Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pandora's Playground 5

Out of the twenty windows along the outside wall of the motel, only five did not have sections boarded up or cracked. Two cars were in the parking lot, the better of which was missing one of its rear wheels. The street corner to the left was home to a pair of working girls, the other to a degenerate selling an assortment of powders in plastic baggies. The street itself was littered with glass bottles, syringes and cigarette butts, among other sorts of refuse. Gang graffiti decorated more nearby buildings than not. Despite all this, the motel remained in business, most likely attributed to the proprietor, whom Deathgrind had noted as more than capable of defending his territory. He further noticed that the rates were reasonable, even including the 'no questions asked' charge. This would be a delightful spot to perform the interrogation.

Deathgrind carried the psychic up to the second floor, still unconscious and over his right shoulder. Slung across his back, under his cape, was his most familiar weapon, a two handed axe made from the same alloy as his armor. The semicircle blade, almost two feet from heel to toe, protruded over his left shoulder. The cheek bore ornate etchings, but the blade itself was the true work of art. A trained eye would see how the metal had been folded over itself time and again while it was being forged, resulting in an edge far more keen and strong than could be produced by any other method. The end of the haft hung by his right knee, only visible from the front or when the cape fluttered just so.

Upon entering the room, Deathgrind first found a sturdy wooden armchair into which he half tossed the psychic. Kneeling next to the chair, he wrapped several layers of duct tape around each wrist and ankle of his prisoner. There came a stir and a groan, then a sudden jerking, as the psychic awoke and gazed about the room. He found it frightening enough with the poor lighting, brown-red stains on the floor and a couple spent shell casings, never mind the behemoth who was just now leaning his axe against a wall in plain view. There were a few discarded bondage toys that gave the room a sort of dungeon feel, but the axe was the crowning piece of intimidation. That was all the time he had to observe before an electric shock caused him to shudder violently.

"What the hell is-" The psychic was cut off as he felt another jolt of electricity hit him; this one had come much sooner than the last. Although the pain was minor, mostly due to the involuntary muscle contractions it inspired, the effect on his psyche was disastrous. With no idea what was happening, he tried to remember his most recent events but a third shock cut him off. In this gap he found enough time to discern the metal band sitting tight around his skull by raising his eyebrows into it. He even began to perceive the bindings to his chair before pain hit him again. It was infuriating, or at least it would be, had panic not intruded.

"Now, I am quite certain that crown makes you far less comfortable than the physical restraints do. As an act of good faith, I am prepared to turn it off while you answer some questions for me." In a feint, Deathgrind reached for the side of the crown as though to flip a switch. As he did this, and behind his back, he engaged the dead-man switch provided by Dechs. As long as he held the switch, the shocks were abated. "I will play nice as long as you do."

Breathing slowly and not entirely trusting that the device was inactive, the psychic kept his silence. When a full minute had passed without so much as a flinch, he determined himself to be safe. In that moment, his forehead vein began to throb as he sent forth a psychic attack identical to the one which had incapacitated Deathgrind before. With a minimal grunt, Deathgrind fell to a knee and released the dead-man switch. Unlike the normal operation shocks delivered by the crown, this restart effected a potent and sustained electrocution. Deathgrind rose to his feet and cherished the six seconds his prisoner spent flailing. The psychic then collapsed into his chair, wide eyed and gasping for breath.

"You know, your attacks are less painful when they are expected. Perhaps I would stand a chance in a fair fight. A shame how I avoid them, hmm?" There was an audible smile in the last few words before Deathgrind chuckled and stretched his hand outward, revealing the dead-man switch. From his grimace, it was obvious that the psychic understood what it was. "I admit that was poor form of me to dupe you like that, but I was just so curious as to what Dechs' device would do."

"Spare me your false courtesies," the words came with an indignant scoff. The prisoner closed his eyes and craned to relieve some pain, then stretched as best he could within his restraints. Finding some relative comfort, he attempted a second mental attack, this one far more subtle. By probing into the mind of his captor, he hoped to find some piece of information, any bit of leverage that could aid his negotiation. Pain struck him again, except this time as an open palm cracked against the base of his skull.

"I can feel you in here." Deathgrind spoke as if to reprimand a child while tapping the side of his helmet.

"How?!" The psychic still winced, "I thought you were a strength type; there's no way you should have that fine a perception. What are you?"

"I am the man interrogating you. Best not forget that."

"And you just expect me to cooperate?" The psychic spat towards Deathgrind; the mucus was tainted red with blood, but fell inches short of the target's boot. Resigning himself to the situation, he made an offer. "Feh. You answer my questions and I'll answer yours. One for one."

"Fair," Deathgrind shrugged, likely pursing his lips, "but I do not know what I am. I doubt that I am one of those created by Pandora's Flare. All of my senses are heightened, as well as my strength and mental capacity. That is as good an answer as I can provide. Now," before asking his question, Deathgrind leaned and brought his helmet to within an inch of his prisoner's face. Deathgrind supported his own weight by placing his hands on the wrists of the psychic, pressing them to the arms of the chair, "what is your first name?"

Surprised at the simple question, and more than a little confused, the psychic stared at his captor. His reply came late, but with an honest and bewildered tone, "Wally."

"Wallace Pinkerton, then." When he saw the shock on the face of his captive confirming the identity, Deathgrind righted himself and began to stride about the room. "Oh, you should not be so surprised. It only took a little preliminary research. Psychic types are rare enough, let alone any borderline class ones. Your face did not show up when I searched for one like you on the registered vigilante list. After that it was a matter of looking through misdeeds in news archives. I created a list of possibilities from that." Deathgrind looked as if he were about to find a seat on the bed, but decided against it for fear of catching anything that might still linger there. "Well, your turn."

"Is there any chance I get out of this alive?" Wally asked in a tone that was less fearful than it was doubtful.

"Straightforward and admirable." Deathgrind considered. "It is possible. Are you willing to flip on your employer?"

As reply, Wally only heaved a sigh and shook his head. In that moment, his face bore the look of a man who had accepted his fate.

"Unfortunate. Well, this is business. There is no reason we cannot work out some sort of deal," Deathgrind lied, but if Wally thought otherwise, the interrogation may as well be over now. "You have a superior of some sort and the arrangement is not one of choice. How, then, are you compelled into service?"

"No. It's my turn." Wally snapped. "Where are we?"

"I believe this area used to be New Jersey before that business with the flare." Deathgrind referred more to the world's response to Pandora's Flare than the solar flare itself. The entire northeastern coastal region had been closed off, containing the dense mutant population already there. Any that were caught out in the world and not found useful and willing to catch more were sentenced to live out their days within the contained areas. Normal humans who could afford and pass the DNA screening would be permitted to leave. It was the safe and humane option with which the entire world was comfortable.

"Explains the smell." Wally tried to laugh, but was having trouble finding humor while he thought of a way to escape. There was no way this oaf would let him live. He had to find a way to get his guard down. If he could get into his head unnoticed, forcing Deathgrind to hold the dead-man switch should be easy.

"Indeed, some things never change. Again, your superior?"

"He has leverage. Found something I care about more than my life." Deep, honest pain flashed behind Wally's eyes, but he repressed it. The troll was the one who needed to be put off balance with emotion. Time to start probing the old fashioned way, "What's Kaison want with you?"

"He needs my expertise with some research he is conducting." Metal clinked as Deathgrind puffed out his chest.

Pride was an easy enough target; strike that and see what else stirs. Wally interjected before Deathgrind could ask a question, "Yeah, right. He could have gotten a million other real scientists."

"And yet he came to me." There was no profit in banter; Deathgrind could shut this down with his next question. "What is it that your employer sees in me?"

"Dumb muscle." Wally spat another blob of blood. "What? Think you were special? I've recruited a hundred drones like you."

"I will be no one's lackey."

"Ha!" Wally mocked, "You signed on with Kaison. It's the same thing."

"It is not," Deathgrind corrected, "we are partners in a mutually beneficial arrangement."

"Mutual my ass." The troglodyte had pride as strong as his armor, but there might be a way to turn that against him. "Whatever. My turn. How does Kaison protect himself from psychics?"

"He resisted you," Deathgrind replied with apathy. "It has been documented before. Did you think you were special?"

"Funny," Wally grumbled. That actually stung. "But you're wrong. I know what it feels like when someone resists. Kaison resisted at first, then his mind just disappeared. What did he do?"

Curiosity took hold for a moment until Deathgrind replied, "I do not know."

Wally fought back a smile as he felt the distraction open doors for him. Now he had to turn harmless curiosity to paranoia, "Why didn't he tell you?"

Deathgrind was about to reply, then hesitated a moment before asserting, "That is a second question."

"First one didn't count because you couldn't answer it," Wally snapped. He was already in and unnoticed; he knew the thoughts that were troubling his captor, "Why didn't he tell you?"

Agitated now, "Why should he?"

"That's still not an answer!" Nostrils flared as Wally pushed harder; he was so close. The two were connected now and he could feel the dead-man switch as if it were in his own hand. Taking control was the hardest part, but there was no chance to resist if he remained undetected. "You're not just another freak patient, right? Well, you had just been attacked by a psychic in his office. He has a way to flat out nullify me, but doesn't share it with you, his supposed partner. Think about it you dumb ass! Why not?"

That was the mistake. Wally tumbled off the razor's edge as something clicked in Deathgrind's brain. A steam engine of anger infused willpower shut Wally out, but not before he saw the chain of events from which it was built.

"Because he gave me this!" Anger forced the words through his teeth as Deathgrind cast the dead-man switch to the ground. In the six terrible seconds that Wally spent convulsing, Deathgrind made a series of calculated and deliberate actions. He moved to the wall and lifted his axe, took one step backwards and then pivoted on the ball of that foot. As he swung round, the axe accelerated and slipped from a two handed grip to single. This final motion increased both the range and speed of the arc, the blade cleanly parting the psychic's head from his shoulders. The timing of the blow was such that the psychic was neither spared a moment of his electric agony, nor given one of relief from it.

Deathgrind regained his composure while he reviewed the scene. Crimson had sprayed in a line across the ceiling toward the bathroom, the same direction the body and chair had fallen. The head had landed in the bathtub as though it were a basketball. Some drops fell from the ceiling while a pool formed at the end of the exposed neck. Deathgrind wiped clean the blade of his axe with a curtain.

"Hmph. So much for the deposit."

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