----- Chapter 4 : Burnt Paper -----

It was warm here, a pleasant kind of warm given the circumstances. Alex sat back on the firm bunk and swung his legs back and forth. Here was a government holding cell, the Hunters Guild lacking such facilites. Quite spacious at three metres by three metres, even if the featureless white walls were a trifle dull. The wall directly opposite was not a wall as such but a transparent energy shield, painful to touch as previous encounters could attest to. A series of dampening fields rounded off the defenses. This would be one prison he would not be escaping from in a hurry.

He held up his heavily bandaged right hand up to his face and stared at it again. It was starting to feel itchy again, though he supposed he should count himself as lucky that they healed most of his wounds at all. The ferocity of the FOnewearl's attacks had served to melt the flesh of his hand to the handle of his rifle. The hunters that had apprehended him tearing it from his grip realising too late that it had become part of him. Or perhaps they knew and did not care, given the terrible things he had done. The next five hundred Beats or so spent unconscious, he awoke here alone to await his fate.

The cells around him appeared to be devoid of occupants, some guards came when he called out but eventually chose to ignore him, retreating out of sight and no doubt out of hearing range too. He grew tired of shouting and retreated back to the bunk. Sleep impossible as his body felt like it had been on the receiving end of a massage from an angry hildebear. It was sometime before the lights in the corridor dimmed to half brightness to indicate the night had arrived, Alex's rumbling stomach a reminder that he had not eaten anything since that snack bar this morning.

He winced as he got back to his feet and hobbled wearily to the barrier.

"Hey! Where's my damn food? I have rights you know!" He shouted out desperately.

He was rewarded by the sound of booted footsteps. A guard approached the cell and looked him up and down.

"Yeah." He sneered. "You have the right to remain silent!" The guard chuckled at this and walked back to where he had come from.

"Hey don't walk away from me! I'm talking to you damnit!" Bellowed Alex thumping the barrier.

*Zzpt*

"Shit!" Cursed Alex nursing his already sore hand.

"Hrrk!" Said the guard in the distance, followed by the sound of a body falling to the floor.

Alex froze. Then he heard all too familiar footsteps coming down the corridor. A tall purple HUcast emerged into view.

"Kireek! Am I glad to see you! Get me outta here."

"Step back." Commanded the android.

Alex obliged, backing up against the bunk and raising an arm to shield his face in the event of some kind of explosion.

"Hmmm." Said kireek raising a hand, palm flat against the barrier.

Alex watched as Kireek slowly pushed his arm through the barrier, stepping through it as a normal person might step through a particularly dense bush.

"That is better." Stated Kireek having passed all the way through.

"Er... Kireek, I thought the objective would be to help me escape."

"That is not the objective. Releasing you would cause further problems."

"So you're just going to leave me to rot in here? Is that it?" Asked Alex in disbelief.

"That is not my objective either."

"So why are you even here then?" He moaned and sat down dejectedly.

"Black Arm is disappointed with you. Your recent failures have put the organisation and future projects at risk and now you have been captured..."

"Look you know me, I'm not going to say anything." Interrupted Alex.

"Perhaps you should not have been caught in the first place." Replied Kireek.

"Yeah, well they seemed to have a bloody good idea as to where to find me." Growled Alex indignantly.

"Yes, then it is unfortunate that someone had informed the authorities of your whereabouts."

"What? What are you talking about you mad robot?"

"Maybe this will explain things..."

There was a hiss of static and then the recorded voice of a mature man could be heard from Kireek's main speaker.

"Alex... What has happened here is terrible... You were... Like a son to me." The voice was strained with emotion. "It seems so many years ago now that you were that fresh-faced youngster, displaying so much talent... And with a dedication to the cause that was second to none. But these are strange times we live now and sacrifices have to be made... *Click*"

"He goes on like that for about five more Beats. I figure you will not be wanting to listen to all of it." Said Kireek in a flat tone.

A cold chill shot down Alex's spine.

"Hey! Hey! Wait just a Beat here! I have been nothing but loyal since the very beginning!" Alex protested as he backed up against a wall. "You can't do this to me!"

Kireek held out his arm to one side in a dramatic fashion and his sinister purple scythe materialised out of thin air.

"It is no longer my decision."

Alex slumped towards the ground as he stared as the advancing android, an expression of pure horror on his face.

"Please be aware... This may hurt alot."