Author: Shylah (Writings.of.Shylah@gmail.com)
Warnings: Violence, torture, mind control, sexual situations
Pairings: None outside Firefly canon, so far.
Genre: Angst, Action/Adventure, Drama
Disclaimer: They're Joss's, not mine. No money made.
Summary: An operative surveys Spike’s condition, Mal finishes up with Abraham Legan, and Mather has some issues…
Author’s Note #1: This chapter contains some information that not everyone will agree on, because it involves a vampire’s “need” to breathe, which is a controversial subject because of the thousands of mixed signals we received from the show. So, I’m taking liberties with canon and for the most part turning a blind eye to Spike’s reactions to lack of air on Why We Fight.
Author’s Note #2: I lost the first version of this chapter when my lap top broke. I had to rewrite it, and was not so emotionally invested in it the second time around. Basically, I was just supremely annoyed that I had to write it again and wanted it up and out of the way.
The operative, Chrysalis, had issued his approval to his superiors of Spike's progress, along with a few of their other especially well-trained vampires. Some members of Parliament were still unsure of the safety of the training center -- due, in most part, to superstition -- but there had never been any real severe breakouts of trouble. Everything was well contained -- which was more than could be said for the other section of Engineered Defense Deployment Training, or EDDT, as it was called. Many from that section were still in a mild panic due to the escape of River Tam, and the damage she could do, the attention she could bring to them. She and her brother had thus far evaded capture, although there were reported rumors of their sighting.
Ramsden himself had experienced slight anxiety at the news that the girl had gotten out. It had been tested and discovered that telepathy of the purely psychic kind would not work on the mind of a vampire, but that did not mean information about them could not be garnered from the brains of the very human scientists.
Yet Ramsden had also been privy to the knowledge of the effects of the neuro re-imaging on the girl, of her decreased mental stability. The reactions that she had exuded upon such a drastic reconfiguration was the major reason the scientists had thus far decided to leave the entire project running as it had been. If there was any hint of the worse-case scenario of an uprising taking place, the Alliance could smooth it over using the girl's clear lack of sanity. Still, Ramsden was less than impressed with the military's continued failed attempts to locate her. Sighing, he once more focused his attention on the project at hand.
Spike was standing in a closed glass cubicle. It was a very similar structure to the showers the vampire was given at least once daily -- a process which took a matter of seconds thanks to the state-of-the-art cubicles installed. Cost effective, as well, since they weren't quite so popular after people got tired of keeping up with the Joneses -- many still preferred the luxury of warm water and soap.
Spike was glancing around warily, his hands resting lightly on the side of the glass as he watched the scientists working around him. Light shivers danced up and down the vampire’s frame -- he’d just been washed, but in a tub of ice water meant to drastically lower his body temperature in order to make the next tests effective. The vampire had been reluctant to spend any amount of time in the freezing water, but stating a few of the simple trigger commands was enough to get him to sit inside the ice for an extended period of time
It was much more of a relief now, that most of the vampire’s could be controlled so. During his first days here, Spike would often raise his eyes and meet those of the scientists' in a show of contempt and defiance. Many that were of lesser will or greater fear would look away, but Ramsden had quickly amended that. Several of the characteristics of dogs could be applied to vampires, and thus many of the same training techniques -- you had to look them in the eye, reprimand them swiftly, and be consistent until they lost the bad behaviors. That was the way to establish dominance over a vampire.
And it really was the best course of action, because while the triggers had been planted, the vampires spent most of the time in control of their own decisions -- well, as much as they could be. Ramsden found that while a sentient being that was not completely taken under the control of the triggers had the slim choice of posing a risk, the results were much more efficient. There were theories that a mind that was entirely overtaken could eventually retreat, and leave the rest of the body comatose.
It was for that reason Ramsden preferred to leave as much of the original personality as possible. So it was that it took a lot of pain, coupled with other, more creative punishments such as solitary confinement and sensory deprivation to get Spike's more blatant attempts to challenge the scientists to cease. But it hadn't been easy. One of the scientists, upon hearing Ramsden give a short lecture including the canine behavioral comparison, had suggested castration to rein in Spike's rebelliousness -- jokingly, at first. Later, that same scientist brought the subject up again, without humor, when attempts to bend Spike's will continued to fail.
"What is the necessity of this particular test?"
Ramsden glanced at Chrysalis, who stood beside him, hands folded behind his back, observing Spike. Well-spoken, obligingly polite -- that was how all operatives were trained to behave. If you were unfortunate enough to be on their dangerous side, that attitude could quickly become terrifying.
Ramsden smiled with the knowledge and confidence that he was good enough to never have to worry about being the focus of an operative's mission. "While vampires cannot be killed by most means, there appears to be a throwback from the remnant biological memory when it comes to lack of oxygen. We recently discovered that some, more than others, show signs of asphyxiation when deprived of air."
Chrysalis tilted his head in acknowledgment. "You'll have to forgive me for not being so extensively knowledgeable about the inner workings of vampires." He shifted back to gaze at Spike. "So, they react this way even though their lungs are rotted through."
"All of the specimens have one thing in common -- their brains." Ramsden smiled. "That's the beauty of the mysticism involved in the transition into and living of a vampire. While all other organs atrophy in the transcendence into a demonic state, the brain remains moist, healthy, and fully functional, as does most of the central nervous system. We believe that the key to the instinctual false need for air may lie somewhere there." Ramsden put his hands in his pockets and shrugged. "But, a theory is only a theory until it has been proven wrong, so now Spike gets a turn at giving us a reaction to the absence of oxygen."
As he said so, the whirring began that signaled the release of gas to push out the oxygen. Spike looked down at the ground where the sound was emanating and stepped back nervously as grey curls of smoke began rising. The air was quickly drawn out through a vent via the introduction of more dense molecules, which quickly rose up and surrounded him.
Vestisar was an unusual gas that would cling and condense thickly into a clear film when the temperature was low enough. Since Spike’s body could not regulate its own temperature, he was still several degrees below room temperature from the ice bath, and the gas immediately began to bond over his body. As the air was completely removed and replaced with the vestisar, Spike's hands on the glass curled. He closed his eyes as if in pain, but a few seconds later opened them again, his features pinched as he appeared to concentrate on keeping his body's instincts under control.
"Good." Ramsden nodded in satisfaction. "Even without a trigger, this shows us that Spike would not have too much trouble working in circumstances without oxygen. With an inputted command we can bypass this little side effect altogether. Hopefully, we will eventually have vampires working in aiding Alliance cruisers. They could explore dead aircraft safely, be trained to power the ships. On lesser aircraft, they could be triggered to stop breathing altogether, so that those who need to could stay safe."
Ramsden tilted his head, considering, then waved at one of the scientists to allow oxygen back into the cubicle, along with raising the temperature. After a few minutes the vestisar began to evaporate and was removed completely from Spike’s form. Spike gasped for breath deeply, his overly biologically instinctive brain became satisfied that it was meeting a need it no longer required.
Ramsden continued talking. "Notably, our sun does not seem to affect them as much as the old sun was observed to do in the legends gathered from Earth-that-was. Still, unfortunately, any extended exposure to sunlight without proper protection does result in severe burns and, in some cases, death. But only for extended and nearly complete exposure. We have programmed a measure of self-preservation into him -- not so much as to supersede his command to keep his human handlers safe, of course."
Chrysalis was silent, his dark eyes boring into the vampire that did not remove his gaze from the floor. Spike may have not needed air to survive, but the increase in obedience he was currently displaying indicated he was hoping to avoid another such test.
Ramsden continued as Chrysalis moved forward for a closer look. "The problem is, at times, Spike does not know the difference between when we're simply testing him and reprimanding him for incorrect behavior."
As the operative continued to stare, Spike suddenly shuddered all over. For a moment Ramsden thought the gesture was meant to indicate that Spike was still cold, but then the vampire began raising his head. Ramsden frowned as he watched the vampire make direct eye contact with Chrysalis. Spike’s expression was unreadable, but his gaze was unwavering.
There was something chilling, even to Ramsden, in Chrysalis's voice as he spoke. "I think he knows more than you give him credit for."
Feeling slight anger that one of the projects should find it in himself to be disobedient at this point in time, Ramsden motioned to the guards that stood at the door to the room. The cubicle was opened, and one of the guards gave a short command. Spike instantly turned to face them and dropped to his knees, and one held up a shock prod to the vampire's neck. Spike convulsed and fell to the side as it charged, arching his back and grimacing in pain.
When Chrysalis turned to him in silent question, Ramsden nodded towards Spike. "It's imperative that we engage in chastisement as soon as a mistake is made. It gives the subject no confusion about what it did wrong, and helps strengthen the proper associations with the action so that it isn't repeated."
Another order was issued by a guard and Spike forced himself onto his feet. Cuffs were placed around his wrists and a muzzle was placed on his face before they lead him out.
Chrysalis silently watched them go before addressing Ramsden. "If it suits you, I'd like him on the ship by the end of the week."
A swirl of pride rushed through Ramsden. "Done."
Mal shifted as the position of sitting with his chin on his hand steadily gained discomfort. Abraham Legan sure liked to talk. The man had given them key details about where and when he wanted his cargo delivered -- and, by Mal’s estimate, this entire sojourn was resulting in the equivalent of three jobs. Legan didn’t have much to worry about when it came to money, and the job would keep Serenity
busy for at least a few months.
Legan was still yammering on, although Mal was only listening with half an ear now, because the man was just overviewing the jobs they would be doing, despite the fact he’d given them a detailed list about said jobs, and would be checking in with them from time to time to go over their next steps. When Legan had mentioned that he was going to do all that before he’d even begun describing the job, Mal had felt a little irritated, thinking that the man was implying that they were too simple-minded to follow a few instructions about a drop-off. But as Legan had gone into a complicated spiel about the many different drop-off points they were to visit, which packages went where, and which messages to give to certain people, Mal found himself a bit grateful. He’d only had a major job like this once or twice in the past -- most people of Abraham Legan’s supposed status didn’t usually go underground in their dealings. The man was clean, and though Mal’s policy was to leave questions unasked, this was one deal in which he would have been interested in knowing what secrets lay behind the brown eyes of the young man who seemed to have it all.
When they finally reached the all-important discussion of payment, Mal was aching to get the deal over with so he could stretch his legs and get the hell back onto his ship. Jayne had been fidgeting nearly the entire meeting. Only Zoe was entirely comfortable with sitting so completely still for hours at a time.
“Money for your flying expenses will be provided upon your departure.” Legan said. He’d stopped fiddling with the computer-desk and was leaning across the now-blank surface on one arm as he sat. The woman was still standing at his side, her stance practically frothing with discipline. Mal had long decided that she was indeed Legan‘s bodyguard. “For every drop-off you complete, I will give you a fraction of your payment. If you are unable to follow through with a drop-off for any reason, you forego that fraction. If I feel that you are not up to your best work at any time, I will cancel the job and sever our ties.”
“There’ll be no call for severing.” Mal said. “We have our shaky spots, but we always come through on a job.”
“Except in Mr. Niska’s instance.”
“Yeah, well -- already agreed on the fact that the man is a bastard.”
Legan didn’t so much as crack a smile. “My men will see you out with the cargo. If you find you have any problems whatsoever, don’t hesitate to contact me.”
Apparently, that was all that needed to be said to end their meeting. Legan pulled up his fancy touch-screen on the desk again and simply no longer acknowledged their presence. Mal glanced at Jayne, who looked confused, and even Zoe was showing a tinge of uncertainty as they continued to sit.
Finally, Mal shrugged and stood, guessing that there was nothing to be done about an employer who felt like being rude. The others followed as he headed towards the exit, where a couple of men stood waiting to escort them out. He looked back once to find that Legan had not so much as glanced in their direction, and the woman who stood beside him was now gone.
Mal turned his eyes back forward and felt a shudder run up and down his spine for no apparent reason.
Eileen Mather looked at the door with the single window that lead to William's room. She felt a great feeling of mixed pride and disappointment following the announcement that the project's greatest specimen would now be going out into controlled field sessions to further his training. Ramsden had given her permission to go in and see William one final time before he was taken with the operative.
Sighing, she turned her key in the lock while scanning her palm, and the door clicked as it unlocked. William was sitting on the edge of his bed, staring at the flat broadcast screen that had been installed especially for him several months ago. What the device played for the vampire was severely restricted, but he had access to a handful public programs and even a news channel -- all Alliance coordinated. It was another way to allow William to learn about the outside world, and it kept him entertained between training sessions.
Blue eyes did not so much as flicker in her direction as she entered, but the vampire did stiffen and turn off the broadcast screen with the small remote he'd been allowed. Smiling, Mathers stepped forward so that she was in front of William. He kept his eyes lowered, staring at the grey-blue material of his form-fitting uniform.
"William, look at me." she said, not unkindly.
William did so, but his eyes were half lidded in a tired sort of resignation.
Mather reached out and traced her fingers down his cheekbone. "I'm going to miss you." She stroked William's hair as if he was a favored pet. He did not so much as twitch at her actions, and kept his eyes on her as commanded, even though words spoken in English did not force his obedience.
So compliant, so strong, so beautiful. To have this creature as her bodyguard would have been a dream. Whomever had control of him would be very lucky indeed. But even if she would never see him again, for now she was to be allowed her one last taste.
Wrapping her arms around William's shoulders, she lowered herself onto his lap. His eyes flickered with emotion -- surprise, confusion -- but he did not push her away. He'd come a long way from the snarling and resistant demon that she'd seen over a year ago. Smiling, she stroked behind his ear before leaning in and whispering "Bian ge."
His eyes flashed to their blank obedience, and bones shifted in his forehead, his irises rippling into yellow. Placing a hand behind his head, Mathers gently pressed his mouth onto her neck, her insides fluttering in a rush of natural fear from the fangs she could feel behind those lips, battling the knowledge that he was completely hers to control, if just for this one last moment.