Feron stumbled and held up his hands. Two of his fingers were bent unnaturally from an earlier break.
"Hey now," he said, trying to smile around a bloody mouth. "Take it easy won't you? I've already had my daily beating." He coughed into his shoulder and winced at the red staining the fabric. "Quota's been filled." When he finally managed to stand, he had to lean heavily against a wall of his cell. "Try again tomorrow."
A metal capped boot met the side of his calf and he crumpled like a paper puppet.
"Should've stayed down," Tazzik said, sneering.
Feron didn't try to get up again, but he did push himself into a rough sitting position. At least he still had the faculties to do that.
"Oh sure," he said, "You tell me that now." He rolled his eyes – and if the skin around them hadn't been so swollen it might have been obvious.
"Just don't know when to shut up, do you?" The salarian rested a heavy foot against his knee.
"Would it make you leave?" Feron asked with false hope.
Tazzik snorted and increased the pressure on the drell's leg by way of reply.
"Don't see how it matters then," Feron said bitterly, "Either way you're still –" his words were cut off when two fingers dug painfully into either side of his frill.
"If the Shadow Broker wasn't so found of the mouth you've got, I'd have pulled out your tongue by now. These little comments don't do anyone any good – especially not you"
Feron didn't try to worm away; he knew better by now. "Interrogations don't work too well if you can't talk," he rasped.
"Don't work at all if you're dead," Tazzik replied, punctuating each word with a tighter squeeze on the sensitive skin under his jaw.
"Don't be..." he wheezed, "...like that Taz." It was getting harder to breath, and there were dark spots jumping around in front of his eyes.
Altogether this was an improvement. He could only look at Taz for so long before the gigantism lost its effect. The novelty had worn off probably... around some time last year.
"... We both know," he blinked furiously, "...you can't." His next words were weak and strained, "Not... allowed..."
Tazzik didn't seem impressed, and he didn't let got until the drell was slumped at his feet. Grinding his heel against another one of Feron's fingers, he waited to hear the crack.
Things were getting repetitive. It had started to be boring.
Another day, another beating, and a few new broken bones later, found Feron crouched in the corner of his cell. He didn't know what month it was, he didn't know when he'd last eaten and he didn't know if he'd have any visitors tonight.
Tonight? Was it even after dark yet? Did it matter?
The drell rested his cheek against the smooth metal of the wall. It was getting difficult to focus, harder to tell if what he was remembering was being inflicted on him now, or whether it was from some unimportant point in the past. Everything was getting fuzzy. He sighed.
Not for the first time, he thought of Liara.
It was going to be a chair day today. He could tell because Tazzik had brought another guard with him; a mean looking turian who didn't normally say toomuch. As it turned out, the guy had been a brother to one of the guards he'd hoodwinked on Alingon. Tazzik knew this one had it out for him, and Feron thought the grudge was just a little bit unfair.
It had been Liara who'd murdered the Alingon group. Not him.
"Taz, old buddy. I was starting to worry you'd forgotten about me." He forced a smile, even as he backed away from the figures in the door.
"You wish you were that lucky," the turian said with a bark of laughter.
Tazzik's lip curled in distaste and it was hard to say whether it was from turian's waste of breath, or from his general dislike of the drell. If Feron had to venture a guess, he'd say it was probably both.
"Don't you get tired of manhandling me, Taz? Ever feel you've reached that stage in your life where you should just settle down with an asari or a varren or something?" Instead of replying, the salarian grabbed him and half tossed, half pushed him into the arms of the other man.
Given that Feron couldn't stand by himself today, he needed the support – not that it mattered. He really wasn't the type of guy to just waltz up to Broker's carnival ride of pain, and strap himself down. That's what the guards were for.
"If he tries to grab your gun, shock him with this," Tazzik said, handing the turian a device Feron had by now become intimately familiar with. "If he decides he wants to stop walking, hobbling, shit, whatever, shock him. And if he tries to run, shock him."
"You should tell him what happened to the last guy," Feron said, still sounding amiable. Or as amiable as a sentient punching bag could.
"Yeah, Taz, what happened to the old man?"
Tazzik made an irritated noise as he unslung his grenade-launcher. "The little shit here made a grab for Chasol's gun."
"Not bad for someone with a dislocated shoulder, huh?" Feron interjected. He cringed when the turian made to cuff him.
"The Boss wasn't happy."
When the guard turned to look at him, Feron simply offered a shrug and a sheepish grin.
"Stop wasting time," Tazzik said, waving his gun toward the door. "We're clear. Move it."
Feron and his turian-crutch had just started to shuffle forward when the drell felt a familiarly sharp pain cut into him. He fell to one knee.
"Son of a bitch," Feron hissed between grit teeth.
"What the hell was that?!" Tazzik demanded, turning on the other guard.
The turian offered his own little shrug. "He tried to make a run for it."
His leg was broken. He hadn't been about to go anywhere.
The salarian snorted, as close to a chuckle as you'd get with the guy, and dragged Feron up by the back of his coat.
"Keep your eye on him, he might try it again."
He would have thrown up earlier when the new guard had finished pushing him around, but there hadn't been anything left in his stomach. Funnily enough, dry heaving hadn't made the situation any better.
"I'm kind of hungry," he told the next guard. The guy was another turian, younger this time, and always too eager for this shift. This one liked him.
Feron could only hate.
"We've been told to keep you alive," the kid said, deactivating the lock, "not comfortable."
The drell didn't say anything as the other man approached.
"But if you need some company..."
"You know what? Thanks anyway, but I think I'll pass."
Somehow that never worked either.
A day later a ration pack was thrown to the floor.
Feron didn't move forward until the sounds of the guard's boots had faded away. Picking up the package gingerly, he tried to make sure it wasn't dextro-amino this time. Last time he'd almost died. He did notice a small tear along the edge of the bag though, and upon further investigation saw that the contents were more than a little mouldy.
"Ah," he said to no one in particular. "A feast."
No prayers were said before the meal.
"You stink, drell," the krogan said, as he pinned Feron to the wall behind him.
His vision was swimming, and his ears ringing, but Feron still managed to say, "I do my best with what you people give me." He made a sweeping gesture to the cell around them. The space was small and cramped, furnished with only the barest of necessities. There wasn't even a sink or a bed. That was what the floor was for.
The Krogan snorted, letting him drop. "You're not even worth hitting."
"Glad we agree," Feron said, sliding down the wall.
They were spraying him down with a high-powered hose used to clean out the more ... bloody of rooms. The harsh blast stung his eyes and ripped off his scales where it came into direct contact with his skin. The liquid was slightly caustic since it was some mixture of water and cleaning solvents.
Feron choked, trying not to inhale anything.
The rest of the night was spent with his arms wrapped around his knees as he huddled in chilled, wet clothing. His teeth chattered, and his body shook, but it was easy to leave the moment. Easy to remember other things.
The next time he saw Tazzik, Feron's jaw had been broken.
"You're so much better when you're not running your mouth," the big guy said as he kicked him again.
Feron curled in on his side, hands wrapped around his face. Each strike felt like an earthquake inside his skull.
"Fucking hate it when you talk," Tazzik said, stomping on his chest.
Someone obviously wasn't in a very good mood today. Probably a mission gone wrong.
Feron couldn't help the moan that clawed its way up his throat.
Shit. And there went another rib.
It was always a struggle to strap him into the chair. He knew it was pointless in the end, they all did, but still, it was the principle of the thing. And he had always been a man of principle. Dubious principals sure, but sometimes a man can't just lie down and take it.
"Again, drell," Tazzik snapped, pacing while relaying messages from the Broker. "You will tell us what you know about Liara T'Soni."
"You saw her," Feron replied, not even bothering to look up at the large alien. "Damn, but didn't she have some fine curves on h–"
His words cut off, becoming a pained groan when he felt the first bite of electricity punch into him. When the Broker finally released whatever far-off switch he had, Feron was left shaking.
"Let's try this again," Tazzik snarled, "The doctor, T'Soni!"
"You don't you remember how she threw you?" Feron asked innocently, though his voice was distinctly hoarser this time around. "Because I do, in perfectly clari-Augh!"
Feron wasn't stupid. He knew that once they got what they wanted, the Broker wouldn't need him around anymore. And while the alternative was awfully tempting some days, he wouldn't accept it. He'd worked too hard to give up on Liara now, and the asari had no idea what she was up against, the sheer magnitude of the enemy she'd made. He'd led her into this mess and she deserved to live out the rest of her long life in safety, not suffering the same routines he was forced through.
So the punishment came again and again, and still he would not cooperate. But the longer things dragged on like this, the harder it was for him to remember that there had once been better days.
Not that it changed anything.
The medic here was a batarian, and while he didn't have many redeeming features, he at least wasn't a sociopath. That made him good in Feron's book. At this point, he didn't have the luxury of picking and choosing.
"Where does it hurt?" the alien asked gruffly.
"Everywhere," Feron answered honestly.
The batarian said something his translator didn't pick up, and pulled out a medi-gel. This he applied to a few of Feron's newer cuts, scraps, lesions, incisions and burns. The drell didn't care where the wounds came from anymore. They were all for roughly the same purpose, and by the looks of it, weren't about to stop any time soon.
"You shouldn't rely on me to keep you in one piece," the batarian said bitterly, "The Broker's medical equipment will keep you alive at least, but you shouldn't be such a glutton for punishment. You're not making my job any easier."
Once again, a statement that was just a little bit unfair.
The alien was running through his routine check for cracked ribs when Feron asked abruptly, "Do you ever think about doctor assisted suicide?" He was really only musing out loud. It wasn't a serious request, but the question was something that he'd been genuinely curious about for a while now.
The batarian looked taken aback. "First," he said angrily, pushing against a large bruise harder than necessary and making Feron hiss, "I'm not a real medic. You don't get one, only the guards do. And second, yeah, that would be suicide."
He started to pack up his equipment, saying pointedly, "Mine! You're hardly worth that much."
"I'd have to agree with you there," Feron said, reaching for his jacket, and wincing at the soreness in his muscles.
The batarian stood at the cell door, waiting for the guard outside to key in the code. "I don't know what you're playing at drell, but you need to stop it. Stop saying things designed to get your teeth knocked in, and tell the boss what he wants. Stop being so stupid. It can't be worth it." Whatever else the man might have had to offer was lost when the door opened and he walked out. It shut behind him with the same finality it always had.
Feron pushed himself backward until he was leaning against one wall. The guy had given some good advice. It seemed genuinely well meaning, but too bad for him; he'd be ignoring it. He had to.
He had to talk about other things. Had to goad the Broker and his minions. It helped him stay sane. Helped to remind him that through all this, he was still a person.
He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes, and took a deep breath.
Had it been worth it? Was any of this worth it?
No, not really. Nothing about the Broker's prison put him any better off than before he'd met Liara.
Was saving some damn corpse worth all this pain?
What about Liara then? Was protecting her from all of this worth anything?
Maybe. Maybe it was.
He'd never see her again. Hell, he'd never see a lot of things again. But still, maybe he'd done something good.
Didn't make the pain any less though, nor the bones any less broken.
Not going to waste space here, but for an author's note on this piece, visit my site and look under the fanfiction category. Any password you'd need for Mass Effect stuff would be "Citadel."