|Chapter Seven: A Mirror Inquisition|
|Paige woke the next morning to the door opening. She opened her eyes just enough to see Cien standing there smiling and she smiled slightly at him then stretched. He came and slipped into bed beside her and she snuggled up against him. “G’morning…” She told him with a yawn. Cien chuckled. “Good morning yourself love.” She opened her eyes and smiled at him, kissing his lips lightly. She sat up then, swinging her feet over the edge of the bed. “What’s on the agenda for today?” She asked Cien, turning to smile at him. “We’ve a pilots meeting tonight at eighteen hundred. Other than that, the day is ours. I was thinking you go get your shower, then meet me in the mess hall for breakfast, then we do some maintenance on our planes, because a meeting always means missions.” Paige nodded and rose, fishing a fresh flight suit out of her closet. “Sounds good to me. As long as there’s no line to use the shower, I’ll see you in around fifteen minutes.” Cien nodded and walked out with a jaunty wave. Paige grabbed up her clothing and the rubber bands for her hair, then headed off to start her day.
Paige and Cien walked into the hanger together. In the short time since they had left after working on their planes the hanger had been redone. Chairs had been brought out and set up in neat rows. Down at the front a battered podium stood, beside it a board with the pilots assigned into squadrons. Paige glanced over the list and found her name. She was flying on Jester’s wing, as usual. Cien, Christina, Tris, Blake, Paul, Michael, Jayson, Crix, Jonathan and Winter filled out the rest of the spots in their squadron. All good pilots, the best their base could offer. Cien touched her arm and pointed out across the seats to wear Paul was waving them over. She took him by the hand and they walked over and sat down beside the dark haired man. He gave Cien a smile. “I’m going to be on your wing man.” Cien nodded and patted him on the arm. “Short of my love, there’s none better. Paul nodded then looked up as the muted roar of conversation faded. Jester and Jerund entered, walking toward the board and podium. Jerund took his place in front of the microphone and cleared his throat, quieting the last bastions of noise in the hanger. “Even as we speak other bases are preparing similar missions to ours. We are here today to discuss retaking of something that is ours, The Kansas base.” He pointed to the board. “These are the squadrons you will be in for the next several weeks. First week we will be scouting the area, looking for a staging point nearby for our operation. The second week we will be moving our operations to this staging point. The next thing we do will be to actually stage the attack. Yes, some of the stages will overlap. Any questions?” He waited, looking about, then nodded. “Alright then, my squadron, we take off in thirty minutes, please prepare. Jesters squadron, you’ve a mission at 04:00 this morning, I suggest you all go and get some rest. Other squadrons, rest, relax for now. The bar will be locked down immediately following this meeting.” He grinned slightly at the mutterings and groans from the crowd but quieted them again with a wave from his hand. “If there’s no questions then this meeting is over. Dismissed!” Paige and Cien rose together and he wrapped his arm around her waist, waving to Paul as they followed the crowd out of the hanger. They walked through the mess hall and down to the pilots hall. Paige stopped at her door, but when Cien pulled away she caught his hand and held it. “Stay with me love.” Cien nodded and they walked in her room together. Cien sat down on the edge of the bed, slipping out of his boots, Paige following suit beside him. They lay back together and Paige snuggled up against his side with a satisfied sigh. Cien smiled and kissed her cheek before closing his eyes and dropping off to sleep.
Paige and Cien walked up to the hanger hand in hand. They were a little early but when they arrived Jester, Tris, Paul, Crix and Jayson were already there, doing preflight checks on their airplanes. Paige almost did at double take at Jester. Since Tris had returned he had seemed happier, but now, standing in the hanger before the mission, he was laughing and joking with his pilots, a vision of his old self. Paige smiled and squeezed Cien’s hand one good time before moving off to her plane. She ran through her preflight checks with her normal business like manner and we done in time to steal a kiss from Cien before Jester called all the pilots together. They gathered in a little ring around him. “Alright people. Based on what our defectors have said and what Jerunds scouting discovered we’re going to be facing approximately twenty four fighters to our twelve. Our job however, is not to dog fight. This is simply to test their reaction times. We’ll be going in hot, in F-22s. With their stealth capabilities we hope to be able to use terrain following flying to get really close to the base and buzz them before they know what’s happening. We’ll hang around long enough to get them to scramble their fighters, and then we boot it out of there, full military. We’re not going to be loaded for bear, just four AIM 120’s, so we’re not there to fight it out, just to get our info and run. We will maintain com silence until we are over the base. Everyone got it?” The pilots nodded. “Alright then. Lets get air born.” The group turned as one and jogged to their jets. Paige climbed up into her cockpit and strapped in, pulling her helmet on then closing her canopy. Jester pulled out toward the runway ahead of her and she followed him out and up into the air, falling in on his wing. They circled the base, waiting until all twelve of the pilots had become airborne. Jester turned off to the east and all eleven other followed suit, falling neatly into formation behind him. Paige gave a slight sigh. It was going to be a long flight. They were maintaining communications silence to keep the enemy knowing that they were around, but in the confines of the cockpit the time to get there could grow long. She settled back in her seat, watching the scenery change. The dessert gave way to forests and grasslands. A click from her com startled her out of her trance and she was a split second behind Jester as he dove toward the ground and activated his terrain following flying program. Paige was thankful that the terrain had only rolling hills and a few trees as the abrupt movements of the plane up and down made her stomach turn at times. Then suddenly a double click and Paige spied the base. They roared low over the buildings; the soldiers below diving for cover, expecting bombs to be dropping any second. The pilots pulled up into a sharp climb some circling the base as Paige and Jester dove, Cien and Paul right behind them. They all roared low over the base, not surprised to see jets scrambling to get airborne. They circled low, taunting until the jets started down the runway. They rocketed skyward, trailed by the enemy fighters. Paige’s missile lock warning began beeping earnestly as a jet came at her from a slight angle then went solid as the missile was launched. She saw two blips representing missiles on her HUD and rolled away, seeing Paul diving down. A cold flash of fear hit her gut as she realized that the second missile that had been targeting him now had her as it’s target she gunned it desperately continuing her roll but it hit her glancing not far behind the cockpit. Her plane continued it’s roll, barrel rolling several time before she managed to right it against the centrifugal force almost pinning her down. She was loosing altitude fast. She glanced around and saw Cien, Paul and Jester following her down. “Go!” she said, breaking radio silence. “No!” all three came back in various degrees of denial and anger. “What’s the first thing they teach a pilot?” Jester said, throwing back her own words at her. “There’s nothing you can do for me. Go! I can take care of myself.” She looked around for a relatively long clear area spying a large pasture and steered her falling fighter toward it. Still, the others kept with her. The other fighters were closing in on them but Christina and the ones who had been orbiting dispatched them quickly. “Please go!” Paige pleaded. “I don’t want to loose you!” Cien came back at her, his voice hard and rough with emotions. “You won’t! I will find you.” “I…” “GO!” Paige interrupted him, the ground rushing up all to fast. Jester let out a growl and a curse and pulled up out of the screaming dive they had been in to follow her down. Paige watched as the ground rushed up and pulled up, scrapping along the ground, digging up a deep furrow in the riches grasses of the plains. The plane twisted around to the side forcefully as one wing caught the ground and she was thrown into the side of the cockpit so hard that he vision swam, them blacked out.
Jester watched helplessly as Paige’s plane plowed into the ground, leaving a streak of black in the gold and green grasses. He cursed helplessly, pulling up. There was nothing they could do for her. To far from home they would have to try and retrieve her in a week when they tried to take the base. Cien rotated the wreck for several long moments. “Major.” Jester said softly and Cien pulled up, falling in on Paul’s wing. More blips came from the nearby base and Jester turned the wing homeward and booted it up to full military, quickly outdistancing the enemy planes.
Jester jumped out of his cockpit, allowing the force of his impact to drain some of his anger. Jerund walked out, his face troubled and Jester just looked at him. Cien was silent, standing with Paul, who was trying to comfort him. Jerund sighed and looked at the ground. Jester looked up. “We’re moving up the schedule.” Jerund nodded. “We can be ready in a week.” Cien looked up. “A week? Who knows what she will go through in a week!” He took several steps toward Jerund but the man placed a hand gently on his shoulder. “Boy, we’ll move as fast as we can, but I can’t take risks that could wipe out everyone!” Cien looked at the ground, shaking off Jerunds hand, then turn and abruptly walked into the base. Jerund sighed and looked at the ground then back up at Jester. “Come on, we’ve planning to do if we’re going to pull this off.”
Paige woke, her head aching. She was sitting in the corner of a bare room, her hands tied with rough rope. Her body was bruised and she shifted carefully, wincing as she moved. She looked around. Bare wall, bare floor, and a hole in the corner, single florescent light on the ceiling. Typical cell. She twisted her hands, grimacing as the rough fibers bit into the skin but they were loose enough that with work she knew she could get her hands free. She worked slowly, finally freeing her now painfully raw hands from the rope. She tucked it into the pocket of her flight suit, not sure when it might come in handy. She rose them, pacing the length of her cell. Five paces to the wall across from where she had been sitting. Seven from the end of the cell with a door to the back side with the hole. She sat back down carefully, trying not to jar her battered body any more than she had to. She placed her head against her knees, tired and knowing that rest was something she needed she closed her eyes and allowed herself to sleep.
Jester rubbed at the bridge of his nose, looking at the papers and schematics spread out in front of him. They blurred before his eyes and he too a sip of his coffee, grimacing when he discovered it was cold. He sighed and heard soft footsteps coming toward him. Tris wrapped her arms gently around his neck. “Come to bed, Will. You need the sleep. You’re not getting anything accomplished staying up and wiping yourself out.” Jester sighed and rose reluctantly. “I can’t help feeling guilty…I left her. All I seem to do is fail where she is concerned. I was charged with her protection…” Tris nodded and took his hand. “You’ve not failed her hon, you’re doing everything you can to help her. There’s nothing more you could be doing.” Jester nodded, knowing that once again, Tris was the voice of reason in his life. She pulled on his hand gently. “Come to bed Will.” He allowed her to pull him across their small quarters to they bed, then down onto the bed and into her arms. He rolled over to face her, wrapping his arms lovingly around her. She kissed him lightly then closed her eyes, her breathing quickly slowing with sleep. Jester smiled and kissed her forehead lightly, then allowed himself to fall asleep finally.
Paige woke and looked about. Something had woken her, and then she saw two slices of bread and a small glass of water in the floor. That explained what had jarred her to wakefulness. Her stomach grumbled at the meager meal but she was just thankful to have something to eat. She sighed and sat back against the wall with her eyes closed. Her thoughts drifted o nothingness and she slept again.
When Paige woke again she was being pulled roughly to her feet. She looked up at the man who was jerking her upright and gasped softly in recognition. “Peter?” she asked softly. The young man shook his head just slightly. “Please, don’t act like you know me…I can’t help you if they think you know me.” His pale blue eyes pleaded with her and she could see the marks stress and torture had left upon him since the capture of the base. She nodded her acceptance and his flashed her a look of relief before schooling his face to a proper stony expression as he turned out to face the hall. Two other guards stood there, tall, fair haired both of them. Peter pushed her toward them and they took her roughly, one on either side. She glanced back quickly, able to catch a last glimpse of Peter casting a final tortured look after her before they hustled her around a corner. She glanced about at her surroundings but the corridor was as bare as her cell. They took her only a short way before turning aside into a room. The walls were white, as were the ceiling and the floor. In the middle there was a chair. Straps hung from it limply, like the arms of dead men. Paige struggled as they moved to the chair but they were large men and had no trouble strapping her down. They stepped back, standing by the doorway. A single man entered, carrying a case. He was not much shorter than the two guards. One closed the door and locked it. The smaller man pulled a chair from the corner and sat. He took out a tray of instruments from his case. “You will answer promptly and truthfully. You will answer or be punished.” He tapped the corner of the case and four legs came down. And he set it on the floor. “What is your name?” He demanded. Paige sat silent. The man took an instrument and touched it to her neck. Her back arched as excruciating pain shot through her body. It seemed to go on forever, and then suddenly it stopped. Paige lay back gasping. “You will answer or be punished.” The man repeatedly blandly. “What is your name?” He asked again. Again, Paige sat silent and again the pain came, longer this time. When it finally abated she sat limply in the chair, her throat raw from screaming. The man irritably motions for the guards to leave. He stands and comes to her side, leaning close to her ear. “This can be easy, or hard, your choice girl. I’m giving you one more chance, then I make it easier for me.” He sat back in his chair once more, adjusting things in his case. “What is your name?” He waited for her answer. When none came he rose and fastened a collar like apparatus around her neck, then her hands, and then her ankles. He takes a syringe and injected her arm with a bluish chemical. He pressed a button and she felt every nerve ending ignite. Waves of intense cold and heat seemed to move over her body along with pain that seemed to split her in half. Her back ached, her eyes opened wide, she screamed. Through it all the inquisitor repeated his question. “What is your name?” she was unable to think, unable to speak through the pain. Finally she screamed. “Paige Fardreamer!” The pain stopped and she collapsed, the abruptness of the stop nearly making her pass out. She lay limply in the chair. “There now see, isn’t that better.” Paige lay, unable to speak. The man looked at a paper. “What is your age?” Paige remained silent. The mans face hardened. “Did you learn nothing girl?” Again the pain came, her body arched. The man stood, firing the question at her again and again. “What is your age?” Finally, again she screamed and answer to him. “Twenty one.” He did not stop the pain though. It washed over her again and again as he fired more questions at her she was unable to think any longer, too lost in the pain, the heat and the cold. Finally, just as abruptly as before, it stopped. This time she collapsed into unconsciousness.
Peter stood as the guards marched down the hall, dragging Paige between them. He noticed the collar and shuddered. He remembered that collar. They dropped her roughly at his feet. “Take her to her cell.” One guard said, then they both turned and walked away. Peter picked her up and carried her back there. He opened the door and lay her gently on the floor. There was little he could do for her. He stroked her hair, and then rose quickly, least anyone catch him. He back out of the doorway and locked it behind him, hurrying to his other duties.
Paige woke reluctantly. With her return to consciousness came pain. Stiffness, as she sat up. Muscles so sore she bit back a cry. Food and water waited by the door and she gingerly reached for the cup. Her throat was raw and the water burned going down. The stale bread was even more torturous to get down but she did. She had just finished when the door slung open. Two guards hauled her roughly to her feet. She cried out in pain, her sore muscles protesting the rough treatment. The guards chuckled but behind them she could see Peter, his expression troubled. They dragged her back into the room, the torturer already set up and waiting. Paige couldn’t even struggle as they strapped her to the chair. The torture came with a needle and gave her another injection of the blue fluid. Then, he began.
Peter paced around his room, the pain in his soul nearly too much to bear. Her screams, they tore at his heart, his sanity. He had known Paige since they were small children. Now he could not help her. Four days they had tortured her. Four days he had listened to those awful screams. Tears flowed down his cheeks, hot blinding tears of rage. He could still hear her screams in his mind. That awful noise, the pain remembered. He sat down and put his face in his hands. He had to get control of himself. Soon they would come for him, wanting him to take her back to her cell for the evening. He walked to his sink and rubbed cool water over his face. He looked up at the hollow pounding on his door and wiped a towel over his face, walking out in the hall to complete his assigned task. The guards dropped her limp form at his feet. He scooped her up gently, wincing at her groan of pain. He took her too her cell and lay her down. Blood flecked her lips, from a throat stripped raw from screaming. Her palms were bloody too, from where she had dug her nails into them. He stroked her hair gently and kissed her forehead. He turned and walked out, looking over her prone form one last time before shutting and locking the cell door.
Paige lay on the floor of her cell looking at the food sitting by the door. Even when she wasn’t being tortured the pain was constant. Her stomach rumbled, and protested and she felt ill. She couldn’t eat. Her throat was too raw from screaming, her body to abused for her to even feed herself. Peter opened the door and looked down at her. His face was tortured but he knelt beside her, helping her drink the water. It burned it’s way down her raw throat and settled coldly in the pit of her stomach. He tried to get her to eat a bit of the bread but she couldn’t swallow more than a few bites. He helped her finish off the water, and then stood quickly, glancing out into the hall. He cast an apologetic glance down at her then hurried out, shutting the door behind him.
Cien sat with Jester on a hill overlooking the Kansas base. Their camo fatigues hid them from site as they surveyed the base below. Cien blue-violet eyes held all the warmth of the glacier crevices that they were colored like. “She’s been in there six days now…” His voice was soft, tortured. Jester nodded. “We move tomorrow. Everything’s arranged. We’ll find her, I know we will…” He winced as he spoke. He even sounded unconvincing to himself. Cien sighed slightly and nodded. “Lets get back to the base. We’ve a lot of preparations to make if we are to attack tomorrow.” Jester nodded and they rose together, hiking back through the underbrush toward their temporary base.
Peter jumped up as the air raid siren wailed it’s eerie cry over the base. The room shook as the first bombs fell on their targets and his heart leaped. Hope flooded him for the first time in days. They had come, they were going to free them. He opened the door to his room and ran down the hall. Whatever happened now, it didn’t matter, he was going to do something finally. He slammed open the door to the interrogation chamber. The torture stood from his table. “What is the meaning of this interruption?” Peter slammed and locked the door, taking the man by his collar and slamming him into the wall, just as another explosion rocked the area. The man clutched at his arm, and peter punched him hard in the temple. The man slumped senseless and Peter dropped his disdainfully. Paige lay slumped in the chair limply, drugged and in pain, but awake. He freed her as gently as possible, listening to the report of gunshots in the hallways. He unfastened the devices of torture and violently flung them aside. Slowly, he lifted her, and gently, watching her give a silent scream of pain despite his carefulness. He held her close against him. “I’m sorry…I’m so sorry…” He whispered brokenly. She just looked at him, unable to do more because of the pain. The door flung open and he moved to protect her from whatever came through the door. Grey and black jump suited soldiers came pouring through. He felt her trembling with relief as he recognized Jester among the bunch. “Peter…” Jester spoke softly. “Jester…” A tall dark skinned man broke through the crowd, followed by a younger man with blond hair and vivid blue eyes. Paige’s face lit up at the sight of the blond man. The dark skinned man came close, examining the torturers tools. He turned to Peter. “Give her to me boy. I’m a doctor. I’ll take care of her.” Peter looked down at her, than handed her off as gently as possible. Her mouth opened in a silent scream and the blond man was at her side in an instant, stroking her hair. The three walked out together, followed by a small contingent of the soldiers. Jester looked at Peter. “You alright boy?” Peter nodded. “I’m okay now sir.” Jester nodded. “Good…good… Let’s go. Show us to the others.” The crowd parted and Peter lead the way into the base.