Peccatum Tacituritatis IV- Part II
In between the gasps that escape from open lips, there is a silence that hangs around my neck. A noose which is slowly cutting off my air…a taut circle of rope sometimes called remembrance.
Well if it ain't the little bantha who couldn't. Is this your guy's new style of intimidation? Send in Mr. I'll do better next time? Cause I gotta tell you- from one professional to another- that it ain't too effective. Look, I'm not even shivering in my jimmies.
I was granted special dispensation by the commanding military authorities due to my-
You mean you had to go ask your Grandad for special approval? Yeah, yeah don't give me that look. You think a guy like me doesn't know about all the little webs you Eresians have between each other? To be honest, I'm kinda sick of it. For once, would it be too much for y'all just to get where you are without relying on those damn familial connections? I mean some kid could be looking up to you guys and—bam!—the moment he gets all high and hopefull about how he's gonna do what he wants and all that crap, he's gonna get the proverbial beating of his life.
So says the man who works with slavers and pirates. Now, as I was saying before I was interrupted, I have been authorized to interrogate prisoner one-two-five-nine-three, captured during the raid on the orbiting station Manticore for-
Helping some old ladies get their porcelain dolls from one of them cargo bays?
-smuggling goods prohibited under the Republic Code of Commerce and for inciting and abetting activities contrary to the stability of society-
It's called the freedom of speech Jashy. Republic Coda number one. And you can forget about all this poodooo: 'I'm the big bad man who's telling you what you did wrong because some old stooge who can't see the tip of his own nose decided that it was wrong.' Skip to the interesting part cause this opening act is boring me to tears.
….If that will make you more cooperative. Name?
Vima Sundrider. You know the one with the pouty lips and the rack the size of a-
Jash Tahannuth. Honestly Jashy, you think I'm gonna sit here and be all nice to some rich snob who got in this room by running to Granddaddy with little tears running down his cheeks? Kriff no. Hell, I wouldn't be nice to you even if you weren't some damn familial appointee.
You're not making things easy. If you continue to be disagreeable I'll be forced to-
Forced to break every bone in my hands? Well here they are? All fifty two of them. I counted them myself while I was waiting, just in case. But I gotta say, if Daggart wouldn't talk after you spazzed out on him, I sincerely doubt anything you do will put me over the edge.
And why is that?
You want to me list them alphabetically, kid? Or how about numerically? One, in a week or so, I'm outta here whether you like it or not. Even you Eresians won't hold a guy in prison indefinitely without giving them hearings. cause if you don't did, and the Reppies hear about your "Ethical Breach," you guys will lose your funding for all…this. Two, my 'value', to y'all , goes to approximately zilch in a little while, and if you don't want to have to deal with some…nuisances, you'll have to let me go into that fresh outdoors of yours. Third Jashy, you don't have the family jewels to do anything to me—not anything really dirty and down and low. None of your Eresians do. Oh you guys spout out the whole '"We do what we need to do'" philosophy, but it's all a bluff and I'm calling you guys on it.
Is that so?
Oh, you gonna give me the pity glance there, junior?
No. I just wished you'd have had listened to reason.
Well go ahead Jashy. Impress me.
You're not gonna use your own hands to hurt me Jashy boy? I'm crushed.
I won't need to. All I'll be forced to do is ask a question and if you refuse to respond, pull this switch here.
And what happens then?
Oh is that all? You show me a machine and tell me I'll die if I don't answer correctly? Your presentation really needs a shining kid. Really.
What's your name?
Enjoy the beyond, one-two-five-nine-three. I'll see you in a minute.
"Would you like to hear a story?" The question's rhetorical but if he were in any other position, I'd prefer to think he'd appreciate the gesture of civility. Most people do.
He writhes on the floor like a dying snake that's been nailed to the ground. Wild, and uncontrollabley, he thrashes about, his face a showmanship of maddened eyes as the gag muffles his screams to mere conversational levels. It wouldn't doue for either of us to become deaf or for anyone else to hear him, what little chance there is of that.
I clear my throat with a harrumph for it has seen little use these past weeks aside from serving as a conduit to the ale that sits comfortably in storage "One day, in the manner of all great scientific studies, an array of biologists were forced to decelerate from hyperspace to make repairs to their ships after a blowout in their engines and while they floated in the cold abyss, praying that they'd be able to make it home, a promising young student, known for being a firebrand, decided to scan the system not merely for signs of civilization, but also for anything of interest. To his surprise, he found that the fifth planet was filled with bio-mass and other various subjects each entitled with its own scientific jargon, and assembled an expedition."
The guard writhes again, involuntarily of course, and I'm forced to pull him closer so that his ears won't remain ignorant. "What they found there was exhilarating and in no small part, terrifying. The planet was mainly composed of land which itself was made of what could only be described as an unending forest of giant trees which that pierced the sky and camouflaged the silky webs of the planet's main carnivore. For you see, this planet was home to a race of giant arachnids, the size of Basalisk droids and the color of rotting skin left to on the ground. And they spun webs, marvelous creations that stretched for dozens of clicks in every direction."
"The researchers marveled at this display and wondered. 'How could animals of such girth survive when they seemed to be so sedentary?' They probed for answers, of course, and it was only through the help of the firebrand that they came to an answer. You see, their webs perform three vital functions." I lean back in the chair and let my back collapse against it with forced care befitting a newborn child.
"For one, the webs capture prey much like any other of their brethren with an adhesive that's remarkably strong. Supposedly, even a Krayt Dragon would have difficulty if itn entangling entangled itself. But that's not all. You see, the adhesive was not the only coated substance for on top of the adhesive, there was a thin film of poison no thicker than a hair. The firebrand was lucky enough to discover this rather important fact, but that's for later. And lastly, the web could also serve as a communications relay, transmitting sensory information like sound among other things to the creature, enabling it to home in, if you will, on its captured prey whenever it so desired."
I sigh and pull him off the floor and into the empty chair that my back groans for. His pants are dripping wet below his belt and I'm careful to avoid touching it. I snap my fingers, as if remembering a forgotten point. "Oh! the The firebrand discovered all this when he briefly handled the captured web specimen. Not ten minutes afterwards, he lost control of his autonomic nervous system save for his voice, which seemed like a cruel joke for he screamed and hollered and the other biologists were forced to stuff his mouth, much like what I've done to you." His eyes travel along my face plate, looking for reprieve, for hope.
"They managed to find a cure, but by that time the poison had already worked its way into his most basic, primal functions- those which allow us to live- and his life was snuffed short."
"For you see…" I inch my visor closer to his face, enough so that the sweat could begin to traverse onto it, "This …this poison is more akin to a virus. It never stops, never truly stops, that is. And once it….finishes its assigned task, it branches out…."
"You see where this leads. But luckily enough…" I pull back and extract a transparent cylinder from a pouch in the suit, "…I happen to have the antivirus right here. So." I lean back again and cross my arms, " Would you rather die, or part with some information?"
He grimaces and his eyes attempt to nod, so I pull off the gag.
"What…do you…want to know?"
My answer is simple. "Everything."
How…many times have you done this…Jashy?
You don't get to ask the questions here. That lies within my domain.
Oh yeah kid… kinda forget in between the… death and not death thing you got going….
Who was planning to attend the Exchange exchange meeting being held two days from now?
Sure….I'll tell you….
The guard gives tells me everything. Codes, guard rotations and shifts, prisoner schedules. He even tells gives me an all too complete picture of the Hutt that owns the facility—a member of the Dejaric syndicate named Guora. I doubt the image of corpulent flesh festooned with more corpulent flesh will soon be free from my head.
I show him the hologram of the bearded man--the one who's gaunt bones attack my eyes and pierce my heart in savage displays that leave my knees weak.
His face…twitches, . "That…prisoner…? He's…over in….Cell Theta Six….the special detention area….rabble rouser...couldn't kill him… be forced to kill all the rioters…."
"Thank you." I clasp my hands around his neck, dig my fingers deep enough to bruise and twist…hard as my gaze drifts to the displays. It makes a rather meaty noise and the body collapses to the floor where I then pull the corpse into the Akk Den. They can smell the death in the air and from what he told me before his passing, he'd yet to feed them. The dead man goes flailing across the railing into the pit and within moments, they're feasting. Two problems solved with a single act.
I code lock the security gates behind me and march onwards with only my heartbeat and steps humming in my ears..
"Would you like a drink Jash?" he asks as he fills his hands with the two crystalline glasses that seem to dance in the light, twin flickering notes in a Coruscanti Waltz. The cups aren't too hard to recognize. They were gifts from father, the first of many steps that led to their public reconciliation. His eyebrows cock upward into the valleys of his forehead, as if questioning my lack of timely retort. But for this man, his expressions are loose sediment over a layer of bedrock. Underneath the mountain ranges lies a simple communication from him to me, a silent declaration of ownership and control.
"My apologies. Yes, I would like a drink, sir." The words come out smoother than expected and are significantly less forced.
"Here." He puts the glasses on the table between us, reaches into the cooler that opens into the air with a comfortable sigh and pulls out a thin bottle, tinted with gold ornamentation. "Let's try out this little number." His eyes find mine "A gift from the predecessor of our current Tsar for dedication above and beyond the call of duty."
"Something to be quite proud of, sir," my response clarifies even though my throat still has that acid stench burning like a dying fire.
"Very." The cooler shuts and with one smooth twist, the cap comes off and remains in his palm, "And something for others to think upon when they stand on a precipice between a defeat called dishonor and a victory named dignity . Don't you agree?" An implied accusation.
"What do you mean, sir?" I pause slightly to accentuate the point.
"How about I give you an example?" he says as he steps over and slowly pours the amber liquid into the glasses, his calloused hands neither shivering nor twitching. "Say there was a man tasked with an unenviable task…something like killing another in an effort to save others who are innocent of the crime that would be perpetuated on them." He stops, leaving a line slightly taller than my finger in each crystal glass. "The task itself is something to be ashamed of, as are all conflicts wherein violence becomes the sole method by which civilization is stabilized. But the result? That is something to be upheld as a model of citizenry. Not something that should be a shamed of."
I grasp the glass in my hand and let my fingers trail down the hundreds of facets inlaid into the cup. They're clean, and pure and transparent and if I look at a part of it for long, I can see all the mryriad colors of light shimmering through as long as I don't let my eyes drift to the amber brown settling at the bottom. "Is this your way of telling me I should sleep well tonight?"
"In a manner of speaking, Jash." He sits down, but even though we're at eye level now, he stills seems to tower over me…but that's nothing new. Once a child, always a child they say.
"I…" wish I hadn't killed him so many times? that the other man's bones did not bear the remnants of my failure?
He continues, "After all, I thought you wanted to be an altair. And to the best of my recollection, the one thing that they don't do is regret."
I freeze. My muscles tightens, my mouth falls open and my heart hiccups briefly. "Last time we discussed that, your response was somewhere along the line that they were merely unthinking animals who's behaviors were solely dominated by instinct and emotion ."
His forehead inclines again. "And who says that my opinion has changed?"
I stand up, and my hand is trying to crush the crystal. "I… have other duties to perform today sir. May I be excused?"
He frowns. "You want to leave already? I was so looking forward to celebrate my grandson's continued improvements…Go on then but don't think you can avoid talking with me Jash." He drains the drink with a slow, languid sip.
"Thank you sir." I move towards the door after a curt bow but as my foot crosses the threshold his voice finds me once more.
"And don't worry Jash, I'll be calling in that favor you owe me soon enough."
I know grandfather…I know.
My heart is crashing against my chest, constantly beating against the cage that holds it in bondage. My breathing is steady and strong and my chest compresses … and expands every few seconds… but my fingers…they're trembling as I push the access code in, number by number…
Then the door opens and I find that I no longer need worry about that, for he sits on the ground in tatters staring up at me. "Tsar Oleksiy, I'm here to save you."