Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spookymilk Survivor X: Interrogation

Sorry everyone, it's been a crazy last couple of weeks (during half of which, I was not in the country... sorry to those that tried to get in contact with me). Because of my absence and the running around leading up to that absence, I'm behind in.... everything. Let's catch up.

Two challenges ago, I was tasked with creating an interrogation in which there was a clear advantage to one of the characters. At some point during the story, the advantage was to swing dramatically to the other character.

This is what I came up with.

God, my head is pounding. I suppose a concussion will do that to a guy.

There’s not much light in the back of the transport vehicle, but I think I can make out the shape of two or three armed guards. They’re all wearing the helmets, but I could still give them a shove if I wanted. Then again, that’s how I came by the concussion in the first. Maybe I should rein it in a bit.

I don’t have to tap their thoughts to know they’re terrified of me. They should be. If it would prove anything, I’d kill them all in a heartbeat. They and their phobic kind have hunted me since I was fourteen. All I want to do now is even the score a bit.

The transport finally stops. They very carefully lead me out of the vehicle. It might appear that there’s nothing here but a shack at the end of a dirt road, but I know better. Sure enough, the head guard hits a few buttons in the shack and a door whooshes open, leading to a staircase to the underground detention facility.

The antiseptic sheen of the building is truly unnerving. The place looks like an iPod, shiny, soulless nothingness everywhere – and they say I’m a threat to the soul of humanity. They lead me down a seemingly infinite hallway, past dozens of rooms. I can’t tap into anything in any of them. This place was made to make people like me disappear.

They sit me in a room with a shiny and very securely bolted metal table and two very securely bolted metal chairs. The table has hand restraints built into it, which I find darkly amusing. If I were to try something, I could certainly do it without lifting a finger. The tall one motions for me to put my wrists into the restraints. I grudgingly comply. Then I wait.

He comes into my room after about two hours. He’s not wearing a helmet. I should have figured they’d send in a Shroud. My usual tricks will be worthless. He takes a seat at the table and spends the next ten minutes acting as if he doesn’t know I’m in the room. Finally, he speaks.

“Edjis Simonovski, you have been found guilty of the following crimes…”
“I don’t recall ever attending any trial.” I interject.
“You have been found guilty of the following crimes.” He continues without comment or delay.
“Meeting with and participating in illegal activities with the terrorist group Broken Birch.”
“We weren’t terrorists, we were activists.”
“They are a group who advocates the continuance of activities deemed criminal by the court of San…”
“It’s who we are. Why should it be illegal to be superhuman?”
“’Who you are’ is an affront to God and nature and a crime in this country. You were given multiple opportunities to submit to rehabilitation.”
“I don’t believe compulsive lobotomies count as rehabilitation.”
“That is not your choice to make.”
“Surely you didn’t just bring me down here to debate Superhuman rights.”
“Where did you place the other explosive devices, Simonovski?”
“I told them. We didn’t plant any bombs. We picketed. We held protests which were marred by arrest and rioting by the intolerant fucksticks that people like yourself have spoonfed your lies to. I tell you what, though. If I would have known then what they really did to people like me in that facility, I would have blown the place to hell where it belonged.”

I see the man grimace for a second, and for an imperceptibly short bit of time, I glimpse… something. I wouldn’t be able to do that to a Shroud, but the only other possibility is…that he’s a clairvoyant. That bastard’s been hunting his own and sending them to face every manner of atrocity, while he live sin comfort. He probably sleeps like a baby. He’s going to send me to my doom, and by all rights, he should be sitting right alongside me.

It is now my life’s goal to take this son of a bitch down.

He looks me dead in the eyes. He knows I know. This won’t be easy, I tell myself. He’s surely had others accuse him of clairvoyance, and if he’s made it this far, simple accusations aren’t going to stick. I’ll need to get his guard down somehow – get him to slip up.

“You don’t mind if I call you ‘Judas’, do you?” I ask, making sure that the guards and the recording devices hear me.
“Whatever you want to call me is fine. Just tell me where you placed the other devices.”
“Why do I get the feeling you’re connected to this in a way you’re not letting on?”
“Don’t try to cloud the issue, Ed…”
“You haven’t told them, have you…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Guards prepare the prisoner for transfer…”
The restraints release my wrists, and one of the guards steps toward me to usher me out. I’ve hit a sore spot, but I have to cut to the chase, and I have to do it quickly. In another couple of minutes, he’ll have me out of the cell, and I’ll have lost the chance to out him. I have to get him to drop his guard.
“Whoever it was, they deserved it.”
That gets his attention. “Maria never did anything to you freaks.”

A girlfriend? A wife?

“Did she even know about you? Did she know that the the bastard she was fucking had less in common with her than the ‘freaks’ she was putting down like dogs?”

The expression is “if looks could kill”, Judas just shot me one that actually could, if he had just a little less constraint, and a little more intent. I feel a quick wave of energy pass over me, like a barely perceptible breeze. I can tell that the guard standing by me felt it, too, but it wasn’t enough to lead anyone to where I need them to look. I’m going to have to rile him a bit more.

“Maybe she did know…”
“Stop it.”
“Yeah, maybe she had a thing for freaks like us…”
His pupils are dilating. I’ve almost got him. This ought to be good.
“Maybe if someone hadn’t blown her to smithereens, I could’ve had a shot at her, myself. Hell, if you believe what the know-nothings say about clairvoyants and their necromantic abilities maybe I still could.”
“I will kill you.”
“Where did they bury her again?”

I feel like an asshole, and for a moment I wonder if it’s worth mocking Judas’ dead wife in front of him. Then I think of the legion of my kind he’s sent off to be sterilized, lobotomized, and worse and I know.
It turns out that my concern was unnecessary, he’s been pushed past the edge. The shock wave pins me against the wall. The guards look shocked; rightfully so, considering their prized interrogator has been sending his own kind to their doom for god knows how long.

“Maria was a good woman, and I will not have filth like you speaking ill of her.”
His mental power far exceeds my own. I should probably stand down, but it’s too late for that. I continue to needle him.

“Cat’s out of the bag, Judas. You’re a freak, and your dearly departed was a whore with a mentalist fetish.”
I don’t know if that’s true – I suspect it probably isn’t – but it did the trick. His guard has completely dropped, giving me a look into his mind. I see a devoted husband and father – then I see hundreds and hundreds of my compatriots shuffled in and out of rooms like this over the years. Judas had tremendous power, and he used it to extinguish his clairvoyant kin. I don’t even need to say anything more, he already knows my take on what I’ve seen by the mocking smirk and my quick glance up at the rolling surveillance camera.

He’s totally lost it. One of the guards tries to settle him down, but he won’t be stopped. He breaks the guard’s neck and continues after me. There’s no way I can hold up. Another wave knocks me against the wall. I can feel that my ribcage is broken in a dozen spots, and that my internal injuries are going to do me in even if he stops now, but he isn’t going to stop. The other guard is huddled against the wall in the fetal position, waiting for the others to come clear this mess out. Judas is going to get the lobotomy and maximum security detention center that they had meant for me. He takes a couple of steps towards me, clearly coming in for the kill.

I’m coughing up a lot of blood now, but I can’t stop laughing…

Next, we have Spooky and DK's critiques.

K: I have a similar love-hate relationship with this one as with the last, as it too has a couple of single-minded characters who have little in the way of surprises (even the twist didn’t shock me much). We’re in a comic book world here, but I’d still like to see characters who aren’t so obviously good and evil.

DK: Like a lot of great (and some not great) science fiction, there’s an undercurrent of potential allegory I detected here, although it’s not necessary to consider that to enjoy the buildup and the action. I love the concept, and the rise as Simonovski draws his interrogator into the open is really strong.

I've had a while to go over this one, and I still don't really know what to think of it. I like the concept (I've liked most of mine this time around), and there are parts that come together the way that I was hoping they would, but parts of it feel flat. It feels like the worlds I've been creating are interesting, and the framework of the stories I've been writing have been strong, but the little details that would give them any lift have been lacking lately. Intricacies, when I've been giving them, have been sort of vague, and it's resulted in pieces that don't "pop" like the should. Next writing season, I need to spend less time perfecting the concept, and more time fleshing that concept into an actual world with three dimensional characters and attractions.

Bonus trivia: Edjis Simonovski is an approximation of my uncle's birth name. He changed it shortly before the birth of my cousin to give his kids an easier time of things in grade school. To my knowledge, he is not a psychic.

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