Daphne and the cooks submitted to becoming enslaved immediately. Some would say the cooks were cowardly non-combatants, but I think they were the most practical of the lot I caught in my ambush. Daphne though, she held a high sense of responsibility. She straight out told me before submitting that she would not follow any order I gave that resulted in harming her fellow soldiers, even if it cost her life. I believed her, and agreed to her demand.
Well, it’s not like I was ever planning to have Daphne hurt anyone in the first place, so it was an easy promise to make.
I set Mercy to putting the Enslavement Collars on the wounded before letting Daphne treat them using two glove like foci with quartz sewn into them in a sort of blooming flower design. Or maybe it was a shining sun? The cooks I set to putting Enslavement Collars on the kneeling soldiers, binding the hands behind the backs. After every one of the conscious group had been chained, I picked out the more nervous looking guys (harder to do that when you can only see the back of their heads, I tell you what) and convinced them to accept the enslavement. Things rolled more quickly after that. I soon had four soldiers standing armed guard over their platoon mates while another pair brought captives up to me, pinning their arms between them. The cooks I reassigned to help Daphne. None of the people who were enslaved to me looked happy, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t doing their jobs.
Things were going fine until-
The grey haired guy with animal ears lashed out the instant Daphne had healed his head. Grey hair’s booted foot caught one of the cooks in between the legs, doubling him over, while grey hair headbutted Daphne’s face. Mercy and the other cook scrambled away from grey hair as he squirmed onto his feet since his hands were bound behind him, and he quickly locked eyes on me while shouting, “I’ll kill you, bastard!”
Grey hair’s unsteady feet were still swift enough to close the gap between us before any of my newly recruited soldiers could make a decision about what to do, guard the prisoners or try and intercept a frothing mad beastman. Maybe it was my machismo or my desire to prevent a riot, but I called out, “I got this” so no one would jump into the fray.
Since grey hair had his arms bound, I was tempted to fight him head on, either with a roundhouse kick to the face or a straight heel kick to the abdomen. But I quelled my testosterone enough to go with the dullest and safest solution, creating a bar from solidified air about shin high to trip the guy. It worked quite well, as grey hair rolled over three and a half times, and I had two of my soldiers set upon him as he came to a sliding halt. The two soldiers hauled him upright on my command, holding him fast while I got a good look at him.
The guy was nearly as tall as myself, but with a broader chest and wider shoulders. The guy was covered in muscle and despite being wounded he was still giving the restraining soldiers a hard time in keeping him in check. His face was more rugged than handsome, especially with his own blood staining portions of it. But the thing I found most interesting was that he had those animal ears on top of his head, where they would be for a dog, and no human ears on the sides. There was an uninterrupted patch of his ash grey hair where human ears should be. It was fascinating and unreal to look at. And grey hair’s shouting of, “Fight me, coward! Fight me!” ruined the moment.
Okay, that’s it. I’m gonna Vader this guy.
I held up one of my hands like I was cradling a glass of wine and solidified some air. Grey hair shut up immediately, because the air I’d just solidified was in his throat. During the moments of quiet I’d managed to obtain I called out, “Mercy, how’s Daphne and the others? Are you okay over there?”
“I’m alright, I just… I’m alright,” came Daphne’s voice, a little weepy but sturdy. While grey hair was struggling against the air blockage I snuck a look over at the cooks and gals. One of the cooks was helping the other “walk it off” while Mercy dabbed at Daphne’s bloody nose with a napkin. Daphne’s eye was teary, raw, and certainly on the way to turning black and blue. But it didn’t seem like there was any permanent damage. Even so, this guy sure did rub me the wrong way, attacking someone who was trying to help him.
“Shame on you,” I said to grey hair, “Attacking your own doctor? What do you have to say for yourself? Oh, wait.” I released the air in the guy’s throat as his face was beginning to turn red. “There, now, what do you have to say for yourself?”
After a few sputters and gasps, grey hair asked, “What the hell did you just do you son of a-”
I re-solidified the air. “I’d rather you didn’t go there, thank you very much. As for what I did, well… I might be a strange person, but whenever I’m bored, I like thinking about what I’d do in certain fantastic situations. Like if I won an academy award, or if I was a guest on a talk show. I have an entire stand up comedy routine in my head that no one will ever hear, because I don’t intend to ever be a stand up comedian. It’s fun to think about these ‘what ifs’ for me.”
People around the room started repeating the words I rattled off that they had no idea what they meant. I ignored them and kept going.
“One such situation was what I would do if I ever had to torture someone. I put a lot of thought into that one. Breaking toes. Shallow cuts rubbed with salt and lemon juice. Ruining joints and cutting out ligaments. Electrocution and even amputating limbs, one sausage slice at a time. But every method was just too near sighted. They would all lead to quick deaths from accumulated trauma. Ah, hold up, take a breath.”
Grey hair’s flailing subsided as I released the air in his throat once again. Amidst deep, greedy breaths, his face started turning a normal shade once again.
“You all good, now? Great,” I blocked off his throat again. “I was talking about trauma, right? Keeping someone alive while you inflict torture on them would be hugely complicated. So, how would you cause pain and suffering on a level to force people to submit without the threat of an early end to their lives? The answer I came up with was asphyxiation. As long as you let someone catch their breath every now and again, you can torture them for all eternity. Even if their heart stops, just a little CPR and they’re ready for the next round. A pool of water and a large board on a fulcrum can do wonders, I’m sure. But it’s a torture method I could indulge in with a single pack of plastic wrap. Here, in this world of magic, I only have to wiggle my fingers to make you suffer. What do you think of that?”
I released his throat again, wondering if he’d answer me. He didn’t though, he was desperately cycling air in and out of his lungs, but it was fine as it was a rhetorical question in the first place. When he’d mostly gotten his breathing under control I told grey hair, “Now, tell me your name before I stop being nice.”
Grey hair looked me in the eyes and with a snarl, said, “Sergeant Callic Moraan, Seventy-Eighth platoon.”
A small smirk crossed my face as nothing happened. Nothing happened? Wut? I took a peek at some of the others around and they seemed as clueless as I was, except for Callic, who was still snarling.
“Hey Mercy, Sergeant Callic here just told me his name and nothing happened. What’s the deal?”
Mercy was still addressing Daphne’s face as she disinterestedly responded to my question. “He said his name defiantly, didn’t he? The name means nothing if it’s not given as an Act of Submission. Everyone knows that.”
Most of the people in the room shrugged their shoulders or had wandering eyes showing they obviously did not know that, Mercy. It’s an item people are executed for possessing, its rules are not common knowledge, woman!
“Well, okay then,” I said to no one in particular, “Let’s get back to it Sergeant Callic. I’ve got all day.”
As I lifted my hand to pull a Vader again, a shout from the sidelines broke in on the proceedings.
“Leave him alone,” cried a woman. Oh, it’s the one that was making the fire arrow before, the sandy blonde who had her hair in a sporty ponytail. Kinda pretty in a girl next door sort of way, but whatever looks she had were ruined by her angry face and caustic mouth. “Leave him alone you dickless bastard, or I’ll burn your nuts off!”
She was on her feet and shouting when two of my recruits grabbed her by the arms. It was something of a spectacle, one that had grabbed everyone’s attention, but perhaps Callic’s most of all as he was the only one to respond to the insults. “What do you think you’re doing, Iyleen? I’ve got this!”
“You’ve got shit, Callic,” she cried back. “Are you gonna just stand there getting your butt kicked or am I gonna have to come and save your ass again!?”
Callic’s eyes had a desperation I hadn’t seen in them before. Iyleen definitely had tears in her eyes. So that’s how it is?
I instantly shot Iyleen with another beanbag round. Her body jerked as she cried out from the pain and surprise. Callic fought against his captors, shouting Iyleen’s name. So I shot Iyleen with another beanbag. She began to slump from the pain of the impacts, so I told the two restraining her to “Hold her up properly. I want an easy target.”
Callic thrashed against his captors more desperately than before, calling Iyleen’s name again before calling me a bastard and telling me to pick on someone my own size. I calmly turned to look Callic in the eyes as I shot Iyleen again. “You should hurry and submit, Callic,” I said in mocking sincerity, “I doubt Iyleen can handle much more of this.”
It was a bald faced lie of course. I think. I lowered the velocity of the rounds so Iyleen’s internal organs shouldn’t break, but what did I know about biology. Well, Iyleen’s fate was in Callic’s hands, who was hesitating, so I shot Iyleen again.
Then the two played out that old heartwarming melodrama of, “No, don’t submit,” “Be brave,” and “Please forgive me,” or something. I wasn’t really listening. I’m on kind of a schedule here, I’m trying to take over the base before anyone notices, people. Hurry it up already.
I shot Iyleen with three rounds one right after the other, and finally Callic cried out, “Callick Moraan, alright! My name is Callic-” Then he went into a hacking fit as the chains dissolved into smoke and filled his lungs. After Callic’s coughing came to an end I motioned for him to be released.
“Daphne? You okay to heal Iyleen over here?” I approached Iyleen and studied her carefully. She was collapsed in the arms of her former platoon mates, tears rolling uncontrolled down her cheeks.
“Yes, I’m… on my way.”
Agh. Daphne’s eye was already starting to swell. She’s something of a trooper though, she started healing Iyleen without complaint. She definitely had grounds to complain though.
“Hey you,” I said to the diminutive cook, “Go get something cold to put on Daphne’s eye, will ya? Now, Iyleen,” I said, turning back to my captive, dropping my voice to a very serious tone. “Tell me your name.”
“Go to hell,” she weakly sobbed out.
I didn’t bother with a quip as I didn’t feel playful at the moment. “Iyleen, I could torture you all day long. You know I could. And I’d probably have to since I’m getting the feeling that you’d rather die than submit to me at the moment. But I’m really not in the mood for that. So here’s what it is. Callic Enslaved himself to me in order to save your life. I’m wondering if you’d do the same for him. So I’m going to start torturing Callic to death in front of you, and you’ll have to watch. If you don’t want that, then submit to me. Because there is nothing else on earth that will stop me.”
Iyleen didn’t answer me, she just kept hanging her head the entire time, gnashing her teeth.
The thing about me is, I don’t look fearsome. I have a gentle and fairly youthful face. I have placid eyes. And my overall demeanor is very underwhelming. If I ever found myself in prison, people would think I was an easy mark. But if I ever say that I will hurt someone, I sure as hell mean every word I say.
“Stand up, and don’t move from that spot, Callic,” I ordered. “Even if you die. Bang.”
Thankfully it only took one beanbag round for Iyleen to break, telling me her full name, Iyleen Burkt. I was glad I didn’t have to keep shooting Callic until he died, because I really would have. Proving I’m a man of my word to my new recruits is far more important than Callic’s life. And speaking of more important things…
“How’s the eye, Daphne?”
“It’ll be fine,” she responded with a towel wrapped meat chop pressed to her left eye.
“You sure? You don’t look fine.” She really didn’t. She was panting pretty heavily.
“My magic reservoir is just running low, that’s all. I’ll be able to start healing everyone again in twenty minutes or so. There’s no one left in critical condition, so it should be alright. And I can just heal myself after everyone else is taken care of.” Daphne gave a weak smile as if saying it couldn’t be helped. Seriously?
“Hang on a sec,” I said as I put my hand on Daphne’s shoulder. She started saying something, but it cut off when I moved some of my magic around my body. I envisioned it moving from my reservoir to my hand, and then from my hand into Daphne, who seemed to shiver from the process. Seems like it was a success. Let’s ask to make sure. “So, Daphne, did it work?”
“What… did you just do?” Her wide open eye was gazing at me in wonder.
“Well, I hope I just refilled your magic reservoir with some magic from my own. How is it, did it work?”
Daphne touched her chest with her free hand while closing her eye for a moment before saying is a stunned whisper, “Yes.”
“Incredible,” stated Mercy a little louder than she needed to. Hmm.
“Did I just do something impossible again, Mercy?”
“Huh. Well, we’ll figure it out later. For now, Daphne, heal yourself and then everyone else. Let me know if you need any more magic, alright?”
Daphne nodded her head silently before carrying out my orders. After that, everyone in the room was both amazed and frightened by me, and the enslavement process proceeded smoothly again until everyone in the room had been enslaved. Then I sent my new underlings out to capture anyone remaining in or near the base, those “other teams” that Callic talked about before. The first ones to return from the assignment were dragging the guy from the morgue I’d stripped the clothes from, now fully awake, but with a mouth still stuffed full.
“Let me just get that for you,” I said as I pulled the pantyhose from the guy’s mouth.
“That’s where my stockings went,” cried Mercy from behind me.
A single great gasp halted all the activity in the room, and the following spasms snatched everyone’s attention as the girl that Mercy and I had strapped onto the stretcher took her first breath of life after having been abducted into this world. Her body flailed against the leather restraints until her breathing and her trembling began to calm down. By the time the girl was still, I was by her as Mercy watched on uttering, “Fascinating.”
The girl looked like she was either still in high school or a fresh face in college. Her long hair was the brightest natural blonde I had seen in my life and her wide open eyes were the color of the sky on a clear summer’s day. Her face was immaculate, the kind of face where you wondered if it had been sculpted based on our current concepts of modern beauty. She had a straight nose that came to a tiny ball on the tip between eyes shaped like almonds. Her lips were full in a way that other women needed collagen to emulate. And every part of her face showed stark terror.
“Try and remain calm,” I said as reassuringly as possible in my native tongue. “Do you speak English?”
“English?” She responded in a heavy accent. Eastern European or something? “Little.”
Dang. Looks like I’ll have to let the peanut gallery listen in. I speak again, this time in the language I’d been using since I landed in this shit hole. “Do you understand me now? Can you speak this language?”
The girl made a face like she’d just experienced something completely incomprehensible. Her answer of “Yes” carried the same feeling.
”First thing you need to know is that you and I, we’ve been kidnapped. I’ve been able to overpower our kidnappers, so we’re relatively safe for the moment. It’s a really complicated and unbelievable situation, but I need you to believe just one thing. I’m your ally. I really need you to believe it, because I really don’t want you scratching my eyes out as I take off these restraints, which I only put on you to keep you from falling off this stretcher. Okay? Please don’t scratch out my eyes.”
“Okay,” the girl said, even more confused now. I seemed to have that effect on people.
As I removed the restraints I helped the girl stand up. When she’d gotten her feet under her and was looking around her I spoke again, not wanting to let the girl start asking the obvious questions that I still didn’t have any good answers for. “Second thing you need to know, is don’t tell your real name to anyone. Don’t tell anyone. It would take a long time to explain the dangers of doing so, so just believe me for now. Don’t tell anyone your real name. And on that subject, could you please think up a fake name you’d like me to call you by?”
Perhaps it was the strange situation, the destroyed tables and the stained and beaten up men standing around watching the events unfold, but the girl did as I asked without question or over reaction. She thought for a moment and said, “Aase. Please call me Aase.”
The name she gave sounded like saying “I say,” but in a single syllable instead of two. Seemed nice, and definitely as foreign as her accent. I nodded and said, “Okay, Aase. Nice to meet you.”
“And your name,” she inquired back. “Who are you?”
Somehow I was completely caught off guard by the question. It felt strange, awkward, and completely out of context, because since the moment I arrived and had control of my body again not a single person cared enough to ask what my name was. It was “specimen” this and “bastard” that. It was such a strange feeling that I almost answered honestly, giving my real name. I caught myself though, and chewed over my thoughts as I lightly chewed on my lip.
What should I call myself here?
I had a somewhat unusual name back on earth, a mismatched first and last name from two different cultures thanks to the melting pot that was America, but I’d never given thought to changing it. It was mine. Except now it’d been taken away from me, like the entire rest of my life that I’d had going before I was abducted. Who the hell was I now?
As I was feeling the tip of that existentialist iceberg, my mind wandered towards the only acceptable answer I had. There was one other name I went by. I used it in all my video games when a man’s name was required. Especially in fantasy games. I’d come up with it as a child, when I started getting into RPGs in a big way and had that first inclination towards having a real killer name. One with meaning. I ended up being inspired by the name of Xerxes, the would be conqueror, and added some random sounds to the end of that first hard X in the name. I was proud of that name for years afterwards, until I’d learned that there were people who actually used that wacky ass name in real life. Then I was embarrassed to have ever thought it up in such a roundabout and improbable way. It was the primary subject of my own person Black History that I had told no one about. Until now.
Having chosen my new identity, I say my name. “Call me Xander.”