“What do you think of creativity, Nathan?”
The man on the slab shook his head, blinking bleary eyes. There was a light above his left wrist that shone off the manacle and made his tanned skin glow. For being in a room that was cold enough to fog his breath, the naked giant began to sweat. His dark rider, Ali, was silent in his mind, not even a whisper.
“That’s a broad question, Baldur.” Another voice, another man, another set of manacles. There was someone else here. Praying to be overlooked, the titan turned his head.
There was another light a few feet away. It lit a section of wall and in that cone of light hung the other man. Bands of worn metal stretched across his torso, shoulders, wrists, thighs, ankles, all anchored to the solid rock. Captain…
“But you must have an opinion, at least,” insisted the first voice. A pale shadow of a woman, an angel, with wings of weightless tarnished steel. Her white blonde hair cropped short, body clad in drifting rags of grey.
Baldur. Simon Baldur? This was the General? But the General is a man…
There was a sigh, more an exhale than a sound. Captain Jacobs sagged in his bindings. It wasn’t until the angel turned to follow the man’s gaze that the titan realized he had been noticed. “He’s awake.”
Humming, the woman, angel—creature—drifted towards the prone man who began to shake. “Now it’s a question of lucidity,” she murmured, a distant smile skating across her blue lips. Her eyes were a luminescent green. “Hello.”
He cringed back from her hand as it touched his wrist, the bright light picking out the fine white scars that sectioned her skin into mathematically precise rectangles. “D-don’t… No!”
Hours of pain, of feeling bones twitch and scrape within his skin. Tendons and muscle being lifted and stretched, examined. Fiery pain that never dulled the nerves but allowed every new slice, every new stroke of metal, to be felt with agonizing clarity. The urgent chatter of Ali, his reaper; a constant demanding voice in his head, talking to keep him sane.
“’Don’t’ what?” she asked absently, her hand lifting away. “’No’ what?” Her eyebrows rose and he could see that she was missing the edge of an ear. A fine scar ran across her forehead in a diagonal slash, parting a section of short hair.
Rasping gasps shuddered through the small stone room. The titan swallowed and realized the heavy breathing was his. “Don’t touch me,” he hissed warily watching her fingers, her eyes.
There was another sigh from the man on the wall, but his focus was on the angel leaning towards him, her head canting to the side. “And why ‘no’?”
Was there anything more that she could do? The titan bit back the harsh sob behind his teeth. Plenty. Enough. But… “Fucking scientist!” To hell with it. He was half mad from pain anyway.
The corner of her lips tilted up as one pale brow arched. “He’s lucid.” With a whirl of tattered gauze, the angel turned and regarded the captain. “Stop following.” Her tone was amused, playful.
Jacobs lifted his head, shaking it. “No.” Despite being pegged to the wall, the captain didn’t back down, didn’t look away. Focused and tenacious, little wonder he was chosen to hunt Baldur.
That mockery of an angel took a step towards the wall and the titan growled. “Stay away from him!”
There was an unbelievable moment, when she stilled. Confusion swam through him when the tension in his superior ebbed away and Jacobs smiled at Baldur. It was a weary smile. A wry one.
Shoulders half hidden behind dirty metal wings lifted and dropped. Her pale head dipped slightly and the captain frowned before sighing and nodding back. Then the female was leaving; walking out of the room.
It was in the fluidity of her movements that the titan could see the General’s mannerisms: the power in her stride, the easy grace, the way she placed her palm on the door to shift it open. It was jarring. Disorienting.
And then she was gone.
Near frantic in his terror, he strained to see his arm. The light was still there, his skin was still there. As was his hand, his flesh, his bones. There were sutures puckering his scarred hide from his wrist to his shoulder, fine black stitches near perfect in their uniform spacing and length.
“Captain. Sir,” he breathed out. He had to know. “What did she do to me?”
That same sigh whispered across to him. The smaller man was shaking his head again, with that same tired smile. “Isn’t it obvious? She fixed you.”
“Fixed, sir?” But the pain…
Dull green eyes, those of his captain, studied him. “Do you remember anything?”
He remembered a fall. The sky a bright blue stretch of vibrant colour hemmed in by the black chill of the rocks. Jacobs had climbed down to him, shouting at him to stay awake. He had done nothing in return but stare back, the world humming and trembling on the edge of consciousness.
“It was seventy feet or so,” he replied. “I slipped.” It was stupid. Amateurish. Idiotic. He hadn’t anchored himself and when his footing gave way, he had cut the line ensuring his heavy bulk wouldn’t drag the team down with him.
Over on the wall, the captain huffed a dry chuckle. “Try a hundred and twenty-four.” The titan blinked. “Baldur measured,” Jacobs elaborated.
He frowned. “I’m alive.”
“Didn’t occur to any of us that you’d die, soldier,” Jacobs smiled. “Only only broken you’d be.”
“Oh.” Tentatively, the giant flexed and wriggled the fingers of his formerly broken arm. Then, “Sir, where’s the team?”
Letting out a grunt, Captain Jacobs shifted his shoulder and rotated his right arm as much as he could within the restraints. “Looking for us now, most likely.”
“You’re not… Sir, you’re not concerned.”
There was a long pause as the captain tried the other arm and winced. “This, unfortunately, happens,” the other man admitted slowly.
He lurched up, surprised at the words, then further confused when the band around his chest shrilled and tore from its anchors. “What?” The Titan turned to his superior. “Sir?”
Captain Jacobs only shrugged. “The sedatives have worn off. You can probably force your way out now.”
Further prompting was unnecessary. Long strips of metal were soon dropped to the rock floor as the giant freed himself. In mere minutes, the soldier was standing at the captain’s side, prying the anchors from the wall. “Is she coming back?”
“No.” Jacobs sounded so certain, the giant simply nodded and accepted the information. There was a pause as the first bolt came free. “Caedric, right?”
The titan turned his head, black eyes meeting green. “Yes, sir. Leonard Caedric.” Another tug and the bands over the captain’s right arm clanged to the floor. It was too quiet. “I can’t hear Alice,” he added in low tones. The silence in his head, after all the constant mental conversations, was troubling.
Dark brown eyebrows snapped down. “Caruthers? Your partner?” The man hissed as he brought his arms down and gingerly rolled his shoulders, muttering, “Motherfucker. She couldn’t just tie me to a chair could she?”
“Yes, sir. My partner.” He didn’t bother answering the last question. Frowning, Leo continued to wrench on the steel. He was more concerned with the absence of his reaper. Technically, if they lost contact for too long, Ali was obligated to shut him down remotely. titans didn’t get up from a shut down. Not without drastic immediate help. “How long have I been unconscious, sir?”
Blowing out air to create space for Leo’s fingers, the captain shook his head as the big man yanked the metal around his ribs free. Once he could breathe, Jacobs gave his answer: “Approximately, two hours. You’re worried about the loss of contact?”
Nodding, the titan began on the lower restraints.
“Baldur probably cut off your incoming signal and nothing else. It’s entirely possible Caruthers is currently screaming at you to hear her now.”
“If that’s the case,” another bolt popped free, “then Ali knows we’re alive.” There was an awkward moment when the smaller man had to brace himself against the giant. The restraints around his upper thighs were the last to go. The captain slipped free of the wall and only his grip on the titan prevented him from dropping to his knees.
“Fuck…” Jacobs ground out grimacing. It was a long minute before the man straightened up from his slouch against the wall with a groan. “Baldur left through the only door. May as well follow.”
Leo glanced around the room, searching for any kind of weapon. There weren’t any. Granted, he had his strength, but if it was him against the General… “Sir, what did you mean, ‘This happens’?”
Staggering along the wall, Jacobs was already halfway through the impromptu surgery ward before he stopped, turning to face the titan. “Baldur… She usually finds us, not the other way around. Sometimes, like today, she patches us up before leaving.” The captain waved a hand, the gesture encompassing the entire situation. “We keep trying to catch up with her and she keeps telling us to stop. It’s nearly routine by now.”
Author’s note: I missed my old crew. So I dropped by, discovered that Simon (apparently) had a sex change, and that Nathan had been saddled with fresh meat.
What have they been up to without me?
–Dedicated to Adam.