This is my second background short story for this DND (Starfinder) character.
“You smell,” the man consuming my vision interrupted himself with a deep, ragged inhale, “like fear.” Every word dripped with affection.
The room was dark, with a single yellow light shining down on me from the ceiling. Every minute or so the light flickered and wavered, but it didn’t stop the man in front of me from his work. I could only see my tormentor when he leaned forward, over the metallic table enough to meet its muted, reflected light. The closer he got to me, the brighter he became in my vision.
He was right. I was choking on fear. Not just because they’d caught me. Not just because they’d killed my husband. Not just because of what happened in the past.
But because of what was going to happen next.
“They told me to kill you,” he commented, pushing my hair back behind my ear. “Rest assured, I will.” His gaze drifted down, landing on my belly, swollen with child.
I was shaking with tears.
The light above us flickered.
Had I managed to stay hidden not two weeks more, I’d have finally met my son. Had he been able to see me before – blonde, graceful, outfit hand-sewn from flowing fabric, royal tattoo on my hand – he would not have recognized me now. I’d dyed my hair black, chopped it short, wore an engineer’s jumper. All to hide from the man in front of me now.
My tormentor continued his thought, as if he hadn’t just paused for thirty seconds. “But that smell – that taste – you’re offering me now?” He smiled to himself. “It’s too good to pass up.” He stepped around the table he’d strapped me to, eyes never leaving my belly.
“Please,” my words were hoarse from hours of screaming and begging, “don’t hurt him.”
“Him?” His gaze flicked to me before returning. I’d said too much. “I think I’ll meet him.” He leaned behind himself, to a barely-visible rolling metal table. Meant for hospitals, not bunkers hidden deep beneath the subway system.
I screamed. I made no effort to check my voice.
“Do shut up,” he commanded, though polite.
I couldn’t obey. My shoulders were about the only thing I could move, but I thrashed.
“Fine. If you insist.” He reached under the table and must have flicked a switch he found there, because the table itself responded.
Electricity soared through my veins, connecting the cuffs pinning my wrists to the metal stopping my feet from fighting back. Screams stopped in my throat. Muscles clamped up, frozen in place. I couldn’t even breathe.
He glanced at me, offering an almost-paternal smile, and flicked it back.
Before I could do more than unclench my muscles and sag onto the table, it assaulted me again, but in a different fashion. Hot iron bars shot out of the dark, into each of my shoulders. Deltoids. They clamped down on me, renewing my screams as they burned my flesh.
My voice exhausted itself, feeling fresh agony with every quake and sob.
“That’s better.” I barely heard him.
A door opened, about ten feet past my left foot. Light spilled into the room, silhouetting the newcomer. “Sir. You’re needed in the –”
“I’m busy.” My tormentor’s response was somewhere between a snarl and a snap.
“Unless you’d rather take her place?” He waved a hand over me.
I wanted to beg the newcomer for help. Just unscrewing one hand – and getting my tormentor away – would be enough for me to slip away. But I couldn’t even muster the energy to lift my head properly, much less offer a plea.
“Then go away.”
The light flickered again as the door shut, sending my vaguest hope for rescue away.
“Where were we?” He looked from his table to me, then his table again. “Ah, yes.” His hand waved over the table like a street magician, fluttering through the stale air before landing on one.
It zapped to life at his touch. Half a second later, he brought it into the light, and I could clearly see the tool he’d picked out: a laser drill. Modified, but still terrifying.
Not something I wanted anywhere near me. Or my son.
I couldn’t fight it. Fight him. Couldn’t even rock my shoulders in protest. The brands were cooling, but still clamped tight to my shoulders. I could barely breathe. I didn’t think I had any screams left in me. All I could do was weep.
All I could see was the bright lightning sparking from the laser drill as it bore down on my stomach. On my son. The closer it got, the blurrier it became, image washed in my tears.
I shut my eyes.
My tormentor was taking his time, allowing my stomach to feel its heat even through my jumper. Hear its hungry sizzling.
I choked on my screams, smelling my own flesh cooking as the drill tore into me. Not this! The thoughts were almost like a prayer instead of a plea. Not my son! I’ll do anything. Whatever you want, it’s yours. Just – please – let my son live.
For one disbelieving, magical moment, I thought he might have heard me. Or found mercy in his heart for me. Gasping I opened my eyes to see the light had come back on and he was putting his tool back in its place on the hospital table.
He didn’t even look at me when he turned back. Not really. He was on a mission. His dirty hands met each other backward, diving at my stomach and finding the last bit of material protecting my stomach. Each found a side of my jumper, tearing it open vertically. Within moments, it sagged to the sides, burned and shredded, revealing my swollen stomach to the cool air.
“That’s better.” He picked up his saw again.
I honestly couldn’t say how long he took making my flesh match my jumper, flopping to my left and right to reveal the treasured contents within. It could have been mere seconds or hours. I am sure of one thing, though: he enjoyed it.
“Here we go.” He set his tools aside, eyes never leaving his target. “Here we go.” He slid his palms against each other before reaching into me.
I thought I’d run out of screams, run out of tears, but they renewed in earnest in that moment. I could feel every gesture, every manipulation inside me.
For months I had wept for the loss of my husband. My son had seemed to recognize this, and would kick. Reminding me he was still there. Assuring me that everything would be okay, in time. I found myself seeking my son’s kicks often as the time drew nearer.
Now the only movement inside me came from the monster tearing my son out.
I hated the relief I felt in that moment. My torture was over, at least for a little while, but at a cost I never wanted to pay. Tears streamed down my face, flooding into my ears as I let my skull rest on the metal table I was pinned to.
“Hey there. It’s okay,” my tormentor cooed.
I opened my eyes. He was holding my son, bloody and still, in his arms. The man bounced a little as he turned to me, gazing affectionately on the corpse.
“Would you like to meet him?” He stepped closer, ever bouncing his arms, so I could see the product of his work.
Tears were flowing out of me, unstopped even by closing my eyes.
“No? Okay then.”
The door hinges creaked again, this time followed by a new voice. “McKenna. Quit messing around. There’s work to do.”
“I’ll be right there!” My tormentor’s words were singsong.
Within moments I was left alone. Bleeding. Dying.
The light flickered. My blood dripped to the concrete. My jumper still burned enough to release an acrid smell.
I wanted to die.
No. I’d live. I’d survived the assault on the palace. Survived the drift for months. Survived the bountyhunters when I’d met Cheeks. I could survive this.
I had to, for the sake of my son. To avenge him. And I had a name.
Flicker. Drip. Sizzle.