Chapter 3

While the Karthavu disappeared through the dark entrance at the closest wall, the man in gray called over more of his band. Four more men wearing gray cloaks and odd, statuesque masks approached, two of them holding what seemed to be rifle-like weapons of some sort. Though I could not summon them in memory, I felt I knew the use of such weapons well.

I remained exhausted and broken on the floor as they encircled me. After a moment, the original man in gray, the one who had spoken with the Karthavu and was obviously the ranking individual among those left in the room, spoke to me.

"Please understand, Master Endrake, that any resistance on your part could mean your death." He spoke solemnly though his face remained unreadable.

"Should you choose to try your hand at escape, you will be fired upon. These are magnetic projectile armaments. I should think you know them well." He paused. "Or at least you did at one time." A thin smile broke upon his lips.

"Though we have not the time for formal courtesies, allow me to introduce myself. I am called Lathian, and am Lead Biocist assigned to your case."

Again he paused – this time, I assumed, in an effort to gain my alliance.

"As such," he continued, "my charge is your biological preservation throughout the course of your afflictions."

I had not the strength to meet his eyes incessantly, but I could ever feel his cold gaze fixed upon me.

"We intend to help you, Master Endrake. A procedure awaits that will hopefully repair your damaged brain and, chance allowing, help you to regain your memory. If, on the other hand, the current condition of your brain is permitted to run its course, the present damage could be devastating. So then, do you see that it lies in your best interest not to fight against us, and to allow us our work?"

"You give me much credit," I gargled. "I could not resist you even if I so chose."

"I believe the Omnate Kindred would disagree," he replied. "And the question remains still – will you allow our aid?"

I nodded my head almost imperceptibly, though I could tell Lathian had caught my meaning. I had no desire to ally myself with he and his kind – my torturers, no matter what they called themselves – but I concluded that they most likely spoke truth about meaning to restore my memory, and decided that if such a thing as Lathian said was possible, it would indeed do me well to cooperate.

Through some unspoken order I must have failed to notice, he motioned to two of the others – the two without the rifles – to help me to my feet. I did not combat them, for though I did not trust them, I felt myself in no immediate danger. And I also had spoken more truth than lie when I expressed the inability to exert myself, no matter my will. My very bones still shivered with the reverberating pain afflicted by the Argodiscean.

I was not much help to the two men who raised me and, once upright, I stood so feebly that without their help a mean whip of wind would have sent me back to ground. I tried to steady my breathing as I felt my leg muscles twitch and quiver under the weight of gravity. At last, I spoke the question that held my heart captive.

"Who was he…the man yonder slain?" It was still difficult to speak through my irregular breathing.

"That, Master Endrake, the Omnate never determined with certainty. He was a colleague of yours; you were both captured at the same time – that we can surmise. But come; let us not tarry here. If all goes as it should, you will shortly be the one informing us of that which you now wish to know." He smiled at me, though I detected some menace in it. In fact, for all his effort at concealment, it was not hard to infer that this Lathian was an evil man.

"Despite my endeavors, the biocist laboratory is some distance from here," he said with some distaste. "We shall have to keep a steady pace. Try to keep up, Master Endrake. It is, after all, your memories we seek – all of us."

We made our way rather slowly through the entry used earlier by the Karthavu, and even then only after Lathian had more words with his remaining ancillaries. When we finally departed, he led the way preceding my helpers and I while the two carrying rifles followed. On leaving, I turned my head a final time to see what had become of my compatriot, but where his body had lain I beheld only a smeared trail of blood, and even that was already destined to disappear as men in gray cloaks diligently set to wash-work.

Where the room we left had been large and well lit, the corridor we now entered was much smaller, thinner, and dim. There were no windows along any of its walls to allow for natural glow, and the unnatural lights were placed but every fifteen paces or so, leaving much of the corridor in shadow. Neither did the make of the walls on either side lend to any brightness. They appeared to be the color of soil, if not made from soil itself. The temperature in the corridor was also quite a bit colder than it had been in the large room, and every so often a wisp of freezing air would sting my sweat-soaked body and set me to terrible shivering.

We passed various doors and unbarred entrances as we walked; the doors appeared always to be made from a thick metal of some kind, and the dark entrances had the infinite abyss-like guise characteristic of unlighted caves. I think it was from those unbarred openings that the cold air sprung most, and I quickly developed a strong dislike to passing them.

Our troupe walked in silence and maintained a steady stride, one set by Lathian at our front, though he stayed slow enough for me in my aching state to keep pace. Gradually, through the regularity of our steps and, I think, the lack of Argodisceastic implementation, I began to regain my breath.

I noticed our passing several intersecting corridors at various times though I paid them no real heed other than modest curiosity. Some led onward into darkness everlasting, others snaked lazily around sight-ending bends. One of the more alerting things that came to pass was hearing what sounded like the faint call of some beast. It was deep and eerie, and seemed ever-present throughout the dark corridors.

Finally, after what seemed like ages, our trek was at an end. The corridor we had so obediently followed ended in a heavy looking set of dual metallic doors, doors that held prisoner a warm, shimmering glow which itself seemed intent on escaping through the cracks of their borders. As we neared the doors, Lathian motioned that my carriers stop a few paces back while he continued nearer. He raised both hands to the heavens and in an instant was enveloped in blinding light. My aching eyes could not handle such brightness, and I instinctively shut both lids as tight as possible. In another instant, the darkness returned, and though the remnants of the light still lived within my pupils, I could see Lathian standing at the door, arms at his sides, watching it open. Bright light poured forth like water from a broken dam, though such light was not as abrasive as the previous kind. When at last the doors were open, my carriers continued with a grunt to labor me onwards, and though my scarred eyes could decipher nothing past the lighted opening, through its tall doorway we passed.