Ghosts of Erebus (part four): Tale of Two Tortures
Posted By: Chuckles
Date: 6 December 2004, 10:11 AM
Ghosts of Erebus (part four): Tale of Two Tortures
Panic ripped into his guts like a starving dog and his knuckles shown white on the handle of his weapon—a weapon that seemed so very, very small and useless. Although primal fear screamed for him to open his eyes, Valentin Nikolaevich had been taught to pray with his eyes shut, and shut they remained . . . forever. An hour later they found him sprawled on the floor dead, facing away from the container he was supposed to be guarding.
It took two soldiers to pry the rifle out of his hands.
Some dark things dwell in the vastness of space that were never meant for the fragile hearts of men. Valentin would have told this to his comrades, but the dead are mute—and therein lies the paradox—for on Erebus only the dead speak the truth.
Over twenty-thousand soldiers stood in the square, surrounding the Pelican, smelling blood. A wild cheer went up as the drop-ship's ramp began to lower. When two huge figures emerged, the crowd went into a frenzy. The Clowns were here. Revenge would be theirs.
Reaching the bottom of the ramp, Lexicus and Chuckles looked into the eyes of the army surrounding them—and they were shocked. The mere sight of the two Spartans had always filled the rebels with fear. They had seen it countless times during the war. But these soldiers were not afraid at all. To the contrary, their officers could barely restrain them.
Viktor Turpolev raised his hands for silence, and the crowd was quiet. Savoring the moment, he looked upon the Clowns for the first time. They had destroyed his nation and killed his sons—but they had not escaped justice. A hundred of his best troops surrounded him, and two dozen snipers took up position on small buildings just outside the square. At this distance, not one of them would miss. Standing beside him, urging him to begin, was Ivan Krasky, his top advisor.
"Welcome to Erebus," Turpolev said, as a smile of satisfaction spread across his face. "Here," he said, gesturing with his hands and looking around, "you will die for a long time. You will pay for your atrocities, and for the blood of my sons. You will look into my eyes as you die! I will . . ."
Lexicus felt a glimmer of hope: Turpolev was taking time to gloat. Speaking over a private com he said, "Mike, let me know the instant you restore manual control."
"Chuck, keep him busy."
With pleasure. "Yeah, too bad about your sons," the Spartan spoke mockingly, cutting Turpolev off in the middle of his rant. "But I've got to know, what do you do for family reunions these days? Solitaire? I mean, that must really suck. Only family you had, right? Your only sons," Chuckles said, shaking his head in false sympathy, "butchered like animals."
Turpolev's face burned red with anger.
"I don't have sons myself, of course, so I can't imagine. Still, at least they died like men." The Clown's voice dripped with disgust. "At least you're still alive, eh? Me, I would've fought to the death. Just a dumb Spartan who doesn't know any better. Not you, no, you knew when to quit. Yeah, your sons, they were expendable, but you saved yourself. Smart move."
"My sons died for what they believed!"
"No, your sons died because you didn't have the spine to face us yourself. My God, why do these men follow you?" Laughing, Chuckles dealt the knockout punch. "Your sons knew better at the end. As they slowly died, screaming in agony they cursed you. They called you a pathetic coward. They called you a lot of other things too—want to hear?"
"No, liar, I do not!" Turpolev answered, barely controlling his rage. "Before the end, you will beg for death!" Turning to the elite soldiers around him he finally gave the order. "Take them both, but don't kill them!"
Twenty-four snipers sighted in, as the elite soldiers moved forward carrying rocket-launchers and shotguns. Chuckles palmed his huge combat knife, and smiled.
Mike's voice crackled inside Lex's helmet. "Ready to go!"
"Back her up, NOW!" Lexicus yelled.
"Roger that!" Coming to life, the ship went flying to the rear, only inches off the ground. Lexicus jumped in, trying to grab Turpolev as they flew backwards—but he had disappeared, knocked aside by one of his bodyguards. Staying low, the Pelican plowed through the enraged soldiers, sending bodies flying into the air. Thousands of men stood in the square, every one of them armed to the teeth.
But nobody fired.
Taken by surprise, and ordered not to kill the Clowns, even the elite troops froze and watched helplessly as the Pelican left the square, gained altitude and disappeared.
Turpolev was furious. "Krasky! Call the Cerberus! They have—" he suddenly stopped. His advisor was no longer next to him.
The Pelican hugged the ground, barely clearing the trees as Mike put distance between them and the soldiers. None of them had expected it go so good, and they knew it wouldn't be that easy again. Walking to the front of the ship, Lexicus opened up a channel to the Cerberus.
"I want to speak to Captain Addy!" It didn't take long.
"This is Captain Addy. Lexicus?"
"Uh, right. I'm truly sorry that we were put in such a position, but there was no other way."
"If that's true, I guess all is lost." Lexicus answered in a frigid voice.
"No, " the captain said, choosing his words carefully, "now we need to support your team. Retrieve Sagus and his cargo, and we'll all go home together. So tell me, what do I need to do?"
"Pray that Turpolev kills every last one of us." Lexicus replied, his voice pure poison. "Because if we get back to that ship I am going to kill you. "
"See you soon, Captain."
Sitting terrified in the back of the Pelican, Ivan Krasky prepared for the worst. As the ship plowed backwards in the square, Chuckles had grabbed him by the leg and dragged him aboard like a rag doll. Now the large Spartan stood over him like a Greek god.
"You were standing right next to the Big Guy, huh?" Chuckles asked playfully. "Told him when to speak, when to be quiet? I bet that means that you know a lot." Unfastening his large helmet, he pulled it off slowly, and leveled a lethal gaze at his captive.
Krasky shrank back in horror.
Chuckles' skin was horribly scarred, and pale as a corpse. His large mouth was a crowded mess of jagged yellow teeth that seemed on loan from a wildlife exhibit. His lips and nose were the color of fresh blood, and orange hair rose from his head like a fire gorging itself on pure oxygen. Set in the center like hideous black jewels were two cold, lifeless eyes. Taken together, the face was maddening; like a nightmare that lingers for hours after you wake.
Yes, Krasky would talk. He would tell Chuckles all that he knew, and then curse himself for not knowing more.
Stephen Thanatos walked into the cell flanked by two handpicked soldiers—handpicked for their total lack of conscience. The twelve by twelve concrete room had one table, two chairs and the stench of human waste. An emaciated, hooded prisoner hung by his wrists on the opposite wall, his feet dangling inches from the floor. Such had been his sorry condition since his arrival—but the time for such comforts was over. With a nod from Thanatos, the henchman took the wretch from the wall, chained him into one of the chairs and removed his hood and earplugs.
For the first time in forty days, David Sagus could breathe easily. As his eyes adjusted to the low light, he saw a man sitting across the table, smiling.
"Hello David. Let me apologize for taking so long to come and greet you."
Sagus looked up with hatred, and said in a thin, raspy voice, "Stephen Thanatos."
"Ah, so you do remember me David." Pushing a glass of water across the table, Thanatos said, "Go ahead, drink. You'll need your voice." Flashing a smile that chilled David's blood, he continued. "How are things at ONI? Do they miss me?"
The prisoner merely stared with exhaustion and disgust.
"Fine, we can get right to it then." Leaning across the table, he looked directly into David's eyes, and spoke softly. "Why did ONI send you to that boiling rock fifty-eight light years from Earth? You know, I could just open the container and find out."
"Go ahead." David's eyes sparkled. "Lost any men yet, Stephen?"
Thanatos just stared.
"Thought so," Sagus laughed. "You've stolen yourself a real prize."
"What is in the container, David?"
"Of all people, I'd thought you would've figured that out by now."
Thanatos was losing patience. "The container, David. Why does ONI want it?"
Straightening up, David leaned forward and spit in his captor's face. "Go to—oh wait, you're already here."
"No," Thanatos said as he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his face, "you have much more to learn about Hell. Allow me to teach you." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out an adjustable leather strap with two steel balls attached to it about eight inches apart. A twelve-inch wooden rod went through an opening at each end of the band.
"I'm seventy-six years old, David, but compared to this device here, I'm just a youngster. They were using this little beauty on criminals and heretics a thousand years before I was born." Fitting the band around David's head, he adjusted it so that the two-inch steel balls were on the temples, beside each of his eyes. It fit loosely, with the wooden rod holding the band together directly behind his head.
"It's really very simple. All I do is twist this rod," David heard the leather stretch against the wood, as the rod was turned, tightening the band. "And with each twist, the strap tightens, increasing the pressure on those balls." He twisted it again, and the balls pressed painfully into his head. "Eventually, the pressure will be so great that the balls will sink into your temples, and force your eyes right out of their sockets."
"David, it is a horrible way to go. Don't do it to yourself. Not to protect one lousy secret, and certainly not because of loyalty to ONI. Think about it—you will talk eventually. Everyone does." In this Thanatos spoke the truth, and Sagus knew it. Everyone broke; everybody talked. But David wasn't about to make it easy—on him, or on them.
"What is in the container, David?"
Thanatos nodded, and the soldier behind Sagus twisted the rod once, tightening the strap and sending waves of pain through David's head. He winced, but didn't utter a sound.
"What does ONI want with the container, David?"
Again there was no reply, and again the rod was twisted. Steel pressed hard into David's temples, crushing soft tissue. Waves of nausea began to churn his stomach.
"David, what is in the container? Don't do this to yourself. ONI is a corrupt, bloated collection of liars, and you know it! I plead with you, don't make me do this."
Sagus convulsed, and then vomited. Then, looking up at his torturer, his eyes burning with pain and defiance, he smiled. Thanatos smiled back, and then nodded to his henchman.
The rod twisted again. David heard the sickening sound of his temples being crushed an instant before the maddening pain caused him to black out. Immediately, a soldier injected something into his arm, and the prisoner became conscious again, waking to indescribable agony. He could feel the balls pressing behind his eyes, and the first bits of sanity began to slip away.
Thanatos placed a mirror in front of his face, and Sagus' mind began to teeter even more. To his horror, his eyes were protruding from his head like some crazy cartoon character.
In a tone of pure sympathy, Thanatos said, "Enough, David? Have you satisfied honor?" He waited a few moments, and then signaled another twist.
"No! no, no, please, please," David pleaded, sobbing. "I'll talk, I'll talk." He was broken.
"Good. What is in the container, David?"
David answered. Thanatos was first surprised, and then livid.
"You take me for a fool!? Do you think I am a child, an idiot?!" Thanatos ordered another twist.
"No! No, it's the truth! Please! PLEASE! NOOOOOOOOOO!" The rod twisted, and David was out of his mind with pain, thrashing, and screaming. Both of his eyes strained against their sockets, bulging out grotesquely. He barely looked human.
Another twist and it would be over.
"This is the last time I ask, David. What is in the container?"
"I told you!," Sagus screamed between sobs, "I told you!"
"How could this be? I want to believe you, but . . . how?"
Sagus answered, screaming from the edge of sanity. "I don't know! But, but you've lost men already, right?!"
"Please, please, then you've got to believe me!" David yelled, now completely panicked. "Please, please . . . I'm not lying . . . please believe me . . . do you believe me? Do you?!"
"Yes David, I believe you." With that, Stephen scribbled something on his data-pad, looked up and then nodded to the soldier—ordering a final twist of the rod.