Book Two: Vengeance, Chapter Eight-
Their entrance had not gone unnoticed by the guards. The sole entrance to the fort was heavily watched, and, before the Crobat even landed, seven spear heads were aimed at their landing point. Some had already begun turning away, however, once they recognized the mount and rider while others remained posed for action as precaution against their intuition, but most maintained a mock vigil upon seeing who their leader was with. The bat hovered over the ground, being unable to perch. After Shade's awkward aerial dismount, all attentive guards approached Rei to help her descended safely. Annoyed at his people's lack of concern for himself, he merely cleared his throat to send them scuttling off so that he might have the honors.
Rei glanced about puzzled as she took Shade's hand, asking, "Now where did they all go to?"
"They... had to... get back to their posts," he quickly thought up. "Security here must be kept at the highest. There was no need for them to stay around." Rei's stare went straight past him. "What?" Her head tilted as she gazed around his head. He followed her example and found a sole guard standing, more dazed than alert, loosely holding his weapon forward.
"Er, I was just making sure your guest didn't force you here is all," the soldier, withdrawing his lance to his side, immediately spat out under the pressure of Shade's leer. "Will the, erm, lady be needing any... special... accommodations?"
"Just fetch the warden," Shade ordered, sending the man off with a sinister eye, "and then return to your post." He groaned in despair. "Great, now we gotta go through him."
Rei, puzzled, inquired, "I thought he had to do what you said?"
"Heh, yeah, I wish," he mummered. "I mean, the guy is a real jerk," he quickly saved. "He's always looking to give people hard times, and he has it especially out for me ever since I, well, gave him this position. You'll get to see this prisoner, don't worry. It may just... take... a while," he trailed off, drifting upon the thought of the powerlessness of his lofty rank. "Finally," he spoke as the sound of shaking keys brought a frizzled man hobbling over to them. "It's good to see you, um... warden." The old kook shot an evil eye.
"You don't know my name," he simply put, "do you, Shade?"
"... no," he responded after much recollecting.
"It's just as well," the man grumbled himself. "And what exactly brings you here, milord?"
"A guest is requesting to speak with one of your prisoners," he stated, "and you should know that since you're the one that told her to get me in the first place."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," the warden sardonically put, "but, unlike you, I have a bloody job that takes all my time so I can't just snap my fingers to get things to make things happen just to impress some little dame!"
"Hey," Rei protested, "I'm standing right here!"
"My apology, madam," he insincerely offered, "I guess I didn't see you standin'..." His words froze as he laid his eyes upon her visage. His mouth hung open for small time before he restated, "I must have not seen you standin' there, which I do not see how that ever happened," this time, void of the cutting edge that was so common in his speech, "for, if I did, we would already be on our way. After you," he gestured with a wave of his hand. Rei procession was cut short, though, as Shade put his arm out, blocking her path.
"That's okay," he assured, his words kind but his demeanor irate. "We," stressing the word, "will follow you."
"Very well," the warden grunted after delivering a piercing gaze to Shade and some muttering. Sorting though his sets of keys, he lead the way. After he was far enough to not be able to listen to them speak, Rei spoke up.
"You know, the people in my hometown were always pretty cruel to me," she told Shade. "I just assumed everyone was like that, but, ignoring all the people that have tried to kill me, most everyone has been really nice to me, especially here. I wish they treated me like this everywhere I visited." He laughed.
"That's surprising," he smirked. "They don't?"
"You act like they should," responded Rei bewildered.
"Well, it's all the same reason," he explained. She was silent, awaiting an answer.
"What?" she prodded him. He only ran his eyes from her head to toe and back up. "No, really. What is that suppose to mean?"
"You know what it means."
"No," she contradicted, "I don't." He repeated the same motion, putting more enthuses to his actions. Rei meant to follow his gaze this time but halted as his implications struck her as soon as she cast her eyes downward. "You mean-"
"Yes," Shade interrupted. "Yes, I do."
"Yeah..." The three walked down the corridor a bit longer in dead silence.
"But that can't be true," she blurted out. "It doesn't explain why Serenity has always been so nice to ..." Her statement drifted as both of them stared blankly at each other, utterly expressionless. Then, Shade's eyebrow raised in a delighted curiosity. "... ew."
Rei had finally reached the block of holding cells that her desired prisoner was occupying. She had asked to interrogate him by herself, which no one objected to, and proceeded down the blockhouse, her coat tightly closed, ignoring all of the prisoner's catcalls and propositions. Upon reaching cell forty-two, she found the sole person not making a commotion over her arrival. This was the one she wanted.
"Hey, what's a looker like you doing in a place like this?" she asked, swallowing all of her pride. Her comment got nothing from the prisoner, who remained lying on a bench, feet on the wall, staring at the ceiling. Sinking lower, she leaned up against one of the bars. "I said, 'hey'." He immediately sat up, still not looking at her. "Good, I've got your attention. Now, listen," Rei spoke as her voice lowered to a whisper, "I'm looking to bust someone out of here, but I'm not sure if you're my man." The man still did not move. She then lied, "Rocket sent me. They need you back for the project." In flash, the man threw himself against the bar.
"How do you know about that?" he snarled, inches away from Rei's face. She smiled.
"Oh, so you can speak," she sneered. "I told you, I'm from Rocket, but I'm not so sure you are."
"What do you mean?" objected the prisoner. "Of course I am. I know about the plan!" His words echoed throughout the jail cells. Realizing his out of control voice, he lowered back to a whisper.
"And now, so does everybody else," she pointed out. "It seems to me that word can travel awfully fast through here. You're gonna have to come up with a lot fast to get me to reconsider."
"But I can prove it," the aged man insisted. "I can give you any details you want. Just get me out of here!"
"Oh, but that would be too easy," she teased. "You could simply guess and lie your way through that. I want you to tell me everything you know. If its not enough, I'm walking." The man swallowed hard. "Now, from the beginning, tell me." He took in a deep breathe to clear his mind. He did not want to miss a thing, and Rei did not want him to. This could be a very informative session.
"Ever since the start of Rocket, their goal has been one thing: to acquire the most powerful and destructive weapons of all. These were found in the monsters. While most of the faction was devoted to stealing these rare beings from other people to amass a huge army, I belonged to a division that sought things of even greater power than anyone had ever known. So powerful, in fact, that their very existence was questioned. The rest of Rocket thought we were a joke at first, scouring around for rumors and sightings of all kinds. They tagged us with a ridiculous nickname, thinking we were seeking what wasn't there, but that changed the day we brought in our first haul. We kept it just to rub it in their faces."
"And this division was called?" intervened Rei.
"Why, they called us the Legend Chasers," he explained. "Throwing a thunder god in someone's face is good way to get them to shut it, I'll tell you that."
"You caught a god?" she questioned with a mixed hint of disbelief and certainty. "And how did you ever pull off a stunt like that?"
"Rocket has had moles working in some of the highest levels of Silph Co.," he went on. "One of their longest running projects, thanks to us, is the perfect containment unit, a Master Ball. Every time they get so far on it, we have our people plant a decoy as the true prototype gets sent to us. Finally, we got our hands on one that worked to near perfection and went on a hunt. We didn't come back empty handed." Rei prodded him to continue. "About two years later, we finally got enough information on the location of the fire god and got that one as well. For the next five years, my department turned up nothing on the ice god. It was almost as if it had disappeared from the planet. At the end of that time, fortunately, our sources finally turned up a clue. Oddly enough, it came from this very city." She held in any surprise she was feeling as she listened to him. "They indicated that the citadel of this city's leader was frozen solid after his match with some mystery person. It took us another three years just to track the slippery fiend down, but when we finally finished the guy off, he had already transported it here. Two of us followed it here, but that justice freak busted me while my partner ran off. No one knows what ever came of it, and I've been here ever since." He sighed in relief. "There, is that enough? Get me out of here!"
"There is still one thing you haven't told me yet," Rei said somberly, turning away from the object of her hate. "What was Rocket planning to do once they acquired the three?"
"Oh, that," he laughed. "That really is the greatest part of the project, isn't it? Since they were so unruly and so few, we were going to splice all three of their genetic structures to construct one ultimate soldier that we could mass produce, thus obtaining an army of unstoppable warriors." Rei clenched the item in her hand hard, filled with hate.
"Then there is only one thing I have left to say to you," she told him coldly, tossing the object into his cell. "It's someone you haven't seen in a real long time, and he wants to say hello." He looked down to see a dented sphere on the floor broken in half.
"What are you talking about?" he asked puzzled. "This is empty." He spoke his words before the demonic eyes appeared before him...
The footsteps thundered down the hallway. Shade turned towards the sound, finding the warden in total panic.
"Is something wrong?" the grim hero hastily questioned.
"Is it? Do you know where that hot, litt- person you brought here is?" rebutted the jailer. Shade shook his head. "There's no time for this," he said, reversing his direction. "Just follow me." With a fleet foot, Shade bound after the madman into the cell blocks. Normally filled with vulgar clamor and shouts whenever authority entered the vicinity, the corridor was deathly quiet. He gazed into the individual cells to find the hardened criminals, murders and worse, in fear. In his speed, the warden had overshot his destination but came back in time to meet with Shade. Having already seen it once, the warder was not as horrified as the sovereign but nonetheless greatly disturbed. "What is it?" he aimlessly asked. "You don't think she did it... do you?"
"We can only pray not," Shade eventually responded once the gravity of the situation had allowed him. In the cell, perfectly still, knelt prisoner forty-two. His mouth hung open, and his eyes were rolled up into the back of his head. His tense, rigid muscles kept his face frozen in the precise moment of fear that was his last. "Is he..."
"No," the warden assured him, "but I'd bet that he wishes he were."