AN: The point of view transitions between the main character and Errol in this chapter, just to avoid any confusion.
Oh, and by the way; DWP = Dark Warrior Program
Chapter one: Interrogation
My arms were constricted in the giant paws of two sourly guards who half dragged, half carried me along the polished floor of the long hallway. The light feet of Commander red-head what's-his-name screeched loudly against the floor behind me while he was belching out insults and threats both at me and any of his fellow soldiers daring to ask if they could get him a napkin for his nose. At this point I was starting to get pretty irritated and somewhat confused. I had been well-behaved and not resisted arrest. Why were they handling me with such force when I wasn't even trying to run away?
"I can walk without help, you know," I mumbled, wriggling my arms in attempt at loosening them from their iron grip and allow blood to circulate through them.
"Oh, it speaks," the Commander spat contemptuously behind me. "I thought you were a mute. Change of plans; we're going to the interrogation room."
The guards holding me turned abruptly, the brutal yanking of my arms nearly popping them out of their sockets. Nausea swelled up in my abdomen, leaving the taste of stomach acid burning in my gullet. As my eyes were watering from the unpleasant sensation I began questioning whether this was such a good idea after all.
A door swished open to our left and the guards unsympathetically tossed me into the room, making me stumble to my knees, my face stopping a mere inch from the single chair present. A cockroach scurried between my legs, seemingly distressed. I placed my hands on the seat to support my weight as I tried to stand up, my legs quivering. Fully upright, I slowly turned around to face the only human being present in the room with me.
Commander red-head what's-his-name.
With one hand coating his nose and the other pointing at the metal chair, he gruffly barked, "Sit."
My nose throbbed and ached against my gloved hand, now soaked in blood, the only thoughts racing through my head as I scrutinized the delinquent were contemplations of a really fitting punishment. The kid stared wearily at me, looking as drained and hollow as a prisoner after a DWP session.
"Sit down," I repeated, stretching my index finger towards the chair for emphasis. The scruffy teenager threw her hands up in resignation and seated herself with a sigh. I cocked my head as I observed her, my eyes wandering from her head to her toes.
What a sight. Thick, greasy, tufts of black hair enclosed her sallow face, the skin dark and fatigued under her eyes. A simple, sleeveless grey robe, almost similar to those of monks, swathed her lanky, awkward figure, brownish stains suggesting that she had been sleeping outside for quite a while. I could feel a shudder crawl down my spine and I was barely able to contain my disgust.
Eugh. How hideous.
Regardless, as a professional I couldn't let that sway me. Besides, despite her rather pathetic exterior, she could throw quite a punch. Which she was going to pay badly for.
"Aw, just look at that face," I sneered mockingly. Even with her eyes locked on her knees, I could see her blink, her expression furrowing in puzzlement. "I'll be damned if there's ever been a smile on that one. What's your name, sunshine?"
"Don't remember," she muttered. I raised a brow.
"Don't remember your own name?"
"Don't remember anything beyond a week back or so."
As the bleeding had stopped, I removed my hand from my nose and placed them both on my hips.
"Why did you attack me?" I asked. "Do you have any idea what the sentences are for people who assault high-ranked officers in the Guard?"
Her eyes flicked up, lingering at me for a moment before she looked away. "Yeah, actually. I wanted to be taken to prison."
I blinked. "What's that?"
"I hit you because I wanted you to take me to prison."
Full stop. It took several moments for the information to be completely processed in my head, leaving me batting my eyelids in an embarrassing bewilderment. "I'm sorry; did you just say that you want to go to prison?"
The kid breathed a light sigh through her lips. "I need food and roof over my head and… I don't have anything to pay with, so… you don't need to have that in prison… right?" She, or whatever it was, looked up at me, seemingly insecure. "Right?"
The absurdity of the question left me speechless. I shook my head in disbelief and felt a swift surge of anger towards her swell up.
"Are you insane?" I yelled, flaring my teeth as I tossed my hands out, fingers spread. "You know what, I think you are! You can't possibly be that extraordinarily stupid, can you? The things that happen to prisoners in the Fortress should be enough to make anyone wish they were dead, and you -"
"But they won't be dead," she interrupted, somewhat firmly. "Isn't that what matters?"
In a split second, I had leaped across the room, with my back arched over her and my finger quivering threateningly close to her face. "Never interrupt me!" I hissed furiously. The scrawny teenager's jaw dropped as she stared perplexed at me, her eyes like two positively stunned orbs in her pallid face. Whatever reaction she was expecting from me, it clearly wasn't that. I deeply inhaled a shivering breath, pulling away from her as I counted down from ten inside my head in an attempt to cool my sudden rage.
Alright, Errol, calm down now.
My breath was exhaled in a fatigued sigh, and I squeezed my eyes shut as I rested my thumb and index finger on the nose bridge between them. "You know," I began, removing my hand and fixing my gaze to hers, "we feed our Krimzon Guard recruits too, and much, much better than the inmates. Why didn't you join, if you're that desperate?"
The teenager seemed taken aback by my question. I tilted my head curiously as I studied her. Maybe I was just imagining things, but she appeared so oddly uncomfortable in her own skin. Her mouth moved strangely, almost amateurish in a way when she spoke, and she constantly blinked forcefully and wrinkled her nose.
Maybe she has a brain damage or something.
I cocked a brow. "Well?"
A slight twitch moved the corner of her mouth. "Uhm… uhm, no." She shook her head. "Nuh-uh."
"Uhm… I don't really… uh… I don't really like your… your…" She blinked hard. "…your tattoos."
Both of my eyebrows went up. Then I started laughing. "You'd rather be dead or in prison than join the KG because you think our tattoos are ugly?" I asked, both in disbelief and amusement.
A long silence ensued. The girl hesitantly cleared her throat. "Uh, sorry," she mumbled. "Can I ask you something?"
I narrowed an eye warily. "What?"
"When can I get some food?"
I said nothing. My face contracted into a painful scowl as I clenched my fists and glared at her.
Nervy. Little. Punk.
A sudden motion in the corner of my eye caught my attention, my gaze fixing to a somewhat large, frantic cockroach scuttling over the floor.
Teach. You. A lesson.
My arm dashed out at the bug, feeling it struggle against my gloved palm as I crushed its head between my fingers. In one swift, curt movement I flung its body into the teen's lap. She stared at it in astonishment for a moment, before slowly looking up at me and back to it.
"Here," I breathed, "is your damned food."
She blinked. I eyed her with anticipation, expecting to see shock or disgust.
"Thanks," she said simply and grabbed the insect, raising it up to her face and ripping it in two with her teeth. My jaw dropped. I could only stare in shock as terrible crunching noises sounded from her mouth, white bug meat gleaming from between her lips whenever she parted them. After a while, she was done chewing and finally swallowed.
I could feel my eyes growing in size.
My natural curiosity formed a question I almost did not dare to utter.
But I couldn't help it.
"How does it taste?" I asked in a whisper, too low for the guards outside to hear.
She grimaced. "Worse than I expected."
My body suddenly convulsed in a rush of repulsion and I swiftly turned towards the door behind us.
"Ugh, you're disgusting! Guards, take her away!"
Two of my men promptly entered the room, their armor clattering slightly as they strolled past me and apprehended the prisoner. I avoided looking at the trio when the exited the room, the door loudly whirring shut behind them. Glancing over at the chair, I noticed the other half of the cockroach lying on the floor. For a moment, I stared at it. Contemplated. Then I shook my head.
No. There's no way I'd do that.
And with that, I left the interrogation room. It was about time to pay a little visit to our newest and most promising DWP subject.