had cost him. My disposition could only worsen...
"Have you and Blackbird, like you said, been corresponding through letters without knowledge of each other's identity?" Éan proceeded.
"Yes," I grunted.
"And has Blackbird ever discussed with you his motivations or plans for destroying the Insurgi?"
"Do you believe it may have been his intention to recruit you?"
"No, it was never mentioned."
"DOCTOR!" The door burst open, and a harried looking Phoenix with flaming red hair stepped inside.
"Oryin," Éan greeted.
"Doctor, I investigated the Park. There are no such letters. The tree is empty."
I gaped. Éan turned sharply, looking at me over his spectacles like he might look at something through a microscope. "The letters. You never moved them?"
"No," I replied, the truth serum fizzing on my tongue.
"You're certain?" Éan demanded.
The scientist's impeccable calm shattered and he let out a howl of rage. The sound made the vials rattle in Tirus' briefcase. My ears rang. That noise was hardly human. Phoenix screams were legendary, and I had a feeling Éan's momentary lapse had been quiet compared to what their lungs were capable of. "Blackbird must have disposed of them before today," Éan snarled.
"They probably wouldn't have been of much use," I said, trying to contain any snide remarks. Secretly, I felt this was a small victory on my part. Our part… Why I still sided with a terrorist, I didn't bother to speculate. I didn't want the 'Surgs grubby hands on those letters. "Mostly we talked about the weather…" Which was true, and the serum rewarded me with more fizzy tongue.
Éan ran his fingers through his silvering navy hair, gripping it by the roots. His comrades seemed uncertain of how to approach him. They didn't have to. Abruptly, he smoothed back his hair instead of pulling it out and took a deep breath. "No matter," he said. "We don't need it. There is enough evidence for our case."
My brow furrowed. "Your case?"
Éan scowled. I expected him to tell me to shut up, but instead, he humoured me. "We need enough evidence to advocate that extreme violent measures were necessary in Blackbird's apprehension. But what we have should be sufficient."
I licked my lips, repressing my questions. I didn't trust my luck with Éan's patience. After a long moment, Éan said, "Tirus, please make note of Mr. Inkhart's release in the custody log. I have no further questions for him, and I think we've proven that he's not a threat."
I let out the breath I hadn't known I'd been holding in a relieved sigh. Tirus walked behind me and I felt his cold hands brush mine as he fiddled with the Inhibitors. He detached them from the chair, but not my wrists. I stood. The difference was immediate. Bound in that chair and at their mercy, these Insurgi agents had seemed intimidating, cold, powerful. Tirus was the tallest, and I stood a whole head taller than him.
Tirus still had a grip on my cuffed wrists though, and with an impatient push began guiding me toward the door. Before we reached it, I stopped dead. I looked at Éan. I had to know…
"Is Blackbird dead?" I inflected as much ice into my tone as possible.
Éan gave me a scrutinizing look. It didn't make me shrink, not when I towered over him like this. "Consider him dealt with, Inkhart."