This scene is from the prologue and is written in 1st person despite the rest of book being written in 3rd person. I feel the intensity of Acora's experience and rebirth needs the immediacy only 1st person, in this case, can give.
This is the rough, unpolished draft, changes will likely occur in the time between now and Flame Undying being completed.
Please enjoy and leave a comment.
Hrrrrk-click. Hrrrrk-click. Hrrrkk-krr-click
Consciousness? Thought is, at first foggy. Slow. Disconnected. Just that sound, repeating every few seconds. Hrrrrkk-click. Like some kind of clock or...heartbeat maybe...hrrrk-k-kkh-click. It is not always regular. Darkness here, a grainy, grey, underground kind of darkness maybe. I am not sure whether my eyes are closed, whether I even have eyes. I run the usual mental inventory; who, what, why, where, when and draw nothing but blanks. Hrrrrk-krr-krrkr-click. That does not sound right, my memory, as broken as it is does not recognise the sound as encouraging. Something important is broken.
I think the word automatically without considering its meaning or why it is important.
My vision blanks, goes dark, then returns, symbols...text?...scrolling past faster than I can read it. This time there is something familiar to the icons, indicators, and symbols that follow the brief appearance of the only words I can read.
System OK. Booting.
That most of those icons are flashing red should concern me but I cannot for the life of me remember why.
I decide without truly understanding the word and the grainy darkness surrounding me gains some definition in shades of green and grey. I am underground, some kind of storage room, long abandoned and neglected, I reason. I am also not alone.
Arrayed before me and – I turn what must be my head first to one side and then the other – to either side of me....what are the words for those again...
Hagu? Dama? Sòsta? Aristerà? Left...right?
Who am I?
The solid, tall shapes are ranged before, beside and, I imagine, behind me. Details spare in this almost light.
Daya, biyu, uku, hudu...alpha, beta, gamma, delta...
I am immediately blind, a blaze of illumination brings pain, a lot of pain. My brain? Yes, my brain! My brain catches fire and my hands – I have hands, two if them! – clamp over my eyes with a clang of metal on metal. I hear voices inside my head...no, not inside my head, directly into my ears! Harsh, angry words. Many of these words describe unclean congress between animals and myself or the insignificant size of my genitalia. It is strange how obscenity is often the first thing that triggers memory is it not? How the negative emotions are the ones which appear most deeply rooted to recollection...the spoken words flow and start to make sense.
Acora! Glàso porakùn gal là mòr hwayk mavro!
Something very familiar about that...Acora...
More voices fill my...fòno?...voices as fractured, afraid, as confused as mine. I know the language they are speaking though it is not the one I was born to. It took me moments to recognise that language...Glòsta...I have spoken it for...it must be a long time...as the words begin to make sense I realise they are angry with me.
My pain goes away and the artificial grainy light returns. My fòno also goes silent for a time.
Whole moments of empty silence pass before the wall of sound overwhelms me. I had been spending those moments trying to piece myself back together and the noise was ruining my concentration!
Acora....Acora...Kalshodar...Acora...blood of the dragon, Acora is dead, leave me in peace! Only I cannot be dead; Elysium could not be such a dreary place as this surely...
I recognise those around me as Kalshodar, my colleagues, my brothers...reflex armour looking like it had been through the beating of a lifetime.
What in the dragon's name had happened to us?
I lost consciousness for several moments according what I now recognise as a kròno towards the top right of my helmet's display. Several indicators on that display continue to flash an angry red and my muzzy, pounding head realises, one of those annoying red flashes is telling me that my suit oxygen is either about to run out or already has.
I clamp a hand on each side of my helmet, fingers searching by muscle memory for the release microswitches.
I try to first twist then wrench my Corinthian style helm off, it is jammed. Fighting to stop my attempts from becoming more desperate with each failure, my eye is drawn to the heart rate monitor on middle left quadrant which shows a significant spike, blood pressure too. I sigh and let go of the stubborn thing.
It is about this time that I notice many of my brothers are engaged in an equally fruitless fight. My eye moves of its own accord and blinks on an icon. My vision fills with kardiografean; all spiking and erratic as my own. My voice is wet and full of phlegm as I try to force out the words I must speak. Even to me, my voice seems to coming from the other side of an empty temple.
“R...ruuuhhh...report in, kàto...” The effort of forcing those few words out if my throat exhausts me, I taste blood on my tongue.
Voices fill the channel. Names, ranks, they all sound as I imagine I must. Were it not impossible I’d swear that we were all drunk or suffering the kind of hangover that could fell a cyclops. The voices continue for several minutes. One Hundred voices answer, the kàto is complete. Taking command, thinking like the soldier that I am certain I am, forces my mind into deeply ingrained discipline, into working properly.
Acora. Kalshodar. Mandinka. Tagmatark. Kataig. Me.
I see fire, blue, red, and green before my eyes, pain in every fibre of my being. I am cut, I am bent, my viscous near-black blood is let. Eyes watch impassively. No. Not impassively. They watch with interest. They watch with the interest of a small boy studying the fly from which he has torn both wings and legs struggle as life flees it. He watches with the eyes of a cruel predator waiting for its mortally wounded meal to die. He watches like the Kristoman devil waiting for humanity to implode upon itself.
A fool might call those eyes emotionless or dead. A fool might mistake the sick light of that particular emotion for an absence of emotion. A fool might miss the almost sexual thrill glazing those eyes. Those eyes are not dead, they are waiting, savouring, and anticipating more to come. The mind behind those eyes is so broken that a fool would fail to understand how dangerous that makes this man. This man who feels nothing himself, who is only truly alive when flooded and flushed by the pain of others. He is jini, this man, yet he is not evil. He is something far worse.
In fractured flashes of broken recollection, those eyes are gone yet I will continue to feel their weight forever.
Pain. Agony. Torn. Broken. Abused. Ripped. Blades cut me, knives, saws, hooks, and lasers gouge, rip, burn, and cauterise.
The screams...the screams...the screams!
I have never heard a Kalshodar scream before. Now I hear ten, twenty, at a time as I lie strapped to a heavy bed as men and women dressed as doctors tear me apart so that they can watch me heal.
Again and again and again and again.
Locked in a cell deep below ground the screaming is the only sound I can hear over the distant growl and rumble of unseen machinery.
Only now all is silence.
Taking a convulsive breath, forcing the timpani of my heartbeat to slow, I look around and see, on the expressionless helm-faces of my hundred, strangely, a mirror of my own feeling and know they all remember as do I.
They killed us eventually. Dumped us into the plasma fire of that reactor I heard day and night pulsing in even my very welcome dreams. We are all dead.
Yet here we stand, staring at one another in terrified incomprehension.
We're not supposed to feel fear any longer, She burned that right out of us.
Then I remember those eyes...
It took us close to an hour to get out of that room of dead machines and dead smells. Whatever this facility once was, it was dead and long-abandoned now. Like us! My traitorous thoughts intrude sardonically.