Tyser Lanning woke with a start and spat blood. Pain pulsated irregularly throughout his body. His face, swelling and slick with red. Hands, bound with synthetic ties. A man leaned back on a chair, feet up on a wide wooden table set before the prisoner, carving a pomegranate with a glistening combat knife.
“Well, my sucker punchin’ Tangerine’s finally awake. Have a nice nap?”
The speaker leaned forward into the light splayed across the center of the table from a portable lamp hung from the ceiling. The face, heavily scarred; half his teeth, metal. Hair cropped. Eyes the color of rusted blood.
“You’re Farlige Vangr.”
“Well, how bout that. My reputation proceeds me.”
“The reputation of a traitor.”
“Don’t get too sanctimonious. Heard yours ain’t all that lustrous either.”
“Why am I still alive?”
“Dead men make poor leverage.”
“So I’m to be bait?”
“Better to be a worm than fodder for ‘um.”
Lanning cast the net of his gaze left, then right; the room was completely barren. The only entry and exit point, a locked metal door. A loud whirring and faint male voices emanated from near distance.
“Wasting your time looking for an exit. You’re not going anywhere. Presently, neither am I, thanks in no small part to those company friends of yours, who’re almost certainly relaying word of your failure and disappearance to Straker as we speak. If I hadn’t known bout them – hell, things really coulda went sideways. Thirty men? Overkill, don’t ya think? Straker was always thorough. Never one to take extraneous chances. She’d probably have deployed more if they could be spared. Thing I wanna know is, why you went in to retrieve the specimen alone? Why not wait for backup. You knew it was comin’. Looking to earn something? Glory?”
“Wreckage from the grid attack blocked the fastest CAV-lane. Had to loop around. Didn’t know how long the courier was gonna be there. Had to make a move. What’s it matter now?”
A scream erupted. Male, high and sustained. Then silence. Vangr licked the pomegranate juice off his blade and gestured to the door with the slick, sanguine utensil.
“That medical operator messed up one of my men. Jones. Told um to reset his bones. Make sure they heal properly so he can take off that courier’s head next time they meet.”
“He’s a nobody.”
“Then he won’t be missed.”