Oblivion’s Light - “Interrogation” [Living Starship]

scene 6 by Lauren Hershey & Layman Kingsford

Cera awoke sitting in a white-walled stone room, her hands suspended above her, chained to the wall. She was barefoot and clad in a soft chromium robe; the fabric swirled around her limbs, insulating her body warmth against the rough cold of the sandstone beneath her. She gazed, disoriented, at the four walls-- trying to recall and understand the chain of events that led her here, wherever here was. It was no use. The memories were stranded somewhere in her mind and, for once, she didn't care.

She closed her eyes and let her head tilt back against the stone wall. She expected the HUD from her uniform to display in her eye lenses, but without her Fleet uniform her vision was plain and natural. She felt naked without the digital support. Even on the asteroid colony where she and her friends had been captive these last months had radiant power constantly feeding their uniforms. Here the ceiling was domed, and two open windows in the cut stone revealed the shining daylight outside. Beams of sunlight passed through the openings and lit up the chamber; and she let the warm glow bask upon her face. It reminded her of home...but, she was a prisoner once again.

A sharp clanging of the chamber door broke Cera's trance and her head snapped forward. Two large men stood at the entrance to the chamber. One was brandishing a long black whip, which made Cera cringe as her gaze fell upon it. The man holding the whip was burly and clad head to toe in black silks and had reverse-articulated legs. Only the slits of his harsh eyes were visible. The other man stood proudly, with impeccable posture. His deep brown eyes were set in a callous face of deep brown skin which wore an enigmatic expression. He had black hair and a black beard, and wore flowing emerald robes with golden clasps and linings decorating the garb. A curved blade hung at his side, just as scythian as his gaze.

The man in the green robes walked over to Cera and knelt, his piercing crystalline eyes meeting her own. Looking into them made her fearful, as their clarity hollow, somehow devoid of a crucial component of humanity... He smiled at her and spoke, as she averted those cruel eyes.

"I am Harash Sh’Var, Dragon’s Head. You are Cera Cantuur, I have been told." His voice trailed off for a moment and he tilted Cera's chin upward so her eyes met his. His face had contorted into a silent fury: "Cera, do you know what adversity is? Have you ever tasted true defeat?"

His words signaled the man in black, who came over to Cera and uncuffed her from the wall. Her hands fell in front of her, catching her fall. She glared up at them from all fours.

"Cera, the first rule of the Black Dragon League is to speak when spoken to" Harash Sh’Var jeered. He put two fingers in the air and signaled to his partner, who cracked the whip upon Cera's back. She clattered to the floor, biting her lip hard from the flurry of pain.

Harash continued to speak. "I assume you are familiar with the term, Rimaruuk. I have spent a great deal of time and resources looking for this substance. You are going to make my empty-handed search worthwhile, with some information... everything you know about the drug."

The whip seared her flesh again and again; her whole body stung and tears involuntarily welled in her eyelids. She desperately wanted the pain to end, but was afraid that even if she told Harash Sh’Var what she knew of Doctor Prant’s twisted experiments... those eyes, his eyes, held no mercy. She would die thereafter.

It was in that moment that she thought of her father's grit, of Nyka’s sacrifice and of Riklan’s true companionship. She refused to betray any of them, to destroy the meaning of what they had all provided her. She looked up into the face of this Dragon and spat blood at him, "You're wasting your time."

Enraged, Harash Sh’Var laughed and motioned to the man in black, her executioner. Harash bent his head and recited a meditative prayer for Cera in some foreign speech. The lyrical flow of the words washed over her, striking her as out of place in this bleak moment. "I release you," he said somberly, his partner lifting Cera up by her hair. No longer holding a whip, the man in black held what looked to be a ceremonial dagger. Cera's face filled with tears and she clung to the memory of her family.

"Halast." The command came from a woman's voice and Cera's eyes widened at the recognition of the tone. Harash Sh’Var gazed at the shadows, where a beautiful woman lingered, dressed in deep red robes. Ranna stepped into the chamber. She offered a bow and spoke, her voice like that of a spider's silk weaving among morning dew. "She survived the Pools, father. There is much we can learn from this woman. Perhaps, we stand to better persuade her through other means... I advise that Cera Cantuur be trained and submitted to the Trials."

The words hung in the air, weighty. Even the daylight rays felt dimmer. Cera looked, amazed, at Ranna. She was confused and her back radiated with pain. Would she be spared yet again to just go through another person's vision of Hell?

Harash judged the proposal and motioned for his partner to relinquish hold of Cera. "Once again, binteh," he stated, "be careful of what you ask. I am impressed with your finesse in the Pools. I grant you access to them whenever you seek their properties. However..." his eyes branded Cera.

"Your request will be honored. I bestow upon you full responsibility for her pathetic life. Should she fail in the Trials, you will have aspired to the highest failure by our laws... This is your only warning, daughter." Their gaze locked and his mouth twitched; the viridian robes turned, and the two men exited the chamber.

Cera clutched at the floor, spitting more blood onto the stone. Ranna stood surveying her, coiled. She opened her mouth to speak and Cera interrupted her, "You have condemned me to this." She looked at Ranna accusingly. Her voice faltered, "I don't understand... why won't you let me die?"

Ranna's eyes softened slightly around the edges.

"Because, Cera Cantuur, you have brought life."

The words caught Cera off-guard, and she looked at the woman in front of her. She didn't comprehend the gravity of what Ranna was saying, but felt an urgency of truth in the woman's words. Being alone with Ranna brought a better sense of peace than being with the woman's father. Ranna's eyes, while entrancingly deep, did not share her father's lack of compassion. They were exuberant orbs, full of clarity and something unrecognizable but pure. Somehow, Cera trusted those eyes.

Ranna offered her hand to Cera. Cera looked at the hand and remembered Riklan’s silly gesture before she had entered the shuttle-- that choice had changed her life, had changed her so much; she wasn't sure how to recover from the acceptance of his hand that day. This transition felt similar, and it frightened Cera, deep in her bones. Her gut told her to take the chance, to keep moving forward, to leave this stone-walled entrapment and traverse the unknown beyond the chamber wall.

In the silence, Cera heard a faint chirping outside-- a bird was warbling, greeting the day with a delicate morning song. If such beautiful life can be outside, I have to keep going... she reasoned with herself, and grabbed hold of Ranna's hand. The woman helped her off the floor and slung Cera's arm around her shoulder for support. With Ranna bearing the majority of Cera's weight, they slowly walked together out of the chamber and into the halls of the fortress of Bantar Apnan.

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