Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Aurora - Part 18


Tyr followed Rag and Baldr back into that weird torture chamber they had been in the day before. No one else was around. A square of tatami mats had been set up, demarcating the area on which his sparring match would take place. Rag and Baldr knelt down on opposite corners while Tyr walked around the room exploring.

After a brief visit with the doctor this morning, he had spent most of the day in the gym located on the same level as the bedroom he shared with Rag and Baldr. The two had turned out to be congenial though not very talkative. They seemed as curious about him as he was about them, but something—fear maybe—seemed to hold them back. Tyr had a hunch that Flavia had ordered communication be kept to a minimum and sanctions, as he knew, could be severe.

The trip to the doctor had brought no surprising revelations except that, as Flavia had predicted, the amputation wound was already completely healed. The scar was red and raised, but the pain was gone. The mirror held up for him also revealed the scars on his head and when Tyr had asked about the amnesia the doctor had only said that this wasn’t unusual after a traumatic brain injury. But since his brain had healed so nicely, the doctor had added, his memory would surely soon return. Somehow the doctor’s words hadn’t rung true.

First thing back upstairs Tyr had asked Rag to cut his hair—not that Baldr, blind though he was, could have made the situation any worse, but it almost physically hurt him to have the rest of his long hair cut short. But half of it was already gone anyway—and with only one hand he couldn’t braid it to keep it out of his face. Surprisingly, Rag had called someone else. The man, similarly tall and well-built as the others, had introduced himself as Vali. He hadn’t done a half bad job; and even though he hadn’t cut it brutally short, it didn’t look quite as lopsided as before. Tyr checked his reflection in the broad, gleaming blade of a halberd. Not too bad at all.

He stopped behind a rack containing a large number of short weapons. Combat knives, throwing knives and stars, kunai and sai, daggers, dirks, switchblades and straight razors, an overall impressive collection. 

Toward the bottom of the rack several sets of throwing blades were stored in strap-on holsters. He picked up one and holding it in his teeth he pulled the velcro apart. Surprisingly, neither Rag nor Baldr seemed to be disturbed by the noise. Hidden from Rag’s view as he currently was, Tyr pulled up the leg of the hakama he wore and strapped the holster around his lower left leg. Fortunately velcro was something he could manage fairly easily with his one hand. If his luck held he might be able to spirit them away. Tyr was sure that there were surveillance cameras everywhere. The question was, however, would someone be looking at what he was doing?

He didn’t need the blades for the upcoming fight, but he wanted to have a weapon he could conceal easily, one that gave him a degree of range and could double as a tool when necessary. The throwing blades were ideal.

He continued his circuit around the room. Together with the hakama, he wore a top that was styled similar to a traditional kataginu with its wing-like, overcut shoulders over long tight sleeves—well, one long and one short sleeve. Flavia truly had a flair for the dramatic, having him dress up like an ancient samurai warrior. But the top was in fact more than just decorum. With its soft, padded leather with integrated guards and cinches it was comfortable and would provide him with a good amount of protection from his opponent’s attacks. Like every other piece of clothing he’d been given, it had been tailored to fit him perfectly and enclosed his right arm snugly without being constricting.

Tyr rotated his shoulders. From what he’d figured out so far, today’s fight was more a gauge of his abilities than a true contest of dominance. Having been given the choice of weapon, he had opted for the hanbo, a medium length staff, just under a meter long. At a double disadvantage because he had lost his dominant hand, he needed a weapon that he could also manipulate with his remaining upper arm.

After trying out several different weapons, he had decided that the hanbo worked best; mostly because it wasn’t too heavy. At his suggestion, Vali, who seemed to double as the resident tailor, had added a leather loop to the inside of the shortened right sleeve through which Tyr could slip the hanbo while holding it under his armpit which gave him a reasonable degree of control over the weapon. Some more time to practice would have been good though.

Training in the gym earlier in the day had brought back some of his lost memory. He had remembered many, many other gym sessions; weights and machines, but mostly hand-to-hand combat and long weapons’ training. He also remembered sparring with several other men, but all their faces remained blank in his memory, he couldn’t identify anyone of them. Though he did know that they were somehow professionally connected—so by his best guess he was either a professional trainer, a police officer or, and that somehow resonated most, a soldier. And if that—where was he from, how had he come to be here and was this Garran one of his faceless training partners?

Tyr stepped in front of the podium. The empty chair was lit up again and the bird was perched in the same spot as the day before. It sat unnaturally still, its eyes closed. Since it didn’t seem to be tied to the perch it sat on, Tyr would have expected at least some kind of reaction to his proximity. He turned toward Baldr and Rag who still knelt where they had dropped onto the mat. “What’s up with that bird? Is it asleep?”

“It’s a robot.” Baldr answered. “It activates automatically when Flavia is close by.”

Tyr walked closer and inspected the motionless bird. “It looks so real.” He reached out his hand and touched it. It felt soft, like velvet. He plucked out one of those velvety things, the name of which he couldn’t remember and twirling it in his hand, carried on his exploration.

Behind him the bird’s eyes opened, blinked once and closed again.

Finally Tyr arrived back where he had started and still nobody else had arrived. He knelt down halfway between Rag and Baldr, looking in Rag’s direction. Baldr wouldn’t know the difference anyway. He held out his hand toward Rag. ”What is this white thing called?”

“What? The feather?”

“Ragnarok!” Baldr barked, but it was too late. Memories were cascading like an avalanche through Tyr’s mind. White. Feather. Whitefeather. His name. Soul Whitefeather. He closed his eyes against the flood of information released inside his brain. He fought for composure, feeling instinctively that if he gave the tiniest indication of what had just occurred, he wouldn’t leave the room alive. The bird had been a tease; an attempt to determine how well he had forgotten. He quickly stuffed the feather behind the neckline of his top, hiding it from view. He hadn’t been sure if his presence here was accounted for because he knew something that they were waiting for him to remember or because they were counting on him to stay amnesic. Now he knew. Every ounce of memory he regained made him more dangerous and more vulnerable at the same time.

The bird started to move and Tyr took a deep breath, shutting the door on his memory just as a door next to the podium opened and Flavia stepped into the room. Behind her entered another towering, heavily muscled man whose arms, legs and chest where covered with unusually dense body hair—like a boxer he only wore a pair of black shorts and combat boots. Flavia, wearing another elaborate robe, this time in pale green with a high, semicircular collar and overlong trumpet sleeves climbed the stairs and stood in front of her ornately carved chair.

“Tyr, please meet Fenrir.” Her deliberate, seductive voice floated through the room once again, followed by the giggling that had made Tyr shiver before. He could feel the undercurrent of malice in the room.

The tall man, Fenrir, walked towards the mat, stopped at the edge and bowed; first in Flavia’s direction, then towards Tyr. Tyr stood up, but stayed on the far side, not bowing in return.

“Which weapon have you chosen?” Flavia asked.

“Hanbo.” Tyr replied. He turned and picked up the staff he had brought from downstairs, while Fenrir went and picked another from a rack. Then Fenrir stepped to one side of the mat and motioned for Tyr to take opposite position, so they were standing side-on to Flavia. When they bowed at each other, Tyr thought he heard a low, guttural growl. Hanbo in his hand, Tyr stepped in for his first attack.

***

Garran was lying on his bed again, fully dressed this time, but he still hadn’t been able to summon up the courage to leave his cabin. How would the crew see him now? Word had surely spread that he would remain paralyzed, forever dependent on some kind of mobility device, wheelchair or other, to get around. Hell, he couldn’t even make it from his bed to the bathroom and back without it being a major production.
Would they feel sorry for him? By Horlus, he felt sorry enough for himself all on his own, but the thought of being the object of someone else’s pity sat like a rock in his stomach.

The door opened unannounced and Doc strolled into his room.

“You can still knock, you know. I’m not deaf.” Garran complained.

“I could have, but you would have sent me away—probably with some choice words, which I would have ignored—so what’s the point of knocking in the first place?”

“Just saying.” Garran grumbled, silently acknowledging that Doc had a point since that’s exactly what would have happened.

“I brought you something.” Doc lifted a bottle he was carrying in his hand.

“Hey, that’s what I call a true friend. You’re gonna help me drown my misery?”

“No. I thought I’d give you my one and only bottle of single-malt so that you can drown yourself in misery and then tomorrow when you go back on duty as the co-pilot of this vessel and apologize to Aurra for letting her down, you at least have a reason to feel sorry for yourself.”

Garran didn’t answer. He did feel guilty for having skipped several shifts by now, but didn’t a man in his position deserve some consideration? Who was Doc to lecture him? The anger he had just started to bring under control flared up again. “I’m a fucking paralyzed, amputee cripple, so what does Aurra want with me anyway?”

"You were a paralyzed, amputee cripple already when you came on board. That didn’t prevent you from entering into an agreement with Aurra to be her co for the next six months, nor did it seem to feature in that hot and heavy make-out session I interrupted. And now all of a sudden because things are not going your way Aurra’s needs and reasons are no longer worth considering?”

Aurra’s needs. That just conjured up all kinds of images and feelings Garran momentarily wished to forget. If only he could. He extended his hand for the bottle, beckoning with his fingers.

Doc extended his arm, too, but held the half full bottle just beyond Garran’s reach. Garran lunged for it, but Doc pulled it back. “You need your attitude fixed, not your body. You are no less of a pilot than you were two days ago. Aurra still thinks very highly of you, so don’t screw it up. You're a better man than this.” Then he turned and carried the bottle to the sideboard on the far side of the cabin before he turned on his heels and left.

Garran glared at the bottle and the bottle glared back. 


Aurora - Part 19

2 comments:

  1. Great episode and superb last line!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm really enjoying both plotlines...either would make a compelling story on its own, but together...Wow!

    ReplyDelete