A/N: I just can't seem to give this up. I went a whole year without writing anything, but like a mosquito bite you can only ignore the itch for so long before you give in. So here we are: totally AU in a world where specials are slaves much like the 1860's. Sylar is circa Season 1- the killer we all love and miss and Peter has all his powers. Reviews would be love!
Chapter 1- Unbroken
It was desperately hot and he might have fainted there on the spot if his chained wrists were not pulling his arms taught above his head in such a painful way to keep him alert. Beads of sweat trickled down his temples to mix with the grime and blood on his face and it itched, but he couldn't scratch it- just another way to try to break him he guessed. Pretty clever, but he wasn't going to give in. Not the starvation, not the humiliation, nothing they could do would make him give in.
The tent he was being held in was packed full of others like him. Well, truthfully, no one was quite like him, but they did have abilities or else they wouldn't be there. He resented being treated like an animal, chained and made to kneel on the straw floor until a potential buyer wanted to inspect him and he was made to stand and submit to all manner of indignities such as showing his teeth or allowing himself to be groped as the trader and the buyer spoke of his potential worth. It wasn't like he was anything close to being fully clothed, so he guessed at least some of them just wanted to cop a feel and there was nothing he could do about it but pretend not to care.
Although the trader had a lower value on him than he believed himself to be worth, it had been a full week since his arrival and there were no takers. It might have had something to do with his somewhat emaciated and obviously damaged frame. Nothing screamed troublemaker quite like fresh blood and bruises and his reputation was well earned. In his mind, there was no way he could be content with a mundane life, much less one of servitude, so if they killed him for his defiance they would actually be doing him a favor.
Ever since it became known that specials existed thanks to government leaks relating to Nathan's work, there was an enormous backlash and it was to be expected on some level, but the amount of hysteria took them all by surprise. In very short order they were hunted and implanted with a chip in the back of the neck that served as a means of registration and control via the slow release of long acting ability suppressing chemicals and neural interfacing that when activated, served the same purpose as a shock collar on a dog. Initially it was meant for the public's safety, but it wasn't long before insanity and greed took over and before anyone knew it, specials were being co-opted into research studies and dangerous jobs without their consent. It was just a small hop from that to the current situation where specials were seen as predatory, less than human, and expendable. It was predictable in his eyes- humans desperately fear what they do not understand and he had been able to lay low and use his abilities to evade capture up until now.
The back of his neck itched from the slowly healing incision and he wondered if it might be infected. He wasn't really in the most sanitary of conditions and it wasn't like his captor really cared anyway. The trader was a cruel, petty man who took great pleasure in the suffering of his livestock from the time he caught them to the eventual sale and then the cycle would begin again. He noted the trader at the other end of the tent pointing out a young woman to a couple probably looking for a nanny or housekeeper. The very sight of him made him sick. The trader was a morbidly obese man who waddled along, constantly wheezing and mopping his round face with a handkerchief to stem the torrent of sweat that flowed off his bald head.
The woman was made to stand as she was looked over like a side of beef. She briefly caught his eyes, but looked away in shame as she should. He knew her well enough to know that she was the reason he was there. He made the grand mistake of stumbling across her hiding under an overpass near New Orleans, starving and desperate. Her ability was luminescence, not terribly handy for survival when you are trying to go unnoticed. He had been running for so long he knew it was exhausting, but not all specials were like him and if he was tired he could imagine how she felt. He actually gave her what little food he had and fell asleep in the shade of her shelter thinking that he would be safe. He had underestimated her desperation and although he couldn't remember how it all happened exactly, he surmised that she turned him in to local authorities who snuck up on him while he slept and injected him before dragging him away. There was great reward for turning specials in and she no doubt hoped to reap the benefits, but she was caught in her own web and he didn't feel sorry for her at all. He was grateful, however, that the trader didn't seem to know what he had or the price tag would certainly be higher. There were collectors that would pay a pretty penny for him to be sure, but he had played that game before and won- and he would again given half a chance.
Apparently a deal was struck and the couple led the woman away by her chains like one would walk a new dog out of a pet store with her trailing behind, trying not to cry. The parade passed right in front of him and he gave the woman one last glare to send her on her way, but this only earned him a crack in the mouth by the trader's cane. His lip stung as it swelled and he knew it was only a warning shot. Sure enough, it wasn't long before he waddled back in to finish what he started.
The trader forced the man to stand by roughly yanking the chain that hung from the ceiling and took great pleasure when he winced in pain and swayed slightly with dizziness. "You had better behave yourself, boy," he spat in his face, "I got good buyers today and you are starting to cost me more money than you're worth." The man said nothing, but his clenched jaw and determined eyes said all the trader needed to hear. "Is that how it's gonna be?" He smiled leaning in a little closer to run his pudgy hand along his prisoner's inner thigh. The man's eyes widened briefly in what the trader hoped was fear or disgust- he really didn't care as long as it served his purpose of control. "My, but you are a fighter as I remember." He whispered into the man's ear and then gave it a quick flick with his tongue.
This last insult was more than the man could bear as something very primal in him took hold. Yes, the trader had violated him in the worst way on more than one occasion and he couldn't fight back. He tried with all he had, but the trader's weight pinned him down like a ton of bricks and the sounds and smells of those awful memories came rushing back with a vengeance and he knew it could happen again. Without his powers he… he couldn't stop it. Putting the full force of his body weight on his wrists, he pulled himself up and actually managed to bring his knee up fast enough into the trader's crotch to catch him off guard. The fat man stumbled backwards, face reddened as he coughed and wheezed and fished in his pocket. The man knew what was coming and he braced himself as well as he could.
The trader removed a small remote control from his pocket and held down the button that sent a stream of burning fire through his captive's entire nervous system via the freshly implanted chip, making him gasp, convulse, spit, and scream all at the same time. The sight of it all relieved the pain somewhat and although he did have to make an example of the upstart, he knew that if he held the button too long he could do serious damage. He wanted to shock the hell out of him until he begged for mercy, but he knew that time would never come. He had never quite met a special as head strong as this one. He released the button and waited for the man to regain some semblance of consciousness before coldly stating, "I will either break you or I'll kill you. Either way, you won't win." He left him hanging there by his bleeding wrists, drawing ragged and painful breaths to ponder that thought while he made his way to the front of the tent to greet a loyal customer. "Ms. Siegel! How nice to see you on this hot day!"
Maria Siegel absolutely hated the despicable Barnaby Tipton, but she had done so much business with him that all she could do was flash a well practiced disingenuous smile at his approach. Her assistant glanced inside the tent with sad eyes and swallowed at the sight of so much misery all in one place. "Mr. Tipton, I heard that you were in town and I know you are the man to find when a deal is to be made."
"Well, I do try, Ms. Siegel. Anything for you. Did you get my flowers?" He puffed as he wiped the oily sheen from his forehead.
"I did." She nodded lightly. "They were wonderful, thank you."
"Well," he bashfully shrugged, "pity what happened to your husband. He was a good man. He and I did a lot of business together you know. Did they ever catch the filthy mutant that did it?"
"No." She said quietly. "And I don't expect they will."
"Damn shame." He lamented as he looked her assistant over. "I remember that one. Come to bring him back?"
"No," she smiled giving her companion a light pat on the shoulder, "he is my personal assistant."
"I see." He answered with a sick twinkle in his eye that alluded to something more carnal.
"Not in that way, Mr. Tipton." She gently chided. "But all of my help that has come from your stock have been of the highest caliber and that is what brings me here today. I am always on the lookout for more good hands to keep my estate running." And what an estate she had. Maria and the honorable Mr. Bryant Siegel had built an empire in the pharmaceutical industry by formulating the very compounds that kept specials from using their abilities.
"Well, lucky for you I just got a fresh supply." He obliged gesturing to the tent and leading the way. "Looking for anything specific? A man servant? A cook?"
"I'm not certain." She replied trying her best to keep her wits in the face of such barbarism. Her stomach churned at the smell of unwashed bodies and the flies that crawled over bare and sometimes broken skin. And those dead eyes- eyes of people whose very souls have been crushed because they were different. The fact that she made her fortune off of the very drugs that even now seeped into their bodies was not lost on her. Her assistant gave her a guarded look which warned her that she was dangerously close to betraying herself and she steeled her eyes once more. "It's just one of those things that you know it when you see it."
"Indeed." Tipton blubbered on, thankfully oblivious.
"How about that one?" Her assistant asked pointing to the unruly man as he still hung from his chained wrists.
"Hmmm." She frowned looking at his pale face with the dark and determined eyes. "$1,000? The price is a little high. Does he lay golden eggs or what?"
"$1,000 is quite a fair price for a male of his age." Tipton stammered. "And his chip is in good working order," he fished for the remote and both the prisoner and her assistant flinched, "so he doesn't 'do' anything." She continued to stare down at him and he steadily held her gaze. Although the man tried to hide it, his eyes betrayed him as just for a split second they recognized her assistant and she noticed. "Speaking of," Tipton proclaimed shaking his remote before pointing it at the assistant and pushing the button, "his must be on the fritz. Working now, but you'd better get that replaced. You don't want him runnin' amok with all his abilities."
The assistant let out a strangled whimper before he lost his balance and fell to the floor nearly hyperventilating. The chained man managed to find it funny and smirked. "And this one?" Maria asked tilting her head toward her potential property. "What can you tell me about him?"
"Not much, I'm afraid." Tipton shrugged. "He came to me out of Louisiana and you know we don't ask too many questions from those boys down there." She arched her eyebrow and the fat man caved. "Alright, Ms. Siegel. I'll be honest that you don't want him on account of his being trouble. I haven't broke him yet," he paused to give him a mighty swing to the ribs with his cane, "but I will if it's the last thing I do."
Maria watched the man cough and try valiantly not to show how much it hurt and inside she wanted to scream, but instead she coolly said, "Now you will have to give me a discount for damaged property. He obviously isn't fit for manual labor- that much is clear just by looking at him."
"We can always use more domestic help." Her assistant offered after he had recovered from having his chip reset.
"Really, Ms. Siegel, I can't let you make this mistake. He won't work for you." Tipton shook his head. "He'd probably kill you in your sleep the first chance he got. Goddamn savage." He kicked him again and this time there was no restraint and the man's eyes brimmed with tears from the pain and his face flushed, but his eyes were hard as obsidian. Who was really the savage here?
"Every time you strike him, the less I will pay." She cooed lightly, reaching down to cradle the prisoner's face in her hands. "Besides, this one is quite handsome. Perhaps I can use a….personal…..assistant." Her actual assistant looked vaguely uncomfortable.
"Well, far be it from me to question your uses." Tipton sputtered, obviously turned on by her innuendo. "Shall we finish business over cocktails while your man takes care of the dirty work?"
"Sounds delightful." She smiled, giving her new acquisition a light tap on the side of the face and a wink before turning away and departing arm in arm with the trader.
"Peter." The man greeted with half disgust and half wonder. "What the hell…"
"I know." Peter nodded with a small smile while he worked on unchaining his former nemesis. "Imagine my surprise to see you here. The big bad Sylar got bagged and tagged."