No, the hiatus is unfortunately not over. I just had this chapter sitting around for a while and wanted to update so well...

Here ya go.


Minutes passed. Multiple times Kent heard Ace approaching and waited with dread for the man to fling open the door and drag him to the torture room. Yet every time Ace stopped close to him but never directly in front of his cell.

Heavy footsteps came again, but this time did not stop until they reached his door. The rattle of the handle sent Kent scurrying to the back of his cell. Frantically searching for something to defend himself with, all he could find was the items on the desk and the bearskin blanket at his feet. Grabbing the blanket, he yanked it over himself and burrowed as far down into the hay as he could.

A creak echoed in the cell, followed by silence.

"Fulgor's sake," Ace cursed, drawing closer. "Kent, come out from under that."

"Go away!"

Ace grabbed the edge of the blanket, but Kent pulled it tighter around his body. "I'm not going with you!"

"Oh, yes ya are. It's up to you if that's willin'ly or not," Ace snorted.

"I won't come out of this blanket!"

"Alright."

Kent let out a shriek as Ace grabbed him and picked him up. Wrapped in the blanket, Kent couldn't move his arms or see where Ace carried him. "Put me down! Let me go, pirate!" Now that the man had captured him, Kent found no reason to play nice. If the man was determined to act like an outlaw, then Kent would call him such.

Ace ignored him, carrying him to an unknown destination,

"They'll have your head for this! They will find you!"

"Yeah, all soldiers say that." Ace's arm tightened. "And would you stop? You'll wake up Jasper."

They did kidnap him! "Jasper! Jasper where are you? Jasper!"

"Shick's sake…" Ace groaned.

At first nothing happened but then, from the way they had come, Kent heard a faint "Kent? Kent! Are you alright?"

"Jasper!" Kent writhed hard against Ace's grip. "Let me go, damn it!"

Ace turned a corner and presumably kicked open a door, the sharp slam echoing around the room. He carried Kent for a few more paces, towards the sound of a crackling fire, before dropping him in front of it.

Partially winded, Kent coughed as Ace tore away the blanket. Picking him up once more, Ace pushed him into a chair and quickly pulled two straps over his wrists and then two more over his ankles.

Unable to punch or kick Ace, Kent gathered what breath he could and screamed for Jasper once more.

"Aetheria's sake!" Ace yelled, pressing a hand tightly over Kent's mouth and grabbing Kent's throat with his free hand. "Enough! If you don't stop fightin' then I'll be forced to really hurt ya!"

All courage vanished at the sight of Ace's teeth and the increasing pressure on his throat. The fire behind Ace cast a menacing shadow on him and gave his eyes almost a glowing quality. Looking into those eyes, which had begun to turn red again, Kent quickly shook his head and shrank into the chair.

"Finally, listenin' now?" Ace growled, squeezing ever so tighter.

Wheezing, Kent nodded. Let my throat go! You'll suffocate me! He jerked against the straps and tried to pull away Ace's hand.

"You sure, Kenny? I can do this all evenin'. Or, would ya rather get this over with and me take ya back to Jasper?"

Ace would put him back with Jasper? Desperate for another friendly face, and to check his squad-mate was unharmed, Kent nodded once more.

"Thought so." Ace let him go.

Kent coughed and gulped in air. When Ace stood and walked behind him, Kent frantically twisted his head to keep his eyes on the killer. Straining against the straps holding his wrists to the chair arms, Kent realized Ace had taken him to a large, square brick room dimly lit by various lanterns and the fire in front of him. Cabinets lined the walls, a table fitted with straps similar to the one holding him now rested against the wall, and where Ace currently stood various tools lay scattered across a table.

"What are you doing?!" Kent yelped.

Ace picked up a rusty, stained machete and pointed it threateningly at him. "You'd better keep your mouth shut unless ya want me to put a real gag on you," he warned, baring his teeth again.

Not wanting to find out what Ace meant by "real" gag, Kent shut his mouth quickly.

"Better," Ace grumbled, setting the machete back down before looking over the array of weapons once more. It was then Kent noticed his coat on another table nearby.

"Wait!"

Ace's eyes turned back to him and he growled low in warning.

Fearful, Kent still continued. "Don't tear my coat," he pleaded, shaking his head. His voice cracked. "I can't afford another…"

Ace looked at him with partial surprise. "I'm not heartless. I know you soldiers have to pay for your own equipment and that it ain't cheap," he grumbled, looking back at the array of tools. He cocked his head to the side, hummed in the back of his throat, and turned towards the scarlet coat. Picking it up off the table, he walked back over to Kent.

Certain he'd throw it into the fire despite his words and force Kent to watch, the soldier once again pleaded, "Don't ruin it! Please!"

"I'm not. I'm showin' ya there's nothin' wrong with it," Ace said before turning it back and worth for Kent to see. "See? No marks, no tears. Same shape as when we took it off ya." He hung it on a high hook on the wall.

Kent swallowed. "T-Thank… Thank you…" he mumbled, looking away.

Ace grunted before kneeling down in front of him. "You calmed down a bit? Gonna cooperate more?"

Confused and somewhat curious, Kent frowned. The man himself had calmed down and spoke in a far more relaxed manner. "Yes?"

"You can't answer one question with another question, doesn't work like that," Ace snorted.

"Yes," Kent repeated with more conviction.

"Hmm." Ace looked him up and down. "Good. Means I can ease up on bad cop." Patting Kent's knee, he stood once more. "You're worried about your friend, aren't ya? Jasper is just fine. He was sleepin'. Until you woke 'im up," he said, crossing his arms.

"Did you hurt him?" Kent asked hesitantly.

"Not at all. We caught him just as he left the fort. Renegade spooked his horse and I caught him as he fell. We brought 'im back here quickly and Ren went before me to the inn as I gave Jasper some sleepin' herbs," Ace explained.

"He… He isn't harmed then?" Kent ventured.

"Shaken for sure, but I count that as normal. Soldiers are always scared to death of me," Ace said, voice growing soft towards the end. He took a deep breath and gave himself a shake. "So, here's how this will work, Kent."

Kent twisted in his seat as Ace stepped behind him, only to be forced to face forward as Ace used a strap to hold his upper body in place. He now noticed the chair in which he currently sat had various straps at different points on his body. Wrists, forearms, upper chest, forehead, neck, stomach, thighs, calves, and ankles. Should all straps be used, Kent had no doubt he'd be totally immobile. To his relief, Ace only thought the current ones necessary for he moved away once more.

Biting his lip, Kent stammered, "W-What did you mean when you said you could… ease up on bad cop?"

"I'm sure you've noticed my attitude towards ya changes based on how hard ya fight me."

Kent nodded. "Y-Yes." He swallowed and shifted in his seat. "It… It's confusing."

Ace snorted. "Shouldn't be. The harder ya fight, the rougher I'll be. You're not bein' horribly rude, just difficult, so I'm tryin' hard not to be plain mean. Don't like doin' that anyways."

"If you don't like being mean, then why must you torment us soldiers?" Kent shot back.

"I don't bother your fort nor kidnap soldiers whenever I feel like it, although I damn well could if I pleased. Humans are fairly easy to beat in hand to hand and they don't heal very fast either. I stay away from you as long as you soldiers don't bother me or the innocents," Ace said, coming to his right. "It's when ya target the innocents that I come after ya for information. It's not to attack ya, it's to prevent you from attackin'." He leaned against the hearth. "There's soldiers in your fort, although they've sworn to secrecy, that have found this place on foragin' missions. Nothin' happened to 'em. If anythin', I sent them back with some of our own supplies."

Kent's eyes widened. "That was you? They said it was a frontiersman that gave them provisions!"

"Not a lie. I live on the frontier. I'm a man," Ace said with a shrug. "I can be nice when I want to be. Unfortunately…"

Kent's heartbeat quickened.

"I do not have that luxury with you. I need that information. And." He patted the knife at his belt. "I will be mean if I need to be to get that information from you."

"But-! But I know nothing!" he protested, shaking his head.

Ace's eyes flashed red. "I've already told you once. I know you're lyin'," he warned. "But I'll tell you again. I try not to be mean, but there are times where I can't help it and my temper will get the best of me. When people lie to me, that's a surefire way to piss me off."

Kent yelped as the man whipped out his knife. He leaned far back in the chair as Ace brought the blade close to his face. A blade made from some sort of cream-colored crystal, the edges seemed to give off a faint golden glow especially in the flickering firelight. The sight of the blade struck a terror into his heart that no blade before ever had. A primal instinct deep within him told him this blade was particularly dangerous and he leaned further away.

"That's no steel blade!"

A grin crept across Ace's face. "Quite right. This is a special blade. One designed with Rageryans in mind. You see, Kent, while we can swiftly heal from nearly any material, there is one which we cannot. That is the dreaded Amrite crystal." He flashed it across Kent's vision. "And I managed to get some for this blade. Lucky for you, it's not pure Amrite. You can heal from this, but only at the rate of a human."

Kent stared with wide eyes at Ace. "You cannot mean to use that on me!"

"Oh, believe me, I'd really rather not. I do not enjoy hurtin' people, much as you'd like to think otherwise. But I will do what I have to in order to protect the innocent. Even if that means I have to take a blade to you soldiers," Ace said, sheathing the blade. "But it's not up to me. If you want to play hard, then I can easily match that."

Kent had no doubt Ace would carry out that threat. Doubt crept through him. Sure, McCain threatened to whip him. But Ace… Ace could surely do far worse than the whip. And that blade… that blade of alien crystal. Kent felt sure he shared the blood of Ace's species, and if that blade would ensure the wound didn't heal like it should… But that was only a small blade. McCain had the cat o' nine…

Neither option was pleasant, but at least Ace had some reason to him. McCain had none.

"I'll let you think on that. But, remember, I don't want to hurt you. I mean that," Ace stressed, shaking his head. "If I could leave you soldiers alone, I'd much prefer that. But I cannot sit by while the British abuse their power and treat their subjects little better than slaves. Surely you notice it too?"

Kent looked away. "I'm not joining you."

"I'm not askin' you to. I'm only askin' you think for yourself and not let the British do it for ya. Stop being a pawn in someone else's chess game." Ace stood. "Remember what I said. I'll give ya one more chance to tell the truth. After that… I'll have to use more violent methods. Don't give me a reason to."

Renegade opened the door. "Got him settled, Ace?"

Ace looked over at her. "Yep. Got the letters?"

She snorted. "What's left of 'em."

Kent twisted his head to try and spot the Hyde, but the strap across his chest held him in place.

Ace grabbed the back of his chair and turned him around. To Kent's surprise the chair rotated at the base without completely moving.

Renegade had grown from what he remembered, but he saw why. A tail swished behind her legs, the lower half of which had transformed into legs similar to her beast form although she walked on her whole foot like a human. Two feline ears stuck out from her hair, and the white was gone from her eyes. Now she looked like a true Hyde.

But, now that she was here, the true interrogation was about to begin.

She stepped forward, holding the soaked and torn letters. "I took the liberty of removing these from your person."

Kent eyed them nervously.

"Thanks to you tossin' 'em in the creek, they're ruined. We gotta get the information directly from you now. Hopefully, you'll be cooperative and let us know what was on these letters," she said, shaking them for emphasis. Some drops of water splattered on her face. With a frown, she shook them off. "Damn water."

The letters suddenly ripped apart and fell to pieces. Renegade started down at them for a long time, face dead pan. She let out a long, slow, deliberate breath.

Kent almost found the look on her face to be comical. Had he not been tied to a chair, he would have laughed. Even Ace's face was funny, one side of his mouth turned downward in a lopsided frown as he raised an eyebrow. He glanced at Renegade.

She finally muttered, "Dadgum it, Gravity." She looked back up at Kent. "As I said, ruined." She threw the letters to the side.

Ace looked up just as one smacked into his face. He put a hand to his forehead and slowly dragged his hand down his face with a grunt, wiping the letter off. "Hey, Ren. Watch where you're aimin'."

Renegade didn't hesitate as she scooped the torn pieces off the floor and threw them at Ace.

Ace ducked this time, the wet paper sailing over his head. They slammed into the wall with a splat and slowly slid down the brick before plopping on the floor. Ace straightened up and glared at Renegade. "Rude."

Without looking at him, Renegade flipped a finger at him. She meanwhile glared into Kent's eyes. "Spill it," she growled, pointing a finger from her free hand at Kent.

Kent glanced at Ace, the threat still in his mind.

Ace narrowed his eyes and patted his belt where the blade rested. "Remember what I said. Don't give me a reason."

But… that's only a blade. It's not multiple like the cat o' nine. "I promise, I don't know what the letters said! I never read them!"

"Took a lesson from me, did ya?" Ace snorted. "Tell a version of the truth that is technically true but not the full truth."

Renegade glanced at him. "Teachin' soldiers tricks again?"

"Hey, this wasn't voluntary. Told him about the stuff we'd send back and how I told the soldiers to say it was a frontiersman," Ace protested, raising his hands.

Renegade rolled her eyes and looked back at Kent. "See, I didn't ask if you'd read 'em. I asked if you knew what was on 'em."

Kent gulped.

Ace stepped closer and grabbed Kent's chin. "Last chance, Kent." His grip tightened. "Do you know what those letters say?" he whispered, teeth ever so slightly bared.

Kent closed his eyes tightly. Had his commanding officer been anyone else, namely Captain Taylor, he'd have given it up the information before Renegade had even asked. Captain Taylor was fair and would have understood why Kent lost the letters and then broke. Captain McCain, on the other hand, would not.

If only I could tell them why. But, would they understand? Not a chance.

He shook his head one final time.

Ace sighed. "So," he growled, letting go of Kent's jaw. "Ya wanna do things the hard way?"

Kent didn't. He really didn't. But McCain would tear him apart if he told them. He'd just have to brace for the incoming pain.

"For what it's worth, Kent," Ace growled. "I'm sorry. But you brought this on yourself."

He pulled out the blade.