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45 Novoslobodskaya Street

[Image: Ryker.P_.jpg]

Black dreams faded to flashes of light. Bumps and jostling rumbled the inside of an unpleasant vehicle. He rolled his head aside, but a swarm of nausea washed his stomach weak. His eyes scrunched shut. Holding back the bile by strength of will, he swallowed it back down and tried to move.


But he was too weak to fight them. Shadows hovered. Men in helmets and riot gear, but the patches were Custody, not States. Memory slipped and so did his consciousness. The black void of empty dreams returned.


A gurney held his body when next he woke. More restraints. A ceiling rolled overhead, cloaked in shadows and slicked with grime. Arms lifted him. Grunts of frustration for his weight. Iron bars gonged, loud locks rolling and smashing shut again. He was dumped on the floor, which he clawed at, seeking something to hold onto.

Then a kick to the stomach. He groaned. More kicks. His back flared hot. His chest and abdomen crushed. He pulled his arms in, curling around in a ball protecting softer tissues. The beating went on a while. Or until he passed out again. He wasn't sure how it ended.

When next he woke, his pants were at his knees and his ass was on fire. Fury worse than what he unfurled on Oriena lit hellfire within when he realized why. He stretched for the pain-fueled ancient power, intent on leveling the building with a look, but Oriena’s wall remained intact. His fists pounded the ground as though it may shatter the shield. It didn’t work. Instead, he snarled and looked around. The demon that blazed from his eyes was beaten and overthrown, but it rattled the cages as he searched this new hell. 

A small room meant for ten occupied dozens – maybe a hundred men swallowed life as he knew it. Others were unconscious near him. One laid in blood pooled under a broken jaw, the eyes empty. Shouting mixed with screams of terror echoed in the distance. 

He crawled away, pulling his pants upward as he did. This wasn’t a jail.

It was worse.

Shit. I’m in the goddam Butryka.

*Butryka is a predetention holding center in the middle of Moscow City along 45 Nvovoslobodskaya Street. The building is nondescript unless one knew what to look for. There is a subway across the street. Regular neighbors and businesses flank it. It is probably the most feared "center" in Moscow, if not all of Russia, which is saying something given the notoriety of the prison system there.
Marcus found it interesting how smell could convey the feel of a place. In hindsight, it was a rather obvious thing he'd learned growing up and being shuffled from home to home. You'd walk in the door and a barrage of odors would hit you- sometimes must, sometimes cloying perfume; the rancid smell of fried food that somehow always took on the aspect of fish no matter what it was; the stink of bleach and pinesol.

Like a fingerprint, each place was unique. And yet the underlying meaning was the same, in most anyway. The last home had been curiously...unnoticeable. Which also meant something.

The mood of a place, the rules and requirements, the extent of pain and limits of tolerance, all of it would come to him in a moment.

Butryka's stink spoke to him. Ascendancy's Dominion offered freedom in ways unheard of in times past. Aside from a few restrictions regarding what could be said about the man himself-and whether you fomented any sort of rebellion- people in general could pursue their dreams to their hearts content.

Which meant that to run afoul of the secret police, and to, even worse, find yourself behind these walls, meant you truly had fucked up.

Ascendancy knew that an outlet was needed, a bleeder valve that ran along back channels, to allow for those who might not operate strictly within the lines. A blurring of vision.

Tradition and appearance, unspoken and yet as rigid as if inscribed on iron tablets, governed the underworld and the mighty alike. Inside or outside the law proper, there were rules.

And Butryka was for those who did not follow them. At times it was punishment. At other times, it was to set an example. And for still others, it was a lesson.

He knew what Ascendancy wanted. He had been surprised the man had asked him to handle this personally. Not that he minded. No. In fact, he was rather interested to begin, especially now that he felt whole. The Consulate was running smoothly for now. His absence would not cause it to grind to a halt. He'd be a poor administrator if it did.

The question was what Ryker would prove to be. He smiled to himself, a distant memory of the Van Patton's and their never ending church TV. The parable of the sower. The seed lands on the road, where birds pick it up and it never sprouts. It lands among rocks and thorns where it sprouts but doesn't root deep and whithers away. It lands among the good soil and yields fruit. "Who decides what the soil is?" the pastor asked. The crowd murmers various ideas. God. The sower in where he cast. The devil place birds or rocks or thorns. "No. It is the listener, by their lifetime of choices." The people nod. Yes, they can make their hearts hard. They can allow thorns to root. Or they can soften or weed their hearts. They choose.

An easy way to brush off anyone who didn't want to hear, in Marcus' opinion. But not necessarily without some kernel of truth, he supposed.

What would Ryker be when he cast his seed?

Marcus passed through the entrance, scanned for any weapons. He smiled of course. He hadn't brought his lightsaber, of course. Not because he was worried it might be used. Simply because it was unnecessary here. He was the weapon.

He'd read the file. Ryker was sedated from the Force. The video had been enough. They couldn't take any chances. From his sources, he knew there was something more...elegant than drugs that might soon be available. He had his own researchers looking at it as well. At least from a channeling perspective. He knew how to shield. But could it be held indefinitely? Channelers would need to be able to controlled.

He sat in a single small room, metal table bolted to the floor, steel rings welded into its center for cuffs to be linked through. He didn't see a camera but likely it was there. More than one fiberoptic lens peeking through pinholes in the ceiling. The days of a one way mirror had been left to old television shows.

The room smelled of bleach, though he imagined the tang of copper or iron could be tasted. Interrogation rooms were interrogation rooms, after all.

He waited, dark brown wool suit jacket open to reveal a cream shirt and a dark purple tie, the symbol of his Consulate a tie pin. He did not need the Force to hear the movement of chains in the hall.
Ryker sat in the corner between a metal bunkbed and the wall. The bunks were previously claimed, and he had no interest in fighting anyone for a piss-stained mattress. Besides, he wasn’t sure he could win a fight in present conditions. One or two faces looked familiar, though he couldn’t place from where. The other inmates mostly ignored him, although he gave them no reason to draw attention. He wasn’t suicidal. The time passed mostly without incident excluding when someone came to stand square in front of him. He was a clean-shaven man with a tattoo of the grim reaper on his neck, sickle slicing up toward his eye. His foot nudged Ryker’s as if checking to see if he was alive. A long stare upward, and his milky gaze hovered on the assailant’s face.

“What is it? You like me mother fucker?” Ryker snarled.
The man tilted his head, then squat in front of him. He pushed a finger into Ryker’s cheek, which he allowed mostly because he was too tired to punch him out.
He replied with a jagged Russian accent, “I know who you are,” he said with a threat.

Ryker shrugged, “then you should know to leave me the fuck alone.” He honestly did not remember this guy. If they crossed paths before, then he was a nobody.

Grim reaper laughed, “you’re not in the best position to threaten anyone. The Syndicate won’t forget what you did to them.”

Ryker gave a flying fuck about the Syndicate. They could burn for all he cared.

Grim Reaper leaned closer. The heat of his disgusting breath snarled Ryker’s nose. Seriously. This asshole had no respect for personal space. Ryker was on the verge of punching him out when the banging on the bars turned everyone’s attention to the exit.  Noise dulled as his name was called out.

Ryker wondered how long it would take before the Custody made this right.
Chest swelled, he climbed to his feet. Syndicate guy wasn’t moving out of the way despite his attempt to push past. His scrawny chest puffed up, thinking himself the big man of the room.

Ryker grumbled, grabbed his shoulders and thrust his knee to the groin. Fucker collapsed but nobody came to his rescue.

He left the cell to the sound of death threats (and worse) echoing behind him.

He walked with a slight limp as he entered the interrogation cell, chains clanging with the motion. He remembered the black man who waited for him, probably ten years his younger and a thousand years uglier. Oriena’s blood still dotted his face as he arranged it to stillness while the jailor anchored his chains to the table. His knuckles were slashed gruesome and broken open at the bends as he laid them forward.

Once the door closed them in, a snarl rumbled the back of his throat. “Well shit. We have a celebrity in Butryka. I assume you’re here to deliver Ascendancy’s apologies. You can tell his high and mighty Ass-fuckery, I accept them.”
Marcus raised an eyebrow, allowing a small smile to form on his lips. The man was imposing enough, to be sure. The scars on his face, the bruises on face and hands, the blood spatter still on his face, and most of all, the rage he exuded told the story of a man who was at the end of his rope. The question was, was he strong or was he brittle? One was an asset, the other a simple tool.

Ascendancy trusted this to him. And he knew he was capable- mostly. People were not things, not truly predictable in the way equations of matter and energy were. While the masses could be counted on to behave in specific ways, individuals were another thing entirely. And no file truly captured the deepest essence of a man. A person could be counted on to behave in a certain way, given their past, only until it was no longer in their interest to do so. And determining that shifting point was nearly impossible before the fact.

And so Marcus knew that he had his work cut out for him. That he had not one goal but rather a number of them. Some more preferable than others. Above all, to Ryker. It would not be Marcus who paid the price, after all. He considered the seething mass of anger and hatred, feeling a kinship with it. A kinship, but also disappointment. The man was a slave.

His voice was unperturbed. "An apology...Heh. No, I think not." His look took in the room- and the entire facility, really- and his face relaxed. "The Ascendancy's...guests here are usually the ones to apologize. Not that I expect you too. Though..." he looked to the folder in front of him. It was an affectation, really. Marcus had read and memorized his record. Still, it provided a focal point. He touched it, flipped it open, read for a moment before looking at him again. He had his suspicions as to what had happened in Ohio, especially with the tsunami so fortuitously timed with Ascendancy's latest travels. "First San Quentin. And now Butryka."

A small smile appeared as he considered his scars, the single milky eye. "Out of the frying pan and into the fire, no? One would almost think you liked being in lock up." The man was ego, at this point. That much was obvious. But if he was to be more than cannon fodder or a suicide bomber, he'd need to gain the mastery. "I am curious. Why did you choose to come here?" The question was deliberate. His actions were his own. The fruits of those actions were his to own as well. All of it.
Ryker snorted. The cuts and bruises on his face drew his expression long and unamused. When he spoke, the tone was mocking, a poor imitation of a shitty yankee accent. ”Oh first San Quentin and now Butryka.” He was surprised the Consul knew his full history. He wasn’t military or intelligence, yet he had claws enough into the system to learn details blacked out to most others. That meant someone gave him the background. Someone sent him here. Ryker wasn’t thrilled with the possibilities of who that someone was.

“I was working two different fucking job when shit went sour both times. Dayton was not my fault! he flinched as though to jerk toward Marcus, when the chains caught him and yanked him back to his seat.

Admittedly, the accusation struck a nerve. He settled in place, taut chains relaxing, and laced his fingers together. He was calmer, but only barely. “Obviously nobody chooses to go to Butryka. If you know so much about me, you’ll know what I was working to accomplish. Then that bitch Oriena built some kind of wall around my head. I can’t grab the power. After you get me out of here, you can show me how to tear it down.”
Marcus watched as Ryker's mood went from white hot anger- the metal of the cuffs cutting into his straining wrists- to barely controlled. Rage was not the issue. There was nothing wrong with rage, whether cold and icy or hot and fiery. The question was control. The man had some, after a fashion. The real concern was whether that control was haphazard and sporadic. A tool had to be dependable. A brittle tool was useless- and in many cases, deadly to the one wielding it.

He raised an eyebrow, speaking coolly. "I've seen the video. Whatever you were working on with the Syndicate had nothing to do with what happened." He remembered his own experience all too clearly. He barely suppressed a shudder. "An Ijiraq feeding is a painful thing, I know. But they had nothing to do with your attack of Ms. Ruseyev." Yes, he had recognized her, both from the Almaz, and far more importantly, from the Grand Ball. All guests had been vetted and she had drawn no little attention. 'Possessed' was the only word for it, an Ijiraq speaking through her mouth. He remembered well the struggle to shield her from the power. Apparently, she had done the same to Ryker.

Curious, he seized the Force and probed with spirit at the man. He wasn't sure what he was looking for. His sparring with Andre had not included study. And though Pyotr had been a willing pawn for a time, he had never been able to properly experiment on the man when holding the power. Something he'd rectify at the Consulate. So his probing was cautious, tentative, poking gently, searching for whatever it was that connected a person to the Force. He knew looking at himself would do nothing. He had tested that before, especially after seeing Jensen James' healing weaves.

His questing thread of spirit stopped, as if something were blocking it. He looked at where it happened and it seemed odd. A single point and yet...there was a twisting to it, a winding down into a depth. As if it was a point and yet inside, somehow. Spherical, though not in any three dimensional sense. A part of him was excited. A hypersphere? Was this some sort of higher dimensional structure? He stored the thought away for a later time. Instead, he considered the blockage, the nothingness that he couldn't get past, that seemed to "coat" the inside of that "sphere", repelling his thread the way the positive ends of two magnets repelled each other.

His weave dissipated and he focused on the man. "Apparently, she did leave you a parting gift." Purposefully, he let a sly grin show. "Seems appropriate given what you tried to do to her." He watched for the explosion. It was only a needle. And Marcus had many of them ready. Ryker would not enjoy his time here. But if he was smart and could learn, he would be useful. "I know how to remove it." He thought he did, at any rate. He didn't need to see the blockage to know where it was. A sharpened blade of spirit with enough force should be enough to slice it through.

He tried to seem cheery- optimistic even. [color]"Actually, this is good for you. You don't have to take the suppressive drugs to keep you safe."[/color] To keep everyone else, safe, in fact. But euphemisms were part of this. He stood. "We will speak again, when your system has cleared." With a clear head- and some time alone- he would be more malleable.

He left the room, stopping to leave instructions with the guards. "See to it he does not receive any more drugs. And put him in his own cell." The man looked at him questioningly. The prison was not a place to coddle the prisoners. Marcus' face hardened, his brown eyes flashing with anger. His voice was deadly quiet. "I mean what I say. You will do as I say." The threat hung there. They knew who he was. And if they were smart enough, they could put two and two together and figure out what he was. Still, to cement his words, he seized the Force and wrapped a vise of air around the man's throat. He hid the amusement that came to him, reenacting a scene from the movies. His voice was cold. "My attention on you would be a very bad thing."

The man's face was starting to turn red, the terror in his eyes deliciously palpable. He held the Force grip for a moment longer and then released. The man breathed in great gulping gasps. Marcus' voice was cool and friendly. "One other thing. He is not allowed to sleep. Noise. Water. Whatever it takes. No beatings, mind. Nothing to physically hurt him. But no sleep." It wasn't mercy that made him add the restriction. There was no mercy in this. Sleep deprivation could break a person's mind after long enough. Truly snap it.

He smiled at the thought, wondering whether Ryker would snap before Marcus saw what he was looking for.
Ryker was visibly confused. Marcus acted like he just jumped Oriena for sport. The bitch wouldn’t stop picking at him. Her goading went back to the first time they met. Almost like the wanted the attention. Wanted the pain. He had been furious at her. Sight bleeding. Lungs roaring red. He wanted to crush her with his bare hands.

Moments before, however, his focus was entirely on Yun Kao. Then he looked at Oriena, and it was like the world pivoted to put her at the center.

Ryker could sense the power probing at him while his own was uselessly out of reach.
Then Marcus called for release, and the sounds of chains jerking on their bolts shook with Ryker’s movement. He heard the final order, and knew in his gut that the guards would do as told. They’d likely enjoy it.

“No. You can't leave me here!” he cried out, but Marcus was already gone.
The next 5 days seemed to go by quickly and Marcus gave no thought to Ryker or what he was going through. There was far too much on his plate. While the Consulate on Channeler Affairs was its own autonomous entity, he still worked closely with Alexandrova and Leonid in the Propadanda and Media Affairs Consulates, respectively. For a few obvious reasons, of course. One being that public perception of channelers was still across the spectrum, ranging from terrified fear to worship. Neither of those were desirable, at least from the government's perspective. The Ascendancy should be viewed with something akin to religious awe. The Rods of Dominion should be regarded as his powerful representatives. And Vellas' teams, when deployed, should be seen as the trump card, the triumphant secret weapon to quell any dissent.

But the girl who worked in the flowershop, the college student taking his finals, even the Imam of a mosque or Father of a church needed to be seen as only human. The ability to channel did not confer upon a person the natural right to lead or have a say in governance, no more than mere physical strength did. That was the official position. Therefore, channelers need to be normalized, recognized as equal parts of society, protected and encouraged. But unless they were part of an arm of the CCD, appointed specifically to that role, they had no business leading groups of people. The memories of the insurrection in the DV or of Theo Andlain still was too fresh in their minds.

And thus, under his direction, Marcus' consulate had to thread the needle to achieve that balance. Propaganda and Media were critical. Already, a few programs and avenues were being discussed to introduce channelers to the world in a safe and humanizing form, for which they had high hopes.

Aside from that, he oversaw the various avenues of research that was going on. Despite their evening together, Marcus kept his relationship with Danika professional. A part of him felt a twinge of sadness at the thought. There had been something about her that tugged at him, reminded him of Elena. With her, he had almost felt...normal. Human. But he knew it was not to be. He wasn't normal, not by birth, by ability or by ambition. Women like Spectra were more his speed, simply because their relationship was more transactional. There was no illusion regarding emotion. It was mutually beneficial. And they played to each other's strengths. Still, Danika's work was impressive. She was currently on the trail of something, though she refused to divulge more until she had something more concrete. He trusted her. Whatever she was doing would be critical.

He tasked one of his aids to begin putting together a research program to determine how men and women used the power and what points of similarity and differences there were. That involved interviews along with a study of the wiki library of created weaves in his app. What seemed interesting was that how a man achieved something was completely different than how a woman did the exact same thing. Mostly. Everyone had their subtle variances. He had directed that analysis be done on the tau algebra equations of weaves that did the same things to distill them out to their simplest purest form, using the principle of homeomorphism from topology. He wondered if the male and female versions would show some sort of symmetry, and if so, what it looked like.

What excited him was the possibility of coming up with a way to convert from one expression to another, in the same way that the Reimann Zeta Function, a summation using integers, could be turned into in a product of only prime numbers, the Euler Product Formula. If there was a symmetry in the equations for how men and women used the power, then he might be able to find a similar mapping to convert one from the other. A weave made by a man could be "translated" into one a woman could use. This could vastly speed up training and information gathering, as men could even train women and vice versa. Just a dream, but one he liked.

Especially as, once again, all of it would flow through him. Ultimately, he would add all of that to his knowledge arsenal. He found it strange that, in a world where channelers abounded, Ascendancy saw no need to work at keeping ahead of those who might challenge him. Then again, as long as he had been ruling, there had been no challengers. No channelers, really, too. Not any to pose a threat. Channeling was fairly recent. Marcus supposed it was simply habit. When one is the only one with ability, and with your top level of strength, the idea of someone supplanting you doesn't occur to you.

Then, too, the Atharim, particularly their Regus, kept The Ascendancy's focus so that he never considered the threat in his bosom. All the better for Marcus, though, as he quietly acquired power to himself. One day, he would be ready to strike.

Aside from all that, there was also the folding of Domovoi into his Consulate: meeting with Chief Inspector Drayson and discussing goals and procedure of the task force- the "Monster Squad" as they called it. Nox Durante had been conscripted as a consultant. His experience and knowledge as a former Atharim would help Domovoi in their handling of these new types of cases.

Between all that, when next Marcus had set foot inside Butryka it was because it showed up on his schedule. Ryker had not crossed his mind during the intervening days. That morning, he reviewed Ryker's file again. Nothing new occurred to him. Everything really depended on Ryker. How malleable he would prove to be.

He passed through the gates of Butryka, noticing once again the distinct odor of the place. It was interesting how despair and hopelessness could have a scent. The other thing that did stand out to him was the way the guards spoke to him. While before they had been prompt and respectful, given his position both as Consul and as a representative of the Ascendancy, there was a certain...arrogance in the way they walked and spoke. He understood. He had been perceived as a bureaucrat, a paper pushing sycophant. Most of them had no idea what being a Consul entailed, and just assumed he had kissed the requisite ass for an appropriate amount of time. Especially for a man not more than 24 years old.

This time, though, the salute was not perfunctory, the respect not feigned, and the subservience completely real. He smiled to himself. Apparently, word had spread regarding his Force choke. It was a good tool to have on hand as it definitely had an effect. The guard he'd spoken to nearly fell over himself describing how they had carried out his orders. He almost felt sorry for Ryker. Well, not really. In truth, it was rather amusing. The man would be drifting off only to have a bucket of ice water thrown on him. He knew from experience how shocking and disconcerting that was- and the Van Pattons hadn't even been trying to keep his eight year old self awake.

He did smile at hearing that the guard had been enterprising, putting Ryker in a cell with little insulation. During the late afternoons it was brutally hot. During that time, the cold water roused him and could be considered refreshing- a treat, almost, except for the prevention of sleep. But at night, it was another story. The minutes and hours would tick by, he could imagine, the drowsiness creeping up on him, especially after a long day of moving rocks from one pile to another. Another nice example of ingenuity on the part of the guards. Work him all day at hard but useless labor, stick him in a warm cell for the rest of the day, douse him with ice water at the first sign of sleep. Keep him up all night. Rinse and repeat.

He would speak to the man's superior at some point- after talking to Ryker. No point in rewarding the man if it didn't produce any results.

He waited patiently in the interrogation room, hands folded together on the steel table, meditating. It would not do to show any amusement or pleasure at Ryker's appearance. In truth, the hearing of his experiences of the past week had threaded a feeling of electric pleasure in Marcus. He found himself smiling at imagining the man and his suffering. He didn't question it or wonder where it came from. Not anymore. He was Marcus and Malik in one. And no feelings were wrong. They just were.

So he meditated, making sure his pleasure at the man's state would not show. But he made a mental note to set a reminder each evening to touch base with the guard. Find out how the man was doing. The feeling was...powerful. And he wanted to feed it.

At last shuffling steps and the clink of metal chains echoed in the distance. Despite his resolve, he smiled, then kept it. To be the overly friendly questioner. On a whim, he decided that he'd have something special brought to the man, some treat that he would associate with Marcus' visits.

A pet needed to learn to look forward to seeing his master, after all.
Day 1

Ryker knew Butryka. As soon as the guards came in to latch the chains to walk him back to a cell, he struck. The piss-poor minimum wage assholes didn’t have a chance against him. Two were on the ground crying for their mothers before a cattle prod struck him in the back. The jolt sent him seizing, but he was too furious to care.

He woke up in a cell alone. Everything ached, but he just rolled over and let the pain infuse him with purpose. He would get out of here. He was going to kill everyone. Marcus. Oriena. Mikhail. Ivan. Yun Kao. The Yakuza. The Syndicate. And Nikolai fucking Brandon. All of them. Dead under his hands wringing their throats to pulp.

Day 2

The cell they put him in was little bigger than a closet. The walls were cinderblock and if they’d ever been painted, the color was long ago faded. He found a hole where previous fingers used to dig out flakes of the concrete until it was deep enough to plunge the whole bone to the knuckle.  

A stainless-steel toilet was anchored to the wall. Below a barred window so dirty he couldn’t see through the glass was a concrete slab that may have once held a mattress. After the anger faded, he passed the time thinking through the events that landed him here, picking apart every minute. He shouldn’t have reacted so strongly to Oriena. Control was too tightly wrestled by years of training and willpower. By that night, the story began to mix in his mind. Memory became a blob.

Day 3

He stumbled going to the toilet, barely catching himself from slapping his skull to the floor. When he rolled over, the ceiling swirled and heaved like the building was breathing. He managed to make it to the toilet, but the piss streamed down the wall instead. He didn’t care and had to crawl back to the slab. When they pushed food through the slot, he fumbled the plate and the slop spilled on the floor. He just stood over it for a few minutes, swaying in place. Finally, he plucked the chunks from the filth and ate them anyway. It tasted as good as steak.

Day 4

Ryker was stretched out on the slab, shivering uncontrollably, clothing soaking wet from being drenched from ice water. When the guards entered with bucket after bucket, he tried to fight them off, but his arms were lead and his legs were logs. As he laid there, light diffused the ceiling from the dirty window, casting shadows to the corners of the room. They seemed to swirl in strange black shapes, like clouds floating across the sky. From one corner crawled a large, black spider. A huntsman spider, he thought. Stuck to the ceiling, its legs moved slow as honey. From the other corner slithered a black snake. Stuck unnaturally upside down, Ryker wondered why it didn’t fall.

When the jailer returned with a fifth bucket. Ryker watched him enter like he moved in slow motion. The bucket turned and out poured a million bees. He screamed and curled his arms around his head.

Day 5

Ryker was curled in the fetal position when they hooked the leads to his wrists. There was no need to double him over to walk, he stumbled badly even upright. When next he saw the face of Marcus DuBois, he was a passive doll positioned in the chair opposite him. The chains around his wrist were anchored to the table. His ankles the same to the floor. His eyes were red and empty. If they even recognized the Consul, there was no sign.
Marcus kept his outer demeanor cool and composed, only visually assessing the man who shambled into the room. Inside, he felt a powerful electric thrill jolt through him, giving him goosebumps. He had never before felt something like this, not outside of his Angel of Judgement persona. Intresting. The man before him was a shell of the man he was before. The way he shuffled in, led as if helpless by the guards. The way his eyes refused to focus, to indicate that he saw or had any recognition. Amazing. Just amazing how quickly a person could be broken.

Of course, Marcus was not a fool. The man could be playing him. He had been special forces. Surely, deprivation had been part of their training. But Butryka was not any simple holding center. Nor had he been given a room in solitary and that was it. Unless he had undergone specific training for it, sleep deprivation was nearly always successful. Still, it would do well to be wary. Marcus wanted him malleable, broken in, not broken and shattered. Willing and compliant for his master. Appreciative for his master.

He gestured for the guard to come over, channeling a wall of air to prevent Ryker from hearing. Head turned so his lips were not visible either, Marcus spoke. "Have a meal prepared for the man. Something hearty. Meat. Potatoes. Prepare a comfortable cell and have the meal sent there." The guard looked confused but wisely only nodded once in obedience. A ghost of smile showed. Good. They were learning. "If I give you the signal, Ryker is to be taken there and allowed to eat. Make sure to take all the security precautions you can. Hose canon, tranquilizer gun, extra guards, plastic utensils. He is to be allowed 2 hours of sleep. Only two, mind. Then back to his cell for the usual regime until I return again."

Ryker would know nothing, of course, not until and unless Marcus allowed it. This was a reward but only for compliance. One quick nod and the guard was on his way, no doubt to pass on the instructions. Marcus let the wall fall. He studied the weakened man. Somehow, despite the scarring, he was now pitiful rather than someone to be feared. That amused him.

"Ryker. Can you hear me?" He snapped his fingers, speaking up loudly. "Ryker. I know you're tired but I need you to focus." The man needed to be honest. He needed to recognize his failures. "Why did you attack Oriena? Why?" It really didn't matter. What mattered was that he admitted his responsibility and wanted to atone for it. For a man who had oozed pride as he had, such an admission would be galling.

And the first step in showing obedience.

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