Broken fingers wrapped themselves around the stub of a cigarette. The red end flared as its owner drew another deep breath, holding the smoke for a moment in their mouth before they spoke.
“You have disappointed me.”
Not many words, but enough for Meg to squirm in the chair to which she had been lashed. The room was dark, so she couldn’t see the speaker who sat mere inches from her face.
However, Meg could smell the smoke in the air, which caused her to cough. Her body was battered, there were bruises on top of bruises which littered her body. She could still taste the copper in her mouth from where one her attackers had taken a swing at her jaw.
She could feel herself healing, however. It was her special ability, after all, which meant that she was only currently bruised and not dead from internal haemorrhaging.
“Nothing to say?” the voice said. Meg coughed as she inhaled another lungful of smoke. The red glowing end of the cigarette glowed like an eye in front of her, silently judging her from behind the veil of darkness.
“No,” Meg replied.
Silence fell over the room. It slid over the dark room like oil over water, snaking through the shadows and clawing at Meg’s already broken and battered skin.
And in the silence, the end of the cigarette glowed.
Meg shifted her weight under her.
The chair creaked, snapping the silence as sharply as one would break a human neck.
“I will give you one chance,” the voice said.
Meg gasped, the power of hope pushing away all of the pain of her bruises that blossomed under her skin. She strained against the ropes which held her down, desperate to be given another chance to atone for her failures.
The cigarette butt went out. Meg blinked, eyes furiously looking for some source of light in the darkness.
A flame flared from a lighter. In a moment, Meg saw the light push back the shadows on her interrogator’s face. Aged skin wrinkled around old and dangerous eyes, focussing on the end of the cigarette which she lit. Another flash, and Meg saw the flash of the microphone that her captor used to change her voice, a standard procedure in this underground world. It was black, one of the old 2020 models, held together with tape and glue.
Meg felt the fear grow in the pit of her stomach. This reveal was intentional; this reveal was designed to make Meg fear for her life down to the depths of her soul.
She was being interrogated by Ragg herself, the most feared woman in all of Old London. Ragg had been alive during the Great Collapse, and had forged a faction of power in the midst of chaos and destruction to become the most powerful woman in miles. Her name was used to terrorise the new recruits, and to impose the strict rules to which the Faction adhered.
And rule number one was to not form a relationship with anyone outside the Faction.
The lighter flame went out as soon as it had been lit, and soon Meg was staring at the end of the burning cigarette once more.
“I want you to go back to your friend,” Ragg whispered, inhaling on the cigarette, “and I want you to gain his trust.”
Silence fell on the room. Meg sensed there was more, there was always more when Ragg was involved. The cigarette glowed menacingly at her.
“And then?” Meg asked, her voice quivering with the terror that shook her bones. She knew that having a relationship with Oliver would be dangerous, and that she could be face death for it.
“And then I want you to slit his throat,” Ragg said, “and I want you to watch him die.”
No, this was much worse. Meg wanted to cry out in defiance, but she knew that would be what Ragg wanted.
Now you’ve gone too far, Meg thought. Her fear of Ragg clawed at her body, but her soul belonged to Oliver and there was nothing that anyone could do to put that flame of love out.
“I’ll do it,” Meg said, surprised at the strength of her voice.
God help me, Oliver, Meg thought, I’ll bring down hell itself on us.
There was a tickle on the edge of her mind, a tickle that told her Oliver was listening. He was a telepath, and one who was far more powerful than any Meg had met before. Luckily for him, however, Ragg didn’t know about his power, which is why he wasn’t part of her Faction.
We’ll work it out, Oliver’s voice whispered in her mind, we’ve got this.
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