Stef fought the urge to run back into the infirmary – because trying to outrun a volcano was pointless after all.
‘Where is the other leech?’ she heard a girl ask.
She wasn’t going to run, but the fear stopped her from turning.
‘Where. Is. The. Other. Leech?’
Think, think, think! ‘Lich? Northrend, I believe.’
She was only a little surprised when her legs were kicked out from under her, and she landed heavily on the floor. A bloody girl wearing an outfit that belonged on the streets of Harajuku stamped a foot on her chest. ‘Don’t mess with me.’
It seemed too obvious to ask the angry Lolita why she was standing on her chest, so she waited for an answer – she could be patient, at least for another eighteen seconds before she started to claw at the shapely leg.
Somewhere behind the girl, the volcano rumbled. ‘Bring her,’ Taylor said. The angry Lolita crouched and pulled her to her feet.
What did I do this time? The question was jumping up and down on the tip of her tongue, wanting to escape, but the emergency brain-mouth filter had engaged, and for once, she was glad.
Just answer questions, and you should be safe. Answer, don’t ask.
Yeah, thanks, got that.
The world blurred and came back into focus as a small, dark room with a small table and a plastic chair. Clearly what he wanted wasn’t a cup of tea and a chat.
I’m just flip him the bird and demand my godsdamn phone call.
Do that, and you’ll lose that finger, and probably consciousness.
She twisted her head to look at him. Agent Taylor. The volcano. ‘What can I do for you sir?’ Ryan’s words about what he was capable of haunted her – people disobeyed the rules, so what if was going to-
‘You can tell us what you omitted from your initial statements, fill in any facts you may have left out.’ She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out – the filter was still engaged, and she hadn’t thought of a reasonable reply. He slammed his hands on the table. ‘Now!’ he demanded.
‘I didn’t leave anything out!’
‘We know you’re full of shit,’ the Lolita said. ‘If you want to live through the night, stop protecting the leeches.’
‘I’m not protecting Astrin, I know what’s got to happen to him. And…”leeches” – like more than one?’
Taylor hit the table again, and this time it bounced off the floor a little. She fought a nervous giggle – these people weren’t the type to appreciate a nervous giggle.
‘Again,’ he growled, ‘tell us what you know.’
The Lolita leaned against the table – seemingly oblivious to the fact that blood was running freely down her sleeves.
High pain tolerance, that’s-
Scary.
Yeah, that.
A possibility jumped to the forefront of her mind, despite the obvious fashion follies, the pain tolerance seemed to indicate- Getting off-topic here.
‘I don’t know anymore than I told Ryan.’
A stack of files appeared in his hands, he began to slap them onto the table one by one. ‘These are the Solstice that were executed at the address of your arrest.’ She stared at the files as they were slapped down – she recalled most of their names, not that they’d been very communicative. Still, they were all dead. All killed by- ‘All of these…criminals,’ Taylor continued, ‘were human. Name the other occupants of the address.’
Her own file – a mug shot clipped to the front was slapped down on the table. She nervously reached forward and pushed it to the side. ‘I wasn’t among the dead.’
‘You should have been,’ the Lolita said. ‘You were just another criminal.’
‘I wasn’t doing anything wrong.’
‘You were working with a leech!’ The girl brandished one of her bloody arms. ‘You’re to blame for this.’
‘Contain yourself, recruit, your injury is your own fault.’
‘Yes sir.’
Well, that answers one question at least.
‘Other occupants,’ he repeated.
‘There were other Solstice – David Kane was there, not that I knew who he was when I saw him.’
‘We already knew that.’
‘Astrin, obviously. I don’t recall seeing any other monsters, but we were kept off the third floor, presumably so that we didn’t see him, or them, or whatever.’
‘Who else?’
Got to give up Dorian, Spyder, don’t feel guilty. ‘Erm, Dorian Gray?’
‘A hacker alias, or the immortal?’
‘By what he was saying, I was presume the immortal.’
‘It was your duty to report that.’
‘I didn’t know that!’ And I’m pretty sure I mentioned him at least once… ‘So is that it, is he the other leech?’
The other recruit sneered at her. ‘Ignorance really is bliss, isn’t it? Fortitude’s souls are not leeches, they have an embargo, but their transgressions must still be noted.’
‘Who else?’ Taylor asked again.
‘Just the old guy who owned the house, I don’t know his real name though, I’m sure it’s on the rates bill.’
‘What do you know about him?’
‘He was an old guy. He smelt like an old guy. He wore old rich guy clothes. He thought I was a puppy. He was a professor of something, or that might just have been a nickname.’ And his wardrobes are useless and don’t lead to Narnia.
‘And that’s all?’
‘Yes.’
‘What was his interaction with the Solstice?’
She groaned. ‘I don’t know. It’s not like I wired up the whole house for sound and video so I could pretend to be omniscient and be able to give you all the answers.’ The slap across the face came as no surprise. She grimaced and stared at the other recruit, trying to hold back dominatrix jokes. ‘Can I go now?’
‘No,’ Taylor said. He stood back from the table and faded from view, along with his recruit.
She looked around the interrogation room and sighed. ‘Wonderful.’ She stood, grateful to not have to sit on the uncomfortable piece of molded plastic anymore. The walls were brick, painted the ugly green of a government building a few decades old. There was a door, but the window was frosted, so there wasn’t any hope of being seen from the outside. If there was anyone on the outside. It was possible the room was on one of those floors normal people couldn’t get to, or even tucked away in the corner of one of the garages.
One look at the door told her that trying to pull it off its hinges would have been a pointless, muscle-straining exercise. She knocked on the frosted window – the dull sound told her the glass was too thick to smash with anything in the room.
She pulled the chair away from the table and emptied all of her pockets onto the table. There wasn’t anything much of use – cookie crumbs, a USB drive, a bouncy ball, and a marble. She regretted not being one of those prepared people who kept sensible things in their pockets.
It didn’t matter anyway, it wasn’t like they could leave her in there forever.
Of course they can, you stupid bitch, that’s what people have been trying to tell you from the beginning. They’re the godsdamn MiB…well, MaWiBWaB, they can do whatever they want.
Oh, shut up.
Make me.
She scooped up the cookie crumbs and the bouncy ball and sat on the floor – the cold concrete was more comfortable than the hard plastic chair. She threw the bouncy ball against the far wall, and waited for it to roll back towards her – she’d never mastered the art of bouncing small plastic balls – it was one of those hidden arts.
She threw it again, and again. When she threw it for the fourth time, it bounced away from her and rolled into the other corner of the room. ‘Fine,’ she mumbled, ‘be that way.’