Chapter Twenty-Eight: Lachesis

"Are you ready 'a talk now?"

The torturer was in a full soldier's cloak with a white, featureless round mask. Perhaps the anonymity was meant to instil some sort of mysterious fear. She slowly lowered the finger across the stone pedestal before her and the electricity that coursed through Josh's body died down.

He was strapped to a chair that ran magical electricity through him every time his torturer raised her finger on the control. His muscles were on fire from the constant burn and stretch it was being put through. He would have puked from the constriction in his stomach but he had not eaten in a day and what was left of his previous meal was dried on his knees.

Breathing spasming pained breaths, Josh took the respite as long as he could to catch his breath. He waited until the torturer seemed ready to restart the torture before speaking up.

"I t-thought I had been t-talking this whole t-time. But you don't seem interested in my pie recipe."

Electricity crackled from the crystal behind his chair as the shock ran through his body again. His back stiffened and teeth clenched. Something cracked in his mouth and he won't be surprised if he had just bit a tooth to pieces.

"My... my secret...!" He foamed. "My secret-!"

The torturer turned down the power and Josh's body limped as he took in pained breaths.

"My secret..." he said slowly, trying to buy as much time as he could. "Is..."

The woman leaned forward as his voice wavered and softened. He was on the verge of passing out, but he knew doing so would only buy him a few seconds of reprieve before the rude awakening tore away more of his confidence. Rather, he would die defiant and keep awake as long as possible.

"My secret... is... a dash... of salted lankles after baking."

She punched him hard across the jaw and he bit his tongue. Blood tanged his mouth and he spat out a bile of red onto the white mask. Even through the facade, he knew that angered the mad woman. Silently, she turned and walked back to the pedestal.

Suddenly, his back tore apart and he gurgled in pained, malformed screams. Every muscle in his body tensed and pulled to the point where he could not even muster the countenance to close his jaw. His nails tore as it attempted to rip at his restraints. His face turned blue as his lungs refused to contract. For a minute, the charge was lowered to allow him to breathe. But just as a passing breeze, the respite was quickly taken away.

At some point, he must have passed out. When he woke, he was in a clean stone room in a soft bed and fluffed linen blanket. The walls were made of smoothened grey stone carved with linings that twirled into shapes of forests and waterfalls. An opened balcony on his left lead to the opened world outside. In the distance, the sky was clear and blue. But while the room was cool and smelled of water, he was sweating from the aches of his body, the pain from the torture still fresh in his mind.

"You're awake?"

He turned his head and reflexively backed up against the edge of the bed frame. Sitting across from him in a red leather chair was the Pyrerai, Lachesis Nazarene. She wasn't wearing the overflowing garment that adorned her outside the fortress walls. Instead, a plain white shirt and brown pants with longs boots covered her body. In her hands was a thick leather-bound book which title he did not manage to see. Her blonde hair was tied in a neat ponytail and her bloodied golden eyes stared nonchalantly at him like a cat in the twilight rays that cuts through the open balcony.

In a way, she looked beautiful. Like a librarian sitting in the window's light.

"What's happening?" Josh asked. "Is this..." He looked at his hands and squeezed.

"Not a dream," Lachesis replied, putting her book aside and leaning comfortably back into her chair. "The whole 'ruthless destined dictator' shtick is great for controlling a populace. But if you think being mad all the time is an enjoyable way to live, then you might be more insane than I am."

Slowly and warily, Josh sat fully up in the bed. He wasn't chained or bound in any way. There were even bandages and dressings over his arms and chests to cover some burns he had sustained during the torture.

Lachesis said, "Don't worry. You won't be going back to the torture chamber. Can't do so even if I wanted to. Had your torturer executed. She was supposed to keep you alive but you nearly died. It's been five days since you went unconscious. Incompetence like that must be punished."

It was the nonchalant way she spoke of killing that sent the shiver down his spine and reminded Josh that he was still dealing with someone who had not blinked twice before murdering her own. The warm beauty he thought he saw just a moment ago fell away and was replaced with the cold elegance of a frozen field of blood.

"Why?" Josh asked.

"Because I'm over a thousand years old and I'm more than familiar enough with people like you." She smiled gently, though not in the way of a mother for a child. It was more like the time he saw a puppy trying to pull along a piece of meat too big for its size and going nowhere. "Brave. Foolish. Fiercely loyal. You will never talk just from threats and pain. You'll gain strength from it. Grit your teeth and feed off every leeching joy you get when frustration sets in on your tormentors until the day you die."

He shivered at the last word. "So, what now? You going to kill me?"

"No. I still need you to bring me the sentinel girl."

"Because you can't activate Exodus?"

"Aren't you perceptive."

"I'm not giving anything up."

"Of course not. Your kind never does," she said while getting to her feet, leaving her book on the chair. "You're going to ask her to come. And she will do so. Willingly. Can you stand? Well, if you don't want to, I can always drag you out."

He was not entirely willing to follow her lead. But part curiosity and part backed into a wall prevented him from doing anything else. Slowly, he swung his legs off the side of the bed to test their strength. When he attempted to stand, his knees nearly buckled and Lachesis teleported next to him and held him up. She grabbed his left arm and swung it over her shoulders. It was not exactly an unpleasant situation to be in. She exuded no killing intent and seemed to just be helping him move. Slowly, they walked towards the balcony.

From where they stood, they overlooked the inner courtyard of Fortress Muspell with a view across the Helm to the north. Unlike the outside world, the field of the courtyard was green with grass and paved with smooth brick paths. In the centre of it all however, stood a catacomb that poked out of the ground like a sore thumb with an entrance archway facing him with its doors closed. It looked newer than its surroundings and the dirt around it showed the installation was recent.

She casually noted, "If you try to escape, I'll teleport you into the sky."

The next thing he knew, they were next to the catacomb and it was at that instance that it truly sunk in that Adelle and Lachesis was one and the same. The last sentinels.

As they approached the archway that was supposed to be the catacomb's entrance, he realised the door he saw from above was actually just a wall of stone. A single hole was set within the middle of it.

"What is this?" he asked.

She pointed to the balcony above which was where they came from. "Only I can enter this building. And from your room, you'll be able to keep an eye on this place."

"You didn't answer my question," he reiterated.

"This," she said. "Is what's going to convince you to send your sentinel friend to help you."

They walked up to the hole and she looked into it. In a split second, they stood inside the catacomb. Eight faint glowing crystals were situated evenly around the wall, giving the place an eerie, ghostly white glow that lighted the square chamber. In the centre of the room sat a large torus-shaped machine about 5 by 5 meters wide and tall placed atop a steel pedestal with a control panel facing them. Wires ran the side of the machine and disappeared into the ground.

Lachesis asked, "Do you know what this is?"

He did. He knew the moment he saw it. But the version he had once saw had only 1/10 the size of the one before him and was likely of a much older and less efficient model. "An E.M.P bomb." The numbness in his legs subsiding, he managed to push his way from her and stumbled to the inactive panel. He inspected the controls. Everything seemed to be in order to be activated. The only this it seemed to be missing was a power source.

"That's right. This model, however, is a super weapon. Its detonation radius will cover pretty much this whole continent."

"How?" he asked. "These things should only be in Dogon's military R and D wing. How did you get your hands on this?"

"They gave it to me." He turned to her in surprise. "President Corlyle is in possession of a weapon that can destroy all golems. He gave this to me to destroy all mechs as a sign of trust."

"Why would he do this?"

"Oh, the man's a narcissist at heart. He wants to go down in history as the president who ended the war, or some nonsense like that. No more Titans, no more war."

"And what is he waiting for?"

"Me. I told him I'd have to think about it of course."

His mind quickly worked to piece things together. "But you've already decided to use it."

"Of course."

"You're not waiting to end the war. You're waiting to activate Exodus. You'll have a weapon impervious to the two super bombs."

"Again, very astute.

"And you think I'm going to just give you my friend?"

"You will. Because if you don't, I'll activate the bomb anyway. And as you can see." She pointed back to the hole they came in from. "Only a sentinel can get in here. And you can watch every day to make sure nothing happens to the bomb."

It was a trap. Obviously a trap. But if he did not do what she said, the bomb will be the end of not just all mechs, but any cyborgs that were using cybernetics to keep themselves alive. Anyone with an implanted heart valve or processor in their head will die. People like Shou. Genocide of two species. But worst of all for him, it meant the downfall of electrical technology, including the machines that he needed to save his daughter.

"Go ahead," Lachesis confidently said, taking a seat in the corner of the room. "Inspect the place. Make sure there are no trapdoors or false walls for me to move the machine out whenever I want. And when you're satisfied, I'll bring you back to your room and you can write a letter with any details you want. As long as the girl comes to your rescue, of course."

Author's Note: Hi everyone. Thank you for reading Tearha: Titan War, which will continue to release a new chapter every week on Friday until its completion. If you like what you've read so far, and would like to support my writing, you can buy one of my books at my website. Or you could check out my Patreon to help out for the long run. Of course, just sharing, commenting, and reviewing helps a bunch as well!

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