Welcome back folks! As you may recall from our last Revenger Mission Update, things didn’t exactly go according to plan. The warehouse we assaulted hoping to find the mysterious artifact that was at the center of the Tyrene Code turned out to be a ruse. In addition to finding that there was no alien artifact at the center of the place, we quickly realized that we had also stumbled into a trap.
And shortly thereafter, a whole bunch of government troops showed up to assault the place. Soldiers were dispatched, missiles were launched, and the facility toppled. And to seal things off, your humble leader – Captain Smackdown – was wounded and taken prisoner. Luckily, our team knows exactly where he is, and where he needs to be extracted from.
However, until such time as they can locate and breach the facility to save him, our humble Captain is going to be subjected to the full weight of an “enhanced interrogation”. One can only hope he can endure…
* * *
The lights came on slowly and in small spurts. Only in waves did the world readmit itself, and the transition was not an easy one. Every time his eyes opened, they demanded to be shut again. His head hung heavily from his neck, and kept wanting to be laid down to rest. But the drive to wake up was undeniable. Much as his body wanted to remain in a state of forced recovery, to simply lie there limply and let the world pass it by, something in him knew it had to be awake for this.
When he finally got his eyes to remain open and take in his surroundings, he knew exactly why.
The chair he was sitting in.
The way his hands and feet were bound.
The way they had taken the time to set his leg, seal his wounds, and remove his exoskeletal armor.
He was done with whatever recovery he handlers would allow. Now the interrogation would begin…
He was in a tight space, he could tell, the only illumination was provided by a hanging lamp that stopped just shy of his head. He could feel the heat coming off of it, heavy and oppressive, and saw the bright circle of light it case on the floor. It was the kind that burned hot and kept a man awake and uncomfortable. Whatever rest he had accrued up until now had been a blessing, due largely to a semi-comatose state and whatever drugs they had administered.
In addition to beating down an intense burning sensation on his head, the light also did a pretty good job of obscuring his surroundings. But he had been in spots like this enough to get a sense of its dimensions. The cell he was occupying was roughly fifteen feet by twelve, the ceiling extending not much more than ten feet above the floor. And there was someone else standing nearby, a single guard manning the door and waiting for him to come to.
The only thing missing was the interrogator. And given the events of the last few days, he knew with some degree of certainty who that would be. Spooks were a special breed when it came to dirty work. And with some exceptions, they preferred to handle their own on their own.
The guard must have noticed he was coming out of his stupor, because a second later, the door opened with a loud clang. The light changed momentarily, a bright burst coming from the hallway and bringing a cool breeze with it. Smackdown squinted as the combined sensation both stung and provided some welcome relief. He became aware of the terrible headache he was nursing, and just how painfully dry and thirsty he felt. He also felt incredibly dirty, like he hadn’t showered in days. All necessary states of being, he knew. All part of his handler’s plan to convey to him exactly how un-in charge he was of the situation.
“Good morning, Will. Good to see you conscious. You’ve been out for some time…”
He recognized the voice. It was nice to know that his instincts could still be proven correct at a time like this. And knowing his betrayer was conducting his interrogation somehow made him feel better about it. Perhaps he was still holding onto some faint hope. Bill Huntington, the man he knew as a colleague once upon a time. He had been a friend back then, and quickly became a source thereafter.
And now… what was he now? Perhaps that was the point of this, he thought. It could be Bill had yet to truly reveal himself, and he would see his true colors soon…
“You’re most recent medical indicated that you suffered from a heart murmur while you were working here. Is that still true?”
Smackdown rolled his head. His neck craned and ached terribly and it felt like his head might actually fall off. But somehow, he managed to get it upright and look at the obscured face of the man questioning him.
“It’s important we know exactly what you can’t take, Will. Otherwise, we might do something… regrettable.”
“It’s Smackdown now,” he replied. The words sounded like steel wool scratching against a pot. Smackdown tried to swallow, but the act proved too painful. His throat was so dry that any attempt at moisten it felt like he was trying to force sand down his esophagus. He tried clearing it next, but that felt like more steel wool, this time grating against his tender vocal cords.
He heard a barely audible whisper. Within seconds, the guard came to his side and placed a sponge on his face. The cool traces of water felt like deliverance, and Smackdown opened his mouth to receive some stray droplets. Knowing the drill, the guard remoistened it and placed it above his head. Smackdown opened his mouth again and aimed it upward, receiving every drop that was squeezed out of it. He could tell from the smell the sponge was well used and the water brackish and murky. But at the moment, he didn’t care, and guessed that his body wouldn’t either.
“Better?” Bill’s voice asked from beyond the circle of light.
Smackdown nodded, dipping his head forward and feeling the light burn through his hair to grace his skin again. The water quickly dribbled away down his face, onto his sweat-stained shirt, and disappeared into the folds of his clothes. Whatever traces of cleanliness and relief it offered were quickly absorbed by a hot, grungy body.
“Better,” he replied. Though he knew it wouldn’t last, and it would be awhile before he could expect anything more.
He heard some footsteps approaching, and felt the sharp slap of a file folder landing on his knees. It was already open when it landed, and several photos looked up at him.
“You’ve been busy recruiting,” said Bill. “Ten freaks, all in the space of a few months.”
Freaks, Smackdown noted. The word was making the rounds, and now Bill was using it himself.
“And between the eleven of you, you’ve really made an impression. People are saying how the criminal underworld is running scared. The pimps, the pushers, even the Brotherhood itself… some say you’re even making enemies at City Hall.”
A silence followed. Smackdown felt it, sensing that he was expected to reply at this point. He knew the dance, what was expecting of him. Time to play it…
“Is that why I’m here?” he rasped. “Because of City Hall? Or is someone higher up yanking your chain?”
Another second of silence. He expected Bill might laugh, say something dry or witty. The usual company denials that anyone was forcing their hand or making them do the things they did. Instead, Bill’s reply was incredibly swift and surprising.
His knuckles impacted him on the left cheek, sending Smackdown’s head rolling over. He yelped, just in time to get another blow on the same cheek. A third blow, and Bill began speaking again…
“Is that what you think this is, Will? You think this is some bullshit black op?”
Smackdown turned to look up at Bill’s eyes. They were directly above him now, staring down at him and blocking the light. But it didn’t matter much. In those eyes, he saw the same burning intent the light had provided moments earlier.
And then came another series of blows, from the right this time against his other cheek. Bill dealt him another three, each punctuated by some hard words.
“This is war, you fucking idiot! War! You started a goddamned free-for-all. And now we’ve got to clean up your mess.”
The words stopped as soon as the hitting did. Smackdown looked back up into the light, where Bill’s head no longer loomed above him. His neck now felt like someone had taken a torque wrench to it and twisted it the wrong way by several degrees. And he could feel a small trickle of blood pooling in his mouth. One of the last blows had knocked something loose…
Bill reached for the photos next and pulled them in front of his face. He shook them as he finally issued the instruction this meeting was built around.
“You’re going to tell me who these people are and where we can find them. You’re going to make sure we bring them in peacefully and quietly, or else this war is gonna go on and cost a whole lot of lives.” He leaned in again to deliver the last of it. “You’re going to do this, because one way or another, these freaks are going down. And you can make it easier on all of us. Especially you.”
It took all the strength he had left to look Bill in the eye. But somehow, Smackdown managed to get his head on a level with his and see the white of his eyes. Somehow, they didn’t look so incendiary anymore. Though it was hard to tell, thanks to the haze of drugs, pain and discomfort he was looking through.
“What did they do to you, Bill?” he said, his voice so scratchy it was barely audible. “When did you become such an asshole?”
Bill’s face changed. He couldn’t tell, but it looked like it was moving at the corners, as if he might be smiling.
“You wanna see an asshole?” He turned away and snapped his fingers. The door opened again and he could hear the sounds of wheels and footsteps, followed quickly by the door shutting. Bill’s head blocked it all now, so he had no idea what was happening until the telltale sensation of clamps being attached to the fingernails on his right hand.
Bill stepped back and left the circle of light, making his way over to the cart that no sat just outside it.
“I got plenty of time, Will,” he said, grabbing hold of the instruments on the cart. “And I can make sure you suffer long and hard.”
“Bill… you can’t-“
The words were cut off abruptly. Smackdown yelped as the first wave hit his arm and traveled up to meet his neck. Very quickly, it spread to all other areas of his body, causing every muscle to be pulled far tighter than they dared. And just as quickly, it ended. Smackdown took several breaths, his heart racing and feeling like every other stretched fiber in his frame. He emitted a small chuckle as soon as he could.
“I remember that sting,” he said painfully. “I seem to remember it being on a lower setting when they made us go through it back in training.”
Another burst hit him, this one worse than the last. Smackdown yelled again, the surge of current turning his body into a tight, flexed, fireball. Every nerve fired at once, his bones feeling like they would snap under the strain his muscles were putting on them. His head fell back and his legs felt like they might break free of their bonds. By the time it was all over, he felt something wet and warm flowing in his pants.
“They were surprisingly gentle to us in training,” Bill said. His voice sounded incredibly low now, the shock and pain making everything seem like it had had the volume turned down. “You wouldn’t believe how high these things really go. And what with all the terrorist suspects we have to process, we really do get to fool around with the settings these days.”
Smackdown needed much longer this time to recover. His heart was beyond racing, and his muscles felt like they were continuing to spasm long after the current was on. But Bill was determined to let him speak between volleys, so he would. Something less provocative this time…
“Bill… why are you doing this?”
That got a scoff. “Why? Because we’re old friends?”
Smackdown coughed, dislodging something slimy and thick. “No… I mean you know as well as I do what the playbook says about torture. You do this now, I might tell you something to make it stop. But come back tomorrow, I won’t have anything for you. And you are coming on way too strong here friend…”
“Really?” said Bill.
Smackdown nodded, a motion which produced some serious discomfort. “If this is how you plan to get info from me, you’re going to fail… You got no options after this pal. None…”
Bill made a thoughtful noise. Smackdown could hear the implied sarcasm in his tone, but knew Bill understood what he was getting at.
“Makes me wonder what you’re thinking here, Bill. Do you even really want their names… or is something else happening here?”
Bill reached for the cart. Smackdown braced for the third wave, but was pleasantly surprised when none came. Instead, Bill shut down the current and motioned to the guard. Reaching down he picked up the bucket that had been resting by his feet and brought it forward. Taking up a spot directly by his head, the guard shoved Smackdown’s head back at a tight angle and readied himself to pour.
“Will… Will… Will… have you not heard? Rules have changed boy. You torture anyone long enough, and they’ll do whatever you want. They’ll tell you all you want to know, just for the sweet relief death will provide.”
Bill came around to his other side and looked down into his eyes again. Though no electricity was flowing him anymore, he didn’t feel any less vulnerable. In fact, he looked to what was coming next with complete dread. He only hoped the tremors he was now experiencing would appear like spasms.
“Last chance, Will. Tell me who your colleagues are and where I can find them. Or you’ll get every play out of the playbook, one after another.”
Smackdown took a deep breath. The last one he knew he would have for some time to come.
“My name… is Smackdown…”
Bill’s eyes lost their intensity and he looked gravely at the man standing across from him. A nod passed between them, and the bucket was brought up and tipped. The bright light staring down at Smackdown went dark, and a cold wave struck his straight in the face. Very quickly, it was invading his nose and mouth. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t hold it off for long, and the terrible urge to cough and dispel overtook him.
He waited for an eternity for it to stop, and spent another trying to clear it all from his lungs. Mercifully, they had let him hand his head forward, which made it slightly easier. When he was done, he had no voice left, and every rasp that escaped his lips was a grinding agony.
“Let’s take a break,” said Bill. “We’ve got all night, and I’ve got several more plays I wanna run. That okay with you, Smack-down?”
Bill’s hand landed on his back, causing another volley of coughs and sputters. If Smackdown could have replied, he might have said something witty or dry. As it stood, his sense of humor, like his voice, was spent.
“I’m going to grab some coffee and see you in a few minutes.” He felt a slight smack on his knees, looked down to see the photos again. “While we’re gone, look at those faces, Will. Think of what they’ll look like staring up at you, dead and lifeless. The twisted look of shock and betrayal completely impossible to erase.”
He heard a noise at the door, a slow jarring of hinges and the sounds of two sets of boots leaving. They paused at the point of leaving, right before the door shut behind them with a loud clang.
“We’re going to find them, Will. It’s only a matter of time. Consider what I’ve said. Make it easier on yourself and all of them.”
The door slammed shut, leaving Smackdown alone in the room. He sat there with his head hung forward, the cold drops running from his face and the hot burning light above his only company. Having endured all they could throw at him for at least one sitting, his body once again fell into a state of dark, blessed unconsciousness. When he would eventually wake up again, he would have no way of knowing how much time had passed. But that was to be expected.
Time, like everything else, had a way of disappearing inside places like these…