Friday, July 1, 2011

Chapter 20 - Debacle (Part 2)

“You sly bastard," hissed McKinley as he slapped the button pinned to his right lapel, igniting the ravaging pain in his shattered right arm.
Less than three and a half minutes later a security drone was gingerly lifting McKinley from that quickly shrinking rectangular patch of carpet.  The drone had fitted an airtight processor mask over McKinley’s face which was connected to tubing that originated from a compartment in its broad thoracic cavity.  McKinley inhaled clean fresh O2.  Gritting his teeth through the pain and intense heat, McKinley lay his head on the drone’s shoulder as it carried him through the remains of the gutted apartment and out into the hall, which while smoky, was remarkably untouched by fire.  
McKinley made a mental note to self: He'd known that Truth was powerful, but had no idea that he had such control over his fire.  Massive control.  Frighteningly massive control.
"Did you manage to find them?" asked McKinley, his voice muffled behind the mask.  The drone passed the bank of elevators and took the stairs en route to the first floor.
"The boy, Truth.  My valet, Airun.  And the Esclaves?"

McKinley made a second mental note to self: He’d have to interrogate the Esclaves to learn if they were aware of Truth’s power, that it had obviously grown exponentially in the years since he’d come to live with them, that he’d found a way to harness said power to razor edged percision.  Could Truth have managed this without their even knowing? 
"I shall just consult with my partner on the ground, sir," said the drone in a tinny echoey voice. The drone then fell abruptly silent.  McKinley could hear it's processing unit buzz and hum in it's head as it remotely communicated with one of it's partners on the ground.  About ten seconds later the drone said, "I have confirmation that all of the humans that you have named are currently in custody.  The valet, Airun is being preliminarily interrogated. The boy, Truth has been hooded and safely sequestered in your vehicle for transport to your compound at your word.  The Esclaves are currently being attended by emergency medical drones for smoke inhalation and minor burns."
"Thank you," said McKinley allowing his head to fall back onto the drones very firm but not unlifelike shoulder.  He breathed deeply and allowed the slow rhythmic steps of the drone descending the stairs  to sooth his frayed nerves.  McKinley was just thankful he'd had the good sense to plan ahead and for any eventuality, although he'd never have been able to predict Airun's culpability.  Fortunately, Mckinley was almost never without his call button.  It had been a gift to him from Zara, his elder sister, many years ago.  She'd worried about his safety and insisted he wear the lapel button so that he could summon any one of a thousand security drones in the city.  Any drone within a five mile radius would comply with his call and do his bidding.  Over the many years that had passed, the lapel button had come in handy on more times than he could count.  
When they reached the first floor, the drone carried McKinley directly to the vacant building director's office where he could recline on a couch while the emergency medical drone (EMD) tended to his wounds.  "Supreme Scientist,” said the drone with well programmed sincerity, “I'll have my partners bring the stretcher.  We should transport you to the Sinistral General immediately to assess and treat your injuries."
McKinley flatly refused.  "I want that sneaky valet of mine."  Mckinly pointed to the drone who'd saved him.  "You.  Have Airun brought directly here to me."
The EMD reached into his duffle bag and removed a plastic bottle.  "At least allow me to offer you water and something for the pain."  McKinley accepted with a nod.
The EMD started an IV of normal saline and added a dose of hydrophine to the mix.  McKinley sipped the water as the medicine began to take effect and soon he was comfortable enough to tolerate the EMD treating his various wounds. The EMD also wrapped and secured McKinley's shattered arm until he could be taken to a hospital.
Feeling warm and fuzzy around the edges, McKinley patted the EMD on the shoulder with his good hand. "You're a good man," he said happy to note that his voice wasn't slurred.  The EMD glanced up with a companionly smile and McKinley noticed brilliant red hair peeking out from beneath the cap.
"Thank you sir."
McKinley turned his attention to his surroundings.  The office was clean and plushly decorated in deep green and brown.  The desk, McKinley noted, appeared to be mahogany with gold inlay lion's claws for feet.  There was a bank of monitors with rotating views of the each floor in the building as well as the building's front, back, and side entrances, the loading dock, as well as the street.  McKinley saw his limousine on monitor eighteen.  On camera twenty-five McKinley saw the Esclaves being attended as they sat in the back of an ambulance.  On camera four, McKinley saw Airun pass just below a camera in the hall leading to the office he now occupied.
Seconds later, led by a particularly large security drone, Airun was brought before him.  Airun struggled uselessly against the drone, sweat beading on his forehead, a maniacal grin on his face.  McKinley looked up at Airun, the haze of the pain medicine blurring his vision and warming his insides, but not enough to erase the feeling that something was wrong.  He tsk tsked and said while gazing up into Airun’s face, "You double crossed me, boy."
Airun's eyes narrowed but he continued to smile.
"But you weren't successful."  McKinley shook his head.  "This should teach you that cheaters never prosper and Believers never succeed."   McKinley laughed at his own witticism.
"You're not so smart."
McKinley struggled to his feet with the help of the EMD who he dismissed once he was standing.  The large security drone remained behind to secure Airun.  Other than that it was just McKinley and Airun alone.  McKinley, feeling somewhat light-headed but in remarkable spirits, snatched the IV from his arm and came to stand directly in front of Airun.
"I can think of a dozen ways to punish you."  McKinley made a half circuit around Airun and now stood behind.  Airun's struggles stilled as he listened to McKinley who now whispered into his left ear.  "I could kill you.  Or I could make you hurt so badly you'd wish you were dead.  But I'll do none of that. I know a punishment far worse." 
Airun's breathing quickened; deep heavy tremoring breaths.  McKinley was nearly giddy with triumph.  It'd been a long time since he was able to ellicit such raw emotion in anyone. But he wouldn't stop.  He was going for terror.  He was going for rage.  He was going for insane consumming impotence.   "I'll just have to reapply those chemical restraints.  Stronger drugs this time, for a stronger man, as much as I hate to admit it."  Now McKinley whispered into Airun left ear.  "Since you've been so unappreciative of the status I've given you, I'll demote you from being my personal valet to the cleaning crew.  Your special duty will be to clean my toilets."
Eyes fixed before him and arms bound behind him, Airun began to shudder.  The deep tremoring breaths had turned into a throaty sob.  McKinley figured that if he had been a man of conscience, he might actually feel sorry for Airun.  But, McKinley was not a man of conscience. He was a Scientist.  He was pride.  McKinley straightened his back and threw back his shoulders ignoring the stab of pain it lit up in his right arm.
Airun's head fell forward onto his chest, shoulders rising and falling like waves on an ocean. McKinley shook his head in disgust.  "Haven't you any shame?  I thought you were made of tougher stuff than to fall to pieces."
Airun’s throaty sobs grew louder.  In fact the throaty sobs sounded more like laughter, even to McKinley’s drug muffled ears.  Airun fell to his knees, threw his head back and absolutely howled.
"What's so damned funny," demanded McKinley brimming with hatred.  The drugs had long since dulled the pain in his right arm but they were now also dulling everything else.  Airun pointed to the bank of monitors.  McKinley blinked in an effort to focus.  His attention was immediately drawn to monitor eighteen. The monitor showed his limousine or what was left of it.  It was now a smoldering metal carcass.  McKinley saw the unhooded Truth standing in the lower right corner of the screen as he backed away and disappeared and then reappeared in monitor nineteen.  McKinley watched open mouthed as the EMD who had attended him earlier approached Truth, appeared to speak a few words into the boy's ear, and then with a hand on Truth's elbow lead him away.  McKinley stepped in closer, eyes squinted, and then cursed, prompting Airun into a hail of new laughter.
"That man, that EMD, he's that fool who owns the filthy eatery.  That's Malak," sputtered McKinley.  He swung around to face Airun.  It appeared that Airun had thought of almost every possible eventuality.  McKinley made a third note to self: Never underestimate the cunning of a Believer or a Midling as it was not genetics that divided them from Scientists, but only names and affiliations.  Nevertheless, McKinley decided in that split second that he might just have to administer some bit of torture on Airun before placing him back under chemical restraints.  After all, the most tried and true way to thwart future disloyalty was through fear.  McKinley knew a thing or two about fear.
McKinley smiled as much to himself as to Airun.  Thwarted though he may have been, like any man of intellegence and integrity, McKinley relished a challenge.  What diid it matter from whom the challenge came?  McKinley watched Airun, eyes heavy with admiration, but spoke to the drone standing silent sentinel in the corner of the room.  "You should join your partner drone in securing the building and searching for Truth Esclaves in the general vicinity, although I highly doubt you will have any success."
The drone nodded. "Yes sir. Anything else?"
"Yes. Please have a car sent for me from my compound as the limo has been destroyed."
The drone exited and McKinley reseated himself on the sofa.  It was comfortable and he was exhausted.  He could barely keep his eyes opened.
“I suppose Malak is a friend of yours?”  It was obvious that Airun and Malak had conspired together to pull off this most ingenius of plans, but he asked anyway.  Airun said nothing.  He remained kneeling on the floor, his eyes locked on the monitors.  McKinley couldn’t be bothered to see what had Airun’s attention, so he continued, “If you were a better man, I’d admire you, Airun.”  McKinley lay his head back against the arm of the sofa.  It was soft.  He was terribly tired.  “But as it is, you’re a fly in the soup of my life.”  Mkinley chuckled.  “You’ll be punished, I’ve decided, and you’ll be restrained so completely that you’ll forget everything, even your name, even where you come from.  Everything.  Everyone.”
Expecting some kind of smart stabbing retort, some type of angry arrogant jab, and slightly unnerved by Airun’s silence, McKinley managed to lift his head from the arm of the chair and steady his gaze on his face.  With eyes still fixed on the glowing bank of monitors, Airun’s mouth had fallen open and this time he was crying.  McKinley sprang from the sofa and studied the montiors, but nothing seemed to have changed.  “What is it?” he asked.  ‘What did you see?”
Airun didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to.  Seconds later the security drone returned with two cuffed youths in tow.  One of them was a boy with bright eyes and a yellow cap struggling to free himself from the drone’s steely grip.  The other, the realization of McKinley’s dreams.  Honor.


  1. Wow. I was so hoping the pain meds would do McKinley in. Oh well. You'd have to end the story if they had, right?

  2. Poor Airun, didn't get gone fast enough. Nice to see Malak again, though.