Chapter 7, part 5

Forgotten on the other side of the room, huddled behind a pile of discarded machine parts, Harry closed his eyes. He did not want to see this. Even more than Winterhawk and Ocelot, Harry was not used to feeling like he was not in control of a situation. Harry was always in control. People did things for him. Hell, the two in this very room, maybe two of the finest ‘runners he’d ever seen in his career, did things for him. After all these years, even though nobody would get it out of him with a blowtorch, he considered those two his friends. Sure, it was biz, but there was more than that. To have to look on and see them treated like this, and not be able to do anything about it--

Winterhawk screamed again.

Harry closed his eyes tighter, sank down behind the pile of machinery, and put his hands over his ears.

He was back in the chains again. He was whole again. The pain was incredible.

“There now,” said the Horror, standing once more before him. “That wasn’t so bad, was it? And I made them put you back together again when they were done...”

He raised his head to look into the Horror’s dead cold eyes, then gazed around him. Ocelot was standing there, but he seemed oddly detached, like he had been drugged.

“You’re not looking too well,” the Horror clucked. “Too bad. You have a visitor, you know. I’d think you’d want to be in your best form for him. See?” It gestured over toward the door, which opened automatically to admit a figure. Somehow, neither Ocelot nor Harry noticed the door opening, or at least if they did, they did not act on it.

His eyes widened. “No...” It couldn’t be. It wasn’t possible. But the evidence was there--the white hair, the stooped posture, the kindly face now covered with a look of confusion and fear--”Au...Aubrey?” he whispered.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” the Horror said smoothly, stepping back out of the picture.

“Aubrey?” he said, louder this time. The pain was making it hard to think.

“Sir?” Aubrey’s eyes widened as he caught sight of the prisoner. “Sir, is that you? Are you all right?”

“Aubrey--you have to get out of here.” He struggled to get the words out. “You must go--you’re in danger here--”

“Oh, sir--” Aubrey hurried over, but stopped short of the barrier without encountering it. “Sir, what is going on? I got a call--someone told me I must come here or you would be killed.”

Despair flooded over him all at once. Aubrey was here. It wasn’t a trick. The old man had walked into a deathtrap to save him. “Oh, Aubrey,” he murmured, voice shaking, “You shouldn’t have come. You shouldn’t have--”

The creature’s laughter echoed as he stepped back into view. “Of course he had to, you idiot. That’s the way you pathetic humans do things.” It reached into its pocket and withdrew a shining knife of purest black, paying no heed to the fact that it would not have fit inside the pocket from which he had drawn it. Without warning, quicker than a striking snake, he lashed out with the knife and made a long slice down Aubrey’s arm. Blood welled up; the old man’s complexion went white and he gasped.

“No!” the prisoner yelled, yanking with all his might against the cuffs, ignoring the pain. “No, you bastard! Leave him alone! It’s me you want, not him, damn you!”

The thing shook its head, clucking condescendingly. “You still don’t get it, do you? Of course it’s you I want. And what better way to get you?” The knife lashed out again, this time slicing at Aubrey’s chest, opening another bloody wound.

The old man went down on his knees, looking imploringly up at the prisoner. “Sir--” His voice was weak, pleading. “Sir, help me--Please--”

“LEAVE HIM ALONE!” he screamed, but his voice, worn out with screaming, did not carry as far as it had before. He struggled to form a spell, any spell that would destroy this thing, but his mind could not settle on anything long enough to cast it. The pain was too intense; even his will couldn’t ignore it.

The thing was still laughing. It moved around Aubrey, light on its feet, making a cut here, there, until the old man was soaked in blood, barely managing to stay up on his knees. Still the look was there, pleading--the look of a man whose trust was being betrayed by someone he loved.

The prisoner lowered his head, closed his eyes. He could not affect the outcome; he did not have to watch it. That was what the creature wanted. He would make his one small gesture of rebellion before he died--

Unseen hands forced his head up. His eyes opened, though he did not open them. “Come on now,” the thing said, grinning. “You don’t think I’ll let you miss this, do you? Look at him--he’s pathetic!” He prodded the old man with his foot; the prisoner lunged at him in rage, but was brought up short by the chains. “Oh--good try, there! Almost had me that time!” Once more, the laughter. “Well, if you liked that, you’re really going to love this!”

The thing drew back, standing off to one side, watching the scene. Its face went slack again; it looked at Aubrey, staring intently at the bleeding form of the old man on the floor. The prisoner looked too: he could not help it.

He watched as Aubrey raised his head and pleaded with him one last time. He watched as the pale skin went pink, then red. He watched the body begin to shake and shudder. He watched as the eyes of the man who was closer to him than a father bulged grotesquely in their sockets. He watched as the Horror pointed a finger and the old man’s body exploded, spraying him with blood and unspeakable gore.

He wrenched control from the Horror just long enough to close his eyes.

He heard himself scream: a deathly, inhuman shriek.

And then the nothingness finally took him.

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Copyright ©1996 R. King-Nitschke. The Shadowrun universe is the property of FASA Corporation.
No part of this story may be reproduced without permission from the author.