With rare waking clarity, Avril collided with full awareness the instant the electricity contacted his nervous system, and he understood exactly what was happening. The jolts of electricity started in his forearms and traveled to his shoulders and back. Even as his body tensed and his back arched, his attention snapped to the device delivering the shock.
“That woke him up,” a bondsan said.
The pain released Avril, ceding control over his body.
He kneeled in front of a metal ring that his arms had been fed through. Electricity, blue and dancing like flames, formed tenuous connections between the inner side of the metal ring and his forearms. His sleeves were cut away to the shoulders, and his wrists were cuffed together and held in place by a metal pole that prevented him from drawing his arms back through the electrified ring.
Avril pressed his wrists together to avoid contact with the metal. The ring was only just big enough for his arms to fit through and leave space on either side. The hairs on his arms bristled, the electricity tickled, and if his arms touched the metal, he’d receive another shock.
“It looks like he understands,” another bondsan said.
The biological receptors and transmitters that gave him his talent as a jammer were located in his forearms. Those same pathways that gave him his talent also increased his vulnerability to electrical shocks.
Staying as still as he could to avoid touching the ring, Avril checked his surroundings.
He was inside an assault vehicle. There were no windows, but he faced the rear of the vehicle, and the loading door was down and formed a ramp to the ground. It was daylight outside, but the interior of the assault vehicle was dim and bare except for large lights that were fixed to the interior walls and pointed at Avril. The lights weren’t on, but Avril imagined they’d be blinding when they were.
Two bondsan, a man and the woman with cuts on her face, stood over him.
They were the only people in the vehicle.
Did Zin and Laurill get away? Avril wondered.
His memory of Laurill was distorted. He pictured her moving away from him in a way that defied the laws of physics. Perhaps she’s a traveler, Avril thought, she’d sneaked up on him in the desert, so it was possible.
When he’d turned and looked for Zin, she hadn’t been there, and the bondsan hadn’t had time to take her. Perhaps she really can turn to dust, Avril thought, and a manic smile parted his lips.
“It looks like we broke him already,” the male bondsan said.
Avril looked up at him. He started to speak, but electric-fire burned along his arms and down his back, washing away all thought.
The pain stopped, and Avril breathed in ragged gasps.
Zin and Laurill got away, he told himself. His next thought started to contradict that, perhaps by suggesting they were being held in another vehicle, but Avril stopped that line of reasoning and insisted, They got away.
“Do you understand?” the woman asked.
Avril nodded. The sudden jolt from sleep to complete awareness left him with a thorough understanding of his situation. He was at their mercy, and they believed he’d hurt and killed their cadre-mates. They expected him to cringe and beg, but nothing he did would improve his situation.
Seeing the futility, but refusing to be the cowering wretch they expected, he said, “Nice torture truck.”
The woman hit him with a hard hook to the jaw. The suddenness and power of the blow hurt, but not as much as the shock of electricity that ran through him when his arms connected with the ring.
“How about now?” the bondsan asked, the knuckles of her right hand pressed into the palm of her left hand.
Avril knew the disgust he felt toward them showed on his face. They had him, and because of that, they thought they were powerful. These people claimed to serve a god, yet despite that, they measured their power in terms of what they could inflict on other people.
He wanted to spit the words Fuck you and your god at them, but that was a tired curse that no longer carried weight.
Avril took a breath to steady himself against the expected pain and met the bondsan’s eyes. “Service to a god makes you strong.”
The blow came just as he thought it would, but the pain of her fist connecting with the side of his head was washed away by the electricity that tore through him.
Avril took a breath and looked up at the woman.
“Fuck you!” The curse was all he could manage this time, but he said it as he looked into her eyes and saw doubt creep into her expression before she hit him again, shocking him again.
With his arms trembling, it was harder to stop them touching the electrified ring, so he pulled back with the restraints against the pole to keep them steady.
“You stupid prick,” the bondsan said.
There was blood on her knuckles, but Avril didn’t know if it was his or hers. Knowing he should stop but locked in a battle of wills he couldn’t win, he said, “Didn’t they teach you to use a baton when you hit prisoners who can’t fight back?”
Avril held her gaze as he waited for the next blow.
You’re not as powerful as you think. He didn’t say the words or that she wouldn’t defeat him, saying it would render them untrue, but he saw she understood.
The male bondsan stepped forward. “We’ve got some clubs in the other car.”
Avril didn’t look away from the woman. She smiled, but it was fragile. She hadn’t expected defiance, and it shocked her. Avril hadn’t improved his situation, but he thought, Fuck them.