**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.***
Beginning of Book 2 of The Attributes
The cell door opened. Light flooded into the otherwise dark room. Paul tried to rise up from the bed, wondering when and how he got there. Immediately he discovered his ankles and wrists were restrained, strapped to the sides of the bed. At least two people entered the room and grabbed hold of him. Someone, another one, unfastened the straps allowing him to be yanked upward. Painfully, his shoulders reminded him of how long his arms had been secured behind him. Dragged out of the room and into a bright corridor, the shock of being awake again, the reminder of the pain, the beatings, how long was he unconscious. He did not sleep.
Squinting he struggled to see where they were taking him. Why? Did he expect anywhere else? The torture he remembered. They called it an interrogation. It was anything but that. His knees, lower legs and feet dust mopped the slickly waxed resilient tile floor. He dirt stung the open sores on his lower extremities. Jerking him up by his arms they flung him through an open door. There some other hands latched hold of him, pulling him into an interrogation cell. The rough concrete floor’s surface scraped the scabs hide off of his bare knees, calves and tops of his feet, leaving a slimy trail of his blood behind – not that anyone but him cared much. They were already raked raw, as were other parts of his body.
Into a dark corner they deposited him like so much refuse. The smell of the interrogation cell brought back the excruciating agony of the prior session with the interrogator – the sadistic bastard. Trapped in the corner of a small room with one light, he huddled against the wall. Tears welled in his eyes as he caught the scent of the source of all his recent misery. Hearing his voice made his skin crawl and his heart beat harder in abject panic. He needed to control that.
Hanks of hair plucked from his scalp the pain returned to mind. His pubic area was burned and from the hairs being singed. Nipples, useless as they were, ached from the alligator clips clamped around them for the application of electric shock between beatings until he had lapsed unconscious. He remembered everything in cold, cruel clarity.
Two men entered. From their pungent sweat smell he identified them from the previous sessions. Sometimes they held him during the beatings. Dousing him with ice-cold water forced a scream through gritted teeth. Alertness as the single light illuminated the interrogator. In panic, he struggled to find his feet, only to have them slip out from under him and he fell back, banking his head against the wall. Now, his neck hurt, too. He wondered why it did not hurt before – everything else seemed to.
As he looked up at the man towering over him, there was general laughter from a number of agents who were returning to the room, primed for another session. His mind fused memories of past beating with the present moment until he was uncertain whether he rested at all. Was it his imagination before, the bed in a different room? He crumpled into a lumpy mess of human flesh on the floor as he lay there listening to the jeers and laughter.
“Behold the mighty Paul!” The interrogator mocked him. “Stripped of his legendary status. Here he is, merely a miscreant – another of the mutants. All the wild stories of amazing abilities have been rendered explainable. Just shut down his connection to the source. Now he does not have any kind of command over nature. He cannot kill anyone with mere thoughts alone. A pathetic excuse of a man who the criminals of this world have glorified beyond any reason! We’ll parade you in public and broadcast your image to the world, Paul! This will be a lesson to one and all. No will doubt who’s in charge!”
Hands reached down from around the silhouette of the interrogator, snatching him, violently hauling him up. Dragged again over the rough textured floor and dropped into chair, he felt them holding him there, ensuring he did not fall out onto cold, hard floor.
“So, have you changed your mind?” the interrogator asked.
Paul didn’t respond.
With exasperation, the interrogator struck him across the face. Paul could not see him clearly through his blurred vision. Still, he recognized him, his smell and the knobs ring on his hand, the one that tore into his cheek. With shivers of recollection for each excruciating moment of agony he endured, he knew him too well. Every cell of his body protested in anticipation of more terror. The interrogator was a man who had a demonic soul, Paul decided. He delighted in hearing screams of pain and the horror of anticipating more torment to come. This man promised to keep him alive, though it was only to prolong the torture.
It began the same as the session before, just a continuation. Paul was heavily sedated to deaden his perception of the world. He could not focus enough to gain control over even his sense of balance much less the world around him. Neutralized between the strong drugs and the electronic dampers projected into the room, his gifts failed him. His sensory connection was artificially severed.
“Let’s try it again, shall we?” the interrogator began. “Tell me about your sister, Cristina.”
Paul spat in the direction of the interrogator’s voice and received a backhand swept across his face in exactly the same place as before, already bruised and puffy from previous strikes.
“I’ll keep you alive so you can watch me pleasure myself repeatedly with your sister. I hear she is quite a treat. Maybe she can even get me off with her screams as she begs for the release of death. But I’ll fuck the shit out of her, Paul. That’s what I’ll do! Right up he ass with no lubrication.”
“Sick, perverted bastard,” Paul countered but his voice was weak and it cracked even as he spoke.
“I’m the best interrogator there is, Paul. They brought me here special just to deal with you. Maybe you can take some small pride in that accomplishment. I’m here to dissect you into little pieces. I’ll do it if you want, Paul? Is that the way you want it? Maybe I can fuck you up the ass with a broom handle.”
Paul spat again and received a knuckle punch to his face after which he felt blood dripping from the corner of his mouth and the tip of his nose.
“You know all about your sister, Paul, don’t you? Your parents thought they were so smart separating you shortly after birth. The two of you are monsters. Your mother was a mutant, an aberration of humanity. Mutants are not intended to mate but for some reason your father was turned on by it. You have four nipples and four balls! When I interrogate your sister I have plans for each of her four pretty little teats! That what we have to call them, cause she’d not human. She’s an animal like you, Paul! She doesn’t deserve to live any more than you do.”
Paul struggled but his wrists were immediately pulled back behind him and duct taped to the back of the chair. In the process, his shoulders felt as if they were ripped out of their sockets.
“You are not like real people at all, Paul. You see, you and your sister are really different forms of life altogether. You’re aberrations, what religious people call demons. You appear to be human and in her case a very attractive human from what I have seen and heard. But you can only pretend to be like us. There’s something else inside of you. It possesses you. What amazes me is you think you are better than we are. Look what your arrogance has gotten you. Who has put you in your place? A mere human – li’l ol’ me!” Then he paused to wave his assistants over, “Bind his legs and arms firmly. I don’t want him coming out of that chair!”
When they had finished he hooked up a battery to clips. Using his dirty fingernails he picked off the scabs formed on Paul’s four nipples before he pinched the clips into place. As he flicked a switch, he waited for the electricity to charge the capacitor, then he laughed was the voltage coursed through Paul’s body, enough so that his spasm in the chair caused him to bite his tongue even as he fell backward and crash into the floor. He struck the back of his head full force on the concrete, addling him for a few moments.
Blood and sweat splattered and stuck the pants legs of others standing about him. In response several of them cursed and kick him in the ribs.
Disoriented from the pain he blinked, trying to focus as he drew shallow breaths. He winced with pain from his bruised or cracked ribs. Not all right but he was aware and oddly his focus was returning as if the drugs were wearing off.
A revelation occurred to him. The interference he sensed before was gone. Mentally he was able to grasp the fragments of his recent memories. Safe haven for a level of serenity where he could reside, his thoughts crawled into shelter from whatever this demon spawn and his henchmen were going to do to him.
The assistants hauled Paul back upright for another go at the voltage. Another charge and discharge – the interrogator laughed insidiously as once more Paul fell over backward.
“Again!” he said sadistically. “I can do this all night. I love my job! You see, I know the worst thing possible is to torture you until you die. But if I get no information out of you, what’s the point? So I’ll keep you hanging on and it will only get worse for you. I assure you I’m very good at doing this, Paul. I can prolong your life and your agony until you beg me to end it. But I won’t, not until I have exactly what I need.”
Paul reached a point of novel experience. His body resisted, not only in response to the pain but also the drugs intended to suppress his special abilities. The suppressing effect was gone. He did not know why but he was grateful to whatever providence. It was part of his difference.
His body completed the tolerance negated its effects, bringing clarity to mind. With focus he swept aside the fog. Blurry vision cleared as he stared at the interrogator, and then growled.
“See you are an animal. Animals growl.”
“Animals can rip a man’s throat out.”
“Is that what you want to do, Paul?”
“You can’t imagine what I’m thinking.”
“I don’t need to know what your diseased mind is pondering.”
“Whose mind is diseased? Give me your name, asshole!” Paul demanded.
“You dare speak to me in that way!”
“It would be better for you if you volunteered the information, but I can extract it from you if you prefer. I promise not to be gentle, either.”
The interrogator laughed. “Was it intended as a threat?” He reached for the switch one more, intending to apply a higher level of voltage this time. Paralysis prevented his arm from reaching out. He could no longer use his hand.
Paul turned to the others in the room. “Some of you are young and have young families. You need to think of them when you ask is this worth your life. You may leave now and run clear of the building. In a few moments it will be too late. It’s going to be really messy in here.”
Some of them laughed, taking it as false bravado, but not all.
“How dare you!” the interrogator shouted, trying to move either one of his arms.
“You have told me what I needed to know,” Paul said to the interrogator; then he met his eyes, “Richard. That’s your given name, but you have always embraced the nickname ‘Dick’. You have aspired to be everything negative about what that nickname. Living to those standards, as morally corrupt and despicable as they are, has become your goal in life.”
“I am…unimpressed,” Dick said even though he strained against pain throbbing in his temples, blinking his eyes, wishing he could move his arms. “Guards get him out of here!”
Paul looked at the guards, halting their advance with a thought before he retuned his eyes to Dick. “Unlike you I don’t have the time or the patience to draw death out into a lingering, suffering sort of ordeal. But I will allow you a moment of silence to settle your peace with whatever marker you believe is responsible for your miserable existence.”
Paul terminated the painful pressure he was mentally applying to the interrogator.
“You make me laugh,” Dick said, straining to seem unaffected even if he was visually shaken. Finding that he could move his arms and hand, he grabbed Paul’s head between his hands. “I’m going to make you wish you’d never been born.”
“It’s is you are about to make that wish.”
Some of the tape that secured Paul to the chair began to unravel, seemingly all by itself. Other strip began to tear. Paul stood up, snapping what tape remained, breaking free of his bindings as if it were thin paper or, more so like it was never there at all. He raised his arms, coming up between Dick’s hands, as he quickly broke the interrogator’s grip. He flexed his arms and ripples coursed beneath the surface of his skin.
Several of the assistants scurried out the door. Some others adjusted their positions in defense of Dick, drawing their weapons.
“Stand down!” Dick ordered. “I can handle this shit head.”
“I have issues with some of the others. But most of my issues are with you, Dick,” Paul said. “They were following your orders. Maybe some of them enjoyed seeing me suffer. What you have done here is a travesty. It’s not legal. The planners of the colony never intended it to be this way. The Colonial Authority has grown beyond the scope of its charter. This is a police state. Civil rights are trampled to suppress any opposition.”
“You have no rights, Paul. You suspended those the first time you met with operatives from The Resurrection.”
“You’re nothing but a tool for the for the evil in this world. You’re what is wrong.”
“What’s your plan, Paul? Do you think you can walk out of here and disappear? There’re cameras and sensors everywhere, even places you’d never expect. We control you, Paul. I extract information from terrorists like you. I’m very good at what I do, Paul. Despite your resistance, I think you’d agree.”
“I’m not a terrorist. No one in The Resurrection’s a terrorist. We seek only to reveal the truth. This world’s name is ironic isn’t it? There’s no truth left in this world, only more of The Colonial Authority’s lies.”
“You’ve killed. That creates fear in others and that constitutes terror.”
“I’ve harmed no one who didn’t try to harm me first.”
“What about the old man you killed at the relay station.”
“He sold me out, kept me occupied with his stories while waiting for the agents to arrive. He died from an aneurism, like a ticking bomb in his heart. He would have died within a few days anyway.”
“It’s easy to justify your actions once you’ve crossed the line and gone down the wrong path.”
“I’m not wrong, Dick. The system you serve is what’s wrong. It needs to go.”
“So single handedly you’re going to overthrown the government?”
“I have help.”
“You know the people. You have the names. That’s the information I need, Paul. You refuse to give it to me. That information is what stands between you and more pain.”
“I’m beyond that, Dick. You don’t understand.”
“Oh, I understand. I know exactly what needs to be done. Lock him up!” he ordered the guards.
“Good-bye, Dick!” Paul pointed to the interrogator’s temple and suddenly Dick’s head snapped back. Falling he crashed into the table, his head banging onto the floor with an impact that cracked his skull, splitting it wide open like an overly ripe melon. The body twitched and kicked several times, before lifeless his eyes stared straight up at the light above him.
Turning on the guards. Paul waved an arm, easily brushing them aside. Some agents fired tranquilizer darts at him. With a single glare Paul stopped the projectiles in flight, suspending them in air. Then one-by-one, he snatched them before throwing them at the agents, sticking them in the leg or arm with the strong drug that, to them, would be an overdose. Almost instantly they collapsed to the floor.
Others who were not struck scrambled for the only door, closing it and locking in an attempt to trap him inside. In contrast to the general panic and mayhem around him, Paul was serene. Having found the best place to reside apart from the cares of the world, he proceeded toward the door. The internal pins in the hinges melted and the molten metal ran down the reinforced steel doorframe and to puddle up at the base. By its own weight the door fell into the room, slamming onto the floor.
He emerged from the room. In the wake of his passing, with a slight wave of his hand he flung anyone who threatened him them across the room with immense velocity, breaking backbones and crushing skulls. Without so much as touching anyone he eliminated all opposition.
To the agents, Paul’s body appeared to glow. Several apparent halos formed around him through which he could still be seen but he appeared translucent. From the far end of the corridor a barrage of bullets erupted from numerous flashing muzzles. The trajectories of the bullets deflected once they reached the energized edge of one of Paul’s halos. Some rounds scraped along the floor, others imbedded in the walls and ceiling. Undaunted, Paul continued to advance on the agents. With his mind he imagined they were flying. In response to his vision, agents flew toward walls and windows, but it was only those who fired weapons at Paul. Some of the agents died instantly from the force of the impact, others lingered in agony with their broken backs and limbs. The majority would die. A few sustained less severe injuries. Though incapacitated, they were spared his wrath.
As he walked down the hall he sensed Tam in a holding cell, being interrogated. Forcing the door to open he projected his will, picking up the interrogator, pushing him against the wall and pinning him there. “Where are the others?” Paul demanded as he came closer.
“I don’t have to answer to you.”
“You don’t have to breathe anymore either. Once everyone in this building who refuses to cooperate is dead, I’m sure I’ll find everyone I seek all by myself.”
“Look, I didn’t agree with their treatment of you. I don’t work that way.”
“Has he treated you humanely, Tam?”
“Judging from the looks of you, yeah, I’ve been treated very well. He’s not beaten me.”
Paul allowed Tam’s interrogator to slowly slide down the wall to where he sat on the floor. “Where are the others?”
“You want me to violate my oaths?”
“Are oaths more important to you than seeing Emily or your daughters Keisha and Trisha tonight?”
The interrogator tilted his head to one side. “It’s true what they say about you?”
“Whether it’s truth or lies, does it matter at this point? The only way for you to live is to tell me what I want to know.”
“It’s the door at the end of the hallway,” he said. “You’ll need the keys from the front security office.”
“Come, both of you. You will get me the keys, Rael,” Paul directed to Tam’s interrogator.
The three of them walked down to the security office, both Tam and Rael surveyed the level of carnage. “They’ll never relent in finding you. You know that?”
“It becomes a matter of many more are going to die?”
When Paul led Tam and his team outside of the Colonial Authority building, the few agents who escaped harm stood clear allowing them to pass safely into the shadows of the nearby alley and into night.
“What happened to Cristina?” Paul asked over his shoulder as Tam followed him.
“I don’t know, Paul.”
“Tell me the truth,” Paul paused as he turned and physically grabbed Tam’s shirt and focused in on his eyes.
“I’m telling you the truth! We were there to help her and her boyfriend. We walked into an ambush, at both stations. They were waiting for them but they never showed.”
“I’ve felt her here, her presence is undeniable. They may have her,” Paul said. “Where would they have taken her?”
“Other than where we were, I don’t know – unless they took her out of the city.”
“No she’s here. She did something to save me from the interrogator. I’m sure of it.”
Tam looked to several of his team leaders. “Then, she and her friend are phantoms.”
“I assure you they’re real, as real as you or me.”
“We sort of thought she might have gotten off the railcar before getting to the stations,” Tam suggested.
“Both stations were the same. It was like a trap,” another said.
“Do your guys know what she looks like?” Paul asked.
“Paul, some of us are fans, so, yeah, we know what she looks like,” Tam said.
“Where is she? How can someone like her just disappear?”
“How do you know she was even aboard that railcar?” one of the group leaders asked.
“You saw what he did back there and you can still ask that?”
“Well, he’s asking us questions.”
“It’s professional courtesy,” Tam said. “He won’t read our minds – unless he needs to.”
“She was not on the railcar, not that any of us saw,” the group leader spoke directly to Paul. “Granted, we were all pretty busy fighting off the agents. It could have provided a sort of diversion for her.”
“Maybe her traveling companion helped her escape,” Tam offered.
Paul frowned, concerned as he considered the possibilities. “Where would she go?”
“Does she have friends in the city?”
“Would he give her a more cordial welcome than I received?” Paul wondered aloud.
“How’s that?” Tam asked.
“She knows Raven. We’ll start there.”