In The Shadow Of His Nemesis
Chapter Forty Six
BY AL BRUNO III
Time and space had long ago lost all meaning for Gawain Wight; once hours and resources had been his to use as he saw fit. He had traveled the world and seen the impossible; he had sacrificed the innocent and the brave to bring down the enemies of his government. Now all he had was a sweltering ten foot by six foot cell and a diet of random noise and terror.
He didn’t even know how long he had been here, he didn’t even know what time of day it was anymore. He suspected he was on an island somewhere off the coast of Costa Rica, privately owned and unnamed. Once, over a decade ago, Gawain had sent an operative here only to lose him forever.
It started again, the crash of music and machinery, the cries of babies- all recorded and blared at random intervals from the speakers suspended from the high ceiling. Months ago he had almost broken his leg in a crazed effort to reach and destroy the damned things- or had it been just a few weeks ago?
They fed him once a day, a tasteless serving of gruel and a plastic cup of foul-smelling tap water. He made himself wait until he was really hungry before he ate any, it was the closest thing he had to a routine. Sometimes he would wonder to himself what might smell worse to a neutral observer, the water or the man drinking the water.
The orange jumpsuit he wore was stained, stiff and ragged. His hair was long and filthy. Gawain couldn’t remember the last time his captors had cleaned him up but sometimes he lulled himself to sleep with fantasies of a cold blast of water from a fire hose and a change of clothes.
But that was on the rare occasion they let him sleep long enough to snatch a dream or two.
It was funny in a way, when they had first brought him here he had been full of escape plans and defiance. But now? Now all he wanted was a few hours sleep and silence.
Footsteps approached. He started, was it meal time already?
No. He was almost sure it wasn’t.
Footsteps usually just passed on by but he still couldn’t help but get excited- would he be dragged out to the yard to be doused with the hose? Was it time for a check up with the dull eyed excuse for they had for a doctor? Maybe they were at long last going to kill him. There would be a kind of relief in that.
The door of his cell swung open and a pair of men in dark uniforms dragged Gawain out into the bright artificial light of a sterile-looking passage. They didn’t even give him the chance to get to his feet and walk; they just dragged him along like a petulant child.
One hallway, then another- they all looked the same to Gawain and he wouldn’t have been surprised if they just brought him right back to his little cell all over again. Worse things had happened during his time here.
There had been torture; stress positions, waterboarding and, in one strange case, an insulin induced coma. No questions had been asked during these times, no taunts just a methodical application of misery that his captors soon seemed to lose interest in once they were sure they had burned every preternatural skill out of his head.
It was a shame in a way, sometimes Gawain almost missed the torture, it was better than having to face living one lonely day after another.
An elevator ride and another hallway later his handlers led him to a chair in the middle of an otherwise empty room. He sat down gingerly and waited.
“Mr. Wight?” A pleasant sounding voice filled the room, ”Can you hear us?”
”We need you to reply audibly Mr. Wight. Can you understand that?”
“Yes,” Gawain was horrified at the sound of his own voice, he was sixty years old but he sounded ancient and worn down. “I can hear you.”
“Good, good. I think it is time that we spoke.”
“Why now? What do you need from me?”
“The world has changed so much since we took charge of you.”
“Could I have some water please?” he asked.
“We can do better than that,” there was a paternal smugness in the voice. “And as we wait I feel I should tell you that there is no more Project Pharos.”
Gawain chuckled and made a helpless gesture, “Somehow I suspected.”
“We all regret the circumstances of your internment,” the voice paused as the door opened.
Gawain flinched but it was just one of the gray-uniformed men carrying a paper cup. He dutifully handed the cup over and left again.
The smell coming from the cup set Gawain’s body trembling, this wasn’t water. It was orange juice! He drank it so fast that he almost choked, his tongue came alive, his breathing increased, his prick stiffened without a single impure thought.
“Our files noted that you enjoyed orange juice.”
“Who doesn’t?” Gawain caught his breath. “So the Project was closed down?”
“It was the inevitable consequence of your actions,” the voice scolded. “You understood the depth of our occupation but still you moved our wolves and sheep against us.”
“What else was I supposed to do? Just let you have your way?”
A pause then, “Yes.”
He crossed his arms and stared at nothing, “Why am I still alive?”
“We are not cruel.”
He laughed bitterly, “You really think that?”
“We defend ourselves when we must, but we preserve far more lives than we sacrifice,” the voice explained.
“You’ve got everything you want,” Gawain said. “Why am I still here? Why am I still alive? Unless of course you guys are somehow getting your jollies by making me suffer.”
The voice became more subdued, “There are those like you that do not understand and resist.”
“Our vision is imperfect, there are those who exploit this, there are places that remain hidden.”
“And you want me to help you track down your enemies because you’re not as perfect as you think.”
Gawain buried his face in his hands. What was he supposed to do? What would his father have done? He knew now why they had kept him alive and weakened, why they hadn’t killed or ‘processed’ him. They wanted him as he was; they wanted to make use of the talents he had once used against them.
And if he said no?
Would they send him to oblivion or just back to his cell?
Which would be worse? The dreary cell or having to face the reproachful faces of his four sons as his life faded away?
“Do you need us to clarify our terms?”
Gawain straightened up in the chair and asked, “Can I have another orange juice?”