Artax ran the flat of his cold knife across the SIA agent’s areola, the stimuli hardening the prisoner’s nipple. “Any preference as to which one I take first, terran?”
“Thandrall bastard!” The agent spat and a bloody globule struck Artax’s left cheek just below his eye. “No wonder the Galactic Council ousted you fuckers from the Alliance!”
Artax smiled, his slithering tongue whipping as he licked the iron-tinged spit from his face with a delightful slurp. He reached out with his free hand and squeezed the terran’s chin, tutting. “Mika was it?” he said softly. “Mika…I’m afraid you’ve been reading the wrong history books. The Galactic Alliance didn’t cast us out because they hate us but because they fear us.” Artax enjoyed how his low voice echoed off the chamber walls, lending his words a touch more flavor: an extra layer of malice. However, Mika’s eyes shone with the same resolve he’d brought into the room. I’ll have those eyes twitching…begging for mercy soon enough. The mere thought got Artax’s blood rushing.
The terran agent muttered a weak curse. Slowly bleeding out did that to people: made them weak, lifeless, limp. Yet, Artex felt the agent deserved top marks for lasting so long.
“I have to admit that I admire your courage. But it’s only fair to inform you that it makes my job all the more…interesting.” Artax licked his pitted lips again, taking in the terran prisoner. His hands and feet had been locked inside fetters drawn by powerful magnets hidden inside the metal suspension ring, splaying him out like livestock drawn for quartering. Firm muscles rippled under the man’s tattered flesh. He sported a long mane of matted black hair and had an almost feminine face, by terran standards. All in all, Mika was strong…for a terran. As far as Artax was concerned, however, they were only just getting started. “Giving me what I want now will save you a world of pain and deny me a whole lot of pleasure.”
“Do as you please, scum. You’ll get nothing from me.”
“We’ll see about that.” Artax flicked his wrist, and the tip of his blade sliced partway through Mika’s left nipple, eliciting a delectable howl. A fresh line of blood squirted from the wound and ran down the terran’s pale, pink skin, the iron-rich tang in the air teasing Artax’s nostrils.
The agent whimpered as his nipple hung from his breast by a narrow strip of fat and skin, blood bubbling from the laceration.
Artax tapped his blade and leaned in close to the agent’s face. “We could still stitch you back up and have you on your way home in no time. All you have to do is give us the access codes. I mean, I have more effective ways of extracting information.” He waved at the implements resting on the table next to the suspension ring. “But I’d prefer to keep cutting for now.”
“Never…” Mika moaned through gritted teeth.
“Very well.” Artax pulled the hanging flesh and the nipple tore free, dragging a strip of skin with it.
Mika’s eyes watered and his mouth opened wide, but no sound came out.
“What?” Artax said, shrugging and waving the mangled piece of meat in front of the terran. “You told me to do as I please. If I’m not mistaken, you also suggested that I would get nothing from you. But I got this, didn’t I? That’s the thing about us thandrall,” Artax sighed. “We’re good at getting what we want.”
A scream tore from Mika’s throat.
Finally, Artax thought, his eyes all but rolling back in his sockets with euphoria.
He flung the soft meat into the air and caught it between is teeth, the sweet taste a tingling rapture on his tongue as he chewed. He pressed his finger into Mika’s open wound. A gurgling scream, a hundred-fold louder than the last, pierced the air as the agent thrashed in vain against his magnetic restraints. The sound bathed Artax like warm, soothing water as his digit wormed about the moist opening, the tip pushing into firm little beads: lymphatic nodes. Artax drew back and Mika’s scream slowly turned to a sob as he hung helplessly, panting. Artax took a moment to admire his work while deciding where to place the next stroke on his latest masterpiece. His eyes moved to his tools then back to the canvas. So many options.
The prisoner’s head hung as though lifeless, his chin resting against his heaving chest. Having decided on his next move, Artax stepped forward, pulled Mika’s head up by the hair, and pressed the point of his knife against the terran’s nasal septum. The door swished open behind them and Artax paused.
Without turning, he recognized the pattern of the Officer’s step. “Gorde, you know how I feel about having my work interrupted.”
“My apologies, Captain, but General Ovious has called on the quantum relay.”
Artax spun on his heel to face the squat rivarian. He wore a TEK that appeared much too big for his body, his head comically small in the suit. His bulbous, reptilian eyes flicked about the room nervously. “Tell the General I’ll call him back when I’m done,” Artax growled.
“Thing is, sir,” Gorde looked at the prisoner, then looked away quickly, wincing. “The General is already waiting on the line. He demands to speak with you at once. Says he has a message from the Primelord.”
Artax was sure not to let his surprise show. “Fine, I’ll finish up here at once. Tell the General I’m on my way. But don’t say anything about this. You know how…funny he can be about certain…arts.” He gestured to the prisoner.
“Of course, Captain.” Gorde nodded uncertainly before scuttling back through the swishing door.
The terran’s sobs grew louder and turned into a crazed laugh. “I’ll never give the codes up, no matter how much you cut from me.”
“I do like a good challenge,” Artax said, flashing the terran a smile. “But Gorde kind of killed the mood, so we may as well cut to the chase.”
Artax faced Mika and closed his eyes. A phantasmal outline of the room and its contents remained. The walls, the equipment, and the tools appeared as faint grey lines against deep black. Mika’s life-lines, however, glowed brightly—almost blinding by comparison—and flowed slowly within his frame. Inside the agent’s skull, his brain shone like a small sun, his life, and soul almost too much for Artax to bear. The stronger ones are always the most fun to break, he thought.
Artax projected his will into the burning star. He sensed great confusion, then fear, and not just any fear, but true fear. Mika’s essence shimmered in horror allowing Artax to punch through his spirit’s sheath with ease. Mika’s mind spread out before him like a sea of networked nodes that stretched as far as his astral eyes could see. Nodes clustered together under their own protective barriers. The more solid they appeared, the stronger their defenses. All Artax had to do was find the strongest, brightest shell. He flew over the dotted landscape until he found what he was looking for. It shone like a beacon, an impressive feat for a being not acquainted with the psionic ways.
Artax picked and prodded at the white dome. Mika’s mind responded with defensive shockwaves, but for all their brightness they were as a child’s strikes as he playfully wrestled with his father. Artax shaped his will into a an angle and drove into the defenses, shattering the white dome like glass. Motes of light sparkled as pieces of Mika’s fortitude scattered around his mind, revealing a pulsing white pearl—his closely guarded secrets—on a glowing dais. An echo of a scream rolled through the void, giving Artax the rush for which he lived.
Tingling with pleasure, he reached for the shining pearl and plucked it from its resting place. Warm, yet intelligible words whispered into his astral fingers as memories transferred into his own consciousness, creating a copy. Images flashed across his vision: a forbidden lover, the covering of a murder, access codes. If Artax’s projection could have drooled, it would have. The transfer completed, Artax forced some of his own essence into the orb and it turned a deep purple. He returned it to the dais, and shadowy tendrils spread down the column and along the nearest connections, infecting the vast web of nodes cluster by cluster. The nightmare spread through the prisoner’s mind like a disease. Pleased with his work, Atax returned to his body, his consciousness snapping back into place like a whip.
He looked into Mika’s face as it twisted with pain as horrors, the likes of which no sane being could imagine, tore at the very fabric of his being. Artax was annoyed to find that the light in the terran’s eyes had already faded. Watching a prisoner’s life go out was the best part, like the seasoning in a meal.
“What have you…” the agent croaked.
Artax reached out and embraced the terran, feeling what little heat remained seep from his body. “The end comes to us all eventually,” he whispered into his ear. “Don’t be afraid of the dark.”
The agent’s body convulsed and Artax held him tightly, his eyes rolling in his sockets with ecstasy. Finally, the terran’s body fell limp and the gratification evaporated.
The door swished open again and Artax turned ready to chew Gorde a new one, only to find Commander Trill’s form framed by the light outside.
“Was that really necessary?” The shanti said with disgust, eyeing the dead terran’s wounds.
Artax wouldn’t have suffered such insubordination if the Commander wasn’t the General’s own daughter. “Perhaps not, Commander, but we got what we needed,” he said, tapping the side of his head. “Few can stand their bodies being broken like this one did. But everyone succumbs once you crush their minds.”
Commander Trill cocked her bushy eyebrows. “Everyone?”
“Everyone’s mind can be crushed. I’ve only ever sensed one who might stand against me.”
“You speak of the Primelord?”
Artax had given the question quite some thought, but he decided it best not to reveal as much to the Commander. The woman had been assigned to her position to keep an eye on him, after all. “The Primelord is an exception. I sensed someone else, not so long ago. Meeting him would be an…interesting experience no doubt.”
“It seems you’ve had your fill of interesting experiences for one day.” She eyed the hanging terran once more. “The General is waiting for you in the QR.”
“Gorde has already informed me, I was wrapping things up here. I didn’t want to turn up…empty handed.”
“Give the old man my regards.”
Commander Trill turned her back before Artax could react, her tail swinging from side to side as she walked through the door. Artax watched how her body swayed. Shanti grace was something he could appreciate. The door hissed shut and Artax rubbed his neck, wondering why the damn woman couldn’t speak with her father herself.