Thanks to user="astrogirl" for hosting this Starkathon contest and for beta reading this, I hope the corrections are good. Please, please, please leave me a comment if you like it.
(PS, a disclaimer: Farscape, Stark and so forth are not mine, this is merely written for fun as a Fanfic, thanks.)
Thine Own Self.
They call him Stark.
His name, his real name, is unpronounceable, lying as it does between a click of the tongue and a throaty hiss. So his masters called him Stark: Sheer, Utter, Complete.
He looks into the sunken gaze of his latest owner. This one is different, he knows that right away, tastes it in the air.
‘He will do,’ the pale creature says. His body seems as frail as Critich skins but his manner commands respect and strength, ‘if you are sure the records are correct?’
The Slave Master grunts an affirmative, no doubt aware of the penalty for misinformation.
‘Very well, then, can you understand me, Banik?’
Stark nods fearfully.
‘You are Stark, correct?’
‘You are a Banik Stykera?’
‘Fifteen cycles ago you visited the Scarrans, to help them with a funeral ceremony, yes?’
A pause and Stark shakes his head vehemently and forces a sycophantic, cringing smile onto his features. The role of the good slave, the broken slave comes easily to him; it’s well practiced and he hopes it’ll convince his new master.
The pale creature’s eyes narrow, seeing through the façade. ‘You’re lying,’ he murmurs. ‘Tell me. I assure you, it will be easier in the long run.’
‘No,’ it’s the first time in a long while he’s directly disobeyed a Master; he bunches his muscles, ready for the pain which will surely ensue.
But his new master’s black lips twist into a smile, ‘I thought you might resist. Excellent.’
‘Sir?’ this came from one of the Peacekeepers, a captain or commander, judging by his uniform. He voices the question Stark himself would have asked, if he could.
‘It will give me chance to use the Aurora Chair,’ explains this new master, ‘and on a Banik Stykera no less. The results should be… interesting.’
He smiles thinly and reaches out. He clutches Stark’s chin in one white hand, studying his half hidden face. His fingers feel cold and clammy.
‘I am Scorpius,’ he says, ‘I suggest full cooperation on your part. It will make this much more comfortable.’
Stark resists the urge to spit in the creature's face. He’s asked for a memory he will not give. He will never give.
His cell is four motra by four motra. The walls are cold, hard, light seeps through one small, barred window which provides a gloomy outlook on an oily sea. The stink of the oil is everywhere. It seems to seep into his very skin.
He sits in a corner, trying to remain in the sunlight, hoping it will remind him of who he is.
He is not Stark. He has his own name.
There are some things that he keeps as his own, some things that no one can take from him. His memories of the Scarrans are one of these things.
Not that he bears any love for those foul beings. Evil, torture, pain are all they seem to know. He’s a tough little creature, he can resist them (he can resist most things), but amongst them he found beauty.
Strangely ironic, that a patch of such foul weeds could spring from such lovely flowers.
He has few good memories. Sometimes he dreams of his father’s smiles, his mother’s sweet songs, a sweet kiss from his first crush. But they are all marred by death. His father’s charred body, his mother’s death screams, the pleas of his first beloved as she was raped again and again and again.
The flowers though, ah! They are perfect; precious… they are his alone. He shares them only as a matter of final recourse. Only so he can do his Duty.
Before he went to the Scarran base, he was nothing, a hollow collection of useless memories, an empty body, a helpless soul. But that sight, the knowledge it brought… that showed him paradise!
After that he had somewhere, somewhere perfect in his head, to return to again and again, to show others, to ease the passage of the dying. That memory, the unadulterated sweetness of it, is what allows him to aid the passage of the dead.
It’s gift, a curse, a heritage. His and his alone, like his name, his duty. He would not part with it easily.
He wonders about the machine his new master, Scorpius, mentioned. Probably some sort of torture device. Well, he’s had worse; the Scarrans showed him pain beyond description, his other masters have also been eager to show abuse. It is, he supposes, all they know. Pitiable, really.
Well, that won’t work on him. He knows that he’d rather die than give out the Secret, for to do that would destroy the flowers. To do that would mean destroying the most beautiful place in the universe. No… this memory is his own. He will not give it away.
His mind is being torn from the inside out. Shredded apart, stitched together, tortured, torn, broken, mended. Fingers, slimy, cold, sharp, searing tendrils of energy rape his consciousness, searching, seeking, pulling and twisting.
His memories are being ripped from him, sucked out, and burned away. He holds onto them as best he can, pulling the energy within himself, resisting with all his might.
He can do it; it leaves him feeling sick and weak, dizzy, light-headed and heavy-hearted.
It leaves Scorpius angry and yet… delighted.
He likes a challenge, finds his new catch to be fascinating. Sometimes Stark thinks that the Aurora Chair is as much for his sick amusement as for extracting any useful information. But no; that would require passion, a heart, some sort of heat and Scorpius has long learned to quell all such fire from body and soul.
‘We’ll get that information out of you yet, Stark,’ he hisses sweetly.
Stark resists the urge to laugh in his face. He’ll never win. He’ll never know what he’s seen.
It’s his own. Like his name. He won’t give it away.
His Cell is four motra by four motra; he measures it with his eye, too tired to do anything else. How long has he been here? The sun has set three times, so that must be three days. But how long is that? The gravity is a little heavier than usual, dragging everything down, though it could be just a residual hallucination from the latest session.
If this planet… if this is a planet… does have a high gravity then it’s almost certainly larger than the last planet he was on. So… so… so…
Days are relative anyway. It’s not as if he’s worried about them before. It’s hard to keep track on space stations and deep space mining rigs, after all. There are only sessions, sessions of work and of rest.
Still, he thinks he would find it comforting to have some sort of marker of time.
There’s a loose stone at the side of his cell. He picks it up and makes a mark on the wall, counting off his first day of time keeping.
He will mark off every day from how, he decides, at sunrise most probably. It will provide some… pattern.
He needs something to do between his sessions in the chair. Something else, something physical which is his own because sometimes, after a session, he has problems remembering what has gone before.
The marks will help him remember his own memories.
For they are his own and he won’t give them away.
Twisting, turning, spinning as his recollection is ravaged; the pain almost euphoric.
Scorpius watches him, eyes narrowed. There are fifty-five scrapes on his cell wall, fifty-five risings and setting of the sun, and still Scorpius hasn’t found the knowledge he searches for.
‘You are making this very difficult,’ he says. ‘It doesn’t need to be.’
Stark pants. He can hardly remember to speak.
The half-Scarran’s eyes roam to the screen. ‘Who is that?’ he asks coolly.
Stark’s single orb fixes upon the image before him. He tries to keep it all in, he really does, but sometimes something leaks out. He supposes he needs to make small sacrifices, throw the odd sliver of meat to appease the beast.
‘Father,’ he breaths, the image on the screen filling his sight, ‘my father.’
‘Oh,’ replies his captor casually, ‘unimportant. Erase it,’
His purple haired assistant pushes several buttons. There is a hum of machinery. Stark wails.
His cell is four motra by four motra. There are eighty seven scrapes on the wall, but he wants… he needs to be more precise.
He counts the microts as they slide by; it’s interesting, and it gives him something to do.
While he’s counting he's not thinking about the chair. He’s calm, not sick with anxiety or fear. Also, he likes to think that, eventually, Scorpius will give up, will see that he can extract no useful information from him. Then, no matter what else happens, he will have some sort of freedom.
One interesting thing about Scorpius is his punctuality. At least he’s dependable, predictable.
Every 103,249 microts, he is dragged to the Chair. Sometimes it seems like the Cell and the Chair is his life. But it isn’t… it really isn’t. There’s more, so, so much more to him. So much more which is his own. That’s why he holds the memories within him, why he fights for them with every scrap of energy he possesses.
They are his own, after all.
Today is strange; it’s been 159,453 Microts since his last session, much longer than usual. He wonders what the delay is. What has caused this change in routine?
His answer is supplied in the form of a man. A man who is pushed through the high door at the side of his prison, his new cell buddy.
He’s in the chair before he can talk with the other prisoner. Spinning and turning.
He’s a little distracted by the thought of another prisoner with him, a little put out. He can’t concentrate enough to keep all memories inside, so Scorpius gets a few, useless tid-bits which he swiftly casts into the void.
Stark doesn’t wail as much as usual. He’s excited by the idea of a new hope.
He has an ally, now.
‘Got a new pet for the chair, Scorpy?’ he hisses.
‘Indeed,’ mutters the half-breed, ‘a traitor. I’ve been asked to extract some information from him. I’m sure he’ll be much more co-operative than you. Perhaps…’ Scorpius pauses and smiles slightly, ‘perhaps you’ll learn something from each other…’
His cell is four motra by four motra, there are 90 scratches on the wall, there are 50,034 microts to go before his next session in the chair, and his companion is an animal.
It wasn’t always so. He used to be relatively normal, for a brutal Peacekeeper, anyway. They didn’t interact much; he still thought himself above the Banik slave. He hardly even looked at him. Now it’s different, now it’s all been torn away.
The chair, it’s taken everything from him, broken him down. He shivers in a corner now, drooling quietly, clawing at the dirt floor. His body is half dead, his mind is almost gone. He’s little better than a maimed animal.
Stark slowly crawls towards him, wary lest he be attacked. Carefully, gently, he soothes the man. Puts his head into his lap and undoes the fastenings of his mask. He lets some of himself out, gives the man a few thoughts, collects the shards of his shattered recollection, and repairs his sanity a little, just a little. Not enough to grant him peace, but enough to soothe him somewhat. He wants to show him The Memory, wants to give a little more of his own. But can’t, for he worries that Scorpius will extract the memory from him. So he only gives a little of what he has, only a little of what is his own, hoping that it will be enough.
Shortly after, Scorpius flanked by Peace Keeper flunkies, strides in.
‘What have you done?’ he asks.
‘Given him some peace,’ replies Stark, truthfully, ‘you can’t take him back, it’s still another 91,296 microts until his next session.’
The half-Scarran pays no attention to the comment. He gestures to the guards and, moving with intent, the two Peacekeepers pick the other prisoner up and drag him, moaning, from the cell.
‘There’re still 91,296 microts until the next session!’ Stark protests desperately, ‘still another 91,296 microts to go!’
He is ignored, Scorpius leaves the cell, hardly sparing Stark a glance.
Stark feels something… ache inside. What is it? Loneliness, he supposes.
What else could it be?
When they come back, Stark’s cell mate is unconscious. His skin is yellow and clammy, his breathing shallow.
‘What did you do to him?’ he shrieks, hardly believing he could get so emotional over a Peacekeeper.
‘I’m not sure,’ says Scorpius thoughtfully. ‘I think the chair must have destroyed his sanity. It was a calculated risk. We got all the information we needed from him.’
‘What are you going to do with him?’
‘We will wait until he recovers. If he does recover. It hardly matters. Remember this, Stark: continue to fight the chair and this fate awaits you.’
Stark glares at his captor as he leaves before turning his attention upon his stricken cellmate.
He remains with his companion all night, noting how his pulse slows, his skin pales. It’s as if his soul has just given in. Has broken entirely.
Stark knows his duty, knows what he must do. Lifting the mask he allows his essence to spill over the Peacekeeper's pallid face, soothes away the pain, takes all the evil into himself, cleanses the soul, helping it on its way to paradise, or whatever destination awaits it.
When all that remains is a rotting corpse Stark settles back against the cell wall, carefully tending the new memories in his head. They aren’t his own, but they feel a little like it.
He takes a moment to wonder at his emotions before, when Scorpius took his cellmate from him.
It wasn’t loneliness. It was jealousy. He was jealous of the dead man.
‘Are you sure this is wise?’
It’s the first time Stark has ever heard Scorpius’s assistant question him. ‘After the last failure,’ she continues, ‘wouldn’t it be better to slacken the regime?’
Scorpius seems to ponder the point for a few moments. ‘No,’ he says at last, ‘the subject,’ (he always refers to Stark as the subject in these situations; it bothers him much more than it should, much, much more) ‘seems very resilient to the probing of the chair. I doubt that extended usage would result in death, or he would have died already. That threshold has long been crossed still… keep monitoring the subjects mental condition, but until further notice we continue with the current regime.’
His assistant nods and starts up the chair.
His cell is four motra by four motra. There are 259 scratches on the wall, 50,642 microts to go before his next session in the chair, and he is not alone.
This is a wonderful and terrible thing.
Between now and before (before when? He’s not sure, it’s so hard to keep track… so hard…) there have been ten other cellmates.
One was another Peacekeeper, the others were of different races. He did what he could for them, easing their pain as best he could. But he’s learning the folly of his ways. It is becoming hard to keep what is his separate from what is theirs. Every time he shares a memory, every time he takes a soul on its final journey, he takes a little of their memory. They mix and mingle with his own, forming a muddy mass in his head. It’s hard to keep track of what is his and what is theirs.
The reservoir of darkness within his soul has also grown, surging and pounding within him like tainted blood. It’s becoming harder to hold it back now. It reminds him of the churning mass of oil outside, filthy, sticky, explosive.
His latest cell mate is a female. Beautiful, in her own way, and when the end draws near she begs for something other than mental relief, begs for healing that his mind can not provide.
He is willing to share his body with her; compared to the mingling of souls it is as nothing. She takes what pleasure she can from it, as does he. And, when she finally breaks in his arms, drooling and scrabbling on the floor, howling in the night, he feels a grief somewhat deeper than shallow sadness.
When her body follows her mind into the abyss he soothes the tatters of her soul over to the afterlife, as he has done for all those sharing his cell. He has a feeling that this is another scheme of Scorpius’s, a plan to confuse his memories, to lower his resistance. It is working.
He decides, right then, that he can’t let this happen. He can’t allow himself to become so attached to his fellow prisoners. He can’t trust them, and getting to close just opens himself up for betrayal.
Before she died she left him one last gift. Some small bits of machinery from her uniform. Nothing much, a tiny device she used to help regulate controls in her space suit. But it could be useful, he thinks, he might be able to start the creation of something… something to help him escape.
He ponders the tiny device, being careful to stay out of the way of the Cell’s single camera. Plans form in his mind. He’s good at making plans. He’s become so used to the silent count in his head it no longer takes up all his thought processes. So he fills in the time with making desperate schemes.
He’s good with electronics too; he fixed various things at the mining colony. With some time, some work… he has some hope. So long as he’s careful
He has something of his own, he won’t let Scorpius take it from him.
The chair is almost comfortable to him now, he’s used to it. It’s still painful, still wears him down, still rips away his memory but… it gives him something to do.
He grunts and gasps, writhing like a tormented animal as the demonic torture device savages his mind. Yet he uses his spasms to hide his fingers, which, even as he twitches, travel to some loose machinery of the chair and loosen the components he needs. It won’t be much, it won’t break the chair and it probably won’t be missed. But it’s what he needs. He’ll add it to the small bits of scrap he’s been collecting for a while now. He’s going to add this to his newest creation.
It’s going to become part of his baby.
His cell is four motra by four motra. There are 79,642 microts to go before his next session and there is one, long scratch on the wall.
He stopped making small marks a while ago. Their number depressed him and, really, when he considers it, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. The act of making the scratch is as important as the scratch itself. So he makes one, long scratch with his stone each day, wearing a single, shallow line in the wall. It comforts him a little, makes him feel like he’s only been there a day. A day that’s lasted 40,489,578 microts and 384 scratches (or rather, 384 acts of making the scratch, only one line.)
It seems like he’s been here forever, his life is divided between cell and chair. His mind is a mess of memory, the echoes of lost souls howl beneath his mask. Prisoners, countless victims of the chair have passed through this cell and through him.
Sometimes, in the darkness, if he listens very, very, very carefully he can hear the pain of others in the base. The silent sobs of the prisoners in the cells next to him, the quiet little agonies of the Peacekeeper techs and guards. He supposes that, if he listened carefully enough, he might even hear Scorpius’s hidden torments. If a man… a creature so foul and cold as him is capable of feeling internal pain. He doubts it.
But the silence and the noise, the screams intermingling with his own memories, is taking its toll.
He’s finding it hard to remember what is his own inside his head.
So he’s begun to sort things out, order his thoughts.
When he was a child the elders told him he was too impulsive. He tries to make up for this in plans and now, slowly, he builds up his mind.
Everything is split in two, he thinks, life and death, the within and the without, the cell and the chair. He has his side, the cell. This is his ground. He is king here. Scorpius has his side. He has the chair. He rules there.
It’s important to distinguish this, to understand the roles, to sort things out and order them into clear cut lines. Or light will meld into darkness, ego into other. Life into death.
Not a tolerable situation.
So, quietly, carefully, in between meddling with his baby, singing in the chair and making long, painful scratches in the wall, he rearranges his head.
Spinning, twisting, turning, singing, screaming, round and round to the tune of the Aurora Chair’s music.
How long has it been now? How many sessions? 78 at last count, a record to surpass all records. Most don’t even last four or five.
This session has been particularly hard, Scorpius seems to have found a way to increase power to the chair, its probings and pinchings are worse than ever.
He’s doing it more often also, now it’s every 60,345 microts he’s subjected to The Chair.
It’s wearing him down, slowly but surely.
‘Wh-wh-why?’ he splutters as the chair stops, ‘why s-so often Scorpy? Loosing patience?’
‘On the contrary, Stark,’ replies Scorpius in an almost friendly manner, ‘you’ll find that patience is something I have an almost limitless supply of. I merely thought a more frequent regime would prove more fruitful.’
‘N-never! My memory! Mine! You’ll never have it!’
‘I beg to disagree. It may take an arn or a cycle or a hundred cycles, but I will have the information I require. We have time. Take him back to the cell.’
His cell is four motra by four motra, there’s one long scratch on the wall and 20,054 microts until the next session.
Then it’ll be 6,345 microts until the next, and 60,345 until the next, and 60,345 until the next, on and on and on and on!
The thought tears at him, Scorpius will never give up! Never surrender! He’ll just keep on ripping his mind apart until, eventually; there’ll be nothing left except shattered remnants of other people’s dying memories, a deep reservoir of darkness and the recollection which he has so desperately protected.
Suddenly the cell seems a lot smaller than four motra by four motra. He can’t keep track of the microts any more, his mind is overwhelmed by panic, the voices inside him are screaming. Their torment echoes inside his mask, burning away his mind.
He’s screaming too, screaming into the stinking, oily air.
How he hates the oil! Loathes how it seeps into his skin and clothes, is sick of its stench and its slippery feel. He wants to get it out of him! To wash it away, to tear off his skin and run naked into the sky. He wants to get all these memories out of him! Wants to clean away the pain!
He twists round, spinning in a circle, breathing fast and hard, recreating the sensation of the chair.
Oh how he longs for the chair!
At least there he has something to occupy him, at least there the screams have died down somewhat, at least there there’s some stability, the face of Scorpius leering down upon him. Sometimes it seems… it almost seems… his sibilant words almost seem gentle.
He rakes at the air, trying to dispel the notion; he mustn’t listen to that voice. Can’t listen to himself! Doesn’t want to be himself! Doesn’t want to be anyone! He needs to make a scratch in the wall, to count the microts and cycles, make plans, clean away the oil, spit out the darkness. Vomit up all the voices.
He can’t handle this. He isn’t strong. Isn’t brave. He… he just has himself. Just has what is his.
He must keep that. Keep what’s his.
He grins. Yes, there is hope. Is a thin, sliver of hope.
He stumbles towards the side of his cell, to where a long, aching cut in the wall symbolises the passing of days.
The stone he uses to make the marks with is still there. As time has gone by it’s worn down by scratching; now one side of it is a sharp, jagged edge.
He needs to be clean, needs to get all the bad memories out, needs to cleanse his blood and strip his skin. Needs to start afresh; it’s the only way. The only way.
The Banik Stykera disapprove of suicide; euthanasia is to be condoned only as a last measure, only to be used to rescue those caught in the agony of the void. That place between life and death.
It’s certainly not approved of as a measure for a Stykera to take. But Stark feels like he’s been caught between two sides long enough, feels like he can hardly take it any longer. Feels like this is the best way.
He rubs the sharp stone across his wrist, watching it bite into his flesh, kiss the blood, drink it. As his hand moves furiously he wills it to kiss deeper, to sup of his life essence, to take all the badness away. He grins manically as the blood pours from broken veins and splatters onto the ground. His movements are furious, his concentration taken up entirely with slicing away his own flesh so that, when the Peacekeeper guards rush in, he hardly notices them.
They grab him, hold him down, tear the stone from his bloody grasp and move to stem the bleeding at his sliced and shredded wrists. They have great difficulty holding him down and even more difficulty ignoring his bellowed shrieks.
These shrieks fall away to shallow whimpers as two more figures enter his cell. Scorpius, followed by his purple haired lackey.
The half-Scarran glares down at him imperiously. He seems angry, not that Stark cares. The worst he can threaten is death, and that is something he’s already sought out.
‘It seems,’ he says at length, ‘that I have made a misjudgement.’
He kneels down so that he is at equal heights with the ravening Banik, ‘Stark,’ he murmurs sweetly, ‘Stark… can you hear me?’
‘Hear? Hear? I hear you. I hear you all! But I can’t hear me!’ he knows he’s screaming, doesn’t bother processing what comes to his mouth; ‘I can’t stand it any more! The chair! I want the Chair! I want to strip it all away! I want it gone! All gone! I hate you! I want to be clean! I hate! I hate!’
The last words are lost in bubbling sobs as despair overtakes him, and he whimpers and cries in the arms of the guards. Scorpius stands up again and nods slowly.
‘As I thought,’ he says, ‘you were right, Niem, it seems the chair has had some effect on his sanity.’
‘Shall we take him to the chair again?’ asks the assistant coolly. ‘He seems to be in a weakened mental state. Our probes may be more successful.’
‘No,’ replies Scorpius thoughtfully, ‘if he is insane then he must be nearing his breaking point. Using the Aurora Chair at this juncture could be disastrous. It could break him before he reveals the information to us. We should slacken the regime.’
‘But sir, our progress is slow as it is. If we decrease the frequency of the sessions…‘
‘We have time,’ interrupts Scorpius coolly, ‘and patience… is a virtue. See his wounds are attended to.’
‘What if he tries to kill himself again?’ asks one of the guards.
‘Stop him of course. And inform me of it. Every time he makes a suicide attempt… I shall kill a two hundred Banik Slaves. Hopefully that should be an adequate deterrent.’
When Scorpius has left and his wounds have been attended to, Stark sits in a corner of his cell and laughs.
What he’s won is a matter of debate, but he has won. There will be fewer sessions now and, what is more, without knowing it Scorpius has sacrificed a major advantage.
The threat of causing harm to his people has always caused his blood to freeze, always made him regret not cooperating with the chair. Now, however, Scorpius cannot use that against him to get his cooperation, for he is already using it to prevent him from killing himself. He knows his life is valuable to Scorpius, possibly more valuable to him than it is to himself. It’s not much of a bargaining chip, but it’s a start.
And, what is more, Scorpius thinks he is going insane. Well, perhaps he is. It doesn’t really matter. Never mattered at all, in fact. The point is that, whilst Scorpius thinks he is delicate, he won’t put him in the chair so much. He’s safe.
What sweet irony, that as death would save him from insanity, so insanity saves him from death.
As he thinks this the sun rises, the golden, sickly light seeping from between the bars of his cell. He crawls over to the wall to make the single, long mark which will signify another day passed. But then realizes he’s lost his rock, the guards took it from him to stop him cutting himself again.
Never mind. It’s a small sacrifice to pay for protecting what is his.
‘Again! Again! I want it! Take me round again! Frell me again! Please!’
The lie comes so easily it hardly feels like a lie any more. It feels more like himself, less like the mask he puts on.
Strange, now he has three sides. What is his, what are the others', and what he puts on for Scorpy. He thinks that the different sides are melding together somewhat, but he hardly dares linger on that thought.
Scorpius watches him, his cold, deep set blue eyes raking his ragged form. Stark wonders at what he sees, he finds himself hoping, for reasons too complex and too terrible to go into, that he is pleased.
He always hopes that he keeps Scorpy happy, it means less pain and strife in the long run.
When he is insane, Scorpy bothers him less. So he relishes the insanity, builds upon it, delves into it. It’s like swimming in the ocean of oil outside, dirty, sticky yet… it is a freedom of a sort. Nobody dares venture into the ravings of lunatics, perhaps because they fear what they would learn from them.
Now, in the cell, he divides his time between singing and screaming. He dances half-remembered steps of a Banik Waltz. He tells stories to people long dead. Draws lines in the dirty soil of his cell marking out mental territory, scrabbles in the muck.
When the camera is pointed away, when he can hide from its gaze, when he dares take the risk he works on his Baby. He’s stolen several other small bits for it, building it up slowly until, at last, it is complete.
He knows it will take a long time for him to try out all the magnetic codes for the door, possibly forever. But, if he has nothing else, he has time. It is a small hope, a stupid hope, but it is all the hope he has. His beautiful, beautiful baby. The children are future, the children are hope.
That makes two memories he’s got to protect, but he’s only getting half as much attention as he was before so, he supposes, it all works out equal and balanced.
The chair has started to move again; the tugging at his mind continues. He screams at Scorpius for more, begs him to continue. Often now he wonders how much of his screams are acting and how much is true. Scorpius seems to take in all of his vision now, seems to encompass half of his world. It’s odd, sometimes in the night, when the screams in his head intensify to a deafening level, he almost longs for the half-Scarran’s calm, analytical voice. It reminds him, oddly, of his father… whoever his father was. That memory was lost to the chair a long time ago…
Perhaps it was someone else’s father…
The chair stops its spinning. He gasps and grunts in the seat, his limbs weak as flower seeds, his head a mess of pain and churned up memories.
‘Not fair,’ he burbles, ‘not fair, more. You promised more sir. More.’
‘What is that?’ Scorpius asks a familiar question.
With an effort, wishing that the dim light weren’t so bright, Stark raises his head and looks at the screen.
It takes him a while to recognise what is displayed there, takes him a second to realize what he has finally let out. That thing which has not been spoken for many, many years, lying as it does between an unpronounceable click of the tongue and a throaty hiss.
His tongue is slimy and heavy in his mouth. He speaks between the drool and spittle which has collected between his lips. ‘Name,’ he warbles, ‘my… name.’
‘Really?’ says Scorpius. He smiles. It’s a special smile, one meant just for Stark. ‘Splendid.’
His cell is four motra by four motra, there’s one long scratch on the wall, 90,394 microts until the next session and 385,324,564 combinations to go on his magnetic lock pick. His baby.
He knows, logically, that it will take him forever to pick the right one but it gives him hope. It gives him a plan to work with and that is the most important thing. Right? Right?
Sometimes things aren’t so bad, the future is still open and he has all the hope in the world but sometimes… sometimes the cell is a cold, smelly, oily place filled with echoing screams. Then there is no hope.
Still, at least things are simple, wonderfully, dissolutely simple. There is hope and despair, life and death, what is his and what is not, the cell and the chair, mania and depression.
He switches between these frequently, they add variety, add to the act (It’s only an act! Just an act! He knows it isn’t real, really, he does!)
It’s an act to appease Scorpy, to keep him happy. It doesn’t hurt so much when he’s happy because so long as he’s interested then he isn’t angry. He’s not angry at him for resisting. No, because he resists in such an interesting way. Oh yes, he’s Scorpy’s little pet. Scorpy’s private project. He’s special.
He almost likes being special.
And, if he can do nothing else to harm the half-Scarran, he can make his life as difficult for him as possible.
His cellmates, whenever he has any, are fearful of him. They think he’s mad, back away from his ravings, his screaming. Huddle near walls when he glares at them. Not that he cares. He works hard not to care. Not to get close. He’s tired of holding people as they die. Tired of caring.
He does care, though, he can’t stop caring, for his duty if nothing else. So, when they die in the cell, broken and empty, they don’t make the final voyage alone.
But he has made some very, very, very strict rules about what does and does not happen in His Cell.
In His Cell there is no talking, no one except him can talk! Talking must be done for the chair.
Also, the Cell must be divided into parts, it is His Land, His Own, so he has the right to say what goes where. If he has to share then he must have his own half, that half is not to be infringed upon. It must not be touched. It’s hard enough keeping things separate inside his head, he doesn’t want that happening in his cell.
His Cell is his own.
His memories are his own… or some of them are at least.
So hard to tell… so very, very, very hard to tell. Everything must be broken down, divided, considered and put in it’s proper place. Plans must be made.
He’s good at making plans.
And one day, one day he’ll be free. One day he’ll take revenge on Scorpius. One day it’ll be Scorpius in the chair, spinning round, begging for mercy, giving it all up. On that day he’ll show Stark all he has, all he is, it’ll appear on the viewing screen. On that day, when his entire mind is open to him, Stark will turn to his assistant and he’ll very quietly say… ‘Erase it.’
In the meantime all is confusion, in the meantime he’ll wear a mask of madness, to hide his secrets from Scorpius. Because everyone gives everything up to the chair eventually, except him. Only he can hide his memories. Only he will keep his knowledge hidden.
Because that memory is his own.
Just like his mind is his own.
Just like his name… his name… his name is Stark.
Stark, Sheer, Utter, Complete.
That is his own too… right?
It doesn’t matter.
He closes his eyes, delves into his own mind and sees a room full of crimson flowers.
This is all he has now. This memory is his own. He will never give it away.