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  #1  
Old 11-05-2001, 02:21 PM
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Default "Fools' Errands"

Ah, what the hey, I may as well post this, as I’ve got it. So what if no-one reads it, at least they’ll have the chance, as it’s here. ’Sides, those RPG-ers may be vaguely interested in Aura’s back-story… *shrugs*
Feel free to nitpixel. I know it’s kind of rushed, but my creative mind wasn’t entirely in gear last night… oh well.

----

One

Aurora sighed. She lay on an old dead branch outside one of the windows of her home, trying to let the burning sun scald all the dismal thoughts out of her mind, but it wasn’t working, and now she just had a headache.
Everything had changed; everything. No-one in town was the same any more, not after… that happened… It wasn’t fair. All her friends, her family… she wanted to be able to get on with life again, but it simply wasn’t happening. Uncle Xar was still “asleep” – didn’t matter what the medical teams tried, he was still as deep in that coma as he had been since they found him like it. And Hak was still mute, his bad arm still paralysed, bandaged across his heavy chest… Not even magic had helped – Auntie Ish had tried everything she knew, and nothing had helped. Everyone that dark presence had hurt had stayed that way.
Of all the people that were gone, though, she missed Dren most; her little brother, with whom she used to fight like there was no tomorrow… Poor little Dren. He’d taken his own life at the end…
“Aurora… You should come in, you’ll get burnt.” A gentle voice intruded on her thoughts.
Aurora glanced up – it was her mother, Aalu. “I don’t care,” she said, softly, staring back out over the low roofs below.
“Now now,” Aalu chided. “Less of the silly talk. I need you to run an errand for me, anyway.”
Aurora pushed herself upright and sighed. “An errand?” she asked, uninterestedly, clambering in through the window and padding over.
“Yes – I just need you to go and get a few things for me…” her mother was jotting down what she needed on a scrap of paper, a stick of charcoal held lightly in her long pale hand.
Aurora leaned her chin on the low table while she waited. “It’s not fair.”
“What isn’t, Aura…?
“Oh, everything…” Aura sniffed. “When’s everyone going to get better?”
Aalu sighed and put the charcoal down, sadly. “I don’t know, Aura… Not until someone goes to get the Healing, that’s for sure…”
“What’s that?”
Aalu shook her head. “Just something Bea mentioned, before she died. The key to reversing the damage that creature did,” she tapped the paper, folded it neatly in two and handed it to Aura. “No-one seems to want to go and learn it, that’s the problem…” She sighed. “I don’t know, I suppose I’d go, but I’m needed here…”
“I’ll go.”
Aalu gave her a look. “You?”
“What’s wrong with that?”
Aalu laughed, sadly. “Oh, Aura… you’re not even an adult, yet…”
“What does that matter? I want to go.”
“Please… if I lost you, Aura…” Aalu sat down next to her. “It was hard enough to lose your brother… You’d only go and get yourself killed, going off on your own like that to Odd only knows where…”
Aura sighed. “I guess…”

“You look fed up today, little miss.”
Aura glanced up at the speaker – Ray, a stocky, getting-on-a-bit mudokon – and just merited the comment with a sigh, at first, before remembering her manners. “It’s not fair, Ray,” she said, softly, chin on his counter, watching him find and collect together what Aalu had written down.
“What isn’t?” Ray scrutinised the paper and picked up a bag of something white and powdery.
“Oh, nothing,” Aura shook her head, managed an awkward shrug against the counter. “I just… nothing.”
“Sounds like an important nothing.”
Aura helped herself to one of the vine fruit on the counter and slithered to the floor with it. “I was going to go try get help, so we can get the sleepers to wake up.”
“And Mum won’t let you?”
“She’s scared about me going off on my own,” Aura sulkily rolled the egg-shaped purple fruit from hand to hand across the floor.
“Well… how about if you went with someone?”
Aura frowned, boosted herself back up to counter level. “What you mean?”
“Well, if she’s scared about you getting hurt… Just find someone to travel with,” Ray spread his hands. “While I think about it, Jan’s getting lazy, could do with getting out a bit more; maybe he’ll be willing to go with you…”
Jan, however, didn’t like his foster-father’s suggestion; he folded his arms and pouted. “I don’t see why I should go on some stupid fool’s errand with some stupid… slig,” he spat the last word as though it was poisonous.
Aura sighed and slumped back to the floor. “That’s my problem…” she said, sadly, turned to the door. “I’m the wrong species. Thanks anyway,” and trailed out.
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"Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty to give man to relieve his suffering, none is so universal and so efficaceous as opium" ~ Sydenham, (circa 1680)
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Old 11-05-2001, 05:50 PM
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Hey its good!!! carry on!!!
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Old 11-06-2001, 07:31 PM
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it's well-written although, being a sequel, it's a little hard to understand without reading the others... could you [re]post the order of your fics for the benefit of dozy people like me who never seem to have got around to reading them...?
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Old 11-07-2001, 11:31 AM
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Hm... Only really ties in with "Dark", the rest of them don't bear a huge lot of relevence to this one. I tried to get them to stand alone, for that reason (i.e. I'm having trouble finishing some of the pre-Dark ones...)

Dark

(The others, mostly unfinished...)

*goes to write more*
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Old 11-09-2001, 05:57 AM
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Lala... more. Hm, still not too pleased with this... Oh well. With luck, when I get back into the swing of writing fic and not essay/practical reports it should get better...

*****

Aura grunted and struggled with the pack – it was big, an adult would have been able to handle it no problem, but she was still young, and something of a runt anyway… After a second or two of swearing under her breath she manhandled it onto her shoulders, and winced as something hard inside dug into her shoulderblade.
Maybe she’d be able to find help elsewhere, she mused, heading off toward home… After all, there were enough people around town she could ask… There was a hoot of laughter and a veritable flood of youngsters rushed ut of one of the low buildings to one side – half a dozen mud children carrying the smallest slig children, the rest managing a laughing shuffling run round their ankles and nearly tripping them. A harried-looking pair of adult muds followed them out, looking run off their feet. She managed a wan smile – at least some people were learning to enjoy life again…
“Hey… hey, slig…! Wait up…” there was a voice, calling.
No-one for little old me, she thought, dismally, plodding onward.
“Well fine!” the voice said, hotly. “If you don’t want help any more, you might at least tell me, not ignore me…!”
Aura paused, one hand raised – hang on a minute, that voice… She turned her head; yes, it was that young mud from the shop – Jan, she remembered, that was his name… “What?” she asked, as he traipsed up, looking somewhat fed-up, and only just disguising his obvious annoyance.
“I… spoke with Dad,” he said, scratching the back of his head and fiddling with his feathers. “He said it’d be good if I was to go with you. So, here I am. If you’re still going, of course.”
She scrutinised his face for a second or two – he was wearing the exact same expression she herself often wore after arguing with her parents about something. “It’s okay,” she said, tiredly, turning back to the path and heading onward. “I want to travel wi’ someone who ain’t doing it under sufferance. You’re going t’make my life merry hell, always acting as though it’s some huge favour an’ there’s important stuff goin’ un-done because of it.”
“Hey!” he pouted, “That ain’t fair…”
“No-one ever said life were going to be fair,” she said, managed a shrug, realising in some subconscious place that she was echoing the words of one of her father’s late friends. “But y’can see what I’m getting’ at. I’d rather travel wi’ someone who’s doin’ it out of a genuine desire t’help, not someone who’s acting as though it’s all some huge chore… Maybe…” a sigh. “Maybe I best go alone…” her voice descended into mumbled musings. “Wouldn’ get more’n three steps into Scrabania before something ate me, but hey… least I tried…”
Jan scuffed his feet on the dusty path. “Listen…” he said, vainly. “I… suppose I was a bit unfair, earlier… You going out on this… well, it is a bit stupid, as the old guy’s likely dead by now, but… it’s, well… I don’t know. Not very slig-like.”
She glanced up at him, and laughed, scornfully. “You mean this should be a mud’s job, that it?”
“No! No, I…” he waved his paws a bit. “Oh, I don’t know. Besides… I want to help.”
“You mean your Dad’ll give you an earful if you go back without a positive answer.”
“That too.” He shrugged. “If you don’t want me along, I… well…” he shrugged again, mumbled inadequately. “I don’t know, I suppose it’s because I don’t know you… don’t even know your name… Maybe we’d get along better later, when we know each other better…”
“I suppose…” She paused midstep, twitched her tailtip. “I don’t… I’m not sure if…” She glanced back up at him; he was watching her with a very studied expression on his face, trying hard not to betray a scrap of emotion. “Maybe you’re right… I could do with a hand.” She offered up a wan smile. “Oh, and it’s Aurora, by the way… most people just call me Aura, though…”
He smiled back, halfheartedly.
“Well, we better start to arrange things…” She turned and plodded on again. “Don’t want to go and do things wrong before we even set out…”
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Now also known as "Keaalu".
"Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty to give man to relieve his suffering, none is so universal and so efficaceous as opium" ~ Sydenham, (circa 1680)
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Old 11-27-2001, 08:14 AM
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Wow! *stunnedandamazed* Yes, I actually got some done... *still holds out a little hope of getting it finished this century*

Oh well...

-----

*****It was evening - Aura had left all the goods her mother had sent her out for on the table in the main room back at home, and now sat at the base of her parent's tree, tailtip twitching in agitation. She'd agreed to meet Jan here at sundown - there was a thin rind of sun showing on the treeline, and that'd be gone soon...
*****"Aurora...?" a voice intruded on her thoughts.
*****She turned her head - there he was, right on time. "I was getting worried."
*****"What, that I wasn't going to turn up? It's only just sundown."
*****"I know, I... jus' worried, that's all. Guess I picked it up from mum..." she sighed, pushed herself upright.
*****"You ready to go?"
*****"Soon... I jus'... want to do something before we go..."

*****Medcentre was quiet. Night-shift had taken over from the day staff; the guards on duty had recognised the diminutive sligette and let her and Jan in without a fuss. They were used to her visits, after all - she often came down to visit the medical staff, as she seemed to have inherited her father's genetically enhanced intellect, and hungered for knowledge... Tonight was different, although the staff didn't know it. Tonight she wanted to say goodbye.
*****Aura had headed straight for the quiet ward where "the sleepers" were being cared for. It was some weeks since the mad spirit had been vanquished, but none of his victims - those that had survived - were showing any signs of waking up. While Jan stood in the doorway, uncomfortably, holding her little pack in one hand, his own bag slung across his shoulders, she went over to where Xar lay, apparently sleeping peacefully.
*****Aura boosted herself onto the low stool beside the bed, and gently touched noses with him. "Hey uncle," she said, softly, as though afraid to wake him. "Just thought I'd come see you one last time, before I go off, try save the world and all that jazz..." she joked, and laughed, tiredly, hunched her shoulders. "Wish you could hear me... maybe yer'd be able to say sorry to mum for me... sorry for goin' off like this... Feelin' guilty as hell, y'know... but then..." she stared down at her fingernails. "I can't leave ev'ryone like this, no chance of wakin' up, no chance of livin' properly... I got to go find help, as its pretty Odd-damned certain no-one else will..."
*****She sighed, falteringly. "Miss you, uncle Foggy..." she said, softly. "Place is awful quiet wi'out you..."
*****At the door, Jan cleared his throat, softly. "Uhm, Aurora...?"
*****She looked up.
*****"The longer we stay here the longer we risk them guessing something's up."
*****He had a point, of course... She sighed, and dropped back to the floor. "Guess yer right..." she agreed, reluctantly, as he helped her arrange the little pack across her shoulders. She paused in the doorway, looking back past him to the banks of instruments quietly chirping in the background, but nodded, as though to settle the doubts in her mind. "Let's go, then..."
*****He followed her out, and they set off into the night.

*****Aalu was up first, as always - Rek usually had difficulty sleeping, maybe something to do with those months in solitary confinement he'd suffered a few years ago, would sometimes lay awake listening to her breathing for an hour or two...
*****She padded through into the living area, and paused just inside the doorway. Strange - there was no new scent there, only hers and Rek's from the night before, and Aura's from the previous morning... "Aurora...?" she called, gently.
*****Then she noticed the little scrap of yellowed paper, tucked under a stone just inside the doorway...

*****Rek woke to a vigorous shaking. "What, what...?" he asked. "Not time to get up yet, surely...?" He rubbed his eyes, blinked blearily up at Aalu.
*****She gave a sob. "Rek, she's gone...!"
*****He was wide awake in microseconds. "Who's gone?" he demanded, fearing the worst.
*****Aalu shook her head, hopelessly, and mutely handed over the little note, written on the back of the list she herself had written only the day before.
*****It was very obviously from Aura - not many of the locals could write at all, but that wasn't the telling part - Rek had taught her to write when she was little, and she'd echoed the crisp, precise lines of his handwriting in a lazy, fluid style.
*****I've gone to get help, it said, simply. Gone to learn the Healing, whatever that is. I may not be back for a while, but I've got company. Try not to worry, I'll be back, I promise.
*****'Aura.


-----

With luck *fingers crossed* Something vaguely more exciting should happen next chapter...
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Now also known as "Keaalu".
"Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty to give man to relieve his suffering, none is so universal and so efficaceous as opium" ~ Sydenham, (circa 1680)
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Last edited by Teal; 04-22-2002 at 03:51 AM..
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Old 12-03-2001, 07:16 AM
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*taps screen* No, didn't think anyone was out there...

-----



*****Two

*****Although their journey had started off well enough, relations between the young pair had predictably soured. It had rained during the night, obscuring the sent trail, and Aura didn’t see why they couldn’t rest for an hour or two; Jan, however, was determined that they should keep going until nightfall, just in case anyone should be following.
*****As a result, they weren’t speaking, at the moment, and Aura was travelling high in the branches above him, fuming silently to herself about how unfair he was being… He was thinking much the same thing as he traipsed along below, pushing annoyedly through the tangled vegetation that kept catching round his ankles.
*****Gradually their paths began to drift apart; by the time Aura realised they’d strayed so far apart, they’d lost each other. She sighed, annoyed and a little concerned at the prospect of being alone again, and backtracked until she found Jan’s trail – a narrow line of broken vegetation winding through the base of the trees. She set off along it until she lost it, then dropped to the ground and followed him by scent, even though the ground wasn’t her favourite place to be – too dangerous down here when you couldn’t run.
*****Funny… she mused, scenting around. There’s been soldiers this way… the scent had the odd chemical tang she recognised from the Industrials – it was like when the various Raider packs got back, they usually reeked of oil and pollution… it was the same scent, although stronger… Wonder why they’re here? She knew there used to have been a lot of Industrial teams out here, during the height of the Uprising, and yet… she’d overheard her father and one of the councillors discussing how quiet they’d been of late…
*****She lifted her head to call out to Jan, but then thought against it – if she started yelling, it’d be like an audible beacon to whoever it was that was out here… she sighed, tautly, annoyed at her lack of speed, but carried doggedly on after him.
*****As the scent trail got stronger – she must be getting closer – she found she could hear voices in the distance. One was obviously Jan’s voice, the others were thinner, sharper – slig voices, and the rather more nasal quality than usual meant they were likely wearing masks, which meant they were the Industrials she’d scented earlier. Her first thought was damn, stupid mud, why couldn’t you have hidden?
*****Her second thought was damn, he’s got all our provisions, too…! With a silent curse at him, she scrambled up into the nearest tree and homed in on the sounds.

*****The sounds led her to a broad clearing a little further ahead; a Prowler tank sat with its engine idling at the centre, a low scar of mud showing where it had ground up out of the stream-bed to one side. Jan was trying to be belligerent and unafraid, arms folded, but the squad of Industrials all looked combat-hardened and tough. Four of them had him encircled at one side of the clearing; the last one – likely the Alpha, judging by the dark-metal shoulder-guards and chest-plate he wore – stood by the Prowler, smoking.
*****Aura wrinkled her nose, angrily. She might not get on very well with Jan, but she’d been brought up the so-called native way, and there’d been a fierce loyalty instilled in her heart. She could just have gone on ahead and left him to the less-than tender mercies of this squad, but… no, she wasn’t going to do that… although she didn’t know what she was going to do; not yet, anyway…
*****Two of the males – the burly, muscular one, not quite a big brother but not much different, and the thin, nervous-looking one – were arguing. Jan’s mask had slipped and got lost in the grass at his feet – he looked openly scared, now. Aura sat on her branch above and debated – if she could perhaps make a distraction of some kind…
*****When they turned the argument on Jan, though, she found her judgement clouded by anger – it was this sort of unreasonable unpleasantness that brought the species into disrepute in the first place…! Not caring that she was likely going to merely add to that unwanted reputation, she dropped off her branch, landed squarely on the nearest one’s back and, before he had the chance to react, bit him in the shoulder.
*****He gave a howl and twisted suddenly, dropping his shoulder. Used to merely squabbling with her younger cousins back home, she’d not had the foresight to lock her jaw, and when he threw her forward she lost her grip. She fell heavily, knocking the air out of her lungs, leaving a trail of brilliant grooves in his shoulder.
*****“Well well, what have we here…” the heavyset one said, striding predatorily closer.
*****She groaned and rolled herself upright. I think I just landed us right in it…
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Now also known as "Keaalu".
"Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty to give man to relieve his suffering, none is so universal and so efficaceous as opium" ~ Sydenham, (circa 1680)
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Old 12-05-2001, 01:30 AM
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some great work there. grat work!

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Old 12-05-2001, 02:08 AM
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I like reading this stuff . I would write something up, but I don't really know that much about Oddworld as a whole.

Maybe when I gain more knowledge (and have a writing class under my belt, lol).
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Old 12-06-2001, 06:13 PM
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I can't really add anything that hasn't already been said, but I thought I'd let you know that I'm reading this and I'm enjoying it. Keep it up, as per usual.
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Old 12-06-2001, 06:21 PM
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Keep writing this teal! I like it. Very good writing indeed!!!
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Old 01-25-2002, 08:58 AM
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Nerf... don't much like this bit, but it was late when I worte it, and I can't be arsed to change it, so... *shrugs* Maybe get better soon...

-----


*****“Ooh, look… pretty lady…” a bony little one poked her with his gun. “Reckon the Boss’ll let us have this one…?”
*****“Doubt it,” the taller, bony one replied, dourly. “Ain’t many ladies about back home, they’ll likely want her fer experiments an’ suchlike…”
*****“Or, uh… other entertainment, if y’know what I mean…” The big one – ugly, too, Aura added, mentally – gave a hoot of laughter. “We could have some fun wi’ her on the way home, though, hey lads?” he gave her a sharp prod with the barrel of his gun. She snarled at him, a deep grating sound at the back of her throat, so he gave her a smart clout over the head and she went sprawling.
*****“Leave her alone…!” Jan stepped forwards, only to get the butt of another guard’s rifle in his stomach, doubling him up on the grass.
*****“Aw, c’mon lads, leave ‘em alone,” the Alpha said, tiredly, stubbing his cigarette out on the tank. “Orders was t’jus’ catch ‘em, not bash ‘em silly.”
*****“Yer a damn killjoy, Lar,” one snorted, but they all left them pretty much alone after that; they assembled by the Alpha – Lar, apparently – and argued.
*****“Aura…?” Jan shuffled closer to her on his knees. “What do you think’s going to happen…?”
*****“We’re going to be made into slaves, that’s what,” she replied, dismally. “Don’ know where, don’ know how long for, but that’s pretty much the extent of it, I guess…” she sighed and flopped onto her chin. “Less we can get out of this mess wi’ our skins intact before then. Which I doubt.”
*****“Doomsaying must be an art I have yet to master,” he replied, dryly. “It’ll be okay, they’ll realise they’ve got the wrong people for whatever it is they want them, and let us go, and it’ll be fine.”
*****“You ain’t got a clue, have yer, Jan?” she lifted her gaze to watch him, but not moving otherwise. “One slave’s as good as the next, far as they’re concerned…”
*****The guards had finished their heated discussion by now – the Alpha retreated off to the cab, and the other four went back to their prisoners.
*****“You, mud…” the biggest one said, pointed with his gun at the tank’s rear doors, which stood open. “In.”
*****“Uh, are you sure this is really necessary…?” he asked, standing up nevertheless. “I mean, I’m sure there’s someone else you’re after; we’re no-one, really…”
*****The slig laughed. “Well, if yer no-one, so much the better. No-one will miss yer when yer gone.”
*****“Smart move, fish-head,” came a thin comment from behind, but Jan ignored her. With a sigh, he clambered up the ladder and into the tank, warily. It was gloomy inside, but once his eyes had got used to the light – or lack thereof – he could see it was a pretty sparse place, but no hidden dangers to leap out and eat them… Then a rifle jabbed him in the spine and coaxed him off to the far end of the compartment. There was a low snik! and he looked down to find one of the guards had locked a cuff around his ankle. He tugged at it, experimentally, but in spite of its fragile appearance it was tough – likely some kind of alloy, he guessed, the sligs working in salvage and biomechanics back home had been discussing it…
*****There was a sudden ruction at the door – he lifted his gaze – naturally, Aura was causing problems. One had picked her up, to lift her inside, and she was busy trying to bite the one that he was trying to pass her to. A sharp clout to the back of her head stunned her just long enough to get a temporary muzzle round her jaws, and then she was in, snarling inarticulate fury behind her gag. One quickly secured a slim cuff on her wrist, and jerked the muzzle off her in the same movement – she lunged and managed to graze his hand with her teeth, but he was already too far away to damage any further. The chain brought her up short; the guard pulled a face and hopped down off the tailgate, then slammed the door in her face.

*****Lar sighed and watched the landscape roll past the window, and gave his neck an annoyed scratch. He’d had one of those accursed Enn-Esses there a while ago, thanks to his participation in the Uprising, and it hadn’t been put in very well; although the implant itself was gone, the nerve damage was still there, and it itched like mad some days. He wished he’d never got involved in the first place, but then it was a tempting prospect – being your own boss, not getting shot at every short while, no risk of severe retribution if you fouled up at work… No wonder employees still deserted their posts. They still left in a regular trickle, but nowadays they tended to go in harder-to-trace twos and threes – not entire barracks at a time. He wondered, absently, if he’d ever manage to get out, now he was Alpha…
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Now also known as "Keaalu".
"Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty to give man to relieve his suffering, none is so universal and so efficaceous as opium" ~ Sydenham, (circa 1680)
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Old 01-26-2002, 11:02 AM
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Oh, look at me, I'm replying. Great story, Teal. But, please, show some mercy and spare us from another chapter... Just kiddinng....

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Old 01-28-2002, 09:32 AM
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Narf!

-----


*****“How’s your head…?” Jan asked, softly.
*****Aura opened one eye and gave him a look, then winced and shut it again. One of the guards had gone through to the back of the tank to check on the two prisoners, and had been getting rather too friendly for Aura’s liking, so she bit him on the wrist, hard enough to draw blood. He’d given a yell of annoyance and smacked her sharply over the head with his rifle. “Hurts,” she managed, thickly.
*****“Here…” he held out the sparse blanket he’d been given; they’d both been given one, as it was night outside, and getting chilly inside, but his was marginally better quality, as he’d been more co-operative with their captors.
*****She managed a wan smile. “Thanks for the offer, but you better keep it. Don’ want you freezin’ to near-death, as you’ll never let me forget it… ‘Sides, it won’ do much for this little lump; I’ll need ice if I want to take the pain down… Which I doubt I’ll get, an’ I better shut up before I make the headache worse,” she winced and curled up by the wall, pressing as much of her wounded skull against the cool metal as she could.
*****By the time their captors brought some food through, someone had thoughtfully put the heating on, as the steel walls of the tank were warm – only they were only lukewarm, but it was better than the icy coolness they had been. Aura had finally managed to get to sleep, as well; there was an ugly bruise flowering on her skin, but she was breathing regularly, so Jan guessed she wasn’t concussed or anything…
*****He leaned back against the wall and watched, warily, blanket round his shoulders, as the tall, dour-faced guard traipsed in with a small canteen of water and… well, a packet of some kind of survival rations, it looked like. The Alpha stood in the doorway, similarly watching, arms folded across his chest.
*****“Doncher trust us no more, Boss…?” the guard asked, annoyedly, putting the canteen down on the floor near Jan’s feet.
*****“Not since yer whacked the lady over the head, no,” Lar replied, curtly. “One more slip up an’ the Boss gets t’hear about it.”
*****“Miserable old git.”
*****“If I was bein’ persnicketty, Krin, that’d count as a slip-up,” Lar threatened.
*****Krin wrinkled up his face in disgust, and muttered under his breath. He literally dropped the food – dry, cardboardy travel-biscuits – into Jan’s lap, spun on one foot and mooched out, pushing rudely past Lar. The elder slig crimped his snout in annoyance, turned to follow his subordinate and presumably have ‘words’ with him…
*****“Uh, ‘scuse me…?” Jan called after him, tentatively.
*****Lar paused, looked back over his shoulder. “What?”
*****“Uhm…” Jan bit his lip, fiddled with the cellophane wrapper on the food. “I just wondered… Where are we going?”
*****Lar sighed and folded his arms, leaned back against the doorframe. “The Arena,” he replied, gruffly, but there was no apparent malice or annoyance in the voice.
*****“Uh, the Arena…?” Jan queried, softly so as not to wake Aura, chewing a bit of biscuit. “What’s that…?”
*****“An ‘entertainment’ complex. Mos’ly gladiatorial-type things… we get a lot of high-rankin’ officials there, so it’s a pretty well funded place…”
*****“Why do they want us…? To fight?”
*****Lar nodded, solemnly. “Well, you, yes, maybe. Don’ know what they’ll want t’do wi’ yer lady friend… Yer lucky, we got a couple of pretty good mud gladiators there at moment, they’ll likely teach yer the ropes if the Boss wants yer to fight…”
*****Jan swallowed, thickly. “Are they very good…? I… I mean, most of the fighters…?”
*****Lar wrinkled his nose, scratched idly at the back of his neck. “Most of ‘em don’ last very long,” seeing the look on the young mudokon’s face he was quick to clarify, “But then we don’ have a lot of mud gladiators – you lot mos’ly get plucked out of cells for the ‘people’ side – sellin’ tickets, cleanin’, that sort of thing. It’s usually sligs what get persuaded to scrap it out in the ring…”
*****Jan picked at the dry biscuit, suddenly not feeling very hungry. His stomach felt like it had shrunk. “So… Aura…? What’s going to happen to her…?”
*****“Doubt she’ll have to fight. Ladies are rare enough that the Bosses don’ want to let ‘em get killed… They have, uh… ‘other’ things what they get tol’ to do…”
***** I know what that means… Jan felt slightly nauseous, put the remains of the biscuit down and hunched his shoulders, pulled the blanket closer.
*****Lar rubbed his nose, thoughtfully. “Listen, I’ll… maybe try put a word in for yer wi’ my Boss, when we get there,” he said, softly, presumably so the rest of the crew couldn’t hear. “After all, yer pretty young… he’s not a bad sort, neither. Mebbe he’ll make arrangements t’get yer out…”
*****Jan chewed his lip, wondering if he ought to trust the Industrial. He’d been told enough stories about the wily tactics Cartel employees were wont to use; although he guessed a lot were simply rumours, a lot were also likely true… Lar had taken Jan’s silence as his not wanting to say anything more and was halfway out. “Uh, just one more thing…?” Jan called.
*****Lar sighed, but turned back to him, and said, good-humouredly, “Fire away.”
*****“Why… why are you helping us…?”
*****“I wouldn’ exactly say I was helpin’ yers, but…” he shrugged. “I’d prob’ly be livin’ out wi’ the rest of the deserters or somethin’ if they hadn’ caught me durin’ that little Uprisin’ a year or two back.”
*****“You still could,” Jas gave him a look.
*****“Not no more, kid,” Lar smiled, wryly. “They watch us too close, these days, the ones what were known as troublemakers. I only got this job ’cause my Boss is a bit of a rebel himself… I guess he was a closet sympathier wi’ the cause, from some o’ the things he says. I likely wouldn’ get much closer’n the front gate before someone shot me,” He sighed, sadly, and checked his chronometer on his wrist-computer. “You best get some shut-eye, kid. Be a day or two before we get there, but when the rest of the lads get up yer sure as hell won’ be gettin’ the chance to kip.” His voice descended into a mutter as he turned away from the door and went back to the main cabin. “Rowdy bloody pains-in-the-ass…”
*****Jan slumped down by the wall, hugged his blanket closer, and shivered in spite of the warmth.
__________________
Now also known as "Keaalu".
"Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty to give man to relieve his suffering, none is so universal and so efficaceous as opium" ~ Sydenham, (circa 1680)
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Old 04-05-2002, 12:00 PM
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     Three

     The Arena was a large complex; all dark stone and dull metal, towering into the sullen purple sky. Lar’s team parked the tank outside, and just clattered about outside, for a while – sounded to Jan like two of them had got into an argument about something and had now finally come to blows… Ten minutes yammering seemed to clear up any argument, and it went quiet outside; Jan hugged his arms round himself and dozed, fitfully, wondering absently if they’d been temporarily abandoned – like Lar had said, the rest of the pack had got very noisy once they’d woken up that morning, and although he’d tried to get some sleep, only Aura had been able to sleep through it. They can sleep through anything, he thought, vaguely bitterly. He looked down at her - she was still asleep, curled up at a funny angle, teeth visible – then hugged his blanket closer and huddled down against the wall.
     Jan was drifting when they finally hurled the rear doors open, the resounding boom as the solid metal crashed into the vehicle’s hull startling both him and Aura into wakefulness. Aura staggered sharply upright, and winced and subsided back to the deck with a whine when her wounded skull complained at the sudden movement.
     “All right, you two, on yer feet…” it was the biggest guard – Lar’s Second, Jan guessed; he clambered up into the rear of the vehicle without waiting for the tail-lift to grind into action, and leered at them. “Welcome home.”

     Aura huddled close to Jan’s ankles as they were marched through the dank corridors into the underbelly of the complex, so close she almost tripped him up several times. “Don’t like it, Jan…” she whined, softly. “It smells bad, here…”
     “I could have told you that,” he replied, faintly, vainly trying not to their situation get to him too much. “And I can’t smell worth toffee-”
     “No, I mean it smells bad,” she cut in. “Smells of badness. Corruption… like the whole place is evil…”
     “How can something smell of evil?”
     “I don’t know, it just-”
     Lar’s second gave her a sharp clout on the head, right on the bruise. “No talking,” he barked, and sniggered when she growled under briefly her breath at him, unable to rub the wound and walk at the same time.
     “All right,” Lar stopped the little party at where the corridor branched. “You lads can clear off wherever it is yer go after work, I can take ‘em from here…”
     “Sure yer can cope wi’ ‘em, Boss?” one jeered, halfway down the first corridor already.
     “Yeah,” another echoed, to hoots of laughter from his friends. “We don’ want that delicate temp’rament of yers gettin’ knocked around by them kids, do we?”
     Lar grumbled darkly at the departing forms, and turned his nose into the second branch. “Come on, then.”
     The corridor sloped slightly upward for the first few yards, then turned a corner to a flight of steps, seemingly down into oblivion. Aura gave them one look and blanched, backed off a few steps.
     “Yer might like t’carry her,” Lar suggested, having seen the pained expression on her face, and lit a lantern with his cigarette lighter.
     Jan nodded. “I wouldn’t like going down stairs face-first, neither…” He picked her up; immediately, her arms went round his neck and she jammed her nose under his chin, shivering. “So…” he picked his way down the steps behind the elder slig, the flickering lamp lighting the way for only a few steps above and below where they walked. “Where are we going?”
     “Cells,” Lar replied. “May be dark down here, but at least it’s warm an’ yer got a bit of peace from them rowdy lot upstairs… Yes jus’ have ter watch out fer the Gladiators; they’re all stationed down here too, as they make the rest of th’staff jumpy.”
     “Oh… well, uh, what happens after that? Once we get there?”
     “I ain’t sure, at moment,” Lar glanced back over his shoulder; the corridor levelled back out at that point, and the dull glow of luminescent fungi provided enough light to see by when Lar extinguished the lantern, and Jan put Aura back onto the floor. “Most muds we see was slaves to start with anyway, an’ they never get down here. I suppose someone would come see yer, see if yer look like yer’d make a good worker, or…” he left the sentence unfinished, but then he didn’t need to complete it. Jan knew what he meant.
     Whether you’d be a good worker, or a good fighter…

------


*wonders*
__________________
Now also known as "Keaalu".
"Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty to give man to relieve his suffering, none is so universal and so efficaceous as opium" ~ Sydenham, (circa 1680)
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Old 04-05-2002, 04:57 PM
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Ah finaly id been wondering how this would continue (Or if it ever would continue)

Actualy I'v liked all the fics you wrote so far.
Althoug it was a bit of a bummer that some of em stopped midway.

But any ways I like it.
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  #17  
Old 04-06-2002, 03:21 PM
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By God, does someone actually read it then? *dies of shock*

-----



     Lar had paused at a massive door, easily twice a soldier slig’s height; with a grunt he heaved on the lever set into the stone alongside, and with a rattling clatter of chains and weights a self-opening mechanism creaked the door open. Light spilled out into the dank corridor and made the two youngsters squint. Accompanying the light was a low grumbling sound, which it took them a second or two to realise was the distant sound of an overexcited crowd; Jan shivered, involuntarily.
     Lar poked his rifle into Jan’s spine, not too hard but enough to get the point across, and walked them through the door and into a large antechamber. There was a cluster of individuals in there; two mudokons, five sligs and a hybrid creature – Gladiators, Aura guessed - all apparently waiting for the call to go out into the ring.
     They were all rough looking creatures, even the mudokons, hardened and battle-scarred, grim-faced. One of the mudokons and one of the sligs were sparring; the slig looked quite old, and the scars suggested he’d fought for must of his life. He was lacking two tentacles, one eye was covered by a black patch, and a finger was missing from his left hand. The mudokon was a lot younger, and a lot more undamaged, although his bright feathers were scraggly. Both wore protective armour; the mud’s was black and silver, whereas the slig’s was a rich, burnished gold and soft brown.
     No-one had seen the two newcomers yet, apparently, all more interested in watching the two creatures spar, which gave Lar time to fetch the bundle of keys he wanted. He was just going back to them when-
     “F*ck!” The exclamation startled both the young prisoners; the mudokon sparring with the old slig had leaped back away from him. “Sh*t, you bastard…! You just cut my f*cking finger off…!”
     The slig laughed; an ugly grating sound. “C’mere, then, and I’ll even yer up a bit…” he said, grinning, advancing on the mudokon.
     The youngster wisely retreated away from him, grumbling, to clean his mutilated hand up. “You come any f*cking closer and I’ll cut some of your bits and pieces off,” he threatened.
     There was a ripple of amusement from the others, as though they knew he was bluffing.
     “The idea,” a soft, musical voice intruded, sounding oddly out of place, “Is to do that in the Ring, Yax. You won’t get paid for that.”
     “Ah, shut yer trap, mongrel,” Yax replied, scornfully, switching his attention from the mud to the hybrid, who was perched atop a cupboard, a long naginata in his elegant hands, drawing figure-of-eights with the tip.
     Then noticed Jan and Aura, apparently for the first time. “Well well, what have we got here?” he asked, in a predatory-soft voice, advancing on them, lazily.
     Aura gave a squeak of fear and hid behind Jan’s ankles, tucking her nose down and trying to look small. Jan bit his lip and squared his shoulders – It’s only a slig, it’s only a slig, maybe a damned ugly one, but it’s just a slig…
     “Eh, sir?” Lar cut in, evenly. “I got orders to take ‘em down to cells…”
     “Who’s orders?” the older creature asked, coldly.
     “From Parink; y’can ask him if yer don’ believe me…”
     “Any more cheek from yer, Sunshine, an’ yer goin’ out there to have a look at yer guts,” Yax threatened, his voice an ugly snarl, but at a harsh clatter of sound from the bell in the corner of the room he turned away. “All right, take ‘em…” he snapped, retrieving a scabbard off the table in the corner. “C’mon Gorgeous, that’s our cue…”
     The hybrid dropped down off his cupboard and glared. “Don’t call me that…”
     Yax sniggered and vanished off out of a door, with the others in tow…
     Lar looked genuinely relieved at being able to get out of the little antechamber. “Watch yer step wi’ that one…” he warned, clattering off down the corridor; Jan had to trot to keep up with him, so was carrying Aura. “He don’ just bluff like a lot of sligs do, he means it… An’ the mongrel, too, they’re bitter rivals, so watch yer don’ get between ‘em…”
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Now also known as "Keaalu".
"Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty to give man to relieve his suffering, none is so universal and so efficaceous as opium" ~ Sydenham, (circa 1680)
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Old 04-08-2002, 12:18 PM
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Happy

Yep, someone actually does.
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Old 04-08-2002, 12:29 PM
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Hurrah!

*intones in narrator-style voice* And in celebration, she posts some more...

-----



     Once Lar had left them in the little cell that was to become home for the next few days, he headed off out of the prison complex, and up to the Management Suite some way upstairs… It was actually quite a pleasant place - visually, at least – with carpets, windows, heating, proper lighting, even the occasional pot-plant dotted about… He nodded a greeting to the slig pair on patrol, strode up to a door and gave it a smart rap with his knuckles.
     “Who’s there?” a half-asleep voice filtered through the thin wood.
     “Jus’ me, Boss…”
     “Oh, Lar… C’min. I wasn’t expectin’ visitors this evenin’, so you’ll have to excuse the mess…”
     Lar put his nose round the door, and smiled, grimly; the ‘mess’ was an empty coffee container, a few loose sheets of paper and a spilt packet of paper-clips. Keff was usually scrupulously tidy, though, so Lar guessed what counted as hyper-tidy for the average slig would be a horrendous mess for the young Glukkon… “I, uh… can I ask yer a favour, Boss?”
     Keff turned from his computer. “What sort of favour?” he asked, warily. “Last favour nearly got me in the elum-dung with Parink…”
     “Eh, well…” Lar scratched his muzzle, awkwardly. “We caught a couple of prisoners yesterday, an… y’see… they’re both really younguns, I don’ see how its f-”
     “Wait, wait, stop.” Keff waved a handfoot and wobbled, precariously; his clothing wasn’t as restrictive as they wore in the upper echelons of management, but it was still awkward. “Before you go any further, I can’t get no-more kids out of here. They’re watchin’ me like damn hawks, upstairs; one wrong move, an’…” He drew a finger across his throat, only just managing to keep his balance.
     “But Boss, I said I’d-”
     “Lar-”
     “One’s a lass, as well!”
     That brought Keff up short. “A female?”
     Lar nodded. “An’ yer know what’ll happen to her…”
     “Damn,” Keff sank back into his chair. “Yes, I know… damn. How many people you told?”
     “I ain’t tol’ no-one, but the lads probably spread it right across barracks by now. An’ I think Yax an’ a few others Downstairs got it figured – they hadn’t gone out when we got down there…” Lar bit his lip, and blurted out; “Yer can’t jus’ let ‘em treat her like the last one what they found, Boss! Y’know what happened, it took ‘em two months to do it but they ended up killin’ her-”
     “I know what happened…” Keff cut in, sharply. “Look, I can’t do nothin’ right now, so…” he sighed, and shook his head. “I reckon you just like causin’ me problems…” he muttered, annoyedly. “Well go on, clear off, I’ll see what I can sort out…”
     Knowing when not to push his luck, Lar bobbed his head once, mumbled a reluctant thanks, and vanished out.

     The cell Lar had left Jan and Aura in was sparse and dank… The cuffs they still wore had been clipped to stout lengths of chain firmly attached to the walls, one at each end of the room. They both had enough length on the chain to move around in their new, albeit temporary home, but Aura had retreated right into the far corner, under the lowest bunk, and Jan couldn’t get close enough to see how she was – other than scared out of her wits and crying…
     Not a lot happened, that evening; a prisoner – Jan could tell by the start tattoo on his upper arm – was marched past by two of the Arena staff, both in that smart silver and black livery, rifles with gleaming rapier blades in their hands. The prisoner – a glukkon, strangely – stared into the cell as they marched him past; Jan wondered, absently, what he’d done to deserve that sort of punishment…
     Closer to morning, a young male slig in Arena livery poked his nose between their cell bars and informed them, dispassionately, that they’d be assessed for usefulness in the morning, and if either of them resisted or caused problems they’d be shot. Jan guessed it was a bluff, as they wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble of catching them just to kill them, but still…
     A nervous, middle-aged mudokon brought their breakfast shortly after the night-lighting turned off, the sullen red glow being replaced by a dirty white light. Aura was still crying softly to herself; Jan had tried getting some sleep, but although she was obviously trying to cry quietly so he wouldn’t know how scared she was, it was pretty clear she was very upset… He wondered, absently, if she knew something he didn’t, and whether he’d be in a comparable state if he knew it as well…
     “Uh… Aura…?” he scooted closer, as far as the thin cuff at his ankle would let him go.
     “What?” the reply was muffled; she was on her bunk, now, but had her head tucked down, curled up into the smallest ball she could manage, back to him.
     “Are you all right…?”
     “Apart from being scared out of my wits? Yeah, I suppose so,” she replied, bitterly.
     “You could try cheering up a little… Lar said he’d try get us out of this mess, and I mean, we’re both in the same boat, but you… you’re acting like the world’s about to end!”
     “Don’t you patronise me, fish-head…” she spat, briefly shooting him an ugly glower over her shoulder. “You’re all right. You’re male, the worst they can make you do is fight…” she convulsed herself into a tighter ball and wouldn’t be drawn further.
     “Oh right, so it doesn’t matter that I’ll probably get killed now, then? At least they won’t try to kill you!” he retorted, indignantly. “What’s worse than being made to fight for your life in front of a paying audience who all want to see as much blood and gore as possible…?”
     She managed to reply in a broken shred of a voice. “Being used as payment.”
     It took him a second or two to work out what she meant, and found he didn’t have a reply for it…

-----


(Now I better hide from Mal...)
__________________
Now also known as "Keaalu".
"Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty to give man to relieve his suffering, none is so universal and so efficaceous as opium" ~ Sydenham, (circa 1680)
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Old 04-17-2002, 09:54 AM
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*sigh*

-----


     Four

     “Right, short-arse…” a rough voice roused Jan from his slumber on the morning of his and Aura’s second day there. “Come on, on yer feet.”
     Jan forced his eyes open, and just blinked stupidly for a second. “Eh?”
     Another mudokon stared back at him – roughly twice his age, but coarser-looking, one eye cool and critical, the other one an odd milky-white and staring off over Jan’s shoulder somewhere. He recognised him as one of the Gladiators he’d seen the other day, and the grimy bandage on his hand confirmed his suspicion. “C’mon, up!”
     Jan pushed himself to his feet and stood swaying, rubbing sleep from his eyes. “What’s going on?” he asked, through a yawn.
     “We’re going to see the Boss, that’s what,” the mudokon caught his arm and marched him out of the room while he was still sufficiently sleepy as not to offer up any resistance. Once out, a second Gladiator – this one a battered, middle-aged slig, every tentacle on his head long gone – caught Jan’s arm and held him with that typically iron grip all sligs had while the young Gladiator locked the cell-door.
     By this time, the noise and movement had woken Aura, who for once was sleeping very lightly. She lifted her head and blinked, then; “Whassgoinon?” she slurred. At the lack of reply, she scrubbed at her eyes to wake herself up a bit and squinted. “Where you takin’ him?!” she demanded, all but falling to the floor and scrambling to the bars at the front of the cell.
     “Come on,” the mudokon said, turning to Jan as though the little slig was still asleep, and closing his scarred hand around Jan’s upper arm they started off down the corridor.
     Jan glanced back over his shoulder, to see her jam her nose between the narrow bars and watch them frogmarch him away. “Jaaan…!” the thin, whining cry chased him down the corridor. He swallowed, thickly, not daring to risk the two Gladiators’ ire by replying.
     After a few hundred yards they came to the antechamber that Lar had collected the keys from on the first day; there were fewer Gladiators in there, only the older of the two mudokons and the slig with the eyepatch – Yax, Jan remembered, vaguely. Neither were speaking; the mud looked up, as the three walked in, but the old slig remained poring over his paper. The younger mud went over to his peer.
     Jan tried halfheartedly to eavesdrop on the two mudokons, until he sensed someone’s stare upon him. He turned, found Yax silently watching him, with a cool, dispassionate gaze; obviously sizing him up, getting a measure of potential strengths and weaknesses… The unsettling gaze made Jan feel like an animal awaiting slaughter; he took an involuntary half-step backwards and averted his own gaze, to a dry, harsh laugh from the Gladiator.
     The older of the two mudokon gladiators laughed, as well, and picked up a quarterstaff. “You obviously never fought properly in yer life before, huh, kid?” he said, idly, and with a lazy flip of his wrist threw the weapon at Jan. At the young mud’s miserable shake of the head he went on; “Well, we’ll give yer a little bit of trainin’ before we kick yer out there, so stop yer snivellin’ and we’ll get on.”
     Yax still didn’t speak, just watched Jan with that cool, amused stare until he was out of the room. Then turned his head, and said, calmly, to the tall hybrid that had just walked in; “Can’t see that one lastin’ long.”
     The hybrid gave him a look, and went to the battered old kettle plugged in by the far wall. “That’s what you said about me eight years ago, remember?” he said, smoothly, flicking the switch and fetching a clean mug.
     “Peh,” the slig flapped a hand, disdainfully. “Boss told yer we got important guests tonight?” he asked, abruptly changing the subject.
     The hybrid looked up at him from the jar of coffee in his hand. “How important?”
     Yax snorted. “Well, they want to see yer, anyway,” he replied, voice dripping with jealousy. “An’ Management got us some of that, uh… special payment… fer if we fight well – not that yer goin’ to be interested,” he scowled, and folded his arms, sulkily. “Don’ see why they want to see yer fight, anyway. Yer goin’ t’be lazy, if yer ain’t got an incentive fer doin’ a good job.”
     “Huh,” the hybrid wrinkled his nose; clouds of steam jetted from the kettle. “Just because I’m not interesting abusing some defenceless creature in part-payment for something doesn’t mean I won’t fight well.”
     “Huh,” Yax sniggered. “I bet yer go see one of the guards if yer feelin’ a bit frisky, huh, doncher?”
     “Funny, Yax, funny,” the hybrid sighed, sprang lightly to the top of his cupboard, and landed in a crouch on top without spilling a drop of his coffee. Yax just shook his head, and sniggered, and went back to his paper.

-----

*goes back to bed*
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Old 04-17-2002, 10:31 AM
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Mal: *growls warningly*

How'd you get out? *ties Mal up again*
Eh...jeez...I really don't know what to say...other then 'good fic keep it up'. Bleh...boring reply...
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Old 04-20-2002, 01:41 PM
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Next bit...

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     While Jan got on with his ‘training’, Aura sat under her bunk in their cell and fretted. The fact that they’d taken him away likely meant that they’d come for her, later, and the longer she waited the more unsettled she grew…
     Two sligs eventually turned up at the cell door some time later – she guessed it was about mid-morning, from the activity she could see outside the cell. One stood guard by the open door while the other strode in; she hoped vainly that if he couldn’t see her he’d think he’d got the wrong cell and go elsewhere, but no. Being a slig himself he knew the tricks, and under the bunk was the first place he looked; she flinched away from the stream of light from his oil-lamp – it wasn’t bright, but after being in the dark it felt as bright as any magnesium flare.
     “Yeah, got her,” he said, idly, ducking to stare at her, calmly. “Come on, out from under there,” he told her, sternly.
     Light from the lantern threw weird patterns off the copper in her eyes; she gave a soft snarl of fear and retreated a little way further back. “No.”
     The sharp face scowled. “Either yer come out of there under yer our steam,” the guard threatened. “Else we get yer out from under there wi’ force.”
     Aura just huddled into her corner and snarled, softly.
     The guard straightened, with a grunt of disgust, and called his colleague in. After a few brief seconds speech that she couldn’t catch, the second guard bent down and reached under the bunk for her.
     She couldn’t help it – it was almost a reflex, a hangover from her carnivorous ancestors… she’d closed her teeth on the reaching arm and clenched her jaw before her brain had time to shriek it’s a trap, stupid! The “arm” was a prosthetic, doused in some sort of anaesthetic; she felt the world swim before her eyes, then go out altogether.
     “Works every time,” the first guard commented, as his colleague dragged her insensate form out from its meagre shelter, and they both hooted with ugly laughter.

     “All right, let’s break for a while…”
     Jan let his arms droop with a tired sigh, the quarterstaff dropping from his exhausted fingers to the cold stone flagging of the floor. The older mudokon – the one that had spoken – handed him a water skin; with a cough, Jan took a draught from it and splashed his face. He’d learned both their names now; Arrun was the older of the two, his younger colleague being Lek. He’d also learned who to avoid, Yax and Yaaren – whoever he was – were the primary two, especially when they were together, although apparently they were pretty civil to each other when they didn’t have an audience.
     “Hey, kid – c’mere,” Lek beckoned to him. “You want to know how to fight, you come watch old Gorgeous out there –he’s on in three…”
     “Gorgeous?” Jan echoed, limping over to the barred doorway.
     “Yeah,” the older mud followed him, and chuckled. “Just don’t you call him that, certainly not to his face. He’s ‘Yaaren’ or ‘sir’ to you – or else yer use his stage name, Nexus…” He threw the outer door open.
     Immediately the dull roar of the crowd outside met Jan’s ears. He looked outside, worriedly; the well-lit Arena floor was only a metre or so below – a good twenty-five metres in diameter, a forbidding wall all the way round, at least four metres high and studded with doorways. Above that, the tiers of seats, seemingly full to bursting with patrons, stretched up into darkness.
     Somewhere below there came the low thunk of a doorway opening, and the hybrid Jan remembered seeing earlier strode out onto the sandy floor; ah, so that’s who he is… The braying of the crowd suddenly increased dramatically in pitch.
     “They must like him,” Jan commented, over the crowd’s roar.
     “You better believe it,” Arrun agreed. “He’s the best we have.”
     “Although Yax would probably tell you different,” Lek added. “That the crowd just like him because he’s ‘pretty’.”
     Jan gazed out into the main arena, and watched. The hybrid was tall – eight feet tall, and slender, with a crest of scarlet and maroon feathers streaming across his head and down his back to just below his shoulderblades. He looked to be a combination of predominantly slig and mudokon – his face was obviously a slig’s, although he’d lost three tentacles during the course of his career. His back was straighter and his poise more upright, though, and his arms less fragile-looking than those of the average slig. His legs were straight and powerful, elum-like, the toe-claws replaced with surgical steel replicas – bet he can kick like a mule, too… Jan mused, vaguely. His tail was long and prehensile, two wickedly sharp surgical steel barbs implanted at the tip. He wore plain Arena armour – chest plate, simple copper greaves, a sort of chain-mail and sable-leather loin-cloth, artificial spurs on his hocks – although the colours marked him out as the best, and his rejection of the rest of the outfit said he knew his skills. He carried a simple naginata, at the moment, but there was a dagger thrust into his belt.
     The Gladiator raised his arms in response to the crowd, as though acknowledging them, and they roared back, excitedly. One of the staff sprinted out into the ring, just then – a slig, looking proud in his silver and black livery – and, in what looked like a carefully orchestrated ceremony of a sort, the Gladiator thrust out an arm, and the guard gave him a healthy dose of something directly into a vein.
     “They’ve obviously got important guests, tonight,” Arrun commented. “They only go through that ritual if there’s someone important enough to warrant it, as that stuff’s expensive…”
     “What was it?” Jan asked, watching the ring.
     “A cocktail of drugs. Stimulants, usually a hypnotic of some sort… important guests usually like to see a lot of gore, it’s why they come, and he’s usually too ‘clinical’ if they don’t psyche him up beforehand, kills things too cleanly for their liking.”
     “Uh, clinical…?”
     “Yep. Wi’ that stuff, he ‘plays’ with his prey. Y’don’t die unless he wants yer to…”
     To Jan it felt as though the room had cooled by a good few degrees.
     The first challenger was a wild creature, of some sort, standing roughly nine feet tall. It sniffed at the air, its eyes small and likely short-sighted, covered from tip to tail in horny keratin plates, then opened a mouth full of teeth and bellowed a challenge.
     Yaaren dropped to a fighting stance and matched the creature’s challenge with a hideous wail of his own.
     For a while the Gladiator danced rings round the ugly brute. It would charge at him, he’d dance gracefully out of the way; it’d strike at him with one massive clawed foot, he’d just leap over the blow, perhaps strike at it with his blade and open up a cut in its arm. Then his manner subtly changed; instead of the cool expression on his face, his features broke into a leering grin, the long fang in his mouth gleaming dully.
     “I though you said-” Jan started, but the younger of the two Gladiators cut in.
     “He was just getting warmed up. You watch him now…”
     Ten minutes later and Yaaren stood uninjured on the back of the felled beast; both its massive arms were broken and its sightless eyes trailed ichor – it was hideously injured but still very alive… With a great flourish, the elegant Gladiator gave a bellow of triumph and in one clean, graceful move smashed the blade of his weapon through the creature’s skull, and the crowd erupted in unison with a thunderous roar of approval. The great beast convulsed once more, then lay still.
     Jan turned away from the doorway, and felt a chill go down his spine.
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Old 04-21-2002, 12:57 PM
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Cool.
Great writing as usual!
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Old 04-22-2002, 11:40 AM
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Last bit for now... (My brain is stuck in neutral right now, not quite writer's block, just... not in a writing mood, I suppose.) I have a bit of Ch 5 written, but not enough to post.

-----


     On the other side of the complex to the main ring, the arena boss watched dispassionately as the vykker medic – a certain doctor Melox – gave Aura a quick check-up. His nose was wrinkled in some distaste at the maskless little creature, who was putting up a spirited fight as the vykker tried to examine her.
     “Yes,” Melox nodded; he held her with two clawed hands, leaving the other two free to poke and prod. “She looks healthy enough…” he roughly turned her head to one side, prompting a throaty snarl, and laughed. “Plenty of spirit, too. Should hold up under pressure better than the last one.”
     “Hm,” the glukkon narrowed his eyes, mistrustfully. “Yer said that last one would hold up well, but we lost her after two months. You know how damn much moolah we paid fer her to be created? Thousands! Hundreds of thousands! She was meant t’last a year, at least!”
     The vykker shrugged. “This one’s different, Parink…” he said, unfazed at the Boss’ annoyed manner. “She was wild caught, which means her genetics will be more stable than the last one. We had to build the last one’s genes, no wonder she didn’t last…”
     Melox had let his attention drift from Aura for a second or two, leaving his hand stupidly near her. Quick as a wink, she twisted and sank her teeth into the unwary appendage. He gave a howl of pain and all but leapt out of his skin, and whacked her smartly across the face with one long, clawed hand, drawing a set of bright crimson grooves in her dark skin. She jerked her head backwards, jolting her teeth free, and he snatched his hand back, dropping her.
     Parink laughed openly as the vykker scowled and examined his injury; there was a fine circle of bright dots on the pale, waxy skin where Aura’s delicate teeth had punched through it. She backed into the corner, shoulders hunched, snarling softly.
     “You oughtter be more careful,” Parink said, with a knowing grin. “Them wild ones are like animals. Uncivilised little barbarians…”
     The vykker gave him a baleful glare. “Yes, yes, I know,” he replied, thinly, annoyance poisoning his tones. “If you hadn’t distracted me perhaps I wouldn’t have been bitten…”
     “Maybe we ought to give her to the lads now,” the tall glukkon mused, ignoring the scientist’s gripes, beckoning to one of the guards. “Break her in a little.”
     Melox looked down at the snarling little female. “I’d rather run a few more tests, if you don’t mind,” he said, measuredly, turning back and watching as the guard lit Parink’s cigar for him, noting with an odd sense of satisfaction that the bony male was taking something of an interest in the female. “I’d like to know if it’s related to that one we lost a few years ago. If they’re breeding out there, you could be in for more problems than you bargained for.”
     If they’re breeding… Aura felt her hopes shrivel. If they considered them barely more than animals – clearly evident in even that insignificant little sentence – what hope did she stand of getting out of this mess, ever?
     Parink nodded, ruefully. “Yeah,” he said, round the cigar. “May be a good idea to check things out. Besides, we don’t want the lads to go start thinkin’ they’re special or anything, may start makin’ more demands…”

     Tired beyond belief, Jan only just made it back to his cell without having to be carried; as it was he tripped over his own feet at the cell door and landed on his chest with an “oof” of pain.
     “We’ll come get yer same time tomorrow,” Arrun said, as he locked the door. “So yer better get yerself some kip.” Then he was gone.
     Jan grunted, and sat back against the wall, with a wince, trying to unkink a sprained ankle… his knee felt like a knot of pure bruise, and his head hurt, his heartbeat making a dull thud-thud-thud in his ears.
     “If you were wondering, I’ve had my first lesson in fighting…” he commented, annoyedly.
     No reply.
     “Aura?” he looked up, and groaned. They must have taken her away while he was gone…

     Aura sat on the cold worktop in Melox’s laboratory, and worried at her wrist, trying to loosen the over-tight cuff around it – it was pinching at her skin somewhat painfully, but the vykker didn’t seem to be bothered. Likely making up for that bite she’d given him; she scowled and watched him bustle about, promising herself that she’d bite him again if he got close enough…
     In spite of her snarling belligerence, however, she felt sick and scared inside; everything they had done so far had been done in such a way as to make her feel small, worthless, and everything they had said had been calculated to scare her as much as possible. She was trying to keep up a brave face, but every now and then it would slip…
     Eventually Melox had apparently done everything he needed to do; he walked over, a long, evil syringe held lightly in only long, clawfingered hand. Aura gave a thin squeak of sudden fear and stumbled backwards, overbalanced on the edge of the table and fell, sharply; the cuff caught her a foot off the ground, jerking her to a savage stop and almost ripping her arm off.
     Melox sighed, and caught her other wrist, lifted her slightly so her weight was hung more evenly between her two arms. “Stupid creature,” he said, coolly, watching as she struggled and pleaded with him to stop it hurting. He lifted his needle, calmly plunged it hilt-deep in the side of her throat and injected whatever it was it contained; she gargled a pained sound, her eyes rolling back in her skull, and her lean frame convulsed briefly before going limp.

     It was some hours later when the sedation finally began wearing off. Aura opened her eyes, groggily, and blinked dumbly at the whiteness around her. “Mum…?” she enquired, sleepily, forgetting for a moment where she was, but as she woke fully she recognised that she wasn’t back home. She was in a small room, with two doors, and a thick, reinforced window; one door was massive, apparently metal, the other was standing slightly ajar. She pushed herself upright, looked around herself a little better…
     She sat on the foot of a small bunk; bouncing experimentally, she found that the mattress was relatively soft, and covered with clean, if somewhat age-dulled, white sheets and a quilt. Sliding to the floor and padding over to the open door, she found a bathroom of a sort – latrine and washbasin close enough to the floor that she’d be able to reach them, and a small bath with shower-attachment set flush with the floor. The window, she found, climbing onto the table to get a look out, looked back towards the forest; it was a dark smudge on the horizon, only the dull purple of distant mountains looking further away. She frowned. Strange… why were they giving her this sort of luxury? Perhaps it was that they’d recognised who’s progeny she was… were hoping to win her over…
     You wish, her subconscious chimed in, apparently taking longer to wake up than her conscious mind. Have you forgotten what they were talking about, when they gave you that check-up, or are you just plain stupid?
     She sank to the tabletop, her arms suddenly deciding they didn’t want to support her weight, mouth abruptly feeling as dry and unpleasant as the floor of a scrab’s cage. The world shrank away at the edges, and for a second she was worried she was going to faint. “No no no…” she whimpered. While Melox had been doing his tests she’d subconsciously been able to swallow the fear down and pretend that they only wanted her to study her – now, though, she had no distractions, and the fear came crashing back, settling on her shoulders like some terrible shroud…
     When the door creaked open it sent her under the bed like a shot; she cowered underneath, the thin fabric valance little protection from whatever demons had just entered…
     “Eh, miss?” a familiar voice asked, and the fabric curtain brushing the floor twitched, and a slig bent to look under the bunk.
     It was Lar; she didn’t care, she snarled hatefully all the same and bared her teeth.
     “I ain’t here to hurt yer,” he soothed, letting the fabric fall back into place. “I just thought I better tell yer, before anythin’ happens… Me an’ the Boss are working to try get yer out of here. It may take a while, but we’re doin’ what we can, so… whatever happens, don’ you lose hope.” Then the door creaked again, and he was gone.
     She lay under her bunk and counted her heartbeats, taking small comfort from his words, and struggled not to panic.
     She’d counted enough heartbeats for roughly an hour and a half to have passed when the door creaked again, and she had to fight to keep from screaming right then. There was the soft hiss of mechanical footsteps, and a voice said, softly; “Oh, I see; we’re playin’ hide an’ seek, huh?” and a soft, unpleasant chuckle.
     She gulped out a sob and retreated into her corner.
     Another of those unpleasant laughs, and the fabric moved. “I can he-ar you…” the voice sang, as though it was all some huge game, and after a second or two a long hand lifted the short curtain.
     She felt her throat constrict, and watched as Yax leered at her, and bellied under the bunk with her, having got rid of his pants.
     “You-you-you come one step closer an’ I’ll bite yer!” she screamed at him, and crushed herself so hard into her corner that it hurt.
     The ugly brute just laughed, and crawled closer; there was just enough space for him to get underneath, the top of his back an inch or so shy of the bottom of the divan. He smiled, cruelly, and put his heavily scarred face close to hers. “Let me tell you somethin’, sweetheart…” he said, softly, baring those long gold fangs at her. “You even think of bitin’ me, an’ I promise yer I’ll break every tooth in that pretty little head…”
     She sobbed and turned her face away – his breath was hot, and stank of carrion.
     “Now then…” he purred, moving closer still, and his voice shrank to a soft, predatory whisper. “Let’s jus’ get down to business, shall we…?”
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Old 04-26-2002, 11:37 AM
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Wow You write a great story! Keep up the good work!
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Old 04-26-2002, 10:40 PM
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Wouh! This story is just excellent! *whistles* Hey, over here! A new reader! New chapter please?

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Old 04-27-2002, 07:21 PM
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I'd be happy to oblige, except I can't get it written, for some reason... It's going rather weird.
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Old 05-09-2002, 09:15 AM
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Wow, got some more done...

-----

     Five

     At first Aura just lay on her back on and the bed and cried, hopelessly. They’d gone, thank odd, but… that was small comfort, they could be back any time…
     She’d tried fighting Yax off, when he’d first approached her, under the bunk, reflexively biting his nose when he got too close… He’d just laughed at her, as though it was a game, and sank his teeth into her shoulder, holding her like that while he did what he liked with her, ignoring her frantic sobs, the taste of her blood seeming to awaken even baser instincts… When the elder mud arrived, he finally dragged her out from under the divan with his teeth – the mud had laughed and asked if it was a love bite, lifted her by the tail and dumped her on the mattress-
     Her shoulder burned, but not as badly as her mind… She lurched to her paws and all but fell into the bathroom, switched the shower on and scrubbed her skin clean, sobbing frantically as what had happened properly sank in…
     Then, once she’d rubbed herself dry with the rough towel beside the sink, she returned to the shower and started again.
     Four showers and half a bottle of liquid soap later, and still feeling filthy, she finally crawled out into the room. It looked horribly large, she retreated back to the bathroom doorway, shoulders hunched, whining fitfully, as though expecting someone else to come bursting in through the main door and demand she service him as well… Suddenly panicked, she darted across the room, dove under the valance around the bunk, and huddled into her corner, shivering, wide-eyed, too scared to even think of getting to sleep.

     “You look glum.”
     Jan looked up from the paper Arrun had given him at the comment. “What?”
     “I said,” the elder mud stood at the sideboard, making tea. “You look glum.”
     Jan nodded, went back to the paper. “They didn’t bring Aura back last night.”
     “No, they wouldn’t have. She’s in the West Wing, now.”
     “The West Wing?”
     “Yeah,” Arrun clanked a spoon in his mug, fished out a soggy teabag and with a flip of his wrist flicked it neatly into the bin. “Better quality accommodation. Most of Management lives over that side. Sometimes they put up guests there, too, if they pay enough – kinda like a hotel for the ones what travelled too far to go back the same night.”
     “So what’s she doing over there?” Jan asked, indignantly.
     “Jealous, my little friend?” Arrun asked, amusedly, lounging back against the sideboard. “I wouldn’ be. She ain’t there for her comfort, that’s f’sure.”
     “What… what do you mean?”
     “Well, I sure as hell wouldn’ want to go down there to collect payment,” Arrun sipped the scalding fluid in his mug; ‘down there’ referred to where the prisoners – Jan included at the moment – were housed. “For one it’s cold an’ uncomfortable, and for two I sure as frack wouldn’ want all of you lot watchin’…”
     “I… don’t think I understand you…” Jan actually had a rather good idea what the older mudokon was talking about, he just hoped he’d got it wrong.
     Arrun shrugged and smiled, vaguely. “Apparently I fought best of the lot, las’ night – if yer exclude Yax an’ Ren who no-one beats – so they let me have a bit of fun wi’ her, once Yax had satisfied the urges, if y’know what I mean….” Absently, he scratched his stomach, speculatively, and mused, out loud; “…she’s better than that last one, she just used t’sit there an’ scream…”
     Jan stared at him in something akin to horror. “You’re not trying to tell me,” he demanded, his voice shrivelled. “That you are quite happy to abuse her as casually as those other brutes in here…?”
     Arrun gave him an icy look. “Don’ you get an attitude wi’ me, young sir, else we can settle our differences the hard way,” he said, frostily. “Sides, what are you so worried about? ‘S only a slig.”
     Only a slig… the words left a sour taste in Jan’s mouth. “But…” he struggled on. “Don’t you… I mean…”
     “Don’t I care?” Arrun swigged back the last of his tea, and shrugged. “Not really. Law of the wild, down here. Survival of the fittest – least, all the perks go to the fittest. An’ if it weren’t me doin’ it, someone else would, an’ at least I don’ hurt her like I know a lot of ‘em do… Least this way they ain’t killed her. She ain’t no use out in the ring, an’ ain’t no use nowhere else, if she weren’t, eh… gainfully employed… she’d be dead. Simple as that. The Boss can’t afford to feed mouths what ain’t earnin’ their keep.”
     Jan swallowed, thickly, and decided not to pursue it any more.
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Old 05-10-2002, 05:05 PM
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YEY!
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Old 02-11-2003, 09:01 AM
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     And so the days wore on. Aura stayed in her room in the West Wing, apart from the times when Melox wanted to do another apparently pointless test or two, and felt her spirit shrivel up. Once they’d insisted she join the rest of the employees, all neatly lined up and in uniform, when they had a very important foreign visitor. She’d even got to wear something –a delicate blue shirt, of a sort – which had made her feel far less vulnerable, and although she’d had to sit there with her shoulders back for so long they’d ached for hours afterwards, it had been a vaguely interesting little diversion from the dull monotony of normality… They’d put her back in her room afterwards, though, and normality had resumed.
     The wound on her shoulder, where Yax had bitten her, had scabbed over and virtually healed, leaving behind just a ring of pale scar-tissue, but it served as a reminder to her of what would happen if she tried to damage any of her tormentors again. So long as she did was she was told, she didn’t get hurt – not physically, anyway. Apparently – on the rare occasion she’d dare challenge one of them – they’d been told they could do what they liked with her so long as they didn’t ‘damage the merchandise’, but judging by how Yax had treated her already she didn’t hold out an awful lot of hope…
     The weeks passed rather uneventfully. Lar would visit, every now and then, breaking the monotony of “normal” life – not that she felt her life was very normal. She’d grown to like his visits; he never once tried to use her, merely perched on a stool and talked to her, occasionally brought her something to read, like an old newspaper or a magazine he may have found discarded the night before. And not just Lar would visit; the occasional guard would put his nose around the door and chat for a few minutes, and they weren’t all sligs, here - she’d grown to like Del, a tall, skinny young mudokon.
     But her hopes of getting out alive were fading. She rarely asked Lar about things any more, it made him edgy, as though he suspected people of listening in. She doubted keep on asking him would do much, either, other than to annoy him; he’d said he’d tell her if anything came up, and she just had to trust him…
     Yax was there most evenings. Of all her “customers”, he was the one she loathed the most; he seemed to like to goad her, get her to try to bite him. She wasn’t sure why; perhaps it gave him an excuse to hurt her in return, or perhaps he liked it, as she knew there were a few that liked that sort of thing, just like there were a few that like to tie- No, stop that, stop right there, the sensible part of her mind cut in. Thinking about it will make it worse... Not that she liked any of the ones that visited her, they all, without exception, simply treated her as a piece of meat that they could do what they wanted with…

     Jan was in one of the smaller rings, watched by only a handful of bored patrons, trying to despatch a young scrab with only a spear and a knife. At the moment there were no major fights on; Yaaren had practised out here very early this morning and no-one had caught him, which had prompted annoyed noises from most of the guests that had stayed overnight. Jan had gone out to practice later on, and those few that hadn't gone back to bed to wait for this evening's fight were watching him.
     Jan had got better at fighting, over the past few weeks, under Arrun’s tutelage – that much was obvious, they’d never put him out in the ring unless they thought he could provide at least a little bit of entertainment for the audience. He'd found that when he was furious, as he was right now, he fought better still.
     Yax was the current target of his anger, as he frequently was. The battered old slig used to like to poke fun at him, to tell him – and everyone else in earshot – in explicit detail just what he’d been getting up to with Aura. About how she cried less these days, as though she was getting used to the abuse – getting to like it, maybe, even, he usually added, with a sneer… Jan would tremble in hateful, helpless fury, knowing he could do nothing whatsoever except wish a nasty demise upon the ugly brute of a Gladiator.
     When I get out of here, he mused, scoring a lucky strike with the spear and getting it through a chink in the big creature's armoured skin, prompting a yowl from the already half-dead creature. I’m going to sign up for the raid-teams, and first chance I get I’m coming back here to kill that sneering one-eyed brute… He knew it was a vain hope – the old slig was far tougher than he looked, and a far better fighter than anyone would have ever given him credit for just by looking at him, and Jan would likely merely sign his own death sentence by taking him on. The only one he thought capable of killing him in a fair fight was Yaaren; the hybrid usually didn’t go round picking fights with everyone the way Yax did, though, so a fight to the death between them was unlikely…
     Strangely, the hybrid didn’t seem the least bit interested in Aurora; when Jan had tentatively asked why, expecting a ringing blow round the ears for being impudent, Yaaren had just smiled sadly. He’d gone on and said, in a low voice, that he’d been brought up as an infant by someone that had taught him the finer points of something akin to chivalry, and that the lady was a ‘rare creature of beauty to be treated with care and respect’. He’d then laughed, wryly, commented about how his former Boss was a drunk who had always had rather “flowery” speech, and that actually he just didn’t think abusing her like they were doing was right. Yes, he’d fight, he’d kill, he even admitted he’d tortured a few prisoners during interrogations after they drugged him up beforehand, but rape was one of the few things that wasn't on his list of things to do.
     The other Gladiators, cynical and sneering as ever, said they reckoned he just wasn’t ‘that way inclined’, and got his satisfaction off another guard… Although never in the head Gladiator's earshot, which suggested to Jan that any retribution dealt out in response to the probably-baseless insults would be swift and painful.
     The scrab brought him back to the present with a shriek of anger, and he lost himself back in the fight.

* * *


     Six, nearly seven weeks had passed since they had been caught, and Aura had finally resigned herself to never getting out, not ever, so long as she lived, no matter what Lar said, her spirit pretty much broken. There was no point in fighting; after all, the better she co-operated, the less they hurt her, so she didn’t even argue any more. She lay on her stomach on her bed, facing the door, reading a newspaper Del had found for her – a day out of date, but at least it relieved the monotonous boredom of having nothing else to do… Besides, pretending nothing was happening, that nothing was out of the ordinary, helped keep her metaphorical feet rooted in sanity.
     The door creaked, softly – someone had oiled its hinges, at some point, as it didn’t scream like it used to. Aura looked up from her paper and swallowed the last bit of her supper – originally just a bowl of simple gruel, but the guard that had provided the newspaper had added a couple of sweet biscuits, as he felt sorry for her. She’d eaten most of it, but was saving one of the biscuits in an old tin labelled “bandages” in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, with her little bottle of antiseptic and her little tub of painkillers, amongst other things. The little tin held all the little things she’d saved from what one guard or another had secreted into her meal rations – biscuits, a square or two of chocolate, a few boiled sweets in bright cellophane wrappers… comfort food.
     Two of the Gladiators walked in – both sligs, tonight; she usually saw Arrun once every other day, and tonight was usually “his” night – with that cocky swaggering gait all of them seemed to have. She sighed, faintly, and folded her paper up.
     “Evening, love…” one slig said, idly, closing the door.
     She sighed, softly, closed her eyes against the tears, and rolled over onto her back.

     It was getting late, and the roar of the excited crowd echoed through even the thick walls of the Pit; Jan was in the kitchen, getting himself a bite to eat before curfew, almost deaf to the sounds, now, he was so used to them. The current evening's spectacle was almost over; it had started just after sundown and now it was getting close to midnight, and Yaaren had gone out a little over an hour ago. He was usually on last, after the executions of prisoners by wild animals, and fights between the lower-ranking Gladiators and so on… Apparently it had been a rather entertaining spectacle, tonight, as one of the genetics labs half a continent away had sent some failed projects over for 'disposal' – Jan felt a little sorry for the creatures, misshapen and miserable already and now forced to fight for their lives. Only one survived the fights – well, two, but the second had been pretty badly damaged and they shot him, so he didn't count – and was now down in the Pit 'recuperating'-
     Yaaren stormed in, and smashed his knife down on the table, leaving a smear of dull red from his fingers on the pale wood, an ugly, black expression on his face. Jan caught his rabid stare and flinched away, busied himself back in the toaster; the head Gladiator was clearly upset about something, which was odd in itself… He was rarely angry after a fight, usually instead unsettlingly jovial because of the drugs they shot him full of, which was pretty frightening when you took into account the sheen of blood and sweat darkening his skin…
     "Something wrong, Gorgeous?" Arrun asked, glancing up; Yaaren didn't look damaged, but he looked to be in an utterly foul mood.
     "Unless you want a taste of my fist, you'll shut your stinking mouth," he spat.
     "Woo, steady on, Boss, only asked yer a question…" Arrun waved his hands about, as if to say his colleague was overreacting.
     “Yeah, well, don’t, all right?”
     Arrun shrugged exaggeratedly. “Sure, sure….” and added, to himself, in a grumble; “you stupid, over-reacting-”
     Yaaren wrinkled his lips in a silent snarl and went for his throat, scattering chairs as he lunged. Arrun “eep!”ed and clattered backwards, tripped over the bin, finding two slim hands latching onto his throat.
     Jan tried not to watch, not really wanting to lose his life at this stage in the game due to a badly-placed comment… The sounds of scuffling and objects breaking gradually diminished, and then there was the hoarse sound of coughing; Jan chanced a look over his shoulder – there was Arrun, looking rather more the worse for wear, glaring daggers at Yaaren. The other Gladiator had apparently decided Arrun wasn’t worth the time it’d take to kill him and now perched on a stool, his tailtip flickering in barely-restrained agitation.
     Arrun pushed himself to his feet, mouthed “watch yourself” to Jan, and slunk off, nursing the bruises flowering at his throat, coughing and muttering under his breath.
     For a while, silence reigned. The toaster was resolutely refusing to spit Jan’s toast out, and he was getting uncomfortable, with the angry Gladiator at his back…
     Eventually he decided to break the silence. "Uhm… did you want a drink…?" he cringed away from the anticipated retribution.
     But there was no violent reaction; Yaaren just shook his head. "No," he sat and fidgeted, for a few seconds, then got back up and paced for a while. "No, no drink. Just want to kill fucking Parink, that's all, an' I doubt you can arrange that for me…"
     Jan laughed, nervously. "Uhm, no… what has he done?"
     "Changed the farking stimulant they use without letting me test it beforehand – without even farking telling me. Feels like I've got ants crawling round under my damn skin," he fidgeted and grumbled, cleaning his dagger with short, repetitive movements of his tea-towel.
     Jan turned his attention back to the kettle. “Uh, dunno if it’s helpful or not, but…” he glanced backwards. “Well, they just sent a message down that the baths are ready, and a hot bath may take your mind off things…”
     Yaaren nodded. “Yeah, perhaps…” he sighed, and sheathed his knife at his hip, then added; “if you see Arrun any more, tell ’im to keep out of my way or I might just finish the job I started earlier.” And with that he was gone.
     Jan just breathed a sigh of relief, retrieved his toast and headed back towards his quarters.
__________________
Now also known as "Keaalu".
"Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty to give man to relieve his suffering, none is so universal and so efficaceous as opium" ~ Sydenham, (circa 1680)
Windchaser's Earth | deviantART gallery | Journal of endless rambling and ficbits

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