Curt watched as Stef crumpled into a heap – she wasn’t unconscious, as he’d hoped, but she was still out of the game, she wasn’t going to be escaping any time soon. She moaned, fingers tensing against the floor. He stared at the broken pieces of glass on the floor around her, the formaldehyde that had slicked her with its foul odor, and the pathetic corpse of the dead fairy on the ground beside her.
The fairy corpse could come in handy. Dead, the horny little bastard would probably be of more use than it had been alive.
Problem one, the girl: sorted. Problem two, Grigori, still unresolved – and a much larger problem in every way. However, he was distracted at the far end of the room, and hadn’t even made move toward them at the sound of breaking glass, nor offered a shout of concern. As the rhetoric said: the proxies only cared for themselves.
He scanned along the wall, looking for what he knew to be there – an alarm button – standard issue for every room of a Solstice facility, so that assistance could be rendered against the unnaturals at the push of a button.
There it was: red as a fire truck, and under only a flimsy plastic cover. He lifted the cover and rested two fingers on it, and without hesitation, pushed it down.
Distracted or not, this would make Grigori pay attention, so he looked at the cabinets and cupboards surrounding him. He didn’t know the facility, but it was Solstice, he knew that down to his bones. The cupboards were familiar, bulk and perfectly serviceable, the smell of dead fae was unmistakable, and very few other places on the Earth would keep a dead fairy in a bottle out in the open, not even labeled.
All of the cabinet drawer labels however, were in Russian, and he couldn’t read it. He opened a few of the closest drawers, ignoring scalpels and needles – both were good, but neither were what he was looking for: tranquilisers strong enough to put down an agent.
‘There’s no exit down this end,’ Grigori called, ‘you two, are you armed?’
He almost shot a sarcastic remark at the agent – for all their boasting about lightning reflexes, taking this long to check on the status of his team after an alarm started to sound was pathetic. And far too little far too late anyway – response time to an alarm was supposed to be a minute. Which meant-
The door burst in, and three automatic rifles were aimed at him – to which, he obediently raised his hands. He lowered one of his raised hands slightly and pointed to the other end of the room. ‘Agent down there!’ The guns were shoved at him again, so he shouted the order again, this time in Russian. Rusty as his language skills were, they listened, two of them moving through the maze of cabinets, one keeping a lock on him.
‘You. English. Who?’ the gunman asked in severely stilted English.
‘Curt O’Connor, sir,’ he said, ‘long-term deep-cover assignment to-’
There were three shots, then the sound of a man being thrown against the wall as the fight started.
He rolled his eyes, shrugged off his jacket and lifted his shirt.
The gunman nearly dropped his weapon as he stared at his torso, and the tattoo there.
‘Curt O’Connor,’ he repeated, dropping his shirt.
He hated that he’d let the mother-tongue of the Solstice get this rusty. Rusty language skills. Rusty Russian – now that sounded like a drink or a sex act. ‘Assignment,’ he said in Russian, ‘opportunity. Explain later. Help friends!’ he said with a point, as he heard Grigori shout in anger.
‘No. Cuffs,’ he said, spying a pair on the man’s bet.
The gunman gave him a suspicious look, in return, he simply smiled and kicked the girl at his foot. The cuffs were tossed to him, and the man ran off to back up his friends and capture…or kill, Grigori. He wasn’t sure he cared which.
He grabbed a towel from one of he benches, crouched and swept the broken glass from the ground before he knelt in front of Stef. She was still lying on the floor in a small pool of her own blood and glass from the bottle. He slapped her visible cheek, and she stirred a little – not enough to move, not even enough to insult him.
‘Hey, wakey wakey,’ he said, slapping her again, before grabbing her and pulling her into a seated position against the cupboard.
‘What…fuck…’ she said, her eyes fluttering. ‘Ryan?’
He slapped her again, a lot harder this time, and finally she opened her eyes. ‘No, not Ryan, you stupid little bitch.’ He dangled the cuffs in front of her, then snapped them around her wrists.
‘…Curt?’ her voice was shaky, tiny, timid – much like the rest of her. She swallowed, and blinked a few times, blood leaking from the corner of her mouth – the bottle had certainly done a good job, that, or she was just particularly fragile. He hoped for the latter, it would certainly make everything easier.
There was a shout of victory
‘Yeah,’ he said, grabbing a handful of her hair, ‘who’d you expect?’ Her head slumped in his hand, but he yanked her back up so that she was looking at him.
‘Solstice…’ she said slowly, the gears visibly spinning. ‘Tell me you’re joking,’ she said in a much quieter voice. ‘Please. That you’re-’
He slammed her head back against the cupboard, and she swooned.
‘I don’t like to lie, that’s your job.’
‘He said you’re Solstice,’ someone said behind him. ‘Identify.’
He slammed her head against the cabinet again, and she fell back to the ground as he let her go. He stood, brushed himself off, and saluted the central man – who looked worse for the wear from the fight, but not down for the count, as Grigori obviously was.
‘Curt O’Connor.’
‘Affiliation? Commander? Explanation as to how the hell you got here, and with two pieces of proxy trash?’
‘Adelaide cell. Jake Parcel the last time I had contact. They were experimenting with a new teleportation magic, and it landed us here.’
‘What were you doing with them in the first place?’
‘I’m sixteen months into a two-year deep cover assignment.’
‘And how do we know you aren’t with them?’
Again, he lifted his shirt. The man handed off his gun, then pushed him back into better light, taking in the glory of the tattoo that ran across the side of his stomach and halfway up his chest, naming his accomplishments, and the name – or identification – of every person he had successfully interrogated. The Solstice commander ran a hand across the tattoo, visibly impressed, but he knocked the hand away. ‘I don’t swing that way, buddy.’
‘I’m Captain Andrei Zheleznova, and I resent your implication that I am a homosexual.’
‘A poor joke, Captain,’ he said, ‘I apologise.’ He tapped his tattoo. ‘And with this record, how you could doubt my loyalty?’
‘You’ve broken protocol, we will have to debrief you. We will have to test you.’
‘I expect no less,’ he said. ‘Though, may as I be so forward as to suggest the test?’
‘We don’t have to follow your suggestions.’
‘I’m aware of that Captain, and feel free to dismiss it.’
‘May I have the pleasure of interrogating this one?’ he said, landing another solid kick onto Stef’s body.
‘I’m going to defenestrate your headless corpse, you Solstice piece of shit!’ she shouted, though barely raising her head from the floor.
The Solstice Captain moved forward, but he simply snatched the roll of duct tape from the man’s belt, and went to the floor in front of her again. He dragged her up again, and she spat blood onto his shirt. He slapped her again, smirking as he saw the impressions of his hand begin to rise as red welts.
‘You are so dead, you are-’
He pressed a thumb into her neck. ‘I’d prefer to wait till you’re strapped down, but I can cut your tongue out now if you like.’ She shrank back, as she surely as if he’d slapped her again. He tore a long length of tape from the roll, then tossed it back over his head to the Captain.
He grinned, and she pulled back further, trying to escape through the solid wood of the cabinet. He reached down, grabbed the fairy corpse and pushed it towards her face. She slammed her mouth shut, hatred burning in her eyes as she looked him.
He laid the tape across his knee, and pinched her nose closed. She had to open her mouth sooner or later – sooner if he had anything to say about it.
‘Open!’ he screamed in her face. He pulled back his free hand and punched her in the gut. Her lips opened for a second, but she bit them back down. ‘Open,’ he ordered again, ‘or I’ll make you swallow worse.’ She twisted her face, and, he was sure, tried to kill him with her mind.
‘You’re going to die here,’ he said, ‘no question about it, and you’re going to suffer. The thing is, afterwards, I’ll probably go right back to Brisbane, back to your Agency, and cry at your funeral with your proxy, but the thing is, Stef, think of what I’m going to do to Ryan once I finally get my hands on him.’
‘You fu-!’ she started to scream, and he shoved the dead fairy into her mouth as she opened her mouth to swear at him. Holding her small jaw shut on the corpse, he ran the duct tape around her head, sealing her mouth with half of a fairy corpse hanging out. At least she was done talking for a moment.
He stood, and watched as she hung her head and cried.
‘Yes,’ the Captain said, ‘I’d say watching you interrogate these two would be a good way to spend the afternoon.
‘Two?’ he echoed, ‘I thought you finished the big arsehole off.’
‘He’s bleeding, but still in fine enough condition to make a few morale videos.’
He smiled at this.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Stef move, and he spun around to look at her – she’d lifted her hands to grab at the tape. He hauled her to her feet, and bent his head to scream in her face.
‘Don’t touch that tape!’
She scratched it a little more, trying to peel it free. He smirked, grabbed her hand, and broke her pinky finger without blinking.
‘Got the fucking idea?!’
She shook, and went back to looking at the ground.
The Captain gave him a fatherly pat on the shoulder. ‘I might see if I can keep you here, I don’t have a class-one interrogator.’
‘There’ll have to be some perks,’ he said, spitting on Stef as she slowly sank to the ground again, trying to make herself as small as possible.
‘I am sure we can arrange whatever you desire.’
He looked down at himself. ‘What I desire is a change of clothes so I’m not wearing these proxy-conjured rags.’
‘Of course, a change, then you can get started. Which would you like to work on first?’
He looked to the end of the room, to where they had secured Grigori, then down to the girl at his feet. ‘I’ve only worked on a couple of agents,’ he said, ‘but I’m sure I could make it last for a few days, if you like that sort of thing, so I think I’ll do the recruit first.’