Pain and death
Pietas must have fallen asleep, because he woke with a start. He took quick stock of himself and his surroundings. Black parachute cloth arched above him, flapping in a gentle breeze. The rain had stopped, and there was sun. A few scattered clouds. Still no movement in his extremities. Limited movement in his neck. No feeling anywhere. He tried speaking. Not even a croak.
Under the same stretch of cloth, Six sat cross-legged, thumbing through a notebook. He glanced up, and set the notes aside. “You look better. You ready for water?”
Without waiting for a reply, Six brought him a tube, and held it while Pietas sipped.
“Good job. You didn’t choke this time. You look less shrunken. Let’s get some food in you and then we’ll both clean up.” He brought out another tube, broke off the cap, and held it for him. “Slow and steady. There we go. Good job.” He propped an elbow on one thigh, and held the tube while Pietas sipped the nutrient. “You had multiple fractures from the fall, but your bones set fine all by themselves. Your face was bad when I opened the pod. Nose all squished and off to the side. Jaw broken. Cheekbones crushed. Skull fractured. When you looked up at me…” He gave a long whistle. “All I saw was blackened skin against the black background of the pod, and two huge turquoise eyes staring.” He brushed away a glimmer of tears.
Were those tears…for him? Humans cried because of him. Not for him.
“Man, Pietas. I can’t believe how fast you’re healing. All your bones are where they belong. I wish I healed like you do.”
Pietas had wondered what it would be like to feel pain for more than a few minutes. To feel pain that didn’t end.
The pod had shown him that.
Was that what it felt like to be human? He’d learned long ago they feared pain. Would do anything to avoid it. To avoid death. Threaten torture and most humans caved. Most surrendered anything they knew as soon as they saw the first tool of torture. Some managed to withhold until they were injured. Most talked. Not all, but enough to make it worthwhile. He used torture if it shortened the wait for information, but never to be cruel. He had no compunctions about killing, but unless they threatened him or his mission, he had let humans live.
He wouldn’t do that anymore. After what they’d done to him, from now on, he’d make them beg for death.
On him, torture had no effect.
Pietas had taught himself, disciplined himself never to fear pain. To welcome it. Invite it. Embrace it. Make pain and death a regular part of his life. Whatever frightened him, he ran toward. Pain was joy. He conquered it. Made it his lover. Made it his own. Absorbed it into himself.
When you fear nothing, nothing is a threat.
Now? Did he fear pain now? Pietas mulled that. Well, he no longer had to wonder about pain that didn’t end. He’d experienced it.
Did he want to repeat it?
Pietas finished the food, and took a long, satisfying breath of clean air.
Not if he could avoid it. But dying every day for a year would be a good exercise for his soldiers. If you survived that kind of peril, you’d survive anything. And no threat the enemy brought would be worse than what he could do to them.
He’d have to give that some serious thought. Maybe train them that way, one soldier at a time. Teach them to embrace death the way he did. An army of soldiers like that…the galaxy could not stop.
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