Chapter 18Chapter XVIII: Gau's Misfortune
Gau had been very weary the last few days. Each day, soldiers came in, unchained him from the wall, and interrogated him. They asked him obvious questions about the Returners, to which he gave the obvious and truthful answer, "I don't know."
They didn't believe him and beat him with batons until they were ready to ask again. Of course he didn't know anything, he wasn't even a Returner. He had no idea why they thought he knew such important things. They would then give him his some measly, usually stale food, then chain him back up, leave and let him sleep, then the next day they came back to repeat the process. He dreaded the day. He heard them approach. But when he saw them, they were not alone. This time they had Aquadalin accompaniment. What now? he wondered grimly.
The soldiers came forward and unchained him once again. Then one of them hit him in the stomach, taking the wind out of him. When the soldier looked as if he was to strike him again, an Aquadalin stepped forwards and ceased it. They said something that Gau didn't hear and the soldiers walked to the doorway and stood in position. The creatures lifted him up and sat him in a chair next to a table for interrogation.
"Alright, boy," one of them hissed out. But he knew what it was going to say.
"I told you already," he interrupted, "I'm not a Returner, and I don't know anything. I was at the base in Maranda-"
"Helping some old friends," the Aquadalin finished. "We know."
"Then what is this all about? I can't be any use to you."
"Do you really want to be of no use to us?"
No, Gau thought, that would mean I'm expendable. "Then why am I still alive? Or am I going to be?"
The creature smirked. "No, you will live, despite what these half-wits think." He said it in not-so quiet words.
"What am I used for then?"
"And Relm? She's bait too?"
"She's also been serving high-status individuals, such as the Emperor and Klee'on Rama."
Rama, never heard of that one before. "Well, I sure don't want to be tied here all the time. Let me do something, too."
The other Aquadalin raised his brows. "You want to work for us?"
Gau did his shrug best he could. "Beats this."
"So it does, all right."
Gau sighed in relief.
"We are taking over as wardens and interrogators from now on," they said to the soldiers behind them. They seemed to want to protest, but thought better than to speak against higher-ranking personnel.
They left him sitting in the chair, the most relaxing position he'd been in for days.
As promised, the new wardens got Gau out of the cell and into labor. It was just manual labor around the city. Building and rebuilding structures, helping crops, and working with weapon smiths. Many were surprised at how he did three tough jobs, which the warden had obviously done purposely. He had no problem getting out in the sun for hours, even though it was in Vector. But there always a few Aquadalins close by, whether it was the same ones or not, he couldn't tell.
At night, he was thrown into a cell, which was fairly comfortable. The interrogations ceased, and he could rest well. After a few more days he continued his work with other prisoners-a small number, but were mostly unimportant criminals, though he had found some captured Returners. He noticed how they helped give each other strength. He wished he could see Relm, to give her courage, as she was probably more frightened than he. It hadn't occurred to him that he was soaking up life as a captive and forgetting that he had to get free. Until one day.
He was with three other Returners helping crops. Then he felt a blow to the back of his head. He went to his knees and looked behind him. A tall, gruff looking man with a scornful face. He had been thrown in the prisons a week ago for planning mutiny against Vulkrum, he and another.
"You Returners make me so sick," he spat. "'Specially you!"
The others tried to come up to him, but were pushed back by other Imperial convicts. He kneed Gau in the side. "I know you; I was a veteran in the Empire. Everyone knew of your sort. I also had to fight you in Maranda, as an Asassen, remember that? Nah, you wouldn't. But there are some guys here who know you."
He grabbed Gau by his shirt and lifted him up. He pushed him into a few other of his comrades, who held him open to the other. He picked up a hoeing tool and smiled sadistically. Gau gulped and tried to get free but there were too many men. He lifted up the hoe...
They heard a clang/thud and he fell down. Vulkrum walked hastily to the gathering with a mad look in his eyes.The convicts spread out.
"That's twice I had to knock you senseless," he scoured at the unconscious man.
Vulkrum walked to Gau and grabbed his shirt. "Hey, it wasn't me," Gau protested. "They started..."
"I don't care," Vulkrum cut him off. "It's going to end."
"It's your Imperial cronies trying to start fights with us."
"I don't care," he repeated. "You are the source. This is all why I didn't want to set you out here."
Gau looked at him. "You mean you didn't assign those new wardens?"
"No, ‘twas Vector's idea. You'd have been safer in jail. And, by the way," he added, "the Aquadalins that were watching you were incapacitated by those renegades. All that for you."
"I'm sorry," Gau said, before realizing what it meant.
Vulkrum ignored him as he dragged him up to the palace."So I'm going back?"
"Why? Just keep me out here. If they try it again I can fight back."
"You think I want that?"
Gau thought for a moment. "Well...no...I guess."
Vulkrum brought him back to the cell room. "You'll be safer in here," he said again.
"That's what this is about?" Gau queried. "You're trying to keep me safe? Why?"
Vulkrum looked at first puzzled, then aggravated. He hit Gau in the head.
"Don't think like that! You think I'm here to help you? I'm a freaking guardian angel? I am your captor, commander of the Imperial Army which you oppose."
He kicked Gau hard in his already hurt gut. Vulkrum looked around and grabbed some rope that he used to bind Gau's arms. He grabbed the neck manacle and put both his feet into it, tightening it uncomfortably. Gau was in an uncomfortable position, upside down. He saw Vulkrum going for the two lower ones. To his relief Vulkrum decided against it and dropped them.
"You get to stay like that, whelp!" he said quietly. "I'll send someone to feed you in a few days."