An Ancient Art Ch. 05byLucien_Grey©
Lynk blinked into blinding light and felt his stomach roll. Drugs running riot in his system were struggling to keep him sedated. He knew he should give in, but something kept pulling him out of the darkness. Shay. Where was Shay? Was he hurt?
The searing hot pain radiating from Lynk's shoulders had dulled to a bizarre, wet prickling. He tried to rise, but found no purchase in the thick goo he was lying in, unsure of how he had come to be laid in it. His brain rebelled at the sudden movement, sending a nauseating wave of agony crashing against the front of his skull, darkening his vision.
The ringing in his ears had started to sound distant. Incoherent voices muffled around him. He tried to blink into the fluttering light rushing over his eyelids. A wheel squeaked underneath him. He was on the move. He swore but all that came out was a bearish groan. The harsh light glaring red through his closed lids had gratefully disappeared.
More voices. A sharp jab in the side of his neck. His eyes rolled back into his skull. He gave into the soft, welcoming and painless darkness.
"I think he's coming around again."
Lynk worked all his energy into forcing his heavy eyelids open, but only managed to see a fuzzy, barred prison created by his interlocked eyelashes.
There was a gruff sharpness to the second voice, aged and something else. Lynk didn't recognise the man, but knew the strained vocal cords and struggling lungs of a user. These guys were slum dwellers. Like Lynk, their bodies were less accustomed to the recreational drugs widely enjoyed by the well-bred City citizens.
Fear crept back into his indolent senses in slow dregs, cooling the sedative's warmth tempting him back into comfortable darkness. Panic opened Lynk's eyes. Blinking through the fog, details filled themselves in slowly. Black walls surrounded him. Crumbling plaster revealed mould blackened bricks and boards disguised smashed or stolen windows, remnants of pre-war England architecture and the scent of decay: the slums. It had been years and the dingy sights and foul smells were not a welcome home coming.
Attempting to wet his parched lips, Lynk found his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth.
"You won't be able to speak yet."
Lynk's eyes swivelled to find the speaker. There were three men in all. Two were what Lynk expected, the muscle. As much meat as hair covered their bare, crossed arms, with shaven heads and little piggy eyes darkened by their constant thoroughly pissed off expressions, attempting to look menacing. The third, Lynk knew was the brains, the guy running the show. He sat arrogantly just inside Lynk's eye line, one leg propped up to support his hands delicately rolling up a joint with practised ease.
Lynk tried to speak, but only a series of gagging moans and mumbles dribbled from his numb mouth.
The man chuckled darkly. "Don't worry, feeling should come back eventually. But for now I'll speak while you listen." He slowly ran the tip of his pale tongue along the paper's edge and sealed the joint. "I have a favour to ask of you Lynk."
A jolt shot through Lynk, but in his immobility the only evidence of his surprise was his eyes widening.
"Yes, I know all about you. Though I must confess our meeting has been forced to take place ahead of schedule." The man lit his joint.
Small sensations started to come back just as predicted, but it wasn't as welcoming as Lynk expected. The tips of his fingers flexed and pressed into the gelatine substances he thought he'd dreamed about. It brought with it a warm tingling, like cold, wet fingertips dancing over his back, thighs, calves and finally his arse cheeks. Naked and numb, he had never felt more vulnerable in his life. Able to swallow again, he pushed passed the mounting fear and tried to concentrate when the man spoke again.
"'Lynk', strange for a City resident to only have one legal name. Like myself. We are the same, born in this shit hole," the man spread his arms, indicating their surroundings, "and both desperate to leave it. It seems you were more successful. Don't you think you should share some of your good fortune with your fellow slum brothers and sisters?"
Lynk wanted to laugh, but of course was unable. His lips managed a sneer.
"Forgive my rudeness," the man took a theatrically low bow, "Allow me to introduce myself, they call me Legion. I know you are confused and scared, but believe me, we don't want to harm you."
That wasn't much of a reassurance as Lynk lay immobile.
"Your back was burnt by the blast, but thankfully we were able to treat you quickly."
That explained the gunge Lynk was lying in, but nothing else. More important matters came to mind. He forced his mouth to work. "Shay?" was all he managed.
"Your brother is being taken care of."
"I want ... to see ... him." None of this added up. How did this guy know him? How could a slum user possess such high tech medical equipment? Where was Shay? The last thing he remembered was lunging for Shay, the smell of burning fuel and flesh and a voice shouting his name before passing out.
"Later. But before that, you and I need to have a little chat."
Lynk didn't like the implied threat in Legion's words. His mind started to reconnect with his body. He could feel his strength returning, but he didn't let it show.
"I don't ... make deals ... naked."
Legion gave that same unamused chuckle, giving Lynk's body a hard, lecherous head to toe look. Lynk grimaced. He was not ashamed of his body, he just didn't like this guy, saviour or not.
"Needs must, I'm afraid. We had to make sure there was no permanent damage." He came closer. "Luckily you didn't hit your head when you fell."
Legion gestured to his goons. The smaller of the two took out an ID screen and after he pressed a serious of buttons lights blinked out around Lynk and an approving bleep sounded his re-established good health.
The other big guy came close and taking hold of Lynk under the armpits, lifted him like a child from the healing goo, a wet smacking noise following his exit. Lynk, still weak, fell to his knees, hearing but thankfully not feeling the slam of his knee caps against concrete. The big guy held a shoulder to stop Lynk falling at Legion's feet.
"Not even a scar." Legion smiled, leaning forward and peeling some of the remaining healing jelly from Lynk's back. Lynk shivered, the cold hitting him hard. "Come."
Lynk almost laughed, too weak to get to his feet, but realised Legion was talking to the muscle men. Taking an arm each they proceeded to carry Lynk between them, lifting him high with his feet off the floor. Under different circumstances Lynk might have considered this a pleasant way to spend an evening, minus Legion and the surroundings and add an extra-large bed.
Unable to fight them and not sure if it would have been wise, Lynk allowed himself to be dragged into an adjoining room. It was as bleak as the first, but at its centre was an expanded ID screen. Surrounding it were older technologies: Prototype ID screens, pre-war mobile communication devices, screens attached to blocky keyboards and flat tablet computers. Still naked, Lynk was sat before the mass of devices.
"Now as a thank you, I would like you to hack into restricted Net files displayed on this laptop, using only these." Legion said as though it was a small favour asked of a friend, gesturing with a sweep of his arm at the tech.
"I don't know what you could have possibly misunderstood. It should be easy enough for you. I'll give you five minutes."
"I can't." Lynk said too quickly.
"Lynk, don't mess with me. I know everything about you. Now get to it. Four minutes and forty-eight seconds left."
Starting to get more than a little pissed off at this guy's attitude Lynk said, "I haven't hacked in years and it was only a couple IDS credit accounts. I was a kid. I don't do it anymore. This is big and more than a little illegal. Find someone else."
Legion huffed loudly, "The honourable law man now, huh? I'm disappointed. I was assured that you could do this. What a shame, your brother was so looking forward to seeing you again."
Lynk spun to face Legion's mock concern, "What have you done to Shay?" he hated the tremble in his voice.
"Oh, nothing at all," Legion's mouth but not his eyes smiled, "yet. Sweet boy. Shame about his weak health."
Using his rage fuelled adrenaline Lynk got to his feet and lunged for Legion, fists raised. "You fucking-"
Strong, hairy arms took Lynk around the middle, winding him and forcing him back into his seat. Thick fingers dug into his shoulders, restraining him.
"You obviously haven't learned any manners from your time in the City." Legion grasped a fistful of Lynk's hair, "Do this or I won't be responsible for what happen to your sweet baby brother. Three minutes and six seconds."
"Shay, calm down." Ronan took hold of Shay's slim shoulders.
Shay had come to, disorientated from the sedative and panicking, shouting his brother's name. His system wasn't handling the drug's effects well.
"Why won't they let me see Lynk? You said he was fine."
"He is." Ronan lied. "He's just having another test."
"What test? This doesn't feel right."
Ronan felt a sharp tug at his heart as he looked at his young lover's face. It wasn't supposed to be this way. Shay wasn't supposed to get involved. Now Ronan stood waiting for the next order to be sent to his IDS, ready with a hidden injector and desperately hoping that Lynk's hacking ability had not been exaggerated.
His assignment had been easy: find a way to stay close to Lynk and report anything of interest. He discovered Shay two months ago and approached. It was simple. Shay was sat on a bench at the Fountain Park in the Leisure District, typing frantically into his IDS.
"Mind if I sit with you?" Ronan had asked.
From across the colourful water displays Ronan had found Shay attractive, but up close he was breath-taking. His soft steel grey eyes shone in irritation at the interruption, the air conditioning blew strands of his dirty blond hair into his pale face. His angelic features softened as he looked up at Ronan.
Shay had continued his typing. Ronan watched quietly, smiling as Shay's tongue tip peeped out the corner of his mouth in concentration.
As though sensing Ronan's eyes on him, Shay turned, tongue still out, to Ronan. Their eyes locked and Shay looked away first, red colouring his cheeks, "Sorry, I'll put it on silent."
"There's no need. Sorry for interrupting you. What are you working on?" Ronan, in his research of Lynk, found out that Shay was still in University studying history, specifically the Wars before the birth of England 2.0, a controversial subject and that he lived alone in an apartment paid for by Lynk.
Shay smiled at his interest. The customary polite conversation ensued. What are you studying? They discussed the subject, though Ronan's knowledge was limited, he listened and responded with genuine interest, encouraged by Shay's enthusiasm. What's your name? Nice to meet you. What do you do, Ronan?
Ronan had his lies ready: an ex-business man, seeking a new career through his art. Playing the coy, penniless, romantic artist was probably a bit on the nose, but it worked and wasn't high profile or easily traceable.
They spoke about trivialities, flirting and laughing. Ronan was an excellent actor and had seduced his targets before to achieve his goal. Shay made it easy, clearly interested from the start and Ronan had to admit that he was attracted to the boy. By the end of their first meeting they had exchanged contact codes and promises of a second.
When they shared their first kiss, Shay had blushed furiously. Ronan's triumph was dulled by a bizarre worming inside his gut. He swallowed it and proceeded with his assignment.
It took two weeks before Shay mentioned Lynk. He spoke admirably of his older brother and Ronan found himself almost too distracted by Shay's smile to take much in.
Ronan knew he was getting too involved, too emotionally attached, a poor attribute in an assassin. But Shay was easy to love, willing to receive and give anything Ronan asked of him and Ronan asked for a lot, sometimes unable to control himself. His dangerous and unpredictable life led him to take pleasure wherever and whenever he found it. It definitely made his assignments more enjoyable.
Shay, even with his inexperience was a devoted and caring lover, not to mention surprisingly intuitive, learning quickly. Most of their time together was spent in bed and their desire for each other did not diminish as it had with Ronan's previous partners, it grew.
When Ronan returned to the dank apartment he was renting for the period of this mission, he would count the hours until he next saw Shay, going to his apartment, talking and laughing with him, taking him to bed or the sofa or even the floor if he couldn't wait.
This was the longest he had ever had to play a role and with each passing day he spent with Shay, Ronan imagined that the life he'd invented was true, simple and without death hovering over him, urging him to make the kill. He decided that the 'live-in assassin' was not within his ability.
Shay's safety began to matter to Ronan and not because he was the key to Lynk. His employer was after Lynk, not Shay, Ronan found himself saying, reassuring himself.
Maybe it was self-delusion that once all this was over Shay wouldn't hate Ronan. Could they continue as they had? Did Shay have to find out? It was a beautiful illusion. But Ronan was an assassin and a good one at that. Shay was not the first he had seduced for an assignment, but Shay was the first to make him question his convictions.
Ronan joined his young lover on the hospital bed and took Shay's face in his hands. "Shay, listen to me, he's alright. They said if the test results are positive you can see him again. I know it's hard, but we have to wait." It was heartless, but a twisted truth was hidden in those words.
Shay nodded slightly and leaned into Ronan. Ronan's chest tightened.
Stephen had gone passed fear and panic and was now thoroughly deep set in impotency. Much to his previous dismay, he had been forced to re-open the link to the Observer, thankful that the call was accepted.
"Father, a taxi was in an accident outside Oroboros Hospital. Is there any information available? Any injured?"
The Observer gave his son a hard, analytical stare, "It just came through. What is your concern with the incident?"
So he already knew, of course. "An acquaintance of mine was in the area. I want to know if he's been hurt. The taxi had lost connection to the R&R services. Have your team managed to make contact?"
"How do you know this?"
"Father, please." The way his words trembled shocked both him and his father.
"A team was dispatched and arrived within five minutes. We recovered a lad who was taken to the hospital. He was unconscious, but otherwise uninjured, which is a miracle judging how close he was to the wreckage."
Lynk? "Was there no other?"
"No, other than the gathered on-lookers who were quickly disbanded. Do you know the boy?"
Stephen hesitated, "No. Not directly." Where was Lynk? "Didn't the CCTV record the incident?"
The Observer dropped his gaze, "Stephen you know I can't divulge-"
He sighed and shook his head, "There was a ... glitch. The footage from the location was somehow wiped."
Wiped? Stephen recognised the shame in his father's face as his faultless system had failed again. Stephen stifled the urge to get angry and goad his father, knowing logically it wouldn't help. "Please keep me updated."
After a baffled nod of agreement from his father and the link disconnected, Stephen had heard nothing. He now paced his office. He had tried entering into the old Observatory CCTV programs he had been privy to during his training to succeed his father. Some passwords got him so far, but all he managed to access was the initial report of the accident.
He thought about leaving the safety of his office and going to the scene, but knew his father's officers would have quarantined the area.
He wanted to scream through his frustration and at his father's silence. He vainly tried and tried again to connect with Lynk's ID screen as he had when it first cut out, but his attempts were futile, meeting nothing but silent static.
Lynk's fingers were a blur. The clicking of keys when he worked through the laptop was a distraction from the ticking clock in his head. He didn't blink, barely breathed. Sweat chilled on his naked skin.
As much as it pained him to admit, Legion was right, it was easy. It was as easy now as it was then, back when he was a brat hacking accounts. It took him seconds to bypass passwords, barriers, ancient security and blocked mainframes. He bit his lip and swore as the old technology took time adapting to the new as he downloaded programmes and transferred files, typing so fast he feared he'd break the bones in his fingers.
"One minute, seven seconds."
"Your age is showing."
"Shut the fuck up!"
Lynk gritted his teeth, but didn't feel the pain in his jaw. I'm coming Shay, just give me some time and I'll save you again, just let me ...
The ID screen flashed approvingly. He'd done it. Hardly believing even as the files opened welcomingly, he let out a hard breath, feeling sick. He nearly collapsed into his arms, but a slap on his freshly healed back jolted him awake.
"Knew you could do it," Legion said, congratulatory. His eyes scanned the screen until he turned away sharply, taking out his ID screen and firing off quick messages.
"I did what you asked. Let Shay go."
Legion ignored Lynk, grinning widely as he typed away. Reporting to his boss?
Legion didn't look away from his ID screen, "What do you mean? That was just a test."
Lynk was on his feet, but the muscle men readied their attack. "You lying bastard!"
"Now, now, you did very well, but you don't think we dragged you here just for that. This was just to prove you're skills."
Infuriated beyond measure, Lynk glared with bared teeth as Legion circled him, humming as he continued typing into his ID screen. Who the fuck was this guy working for? He wouldn't have access to this type of tech, unless it was stolen, but the medical equipment was impossible for slum folk to get hold of. Someone also had to be supplying what smelt to Lynk like high-class, City strength grass in his joint.
"We need you to perform us another favour."
"Fuck you! I'm finished."
"I don't think so. I think you doubt your own worth."
"Who's the valuator? Your boss? As arrogant as you are, a slum trash gang leader couldn't orchestrate all this. You're just someone's running bitch."
Legion's cheek twitched, grinding his teeth as Lynk's words sent a sharp spike into his bubble of carefully controlled rage.
The momentary smugness fled Lynk as Legion, faster than he could fathom, seized a handful of Lynk's hair, pulling his head back. Lynk hissed through clenched teeth.
Legion leaned down so close to Lynk's face he could count the shorn bristles of grey stubble on Legion's chin and almost chloroformed by his rancid breath. He said as calmly as he had before, "You don't understand your situation." He smiled before he smashed Lynk's face into the ancient tech.
Keys and Lynk's teeth rattled. Lynk groaned through numb lips as bursting pockets of agony spread across his face. Black spots erupted in front of his eyes. Blood poured from his nose. Vainly, Lynk promised he'd kill this fucker if his nose was broken.
Once the world stopped spinning, Lynk straightened in his seat and spat with blood and venom, "Fuck" cough "you." He clenched his teeth expecting another attack.