Tatter: Chapter 22

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Tyser Lanning observed the woman warily from the bare wall of his confinement. Her dark face contorted briefly; an expression of sorrow. Regret. And then was placid once more. She raised a bottle of water and shook it.

“Thought you might be thirsty.”

Lanning said nothing. His gaze hardening.

“I know you want to say something.”

“All of you are in over your heads.”

The woman moved before Lanning, knelt and handed him the water bottle.

“Not all of us. Just me. But I knew that going in. Stop acting tough. I know you’re thirsty.”

Reluctantly, he took the water bottle with a rattle of chains and sipped it slowly, forcing himself not to take large gulps.

“What did Vangr offer you?”

“He didn’t offer me anything.”

“Then why are you doing this?”

“The artificial lifeform Kryos produced – DSSB-0 – the one we took – was never asked what it wanted. I oversaw its development. Its a slave in all but name. Even if it was unaware of the fact. You wouldn’t understand. You weren’t there.”

“I’m not interested in your justification.”

“Kryos told her to cut herself. What kind of man would do something like that to another living thing? To a sentient being?”

“Why?”

“He wanted to test her pain tolerance; her tissue healing; most of all he wanted to know if she would obey.”

“Did she?”

“Without hesitation.”

Lanning furrowed his brows and worked his jaw back and forth. Lost to reverie.

“When I saw that, I knew what I had to do.”

“You fancy yourself an abolitionist.”

“Yes.” She replied resolutely.

“You going to move on to housepets next? Drive around Aecer ‘freeing’ them?”

“Its not the same and you know it.”

“You said the specimen was never asked what it wanted. Did you ever ask the specimen what it wanted?”

“It wouldn’t have left.”

“And you didn’t care.”

The woman rose, vexed, her lower lip trembling, and shook her head.

“I don’t know why I came in here…” She turned to leave, paused and looked over her shoulder at the prisoner.

“I know whats right.”

“Kidnapping? Partnering with amoral mercenaries?”

“Amoral mercenary? Isn’t that what you are? Or is it that you view yourself as a supremely moral one?”

Lanning took another sip of water and placed the bottle on the cold concrete floor. He could hear the chatter of Vangr’s men in the distance.

“Do you have children?”

Soriya was silent a long moment and then shook her mahogany head.

“No.”

He couldn’t hear the chatter of the men in the other room anymore.

“You hear that?”

“I don’t hear anything.” Soriya replied, perplexed.

“That’s what I mean-”

The man’s voice trailed off as the door burst open. Standing in the metal portal was a reconnaissance drone the size of a large mastiff, which moved on six insectal legs. Swiftly the machine surveyed the occupants with a sensor attached to a faintly glowing reticulated optical stalk.

“DO NOT MOVE.” The machine ordered, synthetic voice crackling from frame-embedded speakers.

Soriya whirled towards the drone, eyes wide with surprise. Then came the sound of a bolt being fired. Soriya slackened and fell to the floor. Motes of dust spinning up and showering her like sparks of gold. Her head lolled towards the prisoner, mouth agape. Eyes wide and unseeing. A small puncture wound visible in her neck, leaking a thin and sanguine stream as her body jerked uncontrollably and stilled.

Lanning mustered a mangled gasp, his heart thrumming like an overwrought engine.

Seconds later the sound of footsteps filled the hall. A man, garbed in flexile white body armor, bearing a full-helm, stepped into the room as several more drones filled the hall. He surveyed the unconscious woman and turned to the prisoner as the drone scurried into the chamber, his voice distorted by the casque.

“Tyser Lanning, I’m Corporal Raimer. Kryos SRU. Here for your evac.”

The robot clattered forth and severed the shackles.

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