Screams echoed through the hidden torture room of Mechanical. They were harsh screams, the kind that makes your hair stand on edge and sets your heart racing.

Disconnect. It was funny how he no longer felt the pleasure of eliciting screams from his victims. Stranger still that he felt no remorse. It was nothing. Just as Sirrus turned to his alcohol and his drugs and his women to escape the emptiness of his life, Achenar turned to bringing pain to others. But it wasn't working any more.

He had set up his equipment there, so that the screams would echo without source through the fortress. He found the fear it instilled in the natives inspiring. Sirrus said it broke his concentration. The cage stood in one corner of the room, its sole inhabitant motionless. Achenar sighed and strode out of the room.

"Someone come clean this up!" he said. The room was empty. Bemused, Achenar wandered around the passages of the fortress. All empty. He found Sirrus in his own hidden room. The needles there would be good instruments for his experiments... Achenar finished his twisted thoughts as he watched his brother shoot one up his arm. "Where are my subjects?"

Sirrus laughed after a long pause, his voice slurred. "Your subjects?" He laughed again, doubling over, out of pain or ecstasy, he wasn't sure. "You've killed all of them. Killed them."


Surely they couldn't all be dead. There had been several of them when they had arrived, and he liked to take his time with his experiments. But then again, he had done three the previous day because he had been in a bad mood, and they were down to four the day before that… it was funny how things like that could slip the mind.

"Yes." Sirrus seemed to gather some semblance of control over himself and stood, shakily. "I've been thinking... perhaps it's time for us to move on to bigger prizes."

"Bigger prizes?" Achenar pushed away his disappointment over the end of his resources on Mechanical. He had grown quite comfortable in the fortress, but his interest was piqued. "What?"

"Do you remember Narayan?" Sirrus was grinning. Achenar remembered, thought, and soon found the same grin spreading over his own face. "A good prize, don't you think?"