I couldn’t move.
I could open my eyes, but only the barest crack; I couldn’t see anything.
At first I thought I was tied down, strapped to an operating table with a bright light above my head, but I slowly realized that wasn’t the case.
If there were any ropes or bindings, I couldn’t feel them. I couldn’t feel…anything.
No, that wasn’t quite right. There was…something at the edge of my awareness. A bare tingling in my fingers and toes.
But I couldn’t move. Couldn’t even twitch.
And it was very, very cold.
“This is your fault, you know,” a sibilant voice hissed.
I stiffened. Well, I felt like I stiffened, anyway. I couldn’t move enough to actually do so. Was he talking to me?
“You wanted a lab rat just as much as I did,” a second voice pointed out angrily. I recognized it, but I couldn’t quite place…
“You led me to believe it would work. That we’d have a grateful balor running around, not a twisted waste of flesh!”
“Honored Power, you of all people know that mistakes are often more useful to science than successes. Mister Lancaster served his purpose quite well.”
Oh no. Oh, by every Heaven and every Hell, no.
The Balor reconstruction had failed.
I had failed.
I couldn’t…what use would I be to my sister now? How could I protect her? Or myself, for that matter. After they restored me, I’d be in debt to the culture for the rest of my days even if I lived to a hundred.
Nhang—I could identify his voice now, it was the lower, hissing one—grumbled. “I don’t understand what went wrong. It worked fine last time.”
“Well, everyone is a little bit different,” the second voice replied, which I now recognized as Aramazd. That also explained the cold. They must have dragged me to the server room, so that the guardian could look over me personally. “Judging by the muscle damage, I’m guessing there was some protein imbalance we didn’t account for. He must have a slightly different diet than the other one.”
I struggled to remember what I had eaten recently that could account for anything screwing up the process, but I couldn’t think of anything.
Okay…I could find a way out of this. I could buy my way out of this debt I could…
No. There was nothing.
I didn’t really have any marketable skills. Oh, I could play around with the toy maker well enough, but every other sibriex was a thousand times better than me. I wasn’t bad with a gun, but no one would hire me for protection instead of a hellion or warblood. And my hacking skills were laughable.
There was nothing I could do that a thousand people couldn’t do better.
There was no way out of this. Nhang was going to own me for the rest of my life, and there was nothing I could do to change that.
“Well,” my warlord said with a sigh. “Point me to the garbage chute. Let’s get this over with.”
“North side of the room,” Aramazd rasped. “Did you actually forget, or are you just being a dick?”
“A little from column A, a little from column B…”
The gurney or whatever I was on started to roll forward, almost certainly from someone pushing it towards the north side of the room.
They couldn’t possibly—
A shadow flitted across my vision briefly, as though someone was looking down on me.
“You think he’s awake?” Nhang asked.
“Who knows?” Aramazd’s voice was farther away now. “It doesn’t really matter. He’s got about an hour left to live no matter what we do. Though if you were willing to let me vivisect him—”
“No, I think not. We have taken more than enough from this young man already.” I felt the gurney roll to a stop. “Most of his internal organs are failing, and his heart can’t support the irregular blood flow Let him die in peace.”
“And of course, you won’t be the one actually killing him. That would be the environment.” There was a bitter, gurgling laugh, under which I heard the rusty squeak of some sort of metal door opening. “Keeps your hands pretty and clean.”
“Be silent,” Nhang spat back. “One of us is still human.”
“Only in your dreams, Honored Devil. Only in the sweetest of your dreams.”
Then my warlord gathered me up in my arms, and dumped me down the garbage chute, into the sewers some twenty-six or so floors below.
Behind the Scenes (scene 155)
Yes, another short one, unfortunately. Basically, this and the previous scene should be taken as a pair.