Wordcount: 2,387 words
Summary: Jon gets capture, escapes, and still isn’t sure what’s going on.
Please note, this is currently a very rough draft from NaNoWriMo 2007. There will be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, flat out contradictions, and uneven characterization and pacing. (Content is also subject to constant change as I take an editing chainsaw to the story.)
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No, I Expect You to Die
Jon came to slowly, and for the first few moments completely forgot where he was and what had happened. Then, as the world came a bit more into focus, he remembered and started flailing madly. Or at least he tried. He found himself in something resembling a dentist’s chair, securely tied with a variety of ropes, belts, and –he tried to get a better look at his leg– duct tape. Which, while still terrifying, wasn’t quite as impressive as if it hadn’t looked put together at the last minute.
There was someone moving around in the room off to his left, but he couldn’t quite make out who (or what) it was. He thought about pretending to be asleep, but he’d always been lousy at it, so he settled for just not making any obvious noise or movements that would alert them to his condition.
Other than being restrained, he was more or less unhurt. He wiggles toes and fingers and other than a faint ache in his left shoulder and a bit of a headache, he felt fine. Terrified (although that was receding with time) and a bit pissed off.
“Oh!” There was a surprised, but not hostile exclamation from the person as they happened to catch sight of Jon. “Sorry, sorry, didn’t realize you were awake.” The man (apparently) fiddled with something on the workbenches and they headed over, pulling his protective goggled down to hang around his neck. He had thick work gloves on and was covered in what Jon assumed was some sort of soot.
“Didn’t mean to leave you hanging like that,” the man headed over to a nearby table and started poking at the computer that was on it. “Never been good at dosages, was sort of worried I’d knocked you out for the whole day. Been only five hours, just so you know.” He turned back from the computer, pulling his gloves off and eying his captive from what he apparently thought was a safe distance.
“Isn’t this really cliché?” Jon wiggled in the restraints, but they were done up tight. “I mean, come on now, can’t we just talk things out?” Because if there was one thing he was really not looking forward to it was torture or death. There had to be some way to convince them that he wasn’t a threat. Well, at least not enough of one to bother killing.
“Technically the one way Evil Overlords consistently get in trouble is -not- killing the hero.” The man shot him an amused look from across the room. “But as far as I can tell I’m not an Evil Overlord and you’re not a hero.”
“Gee, thanks.” Jon made a face.
“Hey, you should be glad that I managed to convince the others of that.” He fiddled with something else on the desk. “Although they were coming from the assumption that we were the plucky rebels and you were the ninja assassin.”
“I’m a what??” The very last thing that would have crossed his mind was that he was an assassin. Or a ninja, come to think of it. He was really bad at being sneaky. And really bad at killing people. So on the face of it, is was a pretty bad label no matter how you looked at it.
“Okay, so this is what I’m thinking.” The man walked back over to Jon, pulling up a chair and sitting down. “You seem to have a different relationship to your dogs than the others and that’s a good sign, for us anyways.”
Jon didn’t bother to deny it, the man seemed convinced he was right and objections probably wouldn’t help his case much.
“Now the Huntsmen have probably told you that the Hounds are good and the Hinds are evil and you’re in a battle to save the world, or some such nonsense.” He pushed his glasses up and frowned in annoyance at the distant enemy.
“Now it is not that the Hinds are bad, per se, just unagreeable with the status quo. After all, Ancestors have been meddling in their descendants’ lives for centuries.” The man sniffed. “Just because the dead outnumber the living (and almost always have) is not a factor. It’s not like we’re trying to throw open the floodgates or anything dramatic. We’re just planning on letting a few choice candidates back in. And not permanently, just for the time they need to put things right again.”
“Put things right? What am I, stuck in Quantum Leap?” Jon frowned, “If they had some sort of divine mandate, The Powers That Be would have kept us from stopping you.”
“And they don’t, that’s our whole point. They didn’t give us a pass, but they didn’t stop us either. You’d think The Powers That Be could at least have set up some sort of system where those with good intentions got a pass, but they don’t seem to care about the micromanagement. We think that’s why there was no need to just cement a wall between the two planes of existence. Thus it’s less of a wall and more of a bramble patch. There were escapees constantly making their way through (and getting sent right back by the Hunts) so they must have meant for travel to happen… otherwise why make it possible at all?”
“Free will?” Jon wasn’t overly convinced, but the man did seem to have some good points. “If there isn’t a way to break the rules that would make the rules pointless. You have to have the chance to sin in order for not sinning to mean anything.”
“That’s a religious argument, I’m making a rational one.” The man brushed off Jon’s concern with a dismissive hand wave. “The Powers That Be were vast barely understood things to start with. Maybe the Hounds had simply misunderstood, maybe they were just supposed to be keeping the bad people out. Not everyone. Not us. We’re not here to hurt people, after all, just help them. We’re the good guys. Seriously.”
“Right, so you’re the good guys, what does that make us then?”
“Also the good guys.”
“You can’t have two sets of good guys, that’s not how it works.”
“This isn’t a fairy tale,” the man sniffed, “the world is full of nothing but good guys, depending on how you look at it. There are very very few true evils out there, it’s just not in human nature.”
“So you think bringing evil into the world is a good way to balance that?” Now Jon was just confused.
“What evil?” The man looked at him, just as confused.
“The demons,” Jon answered, “You know, the ones that you’re bringing through the Veil. And don’t tell me they aren’t demons, I’ve seen them posses people.” He was sort of angry that the nameless faceless enemy seemed to think it was engaging in perfectly acceptable behavior.
Jon described what he had seen in the warehouse and it took a minute for the man to figure out what he was talking about.
“Hah! Okay, okay,” the man grinned in relief. “That looked bad, I know, but it wasn’t what you thought it was. Well, I mean, it wasn’t what it looked like it was. I don’t think anyone could have seen it like that and thought it was a good thing.” He leaned over the chair, hands jumping about descriptively as he explained.
“You know that light siders bond to the Veil creatures so they can affect the world here, right?”
“Well it’s the same thing for dark siders, only they normally bond to a light sider bonded veil critter. Some times, like the time you saw there, they bond directly to a light sider, skipping the veil go between. It’s a little more complicated than it would be normally, since it gives both of them the power to exist on the wrong side of the Veil and that sort of twists it a bit.” He rolled his hand to mimic the spin it put on the veil. “So the living one’s a little bit dead and the dead one’s a little bit alive.”
Which sounded disturbingly familiar.
“That lasts until the light sider dies, and then both of them head to the dark side.” He shrugged. “There actually isn’t a way to force them back until then, except maybe throwing the light sider through and seeing if they stick.”
The man looked at him oddly for a few moments and then blinked, “Good to know.”
“So why am I here?” Which really was ‘why am I not dead’, but Jon really wasn’t about to broach that subject just quite yet.
“You seemed to be the only one we might be able to talk to, so, well,” he waved an arm at the warehouse, “here you are.”
“So we’ve talked, do I get to leave now?”
“Um,” the man pushed his glasses up with a finger. “No.”
“Well then why am I here?”
“You’re also a bargaining chip you know,” the man shrugged, “at least we’re figuring they might want you back unharmed.”
“Great.” Jon wiggled in the bond again. “Hate to tell you this, but they probably think I’m disposable.”
“Ah.” The man blinked. “Well then, I suppose we’ll have to wait till they decide that and go from there. No point in burning bridges before we have to.”
“Where are my dogs?” Because that had been bugging him ever since he woke up.
“Oh that, right,” he pointed to the metal cage work that spanned the inside of the warehouse. “Magnetic fields, they can’t get in. We’re still really not sure why, but it works and you don’t fight what works.”
“So, wait, that means the Hinds too?” Jon was curious.
“Yup,” the man shrugged, “but it only affects Veil creatures, so don’t think you’ve got a fair fight here.”
[At which point there is some more talking and then Phil heads off to take care of something else]
[Hunter then shows up, helps him get loose, and the two sneak out of the building.]
“This is where the world ends.” Hunter stood, looking out at the empty salt flats.
“Well that’s overly dramatic.” Jon finished hooking up his pack and grunted unhappily as he shifted it off his shoulder. It still ached from where he’d hit it and he was getting tired of waiting for it to heal.
“You have no sense of history.” Hunter frowned and pointed at the line of hills in the distance. “There were people here once, standing where we stand. Without phones or cars or rescue parties.” The last was pointedly directed at him.
“I said I -think- there is a rescue coming.” He started off down the mini cliff carefully. “I’m not risking my life on ‘if’. That’s how people end up as a pile of bones some random tourist stumbles across years later.”
“I thought if you were lost you were supposed to stay put so that searchers could find you easier.”
“And once again, we’re back to assuming that someone is looking for me. There is a very–” he caught himself as the rocks slipped under his foot “–very good chance that no one is coming.”
“You could send one of the dogs.”
“Send them where?” He was at the bottom now and he set off towards the hills with a resigned sigh. “At this point everyone is assuming we’ve gone over to the dark side–” he waved off her objections, “figure of speech, figure of speech. I just mean they think we are on the wrong side now, so there is a very good chance that neither side is looking for us anymore.”
“A blessing and a curse, I suppose.”
“You suppose correctly.”
“You do realize it’s going to take a long time to reach those hills.”
“And you have limited supplies.”
“And this still strikes you as a good idea.”
“Do you have a better one?”
There was a long pause as the group walked over the sandy ground, only one of them leaving footprints in the dusty soil.
“Just don’t die.”
Jon gave her an exasperated look, “I wasn’t trying to!”
“Yes, and this isn’t a television show or some sort of reality program in which you go into the wilderness to find yourself.” She snapped. “There is a very real risk that you could die out here and I would like to prevent that!”
“Then go find me some place to rest tonight, alright?” Jon shoed her towards the distant hills. “I’d prefer a hotel, but I’ll settle for dry and snake free.”
“I will return when I have found a suitable location.” She nodded and then started off at a run, fading as she went. The fainter her shadow, the faster she ran until she had vanished towards the horizon.
He kept plodding along, walking through scenery that never changed. Flat dusty earth that fractured into a spider web with each impact. The dogs faded in and out, adding a few of their own paw prints to the decoration. Jon wondered what someone else would think coming across the trail.
He paused after a while, unsure of how long he’d been walking. Then it occurred to him that it really didn’t matter. It would take as long as it took, and nothing he could do would make it faster. Now slower? Slower he could do. He braced his hands on his upper thighs, trying to rest without sitting down. If he sat down, he wasn’t getting up again.
The dogs circled uncertainly, the Singing deep and supportive, urging him up and onwards. For a moment he was tempted to let them drag him closer to the Veil. He’d move further and faster, but there was always the chance he’d fall too far.