Author's Note: Back to Ariel's shenanigans. Please let me know if you think this chapter is too detached from the previous one.
Updated: Thursday 24th April 2014
Ariel’s eyes fluttered open and he saw only white. Wondering whether he was dead and this was heaven, he tried to pinch himself. His arms would not move.
He realised that he was strapped down to a metal chair. As he attempted to move in the chair, he saw that it was bolted down. As Ariel looked down at his clothes, he saw that he was no longer wearing the expensive suit he had worn to the ball. He was in an all-white attire that made the light tanned glow of his skin seem all that much darker.
Looking straight ahead, he saw the same white wall as the others but something felt different behind this one. He closed his eyes and felt the tangled threads of several humans which meant one thing. He was not alone, but more importantly, he was being watched.
Plan Omega had been a shambles.
Ariel sat there trying to decide a plan of action. Would he let them know that he could see them, or did he act scared for their benefit?
It was only then that he realised that he was perfectly calm, although he didn’t think that he should have been. He had been trained for this and worse, but he had always dreaded the day that all that training would actually come of use.
A faint smile formed on his lips. The humans have no idea who they are dealing with.
A door opened to his left, but he didn’t deign to pay the human any attention. He just kept looking straight ahead at the wall that was not a wall, with those humans behind, monitoring him.
A red-headed woman took the seat in front of him, at the other side of the metal table. Her hair was tied in a severe bun and she wore a blue shirt and khaki trousers. A white lab coat completed the ensemble, with the name “O’Donovan” imprinted on it in clear all capitals. The woman’s face was splattered with freckles and her already too thin lips pressed together as she acknowledged Ariel, but he did not give her his full attention. His gaze went through her as though she was not important enough to acknowledge. Ariel missed the colour of her eyes the first time but when he did catch them, he was startled by the shocking violet.
“I am Dr O’Donovan,” she greeted. Her voice was calm and composed with a layer of steel behind the soft intonations. “I have been charged with the task of interviewing you and explaining what the Paladins plan to do with you.” Ariel was taken aback by the word “interview”. It seemed too civil for the way he was being treated. This was an interrogation, plain and simple. Ariel only barely kept an obnoxious comment sealed away.
“We have been calling you Agent Zero since you first came to our attention,” she explained. Ariel felt the barest flicker of a twitch on his lip. That is a nothing name, and I am not a nothing, he thought. “You often come out of nowhere, with no warning and eradicate our plans, and then disappear again with little to no trace. It has taken some of our best magicks operatives to retrieve even the briefest of memories from your victims— provided you leave them alive.” Uncertain of what to make of that, Ariel kept his lips shut. He didn’t know whether to be more surprised that the Paladins were meddling in magic or that they could unravel even a bit of his Mnemosyne Weaving. “We could continue to call you Zero or you could give us your name,” she continued.
Ariel didn’t appreciate the nothing name, despite whatever pretty little story she formed to explain it. His pride would not allow answering to it, but he was part fey, and he knew the importance of owning his name.
“Of course I did not suppose the matter of giving up your name would be so simple,” the doctor said. “I’m sure the fey have bound you in many ways as a precaution. Please understand, of course, that we intend to help you get your life back. It is my understanding that the fey employ many Changelings such as yourself to do the jobs that they cannot. After all, they are susceptible to iron.”
Ariel blinked several times. Changeling? They think I am a Changeling? Most of the Galatea were Changelings, however. Taken away from humanity, they had been transformed into something else. Something more— or so the fey had claimed. Ariel had the misfortune of being born half fey. As far as he was concerned, he had no humanity to go back to.
“You want to help me?” he asked. It was the first thing he had said and even the calm doctor seemed a bit shocked, her brows raising ever so slightly.
“Yes, we do. Another of your kind was captured a couple of years ago and she explained the ordeal that the fey had put her through. I know you are not wholly human and that you have remarkable gifts. With some therapy and training, you could be of great use to the Paladins and help free the others who are still under the enslavement of the faeries.”
Ariel’s heart rate elevated slightly. Of all the things he had suspected— starvation, beatings, electrocution— he had not expected something so cruel. This foolish human was trying to give him hope. Hope that he didn’t have to conform to the rules of his court, and that he could make a difference and save the lives of his fellow Galatea.
The tear that escaped was unwarranted. It didn’t take long for them to start flooding and then he was nothing more than a blubbering mess. “You don’t understand,” he said. “What you are saying… it’s, it’s not”— he sniffed loudly— “possible.”
“Of course it is,” Dr O’Donovan said. “Can I get some tissues, please?” she yelled. She obviously hadn’t been expecting this kind of reaction. Ariel heard a door slide open and someone walked swiftly inside. Soon enough, he felt someone lightly dab at his face with a tissue and knot works formed in his stomach.
“Don’t touch me!” he roared.
Ariel couldn’t stop the outburst that lashed out from within him. He felt the threads of the doctor and the stranger who had entered. Only a few of their memories interlaced, showing that they had worked together on occasion. The tapestry of their lives formed in his mind’s eyes and he felt his mind grab at random threads and pull savagely.
A loud scream pierced Ariel’s ears and he opened his eyes to see a twenty-something man grabbing at their own hair. He was dressed in a similar uniform to Dr O’Donovan’s, indicating that he might have had a similar role within the Paladin organisation. It mattered not who he might have once been. Ariel felt himself tearing away all that this young man was, and might have been. And somewhere from the great beyond, Ariel heard himself laugh. It was cold and maniacal, cruel and remorseless. And so the threads continued to fray.
No, he thought to himself. This isn’t what I want. Stop!
The young man collapsed to the floor, and the doctor caught him. Ariel wanted to apologise. He wanted to make it up to the young man who had only been trying to help a quivering boy. Instead, scathing words came out.
“Freedom is an illusion for those like me. You would do best to keep your filthy hands away from me.”
“What have you done to him?” the doctor demanded.
I have taken away all that he is.
But Ariel could only hear himself cackle more until a shock vibrated through his entire being and he blacked out.