3-12-2002

Pyractomena Borealis Part 21

Someone was coughing. It took a minute before I realized that it was me. My throat felt like it was on fire, and my chest was tight and heavy, like I'd just breathed in a lot of bad shit.

Fuck. And we all know why, now don't we?

The second thing I noticed was that I was laying on a chilly, slimy surface, and that my wrists hurt, not to mention my shoulders and back as well. My arms were pulled tightly behind me, and there were bands of cold iron around my wrists. Not a good sign.

I cautiously cracked my eyes open. They hurt too. Hell, all of me hurt with pain ranging from 'mild sunburn' to 'Oh my God, fucking kill me now'. I had a lovely view of a crumbling brick wall that looked like a cover for 'This Old Dungeon'. There was water dripping down the bricks and mortar, and the stench was just incredible. I'd never realized that stone could actually rot, but there it was, its smell combining with scents of blood, semen, fear, and death that were all too recent for my comfort.

Oh yeah, and there were also iron bars separating the wall and I. I was in a cage. It just got better with every passing moment.

"Duo?" someone whispered, off to my right.

I struggled to my feet, but was jerked short of standing all the way up by the manacles on my wrists. Disgusted, I dropped back to my knees and craned my head around to peer at Wufei. He looked like he'd seen better days, too. His hair was almost completely out of its ponytail, and there was a line of blood running down the side of his face from somewhere just above his widow's peak. "Yeah, I'm here, Wu. Wherever here is."

Wufei coughed, his mouth twisting in a grimace. "The others?"

A soft moan to my left told me everything I needed to know, but I looked anyway, just to make sure--Yep, Quatre, Trowa and Heero were all laying there like I'd been, chained firmly to rings in the floor. They were starting to show signs of life, which was comforting. I couldn't help but notice that they didn't seem to be in nearly as bad shape as Wufei and I. It just wasn't fair. "Yeah, Wu, they're here. Not sure if that's good or bad."

"My vote is on bad." Wufei said.

"I think I'll agree." With a rattle of chains, Quatre struggled to stand up, only to be caught short by the chain at his wrists. A disgusted look on his face, he sank down to his knees, mirroring me with a muttered, "Shit."

I tugged my hands experimentally. No dice. I couldn't even reach my sleeves with my fingertips, let alone my hair, so no luck getting at the picks I'd hidden there. "Damnit."

More chains rattled as Heero and Trowa pulled themselves into more vertical positions. "I think," Heero said, his voice more nasal than normal, "that it is intended that we wait for our captor's...pleasure."

Had I said that Heero didn't look like crap? I'd been wrong. Whatever had taken out Quatre and Trowa hadn't gotten him -- no, he looked like he'd been beaten within an inch of his life. I winced internally. No matter how pissed and vengeful I was feeling, I still had to feel bad for a guy with two black eyes and a broken nose that were some pretty hideous, if fading, green and yellow colors.

"When I get out of here, there isn't going to be a hole deep enough for Johannes to hide himself in..." I muttered, using the tips of my fingers to feel around on my manacles and its chain, hoping for some kind of weakness that I could work at.

"So it is him?" Quatre asked.

"Pretty sure." I said. "The subway station that Wufei and I were in got blown up with the human servant of this guy called Harris standing right there...and the last time I saw our boy Harris, he was with friend Johannes. Fool me twice..."

"...shame on me." Quatre finished.

"Damn straight." I grunted. "Even better, I think Harris' flunky monkey is the pyrokinetic we're looking for. He sure didn't seem bothered by the platform exploding into a giant fireball..."

An odd breath of air trickled across my cheek and I whipped my head back around front and center. Before me stood the ugliest vampire I'd seen in my entire life. He was disproportionately tall and stick thin to the point of desiccation, all angles and shrunken, paper dry skin. The only mildly attractive feature he had was his hair; it was a shade in the neighborhood of cherry red that looked far too organic to have come from a bottle. His hair was in a long ponytail that nearly came down to his hips. He was wearing tight, matte black leather that only served to emphasize how much he looked like a walking skeleton. In one hand, he carried a riding crop that looked very well loved, and in the other he held a piece of chain. "It makes me happy to see you five awake." he said in a light, rather effeminate voice.

I kept my facial expression as calm as possible. I all ready had him pegged--three hundred and fifty years if he was a day. "Good morning to you, too." I said.

"No questions? No demands or threats?" he asked. "Already quite well trained, I see."

"Naw, just waiting for you to get over yourself with and give us the villain spiel." I gave him my best cocky grin.

Quick as lightning, the riding crop came through the bars of the cage and gave me a hard poke in the stomach, enough to leave me bent double and gasping for breath with my already tormented lung. When I managed to breathe normally again and looked up, his expression hadn't changed at all. "Please moderate your tone." he said mildly.

"Why are we here?" Quatre asked, voice becoming softer with each word as the vampire fixed him with a sunken-eyed stare.

"Why are any of us here?" the vampire said. "To wile away our last hours on the mortal coil with pleasure."

I had a sinking feeling his idea of pleasure and ours differed greatly.

"I am LeRey," he gave us a polite, antiquated bow with a faint smile on his lips. The facial expression in itself was pretty creepy--it looked too unnatural. "Master Harris' head torturer. It is my pleasure to watch over you for the night." He dropped the chain he was holding and opened the door to the cage. "I shall see you all bleeding and naked ere the dawn, but who would be my first?"

It was then that I realized, with growing horror, that LeRey didn't even have a passing handshake with reality as we knew it. Even worse, as he stepped into our cage, he revealed what the chain had been attached to--a small, dirty boy in the tattered remains of a grade school uniform. The chain was fastened to a heavy iron collar around his neck. I think what disturbed me the most was the look in the kid's eyes. On the surface was the vacant expression of someone in the thrall of a vampire, but bellow it, I could see terror. Tears were running freely from the corners of his eyes.

I surged to my feet, straining against my chain. "NO! You psy--" This time, the riding crop hit me in the throat, sending me to the ground like a stone. Three neat lines of pain cut across my back, and then LeRey grabbed me by the hair, lifting me back up, almost gently, to my knees. I was half-blinded by tears and gagging. Left and right, I heard chains rattle, and the sound of riding crop meeting flesh.

"Are you quite done now?" he asked a moment later.

No one commented. My throat hurt enough that I couldn't have if I'd tried, so I settled for a mute glare.

LeRey stepped back in front of me. A few dark spots of blood were dripping from the end of the riding crop. He flicked them off with negligent ease. "Who shall be my first dancer?" he asked.

"I would much prefer one of you to my Hikaru," he continued, "since he is not nearly tall enough for me. If none indulge me, though, he makes an adequate reserve."

I couldn't meet the kid's soft brown eyes any more; the look of horror in them was too much to bear.

A step forward brought LeRey's crotch right on level with my face. All I could say was that he had either a nice package or a rolled up tube-sock tucked into his leather pants. I was hoping I wouldn't have cause to find out for sure. Cruel fingers dug into my hair again and pulled me forward until my cheek was rubbing against his groin. There was an odd smell to him that moved between the physical and the psychic and made my stomach hurt. The closest I could come to describing it was foul, rotting flesh. "I rather like your hair, boy." LeRey said, "What say you?"

I couldn't even move my head to try to bite in retaliation; he'd cranked his fingers into my hair that hard. Under the leather, LeRey's genitals gave a soft twitch. It was all I could do to not throw up.

"No, I'll be." Wufei said.

"Wufei, no!" I heard Quatre half shout. LeRey tossed me aside. Unprepared, I managed to crack the side of my head on the floor. I just lay there for a moment, remembering how to breathe and wishing I could scrub the feeling off of my cheek.

"Ah, a young Chinese dragon." LeRey said, walking over to Wufei and tilting his chin up with the riding crop. "You look like you have the strength to endure well."

Wufei didn't say another word. He simply watched LeRey, almost as if he were daring the vampire to do his worst. LeRey leaned down and grabbed the chain that bound him to the cage's floor, snapping it from its ring with the flick of a wrist. "Come then, our time only becomes shorter."

"Wufei, you idiot!" I hissed as LeRey walked him away, pausing only to grab the chain attached to Hikaru as well. Wufei didn't answer with words; he only directed a dead-eyed look back at me before the three walked around the corner.

That look had said it all. Wufei wasn't expecting to survive. He figured he was buying us time to find a way out, but he also thought that he'd be dead by the time we managed it. And that hurt goddamnit. I vowed that if we made it out alive, I was going to shake Wufei and have a good screaming fit about him being such a fucking martyr.

The time to focus was now, though. I surged to my feet, yanking at the chain with all my might. I didn't have vampire strength, so it didn't even budge. Around me, the guys were trying the same, tugging at their manacles.

"Fuck," I whispered, "oh fuck, this is going to really hurt." Without any other options, I made my right hand as thin as possible by extending my fingers and started really yanking against the cuff around my wrist, using my body weight. I was going to lose a lot of skin and quite a bit of blood, but anything was better than the alternative.

The smell of rotting flesh drifted around the corner, strong enough now to make me gag. I spat a mouthful of bile aside and continued working at my wrists.

Then the screaming began.

I couldn't help myself at that point. I could tell that it was Wufei screaming, and considering the ungodly pain tolerance he had...it just didn't bear thinking about. I had tears running freely down my cheeks, half from the pain I was putting myself through and half from listening to my best friend on the stinking planet howl in agony. "Idiot, idiot, idiot..." I whispered.

And then came something that I will never forget, not if I live a million years. There was a roar of primal rage that sent the four of us to our knees, still struggling against our manacles, though this time in an attempt to cover our ears. Frigid wind suddenly shrieked past us, strong enough that it ripped one of my shirtsleeves almost in half. There was more screaming, but this time, it wasn't Wufei--the voice belonged to LeRey, and the sounds he made could only be compared what we'd heard earlier, when Treize had begun rending the hapless messenger limb from limb.

It went on and on, until I swore it would never stop.

I couldn't say when the sounds stopped. The sensory overload left a dull roaring in my ears that faded only slowly, until I could finally hear the high, thin wail of terror that had to belong to Hikaru. "Oh God, no..." I renewed my attack on my manacles. Blood was running thickly through my fingers by then. With a barely suppressed scream of my own, I yanked my wrist free. I didn't even pause to think. My fingers found the pick hidden in my hair and began to shakily work on the lock behind my back. The first pick slipped through my blood-slicked fingers, and rather than waste my time searching for it, I pulled my reserve pick from my shirt's cuff and got back to work. "Wufei, you idiot! You god-be-damned IDIOT!"

"Who are you calling an idiot, Maxwell?"

I was startled enough to drop my second pick as Wufei stumbled around the corner. There was a fleur-de-lies shaped burn marring his chest above his left nipple, but otherwise, he appeared unharmed. It should be noted that he was also suffering from a complete lack of clothing. Naked or not, I'd never been happier to see him in my life.

Wufei slid down the wall to the floor, just short of the cage. He was panting like he'd just run a marathon.

"What the hell did you do, Wufei?" I demanded, feeling around the stones of the floor in search of one of my picks. With a grunt of effort, Wufei threw me a heavy iron ring that had only three keys on it. Second try worked, and I was out of my manacles. I quickly set to freeing the other guys.

As soon as everyone was free and out of the cage, Quatre grabbed my right hand. He gave me a sympathetic grimace before he ripped a large strip from the bottom of his shirt and wrapped my wrist, applying very firm pressure the entire time. "Wufei, are you all right?" he asked.

"I'll live, Quatre...I'm just very tired, suddenly." Wufei shook his head. "I believe that I'm uninjured."

"What happened, man?" I asked again.

Wufei put his face in his hands. His fingers were clutching at stray wisps of hair. "I...don't remember." he ground out.

"What do you mean?" Heero asked. He knelt by Wufei, giving him the once-over injury check.

"I mean I don't remember!" Wufei's voice rose to a pained shout. "I remember being led around the corner, and I remember how LeRey began to smell like he was rotting...I even remember him burning me...but..." he shook his head, his shoulders beginning to shake, "I don't remember any more. I can't!"

Heero untucked his shirt and handed it to Wufei without a word. Wufei just stared at it for a moment, as if he couldn't quite recall what it was for.

"This is getting too fucked up." I said. Wufei let out a bitter laugh before I continued, "All I know is that we should get to the Oz base. We know who Treize wants now, so we can serve him up on a fucking silver platter, and that'll take care of half our problems, right?"

"I don't care where we go any longer, Duo," Wufei said, "as long as we leave here, now." We got Wufei on to his feet and trooped around the corner, since it was the only exit.

Right into a room of carnage.

I could ignore the iron maiden, the rack, the chains hanging from the ceiling, and even the fire with the irons still heating in it. I was expecting that. What I wasn't ready for was the fact that everything was covered with a fine red mist, turning the entire room a dark, dirty red. Someone had liquefied LeRoy and sprayed him across every available surface.

I felt breakfast, lunch, and dinner all high tailing it for the escape hatch, but managed to control myself. Quatre wasn't that lucky; he threw up in front of the fire.

Movement caught my eye, drawing me right toward Hikaru, who was curled up in a little ball in the corner. He was alive and no more hurt than he'd been the last time we'd seen him, but he was also covered with gore like everything else in the room. I knelt in front of him, trying to think of anything to say. I finally settled on "Yo."

He looked up at me, sudden intelligence flooding into his too-old eyes. "Is he gone?" he whispered.

It says a lot about how fucked up a kid's gotten when he doesn't even notice that there are little bits of someone's brain in his hair.

I nodded. "It's okay now." I said. "But we need to leave." Sudden terror flooded into his eyes, so I continued quickly. "There should be a police station somewhere nearby, right? The police will help get you back to your parents."

He calmed down with that. "Okay." he whispered.

I stood, getting ready to pick him up. Suddenly, his eyes widened as he looked behind me, and he let out a shriek of pure fear. I whipped around, only to come face to face, not to mention gun barrel to chest, with a very confused Wufei. By the time we got ourselves sorted out, Hikaru was gone, fled up a set of narrow stairs. He was nowhere in sight when we finally made it to street level. I could only hope that he'd gotten himself to safety.

I looked toward the east. There was an odd orange glow on the horizon. "Hey, what time is it?"

"About two fifteen." Trowa answered.

"Way too early for even false dawn." I had a bad feeling about this. "That's out by the Oz base, guys. I think they started their party without us."